May Day and Mud Season

Beulah supervises our first big tree planting. (Had to teach her that it’s not a stick for chewing!)

Beulah supervises our first big tree planting. (Had to teach her that it’s not a stick for chewing!)

Spring temperatures are here, and so is the mud! After an unappreciated snowstorm last Friday (no accumulation, thank goodness), we’ve been out transplanting in the fields around the rain this week. So far we have some early greens, peas, and carrots direct seeded, and are plugging away on the onion, leek, scallion, beet, and lettuce transplants. We are incredibly happy to have Rose back with us again this season to help!

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One of the strategies we are using this year to let us still plant when it’s so wet is a mix of plastic mulch and re-useable landscape fabric. Laying down the fabric between the beds lets up keep planting without becoming too much of a mud monster.

When it gets too wet, we’ve been barreling ahead in the high tunnel and the greenhouse. We have the ground prepped in the tunnel for the tomatoes, but are waiting two more weeks to plant since the temperatures could drop again.

And in the greenhouse, we’ve long since opened the second mini-tunnel and booted poor Beulah out of her bed in order to fit in all the crops (which have also overflowed across the yard). This week we were potting up all the peppers and eggplants, as well as the fresh herbs for CSA members! New this year are more perennial options (including catnip for all the cat folks!).

Can you believe that this is actually clean for me in April?

Can you believe that this is actually clean for me in April?

Princess Peapod does not approve of losing one of her seven bed spaces on the farm…

Princess Peapod does not approve of losing one of her seven bed spaces on the farm…

Speaking of CSA, there’s just over a month until the veggies begin! We have shares available in small and large sizes still, at all of our sites (Tuesdays in Cicero, Fayetteville, Liverpool, Manlius, and Syracuse; Fridays at the farm; and Saturdays at the Cazenovia Farmers Market). Cicero is a new site, hosted by Crossfit 315, and we are really excited to be bringing our veggies up there!

This was last year’s first week’s small share… finger crossed that the weather cooperates to make this year’s even better!

This was last year’s first week’s small share… finger crossed that the weather cooperates to make this year’s even better!

Seedlings, Sneaky Pooches, and Shoveling!

This week was the start of the get-in-shape weeks on the farm, which is an annual realization that all our winter workouts to be ready for the fields can prove inadequate in one day of serious digging. Over the last few years, the beds in our high tunnel have migrated south a foot, so we needed to double dig them out to realign them. At the end of the season when we are in farm shape, it only takes a day to do this (and it doesn’t feel too hard). This early in the season, it takes a day to do a quarter of it, and considerable sweating is involved! [The soil below looks a little reddish—we added a bit of peat moss to it, which will help boost it’s organic matter and water holding capacity—we are interested to see the results!]

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Fortunately, we have some nice days coming up this week to finish the shoveling and bed reshaping to get the earliest of spring crops in, which are these babies down below that are ready to go to their bigger home (spinach and greens for the May farmers markets).

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Besides early greens, we are busy in the greenhouse, with the biggest week for seeding coming up ahead. We seed many of these early crops close together in open flats (see below), and then after they have a few leaves, transplant them up to bigger trays. This system takes a little longer, but allows us to make better use of our tight greenhouse space and lets us fit all the crops into the germination chamber (a box with extra heaters, that helps seeds germinate more evenly).

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I love the sunlight and cheeriness of the greenhouse work—it’s a great place to zone out and get excited for the season. I also appreciate the chance to fuel my podcast addiction (this week I’ve been listening to the new season of The Uncertain Hour, Reply All, and The Dropout, but I’m always looking for new recommendations, if you have a good one!)

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Despite the snow today, it was gorgeous last week, leading to what feels like the earliest ice melt date yet for the pond. Early melting is helpful because it means we can start getting our irrigation system put back together and tested before the season, which saves us time in May.

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Ice melting early also means Beulah has been hard at work this week chasing off the geese, and learning to differentiate between geese and ducks (we are cool with a mallard mom or two). The poor geese, Harold and Maude, don’t know what to do with a dog back patrolling the yard, and there’s been considerable honking and angst between snow rolling sessions.

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Since she’s working so hard, Beulah has been taking liberties to slowly ooze herself up onto the furniture when she thinks you don’t realize what she’s doing (below is the end of a several minute long process that started with all four feet on the floor… if her eyes are closed and she can’t see you, then you clearly can’t see her, right?). Also pro-tip for beginning farmers, don’t buy white couches (I have no idea how we ended up with all white furniture, but it was clearly a poorly planned decision given farm dogs and mud…)

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We are also squeezing in a few last pre-season (non-farm) things. Matt’s still helping sugar on weekends (you can catch him at Critz Farms for the last Maple weekend Saturday and Sunday), and I caught an interesting full day training on food safety techniques for farms (yes, I learned about cleaning equipment all day and how different brushes work better, which was actually super interesting!). I’ve also been squeezing in a few last roller derby tournaments (I’m a referee) before things get too busy on weekends!

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And that’s the news from the increasingly less goose infested fields of Hartwood Farm this week… Happy April!

Full Moon, Sugar Season, and Farm Dog Training!

This week on the farm was awesome, largely because over half the days were SO DARN NICE. Even us grumpy old farmers can’t help but be happy when the sun is blasting down and all the birds are coming back home singing! We kicked off the last week enjoying beautiful moonrises reflecting off the windmills. (Though the full moon felt significantly less friendly when it starts shining through the cracks in the blinds at 3 am!)

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We’ve been working steadily through our farm-to-do list from the past two winters, since last March wasn’t as cooperative on the weather front (do you remember the ridiculous amount of snow we had—we couldn’t see out of our windows this time last year!). Sadly, we had to say goodbye to a few of the yard trees that were sick or dead, which involved some interesting chainsaw work. This one (below) is Beulah’s nap tree, so we left the base for her reclining pleasure (and because of the cool fungi).

Speaking of dog naps, we’re in the midst of training work with Beulah (over at Mystic Chateau Acres in Munnsville) to get her better receptive to our directions, less reactive to strange dog visitors, and to hopefully take less strolls around the neighborhood. It’s been a good but exhausting winter project, and she can still be a petulant teenager at times but is doing well if cheese is involved (but who doesn’t do their best when cheese is involved?). She is working very hard to keep the geese out of the yard, and is diversifying into running off crows as well.

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Matt has a big birthday looming, so we snuck up to New Hampshire for a couple days to have a little party with friends there. It was satisfying to go someplace still colder and snowier than us, and we enjoyed helping boil sap outside for two glorious days. Locally, Maple Sugar Weekends are happening in NY these next few weeks—you can catch Matt helping out down at Critz Farms!

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The big push now continues in the greenhouse. It’s my favorite time of year with seedlings bursting up through the fresh soil (and it smells delicious and alive in there). We had great neighbors help us water last weekend, but greenhouse season is significantly easier and gentler on our piece of mind this year with the new fans and vents that automatically regulate the temperature. We also got one of those creepy cameras that lets us look in and monitor the temperature (I know, we are getting all high tech around here!).

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So what’s growing in the greenhouse? This week we started the first beets (both gold and yellow) going outside, the first outdoor rainbow chard round, and the next round of flowers and herbs. Some of those herbs are for the CSA shares that first week (small shares each get one plant, and large shares two plants), I’m excited that we will have a few more fun choices for folks this year, including catnip (Beulah didn’t approve, but we outvoted her)!.

Can you see these seeds? No? Well I couldn’t either… good thing we only grow a half acre of flowers, or I’d have to get some stronger glasses!

Can you see these seeds? No? Well I couldn’t either… good thing we only grow a half acre of flowers, or I’d have to get some stronger glasses!

That’s it for last week—we hope you enjoyed the sun, and check back next week for all the exciting farm news (and yes, it includes some in-ground planting in the high tunnel, hooray!).

It’s also not too late to order a CSA share for the summer (thank you all who have already joined us, we are looking forward to bringing you veggies in a couple short months!). You can sign up on the website (www.hartwoodfarm.com) and shoot us an email at info (at) hartwood farm dot com if you have any questions! Thanks and happy spring!

This week on the farm!

With the first hint of spring on the farm, we are back in our blogging saddle!

This week blew in like a lion, melting the snow and heating up the toasty greenhouse for the little baby seedlings. Geese streamed over and checked out the still frozen pond for home sites, Beulah was overwhelmed by all the aromas from the warming ground, and we farmers were thrilled to have our hands back in the dirt (well, the potting soil at least).

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Matt had a lot of fun moving the top heavy giant ice cubes of potting soil through the narrow greenhouse door. Beulah supervised the process, of course, in between spats of chasing the Robin Mafia out of the yard. (The robins earned their name last year by destroying all the other birds’ nest to earn farm yard dominance.)

By mid-week, warm weather blasted over the farm, and partially ripped off the high tunnel cover. Fortunately, it was warm and sunny enough that the plastic became stretchy over the day, and we were able to balance on the precarious ladder (ladders and mud don’t cooperate well) and pull it tight enough to refasten it. Thank goodness for sunshine!

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The sun worked its magic inside the high tunnel as well. We had spinach and kale at Saturday’s market (thank you everyone who came out), and the soil is warm enough we are planting some greens for our early May markets this week! We will also be at the Spruce Ridge Market from 10 to 1 on Saturday, April 6th with greens and storage veggies.

In the heated greenhouse, we’ve started flowers, herbs, onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, spinach, and more! Seeds are bursting out of the ground fast.

But the real truth of farming this week is that it’s our last chance to fine tune our crop numbers and figure out what’s going where. Thanks to the new field high tunnel, we have a bit of extra space this year, which will let us play with new crops, and do more cover cropping to build better soils (and grow more delicious vegetables). But it also meant that this was my view on one of those gorgeous sunny days!

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Happy spring to everyone! We hope to see you at the market, or as part of the CSA (shares are still available at hartwoodfarm.com/sign-up

What's in a CSA Share?

As CSA farmers, we will be the first to admit that CSAs are a bit weird. I mean, you are getting a box of veggies that you don't have a complete choice over, which in some ways is kind of the opposite of many modern shopping experiences! On the other hand, it's fun because it makes us all try new things (and who knows, maybe find our next favorite vegetable!).

As a CSA farmer, I can tell you that our number one winter planning priority is really trying to nail down the best mix of crops for those boxes to try and make the majority of our members happy and excited by the veggies each week. We spend at least two full weeks each winter just working on this, assessing feedback and how things meshed for the past seasons, and planning out better mixes for the upcoming season. Yup, we plan out every single item in every share for the whole season, though Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate on making those plans work out!

In general, we envision the shares as having a nice mix of certain "types" of crops each week: something salad that you can enjoy raw, something that's a cooking green for all our greens lovers, at least one fruiting or podded crop (for all but the first weeks, as these guys tend to need warm weather!), at least one root crop, and usually one unique or herb sort of crop. During the height of the season when we have more options, we add in more of the fan favorite veggies (broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes), and on weeks where we have some of the more interesting crops or things we know that a number of folks won't like--fennel haters, we are looking at you! ;), we make sure to stock those swap baskets extra well!

This year we made a handy dandy graphic to help share a better sense of what will be in the boxes and in the U-Pick fields each month... let us know if you have any questions, have veggies you want to request, or if you want to sign up for the CSA!