Farm Blog

Thank you again for braving the blizzard to celebrate, connect with great food, and 'planting an orchard'! Just imagine all those future cherry trees (don't forget to squat:-).
I am so uplifted from all the good vibes, intentions, laughter and seeds shared and planted.

We were able to raise $850.00 in funds! This will go a long way, thank you! Additionally, with all the seeds donated today and from what I've gleaned from others, The women growers in the Sine-Saloum region will be able to plant out a couple hundred row feet/farm. In the past we've planted shared 'demonstration beds' ie since many of the farmers share space/land to grow on we've constructed seeds beds to trial different varieties, plant insectory herbs and flowers and share techniques. From there seeds are harvested and shared forward amongst the individual farmers. So in essence your generosity helped plant teaching/learning/eating/

sharing beds of veggie, herb, and flower goodness!

I will honor my commitment and extend the immense gratitude, generosity that was shared during the workshop with the women farmers in the following ways:

Work with NCBA CLUSA Farmer to Farmer Program to transfer funds and mail seeds.
I'll also email and share highlights, photos forward later this week in celebration of our workshop success.

I am tentatively set to travel there Nov/Dec. or January in 2016.

I also finally remembered the name of third grower group, JUBO (means widespread). If you're interested in learning more about how they got started, here's a link to an interview I did as part of my last Farmer to Farmer adventure in Senegal.

I Will keep you in the loop as the project evolves and thanks again for sharing your generous spirit!

For the chocolate lovers:
Becky Otte, who made the amazing truffles, has more of her chocolate goodness to share and is selling some of her creations just in time for Valentines. if you're interested send her an email:

Also Here is a link to Roots Chocolate website.

For the Fruit Lovers:

I've enclosed a handout of some of the different fruits we grow at our farm as well as a flyer highlighting this season's events at the farm! We'd love to have you venture out and tour the orchard, come visit us (though not nearly as cool as the orchard poses we did during the workshop).

Thank you again for helping me transition from being a butterfly weed seed (ie wind pollinated, not knowing where or how my intentions, projects might stick) to more of an oak or cashew seeds - wherein I can deepen my awareness, provide support in the same place(s) in Senegal for the growers and in my backyard in Wisconsin:-). Here's to planting the seeds of the as yet to be imagined on and off the yoga mat! Wishing you all much abundance.

Happy Mid-winter!

Yours in hardy kiwi,

PS If you are into exploring the planting side as well as enjoying more local fruit creations, we'll be hosting a Local Fruit Tasting May 16, details on our website.


The Fruit and Flower Mood Board - a Season's Color Palette Reverie

The other day I received an inquiry to grow and design a flower feast for a 2020 wedding celebration. With 12 years under my belt, I continue to deepen my understanding of how to both read the landscape as a grower, align wedding dates with flower phenology, and read the needs and interests of clients and members.

June brought the ability to see green. Growth was the name of the botanical game and I found myself marveling at how the pears, peas, and poppies sprung from its original seed-coated horizontality, gesturing forever upward and outward. Onward with growth, mulch, and the subtleties of purple and pink. Pink pillows of peony blossom, cathedral spiries of delphinium racemes and the intimate splashes of pink on pistils on view when I paused to consider fruitset of apples and aronia.

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The Harvest Homestretch

A single nighthawk, batting across the sky one evening last week, was enough to panic us about the end of summer. We’d already been watching the barn swallows getting set to leave. In mid-August, their offspring still romped the skies, swooping for horseflies past our ears, testing one another with their dives. Last week they sat on the wire, carefully watching the sun go down. Next week, the boreal dark one step too near, they will be off and gone.

It seemed a good occasion then to look back briefly on the summer and estimate what the Fall might hold in store before frost chokes the life out of what remains of the garden.

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No Sun, No Food

We thank our subscribers for bearing with the hiatus in food-delivery during what is typically the pinnacle of vegetable production so that your farmers could go on a fishing expedition out west for a view of the “great American eclipse” (a term which slightly irritates me). The last time we missed a late-summer delivery was when Erin and I got married in 2011. Best that these interruptions are kept to a minimum if for no other reason than that they double-up the harvesting work in the adjacent weeks.

Not that you missed much.

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Tales of a Senegal Beekeeper

..for so work the honeybees, Creatures that by a rule in nature teach

The act of order to a peopled kingdom."

- William Shakespeare, Henry V 1599

“When you work with bees, they put something in your heart,”Adema Senghor, President of the Toubacouta Beekeepers Association, shared with the ~16 aspiring women beekeepers that gathered in Missirah, Senegal to wrap up our farmer to farmer training on beekeeping and plan next steps for their apiary. Adema graciously offered tips gleaned from over 25 years experience as a beekeeper in Senegal. Both he and co-founder Moussa Manne with the Toubacouta Beekeepers Association had agreed to share with the women how they got started with beekeeping as well as commit to supporting the Missirah women as mentor beekeepers. They are also the purveyors of the award winning 'Sur de Saloum' —prized honey from the mangrove blossoms and other petals sipped from native trees and cashew groves in the 'La Paletuveire' (French word for mangroves and the coastal plain forests that shape Senegal's Sine Saloum Delta).

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2016 By the Numbers

2016 was a good growing year in many respects.

At 178 days, the frost-free period was exceptionally long, even after a relatively late last-freeze on May 15th. We harvested sweet peppers well into the month of November, after what was already a banner-year for the crop. Potatos also performed spectacularly despite over-planting and tight spacing, cranking out almost 300 calories per square foot. Many warm-season crops were 10 to 14 days earlier than normal. After a couple of beautiful broccoli harvests in late June and early July, we thought we might be headed for another 15-week season like we saw the previous year.

And then the rains came.

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You're Invited: Yoga, Chocolate & Fruit Tasting Benefit Supporting Seeds for Senegal Project

Sunday, January 24, from 2:00 - 4:00 pm, Main St. Yoga Studio, 1882 East Main St. Madison, WI

Come breathe, move, open your heart, and celebrate mid-winter with an all - levels yoga class taught by Hatha Yoga Instructor Barbara Flesch.

Then we’ll dine in community, savoring the sensory experience of nourishment with a mindfulness tasting of chocolate, and sweet and savory fruits grown with love and care with Erin Schneider, Co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm, LLC. Cost of class includes yoga instruction and homemade and homegrown organic food, fruit and refreshments from Hilltop Community Farm.

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Field of Vision

The United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of Soil, and none too soon. The stuff keeps sloughing off the continent into the rivers and oceans, mostly under the constant wheel of industrial agriculture which treats this substrate of terrestrial life as if it were a widget machine, ever happy to oblige the beck and call of the commodities market. Though soil is the alpha and omega of agriculture, a good number of farmers still don't seem to reckon as much by their behavior. To most people meanwhile, dirt is just something to keep out of the carpet.

As an ecological farmer of course, the soil and its constant health and improvement must be front and center on my radar. So it was with appropriate sheepishness that I admitted to our farm members in the April Hilltop newsletter that I know nothing about soil.

This is not entirely true.

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For the Bees

Mid-afternoon, I find myself lingering in the zinnias and wanting to just lay down under the silphium and sunflowers in the orchard, soak in the warmth, the colors, and just listen to summer. It is revved up by cicadas, orchestrated by crickets, tuned by tree frogs and abuzz with bees. The bees right now are drunk on nectar, and loaded down with pollen. I am amazed that they can fly, so laden with cargo!

Where would be be without the birds and the bees?

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Aural Fixation

The soundscape of our farm would not normally be a newsletter topic, nor would it even seem relevant to the enterprise of farming; but in the same way that we can often diagnose the health of our cars by the slightest variation in the sound coming from the engine compartment, so too is the overall health of the farm discernible just standing with open ears on the back porch.

In the early years of Hilltop – an era when hayfields were rather less assiduously kept -- the ecstatic vocalizations of a bobolink could be heard emanating from the neighbor's patch, nearby to the east. The birds had evidently found a corner routinely missed by the scythe in which to nest. From mid-May until July the riot of song would erupt, often with the male rising on wing to broadcast his message more widely on the wind.

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You're Invited for a Picnic in the Orchard

What do currants, soil quilts and fencing have in common?

We hope you join us on Saturday, July 11 from noon - 3 pm, for a relaxing picnic in the orchard to find out! Enjoy great food and conversation, celebrate the season, our new orchard fence that came together from a 2014 crowdfunding effort, and join us for some stories and stitches as we weave together the great soil quilt.

RSVP Today!

participants sampling fruit pies during Currant Events Fest

Highlights: an orchard tour,  picnic lunch, tips for using currants and other local fruits, and the opportunity to relax and enjoy great food and conversation. You will leave the day with fruit resources/recipes and the opportunity to participate in the making of a Soil Quilt to be featured during the Fermentation Festival, Farm Art D'Tour this fall.

We will have local fruit creations on hand to sample and a picnic salad to share.
Please plan to bring a vegetarian dish to share (guests included), your own table service, blanket/chair(s). Dress for an outdoor picnic, rain or shine.

Check out our Farm Events Page for more farm happenings.

Black Currant Fool. Photo by Erin Schneider

Black Currant Fool. Photo by Erin Schneider

Thank you for your help with growing our fruit n farm community!

Our IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign a Success!

We so appreciate your contributions to our orchard fencelifting campaign. You helped us raise $4,840 on-line through IndieGoGo. That's 82% of our on-line goal of $5,900. Serendipitously, 84% of our fenceposts are firmly rooted in our orchard soils thus far. Our hope is to finish installing the fenceposts before the ground firmly freezes and complete wiring, gate building by Spring 2015. While we were just shy of our on-line goal, we were also able to raise an additional $930 in funds off-line and received another $800 through in-kind donations in the form of materials and support with staging posts and digging ~230' of holes.

Thank you for helping give us structure to our dreams! You can hear the saskatoons exhaling as we speak, as they can finally grow beyond 2 feet!

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Investing in Women Farmers - Happy IDRW (Oct 15)

Join the 65 funders and hundreds of farm friends, who have invested in the future of our farm...and the millions of people around the world supporting and celebrating the efforts of women farmers.

Women are the backbone of farming. Across the planet, women play many roles in changing the food system from one of insecurity and scarcity to one of sustainable abundance and nourishment. October 15th marks the International Day of Rural Women and with it a chance to pause, reflect, celebrate and honor the stories, skills, and experiences women bring to agriculture and honor our roles as farmer, entrepreneur, daughter, caregiver, teacher, learner, farm-a-cist, auntie, soil steward, logistician, beekeeper, tour guide, facilitator, cook, wife, and fruit lover to name just a few of the hats I wear on any given day.

October 15th also marks the (almost) endpoint to our fruit n fencelifting campaign on IndieGoGo. I will be celebrating the IDRW through a combination of facilitating/engaging in a global discussion with others through my role as Women's committee member with the World Farmer Organization, and honoring the day, hoisting a toast, shovel in hand, to fellow women farmers from the field, digging and placing fenceposts for our orchard.

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Your Food Calorie Receipt

As ever, October has somehow lept upon us. Indeed so fast this year, that we never got out a proper September newsletter. Apologies for the elipsis.

With all 20 share bags behind us now, it's time to look back at the growing season and see just how things stacked up, or didn't. By comparison with 2013, the immediately noticeable difference is in the totals: Last year, we provided 154 lbs of produce per share, this year 138. Last year's calorie count was 26,300; this year's is 20,400.

While those numbers are slightly shocking (at least I was shocked when I looked at the bottom of this year's spreadsheet), the 16 pound / 5,900 calorie deficit was almost entirely down to two crops: can you tell what they were?

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Sometimes Good Neighbors Build Good Fences...

Digging in toward the home stretch...

Since we extended the invitation for others to be part of growing our fruit n farm community by supporting our fencelifting campaign, we had an idea of what we needed ($5,900) to support costs and labor, and to build a long lasting, reliable and sustainable piece of infrastructure that would support the next generation of orchardists and fruit lovers.

With three weeks into our campaign, we are reminded that fence-building, like farming, relies on our ability to respectfully be in relation to the Earth and in relation with people, observe openly and learn before taking action.

What we have recently learned is that contrary to poetic insight, good neighbors do build good fences.

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Those Dog(ged) Days of Farming – a Mid-August Manifesto...

Mid-August. The dog days of summer came to be known as such due to Sirius's (or Dog Star's) close proximity to the Earth and relevance in signifying the shifting of seasons and weather patterns. To the Egyptians, the star's rising meant the flooding of the Nile was just around the corner. To the Polynesians, a welcome sign from which to navigate the winter seas. The ancient Greeks observed that following the star's heliacal rising, unsettled weather conditions abound and gave way to the hot, dry time of summer, causing plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused. Anyone suffering its effects was said to be astroboletos, or 'star-struck'. Hence these dog days of August coincide with the dogged days of farming. Any farmer suffering it's effects, shows symptoms of being awe-struck by the sheer abundance of growth heralding the produce.

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