'Tis Organic Apple Season!

Good Greetings!

Our joint Good Life Farm + Hemlock Grove Apple Shares are up for the Fall season!  Delight your family with a weekly or biweekly 10 lbs of fresh, organic apples!

Season's line UP:

Early Apples (til mid-September)

  • Paula Red  Tart but sweet, juicy and crisp, with a lovely white flesh. They're perfect for eating out of hand and makes a superb applesauce with little to no sugar additions required! Leave the skins on for a sauce with a beautiful pink hue.
  • Red Free  Great for eating out of hand. It is less sweet than Paula Red but will still make a great sauce. The flesh is barely off-white with plenty of crispness to it. Try slicing and drying this apple for a real treat!
  • Akane  Great for eating and cooking as it holds its shape well.  Suggested to be one of the best early apples. Cherry red in color and somewhat small in size with a sweet and mild flavor. Look for a bit of russeting on the shoulders and a pleasant crunch with each bite.
  • Burgundy  As it's name suggests, this apple is deeply colored with a purple-red skin that often bleeds color onto the flesh. The flavor is intense like the color and pleasingly tart.
  • Honeycrisp  Medium-large fruit, mottles and striped red over yellow. Cream-colored flesh is sweet and juicy with hard snapping-crisp texture. Best for fresh eating and holds well in cold storage.

Early-Mid Season (mid to late Sept)

  • McIntosh  Small- to medium-sized round fruit with a short stem. Macs have a vivid red skin brushed with bright green that is thick, tender, and easy to peel. Its white flesh is sometime tinged with green or pink and is juicy, tender, and firm. Great for fresh eating as well as cooking.
  • Sweet 16  Fine-textured crisp flesh contains an unusually complex combination of sweet, nutty and spicy flavors with slight anise essence, sometimes described as cherry, vanilla or even bourbon. Truly excellent fresh eating and also highly rated for cooking. Round-conic bronze-red medium-sized fruit, lightly striped red over yellow with cream-colored flesh. Keeps well in cold storage.
  • Scarlet O'Hara  Fruit is round-conic, full blushed red, sweet and juicy.  Medium storage life, delicious and perfect for fresh eating all Fall.
  • Liberty  Liberty is a handsome medium-sized, round-conic shaped red apple, with white flesh. It is juicy, crisp and has a sharp, mildly tart flavor. Fabulous for fresh eating and juice. It can be processed into a beautiful pinkish applesauce.

Mid to Late Season (early October)

  • Jonagold  If you're looking for a juicy apple, this one is it! Jonagold is a cross between sweet Golden Delicious and tart Jonathan, developed in Geneva, NY. These two parents produced an apple with a wonderful balanced sweetness - a honey flavor with a hint of tartness. This fluffy, crisp and juicy apple is great for eating, baking and sauce. Jonagolds make great fried apples; simply saute in coconut oil and add a little cinnamon.
  • Empire  Empire apples are red, juicy and crisp with a nice blend of sweet and tart. This tree, also developed in Geneva, NY, is a cross between the varieties Macintosh and Red Delicious. Empire apples are excellent for eating and salads, and good for sauce, baking, pies and freezing.
  • Enterprise  These apples are tart with a hint of sweetness, very firm, and are sometimes described as “spicy.” Their skin is a beautiful deep purple-red, although it is a tad on the thick side, and their flavor is excellent. Enterprises are great for slicing up and eating fresh, or use their firmness and tart flavor to enhance pies and other deserts! Makes for a superb storage apple.
  • Hudson's Golden Gem  Considered to be one of the best russeted apples, Gems are sweet, nutty, and distinctly pear-like in their texture and flavor. They are conical in shape, and their yellow skin is partially to mostly covered by russeting and sometimes sports a copper red blush. The original Gem was a chance seedling discovered in a fence row in Oregon; it was introduced for sale in 1931.
  • Tompkins County King  An antique variety popularized by Kingtown Orchards in Tompkins County in the early 1800‘s. Called the King of apples for its size and flavor, it was the fourth most popular variety in New York in the early 1900‘s. Considered by many to be the finest apple ever, it is crisp, course, sweet and juicy, with a real antique apple flavor. Unexcelled fresh eating quality and highly prized for sauce, pie and cider making.
  • Spigold  Spigold is a large apple, with red streaks over a yellow-green background. It is juicy and dense, with a sweet complex aromatic flavor that combines the best qualities of Northern Spy and Golden Delicious.

Late Season and Storage Apples (late Oct thru Winter)

  • Melrose  Large and slightly squat in shape, Melrose apples are a dusky red over a yellow-green background. Firm and pleasingly coarse in texture, this apple's creamy white flesh is juicy with a sweet and mildly tart flavor that becomes more floral and aromatic with age.
  • Northern Spy  An antique New York state apple, Northern Spy was originally discovered around 1800 in East Bloomfield. It became very popular for its juicy tart flavor and reputation as the best apple for making pies. Northern Spy apples are variably colored from green to red, and thin skinned. They store well, and are an all-purpose apple, good for fresh eating, cider making, and of course, excellent for pies!
  • Baldwin  Popular old American apple variety, widely grown for culinary use, and a good keeper. Its inherent hardness makes it an exceptionally good pie apple as it maintains it’s crispness through the baking process. This juicy, firm, sweet to mildly tart winter apple is also great for fresh eating.
  • Golden Delicious  :  Golden Delicious is an 1890’s heirloom with exceptional sweet flavor and silky, tender skin with creamy-crisp juicy flesh. This is one of our favorite apples to snack on while working out in the orchard, and it is also good for baking and sauce. Reduce the sugar in your recipe when using this apple.
  • Florina  Medium to large fruit, skin very attractive, purple red covering almost completely the yellow background. Flesh is medium firm and aromatic, a blend of sweet and tart, used mainly for fresh eating.
  • Gold Rush  This is an attractive smooth-skinned modern dessert apple, with a crisp hard flesh and good sugar/acid balance.  The flavor is typical of Golden Delicious but with a bit more acidity.  Juicy apple that keeps well and makes for excellent snacks, pies, sauce, and juice.
  • Golden Russet  Golden Russet is a small moderately attractive apple, which keeps well, and is very versatile for eating, cooking or juicing.  The flavor is typical of a russet apple but rather more intense than the traditional English St. Edmunds Russet or Egremont Russet - usually considered one of the best-flavored American russet apples.
  • Mutsu  These apples are sweet, crisp, juicy and refreshing. Their skin is green to yellow, and they tend to be large in size. Mutsus are an excellent multi-purpose apple, and can be eaten fresh, baked, or turned into applesauce. Mutsu apples can sometimes be found marketed under the name Crispin.
  • Esopus Spitzenberg  One of the great American apple varieties, thought to be Thomas Jefferson's favorite. Widely used for both dessert and culinary purposes. Noted for its spicy flavor, and for its susceptibility to any and every disease afflicting apples. Flavor improves with storage.
  • Ida Red  This old-fashioned variety is excellent for baking, pies and sauce. The apples hold their shape perfectly, but make delicious soft and tender pies. They have a mild sweet-tart flavor and are extremely juicy.
  • Fuji  Fuji is well known apple developed in Japan in the 1940’s. It has a predominantly sweet, mild flavor and is refreshingly juicy and crisp. It is a very pretty apple, with pink, speckled skin and creamy colored flesh, and is best used as a fresh eating apple.
  • Roxbury Russet  Probably the first apple variety originating in North America, as a seedling from a variety brought from Europe by early settlers.  Although it has some tartness it is like all russets a fundamentally sweet apple.

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Today, we said goodbye to our two retirees- Randy and Pet- as they headed off to Tammy and Jody's farm near Cooperstown. We've had 5 horses for a few months, trying to balance the working needs of our farm with geriatric Randy and rescued Pet. We are so grateful to Jody and Tammy for a good place for Randy and Pet to rest, and allowing us to concentrate on Leo, Willie and Waylon.

Spring CSA Explained!

In time for St. Patty's day, we bring you our Spring Green!

Spring CSA explained.  We’ve been fielding a number of questions about how the new CSA+ project fits into rest of our story… one of my favorites is when we meet new folks, and they ask “but is Good Life really a Farm?”  In some ways, the CSA+ looks like a distribution business, and I believe that the CSA+ is probably confusing even to those of you who’ve grown with us, but that one is especially funny for me.  So, here are the basic deets on what we’re doing, and why.

If you’re looking to join the Spring CSA of olde, the CSA+ is the way in!
For our Spring Green aficionados, we have two Vegetable options, which pair really well with each other (no overlap) and with any of the rest of our extensive list of Shares!  They are:

  • Green and Fresh (April 2 start date is full, but pro-rated for rolling starts- sign up quick)!  This share is the most like the Good Life CSA formerly known as “Spring”… based on our greens, on heads of early stuff and on Asparagus!  Check it out.
  • Spring Roots (still taking full Spring members).  A truly wonderful mix of roots to fill out your veggies needs.  Always contains carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.  Then we rotate in Watermelon and Daikon Radishes, Cabbage, Kohlrabi and a few other choice roots, for diversity  and delicious-ness!

Loving and Leaving (this) Good Life

She was tough, every way.  Challenging.  A little crazy.  Amazingly strong.  Generous and effort-full. 

Goodbye to Betsy, our dear Belgian Draft Mare, who died at 4am on Thursday, January 15, 2015.

What does it mean that we’ve lost this friend and fellow worker?  RE: the functionality of the farm, and friendship and love and shared teaching, and hard pulling in hot weather.  I try to be organized about these things- when should we look for a new horse, since Randy is also aging suddenly and too fast?  Can we afford a new horse?  What type and how old?  How will we fit a younger horse into our older herd?These first days are dominated by a hollow feeling that has nothing to do with plowing potential.  Betsy was the greatest challenge to work with, and gave the most amazing rewards.  She had a layer of crazy that was deep at first.  She came middle aged with some bad habits- wouldn’t lift her feet, wouldn’t allow us to catch her.  Once I spent an hour chasing her in circles just to go in from the nights’ grazing.  And then, over time and always during hard work, there was the rest of her.  The rest was a deep, abiding, amazing core of endless willingness and effort, of super smarts and of strength.  She was serious about dominance, and would take it unless told otherwise, which made me get straight with my own intentions.  Betsy was one of our first two horses, with her partner Randy, and helped us start this farm and aim it in the direction we’re still traveling.  We were beginners, and she helped us see our way through.  I miss her sass, I miss her focus and I just… miss her. 

Why do I share this in our newsletter and blog?  I debated it- it is very personal and raw, but it is also insight into our farm and our relationship with our animals.  For those of you who’ve had a wagon ride or petted a horse here, you’ll know that Betsy wasn’t the public horse.  But you might also remember that even as I was saying “she doesn’t like people too much” and we were all petting Leo, or Pet, sometimes Betsy would sidle up and nose about for some attention.  I believe she loosened up here, recovered from some of the stresses of her previous life elsewhere, and ended well.  I hope I did everything I could do during the two days when she and I fought together, and I believe our vet that we did.  She was the ultimate stoic, and toughed it out longer than any of us predicted.  I am glad I had a friend who challenged me, pushed me and ultimately allowed me to care for her later years and at the end.  This feels and likely seems anthropomorphic but again, as insight into this place, Betsy as a friend, teacher and fellow worked is apt description. 

 

First Team- Betsy and Randy.jpg

Thank you Betsy, thank you to those who knew her and to all you who support our work. 

Good Life Farm Diary: Trials, Tribulations and Success with Greens vs. a Changeable NE Winter

January 6, 2015

Trying to harvest for CSA deliveries on Thursday... Today we watched the sun arc slowly and southerly across the sky- it peeped out about noon and engendered great hope that the thawing and refreshing process would commence and succeed in the tunnels. Generally in a cold Winter, there are 1 or 2 days in a week when there is enough sun and resulting solar gain in our passive tunnels to thaw and revitalize our hardy greens mix. Think of the temperature shifts in your car, turned off, based on sun exposure. We don't raise greens in a heated environment- we rely on solar gain in plastic tunnels, we select hardy varieties that can stand to be frozen and thawed repeatedly in the winter, and we harvest ONLY when the complete thawing and waking up cycle has finished. That means that tunnels need a few hours of direct solar gain to overcome temperatures outside, and the best, exciting part is that they can do it! With SUN, passive tunnels can overcome single digit and negative temps! With no sun, as in now, we can't combat even 20's and teens. So... we await the SUNNY few precious hours of Friday. You can bet your bottom dollar that we will be watching, waiting, and HARVESTING FOR YOU! as soon as we are able.

January 9, 2015

We DID harvest greens successfully yesterday and we WILL deliver them to your site tomorrow, Saturday 1/10!  Interestingly, even with all the sun yesterday, only the southern rows in each tunnel were harvestable by 1pm (tunnels run East to West to take advantage of low southern winter suns, thank goodness!).


What Makes A Pastured Turkey's Meat Moist? A re-post from Stockman GrassFarmer

We feel no need to reinvent the wheel or good writing, so unabashedly re-share this great article (that we could not find on the internet so transcribed and paraphrased here) from the November 2014 Edition of the Stockman GrassFarmer... by Joel Salatin (p. 10).  Whom else?!

"What is it that makes a pastured turkey's meat moist?"

Answering the question specifically  brings up numerous general issues about texture, taste, and eating quality.  The universally tasteless, dry and cardboard-like texture of industrial poultry is axiomatic. ... Differences between herbivores and omnivores extend far beyond diet.  Behavior, group size and exercise play a large role in flesh quality.  As a context, let's see what the industry has done to diminish firm and moist meat qualities.  First, group size increases.  Second, exercise decreases.  Third, diets are simpler.  Fourth, air is filled with fecal particulate.  Fifth, the salad bar- or any fresh greens- are no longer ingested.  It stands to reason that if these five big changes are the culprit, then changing them would be the cure...
Group Size: In nature, turkeys group into a convenient size of  somewhere between 20-100 individuals.  You will never see a group of 1,000 wild turkeys.   In the 20-odd years we've been raising pastured turkeys, about 400 seems to be the maximum number for one group without seeing aberrant and overly aggressive social behavior... Turkeys like to flock together, regardless of how big an area they have.  The size of the flock carries social implications.
Exercise: Properly toned flesh is more moist and tasty. ... Turkeys need to roam.  As a flock, they tend to move en masse from one area to another.  
Complex Diets: In nature, poultry feeds on a wide variety of foodstuffs.  Few things are as entertaining as watching a turkey chase down a June bug [or vole].  Amazingly, more often than not the turkey plucks the beetle right out of the air.  I believe scavenging a healthy supplement of insect protein to the feed grain ration is a key to creating moist eating.
Fresh Air: This is where pastured poultry systems shine.  And when I say pastured, I'm not talking about dirt yards.  I am talking about green grass.  ...texts say that deep breathing and fresh air affect blood flow and cleanliness, which affect(s) taste and texture...

Thanks Joel and Stockman, for an incredible and right-on article!  Good Life turkeys have these quality-of-life considerations in spades, largely because mimicking  natural systems is the foundation of our farm design and crop and livestock selection.  We believe 100% in fresh air, green grass and exercise... take a look at our daily chore video if you want to see how this half lives!

Multi-species working... easy-going Randy and Leo are taking the Turk Ark to greener pastures by turning a corner in the Orchard-Asparagus fields... and the turkeys really enjoy it! http://www.thegoodlifefarm.org/


Marching Hand in Hand...

First fires.  Cooling weather, cozy first fires of the season ignite!  This evening, I was struck by how much I love that I get free hot water from a pot on my wood stove.  For years now, I’m utterly delighted to be getting two for one- dual purpose warmth feeds my sense of economy, my preferred use of fuel from my own woods, and my hopes for generally putting it all together, simply and functionally.  I know those of you who already knew that fire makes heat are not impressed by this epiphany, but my point is broader- my simple (but true) example intended to illustrate the wonder and inspiration that come when we attempt to take responsibility for our basic, routine needs and then we find that by stacking functions (heating our house, making tea), the sum is greater than the whole (tea, heat, delight in daily tasks).

In this busy time, we struggle to put into elegant words the thoughts that come through the days of work and wander (perhaps a little short on the wander).  In particular, I’ve been chewing over the language that I want to put out about what we’re doing with our farm, our products, and why this is worth participating in.  With Good Life Farm and the CSA+, Garrett and I are trying to build this thing, this ark… which is capable of carrying our business and other, like-minded farms into sustained success.  I appreciate that many of you believe in our mission, or parts of it, and love our farm.  The funny thing about the Good Life Farm’s ecological goal trotting is that we’re a business, and the awkward part for me is asking for money to support our work.  Obviously, we believe in our work- we revel in the stacked functions of the turkeys-orchard-asparagus and cows-pasture-woods reclamation.  We write these newsletters in hopes of continuing to engage you all with the larger story of eco ag on our and related farms, and to place ourselves in the food scene.  Since food is one of those necessary and daily needs, and if eating is an agricultural act, and farming is a political act… then we suggest that our efforts and your support are indeed aimed at our vision for future humans on Earth.  Below, I’m going to share some of the most powerful things that move us, and please don’t think that I believe that our work here is on level with the work of the amazing folks I reference.  Please know instead that we take our inspiration for daily, necessary tasks from these words, and we take our hope for change from the belief that we are together, a force greater than the sum of our parts.  We commit to being a business that is not of “broken morals”, and we encourage you to stay with us on the way… whatever that looks like for you.

I’d like to share the poem from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands, as read at the Sept. 23rd UN Climate Change Summit.  Below is an excerpt, and here is the link to this amazing, evolving, evocative poem…

…and there are thousands out on the streets
marching
hand in hand
chanting for change NOW

and they’re marching for you, baby
they’re marching for us

because we deserve to do more than just
survive
we deserve
to thrive

Photos of Destruction... and the dreamed future.

crew on roof.jpg

Good Life Farm is undergoing a make-over, with great anticipation towards the future.  The experience on a daily basis is a maniacal rotation between great foresighted hope and muddy loud booming change.  

West side new dormers.jpg
East Wing Barn demo.jpg

What are we doing?  We are rebuilding our original barn (built by Garrett, his brother Jimmy and assorted wonderful helpers in 2009)... which as many who've visited over the past 5 years know, we haven't yet finished.  Now, we're making way for cider production and sales, farm product retail, and amenities for the sake of us and our crew.

Why are we doing this?  Because we want to take this thing- and what is this thing, really?- as far as we can.  We want to make it possible to stay farming in a way that feeds us, improves our land and makes a liviliehood for us and our collaborators.  We're excited to do this with our youth, and we're grateful to all of those who are with us along the way.  

Right now, it looks like crazy-making.  But stick it out with us, and we'll see where we can go- on behalf of good food, great community and a way forward through it all.

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Apple and Asian Pear boxes!

Golden Russett ripening through September.jpg

In our ongoing search for stability, predictability and congeniality, we're merging Apple CSA forces with Hemlock Grove Farm in West Danby!  Hemlock Grove is two carefully tended orchards and three great people- Amy Garbincus, Melissa Smith and Brian Caldwell. They've been our mentors for years in the organic apple realm, they're featured at our favorite site- Grow Organic Apples- for amazing organic management inspiration, and we've been chewing over how to better support one another for a few seasons too... running small farms with limited production, high management needs and weird harvest schedules is often a funny fit for a CSA.  This year, both GLF and Hemlock Grove are experiencing low yields due the previous crazy abundance of 2013 and the following deep, long winter.  Trees need their break too!

HG logo.jpg

So we're joining forces this year, looking to keep our members happy and supplied while keeping ourselves sane and creating future stability.  If you're looking for our fruit, check it out as one of the many offerings of the Good Life CSA+...

Here's a glimpse of what we're offering as a combined unit:

Fruit Shares

  • Regular Deliveries: Weekly and Biweekly (depending on location)
  • A mix of our tree-ripened, certified organic Apples and Asian Pears
  • $1.80/lb
  • Plays well with other CSA+ shares…

Bulk Fruit Orders

  • By-the-Bushel
  • By-the-Half Bushel
  • One time deliveries
  • As yield allows- preorder needed
  • $1.80/lb
  • Pairs well with CSA+ shares and A La Carte Items

Greeting friendly Prunus persica lovers...

testing the Vivid.jpg

I want to thank you for both your quick-like-lightning peach orders, and your patience as I work through the waitlist that initial newsletter inspired.  The sum of the story is that the previous and incredible winter we all survived did not leave all fruit buds intact on many Northeastern fruits, notably peaches.  We are limited in all varieties, and completely lacking in a few ('Vivid', for one).

So, I write to you all- both those who have received an order and those who await...

To those awaiting peaches:

 You are receiving this because you are still on my list, and we see a progression of 

"Redstar', 'Contender', 'Madison''

 and 

"Nectar'

 still to come.  Please hang tight... and feel free to confirm your order.  I will likely be emailing you a day to two days in advance when your order is up.

To those who've received some or all of your order: 

Please feel free to check back in if you have a partial order waiting, or so see if we have more. 

Pick up options will look like this from now on:

  • Tuesdays, Thursdays: noon- 6pm at IthacaMade
  • Tuesday-Fridays: noon- 6pm at Good Life Farm
  • order for your CSA+ pick up location

We love feeding you our cherished fruit.  We love growing it, we love eating it, we love trees and we thank you for supporting our orchard,

Melissa for GLF everything

Good Life July... Where Do Turtles Go?

The beauty of the reptiles, the invertebrates, the amphibians... what does it take to make a little place for amphibians?  To date, a great feeling of success in the Good Life farming adventure derives from the absolute buzzing chirruping soaring noise that is nighttime here.   We want our farm to be a place alive!  And it feels worth pointing out that this can run contrary to absolute farming efficiency and by-the-pound yield calculations.  Ecosystems services aren't even so much about reducing the use of pesticides or gas and they certainly aren't one single metric of success.  In 2014, we're celebrating increased ecosystem function at GLF and the choice to co-habitate with a functional ecosystem and all the complexity that accompanies such- a thousand blooms.   At Asparaganza, we had a fun time wearing our Asparagoggles as part of the Good Life harvest trick we use to sight those delicious spring spears amongst their groundcover of alfalfa, clover, grass and sometimes thistle ;)- plants which are deep-rooted and good for the soil, and which harbor beneficial insects (ladybugs love thistle).  Then in June, we found an abundance of tree frogs, and a painted turtle just awaiting....  Please enjoy this ecological moment with us.  And perhaps someone wants to come be the official Good Life naturalist...?

Fun Recipes for Spring CSA crops...

For our more unusual crops... A LOVAGE SOUP and an Asparagus Soup Base.  Thank you Janet and Krys!

Janet's Sorrel, Lovage and Greens soup                              

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 no-salt veggie broth cubes (Rapunzel or Edward  Sons)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of almond flour
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 3 cups of water

BLEND all the above

  • One bunch of GLF sorrel 
  • One GLF bag of greens or spinach
  • 2 big fat GLF leeks, chopped up
  • 4 GLF lovage sprigs

STEAM in water or sauté in a tablespoon of olive oil in a wok. Toss and melt the greens.

ADD melted greens and leeks to blender and puree everything. Pour back in the pot.

Warm slowly, stirring and don't cook too long or you will lose the lovage flavor.

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Krys' Asparagus Soup base:

Boil tough stump ends of asparagus thoroughly in water-- time may vary depending on the thickness of the stalks, but they should be beginning to fall apart when you take them out of the water with tongs and/or a slotted spoon.  Put directly into a food processor or blender, and blend until it is all one goopy green mass.  Take out of blender and put into a Foley food mill, a Victorio strainer, or a fine sieve.  Force the good stuff through the mill or sieve, leaving the fibrous parts behind to compost.  This will yield a thick, pea-soup-like substance that might double as baby food if you have a baby in the house.

You can turn this base into soup a number of ways, and you can freeze it now and decide how to make it soup later, too. 

Krys' Asparagus Soup recipe:

For one gallon of soup base, make a roux of 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup flour.  Add a quart or more of stock to the roux, and cook, stirring regularly with a whisk, until it boils and thickens.  Adjust thickness to your preference by adding additional stock or milk.  Add the gallon of asparagus soup base, along with about a half pound each of blanched asparagus tips and shredded meat-- I used slow-boiled corned venison, but any mild-flavored boiled meat would be fine. Bring to a boil and cook until asparagus pieces are tender-- will not take long. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Freezes well for later use, too.

Stories and photos of a difficult Spring for vegetables... onward!

 

Timing! Wind Chill! Layers of plastic! Dedication to perennials!
More on the Spring cropping conundrum…
So, yes, this past winter was a major one. I had thought that I had a rather limited perspective, because my keen interest in tracking temperature lows and wind chill factors really sparked when I started managing my own high tunnels in 2009. But I certainly didn’t remember anything like this for all of my 14 years living in upstate NY. On Sunday I was discussing this with some oldtime farmers from around here and felt quite validated by hearing similar thoughts from them- rarely did they remember a winter like the one that just passed. And I write this during a minor snowstorm on April 16, bracketed by nights below 25F

Timing! Wind Chill! Layers of plastic! Dedication to perennials!More on the Spring cropping conundrum…So, yes, this past winter was a major one. I had thought that I had a rather limited perspective, because my keen interest in tracking temperature lows and wind chill factors really sparked when I started managing my own high tunnels in 2009. But I certainly didn’t remember anything like this for all of my 14 years living in upstate NY. On Sunday I was discussing this with some oldtime farmers from around here and felt quite validated by hearing similar thoughts from them- rarely did they remember a winter like the one that just passed. And I write this during a minor snowstorm on April 16, bracketed by nights below 25F.

For context... Cows in the snow, again.  4/16/14

For us, this has several impacts. In the Spring CSA, we largely rely on crops planted either as perennials in prior years, or annual crops planted in the previous summer through fall. We do a lot to overwinter the annuals- like your beloved greens mix, spinach, leeks, chard, escarole- successfully. 

Annuals: Some of the hardier crops- leeks, spinach- can do with the wind and minor temperature buffering provided by the lower-tech quick hoops, which are 6’x50’ long and about 2’ high. These hardier crops- which in the “normal” farm year would take 50 days (spinach) or 120 days (leeks), get planted in the summer (leeks) or early fall (spinach). This off-set planting-to-harvest schedule makes them exponentially older- almost a year old in the case of leeks- before they are harvested. For many farms, field space is valuable, so crop prices reflect the amount of time a crop spends in the field. We are still pondering how to value a crop in this exponential time situation.

Most other crops- escarole, chard, greens mix- require a higher level of winter protection in the case of really cold winters- and in the early fall, one does not know what the winter will bring, so we always provide maximum protection in case. For us, this higher level of protection looks like our 6 passive solar high tunnels, which are moveable on rails. So, we planted the crop of greens for March shares back in late September. Those greens crops really like to go to seed sometime in March, so we are also working to push nature by moving the tunnels as quickly as possible to warm up a new space and get a new round of plants in the ground for late April shares. In the summer, these greens are short turn-around crops- taking 30-35 days from seeding to cutting. Even with the high tunnels, the early spring planted greens are more like 50-60 days. Again, similar to the quick hoop crops, the effect on available space and costly infrastructure stretches how one values these crops. I believe at the Farmer’s Market, you can find a greens mix similar to ours (when you can find it at all) for $11/lb. In the summer, a similar mix might be $6/lb. I provide this for perspective in terms of the effects we’re grappling with… in other years, a warm April (and/or March) has allowed us to catch a breather from exponentially-increased cropping times.

Tunnels moving... what you do when you can't plant outside!

Perennials: Our perennial crops for the Spring CSA are these: asparagus, sorrel, welsh onions, lovage, fennel and the UPick strawberries. Perennials are an essential part of our “catch-up” phase in late April and early May, and this year we’re looking at a start-harvest date 2-4 weeks later than each year 2010 on… But thankfully, these guys have the deep and abiding root systems that we look for to enable both survival through a tough winter and for the bio-drilling effect on our soil. Since the ground seems to have only recently stared thawing in the deeper layers, we’re curious as to when the asparagus will wake up.