welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the roving band of hoodlums

This morning, the dogs alerted me to the fact that we had visitors. Going to the door to see who was here, I found the local roving band of hoodlums in the driveway. Looking for trouble. As I went out to greet them, they laughed at me. I laughed right back. We stood there chuckling together for a few minutes before they decided to move along.

These guys have been seen hanging around the area for the past couple of weeks and I'm so happy they decided to stop in for a brief visit today. It's so nice to get company, don't you think?

I offered them a little corn and some chicken food, but they didn't seem all that interested.

'Bye guys, see you around!

got dirt?

This is what my garage looks like right now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

planting for the future

Yesterday the first of this year's seeds were planted. Each plug tray has 288 cells, and two of them are full of seeds now, so there are 576 future plants germinating on my kitchen counter.

Is it normal to love running your fingers through dirt? To love the smell of fresh, moist soil? It's almost as good as puppy-breath. And you dog lovers, you know what I'm talking about here. Smells that make you close your eyes, breathe deeply and sigh. Because for just that one moment, all is well with the world*. How could it be otherwise when innocent puppies and freshly sown earth both exist? So much potential, so much life waiting inside these tiny packages.

I started with the strawberry seeds. Ordered one hundred and was surprised at how small the packet was. And inside that packet was an even smaller glassine envelope. That's when I knew I was in trouble. Strawberry seeds are incredibly miniscule, and nearly impossible to pick up. And whatever you do, don't drop one - you'll never in a million years find it again. You know how the seeds in strawberry jam are so tiny you barely notice them? Until one gets stuck in your teeth? Like that. I poured them out onto a saucer and thought "there's no way there are a hundred seeds here." (There were 108.) And by the way, who's job is it to count and package seeds that are smaller than a pinhead?

Trees were also sown. Yup, trees. Planting for the future. With trees, you are often planting for the next generation. It's a different sort of feeling. First I seeded a couple dozen tulip poplars, or "tulip trees" as they're known hereabouts. Also going in were nearly a hundred apple trees. Un-named, open-pollinated seeds from trees grown from seed that came from Kazakhstan, which is believed to be the original source of all apple trees. After reading The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, I contacted the person at Cornell University who is in charge of the apple genetics program or some such thing. As the book says, he'll send seeds to anyone that asks. It must be true because he sent some to me. Now apparently open pollinated apple seeds do not breed true. In Kazakhstan, they grow as shrubs and big tall trees and everything in between. Bitter, sour, sweet, you never know what sort of apple you're going to get. So these seeds I got? They're a mystery. I'll be planting a bunch of seedlings here on fence rows and along the edges of the woods. The rest I'll offer up for sale along with all the other plants. But if you'd like to grow your own, read the book, contact the guy at Cornell and have fun!

*And no, I'm not making light of the terrible tragedies that happen every day all over the world, but sometimes, just for a moment, all is well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

mid-atlantic fruit & vegetable convention

The Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention is being held February 2-4 in Hershey, PA. Just like this  is my first year to grow commercially, it will also be the first time I attend this event. There are some good speakers and workshops, but what I'm most looking forward to is the trade show. I have my heart set on getting a small hoop house before November of this year, and hopefully the show will have some good vendors. That's right, the big greenhouse project was just completed, nothing is even growing in it yet, and already I'm looking to expand. See, here's the thing - by January of 2011 I'd like to be in year-around production. Which means having enough square footage under cover to make that feasible. So what I'm looking for is a down and dirty, simple, unheated cold house in order to over-winter and winter-harvest carrots and leeks. That will allow the main greenhouse to be reserved mostly for winter salad greens. If I keep it small enough to be moveable, clearly unattached to anything, and totally non-permanent, then dealing with the (no, you're not a farm) zoning officer won't have to be a part of my life this year. And that's a good great thing!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 plant list

The 2010 plant list is now official, and starting in mid-April, plants will be available for purchase. All different colors and varieties of tomatoes and potatoes and eggplants, oh my! Seriously though, if you're into growing things, it's pretty exciting.

Now for some facts and figures...
With the exception of potatoes, all items offered are well-grown seedlings in 4" pots and are priced at $2.50/pot. Potatoes are sold by the pound at $2.50/pound. Onions are planted 4 to a pot and can be planted as a bunch of four, straight from the pot into your garden.

To purchase seedlings...
You can find us at three different plant shows this spring*. (I'll post about these shows again as their dates draw nearer.):
Pennsylvania Herb Festival in York, PA, April 16-17
Landis Valley Herb Fair in Lancaster, PA, May 7-8
SECA Plant Sale in Quarryville, PA
If you cannot make it to one of these shows and will simply perish if you can't find a Listada de Gandia eggplant, a Petite Gris de Rennes melon, or a Bloody Butcher tomato, then by all means send an email or give a call to make arrangements for farm pick-up. We'll also be at Eastern Market in Lancaster, but that doesn't start until the end of May, which is pretty late for planting anything other than the true heat loving plants.

*Tulip Tree Hill participation in these events is not yet official, so check back to make sure we'll be there. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Wow. Let's here it for Johnny's Seeds! I placed my order the day before yesterday, with normal (cheapest) shipping, and today the box of potentialities arrived! My goodness, what great service.

One of the things I'd like to try is making hanging baskets of strawberries. There were plants available specifically for that purpose, but were rather expensive. So instead, I ordered seeds. That will keep costs down for me as well as my customers. If it works, everyone's a winner. Ideally, these puppies will at least be blooming, if not already setting fruit by the middle of May - just in time for Mother's day. What a nice gift, right? One that tastes good, looks good, and keeps on giving.

making lists, and ordering everything on them...

So far, about half of this year's seeds have been ordered - everything I plan to get from Johnny's seeds. The next order to go in will be to Baker Creek. Then just a few odds and ends that neither of these places provide such as sweet potatoes and weird stuff like cotton and licorice. I have to admit to loving the oddball species and varieties - just wait until you see my seedling list! Can you even stand the suspense? Speaking of which, it should soon be available here for anyone who's interested in starting their own plant-buying list.

It's all coming together and starting to happen, folks! Before you know it, spring will be here and all the preparations will begin paying off.

Monday, January 4, 2010

greetings from the gang

Aster (on the far right) seems to be on the mend and doing well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

rosemary buttermilk potato bread

Today just felt like a bread-making sort of day. So while looking through "The Joy of Cooking", which is my favorite cookbook ever (I mean it's good enough to just sit and read like a novel), I found a recipe for buttermilk potato bread. So I made some. But with a couple minor changes, because that's how I am. I added crushed rosemary to the dough and then topped it with more rosemary and some sea salt before baking it.

The book says that after you take it out of the oven, you're supposed to let it cool for a half hour before slicing and eating. Who are they kidding? My whole house smelled like warm bread and it was hours since breakfast! I only held out about 15 minutes before caving in and slicing a piece off, slathered it with butter and orange marmalade.

It was so good,

I had another.

And that was lunch.