Monday, August 30, 2010

week twelve

So, August has been quite a month. Hope you're still enjoying the scads of heirloom tomatoes in shares... I've received some pretty awesome feedback. One (possibly biased) local chef claims that they're the best in the city. And speaking of local chefs, watch for an upcoming post about the fabulous Pittsburgh restaurants where you'll find our herbs and produce on the menu.

This week, depending on share size, you received: heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, sweet pepper, variety of hot pepper, winter squash (baby blue hubbard, sweet dumpling, green buttercup, butternut, or Thelma Saunders sweet potato squash), rattlesnake beans, husk cherries, cilantro, and savory.

A word about husk cherries - don't fear them. Part of the tomato (nightshade) family, they're strange, tasty, and pretty hard to find. Kind of like cherry tomato meets pineapple meets vanilla. They're versatile too... if you're feeling adventurous you can cook them down into a jam. One of my chefs made them into hot sauce. Or toss them in a fruit salad with melon, berries, mint, lemon/lime basil and a bit of sugar. Or just eat them like candy. Impress your friends... they're a novelty. Here's some more info if you're feeling researchy

Some suggestions for the winter squash from chef Kate Romane of E2 (part of Enrico's Biscotti Co.) restaurant... cube and saute or roast the squash with garlic, shallots and herbs. The savory that you received this week or sage would work well, but certainly experiment with any herbs you have on hand. You could even get nuts and throw in some chopped kale if you still have that hanging around. Toss in some olive oil, salt, pepper and a touch of white vinegar or lemon juice. Adding grains like barley or farro make this a super hearty meal.

Kate also suggested an early fall salad with lentils.... cook the squash with caramelized onions, shallots, garlic. Add apples for a touch of sweetness plus salt, pepper, a bit of cinnamon, and mint. Shove that mess into a pita smeared with goat cheese? Good god, I'm hungry.
Try it. The woman teaches a seasonal salad class, she knows what she's doing.

mmmm.... berries

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

week eight

Ah, August... The heirloom tomatoes are ripening, the peppers are beginning to turn brilliant colors, and the berries are starting to really pour in. About those tasty berries - you'll start receiving them this week and every other week until they're done. One week farm pick up will get them and the next week the deliveries will get them, and here's why: we pick buckets every other day or so but those picked earlier in the week won't keep until the weekend, so they will mostly be sold to the restaurants I deal with. CSA members will get the berries picked close to the weekend. Finally! I know you've all been waiting very patiently for these.

In shares this week you received our first sampling of some heirloom tomatoes, either a mixed pint of cherries, grapes and pear tomatoes or a couple larger paste or slicing tomatoes. You also received cucumbers, summer squash (yellow crookneck, lemon or white bush Lebanese), cabbage (savoy or red), a bunch of carrots (the little round ones are called Paris Market), and a bunch of sweet basil. Yum.

Tis the season for being inundated with summer squash. It's not going to stop any time soon so let's stay on top of using these little suckers, lest you hold on to them and suddenly find that you have enough to build a squash-fort. Here's a few tasty and easy recipes to try...

stuffed summer squash, using your chard and herbs -
summer squash pizza, using your greens, herbs and garlic (and might as well throw some shallots on there.... why not?)
a superfast summer squash and parm pasta (with basil, of course)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

week seven

On Sunday you received a few pounds of new potatoes, shallots, garlic, hot pepper, cucumbers, beans, chard, and full shares got our first harvest of summer squash - yellow crookneck and white bush Lebanese. These squash, and all of the summer squash you'll receive from us, can be used in many and various ways - including interchangeably with zucchini. It's true! I promise! Zucchini bread, fried zucchini, etc. I know we've been here before, but I just want to reiterate :)

Speaking of, one of the recommendations I gave a member at farm pick up was to slice and marinate the squash in oil, a bit of salt, and any variety of the herbs I've been giving you and grill it as a side dish. As far as the new potatoes, I'm sure most of you are stocked up with ways to use these, especially with your garlic and shallots, but here's a quick recipe for roasted potatoes with garlicy mustard vinaigrette

I made a tasty potato dish this week by roasting them and mashing them up (skins and all, of course) with shallots, garlic and sage sautéed in butter and topped with fresh chives. If you're wondering what to do with shallots, fear not. They're in the family Allium which makes them an onion relative, but they have a much sweeter, milder flavor. Think of them as a fancy, expensive gourmet onion.

For those of you who received squash this week, or thinking ahead for those who will get it this Sunday, this pizza sounds amazing - I haven't had a chance to make it yet but hope to do so tonight.... summer squash pizza with garlic and spinach (or in your case... chard)

Monday, July 19, 2010

week six

This week you received some new items, and *gasp* no kale or chard. Though I did make a big pile of kale and beet chips last night and proceeded to inhale the whole batch before even bothering to remove them from the tray. Yum.
This was our first cucumber harvest and there just wasn't enough for all the shares to get some, so partials received a head of lettuce instead. Everyone has a small bunch of carrots, a bag of beans, bunching onions, a couple beets, a big wad of sweet basil (including opal), a bunch of sage, thyme, oregano and rosemary. Those of you who asked for them also received a bag of cooking apples.

Thanks to our new herb garden we're giving out a ton of herbs this year. I've said it before and I'll say it again - there are tons of ways to preserve herbs and if the blog posts don't give you enough ideas just email me and I'll provide some more. Drying, freezing, pesto-ing, and butter are just a few. You might get tired of them now but you'll definitely appreciate having them all winter. And they can seriously be used in pretty much anything - pasta, eggs, pork/beef/chicken/fish, vegetables, marinades, dips, and even desserts. Earlier this week we made herb-y grilled corn: tossed a large bunch of chopped herbs in some melted butter and painted it onto the ears of corn as they roasted on the grill. Herbs even look and smell pretty awesome in a bouquet on your kitchen table. My favorite use of the beans is to blanch them in boiling water, chop any or all of those herbs you received and smother them in melted butter, mix with the beans and a dash of kosher salt.

Next week we'll have more potatoes along with garlic and shallots. You should have some heads of savoy and red cabbage as well. I expect the cucumbers and beans to keep rolling in, and we might throw in some green and hot peppers. I've been expecting the raspberries to be ripe for weeks now so I'm going to go ahead and stop promising that.... they'll just show up in shares one of these days as a happy surprise. Some of you coming to the farm for pick up went into the produce garden with me for a taste of the just-starting-to-ripen husk cherries... Think tiny cherry tomato meets pineapple and vanilla. Sounds strange, tastes delicious.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

week five

This week you received more kale & chard, white & purple bunching onions, a mix of beets (early wonder, chioggia, and golden), a variety of new potatoes (nicola, yellow fin, red gold, purple viking), dill, flat leaf parsley, and a mix of basil (lemon, lime, cinnamon). I just found an amazing recipe for pasta with beets and spring onions - you can also use some of your chard in this one -

There are a ton of options for cooking beets, and most of them start with roasting. Rub the beets with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and roast in the oven for about an hour. When they're done they'll be perfectly roasted and easy to peel. From there you can cook up some of your chard and beet greens and serve them with the sliced roasted beets - perhaps drizzled with some balsamic and honey. Goat cheese and beets with their greens are my absolute favorite combination. At CSA pick up this week I heard someone talking about slicing them raw and baking them into beet chips. That sounded super tasty so I found a bunch of recipes to try here: Why not get crazy and make beet and kale chips?? I just blew your mind a little, didn't I.

If you're having trouble keeping up with the weekly onslaught of herbs and need more ideas for using and preserving, just ask me for some more hints. I know I keep saying this, but they can improve the flavor and jazz up pretty much any dish. I would chop the dill and parsley with some garlic, toss them in olive oil and a bit of salt with those new potatoes, and roast them. Fast, simple, yummy. In the comments I posted two recipes from CSA member Rachel Kottler, for basil parfait and basil sorbet - either of which would be pretty amazing using the lemon and lime basil.

We're starting to pick a lot of beans and cucumbers at the farm this week, and we've got a batch of carrots ready as well. The raspberries are still trickling in and some of you who come for farm pick up had the chance to pick and sample some on Sunday. Here's hoping they're ready this week! And in other exciting news, I've been eating the first few cherry tomatoes the past few days... a Peacevine Cherry and Beam's Yellow Pear. They were, of course, delightful and I expect them to start ripening pretty quickly in the hot weather that's supposed to return this week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's on

We've recovered from a rocky spring and are starting to see some great results....

Danielle pulls the first shallot harvest... they're curing for a couple weeks then we'll have an abundance of these tasty gourmet delights


New potatoes (yellow fin, purple viking and red gold) and shallots - partners in tastiness. What makes a potato "new," you ask? They're just immature potatoes; smaller with thinner, more delicate skin, harvested when the flowers fall off the plant. Mature potatoes are harvested when the plant dies.
Dragon's tongue beans! These tasty heirlooms will be in your CSA shares in the next few weeks, along with other gourmet bush bean varieties like green Jade and Beurre de Roquefort yellow wax. Later this summer they'll be joined by the fantastically sweet Rattlesnake pole bean.
The first peppers and cukes, slowly but surely....

Looks like we'll have cherry tomatoes before the end of the month! These are two (soon-to-be) colorful heirlooms - Violet Jasper and Thai Pink Egg

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Churchview Farm does Digital Salad @ the Mattress Factory!

On Monday I had the opportunity to participate in a ridiculously fun day as part of the Community Art Lab summer camp program at the (amazingly cool) Mattress Factory museum in the North Side. Friend, CSA member and media artist Heather Mallak is leading the camp this summer and has some amazing projects lined up. Nutrition and local foods are part of the focus so Heather asked me to spend some time talking to the kids. They interviewed me and we gave a gigapan virtual tour of the farm (link below), talked about bees and chickens, and they tasted some veggies and edible flowers. They were a fun group of incredibly smart and creative kids, and I really had a blast. We brought some eggs for each of them to take home (many were convinced they could hatch them into chicks, despite how many times I tried to explain the incubation process), nasturtium seeds that they planted, and an assortment of our veggies for their Digital Salad project.

Photos from the day, along with the Churchview Farm gigapan virtual tours (2009 and 2010 farm tour) here:

Some info on the camp and Digial Salad project here:

Photos and interview from the day here:

Monday, June 28, 2010

week four

More greens this week... man oh man are we going to be a healthy bunch! You received head lettuces, two kinds of kale, french breakfast radish, a big bunch of cilantro, and a mix of dill, chives, and lemon & lime basil. I'm loading you up with recipes this week (thanks mostly to intern Danielle M.) so you can use up all these greens by the time we return on July 11 - remember there is no CSA pick up on July 4th.

Try a Swiss Chard and Leek Tart ( Danielle points out that you can use any combo of dark greens (insert kale here), and since leeks aren't in season just substitute bunching onions or garlic scapes.
And I haven't tried these but I think they sound fantastic - Creamed Chard with Spring Onions ( and Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts (

And what to do with all those herbs? The answer is - pretty much anything. Even though we're growing cilantro all season, there never seems to be enough when the tomatoes and peppers come rolling in and everyone wants to make salsa. Like dill, cilantro freezes very well and that's a excellent way to preserve it - just chop it up and store it in a jar in the freezer. I use herbs all winter that way. I think cilantro leaves tossed in a salad gives it a great zingy flavor, especially if you chop a bit up with some of your lemon and lime basil and a few chives to mix with oil, white vinegar, salt, pepper, honey or sugar and a bit of lemon or lime juice for dressing. Another way I use herbs is for a little something I call "emergency dinner," when I don't have time or energy to really cook. I grab a big heap of whatever herbs are closest, chop them up, give them a quick saute in butter and mix with pasta. Sometimes I also saute onions and garlic, add some lemon zest, or add some cream and parmesan cheese for a heavier sauce. The options are endless - yay herbs!

And don't forget about those radish sandwiches, which are perfect in this hot weather. Check the blog posts from last spring for more ideas.

Monday, June 21, 2010

week three

Aside from some spring bugs and setbacks with those crops, things are going very well with the summer crops - we just have to get there! In fact, we had a small unexpected harvest of some hot peppers and strawberries this week - which was way more exciting than it should have been. I've been pinching off the strawberry flowers to let the plants establish for their first year, but I'll let the everbearing variety fruit now that the first round of flowering is over. I don't expect a significant amount this year but you never know. And speaking of berries, the hot weather has speeded up the flowering of the raspberry plants and they're already starting to set fruit. Expect them to come a little earlier, probably starting in about three weeks and continuing into September.
Danielle transplanting melons
The summer squash and melons are finally in the ground and the winter squash is seeded! The new field behind the barn is plowed, dug and planted - better late than never. The potatoes are kicking ass as well.... when we were hilling them this past week we caught a glimpse of a few nice sized potatoes already, so hopefully we'll have new potatoes in a few weeks.
potatoes, and lots of them

This was a very light week, but that gives many of you a chance to catch up on the leftover produce of the last two weeks. And finish up that lettuce, because it's returning next week. This week you received pac choy (slightly nibbled), more chard, herbs (chives, garlic chives, thyme, sage, oregano and savory) and garlic scapes. We ran out of bunching onions so only full shares received those, but we have large second and third crops of those that will be ready in a few weeks. Thanks for being so understanding about the spring issues.

I emailed about the garlic scapes so I think you all have an idea of what to do with those. You want to use the soft, flexy part (not the part of the stem that's rigid) and chop and saute in any recipe that calls for garlic. We made an easy chard, garlic scape and parmesan cheese scramble by essentially chopping the ingredients and frying them along with some of our eggs. Tonight I'm going to saute some more scapes and add them to a pizza. And some of you are wondering what to do with all the herbs, specifically the savory. They're are so flavorful and versatile, you can use them to add amazing flavor to almost any dish. Tarragon is wonderful with eggs, savory is frequently used in chicken and fish dishes, etc. If I have a bunch of random herbs I need to use right away, I just chop them all up and toss them in pasta with butter. I also mix some them in with salad greens. You'll be receiving a lot of herbs this summer, so preserving them is also a good idea. Oregano is, in fact, more flavorful when it's dried, and I chop and freeze things like chives, cilantro, parsley and tarragon and use them all winter. Making herb butter is also a great way to preserve herbs - just chop them up (individually for flavor-specific butter or mix and match) and mix them into room-temperature butter with a bit of lemon zest. Form into rolls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate (or freeze, for long-term storage).
Members at farm pick up have been telling me about some great recipes they've tried or invented using our produce - I encourage everyone to share these, either by commenting on blog posts or on the Churchview Farm Facebook page (!/pages/Pittsburgh-PA/Churchview-Farm/111380458885761?ref=ts&ajaxpipe=1&__a=12).

Monday, June 14, 2010

State of the Crops - spring 2010

I try to keep members updated about the general goings-on at the farm, but things have been so hectic I haven't had time this year. The wet weather has really set us back - we're just now getting the potatoes hilled (and those of you doing farm pick up probably saw my parents and I working on this Sunday afternoon). Though we have flats of summer squash started and doing well, ready to flower in fact, we haven't been able to get them in the ground yet. In addition to the new 6,000-ish square feet for the potato/onion/shallot field we also plowed about 8,000 square feet behind the main barn. This area is for all our winter and summer squash, melons, and second and third cucumber plantings... Though we'll only plant about 5,000 sq feet this year and cover crop the rest. A twice-broken tractor (recently repaired) and wet weather really set this project behind, but it should be ready to plant on Wednesday - as long as we don't get a soaking before then. About an inch of rain per week is all we need and as you know it's been well over that. So we definitely anticipate tons of our great varieties of summer squash and melons, they just might be a few weeks later.

This weather also makes for perfect conditions for many diseases to thrive and spread - including the late blight which has unfortunately already been reported in the area. I am staying ahead of the game this year and treated the tomatoes with an organic copper solution last week, and we plan to schedule this or similar treatments regularly through the season. Treatment essentially involves carefully misting each leaf of the plant, giving all surfaces even coverage. It's certainly labor intensive but I am determined to do everything I can to (safely) avoid the heartbreak and disappointment we experienced last year as a result of this blight. The blight can impact other crops in the nightshade family, so we will treat the potatoes as well.

As you've noticed on some of the greens, we're having a few insect issues this spring. They really did a number on the chard and tatsoi, and started in on the pak choy as well. We're treating mainly by using row covers, hand-picking and applying diatomaceous earth - a chemical-free mechanical pest control. We're also hoping to cut down on this pest population by not planting any more of these susceptible crops until the fall. Instead of seeding or cutting more of these dark greens for early summer harvest, we will tear them out and seed things like more carrots, beets and eventually turnips and parsnips. Insect control and our IPM (integrated pest management) plan is a big part of why we practice crop rotation - the same crops won't be planted in these beds or fields for at least 3 years, not only to give the soil a rest but to thwart these insects.

You also probably noticed that your bunches of spinach were on the small side this week. We had very poor germination with our spinach crops and by the time the problem was apparent it was too late to seed more. Look for more spinach in the fall, and in the meantime you can substitute the tatsoi and chard! You would have carrots in your shares by now but our entire first seeding failed and we're still not sure why. The successive seedings of carrots (three as of today) are doing well, so that's certainly good news. You will see carrots throughout the season since we continue these successive seedings through fall. Another crop you'll see a lot of, but a bit later than usual, are bush beans. The wet weather a few weeks ago rotted off the newly emerged seedlings of all three of our bean varieties. This isn't a huge setback, since we reseeded right away and those seem to be doing well, so that only puts us about two weeks behind. We'll do a second seeding of these soon for a late summer crop. In addition to bush beans, this year for the first time we're trying pole beans - a delicious, sweet-right-off-the-vine variety called Rattlesnake.

In brighter news, the transplants are doing well. Tomatoes, sweet basils, peppers, eggplant and husk cherries are all off to a good start. The first seeding of cucumbers are up and you'll start to see those in shares in mid July. The cabbages look good, and I'm hoping the first round of beets and carrots will be ready soon. And it won't be long until we can dig up some new potatoes! Hang in there and enjoy those greens while you can ;)

week two

Keep those salads coming! This week in CSA everyone received a bunch of French breakfast and cherry belle radish, several heads of lettuce (oakleaf and/or butterhead varieties), a bunch of redbor and winterbor kale, a bunch of tatsoi, and a small bundle of spinach. We planned to include a variety of herbs as well but ran out of time on Sunday morning - look for those in the next CSA.

members Maeve and new mommy Chris
Most of you (aside from 2009 members) may be unfamiliar with tatsoi. I find it very similar to spinach and use the two interchangeably. Raw in salads, cooked in soups or stir fries, or just wilted in a hot skillet with olive oil, garlic and lemon zest - it's pretty delicious any way you use it. Last year some members used it to make "spinach" lasagna, and I just found a great recipe for a very simple browned butter pasta with tatsoi ( I've only ever grown tatsoi in the fall, which (as with most crops) is much easier because there are essentially no insect pests to worry about. It also grows differently in the fall, in a low rosette, whereas in the spring it's more upright. I planned to trim the plants in order to let them regrow for a second spring harvest but the wet weather and other conditions have encouraged such a high pest population for us that it would be a waste of time to try this crop again before fall.
qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqEmma, Charley and Amy with shiny new member Sam
And since we're on the dark greens let's talk about kale! It's a member of the brassica family - just like tatsoi, broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Like many brassicas kale is incredibly nutritious, packed with vitamins and antioxidants galore, and is rich in beta carotene and calcium. I also find it generally delightful. You can use it in many of the ways you use chard and spinach, but unlike those greens it should be cooked and the center rib removed. Kale is excellent in classic "beans and greens": chop & saute the kale in olive oil with garlic and onions, toss with black-eyed peas and sprinkle with grated or shredded parm. This is one of Todd's all-time favorite dishes, but he adds a twist - he fries bacon and sautes the ingredients in the bacon grease instead of olive oil, then adds the chopped bacon. I must admit it's pretty tasty. Another fun way to use kale that I've heard a lot of people talking about this year (including member Rachel Kottler, who suggested the recipe) is kale chips. You can find a few recipes to choose from here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

move over basil, hello chard!

Danielle, one of the wonderful CV Farm interns, passed along this recipe. I haven't tried it yet but it sounds amazing.... so much so that I think it deserves its own post (other week one recipe suggestions posted below). What a tasty and creative use for chard, which members will be receiving all spring. And while it is both versatile and delightful, it's never too early to get creative. This is also a great way to preserve it.

Swiss Chard and Toasted Pecan Pesto
Use chard in place of basil and toasted pecans in place of the toasted pine nuts. All other ingredients remain the same.
4 cups packed fresh Swiss Chard leaves, torn
1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons Extra virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Toasted Pecans, chopped
2 large Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmagiano Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Splash of Lemon Juice, optional
Either use a mortar and pestle and grind all the ingredients together or use a blender/food processor and puree all the ingredients until a paste forms. Some folks like a chunkier pesto while others like a more smooth pesto consistency. Use a little more liquid (this is where the lemon juice works well) and blend longer for the smoother version. This particular pesto is excellent smeared on a baguette with fresh goat cheese and topped with sprouts. It is also fantastic tossed with pasta. I use it on sandwiches, in salad dressings and even on grilled meats. By far, a crowd pleaser and my favorite summertime pesto.

Note: Pesto may be stored in the freezer. Just portion into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen solid, pop out the cubes and place in a freezer bag. Also, just like regular pesto, this pesto will blacken (oxidize) once exposed to air. To prevent this, top off your pesto with olive oil before recapping to seal out the air. Always store your pesto in the refrigerator, unless you freeze it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

week one! welcome 2010 members

Yesterday was the first pick up of our 2010 season and marked the start of our second year hosting a Community Supported Agriculture program! It was a great start to the season... spring shares full of leafy goodness, meeting new members at the farm, and the chickens were reminded how much they love CSA pick up days after eating an obscene amount of cracked corn and other treats provided by all the enthusiastic kids.

Julie, my mom, and Todd and I were up early bright and early on Sunday morning harvesting all the produce for week one. This week everyone received heads of oakleaf and/or butterhead lettuces, deep purple and hardy white scallions, arugula, french breakfast radish, and some combination of bright lights, perpetual spinach and bionda chard. I mentioned that June is heavy on greens so it will pretty much be the Month Of Salads, but for variety's sake you might try using some of those salad ingredients to make a radish, lettuce and spring onion sandwich. I eat these quick & refreshing sandwiches all spring - butter two slices of bread, spread sliced radish (lightly salted) sprinkled with sliced spring onions on one half and and lettuce on the other. Sometimes instead of butter I'll spread fresh goat cheese on the bread. Sound disgusting? Trust me, it's amazing.

Lots of you had questions about the chard. Essentially, chard can be used in place of spinach in any recipe. Some members told me they were making a chard lasagna, some were making chard quiche or omelets, a friend of mine simply sautes it with garlic and mixes it with quinoa. It's wonderful in stir fries or sauteed with garlic and lemon zest as a side dish. Julie makes a standard stuffed pepper stuffing and wraps & bakes it in the chard leaves instead of peppers. Unlike kale, you can chop the ribs of (fresh) chard and use them along with the leaves. The options are endless! Get creative and post your recipes on the blog.
As far as storage suggestions - it's always best to use the ingredients when they're as fresh as possible but the chard will store pretty well in the crisper drawer of the fridge, rinsed and wrapped in a damp towel in an unsealed plastic bag. The same goes for lettuce storage; it keeps for a surprisingly long time treated the same way.

new members explore the chicken coop, and Todd pawns off a weeding job on returning member Elliot Morris

Monday, March 29, 2010

spring firsts

A few weeks ago we started seeding some crops indoors and last weekend we saw some more springtime firsts... the first harvest of the year (technically a crop from last season - leeks we overwintered under straw... they're delicious!), the first direct seeding outdoors ('hardy white' and 'deep purple' bunching onions), and the emergence of our first 2010 crop - the garlic we planted in the fall (left). It has a long way to go; we won't harvest this until August, but I'm thrilled to see the first shoots poking through the straw.

Our partners in beekeeping, Gary Marshall and Tony Indovina (the "bee guys" as I call them) came over a couple weeks ago so we could do some spring maintenance. This involves removing the overwintering wind barriers we set up around the hives, and opening the hives up so we can do a spring inspection. Everything looks great - so much so that we added a honey super to our original hive and brood boxes to the newer hives. The bees overwintered well, are producing lots of brood (new bees) and all is shaping up for this to be a season of bountiful honey harvests. The first harvest of the light spring honey (my favorite) will be in early June.

Notice the orange/yellow stuff that looks like water wings on this lady's back legs (left)? That's pollen that she's collected from some of the first flowering vegetation on and around the farm, and she's carrying it back to the hive.

Our seedlings are doing well indoors and we've been adding new plantings every week. We're about to move some early crops outdoors to harden off, which will open up space on the shelves for the 400 + heirloom tomatoes and 300 peppers and eggplants that are still (mostly) in the germination tent (where we monitor soil temp and keep it as warm as possible until germination). Every week we'll be starting new crops indoors and out - later in April we'll start the melons and squash inside, and I'm starting some cabbage and lettuces this week. There's lots of planting going on this coming weekend - we'll transplant the kale, chard, leeks, onions and brussels sprouts that we started indoors in February, and we'll start direct-seeding beets, carrots, arugula, spinach, radish and other late spring crops that members will receive in the first weeks of CSA.

My mom, Julie and I have been hard at work with our new fabulous intern, Jess, preparing the beds for planting. In the pic above, Julie is incorporating by hand (and fork) the composted manure we spread on the beds in the fall. The next step was to aerate all the beds with a broadfork - no tilling here! Then we cover the beds with black fabric to heat the soil and prevent weeds from germinating until planting time, when it comes off and is replaced with straw mulch. It's a lot of work but the soil looks fantastic, and as we build it with these natural amendments, cover crops, and our sweat and careful labor, it gets better every year.

My dad has been hard at work in the berry patch (the chickens are helping) cutting down the raspberry stalks from last year and getting the rows ready for additional plants. As they spread each year we transplant them to make additional rows. The new stalks are already starting to grow, and these tasty berries will start rolling in around mid July.

Keep in mind that we will be selling seedlings later this spring at one of our first on-farm markets! If you're planning to have a veggie garden this year, treat yourself to some of the same exquisitely tasty, lovely, and unusual heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that we'll be growing on the farm. Watch the blog for more info, or email to add your name to our Market notification list.

Happy spring!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

getting started

The snow is melting and we're finally getting our hands in the dirt again! I'm really looking forward to the 2010 season... new crops and varieites, a full season with the chickens (along with some new ones), new CSA members (and returning ones as well), and the chance to apply the incredibly vast amount of knowledge we picked up last year during our first season of CSA. We're expanding significantly this year, not only to accommodate our growing CSA family but also to experiment with things like markets on the farm and selling to a few local restaurants. In taking on more commitments we knew we'd need more help and were lucky enough to get Julie, our work-for-share in 2009, for the 2010 season as a part-time grower and consultant. We're also taking on a few interns, which takes a bit of the pressure off my poor parents.

A few weeks ago our 2010 seed orders started to roll in and my mom and I started the first flats last week... onions, brussels sprouts, kale, the first batch of chard, and some other early greens. They're already up! Below are our Red Marble onions and the Bright Lights chard - you can already see the red, pink and yellow in the stems.

We'll be seeding flats indoors pretty regularly through the spring. We have a new shelf system set up in the basement with a heated germination chamber, and as soon as some of the cool weather crops are ready we'll rotate them out into cold frames and plant them in the field to make room for the later starts indoors. With the exception of our new strawberries, we start all of our plants from seed and doing everything in a small space is a bit of a challenge.

I'm hoping to get the snap peas in soon, but so much depends on the weather. After all the melting snow and rain this week we need to give the soil some time to dry out before working in it. There is something growing in the main produce garden though... the cover crop of winter rye we seeded late in the fall is getting started again in the raised beds where we'll transplant our heirloom tomatoes in late May.

Keep checking the blog for updates as we get ready for the 2010 growing season.