The Fresh Picked
Dear Sunday CSA Member,
The wrong reminder emails were sent last night, it was still for the Early Share members. If you are not signed up for the Mid Season then please excuse that email. If you are signed up for the Mid Season please come to pickup. If you have not signed up as of yet but would like to, please come to pickup and we will add you in!
This week at the farm things have really taken off and we are picking like crazy trying to keep up. The rows of vegetables have shot up and filled out so that it’s hard to imagine just a few weeks ago they were just babies. The plants are loaded with blossoms and as you clear aside a few leaves you notice loads of fruit developing nicely. The cucumbers, squash, and beans are ready to pick, in fact this week we have picked about 200 cases of them. Where is that Peter Piper when you need him? The cherry tomatoes are just days away, as is the eggplant. Beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes are just around the corner along with the peppers. There is a tired feeling which seems to emerge at the end of each day echoed on the faces of the farm crew. But it is a good feeling to be at this stage of the game where the plants look healthy, the vegetables taste amazing, and we are using “almost” everything we pick in the CSA and at the stands.
“Almost” because it would seem we may have made a few miscalculations in what a plant would yield. We had planned on producing about enough for 50 bushels of beans per week, but now we are thinking that soon we will have about 100! Whether it’s the fertility of the soil or the variety we selected we are not sure. But either way it’s probably a good problem to have. Our business was built on the creative problem solving of having to move a surplus of product while the stopwatch of its perishability factor goes tick tock. In this case whatever we don’t get to pick will add nitrogen back into the soil. Who knows maybe a little “Pick Your Own” Party at the farm.
Can you pickle that? The next crop which seems to be kicking off more than it’s fair share are the pickling cucumbers. Despite the name these cukes are for more than just pickling. In fact, I personally prefer them to the slicers for cucumber salads because they have fewer seeds and a thinner less bitter skin. We also grew this great little persian cucumber variety called “Diva”. They are about the size of the kirby “pickling” cukes but thin smoother skin, a great crunch, and practically seedless. If you get a chance, give these guys a try. In the meantime, now is the time to pickle. Let us know if you can use a case. $25/ half bushel and CSA Members get 15% Off.
This week I received a lesson on squash blossoms as well. Every morning we harvest the blossoms of the zucchini plants. We pick them early in the morning when they start to open because by late morning they are spent. There are male and female flowers. The blossoms look almost the same except there is a difference in the center of the flower and the females are the ones producing the fruit. We harvest the male blossoms as not to disrupt the zucchini harvest as much. Speaking of which, what a harvest it is. We have a great selection of a variety of squash. Gorgeous dark green and gold zucchinis, striped Italian heirloom varieties, and adorable little patty pans. My personal favorite, the bonita. It is a light green slighly shorter and slightly chubbier version of the typical dark green zucchini. I love cooking bonita squash on the grill because it’s a bit more firm and even a bit more flavorful than the other squash. Also really nice in a saute. Definitely give them a try. This week we are running a bonita squash special at the stands and are piling it high to watch it fly. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading our newsletter and have a great week everyone.
As a Farmer you’ve got to train yourself to “make hay while the sun is shining”. In season, you’re up at the crack of dawn, and work a long hard day, just about everyday. It must be like running a marathon where you push yourself but pace yourself at the same time. So that’s why when you see a small window of opportunity for a little R&R you get all your ducks in a row and Carpe Diem! However, no matter how good you are at planning there are always monkey wrenches lurking in the shadows, and sometimes worse. It’s funny how these excursions correspond to historic events and natural disaster. Do you remember El Derecho? I do because that was the day Eris and I decided to go to Berkeley Springs for our anniversary. The DC Sniper? Fishing in the outer banks. 9/11? First trip to Israel to meet Eris’ family. So you get the picture. That’s why this past week on June 21, I was only momentarily startled while cracking open a cold one and flipping on the TV at my brother’s “compound” at the beach to see our little farm community in Howard County making headlines for tornadoes, hurricane winds, hail the size of cantaloupes and a deluge of rain that makes you want to build an ark. My heart sank watching storm footage and all hell breaking loose on Facebook posts of some of our neighboring farms, like Milkhouse Brewery resembling typhoons. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone and feared the worse for our newly staked little tomato plants. But don’t worry folks, we made it out okay. Phew! Even though the drive out to the farm looks like King Kong singing Helter Skelter, leaving a trail of destruction of fallen trees, giant limbs, and a blanket of debris, we lucked out with only a few casualties of this week’s lettuce crop and some broken tomato branches. Could have been a lot worse. We really dodged a bullet on that one.
So other than having a tornado run amuck in Howard County this week, in other news, we have picked about 50 bushels of squash this week and about twenty bushel of cucumbers. Squash blossoms and cut basil have been a big hit, and we are in the next patch of our direct seeded crops of arugula, beets, baby kale, and baby lettuce mix. We are in the midst of harvesting a small crop of “dunce cap” cabbage, and broccoli and plugging along at harvesting our kale and rainbow swiss chard. It will take us until about mid-week to get back into our lettuce crop. Fortunately we picked heavy before the storm. We are seeing lots of flowers and fruit setting on our tomatoes and eggplants which both look super healthy and great. We began planting sunflowers, better late than never, for a September harvest. Thanks for reading our newsletter and have a great week everyone.
This week at the farm things are getting busy. If we are not picking, we’re planting, if we’re not planting, we are watering, staking tomatoes, prepping beds, fertilizing, setting up irrigation, scouting, dealing with pests or mowing. There is always something to be done and with our first ever gathering at the farm for our market workers coming up there is a menu to plan and a gathering space to configure. It’s all very exciting.
We picked our first bushel of zucchini the other day and although I thought we would be offering squash blossoms as a choice in our CSA this week, we will need to hold off a bit as this is a crucial time for pollination to occur. So we will need to limit these for the time being to special order only.
While new crops are coming in, I must admit a slight tinge of discord to walk past emptying rows of harvested crops. Where lush green lettuce, bok choi, and napa cabbage once flowed, now voids which beg to be filled. Here we are planting beans. Our first bed of direct seeded crops is in its home stretch as we continue to harvest radishes, arugula, baby kale, mizzuna, tatsoi, and a mesclun mix. Beets are coming in and I’m fancying a roasted beet and arugula salad. Our next bed of direct seeded crops are sprouting and speckling the ground in vibrant baby green. Analysis from tomato plant samples indicate our plants are healthy, nutrient levels are pretty good and the report will guide us on what our plants are craving so we can adjust their “diets”.
One task I have given myself is to keep excellent records. What I lack in field knowledge and experience this growing season I’m hoping to make up for during the decision making process in the fall and winter. I’m tracking our planting schedule, harvest dates and quantities, keeping a scouting log, tracking revenues and expenses, etc. I’m keeping copious notes on what’s going well and where there is room for improvement. All this was done with ease until June hit. In my notes sentences have been whittled to phrases then words and possibly soon to symbols and grunts. I’ll keep you posted.
So it was a welcome reprieve to sit atop the tractor on a gorgeous Friday evening and mow. Relishing the sweet smell of grass and taking in the panoramic progress of our farm while circling our island of row crops in a sea of emerald corn fields whispering in the summer breeze and contemplating the conversations and thoughts I’d had this week and begin searching for a theme.
From a farming perspective we are starting to encounter what happens when the first plantings of the season are encumbered by cool and cloudy weather while the next succession of planting hits the ground running. We have an entire row of lettuce which is getting almost too big to be picked with another row coming in which should be about perfect for when we need it. Questions arise such as could we have planned more successions of smaller plantings? What do we do with our surplus? In this line of work you have to be conscientious about how you spend your resources. You hate seeing food go to waste, yet how can you justify picking, packing, and shipping something which you are already taking a loss on. I guess this is where it would be good to connect or establish a gleaning network. I’ll add that to my list. Have a great week everyone.
As a new farmer there is a certain expectation of the requirement to “wear many hats”. You should be a food enthusiast, a botanist, a mechanic, a biologist, a businessman, a laborer, a truck driver, an accountant, and of course in my case a bohemian. This week at the farm I got to wear a few more hats as well, both figuratively and literally as I place my new straw hat on my head hoping it doesn’t look too new for long. I find myself catering a staff meet and greet on Sunday, hosting an entire film crew for three days through Wednesday, then meeting our pioneering wedding couple and their caterer on Thursday to begin planning our first wedding at the farm. All the while our vegetable production keeps on rolling, semi-smoothly and semi-steadily. What a week!
Last Sunday we had a shindig for our staff. It was well attended and may have included as many dogs as people. It was really the first party we have had at the farm ever. What a blast and a great opportunity to get all our market workers together and show them where and how a majority of our vegetables will be grown this season. Since our company is made up of farmers, packers, truckers, as well as CSA and stand employees it is pretty rare that everyone gets to hang out with each other. The entire buffet was made up of dishes coming straight from our farm as well as the other farms we work with and was extremely rewarding. Sending the stand employees out to the fields to do some picking for ingredients that would go straight into a salad while others got the fire going to cook ribs and steaks from Liberty Delight Farm in Reisterstown, or fresh caught Barracuda from one of our crew just back from a fishing trip. Others kicked back with a nice cold drink at our new picnic tables or on blankets. It was awesome. Late into the evening, too late really, the few of us remaining closed the evening out by the crackling fire as I played my guitar surrounded by the darkness of night, millions of stars, the smell of fresh air and the accompaniment of frogs.
The next morning bright and early a full parking lot of vehicles awaits. Vans packed with film equipment, attractive actors, and a crew of beards transform the farm into a movie studio. I felt so Hollywood hanging out with the director and producer of the shoot or taking advantage of the coffee and refreshments. I can’t believe how hard this crew works out in the sun for like a ten hour day only taking 30 minutes for lunch. I am in awe with how thorough and focused the director manages the scene catching every detail and the timbre of the actors’ voices. I realize if I was a director, rather than “cut” I would be more like “good enough”. This film will be an educational tool and interactive experience contracted by the USDA for training organic certifying field agents, (or something like that). I can’t wait for the opportunity to be asked if our farm is certified organic, and then to respond, “No, but we play one on TV.”
While I was preoccupied this week, thank goodness for our dedicated farm crew, harvesting like crazy all varieties of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. We are into our own broccoli, beets and radishes. Moving on along through the kale, chard, and lettuce; phasing out of our first patch of direct seeded baby greens while phasing in to the next one. We are tying up our fantastic, and gorgeous tomato plants just loaded with blossoms and fruit. This week we should start picking a lot more basil. Have a great week everyone!
Zen and the Art of Tomato Pruning
This week at the farm was about getting into the flow of things. We are picking and cutting lots and lots of salad greens including arugula, mizzuna, baby kale, baby lettuce, and tatsoi. We are also harvesting about 1000 heads of lettuce per week as well as kale, rainbow swiss chard, bok choi, and kohlrabi. Looking ahead to next week we will be getting into napa cabbage which looks wonderful. Broccoli is crowning nicely and not at all far off. Squash is coming on strong and probably less than a week away. We've had several requests from area restaurants for squash blossoms which we are filling along with salad greens. In fact while I am writing this update our crew is picking orders for The Grilled Oyster (Potomac and DC), Suma (Bethesda), and the Daily Dish (Chevy Chase), which I will personally deliver as soon as it is picked. These restaurants are great at being flexible and utilizing what’s in season so if you don’t feel like cooking give them a try.
The task that resonated the most with me this week was pruning the tomatoes. Now in the circle of farm life I must confess I am not the most knowledgeable or efficient member of the field crew. In fact this week I have earned the nickname One Row Charlie. This is because out of the 30 or so rows of tomatoes which needed pruning I would do about one a day while my comrades handled the lion’s share. In my defense it takes me about twice as long as everybody else so it’s as if I am doing two rows as long as nobody is counting..
As Godofredo met me in the field he explained that every plant is different. You need to look at it and let it tell you how it wants to grow. Some branches are male and some are female. The females will produce the fruit. Each plant should have two or three main stems, the others have to go. This approach resonates with me. The objective to pruning the tomatoes is to increase airflow and minimize risk of disease. Also by selecting the branches which get to stay it determines where the plant will focus its energy. Too many branches? Then the plant’s resources are spread too thin. Too many leaves block the airflow and when it rains the leaves won’t dry which encourages molds, mildews, and disease. I’m ready to get going.
Almost immediately in the quiet of the tomato patch on a misty morning listening to the birds while I pinch, and bend up then down, careful not to tear the flesh of the stem, I am intoxicated by the powerful aroma of the plants. There is a green residue that cakes my fingers and carries the smell and I find myself thinking of a scene from the Godfather where Marlon Brando is pruning his tomatoes, lost in his thoughts in the sanctuary of his garden. I always liked that scene. Now I find myself getting lost in my thoughts with the hopes that as I simplify the plants I am also ridding myself of clutter and extraneous branches. Jeff announces how good the tomato plants are looking and I notice my trail of pruned suckers behind me and endless plants ready for pruning. It is a meditative state and very therapeutic. Even if only for one row.
In 2015, Norman's joined forces with Liberty Delight Farms. Liberty Delight Farms is a family owned and operated All Natural Meat producer in Reisterstown, MD. Their commitment to sustainable agricultural practices, excellence in animal husbandry, complimented with traditional hard working values and ethics ensures you the finest quality of All Natural Meats.
Each month, Norman's will open up the website and take orders and we will distribute for a designated week at our CSA pickups or Saturdays at our Roadside Markets (in season). No payment is due until pickup.
CUT-OFF THIS MONTH IS: Sunday, July 3rd
PICKUP WEEK IS: Sunday, July 10 through Saturday, July 16 at our CSA Pickups and roadside markets.
Just a note to remind you that we are officially changing our Friday CSA location, beginning tomorrow, July 1st to:
Kol Shalom (parking lot)
9110 Darnestown Rd, Rockville, MD 20850
The hours will remain the same from 11am-1pm.
We have moved our CSA pickup to the main lobby of Ohr Kodesh this evening between 4-7pm. If you cannot make this evening, you may come to another CSA pickup this week.