Summer CSA – Week 2

An inch of rain would make my life a lot easier right now.

We don’t have irrigation at our farm, and we rely on high organic matter, clay/silt soils a high water table and a little bit of irrigation to get by.

A vegetable farm thrives on 1-2″ of rain/week, (best in one or two installments, with warm, dry, sunny weather in between).  That’s 27,154 gallons of water per acre inch.  We currently have 5 acres planted, with an acre to be planted this week.  That’s over 100,000 gallons of water we would need to give our crops the healthy dousing they deserve.

Right now, our only source of water is Ashland water, for which we pay agricultural rates  ($6.37 cents per 100 cubic feet, which is 748 gallons).  At that rate, an inch of rain falling on our fields is worth $1156.22.  That’s why when it rains we legitimately say, it’s raining money.

We have no reliable way of getting that much water onto our crops without rain.  Even the best irrigation systems are challenged when it gets really dry.  Right now we are using two methods to get water to our crops.

We are driving a tank of water (the tool we usually use to transplant) over the beds and letting the water fall directly on the crops.

erin watering with transplanter
Erin driving the transplanter over the onions last Friday. Onions have shallow root systems and depend on regular irrigation for proper development.

We estimate the cost of running our tractor with an operator (including cost of the machine, fuel, annual maintenance, insurance, etc, etc) to be around $60/hour (we do not value our time very highly – but the value of agricultural labor is another topic). We can water about 600 bed feet of vegetables with 300 gallons of water in roughly one hour.  That water costs $3 (based on rates above).  We rely on the vegetables natural ability to use water when needed (like how lettuce leaves act as a funnel to run water that falls on the plants directly to the roots).  We also avoid watering pathways with this method.  But its a negligible amount of water compared to what would make the crops really thrive if we got an inch of rain.

We also drive cube tanks (250-300 gallon tanks) on the the back of our old F-350 flat bed to the top of the hill and use a pump to either water with a hose by hand or feed the water into a drip irrigation system.  Drip tape is a good way to get water directly to the crops roots, allowing them to more effectively use the minimal amounts of water they are receiving. But drip tape is made of plastic, and is only reusable to a point – then it becomes waste which is questionably recyclable.

Most of these challenges would be lessened if we had land security.  We would dig an agricultural well (roughly $20k) with a 15-20 gallon/minute flow rate with an output at the top of the hill we farm, so all water used for irrigation would flow downhill (the opposite of what we have now, where our water source is at the bottom of the hill).  Right now we can’t run hoses up the hill as a part of the restriction of our lease, but that would be another way to at least get the town water up the hill faster.

So how does this effect you?  We prioritize crops that need a lot of water and make people happy (like peas, lettuce, carrots) when we are watering, but what we are able to do cannot compare with real rain.

small carrots june

We would hope the above carrots would be larger so we could put them in the share this week, but they just didn’t get enough water.  We will focus on irrigating them as heavily as possible this week so we can put them in next weeks share.  We try not to pick the carrots when they are super tiny because it reduces our overall yield dramatically.  If we were to pick our carrots now it would probably take 2-3 times as many bed feet of carrots to make enough bunches for everyone.  And that’s less carrots in the future.  So we will wait and let them size up!

We also are very tight on produce, still, so we have limited trades and choice.  We didn’t bring any peas to the Ashland Market this past Saturday to make sure we had enough for the CSA this week.  We do have more zucchini and squash thanks to two cube tanks of water last Thursday and just the fact that the plants are more mature. Hooray!

Lets all hope that it rains tonight.  But just a little bit of perspective: if it doesn’t rain tonight, or at all this week or next, no one is going to starve.  We are very, very fortunate.

What’s in the Share:

Head Lettuce
Arugula
Radishes
Scallions
Kale/Escarole/Dandelion/Frisee Choice
Zucchini/Squash (follow the link of a great picture of each type of squash with a description – we grow most of the squashes in this blog post except the Eight-Ball, and very little Costata Romanesca because its very slow growing)
Peas
Micro Basil/Garlic Scapes Choice

3 Reasons to Eat Bitter Greens (highly recommended article)

3 Reasons to Eat Escarole (Specifically)
Below are some simple recipes that can go a long way with most CSA shares.

I am not a food blogger or a photographer, so I apologize for ugly photos and my many, many grammatical errors. The above collage is of the process of roasting roots (something I recommend if you want a quick, easy way to enjoy some really sweet veggies.  Extras can be saved and put on salad later. If you think it’s too hot to roast you can always do this on the grill.  Just wrap the cut, oiled roots in tinfoil and leave on the grill for at least 30 minutes, maybe longer.

Basic Roasted Roots Recipe

Twist off the roots, wash them, cut the ends off, cut them into 6ths or 8ths (see picture above), toss in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 25-40 minutes.  I don’t even bother to turn them sometimes, but you can turn them at around 20-25 minutes.  Just add salt. Simple and delicious.  You can do this with radishes, carrots, beets, turnips . . . any root.

Pesto is a great way to use a lot of greens.  Last week I made pesto with green garlic, a bag of arugula, a bunch of spinach and olive oil and salt.  Adding nuts and cheese and lemon is awesome and delicious and a level up, but this pesto was spectacular like this.  You can put it on pasta, on pizza, on sandwiches, on toast with eggs.  You can freeze it and use it in winter when you are so sad your CSA is over.  ANY green can make pesto.

After roasting the turnips and beets I made pesto with the beet and turnip greens.  With those I added lemon, walnuts and parm.  Not every pesto will be your favorite, but think about how much awesome green goodness you can pulverize into a creamy, yummy paste that goes on almost anything!

Basic Pesto Recipe:

Use food processor to blend garlic (or something like garlic/onion), nuts and cheese (both optional)

Add washed greens to food processor and turn on high, slowly pouring in olive oil until the leaves start to get picked up by the processor.  Scrape the sides, pulse again.  If it is still thick and chunky add a little more oil. Add salt and/or pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.

Freeze in a mason jar, leaving at least 1″ of head room for expansion.  I like using little half pint jars because it’s the perfect amount to thaw and use later.

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto

More Recipes

Baked Kale Chips

French Frisee Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Escarole Tart

Sauteed Snap Peas with Scallions and Radishes  

Enjoy!!!

PS: For those of you picking up a share at one of our delivery sites, we are going to put pictures of the labeled CSA distribution crates on our facebook page tomorrow during distribution so if you aren’t sure what something is in your share you can check those pics!

PPS: Remember to store your produce in plastic bags in the fridge so it will last longer.  Twist the roots off their tops and store in separate plastic bags.  The bags we are sending your cut greens home in are great to rinse and re-use for other items in later shares.

PPS: Thanks for a great first week – it was nice to see so many familiar faces and meet so many new people! You all did a GREAT job with the first pick up!

PPPS: That “rain” we got on Friday wasn’t really rain.  This is how much water we got – not enough to even cover the bottom of a bucket.  Definitely better than nothing . . .

rain bucket empty

Summer CSA – Week 1

babe crew
The women who grow your food. (L to R: Melissa, Erin and Brittany)

It’s the first week of the summer share!  I’ve got to be honest, I’m been biting my nails leading up to this moment.  We happily sold out all of our summer shares in May, and we’ve got a healthy waiting list – but that means we need to have produce . . . Every year about 3-4 weeks out from the first summer share I start to panic.  I’m actually really good at this whole crop planning/farming thing, but for some reason I always worry about having enough. In part it is because I am waiting on fruiting crops (like zucchini and peas) and heading crops (like broccoli and cabbage) that don’t mature with the same reliable regularity as things like radish, lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, beets, etc . . . This year I felt the panic even more because we’ve had some pretty tough pest pressure on our spring brassicas (turnips, broccoli, cabbage . . .) and I thought for certain we’d be short this week.

So, I rushed out and seeded a bunch of fast growing crops, like arugula and lettuce mix and radishes. Luckily, I was being a little over-cautious, and we’ve had some good warm weather, so there are plenty of veggies for this week.  But I’d like to take a moment to let you know that a part of the reason the CSA, which stand for Community Supported Agriculture, works is because you, the customers, have committed to sharing the risks of farming with us, your farmers.

We plant a wide variety of crops and have a great crop plan, so we almost never come up short, but that is a part of the risk you take when joining a CSA.  In 2016 one of the biggest CSA Farms in the state (which is still a small farm by national standards) actually cancelled a whole week of the CSA in July so they could focus on irrigating and taking care of the crops in the field to prevent major crop loss later on in the season.

I was impressed by their decision.  The CSA model was started to protect small farms.  When small farms are left alone to fend for themselves in a market that prioritizes profits and immediate gratification over quality, resource conservation and human rights – a touch of bad luck or a poor growing season can mean their demise.  Through CSAs customers can take a stand and say that they care about the impact of agriculture on their environment and their community and support the farms that use growing methods they value. An added benefit is really fresh, delicious produce varieties that aren’t grown commercially because they can’t handle being stored in coolers for weeks or shipped in trucks across the continent.

We carry a line item in our budget we call “bought in produce”.  It is a little bit of extra insurance (beyond planting extra in the field) which allows us to confidence to buy in some produce from our peers (small farmers, growing locally with the same methods) if we are ever short, without fearing significant financial repercussions.  This is a great way for us to keep our CSA shares full, and support our peers who are doing the same work we are doing to keep small farms in Eastern Massachusetts. But, if everyone is having a tough growing season, this contingency doesn’t help much.

Most of the time though, we have plenty, and then some.

When we have lots of extra sometimes the shares get bigger, and sometimes we donate produce.  This year already we have donated nearly 200 lbs of produce to the Holliston Food Pantry and to several food pantries through the Ashland Market.  Last year we donated nearly 3,000 lbs of food in total – we hope to be able to at least match that number this season.

So What’s in the Share?

Head Lettuce

Lettuce Mix or Arugula

Scallions – don’t be afraid to use these like onions in a recipe.  we just chop up the stalks and cook like onions, then throw in the greens at the end.

Sweet Turnips or Kohlrabi Choice

Peas

Zucchini/Squash/Broccoli Choice

Green Garlic – this is a young garlic plant.  You can eat the whole thing – use in any recipe that calls for garlic

Beets

Spinach

Kale or Chard (Just in large share)

———-

Recipe Ideas

Glazed Sugar Snap Peas and Turnips

Beets on the Grill (You could add the turnips too!)

Grilled BBQ Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi Chips

Simple Arugula Salad (with lemon and parm)

Strawberry Chicken Spinach Salad with Pecans

Swiss Chard and Sausage Pasta

53 Kale Recipes

Can’t Beet Me Smoothie

1 cooked beet, peeled and qt
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 small banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup coconut water
1-inch knob fresh ginger
1 tablespoon almond butter

Blend together and serve!

What have we been up to?

We are a little ahead of where we were last year, in part because it is a much drier late spring, and in part because our systems continue to evolve and we are more equipped to implement our farm plan.  Last year Kevin spent the first few weeks of June building a cooler.  This year he spent it killing weeds! (And lot of other non-construction related tasks).

We’ve been “irrigating”. 

cubie watering peas

I put that in quotes because driving 250 gallons around and watering with a hose doesn’t really count on our scale.  We can’t afford to put in a well ($20k minimum) mostly because we don’t own the land and our lease is up at the end of next year.  Without land security (a real problem most new farmers face) its impossible to make the infrastructure improvements needed to help a farm business thrive.

But, lets not dive that deep right now.  Suffice it to say, we’ve been doing emergency spot watering to get us through, and we’ve got plans for how to make it through if it stays this dry as the season progresses. You should all be hoping for an inch of rain as soon as possible.

We’ve been hilling and cultivating.

potatoes first hilling
New Potatoes after their first hilling
hilling new potatoes
New Potatoes after their second hilling (5 days later)
harvey potatoes
Harvey enjoying the potato hills last Friday.

We aren’t just harvesting the crops we are putting in your shares now, we are also growing and caring for the crops for the rest of the season.  The potatoes get hilled, which means we use discs on a tractor to push soil up the sides of the plants.  This keeps them upright which allows them to grow longer, making the tubers large.  It also increases the number of tubers on the plants.  At the same time it kills weeds!

In the potatoes we found the first Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB) which lays orange eggs on the under sides of the leaves which hatch into larvae.  The Larvae, in large numbers can consume massive amounts of leaf tissue, decreasing yields.  Luckily for us we don’t have too many and we also have a killer parasitic wasp that is laying eggs on the larva’s backs which hatch and consume the larvae before they can do much damage!  If you are grossed out, take a deep breath and realize that this is AWESOME.  Instead of using pesticides we are cultivating field edges and beneficial plants to host beneficial insects to kill the potato beetle larvae. And not using pesticides that might kill the beneficial.  It’s not always this perfect, but this kind of result can make an organic farmer’s skin tingle and heart jump for joy.

cpb
Colorado Potato Beetle that over wintered in the forest edges.
cpb larvea parasitized and dead
Parasitized CPB Larvae!

Spring CSA – Week 4

UpswingShare-5-29-2018-2809Spring CSA – Week 4

(email sent on Memorial day)

Abbreviated Email!  We’re taking the afternoon off to see a movie.  We don’t see movies anymore (my first in two years, except for The Last Jedi, which was worthwhile, but disappointing – can’t wait to talk Star Wars with all of you in the stand!).

We’re on the run! Enjoy the info, see you soon!

If you aren’t a CSA member, we have opened the stand Tuesday – Friday 12-6pm.  We have extra of all of the items listed below (until we run out) plus some extra seedlings.

Romain Lettuce

Lettuce Mix/Baby Kale Choice (if you choose baby kale eat soon!)

Mustard Greens/Swiss Chard Choice

Radish

Salad Turnip

Spinach

Dill/Cilantro/Oregano/Garlic Chives Choice

Arugula

Scallion/Green Garlic Choice

Well, if you knew what you were in for, you’re loving these spring greens.  If you didn’t understand the seasonal nature of vegetables in New England, you might be wondering how to eat another single leaf.  We’ve got a few recipes to use up a lot of greens in this share, as well as a few more roots and herbs to liven things up.

Roasted Radishes – This recipe called for two bunches of radishes, but you can use the radish and turnips together, or just cut the recipe in half.

Green Mixed Greens Pie with Phyllo Crust – this recipe calls for 30 oz of cooked spinach, kale or collards, but you can use any green (including mustards, swiss chard, turnip and radish greens and even arugula!).  This is a luxurious way to use up a lot of greens!

Mixed Greens Pesto – If you think pesto has to have basil, you are wrong.  You can use this recipe as a starting point to make any kind of pesto.  Honestly, as long as you use ingredients you like and that taste good you’ll get a great pesto.  You can freeze some and use later, or use all at once on pasta, or spread on toast with a fried egg (our personal favorite).

A handful of ideas for mustard greens

Swiss Chard with Chick Peas and Couscous

Enjoy!

We Made a Thing! Mobile Cooler

DSC01376
Mobile Cooler

As many of our Spring Share members my have noticed, we now have a cooler by the farm stand.  This cooler serves many purposes and was fairly straightforward to build (especially since we have built a few coolers now).

We bought a lightly used, enclosed landscape trailer and added 4 inches of insulation to the walls and ceiling, and two inches to the floor.
kevin building cooler

We also cut a hole in the front to insert an air conditioner.  We use a tool called the CoolBot, invented by a farmer in Upstate NY and his engineer friend, to essentially utilize the AC to achieve lower, sustained temps than wouldn’t be possible with just the AC (and for a lot less $ than a commercial unit).  It works great.  We have the same set up in our stationary, 8×10 cooler we built last year.

So why on wheels?  Lots of reasons, but primarily to pick up produce less:

  • Our wash station is rather far from our distribution area.  Instead of taking everything off the harvest truck, washing it, putting it in the cooler, taking it out of the cooler, putting it back on the truck, driving it down to the CSA wagon, taking it off the truck . . . . we now just take it off the harvest truck, wash it, load it into the mobile cooler and drive it down and leave it there for when we need to re-stock.
  • We go to the Ashland Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and we have to pick everything on Friday.  Which means it has to go into the cooler over night. We used to have to put it into the cooler then get to the farm with enough time to take it out of the cooler and put it on the truck.  Now we can load it straight into the mobile cooler on Friday and just drive it to market Saturday morning!
  • We like to keep our produce fresh.  Down by the farm stand it was hard to keep produce looking its best if it was especially hot or windy.  Now it can just chill out until it’s ready to be used!
  • We need extra storage space for our Winter Share.  It would be hard to keep produce from freezing in this cooler if temps got really low (but we could figure it out).  So, we will basically use it to store the December CSA share then turn it off until next May.  The January and February produce will go into our stationary cooler which is undercover, has better insulation on the floor and also has a small heater on a thermostat (which worked really well last winter!)

Our time and the time of our crew are the most valuable assets of this business.  Although I love to carry heavy things around, I’m not adding any value to the customer, or increasing our profit.  We will spend roughly 4-6 less hours each week carrying produce around.  That’s a lot more time we can be planting, weeding, cultivating, mowing, and even doing things like building other new, cool tools to help us in the future.

Special thanks to Erin and Kevin for doing almost all of the work on this (I got to do the fun work like sending invoices and updating the website . . . )

Spring CSA – Week 3

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Planting Tomatoes in the Tunnels. We are picking all of our Spring Share vegetables from the fields now, and the tunnels are full of early tomatoes! Photo credit: Bob Durling

Well, this is the halfway mark of this little Spring Share.  We hope to have more greenhouse space so we can start earlier next year, but for now, a 5 week share full of fresh greens is a great way to start the season.

Thanks to everyone who came out (or tried to come out) for our Tasting Tour this past week.  Tuesday got rained out (hard) but Thursday was lots of fun.  If you missed it, mark you calendars – they are always the third Tuesday and Thursday of the month until September. Tours start at 4:45 and last about an hour.  All ages welcome.

May is more than halfway done (YAY!).  We love May and we are having a great season, but its a go, go, go month.  Everything for the spring share is already well on it’s way to maturity and we are focused now on major plantings of sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumber, zucchini and even looking towards fall as we prepare beds for winter squash and sweet potatoes.

We hope you are enjoying the greens, because there are a lot more coming your way!

This week’s share:

Kale
Spinach
Head Lettuce
Lettuce Mix
Herb Choice*
Scallions
Green Garlic**
Broccoli Raab
Bok Choy

*Herbs will include cilantro, dill, oregano, garlic chives and some lemon balm which you can use to make fresh tea!!
** Green garlic is just baby garlic, usually the small, extra cloves left over from garlic planting that we plant with the intention of harvesting as green garlic.  You can eat the whole thing, just chop and use like a scallion or garlic in any recipe.  Don’t be afraid – if you like garlic you’ll love green garlic.

CSA Member Recipe (she loved it and we’ve got most of what you need for it) : 15 Minute Sesame Ginger Noodles (uses bok choy, garlic and scallion).

Spaghetti with Broccoli Raab, Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Baked Kale Chips

Fresh Spinach Recipes to Bring Out Your Inner Popeye

Pan Grilled Scallions (if you need help using them up!)

water pump harvey
Harvey was inspecting our water pump – it passed!

We hope you enjoy this weeks share!

 

 

Spring CSA – Week 2

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Picking pea tendrils. Photo: Bob Durling Photography

We’ve got some important information you need to read if you’ve got a Spring CSA Share:

Pick Up is EVERY Week! I know we do every other week in the fall, but in spring, the greens are fresh and growing fast so we need to cut them every week.  In the fall we have a lot more storage produce which keeps much longer, making the every other week pick up more effective.

Put these dates in your calendar and you won’t miss a pick up:

Tuesday Pick Up: May 15th, May 22, May 29, June 5
Thursday Pick Up: May 17th, May 24, May 31, June 7th

Tasting Tour this week: Tour leaves from the farm stand promptly at 4:45pm Tuesday and Thursday

We are going to do our first Tasting Tours this week.  Tasting Tours are really just a short 45-60 minute gentle walking tour of the farm where we get to taste a few things here and there.  Your farmers will talk about what’s going on in the fields and help you get to know your food a little better.  It’s a lot of fun.  No need to RSVP.  Read more here.

Seedlings are for sale during CSA pick up hours this week and next.  We’ve got awesome seedling this year!  Feel free to peruse and purchase during CSA Hours.

CSA Spotlight: What did you do with your share last week?
This is a great way for members to share what they did with their share on a given week to give other members and potential members ideas of what to do with a CSA share. Thanks to our friend and CSA member, Carrie Marsh for the idea and for being first!  Want to be in the spotlight?  Send me an email and we’ll get you signed up: brittany@upswingfarm.com.

CSA Spotlight: Carries has a Family of 5, two adults, three kids ages 8, 6, 3.5 (and yes, the kids eat all the veggies too!)
Family food motto: “waste not, want not” “picky eaters are made, not born”
Tuesday afternoon: pick up veggies, snack on a few micro greens in the car… yum! 
Wednesday breakfast: Bok Choy Smoothie (Bok Choy, banana, mango, blueberries in the Vitamix) 
Wednesday snack: cheese sandwich with basil micro greens 
Wednesday dinner: pasta salad with herbs de Provence chicken, chopped spinach, green onion, and basil micro greens 
Thursday: radish refrigerator pickles — keeps for several months in the fridge (radishes, rice vinegar, salt, honey) 
Thursday lunch: Bok Choy Waldorf Salad (chopped Bok Choy, apple, raisins, nuts, dressing)
Thursday dinner: side of pea tendril salad with oil and vinegar, toasted pumpkin seeds
Friday dinner: lettuce salad to go with our homemade pizza
Saturday and Sunday: hungry for more fresh veggies! 

This Week’s Share:

Lettuce Mix
Arugula/Mustard Greens
Radishes
Scallions
Micro Cilantro (in a pack like micro basil)
Fingerling Potatoes
Rosa di Milano Heirloom Onions
Mizuna
Spinach
Choice: Baby Boy Choy, Baby Kale, Pea Tendrils, Micro-Greens

What to do with the share:

TACOS. This share definitely screams tacos.  Toppings: Finely chopped radishes and scallions, cilantro, lettuce/arugula/spinach and your choice of cheese, beef, chicken, beans . . . . you name it!

Salads are also a mainstay of the spring share.  Think about stocking up on your favorite salad dressings for the next month, or maybe make your own.

Warm Roasted Baby Potato (fingerling) and Arugula Salad

Mizuna Salad With Miso Dressing.  Mizuna is a very tender green and can either been enjoyed raw in a salad or very gently braised/tossed in at the end of a stir fry.  It has a fresh, sweet flavor.  Taste a leaf!

Spinach and Scallion Risotto

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

Spring CSA: Week 1

harvey in spinach
We’ve got Harvey picking spinach already!

Well, I’m waiting for a 300 gallon bulk tank to fill with water so we can keep transplanting.  The crew is currently planting kale, they already planted 900 lettuce, with scallions, escarole and leeks to follow. May is a crazy month for us on the farm. I love the feeling of needing to go, go, go, falling asleep exhausted and knowing that it doesn’t last forever. May is full of seedling sales, planting, transplanting, weeding and harvesting for our spring CSA! I won’t finish this email until Harvey, our 16-month-old, is in bed tonight, but it feel nice to take a moment to start it now.

This was the hardest spring I have experienced as a grower in New England. It was cold, gray and nerve wracking, but we’ve got veggies!  We are filling in a little bit of the next share with some heirloom onions and fingerling potatoes that were extra from our winter CSA share, but we have lots of the fresh, green veggies you are looking forward to ready for week 1!

Spring 2018 Week 1
Photo: Bob Durling Photography (missing micro basil)

What’s in the share:

Arugula
Pea Tendrils
Micro Basil
French Breakfast Radishes
Bok Choy
Green Onions
Spinach
Lettuce Mix

What to do with it:

Arugula: Great as a simple salad with light olive oil and salt or add goat cheese and sliced radishes to make it a little more “fancy”!
Arugula Pesto

Pea Tendrils: Great as a simple salad (could be mixed with arugula).  Toss in at the end of a stir fry (say green onion, radish and bok choy and pea tendrils).  Don’t over cook!  These only want to be wilted, so add after you have taken the stir fry off the heat. Also make a nice greens bed under chicken or fish.
Pea Tendril and Arugula Balsamic Salad

Micro Basil: So, we did the micro basil because we were worried about having enough product early and it’s something we can grow in the GH in flats.  We are giving it to you to harvest at home.  We do recommend using it (or at least cutting it) in the next 3-5 days.  It great sprinkled in an Italian pasta, or on a pizza (with green onion and arugula!). Or on a sandwich! Don’t be afraid, just cut the stalks just under the leaves, rinse with water and pat dry and use however you might use basil.  Think of them as fancy herb sprinkles.

French Breakfast Radish: I love these radishes.  They are an heirloom and they are beautiful and taste great.  They do, however get what we call “pithy” inside when they grow really fast (like during that blistering heat of last week).  Pithy is perfectly fine to eat, it just means that radish grew so fast it couldn’t fill itself in.  To make your radish last longer twist off from the greens and store in their own plastic bag in the veggie drawer of the fridge.
French Bread and Butter Radish Sandwiches (uses arugula too!)

Boy Choy: This is glorious bok choy. If you aren’t already a fan you will be soon.  Try grilling it if you are unsure, but it is also great as salad or steamed or in a stir fry.

Green Onions: These are actually onions we planted from last year that sprouted and started to divide. They give a great, early onion flavor and are very delicate! Use like scallions or onions in any recipe!

Spinach: You can cook this spinach down, but know that when cooked it will not seem like very much spinach!  We recommend enjoying this spinach fresh, or lightly wilted.  Chopped finely and stirred into hot pasta with some micro basil would be delicious!

Lettuce Mix: We think you know what to do!

We hope you enjoy this week.  Don’t be afraid, just dive right in.  Over the years I’ve learned that a lot of people stress about preparing and cooking food.  Just take a deep breath, know that you have chosen food grown with love, without chemicals that is as fresh as can be – every meal you make might not be your best ever, but you are nourishing yourself and investing in your community by supporting our farm.

Feel free to share recipes you love on our facebook page, or email them to me and I’ll share them in the blog.

Thanks so much for joining, and if you missed the cut-off for the Spring CSA there is still a little time to sign up for Summer!

 

spring fields 2018
Spring Fields (what’s going on under the row cover)

Reminder of Spring CSA Details

2018 Spring CSA Starts Tuesday May 8th and Thursday May 10th.
(The subject of this email tells you which day you signed up to pick up on.)

Pick Up Time: 12pm-6pm
If you need to come later than 6 please let us know and we can make special arrangements
Pick Up Location: 28 South St, Ashland, MA
please use caution driving in and out of the farm, we are on a small, narrow road and people tend to drive too fast

What to Bring: Two grocery bags, extra plastic bags.
We will have the vegetables displayed market style, with signs telling members what to take.  We will have extra bags but encourage our members to bring reusable bags or containers to pick up their vegetables.  Some people use boxes, crates, baskets or tubs instead of bags.

How it Works: When you get to the farm park in the small parking area just before or after the farm wagon. (Yes, we added more “paved” parking area this year!) Please, please drive slowly.  Many people bring children to pick up vegetables.  Consider the speed limit on the farm 5 mph.

1. SIGN IN BY CROSSING OFF YOUR NAME – this is a very important step!  If you don’t cross off your name, I will think you haven’t come at the end of the evening and start to panic that I don’t have enough vegetables!!

2. Collect Your Vegetables. The wagon will be loaded with the CSA vegetables.  Walk around the wagon and read the signs in front of the vegetables telling you what to take.

  1. If you would like to make any trades check the trade bin or ask the stand attendant. Please understand that this has been the most challenging spring to produce food in that I have experience in my last 9 Springs growing CSA vegetables in New England. There won’t be many trades available this spring, but we will do our best to be accommodating.What if . . . ?

I’m going to be late?
If you are running late call or text my cell phone (857)-383-7020 and make sure to include your name in the message.  I will put a share aside for you to pick up later that evening or the following day.

I can’t make it?
If you can’t make it please feel free to send someone in your place.  Just make sure they know to cross off your name.  If you can’t find anyone else to come, you can switch to the alternate pick up day of the week (like from Tuesday to Thursdays or Thursday to Tuesday).  I just need to know by 7am on the first day of the switch.  You can text me, no problem.

If you know in advance you can’t pick up your share on your pick-up day please let me know that week.  It is easy for us to let you pick up the next day.

If you email or text after we have already harvested your share, you will need to pick up your share that day, or we can hold it for a Wednesday pick up.

If you have any questions feel free to email.

Weekly Emails

I send an email once/week, usually on a Monday, to let you know what will be in the share for the week.  Please know that I do my best to be accurate but sometimes during harvest things change, either because yields are lower than I anticipated, or there is a pest or disease issue that wasn’t apparent during my field scouting.

Treat your vegetables like ice cream!  Don’t leave them in the car and put them where they belong as soon as you get home!

TIPS FOR VEGETABLE CARE

• Most vegetables prefer to be stored in plastic bags in the bottom of the fridge.
• If they come twist tied, undo the twist tie before storing in a plastic bag
• Roots should be separated from greens (by either twisting or cutting) and stored in separate bags (yes you can eat beet greens, radish greens, turnip greens, etc)
• Some vegetables don’t want to go in the fridge – we will let you know as they come up, but NEVER store tomatoes in the fridge

Cold, Wet, Gray – We’re making it happen anyway

Upswing-4-5-18-9018What a spring. It is spring, right? I keep telling our seedlings that I promise I didn’t seed them two months early. They look at me and ask, where is the sunlight, you know we need it to make our food, right? On a rare sunny day you can almost see them growing, every cell of their little green bodies stretched and ready to use every single ray of light.

Weather challenges are a part of farming. We do everything in our power to be prepared for any variety of weather events, but one thing that I find hardest to control for is excess rain and a lack of sunlight.  Cold, Wet, Grey. We’ll be fine – you’ve put your faith in a few farmers who like the push the envelope, who want to make things work and we definitely are, but boy it would be nice to have a warm, sunny week to lift our spirits, dry our soil and help our plants photosynthesize!

Growing for a CSA is like taking on debt from a lot of people you really care about.  Instead of a bank, we’re thinking about all of you when we worry about crop loss, or poor weather. It’s you who inspire us to be extra creative and push ourselves that little bit more to make sure we have great produce available for each week of your share.

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We have our big greenhouse and our two high tunnels right next to it.  We use space in all three to plant in the ground.  Right now those beds are planted with spinach, lettuce, arugula, bok choy, salad greens, radishes and a row of cilantro.  We also grow in flats on the tables.  When we saw what a cold, late spring it was going to be, we increased the amount we’d be growing in flats for the early shares to make sure we’d have enough. We’ve planted pea tendrils, micro-basil and micro-cilantro so we can have some fresh, fantastic flavor to kick off our spring shares.

We’ll keep planting in flats as long as it looks like the weather isn’t turning.  We can plant micro-greens for salad too.  We consider these types of plantings a kind of insurance.  It does cost us in materials (soil, flats, seeds, water) and time to plant and care for them.  But its like buying insurance. We all do it. (I spend WAY more on it than I would like to each year). But this type of insurance I find more valuable.  I can use it, even if every other crop turns out and I didn’t need it to begin with, I have extra I can just give to CSA members, or see if I can find a restaurant who wants to buy it, or donate it to a food pantry.

We pushed the envelope last week. The soil was still a little wet to work, but we needed to get plants out there.  When you see a small window during a wet spring, you take advantage of it.  I was so thrilled with our team.  We set a plan for the week on Monday and despite a few challenges we made planting happen by Friday and Saturday. Erin got some training on the tractor, and we got to experience our first round of many, many, many field prep and planting days for 2018.

brittany melissa planting

We planted almost a quarter acre with crops that we need both for the Spring CSA and for the Summer CSA.  We planted peas, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, arugula, lettuce mix, radishes, sweet turnips, dill, cilantro, bok choy and kohlrabi.  All crops that can tolerate cool, wet weather, but who enjoy it when its a little drier and a little warmer. Luckily we plant on raised beds, and use row cover to protect the crops from cold and pests.  The added benefit is that the row cover prevents the rain from directly hitting the soil, making it more like a mist when it gets to the plants, preventing erosion.

Boy am I glad we planted when we did.  I don’t think we’ll be planting again until the end of next week after the Marathon Monday Monsoon. At that point we’ll be planting another round of most of the crops listed above and also trying to plant our first round of broccoli and cabbage, new potatoes, fresh onions and scallions.

Until then we’ll be crossing our fingers and keeping each other’s spirits up. Being bummed on a grey day is not fun.  When every day is grey, you’ve got to do something to inspire a little hope.  We put on music while we pot-up peppers and eggplants and think about hot, sunny summer harvests. We talk about why farming is important to us and why its worth it.

Our seedlings are doing well, despite wanting a little more sunshine and we are starting to fill to the brim! The weather will turn, one of these days, and we’ll be planting tomatoes and melons before you know it!!

harvey in greenhouse

5 Tips for Successful Gardening

Upswing-4-5-18-9030photo credit: Bob Durling

Your garden soil is a living organism.  Try not to think of your vegetables and flowers as what you are caring for.  They are your canaries in a coal mine, your spokespeople for the state of your soil. Reading their messages will tell you what your soil needs.  Give it what it needs and your plants will send positive messages in the form of healthy, bountiful harvests.

A healthy soil is about 40-45% minerals (ground up rocks in varying sizes), 25% water, 25% air and 5-10% organic matter.  Organic matter includes bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, “recently dead” plants, bacteria and fungi and “humus” long-dead organic matter in a stable form. That 5-10% makes a world of a difference in how well your plants will perform.  It is said a tablespoon of soil contains a greater variety of species than all the mammals on earth – that’s a pretty diverse ecosystem!

Basic steps to a healthy garden soil:

1 . Add fully decomposed organic matter (Compost).

You can add manure, but it should be already well broken down.  Decomposition stimulates a different population of microorganisms than the ones you want to stimulate for healthy plant growth.  Too much decomposition and those organisms will take essential nutrients needed by the organisms that support your growing plants.

If you don’t make compost (which you should if you have even the smallest yard) you should buy some. Weston Nurseries has just started offering bulk, certified organic compost.  We tested some last year and it was excellent.  Our tomatoes shouted “Yum! Yum! Yum!” all season long. As far as we know it’s the most affordable, highest quality option available.  Just $34/yard and free delivery to Ashland and Hopkinton. Check out their bulk delivery materials web-page and the Weston’s Best Compost.

Don’t need a whole yard?  What about your flower beds?  Does your neighbor want to split one? One yard can cover an 18′ x 18′ garden with one inch of compost.

Or, if you have a very small garden you can get the bagged stuff, but I’m telling you – you can use up a yard of compost quickly! An inch of compost should be enough for a least one season of growing.  Probably good enough for a few seasons if you use some of these other fertility-building methods. Two inches is a great investment.

2. Use Mulch.

IMG_2015photo credit: Sue Rorke

Soil hates to be bare. Bare soil will quickly be covered by weeds, algae and mosses.  These organisms (although annoying to a gardener) serve an incredible purpose.  They hold soil together and support the microbial ecosystems which would otherwise be destroyed, eliminating that area’s ability to support life.

Benefits of mulch:

  • Weed suppression (if it’s thick enough – don’t skimp!) Weeds aren’t just unattractive and time-consuming to manage. If left unchecked weeds will compete for sun, water and soil nutrition and prevent air-flow which can lead to disease.
  • Moisture retention. Mulched soil holds water more readily, requiring less watering.
  • Ecosystem support. When you are watering the soil you aren’t just watering your plants, you are watering the ecosystem that supports them.  Remember, a healthy soil is about 25% water.  By keeping the soil moist with mulch, you are supporting your soil ecosystem.
  • Prevent back-splash of soil onto plants, which can cause small abrasions and soil borne-disease.
  • Worms love living under mulch. Ever leave something out on the grass for a few days?  When you lift it up the worms have come to the surface.  Worms will actually start to digest your mulch, pulling their nutrients down into the soil and depositing their worm castings (poop) at the base of you plants. At that point your mulch is becoming fertilizer.

Potential mulch materials:

  • Straw (make sure it is weed free)
  • Grass clippings (make sure you don’t spray herbicide on your lawn, it will kill your garden plants)
  • Cardboard (you can cover with compost or leaves for aesthetic purposes)
  • Dead Leaves
  • Wood Chips
  • Weed free compost

Make sure not to mix mulch into the soil, just layer it on top.  Mulch mixed in below the soil surface will stimulate the decomposition bacteria mentioned earlier that take nutrients away form your crops.

3. Don’t over water.

Upswing-4-5-18-9091photo credit: Bob Durling

Most people like to water their garden. It’s easy and it feels like you are doing something good, but many times the avid waterer can be causing more harm than they realize.  Excess moisture is an excellent environment for most fungal diseases that affect plants.  From blight to damping off, all of these diseases can be prevented organically through proper moisture control (unless of course it’s a very rainy year, in which case, you don’t have a lot of options, but mulch and good airflow helps!!).

  • Always water the soil, not the plant. Especially tomato plants.
  • Make sure the soil around the plant is watered thoroughly, then don’t water again until it begins to dry out. About 1” once/week is enough, 2” if the air is really dry.  Remember, a healthy soil has about 25% water and 25% air.  The air and water are taking up the same spaces in the soil, so if you have too much water, it’s taking up the space that would otherwise be occupied by air, which is just as important to your soil health.
  • Water seeds more, to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out, but once they have germinated cut back on the watering so the stems of your young seedlings don’t “dampen off” a general term which is used to describe seedlings, infected with one of 12 fungal diseases, falling over at the stem and dying.

4. Don’t over work the soil.

Upswing2017-5884photo credit: Bob Durling

The soil ecosystem is complex and based on layers and levels. Different organisms live in different levels. When you flip or turn the soil, you mix up the levels, inverting the ecosystems.  Many organisms die and there is a period of rebuilding which does not support healthy plant growth as well as an undisturbed soil.  You also add a lot of air to the soil, increasing the oxygen levels which will cause much of the nitrogen, the least stable but one of the most important nutrients to burn off.

The best way to loosen garden soil is with a digging fork, or a broad fork if you are working with a larger area.  Insert the fork into the soil, pull back but don’t lift the fork, just loosen the soil.  Step back and insert the fork again, one foot behind your last insertion (backwards is better, so you don’t step on your work). Repeat until all your soil is loose.  If you are adding compost or fertilizer, add it just before forking.  This will help to gently incorporate it.

5. Consider non-traditional fertilizer options, and don’t forget to test for pH!

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Organic farmers still use fertilizers, they just don’t use chemically derived ones, and they use soil tests to determine what their soil needs, to make sure they aren’t putting excess fertilizer on the soil, which will then wash away, negatively affecting local water bodies as pollution. The main nutrients your plants need to put on growth are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium which is referred to as N-P-K on all fertilizer products.  Any number on a fertilizer, like 5-4-3 is referring to the %, by weight of that nutrient in the fertilizer.  So if you buy a pound of fertilizer that is rated 5-4-3, you would have .05 pounds of nitrogen, .04 pounds of phosphorous and .03 pounds of potassium.

Nitrogen is important, but it is very soluble in most forms, unstable, and can be detrimental to some crops, especially fruiting crops that require more potassium and phosphorous. But – all plants need nitrogen to grow.  A very healthy garden soil with high organic matter could provide all the nitrogen a plant needs, but it takes many years to build that kind of soil.

Before you grab a bag of 10-10-10 consider some of these options:

  • Worm castings. These are stable, high nutrient, totally natural fertilizers that provide plants a well-balanced diet.
  • Dehydrated/pelleted options like feather meal, blood meal, alfalfa meal, chicken manure . . . there are many options
  • Extra compost (add two inches instead of just one inch)
  • Liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion and kelp meal. These are usually make from sustainable sources and can be applied to the roots through watering or to the leaves of the plants.

Micro-nutrients like boron, sulfur, manganese, iron, copper, etc., etc., are all very important for your crops but should be considered with extreme caution.  Most micro-nutrients can be toxic to plants in large doses and also toxic to the environment.  The best way to provide a complete, and diverse set of micro-nutrients to your crops is through the addition of a well-balanced compost.

As for pH, most New England soils are slightly more acid that is desirable for most vegetable crops, which are happy between 6.0 and 7.0. Adding compost yearly and not over-working the soil can slowly start to neutralize your pH, but if you suspect an imbalance you can get a pH test from the store or send out for a soil test. UMass Amherst has a straightforward sampling and testing method that is worth the price. Read more here.  I don’t recommend adding lime without a soil test, unless it’s a minimal amount.

After growing crops organically for a living for the last ten years I can tell you – if you aren’t going to put in the effort up front to succeed, it’s not really worth trying.  By taking the time and resources to add compost and mulch your garden you are setting yourself up for success.

Also, some vigorous, locally grown seedlings selected for their regional adaptability grown by passionate professional can’t hurt either! Check out our seedling inventory list and visit our sale.  We are open Saturdays and Sundays in May, 9am-3pm.

Upswing-4-5-18-9116photo credit: Bob Durling

Though we are open all weekends in May for plant purchasing, the best times for overall plant selection will be the second and third weekends, we are open both Saturday and Sunday. It is a late, cold, gray spring and many of our crops will not be hardened off until then. But don’t wait too long, our inventory shrinks towards the end of the month!