It isn't strictly farm-related, but we are so proud of our little pre-K student. (Her superpower, by the way, is "shooting stinky tuna lava.")
We've been sending produce to Keewaydin, a local summer camp, for two years now. (Reports are that salad bar consumption is way up.) Yesterday Jasper and I showed a few girls from the camp around the farm. I was really impressed with their engagement and willingness to hike around in the heat, and they seemed to particularly enjoy the cherry tomatoes.
Community connections like these are one of the best parts of being a farmer -- we love being able to introduce kids to vegetables that actually taste good and then show them where and how they are grown. Will they become farmers? Probably not. Do they have a slightly deeper connection to their food, and therefore both their bodies and the earth? I think so.
One of the fun things about farming is trying new varieties and vegetables. This year we planted an onion known as Negi or Tokyo Negi, which is grown commonly in Japan. It's like a cross between scallions and leeks – as fat as a leek but with hollow leaves like a scallion, but a bit tougher than a scallion typically is and with a stronger flavor. The leaves grow really long – the whole thing is over 2 feet, though we trim the leaves down a bit. You can cook it like an onion or leek; both the white and green parts are used, depending on the recipe. One of the most traditional uses seems to be negimiso, a sauce made from sauteed minced negi, miso paste, and a variety of seasonings (here's a recipe!), which can be used as a marinade or dipping sauce. We've got Negi for CSA this week and should have them at the farmers' market as well.
So, about the strawberries: As we mentioned before, a substantial amount of those we planted last fall didn't make it through the winter. Of those that did, so far only some of them are producing, and none of them are producing very much. For a while, we were harvesting just enough for Sonora to stuff herself full of strawberries each day; now it's just enough for a handful or two. Currently there are a good number of flowers, and we're still hopeful that we'll have our own berries for CSA or market this year, but it isn't looking particularly promising.
This was our first year for growing strawberries, and we're not sure exactly what happened – there are quite a lot of plants out there that look very healthy but just aren't making fruit. We've been told that hot weather can do that, and there was a late frost that zapped some of the early flowers. We're planning to let these plants go a second year and see if they improve.
We're bringing in berries from Jon at Wood's Market Garden for CSA this week, and doing some more research to figure out how to get a better yield in the future. We may plant more this fall – the causalities of the winter were divided pretty clearly between varieties, so we'll plant more of what did well and maybe try one or two new kinds as well. We're also considering some other perennial fruits to make use of some parts of our land that are too sloped or rocky for good vegetable production (and because fruits are delicious).
In the meantime, the carrots and broccoli are coming in, and new potatoes are almost ready! Potatoes may not be quite as exciting as strawberries, but they're still awfully good.
A couple years ago, some farming friends mentioned how much they liked their iceberg lettuce. "ICEBERG lettuce?" we scoffed. "Why would you grow iceberg lettuce?!" Their answer was something like, "Because it's great."
Many vegetables that are unexciting in their supermarket version can be awfully good when they are super fresh and have been grown well. Turns out that iceberg lettuce is one of them. (Also on that list: Potatoes, cucumbers, and actually, most vegetables.)
Is it still mostly water? Yes. Is it the darkest or most complexly flavored leafy green ever to grace a salad? No. Is it crispy, crunchy, juicy, and mild? Yes, yes it is. We grow nearly a dozen different kinds of lettuce, and all of them are at their best in June, but we find ourselves hunting around in the cooler for the icebergs more often than you might expect.
If you want to check it out for yourself, we just delivered some to the Middlebury Co-op and should have it at the farmers' market this weekend as well.
After an early dry spell, which made us glad of our irrigation system, things are looking a bit wet now – which is making us glad of our sandy soils. (For the record, we spent a long time looking for a farm with sandy soils, and put a lot of money into an irrigation pond, for exactly those reasons.) The rain is great for the potatoes, which are growing like mad (though we need it to dry out just a little so they can get hilled), and for the peas. Pretty much everything is growing like mad right now, actually, though most of the crops would enjoy a little more sun. These few weeks on either side of the solstice are magical – the plants just grow and grow and grow, so fast we can often see the difference from one day to the next. Our big job right now is keep the weeds down and then get out of the way. We use plastic mulch on several crops and straw mulch on pathways to help with weeds, and Jeremy loves his cultivating tractor (check out the video on Facebook to see it in action!), but we still do a fair amount of weeding by hand.
Lots of action on the farm these days! The new greenhouse is up and planted out with tomatoes that are growing like crazy and making little green tomatoes. The first strawberries are ripening, and the peas are flowering. CSA starts soon, and we'll be at market once we've got some berries and peas to bring. Here comes June!
We planted several varieties of strawberries last fall. A hard winter and cold spring later, about 3/4 of them made it through. They're blooming nicely and a few starting to set fruit. We're very much looking forward to seeing them in some early CSA shares! We plan to bring them to market as well, once we have enough.
CSA starts in just three weeks! First pickups will be the week of June 8. We're finalizing delivery days and should have all the details out to members soon. If you haven't signed up yet, now's the time!
Spring is officially underway, and we are officially back to the full-time work of plowing, planting, building, repairing, watering, wondering, and worrying. We've moved our seedlings from a small greenhouse to the big one that we'd been growing tomatoes in, and we're putting up a second big one for this year's tomatoes. We're seeding peas and transplanting the spring brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Early greens can be purchased at the Rutland and Middlebury Co-ops, though we won't be at the Middlebury Farmers' Market for a few more weeks. The CSA starts in just six weeks - this is a great time to sign up if you haven't yet!
We've even gotten some spring cleaning done -- moving a jillion plastic plant pots and harvest crates and camping equipment and assorted junk out of the old sugarhouse to make a nice space for hanging hand tools, having the morning meeting, and for employees to have lunch; cleaning up some of the old mulch plastic, pallets, and other farm debris that accumulates over time; and clearing out some overgrown patches with our new flail mower, a piece of equipment that Jeremy's been dreaming of for years.
Spring is the season of endless opportunity. The fields are all perfectly groomed and waiting to be planted, the greenhouse is bursting with new life, and the farmers are full of optimism and energy. Happy May!
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