Garlic, Peas, and Weekend Farming

In the words of a Hold Steady song, it’s 3am and I’m wide awake.

I have never seen as many stars in the sky as I do right at this moment. Where I grew up you can see them pretty well, and where we vacationed in the summer in central PA you could see them even better, but this is a whole different world. It’s not just a smattering of lights in the sky – it’s a full on blanket. Takes my breath away.

I finally spent my first Saturday on the farm, and as I suspected, I couldn’t help but work a little bit. There’s just so much to be done! And Nate came up for the weekend, so it was really nice to have him around and to have him help out so enthusiastically. He cleaned seeding trays, helped me totally reorganize the greenhouse and seed some butternut squash. Pretty good work for a journalist. Throw in some barbecuing – everything from portabella burgers to salmon to kielbasa – some guitar and little whiskey, and the handful of us that stayed here for the weekend had a pretty great time. Matthew returned from Boston with his dog, Mya, who is beautiful and sweet. And last night we discovered a bird nest right under our porch.

We call her Myooooo because that’s the sound she makes. How cute.


The green house project was a monster task, but I feel like I have a better understanding of what we’re growing and what different seedlings look like now. I tried to stick all our brassicas – our bok choy, kales and arugula together, as well as our other mesclun elements of the same size. I did a similar move with the plants we are hardening off outside, and then kept the cilantro and basil together despite the size differences, because they sort of take different water levels. I may be fooling myself, or I may be starting to get the hang of this. Regardless, the greenhouse looks pretty cool at present.

Here’s the greenhouse before we tackled it.

So much kale!

Basil in three stages.

My sister and mother are out in California right now, so Glenn Wagner has been left to his own devices for a few days. Thankfully, that means he has full credence to roam around and by stuff, which I caught him doing yesterday morning when I called and he was at the store buying me a seed broadcaster. It’s this backpack sort of thing that you strap on and walk around with as it sprays seeds. I shipped a 48 pound bag of oats to our house the other day for the Wagner Farmstead, so either he or I will be doing that sometime soon.

On Friday when Nate arrived we drove Matt to a bus station in Warwick, which took us through Pine Island. Warwick, for those of you with any familiarity with New Jersey, looks a bit like Collingswood. Pine Island is this stretch of land where farmers have full access to the coveted black dirt that we grow our best onions in. As far as the eye can see, there are farms and trailers for workers out in this deep black soil.

The rest of this week was just as eye-opening and challenging as the preceding weeks The rain at the start put us back on planting, but we had plenty else to keep us busy. Casey arrived on the scene and has jumped right into the work. He’s worked on a number of farms before, one very close to Kutztown, so we have plenty of Pennsylvania news to talk about. Chelsea, the saving grace of girl number two, has arrived, and we are both relieved to have each other.

Some of the crew and a visitor eating another amazing Matthew meal.

In the words of many, nom nom nom.

Here’s Mateo dancing.

At the start of the week we buried ourselves in the milk room and the lower barn to sort about a dozen giant boxes of garlic strings. When it comes time to harvest the thousands upon thousands of garlic from out in the fields, we knot them on ropes of varying lengths and hang them everywhere – all through the barn and anywhere else we can fit them. The different rope lengths help space the garlic for drying, but are taking quite a while to sort through.

I got to put some of the skills I learned from my previous job at the Support Center for Child Advocates to good use on Tuesday and Wednesday when Keith asked me to help orchestrate a mail merge for a mass mailing to some of his loyal customers. He likes to send one of Flavia’s postcards to about 450 people announcing our return to the market, but struggles with the process on the computer. Thankfully, I did like four or five of them while I was an assistant, so it was easy as pie. The guys were stoked to have a different, non-farm sort of task on hand and couldn’t understand why I was so unenthused about hanging out inside putting return addresses on postcards. I’m still too close to my previous office life to appreciate this sort of stuff as a diversified task. Give me some mud to roll around in, I say.

As for the garlic in the fields, well, it looks great. After days of hand weeding and wheel hoeing (which I totally love to do), we have saved our crop from the devastation of quack grass, Canadian thistles and dandelions. And as I was helping Matthew drop the walls of the high tunnels last night, which involves lifting and turning these big metal poles, I realized how much stronger I’ve become in a matter of days. Count me impressed, farm life. And appreciative.

But my number one favorite farm job by farm has been to trellis the peas. Matt and I started this last week, but we were derailed by the weather for a bit. On Thursday and Friday Matt, Casey and I knuckled down finally finished our four rows of trellising, and it looks awesome. After a day of having the netting in place, the peas had already started to climb. Keith said they’ll climb taller than I stand, and I am not sure why I am so excited to watch, but I am. Even on Friday afternoon, when I was sunburned and covered in itchy and covered in fiberglass from the poles we forced into the ground and strung with netting, I was excited.

My favorite accomplishment to date – trellising the peas.

Look at them climb!

We are getting ever closer to market – the first one we attend as a farm is next Saturday. Though he’ll probably just be taking the experienced guys for the start, I’m still looking forward to the day I get to try my hand down in Union Square.

-Farmer Liz

Steam rising off the pond in the morning. It’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist out here.


9 thoughts on “Garlic, Peas, and Weekend Farming

  1. This blog is amazing. YOU are amazing. Thank you, Liz, for sharing this journey with us. Btw, I LOVE PEAS!!!

  2. Oh my – that greenhouse is BEAUTIFUL. I am so coveting that setup. The basil in that one shot is making me dream of pesto.

  3. You better hide those baby birds from Matthew or they’ll be your next meal. Did your mom send you the test I sent her?

  4. Dear Liz

    You don’t know how grateful I am to have ran into your blog your ease of words and fantastic eye for pictures has help me stay sane in this long distance crazyness you have no idea how much it helps and how great it is to be able to understand a little better what Matt does and his every day life and to have a visual of his work and efforts and his new family I am very happy he is surrounded by talented happy passionate people like you I cant wait to meet you and hopefully make the cut for a post on your blog 🙂 lol

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