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from the Field

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May 21, 2017
Ticks: Awareness and How to Deal
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
A bumper year for ticks following a bumper year for mice (per NPR) means education and awareness when in nature to understand the problem and deal with it in a reasonable way.
I'm going to assume that everyone has seen and felt a tick crawling on them and is familiar enough with their appearance to identify them as well as the difference between a dog and deer tick, the two types found in our area. On the farm, 95% of the time I see a tick it is a dog tick, the bigger one, the one you can feel crawling on your skin and see in the mirror quite easily. Since we're in tick habitat daily on the farm we have a routine where we check ourselves nightly before bed, very thoroughly. We do find ticks occasionally, most of the time before they've fed or when they've just attached. At this point it is not a big deal. However, very rarely Dana will find a deer tick feeding on herself (they don't like me for some reason) and we'll very carefully remove it, head and all, with tweezers and ship it to a lab to be analyzed to see if it is carrying lyme. Five times out of five now the results have come back negative for lyme so she doesn't have to go on antibiotics. Each time we've found them they've also only been feeding a short period of time. How long do ticks need to feed to transmit lyme? Not sure if there is a consensus on this since lyme seems to remain a mystery for some reason, but I've heard 24 hours, which doesn't sound accurate. I've also heard from veterinarians and doctors that if you've been bitten by a deer tick and it is carrying lyme to automatically go on the minimal antibiotic dosage (which is 2 weeks of doxycyline, tough on the body but better than untreated lyme).
So, the moral of the story is this: after being on the farm, either before you get in the car or when you get home, or before bed at night, check yourselves and your kids for ticks. It is a good habit to get into and really enhances the nighttime routine.
If you find a tick feeding on you, pull it out, head too, and send it hear to be analyzed: UMass Amherst
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May 14, 2017
A Day in the Farm Life
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
As you can see we were quite excited and relieved to have successfully pushed the 30'x96' high tunnel 200' uphill into an easterly wind with 6 strong farmers (Dana took the photo). Under protection are the heirloom tomatoes. This moveable beast allows us to properly rotate crops using the three positions; lets the soil interact with the weather and climate when not covered; and gives us 2 or 3 protected moves a season. After the heirloom tomatoes wrap up in late summer we'll slide it to another position to protect greens for the winter and then sow a nourishing cover crop of rye and vetch where the tomatoes were.
It was with heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to our flowering crimson clover last Friday before the big rain event. This cover crop was sown along with oats and buckwheat last fall. The oats and buckwheat winter kill from the cold while the crimson clover hibernates and begins growing again in the spring, flowering in late April or early May. The bumblebee enjoyed the blossoms. Fortunately for the nectar loving pollinators there are patches of the clover left around the farm, as well as volunteering buckwheat, and soon our 2.5 acre pollinator habitat should be blooming with a variety of flowers.
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April 30, 2017
Welcoming Incoming May
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Transplanting patient peas a week later than normal due to the wet weather.
May arrives this week which means we're almost halfway through spring already. It seems like just yesterday we had snow on the ground, received too much subsequent rainfall, and desperately waited for the ground to dry out enough for planting. Just when we couldn't wait any longer the weather pattern changed and we had a few weeks of relatively dry weather. Because of the wet second half of March and the first week of April we basically had to do a month's worth of work in about two weeks time. Early April through mid-May is probably our busiest ground preparation and planting time. A lot of crops go in the ground during this timeframe, both for early and middle of the season harvest. Many crops go in successionally either weekly or biweekly or monthly like lettuces, beets, chard, spinach, scallions, dill, cilantro, parsley, summer squash, cucumbers, and greens, but many large plantings of one-timers go in also such as onions, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, kale, radicchio, and winter squash. We're extremely busy and it feels good to be outside planting and making progress towards the upcoming harvest season.
Direct seeding kale, arugula, broccoli raab, mizuna, mustard, radishes, and turnips.
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March 31, 2017
Spring is Here
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Early season crew, John, Hannah, Dana, and Derek, under the newly completed pergola built in honor of our beloved friend, herb gardener, herbalist, Jeannine Vannais, who passed away in early 2015.
Welcome to the 2017 Main Season CSA at Anchor Run Farm
It's the first full week in April and that means that the race is about to commence. We're worshipping the sun whenever it graces our skies and are hopeful for a solid week of glorious sunshine accompanied by a few windy days to dry out the soil just enough in order to begin preparing raised beds and planting our anxiously awaiting transplants. Over the past nine seasons we've begun our outside springtime growing adventures during the first week or two of April. What began as an early spring in February transformed into a late spring in March and as we enter April we're at least safely into springtime temperatures albeit with plenty of moisture. With increased warmth, longer day length, a higher-in-the-sky sun, and perhaps the waking of the perennial vegetation we're eagerly hoping the ground dries out faster.
Pergola in progress
Because we're unable to transplant or directly sow seeds into the fields we've been able to focus our springtime energy on other areas of the farm that would ordinarily lose priority to the field crops. Extreme sprucing up of the herb garden, creating a new flower garden right outside of the pick up room, building a pergola, and beautifying the pick up room are some of the jobs we've been immersed in.
Patient transplants hardening off in the hoop house
We're looking forward to welcoming you back to the farm this spring - hopefully CSA pick ups will begin in mid-to-late May. Open House/Orientation Day is scheduled for Sunday May 7th 10am-2pm. Workshift opportunities should begin sometime in April. See you soon!
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February 20, 2017
Grateful For Our CSA Members
Notes From The Field
Perhaps it is fitting that the final week of the 2017 Winter CSA will feature April temperatures and really invoke that springtime feeling. It's hard to not become a bit more energized and anxious to begin the next growing season. Typically we fire up the greenhouse and begin seeding in there the week of March 1st and begin transplanting and sowing outside the week of April 1st. With this weather it's quite easy to want to expedite the schedule and get started now. We will begin preparing the high tunnel beds for a March 1st carrot sowing. We'll have to mow and remove most of the leftover organic matter from the winter greens in order to sow the carrots on the raised beds. Last year was the first time we sowed carrots a full month earlier than our typical April 1st date and they did very well in the rocky raised beds of the high tunnel.
Thank you Winter CSA members for supporting us during the inaugural 8-week January and February share - we truly couldn't have done it without you!
The final week of harvesting high tunnel greens!
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February 12, 2017
All in a Week
Notes From The Field
A Bucks County winter farmhouse scene (photo courtesy of Jason Stocker).
A couple days near 60 degrees with a snowstorm sandwiched between. A return to cold and dreary today, but at least the snowfall looked appealing for a day or two. Inside the growing structures springtime has arrived. The higher-in-the-sky sunshine significantly warms the insides and, unopened, reach 80 degrees easily. Pretty soon some of our earlier sowings may begin thinking about reproduction, changing their flavor profile from sweet to bitter, reminding us of their goals during their brief existence. We thank them for enriching our lives this winter by providing a steady flow of greenery and nourishment. One final frontier of experimentation this time of year is observing whether or not the winter greens can sustain their viability through the month of March. We want to determine the feasibility of a Winter CSA running mid-November through March next time around the sun, potentially combining the Late Fall and Winter shares into one longer 20-week season.
Before the snow and cold arrived we enjoyed an early spring-like evening walking (and frolicking) around the fields in anticipation of the upcoming 2017 growing season.
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February 5, 2017
Classic Winter Morning
Notes From The Field
Gabriel walks down the aisle between the second seeding of of mizuna, arugula, mix, and kale.
Crisp, clear, and cold on an early February morning, how it should be once in a while at least. Temperatures returned to the teens for the first time in a while but at least the sun has risen and is shining. Day length is noticeably longer now. Seems to me that just in the past week we've added about an hour though of course it steadily lengthens. Pretty soon there'll be an extra bounce in our steps as we meander the farm and prepare for the upcoming growing season. Fortunately there's another solid month of winter but once March arrives the 2017 Main Season officially commences with seeding in the greenhouse and direct seeding carrots in the high tunnel. Between now and then we'll continue harvesting fresh greens from both structures plus the hoop house and in between freezes during thaws we'll check outside hardy crops like spinach and kale for potential distribution.
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January 29, 2017
Here Comes February
Notes From The Field
Yankee Hardy Lettuce Mix Blend looking vibrant in the greenhouse; its 1st cutting should take place this week. We'll also probably take a second cutting from the hoop house shown below if needed. Spinach should come from the field - amazingly - as well as the hoop house.
With the arrival of a new month, a calendar page flip, winter's midpoint, seasonal unexceptional cold returns, descends. Crop structures will need to be closed and sealed up before nighttime to trap daytime heat. We'll probably also add interior covers as well, as added insurance. All of these crops have experienced deep lows already so they should be prepared for this round of cold. Very soon daylight will lengthen beyond the 10-hour mark and will increase rapidly to the 12-hour equinox in March. During February we're anticipating accelerated crop growth which will hopefully translate into additional fresh greens in the share.
We hope you've been enjoyed the winter share thus far. If you have any comments or suggestions (or criticisms) for us please send them our way!
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January 22, 2017
Continued Growth
Notes From The Field
Spinach and chard re-growth in the hoop house; slow growing scallions, too
Is this a mild winter or a mild stretch of weather? I think I can remember a few nights of single digits. We're almost at the end of January and March is only a month away, which basically signifies the beginning of mental spring. The northeasterly winds of last winter dumped two feet of snow but today we're looking at rain. Protected crops are growing and we're keeping records and collecting growth data to better plan for future seasons. We're busy contemplating improvements for the 2017 Main Season and wrapping up leftover jobs from this past year. The warmer weather and unfrozen, albeit constantly wet and squishy, ground enables us to spend more time outside. Crops are easier to harvest when our fingers aren't frozen. Washing is manageable when pipes aren't blocked with ice. Are we spoiled this year or would some deep and long cold be good for the fields and spirit? Of course we have to take what comes, what we're given. All we can really do is plan, assess, reflect, and act. What will the rest of 2017 bring?
We enjoyed a short family trip to balmy NC to greet a new niece and play outside!
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January 15, 2017
Whether We Weather The Weather
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The new addition to the Anchor Run Farm sign thanks to field manager Hannah.
Is it winter or not? For a few days it feels, sounds, and smells that way, then the next round of a thaw arrives and with it a beckoning to be outside, a solitary confused peeping frog, and the smell of decomposing daikon radish cover crop. On the one hand I want it to be cold to set back bugs and diseases for the following season, but on the other hand mild weather is pleasant and productive. Thermal fluctuations are probably normal and happen most seasons but going from a low of 2 degrees to a high of 65 degrees a few days apart is extreme. Give me one month with temperatures consistently below freezing with a long autumn and spring on either side and I would be happy. With an extended forecast of above freezing temperatures and daylight slowly getting back to 10 hours a day, thinking about spring and earnestly getting ready for the next growing season will probably commence.
Under Gabe's watchful supervision aka meaningful distractions Hannah winds up last season's irrigation drip tape for next season's use.
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January 8, 2017
It's Winter
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
And it's cold! At 7:30am Monday morning it was 2 degrees outside, 10 degrees inside the high tunnel, 25 degrees under the two layers of inner row cover in the high tunnel, and 30 degrees in the greenhouse, thanks to some subtle propane heat. This was our 3rd single digit morning this fall/winter and probably won't be our last. By 3:00pm Monday afternoon it warmed up to a balmy 23 degrees outside, 42 degrees inside the high tunnel, 46 degrees under the two inner covers, and was 47 degrees in the greenhouse. Fortunately, miraculously, marvelously all of the unheated greens survived and looked happily content by this afternoon. Quite a rebound since this morning, but they were only exposed to 25 degrees or so, which is tolerable, apparently. It's pretty amazing that the simple addition of inner covers protects crops this much, all passively without added heat. This cold arrived on the back of a warm spell, so the leftover warmth of the soil is probably getting trapped under the covers. Twenty-five is low, especially for relatively mature greens that need to be harvested soon. These greens began their lives at the end of October and should be around for a second cutting at the end of February. After we're through with the first cutting in the high tunnel we'll begin cutting in the greenhouse and around then we'll also take a second cutting from the lettuce mix, spinach, and chard in the hoop house. These are our goals anyway. Please enjoy these nurtured organic greens!
Covering and uncovering the protected crops are typical winter growing tasks
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January 1, 2017
The Calendar Flips
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Sunlight is perfect this time of year for a good photo, as is Dana's eye.
Welcome to the 2017 Winter CSA! Share distribution begins this Wednesday 1/4/17 1-8pm for Full Shares and Week A Half Shares. Week B Half Shares begin next Wednesday 1/11/17. To find out what week you are, log in to your account. If you participated in the Late Fall CSA as a Half Share, your pick up week is the same.
It's been two weeks since our last CSA pick up; our first week off since mid-May. Thirty-two weeks of harvest and pick up in a row. Not that this week was a week without work, but the gap in harvests allowed additional focus in other areas, or time off from work. On the farm there is almost always a job or task begging for completion, beginning, or a brainstorm. At least there were some holidays spent away from the farm, when it is possible to separate oneself from the responsibility. Either way, the crops look great. I'm excited to harvest fresh greens again this week: baby kale, arugula, mizuna, and greens mix.
Enjoying the first of the new year outside; a warm spring-teaser.
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December 18, 2016
Challenging Cold
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Some good news: we think most of our crops survived the first round of deep freeze. Another round is settling in now but at least the sun is shining to temporarily warm the plants and air space inside the protective fabric and structures. It's not supposed to be as cold as it was last week but may not rise above freezing today or tomorrow. We were quite nervous early last week as we tried to determine the best way to ensure our fresh crops survived. Trial by error, experimentation, data collection, and research led us to use two layers of our lightweight fabric row cover on top of large interior hoops to protect the crops in the high tunnel. This is where the majority of our greens will come from over the next two months. The picture above shows the interior of the high tunnel and the photograph below shows the healthy green crops that survived under the two sheets of cover. When it was 9 degrees outside on Friday morning the interior of the high tunnel was 12 degrees, cold enough to have killed the crops. Under the 2 layers of fabric, amazingly, the temperature was a steamy 27 degrees, cold enough to freeze the crops but not cold enough to kill them or damage them. No additional heat was added. The crops survived because warm air was trapped under the covers, radiating off the earth.
Before the deep cold we finished harvesting the first round of cutting of baby chard, lettuce mix, and spinach from the hoop house. In there we erected hoops and covered with one layer of fabric in hopes of regrowth and another cutting in a month or so. Those crops appear to have survived. For added security and insurance, we turned on the propane heat in our greenhouse and set the thermostat to 34 degrees. During the 2nd night of deep cold, when the outside low was 9 degrees, a gust of wind blew out the pilot so upon early morning inspection there was no heat in the greenhouse and the air temperature inside was 20 degrees. Disaster? Plants were thoroughly frozen but thawed in a few hours and as of today still seem to have survived.
In summary, we can continue to enjoy fresh organic greens this winter. Happy Solstice!
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December 11, 2016
Real Cold Has Descended
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The feeling of winter has arrived, and the feeling of the arctic is supposed to greet us mid-week. These types of temperature dips truly test the cold tolerance of the various crops still growing on the farm, as well as our willingness to get outside and do some necessary farm work. Remembering to bundle up properly makes most work managable. Sunshine helps, too, though that has been mostly absent of late, or the clouds clear up right as the sun descends below tree line. Just in time for a nighttime of clear crisp cold. Since this is the first deep freeze of the fall season, we're curious to observe the varying cold intolerance thresholds that will be crossed. Probably the outside lettuces will be damaged. Under big hoops and fabric row cover are kales, arugula, lettuce mix, spinach, and baby chard (see expected harvest photo). I don't know if that is enough protection. The greenhouse was two layers of plastic and an inflatable air layer between. Inside the greenhouse we erected big hoops with row cover on top (see above photo). The hoop house and high tunnel are covered with a single layer of plastic but also have big hoops and fabric row cover inside (see below photo). The pockets of air are important protection. Next week I'll probably write about what survived and will hopefully be amazed and enthused by the resiliency of plants in the face of teenage temperatures.
Abigail surveys the regrowth of the lettuce mix, hoping it will endure the upcoming cold.
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December 4, 2016
Go With The Flow
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Gabriel and Abigail pose in the hoop house behind beautiful spinach and chard.
Water returned to the farm last week in the form of abundant rainfall; almost 3 inches fell over a couple of days. Most of it appears to have soaked in, but the ponds are full again so some of it ran off and was caught there. Overall November was definitely a dry month; until that storm we had only received about half an inch of rain. This time of year our crops hardly need any water to maintain their health, so a dry fall is better than a wet one. During a typical Bucks County fall and winter the soil in the covered structures absorbs enough moisture from outside rainfall to keep those crops happy. This fall, however, we've had to add water every couple of weeks. Soon enough (probably) adding water from the well won't be an option, assuming frozen pipes could become a reality. We began harvesting lettuce mix from the hoop house last week and will begin harvesting chard and spinach there as well this week. We will also begin harvesting arugula, mizuna, and greens mix from the high tunnel. Cutting it now should allow it enough time to regrow for another harvest or two in January and February. Field crops are still growing slowly and have been cold tolerant. We'll probably have to do a bit of scrambling whenever forecasts begin to call for lows in the low 20s or teens but by then most of the field crops will be cleared. Hope you are enjoying all of the fresh greens!
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November 27, 2016
A Continued Green Autumn
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
December commences this week as we move slowly towards the end of the calendar year. I believe some folks refer to December as the beginning of meteorological winter. Another few weeks of lessening daylight, then with official start of astronomical winter on December 21st daylight will begin to slowly lengthen. It probably won't feel like winter until January. The winter winds were working their way around last week, though, removing whatever warmth hung around with the prior week's minor heat wave and also quickly dismantled whatever leaves hung around so that now it looks like winter. There are a few move leaves clinging desperately to the large trees surrounding our house and I'm hoping they've finished their gravitationally induced fall before I attempt to clean our gutters prior to the forecast significant rainfall midweek, the first in a very long time. It has been a mostly lovely autumn and I'm glad for the return of some sustained sunshine today. Outside crops are still thriving, though a few of the more cold sensitive ones show a bit of stress from the wind and the subsequent drop into the mid-20s last week.
Gabriel inspects raised beds of winter greens inside the greenhouse.
Baby lettuce mix seedlings slowly beginning their life above the soil.
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November 20, 2016
Blowing in the Wind
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
I love this time of year (most of the time, when the weather is good, and crops are healthy). The amount and pace of work is manageable, and with one main pick up day per week with approximately 30% of the Main Season membership, harvesting is much easier. Besides continuing the growing season and protecting crops, we reflect on the successes and failures that occurred over the past 9 months and begin to think about possible improvements. Our thoughts begin to meander towards the 2017 growing season, what new crops to try, what perennial plantings to invest in, what crops to quit growing, how to improve members' CSA experience. I love the time and space relationship between planning and planting for future harvests. Investing in an additional 40 fruit trees, 300 raspberry bushes, and 3000 strawberry plants requires a vision of the future. Where will the crops go? What's the soil like? When will harvests begin? What will pest pressure be like? If it's a u-pick crop, can it be grown near the central area? Is it worth the investment? It's quite easy to dream and be hopeful this time of year, especially after a satisfying and successful growing season. We feel safe.
Very, very young lettuce mix under triple protection in the optionally heated greenhouse for January and February harvests.
Under protection in the unheated hoop house, chard and spinach look healthy and happy.
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November 13, 2016
5th Annual Late Fall CSA Begins
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Technically a new CSA season but really an extension of the continued growing season, the 2016 Late Fall CSA begins this Wednesday 1-8pm for Full Shares and Week A Half Shares. Week B Half Shares start next Tuesday, November 22nd, 1-8pm. Wednesday is the main pick up day, but there is also a Saturday 11am-12noon option for those of you with busy weekdays. You must e-mail us to choose the Saturday option permanently, or to request a temporary switch. If you're a Late Fall Half Share owner, log in here to find out what week of pick up you are. If you were a half share owner during the main season your pick up week is the same unless you requested a different week for this current season.
We're very much looking forward to and excited about the continued harvests. Cold hardy crops thrive this time of year. Greens only get sweeter after a touch of frost and a freeze. This fall so far has been particularly kind to us; we've had numerous widespread heavy frosts but no deep freezes yet. In fact, the temperature has only bottomed out in the upper 20s a few times. Even the least cold-hardy unprotected greens like head lettuces aren't showing damage yet. Either way, we took necessary steps to cover a good portion of the crops for the continued growing season, assuming eventually they'll need the added protection. After it gets truly cold, perhaps not until January, we'll begin harvesting from the larger protective structures. See the bottom picture below for the various cold protective strategies.
After a very rough beginning during an extremely wet (and hot) July followed by an extremely dry (and hot) August, our 2017 strawberry patch plants seem to have pulled through successfully (they're in green in the foreground).
Low hoops made from bent 10-foot 1/2-inch electrical conduit plus even lower hoops made from heavy gauge wire covered with fabric and anchored with sandbags will hopefully protect scallions, lettuces, yukina savory, chard, spinach, kale, and arugula for another month or two. In the background the greenhouse and hoop house protect additional crops for winter harvests.
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November 6, 2016
With Heartfelt Thanks
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
So, we're at the end of the 2016 Main Season CSA already. It surely flew by. It feels like a successful season and we're thankful for all of our members/friends/neighbors that participated, supported, and helped along the way. We're also very thankful (and lucky and fortunate) to have had a great, hardworking, enthusiastic, intelligent, diligent, knowledgable farm crew this year. Hannah and Mary Liz were here for the full length of the season, Mark was here for the summer months. They were an indispensable component of the farm's success this year. Hannah is returning for another season on the farm; Mary Liz is moving to the Boston area and will pursue work on another organic CSA farm.
We hope as an Anchor Run CSA member you feel satisfied with your experience this year and will return for future seasons. Stay connected - to the farm, to your farmers, to the soil and the food that is grown here. As of now you can sign up for the 2016 Late Fall CSA, the 2017 Winter CSA, and the 2017 Main Season CSA here. Thank you, and have a good great offseason!
Checking out the Late Fall and Winter crops, planning harvests, sampling along the way, reconnecting after being away for a couple of days.
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October 30, 2016
Frosty Mornings and Another Round of Summer
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We sustained our first widespread heavy frost this week and all of the crops made it through unscathed and hopefully sweeter. The fact that we're almost into November and haven't experienced a damaging low in the 20s is soothing, but it will come soon enough. Putting out mini-hoops and floating row cover is a task that is easily put off until absolutely necessary. Forecasted temporary dips in temperature always seem to be preceded by a very windy day which renders floating row covers into large unmanageable kites. This is one main reason we're fully embracing growing in all of our larger plastic covered structures this fall and winter. The hoop house, high tunnel, and greenhouse will protect much of our fresh crops during the Late Fall CSA and Winter CSA seasons. The size of these structures makes harvesting easier and the thick plastic gives plants an additional 5-10 degree buffer. We can also add another layer of hoops and row cover on the inside that adds further insulation. Crops are also protected from wind, rain, and snow. Because the greenhouse has an inflatable layer of plastic and the option of supplemental heat, we can grow certain crops in there that aren't quite as cold tolerant as others. Crops like beet greens, chard, and lettuce aren't quite as cold hardy as kale, arugula, and spinach. To enjoy the winter delicacies you should join our Late Fall CSA and Winter CSA!
Lettuce mix, chard, spinach, and scallions under protection inside the hoop house.
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October 23, 2016
Three More Weeks of Main Season CSA
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The brief return to summer-like weather is over, thankfully, and some much needed rain fell as the cold front made its way through the area. We irrigated some thirsty crops earlier in the week and would have had to add water to other crops had the rain missed us. We transplanted lettuce mix, spinach, scallions, and chard into the hoop house for December harvest and direct seeded arugula, kale, mizuna, and mustard mix into the high tunnel for January and February harvest. We sowed winter rye and hairy vetch cover crop into the heirloom tomato, cherry tomato, sweet potato, and field tomato areas; this was probably the final cover crop sowing of the season. We have one more outside crop to plant - garlic - sometime over the next few weeks and will direct seed another round of greens in the high tunnel within a week or two. We're preparing the greenhouse for mid-winter growing where we can control the temperature with supplemental heat, if needed. Last week we also finished harvesting celeriac and kohlrabi for distribution over the next few months. Thanks to the wonderful CoolBot, our cold storage area is almost double what it was last winter. And this coming week we'll have the pleasure of dealing with the first potentially heavy frost of the fall as lows are forecast to drop into the low 30s, wich probably means upper 20s here.
A warm summer day in fall beckons the kids to trundle through the daikon, buckwheat, and oat cover crop.
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October 16, 2016
A Dry and Lovely Start to Autumn
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
It's dry but it's tolerable this time of year with the low sun angle and diminished daylight and cooler temperatures. We've had enough precipitation to keep the crops happy but are curiously wondering when the cauliflower will head up. Typically we transition straight from the broccoli harvest into the cauliflower one, but this year, either due to bug pressure or some other factor, the cauliflower is a bit behind schedule. It could be thirsty. Greens are abundant right now as they should be with these cool days and nights. Infrequent light frosts are occurring as temperatures dip into the upper 30s, hopefully sweetening the flavor of many crops. White pines are beginning to turn some green needles to brown and will add a beautiful golden carpet to the landscape as they fall to the ground. Deciduous trees are also just starting to turn from green to gold and red. I feel like we only just departed summer and may feel like we have a brief return as temperatures climb to 80 degrees this week. That sounds okay; I'm not ready for the heating season just yet. Hope you are able to enjoy the great weather!
A majestic hickory on the way to Field 1.
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October 9, 2016
Harvesting and Getting Ready for Winter
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Including this coming week there are five more weeks of pick up for the Main Season 26-week share. Directly after the conclusion of this season the 6-week Late Fall CSA begins. Planting and production has already commenced for fall and winter harvests; crops need to be in the ground and growing well before cold and dark descend upon our latitude. Days to maturity of crops will eventually double and perhaps triple when we're nestled in winter. Soon we'll employ hoops and row cover to keep outside crops blemish free from the adverse effects of a heavy frost. Eventually - think January and February - we'll only harvest fresh crops from the protection of the high tunnel, hoop house, and greenhouse. That's well down the road, but we have to plan for and prepare soil now, as well as sow and transplant. Our managed farm footprint slowly dwindles each week as we wrap up harvesting of certain crops and sow the hibernating soil with cover crops. Our mental map of the farm becomes easier to comprehend when we're only actively maintaining a small portion of what was managed at the growing peak of June, July, and August. Much of the farm fields still radiate a brilliant green with the cool weather suited cover crop mixes and will do so until we receive hard frosts and freezes with regularity. These cover crops are soaking up leftover nutrients from the soil as they gather sunlight and transform it into additional soil food for next year's cash crops. As they protect the soil over the winter they'll slowly degrade into next spring and release stored energy and the cycle will continue.
A fun favored method for meandering around the farm...sunset glows in the background.
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October 2, 2016
Finally a Fall Feeling
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We're safely into October and we haven't seen the sun in half a week, received a nice light soaking rain, and are beginning to say goodbye to the last of the summer vegetable staples like tomatoes and peppers. We're transitioning away from sowing warm season annual cover crop mixes of buckwheat and daikon radish on finished fields and for a brief period will hope to establish oats and crimson clover before switching completely to winter rye and hairy vetch. Cover crops we sow after cash crops will largely determine what we can plant where next spring, summer, and fall. Buckwheat, daikon, and oats will winter kill and slowly desiccate and decompose over the cold months and should leave the soil in an almost perfect state of planting condition next season. Clover, rye, and vetch will go dormant over the winter, regrow in the spring, and will be turned into the soil after flowering in May. The clover and vetch will also fix nitrogen in the soil. Rye produces so much organic matter that we'll either fallow those fields or plant fall crops, giving the soil and organic matter time to process into a workable condition. Also affecting what goes where in the spring will be what was where the past 3-5 years. Crop rotation is an essential part of organic farming, crop and soil health. With good record keeping and ample land for proper rotation and resting, the pieces of the puzzle become easier to fit into place.
Three stages of growth of buckwheat and daikon radish cover crops are seen here. I'm looking at a 3-inch thick and growing daikon taproot in a patch where the buckwheat has finished flowering and is beginning to senesce. Buckwheat grows quickly to suppress weeds, attracts pollinators, then dies back to allow the daikon understory to take over.
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September 25, 2016
Truly Autumn
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Lows last night bottomed out in the upper 40s and highs this weekend will stay in the mid-70s. In fact I don't see temperatures reaching the 80s in the 10-day forecast. This surely sounds like autumn to me. Fall crops such as greens in the brassica and amaranth families are really beginning to beg for harvest and will be seen in the pick up room this week. After mostly being absent for the past few weeks due to erratic germination and a lack of love for heat, lettuce finally appears to have made a continued return into the foreseeable future. Broccoli, cabbage, and kale are thriving, even with the bug pressure. So many crops on the farm appear to be in perfect states of pick-ability that it will be difficult to choose which ones go in the share and which ones we should hold. Most likely storage crops already out of the field and protected in the barn will be the ones we hold on to until the fresh greens slow down or we catch up. I don't know about you, but I am very much looking forward to a return of these delicate delectable greens.
A scene of autumn colors and crops - leeks, radishes, turnips, celeriac, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower - with a golden field of desiccated soybeans and a purply-pink skyline.
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September 18, 2016
Certified Organic
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We took the plunge and it's now official: we're Certified Organic. After a lengthy application, solid record keeping, a thorough onsite inspection, as well as using organic practices since the inception of the CSA 13 years ago, Anchor Run is certifiably organically growing produce. We're happy to have the outside approval, though our true certifiers all these years have been our CSA members who pick up at and work on the farm with us, and continue to trust our growing practices. Thank you for your support!
Some big outside jobs in the field from last week were prepping for and sowing cover crops in anticipation of tonight's potential rain event as well as the removal of all of the plastic and landscape fabric from the winter squash patch. We transplanted another round of spinach, the first round of winter scallions, and some bok choy. Winter carrots and another round of arugula, kale, and mustard greens were direct seeded. This coming week we'll begin preparing the hoop house and greenhouse for winter growing, as well as go dancing in the rain.
After farming "organically" at Anchor Run for the past 8 seasons, we took the next step to become officially recognized as Certified Organic and were approved last week. The CSA was managed "organically" for the 5 seasons prior to our arrival as well, so after 13 total seasons it's now official.
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September 11, 2016
The Ability to Add Water
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We're fortunate to have the ability to add the quantities of water that are needed to grow healthy crops at this stage of the growing season. I know there are farms and farmers out there that are unable to do so, therefore I'm thankful for our relatively new and deep well that is tapped into a clean and reliable aquifer at a depth of 300 feet. The pressure and flow rate is adequate for our needs. In the spring of 2013 we installed 3000 feet of underground 3 inch pipe to move water around the farm to 12 access point risers where we can more easily attach above ground pipes and tubes to carry water to the crops. This infrastructure is essential right now considering we've had just over an inch of rain since July with many hot and sunny days. This is the driest weather I can remember at Anchor Run. Because of our heavy soils and north facing slopes, our crops are mostly happy and healthy after several rounds of irrigation. When you're eating the produce over the next couple of weeks think about what is required to grow nourishing food, and how we shouldn't take any part of the process for granted. In our culture of misleading abundance it is quite easy to overlook the precariousness of our tethered connection to a healthy and providing clean earth and environment. Let's remember that.
Thirsty soil! When we're initially making drip tape connections into the perpendicular 1.5 inch line, some water spills briefly, and because of the high clay content in our soil coupled with quick evaporation and drying, cracks like these can occur.
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September 4, 2016
10 More Weeks of Harvest
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
September is here and we're beginning harvest week #17 out of 26, so there are 10 more weeks to come to the farm for your Main Season CSA shares. What's after that? Soon we'll announce sign ups for our 6-week Late Fall CSA season which runs mid-November to the end of December as well as our inaugural 8-week Winter CSA season which will run from the beginning of January through the end of February. Details and additional information are forthcoming.
Besides thinking about and planning for late summer, fall, and winter, we're continually busy retrieving storage crops, helping the crops battle weed pressures, and putting fields to rest for the colder seasons. We've now retrieved about 90% of the potatoes and will gather the rest this week. 100% of the #1 grade winter squash are safely in storage. With the help of workshifts all of the fall cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and celeriac were successfully weeded and look healthy. Next up for weeding are beets, chard, kale, and asparagus. Fields of spring peas, summer beans, edamame, lettuce, and herbs, as well as potatoes, have been transitioned to a cover crop mix of oats, buckwheat, daikon, and clover to scavenge nutrients and protect the soil over the winter. Each time there is an anticipated rain event we make an effort to establish a cover crop wherever is available. The lack of rain this past month has been a challenge but amazingly it has been enough to initiate germination and enable the plants to grow.
This past Saturday we moved our pastured laying hen flock to a new 4-week location. I'm installing crisscrossing wire over the area to deter hawks while the electrified netting theoretically fends off foxes, raccoons, skunks, dogs, and weasels.
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August 28, 2016
Dry and Hot, Again
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Having received under an inch of rain in all of August we've been forced to return to regularly irrigating as much of the farm as possible. Like July, when we received 12 inches of liquid, August is also testing our resolve, but for the obvious opposite reason. The boom and bust cycle continues, Mother Nature and Father Geology grin and play games, we march on, trying our best to keep the farm productive and the CSA shares satisfying. During dry weather we are very lucky to have soils that drain very slowly, hold moisture well, and face north. For these reasons July was a difficult month but the farm survived with only a relatively small noticeable amount of loss. If anything, the stress is probably worse for us than the crops, but that's how it goes. After spending a solid 20 hours setting up irrigation infrastructure last week for all of the crops that need it, we're a bit more comfortable. We were eagerly looking forward to last Sunday's hypothetical rain event to water in newly sown cover crops and the .2 inches received looks to have sprouted some of the seeds. Now we hope that they can tolerate the dry heat and hold on until we receive more rain, whenever that may be. Farming is not for the faint of heart.
A sunset scene of our fall cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower with freshly applied drip tape trickle irrigation to keep these crops happy and healthy.
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August 21, 2016
Perhaps a Brief Respite
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
With daylight slowly diminishing, the sun perceptibly getting lower in the sky, shadows getting longer, summer crops and weeds showing their age, and the upcoming lows in the 50s, thoughts are beginning to meander towards fall. Today, we're still in August in the heat and humidity of summer, but with changing seasons on the distant horizon the scramble to collect as much sunlight and photosynthesize it into edible food is palpable. We're busy harvesting and securing long-season crops. Onions were just completed, potatoes are perhaps halfway finished, and all of the winter squash except for butternut has been stowed. We're busy putting fields to sleep for the winter by mowing and plowing spring and summer crops and sowing mixes of cover crops to protect and gather up nutrients from the soil before winter. Cover crops are an essential part of an organic produce farm to replenish soil health, increase organic matter, add nitrogen, and provide pollinator habitat. We've already sowed a buckwheat and daikon radish mix that is up and growing. We're hoping tonight's rain event triggers the growth of the buckwheat, daikon, crimson clover, and oat mix that we sowed over a large part of the farm on Friday. If the seeds germinate and the cover crop successfully grows, that part of the farm can be removed from most of our thoughts until the spring.
Future farmer Gabe monitors the potatoes as they roll out of our spinning root washer, making sure they correctly end up in the clean bin.
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August 14, 2016
Another Blast of Heat
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
For a brief period of time last week the weather forecast showed highs in the upper 70s at the end of next week, which temporarily helped us to tolerate this current furnace blast. The forecast has changed, and the heat swelters on. We're back to mildly hoping for rain after wishing it would stop raining, and so far the thunderstorms have missed us the past few days. I reluctantly turned on the irrigation yesterday for many of the crops that are currently being harvested on a continual basis. The boom and bust rain cycle leaves us pleasantly bewildered. The dry weather and soil combination is allowing us to catch up and get ahead with certain tasks like harvesting potatoes and onions, subduing grass and sowing cover crops, and perpetually working towards the common goal of successfully completing the 26-week CSA season. I feel very close to mother nature as I sit here and write these notes in a lingering sweaty mess in an un-air-conditioned house and am thankful for the solar panels providing some of the needed power to our 2 window AC units and walk-in cooler refrigerator in the barn. The window AC units are set for 60 degrees and are currently protecting potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash, as well as some seeded flats of colder-germinating crops like spinach, lettuces, and collards. The walk-in is set for 36-40 degrees and houses everything else we harvest. I wouldn't mind sleeping out there.
There is something eternally appealing about a sunflower blossom, except in this heat it may look too much like the sun furnace.
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August 7, 2016
With Help From CSA Members
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Once again I'm amazed by how much work can be accomplished when we have large groups helping out with farm tasks. Besides all of the necessary weeding, cultivating, and transplanting that needs to be done every week on the farm, this time of year the harvesting of crops like potatoes, onions, and winter squash as well as the cleaning up of watermelon, squash, cucumber, and pea patches truly benefit from strength in numbers. Last week, with the help of workshifts, we were able to harvest 40% of the onions, both varieties of spaghetti squash, about 20% of the potatoes, as well as remove all of the weed suppression fabric from the cucurbit crops. From the farm management and functionality perspective this is great, but I hope that it is also valuable to you, our members, to come out to the farm and work with your food community. To us, this is an extremely important tenet of the CSA model. You're involved in your own food production, learn some specifics about growing crops, get some exercise outside, and work alongside other folks who are also trying to eat healthy food. For those of you that cannot contribute physically but instead contribute financially, your support is meaningfully felt as well, and we're glad this is an option for you. Because we're a CSA-only farm, in the end we're all in this together.
Saturday's potato harvesting workshift moved so quickly that I had a hard time staying ahead with the mowing and digging of the potatoes - but that is a good thing!
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July 31, 2016
Into August We Ascend, Floating
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Well well well, we don't have to use the well. After 4 more inches of rain the past few days July 2016 is officially the second wettest month in the 8 years we have been at Anchor Run. Before the end of today our monthly total is 11.7, surpassing September of 2011 when we endured tropical storm Lee (August of 2011 still prevails with 15 inches). Besides the deluges, we dealt with quite a heat wave this month. Overall, to say the least, it has been a challenge, mentally and physically. We're still hopeful for the crops to pull through mostly intact and without a noticeable yield deficiency in the pick up room. We always grow extra amounts of crops, depend on a diversity of crops, as insurances when weather is unfriendly and sometimes these extras turn into excess bounty and sometimes we lean heavily upon them. Besides our battles with the heat and rain, we're also plagued by creatures eating our high-sugar content crops like watermelon, cantaloupes, and sweet corn. The damage on the sweet corn was extensive enough to reduce the yield so much that we aren't able to give it out for two weeks, our goal. The damage to the watermelon, coupled with the deleterious effects of too much soil moisture and dying vines, means only enough watermelon for two weeks, not four like last season. So far the cantaloupe vines are alive, but slowly but surely the ripe orbs are being eaten. Is it a raccoon, a skunk, an opossum, crows, or all of the above? Adversity is part of life, right, right, right.
2.8 inches of rain on Saturday, after 1.1 inches on Thursday night and Friday morning, means soil is saturated and we grin/grimace and bear/beer it.
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July 24, 2016
Potent Heat Wave
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Five inches of rain followed by this incredibly long heat wave means that, mostly, weeds are growing like mad. It also means crops are maturing fast, early summer crops are waning, and irrigation needs to be considered again. We're all doing our best to stay cool (not), tolerate the constant furnace, and stay hydrated. It's a minor and hopefully temporary challenge. With the heat comes watermelon, sweet corn, and sweet peppers, as well as an increase in tomatoes, both large and small. Carrots were safely harvested and stowed with a workshift this morning while celery and fennel are coming to an end. Onions will arrive soon as well as the wonderful husk cherry, a new farm favorite. With mid-summer upon us soon the arrival of diseases will commence, first with cucumber and squash family afflictions and eventually tomato family blights. So far, though, the tomatoes look happier at this time of year than they have in a few seasons and I'm sure some of us will be happy for a break from squash and cucumbers (or just the harvesting of). Thank you and see you soon.
Grrrl Cat surveys part of the watermelon haul and approves rubbingly.
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July 17, 2016
Hot and Steamy
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The farm received 5 inches of rain in 6 days last week, culminating with a 2-inch event that began while we were desperately trying to finish transplanting on Wednesday. Fortunately we were about 90% of the way through planting lettuces, beans, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower and managed to plant the final few beds as the rain began to fall lightly. What we thought was going to be a short-lived light rain middle-of-the-day rainstorm turned into 5-hour almost-deluge. Or, maybe it felt that way since the soil was near its saturation point. We were very lucky the ground was workable to prepare the raised beds for planting into following the 3 inches that came down over the prior weekend. Because much of the rain fell hard and fast, a lot of it rain off, and unfortunately took soil with it. We've been meeting with folks from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to help us figure out a longterm solution to abate the erosion in some particularly problematic locations. For now, we have to grimace, but try to at least appreciate the moisture for the crops.
Gabe inspects the 2nd scallion planting with flowering cilantro in the background.
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July 10, 2016
Wellspring of Successful CSA
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
With approximately 60 CSA members scattered over 3 2-hour overlapping shifts - with an added hour to finish up at the end - all of the 2016 garlic was harvested and either hung to cure or pruned and put in the cooler. This was truly a community endeavor with so many helping hands taking part in the process. We had a few hiccups such as a flat truck tire and wood beams collapsing in the barn under the weight of the garlic. But, we all came together to see the job through. We're sincerely thankful for the help of the community to see this accomplished and especially to have some help at the end with the barn problem - that was a bit unnerving to say the least. Farm work and life is frantic this time of year but the support of the community of members helps the farm get through these very busy times.
Earlier this week on Independence Day a workshift helped transplant beans, dill, cilantro, and parsley.
Over the weekend we received 3 inches of rain, more than we received in the whole month of June, and the same amount we received in March and April combined. We needed the rain for sure, but not so fast in such a short burst. When it falls that quickly the ground cannot accept it, so a lot of runs off and carries soil with it, most unfortunately. A couple of the fields acquired a minor gully where there was a natural swale present that ran through the field. It hurts to see soil wash downhill but we'll do what we can to pull it back up with the help of our tractors. We'll also adjust our bed lengths to end where the swale begins and leave a permanent cover of grass there to mitigate future erosion. It was quite an eventful weekend. Thanks again to our wonderful CSA members!
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July 3, 2016
Water Does Fall From the Sky
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The farm fortunately received about 1.8" of rain last week, with the majority falling in about an hour on Tuesday night. Rain that falls early on in the work week sometimes feels like a mixed blessing because although we earnestly want and need the rain, we know we have a lot of outside work to do and don't want to be kept from the fields for too long. The 1.3" we received Tuesday night came right after we planted 3,000 of the 6,000 strawberry plants, so we still had a lot more to do the following day. The ground was parched enough that it swallowed up most of the moisture pretty quickly and by Wednesday afternoon we were able to resume planting. Many thanks go out to the CSA members that helped with this very large task!
Abigail and Borchie relax with last week's u-pick haul which included a 1/2-pint of raspberries, 2 quarts of green beans, 10-stem flower bouquet, and 2-handfuls from the herb garden.
During this upcoming week we're planning to transplant the 5th succession of beans, the 13th and 14th installments of lettuces, and the 4th iteration of cilantro, dill, and parsley. We're also hoping to retrieve the rest of the cabbage from the field and begin harvesting the next round of carrots, which were seeded about a month after the high tunnel patch. If all goes well, it looks like carrots will be a part of the share for another month or more. We're striving for another seeding in early August that will be harvested in October or November. This seeding will happen after weed seeds discontinue their germination due to the waning daylight and their lack of ability to mature in time before the first frost and freeze. Carrots take painfully long to germinate and have a very difficult time outcompeting weed pressure. Regardless, enjoy your Independence Day celebrations!
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June 26, 2016
Still Hot, Still Dry, But...
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We did receive a tenth of an inch of rain at the farm on Tuesday evening, after a full day of transplanting lettuces, beans, summer squash, cucumbers, celeriac, chard, and leeks. It might have been enough moisture to quell some stress for us farmers and our plants for about twenty minutes and at least provide for a dramatic sunset amid steamy evaporation. Two weeks in a row now forecasters and their computer models have predicted rain on a Thursday and have been incorrect. Let's hope they don't make it three in a row this Tuesday because I want a day off from irrigating. Of course, what we truly need is an all day light rain soaker so the water can percolate down through the soil to the roots. What we'll actually probably receive is a downpour that departs as quickly as it dumps. Alas, most of the crops are happy and it has been a great season thus far, so ultimately there is nothing much to complain about. We're slowing moving away from some spring greens (very slowly) and will continue to see the arrival of traditional summer crops over the next few weeks. Rain dance anyone?
On the heels of strawberries come summer bearing red raspberries, albeit in much smaller quantities (1/2 pint).
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June 19, 2016
Let's Irrigate
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Strong and dry winds, a missed rain event, and mid-90 degree heat forces us to extract water from our well for plants' water needs once again. We try to rely on irrigation as a last resort and this is one of those times. No serious rain is in the 10-day forecast which means we'll probably be irrigating for a while. Our 300-feet deep well and 1.5 horsepower pump provides about 75 gallons per minute of water. A few years ago we installed 3000 feet of 3 inch underground pipe with about 12 multi-head risers to more easily access water and keep necessary water pipes out of the way. The underground pvc pipes also reduce friction and pressure loss compared to the 2 inch flexible flat tubes that we previously had to use to move water long distances. Still, setting up and moving around drip tape, sprinklers, the water cannon, and tubing as well as all of the necessary connecting equipment means less time for other jobs and/or no time or days off (which is rare anyway this time of year). Spending time setting up all of the infrastructure feels like lateral movement and not necessarily progress towards the end of the season, but observing satisfactory results from the addition of water and subsequent higher crop yields makes it worthwhile.
Gabe watches as our rotating 100+ feet diameter water cannon irrigates the soon-to-be u-pick field that includes snap beans, edamame, and annual herbs.
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June 12, 2016
The Next Phase
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Summer is about to officially begin but we're already thinking about fall, oddly enough. This week in the greenhouse we seeded fall cabbages and beets which won't be mature until September and October and some will be stored to get us through the winter. As CSA farmers it feels like we live in the past, present, and future because we're always managing diverse crops with varying maturities while preparing fields for plantings weeks and months and years in advance. Spring crops are still rolling in, summer crops are about to start, fall crops are now being seeded and planted, and 2017 strawberry plants will go in the ground later this month. Years? Well, on Friday with the help of a workshift we transplanted asparagus plugs that were started from seed the first week of March. Before we were able to plant we had to meticulously scout for the eggs and larvae of the asparagus beetle and squish these critters with our fingers. These asparagus spears won't be harvested until 2018 or 2019. This part of the farm had been fallow since 2014 and was slowly transitioned to raised beds starting in March. It takes a long while to eradicate the grass species that slowly take over fallowed fields.
Potato plants are flowering and need another round of cultivating and hilling with the tractor. Gabe mingles.
Speaking of the blending and mixing of seasons, sweet potato slips as well as succession plantings of beans, lettuces, basil, dill, cilantro, and parsley were planted last week with tremendous help from farm members. One of the best aspects of a CSA farm is the involvement of the community to help the farm succeed which in turn feeds its members. This is an essential tenet of CSA but of course the CSA model is fluid like everything else and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Personally, I love the CSA model because it benefits members and farmers equally well and is centered around growing healthy food, which feels good deep down in the bones and bellies of our bodies as well as somewhere in our minds.
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June 5, 2016
In the Midst of the Busiest
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Last week the quantity and pace of work seemed to double and our amazing crew responded in kind. Everything has been growing exponentially with the long days, heat, and little bit of rain. Weeds, crops, bugs, everything has recognized that it is truly safely late spring and is attempting to maximize activity during the brief months between frosts and cold. Our job is to stay on pace and to forever try to get ahead. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed and get behind on the job list. But, after walking the farm this morning while making our weekly job list, it feels like we're currently in a safe position. If the rain skips us today, or the storms are too severe for our liking, we may reevaluate. This time of year the job list is basically infinite, but with proper planning and prioritizing - which is aided by the experience of farming here for 8 seasons now - we're able to cope and hopefully mostly keep our cool.
What happens to those spring greens after they're cut? Like most living things they try to reproduce, and at least the mizuna, arugula, and broccoli raab pictured above attract beneficial insects and are nice to look at.
Soon we'll transition from a lot of planting to a lot of harvesting, crops like garlic, onions, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, that only go in the ground once but are harvested over extended periods of time. So far the season feels like a good one and hopefully it will stay that way. Give us ample rainfall, normal bug and disease pressure, few 90 degree days, no 90+ degree days, no hurricanes or tropical storms, and we'll make it through with robust yields of healthy organic crops. I'm excited that beets are here, carrots are close, garlic scapes are starting to show, and peas are ripening. What better way is there to spend one's time than around the immediate gratification derived from fresh and tasty food?
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May 29, 2016
Respite from the Heat
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
I haven't checked the rain gauge yet this morning, but I'm almost desperately hoping we received something close to the amount that was predicted (1-2"). I didn't hear any heavy rain overnight, so I'm preparing to be disappointed. I spent a lot of the weekend doing this week's worth of tractor work and field preparations anticipating wet soil all week. We have about 5000 feet of winter squash, melon, summer squash, and cucumber to plant this week, along with 800 feet of edamame and the weekly 175 feet of lettuces. To stay on schedule, which is of the utmost importance for farm sanity, all of the planting space had to be readied prior to the rain event. For all of the crops that means mowing cover crops, chisel plowing once or twice, raised bed shaping three times while adding soil nutrients, drop spreading minerals, laying plastic mulch for the vining crops, and then pre-making holes in that mulch for water penetration. Even if the rain turns into a dud and disappointment, at least some work is checked off the to-do list. And at least the heat wave is over. And strawberries are here. And peas will be here soon, too!
Abigail is the motivator for quick and thorough washing of these delectable spring radishes.
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May 22, 2016
A Farm Scene
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
A wonderful perk of living and working on an organic produce farm is our daily interaction with wildlife/nature/creatures/critters/other inhabitants of earth. The contrast between winter and summer is so apparent with the return of spring and summer that the quietness and solitude of winter feels and seems so drastically drab and dreary (but of course carries other types of perks). As farmers, we constantly and consistently interact with the world in a way that coaxes food from the soil for us to eat. Whenever we plow, bed shape, cultivate, or pull weeds we're mingling with that 'natural' world that occurs whether or not we participate. The cycle of life begins and ends every day around us and we try to understand and appreciate it, respect it, while simultaneously understanding the need to run a sustainable small farm business. Farm-scapes, farm-scenes are an interplay of humans' sculpting their environment and that persistent other component, nature. It's a pleasure, and humbling, to be in the middle.
Nestled inside the oregano patch in the herb garden, freshly hatched song sparrows await mama's return with some grub(s).
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May 15, 2016
First Harvest, Last Frost
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
Good feelings and a bit of anxious energy permeate the start of the new harvest season as we grow accustomed to the new routine of harvesting several days each week. It is a pleasure to begin retrieving the fruits of our labor from the past several months and especially to begin eating all of the tasty produce. This year we're also dealing with a potential late final frost that of course falls on the first harvest day of the season. And of course we spent many hours last week transplanting many of our summer frost-sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans, basil, and corn. So, besides getting ready to begin the harvest season amid the myriad of work that that entails, today we also get to scramble around trying to cover as many susceptible crops as we can. At least the sun is shining and it looks like it will be a beautiful spring day.
A cover crop of winter rye and hairy vetch protects the soil, adds organic matter, fixes nitrogen, and is fun to walk through at sunset.
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April 8, 2016
Into April We Go
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
March was very kind to us. April? Well, let's just say every season presents a new set of challenges to deal with. Our crop seeding and planting schedule is based on the local climate and temperature averages as well as good old experience (with mistakes), and for our first seven seasons here during the first week of April we've been able to transplant the first round of crops outside and move other crops from the heated greenhouse to the unheated hoop house to harden off under one layer of plastic for protection. Surprise, surprise. This year we had a low of 22 degrees on Wednesday morning. Ground that had been opened up with the chisel plow to dry out was frozen solid enough that our disk harrow wasn't able to penetrate. However, after the sun had sufficiently warmed the air and the soil of the raised beds they'll call home over the next two months, Adam, Hannah, Mary Liz, and I were able to officially commence the 2016 growing season with the first round of transplants (peas) going into the ground. After peas we transplanted spinach, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, collards, and chard. Then, at about 6pm we spent the next hour or so covering with row cover anchored by sandbags the 23,000 square feet we just planted. With another forecasted low in the mid-20s on Saturday, as well as snow, we're hoping, desperately, that the spun polyester fabric cover will protect the plants enough to keep them above the cold-death temperature threshold. As of now the jet stream roller coaster is forecast to continue through the end of next week. Alas, there is hardly a dull moment on the farm this time of year but we have been able to mostly stay on the planting schedule. The aster family crops (lettuces, chicories) were the only ones we postponed this week but should have ample time to transplant them this coming Monday before the next round of precipitation.
After a physically exhausting 10 hour day of transplanting, a brief respite of greenhouse work does the body good. Here, Adam, Mary Liz, and Hannah pot up heirloom tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, asparagus, and celery.
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February 23, 2016
Farm Upgrades and Updates
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
This winter is quickly coming to a close and the 2016 growing season is about to be officially underway. Over this past month we welcomed our first 2016 crew member and farm manager, Hannah, to the farm. She will be living onsite with her husband in the White Pine Ranch and has been very busy helping out already. A Bucks County native, she arrives with three years of CSA farming experience in Maryland and hopes to run her own small farming business in the future. We're hoping we can help her along that path while also learning from her while she is here. Already it has been very helpful to us having someone onsite with a lot of prior CSA farming experience. Over the next couple of months we'll post more detailed bios of our 2016 farm staff, who we're very excited and enthusiastic about, and will be welcoming to the workload in March, April, and May.
A view of the inside of the high tunnel where carrots will soon make their home. Gabe plays peekaboo.
Over the past month the greenhouse has been cleaned up, organized, and weeded so we can begin seeding our spring crops next week. Five to six weeks later they'll be planted outside in the fields after hard freezes are over, typically in early April. The five beds in the high tunnel are almost ready to house a carrot seeding. The debris left over from our winter greens was removed and raised beds were re-prepared. After hoping to trick some weed seeds into germination over the next week, we're planning to cultivate the beds one final time and then seed carrots for late spring or very early summer harvest. Typically we seed carrots outside in early April, so this will give us a 6-week head start. Hopefully this experiment works!
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February 1, 2016
An Early Start To The Season
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
In less than a month the greenhouse will be in full production mode as we begin seeding and nurturing crops for the 2016 season. This will be our 8th season at Anchor Run (13th overall CSA season) which has come and gone in the blink of an eye. We're looking forward to making small improvements around the farm, in the pick up room, in the fields, everywhere we can. We have a good crew lined up to work here this year; all have prior farming experience and aspire to be involved in farming in their futures. This puts a bit more pressure on us as employers and farmers to make sure we can provide a good learning experience, live up to expectations and satisfy the reputation of Anchor Run CSA. Pretty soon we'll finalize our crop seeding, planting, and ground preparation schedules as well as the crop rotation master plan. By the end of this month we'll have to decide the number of members we want to have picking up at the farm each week. Last year we had around 250; this year we're considering 200 or 225. This number is important because it determines how much produce to grow. Of course, growing extra is our best insurance policy to ensure members receive enough.
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January 17, 2016
Authentically Winter
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
About now it feels the way a Bucks County winter should and in the forecast could be our first real snow of the season. Weekly it seems that temperatures dive into the teens one or two nights with a couple of days staying below the freezing mark as well. As part of the jet stream roller coaster we also are able to thaw out over a couple of days in the mid and upper 40s. The sustained cold of the last two winters was a bit drab, but I am thankful that at least the month of January has provided a break between growing seasons with some real cold. This week we're hoping to make a serious dent in the high tunnel kale when it warms up enough during the day to thaw it out and make it harvestable. It basically freezes and wilts and lays almost flat at night but after the warmth of the sun's rays heat up the high tunnel it perks up and is ready for harvesting.
Two layers of protection almost guarantees the survival of greens in the high tunnel, without any supplemental heat.
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January 9, 2016
Survived The Deep Freeze
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The bitter cold was bittersweet and just part of the weather rollercoaster ride that we have fun experiencing as farmers. We need deep cold to kill some of our cover crops like oats and daikon radish so that we can use those field areas in the early spring without extra tractor work that live plants would require. The cold also sets back bad bugs and hopefully rids the area of plant diseases that affect our cucurbits and nightshades among others. It also gives us farmers a mental break between seasons and reminds us that winter isn't so bad. The cold did finally end the lives of many farm crops that were lingering but spared some roots and all of the high tunnel greens. Before this blast of cold we harvested all of the remaining field crops that we didn't think would survive as well as the mature arugula from the high tunnel. We added hoops and another layer of fabric protection in the high tunnel to preserve the mixed greens, kale, and arugula in there. As daylight slowly increases and approaches 10 hours we'll see new growth from crops that did survive.
Rescuing the arugula from the high tunnel right before the deep freeze occurred. Due to its maturity it would have been damaged so we harvested all of it as fast as we could. The plants themselves survived and should regrow.
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December 20, 2015
At The Winter Solstice
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
As we approach the winter solstice it almost feels like winter is actually arriving this weekend, but next week temperatures are supposed to climb right back up into the 60s. I'm basically used to the balmy weather now and easily forget what time of year it is. For example, last night a low of 28 degrees was forecast and I was thinking about shutting the drop down sides of the high tunnel. I quickly forgot to do so, hopefully because I haven't had to shut it in about a month. I woke up suddenly this morning around 5am realizing I forgot, raced out to the tunnel with a headlamp expecting to see cold and frozen greens, but was welcomed by perky and happy kale and arugula. I shut it anyway just to be safe, but then noticed one of our young barn chickens was missing so the warm and fuzzy feeling evaporated with another concern. Now that it is actually light out hopefully she'll come out of hiding.
Gabe and Borci ponder the many carrot varieties to choose from. Required qualities for us to grow: tolerate heavy soil; strong tops to ease harvest; sweet, great flavor; organic, non-GMO; and around 6" long.
Coinciding with the solstice this week is our 32nd and final harvest pick up of 2015. Thirty-two weeks sounds like a long time and takes us all the way back to May. It has been a fun, challenging, rewarding, edible ride and now we can look forward to 2016. Our work is starting to reflect the change of seasons and years; we're beginning our seed order and starting to think about our crop plans for next year as well as interviewing and hiring our farm crew. Working on the seed order is a mostly pleasant job. It involves dreaming about a perfect season with perfect growing conditions and nice, bountiful harvests. We have to temper unrealistic expectations (like carrots in the share every week) but really realistically brainstorm ways to improve (like having carrots in the share for perhaps 8, 10, or 12 weeks). We need to decide what no one but us and maybe a few other members enjoy eating (like dandelion greens) and ask ourselves "is it worth growing?". How do we improve the share and fully satisfy our CSA members? Does everyone like this or should it be a choice? Should we try spinach again? What do members really want each week? How can we please everyone? Are the shares too big? It is the time of year to dream, because, in theory, this is when we make most of our decisions for the following season. Ah, those airbrushed and enhanced veggies in the catalogues look so appealing, but do they taste good? Thanks everyone for another great year!
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December 13, 2015
Springtime in December
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
A record breaking high temperature today of 70 degrees, windows on the house open, only 9 hours or so of daylight, the sun extremely low on the horizon, and no chirping insects or birds. Quite an interesting combination for the middle of December, though I'll repeat that continuing to harvest fresh outside greens is a very nice treat. This will be the final week for lettuces, however, because the mature heads did sustain some frost damage whenever it was actually cold enough to do that and their quality is going downhill. Fear not, though, because kale, arugula, collards, cabbage, spinach, and a few other fresh greens are still looking grade A and harvestable. I do wonder if we will ever have an actual winter this year and we must, right? Can we rely on that consistency, or will this season fully blend into next season without an end to the growing season? I see in the news media that leaders from around the world got together to figure out the climate change issue and perhaps devise some way to curb global temperature rise at 3.6 degrees fahrenheit. Right now that feels relevant but last year at this time when the northeast US was the only place in the world with below average temperatures I was definitely wondering.
The greens in the high tunnel are holding their beauty. Meanwhile I show Gabriel how to harvest mixed greens.
Here on the farm we're mainly focused on growing crops organically (only certified by you) and trying to improve and sustain soil health and quality while also attempting to limit our fossil fuel reliance. We don't use draft horses yet but Dana does keep bringing that up. In a perfect world it would be nice to farm completely in balance with Mother Nature but someone will have to define for me what that means exactly. Let's all do our best to keep the planet healthy for our kids and theirs.
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December 6, 2015
Thanking El Nino
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
A mild winter may hurt us next season in the form of bugs and crop diseases and perhaps less hibernation, but it sure feels nice to continue harvesting fresh crops this late in the year. Every time I look at the 10-day forecast and there are no temperatures predicted to drop much below 30 degrees - as well as highs in the 50s - I feel a little giddy, especially now since that puts us safely into the middle of December and closer to the Solstice. I really wouldn't mind extending the harvest beyond the end of this month and if the weather allows us to do so we just might take that leap. If we have crops in storage and crops outside that have continued to survive and thrive, why shouldn't we continue the CSA? Of course, we will need to identify a pick up schedule and all of that, but we're hoping that at least some of you, our members, would want to continue to eat nutritious produce from just down the road after the New Year.
These seeds are ready to take flight from an unknown plant that is found in large numbers in one of our meadows.
At some point it will get colder and it will become harder to keep the fresh crops alive, but we have the ability to cover them with hoops and fabric. The greens in the high tunnel will survive outside lows in the teens and most of the cold-hardy unprotected crops are good into the mid-twenties. Roots like rutabaga and radishes will probably survive even lower. Somewhere in our minds we've always wanted a year-round CSA and four years ago began offering the 6-week Late Fall CSA, which was an initial venture. The next step would be experimentation with growing and distributing later in the winter and into spring. I love the idea of a continued harvest and if this allowed the farm to scale back somewhat during the extremely busy time of year by balancing out income throughout the calendar, I think that would contribute to the long-term viability of the CSA. We'll keep you updated.
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November 29, 2015
Into December We Go
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
December arrives this week with a continued forecast of above average and mild temperatures. We're definitely not complaining because it is wonderful to continue harvesting fresh crops from the fields. Some crops that we've been seeing for a while come to an end this week: cauliflower, radicchio, probably sweet potatoes. A few crops make a triumphant return, too: greens mix, collards, beets. The kale you'll be receiving this week is the curly leaf variety that is harvested with one cut on the stem. Most of the cold hardy crops that have survived this far into the season that remain unprotected (curly and russian kale, collards, napa cabbage, regular cabbage, rutabaga, turnips, radishes) appear to be set to make it into January. The greens mix this week comes from the high tunnel. This crop, when mature, doesn't tolerate low temperatures as well as the arugula and kale that it shares the space with so we're harvesting it now while it looks perfect. Next week we'll start on the arugula in there, too, after we finish the patch that remains in the field. We hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving!
A big sky and a protective winter rye and hairy vetch cover crop, a scene from late fall.
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November 22, 2015
Cold Heading Our Way
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
The deepest cold of the season thus far is forecast for early this week, followed by a return to above average temperatures. It will be interesting to observe what the actual low bottoms out at here at the farm; normally we're below the forecasted low. We will also be wondering if the next magical temperature threshold will be passed - about 25 degrees - where mildly sensitive cold hardy crops with a higher water content are damaged. I think they'll be okay. Soon it will be December and by then only the toughest and strongest should survive anyway. Plus, having a reduced footprint to think and worry about is always a slight relief.
I'm still measuring rainfall at the farm, which feels rare for this late in the season. I normally cease when we either begin to receive snow and/or frequent heavy frost or I mentally feel tractor work is completed for the season. I must still be holding out for some final flail mowing and light tillage of some fall crops to either break up the pest cycle or get a jump on spring growing. That last part I really don't want to fully acknowledge now because it is way too early to begin thinking about the next growing season. Of course pretty soon we will fully embrace planning and preparing for next year by buying seeds, ordering supplies, updating our crop rotation and planting schedules, as well as finalizing our CSA plans and employment needs. For now, though, we're thankful for the 1.2 inches of rainfall, bright starry night skies, drying wind, continued harvests, and of course family time. Happy Thanksgiving!
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November 15, 2015
The Next Chapter
Notes From The Field
By Derek McGeehan
We're embarking on the 4th annual Winter CSA this week amid what feels like a mild autumn. This was the type of autumn that initially inspired us to extend the growing season and offer additional CSA shares and was also what we enjoyed during the first season, 2012. The two years in between this year and the first felt more like growing produce in January and February, not November and December. Can we thank El Nino? Or is this more normal? I'm not sure. After 7 seasons at Anchor Run I've come to expect the unexpected, weather wise. Having too many rigid expectations would narrow our vision and allow the farm to become totally mechanized and streamlined, I perceive. We're able to withstand the vagaries of the weather and its forecast because we're diverse; we grow hundreds of varieties of crops over 9 months on perhaps 13 acres, fallowing 5 acres, rotating plant families around the farm. Crops tolerate different conditions, temperatures, moisture, so having diversity guarantees something will survive, or thrive. We're always thankful for good growing conditions.
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