Friday, September 24, 2010

Ready for fall!

Hi all:
Thank you all for your patience as I've been neglecting the blog the past week or so. It's amazing how autumn brings out the 'stuff to do' list in full force. Speaking of autumn, Brittany and I have been preparing the garden for fall, winter and next spring. It's a great time of year when all of our work throughout the summer culminates in a great harvest season and we can visualize the garden in the coming season. Below are a couple of photos showing some of our work to ensure our fall and winter crops are protected from any oncoming frosts. The greenhouse in the distance will soon roll over the row covered plants in the foreground. You cannot see it but our newest greenhouse will also roll over the row covered crops on the left.
These row covers will protect our crops for our Winter Buying Club. This is the program we have that allows our members to avoid being forced to return to 'produce' from the industrial 'food' system at the end of the CSA season. Each week I publish a list of available produce, the price per unit and our Winter Club members email me with a list of what they would like. Then, I harvest the produce and deliver it to one of several predetermined, convenient locations. It's a wonderful way for our community to enjoy our beyond organic produce throughout the fall and winter. We hope this year to be even more successful at prolonging the season through the winter months. Please email me at if you would like to sign-up for our Winter Club. There is never any obligation to purchase produce.
Finally, the share this week contains one of our squash success stories. Delicata squash! See the photo below for id. This is the first year I've grown Delicata and I'm glad I did. While my buttercup and butternut were doing nothing, these little beauties were working like crazy to produce this beautiful bounty. Here is a recipe that sounds wonderful but it's really just to get your creative juices flowing. There are lots of other preparation methods.
I usually wash the squash, cut it in half lengthwise and then roast it in the oven at a high temp. (depending on the time of year and the outside temp.) on a cookie sheet with the skin side down. I spread raw, local butter on the flesh and sprinkle salt and pepper on it. (Some people like Nutmeg on their squash when roasted this way. I despise nutmeg so I never put it in but people say it's great.)

Also this week is another round of our potatoes. Despite some set-backs, we've had a wonderful crop of many of the varieties planted and we will have more in the next three weeks (Can there really only be three weeks left in this year's CSA season?!?!) You'll also find a braising mix including chard, kale and beet greens. Our tomatoes have slowed down in this fall weather but we're still getting some. As long as we're getting enough to divide amongst our members, you'll be getting them in the share. Also this week is another round of onions, carrots, and our full shares received a rosette of endive. I hope everyone enjoys!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A break in the weather...and now it's fall

Hi all:
I hope everyone is really enjoying this wonderful change in the weather. Brittany and I were ill-prepared for this morning's temperatures at the farm. When I awoke at 5 the wind chill was down to 40 degrees F. We were both wearing long sleeved tops and pants and I even broke out the wool cap! What a difference a hurricane makes. This is what I was talking about last week when it was 98+ degrees F and I was considering that a frost could happen anytime. Supposed to be 40 tonight I hear. We picked the tomatoes pretty hard today. You might have received some tomatoes in this week's share that need to sit a bit on the windowsill. The same message from last week applies. Please go through the tomatoes and get them dried out. I actually rinsed the cherries today because they were cracking so much. Brittany and I did a very good job of avoiding the cracked ones but the weather change is really messing with things. They are so fragile!
Here is a shot of me trying a new idea. We get a lot of fertility off the farm from municipal leaf collections from the town of Newport and Brewer. I don't really like the time it takes or the fact that I have to drive all the way to Brewer with a very large truck to get the leaves. I have done some research and other alternative farmers use the fertility from their own farms as much as possible. It turns out that hay can really increase fertility in the garden. I am trying it and I hope to report good results.
I also want to mention one of the problems we've had in the garden this season. Even in a 'perfect' growing season we can experience problems. I must confess that these problems are mostly of my own making. You've noticed I'm sure that we haven't had many cucumbers. I tried something new this year by growing cucumbers among the corn after reading that cucurbits can be grown that way to keep raccoons off the corn. It turns out that it only works with certain types of squash. Cucumbers aren't quite hardy enough to cope with the shade from the corn. Lesson learned, never experiment without growing the crop the regular way. I apologize to everyone who was really expecting cukes this year and hope we've been able to make up for it with other stuff (i.e. tomatoes...and more tomatoes and tons of other stuff).
Keuka Gold potatoes. This week's potatoes are Keuka Gold. A wonderful potato! Here is a link describing why I purchased this seed originally gold&descKey=7800. I have talked to several small farmers who actually don't like them. I cannot figure out why. I love these potatoes. They are great for making mashed potatoes and good for baking too.
Also, the Kohlrabi is in for the rest of the shares who didn't get it last time. We offered the first of it to about half of you this summer. But that left a few of you who didn't get it. I hope you enjoy it. Here is a link about Kohlrabi but you can learn a bit about it from a google search.

The rest of the share holds the usual fare. We are also saving lots of seeds this year, as much as we can anyway. Below are some beautiful beans. The color is amazing and I can't wait to harvest the majority of them. They are even more beautiful when they are fully dried.

I will be getting in touch with all of you in the coming weeks about some of our future plans for next season and your thoughts on this season. I hope everyone is enjoying the share.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Update on the previous post

I forgot to mention an important fact about the potatoes. Green on the potatoes needs to be cut off. A lot of people don't know this but that is actually indicative of the presence of a toxin that the plants produce if the tuber (the potato, actually not a root but a tuber) is exposed to the sunlight. The chemical is toxic but take it from someone who has eaten his share of it, it takes a lot to make the average person sick. But don't take the chance and cut it out. All the green means is that the mulch we used didn't quite cover that particular potato. The rest is edible and you can just cut the green part out. Here is a link to information about the green you might find on some potatoes.
There are always some potatoes that don't get covered up. In the industrial, global 'food' system, they are discarded because they don't look right. In a local system, they are recognized for what they are, a good, hearty food that might require a little extra work to remove the part you don't want. Thanks for participating in the latter! Enjoy.

Potatoes, Tomatoes and Decisions

Evening all:
I'm short of pictures tonight, as well as time since I'm prepping for high winds so I'll make this brief and just include some information about certain things that need to be taken care of in the share.
First, the tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes are suffering a bit from this heat and lack of water. I don't really irrigate except when it comes to seedlings being planted out. They need a bit of a boost. Other than that I really try not to irrigate because it is very, very damaging and has long-term consequences that people haven't begun to think about (unfortunately). Thus, sometimes crops begin to become stressed. Hopefully the promised rain from the hurricane will help get us back on track.
The stress in the cherry tomatoes is showing in thin skin. The moisture is being sucked out of the cherries into the atmosphere. Also, the plant itself is unable to give up as much moisture to the fruits as it's simply attempting to survive at this point. Thus, the skins are weak on the cherry tomatoes. It is very, very important that you remove your tomatoes from their bag, look them over and rinse them lightly in a colander. This will remove any tomato juice that may be on them from any cherries that split or burst in transit. Carefully go over your tomatoes and look for signs of splitting. This is especially prevalent in the cherry tomatoes. Remove any that have split. You may wish to eat them right there is that's the only thing wrong with them. If you don't have fruit flies (sometimes at this time of year they are a menace) you can leave the rest of the tomatoes right in the colander overnight to dry. Then store them as you normally would. This is all very important as it will prolong the life of your tomatoes through the week. If you don't do this, please expect some rotten tomatoes in the bottom of your bag before too long. Isn't biology fun?
Second, Potatoes are in! We've included the first of the potato harvest in today's share. I don't have the camera or I'd include the photos I took today. Sorry. But they are the ones in the brown paper bag. Please note that potatoes do not go in the fridge. When potatoes get that cold the starch (i.e. the thing that makes a potato a potato) turns into sugar. If you've ever tried to eat one after that's happened you know not to do it. Not very appetizing. So please store them in a dark, cool place with lower humidity. Here is a link about storage of potatoes (this link applies to all of the potato varieties you'll get this season from Parker Produce. And here is a link to Johnny's Seeds page about Kennebec potatoes. Just for information about the specific variety.
Also this week is Basil, Garlic (Inchelium Red), Onions, Carrots, Zucchini and Summer Squash.
The 'Decisions' part of the title implicates our thought process as we move closer to potential frost. I realize most people probably think the idea of a frost is just silly in this heat wave. However, the average first frost date of fall in Newport is September 15th. That leaves us only two more harvest weeks prior to the potential. Thus, we have to start harvesting things as though there will be no tomorrow. Certain things in the garden can survive a frost or two...winter squash is a good example. However, some things are not tolerant of any frost at all...Tomatoes and Basil are good examples. They immediately shrivel and turn into disgusting masses of previously wonderful stuff. In fact, as soon as the nightly temperature starts to consistently drop into the 50's, tomato growth is done. (We have some in a greenhouse which gives us a buffer on that.) So we have to start harvesting very hard and you may start to get things like green tomatoes in your share. I'll try to explain when that happens but just a heads up.
Please see the link at the right about storage information from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Emily took this class last year with her sister as a fun thing to do and a great way to learn some very, very valuable information. It has proven very useful in our household. I don't agree with all of the over-protective steps they sometimes preach but the class is very valuable and exposes people to a great way to preserve the harvest. Check it out and see if you can get to know someone who wants to/does preserve food this way. You'll love going to the root cellar in the winter and finding all of your hard work of fall lining the shelves.