Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Weather Woes

No pics today! Snow, ice and freezing rain have grounded my van. Oh Four Wheel Drive, how I long for thee! An E-150 is not the best choice for this slop, so I decided to stay home and focus on paperwork. There is always plenty of domestic artistry (laundry, dishes etc) waiting for my undivided attention. The mending basket is full and a stack of dress material is parked by the sewing machine. Saturday 2 embroidery jobs are due, ei yi yi, better get busy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finally, A Work Day

Our BCS needed repair work and general maintenance, ditto for the flail mower. The seal on the mower got ripped by embedded twine-very, very, bad! Stuff happens. Whatever the cost, I will feel good knowing that my equipment is in the best condition, ready to work. Vince from the shop came and hauled them up to Ephrata, sort of like having your car towed.

Temps outside were around freezing, not so it the tunnel. At 11:00 it was 60*, by 1:30 it had jumped to 73*, causing us to peel off all extra layers. What a wonderful feeling to be in the soil again. While I prepped the soil, Aaron brought in snow for much needed moisture around the cutting celery and parsely. The rosemary bushes have survived, without water for the last 2 months. I was worried the cold would kill them. A min-max thermometer still hasn't been placed in the tunnel. So, what was the lowest temp? I have no idea.

Max LOVES snow. He gets grumpy when I make him come inside, just like a little kid. It turned out to be a perfect dog day-snow, fresh air, a good stick to chew away the hours, and plenty of deer tracks to sniff.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

20 Mile Per Hour Crawl

My 2 1/2 hour drive to class turned into a 4+ hour drive. The roads were slick, slushy, icy in spots and temps in teens did not help. A monster John Deer tractor was helping 18 wheelers up a grade on route 322, using an equally monster tow chain. Traffic was pretty much in the 20-30 mph range for the whole trip. Visibility from additional fog, in low lying areas, obscured all but the tail lights of the car ahead. Salt spray was compounding the problem. The washer fluid was frozen, despite blasting the defroster on hot. Wipers just schmeared the frozen slop, creating a nightmare coating. Thankfully the ride home went alright. Chicken Little for sure!!

The landscape was pure Winter Wonderland. I rolled down the van window to try and get a shot, but the daylight was fading. Every farm appeared serene. Lamplight shone through barn windows and behind farmhouse curtains. Milking time. Very quiet, very cold and very beautiful.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Wintery Day

Sadie takes in a few birds from a warmer vantage point. She uses the window as her personal exit/entrance, hence the smudgy curtains. Meeoooow, let me out, then the reverse, this time on the other side of the window, usually standing up, hanging on the screen. I'd much rather have a cat flap, but hubby doesn't want one.

Tonight is the second of eight classes on farm business planning, and it is really snowing. Since I'm Chicken Little when it comes to driving, and it's a 2 1/2 hour drive, suffice it to say I'm not excited. Guess I'll just grit my teeth and put my life in the Lord's hands. This year I may be towing a box trailer, so I better get over what ails me. Plenty of women have learned to drive all sorts of trucks, tractors, farm equipment and trailers.

One of my hobbies is weaving on the loom pictured above. Many market customers also order custom embroidery at my stand. The quality of store bought towels is so poor that I am considering weaving my own towel fabric. A Winter day is the only available time to work on a project. Once February, and especially March, arrives fugetaboutit! Planting season starts and all hobbies take a back seat.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Someone Else Is Suffering The Same Disease

Feeling the Need for Seeds

By Barbara Damrosch
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 15, 2009; Page H04

"A little madness in the spring," wrote Emily Dickinson, "is wholesome even for the king." Gardeners experience more than their share of spring madness, and it is already well underway. The seed catalogues have arrived.

Even if we have enough seeds left from last year to feed the neighborhood, we are powerless before catalogue prose. I might not have room in my plot for Long Pie pumpkin with its "virtually stringless, smooth and brilliant orange meat," from High Mowing Organic Seeds ( Or for Borlotto Lamon bean, "THE bean for pasta fagiolo," says Seeds From Italy (, but what's two more little packets? And how about Barbecue rosemary from Richters (, with stems strong enough to pierce kebabs? How did I ever live without that?

Prowl through the pages and you will get a colorful snapshot of contemporary gardening tastes. Cute, small and pretty still count for a lot, judging by the frequent appearance of Lil' Pump-Ke-Mon, a single-serve white pumpkin with orange and green stripes. Hansel and Gretel, a matched set of slim, extra-early eggplants that can be eaten young (he's purple, she's white), are everywhere, too. So are Speckled Swan gourds. Sweet tooths will love the new Honey Bear squash from Johnny's ( or John Scheepers's Kestrel beet ( Iceberg lettuce is back. Pawpaws have caught on. Fenugreek, used in curry, is suddenly common. Gourmet associations abound in names such as Pinot Noir pepper and Black Truffle tomato, both from Burpee ( And the slow-food concept reigns. According to George Ball at the Cook's Garden (, "Slow is the new fast."

Breeders are always working to make vegetables behave. Does Confetti cilantro at Territorial ( really resist bolting? Is Plato squash from Johnny's really non-prickly? Let's try them and see.

Heirlooms are as popular as ever, and not just in treasure houses such as Baker Creek ( or Seed Savers Exchange ( A beautiful peach-colored squash called Australian Butter shows up time and again, as does Bennings Green Tint, a flavorful pattypan squash. Arugula selvatica (sylvetta), a wilder form of arugula, is, surprisingly, at Stokes (, a no-nonsense catalogue aimed largely at commercial growers. Even the obscure green agretti, the latest "in" vegetable at fancy Italian restaurants, according to Seeds From Italy, is now carried by Johnny's as well. I'd better check it out.

It's not just the seeds. I'll have to get High Mowing's Cow Pots, made of dried, pressed manure. And singer Greg Brown's CD, "Sin, Salvation and Saving Seeds," recorded at the Seed Savers farm in Iowa. And how about Burpee's own credit card, printed with a big red tomato on it? Looks as though I might need that, too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Chores

This time of year is tool fixin' time! I gathered all the hand hoes and harvest knives for the annual tune up. First all the blades get a new edge, then all the handles get sanded and oiled. If there is any rust on the blades I have a very cool widget that makes it disappear. A 2"x 3" eraser, embedded with grit, makes short work of rust removal. Not just for rust, this little gem is great for all kinds of stuff around the shop. Today the blades got sharpened. Tuesday will be the next available day to finish the handles.

Pennsylvania is experiencing a snowstorm, a perfect day for staying inside and accomplishing this chore. I'm trying to tackle my winter "to do" list. Everyday my goal is to check off at least one item. One thing about farming-timing is everything. Each job has a window of opportunity, snooze you lose! Missed deadlines result in long term consequences. Winter is also the time for farming conferences and classes. I've signed up for an eight week Penn State class on business planning. The PASA (Pennsylvania Association Sustainable Agriculture) conference is one of the largest in the country. Folks come from all over to soak up all things farming. You can visit and check out the conference schedule and speakers here
This year I'm not attending, sad as sad can be.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Finally, got it to work! She was skin and bones, only 6 months old and had been chained and starved outside in 95 degree heat. A real sweetheart.

Two Companions

These are my two SPCA dogs. Max is a Chow-Retriever mix, a walking fur ball. Grace is either a full or mixed Pit Bull, who was a cruelty case. They are my bed warmers, travel companions, couch potatoes, vole catchers, lap lovers and snacking accomplices. Where I go they go, as in LOVE ME LOVE MY DOG.

They are on 20 foot tie outs when we are at the plot. This year I am going to put in a fence so they can run around in their own space. Unfortunately there is a highway only 200 feet away so they can't run wild. A neighbor's dog got instantly killed on this road. The speed limit is 45 so of course the cars are pushing 50-60 mph. In the photo Grace is pulling Max's tie out to get him to play. He is more sedate and would rather hunker down with a good stick. I had to wait almost 22 years before my husband let me get a dog. I sure do love them.


Photo Problems

Well I knew sooner or later a computer glitch would happen. I had photos of the dogs and now they are gone. Another opportunity to learn how stuff works.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Fine Day

Cloudy skies did not dampen our spirits as we set out for our little plot. A trip to the post office finally got those seed orders on their way, glad that's finished. We then headed for the tunnel where lots of leftover asian greens (that were still looking good)needed to be ripped out and sent to the compost pile. The ground will be prepped, amended with rock dust fertilizer, marked off into beds and seeded.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Crop Planning

The last of the seed orders is finished! A crop sheet is indispensable. I have a big canvas PASA bag and it holds all essentials for working, sort of like a ladies farming purse. That crop sheet is always
in the bag. Since we aren't around the corner, remembering stuff is even more necessary. Lunch, drinks, cups, paperwork, camera, hand sanitizer, books, plot maps, county maps, floatsom and jetsom all end up in the bag. It can seem like a bottomless pit when I'm trying to find something.

Next up..........crop planting schedule for each veggie. This is comparable to an orchestra playing beautiful music, as opposed to chaotic noise. Each crop must begin and end on time, otherwise your CSA box will be a disappointing culinary melody.

January means onions. Hundreds of greens threads poking out of their soil blocks, threatening to become hopelessly tangled. Eventually they will size up to about the thickness of a pencil. At that point they may be placed in the ground. Perennial flowers and herbs are notoriously fussy. Each has certain requirements to ensure adequate germination. So for those of you who wonder what a farmer does when "not working".................we are WORKING, just not under 90 degree sunshine.