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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

thoughts of spring salads

Here's something I found and wanted to share with you. Yugoslavian Red Lettuce from The Cook's Garden. Isn't it beautiful? After seeing the picture and reading the description, I just had to order a pack of seeds to try it out even though I already had all the lettuce seeds needed for this season. Here's what the Cooks Garden has to say about it...

Saved by a peasant family in Marburg, Yugoslavia, this beautiful butterhead is as decorative as it is tasty. Large, full heads grow to a foot across, with deeply puckered, apple green leaves tinged with pomegranate red. The buttery, succulent flavor pairs well with apples or strawberries for a sweet summer salad.

How can you resist that? Makes the mouth water, is what it does. Especially in the dead of winter when thoughts of fresh greens are dancing in your head. 

If you haven't gotten The Cook's Garden catalog, check it out. Perhaps they don't have as big of a selection as some seed companies, but what they have is certainly appealing. And if you try this lettuce, let me know what you think of it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

you saw it here first

The worldwide unveiling of the Tulip Tree Hill farm logo! (as though you care.)

I've been wanting to work on the logo and for months have had this idea floating around in my head and also on little scraps of paper littering my desk. Finally, this week I buckled down and got it done. It's very close to my sketches and so it must be good to let an idea percolate before proceeding. Or at least that's what I'll tell myself from now on as I agitate about personal tendencies towards procrastination.

At any rate, I'm pretty happy with the end result, however it came about, and am excited about using it on business cards, flyers, signage, you name it.

The new logo has been added to the 2010 plant list so if you haven't downloaded it yet, now's a good time. It's also the farm's new facebook image.

There's another big announcement coming up in the next couple of days. I don't want to spoil the surprise by saying more, but do check back to see what's going on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

early potatoes go in

A cold and rainy day here today – such a contrast to the sunny weekend, part of which was spent in a t-shirt in the greenhouse, prepping and planting the first bed of the year with early Rose Gold potatoes. I started out by tilling the bed twice, before adding a bale of peat moss, some organic rock phosphate, greensand, blood meal, and bone meal. I then tilled it one more time, made a furrow, dropped in the seed potatoes at one foot spacing, and covered them up. Now we wait. Hopefully, this planting was timed so that new potatoes will be on the market stand by early June.

Next on the planting agenda are the tomato seedlings. A little early to put them in, maybe, but they are growing like nobody's business and need to get in the ground.

Also, in the next couple of weeks many of the seeds will be planted for seedling sales at the herb and plant fairs in York, Lancaster, and Quarryville. More details on those events later.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

future residents

I got busy this morning and made arrangements for some additional residents here on the hill.

First, chickens. Specifically, Blue Silkies. When you have truly free-ranging chickens, things happen to them. Often unpleasant things. Becoming dinner for hawks, drowning in the sheep's water tank, or falling behind a stack of hay and getting stuck there. Like that. It's sad to find the evidence of a mishap, and thankfully, so far I haven't become immune to it. After all, it should touch us when a creature in our care comes to a bad end. This past year was tougher than most for the chickens and just a remnant remains. And so thirty peeps will be arriving in early May. Silkies, because they can't fly over the fence and make trouble in the market garden. Plus, they're cute as heck. And hey, I need my animals to be aesthetically pleasing.

Next, something I've been pondering for the past year and a half - honey bees. These girls are at least as big a step for me as the bumbles. Although I won't have to work near their home on a daily basis like the bumbles, I will need to actually get into their hive every once in a while. At least once a year if I want any honey. I can see it now - I'll be bundled up like that little kid in "A Christmas Story", except in white. Should be a hoot.

Monday, February 15, 2010

oops, too soon

I received a package today that wasn't expected until early April. Potatoes. Specifically, Russian Banana fingerling seed potatoes. When I placed my order, I accidentally selected early delivery on these puppies. I'll definitely be keeping what I need for planting here, but there are twenty extra pounds that were meant to be sold at the herb and plant fairs in the spring. Perhaps they will still look nice by then, but perhaps not (although, even if they don't look nice and are all sprouty, they'll still be good to plant). Sooooo, my mistake can be your gain! If anyone wants some Russian Bananas at a really good price, make arrangements to stop by the farm to pick them up.  I'll be selling them for $2.50 a pound, and a pound of fingerlings will plant about twenty feet of row. Not a bad deal, really.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

spring preparations

Anxious to get started planting, but needing to wait for the proper timing, I finished three projects inside the greenhouse. All using salvaged lumber from old fencing here on the hill. Even though they are "new" pieces, they're pretty rough-looking due to the age of the wood. But since the only cost was some nails and my time they were a pretty good deal, really.

First, a potting/work table...

A heated transplant bed...
Wondering what those two pipes sticking up are? They hold up the heating unit in the southeast corner. There's a matching unit in the opposite corner. While these areas are awkward, square footage is at a premium so every nook and cranny needs to be used. Since the opposite corner is the shadiest and also the coolest (due to the attached barn), I've been pondering what to do with it. Now, with the likelihood of bumbles being part of the equation, that'll probably be their home since they need some shade in the summer heat.

And an unheated seedling bed...
The seedling bed will be used for starting leeks and onions, later to be transplanted outdoors. According to my self-imposed schedule, this seeding needs to start next week.

The main planting beds are marked out and ready to be prepared for planting - just as soon as the replacement belt arrives for the tiller. Maybe by the weekend, which is good since early potatoes are also scheduled for next week.

Seriously, all this talk of planting in the ground seems so very wrong when we are in the midst of our second blizzard within a week. This morning I re-shoveled a path to the barn so the sheep, geese, and chickens could be fed and watered. Looking out the window, it's as though the path was never there. Completely filled in. I'll be shoveling again for the evening feeding. If it weren't for the animals I wouldn't step foot outside in this kind of weather. I hate winter. Is hate too strong a word? Doesn't matter, it's true. Hate it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

hello, spring... are you there? hello?

There is something like two feet of fresh snow out there and although slowing, it's still coming down. Not my idea of a good time at all. The sheep and chickens are huddled in the barn, not wanting to go out and risk getting stuck in a drift. The geese are seemingly happily sitting outside even though they can get in if they want. Weirdos. The dogs went out and played for awhile, bouncing around, enjoying the novelty of snow above their backs, but then came in shivering and covered in snowballs. As for me, after going out early this morning to make sure everyone had food and water, I came back in to quietly go crazy. Happens every year about this time, mid-January through February. A pressure from within starts building, the place deep inside of me that craves dewey mornings and balmy evenings, the scent of freshly mown grass, warm soil, and the feeling of sunshine on bare arms. Winter is to be endured. Spring, celebrated. I'm ready to celebrate. Past ready, really.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

vegetables and the bees that love them

I attended the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Convention this week. So much information! There were educational lectures all day long as well as a trade show which was useful for learning about new products (and I also bought a very nice harvest knife and sharpener for about half what it sells for in catalogs). I'll tell you, since starting on this path of market gardening, there has been almost an information overload. So much to learn and know in so little time. And of course for once in my life I'm not starting out slowly, but instead am jumping in whole hog - so to speak. Of course, this is like heaven to me - I love to read, learn, and keep my mind busy. And busy it has been. For instance: just last week, I learned that a lot of folks use bumble bees in their green/hoop houses for pollination of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and squash. Exactly the summer vegetables I'll be growing in mine. Apparently it's better than hand pollination in increasing the number and size of the vegetables. But, I thought, how could a semi-recovering bee-phobe like me intentionally bring bumbles into my greenhouse? No Way, nope, not going to happen. Then yesterday at the convention trade show, was an exhibitor with a display of the little monsters... in a clear plexiglass box to better see them in all their gruesome glory. ick. ugh. eeeeeew. But as a recovering anything, sometimes you have to face your fears. And so I spent some time talking with the very nice bee woman and learning about her "product". Sigh. There could well be bumbles in this farm's future. We'll see.