Herbology 101: Meagan’s Herb Popsicles for Crooked Recipes

Hello, All!

Farm Update: Things are great! The tomatoes as setting fruit, I found some itty bitty squashes under some plants, we are tackling the weeds one row at a time. Lettuces are phasing out and the beans are slowly taking hold. People are really digging the teas, and I’m spending my tiny amounts of down time with some pretty awesome growers and friends. Life is beautiful.

And having friends who want to write blog posts for you is probably, like, the coolest thing ever. We have a couple in the queue for ya, but here’s Meagan and these freaking amazing popsicles she’s been making with our herbs!

I spent a good part of the winter lying around Meagan's apartment looking through her box of recipes. Seeing these make me giddy.

Liz Note: I spent a good part of the winter lying around Meagan’s apartment looking through her box of recipes. Seeing these make me giddy.

I love Saturdays. Before, Saturdays were the day I wanted my mind to turn off and I wanted nothing more than to sit and do. absolutely. nothing.

Now, I look forward to enriching my Saturdays. Today, I got up, went to the gym, then headed to the farmers’ market in East falls to spend time with Liz and the lovely Nancy from McCann’s farm and enjoy coconut+black sesame pops while I got to chit chat with people about new and interesting flavor and food pairings. It made me all the more excited to share this recipe with you.

Not to mention we’re now officially in summer and we need any and all excuses to have popsicles!

The recipes I have today can be done one of two ways. The variation with blueberries is absolutely heavenly. I was greatly inspired by a non­vegan recipe for blueberry hyssop ice cream at Crumb Blog (http://www.crumbblog.com/2010/08/i­scream­you­scream­blueberry­hyssop.html). You could easily make this into a very vegan ice cream by letting the “custard” cool completely, then following the instructions for your ice cream maker. You may need to fiddle with the recipe, as I haven’t tried it that way yet­­, but I definitely plan to!

Before we get to the recipe, though, let’s talk about hyssop anise.

It’s possibly one of the most beautiful perennial herbs. Hyssop anise is neither hyssop nor anise, and is in fact part of the genus Agastache­­ or, rather, mint. It does taste like a combination of mint and anise, which is amazing and intriguing. It’s tall (3­-4 ft), has a square stalk with large mint­-like leaves and stunning blue/­purple flowers that shoot right up to the sky. The herb itself is actually a native wildflower and its cultivation GREATLY benefits honey bees! Beekeepers have been planting hyssop anise near hives since the mid­-19th century once they noticed their bees flocking to the flowers in the wild. Hummingbirds love it, as well as butterflies.

And I’m sure you’ll love it, too!

If ya'll ain't following @asteraligator on the Gram, you should be.

If ya’ll ain’t following @asteraligator on the Gram, you should be.

Hyssop Anise­ Lemon Pops

3-­4 handfuls of hyssop anise leaves (about one bunch)
Lemon zest (1­-2 lemons, depending on size and depending on your taste for lemon)
Juice of 1­-2 lemons (again, depending on taste. I like meyer lemons for this, but it’s not necessary)
1 14oz can full fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar (I used turbinado, but you don’t have to)
1 ⅓ cup water
Variation: ⅔ cup blueberries

1) In a small sauce pan bring sugar, water and leaves and bring to a low boil until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. You don’t want the leaves to get burned in the process, so keep the heat low.
2) Once sugar is dissolved and the liquid begins to smell strongly of hyssop anise, remove from heat and strain into a bowl of to the side. add lemon juice.
3) remove ⅓ of the liquid from your can of coconut milk, mix with corn starch and put the rest of the can in your saucepan over a low heat. Once it starts to get warm (not boiling), add the hyssop lemon juice mixture, stir well.
4) Add lemon zest (and blueberries if you’re going to add them). Stir.
5) Then the reserved coconut milk/corn starch to what’s in the saucepan and stir continuously until it starts to thicken. It will get REALLY thick. Don’t worry! If you start to get clumps of gelatinous goop, turn up the heat ever­so­slightly and stir until they’re gone
6) Remove from heat and continue stirring for a few minutes. Pour into your molds. Add your sticks or mold toppers and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Additionally, I think this herb would go great with mullberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots and plums! Feel free to try new combinations and let me know how it works out!

Thanks, Meagan!

Next up: Our friend Adam shares a garlic scape kimchi! Stay tuuuuuned.

Crooked Recipes – Meagan Schools Us Through Our Fear of Sorrel

Hello! If you missed it, we kicked off the recipe page of this lovely little blog last week with some delicious Komatsuna and Salmon from our darling friend and CSA member Sarah Merusi.

This week, animal-whisperer, beloved market regular and vegan chef extraordinaire Meagan Maxwell teaches you to love sorrel, one of the less common greens we grow over here on Crooked Row. Enjoy! She is amazing, and so are you.

Hello, everyone! Meg here, and I’m so glad to be writing for Liz! This is such an amazing opportunity to share recipes with you, and also for me to push myself to try new recipes, ways of cooking, and ingredients!

This weekend marked the first farmers markets of the season in Philly. What a great weekend it was, too! The sun was shining, everyone was out celebrating spring!

Now, if you were out, you probably picked up some fresh, spring herbs. Some of these herbs you may recognize, some you may not. One that many people seem to be stuck on is sorrel. I remember last year sitting with Liz and people asking two questions over and over:

  1. What does it taste like?
  2. What do you do with it? or, How do you cook with it?

I can answer both of these questions for you right now. But first, let’s talk about sorrel for a bit. Sorrel is a flat-leafed, fragrant herb that is also called dock. Its leaves are a beautiful color of pure green, sometimes with red veins, and a bit arrow-shaped. It’s not to be confused with Caribbean or West African sorrel, which is actually hibiscus buds that have been dried that you can use to make a delicious, cooling drink from!

sorrel pesto

So, what does it taste like?

Green sorrel, which is what Liz serves up at market, is delicious. It’s a bit citrusy, and it’s used all over the world in traditional foods like spanakopita and potato dishes. It has a very distinct flavor, and it is almost surprising at first!

What do you do with it?

Many traditional methods of consuming sorrel are in a preserved form (such as in olive oil), served on top of something. It’s also cooked into stews, steamed, or mixed in with salad greens.

Today, we will be talking about a new take on an old favorite: Pesto.

Pesto is really just a reference to anything muddled, traditionally pounded in a mortar and pestle. While we may be most familiar with pesto made with basil, pine nuts and parmesan, variations can be quite extensive! Our version today is going to be vegan, and will use easily found ingredients, and quite affordable (have you seen the price of pine nuts!?).

So, how do you cook it? Here’s one way:

Sorrel Pesto


1 bunch sorrel (about a cup), chopped if you’re using a mortar and pestle
⅓ or less (depending on taste) cup pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, plain dried unsalted
2-3 cloves garlic, skins on
⅓ or so cup olive oil
salt to taste

You’ll also need a non-teflon skillet that you can put on high heat and a mortar and pestle or a food processor

  1. Wash and dry the sorrel before using, chop if you’re using a pestle to make things go faster. Place your best non stick pan or skillet over a medium-high or high heat and wait for it to get nice and hot
  2. Place the pepitas in the skillet with no oil keep them in there, constantly stirring them around, until they’re toasted a little bit. You don’t want them to be toasted until their black, just until they’re browned. A little black is fine, just don’t char them!
  3. Put the sorrel and pepitas in whatever you’re using to make the pesto, then put the garlic in the pan, still with no oil. Place the cloves in and every minute or two, turn them to a new side. You’ll want to keep doing this until the skins all turn mostly black. Don’t worry if the garlic isn’t a paste consistency! This is just to mellow out the pungent flavor and bring out the great flavors in the garlic! When it’s all mostly black, remove from heat and wait for the clove to cool a bit before removing skins and tossing them in with the sorrel. I like this way of roasting garlic because it lets me control how much I make and I don’t have to slather a whole clove in oil or turn my oven on!
  4. Now, the fun part, muddle the ingredients with some olive oil and salt. You’ll want to grind them all nice and well, adding the oil a little bit at a time. If it’s less, fine, more that’s fine too! Just get it to a consistency you like. In the food processor, this will take a few pulses, and it will be a few minutes with the pestle. Don’t forget to season with salt to your liking!

That’s it! It seems like a lot, but it’s not and it’s sure to impress not only your friends and family, but you’ll be turning to it all season long! If you have any leftovers, you can put them in a glass jar with a bit of olive oil on top for about a week, or freeze it. It goes great on pasta, french bread, or anything else you can think of!

Let me know how you like it. You can feel free to customize this to your liking, but this is a ratio that works well for me.


Full-Time Farmer, Part-Time Writer

FIRST – Some exciting news! My dearest Sarah Merusi is debuting our Recipe Page with her amazing meal from last week’s CSA bag. Mmmmmmmm. Read and relish, compadres. She’s amazing.

Glam shot of Komatsuna, Green Garlic, and Potatoes.

Glam shot of Komatsuna, Green Garlic, and Potatoes.

Now! Onward, forward.

“We were working part time all the time
We were banking on the kindness of strangers and loved ones
And those that fall between
To give us everything we need
Because we need everything.”
The Henry Clay People

I’ve found myself antheming this song pretty hard over the last few years.

Trying to balance Crooked Row overhead led me into the part-time job lifestyle since the beginning. In 2013 I wandered into a dairy and a health food store to try to sort out my finances and fill out my days. Both jobs were a lot of fun and wild learning experiences in their own rights – I learned about animals, people and the state of this county in the waves of the alternative health movement. I ended up with a handful of bottle feeder kittens and a library of herbal knowledge. I’m not afraid of big animals and I can hold my own with any stranger in conversation. I will forever value all of these skills.

But I’ve also been in a state of perpetual scramble since then as well. Scrambling for time, for energy, and for a life outside these jobs. And, in this juggling act, more often than not my friends and the farm were the balls that fell first.

Finally, in Season Three (eat your heart out, Game of Thrones), I think I’m finding the balance. Last week marked the end of my time at Health Habits, and for the first time I can say that I’m actually a full-time farmer.

It’s a little scary. Even though the part-time cash flow wasn’t necessary, it was still my thread on a world where I wasn’t solely responsible. I could be a worker bee and do what was asked of me without the anxiety of sales numbers.

It’s more psychological than anything, but now I’m actually flying without a safety net.


Thanks to my CSAer Joe Scrizzi for this beautiful chalkboard! Can’t wait to use it at market.

Thankfully, I’ve got mad support from all sides.

The beautiful part of all this falls in the opening windows. From the expanding tea enterprise to a doubling in CSA shares (again! AGAIN!), the opportunities flowing around me are just breathtaking. Of course, I’m nervous about keeping up. Of course, I’ll probably still bail on some nights at the bar or shows in the park because I am beat from market or really, really need to weed the carrots. But I’m doing it for real now.


Ain’t no party like a farm market party.


And, sooner or later, it’s all going to level out. It’s actually already starting. I’m writing, I’m reading, I may even get a run in before the sun goes down tonight. I’m planning and building and meeting some beautiful people who have amazing conversations and energy and want to document farms in Central America and travel speak passionately and camp in fields at night.

Life is beautiful.

Life is beautiful.

Whoever told you that you can’t have it all lied. You just have to change some of your perspectives on what “all” means and open your mind. Maybe your timeline, too. But life is so much easier when you’re moving in this flow.

Thanks for tagging along on this adventure.

Peas, kale and love coming soon to a farm stand near you.


Rain Dances, Sister Love and Chicken Capers



Okay, nobody panic.

It’s dry. Dry, dry, dry. And our driveway kicks up a dust storm whenever you drive up it. But the vegetables are okay.



The transplants are ready for market. The plants in the field are growly slowly but surely. After two years of dragging my feet, we set up irrigation in the field. And not a moment too soon. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, right? Do some dances for us.


Our little hydrant runs through the woods and out to the field.irrigation

We roll the main line back and forth so one half of the field is irrigated at a time. We haven’t had to try to stretch across the hedgerow to the plantings on the other side…not yet.

Even Willow Haven’s alfalfa – where our chickens live – is beautiful. It’s surprising how resilient these plants can be in this sort-of desert climate.


Lucia, the awesome Willow Haven intern, pauses to admire the view.

In other news, our farm pups are growing by leaps and bounds. Well, Chase is. Arya is pretty full grown at like a third of his size. Jess can barely lift him!

chase bobcat

He thinks he’s the Navigator. Silly puppy.

jess and chase

Speaking of Jess, a Wagner is back in South Philly and all is right in the Universe.

We ran Broad Street the weekend she moved in, and I even managed to keep up with her for the first five miles! I even got to hitch a ride to the starting line with her Students Run Philly Style Team, and I was so proud to be the big sister while she handed out Gatorade and rallied her kids.

broad street

How Liz Got Her Groove Back.

Broad Street is ten miles of the happiest, most community-centric city event I’ve had the honor to attend, and the montage of my Philly life played out I moved South, the way it does every time. We start where I went to college, we run through my migration to the South. And the friends and neighbors and amazing water station volunteers are truly incredible.

Jess, her darling Jon and I run our first trio race together since like 2012.

Jess, her darling Jon and I run our first trio race together since like 2012.

I haven’t been able to run a race with Jess in a few years. Having her back on our Coast is delightful, and she’s up to amazing things. She is mentoring teens through a couple of running programs in the city and launching her first batch of motivational running apparel – totally made in PA. She’s so cool. A percentage of proceeds will go to the programs she helps with, so once she has product, get ready to represent! Follow her blog at Run Life Co. for her journey.


Can’t keep those Wagner Warrior Women down.

But back to the farm. Today my mom, aunt and I are putting up our deer fence, seeding greens and weeding everything. I’ll be getting my signs cleaned up and my tent out for MARKET! WHICH STARTS IN TWO WEEKS! AH!

I’m excited, if you couldn’t tell.

I’ve been drying herbs like mad, getting ready for teas and spices. The dehydrator smells amazing.

The anise hyssop shot up immediately once mom cleared away the leaves, and we've dried a few batches already

The anise hyssop shot up immediately once mom cleared away the leaves, and we’ve dried a few batches

And the chickens have been keeping us on our toes. The egg count is incredible, and I’m looking forward to sharing these incredible, almost-orange eggs with you this season.

I have promised a more in-depth article about the price of great eggs, and I stand by that promise. Stay tuned. Last night I was looking at our estimated costs and returns spreadsheets, and seeing how much we’ll make (and that’s with NO labor costs), makes me stand by my pricing.


Trust me when I say these eggs are worth every penny – our chickens are moved to a new section of the alfalfa fields each week, and they live in a camper and get to roam within their portable fence as they please. We’ve had a run in with a predator – a weasel? A bird? We’re still trying to determine this – and it’s pegged some of our girls over the last couple weeks. But we’re trying to be vigilant and take care of this pest problem before it gets out of hand.

Happy Camper Chickens, or "It's moooooving day!" Secret of Nimh, anyone?

Happy Camper Chickens, or “It’s moooooving day!” Secret of Nimh, anyone?

I have an egg share in the works – contact me at liz.m.wagner@gmail.com for details. Or if you’d just like eggs now, these are $5/dozen (which is the going price for these caliber eggs in a market setting). Let me know if you want some and I’ll get them to you.

In other news, so many of my friends and I are in this crazy cosmic upswing where all our projects and dreams and goals are manifesting around us. It would be so much more surprising if last year hadn’t been what it was.


The world is out there for you. You just need to start reaching for it.

Your May 1 Update: School Projects and Planting Progress!

I’ve been busy watching the magnolia in the front yard bloom and the peas in the field shoot up and the puppies chomp on each other all day and not writing for this blog.

Here they paused from the chomping to nap.

Here they paused from the chomping to nap.

But I’m sure you can understand why, yes?

Pennsylvania in the spring is truly one of the most remarkable and beautiful places to be. If you’re in the country, you see rolling hills turn green and the tree buds burst and flower wherever you are. If you’re in Philly, you’re surrounded by tulips and secret spring bulbs and so many cherry blossoms.

That West Philly love is strong right now.

That West Philly love is strong right now.

I highly recommend taking the time for both scenes.

Little house is just the prettiest spring cottage.

Little house is just the prettiest spring cottage.

We could use some rain, but otherwise the world of Crooked Row is bustling and strong as ever. I finally changed the fictitious name to Crooked Row Farm, by the way, so stay tuned for that Facebook switch (which has truly been the most complicated switch of this whole process).

This is a little game we like to play called "Alien or Potato?"

This is a little game we like to play called “Alien or Potato?”

The flea beetles woke up and immediately started nibbling the Chinese cabbages, so my cute little field is sheeted with row cover again. But the potatoes and all the onions are in! Which feels stellar.

Mountain Rose!

Mountain Rose!

onion sets

Sets are the easily part – soon we’ll post pics of the thousands of onions we started from seeds. Woof.

potato row

The greenhouse is already on maximum capacity, leading me to believe that I’ll be putting up that second 45-feet of hoops and plastic before this season is out. More room for the perennial medicinal herbs that need to live somewhat inside over winter! Huzzah!

And yesterday I took a day off from the field for this summer’s big Philly project – an urban garden with the fifth grade classes at Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School.


This morning’s adventure begins. And yeah, see that truck cap? That means adventure! When are we going camping?


The fifth grade boys were more than happy to move dirt around and play with worms.

tomato projects


Mechele, an old compatriot from the East Pleasant and Chew market last summer, is the school’s art teacher, and we started scheming for an outdoor garden space a couple months back. With some donated pallets from an area company and some Crooked Row and Willow Haven starts and some compost from the Fairmount Park recycling center, we took off today.

The fifth grade boys set up the first of that pallet gardens – taking time to get super excited about worms and to tell me their favorite vegetables, of course – and the fifth grade girls planted kales, chards, lettuces and spinach and potted up tomatoes for the later garden beds.

fifthgrade symmetry

Fifth graders don’t really dig on garden symmetry. But we let them have their planting 🙂

garden start

The before and after pictures of this project are going to be awesome.

It was really incredible to watch these kids in action. I don’t spend much time with youngsters, and these kids were eager to help out, excited to be outside and eager to learn what else we would be growing and doing in the space. It was a more positive response than I could have hoped for, and Mechele and I were beaming when the last of the girls headed out.

fifth grade girls

We have some more beds to put in, some fencing to coordinate and a whole lot of green vertical pallet walls to plant and mount – oh, and more dirt to get, like, always – but we are onto something really cool out in the Southwest. More pictures to come as this project grows!

Until then, grab your Local Food Guide and get ready for some good eats!

local food guide

PS – The Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley Food Guides are out! Grab yours today.

crooked row listing

Chicken Adventures and The Start of Harvest

Sorrel picking

And so it begins!

Sure, my first big harvest was a mere pound of baby sorrel for the area farm to table, Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn, but standing out in the field with the harvest bin and a pair of snips made me feel the way walking past the track in high school used to. Excited, expectant. Ready for spring.

bagged sorrel

This week has been one of rapid movement. We’ve seeded mesclun and a pile of beets, we’ve planted kale, broccoli raab, cauliflower, cabbages, radishes and spring turnips, and there’s still more waiting in the wings for bed prep. Mom has been clearing out the leaves and weeds from the herbs beds.

komatsuna and raab

Today, after I post this blog, I’ll be in the greenhouse with my mom and aunt thinning, potting up eggplant, peppers and herbs and getting transplants ready to sell at the store. The ladies at Green Heron Tools gave me their lady-friendly tiller for the weekend, so I’ll be prepping my strawberry(!) and onion beds, and perhaps some more greens beds, with that over the next couple days.

The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding and things are finally starting to look green. Yes.

Last week was one of adventures, too. My neighbor at Willow Haven Farm and I expanded his egg enterprise this year, and on Thursday we packed up chicken crates and headed down to Lancaster to get our girls for the season.

chicken2 chicken 1

We came home with 200 birds and sawdust for the nesting boxes. The day before we cleaned out the Chicken Camper, a hotel and spa bird resort with mahogany roosts (an accident, really – we just got a fancy pallet), and when we got home that afternoon we released our ladies into their mobile environment.


The chickens are afraid to hop out of the crates.


So Lucia, Willow Haven’s awesome intern for the season, helps them out.

chicken fence move

Poultry Paradise, Hen Heaven, Fowl Fantasy, Chicken Chalet

In the next few weeks I’ll be dedicating a blog post to the price of happy chickens. Between the moveable fence, the weekly cost of soy-free, organic feed and the labor of moving them around every week, the cost of happy, healthy egg-layers might be more than you think. But let me tell you, these are the best eggs I’ve ever had.

The pups are taking very well to farm life. Arya oversees our operations on a daily basis and Chases rolls around like a toddler and sleeps under things.

arya drives

puppies in the leaves Like a boss (above). Children (below)

I keep discovering these beautiful flowers that are coming up in the yard at Little House. In the mornings before I go to the farm I pull out some weeds from the front and back beds and plant lavender, lemon balm, sage, tulips and hyacinths. Operation Hobbit Hole is commencing nicely. Stay tuned for housewarming details.

snowdrops scillia

Also, for inquiring minds, our good friend Farm Kitten has become a bigger (but still somewhat little) terror.


Prince cat.

I’ve been getting back into the swing of a schedule and am finally starting to balance the farm with the rest of my life. I see the folks I want to see (though never as much as I’d like, as it goes), I’m making time to read and run and, most importantly, write.

I used to write nonstop. Then I wrote a lot for whatever colleges and freelance roles I held at the times. Then I started this blog and ran it as infrequently as a busy outdoors person with touchy wi-fi would. But that’s all starting to shift. I don’t know if it’s my sister’s urging to blog more, or having a house where I can stay up until midnight writing on the couch if I want to, or just the natural progression of my life, but suddenly I’m writing every day. And not just farm-related things, though that is a big part of it.

I’ve been granted this magical opportunity to take an online writing course with my favorite lady author. Francesca Lia Block writes these beautiful stories that transcends genres. As many of my friends will tell you, I’m re-read one particular story line annually or in moments of emotional distress, and when I discovered she was teaching a series of classes, there was no way I could pass it up.

We received our first assignment last week, and it’s sent me back into the world of fiction writing, a place I haven’t visited since college. And it feels so, so wonderful.

So yes, things are great on this end. Now, off to the greenhouse!


Spring finally arrives, bringing garlic and puppies.

There is something that happens to my brain every time I see the garlic come up.garlic

It’s like holding your breath for five months. And then you wake up one morning, walk down and see the green. And you didn’t even know you were holding that, worrying a little somewhere in your mind that it wasn’t going to come up, and then it just all releases.

It’s been a productive and heartening few days. We’re experimenting with a couple of permanent raised beds, which is – and I’m not alone in thinking this, I’ve learned – wildly exciting and horrifying. What if you spend the time setting these up and the angles don’t hold up? But the benefits sounds amazing – higher soil temperatures faster, more efficient uses of soil amendments and compost, and they’re easier to weed.


All this without a tractor? Yes, please.

The potatoes from Maine Potato Lady arrived last week, and the first pea planting is in. It is finally (well, mostly) warm enough at night to have the first round of transplants hardening off outside, and these next couple rainy days should set the stage for some big planting projects. We’re looking at summer squash, mesclun mix, other greens and another tomato planting by week’s end.

Field peas in.

Field peas in.

I hesitate to get too excited about this, but it appears the greenhouse war of 2015 is at an end, or at least a hiatus. There were a couple weeks where a handful of mice were laying waste to my spinach, beets and a sad tray of eggplant, but the last few days and some smart tray coverings have kept them at bay.

chardlings redbor kalelings

Easter came and went, and I was reminded, as I am at every family gathering, how awesome our team is. We have business owners, entrepreneurs, hard workers, innovators in our family. My cousin took us into his garage to show us the forge he built and the work he’s making with railroad spikes.

beer opener

Housewarming – my cousin gives me a bottle opener made from an old railroad spike. Righteous. He makes coat hooks and other crazy things as well.

Right? I mean, sheesh. I don’t know if all families feel this way when they hang out, but I’m really grateful for the energy in ours.

And Little House, Little House. Sometimes I just want to sit there and watch the flowers bloom. Every day another photo is hung or some leaves are raked or the aloe gets repotted, and it starts to become a home.

repotting crocuses

In other news, a major hunt and a pair of boot laces later, Mom and Dad came home with chase, this stuffed animal bear cub baby Rottweiler.


I was hesitant at first about this whole thing, but when he laid (read: kinda slid fell, because he still doesn’t have the motor skills to do anything with coordination) down in the middle of the kitchen with his legs splayed out behind him and immediately fell asleep, I knew he was one of us. So I went to buy some stuff for him, and got him the smack dog food which apparently is the best in the market for puppies, it helps their hair and their digestive tract, it has many benefits and  wanted to give him the best I can.


Talk about underfoot.

puppy monsters

Barely a real thing.

And Arya is in love. These two are currently the same size, so they spend most of their days rolling around and chewing on each other, or chewing on things near each other, or chewing on both ends of the same thing. You get the idea. They already rousted their first groundhog together – though somewhat unintentionally – so hopefully when Chase is a little bigger they’ll start doing some useful farm dog tasks.

puppy and arya


couch puppies

In the meantime, about half my life has become something like Milo and Otis in real time.

There are still a few spots open in the CSA, guys! Get it, get it. Read the CSA tabs of this site for more details. For now, I’m trying to build up a couple more beds before the rain.

Crooked Row Extended CSA Deadlines and Guest Food Bloggers!

We know, we know. It still doesn’t feel like spring.

To make up for the snow still lingering in your souls and fields, we’re extending our CSA deadline to April 20th! So if you were on the fence about signing up or had an older deadline on your flyer and felt like you missed out (we got a couple panicked phone calls to this effect), never fear! We have some room left for you.

This year will be one of community. Next week I’m presenting on local food economies and backyard composting and growing advice at an office near the farm, and I’m hoping to get more involved in these sorts of educating opportunities in the future. This Saturday I’ll be at the Mt. Airy Read & Eat for Story Time at 10am, so bring your kids over to plant some seeds and hang out while I read some children’s books about farming and talk about the CSA with interested parents. If your office hosts lunch and learns or your schools want to talk agriculture for a class or two, give me a holler.

We’re also going to be having FARM EVENTS this season! CSA potlucks, meet and greet dinners and showcases for my other grower/baker/maker/artisan friends will be a regular occurrence now that I’ve got a house to host in. A few of these will be at the farm as well, and as these two places are within literally two miles of each other, we have lots of opportunities for overnight stays, farm volunteer days and other activities up here in the Valley. And we can have some of these in Philly, too, if someone is open to hosting. And if you’ve been in the CSA before back when I promised these things and had no place to have them, you are most welcome to come hang out at this year’s whether you joined this season or not. Keep your eyes peeled for my e-mails.

Additionally, I’m excited to announce that this season I’ll have two wonderful humans and dear friends guest blogging with their versatile food knowledge throughout the season.


Sarah climbs, hikes, leads, reads, photographs and cooks, amongst other incredible things.

Meagan cares for critters, cooks, revolutionizes the world, salvages cast iron and made Stubbz this excellent kitten harness last summer.

Meagan cares for critters, cooks, revolutionizes the world, salvages cast iron and made Stubbz this excellent kitten harness last summer.

Meagan and Sarah have years of cooking experience between them  as omnivores, vegetarians and vegans, and as they teach us how to better utilize the foods from the field, you’ll have access to their recipes and more on the forthcoming Cooking Tab on this site and in market handouts and CSA newsletters. I’m so jazzed, and so are they!


Abominable Snow Dog.

In somber news, we had to say goodbye to our best farm partner and pooch love, Strider, Monday morning. Strider was the most loving and personable dog I’ve had the honor to know, and whether he was minding us in the field, taking up all the room in my bed, herding small children in bodies of water, harassing Arya puppy or hiding during thunderstorms, he had, as the best dogs often do, an infinite abundance of charisma, charm and love.


Bed Hog Dog.

I’m so grateful we had him for as long as we did, and I know he’ll be roaming our fields in some fashion in the years to come.

The pups view their kingdom and wait for the snow to melt.

“Everything the light touches.”

Since we are currently tapped out in greenhouse space as we wait for more seedlings to germinate in our bunker, today will be one of research and maintenance. I have a wagon full of birdhouses we’re excited to hang around the property, and then I’m going to try my hand at building some vertical structures for the market stand. After we’ve chilled thoroughly outside, it’s back in to keep reading The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier, aka The Crooked Row Game-Changer.

market gardener

We’ve got big, big plans.

Building a Community and Sharing Your Passions

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

And it’s not just me who sees and partakes in this beautiful flow of happenings. It’s everywhere, all around, in the people we know who are doing extraordinary things.

Monday morning marked a meeting of Team Awesome Ladies (my term), a group of women who met over the course of years through mutual employment at the local health food store in town or through mutual friends. We try to get together semi regularly to talk business, hold each other accountable for forward movement and bask in the good vibe flow.

Beautiful ladies doing beautiful work.

Beautiful ladies doing beautiful work.

Barbara runs Career Wellness Partners with fantastic spunk. Gina, whom I’ve mentioned before, has her hand in a number of awesome adventures presently, including a soon-to-be published novel and her company Wellness Transformations, which helps folks take control of their lives through spiritual works. Sharon is a veteran Yoga instructor goddess. She was the first person who helped me learn to think differently, and Mom and I have been in love with her practice since I was in middle school. Michelle, who couldn’t swing this meeting, has made runs a successful quantum biofeedback practice.

These ladies are forward-driven movers and shakers, and just being able to share accomplishments and bask in their presences is a blessing. Plus, they have impeccable taste in teas and reading materials.

I also took my first foray into one of my never acted upon but always dreamed of activities: climbing. My friend Stephen and I headed up to the North Summit Climbing Gym Tuesday night, where a pile of magnificently skilled humans instantly put us to shame. But that’s okay. Everyone was approachable, encouraging and helpful, and as I flailed around trying to boulder on the easiest paths, I felt the self-consciousness fall behind me. I was not as strong as I thought I’d be for this endeavor, but I can work on it.

And then it was back to Philly, but for a full day of farm(ish) work.

First I headed into the Northeast, somewhat uncharted territory for me, in search of Envirokure. This Philly start-up is a few years old but quickly picking up steam in the sustainable, organic fertilizer markets. We want to keep it in the city family, right?

envirokure envirokure office

Their products compete with fish emulsion and, for a smaller scale operation like mine, that means root and plant development at the transplant level. I’m interested to try this out, and looking forward to some comparison trials between the two since their nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium levels differ.

From there, I headed to the West, but more Southwest than I’d ever traveled before, to meet with friend and teacher Mechele at the leadership charter academy where she works. The school has been looking into beautifying an adjacent lot, and when I approached her about using it as a learning-ag space, the school jumped at the opportunity. After a brief introduction with the principal, Mechele and I headed out into the brisk morning to measure, sketch, brainstorm and talk logistics.

We’ve got to run some numbers and figure out some of these vertical gardening techniques, but we’re looking at raised beds with space for classes outdoors, living walls and palette projects. Stay tuned to watch this space’s transformation.

What do you see when you look at this space? Do you see blooming green beauty? We do.

What do you see when you look at this space? Do you see blooming green beauty? We do.

Next it was over to Mt. Airy to hang up more tear sheets and drop off more flyers at the Mt. Airy Read & Eat, our newest CSA pick-up location. My tear sheet was totally empty, and the owner later told me that had happened within a couple days. That’s some exciting news. I stopped into the new noodle shop next door for lunch and ended up giving a flyer to a new neighbor ordering takeout who overheard our conversation and was interested. That’s always a cool interaction.

And then it was on to the main event. A couple months back I received an e-mail from the program coordinators of the Explorer Café, a regular speak-and-discuss session at La Salle University. This time around they invited various alumni to come and speak about how they are still living the Lasallian mission in their current lives and vocations.

We are lawyers, farmers, nurses, businessmen, the politically active and vocationally passionate. Thanks to Hannah Datz for the photos!

We are lawyers, farmers, nurses, businessmen, the politically active and vocationally passionate. Thanks to Hannah Datz for the photos!

I wrote about this once before, about a year ago in a post entitled “Why My College Made It Okay For Me To Become A Farmer.” I won’t repeat all those sentiments here, but I can honestly say that I am regularly learning more and more how my life was impacted in a positive way by my college experience.

Microphones make me a little jittery, always have, and I probably could have contributed more than I did at the panel, but what I did say are things that I feel in every fiber of my being. First, that La Salle made me appreciate a passionate community, and that I try to build this around me wherever I go. I want the people I am near to be motivated and excited by what they are doing in the world, and fostering that was echoed through the other panelists loud and clear.

Meg is a nurse in the city and Sam is finishing up law school. They are wonderful people, if you haven't had the chance to know them (yet).

Meg is a nurse in the city and Sam is finishing up law school. They are wonderful people, if you haven’t had the chance to know them (yet).

Second was that La Salle made me brave. Without my experiences at that school, the taking ownership and leading and accountability and responsibility, I wouldn’t have been able take the risks I have taken and learned to roll with change and seek more fulfilling environments and talk to strangers.

The community aspect showed itself when we headed to the Student Union building. Dean of Students grinned, asked me how the farm was, and told me how happy it made him to see me back on campus. I caught up with old friends who are all doing and planning incredible things, clasped hands with some of my favorite professors and met a very cute baby.

It makes me sad that not everyone had such a lasting, meaningful network during their time in higher education. But you can build this sort of community wherever you are, and there’s something really reassuring in that.

These communities believe in me, and I believe in them. When we share this energy with each other, incredible work starts to happen. I found this in a Mural Arts program pamphlet, but it’s true in all life.

art can triumph

Art, food, love, life. What are you bringing to your communities?

We Pause for Flowers, We Work for Home, We Plan(t) for Spring

Sister Wagner and I ventured out into Philadelphia last weekend to look at an apartment (for her), eat some delicious Blackbird Pizza and hit up the Philadelphia Flower Show.

jess flower

Even though it was exceptionally crowded and the second week of the show (read: some of those plants were pretty parched), it was still beautiful. Movie themed exhibits, bright, bright colors, and all the green.

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I adore those little picture windows and mini displays – artisans utilizing plant materials to make these teeny tiny creations really gets me ridiculously jazzed.


Little, couple-inch tall displays suspended in window boxes. It gives me excited goosebumps just thinking about it. #plantnerd

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Yes yes. Once a year I post a bunch of beautiful flower pictures from somewhere. But you should know by now that that’s how it works.

Rodale homages in the Barnes and Noble.

Rodale homages in the Barnes and Noble.

I moved back to the Lehigh Valley in 2013 to start the farm. The previous year, I operated at a farm and market where it seemed almost everybody was food-savvy and juicing and asking us how close we were for the drive we were making. It’s been wonderful to see that happening here – we have so many new folks signed up for the CSA this year, and nearly a dozen of them are from right where I grew up. They’ve heard about the farm through my part-time job or friends, neighbors or other local businesses, and they want to give this whole farm share idea a try.

That feels really, really good. I’m so excited to be a part of their venture. I want people to feel good and knowledgeable about the food they are putting into their bodies and to be excited about the community we are all building together.

Meanwhile, the snow is finally starting to melt. We’re trucking along in the greenhouse, but I’m really looking forward to dry socks and warm feet. But the snow has been beautiful (if nothing else), and the puppy has enjoyed frolicking in it.

Dad surveys the fields and wishes for less snow.

Dad surveys the fields and wishes for less snow.

Arya, meanwhile, wants to live in the Arctic tundra and dig for smelly things forever.

Arya, meanwhile, wants to live in the Arctic tundra and dig for smelly things forever.

More seeding over the next couple days. Then we’ll have to refill that solar bunker, get to the Philadelphia L&I office to have the scale licensed, buy a handful of remaining supplies and some other needed farm tasks. But most of the paperwork stuff is done, and that is always an incredible relief.

This year we’ll be delivering shares to St. Luke University’s Health Network in Quakertown to over a dozen staff members there. I’m excited to expand our CSA network, and I love that offices and businesses are starting to offer these sorts of initiatives to their staff. Soon I’ll be speaking at an office closer to the farm as part of a “learn and lunch” about the benefits of buying local foods and how they can get more involved in these processes. I’m a little nervous – it’s been awhile since I’ve had to make a PowerPoint for anything – but I’m excited to promote on behalf of food producers in the Lehigh Valley.

There’s still time to sign up for the CSA! If you want a food adventure (and another reason to see me from time to time), I highly recommend it.

Also, if you have some old Venetian blinds, you can bring those my way. Found some neat tips to reuse materials for tray markers.

And after my wandering winter life, I’m finally living in my house. I don’t know when the brain transition from “living alone is a little spooky,” to “Oh my God, living alone is amazing – you mean I can dance around in the middle of the night AND burn sandalwood incense in the living room AND play Vampire Weekend on repeat?” happened, but I’m stoked it did. I’ve been slowly putting the tools and paint away in the basement and moving in furniture from Reclinercize. Sure, I still need to hang blinds in the living room. Sure, my water isn’t potable. But I’m getting there.

my bedroom

Over the last couple of years the humming of the Universe started up again. It drove me mad as a kid – this feeling that I was just on the cusp of something incredible, but repeatedly unable to figure out what the something was. It felt exciting, but more so frustrating and a little lonely. But as my dear friend and yoga teacher Sharon told me last year, “Stay true to yourself and your tribe will find you,” and that started happening at a wild pace as soon as I started doing what I should have been doing the whole time. And not just with the agriculture – the whole demeanor of my life has shifted, and the people who have appeared in it (or reappeared, which is another beautiful happening), are some of the most industrious, brilliant and affirmative presences I’ve had the privilege to meet.

And so we wait. For the snow to melt, for the sun to come, for the plants to grow, for the new and exciting humans ahead.

baby thyme