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And a fig for you!

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Once upon a time, a long time ago, back when there were classified ads in the newspaper and people read those ads, my mother saw an ad for fig trees in Wilmington. “Hmmm,” Elaine thought. “If he can grow figs in Wilmington, so can I.” Definitely a competitive streak in the family.Elaine and my youngest brother, Matt, drove to Wilmington to find this gentleman (using a map and my mother’s knowledge of Wilmington) who had fig trees growing in his back yard. “Here they are,” he said. “Which one would you like?” They picked out a tree, dug it up, and brought it back. This happened 1978 or so. This fig tree is still with us, a variety called Celeste, small, very sweet, and delicious.And that was the first fig tree. My mother, of course, is not alone in loving figs. Figs have commanded a dedication and following that borders on the cult edge of devotion. Fig fossils are dated to about 9400 BCE in the Jordan River valley—about 1000 years before evidence of wheat or barley cultivation, and th…

AUGUST 2020

2020, what can we say? Tough from the beginning—47 million acres burned in Australia—through a pandemic (overwhelming on its own)—to giant hornets and spotted lantern flies--to bizarre weather (for us, a freeze in May, tornado in August, heat, rain, hail, etc. in-between)—to working on daily survival.The weather extremes have been hard on all the crops. Many tree varieties were frozen out by the May weather, and others have suffered through the deluges of rain (9” in one week was our personal farm record this year). The result has been tough on the peaches. I have struggled with getting them to ripen properly—one early variety defeated me completely, although my mother was successful. Not as many peaches as usual. We have been fighting the humidity. It’s just plain been a struggle.This is when we draw on our family history to help sustain us. We, all the grandchildren of John and Rachel Webster, grew up on my grandfather’s stories about peaches: the one year when he and my grandmother…

July 2020—still in the midst of a pandemic

Welcome summer! July sums up summer here—hot, hot, and hot. I remind myself that it is supposed to be hot in the summer and that heat brings sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, and all the wonderful summer vegetables. It’s a fair trade. This year has not been super hot (we have seen higher temperatures) nor super humid (we have had much stickier days).This year, we have been dealing with the effects of an unusually cold, wet spring with late frosts and freezes. Very few summer Lodi apples and Methley plums, peaches a little late, and peppers are a little late. On the plus side, lettuce, asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries went longer in June than we can remember. The corn is fabulous, the peaches are very sweet, and the tomatoes are delicious.The tomatoes are coming from our early planting in the high tunnel. Planted in the ground, but pampered with some heat and covered until mid-June. Then the sides are rolled up and the ends opened. These early tomatoes have carried us through as it is…

May 2020: Isn’t it great that plants still know how to grow?

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May this year—so very, very different from all other years. This month has been similar to talking about the 100-year-flood plain. You know it’s possible that a flood can happen, but until you experience it, you don’t realize all the ramifications of such an event. So here we are in the 100-year-pandemic plain. The weather has been bizarre, we all are in disguise, and we are just now finding routines in the new way of living.Isn’t it great that the plants still know how to grow?
With a lot of our customers working from home, gardening is the new activity! As one person said to me, “This is the only thing we can do.” Hmmm, no movies, no restaurants, no gym time, no concerts, no museums… that leaves gardening, meditation, journaling, taking online classes, reading. Gardening seems to be the favorite!
Tomato and pepper plants are popular of course, but it is great to see people putting in herbs for the first time, experimenting with native perennials, building their own combination plan…

We are all trying to find our new normal in these distinctly not normal times.

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Wow. An April unlike any other April in our collective memories! Even my mother, at age 91, has no memories or family stories of the Spanish Flu Epidemic, 1918-1920. This coronavirus has hit all of us equally new. 
Fortunately for us, the plants that were planted in months past have continued on their way to harvest, blithely ignoring projections, edicts, proclamations, predictions, or other statements. The plants have demanded that we keep up with harvesting. How we get those vegetables to the consumer is not their concern.
Here are our wonderful greens—lettuces, baby bok choy, arugula, mustard greens, chard, kale, etc.—as well as the start of asparagus (10 days ahead of last year) and rhubarb. Onions give way to fresh scallions, and mint, thyme, chives, and sorrel are greening up outside in addition to what is growing in the tunnels. The fruit trees look great, and the new raspberry canes promise a good crop. I have spotted our first pair of barn swallows, scouting out last year’s ne…

Mable Garfield Talley Rotthouse

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Although women make up 51% of the world’s population, and 43% of all farm workers, and grow more than half of the world’s food, little is heard of our women farmers. The land passed to the son of the family and the women have been invisible. 
Today, I am talking about a woman who bridged the 19th and 20th centuries. She was a smart businesswoman, an expert farmer, a devoted wife and mother, and someone who triumphed over adversity and celebrated life. Meet Mable Garfield Talley Rotthouse. 
I am fortunate to have a heritage that honors the women in our family, and I am fortunate to have so many smart, talented, loving, and capable women who have set such a high standard for me. Mable is my maternal great-grandmother.
Mable Garfield Talley was born June 1, 1880, to William Talley (1845-1923) and Rachel Emma Baker (1850-1935). Her two older siblings both died in the first year of life, and her sister Anna, died at age 27.Her sister had “hip disease,” which may have been developmental dyspla…

Thoughts About Peaches

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I am a peach snob. I admit it. I can only eat our fabulous, fresh, tree ripened peaches. Juicy, sweet. I usually eat the ones with a little bruise on them that don’t sell. I cut one open and eat the whole thing. It is because I am a peach snob that we do not carry other peaches in the farm market once our peach season is done. It’s why I say, “eat local.” But let’s face it. It’s a long time between the end of September (the end of peach season) and the end of June (when peaches start again). Nine months in fact. Sometimes the longing for a taste of summer is overwhelming.A South American peach in February just does not come close to what I want.
And hurray, there is a solution! Our good friend, Rebecca, cans a lot of peaches for us. A lot.And she uses hardly any sugar, just enough to keep the peaches from discoloring. They are delicious. Amazing. Stunning.They taste like summer peaches because they are summer peaches. And they taste like peaches, not sugar.There are some peaches in a li…