We started harvesting the first of the zucchini this morning and I already have my first batch of zucchini bread in the oven! Zucchini will be available at the Friday farmstand (limited quantities) along with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, spring onions and scallions. We also have seedlings for sale. Coming soon: Cabbage. Open Tuesday and Friday 3:00-7:00PM.
Stop by and say hello this Friday! We are harvesting kale, lettuce and possibly cauliflower. We also have fresh herbs and seedlings for sale. 3:00-7:00PM.
This time of year is always a challenging one at the farm. Certain crops which shall remain nameless, require countless hours a week to harvest. The humidity can make long days feel even longer for our staff and I won't even mention the weeds. The end of August is also the time of year when we have to say goodbye to team members like Adam as they head back to school. Adam was only with us a short time but he contributed in a big way and he will be missed. We wish him all the best as he starts his freshman year at Marymount Manhattan College where he will be studying acting. I've enjoyed seeing the bonds that form between members of our farm family and I hope that they keep in touch with each other as they go out into the world.
Miraculously, the universe seems to send us help whenever we are short-handed and we hope to welcome a new team member to see us through the end of the season soon. In the meantime, our team is working harder than ever to bring the harvest to our members in time for each share distribution. Share distribution days feel a little like holidays. Holidays where you are hosting 40 of your closest family members and have about a day to prepare. On the menu is an incredible assortment of vegetables that includes everyone's favorites. The team moves at good pace to harvest everything on the list by about 2:00 or so and then starts the final preparations that can include rinsing root vegetables, bagging potatoes, bringing bins and bins out of cold storage and counting to determine share sizes. Time seems to speed up in the hour before pick-ups start so we appreciate the patience of members who may arrive early.
Our farm team starts at 7:30 each day and work well into the evening. Members who live very close to the farm may hear Kevin in the field spraying in the field at night. He regularly sprays a cooper solution approved for organic farms on crops like tomatoes, pepper and squash to keep diseases like cucerbit downy mildew and late blight at bay. He waits until the sun goes down because the winds typically die down at night thus improving the amount of solution that gets on the plants. I suppose at some point, it wouldn't be the end of the world if he accidentally forgot to spray the summer squash...although I do have to make at least one final batch of zucchini bread one of these days.
We don't often have a lot of time to prepare food this time of year but we are trying to enjoy as much of the harvest as we can. Two years ago, one of our members gave me the following recipe for salsa verde that I pull out whenever we have ripe tomatillos. Thank you Brenda!
Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 pound tomatillos (about 15) husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
3/4 of a regular sized ancho pepper
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (1 bunch)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree but not too much. This is an all purpose salsa verde but we just enjoy it with tortilla chips.
If your share size is less than a pound and you would like to try this recipe, you can feel free to take extra if they are available!
It's a share distribution day and the team is hard at harvest. This week, we are thankful for rain showers and mild temperatures. We are also thankful for a strong core team and for the folks who pitch in when their busy schedules allow. People who find themselves with a few extra hours a week and choose to spend them working at the farm. People with full plates who opt to make them even fuller by offering up a few hours to help harvest, hoe rows and plant seedlings in the hot summer sun. I continue to be amazed not only by the dedication of the team we have but by their cheerfulness. Their laughter is often carried by breezes into open house windows and I can't help but smile to myself.
On our Table: When the first batch of zucchini bread came out of Sue's oven, she drove the still warm loaves to the farm to share. Here is her recipe. There is a small batch of loaves for sale at the market table today. It's the best zucchini bread you'll ever taste. I wonder if the local police have ever been dispatched to break up a fight over zucchini bread? Please no pushing.
A very Happy Fourth of July weekend to all!
Earlier this week, I spent the day harvesting with our team. We harvested arugula, spinach, lettuce and kale mostly under cloud cover. The sun began to come out as we harvested the radishes, beets and turnips then we stopped for a late lunch. Seated at our picnic table, harvest knives were pushed aside and lunches were unpacked. Our Apprentice, Kristin had brought two mason jars of switchel to share and cups were passed around. She told us that this old farmer's drink is especially quenching on long days in the field. Made with water, ginger, cider vinegar, and molasses, the cool drink was delicious. Centuries ago this was the thirst-quencher of choice for many farmers but it was my first taste and it was incredibly refreshing. Just as refreshing, was the company on harvest day as I enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside our team. Each Apprentice cheerfully contributes in her own way and shares their individual experiences so as to lift the productivity and spirits of our entire farm on a regular basis.
While we ate our lunch, we were conscience of the time. Specifically, how much time remained before share distribution was scheduled to start. There were still more beets and turnips left to harvest and rinse and set up time was fast approaching. Tasks were divided and last bites were hastily taken. We all love pick-up days but the clock seems to speed up once it hits noon. Each week, the team perfects their routine and then new crops are added to the harvest list and suddenly they need to accomplish all that they have in addition to more! Oh, and there's about a hundred cabbage moths hungrily looking for our kale and collards.....
I was talking with one of our town's long time residents last year and he asked how the farm was going. I told him it was going well and we generally joked about the ups and downs such as weather. Looking off to some distant point on the horizon, he asked, "didn't they try and tell you?" I thought we were talking about the rain but then it seemed like we were talking about something else. With "they" as in all those who have tried before to make a life and a living from the earth. "They" as in previous generations who had spent a lifetime trying to work with the cards that mother nature deals, pests who are forever trying to eat their crops and diseases that were constantly threatening to wipe out entire rows. It was a simple but direct question which I initially thought was rhetorical so I just nodded with a smile.
"Didn't they try and tell you?" the question was asked a second time this time in earnest. As in weren't you warned about the economic challenges, impossibly long to-do lists and back-braking manual labor? We have been warned. Alongside an entire new generation of farmers who have been warned, we enter into the profession anyway. We are going to give it a shot anyway. Not in spite of, but because of the farmers who have gone before us and given us an example of a way of life that appeals to us (for some crazy reason). A large motivational force for us is our children but we are also driven forward by the spirit of ancestors who cheer us on from the other side.
Working on a farm, there are constant reminders of the past. The earth itself offers clues. Arrowheads have been found in the fields. Bits of old brick, glass bottles and pieces of oyster shell that was once put on the field by Kevin's Grandfather to help balance the soil pH. Adding to that in more recent history, rocks that bear the marks of the blades of the tiller driven over the fields by Kevin and his father. It's so exciting to join the ranks of stewards of this little piece of land. A role we recognize as temporary and one that we take very seriously. We are incredibly grateful that these last remaining acres of the farm have been preserved and we are working hard to make it a success. As a newcomer to farming, that cup of switchel was particular sweet. To me, it was like a toast to life on a farm and a sip of the past. Kristin, thank you for sharing!
Frost warnings had us scrambling for ways to safeguard our new seedlings from the cold yesterday. Since our greenhouse is completely full, our strongest plants have been put outdoors to "harden off." Hardening off is the process of introducing new seedlings to the natural elements of wind and light rain, etc. before they are planted. The seedlings can take a dip in temperature but not a frost so Kevin and Charlie loaded them up in the back of the old farm truck and pulled them into the barn. I love this old truck and am happy to see it sitting in the lane today outside our kitchen window. We're thankful not to have plants in the ground to worry about but are conscience of the calendar - it's planting time! Hopefully this is the last cold spell of Spring.
We've seen good germination rates with our seeds and our seedlings are healthy. Our Apprentice Jess has been blessed with the gift of growing things and we have been blessed with Jess. Thank you Jess for all that you do! Thank you also to Charlie and Sue for picking up much needed supplies for us from Lancaster recently. And a big Thank You to Bruce for fixing our lawn mower. I think we need to bestow a special title on Bruce and come up with richer barter. Offers of coffee and fresh eggs really don't make for fair trade!
Today's task is measuring out the fields and marking rows. We rotate our crops each year which means just when we've memorized where everything is, it all changes. It's windy but it feels good to work under blue skies. Empty fields are pure potential and we're eager to start planting! Once we get the fields marked, it'll be time to fertilize and make beds. This weekend will be spent working but no one is complaining. We've been waiting for the start of a new growing season all winter and we're thankful for warmer temperatures.
As soon as the first planting is finished we can start counting down to the first share distribution. We're looking forward to welcoming many of our members back and greeting new members in June!
It may not be warm outside but it's Spring in our greenhouse! The thermostat reads 70 degrees to be exact. Martine came by this morning while home on spring break to do a little "potting up," which meant moving tiny leek and parsley seedlings into larger celled trays. She will be returning to the farm full-time in June and we wish her all the best as she gets ready to graduate.
Our first crops of broccoli, cauliflower, onions and cabbage have been started in the greenhouse. Now if the ground would just start warming up we can get ready for planting.
As we finalize our planting schedule for the year, I am petitioning for baby beets, dandelion greens and mini decorative pumpkins. I am also urging restraint in the area of summer squash - reminding Kevin there actually is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We're planning to have more pickling cucumbers and hope conditions are right to plant Brussels Sprouts earlier. Also new this year, dill!
We are excited to announce that CSA sign-up for 2015 is in full swing. If you or anyone you know is interested in joining, details can be found here.
Our most recent snow storm brought about 5 inches of snow. Thankfully, the snow was the light fluffy kind that made for easy plowing. The tractor doubles as a snow plow during the winter months and actually makes shoveling a long driveway kind of fun.
Temperatures have been below freezing most days and it has presented some small challenges - mainly keeping fresh water for the animals on a regular basis as it can turn to solid ice in just a couple hours. In the late afternoon, we check on things outside - most importantly, the water pails. Each night, we bring the water pails in the house to keep them from freezing and then return them to the coops first thing in the morning.
The three younger hens are still being kept in the barn. They are younger than the original flock and their smaller size makes them lower in "pecking order." Our initial attempt at introduction didn't go all that well so we're still keeping them separate for now. It went something like this. "Oh! Who are you?" And before any of the larger girls would listen to reason, they were proving their superiority with sharp pecks. Kevin recently set up a new coop in the empty horse stall. The younger chickens are happy but will certainly enjoy being on pasture in the Spring. One of them just started laying this morning!
On the coldest days, we toss a handful of scratch (cracked-corn) to the full-grown chickens in the outside coop. This helps them to have a full crop overnight, sort of like a nice warm bowl of oatmeal before bed. The chickens don't much care for walking in snow but will tolerate a little of it. They prefer the warmth of their coop and the feathery body heat of their sisters. When we lock up the coop at night, the hens are lined up on their roost bar, eyes half-closed. It's amusing to watch them jostle for their preferred spot on the roost bar, everyone wants to be in the middle.
And inside, we are all staying warm too ~ busily planning for Spring. A huge thank you to our friend Ben for fixing our computer. We will hopefully be able to post updates more often!
This Friday, October 24th is National Food Day and we will be at Community Middle School. We promised to share photos of the farm with the students we are visiting so here are some favorites. (We also promised to share pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins so I better get roasting!)
This blog is about our small family farm and homestead located in Central New Jersey. We grow for our own table but we also grow for the tables of our families, friends and neighbors through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.