Friday, October 24, 2014

One Non-Sequitur After Another

This week's harvest list:
red cabbage
broccoli raab
a choice of 4 different squash: red kuri, baby blue hubbard, buttercup, butternut, acorn, delicata, pie pumpkins

 Alas,we come to our final week of the produce CSA. Some of us spent the week in Delaware at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) conference. Yes ma'am.... a whole week of flower friends from across the country geeking out on plants and design and varieties. It culminated in a box of wine and a late night gathering in a hotel lobby, as all conferences should. Our hearts are full of love for flowers and flower folks and our heads are bursting with new ideas and strategies for growing the best cut flowers we can.

More than anything, when you spend time with people whose days are spent doing the same work you do, your life choices and your daily routines are normalized. As farmers, we get into our little routines on our farms and professional development really helps to move the industry forward.

Here's what you should know about cut flowers:
Cut flowers are a $7.5 billion dollar industry in the US
82% of all cut flowers are imported

Here's what that means:
As cut flower growers, we have some opportunity here! We can seriously work together to grow market share. Even if we increased domestic flower sales by 20%, that could translate into substantial gains for farmers in our country.

Here's what has to happen:
We need consumers to ask for local flowers at the grocery store and from florists.
We need to embrace the production of cut flowers as a potential economic driver for the agricultural sector in every town in the states.

It's easy to get pretty fired up when you spend a week with a bunch of flower farmers.

In the next few weeks, we'll get all the fall bulbs planted, including garlic, tulips, narcissus and fritillaria. We have 300 more peonies going in and a whole batch of itoh and tree peonies (I know you're as excited as I am about those!) We'll spend a lot of time cleaning up, re-organizing, and preparing for cold times to come. Then, this time next month....vacation. We are simultaneously thrilled and totally freaked out about how much has to happen between now and then.

Whenever you show up anywhere in the fall (or summer or spring, really) as a farmer, the first questions folks ask farmers is "how was your season?". And, we can honestly say, great. With the exception of the late blight in the tomatoes and some tarnished plant bugs in the dahlias, we had a bang up season. The weather was cooperative. The crew was magnificent. And the support for farm fresh goodness is as strong as ever. Our customers are the life of this thing we do. And you guys rocked it this year. You're like, the best.

(This is what our kitchen looks like on the eve of a freeze....everything tasty comes in)

Thanks for a great season, our 13th as farmers!

Blessings on the meal-

Friday, October 17, 2014

What success looks like

If you are new to the CSA, perhaps you would like some background on our squash history. You might notice the bulk bins in the barn, full of squash... umm, like 15... at least. Well, a mere three years ago we had a meager crop of exactly one distribution- two squashes per person for the whole fall, (and they were "Carnival" squashes, more appropriate for decoration than eating.) Last year was a bit better, but I told everyone to eat their squashes soon after pick-up since bugs had bitten-- or sucked actually; punctured with their sucking proboscises... proboscii...  anyway, their storage ability had been compromised.  Another crop failure.

This year, with focus and strategy, (and a proper Maine winter behind us) we had crop success. Those ten beds of squash, a bit over half an acre exploded with way more squash than we need. And it all should keep quite well tucked in your coat closet, under your bed, or in the attic (not the root cellar mind you... it likes steady 50 degrees and dry.) Of course we always aim high with production, so that we have extra to sell, and I am NOT COMPLAINING!... but wouldn't it be nice to have a bumper crop of berries instead? Just a little easier on the back...
So, we are loading you up with squash. Please do not feel compelled to take as much as the chalk board tells you to take. Take only what you think you can use; that is the CSA member ethic. And don't think about food going to waste. What we can not sell for a decent price (AKA we don't "dump" product on the market) we feed to our animals= not wasted; we donate as much as possible to food pantries= not wasted; we compost the rest which feeds the soil=not wasted.

The Harvest:
pac choi
brussels sprouts
be sure to get a buttercup whose flesh is very dry and flakey (which is good) and which we have failed extra hard in past years!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I often think that history is made up of one bad decision after another, with a few random mistakes thrown in, sending humanity down deeply uncertain pathways. The transition from gathering and hunting to a culture of farming was devastating in its consequences, but to call it a choice is probably some kind of reification of a drawn out process. I imagine our ancestors as individuals gathering seeds this time of the year, fully aware of a plant's cycles, and just beginning to identify promising landscapes where gathering begins to feel like a harvest. One organizes a community around a few specific plants, and the stability of a food source begins to ensure a more successful birth rate...
Sounds great, but in retrospect...

Here I am 12000 years later, no longer living the agricultural revolution; in fact, that was like, four or five revolutions ago! These weeds that fill our fields, the consequences of our farming, glare at me with dark mirth and bemusement.
Rewilding has been on my mind this fall season. Not that we can ever "go back," but more of a letting go, an undoing... entropy. It is too cold to germinate any more cover crops, and so I let the weeds sprout and do the important job of covering the soil as we move into the shoulder season. Any fertilizer to keep kale and arugula green would be a waste; there is so much microbiological momentum in the soil, that any young crops will cruise along until the freeze comes. The millions of seeds-- from weeds and from the many flower crops gone by, are layered on the surface of the soil, and I can only hope that there are enough worms, beetles, birds, and mice to eat them. (Those among us who still gather.)
Its hunting season also that brings my thoughts to the re-wilding. Dudes with big shiny trucks, wearing crisp new camouflage gear. They grumble about not being allowed to drive right up to their favorite high-tech tree-stand and camera set-up. I thought farming was conflicted with paradox; I feel for these hunters who follow the urge to connect with nature via Cabella's and LL Bean. Such is our human nature: drawn towards authentic experience but employing mediation and cleverness as a means.
Just as with many concepts that pull our interest, rewilding is just another decision. Once we investigate it, it seems clear that part of rewilding implies building our skill set, or actively stewarding natural spaces through conservation efforts. We begin to drift slowly away from an anarchist's rewilding towards a clever progressional plan.

These days rewilding implies using genetic technology and geo-scaping to bring back the wild auroch and the wooly mammoth.  But fall, for me at least, is a tired time of letting things go. Having actively cultivated our space all summer, I'll happily pass through the fields and into the woods, to sit and rewild my brain for a few minutes.

Harvest List Follows
CSA Harvest
mizuna -- a green like arugula, though a little tougher. Good as a salad or slaw (not great cooked.)
red kuri winter squash
sweet potatoes
radishes- daikon
broccoli (for some... more next week)
...and these:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

30 Days Has September

 This week's CSA harvest list


The farm is still a bustle of activity and the to-do list is a mile long. In the fall, we always start adding back on the projects that got dropped off the list in the spring when planting, weeding and harvesting took over. But then, there are still those regular farm work activities. We have garlic and tulips to plant, we have dahlias and carrots to harvest. We have wedding flower arrangements to make. The new stuff, the fun stuff, the big picture stuff is what's fueling the momentum. Talk of renovations, new equipment, vacation....a girl's weekend (Did you get that?....a girl's weekend?... as in I'm going away for the weekend with my girlfriends!!!) are the stuff of sanity, release, spark.

We are ending the days with soups and stews, popcorn and hot cocoa. The oven is on, cooking squash to be made into pies. There's time to be in the kitchen now that the days end earlier. And, I put on my long underwear again. Nothing like a wool layer to make a cold day bearable. We've made the switch back to flannel sheets and everyone has their puff back on their bed. We're getting close to having time to put away the mountain of laundry on the second floor of the house. And, the fire is rolling again in the woodstove.

All the baby farm animals have grown up. We're going to try veal for the first time this year. We sent Babycakes off to the butcher. He was on a diet of 6 gallons of milk a day. He didn't want to wean, despite our best intentions. As hard is it may be for some of you to wrap your head around, the easiest solution for a livestock problem is the butcher. He was headed there in the long run, tis the fate of most male livestock on the farm. If you can't lay an egg or make milk, off you go.  I've been scouring the internet for veal recipes. I think its going to be delicious! The cycle of the farm, the livestock that come and go, that's what puts food on our table and keeps the whole farm organism in motion, including the well fed farm workers.

The other thing going on is flowers....always flowers. We are starting to chat with couples about their weddings next season. We are making charts and lists about what worked and what we didn't like. The flowers are really making an impact in the business bottom line this year and that feels really exciting. 

We are starting to map out our staff needs for next year. We're looking for a production manager. We're channeling good intentions out there, hoping the right person comes our way. 

And, this will be the last week our farmstand is open. 

These fall days help us take stock of it all, offer a brief moment to reflect a bit on the successes and failures of the season. There are always so many of both. 
For me, the best part of this season has been our outstanding crew: The flower ladies who work endlessly on the weekends to make things a little more beautiful. The camp crew who greet every family to the farm with openness and warm heart. Our workshare folks who show up each week for 4 hours to harvest, wash and pack produce for the CSA. The field crew who perform a myriad of odd jobs all day, everyday. You all make this place sail smoothly and we love you all for it. 

Blessings on the meal-

John's mighty nice cover crop

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And The Frost Date Is..... ?

Every year as we approach the end of September and the frost warnings start sounding about on the news, we wonder when it will appear for us. It's always a relief, a sign that things are slowing, a gift of a little moment longer at the kitchen table with coffee and the New York Times. 
But, it doesn't come without some remorse. We are usually dancing around trying to get a few things harvested before the frost and I inevitably have a wedding or event I want some more flowers for and never know exactly if they'll make it.

But, it comes and then the following morning we wake up to crystals covering the plants. The cows greet us in the barn with warm clouds of breath and the big fluffy dog shows a renewed energy, preferring the chilly mornings to the hot days of July. Visitors to the farm in the summer always comment on how mellow the dog is. It's really that she's hot and irritated. Her pep and verve most certainly return when the mornings are regularly in the 40's.

This is the last week for our Flower CSA bouquets. I just want to thank you again from the bottom of my heart for you support of locally grown flowers. We have so enjoyed cutting and making bouquets for you each week and most especially we have loved your smiles as you grab your flowers from the bucket. I hope the memory of color and beauty stays in your heart through the winter. 
We have one more big week of cutting to do next week and are ever anxious about the appearance of the frost.... fingers crossed that it holds off until at least Wednesday. We have 3 weddings and a big party the weekend of September 26th! (this is the sort of thing that keeps a flower farmer up at night)

Thank again for your support.

An invitation to our FLOWER CSA members (membership has its benefits)
As of Monday, September, 29th, (in the event we still have not had a frost) I invite you all to bring your clippers and come by to glean the remaining flowers from the field. Enjoy armloads of gomphrena that will dry for you and make for lovely Christmas tree garland. And make one last big dahlia bouquet to usher you into October. I guarantee that once you get your self out into that field with your clippers and all those flowers, the love for the bloom will most definitely be solidified.
...A gift to our flower loving friends.

And....on to the produce, which I forgot all about mentioning last week....thinking about the flowers too much! My apologies.

This week's harvest includes:
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • beans
  • pepper
  • eggplant
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • acorn squash
  • Arugula
  • beet greens
  • cilantro
  • daikon radish

And then there's pork.... Living over in the tree line across Hanson Road from the farmstead are 5 lovely swine. There were 6 but we shared him with 200 of our guests at the 3rd Annual Fresh From the Farm Dinner, a Scarborough Land Trust fundraiser. So, of the remaining 5, we'll keep one for our family, leaving 4 to sell. We offer them by the half side. $4/pound based on the hanging weight. We cover the butcher fees. The pigs are butchered to the standard cuts...chops, hams, roasts, bacon, etc and packaged, frozen, in portions for 4. I am expecting the half sides to weigh in around ~150-175 pounds. They may be larger but definitely not smaller. These guys always go fast so if you are interested, its first come first served. They head to the butcher October 25th and the unsmoked meat will be available to pick up at the farm that week. the smoked meat takes another few weeks.

Blessings on the meal-

Monday, September 8, 2014

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, You Hardly Talk To Me Anymore

We did it! We cut and cut and cut and planned and strategized and woke up a few times with anxiety about things unraveling. But, between Thursday and Friday of last week, we installed our first gallery exhibit, Offrendes Florales, and we handed out bundles of free flowers to folks on the streets of Portland.

The whole goal was to spread the word about local flowers, increase awareness about the importance of considering the chain of events that occur when you purchase flowers, whether its locally or from a large retailer that imports flowers from abroad. We had hoped to use the forum of public art as a way to preach our message. What happened was much more fun than that! We made people smile, we surprised them with the gift of flowers, we talked with strangers and saw old friends, and all over the remarkable joy of flowers in hands.

Who knows if it worked.... But, what I do know is that my family and our crew had more fun than you can ever imagine giving flowers away to hundreds of folks who walked past SPACE Gallery on Friday.

When people would walk up they would say they had been seeing others with flowers all over the streets and were wondering where they came from. And they all would remark on the smell of the flowers as they approached our little display. It was heartwarming in the best kind of way. Worth the effort, for sure.

If you have time early this week, take a stroll past SPACE, at 538 Congress ST. The show will come down in a few days when the flowers are toast.

We're already jazzed up and scheming about our next project. Flowers: I can't think of anything I'd rather be working with.

Photo Credits: Amanda Soule Because of course I brought my camera with a dead battery. Thanks friend for sharing :)