Late Winter

Well. Below you can see a triptych time-sequence of the new hoophouse and greenhouse, from top to bottom: Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning. That was quite a storm! The gothic (pointed gable) structure of these new, large structures, sheds snow fairly effectively. You can see in the bottom image that most of the snow has slid off the roof and piled up at the sides. 

We do, however, have some smaller hoophouses in the back field that cannot support snow loads, and we have had to clean them off during and after storms before. Fortunately, on Monday afternoon, we figured out how to get the plastic off of them while one side (the shady side) was still frozen to the ground. Huzzah! So we saved ourselves many hours of shoveling and brushing off snow.  

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Despite the weather, things are growing in the greenhouse! The herbs that we started propagating a couple of weeks ago have already rooted, for the most part. Once they have put out roots, we can take them out from under the table and let them have a little more light. More light will encourage them to grow new leaves, now that they have roots and can draw nutrients and water from the soil. 

Our first round of spinach of 2017 is just about ready to be transplanted. It will be going in the second bed from the left in the photo below. The third bed from the left you can see is covered in landscaped fabric. We cut the mustard greens that were in that bed several times for market until they were getting a little tired. We then cut the remainder and fed them to the ducks (who were delighted to get greens at this time of year!). After that we covered the bed with landscape fabric and lightly watered it - this is a method of no-till weeding and bed renovation made popular by a Canadian farmer named Jean-Martin Fortier.  

In occultation, what you want to happen is this: the landscape fabric and watering warm and moisten the soil, which encourages the decomposition of the mustard green stems and roots, and which encourages weed seeds to germinate; the mustard greens continue to decay, and the weed seeds germinate, but because there is no light, they die and decay as well; then you can remove the landscape fabric and transplant directly into the bed. No rototilling, no forking, no weeding. Theoretically. We'll let you know how it goes!

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 Away

Ben has been holding down the fort this week, as I have been getting through and over a massive head cold. One of our employees also got the cold, so we really have been short-handed this week. Ben has been getting some stuff done around the barn - he and Nick have been modifying the wash station so it's easier to use - and he has done all the harvest and washing and packing. Three cheers for Ben!

I haven't been completely idle, though. Our goal was to get our seed order in this week before Ben goes on his vacation next week and I go on my vacation the week after he gets back. We have been cranking away, updating our spreadsheets with this years' dates, how much we want to grow of what, and which varieties we want to grow.

It's time-consuming, and makes my eyes swim a bit, but having these spreadsheets completed and the seed order in will set us up for a much easier season than if we were making these decisions every time we planted something! It also makes it a lot easier for us to delegate seeding tasks, for example, to our employees. Really, these spreadsheets keepthe farm running smoothly.

Ben will be at market tomorrow - stop by and wish him a fun vacation! And I will be at market Saturday.

See you then!

-Ailish

Sun and Snow

This week saw some more snow, but, for us, not an unmanageable or overwhelming amount. We got a little over an inch, and it wasn't too wet or heavy. The ducks, as you can see below, were quite happy to have the fresh snow and bask in the sun today.

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We have had some time this week to do some cleaning up and rearranging in the barn. We are evaluating how we use the space we need for our vegetable washing, packing, and storage, as well as duck egg washing and packing, and supply storage. As different enterprises grow or change seasonally, we often see ways in which we could improve the layout and flow of how we are currently doing things in the barn. 

We also have a chance to just plain old clean up things that got away from us in the fall. You can see Sophie below trying to put away some chains that were out in the yard from a delivery in the fall. (They were a little heavy and unruly. In the end we split the load.) We use chains like this for securing pallets and even the tractor to a big trailer we use, mostly to ferry things between our field in Bowdoinham and the home farm in Topsham. 

This week we are going to have more sweet winter greens, but again, they will go quickly! We will also be having a sale on smoked ham steaks - $1/lb off, making them $9.95/lb. Ham steaks are quick to thaw and quick to cook, and we really like the brine and smokiness of these steaks cut by the butchers at Herring Brothers Meats. Our ham steaks will also be featured in a sandwich tomorrow from the Market Cafe at Midcoast Winter Market tomorrow (Friday, at the Topsham Fairgrounds).

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

 

Snow, Snow, Snow

It may not officially be winter yet by the calendar, but it sure feels as if it is! We don't have too much left in the ground, but we do have some leeks (below). We realized that even on a warm day, the soil around them wouldn't thaw enough for us harvest them because it was insulated by 5-6 inches of snow! We cleared snow away as best we could in hopes that the sun would be able to warm the exposed soil right next to the leeks and allow some thawing. Of course, then we saw that the forecast is for 5-8 inches of snow and sleet Saturday...we are now hoping that the rain on Sunday will do some thawing work for us. 

We are plugging away at the new greenhouse. We are almost finished with the polycarbonate endwalls (see below), which means that we should be able to cover the house in plastic next week, if we have favorable weather.

I can't deny that working outside today was definitely a challenge, however. The ladder is crooked in the picture above because the wind kept blowing it over if someone wasn't holding it steady. 

It is supposed to be even more frigid and windy tomorrow, but it will still probably be easier and safer to get to the market tomorrow rather than Saturday. We will be there Saturday and hope to see folks there as well, but please be safe!

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

Back to Winter

I am back from sunny Arizona and Ben is about to head out on his vacation. It is really nice to have a mental break this time of year, especially from the planning, which requires so much brain power. Still, it is great to be back in Maine... I even missed the cold, at one point! I went for an invigorating walk in the snow as soon as I got home, and I was inspired to take a picture of the sunset over our market truck (below).

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We are promoting a great special on pork starting this week:

Buy a mixed box of organic pork cuts and get over $250 worth of pork  for just $200 (over 20% off). Sample box includes:
1 Fresh Ham Roast
1 Fresh Ham Steak
2 Pork Chops
1 Shoulder Roast
1 pack loose Breakfast Sausage
1 pound Ground Pork
1 rack Spare Ribs
1 Loin Roast
*Please contact us for more details or to place your order*

Our weekly recipe can be found here - and we will bring copies to market as well!

I'm excited to be back at the markets tomorrow and Saturday.
See you there!

-Ailish

February Thaw

I hope everyone has had a chance to enjoy some of this balmy weather. We have been able to uncover the spinach and, with hope, give that a nice boost for harvesting some time around the end of February. 

The weather also allowed Ben to clear some chickweed out of the greenhouse. Our dog Meli thought this was an excellent new game, as you can see below.

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The barn cats have been out and about this week as well. Usually all we see of them is tracks in the snow and disappearing cat food. Below is a Where's Waldo of the barn cats. Here's a hint: there are two in the photo, one black and one white.

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I have spent some time this week working on the website. I updated information about our different products and moved some menus and pages around. If you have any feedback about the changes or ideas for improvements, please let me know!

We unveiled some new signs at the Brunswick Winter Market last week. We found we were having a hard time getting the word out about our pork and our frozen roasted peppers. They are in coolers, so they don't catch your eye the way the veggies do. Here's a picture of the new display:

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You can find our weekly recipe here: whatleyfarm.com/recipes!

I am going to be in Arizona until next Thursday, but I will be sending you all sunny thoughts. Ben will see you at market this weekend!

-Ailish