Here we go! Another farm season is underway this week as we begin to take back out of the fields some of the work we have been pouring into them over the past months. We hope you all enjoy your first share of the season, greens mostly, and just the tip of the iceberg (no, not iceberg lettuce). Every year I feel like I need to say again, especially to those new to CSA, that the size of the share starts slow. In June greens slowly give way to hard vegetables, which build rapidly to the crescendo of August and September. As you look at your bag of greens this week, imagine ahead to the onions, peppers, watermelon and tomatoes in the weeks ahead. The fresh taste of these greens hold all the promise of what we have coming.
In addition to our produce we also have several items available for sale each week. Most of these are high quality locally produced items that we think are outstanding. This week look for frozen natural meats from Maine Farms Brand, Seal Cove chevre (amazingly creamy goat cheese), Straw’s Farm raw organic milk and natural pastured eggs and our own natural lamb sausage. In the weeks to come we hope to have more local cheeses, bread, fair trade coffee, organic Maine ice cream, maple syrup, and honey. Starting at the end of the month we will be taking pre-orders for milk, eggs and bread so that you can rely on sharing these great Maine products with your families.
In response to the many “what do I do with this vegetable?” questions over the years we are selling a great cookbook, written especially for CSA members. “From Asparagus to Zucchini” covers all the bases on how to tackle a fresh seasonal produce diet. With 200 pages of recipes, cleaning, cooking, and storage tips for each vegetable, this book is an invaluable tool to get the most out of your CSA share we have them for sale at $18 ($2 off the retail price).
The Upic field is coming along and we hope you’ll be picking the first crop (peas) by the Fourth of July with green beans not far behind. We have had lots of help from CSA members Bob Leezer and Barb Harvey preparing and planting this field in the past few weeks. More on the upic field and how it all works in future newsletters.
The best place to view lambs is in the Upic field this week. They are pastured right next to the southern side (although it may be hard to see some of them as the grass has gotten away from them (and us). We finished lambing this past week and have over forty-five lambs in this group.
Please enjoy the farm when you come to get your share. You’re always welcome to hang out and check out what is going on. That being said, there are a few things to remember, especially if you have kids, when you’re here.
• Watch out for fences –they are all electrified.
• Please stay out of buildings and off of the equipment –neither are safe for the young or old.
• Don’t open closed doors or gates, they generally are closed for a reason.
• Keep an ear out for equipment coming through the farm. Tractors are working here seven days a week.
Crystal Spring Farm Day Camp has spaces available for the first week only (July 6th-10th) 9am-3pm, kids ages 6-10 are invited to join us here at the farm. Read more and register for camp at our website: http://crystalspringcsa.com/farm-camp or contact Maura at firstname.lastname@example.org or 729.1112.
CSA Shares still available! Tell your friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street! www.crystalspringcsa.com
Hope for more sun and we’ll see you at the farm.
Every year we start the farm season breaking heavy ground, making beds and seeding or transplanting early crops at the first possible moment. These first plantings have to be able to stand the ups and downs of temps and rainfall that characterize April and May. Carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes and the like suffer a bit but like adults with rough teenage years, they seem to be stronger for the experience and give us our first real ‘heavy’ vegetables in late June and July. One thing these crops don’t have to endure too much is weed pressure. The cold soils of these early season months don’t allow too many weeds to germinate and our vegetables a good start with little competition. Over the past week we have seen arrival of the first weed of the year, lambsquarters. In the world of weeds this is probably one of the best to be cursed with as it is easily killed with a tractor, hoe or able fingers up to about two weeks from its emergence. The downside of lambsquaters is that it is prolific. Each plant can produce upwards of 75,000 seeds which can remain viable in the soil for up to twenty years. Needless to say we work hard to get them before they set seed! If things get bad, lambsquarters are edible…so look for lambs quarters in the greens mix and match.
Lambsquaters has special significance this year as we have a new crop of lambs coming at the same time. In the past two weeks we have had over forty-five lambs born in the pastures around the farm. There are a handful of ewes left to bare and it appears we may have over fifty new lambs to add to the seventy we had this past February and March. Most of the ewes are giving us twins and weights have been mostly around eight pounds per lamb–which is right where we want them to be. Lambing at this time of year is new for us but we are hoping that it works in the long run as it means a lot less work for the farmers and a much easier transition into this world for the lambs. Lambing in the winter is hard on everyone. Temps are cold, buildings are drafty and new weak lambs will struggle to stay warm. Because of this farmers have to check for new lambs every four to six hours, which will wear down even the staunchest night owl. In addition, ewes need extra nutrition to keep warm while they make lambs and then make milk for new lambs, which means lots of grain…which in the age of ethanol is not cheap. Lambing on pasture will hopefully be a good option for everyone for several reasons. First of all it put ewes in the best grass of the year right when they need energy and protein to finish their pregnancies and then make milk (lots of milk!) for their lambs. Second, the mild May temperatures mean lambs can be born and cared for by the ewes right in the pasture without worry or lost sleep on the part for the farmers (yippee). And lastly it makes traffic on Pleasant Hill Road, which is entirely too fast, slow down to a manageable speed so that everyone can watch this flock do their thing.
New Lamb Open House. This Sunday the 31st from 1-3pm will be our annual lamb open house here at the farm. Hosted by Crystal Spring Community Farm and The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. The public is welcome to come and see the new crop!
When does the CSA start? Soon is the short answer…we will know more next week about several varieties of greens that we are waiting to mature. We will contact you via email and phone when we have chosen a start date.
Crystal Spring Farm Day Camp still has spaces available The two one-week sessions for kids here at the farm will run during the weeks of July 6th and July 13th, Monday through Friday, 9am-3pm, kids ages 6-10 are invited to join us here at the farm. Read more and register for camp at our website: http://crystalspringcsa.com/farm-camp or contact Maura at email@example.com or 729.1112.
CSA Shares still available! Tell your friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street! www.crystalspringcsa.com
Hooray! This is going to be a great year!
What a transition! Spring has blossomed from winter in no time flat this year as we raced from frost laden ground to workable soil in the matter of a couple weeks, giving us the shortest mud season in recent memory. Luckily, we were ready here at the farm and with our crack new crew we’ve been keeping pace with the coming warmth.
It’s good to be back in touch as I just realized we haven’t written a newsletter since January! In the months since, we have been working hard to fill the greenhouse with young plants, prepare for the arrival and breaking-in of our new group of farmers-in-training and remembering how a spring is supposed to feel.
Our biggest spring task before the apprentices arrive the first week of April is always seeding onions, leeks, flowers and celery in the artificial warmth of the greenhouse. We had help this year from my dad and a crew brought along from our neighbor Lucretia Woodruff. We started about 13,000 onions and leeks the first week of March, right after we put a new layer of plastic on the greenhouse.
We are very lucky to have a sharp crew of new farmers with us this year. Bethany, Douglas, Kate and Kelsey are all gung-ho and have been getting their feet wet in everything from the details of sheep nutrition to the challenges of running a tractor in a straight line at .14 miles an hour. They are all eager and hardworking and I am looking forward to a great season of fun and hard work shoulder to shoulder with them. I know you will all enjoy chatting them up on pick-up days here in June. In the past month, before the rain, we planted out all those onions from the greenhouse along with 2500 cabbage plants, 2000 broccoli plants, and almost a ton of seed potatoes. In addition we’ve been seeding beets, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, chard, kale, arugula, spinach and our exotic Asian greens varieties in the fields.
As May gets going we still have many shares left for the coming season. Please let your friends, family and neighbors know that we would love to sign them up for the best organic produce in town! On that note, those of you on the winter payment plan, thanks for your April payment, the last payment is due in June.
Farm Camp at Crystal Spring! This summer we will be running two one-week sessions of day camp for kids here at the farm. During the weeks of July 6th and July 13th, Monday through Friday, 9am-3pm, kids ages 6-10 are invited to join us here at the farm. This year is a pilot year, with the potential to expand to more weeks next summer. Kids will be mini-farm apprentices, learning about growing food and taking care of animals by participating in day-to-day happenings on the farm. Maura will be directing the camp with the help of college-aged teachers and high school aged junior counselors. We would like to offer the camp to our CSA families before we open it up to the general community. We will register CSA members only until Friday May 15th. After this date we will open registration to the greater community. You can read more and register for camp at our website: http://crystalspringcsa.com/farm-camp or contact Maura at firstname.lastname@example.org or 729.1112.
As the month of May progresses we will try to keep in touch with another newsletter to let you know what’s happening here and when to expect the first CSA harvest to begin. As a reminder, pick-up days are Tuesdays or Fridays each week from 3:30-6:30pm and as always you can change which day to come each week -as long as you only come once a week.
We will be hosting two orientations for new CSA members on Saturday May 23rd at 9:00 am and at 10:00 am here at the farm. It’s a great way to learn the lay of the land and see how everything works before we get started harvesting your shares. Check out the Upic field, the distribution barn and ask those need-to-know questions of Farmer Seth. Please park in the Crystal Spring Farmer’s Market lot and walk up to the farm. You can RSVP for the 9am or 10am slots via phone (729.1112) or email (email@example.com).
See you soon!
Let it Snow
What a winter! There is nothing like real cold and heavy snow for a farmer. When I’m not walking the dog, tending the sheep, or sledding with the kids this weather is a great excuse to stay inside with a hot cup of tea and dream about the acres of green that lie ahead after the thaw. The plus of all of this snow is that it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere and brings it down to earth – up to 12 pounds of it an acre! Mother Nature working while I drink tea, it doesn’t get any better.
We have actually been cranking things up around here the past couple months. The seed orders are in, we have one apprentice hired and a couple more circling, new plastic for the greenhouse just arrived, and half of the ewes will begin lambing before Valentine’s Day. It feels great to be looking forward to a year of hard work. Thank you all again for the making this feeling possible, I’m honored to be your farmer.
For all of you CSA “old timers” there are a few new things to look forward to this coming year. We have taken strawberries out of the upic field, allowing more space for flowers, beans, and peas…worry not, strawberries will still be part of your share, but we will be picking them for you. A strawberry root maggot infestation in the upic field in 2007 forced us to rotate this crop out until 2010. There will also be 80 feet of raspberries available for picking come the fall and more in the coming years if we all like them. What’s not to like?
In other farm news, we added a new full-time member of the farm crew this year, our border collie pup Nell. She’s just 10 months old but already showing signs of being a real farm workaholic. We have started a bit of training for her and the sheep (and me for that matter) and she shows great promise. She is both very focused on the sheep (translation: she always wants to go to the barn) while at the same time is reserved in her herding (translation: she doesn’t chase them over gates or fences). Her formal training is slow now because of the weather and the fact that most of the ewes are close to lambing, but we hope to start her up again full-time in the spring. Tom Settlemire, Sheep Guru and our sheep business partner has Nell’s sister Tibee and the two of them are like Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2 when they get together.
We have been receiving a steady stream of memberships since Thanksgiving but still have many more shares available. Those of you that haven’t signed up please do. Thanks to those of you that have, and please let your friends know that they too can join in the fun with food. We are coming up on the second payment date if you are on our winter payment plan. If you have sent in your $100 deposit, the next payment of $138.33 is up February 1. The next payments of $138.33 are due April 1, and June 1.
I hope all of you will find some time this winter to do some good reading about local food. First on my list of recommendations is “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan. This is the nuts and bolts follow up to his bestseller “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” In this very readable guide he tells you what needs to happen so that we can all eat as well as he did in the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Beginning this next week the annual Midcoast Community Read will be jumping into Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Vegetable Miracle.” Kingsolver and her family take “readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.” This is a great point of entry into the “localvore” mindset and you have the added bonus of having the whole Midcoast as your book club! The library website has more info on the book and how to join in the read. http://www.curtislibrary.com/CRweb09/events.html
Hopefully you all have been able to take advantage of the two winter farmers markets we now have in Brunswick. One is located in the Fort Andross Mill adjacent the “Flea Market” on the first floor, the other can be found at Granite Farm, 93 Casco Road, just past the intersection of Casco and Pleasant Hill. They both have a good selection of local foods and are open every Saturday from 9am until noon.