Saturday Treats! 10am-12 noon!

Luca with a nice big escarole on this overcast morning!

Good morning! We will be running two checkout tables again to move the line along this morning; and we haven’t been running out of tomatoes and sweet salad mix by the end of the stand – so come early, come late and get your healthy veggie fix! 10am-12 this morning down the South Shore! Here is the complete list for this morning, plus a few treats from Yellow Door Farm TBA (Wanda can’t make it this morning, but she should be back next week):

Sweet salad mix, baby spicy salad mix, spicy salad mix, baby arugula, arugula;

Loads of red slicing and cherry tomatoes, beautiful sweet corn, carrots, escarole, summer squash, cucumbers, radishes, kale, sweet green bell peppers, scallions;

Green serrano hot peppers, green Indian chili peppers, Italian basil, holy basil, lemon basil, mint, tarragon, cilantro, dill, parsley;

Fresh-cut zinnia flowers, edible marigold flowers, sweet fresh Mediterranean figs, and jumbo-olive-sized jojo plums. 

 

Jojo trees often volunteer where livestock have grazed.

 

Jojo plums have different flavors at different levels of ripeness.

  

Jojo plums are a healthy addition to your diet!

 The jojo plum is a highly drought tolerant, very attractive small pasture tree whose foliage somewhat resembles that of an olive tree in color and texture: its leathery, oval shaped leaves are silver underneath. Jojo trees provide shelter and food to a variety of wildlife and they are a prolific source of nectar and pollen for honeybees, with a citrusy sweet scent when in bloom.

The fruits of the jojo tree can vary in size from tennis ball to olive. Wild jojos tend to bear fruit on the smaller size, while the larger fruit bearing trees have been selected or grafted by horticulturists for larger fruit production. Imported from Asia during the Victorian age, the jojo or jujube is thought to be indigenous to North Africa and Syria, and was well known for thousands of years for its tonic properties in Chinese medicine  – but didn’t seem to catch on in the West. On St. Croix’s South Shore, the jojo plum is well distributed by wildlife. 

Each fruit contains a large pit, so the best way to eat them is to rinse them and then pop an entire plum in your mouth, gently chewing around the pit to remove the flesh. The thin skin is crunchy and edible, like an apple’s. 

Today we have wild jojo plums on offer. Most Jojo enthusiasts prefer a specific level of ripeness depending on their taste. Some folks like the fruit at a late full ripeness when it turns an orangey red color and has a sweet overripeness to it. Others prefer the fruit in the middle, yellow stage, for a pear-like consistency and flavor. Others prefer the crisp brightness of the green fruits, which impart a sour tang not unlike a stateside apple.

Some folks swear by the slightly fermented overripe jojo fruit as a health tonic. At any stage, jojo plums are loaded with vitamin C and other micronutrients that can help keep your immune system in tiptop form. When our farm family catches a winter cold or flu, typically Farmer Luca does not succumb; he attributes this to the daily consumption of jojo plums as he walks around the farm. 

 

Jojos are great trees for honeybees.

  

Be cautious when pasturing poultry near jojo trees. Domestic birds can experience problems if they gorge themselves on too many (the pits can fill the birds’ gizzards too quickly and cause blockage). Sheep wisely spit out the pits!

 

ARTfarm Wednesday 3-6: Fire Report

We are open 3–6 p.m.! Today we have sweet salad mix, spicy salad mix, a few cucumbers, Bodhi beans, onions, beets, Italian basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and a few more fresh figs.

Beautiful ARTfarm salad greens for the sweet mix!

Beautiful ARTfarm salad greens for the sweet mix!

Farming is certainly a round-the-clock exercise. Last night around 9 PM we smelled smoke and saw flames shooting up into the sky on the east end of the farm. Luckily we had fair warning as Luca was out watering late and noticed it quickly, shortly after hearing the sound of voices along the east roadside. Neighbors in the area also alerted us to the brushfire and offered help via text, calls and Facebook. We quickly moved our child to grandma’s, suited up in protective clothing, grabbed our fire flappers and other firefighting equipment and went to move sheep and equipment out of harm’s way and help the neighbors wherever possible.

A view of the brush fire last night from the top of Spring Gut Road via a neighbor. The large yellow lights along the center of the photo below the fire are streetlights on South Shore Road. The red light on the right side is a VIFD truck. The small squarish light near the center right of the photo is us in our truck in roughly the center of ARTfarm. From our angle in the pasture it appeared that the fire was advancing rapidly toward us.

A view of the brush fire last night from the top of Spring Gut Road looking south, via a neighbor. The fire moved across the pasture from east to west. The large yellow lights along the center of the photo below the fire are streetlights on South Shore Road. The red light on the right side is a VIFS truck. The small squarish light near the center right of the photo is us in our truck in roughly the center of ARTfarm. From our angle in the pasture it appeared that the fire was advancing rapidly toward us and a small group of young cattle.

Luckily there was not a strong wind last night, and conditions coupled with a rigorous effort by the VI Fire Service on all sides contained the fire and prevented it from destroying hundreds of acres of pasture in use, as well as cattle and sheep, wildlife, farm infrastructure and the homes of farmers including us!

Another shot of the fire as it continued to spread and head south. Our truck is the tiny pinpoint of light close to the west end (right) of the fire line. Above us and closer to the fire is a VIFD truck.

Another shot of the fire as it continued to spread and head south. Our truck is the tiny pinpoint of light close to the west end (right) of the fire line. Above us and closer to the fire is a VIFS truck.

As I stated to a friend, “this is what amounts to a ‘romantic date night’ for a farmer and his wife. A fireside chat and home by midnight.”

We spoke with Captain Charles Gilbert, Fire Service officer out of Richmond/Christiansted’s C shift, who was in charge of the operation last night. They had a total of six VIFS trucks on the scene, but it felt like a lot more to us, as they continued to contain the fire from 9pm to 1am. These included trucks from the East End, Richmond, and Grove stations. The only casualty of the evening was a young calf that got onto the road (due to gates left open to allow emergency access) and was struck by a passing vehicle. Some fencing was damaged and will need to be replaced.

Fence damage. This wood post will have to be replaced. The steel t-posts, woven wire and barbed wire materials have a much shorter life and rust much faster  after being burned in a brush fire as it tends to remove their protective coatings of paint or zinc.

Fence damage. This wood post will have to be replaced. The steel t-posts, woven wire and barbed wire materials have a much shorter life and rust much faster after being burned in a brush fire as it tends to remove their protective coatings of paint or zinc and weaken the metal.

VI Fire Service Chief Larry Johnson noted that the burning of trash, the use of campfires and the disposal of lit cigarettes out of car windows should be curtailed during these dry conditions. “Most brush fires that start after dark are lit deliberately,” he said during our conversation. “It is a felony.”

We are extremely grateful for the prompt and thorough response from the VI Fire Service last night. We plan to drop off some tomatoes to Captain Gilbert and his C company team, and we’d love it if you’d thank them on our behalf, too!

Looking south along the fence near the east end of the farm. Evening brush fires are most likely deliberately set, according to officials at the VIFS.

Looking south along the fence near the east end of the farm. Evening brush fires are most likely deliberately set, according to officials at the VIFS.

The fire started near the roadside, then jumped across a ten-foot swath of grass and headed west southwest through the pastures.

The fire started near the roadside, then jumped across a ten-foot swath of grass and headed west southwest through the pastures. Left unchecked, this could have been disastrous for us!

Looking south near the east end of the farm. The VI Fire Service was able to contain and control this brushfire, in part because winds were not strong.

Looking south near the east end of the farm. The VI Fire Service was able to contain and control this brushfire, in part because winds were not strong.

ARTfarm Holiday Hours: 12noon – 5pm Today

The ARTfarm roadside sign features a new addition describing today's holiday hours.

Don’t drive too fast or you’ll miss the details! Open special hours today for pre-holiday shopping!

We have so much to be thankful for, starting with our wonderful customers! So that you can stock up for your holiday gathering, Turkey Day potluck or extended weekend beach picnic, we are open 12noon to 5pm today! (We’ll be open again Saturday).

We have hand-picked for you: Sweet salad mix, baby spicy salad mix, baby arugula, microgreens, beautiful crunchy radishes, crispy cucumbers, garlic chives, rosemary, mint, recao, Italian basil, zinnia flowers, passionfruit, lemon basil, lemongrass, fresh ginger root! From our partners: Nam Doc Mai mangoes and mamey sapote from Tropical Exotics, vegan ice cream from I-Sha, raw local honey from Errol Chichester, and Kim (sans Ryan) will be here with fresh fish again!

We wish you all a safe and joyful Thanksgiving. Island life is not always easy, but we have so much to be grateful for.

A grey baby turkey poult walks through grass in a garden.

An orphaned baby turkey poult (stray dog attack survivor) has had a lot of handling and now thinks she is human – she follows us everywhere and likes to snuggle on your neck. She’s a good worker and helps with pest control in the garden at ARTfarm!

 

Tomatoes…and introducing our new pasture management team.

Five hair sheep in a paddock at ARTfarm

ARTfarm welcomes the newest members of our Pasture Management Team: Sleepy, Coco, Yooyoo, Nobby, and Whoopsie. These local hair sheep are Dorper, St. Croix White and Brazilian Nova mixes.

We are now at the point in the season where we put up the giant “TOMATOES” sign, and you’ll start to see our cherry tomatoes in local fine dining establishments!

Saturday morning’s stand will also include fresh microgreens, sweet mix, spicy mix, teen spicy, a plethora of varied cooking greens, herbs including some new ones for this season (sage! holy basil!) and your old favorites (delfino cilantro, italian, lemon and thai basils, thyme, caribbean oregano, lemongrass, garlic chives, and giant scallions!)…cucumbers, lettuce heads, and of course giant zinnia flowers, chocolates and a few baked treats!

Please call or let us know at the stand,  if you’d like to special order fresh local meats: chicken (half or whole), lamb or goat (leg, roast, cut for stew).

ARTfarm gift certificates are beautiful and make a thoughtful gift.

And in other exciting farm news, our Livestock Manager has acquired five experienced new employees (pictured above) who are charged with improving our pastures and keeping things nicely trimmed around the farm. Please join us in welcoming Coco, Sleepy, Yooyoo, Whoopsie and Nobby. They’re all expecting! Christina plans to bring them out to visit at the farmstand after they’ve had a chance to get accustomed to their new home and the staff.

Come visit the ARTfarm!

Saturday ARTfarm produce – open 10am – 12noon

Saturday morning’s farmstand will include microgreens, pineapples, yummy garlic chives, cooling thai basil and lemongrass. We’ll have local honey, honey vinegar, luscious buttery mangoes, chocolates from Sweetface and Feel I’s coconut-based local fruit ice creams, including our family’s favorite flavor, hot pink Beet Ginger.

A Buff and a Toulouse goose wander in one of ARTfarm's fallow summer gardens, munching on basil and hot peppers.

A Buff and a Toulouse goose wander in one of ARTfarm's fallow summer gardens, munching on basil and hot peppers.

The recent rains have sent the farm into summer hibernation a few weeks early, and Farmer Luca and new employee Tucker are busy pulling out old plants and mulching down the gardens for a well deserved rest between growing seasons. The geese have been given free rein in the back garden and are happily eating weeds, grass, basil and pounds and pounds of hot peppers.

Beeeeeee Sunday!

With all the fantastic rain and blooming flowers and growth it is swarming season for bees that have outgrown their hives.

A swarm in May is worth a bale of hay.
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.

Over the last two days we observed a group of about 20-30 bees actively investigating various structures around the farm. They were curious but not aggressive or interested in us. (Bees are very singular in purpose. When they are scouting, they are not looking to sting anyone. They look scary as they swoop about in large groups, buzzing loudly, but since they are not defending their home, they won’t sting unless someone is swatting at them, crushes one, or shows aggression toward them.)

This morning the same smallish group of 20-30 bees was spotted scoping out a space above the back kitchen door of one of the historical buildings on the property. Within ten minutes, a deafening hum could be heard as literally thousands of bees descended and began moving into a 1/2 inch crack near a roof beam at the same location.

Christina called our beekeeper, Wanda of Wright Apiary, for assistance and the two ladies donned bee suits and were able to pry up a small piece of plywood covering the hollow space in the roof structure, and gently vacuum the extremely large and healthy swarm out of the inside of the roof and into two small cages using special beekeeping tools. A bit of smoke from a hive smoker along a crack in the wall encouraged most of the rest of the bees to come back out from the deep recesses of the roof structure.

About halfway through the removal process Wanda was skilled enough to spot the large queen and capture her in a special queen box. Wanda installed the queen, in her cage, into a temporary small hive box and we began the process of gently shaking and brushing pounds and pounds of buzzing bees from the now heavy small cages into the small hive box. Lastly, Wanda placed a bit of bee food in the hive box to help them feel invested in their new location.

The hive box will remain near the hole in the roof for a few days until the rest of the bees have found their queen. Then we’ll move them into a larger hive box with a comb or two of ‘brood comb’ where the queen, once released from her cage, can immediately start laying her eggs. This should encourage the bees to stay in the new hive, even though it wasn’t their first choice.

If you spot bees swarming around your yard or home, don’t panic. Bees that are out and about looking for a place to live are focussed on the move and are not looking to sting people. A large swarm hanging off a tree can look like an odd, dark colored termite nest. It’s thousands of bees surrounding their queen, awaiting directions from the scouting party. Keep a comfortable distance and be careful not to disturb the swarm, but feel free to observe them. They’re only in an exposed area like that briefly, and will be gone within hours or a day or two at most, as soon as their scouting party finds the perfect new hollow spot.

To prevent a swarm of bees from moving into structures, patch up or caulk up cracks. Bees can move into hollow spaces with just a 1/4″ opening available to them. If bees do move into a structure, you can call 911 for assistance and they’ll direct you to a local beekeeper who can remove (or exterminate) the hive using specialized tools, protective clothing and equipment.

Honey Flow!

There are at least a dozen species of flowering trees going off this month at ARTfarm and around the South Shore zone, and our newly recolonized beehive is working very hard to keep up.
A closeup of about fifty honeybees loitering around the entrance to a painted wooden beehive.

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