Are You Kale-ing Me?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.

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….

… 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?

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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Moving On

026Do you see it? The single untouched corn? This is our corn patch among the weeds. You would think the camouflage would help to disguise the ears of corn.

029The potatoes grew fairly well this year, a first for us! The colorado potato beetles were out in force this year and did damage a lot of foliage. It led to the plants shriveling and dying early in July. We still received a significant number of tubers though. I just can’t figure out where the blue potatoes went.

032Tomatoes are starting to ripen. Each year I have grand plans to stake, support, and manage the vines properly. They would be easier to harvest with proper staking and spacing.

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The Birds

009 I thought we put up the bird scares early enough. But the silver tapes that flutter up high in the wind didn’t scare these birds. They swooped in anyways.

010 Doing my yearly ritual of scavenging leftover portions of corn. The bottom two-thirds are perfectly fine to eat, for me.

013Sugar baby watermelons growing and growing.

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Maximum growth


Every year, we’ve been saving sunflower seeds to replant. And every year, I say that we should cut down the sunflowers early and till it back into the earth as a “green manure” to replenish the soil.  But then, who has the heart to cut down such a happy explosion of flowers? These flowers divide two types of dry corn, which would other wise cross pollinate. The ones here are a crossed variety that occurred last year when I planted red corn next to multicolor corn. The result was a beautifully blended striated corn. Who knew the seeds are so vigorous and would turn into these strong plants?


These are a purple okra plant. Hard to know if colorful food plants were always colorful, but were bred out because of demand for uniformity, or if market growers know that a colorful display is good for business. The only way for me to know is, save the seeds, and regrow them next year.


Cucumbers left and right, hidden beneath all that foliage.


Succession planting for continuous crops. The four short rows are carrots, string beans, beets, and more zucchini. I managed to maul a partial row of string beans this weekend, trying to avoid tractoring over zucchini leaves. Now that I think about it, does one ever NEED more zucchini plants?

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