The Weather Said “Share Now”

While it rained cats and dogs in Connecticut last week, there was less than 1 in rain at the farm, but it was enough to make the lettuce happy. What I’m worried about now is that the sun keeps shining and the temperature keeps climbing above 80.  A few days is all that is needed for cool weather crops to bolt and send up a flower stalk.  When that happens, while it is still edible, there really isn’t much time before the stalks get tough.

So we are distributing the first Greenwich share 1 week early, today! I thought I had all the time in the world to set up the distribution and make custom coolers, and, and… I was wrong. Who knew tractor supply would sell out of pails (I grabbed the last couple for now). I’ll be buying some ice to keep things cool.

 

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Craptastic Weather

2020 either needs to fast forward, or we need a re-do. The second weekend of May and there’s a snow squall. It’s been many weeks of cold weather, with overnight frost warnings. 20200509_173602

Usually by mid-May, the tomato plants go into the ground to soak up nutrients and bask in the springtime sun. I can’t risk doing this yet until the overnight temperatures are over 45 degrees, so this doesn’t bode well for an early crop.

Usually by mid-May, spinach and lettuce are about 2 inches and we are happily hand weeding around the plants.

Usually by mid-May, the sugar snap peas are about 2 feet tall and have sent tendrils up, reaching for the sky.

Not yet. So I wait. I won’t give into the depressive sight of all this, because I just might need to artificially soak seeds in water, kept under a warm lamp to simulate the spring rains, and then hand-plant the germinated seeds one by one by next weekend. Ugh.

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Ok summer 2020, here goes!

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We are planting for 2020, and we will run the vegetable csa for on-farm pickup as well as Greenwich pickup for the season. Summer is an optimistic time – as I write this, the sun is streaming in through the east and warming up my soul. But I’m ready to mentally go back to older days where one needs to plan for the winter and lean times. Follow along this summer and find out what we are hoping to try at the farm this year.

CSA signup: I need your contact info, what size share, and pick up location. You can mail checks, or give me til next week to set up a Zelle account with our bank – apparently electronic payments are all the rage these days LOL.

Warwick CSA – pickups begin on SUN 6/14 at 397 Big Island Rd

Greenwich CSA – pickups begin on MON 6/15 at Connecticut Ave (off East Elm St)

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Are You Kale-ing Me?

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Though I work in technology during the day, I have a weekend mantra of unplugging. Well, maybe mantra sounds too intentional. The reality is that once I’m in the field, staring down rows and rows of weeds encroaching upon rows and rows of future dinners, I just forget about everything and start weeding. The phone rings in the bag that is left in the car. The pings and buzz of social media notification matter not.

So, it is completely OUT OF CHARACTER for me to facebook live last weekend! But I tried it, it was fun, and you’ll be seeing more videos from the farm this season. I will spare you the hours of weeding, but I’ll take you through the various plants as they grow throughout the season.

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Starting up 2019 Vegetable Season

Happy to announce that Russo Family Farms is growing vegetables for the 2019 season and running a farm-share program again! I have been starting seeds since mid-March, and there are easily 400 seedlings in the basement waiting for the weather to settle so it can get into the ground.

You know how I like to experiment? I’m trying to start tobacco seeds and wondering how it’ll pan out in this region. Tobacco plants contain nicotine, which can be used as a natural pesticide. The seeds are a few years old and it’s been too cold, so nothing has germinated, but one can hope.

 

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Minerals for Health

The zucchini plants were displaying symptoms of blossom end rot, a condition in which the flower end of the zucchini turns black and rots due to lack of calcium. I doubt that we depleted the soil over the last five years, as I always rotate crops. However, the lack of rain for the month of June might have been responsible for not enough calcium moving into the plant. It can happen to any fruiting plant such as cucumbers and tomatoes.

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So I raced off to get Tums and Epsom Salt. Yep. Calcium and magnesium. While I had a pail of eggshells soaking along with some used coffee beans (waiting for the calcium to dissolve), these plants need immediate intervention. Tums has calcium, and Epsom salt is magnesium.

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A late-planted row of tomato plants got an alternate treatment as they are not yet setting fruit – potassium water made from breaking down banana peels.

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I was hoping to cover this field in sunflowers this season. But none of the sunflowers generated yet. Might try again next week though there probably won’t be enough time for seeds.

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The farm next door grows onions and they have had to irrigate. This machine filters to water they pump from a well. We’re not that fancy yet. It’s a bunch of 5 gallon buckets with some Tums, Epsom salt, and banana peels for us.

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Send Rain

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What a weird season! It rained all of May, and stayed cool until yesterday. No rain, no heat, no weeds.

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The lettuce experiment worked. On the left is a leaf lettuce that is chartruse green. On the right is a French heirloom called Rouge D’Hiver.

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Danggit, this is what happens the minute it gets hot. The broccoli rabe sprouted and we didn’t even get any.

Send rain, soon.

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Is it the 5th season?

When we started this farm adventure, I said “We could always try something for 5 years right?” Well, our 5th summer should start just after this weekend. Funny enough, I am very conflicted about this season. After putting aside personal projects for a few years, I feel like I really need to tackle other projects this year. I mean, when your kid says “Can we just put some sheetrock up”, you’ve gotta re-evaluate the condition of your living quarters a little right? After your husband gets quizzed on his internet connectivity on weekends, you’ve gotta wonder is this hobby hurting his earning potential? When you are the running from the farm to home to the 5am farmstand setup to the 7am train to work, you’ve gotta wonder isn’t it easier to go to Wholefoods? When your kid is growing up without weekend friends, you’ve gotta ask is it time to quit?

But first let me tell you about a recent small diversion.

Each May, I get tomato and pepper plants to transplant due to the late frost date in this region. Usually I pick up $150 worth of seedlings and our farmer friends send their extra plants. This year, I decided to start seedlings myself, using the commercial fridge as rack space, and some LED grow lights. As I learned quickly, once the seeds sprout, you have to buy a lot of seed starting soil to transfer the seedlings to successively larger pots in order to accomodate the multiplying roots.003

Several weeks later, I was on the internet clicking a button that says “Sure, send me $20 worth of red wiggler worms”. My thinking was of course I can try my hand at vermicomposting so that I have good seed starting soil. My son laughed for a good 20 minutes when I told him, and another 20 minutes when the package of live worms arrived. All this so I can start more seeds to grow more plants to transplant to the farm when the nighttime temperatures stabilize above 40.039005.JPG

I love the farm, I love planting, I love the people who stop to say hi, I love that my kid has a true connection to nature. Maybe I should slow down, but who am I kidding?001

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Fall Matrix

These pumpkins make me think of the matrix for some reason. Something about the square specks seem too digitally rendered.  Last year in our pumpkin patch, there were 4 pumpkins that looked like this. It wasn’t the “kakai”, a pumpkin that produces seeds without hulls – meaning there’s no white hard shell encasing the inner pumpkin seed. I saved the seeds and tried regrowing it.  The results generated a few of the possible strains that went into the hybrid – some white, some buff, some orange. Some had well defined lobes with long handles. Some were perfectly rotund in the middle and smooth with very fine veining on the rind. I will have to save some of these seeds and continue this breed.20171008_131653

On the opposite side of strange hybrids are these heirloom breeds. The Rouge vif d’Etampes, or the Cinderella pumpkin. Pink pumpkins are called Porcelain Dolls. Next year there were also be a blue pumpkin, and a light green pumpkin.
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I didn’t quite finish this year’s barnside vegetable stand for Milo this year. Got busy learning to build things with a battery-powered, and awesome, miter saw. But I did get to set up a quick fall display for….
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… the dry corn/indian corn/decorative corn! They grew beautifully and bountifully this year so that we’ll try our hand with a roadside market. Question is, who discovers this first – field mice, gophers, dear, or humans?
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The various colors of indian corn varieties.

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Summer Flush

001These okra flowers are a bit of tropics in the northeast. The pods can grow huge within a few days and the two-inch pod in the picture will probably become an eight-inch behemoth by Sat. They are edible raw, and when eaten this way, are not gooey. As the plants mature, the leaf shape changes and the lobes cut deeper into the center.

004Peppers are thriving and are now starting to fill out. I placed the plants in a zigzag pattern this year, hoping that as the plants get heavy and lean, they can support each other without the labor consuming time of staking.

007String beans. One of my favorite vegetables, blanched quickly and unseasoned as a snack. These purple variety “Royal Burgundy” are a treat to see.

010Oh my pride and joy, the melon that is. 🙂

014This variety of honeydew is called “Honeywhite”. The center is super sweet, but it still has a thick rind. Another week for a couple of the big ones on the vine, and early Sep for the rest.

020Last year we lost the canteloupes to the one wet and humid week of the entire droughty summer. This year, we took no chances and put down a straw cradle for each and every melon.

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