Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reflecting, dreaming, thinking, planning

The late fall is often a time for people to look back over the year and think about goals and plan for the future.  That is certainly true here at Sweet Morning Farm.  Robin and I love our work.  In fact, it doesn't actually feel like work; we just want to do it and do it and do it.  That is an incredible blessing, to find work one truly loves.

We strive to learn and improve our farming all the time and this is a season of the year to review our successes and weaknesses, to research solutions and increase our knowledge, to plan delicious and varied farm shares for next year, to strategize about how best to grow that good food and how to make it possible to "work" at home as much as possible.  We also let our gardeners' minds wander and dream a bit.  What new plants and methods do we want to try out in 2016?  New crops and tools and practices are a fun part of our garden each year.

We've already ordered chicks to refresh the laying flock and look forward to a wide range of colors to share next fall.  We've chosen about 8 new fruit trees, mostly heirloom apples, and placed our orders.  *We've learned the hard way to reserve what we want early on to be sure we get the varieties we want to plant.

One of our next projects is to plan what we want to be in the farm shares each week, and from there to make sure our planting plan will help meet our harvest goals, allowing plenty of time and space for the vegetables to grow for the shares.  And then make sure we have all the seeds and supplies we need to plant the crops.  All this needs to be done lickedy-split.  (See the note above about ordering early!)  Early planting of seedlings starts in January, so that's only 1 month away and we are already planting microgreens and sunflower shoots on a weekly basis.  And did I mention that we are still putting away fences and row cover and general stuff, quick before the snow flies?  So it is still pretty busy around here but it's a different kind of busy than summertime.

Planning is fun because although very practical, it is in part based on dreaming.  It's like a bulb underground in winter, or an apple bud waiting for spring.  Hope, faith, optimism, longing.  These things feed our souls in wintertime.

"Before the seed there comes the thought of the bloom."
E. B. White

Sunday, June 28, 2015

POULTRY! - June 2015

7 ducklings and their mama

1 drake

17 ducklings and their 2 mamas (24 ducklings total)

58 young chickens, mostly pullets

4 turkey poults

~ 60 hens

Not pictured: 1 white duck and 2 roosters

Monday, May 18, 2015

Our drake was lonely...

So we found him a friend.

The drake and a duck checking out the duck in the mirror.

All of our female ducks are setting on eggs and rarely get off their nests.  (Ducklings hatching in a few weeks!)  As soon as the last one started to set, the drake changed his behavior.  He started flying over the fence so he could go hang out with the chickens, either outside or inside the coop.  Rob noticed that he was going in the coop to stare at the wall, the one with a mirror.  So now the mirror has been moved to the duck yard.  The drake spends most of the day keeping company with his handsome, but flat, friend.  First thing each morning, he heads over to say hello.  It's funny and interesting and sort of sweet.  Problem solved.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


One of the ongoing challenges for me and Rob, and I think for many farmers, is record keeping.  What's planted, where and how, what's harvested, yields, income, time spent on various farm activities, etc.  Oh, and then there would be analyzing that data and thinking about the future.


Well we do the best we can.  I keep trying various methods of tracking information so we can learn from what we do each year.  A lot of the challenge is just being persistent and consistent.  And then there is the contrast between entering data in a spreadsheet on the computer and grubbing around in the dirt outside.  If there were a way to just think out in the field and have those notes to oneself automatically be entered into whatever documents one uses for record keeping, that would be awesome.  Most of the time my hands are full, covered in dirt, wet, or all three.  Note-making takes a back seat.

Actually, this post is about PLANTING.  I think it might be fun to record what gets planted here on the blog so anyone reading this can see what's happening.  My plan is to write down what gets planted and add to it as the season goes along.  CSA members can look forward to harvesting and eating these goodies.

You may click here: Sweet Morning Farm on Pinterest, to see pictures of many of these veggies and flowers.

2015 Outdoor planting:
(numbers are approximate, names are varieties, list does not include hoophouse planting)

As of April 30 we have already planted, either by seeding or transplanting:

1000 LEEKS, mostly Tadorna and Bandit with trials of Striker and Chinook
350 feet of SPINACH, Tyee
175 feet of CARROTS - Nelson, Mokum
600 SWEET ONIONS - Walla Walla, Yellow Spanish, Candy, Red Candy
350 feet of LEAF LETTUCE - Black Seeded Simpson, Red Rumple, Red Tinged Winter, Tango, Red Salad Bowl, Green Salad Bowl, Flame,
48 HEAD LETTUCES - Mayan Jaguar, Buttercrunch, Speckled Amish, Kinemontpas
BROCCOLI - Packman
ASIAN ONIONS - Shimonita
RADISHES - D'Avignon, White Icicle, Pink Beauty, Red Head, Giant Butter
100 feet PEAS - Green Arrow, Alderman, Mr. Big
125 feet of BEETS - Yellow Touchstone, Red Ace, Early Wonder Tall Top
1200 STORAGE ONIONS - Copra, Red River, Rosso di Milano, Dakota Tears

It's spring planting season, more to come soon!

May 2:
32 feet SNAP PEAS - Cascadia
40 poles POLE BEANS - Northeaster, Golden Gate, Rattlesnake, Kentucky Wonder Wax, Kentucky Blue
20 feet CILANTRO - Santo
May 3:
20 PARSLEY plants - Giant Italian, Curly (variety?)
12 Valley Girl TOMATOES (on black plastic, in a tunnel)

May 7:
150 feet of KALE & COLLARDS - Red Russian, Winterbor, Winter Red, White Russian, Tuscano, Rainbow Tuscano, Vates collards
200 feet of CHARD - Bright Lights and three kinds from Seeds from Italy seed company.  It's hard to know what the varieties are called, the seed packets are mostly in Italian.
2 HOT PEPPERS in the hoophouse attached to the chicken coop - an experiment
12 SQUASH PLANTS - Golden Arrow and Jack Pot.  This is another experiment, some really large plants grown with black plastic mulch and a clear plastic tunnel.  We are hoping for squash in June.

May 9:
(In the Pick-Your-Own Garden)
25 feet SUNFLOWERS - Valentine and mixed
10 feet CILANTRO - Santo
5 feet NASTURTIUMS - Kaleidoscope
21 CHERRY TOMATOES - Super Snow White, Chocolate Pear, Black Cherry, Chadwick, Gardener's Delight, Lemon Drop, Esterina, Sun Gold, Sweetie
(In the coop hoophouse)
18 SUPER HOT PEPPERS - King Naga, Orange 7-Pot, Bhut Orange Copenhagen, Trinadad Scorpian, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero Big Sun, Hanoi Cayenne, Pimento Lisa
9 EGGPLANT - Listada, Ping Tung, Diamond, Orient Express
3 CUCUMBERS - Socrates

Cherry tomatoes, yum.

Monday, April 20, 2015

SIGNS OF SPRING (as of April 20)

Peepers and wood frogs calling
Planting onions
Three dozen eggs in one day
Crocuses and snowdrops
Pussy willows
Planting peas
Mama hen setting on her eggs
40 eggs in one day
Everything changing every day
Phoebes returning to their nests
Looking for (and finding) seeds sprouting and perennials growing.
Short blog posts
So busy we don't know what to do next!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Low tunnel in the field, ready to be planted with early broccoli

Pussy willows

The snow melted!

Duck eggs!  The ducks will be nesting soon.

French sorrel, growing in the hoophouse
Planting sweet onions
Strolling of the Heifers CSA & Farm Showcase

Head lettuce seedlings

Monday, April 6, 2015

Good Intentions

Trying out new things intrigues me.  Renewing favorite pastimes interests me.  I get these ideas, like many people, that I will do certain things, and then life continues and those ideas remain ideas.  Dreams.  For some reason, luck, optimism, stubbornness, impracticality, take your pick, I don't give up.

So here is my current cookery bucket list:

1 - Make some fresh cheese using raw milk.

2 - Make some jelly from dandelion flowers.

3 - Make some rhubarb wine (preferably before the next batch of rhubarb needs picking)

4 - Make violet jelly.

The first two will be new endeavors.  The second two are revivals. I'll have to wait for violets and dandelions to be in bloom to make the jellies.  I've made violet jelly quite a few times but not lately.  I use Euell Gibbons' recipe from his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs.  It's pretty easy.  You start out by sitting on the grass on a sunny day in May.  The hardest bit is picking LOTS of violet flowers.

Next you pour boiling water over the flowers.

Then strain the liquid and add lemon juice.  The lemon juice changes the color to a beautiful pink.  After that it's a basic jelly recipe with sugar and cooking, etc.  (I don't actually have the recipe in front of me at the moment.  I spent time searching for the book but it's in hiding.)

Here's another blogger's version of the RECIPE.

Violet jelly is delicate in flavor and nice on a cracker with a bit of mild cheese or served with meats like lamb.  It would probably be good in sandwiches for a fancy tea party.

I am not promising anything about my bucket list.  I just have it.  And I have the hope that I'll be telling you about my cheese, wine and jellies before too long.

What are your dreams?

Monday, March 30, 2015


"But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.
Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter
had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.
My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air of
January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings of
April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian
temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure
the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it
began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over
those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought
that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter
traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-
drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On
Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found
still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges."

from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Looking forward to spring flowers.

Spring is gradually and steadily coming along here at the farm.  When I look outside, the world is still mostly white.  But the driveway is finally all melted off!  That should make travel easier and safer for folks coming by to get eggs.  Our paths to the chicken coop and duck house are still a changing mix of snow, ice, mud, puddles, and bits of soggy lawn.  It makes for interesting walking.  On cold days, we can walk on top of the hard snow and it feels awesome to be able to stride confidently!  Then, on a warmer day, every step is a surprise - will we stay on top or suddenly sink?

The ash tree.

A few days ago Rob and our neighbor Ed started cutting down a large ash tree north of the house.  This tree has been part of the landscape around here since I moved here in 1976.  It's a huge double tree now and a favorite of the Northern Orioles for singing and nesting.  Unfortunately, it has been damaged by Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect that destroys ash trees.  And it leans towards our house.  So we made the decision to take it down before it fell on the house.  In a way, I was glad to see the rotting wood in the core of the trunk after it was cut.  The extent of the damage and the harm the tree could have done to our home made it clear that we had made the right decision. On the bright side, our cut flower garden will now have a lot more afternoon light!  And Rob and Ed did a great job getting the tree to land in the best possible location.  (i.e. not on any young plum, peach or apple trees, or the house!)  The second half is yet to be felled and might be trickier to control.  We are lucky to have Ed's experienced help.

Head lettuces coming up - just a few of many seedlings.

My main activity these days is PLANTING.  The house now has seedlings in all of the downstairs rooms and the front porch.  I am really happy with my new set up on the porch.  Robin built another shelf for plants (later to be used for the farm shares) and I chose a small space heater and thermostat that are both working really well.  The heat comes on if the temperature approaches 32 and shuts off at 40.  Cold hardy plants are happily growing there and when they are ready, they are moved out to the hoophouse.  The hoophouse shelves are filling up with hardy seedlings like leeks, spinach, and broccoli for the garden.  In the house, we have the tender items like basil, peppers, eggplant and soon, tomatoes.  Every week there are seeds to plant (tomatoes, asters, microgreens, and mesclun this week) and many little seedlings to transplant (celosia, Sweet Annie, and peppers, for instance).  I am really having a blast.

Outside, the fruit trees are calling us, "Please prune us!"  Robin is busy busy with sugaring and I am intensely planting and doing a last major fling with paperwork before the outside planting begins and, supposedly, creating more beauty and order in the house while I can.  (More often I am spreading potting soil and spilling water on the floor.)  I am also singing as often as I can, filling up my soul.  "So, fruit trees, we'll be there soon!"  In the meantime, we study our pruning books.

The hoophouse is about half planted for the early spring crops.  Arugula, radishes, escarole, scallions and bok choy up growing.  Mesclun and spinach need to be started.  There's a funny springtime dance going on out there as well.  On warm sunny days, we open the door and block the opening so chickens and ducks can't get inside.  We can water if we turn on the outside tap and use the hose, but if it is cold at night, we have to cover the plants, close the doors, and close the water line (in the basement).  We watch the weather forecast very carefully.  One of our farm goals is to set up what is called a frost-free hydrant.  You dig a trench deep in the ground (below the frost line) and lay a water line.  This gets connected to a faucet outside that only opens when you turn it on, so it can work even in the cold.  (Frost-free!)  That will make watering both the chickens and the plants easier.

Looking forward to summertime bounty!

Our other activity is selling FARM SHARES.  We have four left to meet our goal of 20 shares this year.  We've met some new people in this process and I am excited to have both new and returning members.  On Saturday, April 18, Sweet Morning Farm will be at the CSA showcase and market in Brattleboro, VT.  Hopefully, we will add a few members through that market, which is part of the events leading up to the annual STROLLING OF THE HEIFERS weekend in June.  We have had quite a few farm members from Guilford, VT, which is only 2 miles away.  This is the first time we have been able to go to a market in Vermont.  We'll be bringing microgreens and whatever is ready from the hoophouse (radishes? sorrel?) and leeks, if we can dig them up out of the frozen ground!

I am eager to dig up the leeks because I will be planting early broccoli and cabbages in the same low tunnel.  I am eager for fresh broccoli!

As you can tell, we have many things going on gearing up for spring and lots of thoughts buzzing around in our heads.  Looking forward seeing those flowers peeping out amongst the leaves and seeing what trees the Orioles chose for singing in this year.

Happy springtime,