We are willing it to be Spring. After the winter North East Ohio has experienced we deserve a little hope.
At Covered bridge Gardens we are making preparations for the 2014 growing season. Steve has delivered our seeds to the Middle Ridge greenhouse in Madison that will start them in a perfect, warm environment to give the best start our plants can get.
As the days get longer and warmer there is much to do. Steve has begun prepping our starting beds and near the barn and is even starting some early seeds himself. Equipment is coming out of storage and cleaning up from the winter begins. YOu would not believe the leaves alone that blow into the barn. Our flower beds, like yours, need dressing up and shrubbery needs trimmed. In a few weeks we will begin bedding around the blueberries. Got to make the easier for the turkeys to find them
Covered Bridge Gardens will not soon forget 2013. In the 77 years the farm has been in the family this one goes on the naughty list. This was truly one year for the record books. The 2013 summer growing season was one of the wettest in over a hundred years for North East Ohio. At one point we set a record with 22 straight days of rain.One year we can’t get enough and the next we are drowning.
Here is a photo look back on a year:
April snowy market day.
Asian Pears in blossom.
These sunny spring blossoms made up for no summer sunflowers.
The crew using any dry day to plant.
Tomatoes staying dry under cover.
MIll Creek rushing by our road.
Too wet to get the last plants in the fields.
... and more weeds.
We lost over 70% of the crops we planted this year. This included our pumpkins, winter squashes, Brussels spouts, broccoli, and large onions. It also damaged the sweet corn harvest and left others covered in waist high weeds. We concluded our CSA season and our farmer’s market season in October with nothing left to sell. The stars of the season were the potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. If not for them I’m not sure what we would have done for our members shares each week. I really just want to say good riddens.
Happy New Year!
I know from all those communication workshops that the receiver’s image of a “Happy 2014″ may be quite different from mine. I don’t have a crystal ball showing me that everything will be brighter in the coming year, but I really hope you find your happiness. I love the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, a true story of Chris Gardner’s dream of happiness for himself and his son and with hard work makes it come true. Yep, get the tissues ready as you push the play button.
Maybe I’m just a sap for a happy ending or maybe I’m a farmer. Think about it. Each year a farmer starts off with high hopes that this will be “the” year. The one that the spring will be warm with just the right amount of rain. This is the one he will gets his seeds in the ground early, and the summer months will be sunny, but not too hot for plants to grow. And even if the spring and summer are not the happiest, he keeps hoping the harvests will make up for it. Farmers never give up hope until the last rake and shovel are in the shed and the snow is flying. Just like a good movie that keeps you hoping until the last scene. And then there is always next year.
I hope there is a little farmer in all of you. May your hopes and dreams come true and you find life is less of a struggle. May it have just the right amounts of sunshine and rain in the coming year.
Happy New Year from the Prochkos
It’s pecan time in Arizona!
With only a few days left before Christmas I’m sure many of you are adding pecans to your baking and cooking. But did you know this is also the time of year the nuts are harvested. I couldn’t resist the chance to help some friends sort their harvest.
The nuts have been growing on the trees for nine months. They start as tiny green husked nuts. Over the months they grow into sweet nuts inside a brown shell covered with a now black husk. The husk spits open and the nuts are shaken loose. They are gathered up and now have to be sorted. That is what we are doing here. Our friends, the Hagedorns, have about two acres of trees that yielded this year 2500 pound of in-shell nuts. Ruffly 1250 pounds of shelled nuts.
To get this bounty the trees were fertilized, watered and trimmed over the past year. They had to hire a crew and equipment to shake the trees of their nuts and then a crew to sort them. Their small harvest took about ten hours of hired crew labor and equipment to bring in. Next they will sell their nuts to a bulk buyer and shell a few for their personal use. Not a real money maker but a labor of love.
Here you can see the nuts, twigs and leaves going up the conveyor to a blower that separates them dropping the good nuts out. We then give them one more look over to catch any cracked ones before bagging them 60# at a time.
Are you tired of going out to eat and the only vegetable you are offered is French fried potatoes? Boring! Last night I was delighted to be serves a wonderful blend of freshly prepared vegetables. The side salad was a light and fresh start to the meal. Then our main meat was mixed with sautéed red peppers, onions and mushrooms. Piled beside was a mix of broccoli, green beans, and carrots all hand cut and steamed. Roasted seasoned potatoes rounded out the selection. Our dinner guests remarked that they were happily getting their share of vegetables for the day.
(Sorry but my picture came out fuzzy. People were staring at the crazy lady capturing her food.)
I must share that we were at the Verde Café in Camp Verde, Arizona. I know not local to many of our Facebbook friends but lets start the conversation where menus are including delicious vegetables this time of year. Maybe eating healthy isn’t our first thought when we go out, but it’s nice to have the choice when we do. If we support restaurant menus with vegetable now, maybe they will support their local farmers in the summer.
Let us know where you find your winter vegetables on our Facebook page so others can too.
I know I haven’t blog in a really long time. Mostly I feel what I have to say might not interest you, or there isn’t much to write about. Then yesterday I did a slow burn after shopping in the produce department of our local store.
Like most of you this time of year I am forces to buy my “fresh” produce from the store in town. I hope all my CSA members are scrutinizing their produce as closely as I do during the winter months. I’ll pick up the yellow peppers that are slightly soft and try to gauge how long since they were picked. I’ll feel along the length of the cucumber and try to determine how many more days it might last. I am buying produce that would not meet our standard for the CSA bags. I would throw them out on the farm. But now I try to decide on the best of the bunch.
I’m not criticizing the produce manager, he can only work with what the industry’s logistics system can get to him and still call “fresh”. But this is not what started my slow burn. It was the young man tossing tomatoes onto the display. Yes tossing. Anyone who as worked for me knows I have a pet peeve about handling tomatoes as gently as eggs. When I saw how haphazardly he grabbed the bunches I had to say something. His remark was “They will be ok”. How dose he know, is he going to watch them turn mushy on the kitchen counter? I bought a few just to save them from further abuse.
Now, I will continue to buy my “fresh” produce at this store. What choice do I have this time of year? But with each bit I tell myself, “Just a few more months until the real “fresh” is here.”
Back to School with Local Lunches
How to connect schools with local produce has been the discussion of several meetings over the past few months. Local school food service personnel are trying to learn how they can bring some of our local harvest into their cafeterias. Covered Bridge Gardens hosted a group of food service supervisors, teachers and school groups to learn what is growing in their area. We were one of several farms they visited as they toured Ashtabula County.
There are some obstacles for both farmers and schools to make this happen. Every small step is a step in the right direction. Here are some of the concerns.
A. Fresh harvesting is mainly in the summer when schools are out. There is small window in September and October when late season vegetables are available.
B. Do schools have the budget for the cost of local produce?
C. What is the quickest way to communicate what we have and get orders? Calling each school or farm will take a lot of time each week.
D. Will farmers be required to deliver the orders or will schools pool resources for a pick-up service?
E. Will kids want to eat new things and not waste it?
F. Can schools add more meal prep time to the payroll budget?
Most schools are trying to get local with apples and fruit available over the school year. But something as simple as fresh eggs has some people balking when they can get them powdered and don’t have to worry about storage and messy preps.
Let’s approach this from a different angle. Let’s help parents learn how to put local in their kids’ lunch bags. I hope I’m not too far off base but this is what I hear adults taking for lunches during our CSA season and think kids can follow with the same.
For example, add local lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads for their sandwiches.
Have the kids involved by helping to make pickled vegetables, homemade soups or jams. If you have any suggestions how parents and schools can bring local and school lunches together, please share them on our Facebook page.
In order to help you gather all the fresh vegetables for your weekly menu we have a new look. This week we expanded our displays at the Shaker Square and Ashtabula Markets to three tents long.
This gives us enough room to show off all our harvest so you can easily find what you need.
Look for the blue tablecloths and the large white truck. The longer look takes all three of us to make sure you are served.
Well the best thing I can say about July is it is over. One of the rainiest months in history with over a foot of water. It seemed that every cloud that drifted over the farm opened up and dropped more rain. We say more standing water in the field that we have seen before. If it wasn’t raining it was gloomy and damp. Not ideal conditions for plants to survive.
We got a short reprieve toward the end of the month. the summer squash and cucumbers exploded with blossoms and fruit only to be drowned in the last week ending productivity again. Early cauliflower and broccoli simply gave up and produce small heads. The field tomatoes have a layer of yellow leaves around the lower branches contesting to the over abundance of water.
One bright note was the juicy sweet greenhouse tomatoes. Here is a picture of the early green fruit.
We are picking about 50 pounds a day of these beauties. Protected form the harsh rains and given warm and the right amount of water they are thriving. On this bright note we enter August.
The rain stopped this past Thursday and blue skies are exspected for the next week. No too soon by the looks of the fields. We got 4 inched on Wednesday as the last storms rolled through. We could a month now without rain and not be hurting.
The whole mood of the shoppers at the market changed with the weather. Everyone seemed happy and hardly anyone complained of the heat. Picking in the fields was so enjoyable with a light breeze keeping humidity down. Though there is standing water in some parts of the fields the plants are actually getting out of the water for the first time in over a month. We did lose plants in areas where they just could not live in the deep water.
Hopefully this will be a turn around and crops will take off. The first broccoli did not even produce heads, early cauliflower turned brown while rows of peas turned yellow and matued too fast. This weekend we picked the first blushing tomatoes, summer squash has taken off and cucumbers are filling out. These made for good markets this weekend as people had some new ingredients for their weekly menues. Though it was too muddy to get the tractor in the fields Steve did dig some potatoes by hand. The reds were a big hit with everyone. There is nothing like the flavor of fresh boiled potatoes.
Through all of this the herbs have produced. I picked nearly 8 pounds of basil and 6 pounds of parsley. Our dill is filling out and will go great with the cucumbers in the week 5 CSA bags.
We can only take each day as we get it but I take a lot more of these please.