It's a Veritable Heat Wave!

Well I believe we got what we asked for! Temps over 90 F here at the farm today. But after harvesting and packing veggies and seedlings for market tomorrow, we got after another project that we have been picking away at: planting the pollinator hedgerow in between two of our home fields. We have approximately 200 native shrubs of diverse species going in there! 90 down, including all the Aronia, Witch Hazel, American Cranberry Bush, and Arrowwood.. Buttonbush, Spicebush, and more still to come!

Can you see all of us busy bees working in there planting tomatoes and peppers? First one person marks the holes, then another fertilizes, then another drops the plant, and finally someone comes along and plants it! Oh, and then we water it in with fish and seaweed juice...

And of course we have lots of seedlings for your garden coming to market, or if you miss us there, stop over to the Urban Garden Center on Rt 196 in Topsham. Here's a pic from earlier in the week (you can tell by their coats that it sure wasn't today). We have lots of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers and more that are just loving this warm weather!

It'll be a good weekend to get the garden in! Come to Friday or Saturday market and get your organic plants (and free gardening advice).

Ben

Come on sun, shine here!

It has been a cool spring so far! The farmers are all talking about it up and down the coast...let's hope it warms up soon and that we get more sunshine. But on a diversified farm, if the weather is bad for one crop, it's good for another. And on this vegetable farm, while it hasn't been stellar weather for getting fields prepared, the grass and perennials are all growing great with the moisture.

But we're keeping busy as always! Here's Hannah and Kate putting up a ridgepole in the caterpillar tunnels (moveable greenhouses that grow tomatoes and peppers):

We also planted a lot of cool weather loving crops, like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, and cabbage! We also planted our first peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash. Tomatoes this week. Here is a picture of Laura planting zinnias with Tara, a high school intern here for a few weeks learning the ropes. Her uncle is Dave Colson of MOFGA/New Leaf Farm, and she's a quick study!

Ben has to keep this short and sweet today, because he is headed to Texas for his cousin's college graduation! The farm is in the hands of our able helpers Logan, Hannah, Kate, and Sophie (as well as Laura Whatley, who is staying to take care of the ducks and get our new piglets settled in). Come see the extended family of employees at market this weekend! We've got lots of great greens. herbs. seedlings, duck eggs, nitrate-free bacon, and pork chops. See you next week!

-Ben

Beautiful spring so far!

What a beautiful spring it's been so far! Plenty of rain, maybe bordering on too much at times but you can't pick the weather! The garlic is loving it. Here's our spicy specialty, Georgian Fire!

It has been difficult to get in fields and do tractor work with the heavy rain earlier this week, but we've managed to do some. Here's a pic of the electric cultivating tractor (1947 Allis Chalmers G which Nick converted to an electric motor--pretty cool!) getting ready to be unloaded at the Bowdoinham field:

The rain gave us some great opportunities to transplant, and we really went for it on Monday and Tuesday! Planted a big block of early spring crops (some of which is pictured below), including spinach, chard, lettuce, chicories (radicchio, escarole, puntarelle), broccoli and rapini! We actually skipped farmers market on Tuesday so we could have all hands on deck to plant the onions and shallots (all 20,000 of them!). Got it done with a little help from our friends!

We will be at market tomorrow and Saturday with lots of great stuff, including salad and cooking greens, fresh herbs (chives, thyme, oregano, tarragon), seedlings (lots of hardy stuff for planting now and some tomatoes for the early birds that can protect in case of frost), duck eggs, and pork chops! Here's Samantha framing some seedlings (she's working a few days a week on the farm and every Saturday at market). 

Hope to see you this weekend! 

Best,

Ben

Never a dull moment!

Would you look at that root! And that's a "runt" rhubarb that didn't yield well, which we replaced with another plant.

Sophie and the rest of the crew did a lot of work in the perennial gardens this week while I did field prep with the tractor. Weeding, mulching, planting--the works! Here's a pic of some fresh thyme we have coming to market this week, along with oregano, rosemary, and tarragon from our herb tunnel:

We did a lot of work in the greenhouse on seedlings, which we have coming to market this week! Early greens for your garden, like kale, chard, lettuce, arugula, as well as sunflowers. Lots more seedlings to come this year--vegetable, herb, and flower crops of all descriptions, each selected by us as tried-and-true varieties for organic growing in this area.

We also experimented with some new techniques for organic no-till gardening. Instead of tilling the whole plot where we will be planting tomatoes this year, we just dug out the perennial weeds with a fork, and then covered with those black silage tarps you see in the picture below. It's a technique called "occultation," and the idea is that the tarp will warm the soil (always a good thing in the spring), and the weeds which germinate under the tarp won't be able to grow. We'll leave it alone for 4 weeks, and hope for good results!

We all know farming isn't all fun and games, so I thought I'd throw a picture of some good old-fashioned ditch-digging which I did this week! This is for an internet cable to go to the barn and new greenhouse. Primarily, this is for a temperature monitoring system which we are installing to give us more peace of mind that the big greenhouses aren't getting too hot or cold when we can't be there to check on them...but we're all looking forward to being able to stream music while we're working out there, too! 

Lots of good deals on greens coming to market this week, including big bags of kale! Fresh herbs, duck eggs, pork, and a SALE on frozen roasted peppers! These are really good for slicing for sandwiches or salads, or cooking with some onions and greens for a simple and delicious pasta dish. Come see us at market this weekend and ask us for ideas!

This weekend is the LAST INDOOR market, then we're headed out to downtown Brunswick Tuesday and Friday from 8-2, and Crystal Spring Farm on Saturdays from 8:30-12:30. As a cap to a great market season, Ben and Nick's band Rough Sawn will be playing Brunswick Winter Market. Come out and hear some Americana music, drawing from bluegrass, country, Western swing, and contemporary folk. Kids welcome to dance!

Ben

Promises of Things to Come

Spring may have teased us with that nice warm sunny weather last week, but we're moving ahead so we'll be ready when it hits! The latest and greatest news is the arrival of these lady beetles (Ben is squinting at them on your right). We are releasing these generalist predators into our tunnels to eat pest bugs, and we made sure to leave lots of flowering mustards (like the arugula flower pictured next) for habitat.

Look on Facebook or Instagram for a video of Ben releasing the ladybugs!

We've been doing all kinds of things in addition to greenhouse work, harvesting LOADS of TASTY GREENS (available at this weekend's markets), and tending to our ducks...Here's a picture of Sophie and Hannah raking the mulch off garlic to maximize the sunlight hitting it and warming the soil. You can just barely see the green shoots in this picture, but they're there!

We also wrapped up pruning our raspberries, which involves cutting out winterkilled canes and thinning and trellising the remaining canes in a V-trellis. Here's Kate, Becca, and Hannah working on it this afternoon!

Farming is a good cure for boredom, since there's never a dull moment...Come see us at the markets this weekend, where we remain indoors until the end of the month. Friday 11-4 at the Midcoast Winter Farmer's Market (Topsham Fairground), Saturday 9-12:30 at the Brunswick Winter Market in Fort Andross.

Sprung Ahead

There's never a dull moment in the spring! We're charging ahead on everything we can while we wait for fields to dry out enough to do tractor work. We continue to harvest lots of greens from our high tunnels and greenhouse, so there's lots of those coming your way this weekend, including Big Bag Specials! 

We are setting up systems to make material handling more efficient on the farm. Here's Sophie and Hannah posing in front of their handiwork: new seedling carts to move seedlings around the greenhouse, in and out for hardening off, and COMING SOON TO A MARKET NEAR YOU: seedlings for sale on these racks which we will roll on to the market truck and roll out at farmers' market!

Then of course we've got a spring fever for cleaning! Here's Logan showing how nicely everything is organized in the market truck:

Then of course we've got a spring fever for cleaning! Here's Logan showing how nicely everything is organized in the market truck:

Another exciting thing we are doing is trying to cultivate habitat for beneficial insects and educate ourselves about the interactions between predator and prey. Here are some hover flies attacking aphids which just appeared on a small patch of our spinach. I was going to nip it in the bud and try to remove the plant material which the aphids had gotten into, but the flies beat me to it! I spoke with a lab in NY state that is going to support us with beneficials in our greenhouse. Next week is our first shipment of lady beetles!

Lastly, come see us at market and be sure not to miss the Farmers Market Bluegrass Jamboree we are hosting Friday night at the Topsham Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall! It runs from 6-10 PM with great music all throughout. Ben and Nick's band Rough Sawn is opening from 6-7:15, then local talent Borderline plays from 7:30-8:45, and from 9-10 is an open jam with lots of great local musicians planning on coming! There will be farm-fresh hot food available for purchase from the Market Cafe, and admission is a suggested $10 donation for adults (KIDS FREE!). Hope to see you there or at market this weekend!

 

Best,

Ben and the whole crew

Cold Rain and Spicy Greens!

Last week we showed you a picture of the big messy hoophouse with the long, long rows of spinach and arugula...this week we're featuring the new greenhouse which we just completed over the winter. On the other side of that big plastic "curtain" is the front, heated portion of the greenhouse where we are growing seedlings for our own farm, as well as lots of seedlings for sale at market soon! This greenhouse is dual purpose, with a combination of soil beds and concrete pathways. We can cover these beds with greenhouse benches when they are needed for growing more seedlings, and we have the concrete aisle for wheeling carts of seedlings up and down...This layout is our own hair-brained scheme and it's not perfect, but it's working well-enough so far!

Here's Becca harvesting some lettuce for the mild mesclun. We will have lots of BULK DEALS on greens at markets tomorrow and Saturday, so don't miss BIG BAGS of Spicy Greens and Spinach, as well as our regular size bags Mild Mesclun, Arugula, Red Russian Kale, Spicy Greens and Spinach.

In addition to this new big bag "Wholesale-to-You" program where you can buy bulk greens the same way stores and restaurants buy them from our farm, we will be offering seconds-quality Winter Radishes, Beets, Parsnips, Rutabaga and Kohlrabi for 50% off throughout the month of April, or until they're gone.

We're still inside at the markets: Friday 11-4 at the Midcoast Winter Farmers Market (Topsham Fairgrounds), and Saturday 9-12:30 at the Brunswick Winter Market (Fort Andross). Let's make the rain stop for the weekend!

Ben

Greens Galore

It may not seem like it, but the temperatures have definitely been getting warmer on average - the greens in the new hoophouse are really taking off. We already had heat, of course, in the greenhouse, so it was the sunny days that really made the difference to the greens there. In any event, we will have tons of greens at market this weekend - arugula, spinach, kale, mustard mix, and lettuce mix, as well as fresh radish bunches!

All these greens require plenty of picking, washing, and packing time, and fortunately we have a couple new crew members to help out with all of it! Here's a picture of the crew harvesting greens in the new hoophouse Thursday morning:

In the bed that is second from left, you can see all the tiny spinach transplants we just put out on Tuesday. They were happy to get in the ground, and given the longer days and warm temperatures, it probably won't be too long before we are picking from them.

I know, I know, it's supposed to snow 3-5 inches on Saturday, but we will be at market with tons of greens, trusting that spring is really just around the corner.

See you at market!

-Ailish

Spring!

It's official: spring is here! Everyone is feeling that, right? 

Just kidding... We still have six inches of snow on the ground, and lots of root vegetables to eat. And managing the new hoophouse and greenhouse for temperature and humidity is a pretty good challenge. On sunny days, they can really heat up, so we've been trying to get the automatic vents hooked up, which will open if a certain temperature is reached. When the vents get opened, however, that usually lets in huge gusts of cold, dry winter air. This not always a bad thing - it can help dry plant leaves so that fungus can't grow, but it can also suck moisture from the leaves and the soil. 

In considering that, we have been watering very heavily, which helps mitigate both the dryness and can also help plants cope with very high or very low temperatures. In fact, if we are going to get an extremely cold night, I try to water everything in the hoophouse (the unheated one) very well, because the extra water seems to help plants cope with the freezing and thawing of their cells on cold nights.

There are some definite signs of spring I should share though. The photo above is some rosemary, flowering for the first time in its life! The plants are going into their fourth year of life, and all of them are covered with flower buds! They are in a hoophouse, protected from the extreme cold, and they seem to be doing very well. It can be difficult in this climate to keep rosemary alive from year to year, so it's really gratifying to see them thrive. 

Also this week, we spent some time in the orchard, pruning out browntail moth nest. Sophie is getting a particularly hard-to-reach one in the photo above. Browntail moth caterpillars make little nests of silk (you can see one if you follow the direction the pruners are pointing in the photo). In the spring, the larvae emerge and do their best to defoliate the tree. They particularly seem to like oak trees and fruit trees. Not only do they harm the trees, the caterpillar grows hairs that contain a substance toxic to humans. It can cause blisters if it touches skin, and respiratory distress if inhaled. If you can cut the nests in the winter, and either drown or burn them, however, you can kill them without spreading the toxic hairs.

Topsham and the towns surrounding us seem to be in the epicenter of an outbreak of browntail moths. Last year was tough, because they are favored by dry conditions. We are trying to get a jump on them this year, at least in the areas on the farm where we will be going frequently. The ones at the tops of the oaks are still making us scratch our heads. If browntail moths have been a problem for you or you want to learn more, please visit http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/insects/browntail_moth.htm

I want to end on a positive note, so I will just say this: radishes! That's right, we will have bunches of fresh radishes (grown in the heated greenhouse!) this week for sale at market. Come and get some while they last!

-Ailish

Late Winter

Well. Below you can see a triptych time-sequence of the new hoophouse and greenhouse, from top to bottom: Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning. That was quite a storm! The gothic (pointed gable) structure of these new, large structures, sheds snow fairly effectively. You can see in the bottom image that most of the snow has slid off the roof and piled up at the sides. 

We do, however, have some smaller hoophouses in the back field that cannot support snow loads, and we have had to clean them off during and after storms before. Fortunately, on Monday afternoon, we figured out how to get the plastic off of them while one side (the shady side) was still frozen to the ground. Huzzah! So we saved ourselves many hours of shoveling and brushing off snow.  

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Despite the weather, things are growing in the greenhouse! The herbs that we started propagating a couple of weeks ago have already rooted, for the most part. Once they have put out roots, we can take them out from under the table and let them have a little more light. More light will encourage them to grow new leaves, now that they have roots and can draw nutrients and water from the soil. 

Our first round of spinach of 2017 is just about ready to be transplanted. It will be going in the second bed from the left in the photo below. The third bed from the left you can see is covered in landscaped fabric. We cut the mustard greens that were in that bed several times for market until they were getting a little tired. We then cut the remainder and fed them to the ducks (who were delighted to get greens at this time of year!). After that we covered the bed with landscape fabric and lightly watered it - this is a method of no-till weeding and bed renovation made popular by a Canadian farmer named Jean-Martin Fortier.  

In occultation, what you want to happen is this: the landscape fabric and watering warm and moisten the soil, which encourages the decomposition of the mustard green stems and roots, and which encourages weed seeds to germinate; the mustard greens continue to decay, and the weed seeds germinate, but because there is no light, they die and decay as well; then you can remove the landscape fabric and transplant directly into the bed. No rototilling, no forking, no weeding. Theoretically. We'll let you know how it goes!

See you at market!

-Ailish