29 May 2012

Market Report - June 3rd

Well folks, we are getting excited for our first Rhinebeck Farmer's Market appearance of the season!  This is our 19th consecutive year at the market!  Brittany and Summer Mosher will be in our usual spot selling the first veggies of the season.  Here is a quick summary of what we expect to have:
Yum!  Look at all of these goodies!  From top left: lettuce, salad bags, bok choi, kale, chives, basil, collard greens, lacinata kale, garlic scapes, mint, catnip, rhubarb, braising mix, radishes, and spinach.

 Not sure what to do with garlic scapes?  Never cooked bok choi?  No problem!  Check out our Recipes section for some cooking ideas!

We also want to congratulate Brendan on his recent graduation from Harvard Business School!
We're so proud of you and Kim!  And thank you for fixing the barn while you were home!

Phase 2: Management

I think of farming as a 3 stage process with Phase 1 being planting the crops and Phase 3 being harvesting the crops.  If you think of vegetables like children (which I do for some reason), Phase 1 is having the baby and Phase 3 is finally sending off to college.  There is a heck of a lot that needs to be done in the middle in terms of "managing" the kid (or the vegetables in this case).  Managing these vegetables means keeping them free of weeds and insects, safe from deer, and ensuring that they have enough water and nutrients to grow well.

To this end, we've been spending a lot of time weeding recently.  We have more varieties of garden hoes on this farm than you may even know exist.  In fact, maybe next week I will post about all of the different hoes we use (paddle, scuffle, wheel, Warren, and I could go on) to keep our veggies free of weeds.  Just today my mother and I used a wheel hoe to remove some weeds in our lettuce field.  It was 95 degrees in humid.  We took turns using the hoe and drinking icy water.  I am glad to be inside blogging now instead of out in the heat!

Garden hoes galore.  Maybe next week's blog post!

To protect the lettuce and beets from deer, we use a cloth row cover.  The fabric is thin enough to let moisture, air, and light in, but it keeps the deer out for the most part.

The other day I came upon this doe and newborn fawn.  The doe is in the background and the tiny fawn is hunkered down in the grass.  Can you see it?  How can anything so cute be responsible for so much damage to our vegetables?!

These cloth row covers protect our eggplant and lettuce from insects and deer, respectively.
We have also been on bug-patrol.  Every year, our potato plants get attacked by Colorado potato beetles, and our greens and eggplant get attacked by flea beetles.  We cover the eggplant with cloth row covers to protect it from the flea beetles.  Once the eggplant has grown large enough, these beetles are no longer a problem.

An eggplant leaf with tiny flea beetles on it.  They make the leaf look like Swiss cheese!

We haven't found a way to keep the Colorado potato beetles away yet.  The best system we had was when my brothers and I were ages 10, 8, and 6.  My mother paid us a penny for every beetle we squished between our fingers.  Ewwwww.

A Colorado potato beetle on a potato plant.  Go back to Colorado where you came from!

And now a question from the audience.  "But Brittany, why don't you just use Round-up or some chemical sprays to keep the weeds and insects away?  I have heard that they work wonders!"

Good question, audience member.  At Brittany Hollow Farm, we are of the opinion that if chemicals can kill weeds and insects, they probably aren't great for humans either!  My parents made the decision to be pesticide-free when we were small children.  We walked around the farm barefoot in the summer, and they worried what we might be coming into contact with.  If you see bug holes in some of our produce, be happy!  If the bugs like it, you'll like it too.  Read more about our growing philosophy here.

17 May 2012

Tomato planting...and a tomato rant!

If you have never had a juicy, vine-ripened, locally grown tomato you have seriously been missing out.  The tomatoes we buy in the supermarket don’t even compare.  Supermarket tomatoes don’t have the right color, the amazing smell, or even one iota of the taste that a “real” tomato offers.  Even when supermarkets say that tomatoes are “vine-ripened” they don’t really mean it.  They mean that a vine of tomatoes was snipped off a plant, stuffed into a box, and allowed to ripen “on the vine” but off the plant for several weeks before finding its way to your store.  The taste is just not even comparable.  In fact, I bet there are thousands of people out there that think they don’t like the taste of tomatoes only because they have never had a fresh and locally grown one.

As you can tell, I am passionate about tomatoes.  All of the Moshers are!  We don’t even bother eating tomatoes when they are out of season anymore.  At Brittany Hollow, we grow more than 7 delicious varieties of tomatoes.  We pick them ripe, on Friday or Saturday and sell them to you at the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market on Sunday.  They will be the most delicious tomatoes you have ever consumed! 

But I digress.  The tomatoes themselves won’t be around to eat for another 2 months or more…but the planting and growing process is already underway.  If you recall, we started our tomatoes in the greenhouse way back on March 17th (see blog post First 2012 Seeds Sown at Brittany Hollow ).  This past weekend we had Andrew, a Culinary Institute of America student, come down to help us move our tomatoes from the greenhouse to the ground.  We planted several heirloom varieties that are well-known for their incredible taste. 

Brandywine tomatoes, an heirloom variety.  All covered up and ready to grow.

This is how we plant tomatoes:

Dig a hole (or in my case, have Andrew dig a hole!)
Put goat manure in the hole
Put a tomato plant in the hole
Put water in the hole
Cover the plant with soil
Repeat…hundreds of times.
Andrew digging holes and Brittany  adding water.

A tomato about to be buried with some manure and water.  This is one happy plant!

Dropping tomatoes into holes.

Debby showing off some goat manure.  Don't worry kids, at this point it is more similar to dirt than it is poo!

The goat manure adds a boost of nutrients to the soil to help the plant grow.  We used to have dairy goats on the farm and still have a surplus of manure (AKA agricultural gold!) to dig up and use in farming.  

We also planted more lettuce...which will be ready to bring to our first Rhinebeck Farmer's Market appearance on June 3rd!  If you missed our last post about catching a wild bee swarm, you can find it here.
A cheerful lettuce-planter.

14 May 2012

Bees: The Farmer's Friend

Last week Ellen and I were going for a walk around the perimeter of the farm, and we almost stepped on a big ol’ pile of bees!  I have seen swarms of bees on tree branches before, but this is the first time I have ever seen a swarm on the ground. 

Swarm of bees on the ground.  Glad we didn't step on this!

A bee swarm is created in the springtime when a queen bee leaves and overcrowded hive and some of her worker bees follow.  The workers are able to follow the queen by cuing in on the scent of her pheromones.  By staying close to the queen, the worker bees are attempting to protect her and a swarm is created.

Bees in a swarm are generally not aggressive, since they have no young (or brood) to protect.  My father and I went out and attempted to capture the swarm that we found so that we could put these bees to work on the farm!

The plan: gently scoop the bees into a beehive using a shovel.

Bees milling about.  Where'd the queen go??

We moved the bees from the ground into a wooden bee hive, shovelful by shovelful.  Nobody got stung!  After we had moved about half of the bees into the box, we went away for a few hours.  When we came back, the rest of the bees had moved into the box on their own.  We must have gotten the queen in the hive, and the rest of her army followed.

We left the box alone, hoping that the rest of the bees would follow.

During my senior spring semester at Cornell University, I took several “fun” classes including wine tasting, woodworking, and beekeeping (good to know an Ivy League degree still means something, right?).  Beekeeping was a great class!  We learned how to process honey, care for a hive, and make wax candles.  One time we “created” a swarm by removing the queen from a hive.  If you held the queen in your hand, the bees would come and swarm around your hand.

Taming a swarm of bees with my bare hand back in Entomology 2640: Practical Beekeeping!

Farmers love bees!  Honeybees are one of the primary insects that pollinate our crops.  Every tomato, eggplant, pepper, squash, etc. is the result of pollination.  Without bees and other flying insects, we would not have fruits and vegetables to eat.  It has been said that the collective value of bees (including pollination, honey, and beeswax) on a yearly basis is over a billion dollars.  On top of pollinating crops for us, we also get the benefit of sharing the honey that the bees produce.  These bees seem to be enjoying their new home!

Home sweet home.

05 May 2012

Motorcycles, bees, and onions!

This morning we planted 3,600 onions!  
Lots of tiny onions to plant.

With four of us helping out we got a lot done very quickly.  

First we prepped the field.
Darryl prepping the field as Ross and Debby look on.

Then Sheeba took a rest in the cool, freshly tilled dirt.

Sheeba taking a break from exploring to rest in the dirt.  This is her supermodel pose.

After making a few adjustments...

Darryl and Ross adjusting the planter.

we were ready to plant!  Planting onions brings back several memories of childhood for me.  I recall how onion planting day would begin smoothly...with us kids being on our best behavior.  As the day dragged on, we would become more and more irritable.  The day would culminate with us throwing rock-hard clods of dirt at one another.  I truly remember this happening for at least 5 years in a row.  
Here we go!  First one to miss has to do the dishes!

Onions are one of the few crops that we plant with the help of a mechanical transplanter.  Usually, we just act as human transplanters.  One person drives the tractor (Darryl), two people sit on the back of the tractor placing small onion starts into the mechanical wheel (Ross and Brittany), and one person follows behind the tractor filling in gaps with more onions (Debby).  The two people riding on the tractor alternate putting onions into slots on the wheel.  Another memory this brings back is us kids getting highly competitive over who would "miss" the first slot.  We placed bets on this, typically involving house chores like doing the dishes.  I think that I won this year (take that Ross!).

 This year we ordered six varieties of onions.  Whoever it is that names the onion varieties does a great job.  My favorite variety is a red sweet onion called "Red Zeppelin".  Below is a picture of Ross holding his favorite variety, "Big Daddy".

Red Zeppelin! Hah! Who comes up with these things?!

Ross-daddy with his favorite variety: Big Daddy.

 The planting went quickly with all of us working together, and by 11 o'clock we had completed the field!  We went on to plant beans, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, swiss chard, and beets during the rest of the day.


A sea of onions.
We have also moved some of our flowers outside of the greenhouse to "harden off" before planting.  Giving young plants some exposure to the outdoors before they are planted lessens the chance that they will go into shock once in the ground.  See that bathtub in the background?  There is sure to be a blog post about that sometime this summer...
All of these trays are "on deck" to be planted.

In other news this week, I caught our farm cat "riding" Dad's Harley.  Naughty cat, engaging in shenanigans instead of catching mice!
Racecar the cat getting ready for a ride.

Ellen and I also found a swarm of honey bees this week.  Bee swarms are a natural occurrence in the spring and we were lucky to have found this one.  Bees are also a good friend to the farmer, as they pollinate our crops AND make delicious honey.  What did we do with this bee swarm?  That will be the subject of our next post!

A bee swarm.  Tune in next time to see what we did with it!

02 May 2012

Companion Planting

Full greenhouse!  Time to start transplanting.
The Brittany Hollow Farm greenhouse is officially at capacity.  That means that if our greenhouse was a hotel for plants, we'd be hanging up the No Vacancy sign today.  Right now we have 14,000 plants in there, ranging from lettuce to tomatoes to zinnias.  It is time to move things outside into the ground, and that is just what I did today.

We got a nice soaking rain last night, making the ground perfect for planting today.  As a pesticide-free farm, we need to take a creative approach to planting.  Insects, disease, and herbivores (like deer, woodchucks, and rabbits) can cause devastating problems for vegetable growers.  Since chemical sprays are not an option for us, we use alternative farming techniques to protect our produce.  One of these techniques is called companion planting (click here to read more about our growing philosophy).  Companion planting is the planting of different varieties of produce next to one another in the thought that they will assist one another in some way.  Since deer tend to avoid aromatic crops, we intersperse scallions with several other crops that deer love to eat.  Below you see some parsley interspersed with scallions.  Hopefully the scent will keep the deer away.

Parsley and scallions...good companions!

The scallions were planted in between our broccoli as well.  Pesticide-free broccoli in the northeast is often plagued by cabbage moths.  These pretty white moths flit around our broccoli plants and eventually lay eggs which develop into hungry little caterpillars.  We hope that the aromatic scallions will deter some of the moths this year.

Ta-da!  2 rows down, hundreds to go.