Archive for May, 2009

market time

May 23, 2009


full field

full field

I know I know. 

Two weeks gone by, not one. 

This is because it’s the end of May and I’m a farmer. 

So much is happening.  !

Cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks… in the ground.

Weeding, feeding, thinning, watering, harvesting…

Yes, harvesting!

We had our first Tuesday farmer’s market. 

Last summer, when Ben and Oona were in their first full farming season, attempting to figure out what exactly was their most appropriate and profitable market as in-town vegetable growers, they came to the realization that this town (Northampton) had a demand for a second farmer’s market. 

The Saturday market is very established, which is wonderful, but it also means that there is not a whole lot of opportunity for newer farmers to participate. 

So Ben and Oona decided to create a new market, on Tuesday afternoons from 2-7 PM, that would create opportunities for newer diverse farmers to sell their wares, as well as create a celebratory open-air market in a central location downtown. 

Not only does the market include vegetable growers, maple syrup producers, goat cheese artisans, herbalists, and bread bakers, but there is also a different local musician every week, as well as a booth for a local artist/crafter to share/sell their work every week. 

the marvel

the marvel

And Tuesday was the first market of the season!

We spent the morning out in the field harvesting our hard earned vegetable products- arugula, baby bok choy, radishes, head lettuce, loose leaf lettuce, spinach, and scallions.

Then we washed all the vegetables in our marvelous new wash station, proudly designed by Ben.  (I call it, ‘the marvel). 

Once all the vegetables are washed, we packed them all up in crates and loaded them onto bike trailers, along with our canopies, tables, scale, signs, and all the other bits and pieces that make up our market both. 

It took three bike trailers to carry everything we needed at the market, and it was only the first week. 

Oh, what it will look like once we have tomatoes and squash.




Anyhow, we had an awesome four-person bike brigade from the farm to the market. 

This was one of my favorite parts.  This and the banjo fiddle duo, the freshly baked bread and goat cheese combo, people’s ecstatic reactions to fresh arugula, spinach and radishes, charlotte’s yellow balloon and silver bracelets at the artist booth, and getting to see lots of people I love that I never get to see because I mostly hang out with vegetables. 

Farmers market.  Good for the world.  Good for me. 

I just have to say, this is such an important time of season for farmers, because after spending two months planting, watering, thinning, and weeding, I almost begin to forget that I’m actually doing this work to feed lots of people.  Which is so good.  So now begins the part of feeding lots of people. 

We are entering the full flow of the farming season.  Every week is seeding in the greenhouse, transplanting, hardening off next week’s plants, direct seeding into the beds, cultivating the plants in the field, harvesting vegetables, distributing vegetables…

Full time.  Go.  





potatoes and onions, done

May 10, 2009

I spent last weekend in New York with my brother and some friends.

union square market

union square market

New York is always full of fabulous food experiences. 

I spent a while wandering around the crowds at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. 

Last time I was there, in April, all of the stands were still in the cleaning out of winter reserves mode.  Apples, mushrooms, sprouts, canned goods, meat, cheese… Not a whole lot of plant freshness. 

This week was drastically different.  The stands were bursting forth with a wide range of cultivated and wild greens, transplants for the urban home gardener, and lots of asparagus.  One of my favorite parts was that the food tasting of the week, which is put on by the Greenmarket (Council on the Environment of NYC), was ramps.  Some folks were handing out free samples of a cous cous and ramp dish.  Ramps are truly spring superstars.  

nyc urban garden

nyc urban garden

I also got to help my brother design some planters for his fire escape.  He doesn’t do much cooking, so it didn’t make sense to incorporate edible plants, so we picked out some pretty leafy greens and flowers.  Next time I go, I’ll bring some herbs for lovely smells.  It felt so nice to be getting my hands dirty and supporting some green life on a fire escape, four floors up in the middle of Manhattan. 

This week was a big planting week up here in Northampton.  We spent a good two days putting all of our onion starts in the ground:  Ailsa Craig, Prince, Copra, Redwing, plus a variety of shallots.  Four inches apart, three rows, three three hundred foot beds, done.  We planted the onions into black plastic, which is a somewhat ironic technique used in organic farming,but it’s incredibly helpful.  The black plastic absorbs more heat, retains moisture, and also suppresses weeds.  Also, the material that we’re using this year is corn-based instead of petroleum-based (I guess then it’s not actually plastic), and therefore, will supposedly biodegrade into the soil at the end of the season.  We’ll see how it all goes down. 

potatoes 1We also had a huge potato planting day.  Ben and Matt configured a fantastic digging and fertilizing system on the Cub (one of our tractors), that consisted of a shallow digging subsoiler that made a trench, and Matt standing on the back of the tractor dropping fertilizer into the trench.  After cutting two oz sized potatoes of red, white, yellow and blue varieties, we dropped them into the trenches at about nine inches apart and covered them up. 

Have you ever wondered how potatoes grow?  You know how they have eyes?  Well, each eye is a sprout, and once in the ground, the sprouts shoot up and produce leaves that send down shoots and grow more potatoes.  To grow potatoes, you plant potatoes.  I love it when life is so simple. 

potatoes 3

potatoes 2There’s more, yes, there’s more.  Our wonderful neighbor friend, Ed, is a fabulous wild asparagus hunter.  He has some land down in the meadows (where we planted our potatoes) and he knows of a few abundant patches.  I’ve been asking him all about it, trying to get him to help out my hunting, but it’s hard to get details.  People can get a little bit territorial when it comes to wild food hunting.  I kind of like it. 

Anyhow, the day we were planting potatoes he showed up with a large handful of asparagus for Danya and I.  At lunch, we sauteed them up with some garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Delicious. 

I can’t stop writing this week without mentioning our abundant greenhouse.  It’s so beautiful.  Full of broccoli, kale, lettuces, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, celery and celariac… Everything is just exploding as we’re entering the biggest transplanting time of the season.

greenhouse bounty

greenhouse bounty

late april heat wave

May 5, 2009

very hot sunset

We had a crazy heat wave this week.  Somehow, even though it has been mostly chillier than normal for April, the temp reached up into the 80’s and even low 90’s. 

Kind of crazy.  Kind of fun. 

It inspired a swim trip up to the Mill River- always a good idea.river

A lot of the plants loved it.  All of our tomato starts totally took off in the greenhouse.  So did the cucumbers and melons that we had just seeded the week before. 

Somewhat explosive. 

It was kind of weird, though, to have it be so hot but not even have any leaves on the trees yet.  Oh, climate change. 

New babies continue to arrive. 

mulberryMavis (a goat) had two little cutie pies.  One boy.  One girl. 

She gave birth super early in the morning.  Around 4:30 or so. 

We hadn’t been checking in on her because, in the past, when Ben and Oona had bred her, she had consistently had her kids during the day. 

Well, this birth broke that pattern. 

Amazingly, she successfully had her kids without our support.  Usually, it’s helpful for people to support the birth; to make sure that the babies are coming out right, to make sure that they’re breathing once they’ve been birthed and are milking on their momma alright…

Ben went into the barn on Sunday morning to do chores and he was checking in on everybody and suddenly realized that there were two new healthy. 

Unfortunately, we think because Mavis (the momma) was a bit stressed out during and after the birth, she initially rejected both kids, then eventually let the little girl milk but still not the little boy. 

Which means that we are bottle feeding him.  Which is amazing.  I recommend it.

silas and max

silas and max

By the way, the kids names are Max and Mulberry.  Silas (Ben and Oona’s three-year-old, named them).  And also, cause I know you’re dying to know, the other three goat kids are named Puck, Fred (Winifred), and Clara (my name choice). 

We hooked up the new Planet Junior seeder this week.  The seeder, which gets attached to the back of one of the tractors, has three containers with different sized plates for different sized seeds that drops the seeds as it’s wheels roll along the bed behind the tractor.  Sounds relatively simple, right?  Of course it took us a while to figure it all out, as most of these machines do, but eventually, we got it rolling and were able to get a bunch of seeds in the ground before a light rain. 

Up until Ben and Oona got this seeder, we were using the Earth Ways seeder, which is a really basic hand-powered push seeder.  I really like it, but it’s harder for a person to make straight rows than it is a tractor, and we need straight rows in order to cultivate (weed) with a tractor, which is pretty necessary at the scale we’re trying to work.