Scapes, Market and Colorado Potato Beetles

After a weekend at market and a Monday of food poisoning? Stomach virus? Lymes?- well, an expensive day at a medical center with no answers, it has been trying to get back here. But we’re surviving and thriving over here at Keith’s Farm.

Today we spent the end of the day brushing Colorado Potato Beetles off our beautiful, beautiful potatoes. We planted these spuds my first week here, and even though we were about to commit bug genocide, I had such a rush walking up and down those bands that I helped plant. The T-22 must have done its magic – the potato tops are huge. The potatoes are starting to show off these gorgeous pink and white flowers, which means it’s almost time to dig them. Pictures to come.

Our collection of CPBs, aka Colorado Potato Beetles.

They’re getting closer!

The swarm has arrived.

The past week and a half has been scape season to the max. What’s a scape? Maybe a hundred people asked that at market last week. When you plant garlic, as with other alliums like onion, as it starts to bulb underground it also starts to flower above ground. Scapes are the tops of garlic that, if left alone, would turn into these crazy flowers that you’ll see later in the season. But in order to get a bigger bulb of garlic, we pick the scapes off the garlic plants. There are too many to sell at market, but we do sell a decent amount – $1 bunches, $3 bunches and $5 a pound on chef special You can cook a scape like you would scallions or garlic, really- unlike green garlic, which is young and hasn’t bulbed and only has a mild garlic flavor, scapes taste like garlic. And they look pretty, too. The downside? All the garlic juice runs into our hands and makes our skin look pretty rough. And if you have cuts, man oh man, does it sting.


The elusive Casey in the garlic.

Ready in the garlic.

Market was an adventure this weekend. With drop-ins from the Adams gentlemen, Alice Waters and a Chopped Chef, as well as the regulars, the excited newcomers and the restaurateurs we’ve started to become acquainted with, it’s like having a whole new world besides the farm and even besides regular life. Market life is something else entirely – and that’s before even bringing up other vendors.

Check out our scapes for sale.

Luke is a sweetheart who sells flowers next door, Elliot makes mad money working at the orchard stand up the way and gives us discount strawberries, the chicken ladies across the aisle took pity on my living in Boyhouse and gave me an enormous half a chicken for next to nothing, Michael and Tyrone are constantly dropping us pieces of their crazy delicious and expensive cheeses, Mario from Eckerton Hill swapped some garlic for carrots and may be my new off-season friend while I’m home and he’s living in Lobachsville, and Nicole from one of the maple stands delivered us a bag off maple cotton candy on her way out. It’s a whole bubbling community, and they all seemed to have known each other for years and they are all relatively friendly and excited to be at market. There’s an energy there that reminds me of what I used to love about Wednesday nights on the newspaper, game days at La Salle and fundraisers at Child Advocates – I love to run events, and market is like an all-day event where I play an active role.

Free carrots from Mario, cheap strawberries from Elliot, and delicious muffins a la Matthew.

Roses from Luke and, did I mention these muffins from Matthew? Rosemary with raspberry sauce and feta cheese. Happy Birthday, Matt.

We got a new crew member this weekend as well. Hesther is joining us from Brooklyn! She’s a spunky recent grad and she seems to be learning quickly. She’s keeping Chelsea company over in the trailer. Everyone’s pretty excited to have her on board.

Today Matt and I spread some compost in two more garden spaces for our cauliflower and other fun plant projects. Last week we weeded what dill we could find from last month’s direct seeding, planted tomatillos and planted and netted some of the broccoli rabe. There’s still some in the greenhouse – as well as watermelon, chervil and a ton of flowers – but we are talking about seeding more. Business men, us farmers.

Broccoli Rabe! Miss you, Philly.


Rediscovered Dill!

In other news, Mya our girl farmdog is changing color with the sun, our dogs as a team are constantly catching and sort of eating woodchucks, and I have at least five callouses on my hands. I am starting to write a very, very basic list of what I’d like to grow next year. As I am constantly telling the world, I am here, I am excited, and I couldn’t be happier.

-Farmer Liz


Pest Control and the Fungus Among Us

The weeks are starting to get busier, and our enemies are drawing near.

Today is a venture into the wars we lead against the rodents, bugs and other pests that lay waste to our good veggies. And know that, not two years ago, I was carrying bugs out of my classrooms at school to let them free outside. But this is a whole different situation, and our crops and my paycheck on the front lines.

Flea Beetles.


Flea Beetle damage. Drats!

Within three weeks of my arrival this season, flea beetles had laid waste to our first mesclun planting. They riddle brassicas leaves, like our kale, mizuna, tatsoi and arugula, with these little holes. It doesn’t affect the taste or sanitation of the plants – we are still taking coolers of mesclun to market – but the greens look shot full of holes, and regrowth is pretty slow/nonexistent. Our second planting is under rowcover and hopefully will survive another onslaught.

CPBs – the worst!

CPBs, or the neat-looking but deadly Colorado Potato Beetle, are already tromping through our tomatoes, but have thankfully not hurt our potato crop…yet. I remember being a kid and pulling these critters out of our swimming pool, but at the larval stage they can seriously destroy leaf growth and way more as an adult. I still apologize to each bug as I squish it between two rocks, but at a point, when there are so many that we are sweeping them off the plants, I will have overcome my tree hugger mentality.

Cucmber Beetles.

Cucumber beetles have not arrived yet, but we are anxiously awaiting their arrival and have covered our summer squash in row cover. These guys  not only cause physical plant damage to plants and stems, but also carry a wilting disease that wipes out plants beds. Then, as if that’s not bad enough, their larvae tunnel into the ground and eat plant roots. You can’t catch a break with these guys.

Matt sprayed the eggplant with PyGanic mixed with fish emulsion to wipe out all the different bugs that want up on our black beauties. PyGanic is an organic pest control,so it won’t kill big things like possum, but it wipes out all the bugs and knocks the plant back considerably in the process, so you supplement with the fish emulsion. The possum facts is relative and I would invite anyone interested to research on their contribution to this ecology.

Deer. Rabbits. Chipmunks. Groundhogs. Yeah, I think they’re cute and lovely and all those things, but now that they are eating everything from my hardening off trays and out in the herb beds, and in the lettuces, they’re nothing but a hassle. We’ve mounted ten foot deer fencing and the deer still climb under. I just pieced together some netting for one of our hardening off tables –we’ll see if it works. And last week the guys set a crazy trap for a groundhog that was wasting our mesclun – and we got him.

Keith and Matt survey their conquest.

As does Jay, with more excitement.

Another discouraging note – the damp, wet weather up here is hurting us considerably, and has taken shape as a minor plague through one of our garlic fields. We are getting white rot on our bulbs in the center of one of our fields, and though this is apparently something that lives in the soil, the murky conditions of southern New York right now are helping it spread. We’ve lost maybe a hundred plants so far, which is not much in comparison to how much we’ve grown but is still distressing in terms of profit margins.

There are certainly more pests, methods of protection and other wars to wage on the farm, but this is where we are right now. So keep your eyes out and your ears to the ground, and together we’ll defend the farm.

-Farmer Liz