Archive for April, 2009

spring is rain and ramps

April 29, 2009

Nice spring weather this week, helping out the growth of our lovely vegetables. 

greenhouse seeding

greenhouse seeding

Monday was a bright sunny day, and having heard it was going to rain, we put lots of vegetable seeds, vegetable transplants, fruit trees, and cover crop seed into the ground. 

Sure enough, a nice heavy rain came in the evening to settle in all of our plants. 

After a couple of cool days that came along with the rain, the temperature picked up and we had a few really intense days of heat.  That combination of plants and seeds in the ground (and greenhouse), lots of rain, then lots of sun, make it so that the plants take off.  Really though, you could probably sit and literally watch plants grow. 

So good. 

Speaking of being grateful for rain, I’m really excited about the rain water catchment system on the barn house.  Because the house we live in is a big old renovated potato barn, it has a nice long, regular roof, which provides ample surface area for rain to fall on.  Taking note of this early on, Ben designed a rain catchment system where rain runs off of the roof into a gutter and gets directed into a long pipe that runs over into a large water cistern.  From here, with the help of a small pump (which I believe is solar powered), the rain water gets pumped over to another water cistern that is closer to one of our farm fields and sits about fifteen feet high on a platform.  The water then can be set up as a gravity-fed drip irrigation system for that field. 


step one

step one


step two

step two


step three

step three

 Pretty neat, if you ask me.

Taking advantage of available resources.  Just another element of what makes this farm an urban homestead, more than just a farm and home.  

Right on. 

This weekend had some other lovely farm and food adventures.

On Saturday, Danya and I headed up to a farm I used to live at for small gathering.  This farm, called Porcupine Hill Farm, is about two hundred acres of land up in one of the hill towns that surrounds this here valley.  Most of the land is in woods, although a good fifteen to twenty acres are in hay production and horse pasture.  There’s also a huge, raised bed vegetable garden. 

We ate a beautiful meal of fresh garden spinach salad and last years pesto on pasta out in the hay barn. 

We even had some entertainment that included people in costumes emerging from the woods.


hay barn dinner

hay barn dinner











Yes.  It is a magical place.

I also had a great adventure on Sunday harvesting ramps (wild onions), out in the woods.  There were so many of them!  I picked a bunch so that I could share them with friends. 

I looked for fiddle head ferns as well, but having no luck that day, I ended up buying some from one of our local grocery stores. 

These wild foods are integral to springtime in this valley for me. 

As much as I love growing food, I even moreso love collecting food from the forest.  It feels like such a timeless human experience. 

Rain, barn picnics, ramps… must be spring. 








vegetable farmers plant trees and keep bees

April 21, 2009

This week felt like the first full week of vegetable crop production here at the farm. 

hardening off

hardening off

Early in the week we set out a bunch of plants from the greenhouse to harden them off.  Hardening off is a nice transition stage where we set the vegetable trays outside for the day to make it easier for them to move fully out of the greenhouse and into the ground.    It’s always so exciting to see the little baby plants outside, getting their first full days of fresh air and sunlight. 

Danya and I had a full day of direct seeding on Thursday.  Direct seeding is when we put seeds directly into the ground, rather than starting them off in the greenhouse.  After the beds were prepared (plowing, tilling, fertilizing, spreading manure, tilling again, then marking the rows), we planted lettuces, spinach, mixed asian greens, carrots, beets, dill, cilantro, and peas. 

Tuck them in underneath a covering of remay, which basically is a nice blanket that protects the young seed growth from too much cold and insect infestations, hope for rain, cross my fingers, and soon enough there should be some vegetables growing in the ground. 

By the end of the week, we were able to transplant the plants that had been hardening off all week:  spinach, chard, and a variety of lettuces.  In the ground, growing as we speak. 

I also got to plant some fruit trees. 

Planting trees is one of my most favorite things. 

What a sublime feeling of investing in the future. 

Apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mulberries…

I may never be here to reap the fruit, but someone will. 

the new arrivals

the new arrivals

Apparently, a week can’t go by here at the farm without some newcomers.  First the chicks, then the ducks, then the baby goats… can you guess what’s next.



The bees are a side project of Danya’s and her dear friend Grace.  They’ve been going to bee class throughout the winter to learn how to be bee keepers.  They have the fancy netted hats and everything. 

The bees arrived Tuesday. Ten thousand of them.  All in a box.  With a queen.  Who was in her own special box inside the bigger box. 

Danya and Grace assisted the bees in finding their way into the hive box that they put together, gave them some sugar water, and let them be for the evening. 

box o' bees

box o' bees













Sure enough, by the next day, the bees were finding their way in and out of the box, buzzing around the field, pollinating dandelions… doing their bee thing. 

I can’t wait to learn more about them and witness them doing what they do, cause it really is amazing. 

We’ll end with a bee statistic:

Did you know that it takes five hundred bees, pollinating two million flowers to make one pounds of honey?  (By the way, Danya and Grace are currently taking care of 10,000 bees). 

Now you know.  

a new farm friend

a new farm friend

the beekeepers

the beekeepers


kiddin’ around

April 12, 2009


the firstborn kid

the firstborn kid

Baby goats!

I know, I know, babies were last week’s theme but it’s spring, and springtime means babies.

Lucy had triplets! 

Lucy’s due date was this past Wednesday, April 7th, and apparently goats are very timely with their birthing- 150 days from conception.  But because babies are born when babies are ready to be born, we had to take nighttime shifts to check in on her, first on Tuesday, then on Wednesday.  Lucky for us, she held out until the beautiful sunny morning of Thursday (which, by the way, was the day that Silas, Ben and Oona’s son, predicted.  He knows things). 

Ben and I were checking on her every little while during the morning because she had been showing clear signs of pregnancy- pawing at the floor (“making a nest”), getting up and lying down, licking (she’s getting ready to lick her babies dry). 

Considering she had three goat babies moving around inside of her, I’d say she was pretty calm about the whole thing. 

So, this might get a little bit gory for some of you, but it was just so amazing I have to share. 

The first baby came partially out in her sac that was still fully intact.  You could see her perfect little hooves and eyes.  After a bunch of getting up and lying dying intermixed with some contractions and some good, loud bleating, the first baby came fully out.  A sweet little girl.  We had to wipe her down right away to get her warm and dry and especially make sure that she could breath.  Then Lucy took over with her licking, an innate impulse, cleaning and warming the kid.  At the same time, she’s getting ready for the next kid to come, and sure enough, within about twelve minutes, she had a baby boy.  As the baby boy is getting dried and warmed, the first-born girl is already beginning the process of learning how to walk.  Two kids out, at least one more to come.  Lucy’s all over the place drinking water, attending to her two brand new babies, and getting ready for another.  Within about ten minutes, a third baby comes.  A sweet little girl.  Now all three are getting warm and learning how to walk and the first one is all ready to start milking from mamma, so Ben helps her find Lucy’s udder and she’s quick to learn.  Meanwhile, the little boy is having trouble getting up on his four feet.  He has really long legs and the back two keep splaying out from under him.  We’re pretty sure three is it, so we help all of them find Lucy’s udder and take turns holding all of them. 

Newborn baby goats.  In my arms.  Warm fuzzy babies with very fast, vital heart beats, long floppy ears (from their Nubian father), and beautiful fur colorings and patterns (from their Alpine mamma), in my arms.  Amazing. 

sibling love

sibling love

triplets (the goats)

triplets (the goats)








All the other farm babies are doing well. 

The ducks drink water spastically all day (and all night, accordingto Ben, who checked in on them during his night time goat watch). 

The chicks are alright.  They’re doing some kind of funny pecking order behavior that I don’t know enough about yet so I’m not going to write about it, but it’s not the happiest of situations. 

This week was also the week of getting our bikes ready and rearing to go.  We use bicycles and bike trailers on the farm to haul vegetables to the farmers market and to drop off our wholesale deliveries, so it’s fairly important that the bikes are in good condition. 


I worked with a bike mechanic friend to tune up a fleet of five bicycles.  Replacing shifters, taking off a bottom bracket, tuning up brakes, putting on new cables and housing.  Loots of nuts bolts wrenches wires ratchets grease and bearings.  Love it.  

Although it was mostly a cold, rainy week, we had a bit of a break on Thursday and Friday, which meant that we could plow a piece of one of our plots to get it ready for our first direct seeding.  We plowed about an acre, spread our mineral fertilizer (from Lancaster PA, a story for another time), and chicken manure (from Diemand farm), then tilled it. 

Radishes, arugula, tat soi, and Tokyo bekana went into the ground and got covered with remay (an insulating material which adds some warmth to the soil, seeds, and eventually, plants). 

We also seeded peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, celery and a bunch of flowers in the green house. 

Seeds in the ground, plants in the greenhouse that are almost ready to be transplanted (hopefully it starts warming up soon around here), healthy babies, healthy bicycles…

Sure sounds like springtime at the farm to me.  


mamma and babies

mamma and babies


baby time

April 4, 2009

It’s baby time here at the farm.cutie

Baby plants are taking off in the greenhouse.

Baby onions, leeks, lettuces, kale, spinach, cabbage, fennel, and chard. 

They need water (but not too much), warmth (we keep it between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit), air circulation (sometimes opening up the green house doors, sometimes turning on fans), sunshine, and encouragement.  I like to tell them that they’re beautiful. 

Baby chicks arrived last Monday. 

They were one day old when they arrived.  Wow cuteness. 

There were three Sumatras, two Lakenvelders, four Blue Andalusians, six Pearl-White Leghorns, two Black Stars, five Silver Laced Wyandottes, and four Black Australorps.  The three Sumatras died- one upon arrival and two at the end of the first day.  Very sad, but I suppose that particular breed was not as strong.  There’s no escaping the inherent cycles of life and death when you’re a farmer. 

Wednesday brought ten baby ducks, Runner Ducks, who were also only one day old. 

Now we’re really talking cuteness.  Little itty bitty fuzzy fluffy ducks with tiny little bills and tiny little webbed feet.  Wow. 

Danya and I have been finding lots of reasons to slip into the greenhouse so that we can hang out with the chicks and ducks.  And hold them.  They are amazing to hold.  Especially the ducks.  I swear, it’s something about the mini bill and webbed feet.  I started a photo series of people holding them because it’s perfectly cute.  Check it out. 


Ok.  Enough baby talk. 

Ben plowed one of the fields on Thursday afternoon! 

Not only was it our first plow of the season, but it was on a plot of land that has not been plowed for about fifty years.  Apparently the land has been primarily used as cow pasture.  It’s going to be a bit challenging to work- we’ll plow it, then till or disk it, probably more than once, then cover crop it with oats, then till it again before planting any vegetables or pasture seed.  It will be interesting to get the soil test back to see what fifty years of cow manure brought to the soil. 

This piece of land is some of the most urban agricultural land in Northampton.  I loved the symbolic aesthetic of Ben driving the John Deere tractor right down Pomeroy Terrace.  You know it’s urban farming when the view on the tractor commute is more about houses, apartment buildings, bicyclists, and traffic jams, than it is barns, cows, and silos.

On another note, pizza party.  Danya was going through some of her preserved veggies from last summer, decided to make tomato sauce, then one thing led to another and we decided a pizza party was in order.  Yea farm pizza.  A taste of last summer’s tomatoes, peppers, kale, onions, and garlic, plus good people and good beer, and voila, pizza party.  Pizza party is an important note cause a big part of farming for me is growing food in abundance to be able to come together and celebrate life with good food and good company. 

Rain rain rain for a few days then hopefully more sun so that we can plow more of the land, fertilize, and soon enough, put some seeds in the ground.