Blast off

This week was a pretty exciting one on the farm. On Wednesday and Thursday we had to keep our ears peeled for a siren - the siren signalling that the blasting crew was setting off an explosion! (Ben posted a video of this on our Facebook page.) They blasted out ledge for a day and a half so that we can fit not only the new greenhouse, which I mentioned last week, but also a new high tunnel in the field out behind the barn. Below you can see the excavation of the high tunnel.

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There was not a ton of topsoil in this field, and it wasn't great soil for farming to begin with, so we will essentially construct our own soil profile for the greenhouse and high tunnel. This allows us to choose the best mix for what we want to grow - primarily winter greens and solanaceous crops, like tomatoes and peppers, during the summer. 

We also spent some good time this week in the field we are leasing in Bowdoinham from Harvest Tide Organics (our friends Bethany and Eric). This year we are planting all of our storage crops, like onions, leeks, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, etc., over there. We had plenty of hot, dry weather for weeding, so we went bed by bed and freed up all those plants to get the most possible space and sunlight for themselves. Below is a picture of the field when we arrived Wednesday morning, before the fog burned off. 

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This week we will have more meat ducks available - they are frozen and they are $7/lb. We also have some necks, liver, and hearts available for $4.50/lb. You can find them in our little freezer at market. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

May Showers bring Seedlings and Greens

We didn't really get our "April showers" - but we are catching up this week with May showers! This has been a great week for transplanting - it has not been too hot or sunny, so the plants don't wilt while they wait to go in the ground, and they have gotten rained on pretty much every night, so they get plenty to drink after they are in the ground. 

We have all of our high tunnel tomatoes planted - 850 of them! (We are going to also plant about 100 paste tomato plants outside, unprotected, once the nights are consistently 50F or above). We had to commandeer the market truck for field use in order to transport all of the tomato seedlings back to the field (bottom right photo). We filled up the two 'Rolling Thunders' (the higher tunnels to the right in the top photo) and the middle beds of the three farther caterpillar tunnels (to the left in the top photo).

And in other news, the DUCKLINGS ARE HERE! Yes, 175 fuzzy, adorable baby ducks are now cheeping away in their makeshift sauna in what is the (adult) ducks' winter house. They need an air temperature of about 90 F to survive when they are so small. They arrived on Wednesday, from Metzer Farms in California, just one or two days old! Laura picked them up at the post office first thing Wednesday morning. We are increasing the laying flock with 150 new Golden 300 ducks, and we are also trying out meat birds, with 25 Pekins. We will keep you posted on that! This glamour shot is of a little Pekin. The Pekins are yellow and the Golden 300s are brown, so it is easy to tell them apart!

This week's featured recipe is a Nettle Frittata. Ben made it for us for lunch Thursday. Yum! 

We will have pork, duck eggs, herbs, spinach, lettuce, nettles, seedlings and MORE at market this week! Wow, it must be spring! And those markets are - the Brunswick Farmers' Market on the Mall in Brunswick (Tuesday and) Friday 8-2 and Crystal Spring Farmers' Market, Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Rd, Saturday, 8:30-12:30!

See you at market!

-Ailish

Working like Busy Worker Bees

What a good week for working outside!

The sun was hot and the weeds wilted promptly. We have pretty much divided our time equally between greenhouse and various weeding, composting and mulching tasks. We had to set up a second mini tunnel inside our unheated hoophouse up front to make room for potting up tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings.

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We are also making good progress on the weeding and mulching - we are hoping to finish up mulching the raspberries tomorrow! You can see Ben and the crew working on that project below.

The raspberries will have to wait until after transplanting, however. It's supposed to rain tomorrow afternoon, which makes tomorrow morning the perfect time to transplant. We harden off seedlings in the unheated hoophouse by exposing them to more wind and cold, but they can still get transplant shock when they go out in the field. Usually, this would be because they did not get enough water after transplanting, the wind in the field was too strong, or the soil or air temperatures were too cold.

We are back to recipes this week after a little hiatus! That busy-ness does sneak up on you... This week it is Spinach and Meatball Soup, with notes about vegetarian and gluten-free options!

Starting this week we will have some herbs! Yay! Tarragon and oregano this week, and with hope that selection will continue to grow as the weather warms.

We are still having our great Pork Box Sale! Check it out!

See you at market,

-Ailish

First sunburn of spring

Is anyone else sunburned yet? We are.

We seem to be entering a nice stretch of warm, sunny weather - it will dry out the fields so we can get in and start preparing them and planting in them. It is also great weather to pull out the first crop of spring weeds and let them dehydrate in the sunlight. We have been able to get plastic laced onto two of our three-season high tunnels so far, and we have two left to do. These seasonal high tunnels are the destinations for all the tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings currently crowding up the greenhouse - all those tall pots in the distance in the photo are one nightshade or other. We need to make room for four times that many pots starting next week!

We also use our two year-round high tunnels for tomatoes in the summer. Those are a particular high tunnel set up that rolls on a pipe track, so we can move it to different sections of field and get many uses out of it. Right now, one of those is covering all of our winter spinach, and the other is covering some early onions and spring spinach and lettuce (see below).

We are having a great PORK SALE starting this week. We have done this before - it is a $250 box of pork cuts for $200! In fact, we will give you 20% any assortment of $250 or more. And if you want to customize the cuts - contact us at whatleyfarm@gmail.com!

See you at market!

-Ailish

Warm Spring Weather and Surprise Hail!

Thursday afternoon we all had a business meeting. We had noticed the clouds outside growing darker and some thunder rumbling in the distance, but we were totally surprised by the pea-sized hail! Fortunately it did not last very long and doesn't seem to have done any damage.

In other exciting news, some of our first greenhouse seedlings have germinated! Below you can see some celery seedlings. The tallest ones are about half an inch long, but they will grow up to be juicy, crisp stalks 12-18" long! Pretty amazing.

We are also happy to say that our experiment in forcing shiitake mushrooms so far is beginning to bear fruit (yes, pun intended). Below you can see a tiny button of a shiitake growing in an oak log. That mushroom is currently about the size of a dime. We definitely have some quirks to work out, but we are hopeful that eventually this could help us bring more mushrooms to market. No promises yet, though!

Unfortunately, we do not have a featured recipe of the week, but in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, glorious GREEN spinach will be on sale this weekend!

See you at market!

-Ailish

A Taste of What's to Come

Did anyone else feel like May or June had come to visit this week? In the greenhouse on Tuesday I had to stop working and look desperately for my summer boots because my feet were so hot in my winter boots.

But I was in the greenhouse! Starting seeds! It's one of the most exciting times of the year, when the small act of planting seeds in the greenhouse promises (literally) tons of bounty to come. We seeded all of our onions, leeks, and shallots - they require long growing seasons, so we have to start them now in order to harvest them in August, September, and October. We have also started rounds of spring greens - lettuce and spinach, arugula and mustard. Look for those to start appearing at the market in a month or so. 

The warm winter meant that the rosemary I have planted in one of our high tunnels stayed quite healthy, and we were also able to start propagating rosemary cuttings this week. Rosemary is in the mint family (which roots from cuttings well), but it takes longer than mint to put out roots - about 3 weeks to a month. Mint will put out new roots in days! It will probably take these rosemary seedlings about two months to grow big enough to sell at market. 

We are trying an experiment with our mushroom logs. We have taken a stack of logs that put out its first mushrooms last year, so they should still have plenty of fruiting to do, and put them in the greenhouse. We will shade them there and water them well, with hope forcing them to fruit in the next week or two!

Our featured recipe this week is a Chile-brined Fresh Ham. Ben followed the recipe almost to the letter, so instead of rewriting our own version, I will just direct you to the original. The one change we made was to use 3 tablespoons of our own dried chili powder instead of fresh chiles, however, our frozen Krimzon Lee chiles would be a good medium-heat subsitute for the serranos. We will bring copies of the recipe to market.

See you at market!

-Ailish

We Keep Telling Ourselves...

That Spring is right around the corner! And it is, even if it hasn't felt that way the last few days.

We have received all of our potting mix (see below) from Living Acres in New Sharon. We have five more pallets of it - this is all we can fit in the greenhouse at a time. We use the potting mix to make soil blocks for our farm seedlings and to fill pots and packs for the seedlings we sell at market.

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We just had a new heater installed in the greenhouse, so we will jump into seeding next week with onions and some flowers. This week, even, Ben direct-seeded some early greens such as arugula, spicy greens, and leaf lettuce. You can see the furrows in the photo below, which are created by the seeder (photo below that). The seeder drops seeds in one long, straight line, and it also packs them down as it goes. We use this Jang Seeder for all our direct-seeded crops. 

Our recipe this week is for Kohlrabi Hash Browns. The recipe was given to us by a customer, Karen, who made the recipe for a class at the FARMS Community Kitchen. Ben and I made them last night, and we found that for extra crispiness, make the patties fairly thin. Yum!

See you at market!

-Ailish