Thursday, May 30, 2019

To The Future ...


The youngest member of the new generation of the Metzger family is learning about farming far from our rocky Pennsylvania hilltop.  She's been planted firmly in the silty soils of Alaska's Matanuska Valley by her parents.
... and how about that headband? Doesn't it just "beet" all?



Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's Apple Blossom Time

Today it's 80 though just a couple of days ago, we awoke to a scrim of frost in the spots on our farm where the cold drains.
The orchards have exploded with a riot of blossoms in the past couple of days. Arthur can tell you which trees blossom first and all the details but I couldn't resist venturing into the orchards to snap a few photos. A bonus was the sight of a Scarlet Tanager flashing amid the blossoms though I was too slow to capture its picture.

from the lone McIntosh apple tree
planted in the 1950s

Sad to report that we lost our bees in the late winter
but happy to report the new bees we purchased
are thriving in the apple orchard

Didn't take the time to check the tag on
this tree with the fuchsia blooms

Not sure that bluebirds are the
occupants of this house in the orchard


For the first time in more than 10 years, we are not planting and planning for the Potter County Farmers' Market this spring. While we're focusing all our farm attention on the orchard, our personal attention is drawn to a different kind of apple - this baby girl, born last month to our son Joe and wife Jennifer. She joins her cousins Rowan and Amelia as the apples of their grandparents' eyes.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What's Growing?

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse

It's not surprising that all the pictures taken in April over the years often look just like the one above which I snapped with my phone this morning. Capturing the new growth on fledgling plants seems important as the weather swings wildly between warm sunshine and cold, windy snow showers.

If you ordered tomato and/or pepper plants, rest assured that they're being tended daily as I water them and adjust the lights and heat in the greenhouse. Everything seems to be on schedule so far as I completed the transplanting from the seed starting trays to the peat pots last week.

And in the high tunnel, I will harvest the first picking of lettuce this weekend. These seeds were planted on a warm February afternoon and covered with floating row cover. Over the weeks, the lettuce rows have company with spinach, carrots, radish and turnip seeds sowed and sprouted.

We're still enjoying the fruits of last year's labor. We're harvesting parsnips from the garden and kale from the high tunnel, both of which overwintered beautifully. Still in storage we have onions, garlic, apples and sweet potatoes. And in the freezer, I can still dig down and find a container of roasted tomato sauce!

Who doesn't love spring?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pondering Pepper Plants


Finding USDA Certified Organic plants for your home garden is a challenge here in Potter County. Our plants are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers. Any nonorganic nursery plant is sure to have been treated with some type of synthetic product. Remember USDA has exacting standards that must be met for a plant to bear the USDA Certified Organic label and we undergo an annual review to be able to use the USDA Certified Organic "brand."

All of our plants (all grown from certified organic seed) get the best possible start with high-quality organic seed starting mix, potting soil and care.

At this time, I am completing the seeding of pepper and tomato plants. I am growing an assortment of plants for the farm but and have not planned to start any additional plants for sale this year unless the customer makes arrangements with me NOW. (Thank you to those who have responded and ordered their plants).

As promised, here is a list of available sweet and hot pepper seeds I have:

Sweet Peppers: Chocolate, Golden California Wonder, King of the North, Carolina Wonder, Osmarsko Kambe
Hot Peppers: Sarit Gat, Czech Black, Hidalgo, Ring Of Fire

Tomato varieties are here.

Interested? Send an email to metzgerfarm@gmail.com before WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27 or we'll both be disappointed.





Friday, March 22, 2019

Last Call For Tomato Plants

I've been occupied with getting my pepper, onion and tomato plants going in the past couple of days. If you are interested in ordering Certified Organic tomato and/or pepper plants, your deadline has arrived. I have used all of the seed starting mix that I ordered. I have ordered an additional bag to complete my seeding projects but I will not be planting extra seeds this year so if you are going to want plants for your home garden in May, I need to have your order NOW.

Healthy organic tomato plant from a long-ago summer
I have seed for the following determinate tomato varieties: Rutgers, Oregon Spring, Northern Ruby Paste, Mountain Princess, Burbank, Organic 506, Glacier, Sophie's Choice, Medford, Wisconsin Chief and Silvery Fir Tree.


Is anything more appealing than a vine-ripened organic tomato?
Indeterminate varieties require staking or trellising. Available seeds include: Black Sea Man, Black Cherry, Cerokee Purple, Goldie, Stupice, Dester, Brandywine, Pruden's Purple, Moskvich, New Girl.

 

Price per plant (in 4-inch peat pot) will be $4 each. 



Again, if you are interested in plants this year, I need to hear from you by Monday, March 25. Please email metzgerfarm@gmail.com.

... and thank you to those who have already ordered. Your seeds are working at sprouting in the sprouting chambers in the greenhouse as I share this post!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tomato Nostalgia

Summer of 1979
.
We arrived on the family farm on Crandall Hill on a hot April day in 1976,  our "Living The Good Life" dreams of making our way as homesteaders packed into a U-Haul truck, taking us from the busy Lehigh Valley back to our mutual roots in north central Pennsylvania.
Key to the back-to-the-land dream was growing a big garden. In the metropolitan area near Allentown, we had claimed a community garden space with high voltage electrical lines arching overhead. The weeds soon overtook our first efforts at growing our own as we couldn't find the time to adequately tend our little shared space. But our move back to the gardens Arthur fondly remembered  from his childhood offered a new start and we planted our first garden that spring.
I don't remember much about those first gardens. Instead, my memories take me back to sunny summer afternoons in the tomato patch while my toddler daughter took her afternoon nap in the nearby house.  Always a creature of habit, the little girl welcomed her afternoon respite, and so did I. It was the summer I canned more than 100 quarts of our own tomatoes.
Coming across this photo on a cold winter day in 2019 transported me back to that halcyon summer, setting my standard of tomato success.
It's time to start the seeds that will become the tomatoes of 2019. For the past several years, I have offered USDA Certified Organic tomato and pepper plants for sale. This year I will grow vegetable starts only if customers make arrangements with me in advance. And that means you will need to get in touch with me (email: metzgerfarm@gmail.com) before March 20 to place your order. We can work together to select varieties and plan for the best time for you to take custody of your plants when the danger of frost has passed in your garden patch. We'll both be disappointed if you wait until May to begin looking for organic plant starts.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Another Bean Tale

Don't we all hanker after this
well-organized pantry?
This is the pantry of one-time Niles Hill homesteaders, and good friends, Mike and Louise Aucott. The pink arrow direcs your attention to jars of dried beans - dried beans that were grown on Metzger Heritage Farm.

Dried beans have an impressive nutritional profile. In addition to lots of protein, they also bring manganese, fiber, B vitamins and iron to the table. Some studies show that a higher legume intake is the most protective dietary predictor of survival among the elderly. Beans and greens are the foods most closely linked in some studies as being protective against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia.


These are known as Painted Pony (or brown mare bean because of its half brown and half white marking).  I'll allow Louise to tell the story received in an email on the same day I was posting about Bird Egg Beans.
Years and years ago, Metzgers gave Aucotts a big bag of soldier beans still in their shells. We let them dry *thoroughly* and shelled them during World Series games, then (oh horrors) forgot they were there. But....tonight I made them into baked beans and they turned out to be DELICIOUS! Thank you Metzgers! Rounded out with corn pudding from our own Niles Hill corn.


Now when Louise says years and years, I figure that it has to be at least seven years. I can remember where I grew them and I remember that I planted several long rows and we harvested about two big barrels of the beans in their pods. How happy we were to offload (I mean share) them.

I have to admit that there is still a feed bag bulging with beans hidden away in a cupboard down in the shop if the chipmunks haven't found a way in.

I'm planning to try several varieties of shell beans in the 2019 garden. Do you have any varieties to recommend?

For those of you interested in planting your own Painted Pony beans, here's a link with information. And who knows...years and years in the future, it might be you pulling a jar of beans from your pantry shelf to transform into a nutritious and tasty dinner.





Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Bird Egg Bean Success

Here's the link to the first time I wrote about Bird Egg Beans on the blog. It continues to be one of my most popular posts, attracting attention from all over the country, folks likely doing a Google search to find out more about this particular kind of bean.
I recounted our efforts in the summer of 2017 to rejuvenate our seed supply here.
But it wasn't until I came across this photograph that I realized I had failed to update my readers on the 2018 bird egg bean experiment.

Wanda Gooch Metzger putting her hands to work
shelling beautiful Bird Egg Beans in her 93rd year.
It was her family that brought Bird Egg Beans to Potter County.
It was a successful year for the bird egg bean planting. While we don't have quantities to offer for sale, we were able to put several quart bags in our freezer and dry a generous amount for next year's seed.

Bird Egg Beans in blossom.
Though they're billed as bush beans, we have the
best success growing them on a trellis, especially in
rainy seasons like we experienced in 2018.

If you're interested in growing your own Bird Egg beans, these may be a close relative of our Gooch family heirloom.
A family heirloom from of one of the six original members of the Seed Savers Exchange (now the largest public participation heirloom seed organization in the world). These beans are said to have been brought by Lina’s grandmother to Missouri by covered wagon in the 1880’s. Delicious smooth texture and rich flavor for soups or on their own. Great to freeze as shelly beans for wonderful winter meals! (from Uprising Seeds catalog)
The same seed is also available directly from Seed Savers Exchange.

There are several bean varieties that look similar to Bird Egg Beans in the catalogs:  Flambo,  Tongue of Fire, and French Horticultural Beans.

Our Bird Egg Bean family tradition has ranged far and wide in the Metzger side of the Gooch family. Son Joseph is determined to have a harvest of Bird Eggs from his garden in Alaska's Matanuska Valley. Carol Metzger Wilkerson has been successful in growing the family beans in her garden near Portland, Oregon.

Leave us a comment about your experience with bird egg beans or any of the others that have similar characteristics. We love hearing from our readers.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

What's At Stake?



a plethora of toxic choices at your fingertips

It's not pleasant to venture into the gardening section of any small or big box store these days. They just stink of chemicals. You know what I'm talking about. It's unmistakeable in places like Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart - even in the back room Wagner Hardware in Coudersport.

Pesticides are created to kill. They are poisonous to living organisms, including plants, wildlife, pets, your neighbors, your family and you. Of 30 commonly-used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked to cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 26 to liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity and 11 with disruption of the endocrine system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 can leach into drinking water sources.

Poisons are absorbed through the skin, or by breathing sprays, dusts or vapors. You can be poisoned if you apply or are present during application of the chemical. If you touch contaminated grass, shoes, clothing, lawn furniture, etc. or put contaminated objects (think of toys, balls, golf tees, blades of grass) or fingers in your mouth, you have introduced the poison into your body. Chemicals can enter your system through inhalation so it isn't crazy to try to hold your breath as you walk into the "gardening" section ... or when you walk by your neighbor's yard treated with chemicals ... or when you drive up to Cole Memorial Hospital after the landscaping company has sprayed.

Monsanto (now part of Bayer Ag) is facing thousands of lawsuits from individuals who assert that Roundup has caused their cancers. One gentleman, a groundskeeper for a school district in California, was awarded a large settlement in a jury trial, claiming his Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma was caused by glyphosate (in Roundup). More trials are upcoming as Monsanto scrambles to keep records of their corporate subterfuge out of the public eye. (Lots of documents to add to your reading list here.)

And to those who believe the assertions of the "authorities," that these products are safe, I ask why are you not skeptical of these claims in light of all the evidence to the contrary?  I continue to be baffled about exactly why folks are willing to assume the risk of using these products to "control" weeds in their landscaping. Is is worth the risk to your health to eliminate the dandelions? Is it worth the risk to your neighbors ... or your neighbor's children... or your neighbor's pet?

For those who might be interested in reading more, here's a link that might lead you to a new conclusion.

On Metzger Heritage Farm, we are proud of our heritage as organic farmers and continue to work hard to raise quality, USDA Certified Organic vegetables, fruits and herbs to share with our community.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Year End Review (Final Installment)

I'm taking a little side trip from the year in review this morning but it circles back to the topic at hand.
Farmer Arthur looks forward to working on various projects in this old house during the off season. This winter, he's completing work on storage spaces in the attic. It has necessitated removing boxes of records and photos and it's my job to look through the boxes, discard unneeded papers and consolidate.
In the previous post, I mentioned our old friend, the Garden Way cider press. So what did I find in that box I went through yesterday? The original file folder with all the purchase paperwork, instructions for assembling the press and such. Then, in an envelope of old pictures was this.


Our two children with their beloved Auntie Snip who grew up on this farm.
Photo was taken in November 1986.
.... and now back to 2018.

... and here it is - or perhaps I should say here it was!

We were pleased with the first pressing of cider that could be sold to the public. Washing, grinding and pressing the apples at the cidery in New York was efficient and by running the product through an UV filter there before bottling, we could be assured that harmful bacteria that may have found its way into the process would be destroyed without affecting the fresh taste of the juice.
Fresh cider that has no preservatives added has a short shelf life, even under optimal temperature conditions. The natural fermentation process begins and lends a bubbly nature to the cider. Some folks appreciate that fizziness and the accompanying tartness.
In our second (and final) pressing just before Thanksgiving, we offered our customers the opportunity place orders in advance so we could deliver the product directly after pressing. In addition, cider was delivered to Schoolhouse Natural Foods near Eldred and Costa's Shursave Food Shop.


Will we make cider an integral part of 2019? That is a question to be answered in coming weeks and months. Once the costs of production are calculated, we will know more whether cider is a good fit for us.

Cider making was the final big event at the farm for 2018. Our inspection for USDA Organic Certification was completed in early November with no deficiencies to be addressed. We appreciate working with our inspector, Alvie Fourness, and the other folks at PCO (Pennsylvania Certified Organic). And just the other day, the paperwork that needs to be completed for the 2019 Organic Systems Plan arrived in the email inbox ... and the invoice followed shortly thereafter. Welcome to the new year!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Year End Review (Part 3)

Bumper Crop!



Apple Bonanza!




Apple Avalanche!


Apple Abundance!

Apple Plentitude


Yes, 2018 was the year of apples.
We planted the new orchard in 2012, selecting many varieties of apples, an experiment in taste,
texture, disease resistance and preservation. (Read about it here if you're interested.)
It takes a couple of years for fruit trees to get established and, as always, you're at the mercy of the weather, especially in this part of the planet, where wild swings in temperature and precipitation have become the norm, but that's a story for another post!
This year, we held our breath as the trees began to blossom and still the frost did not come. We watched with great delight as the little apples began to form. This was going to be the year of the apple ... and so it was!
The apples ripened over a time span of a couple of months, allowing us time to pick and market the bounty.
 

It was becoming obvious that this would be the year we embarked on a long-time dream to share the our apple cider with the public. For many years, we have used a small Garden Way cider press and made cider for ourselves and friends. It's a method too labor-intensive and inefficient for production.
After researching the latest cider regulations for Pennsylvania and checking in with our organic certifier (Pennsylvania Certified Organic or PCO), producing cider to sell became the goal.

Inspection of our cooler by the Department of Agriculture brought our Food Establishment registration. We located a cider mill in nearby New York state which would process our cider first thing in the morning so no chance of apples other than our certified organic varieties would find their way into our blend. PCO approved language for our labels.

And so, on a chilly October morning, baskets of apples were loaded onto the pickup truck and a couple of hours later, those baskets returned filled with gallons and half gallons of liquid gold.

(to be continued ...)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Year End Review (Part 2)

Did you know nasturtiums are edible - and delicious?

Those last weeks of spring, when the temperatures have warmed and the sun is high in the sky, bring folks to the farmer's market in search of fresh vegetables - often looking for sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers. What they will find are lots of greens, lettuce, spinach, chard, mustard, kale, arugula and turnips, radishes, rhubarb. And that's what our CSA customers found in those early baskets.

Laura and Rytz will tell you that they spent many hours selecting appropriate seeds, nestling them in small planting blocks in flats, transferring them to germination chambers, moving them under the lights in the heated greenhouse space and finally locating them in the high tunnel beds.
Having the CSA upped our game substantially this - both in terms of vegetable production and in preparing that food for the customers. While it became apparent early in the season that this was going to be the year that we invested in a walk-in cooler to preserve the bountiful apple crop ripening in the trees, other farm work claimed our time.
But when all three of the old refrigerators we had used for storage began to freeze everything, the time frame shortened.
We had first observed a Cool Bot at Quest Farm in Almond, N.Y. and a similar style of cooler seemed to be the best option for our operation.
(If you're interested in learning more, click this link to see how it works.)
Project Cool Bot Cooler moved into high gear as plans were drawn, materials sourced and purchased and  calendars (and space in the shop) cleared to begin construction.
Our long-time friend, Dr. Mike Aucott, who ran his own small farm operation on neighboring Niles Hill in the 1970s and 1980s, lent his wiring expertise and ran the proper wires to power the new unit.

 We celebrated completion of construction in grand
style on a hot July afternoon with
Arthur and Laura cutting a ceremonial ribbon


Toasting with Kombucha
Lilies courtesy of J. Walter Metzger who planted a border of
these beauties outside the Shop more than 40 years ago

(To Be Continued.... )