Week of July 4, Distribution #5

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Red Butterhead lettuce (2 heads)
  • Assorted kales  (1 bunch)
  • Squashes (4)
  • Cucumbers (3)
  • Broccoli (1 bunch)
  • Japanese turnips (1 bunch)
  • Garlic scapes (1 bunch)
  • Yellow onions (1 bunch)

Beets and cabbages and Swiss chard should come next week. Your fruit share will consist of sweet cherries from Yonder Farm.

What’s new on the farm

Most of the tomatoes are now as tall as I am. Their names sound a bit contrived, gimmicky, like stage names: Supernova, Plum Perfect, Gin Fizz, Lucky Tiger, Five Star, Enroza, Big Beef, Grandero, Valentine, Cuba Libre. The marketing people are trying to sell a new generation of tomatoes to a new generation of farmers. The workhorses of the group – Abigail, Rebelski, Clementine – sound modest by comparison. The grape tomato called Supernova is getting started. So far there are only handfuls. It is so named because it’s the red orange of fire streaked with yellow, and it’s sweet and tomatoey and explodes in my mouth. It is hard to wait, isn’t it?

Oh, say, can you see? At night it is dark enough here that the lightning bug’s bioluminescence makes a terrific display, a poor man’s fireworks. Late at night in Nate’s elderberry field, from which not one artificial light can be seen, the on and off flashes of thousands of lightning bugs are a spectacle. The aesthetics of farming have appealed to me for as long as I can remember. As a kid in Illinois, it was the imprint of rolling fields of corn and soybeans, interspersed with hog pastures and their farrowing huts. In New Jersey, it was the cut flower farm up the road from my parent’s house, with its colorful rows of zinnias and sunflowers that caught my eye. On the market farms outside of Boston where I attended college it was the neat rows of cabbages and lettuces and carrots and the lovely farm stands. Here at our farm, it’s the uniform rows of potatoes and beets and onions, especially when we’ve managed to keep them free of weeds. It’s staked and trellised peppers, straw mulched beds of winter squashes, the view of a multicolored lettuce field from a height of land, pruned tomatoes in a spiral as they climb a string, cover crops of oats and peas with purple blossoms, and rows of crops on the contour, gentle curves following a sloping landscape.

Happy Fourth of July, Ted

Week of June 27, Distribution #4

The News from Windflower Farm 

What’s in your share?

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Red Butterhead or Red Oakleaf lettuce
  • Red radishes
  • Sweet Japanese turnips
  • Garlic scapes
  • Broccoli
  • Summer squash or zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Potted Genovese basil

Your fruit share will consist of sweet cherries from Yonder Farm. Our cucumbers are getting started and will be in shares soon. Tomatoes are green and plump and thinking about turning red but waiting for that to happen is like watching the proverbial pot of water come to a boil. I understand that garlic scapes can become tiresome, but they make for a good pesto. And each scape represents a future garlic bulb. Arugula can also be turned into a good pesto.

Our packaging is undergoing a transition. In our packing shed, we continue to juggle every manner of container, but we are working closely with site coordinators in your neighborhood to shift back to pre-pandemic packing. Please bear with us.

What’s new on the farm

The rain has just stopped, and the barnyard is full of puddles. If I take an average of what the rain gauges scattered around the house tell me, and they vary widely, we got 6/10s of an inch. Whatever it was, it was very welcome. It had been three weeks since our last rain and the land had become parched. Irrigation had become full-time employment. I recall being told that a vegetable farm needs an inch and a half every week to achieve good yields. I rest easier knowing that for this week we are already halfway there.

The packing shed is busy this morning. The harvest has been completed and now the work of washing, sorting and packing has begun. Victoria and Daren are our packing and distribution co-coordinators and, between the two of them, have over 30 years of experience. I tell new employees that it’s never too early to develop an exit strategy. I kid, of course. Six members of our staff have been with us for 15 years or more – a fact that gives me a good deal of satisfaction. Victoria and Daren have three helpers today, all high schoolers from the neighborhood – Abe, Charlie and newcomer Ezden. Their day will be spent first in building boxes and washing and sterilizing shipping tubs and then in washing and packing the eight or nine items that will go into tomorrow’s shares. It’s work that will take the five of them well into the afternoon to complete. I don’t spend a lot of time in the packing shed – my work is in the field – but Victoria and Daren must make it enjoyable. Whenever I do go in, there is laughter or an interesting conversation. And people keep coming back.

Have a great week, Ted 

Week of June 20, Distribution #3

The News From Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Mixed salad greens, bunched
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Lacinato kale
  • Purple kohlrabi
  • Red radishes
  • Bunching onions
  • Garlic scapes
  • Broccoli
  • Summer squash or zucchini

Some of the lettuce has become oddly elongated because it was growing in a weedy bed. You might pluck the leaves from the stem for a better eating experience. Your fruit share will be Yonder Farm’s sweet cherries.

What’s new on the farm

The more I pay attention, the more I realize that every growing season is strange. It’s the extremes of hot and cold that make this one noteworthy. Over the weekend we travelled back to early April weather, and today we have returned to a seasonable 80 degrees. The early warmth of May explains why our Happy Rich and bok choy bolted early and our strawberries came and went before our first CSA distribution (fruit share members have been getting Yonder Farm’s strawberries, which are a later variety than ours). I’m not yet sure what this weekend’s cold temperatures will bring, but I imagine it was fine for our greens and broccoli and likely a setback for our cucumbers and other warm season crops. Risk mitigation is large part of my job description. Growing a variety of crops is one strategy – we include some vegetables in our crop mix that are happy with hot weather (zucchini, chilis, sweet potatoes) and others that want the cold (lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, kale). And a second strategy calls for plastic-covered greenhouses and caterpillar tunnels and spun polyester fabrics to cover such sensitive crops as peppers, tomatoes, ginger and basil. I was weeding in a pepper tunnel during yesterday’s cold blast and it was like taking a short excursion to North Carolina.

An article in July’s Scientific American called “Thirsty Air” described something that farmers already know – more rainfall (or irrigation) is required in a warming world in order to keep up with increased evaporation and plant transpiration. In the Southwest, that means 8 to 15% more; here in the Northeast it is less dramatic, at least in a humid year. In a year like this one, when we are experiencing a rainfall deficit of several inches, low humidity and high winds, a good deal of our energy goes into irrigation. We spend our time powering up pumps and hauling sprinklers and reels of drip tape around the farm. Nate maintains an irrigation schedule on a simple spreadsheet. Our entire farm is covered by at least one of three irrigation sources and sometimes all three can be running at once.

Most strategies deployed to mitigate risk require material inputs – especially plastics and fossil fuels. This year, because we can’t stand the stuff, we’ve greatly reduced our use of plastic mulches, confining them to those warm-loving crops that simply would not perform without them. And we’ve moved away from overhead (or sprinkler) irrigation in favor of water-conserving drip irrigation and reusable drip tape. But conservation often comes with its own costs: less mulch means more weeding, and more drip irrigation can result in more plastic waste unless a way is found to pick the tape up so that it can be reused. To address the increased weeding chore, we’ve added specialized cultivating tractors to our small fleet. And to facilitate the reuse of drip tape, we’ve purchased a tool that rolls it onto a spool at the end of a season and built another that lays it out again at the beginning of the next season. Finding good answers to these production challenges is part of what it means to farm well. 

Have a great week, Ted   

Week of June 13, Distribution #2

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Fordhook Swiss chard
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Purple Ruffles kale
  • Crunchy King radishes
  • Purple bunching onions
  • Garlic scapes
  • Red Rubin Basil in pots

We send basil in pots because there are some folks in our membership who garden and others who have a spot on a windowsill. If transplanted into good garden soil, and watered regularly, the plant can last all summer. Or at least until Downy Mildew comes along. If you keep clipping the topmost leaf clusters, keeping ahead of the blossoms, new shoots will continue to develop. If this doesn’t interest you, use your basil soon, just as you would a bunch of basil bought at the market. Your container is fully compostable. Water your pot and it will keep for a few days. This week’s basil variety is Red Rubin and it has a fairly traditional taste. Last week’s, by the way, was Thai basil, and you may have noted a hint of anise. Genovese is coming next week. Our squash and zucchini planting has an abundance of flowers and small fruits, and I think you’ll get something from it next week. Your fruit will be a quart of strawberries from Yonder Farm.

What’s new on the farm?

Francis Lam on the podcast The Splendid Table asked today, “What does your June look like?”  Ours, so far, has been relatively dry, cool and windy, but the warmer than normal month of May has us ahead in growing degree days according to a neighbor, a grape grower, who tracks such things. More than anything, our June looks green – every possible color of green. And it tastes of the fresh things that our gardens are beginning once again to provide – tender lettuces, spicy radishes and arugula. Sauteed kale and onions with our eggs in the morning.

I spent much of the day yesterday on a cultivating tractor weeding onions, winter squashes, lettuces, Swiss chard, rutabagas, celeriac, scallions and sweet corn, a variety of crops that took me to every corner of the farm. It rained a couple of days ago and the young plants had become well anchored to the earth. I could be aggressive in terms of how I addressed the weeds without worrying about harming crops. We overplant slightly in order to have a few plants to sacrifice to effective weed control. If I can be aggressive early in the life of a planting, then we as a team will face fewer hand-weeding chores later. It rained again last night, helping to set right those plants I did dislodge.

The tractor I used was the latest iteration of our electric tractor design, and it may be our best yet. It’s certainly our most versatile. Nate, who runs our Instagram page, and is the chief electrical engineer on the project, has been collecting some photos and will post them soon. He’s made a logo for the tractor consisting of a “W” for Windflower, of course, and a lightning bolt. Farm fun. The latest model has a 3-phase AC motor, a German controller and a very efficient Italian transaxle. It’s no Ferarri or Lamborghini, but on the more practical side it runs all day. Our previous model had, at best, a four-hour run time. Thankfully, the seat is comfortable and the motor is whisper quiet. The clunking of metal cultivating parts against the rocks in our soil is all that I hear, at times like a punk rocker with a new drum kit, but most often like wood chimes in a good breeze.

Have a great week, Ted

Week of June 6, Distribution #1

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm! Thank you very much for joining us for the 2022 season – we hope you enjoy your CSA experience. Vegetable and egg shares begin this week and fruit shares will probably get underway next week with the season’s first strawberries.

What’s in your share?

  • Arugula
  • Fordhook Swiss chard
  • Magenta lettuce
  • A mix of kales
  • Red Rover radishes
  • Bunching onions
  • Garlic scapes
  • Thai basil pot

What’s new on the farm?

For the first few weeks, your shares will consist primarily of salad crops. Soon that list will grow to include spring turnips and kohlrabi and, with a little luck, spring broccoli. Cucumbers and zucchinis mark, for me, the beginning of summer, and their arrival this year should coincide with the solstice. And then, in the first weeks of summer, you should begin to see beans and tomatoes and corn. But for now, as is always the case in June here, it’s salad season.  

On a recent bike ride along the high roads of southern Washington County, we could see large swaths of the woods in bloom – acres of white against an otherwise green backdrop of new leaves. As we approached, we could see that these were black locusts, a native species that grows in large groves, and their fragrance was sweet and delicious. Old timers will tell you it’s safe to plant your frost sensitive vegetables once the locust blooms. This year’s bloom peaked about ten days ago. Its showy ivory-colored flowers have been dropping and the trees are fading back to green. In the place of each blossom a pea-like pod will grow. The locust is a legume, and its flowers are edible and sweet, but, unlike honey locust pods, black locust pods are poisonous. As I laid drip tape out on beds of onions near a locust hedge today, blossoms rained down and the ground was covered in a white mulch. I wonder if the onions will taste of the sweetness of the locust.  

Have a great week, Ted