Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A good morning's work

I spent the morning using a wheeled cultivator to cultivate several rows of dry and shell beans. This is an amazing, yet simple tool that I am using for the first time this season. I can't imagine where it's been all my life!!!

Here is a plot of dry/shell beans before I began cultivating. See all those nasty little specs of green in between the rows. Those are all pig weed. For those not familiar with this little plant, it's amazing. It's also edible being in the amaranth family. But it gets tough too fast to make it practical to harvest and once it gets to a certain point it goes crazy. Then, the entire crop you planted is lost. Pig weed is truly an amazing plant. Too bad I despise it so.

This is just another shot of the whole bean plot facing north up to the barns in the background.

Here is a shot from the other end when I'm exactly half finished. What a satisfying sight!

And here we are again at the bottom, this time though, I've just finished and those little weeds are gone. I'll go through this again in a little while, perhaps a week, to really clean it out and then the bean plants will shade the ground enough to keep them from germinating!

And here is something the wheeled cultivator couldn't have done. Sugar Snap Peas that are ready to harvest. But alas we can't even walk through the rows due to weeds in the walking paths.

That is, of course, until Brittany worked her magic. 10 rows weeded to perfection! Thanks Brittany! Now we'll harvest our first pull off the Sugar Snaps for this week's CSA Share Harvest!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One month of local, beyond organic food!

Greetings from the height of summer in the Parker Produce Garden! Hopefully everyone has enjoyed the first month of the CSA season. This is a good time to take stock and offer feedback about your experience. Remember, the more we hear from you, the better we can be at improving our CSA this season and in the coming years.

This week's share includes spinach, chard, lettuce mix, radishes, peas and new this week, Red Russian Kale. Be sure to check out our recipe page by clicking the link at the right and look at the Kale Chips recipe. We love this in the Parker household!

And here is an interesting link for ideas to use radish greens.
I'm very excited by this radish crop, it's the best crop I've ever had! I've had nice radishes before but never edible greens. Usually the flea beetles render them tough and inedible and leave them looking unappetizing. Not so this year due to some extra work and vigilance! Enjoy!

Here is a shot of a wonderful sight. A lush carpet of radish greens just uncovered for an evening harvest. I harvest root crops in the evening the night before the CSA harvest. That way they have all day to metabolize sugars and since they keep so well in the milk house, it saves me some time on Fridays.

I was walking through the Quonset Hut Greenhouse yesterday and noticed this moth. Quite long as it doesn't eat my sweet potatoes!

This morning, I dug about 21 rows of walking paths and composted them all. You can see from the photo, this is all done by hand. After adding compost, I rake out the row with the 3-tine cultivation rake you see in the wheelbarrow. Then I switch to one of the most useful tools in my belt - the 30" bed-prep rake. This is a ton of work but it looks very nice and makes planting and harvesting more efficient. Any home gardener who has ever tried to harvest when they didn't leave themselves walking paths knows what a nightmare that can be.

Here's a quick shot of the piglets. You've not lived until you've seen pigs who are waiting 'patiently' for their supper, dive in head first! Better than T.V.

Here is another shot of those radishes. These are the ones from your share this week. Crunchy Royale is one of my favorite varieties for small round radishes. As you can see in the foreground, I interplanted with cucumbers.

And now to what I spent about 2.5 days working on this week. Hilling potatoes. In this shot they are all uncovered (i.e. the row cover is off) and I'm using the shade of a potato plant to help keep my water cool. I needed lots of water during this project.

After uncovering the first step is to take this wheeled cultivator and try to get some of the weeds and grass and loosen the soil between the rows.

Blogspot doesn't upload the photos in the order I input them. That's annoying! So this is a bit out of context but this homemade tractor implement is what I used originally to create the furrows for the potatoes. It works quite well for that.

Here is just a fun shot I thought of when I saw this image. I garden in bare feet whenever possible. It's a true perk of this gig to walk around the 'office' without shoes all summer long.

Here is the potato field all covered with Agribon - 19 Floating Row cover. Hopefully it keeps the Colorado Potato Beetles OFF my potato plants.

And here is why I have to cover over all those beautiful potato plants. I'm not sure who thought the Colorado Potato Beetle was a good idea but I'd like to have a talk with that person. This little beetle, and more specifically it's larvae, can do some serious damage to a potato crop. If the infestation gets bad, the entire crop can be devastated. Hopefully the row cover works!!!

Here is the potato field in the middle of being uncovered for hilling. You see the rows of soil between the green? I shoveled each and everyone of those over a two day period. Why anyone would pay for a gym membership is beyond me. Go outside and work on a small diversified farm for a few weeks and you'll wonder why you ever though the gym was a good idea.

Those are hay wagons in the background. It's definitely summer when John starts haying!

I'll close today with a little pontificating about local food vs. the industrial alternative. Local, fresh food is always better. The radishes in your share are a great example. Many people instantly default to 'I don't like radishes' when you mention these little beauties. But my contention is that that person simply hasn't tasted a radish. What you can get a the supermarket simply cannot compare. There are a lot of things like that.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Early Carrots and the Chard has arrived!

Hi all:
Another week, another harvest. Here is the pre-dawn view out my 'office window', ie over the garden. Just awesome!
And here is the pre-dawn view of the western part of the farm. The moon over that maple tree always gets me this time of year. Makes waking up at 4 am totally worth it. Well, almost, the vegetables make up for the rest ;-).

And here comes the sun. Sunrise and sunset are real treats here at the farm. This morning's was no exception.

Here is a shot from the harvest I did on Tuesday for Barrels Community Market in Waterville. I use kneepads in the garden when harvesting or weeding. You only get one body and it makes sense to take care of it! We have a lot of rocks here in Maine and my knees don't appreciate rocks the way some might.

Another shot from Tuesday's spinach harvest. Yes, this was taken on the 15th of June. Yes, that's a winter hat and fleece coat. Yes, that's a piece of spinach bigger than my head!

Now onto this week's share. Chard!!! What an awesome veggie. Color and flavor and good for you too. What else can you ask for? this is a braising vegetable though you can certainly eat it raw and we often too. Also, cut the stalks from the leaves and use them for crunch in a salad or stir-fry. I can't stand croutons and don't get me started on 'Bacon Bits'. But when I need extra crunch in my salad, I use chard stalks. They're better and more colorful!

Here is a shot to remind people about some of the choices I make in bagging. The carrot on the left was given to the pigs. The one on the right went into someone's share bag. A little crack or blemish is not worth wasting an entire carrot, or whatever vegetable is in question. However, sometimes the deformity warrants the food being tossed to compost or animals!

Early carrots which were actually planted last October and overwintered nicely in the garden. They are sweeter for having been in the cold. This is only a teaser with thinnings and baby carrots. We have lots more on the way and I just planted some more at that! Hope you like them. Don't forget the carrot tops (when they're young) make excellent pesto that is amazingly good for you! This is why we leave the tops on when they are baby carrots. When they are older we use them in the compost as they are a bit too bitter for pesto.

We also included a new lettuce mix. This red/green mix consists of Tango (green) and Red Salad Bowl. I really like this mix for color and good flavor. The Tango is a first cutting which makes it more tender than later cuttings.

I have to run to Bangor now for deliveries but plan to do another couple of blogs this week about things you'll see in our garden that don't exist in the industrial 'food' system. Until then, check out this interplanting of beans and lettuce.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Letting the chicks out and trellising tomatoes...

Hi all:
Thought I'd post a blog on this rainy day before heading out into the garden to work (read 'get soaked'). Yesterday's rain didn't keep me from being productive! I was able to get a good handle on trellising in the Cathedral (this is the name I've given to our biggest greenhouse because it reminds me of Notre Dame). Here are the before and after shots. How satisfying!

I also let the baby chicks out for the first time this weekend. When they're very little they need to be indoors and under heat lamps (in the brooder) to get established. Then, I move them outside but keep them in their mobil pen so they get to learn where home is. This is where I keep their food and water and it's good to establish a home base. The reason being that when I let them out they are quite happy to roam all over the place. Here they are heading into the raspberry patch. I start them in here so they can have cover from overhead predators while they grow a bit. We have eagles, osprey and hawks around the farm and baby chicks look mighty nice to any of those creatures.

As you can see, Brinkley is a huge help.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Second Harvest

Hi all:
We open this week's story with peas!!! We're very excited in the garden this season to have peas so early. We're really using our mobile greenhouses to our advantage. These were started in February and it paid off with early peas. This photo is from this morning as the sun was just rising. These are Oregon Giant Snow Peas. They are the flat, large pods. Snow peas are great raw but really they are useful for any stir fry with vegetables (I suggest using your scallions and some of the spinach too).
Also in the bag with the snow peas are some Sugar Ann Snap Peas. These are also good in stir-fry meals but frankly, why waste the candy? Really, these are so sweet and good raw, we never even get them back to the house from the garden before they are gone. I put them all in the same bag to save on plastic but they are easy to tell from the snow peas.

This week's share also contains some of the same items from last week including the scallions I already mentioned, more Red Salad Bowl Lettuce and each of you got a full pound of spinach! The spinach was going crazy in the garden this morning. Between Brittany and I we spent 4 hours harvesting just spinach and pulled 50lbs out of the garden!!! Remember that while our spinach is tender enough to eat raw, even when it's large like this, it can also be braised. For a lesson on proper braising, click the archived post to the right under 2010 in June titled 'first harvest 2 of 2' and scroll down to the picture of Red Russian Kale. Braising is a great technique for cooking greens but not loosing the crispness or volume. Boiling this spinach will reduce it to about one hearty meals worth. Hard to believe looking at those two voluminous bags but it's true. Braising will keep you in spinach all week.

Also, this week is our first installment of Australe Lettuce. This is the head lettuce that is in the share bag. Isn't it beautiful. I tried this last season and it will forever be a keeper in our garden. I love the taste, the texture and the color is amazing in a salad or on a sandwich. Awesome stuff. Plus, from a production point of view, it's meant to be harvested small like this (actually it's called a miniature head lettuce). This means I can put more into less space and it is also easier to bag than some of the other lettuce varieties you'll get from us this season. We also put in another installment of radishes and that will be it on them for a few weeks until our next batch comes in. Hopefully that will be soon as they are a different variety and I'm looking forward to it.

And now, some photos of our work around the farm. I've been slowly working up our grape arbor over the past couple of years. I planted the grapes on some tough ground (read 'rocks') so they've taken a while to get with it. I was annoyed by that at first until I realized it just gives me time to work on the arbor. I only have to put up another piece when the grapes reach high enough! Convenient. Right now I'm working on putting up the skinny vertical pieces you see. This will give the vines something to cling to and expand upon. I want a wall of grapes!!!

Finally, our turkeys have arrived. They actually arrived last Friday (the first CSA harvest day of the season of all days) and I brought them home from the post office. They are doing quite well at this point but turkeys are very, very delicate. It's interesting based on the wild turkeys we have around the farm. I only ordered heritage breeds which are still able to fend for themselves and have some natural instincts but domesticated breeds are still just that. So as long as I can get them past the 'everything is a danger' stage, we'll be in good shape! Well, enjoy the share and I'll see you again next week.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First CSA Harvest of 2011 is here!!!

Finally! The moment is here. First CSA Harvest and delivery/pick-up of the year! This first one is very 'spring' oriented (obviously!).

Chives! Yes, those are eggs. No, the chickens didn't put them there. It's art! Actually, I did that to show what some of our members will hopefully use some of the chives for. Farm-fresh eggs with fresh spring chives! Great breakfast!

Another shot with the flowers! Did you know you can use the flowers? A quick google search will show you lots of ideas!!!

So I wasn't planning on radishes today but pulled back our row cover and they were ready! So you get some. White Icicle and French Breakfast Radish mix. Yes, they are supposed to be that long, not like the little round ones some may be familiar with. No, you don't have to eat them for breakfast.

This photo looked more clear on the camera. I was going for the scallions. They are looking pretty good in the garden coming up between some Australe Lettuce (which will be in a future share). This is a great example of the very intensive way we use space in the garden!

You'll also find a bag of Red Salad Bowl Lettuce in there. I love this lettuce because at the base it's green and the colors look great in a nice spring salad. Plus, it is good!

Spinach! By the boatload. We pulled 40 lbs of spinach off the garden today. This photo doesn't do it justice! It was like a carpet, too thick to even get through the walking paths. It's interplanted with carrots and peas. Yes, those are flowers on the peas (super early!!! thank you movable greenhouse #1).

Bread Shares! Check this out. I opened the bags to take this photo and was blown away by the awesome smell of freshly backed bread. This again is from the Rau family in Newport (right down the road from the farm). If you are jealous of the members who picked this option - it's not too late!!! Let me know if you would like to receive a loaf of this amazing, artisan bread each week with your produce share.

And here are a couple of shots of our work on the farm over the past week. Jim in the background with me fighting a slight breeze to cover our potato field with floating row cover. Hopefully this will keep off the dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle.

And here is our new washing station at the head of the garden. As you know we don't 'wash' produce. However, this does allow us to remove excess soil from things like radishes and carrots and cool spinach and lettuce, etc. See our salad spinner on the right. I made some changes to it this year and now it's more durable and more mobile.

Well, enjoy until next week and as always, I love/welcome your comments. That's how we improve!