Author: bloomingglenfarm

On one of the few sunny days last week, on a stroll through the fields of cover crop in bloom, we were surrounded by the steady hum of honey bees buzzing from flower top to flower top.

Honey Bees in the crimson clover.

The sugar snap peas are climbing their trellis, and the first rotation is in bloom.

Sugar Snap Peas

The Discovery Garden is receiving lots of attention this spring, and both the perennial and annual herbs are flourishing.

Cilantro goes into a raised bed.

The garlic crop, planted last fall and typically harvested in the beginning of July, is sizing up nicely.

Stiff-neck Garlic

And on one of the many rainy days last week, the blackberry plants went into their raised bed, above the soggy ground. Something to look forward to next season!

Before the next round of rain came, the aisles in the flower field were mulched with straw to prevent weeds growing in this pick-your-own patch over the summer. The flowers will all be planted by hand.

Jana and David roll a round bale of straw mulch.

And as the tomato plants continue to wait in the cold frame for the fields to be dry and tillable, growing bigger and bushier in their pots, a mama robin takes advantage of the dry cozy spot. Now that certainly tells you these plants have been sitting here for too long!

Yet another rainy, cool week ahead. This is the season not only of rebirth and growth, but of cultivating patience. I love this quote from Wendell Berry: “Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyous though you have considered all the facts.”

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. (Photo of Tricia by Tom Murtha)

Though the farm is yet to be in full swing, I have been stretching out the first few trickles of farm edibles–namely herbs and radishes–the best way I know how: BUTTER. A lot of really good butter. Mixed with those first few tastes of spring and slathered on a good piece of crusty bread, butter can be the most decadent and alarmingly simple treat.

First, I suggest you seek out some fresh butter from your nearest dairy/creamery. I often pick mine up at one of the farmers’ markets in the area or from the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. A great local source is Flint Hill Dairy. Their butter is so blindingly yellow and creamy it will bring tears to your eyes.

I choose to enjoy spring radishes the way the French do: red radishes atop a piece of bread with fresh butter and sea salt. So simple, yet so remarkably delicious. (You can also grate the radishes into the butter for easy spreading or if you want to make it ahead of time)

Another one of my favorites is a quick herb butter.

Herb Butter

Jana’s Herb Butter

Good, fresh butter (room temperature)
1 sprig Rosemary
3 sprigs Thyme
A few sage, marjoram, and mint leaves
A small bunch of fresh chives
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Sea salt, to taste

Go forth. Eat butter.

Recipe contributed by Jana Smart- Blooming Glen Farm employee and frequent creator of creative recipes uses fresh seasonal ingredients. Check out more of her recipes on her food blog

Well folks, the rain is back again and it looks like it is going to be another wet week, a fact that makes us all feel good about this last weeks big planting push. The farm is looking like, well, a farm!–with fields and rows filled with shades of green, purple, and red. Here are just a few of the things in the ground.

We planted 2 rotations of Sweet Summer Corn!

Sets of soon-to-be cherry tomatoes

Edamame is in!

Beautiful beets and swiss chard!

So what do we do with ourselves while its raining cats and dogs?

Glad you asked!

If you remember those tomato grafts we have been going on-and-on about, you might be interested in knowing about the next step of that process. Now that the grafted plants are in the ground, the trellising and pruning begins.  Up to this point the tomato plants have been through quite a bit (with all the slicing and whatnot). Now the plants get a chance to be pampered and loved by the farmers, as we spend a lot of careful hours clipping them upright onto trellising twine and pruning them into shape. This process is repeated several times throughout the plant’s life. We do this to increase productivity and fruit quality and to make for easy harvesting in the greenhouse.

David doing the first round of trellising

There are still lots and lots of plants to get in the ground, so we are keeping an eye on the rain gauge, shuffling our planting chart around, and praying the storms will be kind to Blooming Glen Farm.

This spring has been a test of our faith as farmers, as we are continuously reminded of the elements beyond our control. When we feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, we often turn to our fellow community of farmers for inspiration and understanding, and we surf their news and blog posts to see how they are faring with the weather. We were particularly moved by the words of the Brownback family at Spiral Path Farm in Perry County, Pa, as they reflected on postponing their first CSA distribution for only the second time in 18 years. You can click here to read their news flash on the Spiral Path Farm website, and their pertinent musings on the faith of a farmer.

The flowers and leaves of wild sweet violets and annual violas and pansies (johnny jump ups!) are edible and can be used in a variety of dishes — not just for a garnish or to top a salad. Sweet violets (Viola odorata) or johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) can be candied or used in violet tea, violet cake, and violet syrup. While commonly added to salads, you can also use violet flowers to make vinegars, butters, spreads, and jellies. Violet flowers are as nutritional as they are beautiful- they are high in Vitamin C and A. Of course, be sure to select flowers that you know have not been sprayed. Their season is fleeting, so enjoy it while it lasts!

Jam from johnny jump ups makes a vibrant presentation, with a sweet, almost cinnamon-like flavor. This jam is super fast and easy to make.

Gather 1 heaping cup of johnny jump up blossoms, or wild sweet violets, or a mix of both.

Johnny Jump Ups

-On the stove top combine 3/4 cup water and juice of half a large lemon.
-Add 2 1/2 cups white sugar (unfortunately, using the darker organic sugar just won’t achieve the same stunning color). Heat up until the sugar dissolves. It will look like a thick sugar syrup. You want it to be almost clear.
-Put this mixture into a food processor or blender. Toss in your flower blossoms and pulse for 30 seconds to chop. You will notice the color of the blossoms infusing the sugar syrup with a beautiful pinkish purple color.
-Heat another 3/4 cup of water in a pan and stir in 1 package of Sure-Jell pectin. Boil hard for 2 minutes.
-Pour this mixture into the food processor or blender with the other ingredients and pulse for 15 seconds. Quickly spoon or pour into sterile jars and seal. It will start jelling up as you are working.

Johnny Jump Up Jam

In small jars this makes a wonderful gift. If you don’t can the jam, keep it refrigerated. It will last quite awhile in the fridge (unless you eat it as quick as I do!)

Recipe contributed by Tricia Borneman, inspired by herbalist Susan Hess of Farm at Coventry.

This soupy, soggy spring has not been so kind to our planting schedule.  So you better bet when that sun comes out and the ground dries we here at Blooming Glen Farm will be planting! And this past week, that is exactly what we did–sunup to sundown. In the ground: whole fields of potatoes and onions, summer squash and cucumbers, parsley, carrots, green beans, and more rotations of lettuce.

Farmer Tom even squeezed in some weed management on the cultivating tractor.

Tom on Cultivating Tractor

It seems the plants are also enjoying the respite from rain and cloud-cover.  The strawberry plants are loaded down with blossoms and fast on their way to flushing some sweet, beautiful berries. CSA: Get your u-pickin’ fingers ready!! And as soon as we have some ripe red fruit, you’ll be seeing our booth at the farmers markets in Wrightstown, Collegeville and Philadelphia.

Strawberry blossoms

Strawberry Field

Greenhouses were also prepped and filled with those tomato grafts we have been talking so much about.

Grafted Tomatoes

Those of you who volunteered a few weeks ago might remember that field of spring onions we planted. Well here is a before-and-after shot of all that hard work!

Spring Onions

We have another busy week ahead of us and we will be prepping the fields to plant a whole other medley of crops. Edamame and more onions and potatoes, corn, celeriac, celery, blackberries and flowers are on the horizon!

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.