Spring springs some tasty things.

Garlic at the start of the week - happy and excited to grow!

Garlic at the start of the week – happy and excited to grow!

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Swamp. Le sigh.

Swamp. Or, really, a running river. Le sigh.

So maybe you heard. It rained.

It rained for days. And as I am a terrible farmer who broke her rain gauge and never mounted its replacement, all I know is that it rained A LOT. I’ve got video of a veritable river running down the side of the field (and sadly, but not too tragically, running through the bottom of my pea rows), and the trenches it left behind are pretty impressive. My dairy boss nearby market it at 4.8 inches – which translates to a mess for a lot of friends and fields in the area. Today has been a soggy day of runoff and assessing any damages, and determining when we can get back on the ground.

Nature, my friends. It’s a heck of a thing.

Thankfully, one of the only upshots to growing on a hill (hah) is that everything above flood level is now really happy. The perennial herbs are stoked.

happy perennials

My happy perennials – rhubarb, lovage, sorrel, thyme, sage, chives, lavender, and more to come soon.

happychives

The Chive.

lovage

The lovage, which was pretty irate about the severe temperature change two weeks ago, has since recovered and is ready to be celery 2.0 for the masses.

It’s fun to see all these things come back to life.

We’ve had a busy, busy time of things since we last spoke. Lots of seeding, prepping, and now, finally, finally starting to plant. Everything feels so delayed – from the fluctuating temperatures and weird, late-April snow to The Great Flood – but in the next couple days all the happy greens and potatoes should be in the ground, the peas, radishes, spinach, beets and turnips should be a billion times bigger than they were two days ago, and June 1 will be that much closer.

purple passion asparagus

Some purple passion asparagus popped up yesterday!

breakfast radish baby

Baby breakfast radishes 🙂

Mizuna

Our friends Mizuna

tomato country

Big tomato country!

Darling dearest wife Olivia came up on her birthday to spend the day potting up tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and planting onions in the field. Momma Wags helped put in onions, scallions and onion sets, and Strider helped with the row cover on the first mesclun planting. Grow, babies, grow.

Liv workin

onion sets

Don’t worry – even if we get the cultivator working for potatoes and greens, we’ll still have some crooked rows of things. But they are less crooked with the Valley Oak Wheel Hoe!

dog helps

My dog is better than your employees.

onions sets

Stuttgarter and Red Baron sets – for tasty spring onions.

Certain tasks are easier than last year. We got ourselves a Valley Oak Wheel Hoe from Green Heron Tools with a furrowing attachment to make arguably less crooked rows when we do one row of things at a time. Allegedly the cultivator will be up and running for rows of greens and things, but I don’t want to get too excited until it happens.

In the meantime, this guy is great!

In the meantime, this guy is great!

And the hops are happy and alive and growing. As we gear up to bottle a ginger beer this weekend (which I am beyond excited about – Steve has a killer recipe), I can’t help but be stoked to use these guys in the future.

Hops1

Hops are hoppy and happy.

My dear compadre and exquisite carpenter friend Justin has been coming up to the property after a full day of work to build me a walk-in fridge. I love guys who can build things, especially when they are friends and like smaller projects. Tomorrow my air conditioner I shopped for on PortableACNerd.com arrives, and once this puppy is insulated and dry-walled, I won’t be quite as crazy about running around hours before market trying to pick last minute mountains of peas and beans and bunches of greens. The Coolbot will allow these veggies to stay happy and fresh despite the summer heat.

maurer climbs

Justin climbs around in the dark being awesome.

just walkin

Strider admires Justin’s skills.

On a bittersweet note, Thursday marked my last day official day at the dairy until the cold weather comes around again. I just couldn’t maintain last year’s crazy schedule with another Philly market in play. I am excited to get on the field full time, but I’m really sad to be leaving the hilarious and sweet friends/new family who have helped me grow so much and put up with me for over a year now.

And, of course, I’m going to miss the cows and other assorted farm creatures.

chilling

These punks don’t even care that I’m leaving.

dairy candy

This dairy family even gives me Easter cows. Cows! Good thing they’re stuck with me for life now.

totoro kittens

Goodbye, Totoro kitten!

brown swiss baby

I will especially miss my clan of baby Brown Swiss. Now who will slobber up my ears and hair and hands every day?

So now we’ll be getting down to business – Cue the Mulan!

If at any point next week you are feeling bored or sad or don’t want to be inside, you just let me know. I’ll make a frittata and some tea and put on whatever music makes you happy (because plants like all kinds of music – at least my plants, anyway) and you can come plant or move fencing or seed lettuces or play with the dog. See you there?

See You, Field Cowboys…

dairy and oakley

Photo by Miss Dairy Boss Lady Andrea S-L.

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).

021

017

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

Home Is Wherever I’m With You, Part Two: My Mom the Superhero, Greenhouses, and Getting it Together

This post should have been written two weeks ago, but here we are. 2013 has been quite something,

For reasons that are strange, somewhat unknown and exhausting to rehash, our family spent the first week of the new year hanging out with Mom Wagner in the hospital. She’s fine now, and thanks everyone for the food, thoughts, beer, visits and everything else.

A shout out to my cousins Chris and Bernie, who brought flowers to the hospital. These are beautiful. And to Melissa, who showed up with bread, soup and muffins.

A shout out to my cousins Chris and Bernie, who brought flowers to the hospital. These are beautiful. And to Melissa, who showed up with bread, soup and muffins.

While we were hanging out in the ICU, mom woke up one morning and promptly sassed me about not figuring out my greenhouse plans.

Long story short, Donna Wagner, exhausted and, uh, did I mention pretty sick?, insisted I get my ass in gear. Because in case you didn’t know, she’s a superhero. And now that she wants to farm, we’re in this for serious.

That was the real kick I needed to get my act together. I made a couple phone calls to some farm friends. One helped me get in touch with folks about grant questions. Matt started researching greenhouse prices and calling companies for quotes. And that was how we met H. Schwartz and Sons, the folks I visited with Glenn on Friday to pick up my greenhouse.

Yes. Yes, yes. After all the false starts, big ideas with no direction and easy ways out, the greenhouse pieces are here. There’s no turning back now.

On Friday morning Glenn and I packed up at 5:30am and headed down to Wilmington, Delaware, where H. Schwartz and Sons has a giant warehouse/garage surrounded by piles of steel pipe. That’s his primary business, but he gets bundles of seconds steel for projects that have been bent or can’t be used for some reason, and since he’s bending it to make greenhouse and tunnel hoops anyway, can utilize this rejected material and make affordable, sturdy greenhouses from galvanized steel.  His frames perform well in snow, which is very important up in these parts.

Some of us felt some trepidation as glenn and set out on our greenhouse drive. We don't always do so well together. But it was actually a lovely trip. We may (knock on wood) finally be starting to understand each other.

Some of us felt some trepidation as glenn and set out on our greenhouse drive. We don’t always do so well together. But it was actually a lovely trip. We may (knock on wood) finally be starting to understand each other.

Next weekend we start assembly. We may just put up 45 feet of the 96 foot frame and use the other half for a high tunnel, or get so excited we build the whole thing. That remains to be seen.

Loading up!

Loading up!

This will become a 96-foot greenhouse. In the words of one of my farmers, booyah.

This will become a 96-foot greenhouse. In the words of one of my farmers, booyah.

These pieces will connect the hoops with the center purlin.

These pieces will connect the hoops with the center purlin.

The ground cover for the floor arrived first on Thursday, puzzling the UPS man as he handed me half a dozen packages for my mother and a 15 ft., heavy roll of the stuff from the back of his truck. The plastic for the roof and sides has yet to arrive, and then my co-builder and I must price out some lumber for the base and doors. We’ll need some other pieces as well – once we are in the building phase I’ll try to document the steps and tools as specifically as possible, because other than YouTube videos, there aren’t a whole lot of detailed assembly instructions with photos floating around out there.

We also had a nice visit from my dear Tomato Boys Matthew and Derek as they set off on their winter cross country adventure. We caught up doing what they love best – eating pizza. They’ve made it to Memphis and last I heard they were bouncing around New Orleans somewhere. Derek is taking notes – maybe one day if I get it together I’ll be able to replicate some of their trip on my own. They may be staying at some farms along the way, so maybe they can’t report back on their arrival in San Diego.

This doofus drove hours out of his way to get some upside down pizza. Derek, who despite many appearances on my blog, hates having his picture taken and is loafing in the back.

This doofus drove hours out of his way to get some upside down pizza. Derek, who despite many appearances on my blog, hates having his picture taken and is loafing in the back.

In other news, I continue to wander the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia area looking for places to sell garlic and market my future produce. Over a dozen small natural food shops, restaurants and other similar venues have seen my nervous face and heard my bumbling, awkward spiel as I thrust some garlic bulbs on them and scamper out, but we’ve yet to see any returns. Keep your fingers crossed!

One of the owners of Food for All, however, seemed particularly excited (Nate Adams suggested this little number for lunch so I could talk to them about my garlic. Thanks, dude.). The store/café receives a lot of its food from a Lancaster-based co-op, but Food for All seemed interested in an additional food source. She asked if I would have my produce listed online to order – which is something I had not thought of, but is something that Matt seems to think is a good idea and is something his computer/farming brain can create. So that may be the avenue here. More to come with further investigation.

My first issue of Growing for Market came last week along with a hard copy of High Mowing’s seed catalog and a new Johnny’s catalog. I spent the better part of a day reading all the descriptions of the Maine Potato Lady’s seed stock and picking out my favorites. After some discussion, Donna and I came to the conclusion that since PA is a potato state, we should pick potatoes folks wouldn’t normally see, and will be choosing some organic stock that were bred for their antioxidant and vitamin content. Plus, they are beautiful colors. And I’m going to try some sweet potatoes, which have a growing process that isn’t quite the same as a regular potato, so it should be an adventure.

I mailed in my registration of a fictitious name and EIN application to the state and federal offices. I have to look into buying liability insurance if I’m going to sell produce at a market. And I need about two thousand more pieces of equipment and materials, from plows and discs to potting soil and trays, before I’m ready to roll. But we’re getting there. Inch by inch, we’re getting there.

Not the most organized planner...

Not the most organized planner…

And I’ve had nothing but support from my friends and family. One is helping me knock around branding and marketing ideas. One makes sure I’m trying to using my newly-created farm Twitter account to my advantage. Others make sure I’m not falling off my game. And some may not even realize how they help – I’ve got a friend traveling through Southeast Asia, another living in Japan, one becoming a father, one writing about music in a way that never stops making me laugh, and one picking up writing again, and reading their blogs motivates me on my own adventure and encourages me to be a more diligent writer.  And Nate has let me start writing for Patch again, so I’m getting back into the swing of what I loved most for such a long time; sitting down at a computer, making some phone calls, and starting to write.

Add soil and stir. The Farmer Liz gets back in the saddle.

Hey - this is my 3 and 1/2 acres from the sky!

Hey – this is my 3 and 1/2 acres from the sky!