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.

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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.

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We’ve got big, big plans.

The Fall of Tomato Kingdom – The Greens Uprising

Well, it came to Pennsylvania, and then it came to New York, and then it came to Orange County, and then it came to Keith’s Farm; late blight. We found some last week while we were harvesting, and now we are in full on tomato harvesting. We must pick as much as we can and Keith has resolved himself to spraying copper on a couple different areas to keep some of the plants going for as long as we can. But our main goal for the past few days has been to harvest everything salvageable and let them finish ripening in our root cellar and cooler.

But late blight was not the beginning of our tomato problems. We began our season with blossom end rot in our heirlooms because someone planted a tomato stake right through the drip tape, so when folks irrigated that field the water gushed out into nothing and some of the tomatoes were never watered. This is how I learned the importance of checking drip lines EVERY TIME you irrigate. Holes and leaks form all the time – from wear and tear, from small critters with sharp little rodent teeth, from tractors and loosely-tied ends. And tomatoes succumb easily to a number of diseases (ours have a few) and need a lot of maintenance for a successful crop.

But when you get tomatoes, it’s totally worth it – in addition to a half dozen variety of regular red tomatoes and four cherries, we had a solid planting of Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Pink and Yellow Brandywine and Amish Paste heirlooms that New York’s tomato connoisseurs gobbled up each market. Keith also sells a low-acid yellow tomato called a Taxi that sort of stinks flavor-wise, but people looking for low-acid tomatoes adore, and we were regularly the only stand picking green tomatoes to sell at market, which were overall very well received.

Though folks are sort of over tomatoes now with our rapid descent into fall, tomato season was still something to behold. I am relieved that it is winding down – some harvest days were extended full hours because there were so many tomatoes to pick – but seeing a truck filled to the brim with such vibrant colors is really a sight to behold.

But our silver lining is our greens. Our kale, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage and other fall treats look pretty amazing right now. Our chard is spotty from Cercospora leaf spot, which apparently travels on quick weed (which we have in abundance on this farm), but we’ve cut off the diseased leaves and the chard we took to market went over well. We are still struggling to hussle our Mizuna at the stand – which is insane to me, because I could eat Mizuna bunches all day – our Asian greens kick butt, and this one is long and stringy with a mild mustard flavor when you sauté it.

But what are you going to do? As people experiment more with their fall greens, they’ll come around on Mizuna, I’m sure. We also took giant Tatsoi heads to market, which look totally cool. Being down a camera has been a huge drag for the blog, but I’m going to invest in one this weekend so you readers can see the amazing produce we are growing right now. Our fields of kale and broccoli are incredibly to see. And they are fortified behind the Great Wall of Keith’s Farm, so they should be relatively safe from pests.

Our winter squash is also looking incredible. We have huge butternut and acorn ripening in the field, our Delicata looks scrumptious and our Jack-Be-Little pumpkins and cooking pumpkins already make it feel like Halloween up in 09. We took some to market yesterday and some came back, but once it gets a little colder it will allegedly fly off the shelves.

As far as market, Wednesdays have been clipping along nicely. Yesterday it rained heavily twice and the threat of rain made for a slow morning, but after the sun came up business picked up considerably. Not our best day, but still fairly decent. Apparently now that it’s after Labor Day business will fly through the roof because folks have officially returned to the city for work. It’s cool to think of being even busier than we have been, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

On the personal business end of things, our tomatillos and husk cherries are giving us only small returns at each market, but it’s still fun to have something of our own to take. And the fields of black dirt where Keith started set onions in the spring have given way to two bands of broccoli raab that our coming on nicely. We’ll make good money off those if the field doesn’t flood and if deer don’t eat them – people at market have been clamoring for it since we ran out.

I was too tired for a few weeks to be excited about Wagner Farmstead, but after a day of Wagner picnicking because Jess was home from California this past weekend, I’m totally amped again. We talked to my family about farming all day, and Melissa’s boyfriend Anthony has offered a lot of advice and potential aid that has me feeling excited that we could actually pull this off. I’m going home this weekend to measure my starter field so I can officially start working on a crop plan and field map for the spring. I’m staying on here at Keith’s until the last market before Christmas, and then I’ll be ready and eager to start setting things up for my farm ahead. I can’t wait.

Like I said, I don’t really have any pictures to include of the farm at the moment, but my good friends Lauren and Kevin invited me up to their apartment at Yale a couple weekends back, and I brought them some seconds from market that they turned into a real feast. So here is a before and after shot of that.

A beautiful spread for a beautiful couple.

Fork-crushed blue potatoes, shirazi salad, salmon and a medley of deliciousness. Lauren is an amazing cook.

Lavender cake!

Also, Flavia and Keith had us over for dinner before Parker left to return to Bard for school, and Flavia bought us each a handcrafted hat from a novelty shop in town. Keith adores these hats and always has one on at work, and it was really sweet and thoughtful farm gift for us. I love mine so much that I went to the store and bought one for Jess (who, fashionista that she is, was less receptive). But here’s a few goofy picture of us in our hats Flavia sent around.

Clearly, we are all business.

With the lady of the house!

What were we talking about? No one can remember, but it sure looked serious.

And now, duty calls. But stay tuned. I’ve vowed to start writing more again with my renewed confidence and energy. And the forthcoming photos will be well worth it.

-Farmer Liz

 

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