On The Farm

Depite the fact that the we are just a few days into summer, here at the farm we are already looking ahead to fall. Into the ground went our winter squash crop- butternut and delicata- as well as a later planting of field tomatoes. The hot dry wind had us racing to irrigate the tender transplants- quite a switch from the downpours a few weeks ago!

Delicata winter squash.

While our main crew has Sunday and Mondays off, crops like cucumbers and summer squash- and soon tomatoes- need to be harvested every other day, so the conveyor belt is put into action on Mondays. Thankfully, our crew has grown in size with the addition of local high school and college students. Every morning except Wednesday is spent harvesting, so we squeeze all our farm work in on that day, and in the late afternoons.

Weeding the sweet corn.

Thursday’s share, as well as this Friday’s first boxed delivery share to Doylestown, may look a little different from the one below. A miscommunication with one of our crew resulted in the untimely mowing of the radicchio crop (oops!). The heat is also causing the broccoli to flower faster that we can get it picked.

CSA share week 5, 6/25/13.

Looking ahead, the heirloom tomatoes are setting beautiful fruit- it won’t be long now!

Next week’s pick-up will continue as regularly scheduled, despite the holiday. You can look forward to freshly-dug new potatoes for your fourth of July barbecues. If you won’t be picking up on Thursday, or need to switch to Tuesday the 2nd, please let us know!

Harvesting dark red norland potatoes.

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Photo of tomatoes by Rebecca Metcalf.

The farm has seen a flurry of activity this week. Like an intricately choreographed dance, the crew has been moving from activity to activity, but the main focus has been planting. Spring has been kind to us this year, with just the right amount of time between rainstorms, allowing the ground to dry out for cultivating, plowing, making beds and planting, so the “indoor labor” like trellising the heirloom tomatoes has been put on the back burner (until yesterday’s stormy day, that is).

The crops seem to be loving the combination of heat and rain, with everything growing by leaps and bounds overnight. It’s hard to believe this is the same field of potatoes planted on April 10, a little over a month ago.

Potato Field: Before and After.

What have we planted these past two weeks? Watermelons and cantaloupes, field tomatoes, cutting flowers, basil, dill, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, hot and sweet peppers, celeriac, the second round of cucumbers and summer squash, sweet corn, the third rotation of green beans (these go in every 10 days for a steady supply, planting 8-10 rotations total), edamame beans, and more! Our last two big plantings- eggplant and winter squash- will happen next week, then it’s just sucession plantings of crops we want a steady supply of, like lettuce and cooking greens. Our summer will be spent cultivating, harvesting, trellising and tending with lots of loving care all that we’ve planted.

Our CSA on-farm pick-ups start next week, May 28 and 30! There’s still space available for both half and full shares. (Our abbreviated 16 week boxed delivery share to Doylestown doesn’t start until June 28th. There’s still space for that as well.) Check out the CSA Rough Guide for the ins and outs of pick-up before you come to the farm next week. This covers important details like BYOB (bring your own bags or box), pick-up times (1-8pm), and what to do first (sign in!).

Ledamete Grass Farm will be delivering their first chicken shares to the farm on the 28th, and also setting up a market table of products for purchase from 1-5pm- no pre-ordering necessary (Well, they’ll be here unless farmer April goes into labor. She and Rob are expecting their second child any day now!). Ledamete Grass Farm will be doing their market booth here at Blooming Glen once a month. Go to their website to get on their mailing list for future dates and to pre-order.

We are looking forward to seeing new and familiar faces at the farm in the next few weeks! What can you expect in the first CSA share? Strawberries, hakurei turnips, arugula, bok choy, spinach, spring onions and more! See you soon!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

What would spring be without talking about reemay– the giant white fabric row covers that blanket our crops. This multipurpose tool, that we farmers love and hate in equal parts, doubles as both a bug deterrent and a frost barrier to our early spring crops.  It keeps the first plantings of cucumbers and green beans warm, protects our strawberry flowers from frost damage, maintains enough soil moisture over the mutiple weeks that is takes tiny carrot seeds to germinate, and prevents the minuscule flea beetles from turning the leaves of our radishes and bok choy into swiss cheese.

A view of the cucumbers snug under the row cover.

We woke up this Monday after Mother’s Day to a crunchy silver coating covering the grass and fields. This was the latest we’ve seen frost here at the farm in the past eight years. We knew it was coming, so we delayed planting our field tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Why not use the row cover? Why the love hate relationship? One word: shoveling. And more shoveling. On our blustery hill top it is a struggle to keep those long twisty aerodynamic sheets anchored down. It requires lots and lots and lots of shoveling- a scoop of dirt on the edges every 5 feet or so, or heavy sand bags to weigh down the edges. With acres of 200 foot beds covered with remay, well, that’s a lot of shoveling, especially for our softened winter bodies that haven’t quite strengthened to the arduous work of spring. After a few weeks of planting and covering and shoveling, if we didn’t have them already, we’ve gained some ripped biceps, and a new appreciation for the diversity of tasks that make up being a farmer.

Trellised sugar snap peas; harvesting french breakfast radishes

With the start of the farmers markets, and the first on-farm CSA pick-up beginning May 28th, we begin to make the switch from intensive planting to juggling both planting and harvesting. All the while we still need to find the time for tasks like thinning turnips, weeding carrots, hilling potatoes, trellising peas, mowing grass, fixing tractors, building and repairing greenhouses, and seeding every week so we can keep a steady supply of produce, and jobs, going all season long.

Thinning hakurei turnips; spring onions ready for harvest

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Spring’s been a bit slow getting out of the gate, especially compared to last year, but now it looks like it’s been left by the wayside and summer is pushing its way through. Either way, it’s great weather for planting, and that’s what we’ve been up to out on the farm this week.

The life of the veggies destined for your dinner plate begin with a just a tiny little seed. You can check out this blog post from last Spring to learn more about our seed sourcing choices. Not only do we start all our veggies here from seeds, but we sow them into flats in our greenhouses, then when they are ready, about 6-8 weeks later, we transplant them into the fields.

Why do we transplant almost everything, even sweet peas, sweet corn, beets and green beans? By starting the seed in an organic soil mix in flats in the warm cozy greenhouse, nurturing them with heat and steady water, we are guaranteed almost perfect germination. Putting out healthy strong transplants means they are less susceptible to insect damage and fluctuations in weather, at least during those crucial early stages in the life cycle of the plant

A field of just tranplanted cabbage seedlings.

Starting enough veggies from seed to fill over 30 acres of farm land means lots and lots and lots of weekly seeding, and as you can probably imagine, we need lots of space for those seedlings. This season we officially outgrew our first heated greenhouse that was constructed seven years ago, when we were a much smaller farm. So this winter we converted a second greenhouse by adding a heating system, fans, and lots of benches.

Our unflappable crew member, Brian Smyth, manages our propagation greenhouse- every week he consults the planting chart and gets busy filling flats with soil and seed. The seeding is all done by hand, but most of the time he has the help of an amazing (though loud) time saving tool- a vacuum seeder. In addition, at least twice a day Brian’s in and out of the propagation greenhouses watering the seedlings. Our grafted tomatoes in particular require special attention- frequent light misting as their cuts heal and they begin their journey in the next week toward being transplanted into our unheated tunnels. Click here to read a more detailed blog post on tomato grafting from 2011.

Tomato graft healing chamber; Sam grafting tomatoes

After our transplants become rootbound, they head to a cold frame to be “hardened off”- here they are exposed to a bit of wind, colder weather, and less frequent watering, but they are still protected a bit. This is the transition phase before they are singled out and set into the harsh life out in the field, where they will remain until harvest.

So what got planted this hot busy week? Into the ground went thousands of transplants: tuscan and red russian kale, chinese cabbage, red cabbage and green cabbage, sugar snap peas, broccoli raab, spinach, swiss chard, tatsoi, bok choy and head lettuce. Sometimes, but rarely, we skip the transplant phase entirely and seed directly into the ground in the field. Our old faithful red tractor, the CUB, came out of its winter slumber, and driven by Farmer Tricia, sowed carrots, spring radishes and hakurei turnips.

Thousands of small onion sets were planted by hand for early spring onions. Ten varieties of potato seed- 2,900 pounds total- were prepped, planted and hilled. 

Prepping potato seed for planting; Planting potatoes that will be hilled.

This season’s apprentices started April 1st and dove right into the action. After a day in the office of orientation, Food Safety training, and then a Tractor Safety class (“scare ’em safe”, that’s our motto!), they were eager to get their hands, and clothes, dirty on the farm. I must admit, I’m feeling especially great about this season’s crew- they are one enthusiastic, hardworking, awesome bunch of folks. You’ll learn more about them all in our upcoming crew profiles, but rest assured, there are already plenty of smiles (and sore muscles) behind your food, and this is just the beginning!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Additional photos by farm apprentice Rebecca Metcalf and Farmer Tom.

Well folks, it has been 24 weeks, and that’s a wrap for season 2012- that’s 24 weeks and 48 share harvests for this farm crew! We started early due to that wonderful spring weather (anyone remember spring and those delicious strawberries?!) so that brings week 24 in October instead of later into November. No complaints here, since that means we avoid those cold mornings waiting for the crops to thaw, no tortuous frosty hands or ice water washings. A few of our crops that we’d hoped to have for you by now are still puttering along- brussel sprouts and cauliflower specifically. You’ll have to visit us at the farmers markets this winter (Wrightstown has a mini-market the second and fourth Saturday of the month starting in December, from 10-11am, and Easton has a new weekly indoor winter market starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Nature Nurture Center, from 10-1pm). We will also offer a limited number of Thanksgiving boxes for sale with some special goodies available- keep an eye out in your emails for ordering information and other details. We will be emailing a link for CSA registration information for 2013 in mid to late November. We do not anticipate any major changes from 2012.

CSA share, week 24, 10/23/12

Despite the pace slowing down a bit, there are still many jobs to be done at the farm in preparation for the colder months. Fields are continuously being cleaned out, of irrigation tubing and stakes for example, then tilled and sown with cover crops for the winter. This week the crew was busy planting all the greenhouses with crops like kale, spinach and scallions. All our garlic seed is broken up and ready to go in- the goal is to have it planted before next week’s predicted rainstorms. We will also be battening down the greenhouses in case of high winds.

Leaves being delivered from Perkasie boro; Greenhouses being planted.

This week is like Christmas for Farmer Tom. Perkasie Borough  and Hilltown Township have begun its leaf collection- you may see the big trucks vacuuming up the leaves from the sides of the streets. Instead of those leaves ending up in the landfill, they bring them here to the farm, truckload after truckload. Using a big windrow turner, Tom will mix the leaves with cow manure and straw bedding from Tussock Sedge Farm. After a few weeks of steadily turning the piles, with temperatures reaching between 130 and 170 degrees, we are left with a beautiful rich compost.

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

It is truly in the fall that I appreciate the opportunity to eat local more then any other time. Why? Because that same frosty white coating on the fields in the morning that has me pulling out my favorite scarves and sweaters, also signals exciting changes that are happening within many of our crops. The resemblance to a dusting of sugar gives a clue to what will be reflected at the dinner table. (You know when your family is fighting over the last scrap of kale in the skillet that something’s going on).

CSA share, week 23, 10/16/12

The first frost came October 12th. Every autumn we know it’s coming- last year it was the 28th (followed by that crazy October snowstorm), the year before, the 13th. The cold brought an end to the last of the beautiful field flowers- the dahlias that were still blooming profusely- and the bumper sweet pepper crop of 2012. Even though the frost signals the end of many things, both good and bad (adios, galansoga weeds- see you next season!), it also means sweeter tasting veggies.

The leafy greens taste substantially different. The kale is divine; all trace of bitterness is gone. Cabbage family crops- kales, brussel sprouts, collards, actually increase the amount of sugars in their cells- which acts like an antifreeze. In the same act of self-defense, our root crops are converting stored starches to sugars. The sharp edge to the turnips and radishes has mellowed, but the difference is most pronounced in the carrots – they are pure vegetable candy.

To buy produce trucked in from California this time of year would be a shame. Now more then in any other season, you can directly taste the weather’s effects on your food, in a positive way!

Purple-top Turnips and Carrots

The harvest festival was a great success! Thanks to everyone who volunteered, contributed, or attended. It was a gorgeous day and a rocking community event. In the next few days we will be posting in the blog the recipes for the top three winning pies from the third annual pie bake-off contest. Over 90 people tasted and voted!

Just a reminder that next week is the last week of the CSA distribution! Registration information for 2013 will be posted online sometime in mid to late November. We will send out a few reminder emails when that happens. Thanks for a great season!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Additional photos at the harvest festival by Elizabeth Lombardi (thank you, Liz!).

This week at the farm we are gearing up for our harvest festival. We are very excited that local bluegrass band Goose Creek Pioneers will be joining us this year. They will be performing on and off from 2-5 pm this Saturday October 13th. We will also have a drum circle with Valerie Hopkins, Professional Musician and Rhythm Facilitator, of Drum Circles Heal. Join us for crafts, relay races, garlic seed splitting, a wagon ride and more! The Coffee Scoop, Bucks County Cookie Company and Owowcow Creamery will be selling their treats and hot coffee. And, drumroll, you asked and they’re here! Blooming Glen Farm t-shirts, printed by Green Changes on gorgeous organic cotton, and designed by CSA member Chris Caruso, will be for sale!!

For $1 you can participate in tasting (and voting on) all the fabulous pies in our pie bake-off contest. During dinner the winner will be presented with the “pie” trophy (a beautiful piece of ceramic artwork by tile artist Katia McGuirk), to be kept for one year, then passed on to next year’s winner! It’s not too late to enter a pie- just shoot us an email! Potluck dinner will be around 5 pm (bring a dish to share, and your own place settings and beverage). CSA members and musicians Cliff Cole and Brian Pearson will entertain us with their musical talents during dinner. See you this Saturday at 2pm!

CSA share, week 22, 10/9/12

Fall radishes are here, in the share and at our market stands. The long white daikon radish is an Asian staple: its name is Japanese for “great root”, and it’s no wonder when they can reach lengths up to 3 feet long. Daikons are said to aid the digestion of fatty foods and can be eaten raw- grated or in fine matchsticks. The daikon radish can also be used as you would a turnip, in stews and soups where they provide a bright, refreshing note. They can also be stir-fried, pickled, baked or simmered.

Watermelon Radishes on the left; Daikon Radish growing in the field

The watermelon radish is round and and could easily be mistaken for a turnip, but when sliced open it looks just like a watermelon with a green rind and a bright rosy-pink interior.  It’s a bit milder and sweeter than regular radishes, and much larger. Though they can be braised, roasted or mashed, I think they are best enjoyed raw, for in its natural state you can trully appreciate it’s stunning pink color and flavor. Slice them up and enjoy with your favorite dip, or grate them into a salad (peel off the tough outer skin first).

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Coming up next week, Saturday Oct. 13th, is Blooming Glen Farm’s annual harvest festival. With fall festivals springing up everywhere you look this time of year, I needed to take a few moments to remind myself why our farm values this season-end celebration.

Harvest festivals and agriculture traditionally go hand in hand. From the ancient Greeks and Romans to modern times, numerous communities and religions honor a tradition of thankfulness at harvest time. The holiday of Jewish religion called Sukkot or “Festival of Ingathering’, is both historical and agricultural. A celebration of family, community and culture, the word “Kwanzaa” comes from the African language Swahili and means “First Fruits of the Harvest.” In Great Britain, until the 20th century, farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called the harvest or “mell-supper”, named after the last patch of corn or wheat standing in the fields. Cutting it signified the end of the work of harvest and the beginning of the feast.

Harvest festivals are typically held around the Harvest Moon -the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox (this year’s harvest moon was Saturday, Sept. 29th, so we’re not too far off). Ancient harvest festivals were celebrated to give thanks for an abundant crop. In our world of seeming overabundance, where our every food whim can be satisfied by a quick stop at the local grocery store, it can be easy to forget to honor this connection between the health of our farms and the health of our families.  

In ancient times, an abundant crop was crucial to sustain the community through the lean winter months. But abundant crop or not, giving thanks was ritualized into the fabric of these ancient communities. Whether it be the labor of the farmers and volunteers, the support of the eaters, or the benevolence of a greater life source (whatever name you may choose to call it)- all these factors and hands contribute to the thriving organism that is a farm. Thanks-giving truly happens best through collaboration and shared experience, taking time out of our busy lives for joyfulness and sharing, with the ultimate result being a healthy, strong, and unified community. And ultimately a community that is thankful for healthy food will always have healthy farms.

Please consider joining us next Saturday from 2pm until dark for our Harvest Festival and Harvest Supper– bring a potluck dish to share as we all sit down to a meal together made from the fruits of the season. Dance, feast, socialize, drum, craft, collaborate, and reflect on the bounty that the land has given us these past six months. Volunteers are still needed to help make this celebration possible- sign-up sheets can be found at the farm. All are welcome!

Speaking of bountiful harvest, the farm crew is particularly thankful for the broccoli crop this week. It’s the first week of October- the leaves are changing, cooler temperatures at night means sweeter veggies, and kinder weather for crops like broccoli. Broccoli is something we plant every two weeks in the fall. But due to unforeseen elements like weather and insects, there are no guarantees that each sucession will bring a bumper crop. This week’s harvest is the third planting, and by far the most beautiful so far. Less bugs and minimal disease made for large broccoli crowns, and a very enjoyable and speedy harvest, even in the rain on Tuesday.

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

It’s not too late to come to a tasting and cooking demonstration class tonight at the farm- it’s All About Greens, with nutrition counselor Patti Lombardi. Not sure how to store, prep and use the greens (cabbage, kale, beet greens, collards, tatsoi and more) coming from the farm this time of year? Take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to include incredibly healthy and delicious greens in every meal. Cost is $20 and walk-ins are welcome. Class is from 7-8:30 pm in the distribution room at Blooming Glen Farm.

This week’s share has lots of varieties of greens, roots and more. Fall beets are here, the pick-your-own beans are plentiful and spicy arugula is back!

CSA share, week 20, 9/25/12

This past week on the farm we began to clean out the greenhouses, removing the summer crops and looking ahead to planting hardy greens for the winter. We will be attending winter farmer’s markets held at both Easton and Wrightstown. We continue to put fields to bed for the winter, sowing assorted mixes of cover crop seeds. Before the next round of rain, our crew cultivated the aisles of our new strawberry field, then mulched them with straw.

By far, the most exciting part of our week was participating in the Outstanding In the Field dinner on Sunday. Last year you may remember in late summer and fall we were experiencing heavy rains and soggy fields, so the long table ended up in our equipment barn. This year we couldn’t have asked for better weather, or a better setting amidst our vibrant fall crops, under the bright crescent moon. We were honored to be chosen again as a host farm on their 100 farm coast-to-coast tour, and to have the opportunity this year to meet artist and founder, Jim Denevan.

I was struck by the similarity between Jim’s artwork- he makes temporary drawings on sand, earth and ice that are eventually erased by waves and weather- and the “artwork” of the long farm table. In less then 24 hours a beautiful table is set in the field, over 150 guests arrive, and an elaborate dinner is cooked and served. The photo is all that remains the next morning as proof of the experience.

Photo credit: Jim Denevan

As farmers, we too operate in this temporary realm- crops are sown, grown, harvested and consumed over a period of days, weeks, and months, all encompased in one fleeting season. The fields start fallow and end fallow, and in between, there is color and beauty, patterns and life, roots and leaves and fruit, to be captured in photos, but eventually to be returned to the earth. The farm dinner was a celebration of many things- chefs, farmers, visionaries, foodies, and food artisans. To me, it was a reminder of the art that is farming, and of the joy that is found in the creation and the visual display of vegetables in the field and on our collective tables, the sensory and temporary experience of it all, from growing crops to eating dinner. Thank you Outstanding In the Field!

Photos (unless otherwise noted) and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

To say that farmers spend a lot of time watching the forecast and checking the radar would be an understatement. Sometimes it can border on obsession. The past few days that obsession paid off. Starting the end of last week and working all day Monday, the mad dash to get empty fields planted into cover crop seeds began. Here’s the sequence of events: mow any crop residue, remove drip tape by hand, wrap up in semi neat bundles to take to the recycler, disc harrow, mix cover crop seed per individual field, spin out onto field, reload, spin some more, cover with disc harrow. Repeat. The let the rains come!

Subsoiling prior to seeding; adding mix of cover crop seed to spin spreader

Working with two tractors in tandem, we were able to get about a third of the farm seeded for the winter. We primarily made up two mixes, depending on the future crop plans for the fields. The first is an overwintering mix of rye, vetch and crimson clover. Its main purpose is long term soil building by the addition of organic matter to the soil and providing nitrogen for any subsequent summer and fall crops. The second mix: tillage radishes, oats and crimson clover, will provide vigorous fall growth, then mostly winter kill, covering the fields to prevent soil erosion but be easily accessible for spring planting.

This week’s share sees the first winter squash of the season- delicata (also called sweet potato squash), as well as leeks, radishes and green beans. Delicata squash has a wonderful thin edible skin. I love to slice it into half-inch thick rounds- scooping the seeds out of each, baste with a bit of soy and toasted seasame oil, and bake on a cookie tray until tender and browned, about 20 min at 350 (flip them halfway through). Delicious finger food!

CSA Share, week 19, 9/18/12

Visitors and farm members will be greeted by an incredible new tile mural at the farm, courtesy of local artist Katia McGuirk. Using Michael Alan’s artwork from our brochure and posters as inspiration, Katia translated the design into a mosaic. It is breathtaking! Be sure to join Katia and the rest of the farm community at Fall Fest on October 13th, 2pm until dark! We need volunteers, pie bakers, yarn donations and small children’s clothes donations!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.