Flying Colors

Spring is quickly flowing into summer. We have been busier than we can think about; our to-do lists are multiple pages long. Fortunately, we have a new employee starting next week, and we have some likely prospects for more help in the near future as well.

In the meantime, we and the crew are doing the best we can to stay on top of everything and bring you fresh, tasty produce every week. This week, aside from harvesting and transplanting, we have spent a lot of time pruning and trellising tomatoes. The reason we do it is to channel the plants' energy into producing more fruit faster. How we do it is: we cut off "suckers," which are the stems that grow in the little crotch about every non-fruiting branch, and leave only the main stem, which we call a leader. 

Each of those suckers can grow into a main stem, which is a lot of extra leaf matter drawing energy away from the fruit on the leader. When we prune the suckers off, we force the plant to direct its energy into the leader and into the fruits already growing on it. And yes! We have fruit already! Here are some golf-ball sized heirlooms (that will grow to be bigger than baseballs):

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Edible flowers are starting up again this week. We are easing in with violets and pansies, and we will soon have marigolds, calendula, bachelor's buttons, and more! Sprinkle them on salads, decorate cakes and cupcakes, even infuse some vodka (I am trying out some violet-infused vodka right now!). 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Enter the Summer

That is how it has felt lately! It was 85 degrees after lunch on Thursday. It is pretty rough weather on the young seedlings in the ground, and we are doing all we can to keep them happy and healthy. That often means making some choices; we have to prioritize our long season crops like tomatoes and onions over ones that we plant on a recurring basis, like kale and lettuce. And we try to do all this while bringing our best selection to market. It was a busy week!

The ducks are growing larger by the day, and the pigs too, although they are not quite as fast as the ducks. The yellow ducks in the photo are the Pekin ducks (for meat) and the brown ones are the Golden 300s (for eggs). They look a bit scruffy now as they're at the stage where they trade their baby fluff for adult feathers. Some of them are quacking already!

We will have seedlings galore this weekend, as well as greens, herbs, duck eggs and pork - try grilling some pork chops and ham steaks this Memorial Day weekend!

See you at market!

-Ailish

Warm, Sunny Weather, We Don't Mind It

It has given us plenty of opportunity to start developing a tan, that's for sure. We have also had time to prepare beds for transplanting, transplant, and put up the deer fence! You can see Ben fixing up the solar charger below, while Cassie, in the background, winds out the fence wire. 

As some of you might rightly imagine, four thin strands of fiberglass and metal do not actually keep deer out of the vegetable fields. Actually, our neighbors saw deer basically limbo-ing their way through the fence last year, never mind trying to jump it! Therefore, this year we are setting four strands, 15" apart, on each fence. Then, we use the solar charger and battery to get the fence to a minimum of 6000 volts.

If you've worked with electric fencing, you know that this is not actually a very high charge (in fact I have been shocked at this voltage many times - it stings, but it doesn't linger), but the real key to the electric fence is psychological. As soon as we get the fence set up in the spring, we bait it (see below). Getting 6000 volts straight to the tongue is quite memorable, and with hope convinces the deer that the white string should not be crossed or even touched, no matter how much lettuce is on the other side. 

And, of course, about the DUCKLINGS...they are getting huge. They are already more than twice the size they were last week when we got them. They are also constantly on the move (it was hard to get a picture without a blurry duckling:

No recipe this week, we're afraid, but we will be back with one next week - I have a pork belly brining in the cooler as I write this!

New at market this week we will have some green garlic, rhubarb, and our first asparagus from the patch we planted three years ago! Limited quantities at the moment so show up early!

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

Weather or Not

My grandmother likes to say, Well, we'll have weather whether or not, won't we? She's right, of course, and this was a good week to prove it!

First, the cold and even a bit of snow - we were worried about our garlic, because it is about four inches high already! Fortunately, there seems to have been only minor frost damage. 

Also, by Tuesday morning, we had filled all available table space in the greenhouse with seedlings, and we still had more tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to pot up. We had to make a sacrifice. We decided to give up on some of the early greens in the unheated high tunnel next to the greenhouse. We covered them with landscape fabric and laid pallets down on top of that. Then we moved all of our onions and some of this weeks transplants (spinach and lettuce) on the pallets, and covered them with what is known as a "low tunnel". That is basically a small hoop structure (about three feet high) covered with plastic. Then we ran an extension cord to a space heater inside the low tunnel, and, presto! A mini greenhouse inside a high tunnel!

We will again have a SUPER SPINACH SALE this weekend at the Topsham and Brunswick markets! For those of you who are cooking for several people or who, like us, just like to eat a lot of spinach, we will be selling some one-pound bulk bags of spinach for $12/pound!

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