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

Greens and Other Goodies

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was so tired and out of my normal routine last Thursday I completely forgot to write a blog post. I wanted to write about our Thanksgiving feasting. Of course, many of our vegetables were featured, but we also gobbled up some delicious turkey from Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham. You can find them at the Brunswick Winter Market at Fort Andross as well. 

Greens, greens, greens! We hope to have a fair amount of greens up until the new year. We are limited by the cold somewhat, as well as the daylength (which means that most plants do not put on any growth between mid-November and mid-February, even if they remain alive). This week we will have sweet and tender kale, chard, spinach, and lettuce mix. 

We are experimenting this year with some fun and funky non-traditional wreaths for all your festive occasions. We will most likely have them only at the Brunswick Winter Market on Saturdays, but you can also find some at Cully's Gullies Christmas Trees just down the road from us if you miss them at the market. Ben will be down with John Cullen at Cully's Gullies selling Christmas trees every weekend in December until Christmas. 

We have made a lot of progress on the new greenhouse this - this is the one that will be heated. The kit got delivered on Monday and it's coming together really well. I'll post some pictures in next week's blog. 

I'll end with a photo from harvest this morning (below). This was after a couple hours of harvesting in the rain, and it felt like a really good sign.

See you at market!

-Ailish

'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

This week marks the first week of the Brunswick Winter Market at Fort Andross/Cabot Mill on Maine St. in Brunswick. We will be there Saturday from 9-12:30. From now until April, we will be at the Midcoast Winter Market in Topsham on Fridays (11-4) and Brunswick on Saturdays.

We will still be out at Brunswick Farmers' Market on the Mall in Brunswick on TUESDAYS until Thanksgiving! 

It has been confusing for us in years previous, as well, so we appreciate everyone's patience as we make the transition from summer to winter markets. Each market is run by a different organization or group of people, so they don't all sync up. But won't it be nice to be inside on Fridays and Saturdays? We are ready.

I think I might have mentioned that we put plastic on a humongous hoophouse last week? Yes, well, we filled it up already. Above you can see the crew planting some spinach, which was so happy to get in the ground. We also planted lettuce and overwintering onions (ready in June-July). Ben direct-seeded a bunch of greens like arugula and mustard. 

It was pretty exciting to get all that planting done, even though the short day-lengths between now and February mean that most of it won't do much growing between now and February. In February, though, we will have greens coming out of our ears! Below you can see the hoophouse all filled up.

The 2016 pork is in, as I believe I mentioned last week as well. Several folks caught and have been buying racks of ribs. We would love to hear how those came out, as we haven't had a chance to try them yet ourselves! 

We have tried the bacon, the country ribs, and several kinds of the sausage. We took the pigs to Herring Brothers Meats up in Guilford this year for slaughter and butchering, and we are really happy with the results! The hot sausage and chorizo have a definite kick, the breakfast sausage is mild and rich, and they cut their bacon thin, so it gets crispy quite quickly! Ben and I also tried the country ribs for dinner on Tuesday, braised in pork broth, and those turned out delectable.

Instead of continuing to tease, I shall now link back to a favorite recipe of ours from last year, for cider-brined pork roast. Brining is absolutely worth the extra effort - the meat gets meltingly tender. You can, however, feel free to substitute fresh cider for the hard stuff. It will make the dish a bit sweeter, but it is just as delicious. 

Yum!

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

 

Whirlwind Week

This is the time of year when people start asking us, "So, are things slowing down on the farm yet?"

Hah. Not by a long shot. Granted this year is a little unusual because we are putting up two big hoophouses. Aside from the hoophouses, however, we still have thousands of pounds of storage vegetables to harvest, wash, and pack, summer vegetables to pull out of the ground and compost, and winter vegetables to seed and transplant. Not to mention markets! 

Speaking of the hoophouses, though, we have made quite a bit of progress on the unheated one, and we think we may be able to cover it with plastic next week. Hurrah! And this week, we had concrete poured for the floor of the other hoophouse (the heated greenhouse). Apologies if the picture is a tad blurry. It is getting dark so much earlier now that I didn't realize how poor the light was!

This week Chef Ali has a yummy recipe using roasted peppers: Roasted Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses & Walnuts! We will still be roasting peppers this weekend, though this may be the last weekend! All the plants died in the frost last week, so we are working off what we harvested then. We will, however, continue to have roasted peppers in our freezer through the winter until we sell out. We will have both sweet and hot options. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Frozen Fingers

Well, no, but that is what it feels like. 

We keep harvesting greens in the winter as long as we can get them without incurring frost damage - if you cut a leaf while it is frozen, the cell walls break; when the cells thaw out, they die. While the temperatures can still rise above freezing (and we use hoophouses and row cover to help with that), however, the plants usually thaw by around noon. 

We are pleased to say we will have salad mix tomorrow, Saturday and with hope, the rest of December! We use a variety of lettuce called Salanova, primarily, to make our salad mix. Unlike baby lettuce, which you sow in a row and cut before the leaves get about 4" tall, Salanova grows to full-sized heads. We cut the heads and then cut the leaves off of the core of lettuce. Salanova has been bred particularly for getting a baby-sized leaf lettuce that has the strength and taste of an adult lettuce. We like it and we hope you do, too!

whatleyfarmparsley

We also hope to have curly parsley and flat parsley until the end of December. We will have the very last of the cilantro on sale tomorrow!

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