Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Day, A Rainy Day

Well, raining again, must be a good time for a post.

I figure I'd do a photo-tour of a typical morning, raining or not. Ready?

pulling up in the rainPulling up to the farm. On nicer days I'd like to pull up on a bike instead of in a truck, but I think I'll need some towing capacity first. Anybody know where I can get or make a cheap bike trailer?

Notice the white stuff in the foreground. It's old floating row cover from a farmer-friend that I'm giving new life too. What was once a holey, 30 ft wide by 100 long piece is now several 7ft wide by ~30ft long pieces. Perfect for the raised beds. Floating row cover (or Reemay to some) is a non-woven plastic "fabric" that lets warmth, sunshine and rain in while keeping bugs out. It also acts like a blanket, keeping the plants inside extra warm, up to 5 degrees overnight. There's eggplant underneath there and since they like it toasty, the row cover will stay on until even after they've put out the first flowers. The cover will have to come off sometime though, to let the pollinators in.

spinach row This morning I harvested the first crop off the farm! Jeanine Lindhorst from Cooking Matters (another arm of The Queens Galley) needed some spinach for a class she is teaching today. There's about 3 minutes between the harvest and my drop-off at The Queens Galley. The rest of the spinach will probably be sold later this week to restaurants, etc. to make some much needed moolah for the Galley.

Radishes These French Breakfast radishes will also be sold off. Two Brothers Old Trolley Kitchen in particular are looking forward to these. They seem to have gone on a radish kick as of late, serving them with soft butter and salt. I am hoping these will be perfect for them, not too spicy with a hint of bite, crispy and fresh (About 7 minutes to Trolley Kitchen). I wonder if they would have been spicier if it were drier.

Hudson Coffee Traders
Every few days I go to Hudson Coffee Traders to pick up used coffee grinds, filters and whatever food scraps they collect in buckets for me. Usually sometime during my pick-up I meet someone new who is interested in urban farming. I guess people tend to notice a small women lugging full buckets out of a coffee shop. Today I met a guy who may be coming over to see the farm when it is not raining. We talked about urban farm crop swaps and how the skyline of NYC is greening up.

coffee buckets Buckets in the truck ready for their trip to the farm. See what I mean about the bike trailer? It's an easy 3/4 of a mile to the farm from the coffee shop, but I can't put the buckets on my handlebars!

cold frameWhen I get back to the farm I open up the cold frame for a moment to let it self-water (i.e. get rained on) while I browse around and do odd jobs. If it weren't raining I would probably put reemay on the tomatoes I planted yesterday, they will have to wait until tomorrow. I would probably also seed the first beans of the season: soybeans for edamame and Dragon's Tongue - a purple stripey bean that can eaten either as a snap bean or a shelled bean. But alas, I merely go to tuck the peas back onto the trellis. They've gotten knocked around a bit from the wind and rain, so they'll need a little encouragement to keep climbing.

I also check on the progress of my napa cabbage. I'm hoping a few of them will be ready by the time we open the farm stand at the farm in June. Whenever they come in, I'll be ready with a knife to make kim chi. The cilantro surrounding the cabbage will be sold at the Kingston Farmers Market next week!

Friday, May 6, 2011

What do farmers do when they visit each other?

Farm together, of course.
Early last week I took a madcap driving trip to Surrey Maine, a very small and rural coastal village where a friend of mine has set herself up on a farm that runs right down to the water. Because I'm a dope and didn't take a camera, you'll just have to imagine how beautiful it is. It is in fact so beautiful, that even though there is silty-clayey soil that has yet to be broken and ammended, my friend is making a go of it, planting almost 3/4 of an acre her first year.

The friendship of Kate and I goes back to our Poughkeepsie Farm Project days when she was still a student at Vassar, and I, as a recent grad, had come back to the campus to become a farming intern. At this farm we learned about growing food in a way that was socially and environmentally responsible and yet agriculturally productive. We hustled with hoes and we lifted 60 lb crates of eggplants to feed CSA members, soup kitchen patrons and downtown market customers. We drove a Ford 3610 tractor with a moldboard plow and we drove an Allis Chalmers G with a belly mounted basket weeder. We learned how to be careful but efficient and how to deal with ornery machinery as well as finicky 13 year olds. We learned how to be farm dorks.

And we carried this knowledge to other farms in the northeast, me to Phillies Bridge Farm and Kate to the Food Project in Boston. Having finally reached the stage when we can strike it out on our own, we have both started small, very small. One in the balsam woods on the coast and one in a city of the Hudson Valley.

As we compared and contrasted our farms we lamented the planning process of a small space when one is used to acres and acres to play with. Using the same Excel template, we compared quantities and planting dates. We are hopeful that we have planted enough but not too much of one thing or another and admitted that we are trying new crops because for once it is truly our call. That rare variety of hot pepper? Sure! Asparagus in acid soil? Why not! We also noted that even though new farms and farmers are popping up all around us we find it hard to scope out those that are willing to accept us for the farm dorks we are. I am lucky to have this Yahoo group called Hudson Valley Growers Network which is a great place for trading growing practices or equipment, but I still need to find the farming folks that are up in the Kingston area...is anybody out there?

During my stay we seeded carrots, spinach and beets, we potted up and seeded in the greenhouse (lucky girl) and we limed some of her fields - a dirty and dusty business, especially when done by hand. By the time we were done with the lime, our clothes, kerchiefs and hair were a powdery white and I'm pretty sure the insides of my lungs were too. But it felt good to help my friend and instill confidence in her and her abilities to farm. We are both used to working with a crew, so to be farming on our own can be a little alienating. I love, love working with volunteers and visitors, but most volunteers will not seed a 72 flat in 2 minutes, water everything at once and then carry the whole stack of flats to the germination box on instinct. Sometimes you just miss working with a fellow farmer.

We of course did other things, mostly food or farming related, most notably we took a visit to Four Seasons Farm, Eliot Coleman's farm and a kind of mecca for market farmers, and had a look around. We stared in disbelief at broccoli plants that were maybe days from harvest and artichokes that were easily twice the size of mine in a gardening zone 2 below the Hudson Valley. Kate has work for Eliot, so when he came by he said hi and proceeded to talk about the grafted tomatoes and eggplants in front of us (more dorkdom, I ate it up) and then mentioned he had extra eggplants to give to us if we wanted. How fortunate, since Kate was having eggplant issues. Kate met some prospective farm friends in the form of interns at Eliot's farm. As we drove around to the other destinations, the beauty of Maine kept hitting me like a brick, but more pleasantly. This is the kind of place where millionaires have "cottages" read: grand estates, for the summer. Somehow the sunny weather came just for my visit.

Before I left we shoveled authentic Maine coastal seaweed into a trash bag for me to take home and turn into a nutritious slurry for the plants. Kind of like a souvenir for my plant babies. I also picked up a couple of nice rocks for Daniel - he likes rocks. For myself, I stopped at the Johnny's Selected Seeds retail store (another mecca, legend has it the founder of Johnny's and Eliot are old friends) on the way home. Unfortunately Fedco wasn't open or else I would have stopped there too. I stocked up on seeds for next year and got some sweet deals on in-store tool specials: a digging fork and flat garden spade from an old forge in England. Yup, farm dork.

Work Party May 7th 9am-noon!

Yes, it's true, another work party is coming our way. The big excitement for this one is that we will be preparing for our perennial garden, professionally designed by Dirty Girls Gardens of the Hudson Valley - two amazing women who possess a particular, and I think beautiful, sense of style. They also happened to do the flowers for my wedding...the bouquets incorporated sage and asparagus...you get the picture.
So, if you wanna make the farm a quietly spectacular place to be, please join us at the farm on May 7th from 9am to noon. After we prep the beds, we will have the next work party on May 21st to actually plant the plants. Some of those plants with be small trees.

The annual spring tonics of sorrel soup and greens and beans are on the menu for lunch.