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October 2005
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December 2005

Thanks to all gleaners

People came to the farm during each of the gleaning days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From what they told us, they were happy with what they got, even when a particular crop they were interested in was already all gleaned out by the time of their arrival.

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The photo above was taken on Friday--on the foreground is the straw-covered strawberry field. It was a cool, crisp and sunny day. And this beautiful autumn weather stayed with us during all three gleaning days. Nice.

Best Thanksgiving wishes to everyone! 


Gleaning--what's available

It's that time of year when our members, worksharers, and friends can glean whatever remains from our fields. Beginning tomorrow (Friday, 11/18) through Sunday afternoon, you can come to the farm anytime and harvest. At the washing station we will have a map telling you where to find everything, and around the farm we will post signs to help guide you to the fields. If you would like to come when we are there to help you, we will be around 9am-5pm Friday, 10am-2pm Saturday, and noon-3pm Sunday. A small volunteer group will come Sunday afternoon to help us glean what's left for a soup kitchen.

Here is a list of what is available to pick right now:

lettuce
spinach (very small; requires patience and good knees to harvest)
arugula (plenty)
spicy mix (plenty)
mizuna
red mustard
green mustard
turnip greens
collards
kale
small heads broccoli
tiny heads cauliflower
many immature heads cabbage
about 10 pounds small, slightly-soft sweet potatoes
about 20 pounds garlic bulbs
hakurei turnips
purple-top turnips
watermelon radishes
regular radishes ("cherry belle" and "easter egg")
jimmy nardello peppers (sweet, frying)
padron chiles (hot when larger than a golf ball)
lots of assorted, dried chiles scattering the ground where they were growing
dill
cilantro
garlic chives
oregano
mint
nasturtiums (peppery, edible flowers and leaves--some frost damage)
basil (doesn't win any prizes for appearance--frost damage)
anise hyssop (licorice flavored herb--great for hot tea! Some frost damage )

Please be warned that many of the above items are scattered in distant fields. These are items that were not harvested before because there was not enough to serve our hundreds of members, or it was so small or scattered it was not worth the time. By it's nature gleaning requires some patience and a keen eye for what might be hidden in a field that looks cleaned out. Please bring bags, and a knife will be helpful to harvest the small greens. If you're hoping for a couple pounds of salad greens, expect to squat or crouch for 15 minutes or more. Also, it's been cold and windy at times, so please dress appropriately for the weather, and wear comfortable shoes that you can get dirty. The frost on the grass will get your feet cold and wet until mid-morning.

If you would like to surprise someone with a Thanksgiving or Christmas wreath, we will have some for sale. Many include garlic, popcorn and chiles, so they are useful even after the holidays have passed.

If we don't see you this weekend, have a terrific winter!


Mulching with straw

Mulching, mulching and mulching. We've been doing plenty of straw mulching this week. We finished mulching the two strawberry fields and the garlic field. We are about half way done with next spring's potato field. After that we are only left with the asparagus field, which is smaller than all the others and we'll deal with it rather quickly.

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Above we see Joe, Kenji and Carrie mulching the garlic field. By the way, all the straw we are using was grown at the farm.

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From the straw laden wagon Dave is tossing a bale on the future potato field. Dave worked in farms in Wales, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, so he has a lot of bale tossing experience.

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Joe and Carrie with straw mulch in the next year's potato field. It is not a common practice, but Rob Vaughn decided to hill the potato field in the fall and then to mulch it heavily to protect the shape of the hills and to deter the weeds. This will expedite potato planting next spring.


Attack of the mantis!

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Despite facing a head-on attack of a scary green-eyed creature, the brave man wielding the camera (Dave Vernon) had the presence of mind to click on the shutter button.

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And the purpose of the photo above, of course, is to offer a partial close-up of the back of my hand. Incidentally, that's a praying mantis on top of it. From her looks, she was quite ready to lay her eggs. We found her last Tuesday in the wash station in a bin of harvested greens. We released her on the nasturtiums. 

As you may have noticed, there has been a proliferation of praying mantids this year. I read that's primarily a result of a moderate winter which often results in the hatching of an uncommonly large number of mantids. As to the praying mantis above, I hope she was able to lay her eggs before the cold hit a couple days later. Adult female praying mantids survive until the weather gets cold.    


Last CSA harvest of 2005

This past Tuesday, November 8, we had our last harvest day of the 2005 season. A bittersweet day. Everyone was cheerful and our team's customary wry and irreverent humor was in good form. And yet there was a tinge of sadness, too. After all, we will not be doing this again in a while and when we resume some of us will not be around. But that's what happens every year. There is continuity even in this end of season dispersion.

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Here we are harvesting mixed baby lettuce for our CSA shareholders. In the foreground, on the left we see Carrie being productive as always and to the right a smiling Andrea Humm is being her usual gracious self, but Dave Vernon, in the middle, is showing obvious signs of work-induced derangement (the size of the image may not show that clearly, so readers will have to trust me on that).

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A view from the other side: Gail Taylor and Megan Caine with the baby lettuce. It took a comically long time to harvest this tiny lettuce. Why? Because when we seeded them we didn't expect that we would be cutting them that small--otherwise we would have them closer together for a quicker and more efficient harvest. Incidentally, cutting baby lettuce is not the only exciting experience lived by Gail and Megan. Gail recently returned from a visit to Europe. Right before Europe she had some interesting adventures in Guatemala. Megan, after studying Spanish in Ecuador, hitchhiked through several South American countries. Every once in a while during her travels the farm would receive Megan's fascinating emails. Her traveling companion was Farah Fosse, another friend of the farm who frequently volunteers here. Before we knew her, Megan also traveled to China and South East Asia.

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Back to the baby lettuce. Here is a batch of it being rinsed to get it ready for the shareholders.

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Dave, Andrea and Megan working on the lettuce at the wash station. Dave is new to the DC area. Shortly after his arrival this summer he found out about Clagett Farm and has been a consistent volunteer ever since. He has worked on farms in his native Wales, and lived in South Africa and Canada. As to Andrea, all season she was a Tuesday volunteer whose dedication went above and beyond the call of duty. Neither cold rain nor oppressive heat ever managed to dent her gracious and gentle humor.

During Tuesday's lunch break Kathleen Davis came by to say hello and goodbye to us--her former farm teammates. We were happy to see her! Next week she is flying to her home in Hawaii. We wish Kathleen the very best, but for selfish reasons hope to see her back. Many of you know Kathleen, especially if you were a Saturday shareholder or worksharer in 04 and 05. Few people know, however, how much the CSA benefited from Kathleen's friendly and unassuming but very capable presence.

So here we are in mid-November. There are still plenty of things to do at the farm. But the dynamics of the work are quite different and fewer hands are needed.


You-pick

During most weeks of the growing season, in addition to their weekly share (and at no extra cost) shareholders are welcome to the farm to you-pick (u-pick) veggies/berries to take home. To find out what's allowed to be u-picked in any given week, check the list on the board at the wash station or ask a farm staff person (next season shareholders will also be notified by email.)

Judging from last year's survey results, over 2/3 of shareholders you-picked at least once during the season. Many of them did it almost every week. Some shareholders u-picked more than twice the amount of tomatoes they got in this season's shares. I also know of shareholders who u-picked more than eight quarts of strawberries in one outing. Needless to say, even though it is not included in our share totals the you-pick option (if exercised) adds significant value to a shareholder's benefits.


A record of the 25 weeks of CSA shares in 2005

A few weeks before the season's end, we put together a chart of the shares you have received. Perhaps it will help jog your memory so you can more easily fill out your end-of-the-year survey. Or perhaps future members can look at this document to see what they missed. Unfortunately, it's pretty big, so you'll need to zoom a few times to see it well. Perhaps next year we'll come up with a better format. In the meantime, I'm going to give myself a pat on the back, because I've resolved to become a better record-keeper, and this represents a real accomplishment.

Thanks to help from CSA member, Fred Delventhal, you can see the chart in either of two formats. Click on one below to check it out:

Download Adobe Acrobat version: sharelog2005.pdf
Download Excel version: sharelog2005.xls

NOTE: The sharelog does not take into account the veggies that members you-picked. For a quick explanation of you-pick, read the you-pick post, immediately above this one.


Planting garlic for 2006

We are planting garlic this week. We'll probably be done today. Then we will mulch the field with a fairly thick layer of straw and wait until spring. We are using cloves of several hardneck varieties: Bogatyr, German Porcelain, Music, Marino, Nova Scotia, Red Rocambole, Killarney, and Temptress.

For the curious, a bogatyr in Russian is an heroic knight-errant. Unconfirmed rumors have it that if you eat plenty of Bogatyr garlic you will become infused with the virtues of a legendary hero. We are not sure whether Music is so named because of the special melodic qualities of this tasty variety, but we do know that it originated in Ontario, Canada.

In our minds we associate garlic planting with cool weather and sweaters. Who would have guessed that on the first day of November we would be working with short-sleeved t-shirts?Garlic_planting_dave_and_carrie

Morning action: above we see Dave Vernon dropping cloves into dibbled holes set about five inches apart, while Carrie is walking to refill her empty container with garlic cloves to plant. In addition to the volunteer work of Dave, a new DC resident who hails from the UK, we also benefitted from the great help of volunteers Andrea Humm and Pat Burke.

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Late afternoon: Joe getting ready to dibble more holes (two sets of rows per hill). Megan is dropping cloves and Carrie is covering holes.

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Later still: Carrie and Megan planting with brio as the sun is setting lower and lower. The long days of summer are long gone.

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One of the benefits of working outside. This is how it looked when we were ready to go home.


Veggie oil tractor

Thanks to Rob Vaughn, one of our tractors now runs on vegetable cooking oil instead of diesel. After a gentle maiden voyage on Monday, on Tuesday the tractor was put to work hauling a wagon full of hay. Rob did all the conversion work, including some welding, and used a lot of his typical creative tinkering.

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Here is Rob with Clagett Farm's Ford tractor (Old Blue) almost ready for its maiden voyage as a veggie oil-powered machine. Notice the veggie oil fuel tank to Rob's left.