Cue the AC/DC – We’re Back!

You see that down there?

HooooRAYYY!

HOOOORAYYY!

That’s some baby garlic coming up in the field. Yeah, I’m excited. And for those of you who’ve had the Keith Stewart Rocambole, I’m sure you are, too.

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Hello, Starshine. We are so glad you could join us.

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Copyright Sarah Merusi

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Friend Sarah’s crazy fish lens captures the the mom/daughter planting excitement

The spinach is up. So is the kale, lettuce, beets, salad greens, assorted herbs and a plethora of other baby veg. The peppers are almost all up at this point, and every day my mom walks into the greenhouse and speaks softly and sweetly to the eggplants and tomatoes, coaxing them with promises of fun and parties if they hurry up and germinate (which I think Pennywise the Clown did too, right?)

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Tomato Kingdom

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And we seeded like 35 types of tomatoes, by the way.

In the field, the sorrel is chugging along, the perennial herbs are making their small and sturdy resurgence and the peas, radishes, beets and spinach I sowed last week should be up soon. Sometimes I find myself standing on the edge of the field wanting to seed and sun dance for them like the sisters in My Neighbor Totoro…but our field is just too close to the road. Too many people slow down to look at what weird things we are doing in the field on a day-to-day without drawing extra attention to ourselves.

And the garlic is up. THE GARLIC IS UP. Did I mention that? You can’t see this but I have paused in my writing to hug myself in excitement.

Two weeks back I took myself on a last grand adventure for the season. I headed out to Pittsburgh – one of my favorite drives and one of my favorite cities – to visit some dear friends, see Neutral Milk Hotel be great and spend hours in the Phipps Conservatory, a huge beautiful greenhouse building full of the most beautiful and exotic plants I’ve ever seen. It was a great way to kickoff a farm bound season in the beautiful LV.

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It’s a banana tree! In the middle of Pittsburgh!

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Oh look, a room full of airplants!

Not that there aren’t things to do in the beautiful Lehigh Valley. My friend Steve and I are slowly working our way through those delightful cases of our  Belgian tripel – and it was really satisfying to take a couple down to Philly and have the boys be surprised at how great it tasted (I am an okay baker, but the Keith boys know I am renowned for big ideas and bad delivery when it comes to cooking – see the twig debacles of 2012). The other day we transferred our maple coffee porter into glass for a couple weeks and added some bacon infused vodka – soooo we’ll see how that goes. But I’m excited nonetheless. I spent part of yesterday reading about herb-infused beers, and I can’t wait to give those a whirl this summer.

And this past weekend I had the pleasure of a lovely dinner with My Grandmother’s Table, a friend’s catering and dining experience company out of Allentown. A bag of sorrel for the dinner got me two seats at her small-party table at Ruby’s Floral Factory in Bethlehem for a night of food and fun that owner Dina Valentini Wanamaker modeled after her childhood Easter Table. I had a blast, made some new friends and she turned my bag of baby sorrel into a fantastic salad with Bulgarian Feta, watercress and garlic vinaigrette.

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The first field greens of the season. Makes my heart sing.

Add another five courses of pork marsala, chicken roulade with sage and mozz, and homemade raviolis, and you can imagine the evening we had. We’re working on a vegetarian festival meal for September, so stay tuned. We’re talking apps, herb-infused drinks and some amazing vegetable entrees, so get stoked.

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Sorrel and feta salad. Yummm.

It’s been a season with a lot of potential already. It makes me nervous, but I can’t help but feel lucky and excited, too. My cousin got a small cafe in Coopersburg to give me a call about buying vegetables this season. The sous chef at Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn reached out a couple days ago on Facebook. My boys have their folks at the Alehouse interested in some after-market vegetables. Tonight The Support Center for Child Advocates is auctioning off a CSA half share for an amazing cause at its Annual Benefit. The guys at Philly Foodworks and I haven’t met in person yet, but we talk frequently and are thrilled to be working together this year.

And for the biggest announcement – The Food Trust has given me a Wednesday Market in the La Salle-ish neighborhood in Philly. I’ll be over at the intersection of Mt. Pleasant and Chew on the Germantown/Mt. Airy border! I can’t wait. After a year of playing the scrappy huckster, I feel almost shell-shocked that folks have reached out to me to learn more and get involved in procuring some vegetables. Coupled with the Farm to City East Falls market, I am looking forward to a full and busy season in the city.

Which, of course, means wayyyy more vegetables need to be up and growing than last year. It’s a little overwhelming to think about, especially with all the weather delays this season, but my dairy boss reminds me regularly that everyone is in the same boat and that you can’t control these things. Which makes me feel better most of the time, aha.

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It can be scary to go out there and seed three or four times as much of a crop than I did last year, but I know it’s well worth it. Folks were so happy with what we had to offer last year, and with a little more experience hopefully there will be more of all the favorites. This is still a big experiment year – I am trying lots of different varieties of each vegetable to discern what works best in my soil and this area – but I hope all this research and studying pays off. People see my hauling this backpack of magazines and books around and ask me if I’m still a student – and while I know what they mean and assert that I’m not, I really am.

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In other Farmstead news, my folks are more than halfway moved up to the new home. Glenn has dreams of an orchard like the one on his childhood farm, so we ordered a pile of fruit trees from our Willow Haven Farm neighbors and got them in the ground last week. I spent a couple minutes making a cute and readable map for my parents to keep track of these guys, since they technically aren’t part of Crooked Row Farm (until I start stealing fruit in a few years, maybe).

Farmstead Tree Map

Right now they look much less exciting than the photo image

Right now they look much less exciting than the photo image

We’re doing a lot of mulching and they are doing a lot of painting and sanding and cleaning to get the current house in order to sell. Hope these new buyers enjoy all the secret tomatoes that are sure to pop up all around the landscaping by summer.

Glenn is also trying out a new toy – a Bobcat, which is really a glorified golf cart with shocks that drives faster. Matthew came up to seed tomatoes and make me some herb shelves the other day, and we spent a fair bit of time whipping around on this puppy. Old man Strider dog also enjoys a good ride in it.

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So excited he made some market shelves!

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Matthew is excited.

And so our journey continues. I just spent the morning seeding a bunch of herbs, and now I’m off to help landscape for the house sale. Here are some plant babies in almost-real time:

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Mizuna! Non nom nom.

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Itty bitties.

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Red Russian Kallllleee!

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Mesclun – coming to a salad bowl near you.

All the best!

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We like to pretend it’s spring here.

Spring has been here for six days already – not that you can tell from all this terrible, cold, dreary weather.

It’s certainly holding up some fairly important tasks – prepping the fields, direct seeding some peas and other crops, etc. It’s just too wet. But soon enough we’ll be rocking and rolling. As my dairy boss regularly reminds me, there’s no point in being upset about the weather.

In the meantime, there are plenty of other tasks to attend to. You’ve seen the new marketing – things like that are perfect on bleak days.

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I’ve been field planning, attending pre-season market meetings, cleaning, packing, unpacking and watching the babies grow.

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The day the first onions germinated – a few weeks ago now – I stood in the greenhouse and did a seriously happy dance.

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Red Russian Kale Babies!

My friends and family are networking me with restaurants and food hubs looking for local food. I’m working on picking up another Philly market – on a weekday! A little cold weather can’t cramp my style too much.

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The greenhouse is toasty enough to feel like the appropriate season for growing. Special Thanks to Teena from Red Cat Farm for the adopted rhubarb and parsley babies. Huzzah!

Nom nom nom. Spinach.

Nom nom nom. Spinach.

 They’re growing a lot slower than they have been. But, hey – they’re growing. And thankfully, I have a spectacular team that likes to proactively seek out tasks at the farm – like seed dozens of trays for hours at a shot.

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Mom Wags and Aunt Susie, killin’ it in the greenhouse.

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Welcome to the jungle.

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Susie placates our needy sidekick.

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Exhausted from a day of greenhouse guarding. Those plants sure do need a lot of protecting.

I’ve had some time to catch up with friends before falling off the grid in another month or so. Steve and I bottled our beer and man, is it delicious. Things like “Belgian tripel” didn’t mean anything to me a couple months ago – I knew I liked IPAs and that was that. But that seems to be changing. On Tuesday we picked up the ingredients for a coffee porter and saw the new Muppet movie. Before 6pm! Success!

And with a pile of organic hops ready to be planted from The Thyme Garden, it looks like we’ll have a fun and thrilling saga ahead of us with that project.

Happy times, hoppy times

Happy times, hoppy times.

My dear friend Sarah can up from Philly for some Lehigh Valley adventures. Armed with a camera and her charming attitude, we drank, we frolicked, we watched Dirty Dancing: Havanah Nights. Sarah is one of the coolest and most collected humans I know, and I’m so grateful and happy to have her in my world.

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Sarah photographs the seedlings – can’t wait to see the pictures.

No, I didn't strategically place this thyme in such a way that you could see the sweet pedicures we went and got. Oh, wait.

No, I didn’t strategically place this thyme in such a way that you could see the sweet pedicures we went and got. Oh, wait.

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We meander through the field on one of the warmer days.

Sarah lounges in a tree at the dairy with her sleepy new friend, Memphis.

Sarah and Memphis the dog lounge while I finish up my dairy chores.

I even had a brief chance to catch up with Stef out in Fleetwood as she preps her spaces for a season of cheese-making. She is setting up shop in a space with amazing potential, and she’s a workin’ girl who has her game plan in place. Listening to her map out where her pasteurizer and her other equipment will be and her plans for this season and in the long-term future is thrilling.

Stef visualizes her cheese room space with Angie from Oley Valley Mushrooms.

Stef visualizes her cheese room space with Angie from Oley Valley Mushrooms.

Beautiful Stef on a swing at the amazing property she'll be making her cheese at.

Beautiful Stef on a swing at the amazing property she’ll be making her cheese at.

I’m about to embark on my last adventure before I’m settled in for the season – my darlingface Elizabeth Adler, freshman year roommate and concert adventurer, got us tickets for Neutral Milk Hotel‘s tour. And I do love me some adventures to Pittsburgh. Hopefully I can catch  up with some other lovelies in the neck of the woods as well.

And even though the weather has been questionable, the plants are ready. I was wandering around the edge of the field the other day, trying to figure out how and where to push back the woods, and I found my thyme, sage and sorrel. It was all mulched naturally with fall leaf cover and survived the winter with next to no help on my end. What an awesome discovery. It’s little catches like this that make all this learning and trial and error so much more exciting.

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Good morning, starshine. The sorrel says hello!

Thyme! How I missed you.

Thyme! How I’ve missed you.

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We’re ready.

I still get to see my cows fairly often, and the lovely folks at the dairy – though I know that time is winding down until the fall. And a couple weeks back I had another round of farm-sitting – hand-milking the cow, drinking milk for every meal, minding the chickens, making cheese with my dear friend Lauren annnnnd checking in on the baby Jacob Sheep!

Lambs are new to me. Thankfully, only one needed real assistance – the lamb Rivel was having trouble nursing so the farmer’s in-laws and I began a bottle-feeding routine. If you know me, you know I like itty bitties, so hanging out with the lamb (and making sure he got fed every three to four hours, and taking it with me on my day-to-day adventures).

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The thing about Jacob Sheep? They are awesome looking. This is Rivel at half a day old.

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Lamb lap!

And it didn’t hurt that Strider liked him, too.

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After an initial ear-cleaning, Strider decided he wanted to keep him.

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Strider: “What a strange dog.”

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I can tell that we are gonna be friends.

Willow Haven Farm‘s market will have an adorable addition this year with their tame little Rivel – come out and meet him if you have the chance!

If you haven’t signed up for the CSA but are thinking about it, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I’ve gotten some calls from folks who don’t know me personally – I understand the skepticism of sending a check out into the void if you don’t know the person you are sending it to – and I’m happy to meet up, talk about the farm or give you a tour at any point. Just drop me a line or give me a call.

Sun Dances, Beet Seedlings and Maybe a Market in Germantown(!?),

Liz

Farmer Liz out.

Farmer Liz out.