Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Pullets to Hens

Greetings all:
Well, I just got home after an evening at Balfour Farm in Pittsfield. I was there for a buying club meeting and got some great conversation with a great farming couple and to top it off I got some great, fresh, local milk from their grass-fed cows.
When I returned to the farm I was making my rounds in the pouring rain with my flashlight, feeding pigs, covering crops, closing in the chickens, when I just happened to look in the nesting boxes in the pullet house (pullets are first year laying hens before they start to lay eggs) when I found our first egg of the season from this flock!!! Wahoo, soon we'll be in eggs up to our knees again. After a month long dry spell, seeing that first egg was a wonderful sight. I woke Emily up to show her and I can't wait for Lizzie to wake up in the morning so she can see the first egg. She'll be so excited because she'll want to help collect them again and now she can check for eggs!
Be well, stay dry and enjoy our local food web.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BDN prints Editorial!

Greetings all:
Just wanted to let you know that the Bangor Daily News has printed an editorial that I authored. You can visit the following link to read the piece.
As is stated at the end of the piece, you can also visit 'We Are All Farmer Brown' on Facebook to learn more about Mr. Brown's case. Also, you may be interested in visiting to learn about the ordinance itself. Be well and thank you for supporting our local food web.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Autumn at the farm

Fall's Greetings everyone:

We've been so busy at the farm these last weeks since our final CSA delivery that I haven't had much opportunity to post a blog. We're not yet finished our garlic planting since we were interrupted about halfway through by the early snowfall. Luckily, it has all melted and tomorrow I'll be planting the soft neck varieties for next year's harvest. But in the meantime, since it's dark so early today I figured I'd take a moment to update you all on happenings at the farm.

The other day Emily and Lizzie came out for a photo shoot. Here's Lizzie on her walk-about.

I'm a very big fan of lettuces that are cold hardy. This one is actually the least cold hardy of any that I plant for winter. It will survive the winter and be ready in spring but it's not much good relative to others for harvests in the deep winter. However, at this time of year, the cold weather brings out the darkest of the reds. Beautiful.

Red Salad Bowl

Each fall I plant spinach to last us and our members through the winter. It seems I'm never planting enough. This year I went, what I thought, was overboard. Turns out I have a lot of interest in spinach from the growing numbers of folks turning to their local farms to provide a safe, healthy alternative to the globalized, industrial food-like system. This is one bed that's ready now. The others will hopefully come online shortly!


Here is an experiment I tried this fall. Tennis Ball Lettuce is a miniature head lettuce, very light green. I will try again next year as this lettuce, while fine and tasty, didn't get into the ground early enough to head up fully. The heads are a bit looser than they are in the summer. Like I said, still delicious!

Tennis Ball Lettuce

Here is a beautiful, wonderful example of, 'they don't make them like they used to'. This amazingly beautiful variety of lettuce is a rare French Heirloom from a couple centuries ago during the height of what is known as French Market Gardening. This Parisian system of gardening was an amazingly self-sufficient system of what I call 'closed loop' farming. I'm trying to emulate the intensive nature of the Parisian system at our farm. This lettuce is extremely cold hardy and was actually growing (not just dormant) in late January last year in our solar heated hoop house!

Merveille des Quatre Saisons Lettuce

(Marvel of Four Seasons)

And here is how we make the magic happen...partially. This system is touted by people like Eliot Coleman. Some people call them quick tunnels, some call them low tunnels, etc. I don't think they are particularly quick but that's probably because of the extra effort I make to ensure the hoops are secure in the ground. Either way, it's still a great system for keeping things through the winter. Here I've got red lettuce, head lettuce, beet greens and two varieties of fall broccoli.

And here is one of our mobile greenhouses. It looks a lot different than it did in the summer, stock full of tomato plants climbing to the roof and back. Even though I love tomatoes I think I prefer this way, the orderliness of it is appealing to my sensibilities. It's much harder to keep tomatoes in check.

And here is where it all starts. Actually, this is about two weeks after it starts. These beds look bare but if you look very closely, you can see the lines from our 6-row precision seeder. You probably wouldn't be able to make out the tiny spinach plants just making their way into the world. These rows are now covered with more low tunnels and will remain so until spring. I hope to pull them off to reveal a series of beds filled to the brim with spinach.

Here are some more with baby carrots, kale and parsnips.

Here are the remnants of our tomato column. Luckily, I inter plant with lots of other things, in this case leeks and chard so this part of the garden is still productive.

And here is one of our concoctions including many items from the summer and fall gardens. Roasted Vegetables of Fall. This is one of the items available to our Winter Club Members. If you haven't signed up for the Winter Club you can click the link at the right to learn more.

Here are some more items. Specifics below.

Soup n' Snack Carrots

Prepared Butternut Squash

Prepared Pie Pumpkin

I hope to finish planting garlic this weekend, keep your fingers crossed, and then I'll have a bit more time at night (that's when I do all the separation and grading before planting in the daylight hours) to do things like blog postings and begin assessing date from this season to plan for next. Talk to you soon!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Final Share of the 2011 CSA Season!!!

Hi everyone:

Well, it's been quite an amazing season this year. We had such a wonderful summer with so many great things coming out of the garden and we hope everyone enjoyed the bounty as much as we enjoyed growing it.
This week's share is decidedly 'fall' in nature. I harvested the last of a bunch of things this week, including tomatoes and cucumbers. But they were in small enough quantity that we couldn't put them into the shares. However, we still have lots and lots of stuff for you this week. Including, Long Pie Pumpkins. No, these are not orange zucchini though that is what most people think when they first see them. If you ever come across an orange zucchini be sure to get some of the seeds and give them to me! I'd love to grow a zucchini that looked this cool. Long Pie Pumpkins used to be grown a lot more in Maine according to an article I read by one of Maine's leading vegetable experts. The reason being that it's the only pumpkin that will reliably ripen after it's been picked. This has obvious benefits for our short season.

I tried to pick the most ripe for your share this week but some people got pumpkins like this one. Never fear! You could actually cut this open and cook it and it's ripe 'enough'. However, you could give it some more time by just putting it on your kitchen counter and letting it turn fully, deep orange. That's when it's fully ripe and makes an amazing pie (or cookies in our house).

Luckily, you can let your Long Pie Pumpkin ripen because I also put another type in your share this week. New England Pie Pumpkin is advantageous because it vine ripens in our short season.

Anyone who orders from our winter club this winter will have plenty of other opportunities to enjoy real, fresh, beyond organic pumpkin for pies and other recipes. Pumpkin also makes a great soup. Emily is looking forward to making a pumpkin apple bisque. I can't wait to try it. Fresh, real pumpkin is so superior to that stuff you get in a can from the grocery store that you'll never want to go back. A quick Google search yields the best cooking method. We cut in half, remove the seeds and netting and roast in the oven on a cookie sheet until tender. Then remove the flesh from the skin, compost the skin (or feed it to the pigs/chickens in our case) and use the pumpkin in your favorite recipe. Most recipes recommend you puree the pumpkin but we often find this unnecessary depending on the recipe.

Also this week is my favorite winter squash, at least that I've so far found. I try a new variety every year. Last year I tried this beauty, Australian Butter and fell in love with this squash. It has a 'meat' like a Buttercup but is more creamy and it's much larger, which means you have more leftovers and get more out of each squash. Plus, unlike other large winter squashes like Hubbard, this isn't difficult to cut open. I prefer to cut it in half, remove the seeds and cut the halves into quarters (so eighths overall). Then put them in a bit of boiling water, it's not necessary to cover with water because they are good steamed, and cook until tender. Then remove from the boiling water and scoop the meat out of the skin. Just as with pumpkin, some people puree it but we just mash it like potatoes.

You also have Red Russian Kale, Chard Mix, Carrots and Beets as well as another 5 lbs of potatoes.

I'll leave you with a few shots of us getting everything together today.

Our first Winter Club email will be coming out in about a week and a half so keep an eye out for that. If you're new to the Winter Club, be sure to check out the Winter Club link at the right. If you have questions, please let me know. We've enrolled all of our CSA members in the Winter Club at no additional cost. Thank you for your participation in our local, beyond organic food chain and thank you for your ongoing support of our diversified, family farm. See you soon.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Greetings everyone:
First, I want to remind everyone that this is the second to last share day for the summer CSA. What a season!!! Next week, October 7th, marks the final delivery day for the 2011 CSA Season. Please remember to bring back all of your harvest bags. Your share will be available in a brown paper bag next week.

This also gives us a good opportunity to tell you that, as a special thank you for supporting your local, beyond organic, family farm, we've enrolled all of our summer CSA members in our Winter Club for free!!! You can click on the 'Winter Club' link at the right to learn more if you've not participated before. Please email me with any questions (or call).

Now, onto the share for this week. I titled this week's post 'Seconds' because of all the references you'll find to that concept. The fact that this is the second to last harvest is just one example. You all found a note in your harvest bag asking you to visit the blog to learn about the motley appearance your butternut squash. Please be assured that it is edible and not just looks awful!

Below is an explanation in photos and prose. Our Butternut squash got something called Arterial Wilt. It is related to high moisture around the plants. This is not harmful to humans but very annoying to the farmer! It starts out subtly as in the photo below. A small series of concentric, brown circles.

It then begins to take over the whole outside of the squash. Just below my thumb in this photo is the next stage. That white patch is a mold that begins to damage the inside of the squash.

What you could do, if you want, is cut off the bad portion completely, see below.

However, as you can see below, if I cut off just the very top (just below the stem) the wilt doesn't penetrate deeply into the flesh of the squash, even at the advanced stage that this one is at.

So...I recommend you proceed as you normally would for a butternut. Cut lengthwise (after removing the stem as above).

As you can see, this squash is 99% fine. So why is it so annoying to the farmer? For one, this isn't a 'marketable' squash. We're considering applying to sell at farmer's markets next year and this sort of thing is a wrench in the works of a good market display. Even though the squash is perfectly fine for fresh eating, who would look at it and give the farmer time to explain that there is nothing really wrong with the edible part? I certainly wouldn't, and couldn't blame anyone for doing the same!

Second, and more importantly, it affects the storage quality of the squash. Winter squash is meant to be stored and eaten from the cellar all winter. But this Wilt will keep spreading and eventually rot out the entire squash. Thus, you need to eat it this week.

Now, onto the next 'Second' reference. The garlic in your share is what I would call 'seconds' garlic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with most of it except that it isn't as pretty as what you would find at a farmer's market. The reason being that I didn't get it out of the field quickly enough this season. Having a three year old, a new baby and no apprentice really added up in certain areas. Garlic was one of them. The garlic in your share is perfectly edible and most of it will store quite some time. It will not store as long as a pristine, well-cured bulb though. I suggest you use the garlic in the next 1-3 weeks.

Also, if you find any individual cloves that are really soft please remove them so they don't spread any softness to the other good cloves in the bulb.

Now, onto a 'second' that you won't get. Here is what we put in the share each week for carrots. Relatively large, uniform roots with few, if any, blemishes. This is something we would not mind having at a farmer's market. I've had very good luck with carrots ever since the 2009 season when I took the time to really learn how to grow them well.

Even still, I don't thin as religiously as some farmers. So I get a lot of 'seconds'. Carrots that are too small, to ugly, have a blemish or two, etc. They're perfectly good to eat and that is why we eat them in our home. You all eat the pretty ones, we eat the small ones.

And then there are the ones that nobody eats. One thing that differentiates the Parker Family Farm from other Market Farms, is our interest in self-sufficiency, sustainability and community self reliance. One manifestation of these concepts is our interest in and practice of saving seeds. Carrots are a biennial crop when it comes to seeds. In other words, they won't produce any seeds the first year. They need to be saved through the winter and then replanted in the spring when they go into seed production. Biennial crops are harder to save than annual crops (seed bearing). I've had some luck with certain annuals. Since I have harvested so many monster Danvers carrots this year, I'm going to try to save them and grow them out for see next season. Take a look at these beauties!

Here's Lizzie giving a little perspective! These things are huge, uniform and amazing! Hopefully, I'll be able to save them and replant next spring!

Here is a first that is also a second. This is the first week you received Leeks in your share. But, these are what I would call 'Seconds' too. The only reason being that they aren't as large as market leeks. I saved those for next week. I save the larger ones for later because they tend to handle frost better. The smaller, more tender leeks can do it, but they bruise more easily and loose their attractive leek-ness. No, that's not a word but you get the idea.

We've also included Fernleaf Dill this week. I love the days when we harvest dill. It makes the milk house (and your hands when packing it) smell amazing! One of the best ways to use fresh dill (if you're not pickling, which is another of the best ways) is to sprinkle it on lightly cooked veggies. I like it on carrots and potatoes. When you cook small potatoes until they are just tender and then sprinkle freshly chopped dill on them, you're eating what we call PoDilloes! Yummy.

Assuming we get a frost at some point (I'm beginning to wonder) this might be the last of the dill. Either way though, this is the last week of tomatoes. I'm ripping the plants out so I can move the greenhouses to their winter beds. It's been a great season for these little producers. You have a mixture of Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes. See you next year Little Tomatoes!!!

We also put another 5 lbs of potatoes in your share this week. I finally finished harvesting potatoes this week on Tuesday morning. Several long days on hands and knees digging through our potato beds has me thinking about other, more efficient ways to harvest. However, this year's work paid off as I harvested a total of 1,293 pounds of potatoes. That's the highest yield I've ever recorded and it will go a long way toward keeping our Winter Club Members fed this winter! Great work tubers!

Now, onto some more seconds...and firsts! This past weekend was the annual Common Ground Country Fair. Hopefully, some of you made it out to this wonderful event. For the first time this year I entered some of our veggies into the Exhibition Hall for judging against standards. I learned a lot about the process and will try more next year. Best of all, we won several 1st and 2nd place ribbons! Below are some of our entries with the ribbons.

We also want to give a big congratulations to Brittany and Joy who just closed on their new farm on Monday! We're certainly going to miss having Brittany around next year but we're very anxious to see all that she'll accomplish in her new place and look forward to having her join the ranks of the small farmers in Maine who are working to change the food system and the world for the better.

Finally, you may notice in the coming months that we have changed the name of our farm. When I started Parker Produce several years ago, I was hoping to provide local produce to area restaurants in an effort to change that aspect of the food system. However, I quickly decided that this didn't provide the avenue for change I was seeking. There simply wasn't enough opportunity to connect the people in our community back to their food. That's why I moved away from that and toward the CSA. It is also why, along with an expanded, improved CSA, we're also looking into selling at farmer's markets next year. Also, with the immense pressure that currently pushes against the family farm, we are joining the ranks of the many small, diversified farms around the country that are pushing back against draconian tactics from the federal and state governments and globalized, corporate agribusiness, which are all working to destroy small farms in favor of centralized, huge 'farms'.

Thus, in order to better reflect the values of our family and farm, we've decided to call ourselves Parker Family Farm. We hope our members will bear with us as we make this transition and we thank each of our members and customers for their ongoing support of our local, beyond organic, diverse farm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Winter Squash and the Colors of Autumn

I just posted a blog...and realized our computer was still signed into Emily's blog. So, until I get a chance to move it over here, check out
Sorry for the error!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goodbye summer...hello fall.

Well, fall came in with a bang after yesterday's rain storm. Today is the first official day of fall. You know how I know? Because Brittany and I were both complaining about how cold our hands were this morning. It's usually the first day of fall when that happens despite what any calendar might say. And there was no gradual slide into fall. There is apparently a major frost warning for the entire state tonight. That means it's goodbye to some of the things we've been enjoying all season. Today's share has the last of the tomatoes for sure and will probably have the last of the cucumbers and summer squash as well. They've all been good to us and I can't complain since it's been a great season and a long one at that.

Also, there will definitely not be anymore basil if we get a heavy frost. Basil doesn't like cold and it despises frost...or perhaps the frost despises basil based on how the basil looks after a frost.

And I know frost isn't good for pole beans.

Well, enough of what we won't have for the rest of the season. Onto the great fall crops we do and will continue to have. Potatoes are in in a big way. We've started the big push on these wonderful tubers and you've received 4lbs today. A mix of White and Red again to keep it interesting. One member who stopped by to pick-up already mentioned chowder. Doesn't that sound awesome on this early cold day?

You'll also find Carrots and Kale among your heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, summer squash, basil and pole beans. Next week will bring more fall crops as we move into the winter squash realm! Enjoy and I'll see some of you at our picnic and farm tour tomorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shell Beans and Aromatherapy!

Greetings all, and welcome to the final month of the Parker Produce CSA 2011 season! We're nearing the finish line as we like to say around here. I'm sorry for the late blog but I tried to upload a video about our shell beans and it wasn't working. I just tried it again and looked at the video and it turns out it's good that I couldn't upload it this afternoon. Everything is blurry so the close-ups aren't much use. We may try again if I get time but until then, here is a shot of the Vermont Cranberry Shell Beans in your share.

As you probably notice, they aren't much to look at when you view the pods. However, take a look at the beans inside and you'll see a very, very pretty bean. Shell Beans are best slow cooked in simmering water for a good hour. Then you can use the cooking water for a light gravy and add some butter and salt and pepper. These are delicious! Here is a link to a conversation I found when performing a quick google search for shell beans. And here is a link for a recipe using Shell Beans and heirloom tomatoes. This just gives you a bit of an idea about how to use two items in your share this week. We pulled about 92 lbs of heirlooms out of the garden today (not counting the cherry tomatoes) so you received an assortment!
This also gives me a chance to talk about the change in attitude when harvesting as frost approaches. I've been able to be picky this summer (pun intended I guess) and left several tomatoes on the vine to ripen fully. However, as frost approaches, I am less and less picky. As you can see in the photo below, the tomato on the left is green. It fell when I was walking by. The middle tomato is just starting to blush red. The one on the right is fully ripe. I have started picking tomatoes that have only started to blush. Average first frost date is September 15th in Newport. So at anytime we could get hit with frost. The hoop house can mitigate some of that but not a heavy frost. I would rather you have a tomato that has to sit on your window sill for a couple days to ripen than for me to have a hoop house full of black, mushy tomatoes that got frosted. The same is true of other items like basil and cucumbers. It won't be long before we're switching gears from summer to fall crops anyway.

Several of our herbs were ready in the garden today so you'll notice quite a range of wonderful smells from the share this week. Below is Forest Green Italian Parsley. Parsley is very, very good for you.

I've included another round of Common Sage. This herb has such a wonderful smell. However, I can imaging it might be too much for some folks so be careful when you open all the share bags this week.

Finally, Oregano! I've never had luck getting this to germinate but this season I had a good charge of seedlings to put into the herb garden. So here it is. Oregano is one of those herbs that is great to dry. We use butcher's twine and simply bunch what looks good and hang it from a nail or any old thing, out of direct sunlight but where there is good air movement. The same is true for sage. Then you have locally produced, beyond organic herbs this winter when you're in the kitchen preparing dinner.

You'll also find a good bunch of basil, zucchini/summer squash, more tasty jade cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, another bunch of carrots, chard, and kale. This week's share is very heavy so please be careful.