Friday, March 30, 2012

Springtime plowin', planting', and parsnips!

Spring means time in the greenhouse, and time on the tractor! Check out my new disc-harrow:
It does a nice job working up the soil. I got excited that the ground was dry and plowed up about 4 acres this week. Some of those will be planted into veggies soon: peas, carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, and more. Some of those acres will be planted into cover crops, to rest and restore the soil.
Look at these cute baby cabbages!
And finally all the spring parsnips have been dug up! We'll be distributing them, as well as stored carrots, Thursday night in Rochester, and Friday morning on the farm. Email me at if you want to purchase some. Thanks to all the helpers who got a work-out with me digging them up!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Greenhouse work begins

This summery weather has been nothing but GREAT for starting seeds and getting the farm up-and-running for the 2012 season. Usually I spend hundreds of dollars on propane to heat our greenhouse, and I haven't had to turn the heater on yet! Most seeds like it around 75 degrees during the day, and 55 degrees at night. This has been exactly the weather for the past 2 weeks! I just open all the doors and vents, and put a couple fans in there during the day, and I don't even need to close up at night. It is pretty toasty in there in the day, but I like to see it as a beneficial sauna-esque sweat when I'm working in there. I just make sure to drink lots of water.
The plants drink a lot too, we water them about twice a day. All the flower and herb seeds are very tiny, so they are started in these rows and then carefully transplanted out into larger-celled trays.
These gloves get to do some work again!

The farm is a bit chaotic right now, as everything was put away for the winter, and now things are being pulled out and re-organized. This old Ontario grain drill is a spring project, it's about 100 years old and I intend to fix it up and sow cover crops with it.
The garlic has grown about an inch a night for the past few weeks.
It's really beautiful. Soon we will lay irrigation tape on it and mulch it with straw.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mud Creek Farm Spring Parsnips Available!!!

Planted May 1st, 2011, these guys almost made it around the entire calendar. Today, St. Patrick's Day, we dug up the first of our overwintered parsnips (an experiment I tried out this year for the first time). Quite amazing to think about actually -- that anything left in the ground for over 10 months would still be edible! I roasted some up for dinner with olive oil & salt, and they are incredibly sweet! Apparently this is the way to grow/eat parsnips. And imagine the nutrients from a crop that is in that rich organic soil for that long. My father remarked that it's amazing that they haven't been eaten by bugs or something in all that time... I think they must have their own plant defense system somehow, and that's got to be good for us too.

Enjoy these photos of the harvest, and if you want to purchase some of these hearty delicacies, email We also have carrots left too!

Parsnip Bisque:
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped coarse
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
  • 1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), washed and chopped coarse
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F..

In a shallow baking pan toss parsnips with 1/2 tablespoon oil to coat and arrange in one layer. Roast parsnips in middle of oven, turning occasionally, 30 minutes.

In a bowl toss onion, celery, and leek with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and add to pan. Return pan to oven and roast vegetables, turning parsnips and stirring vegetables occasionally, 30 minutes, or until golden. Cool vegetables slightly and chop parsnips coarse.

In a large saucepan simmer broth with vegetables, covered, 20 minutes. In a blender pureƩ mixture in batches with cream (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer soup to cleaned saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, March 16, 2012

...and they're off!

The potting soil has arrived. The weeds are growing already in the fields. The birds and the spring peepers are singing with all their might. The tractor shed has a roof (billboard) now! These sunshine-filled days are great. Here we go...
Join us one of these nice weekends for a few hours of good ol' farmwork -- get on our volunteer email list to be kept up-to-date with volunteering opportunities. Email me at


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

winter-spring-summer? what time of year is it again?

People ask me a lot lately, how does this crazy weather we've been having affect farmers? My response is always, "I don't really know." I haven't been farming long enough to know. My fourth-generation farming neighbor Jack says he can't remember a winter like this. Major climate change is certainly upon us, and will only get crazier in our lifetimes, I do believe.

A warm winter will likely mean that the populations of bugs, bacteria, fungi, and other critters that like to munch vegetables stay strong and don't get killed off by deep freezes. That means more competition for us, who also love vegetables. Farmers this summer will probably rely heavily on their arsenals of sprays-- organic farmers definitely have access to a wide range of organically-certified pesticides.

I have always been personally disinterested in spraying anything at all, believing that with careful planning and crop rotation, attention to soil health, correct timing, sufficient irrigation, etc. I can maintain a preventative health program for the crops. Besides, I only have a small backpack sprayer, and it is a lot of work to manage six acres of vegetables with this labor-intensive tool. And organic sprays cost a fortune, and some are arguably ineffective.

I have no idea how this season will play out. One can only expect more surprises, like last year's cold, wet spring, 5-week long drought in July, and early fall Hurricane. This summer I may have to ask CSA members to forgive us if there are more holes in the arugula, or if the broccoli crop fails (it's very sensitive to temperature swings). That's why I grow 5o different kinds of crops, with several varieties of each crop. We hedge our bets. No matter what the weather, something will do well. We may just have to learn to modify our diets a bit more, accepting what's really in season for this particular year!

In the meantime, though, I'm enjoying the thaw... getting out to take hikes and play some tennis, (even on courts that don't have nets this time of year), to quell my eager anxious energy to Plow Plow Plow and Plant Plant Plant. It is definitely too early to do any of that yet, even though this warmth awakens the urge real bad.

The greenhouse will start up in a few days, stop by and see me if you're in Victor town.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seeds and Roots

Yesterday I spent all day working with seeds and roots.

Cornell Cooperative Extension held a morning workshop for farmers right at the building I happened to be distributing the root shares at later that day. What great luck! And the weather smelled of summer.
The workshop was led by researchers at Rutgers University, who brought out their fancy machines for hot-water treating seeds -- I learned all about bacterial plant pathogens, and watched a slide show loaded with scary pictures of cabbage diseases and tomato canker. Apparently if you pre-soak your seeds in 120 degree water, you reduce your risk of bringing plant diseases into your field! What's the deal with seed companies giving us pathogens with our seeds anyway? Well, the more we demand clean seed, the more they will provide I guess. It's always a race though to keep up with the changes in the vegetable farm ecosystem, especially now with the wacky climate changes starting to happen.
So we as organic farmers need all the help we can get keeping our plants healthy and strong. I brought to the workshop all the tomato, pepper, and broccoli-family seeds for the whole season and they got to have a nice long dip in the hot tub! It took us hours to make and label these screen packets to hold the different varieties (I grow so many different kinds!) Then we laid them out to dry. Not long, little seeds, your chance to grow will come.
As for roots, Luke & I loaded 3 heavy pallets of carrots, beets, parsnips, and rutabagas from the warehouse (our giant root cellar) onto his pick-up truck, and distributed them from the parking lot to 120 people! 20 lbs of roots for each root-share = 2,400 lbs, that's over a ton! I like to imagine a hundred trays of roasted root veggies coming out of people's ovens and nourishing them through these late-winter nights. Someone just emailed me this photo of Ms. Rutabaga:
And I took the photo below, as I stood here and realized that the entire farm fit in just these few boxes sitting on the dining room table. Food for over 300 families for half the year, just throw on the ground and add water! What incredible potential a tiny seed has. A whole pallet of carrots, and the seed could fit in one hand.
I think this is a really pivotal point in the season, getting to see all these delicious roots that are still crisp and sweet from last fall, and all these thousands of tiny seeds that will be the sweetness of this summer. The circle is almost overlapping.