Midsummer Fruits and Flowers

Hello friends,

Well time sure does fly in the summer! I haven't written since the solstice, and we've been busy doing all kinds of things...planting, weeding, harvesting, and building. Here a few snapshots:

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Those are baby zucchini with nice, open flowers attached...we have been selling zucchini flowers to a couple of restaurants, and occasionally at farmers market too. These were a special treat for Enoteca Athena, the Brunswick Inn, and a few lucky market customers. Stuffed with goat cheese, lightly battered, and pan-friend. Mmm good. 

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This is Emma with some red leaf amaranth, which we picked for the first time today! It is a mild-spinach flavor, which is tender and oh so pretty. We ate it as a salad today, along with some lemon-miso summer squash and pesto pasta...By the way, did you know we have some great deals on fresh basil right now? 1# bags of clean tops with very little stem. Makes a lot of pesto! Freeze some like we do, leaving out the nuts and cheese until you take it out in the winter.

And of course, we always have other projects we're trying to get to...our masonry pizza oven build is on track for next weekend. I've been cleaning up some old timbers and getting them ready to frame up the shed, which will cover the oven. It's going to be fun.

One last thing I'll tell you about is this Hazelnut planting we're very excited about. For a few years, we have been talking to our neighbors at Campo di Fiori nursery about getting some of their Hazel selections, and finally it happened. These will make the lower border of one of our fields. There are 8 bushes so far, and we are planning on putting in some more in the fall to finish the row. Maybe someday we'll harvest some nuts, and coppice some material for a wattle-and-daub wall, or something fun like that...Here is the Abram, Shawn, and Colony putting the plants in the ground:

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Until next time, enjoy!

Ben and the gang

A lesson from nature, on the solstice

Hello folks,

Happy Summer Solstice! I hope you're enjoying the sunshine in Maine on this longest day of the year...Anna and I are headed out later with our pup Willie, to swim and picnic on the bay in Brunswick. We've all been busy on the farm, planting and picking greens and things like this:

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There are some nice little cucumbers in the bottom right! More coming in every day, along with the zucchini...yellow squash is not far behind. And there are these summer-loving cowlicks of the garlic plant:

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Those are of course the garlic scapes! Tender and snappy little curly Qs which make a mighty fine pesto. Or toss them in olive oil and salt and grill them. We'll be making a big batch of pesto soon. Look for it at market by mid-July!

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I alluded in the title to a lesson from nature, and it relates to the image above of a beaver pond in our woods. Since it hasn't rained much this year, our irrigation pond can't keep up with the watering needs of our crops. My dad had the idea to go looking for water down in the gully near the fields. What he found was that a whole network of beaver ponds, and he hatched a scheme to pump water from the bottom pond into our irrigation pond, in order to recharge it. It has worked out amazingly. Even when we pump this bottom pond almost empty, it refills within a couple days. The chain of small ponds are even inspiring us to look at our landscape differently, and we are thinking about imitating the beaver and creating networks of small pocket ponds, which can fill and overflow into lower ponds...Thanks to the Beaver, nature's environmental engineer, for the lesson! 

Hope everybody has a great start to summer.

Best,

Ben

California-style farming...or is it?

Hello folks,

All the talk among the farmers on the Maine listserves this week has been about drought and whether we should get used to a more Mediterranean, or California-style farming...the last 2 summer have been dry and so far we haven't had more than 1/2" of rain, all spring! Irrigation is the name of the game, and I'm starting to believe that Maine is now like much of the rest of the country, where the motto is, "If you can't irrigate it, don't plant it." We used to be able to rely on spring rains to establish crops, and many things grew without irrigation...we're adjusting!

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Here Kate, Abram and Emma are putting down woven ground covers, which have drip irrigation buried under them and holes burned out for peppers and tomatoes. Maximum moisture conservation, and weed suppression! Here's a pic of some we put down in our bigger tomatoes:

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Of course, we're making it rain where we can! And these healthy seedlings which we're bringing to market are ready to go. New things and fresh rounds of tomato plants every week. 

Husk Cherries are going in the ground tomorrow while I'm at market, and lots of seeding! Always something going on around the farm.

Best,

Ben

Get your garden in!

Howdy friends,

Well I believe the story of the week is that you wanna down to farmers market and get you some of these Super Jumbo tomato plants:

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Not only are they nice and stout now, they've got room to grow in the Extra-Deep 4" pot. We upgraded this year to these pots for tomatoes, and it's made all the difference. These plants will hit the ground running!

Here's a look at some of our tomatoes, which we just started clipping to the trellis twine today:

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It's dry out there, so do us a favor and pray for rain whenever it's convenient for you! We don't care what days it comes on, as long as it rolls in eventually...just can't get used to these dry springs, and summers...the talk on the farmer listserves is all about Maine-Mediterranean farming, or California dry farming. It's a new paradigm for lots of us here in Maine, who are used to getting rain in the spring.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, and don't forget we're bringing a veritable garden center to the Brunswick Farmers Markets, Friday 8-2 downtown and Saturday 8:30-12:30 at Crystal Spring Farm!

Best,

Ben

The Rolling Thunder Review...

Tomatoes, we're Rolling in! This was our crew, just a few hours ago...rolling the 2 tomato tunnels into position over a no-till (tarped) field section. We'll be planting Monday!

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We've been planting all we can, including this rhubarb:

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I thought it was a pretty impressive worm, too...so I featured it alongside a 6" plant tag.

It's Spring Fever around the Whatley Farm, with never a dull moment as we try to fit in tractor work where it's dry enough to do it, planting where we can, weeding where we must, and eating perennials which never disappoint...Chives, Sorrel, Tarragon, Thyme, Mint, Dandelion, and...Stinging Nettles! This week we will have some at market, so don't miss it!

Meanwhile, we've been tending to the garlic, and I tell you it's looking good so far:

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We weed it, we feed it, and it grows...as if it knows that it only has until June 22nd to grow. The day after the summer solstice, I imagine garlic wakes up and says, "Huh, that sunrise was a little later than yesterday...I better start storing my energy in this bulb in case this keeps up." It's a race to the solstice! So far our pace is good.

-Ben, family and farm crew

The first weeding and feeding of the year...

This week, on an unsually hot day, we set out to do our first weeding and feeding of the year...on these babies:

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We had already raked most of the mulch off of the garlic, to let the sun warm up the soil, but then Wednesday we hoed it in every direction to get those early thread-stage weeds! That's Shawn and Emma in the background hoeing. In front you see a bucket of fertilizer (composted chicken manure with a good charge of nitrogen) and my seeder which I was using to drill it in. 

We started outdoor market farmers markets this week, on May Day as a matter of fact. Assistant Manager Kate held it down at the Brunswick Farmers Market, and I (Ben) will be there tomorrow. Every Tuesday and Friday from 8-2, on the mall. Here's a little montage from Tuesday:

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Today we harvested for markets, with a couple of new spring things just starting to come in: chives, sorrel, and tarragon! To go with the radishes, mache, and pea shoots we've had the last few weeks...But today was really a day to be a duck. I'll leave off with a pair of pictures that sums up the difference between yesterday evening and this drizzly evening:

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Take care and welcome a little May into your life!

Ben

10 Little Red Pigs...

Howdy folks,

Monday we picked up some new friends that are going to be staying with us for the season:

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That's 10 little red pigs, Tamworth breed, raised by Misty Brook Farm in Albion (MOFGA-certified diversified farm). They fell right in to pigging right after we let them out of the pickup truck. Tamworths are great foragers, and they'll have lots of fresh ground to do it on at our new field down the hill which we cleared a couple of years ago.

 

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This action shot is from the duck drive out pasture. That's Kate saying to those ducks, "Don't even think about stepping on my newly seeded beds!" We marched them clear across the farm, through the woods and across the stream...and this is the last moment when they had to make a sharp turn around the vegetable fields to get to the field edges that they will be grazing for the new few weeks...Then it's on our newly established pollinator hedgerows, to eat grass and fertilize the little shrubs.

We transplanted our 9500 onions into the field this week, only instead of it taking a crew of 3-4 people a day to do it, I (Ben) did it in a day with our new Japanese Paperpot Transplanter tool...Basically, it's a planting system which uses special folded sheets of paper in a honeycomb pattern as the seeding flat, which is loaded up into a little machine which cuts a furrow and stretches the seedlings out into a chain of perfectly-spaced little plants. It takes some finesse (and I have a long way to go to perfecting it), and the seedlings are more costly to grow, but it saves a lot of time in the field... Look up a video of it in action on paperpot.co , it's quite something!

We'll be at market indoors for one more weekend! Then it's outside to the Brunswick Farmers Market (Tuesday and Friday from 8-2), and the BTLT Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm (Saturfay from 8:30-12:30). Here's a little pic of Miz America, one of the greens featured in our spicy mix...we hope to see y'all soon!

 

Ben, family and crew

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Breaking our spring intertia...

Hello friends,

This week we did what we refer to as breaking our spring inertia, by prepping some beds in the field and planting some seeds in the ground! Our first plantings are arugula, spicy greens, radishes, turnips, and cilantro/dill! Lots of transplants to go in next week, including onions and shallots. Because we had 3" of rain this week, the only way to get those beds prepped was by hand! Luckily, some of our semi-permanent raised beds were dry enough on top to wheel hoe (left bed is untouched, right is after wheel hoe):

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Last week, I promised some news of piggies! We are picking up a nice litter of organic Tamworths this week, so we'll have pictures in next blog post. Here is pigmaster Nick working on a new mobile shelter (this particular one is for the ducks on summer range, but the piggies have something cool in store for them, too):

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Lastly, we're still picking some nice greens but the learning curve for year-round greenhouse growing and pest management is steep for me. It's such a hospitable environment for say, aphids! We will have a very limited spinach supply this week, because of aphids. Now I've been encouraging a natural predator, the hover fly, one of which can eat 400 aphids. We've been leaving flowering mustards for them, and they love the nectar. And we've been releasing ladybugs, but we have a long way to go! Next year, we are going to grow parasitic wasps...

But nature amazes. Simply by providing habitat and not spraying insecticides, we attract all kinds of good bugs. These crane flies (I think that's what they are) were caught in the act on our arugula:

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Ain't that a pretty sight? The arugula, too.

Have a great weekend and come see us at indoor markets, if you can!

Best,

Ben, family and crew

Garlic, that harbinger of spring...

Hello farm friends,

This spring has been off to a nice slow start, which is we like it...no dry weeks with temps pushing 80 in March, or anything like that. It's been good drying weather for the fields, and our garlic has had nice steady sprouting conditions. We decided today was the day to introduce it to full sun, and so we raked the straw mulch off the bed tops. 12000 row feet of garlic in a 1/2 acre, which equates to about 16-17k little baby plants like this one:

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Ain't he precious?

We're also picking some nice greens from our greenhouses, including arugula (first week back on the menu in months!), spicy greens, radishes, baby kale, raab, and spinach. Here was our new crew member Emma picking kale raab out there this morning:

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Spring is always so busy, there's too much to tell! In the coming weeks, look for updates on new piggies, among other things. We'll be at winter markets until the end of the month, so come and see us there every Friday 11-4 at the Topsham Fairground, and Saturdays 9-12:30 at the Cabot Mill/Fort Andross in Brunswick.

Happy spring!

Ben

Greening up "inside" (and a little bit outside)

Friends, I can tell you that our plants inside the high tunnels and greenhouse think it's really spring! Lots of good green stuff coming up which has been gracing our plate this week:

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That's a spinach and pea shoot salad, with some mizuna flowers on top! At market, we'll have parsley and radishes as well, and a new crop (for us) which we call Kale Raab:

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Kale Raab looks and tastes like baby broccoli, and man ain't it good to have it this time of the year! 

The earth is waking up earlier every day, and your farmers are too. But we're still finding a little time to make music. If you can, come by tomorrow to the Midcoast Winter Farmers Market to get some greens and other foods, and enjoy some tunes by Ben and Kandy:

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It'll be warm and fun inside at the Topsham Fairgrounds, even if it's raining out there! Friday 11-4. 

Ben and the Whatley Farm Fam