Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Website is down!

We've decided to send you from our website to this blog until we've got our site back up and running reliably. Spring is the worst time to have computer problems and we just can't squeeze in the time to fix it. Please bear with us and send any questions our way.

We still have spaces available in our CSA 2011: (20 weeks for basic and 10 weeks for half share) - June 15/18- October 26/29)

For farm pickup:
Basic share (once a week pick up) - $500
Half share (every other week pick up) - $285
Plus share (twice as much as each week) - $895

For delivery to Phipps Farm Market (Wed 2:30 pm - 6:30 pm), Boyd Community Center in Fox Chapel (Sat 9:00 am - 11:00 am) and Summerset at the Frick (Sat 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm)
Basic share (once a week pick up) - $615
Plus share (twice as much ease week) - $1000
Please contact us about half shares for delivery

Please make a check payable to Blackberry Meadows Farm and send it to
7115 Ridge Rd
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
Include the following info with your check:

Primary Subscriber: (The main contact responsible for the CSA Share)
Home Phone ___________________Alternate Phone __________________________ Street __________________________________________________________ City/Town ____________________________State ______________Zip ________ E-mail _________________________________________________________
Share Size (basic,plus or half) and pick up location _____________________________

If you are splitting a share, please be sure to include the email address of everyone who would like to receive the newsletter and updates.

Feel free to send us any questions that you may have to info@blackberrymeadows.com or call 724 226 3939

Blackberry Meadows

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainy days on the farm

Hand prepping the rows and transplanting leeks in the mud.

It was a doosey of an April - with a total of 11.6 inches of rain, we were literally swamped here at the farm. Surely you've heard and read a lot on the news about how the rain is affecting farmers around the region and we're in the same boat as the rest of them. With the fields being constantly wet, we had to get out and prep each row by hand and then transplant by hand too. On a small scale this would be O.K., but when we need to plant 1100 broccoli plants, this is an excruciatingly slow way to go about things and we weren't able to get everything in the ground on time.

These last few days of sunny warm weather has been a blessing and we are busy bees working in the fields until the sun goes down. Although we're super happy to be out there now and planting the things that should have been in the ground in early April, we think the main spring harvest is going to come on a bit late. Therefore, we're going to push the first day of our CSA pick up to the 3rd week in June (June 15 and/or June 18). Don't worry! We'll still keep the CSA going for 20 weeks - ending in the last week of October.

This is the beauty of a CSA. We really rely on our members to be there to support us in this volatile profession. We are at the mercy of the weather and must do what we can to be good stewards of the land. We sure appreciate your support - as we couldn't do what we love to do without you guys! This is going to shape up to be another great growing season, as we're looking forward to a diversity of beautiful veggies and our first harvest of our new raspberry patch!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The most common way to start a conversation with a farmer is to ask “So, how was the growing season?” and us farmers invariably answer with a summary of the weather report for the last 6 months. “Well, it started out purty wet n’ cold, had a late hard frost (got my apple buds) and we couldn’t get the tractor into the field until May! Then, this wet winter pushed the rocks right up to the surface! Why, we picked so many rocks, we could practically build a wall ‘round this whole farm. Then, the

summer turned down right brutal. By the time the tomatoes really got going in August, we hit the hot dry spell. Mind you, we had the best tomato harvest since we’ve been farming this land (nothing like the Blight of ‘09). This year we had so many tomatoes we couldn’t hardly give ‘em away! Well, round the end of September, the rain finally settled in and things started back up to growing again. Boy, those fall greens have been growing to-touch-the-sky and we’re happy to have them. We’re just hoping for a dry spell now, so we can get the garlic in the ground before the end of the month. We’re still going to market until Thanksgiving and then we’ll redd up this whole farm and get ready for next year!”

That’s what a farmer would have to say about it all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This bit of sunshine is a pleasant surprise! We sure aren’t complaining about the rain (we needed it), but we’re gearing up to plant our garlic. This can be a monumental task, as we’ve set aside about 50 - 75 lbs of bulbs for next year’s crop. This doesn’t factor in the 20 lbs of our newest hard-neck variety, “Music”. Some of you may already know this, but each clove of garlic, when planted on its own, produces a whole new bulb of garlic. It’s best to get your cloves in the ground before the end of October - so, hoping that our fields dry out and we prep the soil, we’ll be planting garlic in every moment of spare time before the end of the month. You’re welcome to come on out and help if you’d like!

We’ve had a bit of a reality check with the Marcellus Shale drilling in our community. Just over the county line in Butler, there’s been a lot of drilling activity. We’ve seen them flaring the gas at the top of the drilling rig, heard constant loud industrial machinery and even witnessed the tanker trucks dumping waste water onto Ekastown Rd. This type of drilling is going to have a big impact in our region and it’s going to sneak up on us. It’s well worth a road trip to Washington Co. to see what the visual impact these kind of operations are going to have on us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 18 Update

Fall has set in. We’ve got the wood stove cranking and have pulled out the long johns! There must be a bit of warm sunny days to come, but with this constant drizzle and crisp nights - our t-shirt days are passing by!

The nice thing about cold weather is that the weeds don’t seem to grow as quickly as the veggies, so it’s easier to stay ahead of the weeds. There’s lettuce mix and spicy greens mix on the way and we’ve got a spotty supply of spinach to harvest too.

We’ve finally got a good crop of carrots (they’re big, but few). This is due to Kitty’s determination that we can beat the weeds and grow good carrots. We’ll harvest them on Tuesday and see how many we come out with!

The pea greens are loving this cool wet weather and are really at their prime. Now, I know that some of you don’t know what to do with the pea greens and are letting them pile up. Obviously, they’re great raw in salads, but they are also good in a stir fry, or sauteed in butter with a bit of those leeks and a bit of a hot pepper. Dee-lish!

We only have three weeks left of the CSA. It’s hard to believe how quickly time goes by, especially when you measure it by the harvest of vegetables. It seems to come full circle, a bit.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week 17 update

Four of us (Greg, Jen, Kitty and Nate) spent the weekend up in the Laurel Highlands at the Mother Earth News Fair. We had a great time learning new tips and tricks of sustainability, meeting like-minded people and coming away with ideas of how to improve our operations on the farm and build community. Many ominous words were thrown around: peak oil, economic down-turn, climate change . . . but in answer to that, the workshop themes covered such topics as resilience, local economies, healthy food, DIY, sustainable living and green design. We came away with new knowledge but also feeling like we may be a bit ahead of the curve. We’re inspired to increase our seed saving practices, to help secure our local food economies and explore biochar production, among may other opportunities!

On the home front, our friend down the road has hooked us up with five 300 gallon plastic barrels (they used to contain honey!). We’re going to clean them out and then use them as water storage for animals and/or as rain barrels for the barn and house. We plan to decrease our usage of municipal water and conserve any run-off into our streams and rivers. As little as one-tenth of an inch of rain can cause sewage overflow into our rivers. We might as well catch that rain and water the garden!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It’s crazy how quickly time passes! Already we’re seeing hints of fall colors and crisp nights. We seeded our two high tunnels for the late season harvest with spicy greens mix, turnips (yes - more!), lettuce mix, cilantro, carrots and nasturtiums. We planted late season tomatoes (Cosmonaut Volkov) in hopes of harvesting them after heavy frosts settle in. In the spring, (during the excessively wet months) we built raised beds in the back half of each tunnel and filled them with compost. It’s aways easy to leave the tunnels out of our rotation system - as it is such valuable space and it’s hard to leave them fallow for green manure or cover cropping. Instead, we’ll keep adding organic matter and healthy nutrients to keep them going. Sometimes compost can be high in nitrogen and therefore is good for growing leafy greens but not root crops which prefer phosphorus for successful growth. We’re planting a variety of vegetables and will feel out this new soil situation before we set our minds on growing any particular variety.

Keep thinking rainy thoughts for us. Although we did get some rain - it’s been a particularly dry summer/fall and we sure could use more regular amounts of rain. We’re coming full circle and will start providing you with more cool weather crops (greens, squash and potatoes) soon.