Blooming Glen Farm | bloomingglenfarm
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Author: bloomingglenfarm

Since the first day of spring on March 20th, we have received an astounding 11.5 inches of rain here at the farm (not counting today’s rainfall, which is headed our way this afternoon). 9.5 inches of that rain came in April alone. Looking at a weather graph of the month reads like a heart monitor- up, down, up, down. Pretty steadily all month it has been three days of rain, one or two dry, and then more rain. Over our six seasons here in Blooming Glen, it is the rainiest spring we can remember.

A common sight at the farm: a full rain gauge and puddles.

What does all that rain mean for us? Well, besides a few more grey hairs on our heads, we are a few weeks behind on planting. The windows of dry days may seem like gorgeous planting weather, but our clay soil fields are holding on to that rain like a sponge. I was at a wedding a few weekends ago, and it was a torrential downpour outside, the wind was howling- it was just coming down in buckets. And a woman said to me, “Well, all that rain is good for the crops, right?”

Actually, the problem is, we can’t get into the fields to plant the crops. We need a week of no rain, so our soggy, muddy fields can dry out and be plowed, beds made, and tractors out there for planting.

What does this mean for the CSA?  Well, we are looking at starting a week or two later than usual- hopefully the week of June 7th. But don’t worry- it’s a long season, and we’ll make up for it over the long haul!

“On the farm, the foul lines aren’t marked and nature doesn’t play by a rule book. There are no winners and losers and the game is never finished.” David Mas Masumoto, Epitaph for a Peach

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a delivery from our friends John and Andy of Bucks County Freedom Fuel. Here at Blooming Glen Farm we are proud of the fact that our tractors run on biodiesel. And not just any biodiesel, but locally made biodiesel. How lucky are we to have this amazing resource in our own backyard! Thanks guys!!

The fuel, the delivery and we’re off!

Bucks County Freedom Fuel collects 250 gallons of used vegetable fryer oil a week from over 40 local restaurants, hospital kitchens and community college cafeterias.

From French Fries to Biodiesel.

The used cooking oil from places like Bravo Pizza in Perkasie, Villa Capri in Doylestown and Los Sarapes in Chalfont is recycled into biodiesel, an actual biodegradable diesel substitute that requires no engine modification on our part.  Check out this YouTube video clip by The Raw Seed TV Show for an interview with Andy Rumbold as he describes the process in more depth.

And to top it all off, Andy’s wife Dorinda takes the vegetable glycerin, a byproduct of the process of converting the used cooking oil to biodiesel, and turns it into Wash Tyme soap. Now that’s recycling!

You can join Bucks County Freedom Fuel on Saturday, May 21 from 9am-2pm at 4095 Ferry Road in Doylestown for a community recycling event to support local charities. Bring used cooking oil and get free soap! Check out Bucks County Freedom Fuel’s website for more details and information.

Farmers at BGF got to try their hand at some plant “surgery” this week as our young tomato plants were lined up to go through the delicate grafting process. Grafting of woody plants, like fruit trees, has been popular for centuries but the cultivation of grafted vegetable plants is a fairly new practice, originating in the late 1920’s in Japan and Korea where they began grafting watermelon plants onto squash rootstock. (In case you are wondering, this is not genetic modification!)

Basically, we are selecting two kinds of tomato plants–one for its delicious fruits (the heirloom variety), the other for its vigor and resistance to root-born disease (the “rootstock”)–and then fusing them together through the grafting process, so that we have a plant that possesses the favorable qualities of both plants.

The top of the rootstock is cut-off, leaving only the stem and the roots. It is then grafted onto the “scion” (the plant we want to fruit).

It looks a little something like this…

The Setup

The Incision

The Graft

After this process, the plants get to hang out and heal for a week in a warm humid environment before the final incision is made and the scion’s roots are completely pulled out and the “exchange” is made.

Studies have shown that grafted tomato plants have a 50% higher yield than non-grafted tomato plants. Not a bad way to increase production, without having to put up more greenhouses.

If you want to learn more about tomato grafting and see some live action footage, check out this technical video from a Vermont tomato grower. (Warning: If caught watching this video, you will be labeled a serious farm nerd!)

The fields at Blooming Glen are teeming with new life this week, as the crew has been feverishly transplanting the greenhouse starts between the spurts of wind and rain.

To avoid compacting the soil in particularly wet and muddy areas, we take to planting by hand (seen below).

Crew planting some radicchio and escarole by hand

However, when it is dry enough for the tractor to make it into the field, we are happy to give our tired backs a break and hop on the Transplanter! This also allows us to plant a lot faster and more efficiently.

Beet transplants going in the ground…on their way to big beautiful beets!!

Transplanting Kohlrabi…from two angles.

A band of ladies from the crew broke off from the action to plant some sugar snap peas by hand just as some rain came. The beginnings of a tasty U-pick field!!

The ladies planting some sweet sugar snap peas for the u-pick field

And we can’t forget the help of all the CSA volunteers who came out on a beautiful Saturday morning to plant over 11,000 spring onion sets, by hand!

Spring Onion Sets

What else is in the ground? Swiss chard, fennel, broccoli, radishes, lettuce and hakurei turnips. Coming soon….potatoes!!

Are you anxious for some fresh local spring greens? Take a walk by a creek this time of year, and you’re likely to see the bright fuzzy green of stinging nettles peeking throught the damp soil. Nettles are chock full of calcium and rich in many minerals our bodies are craving after a long winter. But be wary when harvesting- they aren’t called stinging nettles for nothing! They must be steamed or cooked to deactivate the sting. Perfect for spring tonic soup!

Nettle and Chickweed Soup

-Begin by sauteing in 2-3 tbs of butter:
1 bunch of leeks, cleaned and chopped (or substitute onions)

2 carrots, grated
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

-Cover with 2 quarts chicken broth (or water) and bring to a simmer.
-Add 1 cup oat flakes or 1 cup diced potatoes, stir and cover.

While broth is simmering, gather a pair of scissors and a colander or bowl and harvest your greens. You will need 1 large colander of spring nettle tops and 1 large handful of young dandelion greens, or other assorted wild greens: a few small violet leaves, chickweed, garlic grass, garlic mustard greens, dock greens, etc. (We used chickweed.) To avoid the inevitable ‘sting’ of the stinging nettles, snip the tops off with the scissors and allow them to drop right into the colander (Or wear gloves). Use the scissors to cut the tops into smaller pieces while they are still in the colander. If the greens are muddy be sure to rinse them off under cool water.

-The nettles can be dropped right into the soup pot.
-Chop and add other greens to the soup. Let simmer until the greens are very limp but serve while they are still vibrant in color.
-For a bit of lovely creaminess, add a little splash of heavy cream immediately before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Susan Hess of Farm at Coventry. Susan is teaching a number of classes here at Blooming Glen Farm this season. Check out the calendar on our website for more details.

The coldframe and greenhouse are filling up with seedlings.

And the new crew of interns is ready to plant!

Spring is a waiting game, and now we wait for the fields to dry out. The plants are backing up in the greenhouse, and as soon as we have a window of opportunity it will be a mad dash here at the farm to get everything that’s ready into the ground! Meanwhile, thanks to some great CSA volunteers, the onions are all potted up in trays. They’ll be ready to plant in the field in 4 weeks, and will show up on your dinner plate mid-summer!

Potting up Onions

Other jobs are keeping us busy. Farmer Tom tinkers with the new (old) Farmall Cub, with tractor mounted seeders.

New Toy for Farmer Tom!

Farmer Chris puts the finishing touches on a bee hive he built. The bees will be taking up residence this weekend.

Bee Hive Construction

Meanwhile, we all think of Spring and salivate at the thought of fresh produce!

Can you taste the pesto?

As author Leo Tolstoy once said of the season, “spring is the time of plans and projects.”  It seems this last week we have been riding the line between the seasons–winter and spring–and are now comfortably able to put many of the winter plans for the farm into fruition with the arrival of longer, sunny days. We are thrilled to have completed some maintenance projects such as digging out and re-graveling the “pack-out” where we wash the veggies, improving walkways and entrances, and doing alot of cleanup around the defrosting farm grounds.

Farmers Chris and Brian digging out a new path for pick-ups!

But we weren’t the only ones who took notice of the season transition! Dandelions are popping up, the garlic is emerging from its winter bed, and the killdeer are at their old antics again.

Mama killdeer and first hatching

GARLIC!!!

 

The greenhouse is also looking quite spring-like with the rows of fledgling plant life in all shades of green, pink and purple.

 

Local bird expert and conservationist, Augus Mirabella, came out to the farm to put down woodchips to ready the bird box for a special type of regional bird–the American Kestrel. American Kestrels do not build nests, they lay in open cavities, hence why we have a kestrel box to encourage them. Their numbers have declined over the years in this area, possibly due to conventional farming practices whose chemicals have found their way thru the food chain to these birds of prey. (Another reason never to use rat poisoning) Here’s hoping BGF can be a sanctuary for them!

Well, that is all for now. We wish you all a wonderful day on this Vernal Spring Equinox! I’ll leave you with another quote about the season from Tolstoy, which was found in a lovely letter he wrote to his grandmother….

“Babushka! It’s spring! It is so good to be alive on this earth, for all good people and even for such as I. Nature, the air, everything is drenched in hope, future, a wonderful future. … When I think about it more soberly, I know perfectly well I am nothing but an old frozen potato, rotten, cooked and served up with a tasteless sauce full of lumps, but the springtime has such a powerful effect on me that I sometimes catch myself imagining I am a plant that has just opened and spread its leaves among all the other plants and is going to grow up simply, peacefully and joyfully on the good earth. … Make way for this wonderful plant that is filling out its buds and growing in the spring.”

 

Outstanding in the Field is coming to our farm on their 2011 tour! AND YOU CAN COME TOO!

 

What exactly is Outstanding in the Field? A gaggle of chefs and organizers with a roaming restaurant on wheels who are passionate and very literal about “farm to fork”. The ingredients from the meal are almost all local and often sourced from the host farm (in this case, it will be our delicious Blooming Glen Farm veggies) within inches from your seat and prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. Diners will take a tour of the site and then settle in at the long table with local farmers, producers, and culinary artisans.

Join us in the field on Saturday September 24th at 3pm! The guest chef for this amazing five course meal will be Mitch Prensky from Supper, in Philadelphia. Ingredients for the family style menu will be sourced from our farm, as well as from other local producers and food artisans.

Event details are posted on the Outstanding In The Field website on Friday, March 11.
Tickets go on sale Sunday, March 20, the first day of Spring!

You might want to sign up on their mailing list so you get a reminder about the schedule release. With national name recognition and a mailing list in the thousands, these events typically sell out very quickly.

Be sure to peruse their website- you’ll quickly see why we are so excited to be hosting this event! We hope you’ll join us at the table!

We are so excited to announce that Therapeutic Herbalist,  Susan Hess, will be packing up her informative herbal foundation course normally held at her beautiful farm — Farm at Coventry — and bringing it to Blooming Glen Farm this spring! In a first- time, condensed ‘unplugged’ six month version of Susan’s popular nine month course, we will explore basic herb knowledge suitable for a broad range of culinary, craft and health uses utilizing wild and cultivated plants!

This is a special and rare opportunity to participate in Susan’s popular herbalism program close to home, so don’t miss out!

Class in session at Farm at Coventry

Topics will include: Practical planting, harvesting and drying methods, basics of making simple home remedies and identifying useful and edible wild weeds.  Simple overviews of herbs for digestive system, nervous system and immune system health with a fall focus on cold and flu season remedies will be covered. Basic natural first aid will also be discussed as well as any specific student suggestions.

A large three ring binder will be provided the first day of class and abundant informative handouts, recipes and specific herb profiles will be handed out monthly.

Join us one Sunday per month for six months April – September

Dates: April 3~May 1~June 5~July10~August 7~September 11

10:00 -3:00 PM,  one hour lunch break

Please bring bagged lunch ~ Herbal beverages and snacks will be provided

Dress appropriately for weather! We will be outside and in the garden shed!

Tuition:

Paid in full before April 3rd -$500

Payment plan: $150 deposit before April 3rd ~ followed by 3 payments of $150 Note: Minimal supplies fees may be added on take-home project days

Space is limited so sign up now!

To register mail payment to Susan:

Make checks payable to ‘Farm at Coventry’ 1333 Ridge Road Pottstown, PA 19465

For more information about Susan, the ‘Farm at Coventry’ herbal product line, ‘Homestead Herbalism’ first and second year courses on the farm and 2011 Herbal Hands workshops please visit www.FarmatCoventry.com

Questions? Please call Susan at 610-469-9591 or email farmatcoventry@aol.com

The past few weeks have been busy for the early crew at Blooming Glen! Between the rounds of seeding in the greenhouse and trying to take advantage of sunny days to do some construction projects, we are all getting a chance to warm up our winter bones with some farm work.

To think ALL those tomatoes come from these little guys…

Flats and flats of seeded onions

The crew getting busy on repairing a greenhouse

“Organic Pest Control”

Kale is coming up! So exciting!

Spring is coming, folks! To catch a glimpse of our own version of “March Madness”, stay tuned! New interns are on their way, plants are germinating left and right, and those days are gettin’ longer!