I came home from Philly this morning to find some exciting mail waiting! Can’t wait to dive in.
Hold the phone.
I started this post writing about our Sandy exploits, garlic planting and our now so, so frigid evenings, but yesterday there was a game changer.
I now own a tractor.
My parents, who have been nothing but excited and supportive through this entire venture, spent their day yesterday in Lebanon, PA at a Meyerstown tractor auction. The night before Glenn called to ask my spending limit, and Monday afternoon my mother rapid-fire texted me photos of the two tractors they were coming home with – a Case JZ 1100U for Glenn, because he likes machines with wheels that he can take down trees with, and because he wasn’t going to leave the day without a Dad-sized tractor because that is who he is, and an International 274, which is the perfect gal-sized, old-school, cultivating tractor for Wagner Farmstead.
Look, I don’t know all that much about machines, not even tractors here, but here’s the specs I got: She’s got all sorts of equipment goodie hookups, a 3 Cylinder Nissan engine, she takes diesel (which, friends, means she could totally be converted to French Fry Oil in the future or some crazy awesome not gas product like that), has shanks for Front Cultivators, PTO (Power Take Off, which means the machine can power more than just itself, like a baler or a log splitter or other implement), and so, so much more.
She is the definition of a sexy tractor.
I cannot articulate how excited I am right at this moment. There’s been this warmth running through my body that I can’t shake. I am finally, for real, doing this.
And now, on to your regularly-scheduled post.
Much like everyone else on the East Coast, Keith’s Farm braced for Sandy last week as well as we could. The boys who had off on Monday went and got some water and, most importantly, dark chocolate bars for me. We filled spackle buckets with water, stockpiled some batteries, hard boiled some eggs.
And then, at the end of the workday Monday, our power went down. What commenced thereafter were three days of chilly nights, food in coolers, and NO WEDNESDAY MARKET. Instead, we became foresters for two days, cutting down trees and clearing away some fallen ones near our front orchard. It felt great to work a bow saw for a few hours. On Tuesday we wandered off to John’s Chainsaws for a new bar and some chains, and it was crazy to see how many people were in need of his services for downed trees – and what a town looks like without power. Even the grocery stores were closed in those first couple days in this area.
And it’s not like we got hit like NYC, or even where my parents were in PA where they had no power until Friday, but wherever there are trees and storms, there will be complications. We did a lot of moving around by candle and flashlight, rationed our battery-powered computers, dug out our crank lights and radios and did a bit of homesteading as we hauled more water from the nearby creek. It was fun, but it was stressful and exhausting and cold as well, and we all cheered when the power kicked back on Thursday evening.
Our biggest blow was our inability to hold a Wednesday market in the city. We harvested a bit on Monday, expecting the worst, but we couldn’t not go into Manhattan because there was no power in most of the area at that point, and Union Square had become an emergency staging area. Greenmarket was stressed out and desperately trying to accommodate the farmers, but it didn’t pan out by Wednesday. Who can blame them? Folks need their fresh veggies, but when the city is flooded with water and people are cold and powerless for days on end, it’s obvious that farmers markets could take a back seat to getting the town fixed.
By Friday Greenmarket had finagled the Satruday farmers some room at Madison Square park, and we packed a light load and prepared for our 24’x10′ spot in some random location – our tent normally being 24’x24′ on a Saturday, if you didn’t know. Clearly, there was some concern.
Derek and I had off on Saturday, so we decided to drive into the city and take stock of this new market and see what had happened in Manhattan while we were farmbound. Other than some serious lines for gas as we drove through New Jersey, we didn’t notice much out of the ordinary. And we were pleasantly surprised at the next-to-no traffic in Manhattan and the prime real estate (and free!) parking we landed a block from the market.
When we arrived at the new space, we were thrilled to see how cool our stand and the area looked. This park puts you right up on the sidewalk, and people noticed. In the brief time we visited the stand, I watched new fans ask Matt when we would be here again, and saw our elated regulars discover our relocated stand and beam with joy that we had come all the way down in this mess to bring them food. It certainly feels good to be appreciated.
We will be at Madison Square Park again this Wednesday, which is exciting and a bit nerve-wracking as we aren’t sure what size space we’ll get until we get there. But keep your fingers crossed for us!
Yesterday we spent all day planting garlic. We are quite behind on this as it’s been so wet, but we’re steadily chugging along. We’ve planted somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000-50,000 cloves so far, which is about 2/3 of what need to be in the ground. What I’ve learned from this is how seriously the weather can jeopardize your livelihood – and it’s a lesson I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I’ll give you all a more in-depth lesson on garlic planting later this week, when I am mourning Chelsea’s upcoming departure.
It’s 1am on Tuesday morning, and I’m hitting the sack once more. We spent part of the day yesterday covering greens in the field and garlic in the barn as the temperature plummeted to 19 degrees in the night – I am anxiously awaiting to see the state of our veggies come daybreak.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.