Friday, March 29, 2013

More Light For The Greenhouse

Last year's plant starts were terrific but became quite "leggy" as we simply cannot depend on enough natural sunlight – even in the greenhouse. We have had a few "official" grow lights and moved the plants in and out of that artificial light but it still wasn't enough.
I did some research on artificial light and came up with a plan to add light to our growing carts with less expense than an investment in "official" grow lights and stands.
Arthur attaching the lights to the plant carts
We used 48" shop lights with T8 or T12 fluorescent tubes and selected (after much deliberating) natural sunlight tubes. The lights are on chains so they can be easily moved up and down to accommodate the growing plants.
Seedlings waiting to get under the new lights
These carts have been extremely helpful for the greenhouse. They were created from a couple of old broken library carts that had been put in the dumpster at the school where Arthur taught. He modified them to accommodate cell flats and plant trays. We've even used the carts to display potatoes in baskets at the Potter County Farmers' Market!
Grow Lights on Greenhouse Carts
The plants you see in the window behind the cart are headed to the high tunnel this afternoon. It's the first planting of lettuce and spinach.
Speaking of the high tunnel, here's a photo of the carrot/beet/potato planting with its extra layer of protection. I hope to see some of those little seedlings peeking up through the earth before the end of the weekend! The seed-grown shallots deemed too small to harvest last fall are also pictured here. It will be interesting to see what happens with them this spring.
At the other end of the high tunnel, the wintered-over Swiss chard and lettuce have awakened from  winter dormancy and are growing again along with some radishes recently planted.
And lest all this conversation about green things leads you to believe it's really spring here in northcentral Pennsylvania, I leave you with this photo to show that as we make out way back and forth to the greenhouse and high tunnel, we do so in barn boots, crunching along in the snow pack!

This post linked to the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monsanto Protection Act?

It looks like Monsanto has scored another victory in the U.S. Congress as a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 includes a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.
Opposing the inclusion of the rider was Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.), who is quoted as saying the deal worked out with Monsanto was simply bad policy. “These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country."
Read more about it here:
Here's a place to find more information about GMO.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring In The Greenhouse

Two Kinds Of Basil

Lettuce Destined For Farmers' Market

Spinach For Farmers' Market

Yesterday as I watched the ever-present snow flurries and observed the thermometer at 21 degrees, a bit of discouragement crept in. Instead of focusing on the pepper seeds languishing in their cells, or the seeds planted in the high tunnel waiting for light and warmth to germinate, I turned my attention to the green-ness in the greenhouse.
What do you think? Some of these plantings I had hoped to replant in the high tunnel this week. Unfortunately, they'll have to wait until I can be confident that temperatures will be a bit warmer than forecast for the next 10 days.
We have lots of other seeds in their cells in the greenhouse – tomatoes, peppers, more lettuce, herbs – all at various stages of development. When I step inside the greenhouse with its own earthy smell, I can almost believe it's spring – if I don't look outside at the snow drifts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Eating O' The Green

We have been growing soybeans in our gardens for several years and saving seed to plant for the next year's crop. We sowed the seeds in late May, watching as they flowered and grew pods - and striving to keep the hungry deer away! When the pods were turning yellow, beginning to dry and the beans inside were plump, we picked and shelled them and allowed the beans to dry with the intention of using them as a protein source (dried beans).
Somewhere along the line we learned of edamame. Edamame are green soybeans, harvested just as the pods begin to fill. There are many ways to serve them (some of which I've written about before) and they can be shelled, blanched and frozen for later use.
Some of those frozen shelled edamame from the summer of 2012 have made their way into this delicious concoction. Isn't it a pretty green for St. Patrick's Day?
It's on its way to tonight's meeting of the Potter County Farmers' Market growers/producers.
Though I've published a similar recipe before, here it is in the latest version. (If you didn't preserve edamame, you can purchase them in the freezer section at Genesee Natural Foods or in larger grocery stores – I haven't seen them in the Coudersport grocery stores.)
Edamame Hummus
2 cups frozen shelled edamame (thawed and lightly steamed, then cooled to room temperature)
1/4 cup sesame paste (tahini)
Juice of one large lemon
3 cloves of garlic
Put these ingredients in a food processor, pulse a couple of times to lightly blend and then add a stream of olive oil while processing to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Some may enjoy the kick of adding a little cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Serve with pita bread, pita crisps, whole grain tortilla chips or crackers.
We'll be growing soybeans (edamame) again this year from our own saved seed so look for them at the Potter County Farmers' Market probably in August.

This post linked to FarmGirl Friday Blog Fest:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Home For Chickens

The "new chickens" (not to be confused with the old lady hens and the teenage hens) have moved from their corner of the old chicken coop into this new coop, lovingly constructed by Arthur from "found materials." I remember when those brown doors that provide access to the nesting boxes (and the cute little eggs) were closet doors in the old downstairs bedroom in our house. The siding came from a garage that stood next to my parents' home. Roofing shingles were left over from our house project and the windows were samples that were scavenged from a building supply store.
Much of the snow has melted since these pictures were taken last week. I love hearing the chickens clucking back and forth and the rooster's proud crowing as I make my way down to tend the greenhouse plants.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reading Material

I've been sneaking some time with Barbara Kingsolver lately, seeking a change from the seed catalogs, gardening books and record-keeping.
Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is subtitled "A Year Of Food Life" and was written with her husband, Steven Hopp and daughter Camille Kingsolver. It's a chronicle of a family's food journey, packed full of information, recipes and love.
"This is not a how-to book aimed at getting you cranking out your own food. We ourselves live in a region where every other house has a garden out back, but to many urban people the idea of growing your food must seem as plausible as writing and conducting your own symphonies for your personal listening pleasure. If that is your case, think of the agricultural parts of the story as a music appreciation course for food – acquainting yourself with the composers and conductors can improve the quality of your experience. Knowing the secret natural history of potatoes, melons or asparagus gives you a leg up on detecting whether those in your market are wholesome kids from a nearby farm or vagrants who idled away their precious youth in a boxcar. Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely the ones who eat, no matter where they live or grocery shop."*
It's kind of nice for me to think of myself as a farmer composer and conductor as I continue scooping planting mixture into cells, adding seeds and water as a well-orchestrated prelude to the symphony of green! You have the opportunity to experience the first movement which begins with fanfare at the Potter County Farmers' Market on May 24.

*ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE. Copyright 2007 by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver. All rights reserved. (If you haven't read this book, you can find it at the Coudersport Public Library.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Local Dirt!

I've been spending lots of time in front of the computer in the past weeks with welcomed breaks to tend the greenhouse plant starts and play in the dirt to plant more seeds.
AgSquared is a web-based record-keeping system for small farms. I learned about it at the PASA Conference two years ago and have been following its progress since it was launched that year in beta test.
This year, I've renewed my efforts to get a better handle on the record-keeping for our business and been working at inputting the inventory – everything related to the farm business – and developing a complete crop plan for 2013. AgSquared promises lots of flexibility and the developers are continuing to add features to address issues identified by the farmer/users.
The other project that's putting me in front of the computer screen is Local Dirt.
Local Dirt is a website to help connect folks with local food sources. This site gives readers the ability to search for specific products and to pre-order or reserve the products. Of course, here in the northeast, most of the local growers (us included) have limited selections this time of the year. But as we move into the growing season, we'll all be updating regularly to show our customers exactly what is available. Here's the link to our page on the Local Dirt website:
There's also a site for the Potter County Farmers' Market: 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Meteorological Spring

As we greet yet another day of snow flurries and leaden skies, I join with the glib weatherpersons on television to welcome March 1 as the first day of spring - meteorological – or climatological – spring for the Northern Hemisphere.
I won't continue to grouse about the bleak winter weather because my antidote is planning for the coming growing season, tending the plants I have already started in the greenhouse and continuing to read seed catalogs, garden and farming blogs and the reference library we're building. I won't mention that Potter County is one of the cloudiest places on the planet because we just purchased supplies to supplement the grow light capacity in that aforementioned greenhouse. And, indeed we are warm and cozy inside our remodeled farm house!
We hosted a meeting of the Potter County Farmers' Market growers over the weekend and welcomed some new participants. It got me to thinking once again about what our customers are looking for when they make the time to come to the Farmer's Market each week. This is your turn to talk back to me. We can narrow the focus to the subject of lettuce this time.
Pictured above are some of the leaf lettuces I grew last summer. We enjoy a mixture of Black Seeded Simpson and a commercial mixes such as Burpee's Gourmet Blend and Spicy Mesclun Mix from Seeds of Change. We also grew leafy head lettuce (a dark green variety called Concept and a red variety) that folks seemed to enjoy.
We tried to price the lettuce at about the same price the supermarkets charge for their organic lettuce - keeping in mind that ours is fresher (picked within 24 hours of sale) and has a good shelf life if it's properly cared for.
So now I ask you to leave us your comments. Please note that comments are not published on the blog until they are reviewed so just let me know you don't want to publish your comment here. We are mostly just interested in hearing what you have to say as we continue planning for the summer.
As a group, we're also looking at web-based options to let folks know who is bringing what to the market each week and we hope to have a way for folks to "order" in advance once they know what's going to be there. More information is forthcoming so stay tuned!