Blueberry season has come to an end for us. It was a great success and like all new things, the steep learning curve was exciting and laid the groundwork for what we hope will be a great crop for years to come. After hand raking this year’s plot a neighbor came with a machine rake and cleaned out the berries from the really weedy areas. This last fruit we drove up to Ellsworth last week and had cleaned and frozen on a large processing line that can deal with the “duff” from the weeds much more efficiently than we can on our small winnowing machine. These berries are coming back this week frozen and we will have them for sale in 5 pound boxes at CSA pickup.
We have a great group of pigs this year. Fed on grain from Maine Beer Company in Freeport and all the cull vegetables they could handle all of them look great. Order forms for our first round of farm raised pork will be available this week. Pigs are sold as whole or half and processed into cuts as you like them (all bacon is currently not possible). If you have freezer space and would like to enjoy high quality farm-raised pork this fall and winter talk to us about the details at pick-up.
We will be harvesting our first round of cantaloupe this week. From the few we have sampled in the field it looks like a summer of regular rain has been good for this crop. The only thing that rivals the taste of this fruit is the fragrance. Wow.
What’s in the Share…
Transitions are what we are all about here on the farm every year . Whether its the productivity of a day, measured in how well we move from one task to the next, or the timing of a greenhouse seeding that gives a harvestable crop just as another is fading. It’s that place between that makes or breaks us. I am energized by these transitions, complete one thing, starting another. We have been feeling a little bit of fall in the air this week. In between the walls of humidity and the cold fronts pushing the storms, there has been that crisp, dry air that rules the days of September and October. Summer flew by this year but with my favorite season just ahead, I won’t really miss these hot days until February.
Tomatoes This Tuesday
We are moving into peak tomatoes this week and have a unusually large number of tomatoes seconds flats for sale today. If you are thinking about making sauce or salsa this is your day. Even if you are not going to pick-up your share today, come by and pick up a flat, 10 pounds for $10.
The End of Blueberries
It has been a quick season this year as the berries have slipped quickly from ripe to gone. We will be raking this week but have stopped taking new orders. All in all this new foray into our own native perennial crop was a success and we hope to add it to our annual list of offerings from this farm.
Eggplant, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and fennel in the share this week. Put them together and you have a trip to Italy courtesy of your local farm. Any of these items go well with olive oil, lemon and fresh pepper. Fennel is usally the tough sell amongst these summer favorites. Try shaving a little on top of your salad or temper and sweeten the anise flavor by roasting slices in butter. We love to cut it into 1/4″ slices, dipping in egg and covering with breadcrumbs before roasting in ample olive oil until the fennel is soft and the breadcrumbs very brown.
What’s in the Share…
What’s in Upic
Blueberries are the big story this week. Over the past day or two we pulled several hundred pounds from the plot we are leasing here at the farm. Learning as we go, there is nothing like jumping into something new to keep our observation skills sharp, examining every part of the process, and making a finished product we are proud of.
Blueberries are different from the annuals we grow in the fields (understatement of the season). This wild, native, perennial crop has been thriving on this farm for thousands of years and everything about it’s harvest and management is a learning experience. The berry plants grow in clusters throughout the field, each plant covering several hundred square feet and sending up thousands of fruiting stems. So one single plant is like a tree, with its trunk underground leaving only the tips of the branches for us to see above.
Our first day raking, we moved in lines, as this seems not only efficient, but what we are accustomed to in our production fields. Raking in lines brought us through dense patches of fruit into other areas with dense patches of weeds. During the cleaning process (it took a long time) we quickly learned there has to be a better way. Our second harvest was very different. Walking onto the barren we sought out the single plants (called clones) with the best density of berries and just raked there, filling buckets at twice the rate of our first experience with really beautiful fruit.
After raking we have a mixture of berries, leaves, stems and weeds in our buckets. This mixture goes into a machine that helps us clean all of this unwanted flotsam from the fruit. We are very lucky to have a neighbor with a machine we can rent. Three or four people spend several hours running rough berries in one end and filling finished quarts on the other. While the machine has blowers and tilted conveyors to help this process, everything still has to move by on a slow belt for us to pull out the unripe, smashed and stemmy fruit before it goes into quarts. Our harvest time to cleaning time ratio has been somewhere between 1 to 3 or 4, meaning we have been spending many hours squinting at berries as they go slowly by.
How to Order
We hope to rake this week and next, filling your orders placed be email, at pick-up, or online. Quarts are $8.50 and flats of 8 quarts are $64 (a quart is 1.7 lbs). Orders for pick up on Tuesdays will be taken until noon on Mondays and orders for pick up on Fridays will be taken until noon on Thursdays.
Greens Take a Break
We have limited greens this week as we have fallen between a few successions on lettuce and kale. Hopefully this will allow all of you to clean out the fridge and get ready for our next plantings.
What’s in the Share….
What’s in Upic….
Cherry Tomatoes -in the greenhouse tunnel beyond the beans…
Tomatoes in July. Real Tomatoes. How odd that in a late year like this one we are seeing our first ever real tomatoes in in the month of July? You’ll find a mix of large slicers and heirlooms this week and they are just getting going so the volume and variety should increase over the next few weeks.
We are raking our own blueberries this year ands will have the first to sample this Friday. Like in year’s past we will be taking preorders for delivery on Tuesdays or Fridays. We are working with a neighbor to rake and clean about five acres this year with the hopes of expanding the operations in years to come. If you are interested in ordering them by the quart we will have more info in a late week update once we have started raking and have a better idea what to expect for timing and yield.
What’s in the Share….
What’s in Upic….
Peas-Snow and Snap (last week)
Cherry Toms (just enough for field sampling…coming on slow but they are there)
July feels like august in more ways than just the temps. Our first asian eggplant is just getting going and we have just a enough to tesase you with. Leave the skin on this tender black eggplant and either throw it on the grill brushed with olive oil or slice it into thin coins and stir fry in a hot pan with very hot oil. Here’s a couple shots of eggplant and cucumber blossoms from this morning….
What’s in the Share….
What’s in Upic….
Peas-Snow and Snap
Cherry Toms (just enough for field sampling)
The competition is in the house. This is the first week where we have seen significant numbers of insect pests appear on the farm. It’s late for most of them and I can only guess that they were slowed down by the hard winter and cool spring. Over the years we have moved to planting large crops with particular pests that enjoy them later and later in the year. This generally works to keep these bugs at bay. Pretty simple system: each bug emerges/arrives at the same time each each year. When they arrive and find no crop they either go elsewhere or starve. When these guys arrive later than usual it short-circuits our system. We’ll just have to hope these late sleepers are the lazy members of the family!
Right around the corner
Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are doing very well and look to be some of our earliest showings for these crops ever. We have great-looking, ripening fruit and hope to start picking these crops in the next couple weeks.
What’s in the share this week…
What’s in Upic…
Our staple crop the carrot has arrived this week in the share. This variety, “mokum”, is particularly sweet and we are harvesting this just a bit early which makes them extra tender as well. Generally we would like this carrot to spend another week in the ground while its leaves build a larger root. We decided to take them a little early for a couple reasons. The first has to do with the perfect growing weather we have had the past month or so which has been a boon to all of our crops but has also really helped our weeds as well. We need to harvest these carrots because we don’t have time to weed them! The lambs quarters especially are thriving this year and in many places (like in the carrots) are starting to set seed. Weeds setting seed means more weeds for many years to come.
The second reason for an early carrot harvest is rooted in this year’s cold spring. Remember April? Recall those first couple weeks when we not only had snow on the ground but there was more falling? The frost was still hanging on in many places in the fields and working outside was a brisk experience. Our first carrot seeding is on the calendar for April 7 and needless to say we didn’t hit that date. While we did get this first crop planted by the third week of April the second carrot variety was scheduled for the last week of that month. Rather than delay the next planting by 2 weeks we have to keep following the calendar, especially for carrots. Unlike lettuce or kale which we also plant many times over the season carrots take a long time to grow to size, almost 100 days between setting that seed in the soil and having a crops to harvest. If we start pushing the planting dates back in the spring we will be late planting the almost 1/2 an acre we put in for our last sowing this week that will supply us with carrots right up to the end of CSA. Tender baby carrots are great for dipping, dicing or just giving to kids to eat by the handful and unlike the “baby” carrots from the supermarket, these are actually babies!
The Upic Field Opens this Week with Peas…here’s how it works:
This is the official opening week of our Upic field with snow and peas as well as a few flowers. We are asking that you limit your pea picking to 1 pint this week to ensure that everyone can enjoy this crop. We will have pint boxes in the field. If you are new to the CSA and the upic field here’s how it works…
Here’s the skinny on how Upic works. We prepare, plant, and weed this ½ acres plot just for you, the members of the farm. Growing there you will find green beans, herbs, flowers, and most notably this week, peas. These are crops that are particularly rewarding to harvest and can add a lot of value to your share as they often are great accompaniments to the “field crops” we harvest and wash for you each week.
The important thing to understand about this field is that it belongs to everyone who has a share in the farm. There are 275 shares this year and we try very hard to plan each planting so that everyone will be able to enjoy every crop. The idea is that all of these crops are compliments to the field crops and not necessarily staples in and of themselves. While we would love to be able to plant enough Upic basil for everyone to make pesto for the winter or sow enough beans to share with your neighbors, it’s just not possible in the space we have to work with. Those of you that split shares, we ask that you be particularly aware of your picking quantities.
With the exception of these first couple weeks we will not suggest amounts for you to take from the upic field. The idea is that we all take our share and consciously leave behind enough for everyone else. The upic field has always been our grand experiment in community spirit and in thirteen years of CSA growing all over the Northeast we have never been disappointed.
We All Do This Work Together…
We had a poem forwarded by a CSA member that speaks very well to the work we are trying to do here, growing food to fuel everyone’s good work and build soil for the next generation of farmers. Please know that all of you are vital to the longevity of this farm. The extra effort you put forth to support this land by giving your time and intention to pick-up and prepare your share when it may not always be convenient does sustain this place.
by Wendell Berry
The need comes on me now
to speak across the years
to those who finally will live here
after the present ruin, in the absence
of most of my kind who by now
are dead, or have given their minds
to machines and become strange,
“over-qualified” for the hard
handwork that must be done
to remake, so far as humans
can remake, all that humans
have unmade. To you, whoever
you may be, I say: Come,
meaning to stay. Come,
willing to learn what this place,
like no other, will ask of you
and your children, if you mean
to stay. “This land responds
to good treatment,” I heard
my father say time and again
in his passion to renew, to make
whole, what ill use had broken.
And so to you, whose lives
taken from the life of this place
I cannot foretell, I say:
Come, and treat it well.
What’s in the Share this Week…
What’s in Upic…
The forth arrives on friday this week and will will be open for pick-up at the farm. Our guess is that most of you will be grilling, boating and not coming to the farm so we are harvesting heavily in anticipation of a busier than usual Tuesday pick-up. As we crest into July there are many new things almost ready for your table. Peas are flowering heavily and we expect that we may be able to open them next week. Carrots and our second round of broccoli are looking great and should be coming in the next week or two. Large and cherry tomatoes are having a great year to date and we hope to get all of you picking cherries by the middle of July and have our first round of beefsteaks by August. Many of these long season crops are coming early which is odd knowing what cool spring we have had.
What’s More Patriotic Than…Cabbage?
Cole slaw is the perfect balance to everything else we might be eating this holiday. Luckily we are giving you some great heads to work with…Take a look here for recipes to tackle this weeks’ (and last weeks’) cabbage and turn them into cool satisfaction to balance out the chips, burgers and ice cream.
What Else are We Doing on the Farm?
While planting, watering, weeding and harvesting vegetables takes up most of our time we have a few other irons in the fire this time of year as well.
- Maura is gearing up for the start of farm camp next week and we will have 20+ kids running the place; feeding livestock, harvesting carrots and just soaking up the farm everyday.
- We have also been cutting winter forage for sheep and cows the past few weeks and have baled and wrapped about 120,000 lbs of hay and silage and 5000 lbs. of straw from about 44 acres. This first cut is our biggest of the year and we be followed by a second cut in late august/early september that will yield about half the volume but with higher quality. All of this forage (except the straw) will be fed to animals over the winter months who will convert most of it into manure that we then use to feed the vegetable crops next year.
- We have some new help on the farm with the addition of a new sheepdog pup named Wynn. She is just 12 weeks old and I can’t really say she is helpful except for keeping us laughing and talking in high voices a lll the time. In the fall when she is 5-6 months old we will introduce her to our flock and then her work will begin. Our older dog Nell is great with her and has been very tolerant of this new addition to our family pack.
What’s in the Share this Week…
With solstice just passing this week the farm steps over an annual milestone in the march through the summer. The longest day of the year is the official start to everyone’s favorite season, the three months we all wait so patiently for, the three months that recharge us for what’s coming. These first few weeks of summer (and the few just preceding it) are the real golden time for growing things. The light is plentiful, the soil has just reached optimum temp and the rain comes.
Long days make everything possible here if you are a plant (or trying to grow one). Maine, while not the most northerly point in the lower 48, does have a great advantage over most of the country when the world tilts each year. Fifteen and a half hours for a plant to photosynthesize will give a vastly different result over say late September when we are under twelve. The ability of our crops to gather light and turn it into growth is matched by our soils (finally) warming up to their potential. Ample sunlight means nothing unless there are nutrients available for our crops to gather. In an organic system we rely heavily on the soil to provide what our plants need to grow and these nutrients only become redily available when the ground temperature rises above 60 degrees. This temp energizes the living fraction of the soil which then works to make the mineral and nutrient fractions available for plants to use. Combine active plants with available nutrients and all you need is water. This time of year we almost always have a regular supply of rainfall. If we could have one inch per week every Sunday (farmers try not work one day if we can) that would be great but we are generally happy with the push and pull between dry and wet each June.
Fed Up -The Movie
If you are trying to eat well for your health and the health of your family, go see this film. It details the uphill battle we all have trying to be healthy while most of the food industry that wants us to eat more and more of their processed sugar laden products and cook less and less. Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Bill Clinton and many others add their voices to this film by Katie Couric and a team of journalists. Showtimes this week in Brunswick at Frontier Cinema and next week in Rockland at the Strand. Here’s a link to the film website and trailer.
What’s in the Share this Week?
As we move into our third week of harvest we thought everyone, old members and new, might like a rundown of the most popular questions we are hearing about the farm.
Is the farm certified organic?
Our vegetables, lamb, and pastures are all certified organic by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. This means we submit a 40-60 page plan each year that includes every detail of how we produce crops. This plan includes everything we use for fertilizer (fish meal, fish emulsion, and brewery grain), how we wash our greens (twice in stainless steel tanks with annually tested well water), how many bales of forage we produce on a acres each year (12-16), etc. MOFGA then comes once a year spends half a day “inspecting” us; looking at records, walking the fields and asking questions about the details we submitted in our plan. The cost of certification, in addition to time is about $1200 per year. Our pigs are not certified organic because we feed them a ration that is made up largely of spent grain from Maine Beer Company in Freeport (great beer!) and the grains they brew with are not organic (even though they are very high quality).
Do you wash the greens?
Yes! Twice as a matter of fact. We have two 350 gallon stainless steel tanks where we dunk and re-dunk the leafy greens. These tanks are deep and enable us to roll the leaves over a few times allowing the grit from the field to settle away from the crop. While in the tanks we also inspect for quality, pulling bad leaves and weeds from the mix. Just because we wash the greens doesn’t mean you should not. It never hurts to wash them when you get home and the cold water from your tap will help them cool off after warming up on the trip from the farm to your kitchen.
What do I do with all these greens?!
- Salads is an obvious one of course – but we also like to stress making your salad into more of a meal by adding other veggies, nuts, chicken, legumes, or other proteins. Experiment with dressings – this makes the salad way more exciting! Play with ingredients like miso, tahini, tamari, lemon juice, or toasted sesame oil to make salads a great treat!
- Stir fries and sautés. Butter, olive oil, garlic. Sometimes if I want my greens a bit more tender, after a few minutes of cooking in a skillet with the garlic & onions I’ll add a tablespoon or two of water and cover until the water is absorbed.
- Is pesto a favorite? Lightly steam your chard or kale, and throw it in the blender or food processor with garlic, onions, basil, or other herbs, toss it on pasta or pizza with oil or butter, and cheese.
- Bacon. Hard to go wrong with bacon. Cook the bacon in a pan, and then add the greens. Watch out – the kids might argue over who gets the last bite!
- Spanikopita. Many cookbooks or of course the internet will have the recipe. We’ve been making variations on this for years. I use kale, chard, or spinach I use whatever cheese I might have, and I rarely use the filo dough due to time constraints. Sometimes I’ll top it with bread crumbs, roasted sunflower seeds, or even crushed up tortilla chips. We call it kale pie. I like to steam the greens and then puree them in the food processor. And lots of basil. Another favorite of kids.
- Smoothies!! See link below! Green smoothies are all the rage these days. If you’re not doing it already, then get on the trend! Throw your greens in the blender along with fruit, juice, and you’ll be powered up for the day!
- Facebook? We have not been very active on our facebook page – but I have to admit it is a great way to share recipes. We will put some recipes on there – so I encourage you to “like” us if you are so inclined, and to share recipes with each other – especially since we are all working with the same ingredients from week to week! https://www.facebook.com/crystalspringcommunityfarm
Can I get any tips from professional food writers who are also members of your CSA?
Local writer and editor Liz Pierson and her family have been CSA members with us since day one. Liz and her husband Jan have been inspiring us for years sharing anecdotes from their kitchen – an interesting Indian spice or super simple tomato sauce. Liz recently posted a delicious recipe for creamy spinach and mushroom enchiladas on her daughter’s blog: http://www.diaryofalocavore.com/2014/06/creamy-spinach-mushroom-enchiladas-liz.html
Try it out & let us know what you think. We will continue to look to Liz and her daughters for more great ways to cook with what is in season.
Another CSA member, Laura McCandlish recently wrote a column in the Portland Press Herald about the pleasures of CSA and using greens in smoothies! Kid friendly as well. Perfect timing! http://www.pressherald.com/2014/05/31/the-farm-to-table-family-when-csas-give-you-greens-make-smoothies/
We will keep you posted with more of their great ideas as they come in!
What is the Upic field and when does it start?
The Upic is a 3/4 acre field where we grow crops that we think are fun to harvest. Each season you will find peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs and flowers all available for you to pick each week. We expect our first crop that will allow us to open the field will be peas which we hope will be ready the first week of July. Once we open the field you are welcome to come pick once a week on Tuesday, Friday or Sunday dawn to dusk. The crops we grow here are meant to compliment the others we offer each week in your share. We will let you know when the crops are ready for you to harvest and we’ll give relevant guidelines then as well.
Do you (Seth and Maura) own the farm?
Maura and I have run the farm as our family business for the past 11 seasons. We have a long-term on lease 115 acres of the farm’s 320 acres from the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust who saved it from development more than 25 years ago. The land trust runs the Saturday farmers market and cares for the farm’s trails along with many other important properties in the area. More info on the work of the trust and how to support their efforts can be found on their website www.btlt.org.
Why operate the farm as a CSA as opposed to going to farmer’s markets or selling to restaurants?
Many years ago we were lucky to have worked on a several CSA farms in California and Massachusetts and found their connection to the communities they were a part of to be unique. Inviting folks onto the farm each week of the season provides the potential for a relationship between growers and eaters that can’t be found anywhere else. Each week you are learning about what you are eating by coming straight to the source and talking to the people who grew the food for you. As farmers we know every week that you are looking forward to picking up the harvest; we cannot hide from you – we have a commitment to present you with beautiful, delicious, quality food. We in turn, are grateful for your appreciation and excitement about eating and cooking the fruits of our labor, it keeps us charged from week to week. We also get to learn from all of you what is important about your food and your experience when you come each week. We consider it to be a great partnership and obviously we can’t do it without you – thank you!
How do you deal with the crazy weather?
In short, we don’t. If we have done our job we have handled all the variables within our control (planting by the calendar, protecting crops with row cover, irrigating when it’s dry etc.). Plants are very resilient and many of our crops we plant in succession ensuring another harvest in a week or two if one planting is lost. We also use different varieties that withstand one weather variable better than the next so if we lose the red onions we have yellow onions planted nearby that will deal with the changes differently and do well. When the weather makes wild changes we try to react as best we can and then hope all of our crops are healthy and can withstand mother nature’s swinging pendulum.
What’s in the share…
Baby Bok Choi