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Archive for June, 2010

I have been really over doing it here on the farm as far as working goes.  Morning and evenings find me out in field and mid-day cleaning house and chasing Lucca around…summer board-em for an 8-year-old.  I tried my best to make a list of all the things I need to make for the market this weekend…the clock is ticking…but I just can bring myself to think about. After dealing with dinner, dishes and loads of dirty clothes I am feeling like I want to lock myself in a dark closet with a bottle of Mexico’s finest..a little lime and salt…and cry…yep…I would say I am burnt out…need a break…and a cook, maid and someone to water the plants…Lord…it’s early in the season for this.

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So, today I am doing my Indian rain dance…We need to have a good inch dropped here on the farm to recover from a couple of weeks without rain. The heat being what it is has sucked the soil dry and the plants are stressed…really stressed. I was watering yesterday evening just to keep them alive for you really can’t water deeply enough to resupply the water table under the soil without standing there in one spot for minutes with your water hose spraying one area at a time. This is also one of the things I like to show interns here on the farm that after a couple of hours of watering the field during the mid-summer taking them back out into the field and asking so you watered these beds deep enough you think? I would say…no less with a little smirk on my face…Oh yes…the beds are well watered..we shouldn’t have to water for another couple of days Peggy…I got em’ good…really, they would say…I would reply as I was bending down over the bed…yep…they look wet enough don’t they? Oh yes…most of them would reply back to me…I drench them they would often reply …than I would take my finger and rake off the top couple of centimeters of soil and there it is…dry as a bone…astonishment is always the reaction you get…How can that be…I watered the heck out of this bed…is always the next thing I hear…Yes, I know you did…and mostly they did…the soil is so dry and parched it would take ten times the amount of water to begin to penetrate the ground all the way to the root where the plant needs it most. With hand watering all you are doing is easing some of the stress of the plant… It’s important to note…It is better to deep water then to just fly though your garden with a water hose damping the leafs and ground. But even than…nothing beats a good 30 minute rain shower…nothing.

It is still miserably hot and humid here in Middle Tennessee. Too hot to get much done in the field I’m afraid. This is weed loving weather too so these beasts are going crazy right now and taking over the farm. It is driving me insane not being able to spend much time battling these bed bullies not to mention planting new crops. It’s too hot to plant…nothing wants to poke their heads up and out of the soil in this hostile environment. So Mark and I along with the farm crew are muddling by kickin’, cussin’ and doing sacred rain dances…well maybe I am the only one dancing…but at this point I am willing to try just about anything to turn this season around so far it’s been an uphill battle all the way..

Last night I was watching the local news weather report with Nancy Van Camp… I really like her…anyway…she said this had been the hottest June in 57 years. We were in the high 90’s for 21 days straight.  And that isn’t what the heat index was that would have been over 100 for 21 days straight.  Our average rainfall for the month of June is over 4.0 ” but this year here in Goodlettsville we have seen .63 in other words we are dry…dust blow dry..  Well the clouds are building so I am off to conjure up Grandma’s spirit to get this rain dance started:)

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Vanity & Venting

I got this phone call the other day from our local PBS station show producer for the  “Volunteer Gardener” wanting to come out to the farm next week and film a couple of segments for their show here on the farm. It’s funny because I have always loved that show even though I think it needs to liven up a bit..a little too botanical for me in terms of  gardening in the real world. But they do have Jeff Poppen aka The Bare Foot Farmer as a regular which I love and I am such an admire of. This guy is about as back to nature as you can get including the cash crop he must have growing somewhere in the back forty if you know what I mean….and even though I don’t partake in such…got to love him:) I read his book ten times when I first started the farm. He is wonderful and I learn so dang much from him every-time I watch his segments on Volunteer Gardener and from his book.. Jeff also runs the oldest and one of the largest CSA programs in Tennessee as a matter of fact he should be considered the fore-father of CSA programs in this state…vote for Jeff!  Anyway….so although I was excited about the prospect of the show being filmed here on the farm it kept running through my mind…What took ya’ll so long?…and couldn’t you have picked a year when we didn’t have like a biblical type flood in which we are still cleaning up and recovering from.  Yea..yea…I know the first statement sounds a bit arrogant…the what took ya so long…but Martha Stewart found us, Southern Living found us…you are like right up the street…right…Tennessee, Nashville…hello neighbor..that sort of thing. And it is true I don’t do much reaching out to media for marketing the farm…instead I am farming…I know I should, I do want too and in fact it was one of my goals this year to be a better marketer…but…well I am a procrastinator…to a fault.  I’ve been meaning to work on that….tomorrow maybe…ha ha..  So I hang up the phone from the show’s producer and proceed to tell Mark my husband …”Volunteer Gardener wants to come out next week and film something with the flowers on the farm…Mark said…next week…ah, Peggy there aren’t a whole lot of flowers out in the field blooming right now…after years of growing thousands of flowers here on the farm the last couple of years we are running about 30/70 in flowers and vegetables.  Then in the late summer and fall we run about 40/60 in flowers and vegetables. We stop doing farmers markets about 2 years ago opting more toward staying on farm with our CSA program and on-farm weekend market. It makes more sense to us sustainably which is what our goal is…a sustainable family farm. We also cut out a bunch of our wholesale markets for our flowers, vegetable and herbs making more room for CSA shareholders. So I cut back on planting tons of flowers that I would need to transport to Florists and do a couple of farmers market booths a week in which to sell all these delicate blooms. I do admit I miss the farmers markets though getting to visit with fellow farmers and customers. I did it for 8 years  Delvin farms and I started the East Nashville market two years ago and I served as a board member and board president for the Franklin Farmers Market for 7 years. I like to have worked my self to death…I mean it…16 hour days farming, touring, making music and raising a son…I was burnt out and found that I was not enjoying the life I had carved out any longer. Mark also was having a really hard time with my time restraints and near constant  bitching about farm market politics and nagging. Believe me when I tell you there is far more ruthlessness in farmers markets than the music industry…at least in the music business the bottom line is much better and there is somewhat of  a kind of integrity in the rules of engagement, at the farmers market it is just doggy doggy fighting in the tranches for a nickel. Back stabbing, and petty stuff that would just blow my mind and take up way too much time and energy.  So flowers…I mean I do have flowers blooming there is zinnia and cosmos some sunflowers although they might or might not bloom on cue…there are some flowers..That is the thing with this sort of stuff…When someone wants to come to the farm for tv or magazines I start feeling like it’s not enough…the farm’s not good enough or I am not good enough…such crap I know…silly but it creeps in there. I end up spending so much money and time trying to pretty up the place for a 3 minute segment of tv time…ha ha…it will take me 2 years of flower sells to make that money back…vanity is so costly.

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The heat is on

Field reading 9:30am...look closely at the high temp the day before.yikes!

I was working out in the field early yesterday morning weeding and planting when I noticed I was beginning to feel the heat start to affect me. It was around 9am but out temps were already hitting close to 100. This a been two weeks of this hot sticky weather with those dangerously high temperatures beating down here on the farm.  A lady from the golf course community stopped by this morning to volunteer with helping us stake and weed our pepper patches in the garden. She got here around 7am as I was walking out the farmhouse door to begin watering the plants in the market pavilion. She was dressed for the job except for wearing open toed shoes which is a no-no out in the field. There are too many weeds with stickers that love bare toes and they hurt… But here we are and she is ready to help out…and we need all the help we can get help… so I asked her to start watering the plants while I made up a batch of our fertilizer that will need to sit for while to allow the chlorine to evaporate from the water before I add the worm tea and Kelp to the 5 gal pail. Perrin had arrived followed by Mika around 8am. Mika and Perrin work out here on the farm a couple of days week helping me as my crew. Perrin though started her new job at Bell’s Bend nature center so she only makes to the farm every couple of weeks for a few hours. Mika helps out getting CSA baskets packed and ready on Saturdays and one day or two days a week here on the farm helping me plant, weed ect… This morning I wanted to focus on the peppers…They are just beginning to set fruit and need some attention and a good dose of nutrients to get them ready for long and what looks like hot season.  You have to be careful with peppers especially when they are stressed and with the heat we’ve been having and no rain in two weeks plus these peppers are setting fruit so they are working hard. Peppers can easily wilt and they are susceptible to many different viruses that can kill them from soil born to bug carrying diseases. When they are stressed they are even more susceptible.  This morning I want to get them staked to keep them from leaning weighted down by their fruit. This will help control soil borne pathogens from getting on the leafs.  Also staking them allows rain water to roll straight down their stems right to the roots where they need the water. After gathering the girls around the pepper plants demonstrating what and how I wanted to peppers tied up to their stakes and the soil around them cleared and lightly fluffed they set to work. I turned my attention to weeding the planting beds right next to them.

Staked Pepper plants

Around 9:oo am. our volunteer had about all the steam bath she could stand and by 9:30 we all felt a little over heated and called it a morning.  The sun radiates out in the field off the soil and dewy grass. It acts like a steam room and can easily be ten degrees or more hotter than say on the patio. I have known several farmers having heat strokes out in the field…including myself.  We have had a bit of a wild ride so far this season weather wise…but believe me when I say….Every year as a farmer is a wild weather ride. Ah but…ya..hooo.. Beats the office any day:)

Snap beans on the vine

last weekend we harvested our first crop of squash, cucumbers and beans of the season. We didn’t have enough for all of CSA’s and

dibbied it up on a first come bases.  I don’t like to do that for I want every shareholder to get most of the same things.

But like you will hear me tell you over and over…it’s farming not shopping and with that you only get what mother earth gives ya…In the next couple of weeks most of the post flooded bed will start producing so everyone will be seeing lots of squash and beans over the next few weeks.

We are still kinda limping along produce wise after the flood washed away 2/3rds of our planting beds…the good news is they were all replanted so it’s just a matter of time before these beds start producing. For now we are thankful for some fellow farmers to help out when we run low…and they are in the plenty for it runs vice versa.

CSA News & Updates

This weekend our Bi-weekly shareholders will have a pickup here on the farm….remember Bi-weekly only this weekend. With is hot weather I am again asking that our CSA shareholders please pickup Saturday early….meaning well before noon if at all possible. They are forecasting 98 degrees for Saturday which translates into 115 in the field if this humidity stays in place and we will stop harvesting at noon….safety first.   Again this weekend I am closing the farm on Sunday at 12pm. due to the heat. So if any of you bi-weekly shareholders need to pickup Sunday rather the Saturday please drop me an email so we can put your basket in the cooler Saturday.

Beets and fennel are the stars of your basket this weekend and we have included recipes in your share roasted beets with fennel by the way is fabulous! Be sure and remember flowers come with your share so please go harvest them…bring those cutters the sunflowers are blooming as well as rubeckia, zinnia’s and cosmos.

Fresh flowers

I wanted to also add to our shareholders that due to this hot weather some of the greens such as kale have what we call sun scalding spots on the leaves. These are brown patches where the dew from early morning forms a droplet that when the sun comes our and heats up acts like a magnifying glass on the leaf and burn or scalds the leaf. It is still fine to eat…nothing wrong with the green at all. Just overheated like its farmer:)

Market news:

I will be on tour this weekend so I have asked Cheryl to bring some of her delicious baked goods to the Saturday market.

With all these fresh cucumbers…what’s a girl to do?….make dill pickles I say! That is what will be at the market this weekend…get em’ while they last!

Pickle time!

See ya at the farm!

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Every year there is a sure sign of summer for me here on the farm and this towering sunflower is it.  She is my calendar, my signal that from here on out things are going to get pretty warm around here. Lovely isn’t she? I never plant this sunflower here it re-seeds itself each year in spite of being flooded, dug around and ignored she reaches for the sky and opens that bright gorgeous smiling face of hers.  Yep it’s summer time…let the fun begin!

News From the farm;

The past week or so we have been in the middle of some hot, humid days here on the farm. For me that means early morning and evenings in the field only. We southern girls don’t do afternoon in the sun….bless her heart and all that…I love my mornings and evenings here on farm. It’s peaceful and beautiful and I get to hang out and talk to my tomatoes…and curse the Bermuda grass. Mark and his crew have planted water melons most of last week…yum..can’t wait.  And I have been planting more squash, soybeans, heirloom pole beans and red and green okra to list a few things. The flowers are beginning to bloom and we should start seeing some bouquets coming off the farm in the next week or two. There are a couple of things…First we have a heat advisory for this coming weekend…we farmers live by the weather…anyway…because of that I want to make some changes in our market and CSA pickup schedule. We need to get our CSA picked up well before noon on Saturday we will stop harvesting after 12pm its just too hot for us and our farm crew to be running out into the field harvesting we’ll melt but more than that your fresh produce will wilt before you we make it back to the market…that is not a good thing.  Second, We will be closing the farm early on Sunday 12pm. which is when they are forecasting temperatures that are dangerously high with the heat index…that means temps in the high 90’s but for us out in the field where the heat radiates off the soil it could reach well over 100.  If you want to pickup a CSA on Sunday let me know via email and I will put your basket in the cooler at the market for you to pickup.

As for the market…we have a new batch of honey and freshly made Jam and baked goodies as well as farm eggs and hand-churned sweet cream butter. This weekend’s market specials are:  Roasted red pepper & pesto focaccia, FarmHouse garden slaw…which is one of my summer time favorites…Our three bean salad and apple pocket pies, buttermilk bread and Blueberry muffins.

CSA News

CSA shareholder….Weekly and Bi weekly We are going to host a “What’s in the basket” workshop Saturday June 12th. 10:30 am.  All our shareholders are welcome to join us as we take a look at week’s CSA share. How to make the most out of your CSA share, How to care for your produce plus tip, tricks and ideas on everything from exploring the  farm, expanding your basket contents  and persevering your produce.

We will be serving , Coffee, Tea and Lemongrass spritzers

What's In the basket?

I want to encourage our CSA shareholder to attend this workshop so you will be able to make the most out of being a CSA shareholder this season.

Tentative CSA Pickups schedule for June:

June 5th.  No CSA Pickup

June 12th. Weekly CSA pickup only….No Bi-Weekly shareholder pickups….

June 19th. Bi-Weekly Pickup only….No Weekly shareholder pickups

June 26th. Weekly & Bi-weekly pickups

Hope to see ya’ll here on the farm!

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Perrin was out in the field the other day getting ready to plant some more snap beans in a newly turned over bed here on the farm. She has been working here  on the farm as part of our crew a couple of days a week this spring so working with the plants, soil and seeds aren’t anything she is now unfamiliar with. Young and idealist as are most of the people that tend to want to work on an organic farm trying it seems to connect to a world that lends itself to be so disconnected from real life. She is on a journey, spiritual, mental and a physical journey seeking a good life for herself and trying to experience meaningful things. Dressed in her coveralls looking very much like a farmer indeed she donned her work gloves a requirement for working in the soil here. I pulled up close beside her as we were both hunched over the dark dirt looking into its mass teaming with earthworms tiring to squirm back into its depths and out of the light.  It is late spring and very hot right now here in Middle Tennessee as a heat wave and afternoon thunder storms have been the weather pattern for the past couple of weeks after the massive flood. The air is thick with humidity and the sun hangs high and hot beaming down on our skin. It is early in the morning so the dew is fresh and wet on the grass seeping through my pant knee as I bent over to take hold of a container of seeds in which we are getting ready to plant. But before I turn Perrin loose planting alone I want to talk to her and center her on the task she is entrusted with this morning. We have a lot to do today and more than one bed needs to be planted so I have to allow the farm crew to help in that department. More than not I myself like to do all the planting on the farm. There are some things I will let the crew sow and we are running behind with the flood taking out our early summer crops in the lower beds and I need to replant these beds asasp or we could be in trouble come late June with our market and CSA offerings. On a small farm like this one every dime counts and to lose a few weeks with no harvest can mean the farm going broke and quick.  So today’s planting is probably the most important of the season and a lot is riding on making sure things get planted correctly and with love.  Now you might be saying to yourself…with love? What does emotion have to do with planting a row of beans…well I will tell you.

Forget about the proverbial green thumb…there isn’t one…or not one that I’ve seen anyway. Everything to do with growing anything has to do with know-how and want to.  In other words you have know how to plant something and you have to want it to grow. Lovingly, wantingly and motherly attentiveness is required to have a good garden.  Anyone can do it…but in my experience several that try and skip any part of what I described above will find a less than stellar outcome.  So, Perrin I said…do you want to know the secret to growing great snap beans? She looked at me very focused as if I was going to share the secrets of the universe with her. yes..she said…I held out a couple of small pale bean seeds in my palm passing them to her hands…and said you have to want them to grow… A few minutes later I walked by Perrin planting the bed of beans…I could hear her talking as she was planting one by one down the long 40ft bed…she was whispering kinda singsong…grow little beans grow…:)  I am happy to report Perrin’s bed of beans are now 6″ tall and growing very nicely indeed.

As the days get hotter here on the farm the weeds get taller and we begin to see our nemesis “Bermuda grass”.  Oh how Mark and I hate dealing with this aggressive, evasive bloody mass of green that will take over a bed and a garden if left unchecked over night. This is where we spend a great deal of money, time and effort trying to keep this grass from choking out our crops. It loves this hot weather and will grow like a wild fire.  Nothing can stop it but plain old digging it out. You can’t pull it…you can’t mulch it…you can even kill it with Roundup…it will come right back….and stronger. We lose a couple of farm crew every year about mid summer…they just can’t handle weeding out the Bermuda grass anymore. Well that and having to work the weedeaters…nobody likes that either. I offend wonder if people really think working on a farm is going to be easy work…not hot, sweaty, weedy…mud on your boots and under your nails kind of work. I think all those magazines about Urban farming and backyard gardening with their weedless gardens and dewy looking perfect produce are about as realistic in real life as vogue is in representing what real women look like.  By the way….this is what a real female farmer looks like with no makeup:)Lovin that CoOp cap and muck boots:)

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