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September 14th, 2012

Bookends

We’ve begun harvesting late summer sowings at Stonegate Farm of mixed mesclun greens, bok choy, mustard, broccoli raab, and heirloom radish, repeat plantings that bookend a season that began four months ago.

And the blackberries, pole beans and Sun Gold tomatoes have come on in miraculous abundance, their sun-swollen selves dangling like ornaments over trellis and fence.

CSA 9-12-1616CSA 9-12-1710

A Woofer harvest of Sun Gold tomatoes for the weekly CSA, and a Last Tango in Paradise for the seedless Concord grapes in the greenhouse.  They’ll live to dance another day.

By “we” I don’t mean the royal we (Pluralis Majestatis, that would be very sad) but my Woofers and me, helpers who’ve come to the farm from far and wide to sow, harvest, weed, and delight in all things organic. Like the plantings that bookend the season, Woofers tend to keep you balanced and centered; delegating daily chores, managing needs, avoiding idleness (although there’s much joy in idleness).  Without them, it’s possible that things would fall apart; that (to paraphrase Yeats) the center could not hold, and mere anarchy would be loosed upon (my) world.

The anarchy of weeds has certainly been suppressed by the hands and hoes that have been loosed upon them, and far from falling apart, the farm is being re-born daily with their mindful help.

Though there’s still much to be harvested and weeks to go before the farm sleeps, some mid-season stalwarts like the costata romanesco squash and the sweet and abundant greenhouse grapes have thrown in the trowel. The seedless concord that clambers so beautifully beneath greenhouse glass has been pruned back to thick cordons. Its bright purple sweetness lit up shares for more than a month this season.

CSA 9-12-6074CSA 9-12-7053If Google Maps went micro, local and organic, this is what might come up with a search for Stonegate Farm.  Harvests have been colorful and diverse this season, with deep purple pole beans, variegated eggplant, candy-colored pimento peppers, and bright Sun Gold tomatoes.  Grow, Shoot, Eat.

Long season greens like the kale and chard will be with us until frost. Though they may have lost their novelty by now, the lacinato kale, in particular, is one to “cherish until perish”; it’s just so much more nutritious than any other leafy green, full of omega-3s, calcium, iron, proteins and antioxidants. It goes into our smoothies, salads (and psyches) daily.

Just as we anticipate the first new growth in Spring, and delight in the fresh young arugula, spinach and snap peas that emerge, we should anticipate the season’s end,  savor what we have and value where we’ve been. Sounds like a good life-mantra to me.     –Mb

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April 19th, 2010

Lettuce, Chickens, and Bees, oh my!

It turns out our dizzy, mop-topped hen, Phyllis Diller, is actually Phil S. Diller, a trans-gender cockerel. He went from dulcet murmuring to an all out strident crow in the space of a week. Give him some Spandex and he’s like a relic from an ‘80s hair band. Chickens are full of peculiar surprises, but this one I didn’t see coming. We put him on Craigs List and a very nice couple from Connecticut adopted him. Apparently they’re into leather.


Phil S. Diller: A bird of a different feather.

A new flock of fuzz (all female, I’ve been assured) arrived via the P.O. today. They, along with these beautiful, warm April skies have put dance back in our weary Winter bones here at Stonegate farm. The sugar snap peas, savoy spinach and  tender varieties of early lettuce have been hardened off and are upright and steppin’ out in the Spring beds (var. ‘Red Fire’, ‘Red Sails’, ‘Black Seeded Simpson’). Other delicious greens such as Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, arugula and mesclun are warming up and waiting their turn to flee from the hot confines of the greenhouse.

The only caveat to such a glorious early Spring is the dark, foreboding lurk of a late frost, ready to take out all that’s in bud or bloom. Like a wolf crossing the property line (if I hear Prokofiev I’m going to scream!) We’re in zone 6B here in Balmville along the Hudson River, meaning our potential final frost date is May 15th, so who knows? Erratic weather seems to be the new normal, and humble resignation to its mood swings is a hallmark for those working the land. To put a spin on an old chestnut: Hope, in Spring, (and Summer, and Fall) must be eternal, otherwise we’d all be in therapy.
Rudyx2

Far From the Madding Swarm was where I stood as hive and housing were introduced.

True to our goal of sustainability, and our dogged, hopeful nature, we’ve said Benvenuti to a hive of 12,000 italian bees in the orchard. These insatiable, chatty, free-range pollinators and makers of organic honey (maybe we’ll have some  dripping out of the combs come Fall!) will add viability to both fruit and vegetable crops. Despite our being programmed to fear their Vespa-like buzz, they’re generally ambivalent about us, and have their own Dolce Vita to live.

My Swiss friend Rudy, who’s a pastry chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, set up the hive last week. As a master of all things sweet and delicious, Rudy has a fondness for bees. He showed up and built a tower of boxes and frames, emptied the thrumming swarm into them, gave me some bee-keeping-for-dummies fundamentals and told me to hope for the best.  That I can do, eternally.          – Mb.                     

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August 10th, 2009

Animal Farm

ires to equilibrium – a balance between taking and giving, hard woIf a sustainable farm asprk and bountiful harvest– then a few critters prowling or clucking the grounds can do wonders for your sanity when you’re off kilter. They’re also great comic relief. I’ve never known a vegetable to make me laugh. (Although there was this very silly carrot…)


Whisker deep in the big ruddy

Last week, I sternly accused my cats of raiding the tomato patch while we were away, They took the fifth (clever boys), hired one of those freaky hairless Sphinx cat attorneys, and took refuge. The next morning, our tabby was caught with his whiskers deep in the warm, submissive flesh of a Brandywine. Maybe our soft, tomato-hued cat had found his vine-tethered likeness, and liked it.


Furrowitz, Wiskerstein & Purr, LLP. Cat calls welcome.

In a year of such tomato scarcity, this feline misbehavior is salt in the wound. But maybe they figure they’ve paid their dues.

We were once sacked and plundered by a band of snarky roof rats. They came in from the dark woods like drunken Huns, getting into all and everything edible (sheetrock: a bit dry, but not bad). The cats rose to the occasion with gusto, however, and treated these marauders to an endless gladiatorial round of “toss and swat” (very much like tennis, only with paws, and rats), and we stood around them in a circle, our thumbs in the air like so many Caesars, celebrating each critters quick and squeaky demise.

We had another orange tabby a few years back that had decided to come in from the feral cold and adoptus. We named him “Agent Orange.” He never came too close or asked for too much, but was just a stealthy presence in the long grass. He was an old cat, with all the markings of a life spent in the brush or the dustbin. And the day Agent Orange died, we wrapped him in a linen pillow case and buried him beneath a patiently trained espaliered apple tree in the kitchen garden. The next Spring, the apple was dead. The other painstaking espaliers soon followed. What’s in a name? Intractable fate, apparently, even beyond the grave.

With so many lives in the balance, animal and vegetable, the critters somehow keep you, and your conceits, in check.  -Mb

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