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Monthly Archives: June 2013

The official first day of summer was June 21st, a little over a week ago, but on the farm we can tell that summer is on its way without a calendar – and not just by the heat we’ve had this past week! In the last week or two, several of our summer crops have begun to bear fruit, even if it isn’t entirely ripe yet. We transplanted the first generations of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, and melons in early-to-mid May, in my first few weeks on the farm, and it has been amazing to watch them grow! Here are a few photos from the past week!

Our cherry tomatoes will ripen before the reds and the heirlooms, and the earliest of them are coming along nicely. This is one of our Sun Gold cherry tomatoes – last week, we had just enough (maybe 5 or 6) for each of us to try one. Sun Golds are one of my favorite tomatoes! All of our tomato plants are just loaded with green tomatoes, and growing very quickly – we trellised the first generation of tomato plants for the third time last Monday. Looking forward to tomatoes as we get further into July!

This is an ‘Islander’ sweet bell pepper. (Actually, this is THE ‘Islander’ pepper – it’s the only one that has turned purple so far…) I think these are fascinating – they start out lime green, as you can see in the photo, then turn purple, then finally mature to red!

Early last week, we were weeding in and around the cucumbers and melons, and I discovered these – teeny tiny watermelon! The largest one I found might have been three inches in diameter, and the smallest maybe an inch round. Besides being awfully cute, they’re the promise of delicious watermelon yet to come!

One last picture – ‘Flying Saucer’ summer squash. Last week marked the beginning of our large squash harvests, three times a week. We harvested 40 pounds on Monday, nearly 30 pounds on Wednesday, and about 44 pounds on Friday. Harvesting zucchini and summer squash is one of my favorite things to do. (I probably drive Theresa a bit crazy – “Can I harvest the squash today?”) Besides the ‘Flying Saucer’ pattypan variety, we have green and yellow zucchini. yellow summer squash, and the very striking ‘Zephyr’ variety, which is half yellow and half pale green. The squash are the one ‘sign of summer’ crop that we have ready for markets and CSA pick-ups, so be sure to try some this week if you haven’t already!

A few days ago, one of the apprentices asked the group what crop signifies the beginning of summer to them. We had a variety of answers – tomatoes, summer squash, and more. Personally, the first red raspberries in mid-June mean summer is here – in my first house, we had raspberry bushes, and around my birthday (and the end of school – always important for kids) we would start to see the first ripe berries ready for picking. My family has moved since then, but we make a point of going to a local pick-your-own farm every summer to pick raspberries (my dad and I picked more than 10 pounds of the biggest raspberries I’ve ever seen this weekend). What crops say “summer” to you?

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chioggia beet

chioggia beet

New this week

  • basil
  • chioggia or candy-striped beets
  • summer squash, patty pan squash and a few zucchini

Plus more of…

  • beets – red
  • bok choy – shuko (baby variety)
  • cabbage, red and green varieties
  • garlic scapes
  • kale – winterbor and lacinato varieties
  • kohlrabi
  • lettuce mix – a blend of red, green, and speckled loose leaf lettuces
  • head lettuce – butterhead, red and green oakleaf varieties
  • peas – shell, sugar snap & snow
  • radishes – french breakfast
  • scallions
  • swiss chard – rainbow mix

Bonus Herbs:

  • cilantro
  • dill

Coming Soon:

We found 2 pickling and 1 slicing cucumber that was ready to harvest today so it shouldn’t be long before we have enough to bring to our CSA pick-ups.

We also found 2 of the Orient Express Eggplant that were ready to harvest.  It may still be a couple of weeks before our other varieties start producing.

Carrots, dark red norland potatoes and purplette onions are almost ready, and you may be seeing them in a week or two at the pick-up.

Early in my second week at the farm, I discovered a 5-page list on the kitchen bulletin board entitled “Lending Library,” and found out that these were books that Theresa has in her collection that apprentices are permitted to borrow – books on farming, food systems, agricultural practices, collections of essays, cookbooks, etc. I quickly pulled out my journal and made a list of all of the books I wanted to read over the next several months, which turned out to be at least half of the list. As a recent college graduate, I’ve done plenty of reading in the last four years, but have only had the opportunity to read two or three books for fun – just leisure reading, no tests involved. Having time for leisure reading has been wonderful, and I’ve been keeping fairly well to my goal of reading one book each week. I’m hoping to share the books I read here on the blog – giving enough information that anyone interested can find the book themselves, notes on the content and/or format of the book, and a few interesting notes or facts that I learned from reading it. My first book-related post is about…

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte, was published by Storey Publishing first in 1975 and again in an updated edition in 1998. The book provides a wealth of information and tips about companion planting (as the title suggests) – how different vegetable, fruit, herb, ornamental, and wild plants interact and how they can be combined in the garden with positive effects on crop yields and plant health. For example, the chapter that addresses vegetables states sweet peppers grow well with okra, because the taller okra plants serve as a windbreak for the more delicate pepper plants. In addition to making recommendations regarding favorable crop pairings, Riotte discusses pairings of plants that do not do well in close proximity and may negatively affect each other. For example, tomatoes and all members of the cabbage family repel each other, and tomatoes should not be planted with potatoes or fennel. The book also contains a chapter discussing specific plants that help control pests, a glossary of poisonous plants (did you know that both the flowers and the leaves of lily-of-the-valley, and daffodil bulbs, are very poisonous?), and several garden plans that take advantage of symbiotic relationships between crops. I read the book cover-to-cover, but it might be a bit more digestible if used as a reference book to look for suggestions regarding specific plants that are chosen for a garden.

And now, a few pieces of information I learned from the book! Several of the tips I wrote down relate to specific pests or crops we have here on the farm – I was specifically looking for suggestions to combat cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetles, as we have discussed both here and spent many hours picking the potato beetle eggs, larvae, and adults off our plants.

– “Eggplants growing among green beans will be protected from the Colorado potato beetle. The beetles like eggplant even more than potatoes, but they find the beans repellent.”                                 – “Dead nettle, flax, and horseradish repel potato bugs.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – “Sow two or three radish seeds in cucumber hills to protect against cucumber beetles. Do not pull the radishes, but let them grow as long as they will, even blossoming and going to seed. Cucumber beetles may also be trapped by filling shallow containers about three-fourths full of water into which some cooking oil has been poured.”                                                                                   – “Tansy repels striped cucumber beetles.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        – “Fruit and nut trees almost always do better if at least two of each kind are planted.”                                                                                                                                                                                    – “Have at least two different varieties – any two – in a blueberry planting.” (Yum – blueberries!)                                                                                                                                                                      – For rabbits: Onions are repellent to rabbits. An old garden hose cut in lengths of a few feet each and arranged to look like snakes will frighten away rabbits. A thin line of dried blood sprinkled around the garden often acts as a repellent. Wood ashes, ground limestone, or cayenne pepper shaken on plants when they are wet with dew also deter rabbits.

I’ll pass on one more tip on the topic of pest repellent, from one of our CSA members (if I knew who, I’d cite them – if it’s you, let me know!) – to keep deer away, hang bars (or half-bars) of Irish Spring soap around your garden. It has to be Irish Spring soap – the smell is very strong, and the deer don’t like it. At my mother’s house, we’ve had deer munching on our flowers for years. I told her about the Irish Spring soap, and so far, our astilbes are still intact!

 

 

 

Expected Harvest:

New this week 

  • red beets
  • cilantro
  • dill

Plus more of… 

  • bok choy – joi choi (a large, white-stemmed variety)
  • broccoli (At this point, we’ve harvested most of the main heads and are now picking the smaller side shoots.  We’ll see how long they’ll last, but it looks like our spring broccoli is coming to an end.)
  • cabbage, red and green varieties
  • garlic scapes
  • kale – winterbor and lacinato varieties
  • kohlrabi
  • lettuce mix – a blend of red, green, and speckled loose leaf lettuces
  • head lettuce – butterhead, red and green oakleaf varieties
  • peas – shell, sugar snap & snow
  • radishes – french breakfast
  • scallions
  • spinach – large, but tender leaves of a savoyed variety (This is also getting close to finishing up for the spring. Much of our planting looks like it is getting close to starting send up its flowering stalk.)
  • swiss chard – rainbow mix

Bonus Herbs:

  • (see above)

Coming Soon:

We are just starting to harvest the first of our summer squash, but so far we’ve only picked a few pounds.  Hopefully, next week we’ll have a big enough harvest to share with you all.

Our basil plants are finally starting to grow, so we should have some fresh basil ready for you soon.

Cucumbers are also growing well and just starting to flower.  We should have some ready in a couple f weeks.  We’ve planted regular slicing, pickling, and lemon cucumbers again this year.

A beautiful rainbow of lettuce, with sentimental value!

A beautiful rainbow of lettuce, with sentimental value!

Hello, friends of the Colchester Farm CSA! My name is Cara Wagner, and I’m one of the full-season apprentices on the farm this year. I am often out and about taking pictures, and Theresa has asked me to share some of them with you. (I am also devouring the apprentice lending library – stay tuned for posts about what I’ve been reading!) For my first post, I’m thinking back to my first days at the farm in early May, and I confess that this week I’m having a proud ‘Plant-Mom’ moment. On my second full day at the farm (May 10th), Janaki taught me how to use the Earthway seeder to direct-seed a bed of loose-leaf lettuce, five rows, each a different variety. (That day, I also seeded two beds of beans, which have not been quite so successful. Let’s just focus on the lettuce for now.) Last week, I was part of a group that hand-weeded the lettuce, and last Friday, we harvested it for the first time. It was also the bed that I helped harvest today for the Tuesday CSA pick-up and the Kent Island market on Thursday.

It has been an extremely valuable experience for me to have been a part of all aspects of a crop’s production. (Disclaimer: I was by no means the only person who worked with the lettuce, and over the course of the next several months I will see many other crops through the process from seeding to harvesting. This lettuce bed is simply the first crop with which I feel I’ve come full-circle.) This experience is not common in the existing food system, which seems to forge an ever-widening disconnect between producers and consumers. When you enter a supermarket to shop for groceries, you know very little about the full life cycle of the produce – where it came from, who grew it, how they grew it, etc. I admit that, even as someone interested in food systems, I wouldn’t have been able to identify most of our crop plants before I arrived, or how to harvest them, and so on. Actively taking part in the entire process of growing a crop that myself and my fellow apprentices will take to market is, for me, a very empowering process and a means of restoring a personal connection to the food I eat. This is one of the primary reasons I chose to apprentice on a small farm.

I wish you all a wonderful week, and look forward to seeing you at the CSA pick-ups and farmers’ markets. And if you happen to be in the mood for some mixed lettuce this week, remember – it’s lettuce sent with love!

Expected Harvest

New this week

  • cabbage, red and green varities
  • escarole
  • peas – snow peas
  • swiss chard – rainbow mix

Plus more of…

  • bok choy – joi choi (a large, white-stemmed variety)
  • broccoli
  • garlic scapes (for more information, see this article, “The Great Scape: Curls of Green” by Jackie Varriano on Culinate)
  • kale – winterbor and lacinato varieties
  • kohlrabi (for more information, see “Kohlrabi Recipes: How to Cook the Tricky Vegetable in Your CSA” by Rebecca Orchant at The Huffington Post)
  • lettuce mix – a blend of red, green, and speckled loose leaf lettuces
  • head lettuce – romaine and butterhead varieties
  • peas – sugar snap
  • radishes – french breakfast
  • scallions
  • spinach – large, but tender leaves of a savoyed variety

Bonus Herbs:

  • oregano

Coming Soon:

We have a nice batch of shell peas starting to fill in but they didn’t quite look ready to pick for tomorrow.  I think they should definitely be in by next week.

Next week we should also have some beets ready for you.  We have mostly red beets planted but we also tried some of the chioggia or candy-striped variety, so we’ll have some of those to offer as well.

We also will have some dill and cilantro very soon… perhaps next week as well.  Parsley will take a little longer.  We spent the afternoon on Monday weeding our parsley bed and the plants look good, but I want to let them grow a little larger before we start harvesting.  We are growing three varieties this year: gigante d’Italia, forest green (curly type), and dark green Italian.

Our first batch of summer squash are starting to flower, but the plants are still fairly small.  But soon, perhaps in a couple of weeks, we will have a mix of yellow summer squash, zephyr, green-skinned and golden-skinned zucchini, and patty pan squash to harvest.

Expected Harvest

New this week:

  • peas –  sugar snap peas and maybe some snow peas by the end of the week.  They are just starting to come in.

Plus more of…

  • bok choy – joi choi (a large, white-stemmed variety)
  • broccoli
  • garlic scapes (for more information, see this article, “The Great Scape: Curls of Green” by Jackie Varriano on Culinate)
  • kale – winterbor and lacinato varieties
  • kohlrabi (for more information, see “Kohlrabi Recipes: How to Cook the Tricky Vegetable in Your CSA” by Rebecca Orchant at The Huffington Post)
  • lettuce mix – a blend of red, green, and speckled loose leaf lettuces
  • head lettuce – romaine, red and green oakleaf, and butterhead varieties
  • radishes – french breakfast
  • scallions
  • spinach – large, but tender leaves of a savoyed variety

Bonus Herbs:

  • oregano

Coming Soon

snowpeasPeas are really starting to come in now.  So far, we’ve been only picking our early sugar ann snap peas.  The snow peas are just starting to come in and our later-maturing sugar snap peas will be ready soon followed by some shell peas.

swisschard

Excited about Swiss chard?  Well, your wait will soon be over.  We probably will start harvesting some at the end of this week.  Also, our early red and green cabbages are just starting to form little heads and so shouldn’t be too far off.  And, as I was peaking under the leaves of the beets, I saw some promising roots developing.

youngbeets