We’ve had a wet May here on the farm, with plenty of thunderstorms keeping our fields soggy. May is perhaps not the worst month for rain here – March and April are probably worse – but an excess of rain during our transplanting season is never an easy thing to work with. We can’t rototill, we can’t drive the tractor, and the weeds grow like crazy – but at least some crops are already in the ground and can enjoy the rain on their own. Then if we get even a few dry hot days back-to-back, the ground dries out and our hopes go up…and the race begins! The farm crew was working late into the evening on Thursday, planting and planting and planting, and Friday morning we started on it again. Meteorologists called for showers most of the day today but it held off until two in the afternoon and we got a lot planted, at the expense, perhaps, of a shorter-than-usual Farm Note. Yesterday we might have caught up but we picked strawberries for almost the whole day instead, squeezing in harvests of kale, peas, and asparagus between 4 and 5:30. We haven’t had a crew member to spare lately, and the tasks keep piling up – trellising, harvesting, and whenver the fields dry out transplanting. The newly-planted rows, and the berries, look beautiful though! - Dave
Produce and Cooking Notes
Lettuce –Two heads of our lettuce for everyone this week – lots of Magenta (reddish-green), plus some Simpson (lime-green) and Rouge D’Hiver (red romaine).. One of our favorite and most reliable crops here at the farm, we aim to have lettuce for you every week through the year (but sometimes fail in hot summers).
Kale – A bunch of kale for everyone, perfect for a quick side dish or anything else that needs cooking greens. The kale has some flea beetle damage but should be very tasty nonetheless…just reminding us why we tend not to grow kale too late into the summer.
Asparagus OR Cucumbers – Asparagus has dropped off sharply this week, between the cooler weather and a little too violent of a weed control effort last week. As a result there’s not much – enough for full shares to either take a small portion or a couple of our first summer cucumbers.
Beets – Full shareholders are getting a bunch of beets – the last “winter” crop to come out of our greenhouse. Remember that the greens can be used very much like chard.
Garlic Scapes – Garlic scapes are the flowering stalk of the garlic plant, pulled out so that the plant puts all of its energy into sizing up the bulb. They can be used like a scallion, or, with a bit of olive oil, make a delicious pesto ground up in a food processor.
Strawberries – The strawberry harvest is picking up, so here’s some more ripe red berries for your snacking.
Peas – Our tunnel is starting to yield lots of delicious sugar snap peas – I can barely resist eating them raw, but they’re also delicious lightly stir-fried.
Snap Peas with Scapes and Dill
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
(Deborah Madison writes that this is an easy dish to vary – try other herbs, or use asparagus tips to make it into a spring vegetable sauté – Dave
- ½ pound sugar snap peas
- 3 or 4 chopped garlic scapes
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill or another favored herb
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Put the peas in a skillet with the scapes, a few pinches salt, the butter, and enough water to just cover the bottom. Cook until bright green and tender, after a minute or two – taste one to be sure. If using olive oil, add a little to the pan now. Taste for salt, season with a little pepper, and add the dill.
Greens with Peanut Sauce
- from Simply in Season
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 bunch collards, chopped
- ½ c. water
- 2-3 tbsp. chunky peanut butter
- 1-2 tsp. hot water
In large soup pot, sauté onion and garlic with olive oil. Add tomato and simmer 2-4 minutes. Add spices and stir 2 min. Add greens and water and steam until greens are tender, but not mushy. Avoid overcooking. Stir occasionally to coat greens with spices. Combine peanut butter and hot water and add to greens at the end of cooking time. Serve over brown rice.
When I was a kid sometimes I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in the early days of summer. The first few days I had big plans, the fourth or fifth maybe would be marked by luxurious laziness and spent doing nothing at all, but by the second week of summer vacation time stretched out in front of me and there seemed no way to fill it all up. The farm crew lately has the opposite problem – the coming of the summer CSA has sprung up on us and planning, harvesting, and packing boxes has gone from one chore among many in our biweekly winter schedule to a constant, daily task. Tuesday deliveries come and go, we eat dinner at 9 and fall asleep exhausted, and wake up on Wednesday needing to plan out Friday’s distribution. And for CSA members, too, who have gotten used to grocery-store cooking during March and April’s lean times, the first few boxes can be miraculous, the third and fourth exciting, but when the fifth and sixth come and you still have a leftover bok choy from the second week you start to realize: vegetables can be demanding, as well as delicious. Just remember, almost anything can go into a stir-fry, and both farmers and eaters shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. I'm relearning that myself this year since, after four years living on the farm, I've moved to a new home - and so instead of having access to the infinite (if bug-ridden) grocery store that is our seconds cooler, I'm actually taking home a regular weekly CSA box. Now I'm the one eating some items on the ride home, cooking others that night or the next, and then staring in the fridge five days later wondering why we haven't been eating more salad. So while the farm crew gets our bodies used to the daily rhythms of harvesting, weeding, planting, trellising, seeding, and mulching all day long, hopefully all of you (and me) can get our families used to cooking straight from the farm every week once again. Thanks to wet weather a month back, I can already tell you that salad will play a big part in this week's menus.
Asparagus – Asparagus production is in full swing so hopefully it can stand up to providing you a weekly bounty. We took a chance on it on Sunday – lightly tilling the beds to cut down weeds without harming the crowns deep underground. But it loves hot humid days and drenching showers, so it should spring rightr back.
Carrots – Full shares are getting the last of our sweet overwintered carrots – a perfect mid-afternoon snack or salad fixing.
Kale– Kale is a mild broccoli-flavored green that cooks down into a delicious side dish. Like arugula, it has a bit of a snooty food snob reputation to it, but it’s really a super-simple peasant food – chop it up, sauté it in a little bit of oil and liquid, maybe add some salt, pepper, and garlic, and you’re done.
Endive – This bitter green needs a little bit of cooking to really be delicious on its own, although if you mix it with lettuce it’ll be good raw too. See the classic bacon dressing recipe on the back for one idea.
Herbs – Spring is high time for herbs and while we usually think of them as a supplement, when they come in abundance they can really hold a dish together all on their own. Spaghetti dressed with a little olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and lots of chopped herbs makes a delicious ten-minute meal.
Lettuce Heads – There are a couple different lettuces you might get today – the falsely-named Magenta (more of a reddish green), the bright red Oscarde, or the lime-green Simpson.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb season is winding to a close, so if you haven’t used last week’s yet, combine it with this portion and make up a couple pies or three. Or check out farm intern Meghan’s discovery: a website positively obsessed with rhubarb – www.rhubarbinfo.com – where there are hundreds of interesting and novel rhubarb recipes, including chutneys, stews, snack bars, beverages, and the curry recipe below.
I want you all to know that our farm crew has been working very hard, and happily, as well, in spite of our most unusual wet, muddy growing season. Fields have been accessible for tractor and equipment only for short windows of time, and then rain comes again. This means much more hoeing and weed pulling. Plantings have gone in late, plantings—especially peas and beans, have been stressed and terminated by all the excess moisture. This season has for sure been our wettest in my memory! And for years I have been saying the dryer the season the better our production! So will we ever get your CSA boxes filled to capacity? I’m hopeful. Our guys are so determined to ensure our later crops will come through. A lot of straw mulch is being spread around our melons, squash and cukes to stop the weeds. Weeds pulled from around every pepper, onion, sweet potato plant. Plants taken to the fields and planted by hand (since it’s too wet to use the tractor and planting equipment). So you, too, can be hopeful that good things are coming. But we acknowledge that the boxes currently are not what we had hoped. And we appreciate so much your understanding and patience. That’s part of what the CSA model espouses – keeping community in the lean times and the abundant. Thank you!
To update you on the Food Shed, we had a group of educators to the farm this week and served our first meal from the new kitchen. It’s almost finished, though we still need to have final inspections and approval. We also have a fair amount of landscape work to do. We are so eager to have it all completed over a year after we broke ground. Plans for open house will been made after final approval, and we hope you will be able to enjoy the benefits of this facility in the years to come. We will also still be having our annual June festival – normally a Strawberry Fest, now just a Summer Fest, this Saturday and invite you all to visit.
Not sure what a June bug is exactly or what makes it so busy, but that is how it feels at the farm. It is a satisfying level of busy along with a thankfulness that it stopped raining long enough to get transplanting.
The farms transformation seems as sudden and rapid as the trees getting leaves this spring. I know its going to happen but still shocks me everytime with how rapid the spring melts into summer. The early taste of August weather around Memorial Day has been a boon for drying out fields, but a stress for keeping those plants already in the ground happy. We have an irrigation system, but the man hours required to get it set up are currently primarily devoted to the 3 person beast known as the transplantor. We've all spent many a fine hour in the comfy seats.
You start by squeezing little plants out of their plastic trays, hoping the roots hang together, planting them into the opening left by the metal water wheel along with a nice puddle of water that will tide it over until rains or irrigation. Adam has spent enough hours in the drivers seat during the end of last week that he should have been able to reach California, unfortunately due to only reaching max speeds of around 0.4 mph, he instead only would have barely made it out of town. Instead of the miles of black tarmac stretched ahead he sees raised black plastic beds or freshly prepared soil. While the speeds are slower and noticeably less exciting than Nascar, it requires the same level of professional driving to keep the wheel centered on the plastic bed, while avoiding the drip tapes hidden below.
Today the strawberry plants Roy ordered finally made it out from the cooler and into raised beds courtesy of Dan, Deb, and Adam. Last week it was a mix of transplanting from corn and soybeans (yes most other farmers find this insane but it gives us a good stand establishment and a jump of those weeds), cantaloupe, sweet potato slips, cucumbers, zuchinni, eggplant, and winter squash. Most of these seedlings seemed to have a peculiar propensity to grow rather tall and leggy, which is not desireable in a transplant as you'd prefer short and sturdy stem rather than one more liable to snap. I'm not positive what's been causing this, most likely leaving them inside the protected greenhouse for longer than I should. However, I prefer to think its like the way pets begin to resemble their owners or vis-versa, hence plants seeing my height as a guide.
As we have more and more plants in the ground more time is devoted to taking care of those plants, weeding, watering, harvesting, putting on row covers, taking off row covers, and so forth. Its definitely been a slow start to the spring, but things definitely seem to be taking off for the most part with these last couple of sunnier weeks.
Hope everyone has had a chance to get out and enjoy this beautfiul spring weather.
As the rain continues outside, the plants continue to fill the greenhouse. It becomes a bit of a triage... what needs the heated tables ~ primarily for germinating seeds, what needs to be at least above 50 F- ~basil, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, and those plants that can brave the outdoors ie onions, lettuce, other greens. Certain plants get to make it out of their confining trays: lettuce that can sneak into greenhouse space, parsley into the herb beds, and spinach, bok choi, and chard all made it out into the one prepped field. By transplanting by hand, we don't have to wait for a stretch of dry weather.
The catch is the driest field is due to the high rock to soil ratio (my guess is a good 2 to 1), which results in the less than pleasant sensation of trying to plant into a rock. Other plants aren't so lucky, sure a few tomatoes and cucumbers escape to the greenhouses, replacing those that failed to survive those 23 degree nights a few weeks back, but most just have to wait. They are not the most patient subjects. There is an unfortunate combination of quick growth inside the greenhouse and rain keeping us out of the fields.
For example, the 1st planting of tomatoes, perhaps left on heated tables too long, have already been transplanted into 4" pots with added nutrients. The jungle of green tomatoes when you walk by is a reminder that it was only a temporary appeasement of the monsters we've seeded too early and the extra nutrients just let them keep growing. Celeriac on the other hand is a patient plant, dantily increasing in size, content to remain in their small trays. But zucchini... I know the danger of not picking them everyday, but to watch the seedlings grow overnight is a reminder of their speed. And every week there is more to seed. Some such as sweet corn will be pushed back a week, but others will add to the many shaded green jungle that might just decide to set permanent roots soon if not set out soon.
Each day the weather forecast throws us a glimmer of hope. Sunny days seem only 1 or 2 days away. Yet the sunny forecast for Tuesday magically transforms into rain. Spoiled by last years relatively dry spring it seems outrageous to me, but Dave suggest this is more like the norm and not to despair. Meanwhile another high tunnel is only a few dry days from completion and with it those jungle tomatoes will finally get room to grow not only up but out. We will just keep our fingers crossed for a string of dry days. In the meantime, we'll be enjoying the spread of the rain-fueled vibrant green across fields, forests, and greenhouses.
Another week of unsettled weather here at the farm. April is here for sure!
The farm crew has been busy as always this week - with CSA harvests and box packing, taking down and putting up high tunnels, planting cucumbers in the greenhouse and spinach outdoors, fertilizing the rhubarb, and moving the onions outside. In the midst of it all Steve and Marsha have bought a trio of goats to add to the farm family. They're currently living in our barnyard, antagonizing the laying hens no doubt, but soon enough both groups will be moved to their summer homes - the chickens to one of our pastures and the goats to the shrubby, multiflora-rose-infested woodlot across the creek. Hopefully they'll find the invasive species over there to their liking - in the meantime there should be some pictures up here soon.
Other life is stirring on the farm of late too. The spring bulbs are coming up in the yard, and the wild ramps and trout lilies are springing up by the creek. The mice and voles are stirring in the fields and the hawks glide overhead all day in search of them. As for us, we just try to keep busy and stay useful until the fields are workable - when that day comes, it might last twelve or thirteen hours, as we hurry to do all that has been waiting to be done.
Keep dry, everyone, but not too dry - it's not really spring until you've stuck yourself in a mud puddle!
I'm rather reminded by the farm of how I imagine a bear would act upon coming out of hibernation. Yes, we haven't really been hibernating, I've felt busy all winter (except those 2 vacations within 3 weeks), but between the greenhouses, the shop, and the biweekly csa distributions, our days have felt quite full. But now it seems the farm is fully waking up, shaking off the sleepy winter calm, and heading out. Full of the same sense of urgency I think of a hungry bear roaming around for food. Instead though, we are out trying to beat the weather, scrounging not for hidden acorns or grubs, but spots of dry tillable land, a plastic bed perhaps made up in the fall, or the small herb beds that are workable by hand. Perhaps untrue of both the farm and the bear, but I imagine a bit of grogginess, a bit of uncoordination due to unuse, the need to learn or relearn for both the staff and the equipment. As a four-wheeler not used for months needs a bit of time to get reaquainted with the idea of shifting out of reverse. A parade of tractors rearranged in the machinery shed to access the plow last used months ago. A dash to plow, till, make raised beds, and seed, as decisions are made that indeed the soil is finally dry enough... today. not yesterday but today... unfortunately the snow/ rain/ crazy wintery (spring) mix is called for in a few hours...so out of hibernation into a sprint.
We try to prioritize- what will our members really want in a month or 2. The precious dry ground is fit for peas, both snap and shell, spinach, baby bok choi, mesclun mix, arugula, but beets and carrots still stored in the cooler will need to wait a week or 2. Its also a matter of what can take the crazy weather this spring is bringing and what transplants are ready to go out. Coming out of hibernation is a bit of balance. The energy is there, but tempered by a bit of winter's rust. Leaving the comfy confines of the greenhouses for the wide open skies over the spring mud is something we all have been looking forward to... but a few hours in the damp chill of a cloudy afternoon and I was ready for just a bit more time back in that warm hollow. With rain in the forecast, we most likely won't be abandoning the shelter of the packing shed, shop, and greenhouses, but when the sun returns (hopefully not with accompanying 20 degree nights), we'll be ready, having had a chance to stretch and encouraged by those first tastes of spring planting.