Monday, April 21, 2014

Orchard Work

I've discovered that the winter seems endless and when the sun has finally warmed the earth, time begins to speed up with an ever-growing number of items on my to-do lists.
Arthur's been working in the orchard, putting into practice some of what he's learned in workshops, conversations with others and various books. With assistance from brother-in-law Roger Wilkerson who spent a few days visiting from Oregon earlier this month, he has refined the trellis system for the dwarf trees planted two years ago. If you've seen Arthur sitting on the ground inside the orchard, now you know he training the branches along the new wires strung for that purpose.
He's also been harvesting scions for grafting (note the Kevlar gloves he's wearing since last year's unfortunate accident with a grafting knife).
He's also prepared many of the beds in the high tunnel for my planting efforts – potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce and shallots. We have cover crops – red clover and peas – planted in the long beds and those will be turned over into the earth when it's time to begin transplanting tomatoes in a week or so.
Niles watching over Joe's efforts
in the pea patch.

The peas have begun to go into the ground and I know many of you are looking forward to seeing them at the Farmers' Market in early July!
We plant Alderman (tall telephone) peas. This heritage pea is the variety planted by Arthur's parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
From the Victory Seeds online catalog comes this interesting tidbit: "The history and pedigree of 'Alderman' is a bit sketchy.  This is not uncommon when researching very old varieties but here are the facts that we do know.  In 1878, Carter's of London, England released a variety called 'Telephone' that was a sport of the older variety, 'Telegraph'. There was a lot of variability in 'Telephone's' genetics.
"At the time that it was introduced into the United States, light-colored pods were popular. But as public preferences changed in favor of darker pods, growers started selecting seed stock from the darker-podded variants of 'Telephone'.
"Then in 1892, Thomas Laxton of Bedford, England released 'Alderman'.  It possesses many of the same characteristics as 'Telephone' but appeared to be more uniform.  W. Atlee Burpee introduced it into the U.S. market in 1901. By the mid-1930s, 'Alderman' had nearly replaced 'Telephone' or was being marketed as 'Dark-Podded Telephone', 'Tall Telephone', or simply as 'Telephone' with no apologies.  "By the way, the word "Tall" was added to the name in the early part of the 20th Century simply to distinguish it from a variety that had been introduced called, 'Dwarf Telephone'. "
Organic Alderman seed is impossible to find so we've been saving our own seed for several years. There's something especially satisfying about putting those special seeds in the ground each spring.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Full Speed Ahead!

When a bunch of farmers get together this time of year, the conversation almost always turns toward the weather. We're in consensus when we lament the late spring this year. I almost don't dare to look at the 10-day weather forecast since the last time I looked past the promised 70-degree temperatures this weekend, I saw snow and ice pellets in the mix for early next week. Sigh.....
Last year we beefed up our indoor planting schemes to enable a head start on the season. It was the first week of March when I started my first seeds indoors this year under the grow lights in a sunny upstairs bedroom window.
First and second lettuce plantings
Tomato seedlings
I start my seeds in trays with Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend and then replant the seedlings in individual pots with Vermont Compost Company Fort Vee Compost-Based Potting Soil. I've found this combination gives my plants a good start before planting in the high tunnel or outdoors.
I vowed this that I wouldn't start as many seeds this year but when I look around the greenhouse, I do believe I may have overdone it again! Of course, when late summer rolls around, we'll all welcome a harvest like this!

Friday, March 28, 2014

More Potato News!

We just packed up boxes of our colorful organic potatoes and delivered them to the Crittenden Tap Room where they'll be on the new Bar Food Menu this weekend. It's wonderful to be part of a growing local food movement. Providing delicious produce to local restaurants has been a goal of our farm operation from the beginning!

What will the 2014 growing season hold? The Farmers' Market group has been meeting to plan for the weekly market in downtown Coudersport. (Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. beginning May 23 and continuing weekly through October.)
In addition, there's been an interest from Charles Cole Memorial Hospital to offer a farmers' market there. Plans call for twice-monthly visits by our group beginning in late June. Details will be announced.
What do you want from our growers? It's not too late to let us know as we continue planning for the season.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Potato Diversity

I was chopping potatoes this morning to add to the soup pot and grabbed the camera to capture their colorful beauty. This is what you'll find in the bags of spuds that we're selling at Costa's ShurSave Food Center in Coudersport and at Schoolhouse Natural Foods (near Eldred).

Today is the day I am putting my first seeds in their cells - first plantings of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli so stay tuned for updates.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Colorful French Fries!

We've been turning some of our gourmet potatoes into these colorful and delicious French Fries. It's interesting how the keep their colors - hues of rosy red, deep purple, yellow and white. Don't they make a unique presentation - a change from the run-of-the mill fries?
Want to try some yourself? We still have quantities of these colors available. Call (814-274-8004) or email ( for information.
We also have potato assortment bagged and available for sale at Costa's ShurSave Food Shop in Coudersport at the Schoolhouse Natural Foods just outside Eldred.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Farmers As Healers

I sat in a packed meeting room to spend some time with Daphne Miller, M.D. last week. The audience was a roomful of farmer-types, gathered for the opening keynote of PASA's 23rd Annual Farming For The Future Conference in State College.

Dr. Miller has most recently published her second book "Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing" that was the focus for her highly-engaging talk.

In researching her book, she spent time at seven sustainable family farms around the country - including time with one of my heroes, Wendell Berry (see blog post from January 2014).

She says, "The more I learned about the science of farming, the more I recognized its connections to medicine. For example, did you know that our gut physiology actually mirrors what happens in the soil? The intricate nutrient exchange between soil, microbe and plant is like the dance that takes place in our intestine, involving the mucosal lining, resident microbes and food (plants and animals). The biochemical makeup of soil also roughly matches ours, with a similar nitrogen-to-carbon ratio and the same range for normal pH (6.0 to 7.5). In fact, the carbon, nitrogen and every other mineral and vitamin building block in our body is derived from soil (via our food)."
She continues, "In other words, we are not simply nourished by the soil, we are of the soil! So, starting from that premise, it stands to reason that we should care for our bodies in the same way that a mindful farmer cares for the soil. And, of course, we should treat our farms and soil as if they are an extension of our body."
Dr. Daphne (as she is called by her patients at a busy Family Practice office in San Francisco) organized her talk around five health lessons to illustrate connections between health and soil. Her Health Lessons included:
  • Farm As Vitamin
  • Farm As Immune Support
  •  Farm As Community
  • Farm As A Model For Cancer Care
  • Farm As A Model For Stress Reduction
Dr. Daphne was interviewed during the PASA Conference by Patty Satalia from WPSU and that interview will air this afternoon (Friday, February 14) at 1:00 p.m., repeating at 1:30 a.m. Saturday and 7:00 a.m. Sunday. WPSU is heard in our area at 90.1 FM.