Happy National CSA Day!

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Yes, technically CSA Day is Friday, but we’ve been celebrating CSA Day all week! And I want to thank everyone who has signed up for the Crooked Row CSA and sent in their payments so far. You are paying off the seed bills and for the new plastic on the greenhouse, the potting mix and the tomato stakes.

You are what makes my season bloom!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s the idea of investing in a farm before the season begins in exchange for a weekly share of produce through the duration of the season. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce up front so your farmer can plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs and other necessary moves for a successful year.

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This will be my 5th year running the Crooked Row Farm CSA, and I’ve loved this growing model. It gives me, a farmer without a permanent farm stand (yet!), and without a really solid place to share my fields with you, to make  lasting relationships with buoyant, excited area residents who love and appreciate local food.

It also allows me to work with amazing food producers like Lehigh Valley Kombucha, the Wayfare Baker, Monocacy Coffee, The Nesting Box, and the other folks who help provide you the best cheese, eggs, meats, desserts, fruit and other edible delights that I can track down.

And you get to meet the folks at your pick-up locations – the beautiful West End Yoga, the welcoming Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the warm Vitality Natural Healthcare, the delicious Jumbars, the spirited ladies at Beleno, my parents at Wagner’s Auto Body, and so many others.

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This guy needs a little hair to be me, though! 🙂

“2015 was my first time ever as a CSA member. Little did I know of the adventure that awaited me, learning to identify veggies I never heard of and how to prepare them. Farmer Liz’s blog was so helpful with what to expect in each weekly share and links to delicious recipes. Every week I anticipated each delivery to explore more savory flavors for my family meals.”  – Karen, from Mertztown, and a to-be three year CSA member

Whether I see you at the pick-up locations, or we respond over the weekly CSA e-mails, or you come to visit me at my markets, I feel the connection. We are invested in shaping the food community of the Lehigh Valley, and I thank you so much for your support, your constant encouragement, and your patronage.

And if the Crooked Row CSA isn’t what you’re looking for, check out the CSA Day website for other options, or research local CSAs on the Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley site – it’s a totally beautiful site and really simplifies your farm research.

Once you’re signed up for a CSA Share, whether it’s with me or another farmer, take one of these graphics below and POST THEM PROUDLY on all your social media outlets. We’re so thankful for and appreciative of you, and we want you to feel that acknowledgement! And we want your friends, family, and co-workers who haven’t yet tried out a CSA to see these and  join our movement. We want to share these connections.

#csaday #csaday2017

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This one is a square graphic for Instagrammin’

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Yours in Love and Greenhouse Seedlings,

Farmer Liz

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I love you, and that is why I want to grow your food and build our community.

Need I say more?

I am so grateful for the opportunities presented to us as producers in the Lehigh Valley. I’m participating in the winter Trexlertown Farmers’ Market, which is held on the first and third Saturdays of the month, 10-12 in the Velodrome parking lot. We’re joining forces with  Red Cat Farm and the Wayfare Baker for a cooperative stand that allows for us all to feel like we still get a winter break, so come get your bread, flour mixes and herbs under one tent!

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We were also thrilled to be a part of Slatington’s First Friday a couple weeks back. Bryon Reed, a council member and storefront owner in town, offered us space in one of his buildings for the Blue Mountain Farm Market to set up shop for the day in conjunction with other Main Street events and the town’s tree-lighting ceremony. We had an afternoon of veggies, breads, farm gifts and more as the town came out to visit, stroll and celebrate. We had Ziehler Lawn and Tree Care services come out and take care of the trees for the ceremony.

It’s such a thrill and honor to be working in this community. I grew up here, and though I didn’t fully appreciate this place as a kid, as an adult I’ve returned and want to channel my hometown pride into growth. Fortunately, there are other amazing folks moving toward this same goal, and while there are too many to name at this moment, I do want to share my deep appreciation and respect for Alice Wanamaker, who donates so much of her time outside of the Chamber of Commerce to our community, and to Jason Ruff, who took a chance on a local business – Charlotte Fay’s – and is making a real go of it. It’s exciting to meet other folks making big strides in their time, investments and commitments to this area.

And here’s where she gets serious.

In Interstellar Anne Hathaway’s character says that “love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space.” In Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran describes the sixth sense as memory. When a person experiences something – in his example, it is a pinprick – he or she remembers every pin or pinprick experienced before.

Earlier this year, we opened a cooperative farm stand at the town’s D&L Trailhead, a trailhead dedicated to Asher Boyer, a friend from high school who swam with us and marched with us and was a buoyant, hilarious spirit. Asher died while we were still in school, in a car accident in the midst of band camp that summer, and those memories are as sharp and stark as they were in real time.

To be sharing food in a space that he helped shape as he worked toward Eagle Scout, to be so close to his family’s business and to see them excited for our own endeavors, is a feeling that brings me such humbling, overwhelming joy. It’s a feeling that allows me to still feel connected to a time and space I can only see in my mind’s eye, to be in a space where he is.

And it isn’t just him anymore. The folks from our small town school have lost more than a few of us along the way – young people cut short, friends and friends of friends and school acquaintances who don’t get to grow up the way that we are- and to create new life in this community in their stead, to work for something that their family and their friends and neighbors can benefit from, that is such an incredible opportunity. When I think of what we are making and building here, I think of them. And I think they would be proud with what we’ve accomplished, here and everywhere else.

We wanted to share our thankfulness with the town, so here’s the letter Alice will be reading for us at tomorrow’s Borough meeting:

Dear Borough Council and Greater Slatington Community,

On behalf of the Blue Mountain Farm Market I would like to thank you so much for your support and participation with our pop-up market in conjunction with the First Friday events of December 2nd, as well as your support and encouragement throughout our first farm market season this year.

I grew up in Northern Lehigh and graduated from high school here in 2007. I edited the school paper, played in the marching band, ran cross country, swam and life-guarded at the pool, and participated in a number of community-based extra-curricular organizations. When I moved back to the Lehigh Valley a few years ago, I never guessed I would be blessed with such an opportunity to return to the area that had begun to shape me into the person I am today. I challenged myself in this place, made the closest and most lasting of friends and learned to appreciate the everyday beauty and emotion present in a person’s hometown. I decided that I wanted to come back to the Valley and work to grow food for the people in my community – for the people I care about and who influenced me in such momentous ways. For the people who raised me.

Food is such an integral part of what makes a family and a home, and to be able to help provide local, wholesome produce and farm goods to this area has been such an honor. We can’t thank the Borough, the Venture Group and the residents enough for their support and enthusiasm for this endeavor. And we would especially like to thank Bryon Reed, who opened the doors of his building to us so we could participate in the recent off-season pop-up market. Bryon was so helpful, thoughtful and excited to help us become a part of this event, and his presence on Council and willingness to work with us is a true testament to his commitment to Slatington and its citizens. Bryon, thank you for all that you do for us.

I look forward to working with all of you as we continue to grow and shape this extraordinary community. It has been such a pleasure to meet such dynamic folks who want to see the town move forward and to see the new lifeblood pouring in to this area looking for the same forward momentum. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this adventure. Have a wonderful holiday season.

All the Best,
Liz Wagner and the Blue Mountain Farm Market

In these strange times we find ourselves living in, here’s some excitement and growth. It’s been over a month since CSA season ended – and I’m again excited for the spring.

Clockwise: We opened a farm market in my hometown! It was incredible; Steve Hoog joined us for a wild food walk on the property; itty bitties from Texas came to play in the field; and some awesome ladies (and men) involved in agriculture presented our stories at Eight Oaks Distillery. These were just a few snapshots in a year full of markets, herb labyrinths, events, joys, and growth. And we aren’t stopping there.

Thanks for the adventure, my friends. As always, we couldn’t do it without you. And, as always, I’m so grateful and thankful to be a part of your lives. We’ve had another year of projects, events, new markets, new friends, new growers and collaborators, and held onto to all you Crooked Row vets and supporters. We’re thrilled and eating green, and we hope you are, too. I wish you warm nights, full bellies, and deep, resounding, time-and-space transcending love.

Yours Always,
Farmer Liz

 

Home Again – The End of Travels, The Beginning of a Season

I arrived back to the States a week and a half ago, and already the trip is starting to take on this dreamlike quality.

I’ve told “The Travel” story about a dozen times already, and it is starting to pick up its own rhythm. But whenever I open the picture folders to send a couple off to some of the friends I’ve made or get some printed just to have, I remember more.

After Christmas, I traveled further inland with Josephine, my Dutch traveling compatriot, to La Fortuna. There we hiked the Cerro Chato, swam in a lake that was once a volcano with our new guy friends from the hostel, and spent an evening by candlelight at the locals’ hot springs.

From there I found myself back in Alajuela, the city outside of San Jose where the airport actually is. During this leg of the journey, from long bus to long bus, I was adopted by a lovely Tica woman who, on realizing I clearly had no idea what I was doing at the bus station, had her husband buy me a bus ticket, loaded me onto the bus with them, and fed me some of the lunch she had packed.

This happened a lot. I don’t know if it’s my constantly half-amused, half-puzzled facial expressions that do it, or just the locals’ general kindheartedness, but I was forever being rescued.

Thanks, Costa Rica. Like so many places with so many people, you are so good to me.

My taxi driver friend from the first day, Jose,  was there to greet me at the airport when I hopped off the bus, and he got me to a city hostel where I spent a couple days adventuring to outer towns (Poas was an accident when I was trying to find the Poas volcano, but it was a lovely little town I was happen to spend the day in), taking myself to see Star Wars, looking around at clothes and food and malls and parks, and spending a lovely evening with Jose and his family, drinking coffee and practicing Spanish and learning that all little kids all over the world love Frozen.

And then the cavalry arrived. Gary flew in and we proceeded to have a whole new dynamic in the adventure, one with four-wheel drive adventures around the Chirripo River at the foothills of the national park and into The Osa, the southernmost peninsula of the country that is mostly just accessible by boat.

We jumped off rocks into rivers, met local chocolateers and cheese makers and yoga instructors, hiked into the jungle for hours, meeting monkeys and agutis and all sorts of birds (and a couple biology classes from Penn State, small world), swam at gorgeous beaches up and down the Pacific Coast, camped in the car and sat around a beach fire outside a hippie hostel in Uvita, and read one of The World Made By Hand books and drank local kombucha at a vegan restaurant in Dominical.

I was starting to fray at the seams by this leg of the journey, exhausted from traveling and thinking about getting home, but it was a truly incredible time. I’ve never had such fun, or seen such beauty.

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And then, after hours of customs and an overnight escapade at the Atlanta airport, I was home.

Just in time for the start of season.

“In January?” you ask.

Yes. There is planning to be done, supplies to be ordered, and it’s CSA sign-up season! Three days after I got home I was sitting at the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s general meeting, explaining my excitement about the forthcoming store to a room full of people and talking about my last four years with Crooked Row.

I’ve been updating flyers, planning for our new chickens, discussing coffee shares with the guys at Monacacy Coffee. A truck delivered minerals to our field and the PASA Conference is just a couple weeks ago, as is my brief return to dairy work. The truck needs a tune-up. Northampton Community College bought more teas for its campus Slow Market on Wednesdays, 10am-2pm. You should check it out.

Planning the season is such a vibrant use of the winter. Hibernating is too, and much warmer, and I highly recommend some of that. A lot of that. But as seed catalogs arrive and e-mails trickle in asking about CSA group buy-ins and new drop-off locations, I can’t help but hop up from the blankets feeling excited.

Looking for a vegetable adventure this year? Join the Crooked Row 2016 CSA. Vegetables, eggs, and some excellent coffee. Holler at me for details.

Oh, and Mom and I will be taking beekeeping classes through the Lehigh Valley Beekeeper’s Association. Who’s excited?!

Hugs, Frozen Kale and “She’s too tan for January,”
Liz

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Season Endings, Cheese Making and the Upcoming Travel Adventure!

It’s raining today, and I know I have a pallet of cinder blocks in my truck bed that need to go into the greenhouse to expand the solar bunker for February’s early seedlings. I sat here and made a list of errands to run, spreadsheets to make, side projects to buy materials for. I am going to mail a package that has been hanging out in my truck for something like four weeks, waiting to get to a post office. Sorry, Kat and Will. I promise it’s coming.

Instead of doing these things, I stir my tea, slice myself a piece of yesterday-made feta cheese, and think about how to turn my brain down. I talked about this last year, too – teaching yourself how to slow down and detach because deserved rest is allowed and acceptable – and while the mental guilt still battles on in my silly brain every time I sleep in or spend an afternoon reading (even if it’s raining, even if it’s the off-season), I’m getting better at it. Marginally.

End of Season Share! Aka Shameless Plug

End of Season Share! Aka Shameless Plug

The season, as many of you know, is at an end for 2015. Though the season doesn’t truly ever end – field planning for 2016 has already commenced, seed catalogs are being perused, and folks are already signing up for next year’s CSA (WOOHOO!) – the fields are more or less in rest, save some kale and collards for Thanksgiving meals, and the chickens have been pared down for their move to the indoors for winter. Many went to some fabulous local homes to expand some homesteader flocks, and that makes me really happy.

During our last move of the chickens, all the cows decided to come lick Reuben's truck.

During our last move of the chickens, all the cows decided to come lick Reuben’s truck.

I took Mama Wags to Valley Milkhouse‘s beautiful Cheesemaking 101 class yesterday, and we had an awesome morning with Allison Czapp of Buy Fresh Buy Local as we listened to the always-stunning and articulate Stef Angstadt explain cheese production and its translation into a home cheese-making setting. Stef is a young cheesemaker in Oley Valley who has rocked Eastern PA with her dynamic personality and delicious cheese.

Stef and her enormous blue cheese inventory, being awesome.

Stef and her enormous blue cheese inventory, being awesome.

Hooping feta in the giant vat.

Hooping feta in the giant vat.

The cheese class folks give their own a try!

The cheese class folks give their own a try!

After several hours of setting, culturing, hooping, and flipping, along with a creamery tour and cheese tasting of Stef’s amazing eats, we wandered home with huge wedges of fresh feta and recipes, culture and rennet for our own future kitchen creamery escapades. As each group made our own wheel of feta, Stef and her assistant finished off their 25-gallon batch along with us as she explained the nuances of different cheese production, the steps and ingredients necessary for a perfect mold rind and subtle flavors, and her story of home cheese-maker-turned-creamery-extraordinaire.

Allison hoops!

Allison hoops!

Mom uses the sweet knife.

Mom uses the sweet knife.

:) Happiest cheesemaker.

🙂 Happiest cheesemaker.

I can’t wait for Liz and Mom kitchen projects, and judging by that look on her face yesterday, I think she may be in agreement. If you’re looking for an awesome class for you and a friend who likes to cook, homestead or just enjoys cheese and learning, I can’t recommend this class enough. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.

Having a part of pet insurance companies allows an individual to make treatment decisions for their pet based on what is best medically, rather than finances.

The shift into hibernation has afforded me some adventure time, too. My grandma and I watched the Muppets. Liz and Ann of Green Heron Tools cooked me a spectacular meal, followed by hours of spectacular conversation (and the opportunity to read Earth Dreams, written by Liz, which is pretty rad).

Home sweet Keith's

Home sweet Keith’s

I made my annual pilgrimage back to New York, to where it all began over in the Hudson Valley. Visiting Keith’s renews my spirit, and popping cloves with this year’s crew gave me hope of having my own happy, healthy, stable intern or three one day.

Kobe, still being adorable after all these years.

Kobe, still being adorable after all these years.

The man, the myth, the ultimate boss: Mr. Keith Stewart.

The man, the myth, the ultimate boss: Mr. Keith Stewart.

I spent an evening with my aunt and this little bundle of joy earlier this week.

The Return of the Kitten Monster.

The Return of the Kitten Monster.

I’ve been attending some workshops in the Lehigh Valley about all sorts of things, from a Reiki Attunement certification to the Laws of Attraction to, as you see, cheesemaking! I’m spending a couple hours a week helping the Lehigh County Farmland Preservation office with some office work and learning about the process of farm inspections and preserving practices. It’s all pretty cool stuff.

Plus, farm inspections usually include great animals, like this precious girl.

Plus, farm inspections usually include great animals, like this precious girl.

I’m also in the midst of a crash-course in carpentry as I help a dear friend finish off some work on her shed and house before the snow comes. Cedar shingles and insulation are my new best friends.

If only Carpenter Liz could translate straight lines...

If only Carpenter Liz could translate straight lines…

And I’m looking ahead to next season. It’s been such a satisfying and challenging season in a number of ways, and next year is only going to get better. So many of this year’s CSAers sent such beautiful photos and messages throughout the weeks and have already committed to 2016 (I even got some checks already, bless their hearts), and that’s a truly wonderful feeling. I’m feeling confident as a grower and ready to tighten up the fields for better production and streamline some processes for more veggies with less back-breaking labor and mind-numbing schedules. It’s totally possible, and I’m figuring out how.

This week I had a really great meeting with the administration of St. Luke’s CSA program, and we discussed a number of ways to make the 2016 season less stressful for the farmers and more valuable to the customers. I had a call yesterday from an interested potential 2016 member. And I’m looking for a Bethlehem drop-off location, especially since Bethlehem Food Co-Op members receive a 5% discount on share prices when they join! This is an organization I hope to become more involved with as their infrastructure grows, and I want you to be a part of it, too! The co-ops in Philly are so cool, and the thought of having one here, with shelves stocked by farmer friends, not to mention myself, is just so exciting.

Tea party, ahoy!

Tea party, ahoy!

The teas and herbs are moving into the spotlight for me, too. We are currently selling at Northampton Community College’s Wednesday market (10-2 at main campus!), and will have some herbs at the Easton Public Market when that location opens. I’ve been looking for places to give out sample packs around the county to interested stores and cafes, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

I few weeks ago a handful of friends and NCC Good Growers came out to help me dig some raised beds. Shovels flew and two enormous raised beds were formed, moving us ever closer to that permanent raised bed dream. And beautiful Lucia, neighbor intern and beloved soul sister of 2015, has finished her season with Willow Haven and returned home. Applications are open for new guitar-strumming, heart-warming neighbor gals – but know she’s always gonna be the favorite. Follow her family’s adventure as they create a tiny house community outside of Philly!

Lucia, the beloved, and Mislav, the first person to appreciate that my tea kettle whistles a perfect fifth.

Lucia, the beloved, and Mislav, the first person to appreciate that my tea kettle whistles a perfect fifth.

And the biggest news of all: I’m going on an adventure! I’ve talked about it for years and put it off for one reason or another. Too nervous of traveling, not enough funds, afraid to be away for such a long time. But a couple months ago I was surfing some listings through Workaway, a site that offers international work trade experiences, and found a listing for an eco-village on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. St. Michael‘s practices permaculture and sustainable techniques I’ve only ever read about, and their commitment to teaching their workers how to utilize these practices is inspiring. The space looks utterly breathtaking. The owner is incredibly perceptive and welcoming, and even took the time to read my blog before our initial interview. I think we understand each other in terms of mission and future goals at our respective properties. We aren’t necessarily able to grow the same things in our varying climates, but new experiential learning is half the fun!

Plus, the thought of spending any more time in a Pennsylvania winter makes me too tired to think.

I can’t even explain to you how stoked I am. Jess is even lending me a not-duct-taped-together laptop for the journey, so you can all read along with this leg of the Farmer Liz adventure. Stay tuned.

You know you want to...

You know you want to…

I’m about to update all these other blog pages, the ones about teas and herbs and available locations, and the 2016 CSA info. Now’s the time, friends, to step out of your comfort zone and share in a new food experience. Contact me for more info.

Yours in Kale, Love and Coastal Dreaming,
Liz

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Rain Dances, Sister Love and Chicken Capers

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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He thinks he’s the Navigator. Silly puppy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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!

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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.

strider

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Happy National CSA Sign-Up Day!

What better day to start blogging for the 2015 season than one that promotes our small, local farm and CSA programs?

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We still have some shares available for the 2015 season! Check out the CSA Tabs on the site for more info. Not in Philly or the Lehigh Valley areas we deliver to? Check out the area’s Buy Fresh Buy Local page for other great CSA farm listings! Our current drop-off locations are:

In the Lehigh Valley: Health Habits in Schnecksville, Wagner’s Auto Body in Orefield, personal home deliveries and other locations that would generate enough share-holders to warrant a spot. So rally your friends!

In Philly: Mt. Airy Read & Eat (Wednesdays), La Salle University (Wednesdays), The Support Center for Child Advocates (Wednesdays), The East Falls Farmers’ Market (Saturdays), South Philly (location pending – Wednesdays or Saturdays, TBA).

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We’re also spectacularly excited to announce our collaboration with St. Luke’s Hospital Quakertown Campus this season! St. Luke’s started to provide its staff with local farm CSA options a couple years ago, and the program has flourished. We’re looking forward to meeting the wonderful folks at the Quakertown campus and sharing some green bounty.

One of last year's half shares, for primavera love

One of last year’s half shares, for primavera love

Welcome back, friends. Sorry to have been away so long. I can’t say it was all farm-related work keeping me from WordPress, or all vacation, but the point is I’m here to share the watershed season with you in 2015, happy green pictures and all!

Okay, not quite green...yet. But we're getting there!

Look familiar? Filling our passive solar bunker, Round II!

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Okay, not quite green…yet. These onions and greens need a couple more days. But soon. Reallllllly soon.

We have an irrigation system (only three years in the making!). We have proper soil amendments. We have a CSA that we believe will be doubling in production size this year and two growing markets in the city. We’re getting organized for the bigger side projects (here’s looking at you, tea blends), and getting more in the greenhouse earlier.

Snow? What snow? Spring is almost here, folks. Keep your chin up.

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Our table with teas and herbs at Monday night’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley farm to table event in Easton. Awesome farmers, awesome promotion, awesome night.

I’m off to build some more grow boxes in the greenhouses. We’ve got a lot of greens and herbs to start! Catch up with you again soon.

Another Season Passes – But We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Next week is the last CSA delivery of the season.

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I can hardly believe it. It was just the other day we were setting up the bunker in the greenhouse for the first round of seeding, wasn’t it?

Time moves strangely always for me, but particularly so in the last eight months. Not sure where it all went or how we got here, where I’m wandering Philly before 7am and posting up at a coffee shop in Fairmount in all my winter gear before work at my old office.

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OCF Coffee House – this pot of tea and breakfast sandwich made my whole week. Ya’ll don’t even know.

August-October passed in a straight-up blur. It was really hot for awhile, I remember that. I remember the weeds, of course. And I remember a fair number of markets chock full of awesome and adorable humans. But it was a crazy frenzy, interrupted by bouts with new friends, hilarious market antics and small animals.

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Baby Stubbz was a big hit at market.

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Farm Fresh, Local Kitten!

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And then there was that time Steve hosted a coup at the Saturday market.

Both markets ended two weeks back, and last week I had my first Saturday off since May. It was so surreal and so very calm. I think I drove around a little aimlessly in New Tripoli just because I could.

Not that we aren’t without farm work. Not just yet. We are packing up the season – organizing, breaking down supplies, and thinking already about what we need to do better next year. We have over twenty pounds of garlic that went into the ground last week, and another seven to go before we’re through. We’ve been awaiting soil test results, thinking about what the future holds, and printing 2015 CSA pamphlets.

Not that I’m still soldiering on at that manic summer speed. I’m sleeping more. I’m really enjoying nights with Epsom salt baths and movies. I’m moving a little slower to cut the last of the CSA greens in the field. I still work at the health food store three days a week, and now I work 2-3 days in Philadelphia, archiving and helping with Toy Drive business in my old stomping grounds at The Support Center for Child Advocates. I’ve been starting to run again – which I don’t have the time or energy to keep up with in the thick of the season but which makes me happier than I ever really realize until I start doing it again after a period of stagnancy. I’ve been ordering books to read on Amazon. I’ve been lying around, occasionally, trying to learn how to do nothing.

Oh, and working on my house. Did I mention I got a house?

Like I said, it’s been a weird last few months.

My parents, who guide and support me in all things, believe in my endeavor enough to help financially back my soon-to-be home-ownership. The business did expand exponentially this year, and I still love farming, so we figured it made sense to look into buying rather than renting in the area. And when they showed me Little House a few months ago, I lost my mind.

I mean, look at it. It's the most adorable teeny house I've ever seen. And the trees are great. I've already spent an hour reading in one of them.

I mean, look at it. It’s the most adorable teeny house I’ve ever seen. And the trees on the other side of it are great. I’ve already spent an hour reading in one of them.

In the last few weeks since settlement, I’ve spent hours in Home Depot trying to navigate pex fittings and ceiling fans. Two of my oldest and dearest friends from home, Steve and Mike, have decided to invest their time and energy into getting this place in order for me. Electrical and plumbing work for food and beer? Yeah, I think I can manage that.

I truly have some incredible friends. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this love from them and so many of the people close to my soul, but I am so, so grateful to have them.

The end of the season has been exciting for my family, too. Instead of getting bored about winter, Mom was gifted a puppy, and there is warm little ball of light in there house that makes her so happy. And Arya Stark is pretty adorable, even for a Jack Russell.

Strider is probably the least thrilled of the team to have Arya in our midst.

Strider is probably the least thrilled of the team to have Arya in our midst. But he loves her, too. 

But back to Crooked Row. I’ve learned so much again this year, I’m not sure where my brain is storing it all (or rather, I do – I can’t seem to find my car keys, like, ever, and I am constantly setting things down and forgetting where I put them). I had a really supportive and sweet CSA base this year, who didn’t complain when they got piles of summer squash for a few weeks straight or that my corn never grew to fruition. I’m doing an end-of-the-season survey next week to see what folks really thought of the season, and no matter what comes of it, I’ll learn more there, too, about what it is people are looking for in their local food sources.

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Near the end of the season I finally got my act together and started making tea blends. By the last market I had some on the table and folks were ecstatic. Though the blends still need some tweaking in terms of recipes, I ordered some more herbal books and want to take some more courses in this vein to create some really delicious and beneficial tea blends in the next season. And the dried herbs smell amazing. If you have any interest in these things, give me a shout at liz.m.wagner@gmail.com or any other way on the contact page. I’m trying to set up a tab for them on here in the next week or so.

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As usual, there is an enormous list of folks to thank for this season. Many of you know who you are. My mom, dad, grandma, aunt, sis, friends and family for all the helping and guiding hands and motivational support. The Lehigh Valley for all the networking opportunities and support for the local food community. The Philly home base for being supportive customers and beautiful, sweet friends. And the kids of West Mt. Airy for being the most hilarious market pals/pseudo interns I could have hoped for. The Community Art Collective for providing summer activities and support and PR for the Wednesday market throughout the season. If you’re in Philly, check these folks out. They are doing some really cool things over in the Mt. Airy/Germantown area. The Food Trust and Farm to City for allowing me into such lovely markets all season and for hiring such magnificent managers.

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On Tuesday PA WAgN held an event at the farm featuring the beautiful, strong and amazing ladies of Green Heron Tools. Liz and Anne brought their lady-friendly tiller for the women to try out in the fields, and while Liz ran the tests, Anne taught us about ergonomics and the importance of understanding the differences in men and women’s bodies, particularly in terms of agricultural tools. We learned how to use our bodies and equipment more efficiently and safely to protect ourselves over time. It was such a fun event, and ladies came from all over to participate.

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Liz and Lexi, an urban farmer from Easton, running the tiller.

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Anne explains the importance of additional grips and posture while doing even the most basic of farm tasks to protect your body.

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This past summer I was also nominated to the Lehigh Valley’s Farmland Preservation Board, which is a really cool opportunity that both they and I are really jazzed about. We get to help farms get funded for preservation, which offers a financial incentive to owners to give up their developmental rights and preserve farmland as farmland forever in the area. More to come on this development as I learn more about the process, but it is surely a necessary function as farmland continues to disappear all over the state at a rapid rate.
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This winter is set to be a phenomenal one. I have so many projects and mind – from the tea to that lot in North Philly to some oral history projects I’ve had on the back burner for months.

And I want to learn, and not just about farming. I want to see what people love about their crafts and watch passions grow. I want to know my friends and acquaintances better, and learn about people I see every day but never have a chance to talk to. If you’ve got a story, I’d love to hear it.

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If anyone is interested in next year’s CSA, drop me a line. I’ll be posting more on that in a month or so. But if you work in an office or somewhere where you think others would be interested in learning about farm share opportunities or the importance of local food, please let me know! I’d love to come in sometime and talk about this with you guys.

Thanks for everything, folks. If you’re in the Lehigh Valley or Philly and would like to go on some adventure or other, let me know. I’ll be bopping around trying to raise vibrations and spread that good field energy everywhere I go.

Yours in Love and Kale,

Farmer Liz

 

Crooked Row, A Fall and Winter Recap: We Survived and Thrived!

I had a whole giant post about our adventures over the last few months, and it’s on my laptop, which has been in the shop for the last few weeks. What you need to know most is that we survived and conquered and are feeling great about the 2014 season.Image

Sooooooooooooo in case you were wondering what happened since July, here’s our recap!

  • We made a switch from the South Philly market to the East Falls Market, courtesy of Farm to City. It was the best move for us – we really thrived and gathered a home base for in this young market. The McCanns Farm and the crafters were awesome to work with.
  • We added a Tuesday market in the Borough of Northampton, near home. It was a first-time market but folks seemed really interested in what we had to offer. Grandma Wagner came with food and to hang out often, which was lovely. Fingers crossed we’ll be returning here, and maybe to another weekday market, in 2014.
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  • Our CSA folks seemed to be happy with their season! This was the biggest accomplishment of all. We’re hoping to expand the CSA shares this season. You can find information about the forthcoming CSA here, and see our agreement which you can print and mail in with your payment here.
  • Oh yes, we canned. We canned and canned and canned SO MANY TOMATOES. So if you need tomatoes for whatever, holler at me.
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  • In the last couple months of the farm work my aunt came on Fridays to help with the harvest for the Saturday market. Folks at the store I work at want potatoes – but we sold out! It was great to have such support. My friends continued to stop by and help and encourage, which was a much-needed and priceless boost.
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  • We’re hoping to pick up some new merch in the upcoming season. I got a food dehydrator for Christmas and ordering dozens of herbs so we’re hoping to put together some soup mixes, dip mixes, and tea as additional market items. Look out, world!
  • My mom and I feel great. She looks great and is happy and is ready to be outside again for next season. I’ve already ordered 280 pounds of potatoes, which is three times more than last year’s planting. With actual irrigation, a working tractor and less part-time jobs, this farm is going to thrive. After two weeks in California in November, I can home refreshed and ready for more vegetables and varieties and markets and new CSA friends. And we’re psyched to bring all this to you!

Once the laptop is up, I will pass along our full road to recovery. But this is really all you need to know; we’re still here, we’re happy to be here, and we’re ready for more. See you in 2014.

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