Kirby's at Foodlink's Festival of Food

We had a lot of fun at our first ever food festival last night. There was so much amazing food to try, and so many people to meet. We're already looking forward to next year. Did you stop by our table? Let us know what you thought!

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Our partnership with Grind's 122 Cafe was a great match. We brought bushels of fresh tomatoes, red peppers, peaches, and beets to the cafe and transformed them into Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup; Grind's Fresh Peach Scones; and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Pickled Beets. What a great trio of flavors! And it's alway more fun to spend a few hours working in great company, so there was that, too. We're looking forward to future projects with our Brockport neighbors!

The tomato soup is my own creation, and I will happily share the recipe! It's super simple to make in my kitchen, but I have a few key ingredients in the pantry. Normally I take one quart jar of our own canned tomatoes, and a whole roasted red pepper from my freezer. Simmer, blend, and finish with a tablespoon of butter. So easy! To make the soup for the festival, we started from scratch, so here's the breakdown for you. If you stop in at Grind's Cafe today, I think you can have a cup already made for you!

Kirby's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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3-4 pounds Kirbygrown, Regular Tomatoes
1 Roasted Red Pepper
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp  Lemon Juice

  1. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes, until the skin cracks. Remove from boiling water and allow to cool until you can handle them. Then core and cut into chunks. 
  2. Simmer tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. Puree with immersion blender or carefully in a regular blender. 
  5. Garnish with a touch of sour cream, basil oil, or a Lemon Gem Marigold.

Friday Field Update No. 24

 

Happy Friday, and happy harvest! After starting to pick our Gala this week, it efeels to me we have really kicked off apple harvest. Gala is a very important variety, and an absolutely excellent eating apple. So that brings our total up to 5 varieties so far: Gala, Jersey Mac, Paula Red, Zestar, and Ginger Gold. About 20 more to go!

 

A very peculiar gala apple found yesterday. 

A very peculiar gala apple found yesterday. 

This week I wanted to show off our “garden.” That’s what we call it at least. It may be a little larger than what most people consider a garden: about 7 acres. In our garden we have all of our melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and some beets. We do have other plantings of beets, pickles, sweet corn, and the summer broccoli a couple fields over. And our cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage is down the road on another property.  We have a few gardens. Here are some pictures:

Our diverse block of eggplants.  

Our diverse block of eggplants.  

What tomatoes are supposed to look like.  

What tomatoes are supposed to look like.  

When you do a really good job growing tamatoes and they tip over your posts and trellis.  

When you do a really good job growing tamatoes and they tip over your posts and trellis.  

Untrellised  tomatoes. We grew some this way to avoid the cost of staking all our tomatoes. 

Untrellised  tomatoes. We grew some this way to avoid the cost of staking all our tomatoes. 

This is such a crazy time of year for me. Personally, I have just been working on selling our produce. I really haven’t been “growing” anything anymore, which I really miss. But I love working with my customers, and making people happy because of the beautiful produce I supply them.

Unfortunately that is all i have for this week. Come back next week for more apples and other farm news including our own farm to table dinner! As always, thanks for  reading!

Friday Field Update No. 23

Happy Friday, and happy September! We are down to the last four months of the year, and I am so excited! I get a very specific feeling in Autumn(so close!). It is this heavy nostalgia that is full of warmth, beautiful colors, happy memories, and delicious seasonal food.

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Goldenrod is certainly one of the brightest and most naturally abundant contributors to the early fall color spectrum. It is especially illuminating one particular area on our farm at the moment: the bee habitat. The bee habitat is about two acres of wildflowers and whatever else happens to pop up, right in the middle of one of our farms. A few years ago my dad began noticing more and more how many native pollinators there actually are around us. There are way more than just honey bees. So, in order to help out the natural pollinator populations(which does include honey bees), we stopped farming a very hilly piece of ground, and let it turn to wildflowers. The majority of these flowers are goldenrod, which helps make a big portion of the honey we harvest in the fall time.

Half of our hilly be habitat with my wife Mandy , and our fur babies having the best time. 

Half of our hilly be habitat with my wife Mandy , and our fur babies having the best time. 

Fortunately, I am not allergic to goldenrod, so I can enjoy it a bit more than some of you might like to. However, if you are allergic to it, or if you have other allergies from pollen, eat local raw honey! Especially from the season that you are allergic to most (spring, summer, or fall). I have heard from a LOT of people, raw honey can significantly help reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms. Raw honey is not heated, so therefore all that powerful pollen the bees drop in there isn’t destroyed. When consumed, the pollen acts like antibodies and helps battle your allergic reactions. We have plenty in our store for sale right now from our friend, Bob’s Bees who lives just two miles around the corner from us (only 1 mile as the bee flies!). Which means his bees could actually be foraging nectar from our farm! Bees fly up to two miles away from their hive in search of nectar sources. Fascinating creatures. Back to produce:

What Summer means to me.  

What Summer means to me.  

This is what my Friday’s schedule consisted of. Peaches, tomatoes, all sorts of peppers, cantaloupe, pickling cucumbers, plums, and sweet corn picked just before I delivered it. This is why I love what I do, who wouldn’t enjoy working with such beautiful and delicious food!

My monarch caterpillar friend.  

My monarch caterpillar friend.  

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned as we dig into apple harvest season! And with apples comes pumpkins and all that fun stuff. As always, thank you for reading and see you back here next week!

Friday Field Update No. 21

Happy Friday and happy optimism to you all! Mostly to me! That’s the type of spirit I try to maintain at least. Even with all this rain… yeah it isn’t easy. On the literal bright side, I have seen a personal record amount of rainbows this year. With all these spotty clouds, there is plenty of time to let the sun shine through and create beauties like this:

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Another bright side is that the weather has been much cooler than normal. This makes for great harvesting weather. We are not sweating quite as many buckets as usual. Especially compared to last year! There is also a lot less pressure on us to keep everything irrigated. This one is pretty obvious, but I wanted to point it out! It makes a HUGE difference to our costs. However, in situations like our chrysanthemums, which are all outside on the “mum mat,” we may need to irrigate even if the pots are wet. The mums may be getting plenty of water from the sky, but this water has no food for them. We have to make sure they are getting the amounts of fertilizer necessary to grow a proper mum. Wait...is that a blossom! Oh my goodness, they are blooming already!

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It’s August 18th, and the mums are blooming… I think this is the normal time of year, but it feels early to me! Fall is so close, it’s unbelievable. Technically, we still have a little over a month until the first day of Autumn, but we are harvesting apples right now too! Jersey Macs are our first variety of the year. They are not the most crunchy apple, but they have plenty of flavor, and are super juicy. 

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Another crop in blossom now is our cover crop of buckwheat! I haven’t gotten a whiff of this field yet, but trust me… you know it when you smell it. Don’t let it’s beauty deceive you, buckwheat is a foul smelling flower. Picture a washcloth that has sat on your counter for maybe a week or two. This may not be the best way to go about trying to sell the honey we are making from the plants, but it’s the truth! Surprisingly, the honey tastes much better than the flowers smell. We are partnering with our neighborhood beekeeper, Bob’s Bees to make this thick, extra dark and delicious honey. He has four of his hives sitting not very far away from the buckwheat field. With a bloom as thick as this, you can be sure those bees are all over the field, sucking up every last drop of delectable nectar. 

Only two days after seeding,  radish seedlings emerge and brighten the drab landscape.

Only two days after seeding,  radish seedlings emerge and brighten the drab landscape.

The second cover crop we seeded so far is called tillage or forage radish. It is very closely related to the daikon radish, and looks almost identical. They grow as thick as three to five inches in diameter, and can reach three to four feet deep in the ground. They are called tillage radishes because they do some serious “tilling” for you. The deep roots break through compacted layers in the soil that the roots of our crops would not be able to. The texture difference of the ground in the spring is very noticeable and much more friendly to work with. The radishes are killed from cold temperatures in the winter, and the only thing left in the spring is a shriveled radish corpse draped in a gaping hole. That reminds me of another great benefit of these radishes: the huge holes help drain the snowmelt in the late winter/early spring, drying up the fields much quicker. The sooner the fields dry up, the sooner we can get our peas planted!

Ok, that's all for this week. Thank you so much for reading and see you back here next week!
 

Friday Field Update No. 20

Happy Friday! I’m really feeling in the harvest mode recently. Technically on our farm we are harvesting different crops from Asparagus on, but now in late summer, there are just a lot of items adding up. I start noticing it when I am writing out a bill to a roadside farm stand we wholesale to, and I almost run out of lines on the invoice pad because there are so many items! We are not quite there yet, but getting really close! On my deliveries to Wegmans the past few days I step in the back of the truck and am hit with the smell of peppers. They permeate the entire back of the truck with their chile aromas and it smells like pure summer. Even one of the Wegmans produce managers commented on it yesterday.

Seedless watermelon plumping up. 

Seedless watermelon plumping up. 

Here is another favorite of summer… Watermelon! These are ripening up beautifully in the melon patch. They are very inconspicuous, mostly hidden amongst their leaves. We have five different varieties of melon this year. One of them is even SEEDLESS! Very excited about that one. The other four are what we have done in the past: red and yellow seeded watermelon, cantaloupe, and a mini, personalized cantaloupe called sugar cube.

Remnants from the pickle patch, before it's cover cropped. 

Remnants from the pickle patch, before it's cover cropped

Here is a part of summer that is not so fun. Cleaning up the rows of plastic from spring and early summer vegetables like zucchini and pickles (I know these are both technically fruits… you do NOT want to get me started on that rant). We start by mowing off the vines so they are not in the way of pulling up plastic. Then we go over the beds with a simple tool on the back of the tractor that lifts up the edges where they are buried to loosen the plastic. This job can get real dirty, especially if it’s rainy and muddy like it has been. However it is necessary so we can get cover crops in place to regenerate the soil, and all sorts of other awesome benefits. I will get into that plenty more when we get some planted.

Everything is going well on the rest of the farm. The peaches are still coming and we are getting into the freestone varieties now, like Redhavens, Glohavens, and John Boys. We have a yellow and a white donut peach right now too! For those who haven’t tried them they are extremely tasty, and easy to eat. The yellow variety has a firm, I like to say bouncy flesh. It reminds me a lot of a baby gold peach.

Ok, back to work I go. Thank you so much for reading and see you back here next week!

Cantaloupe vines on the left, watermelon vines on the right.  

Cantaloupe vines on the left, watermelon vines on the right.  

Friday Field Update No. 19

Happy Friday! What a sunny week it has been. All our crops are really enjoying this strong flow of energy from the sun. Pretty much all of our apple varieties now have color on them. My dad actually ate a Jersey Mac a couple days ago, so you can expect to see those coming in VERY soon. What did I just say?? Apples? Wow, we are halfway through summer already. That reminds me of tomatoes, and boy oh boy are we harvesting a lot of them out of our high tunnel right now. Here is what it looks like at the moment. Maybe a little bigger than the last picture I posted(back in Field Update No. 10, May 25th)?

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These tomato plants really took off. You can’t tell from the angle of this picture, but most of the plants are just as tall as I am. Cornell Cooperative Extension has been assisting me with the nutrition program by sending in leaf samples to an agricultural lab for analysis every two weeks. This has helped us keep a fine tuned eye on them, and feed the plants exactly what they need to produce the best fruit possible. Something else that has helped these plants explode with growth is the rootstock we grafted them onto. I talked about this more in depth in Field Update No. 1 and a little in No. 2 as well. There are 15 plants in the tunnel that are the same fruiting variety, but not grafted. This allows us to easily visualize how big of an impact the grafting process has.

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Just outside the high tunnel is our ⅓ acre mat we grow our chrysanthemums on (usually simply called mums). The mum mat is completely full right now with mums that are also loving the growing conditions. We have three different plantings of them so that the blooms are spread across the season. Pictured here are mums from the first planting. I wanted to talk briefly about the irrigation we use. The mum foliage has grown so much, you can barely make out the black irrigation line running along the tops of the pots. This irrigation line posed a bit of a problem the first year we set it up, which was only two years ago. Due to it’s black color, it absorbs a lot of heat from sunlight, and actually expands and contracts. When this happens, the little holes that let water out of the line and into the pot move outside of the pot and drip on the ground. This also meant they could not be completely fixed on each end. We figured out that bungees worked the best at keeping the line tight and centered over the pot. Nothing is ever easy! Now on to those strawberry renovation pictures I promised you.

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The picture on the left is after the first two steps. And the picture on the right is after step 3, the final step. The strawberries are weed sprayed, and then mowed down pretty hard. It sounds pretty counterintuitive, I know. Mowing off all the foliage you’ve worked so hard to grow? However, it is a sacrifice you have to take now in order to maximize the crop for next year. Once the plants are mowed, I go over them with a 4 foot rototiller. We take teeth out of the middle, and drive over the center of the row so the only plants left behind are nice and organized. I plan on taking pictures every other day, so we can watch as the rows regenerate and green up. I’m excited to see how quick they take back their field!

Ok, that’s all for this week. Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you back here next Friday!

Friday Field Update No. 18

Happy Friday night!! Unfortunately, I was extra busy again this week, and only have enough time for about a paragraph (actually one turned into three...woops). The Orleans County Fair is in session this week, and I usually spend quite a bit of time there volunteering, and enjoying all the different delights to be had. Our Farm Market is in Brockport, which is in Monroe county, but I grew up on our farm in Albion, so I have many wonderful childhood memories of the Fair. And last night I attended an Apple Growers Conference where I learned an immense amount of information about the apple industry. On our farm, I focus most of my efforts on vegetables and small fruits, but I do enjoy working with apples, and it is a huge part of our farm. I am always learning, and I am sure I will be for the rest of my life.

That bodacious dill!! 

That bodacious dill!! 

Here are some brief field updates to let you know what's going on around our farm. We picked our first planting of pickles for the last time this week. Towards the end of a planting, after a couple weeks of picking, the plants are very stressed. This results in the fruit being more crooked than normal. The second planting is coming up right behind the first, and hopefully we will be picking more pickles for next weekend! We are also right in the middle of our Strawberry renovation. I can’t wait to post before and after pictures of that next week, when I will talk a little more in depth about the process. We are still picking our first block/planting of sweet corn. Thanks to planting two different varieties as well as using the row cover, this one planting will stretch across the span of about two weeks. Normally a sweet corn planting only lasts about one week. Now, with a little extra effort, we picked some earlier than normal, and with nearly the same planting costs, are picking over a much longer period of time. My dad picked the first bushel or two of Italian eggplant today! We have some interesting varieties this year if you are an eggplant fan. A long Asian variety, normal Italian eggplant, and a round Sicilian variety. I have discovered that I am a big eggplant fan myself. I found some early long eggplants that are an Asian variety, sliced them thin and sauteed them with sliced zucchini, onions and a thick flavorful tomato sauce and they added a great texture to the dish. The beefsteak tomatoes coming out of the high tunnel have been tasting awesome. All of our 7-8 varieties of peppers will be arriving shortly as well. We are really coming into the heart of the summer harvest and I couldn’t be more excited!

Mmmm... Slushies . 

Mmmm... Slushies . 

Friday Field update No. 17

Hello there everyone, and Happy Friday! I know many of you are expecting to hear from Farmer Chad, but we are trying something a little different this week. Some of you know who I am because of our CSA interactions in Rochester, but for those of you who are confused as to who this strange woman is communicating the Friday Field Update, let me give a quick introduction. I am Mandy Kirby, Farmer Chad’s wife. Chad and I have been together for 4 years and have been married for almost one. Early in our relationship, I can remember Chad telling me he wanted to continue running the farm. After talking only for a minute about his choice, I knew that this was the right choice for Chad. As the years have gone by, I continue to be blown away by Chad’s passion and dedication to his work.

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As for my part on the farm, I do what I can to help out in the summer. When the apple harvest starts, I begin heading back to my classroom and preparing for the new school year. This summer, my job has been to deliver the CSA shares to the fine folks in Rochester, Gates and Ogden. It has been such a great experience too! I love being able to see the excitement in our customers’ eyes when they get their box full of goodies! Not to mention, we talk about different ways to prepare the food and what’s to expect in the coming weeks. Speaking of what’s to come…

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Peaches! I know many of you are just as excited as I am about this fruit being harvested! Chad and I actually live on one of the peach orchards and we have been keeping a watchful eye on them throughout the seasons. As many of you know, it’s very difficult for this tropical fruit to grow in a northern state… Especially in Western New York. One ill-timed bite of frost in the spring can take a toll on peaches and many farms experience that in our region. However, this year is different. We were lucky enough to make it the whole spring with no damaging frosts! Because of this, the peaches are doing very well. The trees are absolutely beautiful and the fruit is delicious! I can smell the cobbler, jam and pies now!

Not quite this many tomatoes yet, but they are in their way! 

Not quite this many tomatoes yet, but they are in their way! 

In other Kirby Farm news, we are approaching the end of picking broccoli, but we are just beginning to pick green beans. There will even be some yellow wax beans in the mix too! We have also started bringing in summer cabbage and… (brace yourselves because this next bit is pretty special) Chad and his team have picked the first 100 POUNDS of tomatoes from the high tunnel! This is especially exciting for me because it offers so many opportunities to spend time with all of the members of my families. Over the years I have learned to appreciate spending quality time with my family in the kitchen. Every year my dad makes red sauce for spaghetti dinners, chili sauce and much more with these tomatoes. I love sharing my husband’s home grown produce with my dad and learning how to make the products last! The Kirby side also has a tomato tradition that I treasure. Each year we gather in Linda’s kitchen and make batches and batches of stewed tomatoes. Everyone has a job and the whole family gets involved. It’s always a blast! One of the best parts of being involved with this farm is seeing the family traditions get passed down (on Chad’s side and mine). I hope that you and your family are able to use our produce to create experiences of your own in the kitchen!

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I hope you have enjoyed this special edition of the Friday Field Update and wanted to thank you all for reading and supporting our farm! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Friday Field Update No. 16

Happy Friday and happy rain! This summer has been a completely different season than last year. I’m sure most of you remember the absurdly dry and overly warm summer we had in 2016. That certainly was not good broccoli growing weather, even for the newer varieties we have that are more heat tolerant. However, this year has been great for growing broccoli so far. We haven’t had to irrigate the field once! And the temperature hasn’t been above 90ºF for very long at all. There has been rain about once a week on average, and the broccoli along with most other crops are loving it. If there was too much rain, it could cause infections in the roots of many plants from being so wet and cold. As long as we continue doing a good job keeping our vegetables protected from diseases that grow on the leaves in wet weather, we should be in great shape.

Honey bee doing its thing on a sweet corn tassel.  

Honey bee doing its thing on a sweet corn tassel.  

One of the crops that we usually have to spend a lot of time irrigating is sweet corn. This steady rain has kept the corn coming along beautifully! In this picture a honey bee is collecting pollen from the male flower parts of the sweet corn. Yes, sweet corn flowers too! The parts you can see hanging down from the tassel are the anthers which produce pollen, lots of pollen. This is why I believe the bees were going crazy for it. July and August is about the time of year(called a dearth) when there are very few flowers producing a lot of nectar or pollen for the bees. Both of these are essential for the bees to grow healthy larvae. They reduce the nectar down to honey, and with special glands turn the pollen into “bee bread,” which is absolutely loaded with nutrients. A lot of humans actually eat bee-collected pollen for it’s health benefits. Back to the corn… It has separate male and female flowers just like pickles do. The female flower is actually the ear of corn when it emerges from the stalk and sprouts it’s silk. The pollen is usually just blown by the wind from the tassel down to the silk in order to pollinate each kernel. And for every kernel there is a strand of silk attached. That’s why when you see some bumpy ears of corn, and there are kernels missing, it means the ear wasn’t properly pollinated. Walking through the fields like this is when you can find real treasures on our farm, and all along Ridge Road as well.

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This is a picture of the first complete arrowhead(technically probably a spearhead, it is a little large for an arrow I think) I have found myself! It is 2 ¼” long, which is pretty hefty. A few days ago I was just driving the tractor along the zucchini, happened to look down, and there it was. I actually got shivers when I jumped down and held it in my hand for the first time, trying to believe what my eyes were seeing. My dad informed me it is one of the largest that has been found on our farm in one piece. A lot of times you can find broken off tips or arrowheads with corners missing. I count myself extremely fortunate to have found this piece. One of our employees consistently finds these arrowheads, and spends a lot of time walking around our farm looking. The best time to look is after a rain in the spring, when the ground has just been plowed. The rain washes away a lot of loose, small dirt particles and leaves larger rocks exposed on the surface. Because of the large amounts of arrowheads we find, we think at one time, centuries ago, there must have been a campsite on our property. To think how much effort was put into creating this little piece of ancient technology, and how much history it holds blows me away. I will not soon forget the day I found this beautiful piece of native american history.

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Quick update on the babies! They’re not quite babies anymore! If you can make it out there is a killdeer adolescent in the middle, right of this picture. I apologize for the poor quality, but these little guys can really run! As you can see, they are doing extremely well and will probably start flying any day now.

That’s all for this week, thank you so much for reading! I will see you here next Friday!

Friday Field Update No. 15

Happy Friday and happy summer! It really is making a presence recently. The rain clouds have finally parted for a spell, and the sun is shining generously. Of course, this means fruits and vegetables are really putting on lots of growth. The peaches are looking absolutely gorgeous and the earliest varieties are starting to color and finish sizing up. We are estimating only two to three more weeks until the first harvest! And there are a lot of them, that’s for sure. I have been debating on calling this the year of the peach. It has a nice ring to it.  

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One crop we are really hauling in at the moment is beets. We seeded a large first planting this year and they sure are beautiful. We have filled several twenty bushel bins like the one pictured here with beets and there are still plenty more to go. They are a huge hit at Rochester Public Market, as well as with some of our CSA customers. I know not everyone loves beets, but those who do are very, very happy. The greens on them are just stunning, and loaded with nutrients. So if you do happen to have some beets to eat, don’t throw those greens out! Boil them like spinach, toss them in a salad with our lettuce, or mix them in with a quinoa or other grain salad. God save the greens!  

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Like I mentioned, beets have been one of the items in our CSA share for the past two weeks. In this picture from week #3, the beets are packed in there tightly with garlic scapes, edible pod peas, a living basil plant, apples, zucchini, and buttercrunch lettuce. This is a full share box, and it is filled to the brim. I absolutely could not resist taking a picture of it. If anyone doesn’t know what a CSA is or how ours works, head on over to the CSA page on our website and there is all the information you need to know. If you do have a question, feel free to call our market or email us!

Moving on to one of my favorite crops: the pickle. I believe I have clarified our terminology before, but allow me to refresh your memory. There are two basic types of cucumbers in my mind and on our farm: pickling(pickles) and not pickling(slicing). For me, the only ones that really matter are the pickling cucumbers. Why? Because they can be sliced like a non-pickling cucumber, but also stay nice and crunchy when you pickle them! That is the major difference here. For some reason I don’t exactly understand, the pickles maintain their delicious crunchy texture much better than the slicers, but can still be sliced and eaten raw! So why do we even need slicing cucumbers? I haven’t the slightest idea…

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These beautiful little darlings are the blossoms that pickle plants produce. There is a difference, can you see it? Like many other vegetables, especially cucurbits, there is a male and a female flower. Fascinating, right?! You can tell which one is female because of the baby pickle that is just beginning to take shape at the base of the flower. The male flower only exists to provide pollen in order to grow the seeds inside the fruit (pickle). I know, cucumbers sound like they should be vegetables, but in reality they are a fruit. This is because they are something the plant produces, not part of the plant itself.

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Time for the mystery vegetable!! Or fruit? You tell me! This tall and ferny beauty is loaded with tiny yellow flowers and some little green balls too… hmm...interesting. Let me know what you think it could be in the comments!

Thank you for reading all about my life as a farmer, I truly appreciate it! See you back here next Friday!

Friday Field Update No. 13

Happy Friday and happy Summer! The longest days of the year are upon us. Which is great for us, we now have plenty of time to get everything done that needs to be done, especially if we fall behind on some planting(which never, ever happens).

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Yes, the summer is upon us, and there are about 15 hours of daylight now. All this sun certainly makes the flowers go crazy! Especially the perennials. I was watering in the greenhouse yesterday and I looked out the front and noticed how many beautiful flowers were blooming. So many colors. And that’s when I noticed this gorgeous monarch butterfly swooping through, having a late breakfast on our echinacea. I have been seeing a lot of different butterflies recently. That’s always a good sign. I also couldn’t resist including this picture of a snail this week. I’m sorry it’s not really farm related, but I thought it was fun. I think he/she really enjoys the cool, wet environment that our drip-tape creates.

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These are aphids. I’ve noticed a lot of them enjoying this specific weed, which is lambsquarter. That’s fine with me, as long as they stay off my crops! If you look closely at this picture, you can see tiny drops of silvery liquid below the aphids. Those tiny drops of sugar-rich liquid are actually called honeydew. They are secreted by the aphid when their mouthparts penetrate the plant. This causes some sap to flow out of the plant, and some of it is actually pushed right out of the aphid. Sometimes you can see hundreds of ants pouring over these aphids, and at first you might think that they are chowing down on them. But if you take some time and observe, the ants are actually “farming” the aphids and collecting the sugary honeydew as a foodsource. They will even protect the aphids, and fend off predators like ladybug larvae.

Zucchini plants so thick and green you can't even see the plastic. Some rolling storm clouds above from this past week

Zucchini plants so thick and green you can't even see the plastic. Some rolling storm clouds above from this past week

Our high density orchard with powerful clouds looming in the background.  

Our high density orchard with powerful clouds looming in the background.  

Rain certainly has made a presence this year. Honestly, at this point for me on our farm with my vegetables, I am not complaining in the least. We may be seeing some fungal problems in the peas from prolonged cold and wet soil, but everything else is doing really well, and we haven’t needed to irrigate very much at all. There is one problem with the fact that the irrigation isn’t running: we aren’t fertigating (adding fertilizer to the irrigation system). So even though the plants are staying nice and wet, the rain water doesn’t have all the nutrients that our crops need, which we were planning on spoon feeding them through the irrigation. This means that even though it may be wet enough under the plastic, I will be running the irrigation anyway. This allows us to add fertilizer, but I will add it at a higher rate so I don’t need to use as much water, because the plants don’t need it. The frequency of these rain showers has been nicely spread out that it gives the fields enough time to dry out so I can go in with the planter and seed a few different crops. Then, usually within one or two days, there will be a nice rain that will help water the seeds in, ensuring that they are making proper seed-to-soil contact, and also have plenty of moisture to germinate. This next picture is a beautiful shot of one of our pickle seeds resting graciously in the perfectly prepared furrow, like a little nest. 

A freshly laid pickle seed, waiting to be tucked in so it can begin it's life.  

A freshly laid pickle seed, waiting to be tucked in so it can begin it's life.  

That’s all for this Summer Solstice week. Thanks for reading and see you back here next Friday!

A load of white salad turnips for the CSA this week. These are so juicy and delicious, very different than a normal turnip. Make sure you try some if you haven't already!

A load of white salad turnips for the CSA this week. These are so juicy and delicious, very different than a normal turnip. Make sure you try some if you haven't already!

 

Friday Field Update No. 11

Happy Friday! The end to another week and the beginning to a beautiful, SUNNY weekend! 

I would like to start off by apologizing for skipping last week. It was a very difficult and busy Thursday/Friday. And those happen to be the days that I write this blog post. I prefer to write it at the end of the week, so the information I share with you is as up to date as possible.

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So, back to my excuse. Here is a little peak into an apple growers life in the spring. There is a fungus called scab. It creates a horrible “scab” on the leaves and fruit of apple trees. It is made up of pure evil. If you have apples, you will have scab, if you don’t protect them. It is everywhere. You cannot escape. Luckily, resistance is not futile! As long as you give up on having a social life, you are good to go. Scab works like many other fungi: spores. In the spring it exists as a structure called an ascocarp. These ascocarp grow ascospores and when they are wetted(mostly rain), release the spores to infect green apple tissue(leaves or fruit). In order for us to avoid an infection, we need to have a spray on the trees that creates a protective barrier so when the spores land, they are killed and have no chance to cause an infection. However, when it rains it also washes off the protective barrier. So when the next rain event happens, we need to have our trees covered again. So goes the almost endless cycle of scab spraying. Right up until around this time of year. Last Thursday and Friday we needed to cover the apples for the rain event Saturday night, but it was windy both days. That means we put in a normal work day, and then when the wind finally died down in the late evening, after dinnertime, sprayed the apples. There. That’s my excuse. I’m sorry I chose apples over this.

On to less depressing and stressful topics! We picked the first strawberries of the year Wednesday! When it finally stopped drizzling… These are some of the most beautiful berries you will see during the season because they are mostly what I call the “king berry.” In the field, the berries grow in a cluster, starting as blossoms. The king blossom is always first, and when it matures is always the biggest berry out of the cluster. Therefore, I call it a king berry! They are big, beautiful and so refreshing after a winter without homegrown fruit. Harvesting may be a difficult and sweaty job, but at the same time it eases the mind, and makes all that hard work of growing the crop feel like it was worth something.

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Other good news, the raspberries are sprouting lots of beautiful leaves, they seem very happy. Just like I promised, what appeared to be lifeless twigs are now bursting with fresh, green leaf tissue! Yesterday we added mulch at the base of each plant to prevent the weeds from going crazy.

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The string beans we seeded on the plastic have popped up and spread their wings to take flight. What I love about watching seedlings germinate is what happens to the seed itself. If you look closely you can see that the lowest pair of bright green leaves are actually what used to be the seed. I don’t understand exactly what has happened, but maybe it has actually turned into leaves; growing chloroplasts and digesting that beautiful sunshine.

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Can anyone guess what this beautiful, green, leafy veggie is in the picture above? The first one to comment and get it right on Facebook or the blog gets a gold star!

Well, thanks for reading! I hope your week is as sweet as these strawberries! See you back here next Friday!

Bonus picture below: Pickle transplants making a pickle forest!

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Friday Field Update No. 10

Happy Friday, and welcome back to my little corner of the internet. Today’s topic is my mortal enemy: WEEDS. But first, an adorable family picture!

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If you look at the top of our website, you will find it says we are a farming family and this is the start of my own little family. I thought it would be nice to share so you could get to know me a little more. This is my lovely wife Mandy, and our ferocious canine Obi-Wan Kenobi (we call him Obi for short). Last night we were picking out some flowers to plant in our containers. We kinda just pick out whatever we like and then try to find some way to make it all look good. It’s really quite fun. Having Obi around always makes things more stressful- fun! I mean more fun. He’s a pure angel most of the time, but can turn into quite the devil...

A rather large weed erupting from our pea field. 

A rather large weed erupting from our pea field. 

Tiny tomato plant that grew from the seed of a tomato from last year left on the ground. It is now a weed. 

Tiny tomato plant that grew from the seed of a tomato from last year left on the ground. It is now a weed. 

Ok, back to the real devil at hand. Do you know what a weed really is? Have you ever taken time to think about it? I learned the true definition only a couple of years ago. A weed is any plant that is undesirable. That means that weeds are dandelions or quack grass growing in a strawberry field. It also means it is a tomato plant growing between the rows of tomatoes that we are actually cultivating, like in this picture. This tiny tomato plant will just be in the way, not getting enough water, getting stepped on, and possibly causing disease. Even if it did grow well, it is increasing our population(number of plants in a certain area) which is not what we want. It’s hard to believe that a tomato plant in a tomato field is a weed, but in this case that’s all it is.

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High tunnel update! The plants are doing marvelous. As you can see, they are really filling out the space. Fortunately for us, we have been working with Cornell Cooperative Extension employees for the past couple years with their High Tunnel research. They have been sending samples of our leaves into a lab to get them analyzed in order to evaluate the nutrition of the plants. This has been extremely beneficial for us. With these foliar samples taken every other week, we can really fine tune the fertilizer we are feeding the tomatoes in order to give them exactly what they need to make ripe, juicy tomatoes. Our first foliar results are in and they look great! We are right on track to producing a great crop of early tomatoes in our high tunnel.

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Over in the Strawberry field, things are happening. We have awesome looking green berries, plants still blooming, and a friendly bird nest. I haven’t identified the bird that laid this beauty yet. It is similar to a killdeer, but much smaller. Maybe a plover? But yes, green berries! Look how big that one is. They will be ready soon I hope, I can’t wait!

We are finally able to plant some of our more sensitive transplants now that the threat for frost is ninety nine percent gone. With mother nature, there is never a 100% guarantee. We planted our first planting of zucchini, and lettuce. This wagon is full of pickling cucumbers. They are on the wagon not to be transported quite yet, but to harden off, as we call it. When the plants are growing in the greenhouse, they are happy as a clam. No brutal wind to knock them around and a nice, consistent water to feed them and quench their thirst. If we were to put these plants out into the field right away, their survival rate would not be very good at all. By leaving them in their trays, and limiting the amount of stress we expose them to, we can help smooth their transition into the field, in order to keep our plants happy and healthy. Just the way we like them.

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Ok, that is all for this week. Thank you so much for reading and hope to see you back here next Friday!

Friday Field Update No. 8

It’s been a crazy week! We planted Raspberries today which I am super excited about. We started going to public market with hanging baskets and other annuals on Thursday and Saturday mornings, and for a few Sundays also. We have also been ramping up our market and greenhouse for mother’s day. Lot’s going on, like usual. Here are a few pictures I took this week with some interesting info.

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A gorgeous full moon over our farm a couple nights ago. I learned this is called the flower moon due to the abundant blooms this time of year. You can just make out the apple blossoms past the sweet corn under the row cover. The closest trees are peaches and plums.  

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Look at these crazy worms I found! Just kidding! They’re seeds. Calendula seeds to be specific! Calendula are beautiful, large daisy shaped flowers that have edible petals. They are one of the seven edible flower varieties I am trying out this year. I seeded all of them earlier this week and very eagerly await their germination! The lemon gem marigolds popped up after only two days. This didn’t surprise me because they were seeded very shallow, with only a light dusting of soil over the seeds. The red runner bean however, was seeded one to one and a half inches deep.

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Do you notice anything unusual with this picture? There is more than just flowers and pottin soil. A gray tree frog! There have been a lot of them so far this year. I think they have been really enjoying all the rain. You can find these little guys in the craziest places. I saw a little green one hopping around the floor of one of our other greenhouses. They certainly are beautiful creatures.

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Water is essential for plants to grow, however it also can cause many different diseases if there is too much of it in the air or ground. I found these dew drops in the tomatoes first thing in the morning immediately after we removed the row cover. Plants are constantly giving off water vapor, called transpiring. And if you leave them in the confined space under the row cover too long, all that humidity may cause some nasty things to happen. That is why we have to remove the row cover, and open the peak vents on the end walls of the high tunnel even if it is cold outside. Our large greenhouse is monitored by a computer that will turn on the fans in order to reduce humidity or temperature. Even if it is bringing in cold air, we have to do it in order to get rid of all that problematic moisture.

Thanks for reading and see you back here next Friday!