That's right! We've moved! Earlier this year I got a lease for a new plot of land in Fabius, NY. I spent the later part of the Summer and Fall assessing the new land, improving soil fertility with compost from Springside Farm (conveniently located right up the road!), seeding cover crops and planting garlic. While I am sad to leave our generous hosts and friends in Marcellus, I am excited for new possibilities. I don't think I could have asked for a better spot for my first two growing seasons though. It offered me a space to get my start, challenges to learn from, and countless benefits. I am taking with me great memories of lonely afternoons where I would just sing and talk to the crops. And of the nosy, retired farmer neighbor that would check in from time to time, telling me I "work awfully hard for those weeds".
Alfalfa growing in August before being tilled in.
Our new farm location in Fabius is rich, flat land that grew a luscious crop of alfalfa all last year and was grazed by the farm's handful of sheep. The farm got their hay cuttings from that alfalfa before I tilled it back into the soil where it could feed the soil microbes and earthworms. I am very excited to learn about this new soil, which is a gravely silt loam. It will be a big adjustment for me as I transition from heavy clay soil. This soil does not hold nutrients or water as well, yet will be mush drier in the Spring for early plantings. My plan is to build the soil's organic matter and structure (and hence water holding capacity) as I go, adding compost and focusing on green manures and mulches to retain moisture.
View of the (now finished) barn after the field was plowed.
I hope you will come visit our new farm location as we start planting in the Spring. We will host volunteer days, tours, and even some potluck picnics as we get settled in our new spot! A new season is right around the corner!
We have been having quite a bit of fun with the new crop trials on the farm lately. While I feel it smartest to stick with what works on our land, markets, and my knowledge as a farmer I must add a few new crops every year to expand our offering and my education. We added some great new flowers this year that I just cry about every time I harvest them. One is a double Aster mix from Johnny's seeds and they last forever! I really love the strong, brittle stem with beautiful, almost peony-like, tight bloom. They are a keeper!
I also planted a few Straw Flowers (pictured above in upper right corner) and while they took a while to grow on me, I have really been enjoying them. Their multi-branching small stem make them a joy in the garden but not the best marketable cut flower. The blooms are a mostly closed, paper-feeling mini burst of color. I do love how they last weeks on end and have joked with many of you at market about how they might just put me out of business. My plan for these little, unique blooms is to plant way more than seems necessary to have enough for sweet little bouquets.
(UPDATE 10/29: Strawflowers have survived the hard freeze from the other night! An unexpected but delightful surprise. This could open up so many more possibilities for these little cuties)
We also had an amazing year for Tomatoes, once they came! (Did I mention how unique this season was??) We stuck with our tried and true Prudens Purple and Striped German as well as our candy sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes. But I added a yellow cherry and black cherry to the mix this year and I think they were a great addition to the pint of salad tomatoes. We also added another heirloom slicing tomato called Black from Tula. It's a pungent, brown and red variegated tomato with a wonderful heirloom taste. It too will stick around another season.
A perfect Striped German tomato.
I should be honest with you all and myself to say not all new crops were winners this year. We had significant crop failure that was due in part to (cringing to have to mention it again) a difficult year but also to "farmer's luck". Sometimes I put the plants in the ground knowing some will fail and some will flourish depending on what weather we are given but we diversify on purpose. It keeps things interesting and I love to see how far we can push the productivity of our small farm.
We like to grow unique varieties of typical vegetables to delight and excite. Not only are they delicious and fun to look at, but also bring out creativity in the kitchen. The varieties getting the most attention at markets the last few weeks are the
Eight Ball Zucchini
Lemon cucumbers are deliciously sweet and the tender skin offers a delightful crunch. They are great sliced into a pitcher of cool water or just to top off a salad. My favorite thing to do with these cucumbers is to make up a batch of mint-marinated cucumbers.
1 pint of Lemon Cucumbers pinch of salt
1 cup vinegar 1 cup sugar
1/2 lemon chopped mint leaves
Slice cucumbers, place in a covered dish, and sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate for several hours to pull out water, overnight is ok. Pour off water. Mix 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup sugar, juice from 1/2 lemon and mint leaves. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture over cucumbers and refrigerate overnight.
8-Ball Zucchini is a great, tender zucchini, typically picked small about the size of an 8-ball, that is great for stuffing. The possibilities for stuffing zucchini are endless, but here is the link to one of my favorite recipes: Provencal style stuffed zucchini
I hope you enjoy our harvests as much as I enjoy delivering them to market each week. We will continue to grow and expand our knowledge of the best varieties for our growing conditions and the tastiest veggies for your dinner (breakfast, lunch, brunch, and supper!)
See you at markets this week. Did I mention tomatoes are starting to ripen?? Matt and I had a nice sungold cherry tomato break this afternoon.
1/2" of rain this morning felt pretty good! Too bad it didn't lower the temperature or cut the humidity at all! And I hear we are heading for a mid-week heat wave! But, while I weaved twine around the tomatoes this evening I saw (in flowers and green tomatoes) how happy they are to have this heat. And I remembered, the first tomato sliced on fresh bread with a bit of homemade mayo makes it all worthwhile!
Next up on our harvest list is the garlic! I have been questioning whether it was ready (aka pushing it back on the to do list) and with this bit of rain and hot temps I think the time is now...well, after market on Tuesday perhaps. We will have more pictures and info on the garlic harvest later this week.
We are also starting to pull onions for sale at markets this week. We will have Gold Coin and Red Marble Cipollini onions. Try them roasted on the grill whole for a sweet. delicious treat!
I believe it's understood by most that this has been a tough year on farmers (throughout the whole country) with heavy rain and flooding delaying planting in the Spring and now a Summer void of rain. But these past few weeks have been really hard on me to see our crops just sitting in the fields waiting for rain. I know it is part of the learning process and to add to my experience, but this work is very intimate and all farmers feel tremendous pride over their work and harvests. So in a hard year, we have little choice but to take it personal. However, we will endure and put our struggles in perspective and rejoice in a bountiful harvest...eventually!
pictured above: NY Early onion, German Hardneck garlic, Cabernet Onion, My hat
It has been a busy busy Spring for us on the farm! I don't remember being this tired last year... but I do romanticize the past, which, I think, makes me perfectly suited for farming. By only thinking positively about last season, I am able to charge full steam ahead into the unknown of another year. Facing the weather, the biting flies, the sore muscles and sunburns. I embrace it all and feel nothing but lucky to do this everyday.
Our first week of harvests and markets are behind us and we could not have asked for a warmer embrace from our Downtown Market friends. It was so great to see you all again and we are looking forward to another great year! We are also so happy we joined the Regional Market and look forward to our early Saturday mornings!
We have added a new section to our website: Daily Harvest Newsletter, which we will update every Sunday evening to let you know what we will be harvesting for markets that week. Included, will also be some recipe links to get you thinking about ways to use up the harvest and prepare some delicious dinners.
Now for a week in pictures:
Mulching Winter Squash
We finally got the onions weeded!
The garlic paid a premium for this view!
Tomatoes are enjoying their new field, we are enjoying the extra space!
As a beginning farmer, working on land that was planted to corn for many years I am constantly trying to build and replenish the soil. And we are also working very hard to encourage biodiversity on the farm. Just by growing a diversity of crops, we are easily enhancing the wildlife and insect activity on the farm. But we know we need to do more so we leave large sections of the fields uncultivated to allow for beneficial insects, snakes, birds and other critters to find homes. We plant companion plants to attract the types of insects we prefer, and that prey on the insects we farmers call pests.
One such pest that has given us a bit of heartache the last couple weeks is the Cucumber Beetle (shown here in stripes, but also comes in spots). It wiped out our first planting of cucumbers by infecting them with bacterial wilt as it fed on the young seedlings. This bacteria that lives in the gut of the beetles kills young plants instantly, making it necessary to remove plants to help control the beetles. We were very sad to see our first planting of cucumbers go but have successfully gotten 2 more plantings in and with the help of floating row cover have not seen another cucumber beetle. It is our goal for the farm to grow healthy soil that produce healthy plants that can stand up to and even deter insect damage, as pests typically only attack stressed or unhealthy plants. We are also growing companion plants that will attract beneficial insects to feed on our pests. Once the cucumber beetles were spotted I immediately planted catnip, dill, cilantro, fennel, mizuna, and crimson clover to attract the soldier beetle and other beneficial insects that prey on the beetle eggs and larvae. In just a couple months we will be enjoying a delicious cucumber salad feeling like all our efforts were worth it!
Today we experienced the first 90 degree day of the season. This time last year we had already had 8 straight days of this oppressive heat, so I feel lucky this is just a short heat wave. From the plants, I hear mixed reviews: The Spring crops that were planted late this year because of heavy rains are now getting a bit stressed in this heat. Peas, turnips, broccoli, and cauliflower prefer much cooler weather and could possibly go to seed before producing the harvest. However, the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash are extremely happy after sufficient rain and these hot, sunny days. As farmers, we often think we have the best made plan but in fact we have little control over our farms. We must be flexible, adapt, and learn. This is why we plant a wide variety of crops and make many successions of plantings. And we reassure ourselves that there WILL be a harvest!
One days like today it is important to be smart and not push ourselves through this heat. I like to get an extra early start and then take the hottest part of the day off to rest, stay cool, and drink an ice cold salty lemonade. My other favorite way to stay cool is to make cucumber juice. It is delicious and removes heat from the body. Then, the cool evening welcomes me back to the farm refreshed. The pace on these days is hectic but feels calming, efficient and productive.
Last November we spent a few beautiful days planting garlic around the farm. Laying on a nice straw cover, we tucked them in for winter and are anxiously waiting for the first scape and bulb harvest. Garlic has more benefits than we can list but it is strongly promoted for fighting the cold and flu and supporting heart health. It is also well known as being an aphrodisiac. (And garlic breath is not a problem if you both are eating it!)
We planted 4 varieties of garlic: German Red, French Red, Italian Purple and Ozark Soft Neck. I am looking forward to a blind taste test. And roasting whole bulbs of garlic on the grill!
But before we all get too excited, I should say this garlic will not be for eating...this year. We are growing it primarily for seed to provide our farm a beautiful future of producing yummy garlic. However, we will have a few of the smaller cloves to try at our markets this year. So, stay tuned and come visit us at market to learn more about our garlic harvest and taste the different varieties.
You can find us on Tuesdays at the Downtown Syracuse Farmers Market in Clinton Square and on Saturdays at the Syracuse Regional Market (Shed C).
1000's of seedlings sit, ready to just about jump into the ground themselves. The soil is too wet to work, and we fear planting seedlings into this over-saturated soil will only lead to stress on the plants and possible crop failure. We will wait in hope that this weekend will bring sunny/windy weather to dry the soil.
Loads of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, swiss chard, leeks, and onion plants ready to be planted
***Stay tuned for information about garden seedlings for sale at our early markets. We will have all of our heirloom tomatoes and favorite varieties of cucumbers, peppers, herbs, and greens for sale soon.***
It seems the soil is really starting to dry out-finally. I even got a bit of tilling done today. We are somewhat behind where we would like to be with seeding but we have had to wait for the soil to dry before we could work it. We are patient as are the plants: the greenhouse is full of onions, leeks, chard, and kale that would love to go into the ground. It looks like we are in for a bit of colder/wet weather this weekend, so we are hoping for a few big seeding/transplanting days next week.
I just recently attended this conference in Ithaca, NY. It was an impressive gathering of young people across the state that are inspired to live and work for positive change in their communities. I participated in a panel of beginning farmers talking about how we got started farming and how it connects us to our community.
It was inspiring to meet Keeley from Keeley's Cheese Company and Will from VINES in Binghamton.
My new garden cart. It's light and fast and holds a ton! It's a Wizbang!
Thanks to my brother's incredible carpentry skills, I am now an owner of a great new garden cart for transporting all my tools and harvests from field to barn. A very generous gift from a very supportive brother.