June 28th 2015 Newsletter

The Weekly Menu

What you can roughly expect to receive each week:

Here’s where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares.  What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter – may not necessarily be what’s actually ready on harvest day.  We’ll do our best to get it right!

This week:  Kale, Turnip/Greens, Garlic Scapes, Beets and Carrots and possibly Cilantro

It’s wet here.

Well, it’s been wet, as most of you already know.  It’s a mounting delimma for us here – as the fields are sodden and the weeds are growing. The crops we planted in May have been holding their own (the carrots and beets are doing fantastically, and the tomatoes and peppers are coming along nicely).  That said, if things don’t turn around soon, we’re going to hit a lull.  With all this rain, we don’t have an opportunity to plant some the faster growing crops – beans (we already have 8 rows in), lettuce, more greens, or radishes.  We’ve hand transplanted our squash, and cucumbers and will be hand transplanting our winter squash soon (just in time for halloween pumpkins).  Our weeds are taking over the farm.  Now, this is a pretty typical situation for us – as it’s a weedy farm to being with ….. but we don’t spray herbicides and totally rely on (in order of effectiveness and efficiency) 1. tractor cultivation 2. mulching (plastic or straw) and, 3. hand weeding.  Not all crops can be mulched, like beets and carrots, so they must be cultivated or hand weeded.  As I said earlier, it’s been too wet to get tractors into the fields (they’ll compact our soil and/or get stuck) so we’re down to hand weeding and that’s just crazy!  (if anyone wants to volunteer some hours hand weeding – get in touch!)

Ce la vie.  We do what we can and try to not get bogged down in the hardships of farming.  We’re excited to harvest those beets and carrots this week.  We’ve maxed out the bok choi and lettuce crops for now – and need to wait for the next succession to mature (I’m sure you don’t mind a break from bok choi!).  We should also be harvesting kohlrabi – which, if you’re looking for more greens to eat, you can cook them up too.



If you’ve signed up for a summer share, fall share, or winter share – (meaning you start later than the rest of the CSA members):  We’ll let you know when your first pick up will be.

Awhile back, Dawn tried her hand at preserving violets: candied violets and violet jelly!

Future Farmers:

My name’s Dawn Elaine. I’m 21. I’ve worked in retail, as a computer lab aide, a college-level computer science tutor, in a cash office, and I’ve been laid off three times within a three year period. I’m probably not what you’d think of when you think of farming material, and when I applied to be an apprentice at Blackberry Meadows, I was more than a little worried that my lack of related experience might not work in my favor, that they’d tell me that they didn’t think that I’d be a good fit. As it was, they were my only shot at interning on a farm since I don’t have a driver’s license, which pretty much everyone else requires. My family thought I was crazy for wanting to do this. My mother told me that farming was a waste of my intellect.

It turns out, out of everyone on the farm, I am the least educated. And all of those other jobs I had where supposedly my intellect was unwasted, were wasting me away. I would feel mentally drained after only a few hours of sedentary monotony, and knew that eventually I would pay the price for that lifestyle physically. I wanted to get away from offices and cash registers and work somewhere I could see nature more than just on my days off and develop useful skills. Even in the first couple of weeks here, even before what I was, what we call around here “farm strong,” I noticed that I had more energy. I found out all of the terrifying things they said to try to scare away all but the most earnest of apprentices were mostly true, but that my body and mind could grow to handle the new challenges each day brings.

Giant Eagle – Market District at Waterworks

We’ve started something new!  In early Spring, we were approached by Giant Eagle to sell produce in their Market District store in Fox Chapel.  As most CSAs are experiencing in our area, our numbers were a bit down.  It was a great opportunity for us to sell bulk (10 shares) CSA shares to Giant Eagle.  We made our first delivery on Friday, for the produce to be on display this past weekend.  There’s still some kinks to work out -but really, along with Giant Eagle, we’re spearheading the opportunity to get produce from more local organic farms out to the general public.

Each store could reach out to their nearest organic farm, bring in a few CSA shares and get top-of-the-line local organic produce out to the people and help make more small farms profitable; achieving the goal of promoting a local economy based on nutrient dense good local food.  It’s a win-win and we’re happy and excited to see where this goes!  (photo courtesy of Giant Eagle)

Local Goods:

Frankferd Farms – These guys are great!  What a treasure to have here in Western PA – A distributer of natural and organic goods!!  Place an order with them at the end of the month and we’ll have it on hand at your next CSA pick-up.  Give Jen a heads up that you placed an order.

Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is High Fructose Corn Syrup Free and Local!  If you’re gonna eat junk food – it might as well be local junk food!

Allegro Hearth Bakery Fresh bread and sweets available at the farm pickup only.  Made fresh every Tuesday night – amazing stuff!

Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.

Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as other locations in southwestern, PA.

Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.

Conneautee Creamery – Artisan cheeses made from grass fed cows.

Harmony Hill Farm – supplies us with pasture raised, grass fed beef.  We’ll have ground beef on hand at $7/lb.

Hunter Farms –  keeps us supplied with the best Certified Organic Blueberries  around.  They usually start up in July.  

Una Biological – creams, salves, and balms.  All made in small batches, with organic and some locally sourced ingredients.

Value added from the Farm

We dabble in a few hand crafted items.  We’ll purchase fair trade, organic, green coffee beans and roast them in our wood oven.  



We also make cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, chocolate milk, kefir, sour cream, ricotta, skim milk and full fat milk.  If you’d like to purchase any of our raw grass-fed dairy products, you must become a member of C.A.R.E. first – just $20 a year for membership.   Ask Jen for more details.  We have limited supplies.  

We just made some fantastic Garlic Salt this spring.  Mixed with high quality Himalayan Salt – it’s great for a seasoning on most meals and as an addition to popcorn!

Try our Dulce De Leche!  Look in the frozen section for $3.50  1/2 lb packages of homemade sweetness.  Made with milk from our lovely cows and organic sugar and lots of time.

Culinary Tips and Tricks:

Cooking and Preserving ideas – among other culinary hints for produce from the farm:

Our carrots are beautiful and so are the tops!  Here a recipe for Roasted Carrots and Carrot Top Pesto    Here’s another carrot top pesto recipe (consider replacing the garlic scares for green garlic). They are so beautiful – don’t be tempted to throw them out!  Just eat it!

Beets, of course, are great quartered, covered in olive oil and roasted in the oven until you can easily pierce with a fork.  Salt to taste.  Yum!

Here Piggy, Piggy!

We got our new piggies last Thursday.  They are cute now, but they lose their appeal after about 3 months.  It takes about 6 months to grow these guys out to full size (they should be ready in November/December).  They are a Berkshire Pig – which is known for its ability to do well on pasture.  They are also known for juiciness and flavor of the pink-hued and heavily marbled meat. The high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking (and great for bacon). Although our pigs are leaner, as they will be on a pasture based diet with grain, farm veggie and raw milk/whey buffet.

We’ve been offering to sell them as 1/4, 1/2 and whole hog.  But when it comes to a quarter of a pig, you’ll have to decided between ham or bacon, or shoulder roast vs loin roast…..  We can discuss details later.  

We’ll charge $4/lb hanging weight. Thoma’s Meat Market does our processing for us.  The pigs, on average will weigh about 175 – 200 lbs The Hanging Weight refers to the weight of the animal as it hangs in the butcher’s cooler once the head, hide, feet, organs and blood are removed.

When the times comes, I’ll put you in touch with Thoma’s and you can discuss with them, the types of cuts and packaging you’re looking for.  You’ll then pay Thoma’s about (based on 2014 prices) 60 cents per pound for the meat to be cut, wrapped, and frozen.  If you want any meat to be cured, that’s an additional 65 cents per pound.  

Here’s a great tutorial on buying a 1/2 a steer – but the same info is applicable to pork  

We are asking for a $100 deposit for the pork to reserve yourself some meat!

Thanks for choosing our CSA.  We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you.  We think what we do is hard work – but important for our family, friends, and community.  There’s a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know.  By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you’re helping us to achieve our goals.  Thanks!!



Sincerely,



Your Farmers,Greg, Jen, Evelyn, Matt, Sam, Dawn and Haven

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June 22nd 2015 Newsletter

The Weekly Menu

What you can roughly expect to receive each week:

Here’s where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares.  What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter – may not necessarily be what’s actually ready on harvest day.  We’ll do our best to get it right!

This week:  Kale, Bok Choy, Lettuce, Herbs, Turnip/Greens, Garlic Scapes, and possibly cilantro.  We also may be able to pull together enough Kohlrabi for everyone.  If not, we’ll wait until next week.

When will the rain end?

In comparison to what else is going on in the rest of the world, we really can’t complain.  

That said, I will complain a little bit about the weather.  This past weekend we had a deluge of over 6 inches of rain within 48 hours.  Our farm is a soggy-wet-muddy mess!  Don’t let the image above confuse you – that rain gauge says 3 1/2″ – but that was just in between downpours.  

The pros of rain: we don’t have it irrigate the crops!  In general, they really love a good soaking.  Our cool season crops are loving it!  The lettuce, bok choy and kale are kicking butt!

The cons of rain: we can’t get into the fields with our tractors (they’ll compact the wet soil), if we could use the tractors we could cultivate the crops – getting ahead of the weeds, we could till the fields – prepping them for planting, we could plant cover crops to build our organic matter.  Instead, we’re hand transplanting and hand weeding.  

It seems to be the general trend for the past 4 or 5 years.  Spring is way too wet – then we get a dry spell.  We just have to go with the flow and do the best we can.  It’s hard to not get overwhelmed with the volume of work that we need to accomplish here.  It’s a big job – but somebodies got to do it!

For those of you who are picking up your CSA share for the first time this week:

If you’re coming to the farm to pick up: stop at the barn (at 7115 Ridge Rd) it will be open from 11am – 7 pm.  Just park by the old wooden barn and come in.  We’ll check your name off and give you an intro to our CSA system.  Bring your own bag please!



If you’re picking up at the Phipps Farmers Market: we’ll be at our market stand from 2:30pm – 6:30pm.   Swing by and pick up your veggies.  Bring your own bags please!  If you’d like us to bring down items that we sell in the barn – just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.

If you’re picking up at the Mt Lebanon Farmers Market: We’ll be at our market stand on Saturday from 9 am – 12 pm.   Swing by and pick up your veggies.  Bring your own bags please!  If you’d like us to bring down items that we sell in the barn – just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.



If you’re picking up at the Boyd Community Center, on Powers Run Rd: we’ll be there from 9 – 11 am.  We’re on the playground side of the building – in the little porch/alcove entrance into the building.  There’s some serious construction going on there now – so things may change – but we’ll keep you posted.  Bring your own bags and let me know if you’d like us to bring items for sale from the barn.  Just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.



**If you’ve signed up for a 1/2 share:  If you haven’t picked up yet, then this is your week!  You are now considered an “even” share and should pick up your CSA this Wednesday and every other week after.



If you’ve signed up for a summer share, fall share, or winter share – (meaning you start later than the rest of the CSA members):  We’ll let you know when your first pick up will be.

Local Goods:

Frankferd Farms – These guys are great!  What a treasure to have here in Western PA – A distributer of natural and organic goods!!  Place an order with them at the end of the month and we’ll have it on hand at your next CSA pick-up.  Give Jen a heads up that you placed an order.

Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is High Fructose Corn Syrup Free and Local!  If you’re gonna eat junk food – it might as well be local junk food!

Allegro Hearth Bakery Fresh bread and sweets available at the farm pickup only.  Made fresh every Tuesday night – amazing stuff!

Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.

Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as other locations in southwestern, PA.

Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.

Conneautee Creamery – Artisan cheeses made from grass fed cows.

Harmony Hill Farm – supplies us with pasture raised, grass fed beef.  We’ll have ground beef on hand at $7/lb.

Hunter Farms –  keeps us supplied with the best Certified Organic Blueberries  around.  They usually start up in July.  

Una Biological – creams, salves, and balms.  All made in small batches, with organic and some locally sourced ingredients.

Value added from the Farm

We dabble in a few hand crafted items.  We’ll purchase fair trade, organic, green coffee beans and roast them in our wood oven.  



We also make cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, chocolate milk, kefir, sour cream, ricotta, skim milk and full fat milk.  If you’d like to purchase any of our raw grass-fed dairy products, you must become a member of C.A.R.E. first – just $20 a year for membership.   Ask Jen for more details.  We have limited supplies.  

We just made some fantastic Garlic Salt this spring.  Mixed with high quality Himalayan Salt – it’s great for a seasoning on most meals and as an addition to popcorn!

Try our Dulce De Leche!  Look in the frozen section for $3.50  1/2 lb packages of homemade sweetness.  Made with milk from our lovely cows and organic sugar and lots of time.

Culinary Tips and Tricks:

Cooking and Preserving ideas – among other culinary hints for produce from the farm:

Here’s where we will provide you with our favorite recipes for some of the produce you will be getting each week.  We’ll also provide links to other helpful websites.  Feel free to share your recipes with us and we’ll pass them around our CSA community!

Last week I included a couple links to recipes for Garlic Scapes.  You’ll be getting them again this week – so do your research.  At the very least, just chop and use in place of garlic and/or onions.  

Now, onto Bok Choy.  One of my favorite Asian Greens, Bok Choy has a crispy stem and a mild flavored greens.  It’s good in a stir-fry or coated in toasted sesame oil and roasted in the oven.  Here’s a link to Martha Stewart’s recipes for Bok Choy and they all sound pretty tasty!

Pigs – we’ll be getting some little piggies soon – hopefully the beginning of this week.  They are great little composers and will eat up a ton of our veggie scraps.  We run them through the woods to root up acorns and help control the edge growth on our fields.   We feed them certified non-gmo grain and they get as much sun, fresh air and clean water has they can handle.  

We’l be selling them by the 1/2 or 1/4 hog.  And they won’t be ready until November or December.  Last year we sold them for around $4 hanging weight (we’ll stick close to that price this year).  This means that, on top of the $4 +/- that you’ll pay us,  you’ll also be paying the butcher to cut and wrap the hog into whatever pieces you desire.  We’ll work that out later.  Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested in purchasing a 1/4, 1/2 or whole hog, as we’ll be getting them soon!  We are asking for a $100 deposit.  

Thanks for choosing our CSA.  We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you.  We think what we do is hard work – but important for our family, friends, and community.  There’s a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know.  By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you’re helping us to achieve our goals.  Thanks!!



Sincerely,



Your Farmers,Greg, Jen, Evelyn, Matt, Sam, Dawn and Haven

Posted in 2015 Newsletter | Leave a comment

June 14th 2015 Newsletter

Let the Veggies Begin!

Here’s where you’ll find all the info you’ll need to know about your first pick up:

For Your First Pick-Up:

Our fist pick up of the CSA will be on Wednesday June 17th and Saturday June 20th.  

If you’re coming to the farm to pick up: stop at the barn (at 7115 Ridge Rd) it will be open from 11am – 7 pm.  Just park by the old wooden barn and come in.  We’ll check your name off and give you an intro to our CSA system.  Bring your own bag please!



If you’re picking up at the Phipps Farmers Market: we’ll be at our market stand from 2:30pm – 6:30pm.   Swing by and pick up your veggies.  Bring your own bags please!  If you’d like us to bring down items that we sell in the barn – just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.

If you’re picking up at the Mt Lebanon Farmers Market: We’ll be at our market stand on Saturday from 9 am – 12 pm.   Swing by and pick up your veggies.  Bring your own bags please!  If you’d like us to bring down items that we sell in the barn – just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.



If you’re picking up at the Boyd Community Center, on Powers Run Rd: we’ll be there from 9 – 11 am.  We’re on the playground side of the building – in the little porch/alcove entrance into the building.  There’s some serious construction going on there now – so things may change – but we’ll keep you posted.  Bring your own bags and let me know if you’d like us to bring items for sale from the barn.  Just let jen@blackberrymeadows.com know.  Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.



**If you’ve signed up for a 1/2 share:  We’ll let you know when your start date will be.  If you start on the first week, you’ll be an “odd share”, if you start on the second week, you’ll be an “even share”. ** Look for another email to follow.



If you’ve signed up for a summer share, fall share, or winter share – (meaning you start later than the rest of the CSA members):  We’ll let you know when your first pick up will be.

The Weekly Menu

What you can roughly expect to receive each week:

Here’s where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares.  What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter – may not necessarily be what’s actually ready on harvest day.  We’ll do our best to get it right!

This week:  Kale, Bok Choy, Lettuce, Chives, Edible Flowers, Turnip Greens, Garlic Scapes, and possibly cilantro.

Local Goods:

Frankferd Farms – place an order with them at the end of the month and we’ll have it on hand at your CSA pick-up

Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is High Fructose Corn Syrup Free and Local!

Allegro Hearth Bakery- Fresh bread and sweets available at the farm pickup only.  

Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.

Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as other locations in southwestern, PA.

Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.

Conneautee Creamery – grass fed cheeses.

Harmony Hill Farm – supplies us with pasture raised, grass fed beef.  We’ll have ground beef on hand at $7/lb.

Hunter Farms –  keeps us supplied with the best Certified Organic Blueberries  around.  They usually start up in July.  

Una Biological – creams, salves, and balms.  All made in small batches, with organic and some locally sourced ingredients.

Value added from the Farm

We dabble in a few hand crafted items.  We’ll purchase fair trade, organic, green coffee beans and roast them in our wood oven.  



We also make cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, chocolate milk, kefir, sour cream, ricotta, skim milk and full fat milk.  If you’d like to purchase any of our raw grass-fed dairy products, you must become a member of C.A.R.E. first – just $20 a year for membership.   Ask Jen for more details.  We have limited supplies.  

We just made some fantastic Garlic Salt this spring with our left over garlic cloves from 2015.  Mixed with high quality Himalayan Salt – it’s great for a seasoning on most meals and as an addition to popcorn! 



There will also be a few batches of Kombucha, water kefir, maybe some jams and jellies, salsas and canned tomato products.

Culinary Tips and Tricks:

Cooking and Preserving ideas – among other culinary hints for produce from the farm:

Here’s where we will provide you with our favorite recipes for some of the produce you will be getting each week.  We’ll also provide links to other helpful websites.  Feel free to share your recipes with us and we’ll pass them around our CSA community!

Gear up and educate yourself on Garlic Scapes.  There’s going to be a few weeks of scapes in your life and you’ll have to dive in a be prepared.  Luckily, they store extremely well;  just put them in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel.  They’ll store in your fridge for a while.  Consider using them in place of garlic.  It’s great sautéed in stirfry, or omelets.  Once you have a stockpile, consider pickling them – Pickled Scapes are amazing (or take it a step further and try lacto-fermented garlic scapes)!  You can also make Garlic Scape Pesto too – yum!

Don’t be afraid of your greens either – in general, they are easy to sauté with a little salt and seasoning.  I’ll give out some recipes throughout the season.  

Be sure to sign up for our Dinner on the Farm event this month.  We’re hosting a “Taste of Italy” on June 27th.

We’ll take in the beauty of summer while dining al fresco. You don’t want to miss the chance to enjoy a meal made in our very own wood fire oven. Seating is limited so RSVP today! 

Thanks for choosing our CSA.  We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you.  We think what we do is hard work – but important for our family, friends, and community.  There’s a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know.  By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you’re helping us to achieve our goals.  Thanks!!



Sincerely,



Your Farmers,Greg, Jen, Evelyn, Matt, Sam, Dawn and Haven

 

 

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2015 Newsletter Updates

Keep abreast of the farm news here!

April Update

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The jack-of-all-trades or The Janitor

We don’t just grow food around here. Farmers have to be ready to handle just about anything. And Greg is no exception. We’ve been together for almost 10 years, and although the novelty has worn off, I must admit, he can still amaze me from time to time.

First, he’s a great father. It doesn’t take much for Evelyn to entice him into a game of chase, tickling, or a good book. He stops what he’s doing to give her the love, attention, and respect that she deserves. I think they’ve got a good thing going.

20140712-094457.jpg

That said, I imagine it’s hard for Greg to put the farms needs to the back of his mind. If we had to hire a professional for all the things Greg knows or figures out, we’d be broke.

In the early Spring we called in Ferguson Heating to help get our greenhouse heaters started- Greg was having trouble with them. Jimmy, one of their more pleasant repairmen, worked on the heaters, but couldn’t get one started. He said we’d need a new part and they would call with an estimate. The next day, Ferguson calls to inform us that the replacement part would be $200-$450 depending on how long it would take to fix! Jimmy informed Greg that we were using the heaters in the wrong context – our Modines we’re not made for greenhouse use and were getting ruined (actually, they are designed for greenhouse use…).

So, Greg took apart the heater himself- and found a tiny spiderweb had clogged one of the gas vents. He wiped it off cleaned the whole system and ta-da! The heater works perfectly. A narrow escape from a heafty bill!

Yesterday, my trusty Allis Chalmers G just quit running as I was driving up to the hilltop fields to do some seeding (Nero de tondo radishes and daikons). We’ve had some issues with the battery and alternator, so I popped out the battery and charged it for half the day. In the evening, I came back, hooked up the battery and……nothing. So, Greg gets the call ” my G is broken, I can’t get it started”. He stops everything he’s doing and comes to my aid. 20 minutes later he comes chugging up to the tomato field with the G. I’d put the battery in backwards (not my fault- someone had rigged the G up with red battery cable that should have been black and the other one is clear!).

I remember when Greg and I started dating- we were always impressing each other. Wow- he knows how to fix a computer, install solar panels, build a pulley system, do macrame! Oh! She can knit, grow food, cook, can, and drive a tractor. So, we’ve been together long enough now that we pretty much know what we are both capable of. It’s harder to impress, and easier to have expectations- sometimes taking each other for granted.

20140712-095037.jpg

But each time Greg fixes something on the farm, each time he completes a long drawn out project, each time he hooks people in with his passion of the farm, local foods, and local economy, and each time he holds his ground against the gas drillers, I think…..that’s my guy. I love him and I’m with him forever. I’m proud of him.

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2014 Newsletter Updates

Here’s our
Intro Newsletter
Week 1 Newsletter
Week 2 Newsletter
Week 3 Newsletter

Week 4 Newsletter

Week 5 Newsletter

Week 6 Newsletter

Week 7 Newsletter

Week 8 Newsletter

Week 9 Newsletter

Week 10 Newsletter

Week 11 Newsletter

Week 12 Newsletter

Week 13 Newsletter

Week 14 Newsletter

Week 15 Newsletter

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Ode to the “G”

IMG_6737A couple of days ago,we were able to get into the fields for the first time. Being in Western Pennsylvania, and not too far from the Allegheny river; our fields are mostly comprised of clay and shale.  This does not bode well for someone who wants to farm in the wet spring weather. It takes about a week of beautiful, sunny, and windy weather for our soil to dry up enough to tolerate a heavy tractor tilling and prepping the beds. If we venture out too soon, we risk compacting our soils.  Compaction means the soil takes longer to dry out, and the air spaces are compressed between the soil particles (think microbe apartment housing). One farmer told me that it takes 15 years of good soil management to recover from one day of compaction.

IMG_6732It’s so tempting to jump the gun and get out there and work the fields. And that’s just what we did. There should be a lot more planted in the ground by now – but March was super cold and wet and we certainly haven’t had a week of dry weather. Soooo, Greg got the second-to-lightest tractor out and tilled a few rows for me on a south-facing hill (one of the fields to dry out the quickest).

IMG_6736The rows were so pretty, fluffy and soft. I went down to the purple garage with my backpack full of seed packets. And there she is, ol’ Allis. When we bought this farm, we inherited a 1952 Allis Chalmers G with it. Obviously, they don’t make ’em anymore, and they can be hard to come by. The G can be a very handy tractor to have in a smaller vegetable operation. It’s lightweight, it’s designed for cultivation, and it has the engine in the back. The farmer can look down between her legs and see what’s happening as she drives over the crop rows. It’s a sweet thing, and a bit dangerous – we call it the “death trap” so our apprentices and interns can appreciate the gravity of using this old thing.

For a while – the G didn’t have reliable brakes.  I would make sure to start out on low gear at the top of a hill – and be sure to coast to a full stop on the flats before crossing Ridge Rd.  The Basket Weeder (think wire baskets that turn on an axle as you drag them across the ground), and the Planet Jr. Seeder have a habit of pinching my toes as I move the tool bar up and down with the hydraulics.  There is no roll bar, no seat belt, you have to lean far back and pull the on/off switch (about the size of a golf T) out in order to turn off the tractor, or try to stall it in case of an emergency.  Inevitability, the basket weeder gobbles up the drip tape (irrigation), the shoes scoop up the main irrigation hoses, and the seeder clogs with rocks and weeds.  There’s a short in the wiring -so we’ve got to charge the battery when we aren’t using the G, or it won’t start.  Other than that – it purrs like a kitten and I love using it.

IMG_6730I used to think I should take up smoking  and wear worn out overalls when driving that tractor.  There’s just something classic, harsh and farmy about that tractor.  It’s a very simple machine, compared to our big shiny red tractor that gets most of the love and attention.  It’s Jen’s tractor – and that’s how I like it!

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