Monday, September 10, 2012

The Land Nurtures us...

It's harvest time again at Old School Farm.   The Benner family and Dave Campeau are picking vegetables as fast as they can, but can barely keep up.  The fertile soil of the Dyberry river valley has again produced a bountiful harvest of delicious and nutritious produce.

Favorites on our list this year include the "Dragon's Tongue" bush bean - a cream colored bean with purple stripes.  These plants are very prolific and continue to bear very large, flat beans for several weeks.  We are steaming, sauteing, freezing, selling, and giving them away as fast as we can!   We also have an abundance of purple tomatillas that are prized for salsa or can be eaten fresh as they are quite sweet.

Oh, so sweet tomatillas 

Our Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, and Snow White heirloom tomatoes have withstood the tomato blight that plagued our region to produce rather large quantities of flavorful fruit.  We also have two varieties of roma type sauce tomatoes and are cooking down and freezing sauce for pizzas and pasta.

Our Carmen, Lipstick, and Jimmy Nardello sweet red peppers are starting to come in heavy right now - one taste and you are hooked.
Sweet Red Peppers and boys with Garter Snakes

What is perhaps most exciting in the garden these days are the 300 or so asparagus plants we trenched in back in early May.  These plants must really like our sandy and silty river bottom soil, as they continue to explode with growth, with many plants exhibiting upwards of twelve shoots in just the first season!  We expect to even be able to make a small harvest next spring - unheard of in asparagus growing, where it typically takes 2 - 3 years to to be able to do any cutting of shoots.

It's not all rosy in the garden...We continue to struggle with production from the alum family - onions, garlic, and leeks have really been disappointing for us for two years now and we continue to try and dial in on exactly what the issue is, but we believe it to be something to do with our soil chemistry.  Our parsnips were also a complete failure even after two plantings.

The sheep are thriving.  We have now moved them into their 5th pasture area on the far side of the road.  This is easily done by "leap frogging" additional sections of electric netting to form a new enclosure adjacent to where they were grazing and then letting them in.  Then the moveable shelter is easily towed to it's  new location with tow straps attached to our pick up.

The boys and Dad have finally come up with names for three of the four lambs.  We decided to go with Lenni Lenape names in honor of the first occupants of our land.  The ewe lamb names are: Opala (bald eagle - these circle our river valley- the name also means: helper, success) and Nesca (short for Nescalenk or black face - she has a black face).  Our ram was named Uncas by Owen.  Uncas was a lead character in "Last of the Mohicans" book by James Fenimore Cooper.  Cooperstown is just a couple of hours to the north.  The nearly full grown lambs' names will be registered with the Canadian Sheep Breeder's Assn. later this week.

Al & Coleman dance on the clay/sand/straw mixture
The earthen domed oven for bread and pizza is really coming along.  Here are some photos and a video clip that show the progress.  Dave constructed the base from field stone on site that came from collapsed farm walls, and the top of this base has now been lined with wine bottles and chinked with the earthen cob mix to produce an insulating surface on which we will soon lay a layer of sand and then firebricks for the cooking surface.   The cob mix is made by working a 3:1 sand to clay mix with straw and water with your feet until it is uniformly mixed.  This was fun (for a while :) )  for the boys...
Wine bottles with clay/sand/straw mix ("cob") to insulate oven

Oven base will now dry before fire bricks are added

Owen in Orchard with Elderberry stand behind him 

We also have a rapidly expanding patch of wild Elderberries in our orchard area where the turkeys range.  Every morning when they come out of the coop they run strait for the patch, scavenging ripe berries that fall to the ground.  Both these plants have high levels of anti-oxidants.  Autumn Olive can be used to make fruit leather (we made this once) and Elderberries are prized as a healing and wellness ingredient in elixirs, tonics and wine.   We are now experimenting by growing a cultivated variety that will produce larger fruit.

Owen and Coleman spent the first week of September at the farm with Dad and some of
 their escapades are captured here for your enjoyment as well.

6 Year old chef - Coleman cooks dinner for  himself and his brother - really.

Monarch caterpillar - they only eat Milkweed
Until next time, enjoy the great outdoors and some fresh, locally grown produce - nothing is better this time of year...

Our produce is being offered for sale at the Mill Market near Hawley, PA    

If you plan to visit the Honesdale area, be sure to check out the new music, food, and cultural venue on main street - it's really great: