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A new season

February 11, 2013

It may be winter, but the sun is rising earlier and setting later each day, reminding us that spring is on its way. This year is exciting for us, as we’ve learned a lot from our first CSA season. We look forward to growing more of the big heirlooms and less of the mid-sized tomatoes. With kale, we hope to find the middle road and produce not too much and not too little either. Our field map looks like a square dance, as our crops rotate depending on their plant family.

It is hard for us to imagine the warmth of July along with the accompanying need for sunblock and a broad-brimmed hat. In contrast, our garden is currently hibernating, tucked in under a quilt of snow. It is tempting to follow suite and lounge idle until spring thaws the soil. However, we’re planning our planting schedule, preparing our own homemade potting soil, building an indoor grow table to start seedlings, and taking membership forms for the 2013 CSA season. In short, we’re working hard to make this year even better than last.

If you would like to join Serious CSA, please download our membership form here.

Fructidor

August 26, 2012

Summer’s crescendo is upon us. Vines sag with versicolor fruit. Our prose, it may be said, becomes a bit ripe. Amidst the abundance one is prone to celebrate the dappled things—an heirloom eggplant, a speckled lima bean. A neighbor chuckles at her joke: “Are we serious?”

Are we? Does the cant of back mimic crook of tromboncini? What proof a slender aloe? Do we measure our labor by length of light? Or by that most serious of matters: the tomato. Sweet glorious nightshade, cousin to peppers everywhere–they call you vine ripened. We ask: could it be otherwise.

It could always be otherwise. With light tread we balance late summer sentiment on the fulcrum of fall. Test the breeze with our tongues. It is good to be here, now. We have much for which to be thankful.

With this inaugural post, Harvey joins the writing team at Serious Farms.

Green Season

June 30, 2012

June nearly escaped us without being captured in a blog post, but luckily we’ve caught her by the tail. It’s officially summer now, and the weeds seem to understand this as their time to shine. The thistles, pokeweed, pigweed, lambsquarters, and purslane are all growing and supporting a complicated network of insects. We’ve been identifying bugs- are you foe or friend to our garden? Most are friendly, some even beneficial. So we pull weeds and hoe the rows clean, while leaving a few healthy purslane plants, because we’ve heard they taste great pickled.

For Serious CSA members, we’re harvesting kale, swiss chard, our famous salad mix, radishes, fresh garlic, peppermint, oregano, sage and flowers. We’re watching the carrots, spinach, beets, green beans and cucumbers, which should all be ready soon. At the same time, we’re also preparing garden beds for lettuce transplants. We’d hoped to plant them earlier, but our schedule had to adjust to the heat wave. (A baby lettuce seedling, freshly transplanted, would not survive this 90 degree weather.) We’re also getting ready to plant our fall crops- broccoli, brussel sprouts, more beets and carrots.

The tomato plants are adorned in their summer best- dainty yellow flowers telling tale of tomatoes to come. And we are glad to see that we might have learned a thing or two about growing peppers. Last year, the peppers were a tragedy. This year though, they are tall, green and healthy.

To those who do not keep a garden, it can all sound romantic- laying out the rows and nurturing plants. Mostly however, our time is spent pulling weeds, bent over and sweating and wondering just how deep those thistle roots could really go. It is a lot of work. But we keep the romance in mind while we labor. Besides growing food sustainably, we learn ecology, biology, geology, meteorology, history and poetry. Perhaps most importantly, this work is something we can do together. And what more could we ask for?

As always, contact us at seriousfarms@gmail.com. Happy gardening and happy eating!

Marking Milestones

May 27, 2012

This is our first CSA season, and we’re officially in the thick of it. We had our first share pickups this past Wednesday and Sunday. We can’t help but be proud of our vegetables. Check out the photos below!

Week One

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spring Onions
  • Leeks (or more spring onions)
  • Lettuce
  • Peppermint
  • Herbs: Greek Oregano, Sage, Dill, Parsley
  • a few pea shoots
  • a bouquet of flowers
  • and…. STRAWBERRIES!

It’s funny how it snuck up on us. We were focused on our planting schedule, our crop rotation, tilling new ground, and then suddenly we were packing our first CSA boxes. We’ve been busy and getting busier, but we made a point to stop and recognize this as an important milestone.

As members picked up their first boxes, they shared many encouraging thoughts. A member from Selinsgrove said she might have a tomato surplus from her own garden this summer, so she would like to share her tomatoes with the other members. What a great way to genuinely act as a community of members helping each other! Another member told us that the CSA was good for him, because he could rely on a steady flow of veggies all summer. We watched as eyes lit up with excitement over their first box of produce. A Northumberland member said she had volunteered to bring a salad to a picnic on Monday, and now she won’t have to stop at the grocery store to purchase lettuce. A few members have asked about volunteering. We love volunteers. Just email or call to arrange a time to work with us in the garden. We appreciate our members many and varied contributions to Serious CSA in our first year. Thank you all!

We’re also seeing significant improvements in our ability to grow good vegetables from last year to this year. Everything from potatoes to swiss chard looks healthier. It helps, of course, that we’re not flooded. And, dare I say, we’re actually ahead of the weeding for right now. I may regret those words come July, but for now, I’ll bask in the planting season. We still need to put in our tomato and pepper seedlings after this heat breaks. And strawberry plants and eggplants… I guess we better go get some more work done!

As you may have noticed, we are not in the Selinsgrove Farmers Market. Instead we’re focusing on growing the CSA. If you would like to join, we’d be happy to pro-rate a share for you. Information and membership forms can be found here.

As always, contact us at seriousfarms@gmail.com.

Seedling Time!

March 26, 2012

We’ve sprung forward and enjoyed an equinox. It is definitely spring. (Although it feels like summer.) We’re making use of the warm weather and getting lots of work done in and out of the garden. Seedlings are happily under grow lights indoors, so that when the time is right, we’ll have heirloom plants ready to transplant. This is all in preparation for our CSA, for which you can still sign up. So far, we’ve started parsley, onions, leeks, peppers, eggplants, an early tomato variety, and celery.

Parsley is exceptionally cold tolerant, so it’s a good friend of ours in the spring. When it’s still too cool to plant other crops, we’re harvesting parsley and tossing it into potato soup or sprinkling it on omelets for fresh flavor and iron. So often parsley is dismissed as that awkward green sprig on the side of your entree. Is it decoration; should you eat it? Well, I can’t speak for the common restaurant decoration parsley that is overgrown and flavorless, but I can speak for ours. We enjoy it for its tenderness and willingness to blend its bright fresh flavor with other foods.

Pepper seedlings take patience to grow. Depending on the temperature of the soil, they can take upwards of 21 days to germinate. That’s 3 weeks of watering them, making sure they are warm enough, peeking at them in hope of spotting the first little green stem. That is why we start them so early. We are also enjoying our new homemade heat mats. Pepper seeds like warm temperatures to germinate. This year, instead of 21 days they took 7-9 days!

In a few days we’ll plant our brassicas, a family of plants including broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Brassicas are gorgeous and quick to burst forth from the soil. And then, we start the rest of the tomatoes. I’ll admit that we favor tomatoes above all else. They are just such seductive fruits. So flavorful! And the plants are so productive. Instead of harvesting one venerable head of cabbage for example, we harvest tons of  tomatoes from a single plant over the course of the season.

Here are some photos. (Finally, I know!)

Questions- send them to seriousfarms@gmail.com.

Moving and interdependence

March 5, 2012

Big news first. We’ve moved, and we’re happily arranging our new nest. As many of you know, we’ve been living with Harvey’s parents in order to get the farm up and running. We are so grateful for all they have done to help us. It’s not only that they have shared their home with us, but we’ve also had an impressive apprenticeship in gardening, cooking, preserving the harvest, fishing, and building things. During this time, we’ve been hunting for a small farmette to rent or buy, but have yet to find the perfect fit. In the meantime, we made a decision to offer fewer CSA shares this year. As many CSA farmers have told us, it’s much better to start with a small number of shares and slowly build up. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in all of our farming adventures, it is to be flexible and open-minded. This year we’ll continue growing food in the community garden in Selinsgrove, in the yard at Harvey’s parents’ place, and now, we’ll add our own backyard garden to the mix. Harvey and I have moved into an apartment on the Isle of Que in Selinsgrove. We’re still looking for the perfect small farm, however this is a great way for Serious Farms to grow at a healthy, steady pace.

It warms our hearts and encourages us as people begin to send in their Serious CSA membership forms. We can’t wait to grow lots of nutritious veggies for you and your families. It’s going to be a delicious year! Farming blends work and life in a beautiful and sometimes messy way. It used to be that I would go to the office from 9 to 5, clearly separating my workday from my personal life. It’s different with farming. Farming takes over our days in a wonderful and gentle way. We’re reading gardening books with the morning cup of coffee. We’re planting seedlings indoors under grow lights during the day and checking the viability of the seeds we’ve saved from last year. We’re tending to the vibrant spinach and miner’s lettuce protected under low tunnels. And once we start planting, it’ll be hard to get my fingernails clean until the fall. It’s not that it’s such a dirty job, but rather it just feels good to push my hands into the dirt and share that warm growing space with the worms and seeds for just a moment.

After chatting with some friends, it occurred to me that some people think we’re trying to be 100% self-sufficient. I don’t know if that is our goal or not. We love to eat from our garden, all that fresh, flavorful food, but we’re not the Kingsolvers (though we love their book). We are not 100% locavores, nor do we eat 100% organic food. Instead, we’re more aware of the history behind our food than we used to be. We still eat hotdogs, but we’re wise to what’s in them. We definitely enjoy the food we produce. We’re proud of it, and I know we’re healthier for it. We also recognize that we’re part of a greater community. We don’t want to be independent. Perhaps interdependent would be a better word. You grow something, and we’ll grow something, and then let’s share. There is something beautiful in being part of this particular community. We couldn’t farm without all the people who support us by lending a hand, buying a CSA share, attending our workshops, or just cheering us on. That is why we are here. We’ve met landowners near Philly who would gladly let us farm their land, but we really want to stay in this community. This is home.

Questions? Email Jen and Harvey: seriousfarms@gmail.com.

New Year, New Seed

January 2, 2012

The new year is a clean slate, with promises made to ourselves and to one another. We are refreshed after a few weeks of holiday and family. If you can believe it, we even took some time off from farm work. The gap quickly filled with the making and crafting of gifts and food. However, now we are here, in 2012, and the seed catalogs are arriving in the mailbox. We return to our winter farm chores- planning our crops, searching for land to rent, and meeting new CSA members.

It’s January, and it is cold and dark outside. Even the grass seems to struggle in this weather. It may be that summer’s ripe tomatoes and  joining our CSA are the last things on your mind. It’s a huge help to us if you join now rather than later. We expect our first CSA pickup to happen at the end of May, but by then we’ll have been working hard for many months. In fact the work is already beginning. We’re building our own heat mats for our seedlings and putting together our seed order. Very soon we’ll start nursing baby plants indoors. We’ll begin with the cold-tolerant plants that can be transplanted into the soil early– broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and kale. Shortly after that, we’ll plant peppers and tomatoes, then melons and squash. We are eager for the season to begin. How funny, considering I was complaining about all the work last August. All that weeding and canning and sweating! You would think I would simply curl up with a cup of cocoa and read all winter– a human form of hibernation. Instead, I am eager for the work. Idleness does not come easily to me, despite my summer complaints. I think Harvey is a little better at relaxing than I am. We balance each other out that way.

Either way, relaxed or eager, the growing season is coming upon us quickly, so we are back at work planning. Reading these seed catalogs is an activity fit for the New Year. Every vegetable is pictured in its fullest potential– every seed germinates, every flower fruits, and there is not a weed or plant disease in sight. Right now, in the minds of many a farmer, this year’s garden will be perfect. It is a beautiful feeling worth basking in, because come July we’ll be fighting the endless battle of weeding. The seed catalogs tempt us with each variety description. Some of these vegetables have become old friends, like the Black Krim tomato and Jade green beans. We know how they grow, what conditions they prefer, and best of all, we know their flavors. Yet some varieties are new to us, like Deer Tongue Lettuce. Their heritage entices us with descriptions of rich and vital flavor. In all of these stories, there is a certain romance. These vegetables leap from their catalog pages and beg us to take part.

Please, let us know now if you are planning on joining Serious CSA and put down a small deposit to hold your place. Soon we’ll be working in the field, and winter will be a distant memory. Time flies. As always, feel free to contact us at seriousfarms@gmail.com or our Facebook page. Happy New Year to you all!

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