A Day in March:

What DO we do all day long? Every day is different—it’s one reason we like what we do! But here is one day in March, with the help of a lot of people: Saturday, March 10, 2018.
I always check the weather first: Clear and sunny, low of 29, going up to 44 today, still plenty of snow on the ground from the March 7 nor’easter (winter storm Quinn—did I know before that storms are named as well as hurricanes?), but starting to melt.
5:30 am - Bring market truck to barn loading area. Prepare market aprons and Fitler share list. 5:45 - Roll carts with produce out of storage and start loading truck 6:25- Finish loading. Double check that everything is on the truck: donuts (very important! Especially since we’ve forgotten them once or twice….), supply boxes, flowers, non-refrigerated produce, meat shares…check! Off they go to Philadelphia 6:30 - Bake and prep pies, bread, muffins, and donuts for the farm market. 8:00 -Start bringing carts out from cold storage. Set up produce displays. Bring baked g…

March is Women's History Month

In Honor of Women’s History Month In addition to honoring those women who have changed the world, I think it is important to honor those women who have been so important in our individual lives. I present to you Rachel Louise Rotthouse, who married John Coleman Webster, Jr., my grandmother.
Born in 1908, Rachel grew up on Cherrywood Farm located just off Concord Pike, in the area now known as Blue Rock Manor. Her grandparents immigrated from Germany, and her father was the first born in the United States in 1879. Rachel attended the one-room, multi-grade school on Concord Pike, and learned all about farming. She learned how to make cheese and sausage, how to plant and harvest, how to preserve the harvest for the long winter months.She always loved reading and learning, and Rachel became the teacher in that one-room school.
Rachel caught the eye of a young farmer, John Webster, and he talked her into marrying him in 1924. She moved into the large farmhouse with his parents. The kitchen w…

Connecting with Connections

The Connections class at the Academy of Lifelong Learning connects the community with a wide variety of speakers, from healthcare to politics, clinics to …farms! I was honored to be asked to speak to the Connections class on February 21 about Highland Orchards and our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Two of our customers were instrumental in asking me to present to the class. Of course, I selected a winter time slot, when we are a bit slower. I remember wondering if they had a snow date. Not to worry this year; February 21 was 75 degrees!
Wacky weather makes a great introduction to a talk about farming, and we had a great time. So many in the class have been long-time residents of northern Delaware and were familiar with the changes in population and eating that I presented. A little history of the farm and the way that farming has changed over the past 100 years brought into focus the fact that farming is a business. The CSA program was new to many, and the class’s curi…

What do we do in February?

“As the day begins to lengthen, so the cold begins to strengthen.” (From The Old Farmers Almanac) February is traditionally the snowiest month for us. Of course, this year, the weather has not been typical. 70 degrees in February! Good Ol' Mother Nature. If she decided that winter is over, we'll be fine. It's the 70 degrees back to freezing swings that we worry about. 

It is also the month when we get very excited for spring to come. Why? February 2 (also known as Candlemas or Groundhog Day) marks the midway point between winter and spring, and every day after that means we are closer to spring! It marks the point when we have 10 hours of daylight--and that is a key factor for plants to grow.
First on the list is pruning. Most trees and vines fare best when pruned in complete dormancy. Every sunny day when the temperature is above freezing, we are out pruning. This means apple, peach, and plum trees; kiwi vines; and gooseberry and currant bushes. The trees and vines put on t…

All About Chickens

Chickens are funny birds in many ways. They share a common ancestry with Tyrannosaurus Rex. They have a gizzard (and you thought your grandparents made up that word!), which is a small part of the stomach that contains tiny stones and grinds up their food.They can fly only a few feet (enough to get over a fence!) and are officially classified as flightless birds. There are over 24 billion chickens in the world. A group of chickens is a flock, a female is a hen, and a male is a rooster or cockerel. Young females are called pullets until they start to lay eggs at 20 to 24 weeks of age. Usually first eggs are smaller sized. 

Roosters can crow any time of day, starting at o’dark thirty, about 60 minutes before sunrise, and then continue All. Day. Long. Roosters can become very aggressive, usually after one year of age (full maturity). This is one reason why we rarely have a rooster in our flock. They are protective of their hens and will often have a group of followers. If he spots some de…

What do we do in January?

January is a busy month for planning, planting, harvesting, and clean up for us at Highland Orchards Farm Market. I remember my grandfather walking around the farm, just thinking and looking. He would tell me he was remembering what had grown there and imagining what might grow in that spot the next year. Imagination! A great tool to use. We are fortunate to be able to draw on generations of experience to help guide us as we work.

The end of the year prompts review of crops: what was successful and why, what was not successful and why, what we want to continue growing, what we will discontinue growing.  This results in what seeds are started in flats in the greenhouse, what is planted in the ground in an unheated house (hoop house), and what will be planted later in the spring.  We have over 200 different crops to consider for the farm market and for our CSAs.
Winter care of plants is challenging, even though we are growing the cold-tolerant plants that usually thrive in winter. For 201…

Greenhouses Galore!

We have several greenhouses throughout the property. Some old, some new, and some not yet finished. Some have fans, some have heat, some have immovable sides, and some have roll-up sides. Each modification is designed to help add just the right aide to the plants. Hope you enjoy seeing some of our growing projects. 

This super cold snowy winter was really hard on many of the plants. Some, like fig trees, died down to the ground. To help encourage growth, we have our figs covered with row cover (the same stuff that brings the strawberries on a week earlier). The fabric lets light, water, air, and heat in. Row covers are less energy efficient than a greenhouse but definitely give the plants a little boost. Unfortunately, the weather damage was so severe that we will probably have a small fig crop this year.

Peppers! Peppers are one of those plants that thrive in the greenhouses in the peak of summer so hopefully these freshly planted guys will be producing out the wazoo in a month or so…