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Bringing in the harvest in January

(A few - ok 7 - days late, but here's January's post).
We have been expanding our winter growing over the past 20 years, trying to keep up with the demand for fresh vegetables in the six months of the year that are not famous for producing much. At all. We have found that people enjoy eating all year, and our customers, accustomed to eating really fresh produce all summer, do not want to give up great taste in the winter. As a small farm, we scramble to grow as much as we possibly can during the standard growing months.
First we added row covers. Then low tunnels. Then high tunnels. Then a heated high tunnel. Then two heated high tunnels. And all of these helped, and we grew more winter produce than ever before. I have spent a lot of time studying daylight hours and nighttime and daytime temperatures needed for different crops to keep them growing and what crops grow best in protected winter conditions. And still the demand was ahead of us. Learning to grow in the winter has …

December—An End and a Beginning

December is the month of dwindling daylight. I understand why so many animals hibernate or semi-hibernate. It feels as if everything is coming to an end. The growing season is ending; the world is ending. Okay, an exaggeration. But dark at 4:30? The rainy and gray days take a toll on everyone. The plants outside just sit there…not dying, not growing.Our calendar year is ending, which is a natural time to look back over the year and assess what went as planned, what did not, what was successful, what was not, what do we want to do differently?
And then--what a relief to get past the Winter Solstice and start increasing our daylight, minute by precious minute. And because growing is what I like most of all, we look at ways to circumvent nature and winter weather. The trees and fruit bushes will stay dormant, but growing vegetables in the high tunnels and heated greenhouses is rewarding.The greenhouses are warmed with passive solar heat, and on a sunny day can be 80 degrees. Night time …

November is Transition to Winter

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November is our noticeable change in daylight hours, with dark creeping in earlier in the evening (late afternoon?!?) and making me want to hibernate.But November still has plenty of work to do, so we can’t nap yet.

If you check The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the list of garden clean up is pretty much what we do in November: clean root crops of dirt and store in a cool, dark place; clip the tops off beets, parsnips, turnips, and carrots so they stay fresher; clean fall squash of dirt and store in a cool, dark place; dig up, clean, and store dahlia tubers and gladiola bulbs in a cool, dark place (you see the theme of “cool, dark”); clean out dead plants and vines; destroy slug egg masses (slugs are never on my “keep” list).
Clean all tools. Check all tractors and equipment. Now is the time to do repairs and maintenance. Spring rush comes sooner than we think every year!
Test the soil, add sulfur or lime to adjust the pH as needed.
Inspect all the trees. What might need to come out? Where …

October Means Overcoming Obstacles

There are a lot of different ways to say it. In A Mood. Cranky. Difficult. Needs A Nap (sign me up, please!). By the end of October, we are all tired. And tired people are…cranky, to pick one of those phrases. This year, with twice the normal rainfall and a serious deficit of sunshine, everyone is cranky. Customers, staff, even the bees are cranky right now.
We should have planted rice this year. There was a bumper crop of squirrels, foxes, raccoons, crows, and mice this year. Produce did not keep as well because of all the rain. The squirrels destroyed a lot of pears and pumpkins. Sudden and serious illnesses wreaked havoc among the staff, causing extra work for everyone else.
So now it is time for the pep talks to keep us going and keep us smiling. How do we do that?
One of our core values is we take care of each other, including staff, families, customers, friends, and community. When one becomes sick, everyone steps up and covers that person’s work. When a customer became ill a…

John Webster Remembered

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John Webster was born July 1, 1901, and died on September 13, 1990. His life began in the horse and buggy era and ended in the space era. He ran the family farm, first with his father, and then with his wife and five daughters.He broadened the horizons of the family farm, taking produce to the King’s Street Farmers Market, building homes in the community, creating a dairy herd, and becoming a peach orchard specialist. He was involved in his community, hiring people in the 1930s who were desperate for work and for food, teaching Sunday School at church, a leader in the Delaware and Pennsylvania Farm Bureaus.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to know John Webster all have a story to tell. I remember planting peach trees with my grandfather when he was “retired,” and wondering why he was planting more trees now. “Because people will want good peaches to eat when these are ready,” he replied. John Webster’s ability to look ahead was phenomenal and laid the foundation for what we are …

What Happens In August

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Barn swallows, foxes, and the peacock in August
August. It’s the beginning of the end of summer.
August 2 is the mid-point between the beginning of summer and the beginning of autumn. Summer harvests are in full swing. The first apples are picked at the end of the first week of August; the first pears are picked at the beginning of the second week; the first spaghetti and butternut squash are picked the end of the third week; more pears and apples are picked by the fourth week. And we are still picking zucchini and beans, peaches and plums. August is the high point for peaches in flavor, quantity, and juiciness, AND it is the start of apple season—Ginger Gold, Jonamac, Early Goldens, Early Galas. First cider pressing. August is also the push to get fall crops planted. We are racing daylight hours and nighttime temperatures for the plants to reach maturity before those delightfully cool nights halt plant growth. And this year, August has given us extra hot, extra humid days and nights f…

Surviving July is all in how you view it

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Oh, July! Hot, productive, busy, overwhelming July! Hottest month of the year. Picking raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, peaches, plums, first of the summer apples, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, cantaloupes, watermelon, corn….all of the summer bounty rushes to ripen and is ready for harvest. The days are packed. July is the fruition of a lot of planning and planting.


Oh yes, and generally the weeds have gone totally crazy by July.

It’s always funny when people ask if we are closed for July 4 (unless it falls on a Sunday, the answer is no). The plants do not take a holiday in July. We have Sundays off (always), but we would be light years behind if we took another day off in July. This year, July 4 is hovering at a balmy 91 degrees after 5 straight days in the 90s—you can practically see the berries ripening in front of your eyes.We close a few hours early to give our employees a chance to spend some time with their families. For family members,…