Pine Island Farmers Market

We are so excited here at the farm.  For the first time ever there will be a farmers market in Pine Island and it will be hosted at our farm.  We’re starting off small with an indoor winter market that will be held on the last Saturday of the months of January, February and March 2011.   Mark your calendars to come and partake in the wonderful veggies, fruits, baked goods, jams jellies and stop by our farm kitchen for a farm fresh breakfast.  Ed has been lining up musicians, Wendy has been reviewing vendor applications and everyone’s else has been lining up chef demos and workshops.  Check out our facebook page for updates and schedule of workshops and musicians.

Tuesday night I had the honor of being a panelist at Alfred University as part of their Women’s Leadership Center Fall Events. The topic for our panel was “Grow Your Own: Women in Agricultural, Ecological and Green Careers” I was joined by Dr. Michelle Hluchy of AU‟s Geology Department, Ms. Karen Baker (AU „85) of NYS Department of Conservation, Ms. Amanda Vizcarra (AU „04) of Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms and was co-sponsored by The College of Business. The audience was not limited to just women and included students and the general public as well. It was so great to hear what other folks have experienced in their careers. and the advise to the college student of today.  I was very impressed with what Professor Julia and her secretary Cheryl have been able to accomplish in a short period of time.

Rainy autumn day on the farm

It’s autumn on the farm now, the mountain is beginning to wear it’s beautiful tapestry of burgundies and golds. The farm is in full glory of harvest time, the greens are exploding, the winter squashes and pumpkins are rolling in, the jerusalem artichokes are in full blossom.  Everywhere you look is an abundance of the harvest.  The rain is falling softly at times, harder at others.  It is the rain of fall, it sounds and feels different or maybe it’s just the innate sense one possesses when you live by nature.  For with the autumn wind and rain softly on it’s breath you feel a sense of urgency of the things yet to be accomplished before winter bears down on us.   There is so much to do and the day light grows ever shorter.

You know it’s close when everyone keeps asking is it here yet.  My first clues were just over a month ago way back in February if you can still remember that far back.  I could smell it, the air had an “earthiness” to it, spring was here, she had arrived, I knew it, how do you describe the perfume of sweet spring?  Earthy, fresh, green, damp, warm.  How do you describe the feel of spring’s first breath?  Soft, delicate, a whisper on the wind, you tilt your head to let it wash over you, raise your face to the sky and feel the heat from the sun bathe your face.  Even this is warmer, more golden somehow.  You start watching the birds, did I see it yes there it is the flash of the robin’s red breast, the burst of red from the red winged black bird.  Then there are the sounds of spring – wha’ts that banging???  Oh it’s the neighbors banging on the fertilizer drill, the sounds of tractors fill the air, suddenly flatbeds are everywhere filled with fertilizer, excavators cleaning ditches dot the landscape throughout the valley looking much like our modern day version of  dinosaurs, reminding us of the behemoths that once roamed this region.

Sandfordville School Visit

Wednesday February17, 2010

I visited with second and third graders today at the Sanfordville School in Warwick, the students are participating in “Parents as Reading Partners” where parents are encouraged to read with their children for 15 minutes each night.  This year they have partnered with Heifer International and are raising funds to purchase livestock for poor villages.  Area farmers were asked to come in and speak about farming.

I was truly honored to be one of the farmers they invited.  I was also inundated with great questions from the children:

How many farms are there in the world, How many farmers are there in the world, what is my favorite vegetable, Why do plants come in different colors, What is the wild animal I want the least on my farm, How many ways can I cook a vegetable, What kind of animals do I have on my farm, How can you tell if a pepper is hot, Can we come visit you on the farm, Do you come to the farmers market,  How big is an acre and so many more I can’t begin to remember them all.

It is always so wonderful to participate in programs like this and help share what communities are doing to help support other communities.

Saturday Feb 13, 2010

Weather is still more than a bit nippy but perfectly in season for this time of the year in the Northeast.  Today we are hosting Slow Food Northern NJ for a lecture and lunch on high tunnels.  We’ve been raising food in tunnels for about 6 years now.  My brother Mike experimented with tomatoes.  I seem to stick with cold season crops partly because I just don’t have time to mess around with adding heat and partly because I just wanted to see what could be done in the most minimalist way possible.

Mostly what we’ve been growing is swiss chard, garlic, cold tolerant herbs, lettuces, cabbages, collards, boc choy, and other greens.  Using remay or vegetable blankets, mini hoops, some raised beds a bit of water and we’re growing.  The texture and flavor of the greens always astounds me.  The swiss chard is almost buttery and has none of the metallic bite of summer, the kale leaves are so soft, as to be delicate and have none of the bitter harshness of summer.   The cilantro is blushed with the slightest of rosy reds in color from all the cold.

The menu is salad, swiss chard and goat cheese lasagne, roasted chicken marinated in local apple cider with fresh rosemary from the greenhouse, roasted fingerlings from our cold storage, maple spice cake for dessert with freshly whipped cream.

The people are fantastic, the food is great, the conversations abound on food, growing and community.

It’s the little things

There’s something so satisfying about learning a new skill or tackling a project of which you know nothing and experiencing a successful outcome.  One of my greenhouses is housing my mother plants for my tender herbs like lemon grass and lemon verbena.  I’ve been keeping the greenhouse set at about 50 degrees,  just warm enough to keep everything from freezing and just cool enough so as not to burn through all the propane in my tanks in a week or two.  The pilot light wouldn’t stay lit and after asking around it turns out there is this device called a thermocouple.    From everything I checked out on the internet a thermocouple is basically a probe that sits in the flame of the pilot light of the gas heater, there is a copper wire that runs from the probe to the gas valve.  It’s simple enough to replace, the only tool you need is a wrench.  If you read the instructions you encounter advice like this “Lighting a pilot light and or replacing a thermocouple is potentially dangerous. Fire, Explosion, death and destruction of property can result. If you have any doubt in your ability to do this safely stop and call a professional to replace thermocouple.”  But have I ever let anything like that stop me before?  So with great trepidation I set out to remove the old thermocouple knowing I am really playing with fire not only in how dangerous the task is but in that if I don’t get this thing fixed I will have no heat for the night and it’s supposed to drop to the low twenties tonight and the plants in the greenhouse will not survive.Check the internet a few more times for more info, call my lifeline for any advise I can get when I am trying to explain what I am doing to a trained professional when I have no idea what the proper terminology is to properly ask questions and understand the answers.  Hold my breath, say a prayer and sally forth.  Remove the old unit, match it to the new one, install the new unit, step back and admire my handiwork.  Now turn the gas and electric back on, light the pilot and play with the thermostat to see if all is working properly.  Yeeee Hah – by some miracle it works, keep checking on it throughout the evening and yesss the pilot is lit and the heater is working properly.  I did it, I replaced the thermocouple in my greenhouse furnace, it really is the little things.

to market, to market

Saturday Dec 12, 2009 

Grooooan, it’ s 3am weather.com says it is 12 degrees F. and the “feel like” is 3 degrees.  How am I going to keep the vegetables from freezing at the market today?  Luckily I loaded the truck yesterday so all I have to do is make some coffee, throw a few last minute things in the truck and head off to Queens.  When I arrive at the market I am most fortunate to find that the sun has chosen to grace me with her presence if only for a bit of a while.  The vegetables are bathed in the early morning sun and look so beautiful and the herbs oh the herbs smell so incredible.  The air is perfumed with the oils of sage, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, parsley and oregano as the late autumn sun gently warms them with a soft caress before leaving us to hide behind the city buildings and we feel bereft as we brace ourselves in the icy clutches of the wintry wind.  By the end of the day I pick up a frozen solid lump of cilantro and place it in a crate hoping to thaw it out and perhaps salvage it for my own use but I know that is far from realistic today.

Our carrots = happiness

We’ve started harvesting carrots from the hitunnels – caterpillars really.   They are absolutely exquisite.    The colors glow with a luminous light and are so sweet.  I’m starting to think we should forget about growing in the summer and grow in the off season only.  The flavors of the greens and root crops are so incredible now.  If you have never smelled a fresh carrot just pulled from the ground you have never smelt happiness.  Last week at the Carroll Gardens farmers market as I broke off the tops of a bunch of carrots for a father and son I asked them how they smelled.  I watched as both their faces broke out in wonderment and delight as the soft, sweet perfume of the fresh carrots washed over them.  Yes there it was the empirical evidence that carrots equal happiness.

Okay I thought I was crazy at first, it sounded like a snow plow outside the house and sure I mean we received another 5 inches of snow this morning topped with an icy rain frosting. But no it’s not a snow plow it’s thunder and there goes the sky a gorgeous shade of rosy pink – lightening? A winter thunderstorm on top of a winter snowstorm who would think?