The Fresh Picked
In 2015, Norman's joined forces with Liberty Delight Farms. Liberty Delight Farms is a family owned and operated All Natural Meat producer in Reisterstown, MD. Their commitment to sustainable agricultural practices, excellence in animal husbandry, complimented with traditional hard working values and ethics ensures you the finest quality of All Natural Meats.
Each month, Norman's will open up the website and take orders and we will distribute for a designated week at our CSA pickups or Saturdays at our Roadside Markets (in season). No payment is due until pickup.
CUT-OFF THIS MONTH IS: Sunday, July 3rd
PICKUP WEEK IS: Sunday, July 10 through Saturday, July 16 at our CSA Pickups and roadside markets.
Just a note to remind you that we are officially changing our Friday CSA location, beginning tomorrow, July 1st to:
Kol Shalom (parking lot)
9110 Darnestown Rd, Rockville, MD 20850
The hours will remain the same from 11am-1pm.
We have moved our CSA pickup to the main lobby of Ohr Kodesh this evening between 4-7pm. If you cannot make this evening, you may come to another CSA pickup this week.
This week at the farm was about getting into the flow of things. We are picking and cutting lots and lots of salad greens including arugula, mizzuna, baby kale, baby lettuce, and tatsoi. We are also harvesting about 1000 heads of lettuce per week as well as kale, rainbow swiss chard, bok choi, and kohlrabi. Looking ahead to next week we will be getting into napa cabbage which looks wonderful. Broccoli is crowning nicely and not at all far off. Squash is coming on strong and probably less than a week away. We've had several requests from area restaurants for squash blossoms which we are filling along with salad greens. In fact while I am writing this update our crew is picking orders for The Grilled Oyster (Potomac and DC), Suma (Bethesda), and the Daily Dish (Chevy Chase), which I will personally deliver as soon as it is picked. These restaurants are great at being flexible and utilizing what’s in season so if you don’t feel like cooking give them a try.
The task that resonated the most with me this week was pruning the tomatoes. Now in the circle of farm life I must confess I am not the most knowledgeable or efficient member of the field crew. In fact this week I have earned the nickname One Row Charlie. This is because out of the 30 or so rows of tomatoes which needed pruning I would do about one a day while my comrades handled the lion’s share. In my defense it takes me about twice as long as everybody else so it’s as if I am doing two rows as long as nobody is counting.
As Godofredo met me in the field he explained that every plant is different. You need to look at it and let it tell you how it wants to grow. Some branches are male and some are female. The females will produce the fruit. Each plant should have two or three main stems, the others have to go. This approach resonates with me. The objective to pruning the tomatoes is to increase airflow and minimize risk of disease. Also by selecting the branches which get to stay it determines where the plant will focus its energy. Too many branches? Then the plant’s resources are spread too thin. Too many leaves block the airflow and when it rains the leaves won’t dry which encourages molds, mildews, and disease. I’m ready to get going.
Almost immediately in the quiet of the tomato patch on a misty morning listening to the birds while I pinch, and bend up then down, careful not to tear the flesh of the stem, I am intoxicated by the powerful aroma of the plants. There is a green residue that cakes my fingers and carries the smell and I find myself thinking of a scene from the Godfather where Marlon Brando is pruning his tomatoes, lost in his thoughts in the sanctuary of his garden. I always liked that scene. Now I find myself getting lost in my thoughts with the hopes that as I simplify the plants I am also ridding myself of clutter and extraneous branches. Jeff announces how good the tomato plants are looking and I notice my trail of pruned suckers behind me and endless plants ready for pruning. It is a meditative state and very therapeutic. Even if only for one row.
Dear Early Season CSA Member,
Due to the weather warning tomorrow, Sunday, June 5th, we are changing CSA pickup times to 11am-1pm. Sorry for the inconvenience but we would rather everyone stay safe.
If you cannot make this time you may come to another pickup location this coming week.
Lights, Kohlrabi,...Action. This is the week we finally got electricity at the farm. Up until now we have been watering off generator power and haven’t been able to utilize our wells to their full potential. Of course we haven’t needed to do much watering with all the rain in May. This week, however, summer decided to show up to the party and the plants really began to take off. We got to use one of our new tractor implements, the Wunderbar Cultivator, which essentially weeds the walking aisles beside the crop rows. And Jeff’s Malamute, Airy, had a chance encounter with a huge black snake which Jeff caught on video. Don’t worry, no animals were harmed in the making of that film.
The plants are loving all the sunshine and now we are really starting to do some picking. We harvested 250 lb of kale (curly and tuscan), 60 lb of rainbow swiss chard, 150 bok choi, and about 1000 heads of lettuce. With each one I keep telling myself, “wow that’s the most beautiful head of lettuce I’ve ever seen.
As for our planting schedule this week we got in our first row of basil, more lettuce and beans. About 400 pepper plants (a nice mix of red, orange, and yellow bells, but don’t worry they all start green), bull horns, and hot hungarian wax. Also, 250 eggplant ranging from the hefty italian black varieties to the dainty, waifish fairytale. We planted about 250 more cucumbers, (slicing, persian, and pickle varieties), although unfortunately these will need to be the replacements for the 250 we lost. We are sad to announce that our first planting is no longer with us, they were casualties of a particularly cold night in May and a freak accident involving gusty winds and about 6000 square feet of row cover. May they rest in peace.
For the most part we held the pests at bay until the end of this week when we noticed areas of flea beetle pressure on bok choi and eggplant. It’s funny how certain breeds of insects have particular tastes. We addressed those isolated areas with an organically approved agent called, PyGanic, whose active ingredient derives from the chrysanthemum. It seems to have done the trick. Also we had the notion to apply an organically approved agent for sunscreen and pest management called Surround WP on our baby transplants before putting them in the ground. It sort of felt like we were getting a school of kids ready for the beach or summer camp with sunscreen and bug spray. The active ingredient in Surround is caolin clay. It’s non-toxic, tiny white particles block out the UV rays and create an undesirable barrier between the leaf of the plant and the predatory critter. It leaves a white film which rinses of quite easily in water.
That’s about it for this week. Next week we hope to start picking napa cabbage (so get those kimchi recipes handy) and kohlrabi. Make sure to drop by the stands, (Jones Mill is open daily, and Mass Ave on weekends, Tilden will open in a couple weeks); to get up close and personal with the stars of our story, the vegetables.
This week at the farm we braced ourselves for another week of rain. We spent time scouting and maintaining our vegetable beds and busied ourselves with the tasks we knew we wouldn’t have time to complete later in the season. We are harvesting kale and chard to fill the orders for the CSA and about to begin picking our lettuce.
There were a few moments of concern as well. It began with a forecasted cold snap which sent us on a quest for crop row cover to insulate our tender veggies from potential frost. I remember hearing once that the material used for row cover was the idea of a diaper manufacturer seeking an alternate market for the material they produced in abundance (someone may want to fact check me on this). While our tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, and cucumbers spent much of the week under wraps, our basil plants scheduled for planting, sat around in transplant purgatory waiting for the evening temps to stabilize. They are going into the ground today, Friday, May 20.
We were troubled by the sudden emergence of a textural pattern on the lettuce leaves beginning to affect much of our crop. The plants seem very healthy otherwise. We took photos and investigated it via various experienced farmers and the University of Maryland Extension. We were reassured to find out it is most likely a condition acquired by too much water and not enough sunlight and should work itself out with less rain and more sun. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
As a pre-emptive strategy we applied an organically approved agent to stunt the insect population of aphids, potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, and flies which we are just starting to notice. It is a natural oil extracted from the neem tree which acts as a growth regulator and disrupts the molting process of these insects while in their larval stage. Our thought process is the more we can deal with things before they become a problem the better. Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin that said, “an ounce of preparation is better than a pound of perspiration.” (someone should fact check me on that one too.)
I have to say the highlight of my week was spent as a guide touring farms in Woodbine with a few friends scouting locations for a film project. Although I felt like I was playing hookie while the rest of my crew busted out the tasks we’d been putting off all week, I must confess to the guilty pleasure of a moment in time; an appreciation for where we are currently in the season and getting a behind the scenes glimpse and sampling of the insights of the area’s farmers for whom I hold in high regard. Driving in my jeep wrangler with the windows down at Waterford Farm down tractor trails along fields of wheat and rye, along ponds fished by osprey with the Mark Twain-esque narration of the one and only Chuck Sharp, or having the behind the scenes glimpse of the wisdom, philosophy and layout of Larriland Farm with Lynn Moore amidst a gorgeous backdrop of seemingly endless orchards. What a lucky guy I am. Stay tuned next week for more ramblings of a bohemian farmer. Have a great week everybody.
This week reminded me more of my stint in Seattle than mid-May in the DC area. At the farm the dark saturated coffee grind soil and thick fog has me daydreaming of fresh roasted coffee in a thick clay mug, reading a newspaper or noodling on a guitar. Despite the urge to go back to bed we have managed to forge ahead with our planting schedule and even picked our first harvest. Here is this week’s dirt.
We planted about an acre of tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, cucumbers, and zuchinnis. In addition to our red and yellow beefsteak tomatoes we also have a nice selection of heirloom, roma, and cherry tomatoes. Having the experience at the stands to know which are the most desired varieties really came in handy this past winter when ordering seeds. It is rewarding to feel the transplants of sungolds, cherokees, brandyboys, and amish paste between my fingers.
The transplanter is a very cool device. Last year when planting, my back would complain as I crawled around on my hands and knees in the dirt. This year its a more civilized affair. With a driver on the tractor and one to three on the seats of the transplanter we cruise along plugging holes with baby plants. The transplanter pokes holes in the plastic spaced to the specific crop and fills them with water. For those of us in the seats our job is to keep plugging them holes. It’s nice to get into a zone focusing on the rhythm of pulling a plant from the tray, reaching down, and pushing it into the drenched soil. When your tray is empty you can look back and see a nice straight line of evenly spaced, freshly watered plants. We get done in a couple hours what would have taken us all week last year. It’s a good feeling.
This week we also harvested our first crop of kale and chard. Our plants look very healthy. The curly kale leaves are the color of the blue ridge mountains and snap off the stalk as we move down the row in the drizzling rain.
To wrap up this week, after hearing the forecast for Sunday night of possible temps dipping down into the thirties we made the quick decision to run up to Shippensburg for some row cover which is essentially an acre sized blanket for our plants. It seems a theme this year as we complete a task while patting ourselves on the back here comes another humbling wave about to break. Tomatoes don’t like temps dipping below 41 degrees and the vine crops such as cucumbers and squash need it even warmer. Stay tuned next week for tales of unseasonably cold May nights and adventures in tomato staking. Have a great week everyone.
This week I am not going to say there has been “too much rain”. Yes, the ground is completely saturated which is keeping us and our tractors out of the fields. Yes our spirits are feeling a bit soggy. True that we could use some more sunshine to get these plants growing. However, I am absolutely not complaining. This is due to my own observations of the farm community. I’ve noticed a certain taboo amongst the other farmers that you don’t talk about “too much rain”. When I bring up the weather there is a certain knowing glance or a poker face not to chime in with me. My working theory is that you could jinx yourself right into a draught. So this week, albeit like somebody left the water running upstairs above a ceiling of thick grey clouds, I am not going to say there has been, “too much rain.”
Despite the weather this week which included a hail storm that left mounds of gumdrop-sized ice cubes in Potomac but nothing in Woodbine, we have actually accomplished a good bit at the farm. This week’s plantings included our first of many rounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, summer squashes, and green beans. We added another succession planting of lettuce, chard, and bok choi as well. The cloudy weather gives the new transplants a good opportunity to get acclimated and adjust to the soil without the stress of direct sun beating down on them. We actually noticed how quickly the plants are sending their roots deep into the ground. And although we didn’t get to work in the fields as much as we would have liked, it was a great opportunity to get cleaned and organized at the packing house and implement our new inventory management and organization systems.
Coming up this week we hope to be planting peppers, and eggplant. We will be preparing even more 80’ X 200’ beds for planting, and getting our tomato stakes cleaned and sanitized and ready for use. Our electricity, which will power our water supply (currently we are using generators), is about to be activated, and we will continue to setup irrigation in zones to each of our vegetable beds. Have a great week everybody.