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 :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Offering Flowers

So....Here's what we've been up to all week, and tomorrow, we offer it to you. Come by and take home a bouquet. Let's spread these flowers out all through town.
SPACE Gallery, 1st Friday, September 5, 2014.

Ofrendas Florales
In a small indigenous community in Ecuador called Saraguro, flower wreaths are made every Sunday on the steps of the church at the center of town. Though Ecuador is one of the leaders in the global export floral market, the home-grown flowers used to make the Saraguran wreaths are made as an offering to the community itself, to simply be enjoyed as an object of beauty and gratitude. Broadturn Farm in Scarborough grows flowers for local markets alongside their organic vegetable plots. Their offering of a flower wreath is made in the same spirit of giving to Portland Maine. They will construct the arrangement on September’s First Friday and it will be on display for as long as the effemeral nature of the flowers allows.

The Flowers
Nature finds its most expressive form in the flower. It's scent, color, form, and it's ephemeral beauty has endeared the flower to humanity, despite its utilitarian shortcomings. Most importantly, the flower inspires an embrace of the natural world; a mysterious part of a living system of beauty for its own sake.
But as humanity's symbol of love and beauty, the flower has a more troubled history. Just as industrial production has transformed all aspects of traditional life, flower growing has left the backyard and the country lane to production in large agricultural settings. On the global scale, it is subject to monoculture, chemical pest control, and intense hybridization. The industry is dominated by few corporations, and characterized by capitalism's incessant search for the lowest labor standards and production costs.
The irony of industrial beauty runs deeper still, in the export markets of South America and Africa. There, communities of farm workers, mostly women, are exposed to pesticides which due to the inedible nature of flowers, are some of the least regulated in agriculture. Farmland is converted to vast plastic greenhouse structures, where water resources are compromised and the landscape becomes less diverse. Global trade of this perishable product employs jet transport at tremendous environmental cost.
Ecuador is one of the global leaders in the flower export industry. In the 1990s the US was waging its War on Drugs, and sought to encourage alternatives to narcotic production throughout Central and South  America. The US flooded Ecuador with technical assistance for the flower industry and implemented tarif-free import policies. Global producers (mainly Dutch corporations) established farms throughout the Andean highlands where the climate is unsurpassed for floriculture. During this time period, the costs to consumers of roses in the United States dropped by a factor of 10. US markets were flooded by South American imports, driving many local farms out of business.
Awareness of the consequences of cheap imported flowers has begun to shift how people perceive flowers. A long stemmed red rose no longer expresses nature, any more than a French fry implies a potato (let alone anything French!) Dyed carnations and spray-painted hydrangea only add insult to the idea that flowers are at their essence a natural expression of beauty.
However, there is a revival happening. In the recent decade local flower growers on very small scales have been able to build sustainable markets. Floral designers have begun to use less conventional material, sourced locally, which recalls a more natural, less manufactured feel. Even modern design aesthetics have become conscious of the variety and possibility of flower material locally grown.

Broadturn Farm in Scarborough has been part of this movement. Stacy Brenner is the lead grower and designer of the farm's design business, Flora Bliss. Her husband, John Bliss manages production (along with another 9 acres of organic vegetables.) Her design crew is lead by Laura Williams of Biddeford and made up of several other talented design artists.  Their focus is on romantic, flowing arrangements and large structural pieces which evoke the natural origins of the farm. Flora Bliss makes a point of incorporating unconventional material, not excluding elements revealing the temporal essence of nature. Just as the Dutch Masters incorporated hunted game, and blemished fruit, as artists our goal is not to conceal, but to reveal a more full impression of our world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Well Hello There September

One of our CSA members share this with us and we were over the moon about this campaign and its success.

So, we've decided to offer you all some inglorious vegetables this week. We have the last flush of cucumbers that taste delicious but are a little less than gorgeous. In addition, the red potatoes have not fared well and have some blemishes. They are both still edible and totally delicious. They will both be making an appearance this week on the extras table in the share room. They are both offered as supplements to the regular share.

In addition, its probably helpful for you all to know that when we have leftover produce, if it is glorious, we offer it for sale in our farmstand or to our wholesale customers. Every Monday, the Biddeford Food Pantry comes by to pick up whatever we were unable to sell either because of its inglorious nature or just an overabundance. The final resting place for produce that is neither appropriate for the CSA, sellable or donatable is our well fed pigs. Rest assured, we do our best to make sure nothing gets wasted here.

This week's share:

  • tomato
  • beans
  • carrots
  • onion
  • garlic
  • ground cherry
  • pepper
  • dill
  • spinach
  • eggplant
  • lettuce
  • turnip
  • potato
Ground cherries are lovely little husk cherries that are related to tomatillos and tomatoes. My nephew thinks of them as candy. They taste sweet, make a great snack raw and also produce a delicious sauce for duck or chicken when cooked or roasted. Enjoy!

This week's beans are a farm favorite: Dragon's Lingerie Heirloom snap beans. We all love them raw and cooked. If I ever have a band, it will surely be named Dragon's Lingerie. These beans can be used interchangeably with green beans.

This Friday, we have our capital A art debut with an installation for First Friday in the SPACE Gallery window. We will be transforming the window into a floral explosion, showcasing the way local flowers can draw a community together around ephemeral beauty. It's our way of saying thanks to our community with an offering of flowers. Come see us in action, grab a few stems for your hair, your desk, your lapel, and your lover when you are passing by and let's fill Portland with little moments of Broadturn Farm goodness.

Monday, August 25, 2014

September is Trending

This Week's CSA share:

walla wallas
hot pepper
bell peppers
red cabbage

This will probably be the final week of tomatoes. The plants are dead and the fruit is still there and ripening but will not be able to survive on the dead vines for much longer. Late Blight is such a bummer.

The good news is that even though tomatillos are in the same family as tomatoes, they are not as susceptible to the blight. So, this week, get your tortilla chips ready for a batch of salsa verde. My favorite way to prepare it is to remove the paper from the tomatillos and place them in a baking dish. I roast them with a little garlic and olive oil on high heat in the oven until they are soft. Then, I place the whole lot into the food processor with some onion, hot pepper, lime juice, salt and cilantro. I usually add a little more garlic so the mosquitoes will leave me alone. Give it a whiz and then add more of whatever you think it needs. Chill and eat with chips. Its so yummy! It freezes well and goes fast, at least in our salsa loving house.

The last week of summer vacation is upon us. Everyone's back to school next week and we have the last flush of summer company visiting this week.

We are wildly busy tending to fall plantings and crazy harvests. It feels manic but productive and is the stuff farming is made of: a truckload of onions coming in, hearty seed garlic tucked aside to be planted out in October, bucketloads of dahlias is all the best colors. When your head and heart are in this deep, you notice the subtle changes because they speak to what's coming.....leaves starting to change on the maples, a flock of geese heading south over the lighthouse on Saturday, the supply list arriving from the teacher for next week's inevitable first day. Thank heaven for Amazon....I have no time to fulfill that order sheet from the teacher when stores are open....I like to shop at 5:30AM from my bed on my iphone (that's a major confession).

In and out of the flower workshop.....

Blessings on the meal-

Sunday, August 17, 2014


This week's CSA and a series of Flora Selfies...

  • radicchio
  • beans
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • cucumbers
  • arugula
  • walla walla onions
  • carrots
  • melons
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • celery

Flora has been using the iphone to capture some selfies this week and agreed to let me share a few with you. This, in our busy summer weeks, serves as entertainment for her and photos for me...multitasking.

And, she did wonder whether a "shelfie" was a thing and, after a short Google image search, we learned it was. Thought you might like to know.

Back to the vegetables and the flowers....
The radicchio is a new variety for us. It is long and green, with a yellowish tint. I recommend slicing thinly like cabbage, tossing with a nice olive oil some lemon juice and finishing it off with some reggiano. It was a nice side to our potato leek soup. The flavor is more mild and less bitter than the purple variety. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

Tomato update: All of the field tomatoes have been taken by the blight. The tomatoes in the hoop houses are still holding on. They are showing some signs of going down but we think we'll get a bit more out of them. We are very cautious of jinxing ourselves, so we aren't putting it on the list, as if to suggest our uncertainty to Mother Nature so she know we aren't taking anything for granted.However, we are planning to harvest what's there and share with you. Consider the tomatoes a footnote.

Mid Season check-in: Tell us how things are going from your end. Is there something we can improve on (besides being more prompt about sending out the harvest list)? We want to make the experience of being a CSA member as rewarding as possible for our customers so if something is not working for you, please let us know.

Culinary Herb Bed: So....our culinary herb bed is finally ready for your clippers! Along the path to the barn, there is a bed of culinary herb including tarragon, oregano, marjoram, thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary, sage and an occasional edible flower (calendula, borage, nasturtium). Please help yourself to herbs when you pick up your share. And, if you are close enough to the farm, stop by anytime for a little bit of fresh herb to spruce up whatever you're concocting in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cultivating Optimism

This week's harvest:
The first (but hopefully not last, F#$%* Late Blight!) taste of tomato
Summer Squash
Patty Pan Squash

Sometimes we hit this place in the summer and on a warm evening, as the sun sets, I'm outside wandering around with a purpose I can't remember and I'm overwhelmed by a sense of awe. The fields, in all their glory, every plant reaching, flowering, trying to produce a flower, to breed and then to make seed. Its all I can do to hold it in, remember what I walked outside for, milking check the CSA share room, to check the mail for the first time in a few days.

The summer farm is full of breeding. If you miss a clutch of eggs, you get 8 new chicks.

 For the first stretch of years we were farming, every morning John would tell me of some dream he had where the livestock were out of their respective pens, interbreeding, rampantly multiplying like a Dahlov Ipcar children's book using farms as a medium for counting.   Now he tells me of different dreams, more comfortable with growth and change and seasonal cycles.

Our weeks are full of harvesting and planting and weeding and talking with customers and managing our largest crew ever.... we just did a payroll for 17 people. Most of our camp weeks are fully enrolled, (there's room in the last week).

 And our weekends send us to far flung places to deliver wedding flowers and then back home to celebrate a union here at the farm. The ducks are growing.

There are an ample amount of chickens-in-training (just not sure what their training for).

 And the long barn smells like garlic heaven as our garlic crop dries.

I'm eager for a good book to read but have no time to go pick one out. Our children wonder if there is anything but cucumbers to snack on and I head to the store for cereal and chocolate and cheddar. We're fueled by chocolate milk snacks at 10AM and 4PM. The laundry stays on the line through too many thunderstorms and then lives in piles on the floors of our bedrooms. The guest room is in constant rotation with a changing cast of characters coming by to visit. But, we know this ride, we know there is balance annually, just not week to week. This summer mania comes to an end and then we miss it. We miss our friends and family visiting. We miss the enthusiastic summer campers, the CSA customers sharing their vegetable exploits in their kitchens and the happy couple embracing after they've shared the farm they've come to love with their family and friends.

 Last week, one of our wedding couples from a few years ago came by with their beautiful new baby and I knew, in that moment, that in our own small way, we're part of something big. And those sweet moments, tucked in between the loss of a tomato crop to Late Blight and an unmentionable amount of potential revenue as a result, keep us afloat. And, the knowledge that I could just run out to the grocery store for tomato sauce. Life is not dependent on our tomato crop, the farm revenue is diverse for a reason. Hopefully we can sell more flowers and distribute a few more bushels of cabbage. (Our CSA members may have noticed it's a good cabbage year). Keeping it all in perspective is a job John and I take turns with. We talk each other off the cliff each day, helping the other find the joy in the larger picture, enabling us to face those 17 employees with a smile and a sense of optimism.

 "Do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind." Scott Nearing

Blessings on the meal (but not the Late Blight)