The crocuses are blooming outside my office window so I know Spring is here, but things outside seem to be getting a slow start. Last year, which was certainly an exception, we were already planting in the fields and really into outside work. It might sound a bit heretical, but I am actually thankful for these days as the warmer temperatures and summer rush always come on quickly!
We are really looking forward to the 2011 season. We have a great crew lined up for this year. Gerardo Gonzalez who has worked with us for four years will be with us again and we have a full season apprentice, Danielle Goldie from Boston who will arrive in two weeks. Additionally, I have hired two women part-time to replace Hadley Milliken who just recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Taj Kingston. We do look forward to still having dear Hadley on the farm in some capacity.
The greenhouse is filling out nicely. We now have 1000s of plants started--leeks, scallions, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil and lots of other herbs and flowers. I am hoping to get into the fields in the next week to plant the first greens, radishes, turnips and broccoli raab. Local food is really on its way! As most of you know we typically start the first week of June and we will send out a reminder beforehand.
June 6, 2011
Welcome to the 2011 season at Indian Line Farm. We are looking forward to having all our members back and excited to meet some new friends. This spring has been a strange one, but then I am not really sure what a normal spring would entail anymore. I will offer more news on farm happenings next week but wanted to offer a few reminders about farm rules and etiquette, especially for new members joining this year. (Below you will see listed the items we will be harvesting this week.)
I also wanted to let folks know that we will begin our WEEDING WEDNESDAYS this Wednesday June 8th from 8-12 noon. Anyone with an extra hour who wants to help out can come hang out with us and make the farm weed free! We love your company.
Pick up times are from 2 to 7 pm. Please don't arrive before 2:00, as we need this time to prepare the barn for pickup. Enter the farm via the driveway on the north side of the barn or park on the side of the road in front of the barn. Please bring your own shopping bags. We supply small, biodegradable produce bags, but will not be purchasing larger plastic bags for members. Later in the season we will be selling the reusable cotton produce bags. However, we will recycle your clean “t-sack” style plastic bags for other members to use. Please bring only the grocery store t-sacks. Do not bring bread bags, produce bags, and the myriad other plastic bags that fill our lives.
Please respect the limits on items. When we have a surplus available, we will make it available to members usually at a discounted price. A sign in the barn will list surplus items for the week. We also sell Berkshire Mountain Bakery Bread and meat from Maiden Flower Farm. The fruit share items are only for those who purchased a fruit share at the beginning of the season. There is still time to sign up for a fruit share if you would like to. If there is surplus fruit, it will be made available to other members for a set price. When flower season begins, please be respectful of the members who come after you and don’t take all of a certain variety, especially the large sunflowers. The same rule applies to the herb garden.
If at any time during the season you go on vacation, we encourage you to send someone else to pick up your vegetables. Just make sure they know what day and time of day to come. If you miss your pickup day, the food will still be in the barn for a limited time the following morning. For a missed Tuesday, the food will be available until 7:15 on Wednesday morning, when we pack everything up for the People's Pantry in Great Barrington. If you miss a Friday pickup, the produce remains in the barn until 10:00 am Saturday.
We hope you will enjoy a stroll around the farm and see what we are up to. Our cover crops are thriving and the farm is filling up with colorful produce. Please note that dogs must be on a leash at all times and are not permitted inside the barn. And of course please clean up after your dog. Children are to be accompanied by the parents at all times, and are not allowed inside farm buildings or greenhouses without permission from the adult farmers. Keep in mind that Colin or Helen, the 7 and 4-year-old farmers, may try to entice others into farm buildings or greenhouses for fun and frolic!!
June 3, 2011
We have had a roller coaster of a week with the extreme temperatures and over 4 inches of rain. As a farmer, I wish for an inch of rain to lightly fall on Saturday night and possibly into Sunday morning. Then I wish it would be 75-80 degrees everyday. Too bad Mother Nature usually has other plans. So we go with the flow and adjust as necessary.
This week we drove over 250 stakes into the ground to support our tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. We put a stake every two plants hoping we can keep the plants from falling over late autumn. We finished mulching the farm with hay in walking rows. This entailed driving to Proctor's Bel-Air Farm on Baldwin Hill and getting the 400 bales that Charlie Proctor saved for me over the winter. I was the prize winner and managed to stack 53 bales on the back of our Dodge Ram! We are a little behind in getting a few things into the ground. I am hoping the soil dries sufficiently over the next few days to put in our next planting of lettuce, broccoli, green beans, beets and chard. On a bright note, we will likely be harvesting the first of the summer squash and zucchini next week. Yea!!
I have noticed lots of new life on the farm this year. We discovered a nest of young star-nosed moles in our smallest greenhouse. And then just a few days later found another nest of voles. ( I wasn't too happy about that! They can be very destructive in a short amount of time.) Then we have had a steady stream of raccoons and oppossums eating our cat food. Last year I caught 4 raccoons in our Hav-a-Heart trap and am hoping to do the same this year. And we have a new ground hog living on the hillside. (I am really not to happy about that!) But most moving has been the killdeer that nested between the chard and an open part of a field destined to be the eggplant, peppers, squash and cucumbers. I had a moral dilemma. If you go online it says it is illegal to move a nest of migrating birds. I did not know that. The "ask the bird expert" people said that you should go to great lengths to not move the nest. It takes 28 days for the birds to hatch, perhaps a little longer depending on how long the mother is off the nest to scream at innocent chard planters. I waited for what felt like a long time (over 20 days) feeling like surely the eggs had been there over 8 days since we first noticed them. Alas the day came when we had to do something or lose our opportunity to get the eggplant bed prepped for planting. Alex carefully moved the nest (nothing more than soil and gravel) with a shovel and moved it to the side while he did the tractor work and then moved the nest back. We came back to the section 5 days later and we have 3 young killdeer running around the farm like they own the place. Almost perfect mini replicas of the parents, the young have been a sight to my worried soul. Even on this small trying to be sustainable farm we often come into conflict with other living creatures around us. We were thrilled that this time nature's cycle won out.
June 20, 2011
If I wait until 9:00 pm on Monday night to write my brain all of a sudden has turned to mush and I can't think of anything intelligent to say. As it is 9:09 I am past the mush stage. Let me just assure everyone that things have really started to grow and thrive. We do need some continued sun this week to keep us on track, though. I had really thought that we would have beets and summer squash this week, but with the generally cooler nights last week and several overcast days we are still looking at those items and they are too small. A watch pot never boils and a small beet never grows when you look at it five times a day.
We were also able to catch the only window of opportunity last Thursday of dry weather to spread compost, prep beds for planting and transplant the second crop of scallions, more broccoli and cabbage, lettuce, green beans, and I direct seeded the next carrot and beet planting. On top of that we were able to do some tractor cultivation. I went to bed feeling like we were more or less caught up. Such a great feeling!
June 27, 2011
I have a small crack in the left foot of both my rubber boots and my short muck shoes. A small crack in either pair is generally no problem and I rarely notice. These last weeks, though, I have become keenly aware of the crack and go through multiple pairs of socks in a day if it is raining. And as you all know it has been raining. Two inches fell here since last Wednesday on ground that was already pretty moist. Murphy's Law says that if I go and buy a new pair of boots and a new pair of muck shoes tomorrow it WILL stop raining. If I don't we will continue to see rain. Though strangely I feel torn to then have two useful pairs of shoes in my already crowded mud room. I really hate throwing shoes away... Ah the dilemmas of my life.
On to the less trivial. I have been speaking with other farmers and those growing strawberries and black cherries are really suffering. The rain causes fruit to split at the peak of ripeness. Tom Maynard who provides much of our stone fruits for the Fruit Share said he has lost thousands of dollars in a matter of weeks to the wet weather. We are lucky to have had only minor losses due to this erratic spring and early summer weather. On a positive note we have had 2 1/2 days of full sun! The sunflowers alone seem 4 inches taller than yesterday. Keep wishing for a stretch of warm dry weather. We need it.
July 4, 2011
Folks frequently ask me how the season is going and it is sometimes hard to answer. Just saying "great!" or "challenging" or "just fine" doesn't do justice to the many things that are at play in the life of Indian Line Farm. Right now I want to say "slow." The season just seems slow. I haven't done a careful study of the weather in comparison to other years but my experience and analysis of past years' yields tells me that Summer is taking its time to really make her presence known. The cooler temperatures have been splendid to work in and sleep in at night, but to really make the farm grow and produce in the manner that I have been expecting I need five to ten degrees warmer during the day and at night. Last year on this same date (and for the previous 5 years) we were harvesting 100s and 100s of pounds of summer squash, cucumbers, beets and cabbage. Today we harvested just enough summer squash to give members tomorrow and no cucumbers or cabbage. Other crops are also just taking their time. It has been great for lettuce though. Lots of lettuce. If I had known the temperatures were going to stay cool I would have planted more of the cooler season crops ie. spinach, turnips, bok choy and radishes. But alas, I am complaining.
I can only take it all in stride and let you know what is happening here. I take my commitment to you, our members, seriously and give you the priority when product becomes available. Except for basil, I am not selling to any stores and the restaurant clients we have are getting things in excess like lettuce and garlic scapes! Hang in there with us!
I am thankful for this beautiful warm 4th of July. It is perfect for growing vegetables and for an afternoon canoe trip.
July 11, 2011
Sometimes it feels like the world is falling down around you. Last Friday during the severe thunderstorm we received nearly one inch of rain and lost a large limb off the oldest remaining sugar maple on our property. The limb was strategically located over our tool shed and fell there. Miraculously, the tool shed suffered no structural damage except for some small dents in the metal roofing. Al and our co-worker Gerardo worked diligently on Saturday to get the branch down and at least make the area safe again. This is the third tree to suffer substantial damage at the farm this year. Back in late February during one of the bitterly cold windy days we lost two other maple trees--one falling into another. Together these three trees provided an immense amount of shade for the farmhouse. Now every morning I pull the curtains on the eastern windows to keep out the sun's heat which rises on the house at about 5:40 these days.
The loss of this branch is significant in multiple ways. The most important was felt at 10:00 am this morning when the crew and children gathered for our mid-morning coffee/snack break. Our shaded picnic table was in the full sun! For anyone who has ever sat with us at this table, they will understand this tragedy. Currently the terrain under the tree is rough and very sloped almost everywhere else. We did not even know where to move the table that would be suitable. This week's task will be to figure out a new spot for the table that is level and not an area where we need to drive.
The other outstanding issue to reckon with is what is to become of the remaining part of the tree. Are we counting the days of this magnificent beauty? That story will have to be continued. We still have quite a mess to clean up and may ask folks with chain saw savvy to help out one of these days. It may have to wait until fall as we are now experiencing the outpouring of the garden! The heat and sun last week did wonders for the farm's yields.
We are now raining cucumbers. Enjoy every one!
July 26, 2011
As I drove home in my hot truck from the Great Barrington Farmers Market on Saturday afternoon, I was trying to find the silver lining in the incredibly hot and humid weather that permeated the end of last week. The results of my tired mind search: I sure am happy I don't live in the deep south where these temperatures are the norm. I can't imagine being a farmer in that climate. I am grateful for the rain today and a break from the humidity.
August 1, 2011
I wish I could say that we harvested all our garlic and that it was curing in the upstairs of our barn. But alas, the work was more than the few folks who were present could finish. So instead of just weeding we will harvest on Wednesday morning August 3rd for anyone who has an extra hour or two. We will start at 8:00 am and work until most likely 12:00. The task is simple and rewarding, but is lovely to do with a few extra hands! A big thanks to Julia Erickson who was our sole volunteer on Saturday.
I realize this is a lot of requests for work! Who does the work around here anyway? Well, I have a great crew this year and we do the lion's share of the work to keep this farm running. Since the beginning of the CSA (community supported agriculture) part of our farm nearly 13 years ago, we have asked members to give TWO hours of volunteer time sometime during the season. This year we are not going to have the volunteer log and want folks to just come when you can. I am here every day from at least 7-1:30 and can put people to work, usually weeding. Please drop a quick email if you have a special time in mind. We do weed nearly every Wednesday from 8-1:00 and that is a good option for many. I also provide numerous other times throughout the season in which additional help is needed for projects like garlic harvesting, garlic planting, and garlic cleaning. We usually give several days or one week notice of these needs.
August 8, 2011
There is something about the beginning of August that makes me a little cranky. Mostly I am just a little tired. An introvert at my core, I am sometimes exhausted by the numbers of people that I interact with in a given week. And though I am also invigorated by the energy people bring to the farm and who I meet at the farmers market the days leave me wondering where the hours disappeared.
In addition, the work seems to get heavier with every load of squash, cucumber and tomato we pull from the field. Weekly we are moving a ton or more (2000 lbs) from the field to the the truck to the wash room to the tables or the cooler and then some from the cooler to the tables or to the truck again for a delivery or the farmers market. We try to be as efficient as possible using tools as we can because the more you move the more you get tired. There is always room for improvement and I am frequently on the lookout for an easier way to do something that might be a little easier on the body. Our scale is such that we don't use pallet jacks and hydraulic lifts all that often. The dolly or truck jack we do use and I am often encouraging my crew to use these tools rather than carry that one heavy box alone to where it goes.
This week we harvested the initial outdoor tomatoes. The beginning of August is the first time you can really have outdoor tomatoes ripen in this location. I hope you have been enjoying the greenhouse tomatoes we have been providing for nearly 5 weeks. You will begin to see more colors and shapes in the pick up room now until the end of September if all goes well.
Despite my periodic crankiness, when I go down to the fields after 6:00 at night my whole attitude changes. I can see without the sun beating down on my eyes that our farm is so alive right now! The plants are all healthy and thriving, the weeds are under control, the view of Jug End Mountain with the sunflowers in the foreground is stunning and everything is on schedule. Up until now the season has been a race of sorts beginning March 15th when I turn the greenhouse on ending August 15th when I make my last planting of turnips, radishes, mustard greens and arugula. I make a planting schedule in the winter deciding when things are going to be planted, organized to the exact day. The weather conditions can change the schedule a little bit and I have to work around that, but if I am off by too many days or weeks it results in a lack of some sort.
Thankfully all looks good at this point. Enjoy the bounty! August can be a little overwhelming sometimes with the quantity of food. Our goal is not to overwhelm members with food, but certainly to share in the bounty. Remember take only what you know you can eat. Food not taken does not go to waste. Food leftover on Tuesday is donated to the People's Pantry in Great Barrington and food leftover on Friday can be sold at the Great Barrington Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Or we donate the extra food to Co-Act which facilitates getting fresh produce to food pantries or local soup kitchens in Berkshire County. More about this in another missive...
August 15, 2011
In anticipation of the Sunday rain I was out Saturday evening direct seeding more turnips, spinach, arugula, radishes and leaving a few beds ready to transplant Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and kohlrabi on Monday. Prairie Home Companion was on WAMC and guest artist Emmy Lou Harris sang me into a peaceful rhythm of checking the seeding schedule, pouring the seed in the Planet Jr. walk behind seeder, walking the rows I had previously marked with the tractor so I seed in a straight line and then emptying the seed back into the seed packet and starting all over again. As I planted I couldn't help but imagine a spicy arugula salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette and crunching on a sweet white turnip. I hadn't eaten dinner yet and was hungry. I was also looking forward to the fall when we don't have to battle with the flea beetles who like to eat small holes of anything in the family of the above plants. We have to be so diligent to cover things with floating row cover in the spring and summer to keep these pesky little beetles at bay. And even though we religiously kept plants covered in the spring, I am sure you noticed the early bok choy and arugula had many small holes. They don't live on the plants and you will never see one on your food because they jump away as soon as you get close to them. So while harvesting they seem to fly away. The flea beetles aren't lovers of the cooler temperatures and in about 3 weeks they all but disappear. Much to look forward to. Now is pretty good too, though. The selection of food is amazing and the farm just encourages my crew and me to keep doing the good work that has to be done.
Things outside are looking good and we were grateful for the rain today. Keep in mind that if you can't pick the pick your own items on your day you may come any day except Sunday.
One more thing to remember. We are totally out of plastic bags. You must bring bags, boxes or whatever to put your veggies in. Thanks!!
What an amazingly gorgeous day! Hope everyone got to enjoy some of it outdoors.
August 22, 2011
Mondays are a big harvest day in terms of overall weight of produce. We harvest all the tomatoes from three greenhouses and outside, the summer squash and cucumbers, eggplant and peppers. The peppers and eggplant are proving to be this summer's weak link. I take special care of these plants as they are harder to grow successfully in the Northeast in the variable weather we have. We start by planting the seeds on March 15th and keep the flats on our heat mat for up to 10 days. Once the seeds have germinated we keep them in our temperature-controlled greenhouse until the plants have two true leaves, not just the two leaves that come at germination which are called cotyledons. At this growth point we repot the plants to a 3" pot and let them grow on until about May 1st. By then the greenhouse is getting really crowded and we have to make room for more growing plants. We move the peppers and eggplant outdoors on tables that can be covered with thick plastic if we get a frost. We prepare the soil in the meantime by adding compost and/or chicken manure fertilizer. We cover the beds with biodegradable black plastic (I know it sounds like a misnomer) and let the ground heat up for a few days. We plant right into the plastic and immediately put wire hoops every 10 feet down the bed. We then roll out floating row cover to keep the plants extra warm for a few weeks. When we take the fabric off the plants are usually healthy looking and starting to flower. This year was no exception.
Things changed when we started to harvest a couple of weeks ago. The eggplant are showing very little fruit and much of it won't size up. The plants lack their usual vigor. The pepper plants look fine on the surface but upon examination they are suffering. For every one pepper we find, we are pulling three rotten ones off the plant. I can honestly say rotten pepper removal is the worst job on the farm. You can usually see the shrunken dull green pepper and be prepared for the mini explosion of foul smelling juice that runs from the pepper like an intestinal illness you can't even tell your closest friends about. It is so gross. I've contemplated doing nothing and just pulling the good peppers off when we harvest on Mondays and Thursdays, but the juice inevitably flows downward rotting every other pepper in its path and we are losing peppers like marbles.
The big question is why? I have seen my yields in eggplants decrease in the previous two years and have attributed this decline to the abnormal weather in 2009 and last year I thought I kept the floating row cover on too long and baked the plants. Now I am doubting my hypothesis and am thinking there may be a soil deficiency of some sort. I will be doing some investigation of the specific needs of eggplants and peppers as well as doing my every other year soil testing this fall.
I say all of this as way of explaining why there is very little eggplant and why there may be far fewer red peppers than in years past.
August 29, 2011
Thankfully I have no bad news to report after this weekend's arrival of hurricane Irene. The farm weathered the storm well with only minor damage to yet another tree. You will notice it as you drive into the parking circle. I watched the fields get saturated with water on Sunday and wondered if this would be the year we actually saw our fields under water. I dumped the rain gauge at 4" fully expecting to get another four, but we topped of at 5 1/2 inches total. We lost power at about 6:15 pm and then the wind picked up at about 7:00 pm. Within 45 minutes we heard a neighbor's enormous maple tree go down. The power returned at 10:30 pm and we didn't have to worry about freezers of frozen meat and vegetables or how we would get water for farm use today.
The fields are certainly muddy and there is a small amount of standing water at the lowest part of the farm. We may lose a few carrots, lettuce and a few beets. I feel no need to complain though. Many more farmers up and down the East coast have horror stories I can't imagine. Today we are lucky and I feel blessed because of it. Thanks for all the well wishes before and after the storm.
September 5, 2011
I am a little shy on time today. Please do your "We've had enough rain" dances starting tonight. It is getting yucky out there.
September 12, 2011
I have never seen the ground this wet on our farm! It is astounding that the whole north side is impassable to any vehicle. There is standing water around our entire compost pile. Our littlest greenhouse is muddy inside. The puddles formed from vehicular travel are over 7" in some places. We can't drive over any beds to weed or plant. The fall carrot crop is rotting in the ground. You can pull one up and there is carrot mush at the tip end. There is a smell of decay when you walk around the broccoli. The mosquitoes are vicious! As are a multitude of other biting flies. When the rain came yesterday (Sunday) I contemplated crawling under my bed covers and wishing for an early frost to be done with all this craziness!
Alas this is what working the land is like. There is only so much you can control. I heard an old time farmer in Sheffield tell me last year was the most exceptional year in his memory. This year might be the worst. Not all is lost I know. We uncovered some beautiful fall greens, turnips and broccoli raab today. They are planted farther away from the wet spots. The sun was out all day today really brightening our spirits. Next week will be getting the first of the winter squash from my farming friends in the Pioneer Valley. I hope you, too, are finding things to be thankful for.
September 19, 2011
The temperature has changed fast and it is hard to believe this week marks the official beginning of fall. My attention has been taken a bit from the farm to the start of school for Helen and Colin. It seems to me that school shouldn't really start up again for another month to accommodate the true harvest season. Alas there are very few farmers among us and I will adjust to making school lunches, going to school meetings, providing gentle prods to do homework and remembering to pick up children up on time.
I love that the children have this farm to come home to. It is their haven and they, in some ways, know the nooks and crannies of this place better than I. I often wonder what they will think of their childhood when they become adults. My hope is that they remember the beauty of this place where they could play freely and eat amazing food amidst a family that worked to create a healthy life for themselves and for their community. My eyes get a bit watery at the thought and hope that they remember the myriad people who came here and supported us in so many ways over the years.
I just came from Full Bloom Organic Farm in Whately, MA to pick up our delicata winter squash. I have been going there every fall for the last nine years and it is expanding every year. The farm has ten greenhouses and over 50 acres in vegetable production. They are currently building a photovoltaic system more than double ours to provide electricity to all those houses. I came away awed by the amount of food they must produce and how much work it must be to manage an operation of that size. I also came away feeling dwarfed by the size and how insignificant our 17 acre farm is in comparison. And yet, I can manage this size and can have a small crew of co-workers and maintain the quality of life Al and I want for our family. I am glad to have the personal relationship with our members and restaurant and store customers. Those connections are ultimately what make this work worthwhile.
October 10, 2011
The farm will look different as you look around this week. We have begun to clean up and prepare the farm for the winter. Consequently, most of the tomatoes, flowers, eggplant and peppers have been taken down or will be down by Friday. My intention is for most everything on the south side of the farm to lay fallow for the next year. We have already planted oats/winter peas and some clover in sections of the farm we will use next year. The last planting of cover crops is a rye/vetch mix and that will be for land we will let rest for a year.
The mood on the farm is a little more relaxed and though the list of things to do is still long, the sense of urgency is just not there. So we start an hour later and just try to stay steady in the work. My two part-time employees are no longer with us as their commitment was until the end of September. The farm seems quieter without them.
I wanted to let everyone know that after much deliberation the farm shares will end the week of October 24th. Tuesday October 25th and Friday October 28th will be the last days for pick ups for the 2011 season. This is one week earlier than in previous years. The last week's pick up may be slimmer than in previous years too. We will not have a bulk sale this year.
The farm really took a financial hit from all the rain. I have prioritized the farm members getting all the available produce which is why you, our members, have seen no real decrease in abundance or quantity so far. We have stopped selling all but celeriac to stores and the few restaurants are really only getting what is truly in surplus (turnips and celeriac). But as we move into the season where normally we provide different kinds of roots and greens you will see the decrease. We lost what should have amounted to a 1000 lbs of carrots, 100s and 100s of pounds of beets, purple top turnips, rutabagas, daikon radishes, and black and red specialty radishes. In addition, much of our late kale has essentially collapsed from not being able to breath with all the water. Two plantings of spinach failed to germinate--we are investigating the seed source too. And the lettuce....Where is the lettuce? We planted a lovely crop of lettuce about 5 days before Irene and I think the excessive water washed some of the fertility away making the lettuce less likely to thrive. This is the lettuce we should have started harvesting two weeks ago. The next planting was never put in the ground because we weren't able to use the tractors for nearly 6 weeks. I am hoping in two weeks we will have salad greens again.
I say all this as a way of expressing my commitment to you as you all have committed yourselves to this farm. Thanks for your understanding and support.
October 21, 2011
We had a beautiful day cleaning up the farm. The weather was perfect for fall tidying. We rolled up all the blue layflat which we use for our overhead irrigation. We use extra large spools we get from S&A which sells heating, plumbing and electrical supplies. We also rolled up all the drip tape that runs under beds covered with biodegradable black plastic. In addition, we removed the plastic from the smallest greenhouse which contained the last of the tomatoes and basil that had long since died. I love cleaning up. It is so satisfying!
This time of year farm members and customers at the farmers market frequently say two things. They either remark that I must be so excited for the season to be over or they ask, "What do you do all winter?" I strangely feel guilty saying, "yes" to the former and am often stumped by the latter. I am looking forward to a period of time that I don't have to worry so much about the ever-growing list of things that have to be done TODAY. I look forward to a bit of time that I can focus on other things that I really enjoy. I do really get excited about our annual family trip to Puerto Rico where we camp and soak in the sun for two weeks! But for anyone who really knows me, I don't sit still very long. I really have to stay active in the winter or I go crazy! So in addition, to my sewing, knitting and desire to read some great books, I regularly go to CrossFit Great Barrington. The gym is behind Cumberland Farms and is an awesome place to stay fit and strong. Mike and Leslie Bissailion, owners of the CrossFit affiliate in Great Barrington are members of Indian Line Farm and have created an amazing community of athletes. My inspiration to be there doing pull ups, push ups, running and lifting weights means general fitness now but I know well that if I am going to keep farming into my later years I need all the strength I can get.
To the latter question about what I do all winter...it is not all bon bons, working out and doing things I enjoy. The months of December-February are critical to this farm running during the growing season. The whole farm for the upcoming season is planned; seeds, supplies, and tools ordered; the past season analyzed; the books reconciled etc. I am also on several boards and committees which keep me more busy than I care to admit. I am looking forward to something different and feel grateful time exists for it all throughout the year.
October 24, 2011
Today we planted nearly 90 lbs. of garlic. That translates to about 6500 cloves. The garlic will grow for awhile, lay dormant most of the winter and then as the snow melts the garlic will grow in earnest. Garlic is the first plant we see peeking up from the mulch in April. Planting the garlic is one of the last big tasks we do to finish up for the fall season. I am thankful that I still have Gerardo and Danielle working with me to accomplish these jobs. Gerardo will be moving on to work with his father at a dairy farm in Copake, NY for the winter and Danielle will be returning to the Boston area to work at a farm stand where she worked last year.
This season will certainly go down in the Indian Line Farm book of summers to remember. Thanks for hanging in there with us and offering all the words of encouragement and gratitude. It certainly keeps me going. I can only hope next year will be different, but at the same time I need to be as prepared as I can given the extreme weather patterns seem to be more of the norm than the exception.
I look back to our efforts to make the farm better this year. We took the comments that we received on last year's survey seriously and tried to put in place a few things that would improve members' experience. We put a few additional light bulbs in the barn. We added another scale in the pick-up room. We improved the signage in the upick peas and green beans. These were just a few of the suggestions that members made.
We still hope to build a bathroom in the barn, improve the parking area and to always improve our offerings all season. I have my work cut out for me over the winter and certainly next spring.
In closing, I want to thank the myriad people who had a chance to come and volunteer in any capacity this summer. Your energy and enthusiasm is contagious to the entire farm crew. I also want to applaud the Working Members for their work commitment to the farm. Without them, it would be impossible for me to run this farm and be a mom of two. They are: Susan Bachelder, Alana Chernilla, Molly de St. Andre, the Horan family, Sarah Hudson, the McFarland family, Carol McGlinchey, Lissa McGovern, Sarah Nicholson, Roger Reed, Jennifer Sahn, Kristina Splawn, Maggie Taylor, and Stephanie and Jasper Turner. Yea for you!! I also wanted to mention two stellar volunteers, Katya Mayer and Cheryl Zellman who just came and did what needed to be done again and again. Thanks for your good energy.
I know coming and volunteering doesn't work for everyone and that is ok. Many have offered to do things that I just wasn't able to follow through on. There is always next year.
Have a lovely remainder of your fall and I am sure I will run into many of you over the next couple months.
We are pleased to announce the completion of or new 6.5 kw photovoltaic system. In celebration of this step toward green energy production and in gratitude toward the funding sources that made it possible, we are hosting a gathering on Thursday April 29 at 10:00 am. Members of the community are invited for a showing of the system and brief remarks by the funders. Light refreshments will be provided.
The installation at Indian Line Farm was priced at $54,033 and the farm received funding from the Commonwealth Solar program administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) through the Agricultural Environment Enhancement Program (AEEP); and from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The system was installed by Berkshire Photovoltaic Services based in Adams, MA. It is estimated that the system will produce 7, 386 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and will save 9,110 lbs of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere as well as significant amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury.
Indian Line Farm went through a competitive grant process for all three grants received and the final cost to them was approximately $11,000. Elizabeth Keen said “We are thrilled to be making this transition to using solar energy to power all our farm electrical needs. We would not have been able to do it without the rebate program and the EQIP/USDA funds and the AEEP/MDAR funds. We hope this example will encourage other farms to consider conservation and renewable energy options too.”
This celebration is co-hosted by Berkshire Grown who envisions a community where healthy farms define the open landscape, where a wide diversity of fresh, seasonal food and flowers continue to be readily available to everyone, and where we celebrate our agricultural bounty by buying from our neighboring family farms and savoring their distinctive Berkshire harvest.
May 31, 2010
The season is starting out like a fire cracker. The hot weather has moved plants 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. We are in serious planting mode and can't seem to get things out of the greenhouse fast enough or get enough water on the field. It is really dry. Please do your own rain dances at home. At the same time the weeds are growing like crazy and we are busy mulching, hoeing and weeding. On that note we will be having our first Weeding Party this Wednesday June 2nd from 8-1. Come join us and check out how beautiful the farm is right now.
Welcome to all the new members and welcome back to all our dear returning friends. I will offer more news next week. Right now I have to turn on our irrigation pump!
June 7, 2010
I guess I have to be careful what I wish. We were certainly blessed with a weekend of rain to quench the thirsty ground and the growing vegetables. The rain was welcome and meant that we did not have to spend the entire weekend worrying about what needed to be irrigated next. We don't have a river or pond next to the farm so we rely on our house well to irrigate all the crops that use drip irrigation. We do have a dug well that is next to the adjacent wetland which we use to overhead irrigate. We pump the water out of the well and send it nearly 500' through a 2" hose to the beds where we need it. The well, however, runs dry in less than two hours. Consequently, we need to water more frequently. I am not complaining, though. We have water. We just need to be judicious about its use and be constantly foreseeing our need to water certain sections of the farm before there is dire need for moisture. But alas, I rested well Saturday and Sunday night knowing we had enough for now.
We are getting a handle on things here and have been very busy planting. We finished planting 500 tomato plants, 1000 fennel, our second round of peppers (nearly 600) and eggplant (about 500). We also completed the planting of 1400 different flowers of about 20 different varieties. The flowers should be blooming by 4th of July we hope! I also planted out our 3rd lettuce planting and second planting of carrots and beets. We are constantly planting to guarantee a consistent supply of produce all season long.
We have also been bringing in over 150 bales of straw from Howden Farm in Sheffield, MA to mulch between many of our beds. This mulch keeps the ground moist, but almost more important to us is the barrier to weeds the straw provides. It makes the farm look really nice to. Feel free to walk around and check it out for yourself.
Sounds hectic, doesn't it?? This is certainly a busy time of year. I am ever so thankful for my very supportive husband, my two employees--Gerardo Gonzalez and Hadley Milliken--who are entering their fourth season with us, our new apprentice Crystal Giasson who joins us from Vermont and last but not least, the amazing and enthusiastic help of my working members and loyal volunteers. All together we make it happen.
I hope you enjoyed the beginning of a bountiful harvest. There is so much more to come.
June 14, 2010
We had a great work week here! Among many other things, we finished staking and mulching all the newly planted tomatoes and tomatillos. The staking involves pounding 6' stakes into the ground 12" every 2-3 plants--a job that really gets our hearts pounding and makes our arms strong. We then use the Florida weave technique to keep the tomatoes from falling over. Having the tomatoes stand up helps with harvesting as the tomatoes are all easy to see.
We did tons of hand weeding on Wednesday with a great crew of volunteers. Thanks to Katja Mayer, Susan Bachelder, Jane Balaguero, Jasper and Stephanie Turner and of course the farm crew! We completed all the spinach, leeks, carrots, beets, and 4 beds of onions! The farm is looking great. Don't despair if you did not make it last Wednesday because we will meet again this Wednesday June 16 from 8-12. Come join us for great conversation and awesome weeding.
In addition to the above we have added harvesting to our daily list of things to do. With our newly established routine of harvesting for members every Tuesday and Friday there is a sense of rhythm to the days now and harvesting is taking a good portion of our mornings. I love to harvest the produce. It is my favorite part about farming. We always harvest in the mornings when the ground is damp and the temperature cool. It probably helps that I am a morning person, too. I love the quietness of the mornings. Only the singing birds and the knives cutting through greens disturb the peacefulness. The leafy vegetables always call our attention as they are the most perishable and need to be taken up to the barn as soon as possible and washed in cold water. The quicker you bring down the temperature of lettuce, spinach etc. the longer they will stay fresh in your refrigerator. We are looking forward to adding summer squash, zucchini, and scallions to the harvest list next week.
June 21, 2010
Happy Solstice to all! It certainly feels like summer today. The bright sun and warm temperatures really created a dramatic change in the plants over the weekend. They grew inches. The squash, cucumbers, and brassicas (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale) exploded. This is what summer should be. Forget the recent summers of the past where we wore sweaters into July...
You might see some changes to the landscape as you come down to pick peas this week. We are in the process of cutting down our cover crops. We grow cover crops for multiple reasons: provide cover to the soil that we are not using, break weed and disease patterns that may develop with growing vegetables on land for multiple years, and provide carbon and nitrogen to the soil to keep it healthy. We had a lovely crop of annual rye and hairy vetch which were sown last fall and overwintered. The plants came back really well in the early spring and have been growing ever since. We cut them down before they set seed and will work the debris into the soil giving the soil microbes something to eat and then plant again by late August. This time we will sow oats and field peas that will create a lovely mulch for the winter and die off with the cold. We can plant right into these fields in the spring. We also have been cutting a crop of red clover which has been blooming a lovely shade of pink for about a month. We will also cut this before it sets seed and possibly let it regrow for awhile. I am new to this crop so am going to experiment with how it works best on our farm.
June 28, 2010
Well, the verdict is out. The Late Blight (Phytophthora infestans) which was the culprit of last year's tomato demise has been detected in many states in the US and now here. The below message came last week from UMASS.
Late blight has been confirmed for the first time in New England, on tomato from a backyard garden in Cheshire CT (New Haven County) this morning, 17 June 2010. The tomato plants were grown from seed, but could have been infected from nearby greenhouse, bedding plants or market farms. Cooler, moist condi–tions over the past week produced favorable conditions accord–ing to the late blight forecasting models and added cumulative SV. The 18 SV threshold for starting preventative fungicides has been reached in ConnecticutValley, eastern and southeastern MA, although north central and Berkshire locations are lower, from 6-11 SV. If there is other infected plant material out there, it could produce spores in the next week. Given a confirmed case in New England AND threshold SV across MS, protective fungicides are warranted. Continue to watch for and rogue out potato volunteers as your personal contribution to a successful New England tomato crop for 2010 and continue to scout potato and tomato fields for symptoms.
Last year we thought we were immune to such a catastrophe as losing an entire outside tomato crop, but alas we learned otherwise. As most of you know we pulled up and buried over 500 tomato plants in mid July. And although Indian Line Farm was one of the only farms in the area to have any tomatoes at all because of our production in the greenhouses, this year we have decided to use the method of spraying fixed copper to our outside plants which prevents the possibility of spores surviving. There are several substances which are allowable under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic production. We will now be undergoing the nearly weekly spraying regiment which is required to protect this year's crop. We will keep you updated.
On the subject of tomatoes, our heated greenhouse has now started producing luscious red beauties. This is earlier than in the previous 3 years and we are thrilled with our luck of sun and warm weather. As this is an extremely costly crop for us to produce, we usually wait a few weeks before giving them out in small quantities to Indian Line Farm members in an effort to cover our production costs. There are a few things (basil, tomatoes and a few cut flowers) which we don't include in the cost of the share and we hope to make a little extra money on selling at the farmers market or to a few stores. This extra money is what really helps round out the whole farm picture and keeps us a viable working farm. You, our members, benefit from our early production as you will get some early tomatoes and basil, long before any other CSA in Berkshire County. We will also offer tomatoes for sale at the farm for less expensive than we sell them at the farmers market as a benefit of your membership here!!
We purchase the plants which are started in late January from a certified organic farm in Putney, VT and then plant them on April 1st. The soil in the greenhouse is composted and tilled by hand. Then each plant needs tending once a week. We prune all plants to a single stem by removing all suckers. Then the plant is attached with a clip to a string line hanging from wire which extends the length of the greenhouse. This encourages the plant to put all its energy into fruit production and we are blessed with large, early blemish free tomatoes. We do the same in our unheated greenhouse, but those plants I start myself and we plant those the last week of April. We have to cover these plants nightly to prevent the temperature from dropping too much below 50 degrees. These plants will start producing by mid July for sure. We hope you enjoy these early treasures as well as all the other great produce this week.
July 19, 2010
Can you believe all these little rain storms and not a full inch of rain in total? Mother Nature is such a tease sometimes!
Approaching the end of July is always a pause for me because we have just finished a big push to plant the longer growing fall crops like cabbage, broccoli, turnips, rutabagas, fall carrots, beets, daikon radish, and cauliflower to name a few. The pause is like the calm before the storm: before the outside tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need to be harvested in our already busy weekly schedule. The pause is relative really because we are cruising around here at top speed. The incredible heat has just made things grow so quickly: the grass, the weeds and the crops all need to be tended more often.
I know that to live in the "now" is the way to be, but farming sometimes takes the pleasure and reality of "now" away from me. I constantly have to be thinking and planning ahead to ensure that we have what we need in place for some future date. For example, we have to lightly pass over the lettuce beds that we planted 10 days ago with our cultivating tractor in order that the weeds don't get a strong hold and make harvesting difficult in 3 weeks time. I have to plant the 22 flats of lettuce this week so that we have our salad greens in 8 weeks. I have to pull the garlic out of the ground so it has adequate time to cure in the barn before we need the space for the fall storage onions. And we have to plant, plant, plant... it never ends. We honestly plant something every week of the season beginning March 15th until Labor Day to ensure we have food every week for more than 7 months. And on and on... Did I fail to mention that I thrive on the thrill of it all? And if all is going relatively well and we do things on time it all works! Amazing!
The one time of day that I can live in the "now" moment is usually the evening. If I am the one to walk down to the fields and adjust irrigation or shut the greenhouses, I can relish in the green beauty of life on the farm and notice how things have changed from the previous week. If I can put aside the constantly brewing mental list of things to do, I can usually see the miracle of what is here.
This is a big week because it is GARLIC HARVEST time. We will be pulling our garlic out of the ground this Thursday July 22 from 8am-12pm. As many of you know the garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in late July. We cure the plants for two weeks or longer and then begin bagging it in mesh bags for storage. We need as many people as possible for this super fun task. We have over 6000 bulbs of garlic to pull and put in our barn. Please come and lend a hand and see how this amazing plant grows! Come for any length of time you can. Any help is appreciated.
July 26, 2010
How this breeze dries things up quickly! This week promises to be a little cooler and we are thankful for a little less humidity. Not too much news today, but I am happy to report that we spotted some red and orange cherry tomatoes. We will let families with children under 7 years pick this week as they are just beginning and are SO LOW to the ground they will be spotted better by little eyes and shorter legs. We encourage all to give them a quick rinse before eating. You are welcome to use one of the spigots near the tables outside by the greenhouse if you can't wait until you get home.
I also wanted to let folks know that until further notice the street side entrance with stairs coming down is not operational at this time. One stair is broken and we need to fix it. We will try to do so this week.
Many have asked about volunteer hours. We ask that all members of Indian Line Farm give a TOTAL of two hours of time each season. We have provided a sign up sheet in the barn (finally) with times that correspond with pick up days to make it convenient for you. Working in the barn during pick up hours is no longer one of the jobs. Many of you may remember when we allowed a person to do barn duty. This task has become increasingly important to me and thus it is now arranged in advance for the whole season. Jobs that can typically be done during pick up are weeding in the herb garden or pick your own section, or garlic cleaning. We also provide numerous other times throughout the season in which additional help is needed for projects like hand weeding, garlic planting and garlic cleaning. We usually give several days or one week notice of these needs. Additionally, we often need new recipes to add to our eclectic collection. Le me know if that is what you would prefer to do.
Lastly, we realize that many of you have special talents and areas of expertise which we do not. If you would like to offer this skill to the farm, please talk to us. Indian Line Farm is a network of so many people and it is such a blessing to us to have so many folks lend a hand and make this land the beautiful place that it is.
August 9, 2010
What a great summer we have been having! Warm sunny weather making it great for afternoon/early evening swims. No need for the rain gear like last year when they never dried out between rain storms. But wow has it been hot! We always start out the mornings with rain pants just to keep the dew off our pants, but this year we can't get them off soon enough before it feels like we are sitting in a sauna. And the sweat by midday is dripping down our backs with such vigor that we have decided Indian Line Farm should open a gym. We can supply all the ingredients to good health: cardiovascular workout; strengthening by regularly carrying 40 # bins and buckets; and stretching, bending and reaching for flexibility. Honestly, today the heat got me down. We need a big rain. Everything is really dry. I can't really irrigate everything that really needs it. I noticed the leaves on the corn on route 23 curling to maintain moisture. The Housatonic River is low enough that is some places we had to get out and push our canoe on Sunday.
Heat makes me think of zucchini. We have a lot right now as we are still harvesting from our 1st planing which is still going strong and our second planting is gorgeous and putting out green beauties. On Friday alone, we harvested 308# of squash and zucchini. In response I had an all zucchini dinner: savory zucchini pancakes topped with sour cream and fresh tomatoes and for dessert a double chocolate zucchini cake. Marvelous! I was going to make a raw zucchini salad, but decided against it. I have included several zucchini recipes for you too, to enjoy this week. And watch out if you park too long in the lot, you might find an extra zucchini in your front seat!
August 16, 2010
We keep on planting, weeding and harvesting here. Last week we planted another lettuce planting which will be salad in your mouths the first week of September. We also planted the second to last round of direct seeded items: arugula, mustard mixes, spinach, white and red turnips, and broccoli rabe to name a few. We also harvested all the storage onions which are now curing on the upper level of the barn. Every day is harvest day now. And our job just got a little heavier with the outdoor tomatoes blushing before our eyes. On Monday alone we harvested over 500 lbs. of tomatoes and we have to harvest them three times per week. Time for making tomato everything!
The farm is looking especially great after last week as we had several visitors. On Sunday night we let a foursome of Appalachian through hikers tent here. They were interested in a work for food exchange that we do on occasion. The worked intently on weeding our smallest greenhouse in its entirety, helping out in our perennial gardens and lastly, clipping the stems off all the over 6000 bulbs of dry garlic. It was a hot day and they worked really hard. They kept me busy directing and with some additional food preparation. They eat so much!!! They said as I took them to the trail head the following day that their day off here was their best day off on the trail so far. We felt lucky to have them.
They next day we had a group from GreenAgers working here. GreenAgers was launched from The Center For Peace Through Culture in 2007 as one way to address global and local environmental issues. Taken from their website: GreenAgers mobilizes and empowers young people to come together and work cooperatively to design and carry out environmental projects in their own their local communities. Through this program, young people can not only make a real difference, they can also learn independence, creativity, leadership, responsibility and self-respect. As they develop their own interests and abilities, they are also promoting community and global health, and ultimately contributing to global peace. Community involvement is a strong emphasis of GreenAgers, as the intellectual, spiritual, creative, and physical energies of young people focus on projects that will make a difference to the local communities and to the environment.
The first local GreenAgers group has an office in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, headed by Will Conklin. The Great Barrington GreenAgers' plans include setting up a community garden, hosting a monthly Sustainability Discussion Group on how individuals can integrate sustainability practices into their everyday lives, working together with other organizations and schools on new or existing projects, and creating a program of educational environmental presentations conceived, researched and written by students and delivered in classrooms and community spaces. They also plan to have a lot of fun!
The Great Barrington GreenAgers is a pilot program, laying the groundwork for GreenAgers groups around the country and around the globe.
Working with them was a pleasure. They finished harvesting the end of our first carrot planting, they pulled all our storage onions from the field and put them in the upstairs of the barn and they helped out with some weeding too. Big thanks to Will Conklin for organizing our work day and introducing us to this fantastic organization.
August 30, 2010
As the summer draws to a close and folks of all ages go back to school, work etc. nothing changes for us here. The tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers and everything else just keeps on coming--everyday. It really isn't until late September that we see a change of pace. By that point most of the weeding on the farm has been accomplished, most has been planted that we have plans for and the heat loving crops tend to slow down or die from exhaustion. I find more moments to see the changes on Jug End mountain (or is it a hill?) and the surrounding landscape and try to look up more often. With the cooler temperatures that usually come with September there is a sense of relief in the air--we accomplished great things one more year.
We received 3" of rain over the last week and a half giving us time to pause. When the ground is so wet we refrain from doing much on the soil so as not to cause compaction. We continue to harvest, of course, but not much else. Consequently, we did a lot of mowing and cleaning up. When I walk around things feel picked up.
Some of you may have noticed that we bought a bike rack which now sits by the electrical post at the barn. The motivation for the rack was to encourage Colin and other children to return bikes there after riding, but we also want to take the next two weeks to encourage other folks who are able to ride their bikes here to the farm. For inspiration we would like to offer anyone who bikes here a $5.00 discount on an Indian Line Farm T-shirt, bag or any cookbook in the barn. Let's see some bikers!!
I also wanted to take this opportunity to talk about our photovoltaic system on the side of the barn. In February Berkshire Photovoltaic Services (BPVS) in Adams, MA completed the installation of our 6.5 kw system. We worked for almost a year to apply and secure funding to make this installation possible. The total cost of the project was $54,033. We received funding from the Commonwealth Solar program administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) through the Agricultural Environment Enhancement Program (AEEP); and from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). BPVS estimated that the system will produce 7, 386 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and will save 9,110 lbs of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere as well as significant amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury. The grants were competitive and after all payments were received our cost was approximately $11,000. We are thrilled to be making this transition to using solar energy to power ALL our farm electrical needs. These needs include the barn lights and all outlets inside barn; the walk-in cooler, barn fridges and freezer; as well as all the fans and germination mats in greenhouses. We sized the system for our current farm needs and for possible future electrical needs. Any overproduction gets credited to our house account. We have an inverter upstairs in the barn which takes the DC power and converts it to AC power. The inverter also shows us on a daily basis how much power we are actually making! We are so thankful to our funders for making this opportunity possible to use this technology. Yea for the sun!!
September 6, 2010
Where is the corn and eggplant? That is certainly the question many have been asking. The eggplant remains a bit of a mystery to me. In years past I have noticed that eggplant seemed to enjoy abundant rain and was not deterred by overly cool temperatures as long as the plants got off to a good start. We always plant the eggplant the 3rd week of May and then keep the plants covered with floating row cover for at least 2 weeks. This keeps the plants as warm as possible during what can be still a chilly time of year. Late May this year was blistering hot and I saw no need to cover them and, in fact, thought I might lose plants because the cover in combination with the biodegradable black plastic can really be overly hot. However, it turned cold again in early June and the plants were getting eaten by flea beetles so I covered them for two weeks. When we took the cover off, the plants were noticeably bigger and by all accounts healthy. We waited and continued to keep the plants as moist as we could through our drip irrigation system. And we have continued to wait. After a small flush in July the eggplants have all but petered out. The plants seem fine, but there has been very little flower production. I have asked around and it seems more than just I have the same problem. My conclusion is that eggplant won't flower much above 90 degrees and they really like water. We can hope for better next year.
The corn from Howden Farm did not make it here for the last three weeks of August. They told me specifically they would be able to deliver last week but I found a note pinned to the barn wall last Tuesday at 10:00 am explaining that they weren't able to harvest all they wanted and had none to leave. I believe Bruce Howden and his partner Dave Prouty have been overextended this summer and Indian Line Farm was not their highest priority account. They lost their only real employee early in the season and this made the work load more difficult. I believe they are still harvesting some corn for their own farm stand, so if you really want some, take a drive to Ashley Falls and enjoy the last corn of the season. Call first: 229-8481.
September 13, 2010
The heat loving crops are not loving the cool nights and sometimes cool days. You will find less and less peppers, eggplant, and squash over the next two weeks and then they will be gone! On the other hand, we have arugula, new turnips, radishes and other greens to enjoy. Sometimes folks find these vegetables harder to prepare. We will do our best to offer suggestions, but would love any recipes people love (or just ideas) to inspire all the cooks among us.
We will be clearing out the greenhouses this week as we prepare to transition the greenhouses to other cool loving crops. It is amazing how quickly (about 1 minute) we can discard a tomato plant knowing how much energy and time it took to grow one.
You might also notice when you arrive this week that many sections of the farm are covered in the white floating row cover. Most of the covers are providing a little extra heat to some crops that I want to speed along. I have several later plantings of beets, carrots, turnips, and other greens which will need a little extra heat to ensure that I can harvest them in late October and November.
Hope all are enjoying the change of season.
October 7, 2010
After recording 7" of rain Friday afternoon I began to think of the Old Testament. This summer has been filled with drought, extreme heat, small insects in mammoth quantities, a strange fungus which killed our last cucumber planting and now... flooding. We are lucky here in that our land does not actually flood but it sure is saturated with water. We were overjoyed at the rain and had quite a time on Thursday and Friday during harvest. We were all so happy to be wet and warm that the pelting rain rarely bothered us. We will now be rolling up our irrigation equipment for another year and hoping for a bit more rain in 2011.
I am sending out this email early as the Keen/Thorp family will be away from Saturday-Thursday. My crew will be here making sure all happens on time and you will see no break in vegetables.
October 11, 2010
A flock of wild turkeys have taken up residence at the farm this summer. Fourteen birds sleep in the trees just west of our house and meander their way down to the farm fields every morning. I catch myself laughing as occasionally Harry and Rainbow the cats will herd them a little faster in whatever direction they are traveling. By the time we make our way down to harvest they are in the front sections near the greenhouses munching away on bugs and bits of green. They have been here since the little ones were just chicks and they are now full grown to my untrained eyes. In all these months we have never seen any damage from their passing. They seem to have stomachs for the things we don't eat. By 9:00 am they have usually headed south across the hay field to wherever they spend the rest of their day. They return about 6:00 pm again meandering their way through our electric fence and into the vegetables. We most often notice them coming up the hill as we are sitting down to dinner. We almost always comment to each other that they are headed home for the night and Colin can rarely let the moment pass without jumping up and watching them pass. There are so many of them.
I have seen turkeys move freely about the farm in the past but they usually travel in a north to south pattern and most often as far from the house as possible. I suspect that the absence of our old dog Brantley has opened up possibilities for this new flock. I have yet to do research on the habits of wild turkeys but I suspect they will soon migrate to a warmer location for the cold of winter. One day I will realize they have gone. I am pleased to have them here now and hope that some will return to lay eggs next year.
I have been pondering the idea of this farm as a gathering place for creatures of all kinds. We have a healthy wildlife population: deer, raccoons, skunks, bears, opossums, ground hogs all live here or at least make sightings multiple times a year. Of course there are birds of all kinds and the reptilian population seemed especially strong this year. I have never seen so many frogs! Equally as important are the insects that congregate here. I tend to remember the least desirable of this category as they can do the most damage to the vegetables. Tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles, peach colored aphids, flea beetles, white flies, cabbage lopers, Japanese beetles, and Colorado potato beetles are just a few of my least favorite creatures. But we do have monarch butterflies, swallow tails, parasitic wasps, lady bugs, tons of spiders and other creepy crawlies we encounter in our day.
And then there are the human creatures which fill this farm with hard work and toil and manage to bring forth amazing food. On some days the humans are quiet and steady (except for when we need to blast the radio to hear NPR or listen to our favorite radio station) and on other days this farm is bustling with cars and more humans big and small. Just as I am pleased to have our wild turkey friends this year, I am glad to have all the humans that call this farm their own. After all, without them, we would not know who we were growing for. I hope they too return in years to come.
October 18, 2010
We have officially fallen below 32 degrees on several occasions in the last 2 weeks. This means that all frost sensitive crops have died. I have to say I wasn't sorry to see the tomatoes go. This has been a stellar year for tomatoes and I am hopeful you all had your fill to make up for our disastrous 2009.
After making my last tomato soup for the year and enjoying every bite, I have turned my attention to the plethora of other foods at our fingertips. Please enjoy some of the recipes below if you are looking for ideas and don't forget to check out our website for more!
Have a great week!
For the farm crew,
P.S. I was informed by several of you that turkeys don't migrate. Thanks for setting me straight. I hope to see my turkey friends all winter!
A few notes:
1) We still need garlic to be cleaned if you have any extra time. Please ask the person in the barn to set you up.
2) The last two weeks of pick up (week of October 25th and week of November 1st) we will be doing our Annual Fall Sign Up for Indian Line Farm. We ask for a Commitment Form and $100 deposit to hold your space. We will give you more details next week.
3) Please note that the Rainbow Salad Mix this week will need to be given an extra rinse at home. We have an insect problem that I am unfamiliar with at this time of year. We have aphids in the lettuce greens and I can't with our two wash tubs rinse them out completely. They are harmless but I promise you if you take the lettuce you will find them. Consider yourselves warned. On the other hand, the lettuce will be extra sweet as the cooler temperatures encourage the plants to sweeten. Creating sweetness is an anti-freezing characteristic of plants.
November 1. 2010
Well the blast of cold air has finally hit. I found ice cubes in the spinach and wondered where they came from.
This morning I knew the farm crew would be reluctant to put bare hands on harvest knives right at 8:00 am so we each grabbed a rake and started to clean up around the farm. It felt so good to be steadily moving while slowly increasing our heart rates. After an hour and a half of good raking we made great improvement of our grounds and were happier for being outside on this sunny day. We then proceeded to do the days activities with warm hands.
I come to the end of the 2010 season with gratitude for the opportunity to grow food in such an amazing place. Little did I know when I came to the Berkshires in 1996 that I would end up here with a thriving farm, an awesome family and be part of this larger movement connecting people to their food. Thanks to all of you who make this possible for the Keen/Thorp family. We look forward to seeing everyone around town in the coming months and especially back here next June.
Excerpts for Indian Line Farm E-Newsletter 2008 and 2009
Warm (finally) Summer Greetings To All!
We are grateful for a few days of no rain and warm temperatures. Though the temperatures have been abnormally cool this summer and the rain more than normal, I haven't felt too many detrimental effects on the farm...until now. We SHOULD be harvesting many hundreds of pounds of outdoor tomatoes, red peppers galore and in general see more regrowth in plants such as basil which really need the heat to thrive. Consequently, most of the tomatoes you are getting are coming out of our two greenhouses and they are in limited supply. In addition, this is the first week that I can ever remember that I can't give out basil mid season. We have to let the plants grow back in order to have enough to harvest for all the farm members. Bear with us and hope for a warm end of summer and fall!!
Please note that we will be having another weeding gathering this Wednesday August 20th from 8-12. Please come and lend a hand if you still need to do your two hours of volunteer time. We also need some hands to clip the stems off our amazing garlic crop which is drying upstairs in the barn. This needs to be done this week anytime. Just come by and we will put your hands to good work. Look forward to seeing some of you this week.
September 8, 2008
It's been a great week at the farm. We love working in the blue sky and warm days of early fall. I heard the first flock of geese flying the other morning and I was put into that space of wanting to relish in these glorious days as much as possible. Hope you can get outside as much as possible.
The rain from hurricane Hannah proved to be nothing but helpful to the soil. The ground was in need of rain and we got about 3 inches over the weekend. Since everything we need for the fall is already planted and we spent much of the prior week weeding, I was relieved to have the rain.
November 3, 2008
We have arrived at an important week indeed: election 2008 and the end of vegetable pick up at Indian Line Farm. I hope all vote on Tuesday and that no one forgets to pick up your veggies and fruit!
We wish everyone a happy and relaxing winter season and will look forward to seeing everyone next spring (if not before).
April 14, 2009
The wind is blowing today and reminding me of the fickleness of spring--snowing last week and sunny blue skies today. Spring is so hopeful and I am hoping you are all feeling that too. We have many seedlings showing much green and promise in our greenhouse now. The leeks, early tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, herbs and some flowers are already big enough to want a larger pot which we will provide this week. Our first lettuce, basil, bok choy, kohlrabi, chard, and beets are popping out of their seeds and will be ready to plant outside on May 1st. Our onion seedlings arrive next week.... The roller coaster of farming at Indian Line Farm has just taken off and won't start to slow until November. Hang on for the delicious ride of good quality food, because it is just around the corner.
In closing, I wanted to thank all for transitioning with us to a late fall/winter sign up. It is so great to have that behind us and we can focus on just making the growing season the best we can. You will hear from us in mid to late May with the exact dates for the first pick up. Call or email if you have any questions.
June 1, 2009
It is the first day of June and Colin's first day of summer vacation. It is surprisingly chilly today and I found myself working outside this morning with a scarf around my neck. I dislike having a cold neck. It still feels like spring and yet here we are about to start the wonderful weeks of veggies at Indian Line Farm. And like they say in the movies, "the show must go on!"
And the show has begun. We start this June with a great farm crew; both Hadley Milliken and Gerardo Gonzalez are in their third year with us and we have a new young woman Margot Wise who began today. Margot recently graduated from UMASS with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture. We are especially excited to add her to our crew. Together with our employees and working members we will make a lot of amazing food pass from the ground through our hands to your hands and to your stomachs over the next 26 weeks. Hold on tight there is a lot to enjoy and discover for the first time.
June 8, 2009
The farm seems beautiful to me right now. I especially love walking outside about 7:30 or 8:00 pm and enjoying a leisurely stroll while preparing to shut the greenhouses for the night. Everything is suddenly so green and the evening light softens the glare that we experienced earlier in the day. Everything is growing (some things slower than others). There is so much promise in the ground: seedlings of all shapes and color, seeds awaiting to germinate and tiny plants just emerging from the soil. It is the time when I get to be proud for what we have been able to accomplish during the day. The work is tremendous at times.
After enjoying the beauty of it all, I am consumed with gratitude to be in this place. I often wonder again and again how it is that I ended up here at this place, Indian Line Farm. There is a story there. Some of you know it. Some of the story is written on our website. You can check it out.
I encourage all of you to walk around while you are here and enjoy the beauty as well.
Some of you may have been wondering why we only had a 1/2 pound of salad mix last week. Well it is for the same reason that I had to put on a scarf last Monday and Tuesday morning. It has been overly cold and consequently we had to buy the salad mix from our good friends at Markcristo Farm in Hillsdale, NY. Martin and Christa Stosiek are certified organic and we do lots of trading and helping each other out. Last week when I realized that the lettuce wasn't really large enough to cut, but at the same time had all the other produce ready to be harvested I called Martin to see what his supply was like. He too is running low as the weather has been unseasonably cold in May, however, agreed to send me some lettuce so that all members could at least have some. Thus the 1/2 pound. This week the lettuce will be from our farm however, in order to have enough we might have a smaller quantity as well. Bear with us.
That said the bok choy, broccoli raab and spinach in particular are so happy! As crops that love the cool weather they are looking good and are prime right now. Enjoy!!
June 15, 2009
The rain and above 70 degree days make the farm start to grow! The pea plants are literally growing inches per day. We unveiled the summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers from under their heat blanket to find vibrant plants ready to take off. We place this blanket (technically called floating row cover) immediately upon planting these heat loving crops when outside temperatures are still cool, especially at night. The effort is great. We have to place a wire hoop over the bed every 6 feet. Then we roll the floating row cover over the beds and hope it doesn't fly away in the process of securing it with soil bags or just a shovel full of soil. The effect is a bit moon like with all this white fabric covering the farm preventing one from clearly seeing what is below. The result is happy plants with extra heat which gives them the boost they need to provide us early produce. Floating row cover is a farm necessity we love to despise because the extra work it involves, but we love it for the tremendous results we achieve by using it. Luckily it is reusable and we can usually get several years out of each cover.
Our new crew has come together well these past two weeks.
With an extra person around this June, I am enjoying a little extra time to be with my children on Monday mornings. We have been discovering the most amazing things by sitting in odd places. Last Monday we were sitting atop our compost pile (which needs a turning desperately) and Colin stuck a trowel into a section of rotting manure/saw dust mixture that had been deposited there last fall. We were astounded to find so many worms in just a little quantity of matter. We dug more and found this quantity of worms to be replicated many times over. A quick rough estimation was done and I figured we were sitting on top of tens of thousands of worms! Helen immediately wanted to hold as many as possible. She is currently fascinated by slimy bugs. Slugs are a favorite. Colin wanted to fling them around. I was mesmerized by the creatures who live on this farm that I hardly know. What happens below the soil and in the soil is such a critical part of what we do and yet truthfully my attention remains above most of the time. As I continue on this journey of farming I can delve deeper into areas like soil health with renewed energy and quest for answers.
For many weeks ahead I will be sharing the responsibility of being in the barn during pick up hours with several other folks. Their responsibility is to keep the vegetables stocked, presentable and in quantity. They are also there to answer any questions you may have. Please introduce yourself to them as you pick up your share.
June 22, 2009
Accidents. That is what they are--accidents. Unintended, sometimes avoidable, sometimes not! Last Friday I bent down to pick up a flat of strawberries and two fingers on my right hand caught on a thin metal disk that was bent upward. These metal disks hold the insulation board to the wall of our cooler. Every other disk in the small space is covered with the appropriate tape sealer. This one disc had likely been hit with a box or bin and then bent. I didn't even notice it when I was down so close to it. I had eyes only for the luscious strawberries I was going to put on the table for members to pick up.
After a visit to the emergency room, Dr. Nayowith (a farm member, by the way) determined that I cut two-thirds of the tendon in my middle finger. Bummer! I know it could have been worse. I now have three stitches and am walking around with a splint to keep my finger from bending and possibly tearing the remaining one-third. Bigger bummer!
I have a follow up appointment tomorrow, but according to Dr. Nayowith I am going to have this splint for several weeks. Surprising for me, I am taking this all in stride AND taking my responsibility seriously. I have to let my finger heal so I have full function of it in the near future. It is amazing how important a single finger can be to me right now. I can't hold a knife to harvest. I can't hold clippers. I can't hold any weight with my injured hand. But there are lots of things I can do like choose the appropriate sized beet or turnip for someone else to bunch with my other hand. I can hand weed with my good hand and all the administrative things I will do as usual. Luckily I have a great crew and I am not feeling too stressed about all the important work which needs to get done.
What is happening on the farm? A lot of wetness and cool temperatures are affecting our overall mood, but the plants seem relatively immune. Our land is well drained and though we have a small amount of standing water in the middle of a notorious wet spot the plants are still growing well and thriving. Our summer squash is right on schedule for the end of June and even the tomato plants seem green and healthy. It would be good for it to dry out and heat up now, though, otherwise the risk of fungus and other plant diseases are more likely to occur and affect future yields. We will keep you posted.
p.s. For those wondering how I am able to type with my injury...I just figured out how to type with two fingers on my right hand -- the thumb and index finger -- and my whole left hand. Amazing how we can adjust. And for those who want the final detail, yes, I am right handed.
June 29, 2009
It is wet! Hard to say much more. I am wishing for warm and dry days for awhile. We got our four-wheel drive truck stuck two times last week. I have never seen it this wet this time year in my 13 years here. We keep on and are thankful for all the great food coming our way right now despite the crazy weather.
*Indian Line Farm T-shirts*
We are pleased to be offering the first ever Indian Line Farm T-shirts. Made by our friends at MoHo Designs, they are made of organic cotton and are silk screened by hand. They range in sizes from 6 months to adult male and female large. The cost of onsies for babies is 20.00 and all others are 22.00. We are offering a family discount of 20.00 each if you buy one for each member of the family or all your grandchildren etc. *Fifty percent of our profits will go toward the Indian Line Farm Fund which offers scholarships to members who request it and to giving more produce to the People's Pantry in Great Barrington.
July 7, 2009
Life just seems better with sun shining on a Monday, especially after so many overcast rainy days. The crew was in high spirits as we did our biweekly farm walk around to strategize about the coming weeks. The biggest job on the agenda is weeding. Weeding with our Alice Chalmers "G" tractor (our 50 year-old work horse), weeding with wheel hoes, weeding with colinear hoes, weeding with scuffle hoes and weeding with our bare hands if that's what it takes. Weeds get in our way when we harvest, they shadow out vegetables we want to grow, they compete for the soil's nutrients and they leave their mark with millions of seeds for us to reckon with in years to come if we let them grow as they wish. So weed we must.
I am thankful the farm looks as good as it does considering all the days that have past and we have been unable to do field work. We happen to be growing on the side of the farm which contains much less of the weed called hairy galansoga. Many of you have heard us talk of the dreaded galansoga and you may even recognize it in the fields. This weed with flowers of yellow centers and white petals starts from a seed and in less than 25 days it will grow enough to set more seeds-about 25,000 per plant to be exact. We really don't like this plant! If you see it feel free to pull it up and throw in the grass--not in the soil. Otherwise it will just reroot. It is very clever.
With all this talk of weeds I want to encourage anyone who is able to come weed with us this Wednesday July 8th from 8-12:30. Come for as long or as little as you are able. Have a good week!
July 13, 2009
We are busy planting and weeding. We planted 1300 flower plants, 400 squash/zucchini and cucumber plants, 540 kale plants, 600 broccoli plants, and 540 cabbage plants. We direct seeded 1800 row feet of fall carrots in the ground and seeded 3000 beets and 2160 lettuce seeds into flats so we might transplant them in a few weeks. My hope is to direct seed the daikon radish, rutebega, and purple top turnips by Wednesday. Now the trick is for Mother Nature to provide us some summer heat so everything will grow! Bring on the heat!!
We have begun to harvest tomatoes from the greenhouses and are grateful for the early treats. We usually sell many of the early tomatoes to cover our heating expenses but are happy to offer a few to members until we have them in abundance. Not to toot our horn, but we aren't aware of too many other farms that have tomatoes this early. Outdoor tomatoes aren't traditionally ripe until early August. Enjoy!!
We have been successful in the weeding department too. We had a great crew of weeders last Wednesday who helped us make a dent in the weedier sections of the farm, particularly the Brussels Sprouts. Special thanks to Steve Kopiec, Lissa McGovern, Kristin Flynn, Susan Bachelder, and Jane Balaguero who kept us going all morning. We have also been experimenting with some new cultivating tools we purchased this spring. These tools mount under the belly of our Allis Chalmers "G" tractor which allows an easy view while driving. We try to use as many tools as possible before we have to get on our hands and knees. We will be gathering at the farm once again this Wednesday July 15 from 8-12 for anyone who can help us out. The conversation is always great and it should be a lovely day.
A few notes...
We will now be having Berkshire Mountain Bakery bread for sale every Tuesday and Friday during pick up hours. If you have any special requests, let me know. T-shirts are still available for anyone who wants them. We have all sizes from 6 months to XL Male and Female. 50% of the profits go towards making our food more accessible to folks who might not be able to afford it. The shirts are made of organic cotton and are made in the USA. They were silk screened by Moho Design in Monterey. *I want to remind folks that we are now open from 2-7 on Tuesdays and Fridays. If you send a person to pick up your share, please make sure they know of the hours we are open. We are often not ready earlier. *If you need recipe ideas please check out our website for some ideas. Additionally, if you have a great recipe to share please copy it or email it to me. They are great to share with all our members. Lastly, the two cookbooks for sale in the barn are excellent for ideas. From Asparagus to Zucchini is practical and has many very simple recipes. Farmer John's Cookbook is a little more elaborate but the final results are amazing. The narrative is superb too.
July 27, 2009
Despite the occasional thunder storm and still too much rain, it has been a beautiful week. We are officially in full summer with the peas saying good bye and the eggplant coming in with a bang. This is truly the time of year to eat all you can from the farm because in a few short months it will all be gone. For those feeling like they have too much, we encourage you to freeze, pickle or dry what you can to enjoy at a later date. The book, Putting Food By written by Hertzberg, Vaughan and Greene is an excellent resource. For those who still find the summer quantity of food difficult, remember to take only what you can use for the week. The extra food left in the pick up room never goes to waste. We either donate the produce to the food pantry (in addition to the shares we already give), use the less perishable items for the next pick up or we can often sell extra at the farmers market on Saturday morning.
The farm is growing and changing everyday. With the slightly higher temperatures we have seen a jump in the zucchini and summer squash. The beans are making many more flowers and the second planting is almost ready. The cut flowers are finally putting on some height and offering a brilliant display of color. Have you noticed the buckwheat? The crop to the east of the greenhouses and near the upick section is now flowering. I grow buckwheat for a variety of reasons: to keep soil covered during the heat of the season when I am not using it; to suppress weeds; but most importantly it is for the gorgeous white flowers that attract beneficial insects. The honey bees being one of the most important. The next time you are near this section, walk a little closer and be still. You will be amazed to hear the soft buzz of so many insects.
With all this goodness and summer happiness going around it is hard to inform you of an important and most unfortunate crop failure we are experiencing. We have a disease called late blight or Phytophthora infestans on our outdoor tomatoes. I offer a brief explanation as taken from a Cornell Cooperative Extension bulletin entitled Late Blight of Potatoes and Tomatoes written by William E. Fry in 1998.
Late blight of potatoes and tomatoes, the disease that was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century, is caused by the fungus-like oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. It can infect and destroy the leaves, stems, fruits, and tubers of potato and tomato plants. Before the disease appeared in Ireland it caused a devastating epidemic in the early 1840s in the northeastern United States.
P. infestans was probably introduced to the United States from central Mexico, which is its center of origin. After appearing in North America and Europe during the 1840s, the disease spread throughout most of the rest of the world during subsequent decades and had a worldwide distribution by the beginning of the twentieth century.
Severe late blight epidemics occur when P. infestans grows and reproduces rapidly on the host crop. Reproduction occurs via sporangia that are produced from infected plant tissues (Fig. 1) and is most rapid during conditions of high moisture and moderate temperatures (60°-80°F). Sporangia disperse to healthy tissues via rain splash or on wind currents.
The short story is that we found evidence of late blight on our otherwise healthy tomato plants last week. Once the disease has spread to more than half of your plants the best solution is to dispose of all plant matter as quickly as possible to prevent future spreading. We saw the futility is trying to save the few plants that appeared uninfected as the disease spreads so quickly under the wet and low temperature conditions we have been living with all summer. Consequently we pulled all 300 of our outdoor tomato plants and buried them. We were more selective in the cherry tomato section, however, as far fewer plants were infected. The only real immediate solution is to spray fungicides on a frequent basis to keep healthy plant tissue from getting infected. There are many organically approved solutions we could use. We are still deciding about this option, but will make a decision in the next 48 hours.
We are not alone among farmers to be experiencing this disaster. Many of our farming colleagues have lost much larger sections of tomatoes and potatoes in the last couple weeks. We are grateful to be such a diversified farm as to be able to weather such a loss. We are also thrilled that our greenhouses are still pumping out great tomatoes. As these plants are inside (hot and dry) they are relatively unaffected. We will be offering small quantities of tomatoes for as long as we can. We will not, however, have the late season flush of tomatoes we are all accustomed to. We appreciate your understanding. Don't hesitate to ask any questions if they come up.
We are having our Annual Garlic Harvest this Thursday July 30th from 8-1. Please come and help us bring in this great crop.
August 3, 2009
I had a dream a couple weeks ago that our entire farm was under water and several large 18 wheelers were floating by. I watched in horror as the trucks tried to turn around and in the process destroyed all my tomato plants. They ripped up the stakes like they were toothpicks. I was really mad.
It is hard to imagine it could get any wetter. Last week alone we got about 5 " of rain on the already saturated fields. Amazingly the majority of our crops are doing relatively well under the circumstances evidenced by the full barn on pick up days. Even the crops that love heat are doing well despite overall cooler July temperatures. I did notice a little rotting in some varieties of head lettuce last week which was troublesome. It takes 8+ weeks to plant a lettuce seed and then see a full grown head of lettuce. Needless to say when I went to harvest last Friday and found rotting on the bottom I got frustrated thinking of the wasted work. My only solace is that earthworms and other biological creatures in the soil will have a little more to munch on in the coming months.
I was at a birthday party of our neighbor Martin Stosiek at Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, NY last night. Many of our farming colleagues were there and it was good to touch base with how others have been faring under the inclimate conditions this summer. In addition to the Late Blight in tomatoes and potatoes, others have had issues worse than ours. In Kinderhook, NY Roxbury Farm had fields totally under water and beef cattle wading through fields trying to find higher ground. Just here in Egremont, Farm Girl Farm had the Green River swell into their fields and found themselves harvesting kale in ankle deep water. Others have fields with entire crops submerged. One farmer told me she saw ground hogs and rabbits hanging out on knolls awaiting to find their dens again. We are indeed lucky here. We aren't immediately next to a creek or river and despite being adjacent to an entire wetland we have only fully saturated fields not flooded ones. We have approximately 2 feet of great top soil and then a gravel layer below that and then a fairly high water table. We can only presume that because the wetland next door is slowly moving water to Smiley's Pond near the center of Egremont that all this water is hitting the gravel layer and then keeps flowing through there into the wetland and down towards the pond. Don't let me underestimate the wetness though! We have standing water under our deer fence on the north side of the farm and we cannot drive vehicles over there. We are creating a new curvy driveway down the center of our fields as the old one is so muddy we have trouble getting through it. Colin and Helen love playing in the mud! I am sure you, too, have met with muddy conditions upon walking down to pick beans or pick flowers. We recommend any shoes you don't mind getting dirty and that wash easily. All in all, I left the party last night upbeat. I live amongst folks who are all making their living from farming and are making the best of it.
The first week of August is an important milestone in the season here. It is now that I plant all the direct seeded crops for the fall like spinach, broccoli raab, sweet Hakurei turnips, arugula, tat soi, and other mustard greens. It is also when we harvest the garlic and we will be making another attempt this Thursday August 6th 8:00 am-1:00 pm*. Please join us for part or all of this fun event. Additionally, we will be weeding this Wednesday August 5th from 8-12:30. The farm is requiring lots of energy this time of year. Come give us some of your good energy and get free sunshine and great company.
August 10, 2009
Today finally feels like August. It is hot and though it is difficult to work in this kind of humidity it is exactly what we need around here. The warm dry days allow the garlic in the upstairs of the barn to cure. You might catch a whiff of the odorous plant if you stand in just the right place downstairs. Or you can take a peek from the upstairs door to see the neatly laid rows. We had a nice turnout for the garlic harvest. Special thanks to Sarah Nicholson, Roger Reed, Susan Bachelder and her friend Ruth, Barbara Coperine and her daughter Kate and a friend of hers, Sarah Hudson, Judith Keen and of course the farm crew here.
Garlic is an amazing crop which requires the longest growing period of anything on the farm. We plant garlic in late October and cover it thoroughly with hay or straw to keep the cloves from frost heaving. Some of you might ask what exactly are we planting--one clove of garlic per hole about 2 " deep. We plant 3 rows per bed and each clove is about 5" apart from the next clove in the row. The thick mulch also keeps the garlic clear of weeds so there is no competition for nutrients and light. The garlic begins to grow the next spring right along with the daffodils and tulips. The leaves are standing green and upright by mid May and give us our first feast for the eyes. We grow only hard neck garlic which produces what is called a "scape" and that usually appears the end of June. The scape is the garlic producing its seed which when dried is called a bolbul. The scape is totally edible and offers an early season taste of garlic. I am hopeful you have discovered its wonderfulness in cooking. We harvest the garlic bulbs when the lower leaves of the plant start to brown. We have traditionally harvested the garlic the last week of July or the first week of August. The garlic then takes a few weeks to cure and it is imperative that the place of curing be dry and airy. We lost a garlic crop once by trying to cure it along the walls on the lower part of the barn. There it is much to damp and cool for garlic. Ohh.. the mistakes we made in the early years.
So in a few weeks we will need garlic cleaners as the garlic is quite dirty when pulled out of the ground. With a little cleaning it comes out beautifully white and ready to eat. You will see some in a few weeks in the pick up room.
August 17, 2009
We're are busy! In August something needs to be harvested every day in order to get all vegetables at their peak size and flavor. Eggplant and peppers, for example, get harvested every Monday and Thursday. Tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers get harvested every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesdays we harvest most of what is needed for Tuesday afternoon pick up. Thursdays we often do preharvesting for the Friday pick up as well as the farmers market. On Thursdays we also harvest for a few restaurants. Friday we harvest everything still needed for the Friday pick up as well as whatever we didn't finish for the farmer's market. All this harvesting takes up so much time now that some other tasks take second fiddle. I am feeling caught up though and we are on schedule in terms of fall plantings.
Keep eating this week! We have a lot of great food. Eat what you can. Have friends for dinner. Freeze, dry, preserve what you can't eat and enjoy the bounty this winter. Have a great week. I have attached two great recipes that use green beans, fennel, summer squash and carrots. Try them and let me know what you think.
September 14, 2009
The official beginning of fall is still a week away but the season has already changed in my mind. The air is cooler, I see some color on the trees, and with the beginning of school everything just feels different. And I can't forget to mention the changing light; we are having less and less of it every day.
The beginning of September is always a bit frustrating for me as I think the August corner will all of a sudden mean a change in the work load. However, every year I am surprised by the fact that September is often just as busy as August. We are still harvesting all the heat loving crops: tomatoes, eggplant, squash, and peppers (albeit considerably less) ; and then some surprises await us like early bok choy, tat soi, the last scallion crop and the daikon radishes. We now put our eyes on the end of season clean up in the greenhouses in order to ready them for next year or late crops we will be planting in them. We are also up against time to get the fall cover crops planted. We plant a mixture of rye/hairy vetch in land that we will not be using next year and we plant oats and field peas in land we intend to plant early spring. The first you will notice will be the oats. They are now blanketing most of our open sections. Each of these plants adds something specific to our soil which enhances our ability to grow great food. We also make plans to finish big projects that have been on hold for the summer. With all the continuing work, it keeps us focused and we are ever thankful for the gorgeous weather we have been having. It's great to work outside!
September 21, 2009
I want everyone to know the winter squash which we will be eating over the next month and a half is all coming from a variety of certified organic farms in the Pioneer Valley. The acorn squash this week comes from Full Bloom Farm in Whately, MA. It has been a difficult year to grow winter squash. The colder temperatures played a part, but more importantly was the rain which prevented bees from being active during the flowering period of the squash. Consequently fewer flowers were pollinated and fewer squash ever grew. You will be getting an assortment of winter squash, though, including: acorn, delicata and butternut. Acorn is probably one of the driest of the squash and sometimes (in my humble opinion) needs some dressing up with butter and maple syrup or brown sugar. Enjoy!
October 5, 2009
As the leaves turn color we are turning underground this week. We will be harvesting all the fall carrots tomorrow with the third graders from the Steiner School. I am estimating that we will pull up just shy of 1000 lbs. of carrots and believe me we are happy for the extra and eager hands. Though we often wait and harvest that quantity later, the carrots are ready if not overly ready. They got large quickly.
We will take all the tops off while they are still in the ground and then we will run though the bed with a tool we call the chisel plow. This specialty plow will loosen the soil around the carrots making them easy to pull up and put into 5 gallon buckets. Then we will put all the buckets in the back of the truck and take them up to be washed in the barrel washer which stands at the east end of the barn as you pull into the driveway. The carrots are simultaneously sprayed and tumbled in the barrel to come out almost perfectly clean. Our barrel washer has taken what could be a back-breaking job and made it quite pleasant. We will then pack them, store them in the cooler and give them out over the next 5 weeks. Carrot juice anyone??
P.S. Fall can be sometimes a challenging time for some folks as they are getting lots of food, some which will keep for longer periods and some which may be unfamiliar. I will put a plug for checking out our website which has lots of great recipes we have collected over the last 10 years. indianlinefarm.com. Additionally, the two cookbooks we have for sale in the barn are excellent resources on how to keep the produce for storage and of course to eat it now. They have been invaluable to me. For this week I have included two recipes: one for bok choy and the other for celeriac. There will be more for celeriac in the coming weeks. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
October 12, 2009
They are predicting cold weather this week--hard to imagine after some balmy days early last week. A killing mid-October frost seems right on schedule, though. We are really bringing in the harvest now. Last Tuesday as I mentioned we harvested our monster carrots with 27 third grade students from the Great Barrington Steiner School. They arrived with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm for the task and we were done in no time. The final tally has us with 1400 pounds of very large carrots. They are sweet and I hope you enjoy them. We will be bringing in the beets, celeriac, and multiple varieties of radishes in the next two weeks. I am already wondering if our cooler is big enough!!
Some folks have asked if there will be extra produce to purchase at the end of the season. It does look like we will have extra for sale of the following: winter squash, onions, carrots, beets, celeriac, and potatoes. If you know now what you might be interested you could let me know and I can have a better picture of what I can truly offer. Please reply with what you would like and how many pounds. This is not an order I will commit to fill nor is it a commitment you are giving me to buy, but rather gives me an indication of interest.
The last week of pick up will be Tuesday November 3 and Noveber 6th. In addition, we will be doing our sign up for the 2010 season in two weeks. I will let you know more as it comes closer.
October 19, 2009
As predicted, last week was a cold one. The temperatures dipped in the low 30s and high 20s killing all the dreaded galansoga, sweet husk cherries and the beautiful flowers. Many farmers wait anxiously for the first killing frost to arrive as it is truly a milestone in the season and often means a change of workload. Frost sensitive crops die a dramatic death--brilliant green one day and brown and wilted the next. It is an end of sorts if fields aren't filled with cold hearty crops. We happen to be filled with all kinds of plants that don't mind some cold and those that do are covered with floating row cover. So we keep on harvesting!
As I mentioned last week, the final week of pick ups will be *Tuesday November 3 and November 6th*. In addition, we will be doing our sign up for the 2010 season beginning this week. I am attaching a 2010 Commitment Form which you may return with a deposit to the barn or mail directly to us. All prices will remain the same for the upcoming season. We discovered how terrific fall sign up was last year and we will continue to do so in the future. This allows us to do paperwork in the winter and early spring we can concentrate on growing right away. Thanks for your support and certainly let us know if you have any questions.
P.S. Recipes this week highlight daikon radishes and all recipes included come from Farmer John's Cookbook. I tried the Daikon with Tahini Dressing tonight and really liked it. I didn't have scallions so I used some finely chopped red onion. I used more daikon as I didn't have any red radishes and I didn't have any dry sherry so I used vinegar. It came out great. I generally find the dressings included with Farmer John's recipes to be a bit much so perhaps add a bit of the dressing at a time until you are satisfied with the taste of the dish.
October 26, 2009
As the season draws to a close I have become more reflective about growing food. Numerous times this summer Al and I have commented on how happy we are with where we have brought this farm and how blessed we feel to be able to raise our family here. Colin and Helen are growing up with an appreciation of place that is much different than what I grew up with and still rare among their peers. Just this afternoon as the children and I were cleaning around the perennial gardens Colin said, "mama, I can't imagine not being a gardener." He may not think the same in 10 years but for now I will relish in and encourage his love of working outside and with plants. In addition to a love of working outdoors, they have and continue to gain skills and knowledge that I did not acquire until my late 20s. Our family is intimately connected to this land and this place through our hard work and made possible because of the many people who support us in this endeavor. Without our employees, apprentices, working members, volunteers, members and countless customers we would not be be able to sustain this life. After 14 years of calling myself a farmer, I am leaving the 2009 growing season with the strong feeling that "yes, I can do this for the rest of my working life." Changes will occur no doubt and there will be many future struggles that will likely cause me to question this decision, but for now I am nothing less than perfectly content. I am not sure, but some of this good feeling must be coming from the fact that so many people really want high quality healthy food; and they want to know where it came from. Even I have been totally inspired by recent works of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and Barbara Kingsolver. My hope for the future is that eating good food is not a privilege for a few but an option for all. Thanks to all of you for being on this journey with us and we look forward to many more years together.
As mentioned last week, we will be hosting a Garlic Cleaning Extravaganza--Wednesday October 28th 8-12. Please come and clean garlic in the comfort of the barn and enjoy the company of the Indian Line Farm crew! Hot cider will be served at 10:00 am. We look forward to seeing all who can come.
And last but not least, we have officially started our fall sign up for the 2010 season. We will be taking Commitment Forms and $100 deposits in the barn or you may send them in the mail. I have attached the form again this week. We need all Commitment Forms and deposits by December 1st. Please contact us if you have any questions. Have a great week!
November 2, 2009
This is the last week of the 2009 season. In the last week we have brought in 500 lbs of celeriac, 170 lbs of black radish, 240 lbs of purple top turnips, 70 lbs of red meat radishes and 100 lbs of scarlet turnips. The weather has been cooperative and we have enjoyed working in the sunshine for most of these harvest days. Our cover crops have come in well and the sea of green you see from our house is a site to behold. The deer like it too. They stayed clear for most of the summer, but now that everything outside our electric fence is brown they are willing to risk a shock to get at the luscious green grasses on our side of the fence.
For the farm crew and I it is always a relief to get to this moment. A season of hard work has more or less been completed and we all survived. The season had its share of hardships. Losing our outdoor tomato crop was probably the hardest, but so was cutting my tendon and being unable to fully use my right hand for 6 weeks. We also survived one employee having Lyme Disease during our August craziness and another having the flu in September. Other than the tomato loss we only experienced minor losses of one particular beet planting. That is remarkable for such a wet year. I am grateful as I have mentioned many times before for our good fortune. Next year will certainly bring other interesting and challenging hurdles. Thanks for being with us and we hope to see you next year.
I have been waffling about how to offer the extra produce we have to sell. My motive is to be fair to both Tuesday and Friday folks. So this is what we are going to do. This week we will be selling items that I know we will not run out of: garlic, celeriac, daikon, purple top turnips, black radish and some winter squash. Other items will be on sale with a 5# maximum. Everything still left over will be on sale Saturday November 14th here from 8:30 - 11:00 am.
P. S. I apologize for giving all kohlrabi recipes last week and not really having it in the pick up room. This week it will be there so you have another opportunity to check it out. This week I am paying tribute to celeriac again and am offering a fabulous creamy celeriac soup recipe. We had it for dinner tonight and the whole family loved it.