'Tis the Season

Or that's what you would believe if you just listened to all the current ads. But it is almost the holiday season and the cold season, too. We are on the tail end of our storage crop harvests. Only leeks and brussels sprouts remain in the field. We have winter greens, too, that we are just beginning to get into - spinach, baby kale, baby chard. These are all under cover to protect them from the cold (and the deer!). 

Speaking of putting things under cover - it is time for the ducks to go to their winter home. Several factors have led to a new arrangement this year: we now have a lot more ducks, and they would not fit in the old duck winter house; they need electricity, for lighting, to keep up egg production through the darker days of winter; they need water frequently, especially as it gets near freezing; and we are building a new greenhouse. That means we are able to use the old greenhouse structure as a duck house this winter (see below).

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You can see that we harvested all the ginger and lemongrass that was left and removed the remaining tables and landscape fabric. We left the chickweed, however, since ducks tend to really love it. The little wooden structures are their "nesting boxes" - ducks like to lay on the ground, but they can be trained to lay in the boxes, which makes egg collection much easier.

As I mentioned before, Brussels sprouts and leeks are the only storage veggies we still have in the field, and we anticipate selling quite a bit of each over the next month. Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and goat cheese, potato leek soup....mmmm. Sometimes you can sneak a new dish or two to a holiday meal, and sometimes you just have to make it yourself. We have really been impressed with the pork so far, so I am looking forward to trying roasted sprouts with bacon.

Since Thanksgiving is next week, I just want to state the market schedule:
Friday 11/18 - Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market at the Topsham Fairgrounds, 11-4
Saturday 11/19 - Brunswick Winter Market at Fort Andross, 9-12:30
Tuesday 11/22 - Brunswick Farmers' Market on the Mall in Brunswick, 8-2
Wednesday 11/23 - Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market at the Topsham Fairgrounds, 9-1
            (This is special pre-Thanksgiving market so we can all enjoy the holiday better. It's great for last minute veggie needs! And Pine Tree Poultry has their turkey pick up here.)

There will be NO Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market the Friday after Thanksgiving, and we will not attend the Brunswick Winter Market on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Odds and Ends and Hoophouse Plastic!

Firstly, the Midcoast Winter Market starts tomorrow!

We have decided this year that we will stop going to the Brunswick Farmers' Market on FRIDAYS once the Midcoast Winter Market starts - so we will NOT be in Brunswick at all tomorrow. We will still, however, go to the Brunswick Farmers' Market on TUESDAYS up until Thanksgiving. This Saturday is the last Crystal Spring Farmers' Market! The weather is supposed to be all right, so we look forward to seeing you there.

And now that announcements are done...

The plastic is on! On Wednesday morning, we had the crew and several friends pitch in to help us pull two 200-foot-long pieces of plastic of plastic over the new hoophouse that you have seen in pictures I've posted earlier in the fall. Below you can see a before and after.

The before shot is taken from the south and the after from the north. It's a very long hoophouse, so it was hard to get a good shot. Fortunately, cell phones are so advanced these days that I managed to get a panorama shot from the north at the end of the day Wednesday (below). We had nine people total to help get the plastic on, and we got both sheets on within an hour. Then came the time-consuming stuff - tacking the plastic down  on the ends and sides (what Ben is doing at lower left), installing hardware so that we can roll up the sides of the hoophouse for ventilation (what the three tiny figures are doing in the top image) and clean out weeds (yes, already!) and evening out soil (bottom left).

The hoophouse still needs additional hardware (vents, doors, fans, etc.) to be completely finished, but it is finished enough that we will be able to transplant spinach, lettuce, and onions into it tomorrow! Hurrah!

This has been a good week for big projects. Over the weekend, two of the crew came in on Sunday, and the three of us processed a whole bunch of pork from the 2015 pigs - we used the oft-forgotten bits like lard, bones, hocks, and trotters - and made terrine, rillettes, rendered leaf lard, and bone broth. The 2016 pork will be in the freezer and ready for sale next week, so we were trying to clear out some room.

Also, you can make some really delicious things with the odds and ends. Rillettes and terrine are both excellent for spreading on toast with a bit of mustard or pickles, leaf lard will make some excellent pie crust or biscuits, and ham bone broth is the traditional base of the Japanese Ramen dish. Unfortunately, we are not able to sell these kinds of meat products at this time, but we will have odds and ends from the 2016 pigs for sale for you all to experiment with at home. It is definitely worth the effort!

See you at market!

-Ailish

 

Posts in the Ground, Bows in the Air

Ben and Nick put up the first few bows of the new high tunnel this week to test out the building process. Nick also picked up the wood we will use as a baseboard. We need to put the baseboard on before putting up any more bows because the top-heavy bows, loose, may wiggle the ground post around and skew them in the soil. Once the baseboard is attached, the ground posts will effectively be anchored to each other, and the many that are snugly held by the soil will hold the [fairly] few that are not so well anchored from moving.

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We are continuing to chip away at the garlic cleaning around all the other things we have to do. We are making good progress and we expect to have seed garlic for sale at the market in early October. In the meantime, you can check out our seed garlic page for a refresher or to find out more if you are interested in planting some garlic this year!

I'm keeping it short and sweet this week, but I'll see you at market!

-Ailish

Hot and Steamy!

We are melting over here on the farm! The weathermen on the radio keep advising to stay inside in a cool place. Hah!

But some things are worth the heat and the humidity. Like really huge tomatoes! Tomatoes are coming on strong. We now have cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, hybrid slicing tomatoes, and even a few paste tomatoes just starting. We will be bringing seconds tomatoes, that is, tomatoes with blemishes or scars, to market and sell them at a lower price. They're still tasty and wholesome - they're just a little ugly.

We're trying to stay with the times (have you heard of the ugly vegetable movement?) and waste less. Though really, the tomatoes that are too squishy to even come to market we don't waste - we feed them to the pigs. And if the pigs won't eat them, we compost them. Nature is pretty nifty that way. 

We are also benefiting from nature's niftiness in the field we are renting in Bowdoinham. It has top-notch soils for agriculture, which means the particle size and composition of the soil encourage good drainage but also retain moisture well. It has made a huge difference for us in this dry year. We have done what we could to get water over to Bowdoinham, but we worried that we weren't getting enough. We have been relieved to discover that the soil is able to hold onto enough moisture for most of the plants to thrive. You can see above the winter squash, on the left, and the brussels sprouts, potatoes, leeks, and onions on the right, from foreground to background. And below is a preview of what's to come: a sweet dumpling squash (like a delicata in flavor) already the size of a softball. Yum!

See you at market!

-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