Happy CSA Day!

FBP5Yes. Turns out we have our own day now – Happy CSA Sign Up Day!

“In 2015, Small Farm Central released the 2014 CSA Farming Annual Report, which gathered data from more than 250 CSA farmers and almost 53,000 memberships. Among other interesting facts, the report showed that the most popular day for CSA Signups in 2014 was Friday February 28. So in 2015, the first National CSA Signup Day was held on Saturday February 28. CSA farmers offered special CSA Signup Day discounts and promotions and enjoyed an influx of signups from members wanting to support local agriculture. This year, CSA Day is about more than getting lots of CSA signups; it’s a whole day dedicated to the celebration of community-supported agriculture.” – csasignupday.com

It’s resources like this that really make me feel like small, local agriculture really is making the strides I imagine it is. That this many folks are involved in creating such a push (including the social networking imagery and skills some of us don’t prioritize) for farmers and shareholders alike to check signing up off their to-do list.

end of csa

By the way – sign up here!

If you’ve been waiting – today’s the day! Sign up for our Crooked Row eats today!

This year is the again the year of veggies and eggs, but also bread from the Wayfare Baker in Allentown – a man who grinds his own flour just before he bakes! – coffee from our Bethlehem Food Co-Op friends at Monocacy Coffee Co., and, of course, kombucha from the one and only at Lehigh Valley Kombucha. Once you’ve signed up for your vegetables and egg shares, we’ll be passing along the details of these other phenomenal add-ons. Because collaboration is key, friends. In all life, but most definitely in food.

onion babies

And we are ready for you. The onions are already germinating in the hoophouse. The spring broccoli is right behind. We’re planting to the Stella Natura calendar this year, and I’m looking forward to understanding the Earth and its day-to-day interactions with lunar phases and other energetics in new and exciting ways.

calf and cat

I am making some guest appearances back at the old stomping grounds. Excelsior dairy has all the adorable animals you remember from a couple years back, and more. It’s been loving catching up with them, re-learning how to milk in their barn and work with their animals.

PASA 25 years

A few weeks back I made my way back to Penn State for the 25th annual PASA Conference – the place where small growers get to hang out and feel the love from friends they sometimes only catch up with once a year. It’s like a distant family reunion – one I am always so proud to be a part of year after year. I learned a lot, as usual, and ate some great food. And, for the first time since I started wandering the halls of the Penn Stater, I was able to introduce some of my oldest farm friends to my partner in crime, which felt really wonderful. And, at the Green Heron tool booth, I opened their catalog to find this little gem!

hers and hers ad

We’re famous! 

We had an additional opportunity to visit with some farm friends and enjoy some wonderful food and beer at Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn in conjunction with Lehigh Valley Beer Week! Farm friends from around the area, including our fan favorites Stef from Valley Milkhouse  and Teena Bailey at Red Cat Farm, set up shop for several hours and talked to folks about our goods and seasonal offerings. Crooked Row herbs shared a space with LV Kombucha, and there was much rejoicing.

liz and gary booth red cat

In other news, my mom moseyed out to Kutztown this week and returned with supplies for two beehives. In two months we should be receiving a nuc, which is a family of bees that has been raised together on hive frames for one, and a package of bees to incorporate into the other. All this is riding on the heels of our bees in the tree, which is a feral honeybee colony (apparently a rare thing these days), that took up residence along our driveway and has been surviving the winter in that rugged tree. It was our catalyst to take these classes int he first place, and we’re looking forward to bringing some more pollinators into the mix.

We’ll come full circle on this one. Happy National CSA Sign Up Day! Hooray! And even if you aren’t looking into a Crooked Row share this season, know that I love you and am just happy you’re considering supporting some beautiful small ag on this lovely morning. There are lots of us out there looking for your support. Take your mind off the chill and daydream about some beautiful veggies.

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Hugs and Growing Holidays,

Liz

 

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.

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

fall kitchen

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!

seeds in bunker

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.

easton table

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.

radishes

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.

ocf

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.

Stubbz

Baby Stubbz was a big hit at market.

market kitten

Farm Fresh, Local Kitten!

melon faces

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.

tea

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.

carrot

 

broccoli

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.

lexi tiller

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

ladies ergonomics

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

lexi and liz

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.
board papers

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.

learning

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

 

Hey, What Happened to April?

Somewhere along the way April came and went. But we’ve go so much done that it’s almost okay that it feels like a whole month has just vanished.

The family has been converging to work on a bunch of different projects up at the property almost daily (Glenn has his real person sized Tonka Toy set to prep his ground for the future retirement home), but yesterday we all rallied farm-side for some afternoon work. Mom weeded the garlic, Glenn dug a trench for 24 blueberrry bushes, and I planted mesclun, sorrel, flowers, fretted over the transplants and watered.

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Oh, and Strider watched. He is getting better at walking on the baths and not through the seeded and transplanted areas. He was very excited about the blueberries, clearly.

It’s been amazing to watch things grow – even more so than at Keith’s since these are all my plant babies. We have a bunch of greens in the ground, carrots and beets and peas seeded, and the garlic is already coming up. But it’s nerve wracking as well. I don’t want these guys to get too cold or eaten by the wiley groundhogs up there. There’s a lot of factors at play I don’t have any or very little control over, and it has been challenging to just deal with that.

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I’m super stoked about these blueberry plants. They are already so beautiful. We planted them inside the fence – Glenn dug a trench with his New Holland, mom collected bags of pine needles to lay in the bottom of the trench and mulch around the top, and I bought some Espoma soil acidifyer to help amend the PH levels since blueberries prefer crazy acidic soil.

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My dear former roommate Olivia became the first non-Wagner to come do some work at the farm. It was also to show someone around and get excited. She planted broccoli raab and mesclun and lettuces, and as of yesterday they were all chugging along nicely. It was so great to have someone from college and Philly and everything before come up and see what’s happening here and be excited. Plus, she’s just the best.

And there it is again! Ruby streaks mustard, please grow big and don't get eaten.

And there it is again! Ruby streaks mustard, please grow big and don’t get eaten.

My friend Lauren as here a few weeks ago also on a rare trip home from New Haven, and she helped me seed in the greenhouse and then we went for a run.I realized how awesome it was to have girlfriends around, and I miss them terribly. Lauren and I have signed up for a run together for Back on My Feet in July, and I hope I’m together enough by then to make this all work.

Mom has been doing tons of whatever needs to be done. Hands down the best co-worker I could have asked for.  She brings my car so Strider can come up (he’s hurt himself somehow so he can’t jump up into my truck right now), leaves to check on the greenhouse when she needs a break, and does everything from seeding to weeding garlic. She’s just the best.

Grandma Wagner even came up to plant peas and give me some grandma advice.

Grandma Wagner even came up to plant peas and give me some grandma advice.

A couple weeks back I went north to pick up some food-grade, 275-gallon water storage takes in lieu of us not having electricity for a well yet, and since I was halfway to Keith’s farm packed his blueberries and headed up for a visit.He’s got a room full of set onions and potatoes, and enjoying having his new manager. He’s trying celery this year and incorporating broccoli raab into his rotation (go us!), and was excited to hear about my projects. He was looking forward to the arrival of his interns – who started work Monday. Derek and Matt and are back and have already created the New Boyhouse in the trailer.

I spent the night in New York with Jay at Peace and Carrots, the farm he is starting with his friend and former Keith’s Farm intern Laura. They’re using some of Laura’s family’s land for a CSA, and they’ve already been written up in Chester’d Dirt Magazine. At the time I visited, Jay was living in a camper while they built a shed/house to live in, and he was tending the greenhouse was Lara was away. They have a woodstove in there for heat and some happy looking plugs. We drank coffee and stayed up for hours talking about what we were nervous and excited about, and bounced ideas and planting notes off each other. It’s hard to explain how amazing it is to know someone pretty much in the same boat – I feel like I’m texting him a few times a week now with questions and to compare progress.

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Matthew has his own projects in the works while he’s working at home in Massachusetts as well. He sent me some pictures of the cold frame he built to grow some vegetables. He is doing a small CSA of his own, and hopefully that bum gets down here to visit soon (because visitnig means free labor – you have all been warned).

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The deer fence is up and functioning at 8,000 volts produced by a solar powered energizer. Mom and I put the whole thing up ourselves, and Glenn tweaked our end post so it wouldn’t short out. The fence is around about half the field – most of what I’ll be using to start. The alliums are off on their own because they don’t really get eaten. And after a bit more tweaking, hopefully today, I’ll have the end pushed out to incorporate a tractor path and I won’t have to do anything else but remember to shut it off before I shock myself (again) when I’m in there working.

The fence is up and working!

The fence is up and working!

The greenhouse is well. The onions had a couple haircuts – a Keith trick to make stockier stems – the squash and zucchini is almost ready to be planted, and I’ve set up some plants to go out into the world as potted plants for sale. Going to try that tomorrow at the store, so we’ll see if folks are interested in gardening with kale and broccoli raab and arugula. I put together the Earthway Seeder and have used it for carrots, radishes, beets and spinach. The peas are starting to germinate, so I guess I’m doing it right!

Earthway Seeder! It rules.

Earthway Seeder! It rules.

Peas!

Peas!

People are signing up for the CSA! I am so honored and excited and ready to bring you all delicious vegetables. If you’re looking for more info about that, I have some side and top links on this blog that link to the information and CSA agreement.

In other news, I’m moonlight (sunrising?) at a dairy farm, and have been for about a month now. I totally love it.I am now quick enough to dodge a swift cow kick, I have a whole new understanding of how the milking process works, and my boss and her family are really sweet and lovely folks. It’s a dairy right near my house that has over 100 cows – somewhere between 80 and 90 that need to be milked twice a day. The farm sells its milk to Land O’ Lakes, and they are a couple generation dairy farm. It has been fun to learn and work like this so early in the morning, and they’ve been great with everything from offering insight into the new farmer/old farmer mind sets and offering advice on everything from farmer’s markets to Lancaster Farmer articles to read to where to get the most affordable soil amendments.

Feeding heifers. They are so hungry!

Feeding heifers. They are so hungry!

And did I mention the calves and cows are super cute?

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The other day Mom, Strider and I sat up where her house is going up and watched the sun set. It was incredible. And now that things are coming together, none of us can wait to be full-time farmers.

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Hey! We Built a Greenhouse Part II: Frames, Plastic, and Victory

If you think this post was a long time coming, you should have watched our building progress.

Essentially, my only building experience up to this point was four years of week-long crash-course carpentry during my time with Project Appalachia, one of La Salle’s renowned and incredible service trips. We’ll get more into this amazing little adventure and how it essentially made me want to be a farmer later (in two weeks, when the next batch of kids is heading down to Harlan, KY).

The point here is that we needed to frame two end walls, with little to no understanding of geography, leveling (this was my fault completely – I hate using levels so I just don’t), or most of Glenn’s tools (at the outset – after some tinkering Matt became handy with all the tools at his disposal).

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Building, building, building a frame.

After some discussion about what this frame should look like within the scope of the hoops, we picked a basic model a number of folks use in greenhouses. We built one wall outside and the other in Glenn’s sweet back garage, though it wasn’t until later that we realized that springing for extra-long screws instead of settling for free nails would have made a sturdier frame in probably a third of the time it took us. Ah well. Next time.

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Matt may make the argument that the reason he is in all these pictures is because he did most of the work. But someone had to document (though he is also correct in much of this case)!

So we fit these frames under the hoops and attached them with metal strapping to the hoops. We then covered one wall with plastic by stapling old drip tape from last year’s irrigation over the plastic and into the wooden studs. On the front end we covered the frame with plywood and created a space for the door.

Glenn donated his graffiti-door to the cause. We hung it in place like that for a day, but don't worry, it's a nice happy green now.

Glenn donated his graffiti-door to the cause. We hung it in place like that for a day, but don’t worry, it’s a nice happy green now.

Through all this, Strider insisted on being very involved in all our processes. Which included pretty much moving in to Matt’s bedroom with him. That dog shunned his family and spent the weeks of Greenhouse Parts I&II in a fine display of ridiculous dog enthusiasm and traitordom.

He thought he was helping...

Sabotage!

No, dog, you're not helping.

No, dog, you’re not helping.

Before the walls were built, we collected some old fence boards and attached them to the sides of the greenhouse with metal strapping to create a base for the wall plastic. At some point Glenn and Matt were actually dismantling some of our house fence to do this, further evidence of our family’s unraveling.

We had to wait a few days to get a day without wind – and by this time it had snowed so it was snowy inside the greenhouse and we are still contending with that a bit – before unrolling our 6ml greenhouse wall plastic from Agriculture Solutions. We stapled the front end of the plastic to the front plywood through more drip tape, and then began to travel down the sides of the greenhouse doing the same with the baseboards.

So if we pull from here, is it tight yet? What about here? Man, plastic is the pits sometimes.

So if we pull from here, is it tight yet? What about here? Man, plastic is the pits sometimes.

I cannot really explain how long and daunting a process this was as we desperately pulled to tighten each section, swore and got furious when it wouldn’t tighten as we’d hoped, and how many staples we pulled out and put it again before we got the hang of it.

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There’s still some air movement within that plastic, and we probably could have made it tighter with a couple extra hands pulling (but where’s the fun in that?) but by God, we did it. And it’s warm inside, folks. And beautiful, and ours.

Yesterday Donna and I filled in the gaps between the baseboards on the sides and the ground with wet newspaper and sod to block the air from getting up and under the inside of the plastic. She was excited to be getting her hands dirty, and it is well worth it to bask in the heat inside that structure in the middle of February.

Other things happened during this time that I will save for next week’s blog fodder: Matt built greenhouse benches, we created a heating bed with sand and some soil heating cables, all my seed arrived, I assembled a solar cooker one night while he perfected his Wii Tennis. He’s back home in Indiana again, but still advising with seeding, manure, and all those farm things he understands a lot better than I do.

Don't be fooled by this hardworking photo, readers. Matt still got some vacation time in, eating sushi and bowling and playing all sorts of Wii Sports and bringing the new plague of Katamari Damacy into my home.

Don’t be fooled by this hardworking photo, readers. Matt still got some vacation time in, eating sushi and bowling and playing all sorts of Wii Sports and bringing the new plague of Katamari Damacy into my home.

Victory faces.

Victory faces.

But there is a greenhouse. And about a billion other things to do. But there is a greenhouse.

Enter: Greenhouse

Enter: Greenhouse

Hey! We Built A Greenhouse: Part I

What have I done in 2013?

Well, we started the farm.

After days of decision planning, price comparing, unbelievably tedious and painful (for me, anyway) math, reading vegetable descriptions and discussing the pros and cons of various tomatoes, squash and beans, I sat down and ordered my seeds. Johnny’s, High Mowing, and Fedco are now the happy owners of substantial amounts of my bank account. Maine Potato Lady came in at the end yesterday when I bought my really exciting and colorful potato seed stock and Stuttgarter onion sets.

I filed for an EIN and my fictitious name for the farm – Wagner Farmstead is officiated. I filled out some applications to a few farmers’ markets in Philly and Greenmarket in NYC, and I’m waiting to hear from them while simultaneously applying to the state to accept Farmer’s Market Nutritional Program vouchers and to the Department of Agriculture to accept EBT.

Which leads us to the project of the past two weeks: THE GREENHOUSE.

I am atrocious at math. I think I’ve said this before (besides this article already)– maybe several times. So let me reiterate once more – having a couple men around me who can do math and are mechanically-minded has been incredibly helpful.

Glenn being awesome

Glenn being awesome

Matt, all-knowing veggie farmer from Keith’s Farm, flew in from Indiana two weeks ago to assist (read: do most of) this project. Prior to his arrival, Glenn leveled the ground with his New Holland and we (read: mostly he) measured out the 36-inch ground sleeves (hollow metal rods that you sledgehammer 18 inches into the ground), making sure the screw holes were not facing out so the bolt heads would scrape the plastic walls.

Tractor!

Tractor!

Here is the sort-of level ground with ground sleeves

Here is the sort-of level ground with ground sleeves

When Matt arrived he placed the hoops in the ground sleeves, keeping them as level as possible. He screwed them into place with one of Glenn’s many awesome drills (we proceeded to use a litany of Glenn’s awesome equipment, from jigsaws and miter saws to, well, his entire toolbox).

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Hoops!

And yes, at the end of all this there is a greenhouse…and more! Stay tuned for the next update: We Built A Greenhouse Part II: Frames, Walls, Snow, Benches and Victory

-Farmer Liz