Whirlwind Week

This is the time of year when people start asking us, "So, are things slowing down on the farm yet?"

Hah. Not by a long shot. Granted this year is a little unusual because we are putting up two big hoophouses. Aside from the hoophouses, however, we still have thousands of pounds of storage vegetables to harvest, wash, and pack, summer vegetables to pull out of the ground and compost, and winter vegetables to seed and transplant. Not to mention markets! 

Speaking of the hoophouses, though, we have made quite a bit of progress on the unheated one, and we think we may be able to cover it with plastic next week. Hurrah! And this week, we had concrete poured for the floor of the other hoophouse (the heated greenhouse). Apologies if the picture is a tad blurry. It is getting dark so much earlier now that I didn't realize how poor the light was!

This week Chef Ali has a yummy recipe using roasted peppers: Roasted Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses & Walnuts! We will still be roasting peppers this weekend, though this may be the last weekend! All the plants died in the frost last week, so we are working off what we harvested then. We will, however, continue to have roasted peppers in our freezer through the winter until we sell out. We will have both sweet and hot options. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Bounty

Not pirate bounty, but regular, real, food bounty! 

I described a couple weeks ago how we harvested squash - the total there is upwards of 4000 pounds. See the squash and sweet potatoes in their storage room below.

IMAG4039_frame1.jpg

Last week, we finished the potatoes - around 1000 pounds - and sweet potatoes - also 1000 pounds. This week we started harvesting the root vegetables that we will store all winter - carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, cabbage, etc. All in all, we estimate that we will have harvested over 20,000 pounds of storage vegetables this year! 

Above you can see that we had to use even the market truck to harvest carrots and beets on Wednesday. We harvested and washed 3,000 pounds of veggies on Wednesday alone, using our new barrel washer. We are going to use it again tomorrow so I'll try to post a video of it in action. 

At the market we display everything tidily in little baskets, so it can be hard to make the jump from what you see at market to what we pull out of the field. It can also be hard to wrap your head around just how much food you can grow on an acre of land. We are growing about 5 acres this year, and about half of it is very good soil for farming, and the other half is reasonably good. The veggies in the very good soil are often noticeably bigger, sometimes drastically bigger, even though we have treated them the same in terms of watering, weeding, and fertilizing. 

So it's part nature and part nurture, that is, a whole lot of love and hard work. Enjoy the bounty!

See you at market!

-Ailish

P.S. Brussels sprouts this week!

Tropical Veggies Come to Maine - for a short time only!

Ginger and lemongrass are here! Actually, they have been here at the farm for the entire summer. Being native to more tropical climes than Maine, they require some extra work to produce up here. Both of these plants begin to struggle when the nighttime temperatures dip below 50 and are killed by freezing temperatures. So what do we do?

We planted both the ginger and lemongrass in hoophouses - we can plant them earlier in hoophouses, so we extend the growing season a couple weeks, and they get extra heat every day. Ginger requires regular fertilization and hilling (like you would with potatoes or leeks). Lemongrass is less fussy, but it is a sedge grass, so it has razor-edged leaves. 

Ginger and lemongrass often appear in Asian, South Asian, and Indian cuisines - we recommend trying either of the recipes from last week with some of our ginger. Find them here.

I caught Ben in the act of making off with some freshly-cleaned ginger! No one can resist it. We are even leaving leaves on some of it for those of you who expressed interest last year in using the leaves. We will probably have lemongrass and ginger for the next couple of weeks.

Fall is, of course, also time for the usual suspects: beets, carrots, potatoes, squash, radishes, rutabagas, kohlrabi, etc. Since we are growing more land this year, we decided to invest in something known as a barrel washer. Here is a picture of it (as a work-in-progress):

IMAG4020.jpg

We will try to get a video up when it's finished and running. The motor on top of the barrel drives a chain that rotates the barrel, and there will be a hose attachment so that water sprays into the barrel from above. When you elevate one end of the washer and gently pour root vegetables in, they get sprayed and gently tumbled, which removes soil more quickly and using less water than spraying them off only with a hose. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Fall

Fall is undoubtedly here. We got our first frost Saturday night. We harvested all the rest of our winter squash on Sunday morning - we think about 4,000 lbs! - with the help of two pickup trucks and a bunch of friends. Many great thanks to those who showed up Sunday morning and pitched in, even for a little while! Below you can see a Ben-cam view of the process (okay, I didn't stick a camera on Ben, I just held my camera above his shoulder).

IMAG3977.jpg

'Tis indeed the season of abundance: not only are the vegetables pretty much pouring out of the fields, but the new flock of laying ducks has started to come into lay, and the eggs are pouring in as well. 

Chef Ali has a couple new recipes for us this week, featuring the delicious Chinese (or Napa) Cabbage: Cellophane Noodle Soup with Beef and Chinese Cabbage  and Peanut Noodles with Asian Slaw.

See you at market!

-Ailish

Greens and Winter Recipes

On Thursday, we harvested the last of our greens for 2015! Salad mix, spinach, and flat and curly parsley will be available Friday at the Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market in Topsham (1-5) and Saturday at the Brunswick Winter Market (9-12:30). 

It took some time to wash - there were mountains of salad mix! The salad mix is from Salanova - a variety of lettuce grown as heads but bred to be cut apart into salad-sized leaves. We cut the heads to harvest, so once we cut them, they're done. Spinach, we pick by leaf from around the crown of the plant. We leave the crown of the plant in the ground and protect it with row cover, so once we start to get daylight lengths more than 10 hours in February, and daytime temperatures under the row cover (inside the hoophouse) of about 40 F, the plants will start to grow again.

Daylight will start to increase again Monday, December 21 - not long now!

The last of the parsley was out in the field, protected by just two layers of row cover. If we had had snow this fall, we probably wouldn't have parsley now because it would have been flattened. As you can see, however, this parsley did fairly well under the row cover. Each clump is about 8" wide.

We will have pork available in 2016 - we are getting it back from the butcher this Saturday!

Ben made a delicious stuffed squash recipe for lunch yesterday. We have posted it here on the website. It uses frozen roasted peppers, which we have available at the market in 3 varieties - Carmen (super sweet), Krimzon Lee (sweet and medium hot), and Ancho (medium hot - classic chile relleno).

See you at market!

-Ailish

Days of Greens and Roots

Oh yes, and onions and squash and brussels sprouts. For the most part, though, we are only harvesting greens right now.

IMG_20151119_162821.jpg

Below, you can see Logan, one of our awesome employees, washing arugula, spicy greens (mustard), and spinach in the wash station. We have harvested all of our storage and root crops except for a partial bed of parsnips and a few beds of leeks. Both crops hold well in the field and they just get sweeter with the cold.

IMAG2865.jpg

We have had a couple of infrastructure projects this week. As I mentioned last week, we pulled all of the caterpillar materials out of their 2014-2015 locations. This week, we have been installing them in their 2016 locations. We are pounding ground posts, putting up bows, and fastening the bows together with a ridge pole (see above). Without the plastic on it to act as a sail, the structure is quite strong and will have no problem riding out the winter.

Also, Ben's brother Dan is here for a stay, and found himself digging into our other project of the week: getting our greenhouse ready for a new propane tank and heater to be installed. Dan's part involved digging a trench across the driveway - he seriously earned his veggies today. Below you can see Ben jumping in to lend a hand.

We will see you all at the Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market tomorrow from 1-5 pm, but we will not be attending the Brunswick Farmers' Market tomorrow (on the Mall from 8-2) due to cold, wet forecast and being short some help. 

We will be attending the Brunswick Winter Market at Fort Andross on Saturday, from 9-12:30. 

And of course we will have a bevy of greens, herbs, onions, squash, and root veggies to go along with all that turkey we will all be eating next week.

See you there!

-Ailish

Caterpillars

Not live caterpillars - caterpillar tunnels!

Clean up is continuing pretty rapidly this week. It always feels really productive when you move a whole bunch of stuff from point A to point B. This week we have been focusing on taking up the drip irrigation, black plastic mulch, and landscape fabric we use with crops that need extra heat and water (like tomatoes and squash). We also got the plastic off all of our caterpillar tunnels - those are unheated hoophouses that are (relatively) easy to move - where we grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. Below you can see some pictures of the caterpillars in various stages of plastic removal.

After we undo the wiggle wire that holds the plastic to the frame on one end, we have to be quick and get the other end right away. Otherwise, we have a giant sail (you can see it starting to blow around in the photo above). In the photo below, Ben is undoing the wiggle wire on the side of the end bow, and Willie is undoing the top (you might need a magnifying glass to see him). Then, in the last photo, you can see we got the first piece of plastic neatly off. Yay! It was only a little windy, so we were pretty lucky with all the pieces of plastic. 

Next on the list is taking up the deer fence (at this point in the season they just jump over or crawl right through it), and then moving the frames of the caterpillar tunnels to their 2016 locations. We will take the frames apart piece by piece, using the tractor and truck to help, and then we will pound the ground posts into their new location, pop in the bows, and stabilize them with the ridgeline pipe. Yes, it's that easy, haha! I will take some pictures for you next week.

See you at market (Today: Brunswick, 8-2; Topsham 1-5; Tomorrow: Fort Andross, Brunswick, 9-12:30)!

-Ailish

Clean Up

This week we have been doing a lot of field clean up - pulling out dead plants, stakes, and plastic, and either taking down our high tunnels (unheated hoophouses) or moving them to their winter locations. All those hoophouses were covering heat-loving crops like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and tomatillos; like many farmers, we try to rotate these crops every year for nutrient management and disease control. The hoophouses that we take apart we will store until spring, but we will put the ground posts and hoops in place - if we have time - which will let us get planting much earlier next year than if we had to wait for the ground to thaw to set up the hoophouses. 

The rest of the hoophouses we just finished moving over some winter greens crops - spinach, arugula, spicy greens - that we will pick all winter if we can. There is not enough daylight between now and February, really, for plants to put on much growth - all these plants need more than 10 hours a day of sunlight to grow. So, our strategy is to get good growth before November, and after that we pick from the dormant plants until they are too small for harvesting.

Another strategy we use to have greens in the winter is to grow some indoors. Below is a photo of our pea-shoots setup. We use fluorescent lights that have a daylight spectrum and mylar-covered panels to maximize the light the shoots get. 

As a reminder:
The Crystal Spring Farmers' Market ends November 7th; the Brunswick Farmers' Market on the Mall continues until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (November 24th). Winter markets will be starting up soon - Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market starts TOMORROW - Friday, November 6th (1-5 pm, Topsham Fairgrounds), and the Brunswick Winter Market starts Saturday, November 14th (9-12:30 pm, Fort Andross Mill). 

See you at market,

-Ailish

Now comes the hard frost!

Sunday night is supposed to get down to 25 degrees here! Whenever the temperature drops below 28 F for at least a few hours during the night, that is know as a hard frost. Not many leafy plants survive a hard frost well. This week we have been harvesting storage crops like kohlrabi and cabbage, that will take a lot of damage if left in the field during the frost.

We will also, over the next couple of days, cover all of our winter greens with row cover to protect them from the frost. Row cover can provide as much as 5 degrees additional heat underneath it, which can really make the difference for some of our young lettuces and mustards. With adequate frost protection, we can keep harvesting those greens pretty much all fall!

Excuse the slight blurriness - Ben was waving the cardoon at me! This week we will be bringing to market brussels sprouts and cardoon! Cardoon is also know as stalk artichoke - an artichoke bred for big, thick stalks. We will bring recipes and preparation instructions to market with us. Cardoon needs to be cooked in acidulated water before being used in recipes, but it's so worth it. Cardi fritti, cardoon gratin, mmm! I will get the recipes up here on the website as soon as I can as well.

See you at market!

-Ailish