Lots of heat for many a days! The plants and people on the farm are hot, not used to this temperature-humidity combo, but holding steady, and in some cases thriving!  Some crops are loving the heat - tomatoes, eggplant, and summer squash have exploded!  Likewise, our crew keeps all the wheels in forward motion to bring you a great harvest this week!

Wild life has been more present on the farm this year than in the past. We have been set back by deer that have damaged lettuce plantings night after night. We have also had a couple daytime visits by a lone coyote.  Never a dull moment....

You may have noticed collards last week among the harvest, and we'll have some available again this coming week.  This is our first time ever growing collard greens, to expand the greens & try something new.  Collard greens are packed with nutrients, and known best perhaps as a side dish with Southern style BBQ, but they are far more versatile than given credit for.  If you're interested in trying them out, you'll find several recipes on this page at the New York Times, "Tired of kale? Let's Cook Collard Greens" 

Organic Maine Wild Blueberries

Order organic Maine wild blueberries this week! Quarts are $9 and will be delivered over the next 2 weeks. Order online here.   **Please note we are not able to take orders via phone or email as in years past.

the farm and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust

As many of you know, Crystal Spring Farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Maura and I have an innovative long-term lease with the trust that allows us to run the CSA as our independent business.  The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust saved this farm from the threat of development twenty years ago. In the last two decades, BTLT has continued to protect and preserve over 2,500 acres of open space and farmland in our community along with offering recreational and educational programs that allow all of us to get out and enjoy the beauty of this great place we live in.  The trust is a community-based non-profit, with a committed staff, board members, and volunteers who work hard to keep our towns beautiful and accessible. BTLT also runs the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm. Please consider supporting their work by becoming a member of the Land Trust. To learn more about BTLT’s mission and support their programs please follow this link.

One of our CSA members, talented artist Maria Castellano-Usery is showing her appreciation for our CSA and support for the BTLT by offering a Brushstrokes with Impact Paint-a-thon! on Saturday August 18th.  I'm sure many of you are familiar with her vibrant art and generous community work, or learn more here.  She painted our beautiful and inspiring Little Free Library at the bottom of our driveway by the farmer's market parking lot.  For details about this event please see this link, and look for more information here next week.

 

What's in the Share

Lettuce

Spicy Mustard

Kale

Collards

Chard

Broccoli

Basil

Onions

Peppers

Scallions

Kohlrabi

Baby fennel

Carrots

What's in Upic

Beans

Basil

Dill

Perennial herbs

Cherry toms

Organic Maine Wild Blueberries

Order organic Maine wild blueberries this week! Quarts are $9 and will be delivered over the next 2 weeks. Order online here.   **Please note we are not able to take orders via phone or email as in years past.

Carrots are back and the people are happy. It takes anywhere between 90 and 120 days to get a carrot to grow from a seed to sugary root. We worry about them as they germinate slowly, are poor competitors with the many fast growing broad leaved weeds and grow below the soil (where we can't easily monitor them). once they are ready it means that we can relax a bit knowing we will have some orange to go with all the green in the share.

I can't tell you how many kids ran across the barn with glee this past week when they saw the return of the carrots. As farmers we are always  caught up looking intently at the trees and each pickup day all of you remind us of the beauty in the forest as a whole.

What's in the Share

Lettuce

Asian Greens

Spicy Mustard

Kale

Collards

Chard

Basil

Onions

Shallots

Scallions

Red Cabbage

Carrots

What's in Upic

Beans

Basil

Dill

Perennial herbs

Cherry toms

What's in the Share

Lettuce

Asian Greens

Kale

Leeks

Onions

Scallions

Daikon

Carrots

Basil

What's in Upic

Beans

Basil

Dill

Cilantro

Perennial herbs

Flowers

Prior to farming in Maine, two decades ago I worked on a farm in California.  Of the many differences between west coast agriculture and east, I was most  looking forward to two things, winter (i.e. vacation) and regular rain. Midcoast Maine's 36 to 40 inch annual average put the monthly rainfall at three to four inches, perfect for the one inch weekly needs of most vegetable crops. We knew we would still need irrigation (as averages are always just averages) so we put in one well, assembled a makeshift system to move water between fields using portable pipes, and ran water a few times a year in the early seasons. The past three years we have been running water about twenty weeks of our thirty week active growing season. This increase has caused us to improve the irrigation system, burying some of our above ground pipes and adding new ways of delivering water to crops that are more portable and put water on faster. Over the past 3 years we have spent about $13,500 in new equipment, and increased labor time running the system, which is a significant addition to our annual budget. We are just a little postage stamp of a farm in Maine. When I think of all the changes farms large and small across the country have had to make because of our changing climate my mind goes into astro physics mind blown mode. 

Thankfully I am grounded everyday on the farm by the incredible people I have the deep honor of working with in the fields. Our crew is simply the best. Focused, committed, and with a sense humor through it all, they make this farm live and breathe. Every day that we have a crew that is willing to share their passion and vigor with us in the field is a day that we make this little postage stamp a better place.

What's in the Share

Arugula

Lettuce

Baby Boy Choi

Tatsoi

Grilling leeks

Scallions

Summer onions

Chickories

Daikon

Summer Squash

Cukes

Broccoli

Kohlrabi

Cabbage

Baby Kale

What's in Upic

Peas (waning)

Herbs (basil, dill, cilantro, sage, parsley, chives, oregano)

Flowers!

 

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Newton must have worked a farm crew as a kid, getting that first law percolating in his young brain (maybe that pushed him to hit the books a bit harder to get off the farm). This time of year if we stop our forward motion we are done for.  The rails that guide our inertia are the lists of things to harvest, weed, pick-up and put down.  The process of making them and checking them off is almost tidal. Tasks wash up one day and are swept away the next.  From the passer by it might look static but to those of us rolling in the surf the gain and loss is constant.

Our full hearted crew has been plowing through the backlog of tasks in pouring rain and blistering heat. Smiles and laughter are present from 6:00 am until 5:00 pm. If they are in any way representative of the future I feel confident the next generation will kick this country back on track. 

What's in the share

Kohlrabi

Summer onions

Scallions

Red/green Cabbage

Broccoli

Cukes

Summer Squash

Kale

Arugula

Garlic scapes

Lettuce Heads/Mix

Mini Daikon

Chickories

What's in Upic

Snow/Snap Peas

Basil

Cilantro

Thyme

Marjoram

Savory

Chives

Parsley

Adjusting to Change?!

As most of you may have noticed (with the exception of those who came later on Tuesday) we have made some adjustments to the way you are putting your weekly produce together.  Our hope is that we will have a wide enough variety of vegetables each week to allow you to choose the vegetables that you want to take home, and not feel compelled to take home food that you don't particularly want.  

We appreciated that the vast majority of you last week were excited about the potential to have more choice in your weekly harvest.  While we had scallions last week, some people still had theirs from the week before and didn't want to double up on this in the fridge.  However we know  a few of you were less than pleased - this tended to be people who have been coming to our CSA for years, and were quite happy with the system in place.  

Why are we changing things up?  

We ask CSA customers for feedback at the end of the season.  While feedback is always quite positive, (thank you!) we always hear both, "Too much kale!" and "I wish there was more kale!"   Each year we are always looking to improve and make this CSA model work for as many people as possible.  So to solve the too much kale - not enough kale problem (in addition to always seeing people leave the CSA to shop at the farmer's market where they can get what they want) we researched current trends in CSA models.  We visited friends of ours in NH who offer this "choice" model CSA where you take a certain number of items each week, choosing from a wide variety of options.  We liked it so much we decided to give it a try.   That being said, there may be some weeks where we are not able to offer as much choice - this will really depend, as always, on all the elements that go into growing and harvesting. 

How am I going to keep count of how many items I take?  How am I going to decide? 

When we visited the NH farm and saw their system of choice - one of the first things I (Maura) thought of was the challenge of keeping track of the number of items as you make your decisions of what you want.  As I observed over the course of a few hours, I was surprised to not see anyone struggling with the counting.  They seemed to choose their items with ease.  This system has been in place for some time, I suppose they've gotten used to it.  Our hope is that we will get used to it as well.  We will try to post on this blog by Monday night what we expect to harvest, and as always, this is subject to change as we harvest hours before the pick up.  Please keep in mind that the foundation of our farming practice is our relationship with you.  Our goal is to make this farm experience the best it can be for you.  As we go forward please continue to talk with us so we can troubleshoot issues together.  

Speaking of too much not enough kale...

I've had some questions about how to prepare the vibrant kale we've had for the past few weeks.  Some easy go to ideas that are staples in our house include:

  1. Chop & saute kale with olive oil and garlic (and/or onions/scallions).  Add to frittata or omelet for a quick option, or a quiche if you have more time.  Of course this allows you to add other veggies, herbs (in the upic!), or of course, bacon. 
  2. We use variations of spanikopita recipes using any of the greens we have on hand.  I always use lots of basil (coming soon in Upic!). Also, I usually don't have time for the fillo dough topping, so I just top with toasted bread crumbs or panko, toasted sunflower seeds, or even crushed up tortilla chips (a little more kid friendly).  
  3. Pesto!  You can steam (or not, but the hearty greens might be good to steam) greens & throw in the food processor with basil, garlic, walnuts, cheese, olive oil - however you like to make a version of "pesto" and toss with pasta or other grain dish.  Kids and those "learning" to like kale love this. 
  4. Pizza toppings!
  5. Smoothies! 
  6. Let us know if you're still not feeling the love for the kale or other greens and we'll try to help!

Whats in the share

Garlic Scapes

Scallions

Cabbage Kohlrabi

Arugula

Radishes

Spicy Salad Turnips

Spicy Mustard

Overwintered Onions

Cucumbers

Zucchini

Chickories

Whats in Upic

Sage

Parsley

Chives

Oregano

Strawberries

Snow/Snap Peas

Quick, utilitarian newsletter today. Here's the bullet points:

  • Strawberries in Upic (yea!)
  • All add-on shares (except flowers) begin this week!
  • Rain saves farmers from nervous breakdown
  • Compost program in swing. Talk to us about how to get a bucket and participate.
  • Local Beer Fridays start next week. Last Friday of the month come for your share and have a short glass of local session brew. More info in next week's newsletter....

Whats in the share

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Winter onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Chicories

What's in Upic

  • Strawberries
  • Herbs
  • Peas soon!

We have reached fluidity. Not the kind that comes from the sky unfortunately but almost as good as far as the farm is concerned. Each summer we hit a point where the length of the the to do list meets our peak in productivity and we surf the zero sum of tasks being completed as new ones are added to the list. The board is still full and there is no end in sight but there is a balance (of sorts). Last week we finished hand weeding an acre of onions, set 5,000 sweet potato plants, sowed down 3.5 acres to green manure crops and figured out how to harvest and pack for our new delivered share software system. This week we added hand weeding .25 acres of carrots, prepping 2 acres for canteloupe/watermelon, pruning and tying 1000 tomato plants (along with a few other things). The completion of the old task fuels the desire to jump into the next.To those with very structured days or clearly separated work and home lives, finding satisfaction from the perpetuation of a work cycle instead of it's end may be a foreign concept. If you have ever owned a small business (or grew up in a family that ran one) you will likely know what I'm talking about. It can be thrilling and very tiring to work towards more work but nothing beats riding that crest in-between the end and the beginning...especially if you can keep a good sense of humor through it all.

So Much Good Stuff on the Way

We have been a little light in the greens department this spring. Dry days, excessive pests (look up leaf miner for some gruesome pics) and variable growth have all hampered our expected harvests to date. That said there is a lot of great food coming in the next few weeks. Strawberries are really close, spring onions (something new for us) will be in next week and lettuce, though moving slowly is making good progress. It's been great to see all of you at the farm and your excitement is infectious to all of us.  Thank you!

We Like Leftovers

We have a good supply of Crystal Spring Farm compost buckets at pickup! Composting has never been easier!  Toss in your vegetable trimmings, produce leftovers, and other kitchen scraps.  Each week simply leave your full bucket at the farm & grab an empty one.  After some time in our big compost pile on the farm, we will spread this "black gold" on the fields. Buckets are $6 and have a cool farm sticker on them....

What's in the share...

Radishes

Broccoli

Summer Squash

Scallions

Kale

What's in Upic

Thyme

Chives

Oregano

Savory

And We Are Off

The farm season is officially underway this week as we start our CSA pickups at the farm. As I write we are getting our first rain in many weeks and I can almost hear the ground drawing the moisture in. This is our third "dry" spring in a row. Our hope is that this year's the lack of rain isn't drawn all the way through summer and into fall like the last two seasons. Fifteen years ago when we started this farm, spring was wet and cold with the sun coming out just enough to keep the plants (and people) alive until July came. July was dry and first half of August too before fall rain began and fell regularly right until it changed over to snow. Is this May-September dry season the new normal? Time will tell but until then we keep irrigating and enjoying these few days of cold wet.

We are cow sitting agin this season for our friends and Old Crow Ranch. These 11 Angus crosses will be with us for the next 8-10 week eating our grass and pooping everywhere. Just the way we like it.

Compost program buckets will be ready for those that want to jump into the pilot program....

Pick-Up Your Share

Come to the farm this week on Tuesday or Friday, 2-7pm for produce. Please bring bags to carry your share home.

Add-On Shares, Take Them for a Test Drive

Add-On shares of yogurt, cheese, eggs, mushrooms and bread will begin in two weeks. This week we will have samples of bread, cheese and yogurt.

What's in the Share

Spinach

Lettuce

Chickories

Scallions

Radishes

What's in Upic

Mint

Thyme

Savory

Marjoram

Sage

Chives

And...we're off! Let the harvest begin! We are excited to announce the start of harvest next week with on-farm CSA pick-up on Tuesday June 5th or Friday June 8th. Come anytime, either day, between 2:00-7:00 p.m. The greens look great, the strawberries are in heavy flower, and zucchini is on track to make its earliest appearance ever. The crew has been going all out to keep us on track the past month. They have come in early, stayed late, and spent more than a few weekend days on a tractor. Maura and I are very grateful to have such a dedicated team this year.

While it has not been the warmest of years it has also lacked the extremes of highs and lows, which if you are a plant is the better way to go. We often lose early sowings of arugula and radishes that stress out in the hot-cold temperature yoyo and go to flower before we can harvest them. With moderate temperatures working with us my only wish now is for a good soaking rain.  For the past two years southern Maine has  been shut out by a jet stream that sends storm after storm through Massachusetts to the south and Quebec to the North. I'm pining for the days when we had a wet spring and didn't need to worry about irrigation until July!

Add-on Samples

Add-on shares will formally start in the third week of pick-up.  This first week we will have samples for you to try as you come for your produce. The products are some of the best that Maine has to offer and we think they really add to the produce we grow to make an unmatched Maine summer eating experience. Want to refresh your memory as to what we offer for add-on shares? Click here. You can also order these add-on from this link.

What to Bring for Your First Pick-Up

Please bring bags to pack your produce into as well a larger tote to carry everything home. We will always have new smaller plastic bags but the fewer of these we have to bring into the world the better.