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

Wild and Crazy Weather

Hot. Cold. Sunny. Snowing. It's run the gamut over the past week and it seems as though this weekend will be no different. On Thursday afternoon it was bright and sunny, but in the morning we had periods of snow (see below)! You can also see that we've had days warm enough that we've begun to rut up our gravel road. Mud season is almost upon us. And yet it might be 1F on Saturday night! 

Inside the greenhouse however, temperatures are more stable, and the seeds we started a couple of weeks ago have germinated and are getting growing! You can also see some lines of green near the back of the greenhouse - there are some young mustard greens, lettuce, and arugula in those beds back there. This is part of the reason we set up the greenhouse as we did. We are planning to harvest those greens in the back by the time we need to put tables over those beds and fill them up with seedlings. Then, in July, after the big seedling push is over, we will be able to take the tables away, and we can grow some hot season crops like lemongrass, ginger, or tomatoes in those beds.

The ducks don't mind the snow or cold weather. We moved them onto some new ground on Wednesday, and they were pretty excited. We were pretty excited that we managed to keep the fence upright. Even though it was warm Wednesday, the ground is still frozen about an inch down, so getting the fence in the ground was a real challenge. There's actually a part of the fence you can't see in the picture below that's being propped up by a kayak. 

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The ducks were extra excited to get some gnarly arugula that we are clearing out to make way for new plants. They are very ready for all the green stuff that comes with spring. And so are we.

Speaking of spring, and new things growing, we will be raising meat ducks again this year - please talk to us at market this weekend if you are interested in reserving a bird or two. Currently we are planning on doing about 50 birds in July. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Just a Tease

We hope you got to enjoy the balmy weather last week and this week. It does seem to have been just a tease of things to come. Later. Tonight the low is supposed to be 16F, and tomorrow - 4F! So, winter is still here, reminding us not to jump the gun. 

Still, the warm weather was helpful for getting some work done. We are currently designing and building tables to hold seedlings in our new greenhouse. You can see one below, partially filled with trays of onions! It's a bit of a work in progress, but we are ironing out kinks as we go. And we need to go - we seeded all of our onions this week, leeks will be next week, and it just keeps growing from there!

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The table frames are made from aluminum stock, and the tops are lobster trap wire, which is not only coated in plastic (won't rust!), but the alignment of the wires makes it easy to slide trays across the table without catching their corners. 

Here's a shot of the rosemary and marjoram we started last week. They are underneath a potting table to keep them out of direct sunlight. This allows them to give more energy to growing new roots instead of photosynthesis.

This week we will also have some Japanese Pussy Willow stems for sale - a little midwinter treat. The warm weather sped them along to the right stage to harvest, so they are ready now. They make beautiful dried arrangements, or, if you want them to leaf out, you can keep them in water and they will grow.

Stay warm, and see you at market!

-Ailish

Plugging Right Back In

Hi everyone,

I'm back from vacation. I got to enjoy some unseasonably balmy weather out west, and I brought it back with me. You're welcome. I hope everyone has been enjoying the warm days like we have. It got so hot on Wednesday we were down to T-shirts and tank tops in the greenhouse.

Speaking of the greenhouse, it's coming right along. We started seeds in it just this week! There's still irrigation, tables for seedlings, general organization and storage to do, but we will get there. Below you can see Ben and a friend of ours working on setting up the overhead irrigation system. 

As well as starting seeds, we also started some rosemary and marjoram cuttings propagating in soil. We keep the mother plants in a small hoophouse (see below), where they are able to weather the winter fairly well. We do have to use several layers of row cover (the white cloth on the outside of the beds) to add several layers of protection, which translates into up to 10 degrees of additional heat retention. The rosemary is on the right and the marjoram is on the left. The marjoram is going on two years old for most plants, and most of the rosemary is actually three years old! In between the herbs are some onions that may or may not thrive. Some mice discovered them in the early winter... quite a few of them have recovered, but not all.

Besides marjoram and rosemary, we also propagate and sell sage, thyme, tarragon, spearmint, and peppermint seedlings. Because the marjoram and rosemary are so protected, it's possible to start propagating them now.

To propagate the herbs, we cut fresh, green stems, strip the leaves off, and slip them into well-watered plugs. It's key that they stay almost damp and out of direct sunlight until the plants recover from being cut and start to put out new roots. Usually that takes about 4 weeks or so. When the newly grown roots have just reached the bottom of the plug, we pop the plugs out and grow them on in 4 inch pots, which we have for sale at market in the late spring and early summer.

Speaking of market, we will see you at market this weekend!

-Ailish

Groundhog Day

Apparently we are going to get six more weeks of winter. This might send some down a despondent train of thought, but it okay with us. We don't mind having some extra time for planning and preparation before the 2017 season really gets going.

We will start seeding onions the last week of February, and we have no small amount of prep work to do in the greenhouse before we are ready to start plants in it. The new heater arrived yesterday, which is fantastic, and we have also started buying materials to built strong, water resistant tables to hold trays and trays of plants. 

But enough about winter - the Superbowl is this weekend! We would like to remind everyone that we have a 10% off $50 or more of pork deal going on right now! Pork chops for everyone, ham steak sandwiches, pulled pork tacos - all swell, savory Superbowl snacks! (I really tried for that alliteration).

Another potentially swell, savory snack I would recommend is some roasted garlic dip - and we are going to have garlic on sale this week as well - a pint for $7! This is in part due to my screw up, I must admit. I accidentally spilled and mixed up about 50 pounds of garlic bulbs, so the pints are a mix of four of our varieties of garlic - from the mildest (Inchelium Red) to the hottest (Georgian Fire). Please profit from my mistake!

See you at market!

-Ailish

January Thaw

Storage vegetables, as you might guess, are kept in storage, from the time they are harvested (usually October, for us) to the time they are sold and eaten. For us, storage is three separate rooms in the barn; each room is insulated, one room is kept cool and humid (for most veggies, like cabbage, kohlrabi, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, etc.), one is kept cool and dry (for garlic, shallots, and onions), and the other is kept warm and dry (for squash and sweet potatoes). 

The goal is to keep the vegetables in a dormant state - different veggies have different requirements to stay dormant, as you can see from above. When we started out, we lumped a lot more things together because of space limitations, and we had a lot more rotting and a lot more vegetables sprout in storage. 

Having the three separate storage rooms this year has really helped maintain the quality of the storage veggies. Even with the better storage, however, we clean and trim the storage veggies weekly before market to make sure that they are fresh and looking their best. For example, when we harvest storage cabbage, we leave the outer leaves on to try to keep the most moisture we can in the cabbage. Then, before market, we peel off the slightly dehydrated outer leaves to reveal the fresh cabbage inside and trim off any excess stem. See below for a before (left) and after (right) example. 

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We continue to make progress on getting the new greenhouse ready for the 2017 growing season. This week's project has been getting the electric wiring and panel set up. Our electrician, Russ Tremblay, did most of the technical work, but we got to help out - we pushed (while Russ' machine pulled), nearly this entire spool of electrical cable (below) down a pipe from the barn to the new greenhouse! It probably would not have been possible to do that if the temperatures had not been in the 40s, so we did luck out with this little January thaw.

We will have some greens at market this weekend, but limited quantities since last weekend was so cold!

See you at market,

-Ailish

New Year, New Growth

Get your greens while they're thawed! This past week was fairly warm, which is great for the greens - we actually saw some growth over the past few weeks, and there was a good percentage of greens without frost damage, which is always the goal. Yay! We will have spinach, lettuce mix, and a limited amount of baby mustard greens at market this weekend. First come, first serve!

This meal came courtesy of Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market - the greens and potatoes are from us, the rabbit from Lipovsky Gardens, and (not pictured) we had some toast from the Farmer's Daughter and a slice of cake from Paula C's. I must, however, admit that the wine and the cream that the rabbit was cooked in came via Morning Glory, but we find it fun and challenging to make meals from what we get at market.

We are now entering the office phase of farming. That phase doesn't get much attention, but it does make the outdoor phase possible. We are reviewing everything that we did in 2016 and making field, and crop, and greenhouse plans for 2017. Soon we will need to order our seeds and supplies so we can get a start on the upcoming season - we will start seedlings in the greenhouse in late February!

Ben is showing off some nachos made with pulled pork and greens and tomatillo salsa from us, beans from Fairwinds Farm, and organic nacho chips. Tomorrow, January 6, is National Bean Day! We highly recommend that you eat your beans! (Especially with some smoked ham hocks or pulled pork.)

See you at market!

-Ailish

 

Holiday Hustle

We got a lot of things done this week! On Wednesday morning, we covered the new greenhouse with plastic (see photo below - the new greenhouseis on the right). That effort took the whole crew plus a few helpers for a total of eight people to get the plastic on. Each piece of plastic gets six ropes tied to it (around a tennis ball, to try to avoid tearing the plastic). We then tie something small but heavy - in this case, boots! - to each rope and throw it over the greenhouse so that each rope goes over the whole hoop structure.

Once all six are over, we have one person pulling on each rope, and one person at each end of the greenhouse making sure the plastic doesn't catch on any pipes or bolts. By pulling firmly but gently, we can get a piece of plastic over the hoop structure in just a fewminutes. You can imagine how any amount of wind would make this challenging. We were lucky on Wednesday and it was very still.

Of course, each of these big houses has two pieces of plastic. The reason for that is that we will install a blower that will inflate the area between the two pieces, which creates an insulating envelope of air that helps prevent heat loss in the greenhouse.

After putting on the plastic, we use wiggle wire to fasten the plastic to the ends and sides of the greenhouse. Wiggle wire is a great and sometimes frustrating invention - the wire is crimped into a squared off zigzag, which snaps snugly into metal channel that can be screwed onto whatever surface necessary. We actually thought the fastening and finishing would take until sometime Thursday afternoon but we managed to get it done Wednesday!

After that we even had time to get some harvesting done for the weekend markets. We will be at both the Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market Friday 12/23 from 11-4 and the Brunswick Winter Market 12/24 from 9-12:30. Happy Holidays if we don't see you!

Cheers,
Ailish