Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Season Planning

April 22, 2015 - Earth Day
Tomato plants in greenhouse and snow on the ground
Farming - even on the small scale that we're practicing - requires a great deal of the folks who call themselves farmers. Beginning long before the end of the growing season, you are determining which of your crops are successful and which are not. It's not a black and white process, for you need to take into consideration many factors - some of which you can control and so many more that you cannot.
Since we began farming, we've planned to participate in the Potter County Farmers' Market on a weekly basis. Our plantings were geared for that market and we chose varieties that would have appeal for potential customers.
Using the lessons learned from several years of direct marketing on the square in downtown Coudersport every Friday afternoon, we've decided to limit our participation in the market this year. Our attention is being directed to our orchard and to growing gourmet organic potatoes. Our inspection for Organic Certification through Pennsylvania Certified Organic will also happen this summer in addition to several large infrastructure improvements to our farm.

Last of the tomato seedlings for 2015
 But if you've become accustomed to the high quality organic vegetables that we have offered for sale at the Potter County Farmers' Market each week, consider making arrangements with us for pickup or delivery. As a matter of fact, I have two high tunnel beds of leafy head lettuce that's two to three weeks from first harvest. Lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard is coming along well too.

For 2015, I have staggered planting of tomato
seedlings to all for High Tunnerl harvest
from July - October
In addition, the greenhouse is filling up with plant starts - heirloom tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant to name a few. All of these delicious organic vegetables will be offered for sale to individual and wholesale customers. We're developing an email and text message system to let folks know when produce is available. If you're interested, please send an email to metzgerfarm@gmail.com or send a text to 814-335-6561. In addition to the contact information, please give me your name as well. Let's begin a conversation!
My next post on this blog will include a timetable of when you can expect various crops. With some advance planning and notice, I can provide quantities of vegetables suitable for canning or freezing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Beginnings

The weather rollercoaster we've experienced in northcentral Pennsylvania this year is forecast to continue this week with temperatures in the 50s tomorrow followed by several days in the 20s.
The good news from my perspective is that some of the snow and ice has melted and the mud left in its place has frozen again.

A view from my front porch
As many of you know, Arthur had bilateral knee replacement surgery last month and he's been working hard at the business of recovering by doing his exercises and following the orders of his caregivers.

On Friday he made his way carefully to the cellar where the potatoes are stored and helped me figure out his system as we filled two orders, including a delivery to Costa's ShurSave Food Shop in Coudersport. Those of you who have missed the colorful assortment of organic potatoes can now find them again.

We're also supplying our organic potatoes to the Genesee Environmental Center for their Sunday breakfasts. In fact, we need to put together another shipment for later this week. The Crittenden also uses our potatoes regularly.

At the same time we're finishing up with the 2014 season, we've been working toward the future. This quiet time has allowed us to devote blocks of time to work on our Organic Systems Plan and put together plans for the 2015 growing season.

The seed orders have been placed and many have arrived. I'm excited about growing some new tomato varieties as well as some different peppers. I have yet to find a sweet bell pepper that fits our growing season though some of the old-fashioned Italian varieties have done well in the high tunnel and taste superb.

There are some new apple trees stored in the cellar waiting for the snow to melt in the orchard. I've spent some time in the high tunnel getting ready for the coming year. Temperatures in there have been measured at 85+ degrees on sunny afternoons while the snow is piled high against the sides. The overwintered spinach had a drink of water last week and has begun to come to life again.

I continue to be intrigued at four season growing, especially after attending a workshop offered by Clara Coleman at the PASA conference this year. Many of the seeds I ordered are on the list of cold-hardy crop varieties she recommended.

I couldn't resist starting a few plants (200+) even though the water in the greenhouse is frozen and the project had to be moved inside the house. I took this picture yesterday but today there are a few lettuce seedlings poking through the Organic Mechanics seed starting mixture! They'll have to go under the grow lights in the next couple of days.

If you're driving by here, you may notice this silhouette in the window watching over my seedlings. This particular statue was a gift from Kathryn Schaub Thompson, a neighbor and friend. It's known as a Kokopelli.

While there are many legends about Kokopelli and his origins in the desert southwest, I like the one that tells how he went from village to village to bring the change from winter to spring, melting the snow and bringing rain for a productive harvest. It is also said that he carried sacks of seeds and songs for his flute in the hunch on his back.

Kathryn (and husband Bill) moved from our neighborhood years ago and finished their days in Coudersport but maintained close ties to Crandall Hill. I don't know if Kathryn knew the fertility legends when she presented this to Arthur. She wanted him to have it based on Kokopelli's joyful song and dance but I think she'd smile to think we're still enjoying it.







Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ahead Of The Culinary Curve?

March 2015 edition
This month's Martha Stewart Living magazine features a cover photo that could have been styled with vegetables grown on Metzger Heritage Farm.
The yellow, red and purple carrots paired with stems from Rainbow Swiss Chard make a beautiful picture.

Metzger Heritage Farm Colorful Carrots
Metzger Heritage Farm Bright Lights Chard

In 2014, we scoured the seed catalogs to find varieties of vegetables that would thrive in our region and would provide our customers (and our family) with high quality, organic, locally-grown produce that tastes amazing.
Are you looking for an opportunity to be able to source the kinds of vegetables you see in cooking magazines or on the Food Network? Look no further than Metzger Heritage Farm.
We've decided to change our business model for 2015 and are planning to allow our customers to pre-order their organic vegetables. With this plan, we are not going to be regularly participating in the Farmers' Market. Watch this space for more information about how you can pre-order your vegetables for pick-up at the farm or arrange for delivery.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Local Bounty

I made a trip to the freezer this morning and once again realized how very blessed we are to have such wonderful food in such abundance.
How wonderful to open the door on the big chest freezer to find such delights - locally grown pork, beef and lamb, venison, oven roasted tomato sauce, sweet corn, edamame, zucchini, sweet peas, rhubarb, blueberries, string beans, shell beans, applesauce, apple cider. Then there are the storage crops - potatoes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, onions, shallots, winter squash. Add the dried beans, dehydrated tomatoes and peppers, canned salsa, tomatoes, beans ... you get the picture? This is truly a picture of eating locally – even in the dead of winter in northcentral Pennsylvania.
Here's the soup of the day - bird egg beans, butternut squash, shallots, tomatoes, and dried sage – all from our farm along with Wooleylot Farm garlic. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and a bit of grated Parmesan, we enjoyed a nutritious and delicious lunch.

Waiting for a simmer to develop
Squash and Bird Egg Bean Soup
In a splash of olive oil, gently saute chopped shallots for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, some freshly-ground pepper and then add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Stir for a minute or so to release the flavor. Add a peeled and chopped butternut squash (other varieties of winter squash would work well too), some crushed dried sage, a pint jar of tomatoes and a pouch of frozen bird egg beans. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash pieces and beans are cooked through. Remove some of the vegetables and some of the liquid and puree with a stick blender. Return to the pot, bring back to a simmer and stir in a handful of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and a little more grated Parmesan.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Midwinter Musings


There's a little more time for reflection in the winter when you live and work on a farm. This reflection takes me in many directions but lately to two old cigar boxes that house Metzger family photos. These faded old photographs, captured by my mother-in-law in the 1940s and 1950s, have a multi-layered story to tell.


The scenes are familiar and yet not so familiar – the old farm house, the new house taking shape across the road, the barn. There are tractors and trucks and wagons. Some of the faces I never knew and some I recognize though time, worry and smiles had carved new angles by the time I came into their lives.  It's a parade of cows, horses, chickens, dogs, cats and even a tame deer. Men and women at work - in the kitchen, in the garden, in the fields, in the barn. The crops - peas, potatoes, cauliflower, hay, green beans. There are birthday celebrations, picnics, holiday dinners, mud pies. The children go off to school, dress up in costumes, play in the snow. The little blue spruce tree in the front of the house that is so often a place to pose in Easter dresses and birthday hats now towers way above the roof tops.

That chubby-cheeked little boy I see in those pictures grew up with a deep attachment to this place on the planet.  Circumstances took him away from this spot and yet brought him back when he needed it most.

We've added our own heritage to this old family farm. Has it really been 38 years that we've lived at this address? Our old memories are recorded on trays of 35mm slides and contact prints from black and white film and shoe boxes of photos in the attic.

Our children surprised us at Christmas with a handcrafted sign that will be planted here on the farm come spring. They collaborated with the artist on the design that reflects the heritage we all share. Perhaps our grandchildren will help dig the post holes and pose with us for a photo that their children will find on a old thumb drive one day.


(More of the photos from the old days can be found on the "Our Farming Heritage" page on this blog. I add photos there as time allows.)



Friday, January 9, 2015

On This Cold, Windy Day


Here's an alternate heat source for these cold wintry days. As seen on my Facebook page this morning:
Steven J Heimel My sister and brother in law in Pennsylvania grow various peppers in their high tunnel and dry them, flake them, put them in a milk carton and use sparingly on food. I liked it so much they put some in a jar for me and it's been a welcome sprinkle here and there. Such a common thing, like you see in pizza shops, but like garlic salt so much better in some indefinable way when it is homemade.

Pepper assortment makes the best hot pepper flakes!
For a couple of years now, we've been dehydrating an assortment of hot peppers and then chopping them up in a food processor and storing them. Brother Steve and wife Johanna were recipients of them when they visited from Alaska last fall.
The beauty of these peppers is that you never know just how much heat you're sprinkling on your food. I've learned that, for my tastes, a little sprinkle goes a long way. Arthur, on the other hand, is much more heavy handed.
While we cannot sell processed foods, if you'd like to give them a try, I've been known to share!
Great heat source on these good 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December Harvest

Spinach and Leafy Head Lettuce
Ever since a visit to the high tunnel at Canticle Farm in nearby Allegany, N.Y. on a cold Feburary day a couple of years ago, I've had a goal of harvesting fresh greens in the winter. Canticle Farm grows greens year round to sell in their winter market held twice a month.
Though the solstice is still a few days away, our days of temperatures in the single digits and the lack of light and sunshine provided a test of the various methods employed to have a four-season harvest in our Crandall Hill high tunnel.
Yesterday's temperatures above the freezing mark offered me the opportunity to venture across icy grass to the high tunnel. As I unzipped the corner, ice showered down on my head. Inside I made my way between the raised beds to the interior bed shrouded in white row cover. I unclipped the filmy covering from the hoops and found what I had hoped - vibrant deep red and green leafy head lettuce, spinach and flat leaf parsley.

Three varieties of leafy head lettuce

Italian parsley and carrots
There was also a planting of carrots in the high tunnel, most of which I had already harvested. However the carrots you see were transplanted as I thinned the original planting. See the crooked roots?


More lettuce remains to be harvested in the coming weeks though one cannot count on much growth. The same holds true for the spinach. It will remain mostly dormant until there's more warmth and light.
This morning the sun is bright in the sky and I expect that though it's projected to be in the 20s all day, the sun will warm temperatures in the high tunnel to well above freezing.
Though I am not offering any of this produce for sale, we do have some beautiful organic potatoes available. Contact us directly to get your supply for the holidays. The red ones are particularly festive this time of year!