The Fresh Picked
Perched up high on our John Deere taking in the surroundings of fresh green tree lines, rolling hills, red barns and whinnying horses over yonder, I felt a strong sense of pride for all we’ve accomplished so far this season and am truly feeling the role of the farmer. The engine grumbles beneath me while fat tractor tires roll. The chisel claws the ground behind me like a giant bear turning over dirt, rocks, and clumps of grass. A murder of crows hangs around feasting on plump, freshly revealed earthworms, whom I find myself feeling sorry with a tinge of guilt for laying them so exposed. Suddenly my sense of accomplishment dissipates as I notice the wind unravelling all our previous days hard work of laying black plastic mulch down about ninety 200’ rows. Many of the nice, straight, and tight buried plastic rows have lifted and undulate wildly like an army of tethered giant serpents trying to take flight. I recall a literary quote that, “...life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,” and at that moment I realize, I am that idiot.
The past several days we had spent laying black plastic mulch. The purpose of the plastic mulch is to prohibit the growth of weeds, retain soil moisture, and heat up the soil to encourage early plant growth. I was so excited to be using our Rain-Flo plastic mulch layer. I loved its simplicity and the ingenuity of its design. One of us would drive the tractor while the other two would maintain a rhythm of unrolling, staking, slicing, shoveling then following the tractor another 200’ then repeat. As soon as you begin thinking of something else, you get pulled back into the sequence.
Several days earlier we had hit a bump in the road. We had realized that the disc harrow we had purchased to till our fields wasn’t really getting the job done. We made the quick decision to purchase a rototiller and spent the rest of the afternoon assembling it. Problem solved.
There seems to be a pattern this month of hitting bumps in the road, working out solutions, then overcoming the hurdle. As soon as we begin patting ourselves on the back then … bump, bump, here we go again. I can see the progress in the quilt work of our farm plots. Some are freshly plowed in rough, clumpy ground; while others tilled in fine fluffy soil; others in black plastic zebra stripes, and yet others have stripes with green polka dots of lettuce and kale.
Over the past few weeks we have planted our first transplants which were seeded by our staff over at Sharp Farms. These include kale, lettuce, bok choi, broccoli, napa cabbage, rainbow chard, spring onions and kohlrabi. This weekend, based on the current weather forecast, we are feeling pretty good about planting our first thousand tomato plants. Perhaps next week we will be ready to plant our first round of peppers, zucchinis, and cucumbers.
We are also direct seeding a weekly schedule of arugula, baby kale, baby lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots and beets. Our first seeding didn’t germinate due to a cold snap, however the second one seems to be doing pretty good. That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for weekly farm updates.
Wait a minute, where did the sun go? I swear spring was here and we were ready to get planting. This morning after finishing the roof of the barn, completely drenched in a cold hard rain, with ten pounds of construction mud on each boot, I felt plunged back into winter. It seems March came in like a lion and went out like an eskimo. Despite this seeming seasonal backstep, we have made much progress at the farm. Here is an overview of where we are:
On March 31, we planted our first six rows of direct seeded crops. These included spinach, arugula, mizzuna, tatsoi, radishes, baby lettuce and kale. It has been too cold for any of these to germinate so we held off this week on planting any more. These were directly seeded into raised beds in 200’ rows. Next week is looking a bit warmer and we’re hoping for germination.
While my coworkers were discing the soil, mowing the grass, and building a barn this week and getting whipped around by a cold wind, I decided to exit stage left and peek in on the greenhouse operation. Things are super busy and the plants look gorgeous. It’s an eclectic bunch working there in the greenhouses and the conversations of winter travel, botanical knowledge, and daily thoughts accompany the rhythm of shifting flats, thinning cells, and planting seeds. It’s great to see all the baby pepper and tomato plants foreshadowing summer and a shag carpet of cool crops just about ready to get hardened off and planted in the ground. Next week we will pick up our first order which will include broccoli, kale (curly and tuscan), lettuce (green leaf, red leaf and romaine), swiss chard, scallions, kohlrabi, and cabbage. These transplants are about four to six weeks ahead of our direct seeded rows which gives us a bit of a head start.
Looking forward to next week, before we can plant the greenhouse order into the ground, we will finish our barn, layout our irrigation, and spread the plastic mulch. We will probably need generators to power our water supply since our electricity has not been activated yet, however everything on our end is complete. Frankly, I can’t wait to move forward from anticipation to perspiration as our season gets going full steam ahead. Also glad to bring everyone along with us for the ride through our newsletter updates.
Farm Update, March 2016
March has been a very interesting transition month as we have gone from paper to plow. Over the winter most of what we have done is research: whether that be attending farm conferences, surfing the web, pouring through books, questioning farmers or working with extension agencies. We drilled a couple of wells and purchased some equipment including our tractors. Tested our soil, familiarized ourselves with irrigation and composting techniques, the life cycle of bugs, benefits of cover cropping. We also waited for the soil to dry out a bit. March has been a month of action and here is where we are.
Firstly it has been great for Norman’s Farm Market to be mentoring with Denise Sharp of Sharp’s Farm who is growing all our transplants from seed in her greenhouses. Denise is an encyclopedia of horticultural knowledge and field experience and Jeff and I have thoroughly enjoyed our meetings in her sunroom with its panoramic view of the farm watching the waterfowl down at the pond and discussing our seed order. Jeff and I are like sponges, trying to absorb every word on a meandering track with Denise and learning all kinds of details. I write profusely trying to capture every word, “...The shade of the spent melon vines help keep the fall broccoli planting cool and get established it also gives you an extra crop on the same plastic mulch..Planting alyssum in the picker’s lanes at the end of each row is easily stepped over and attracts beneficial insects. It’s like a lounge where they can wait for dinner.” Our core staff of Anne, Torrey, and Yamileth have been apprenticing with Denise, planting seeds, thinning trays, and learning the ropes of the greenhouse. I find it to be a symbiotic relationship.
Meanwhile down the road at our new farm we had the pleasure of taking our plan from an 8 ½ “ by 11” sheet of paper onto a 10 acre plot of land. It is as if the tractor and chisel plow become the pencil drawing out our grid of soon to be vegetable plots. One of my favorite books from this winter was Elliot Coleman’s “New Organic Grower”. His method in laying out a 5 acre farm in 10 individual ½ acre plots on a 10 year rotation of cash and cover crops, inspired us to develop our own method. Our area will be made up of 24 or so ⅓ acre plots, each one with thirteen 200’ rows. Developing a pattern of rotation which takes into account all kinds of factors including timing, nutrient requirements, impact on the soil, etc… is a thought process you can get lost in. It feels like you are solving a puzzle and creating some kind of composition at the same time. It’s like soduko meets songwriting. This year will be a work in progress but we feel good about a solid well thought out plan as a blueprint for us to go off of. I’ve been warned that mother nature doesn’t necessarily think too much of plans though, so ask me in a couple months how closely we are sticking to it.
Coming up over the next few weeks we will be raising our first barn; as well as chisel plowing and discing our fields. We will layout our irrigation and lay plastic mulch. We are aiming for late March for our first direct seeding. We will be planting arugula, spinach, lettuce, kale, tatsoi, mizzuna, radishes and carrots. Our first transplants are scheduled for the week of April 10 and will include broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, head lettuce, and scallions. Stay tuned for more updates.
Dear 2016 CSA Members,
Our Sunday CSA pickup has been changed on us by the County, we cannot be at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School this season due to another organization being at Rock Creek on Sundays until 2pm, therefore, we must change back to North Chevy Chase Elementary School on Sundays from 12-3pm.
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may occur.
Please let me know if there is any issue. Thank you so much for understanding and we are excited for the season to begin!
Please note this email is sent to all CSA members, regardless of your pickup.
WE HAVE GREAT NEWS!
As of Wednesday, December 23, 2015,we are proud owners of a 60 acre farm in Woodbine, MD.
Can't wait to have everyone out to see it!
Thank you for all your support through the years and especially this past month, we truly appreciate each and every one of you.
Cheers, The Normans'
WEEK 4 OF 6
SATURDAY - WESTLAND MIDDLE SCHOOL ROADSIDE STAND 11AM-2PM
SUNDAY - JONES MILL ROADSIDE STAND 11AM-2PM
HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND!
Dear Winter Share Member,
We are so excited for this final season to this amazing year! We are loaded with beautiful, delicious, and amazing produce! We are digging high and low for the best and freshest product around. We are so happy you are continuing with us.
Some details about the next 6 weeks:
1. Winter CSA starts THIS WEEKEND!
2. You have paid for 6 weeks (disregard what we may have told people about the 5 week thing...we were wrong:) and can miss 1 week with 1 makeup allowed. Remember this has to be within the 6 weeks winter share.
3. Pickups are ONLY on the weekends:
Saturdays 11am-2pm: Mass Ave at our Westland Middle School roadside stand, Bethesda
Sundays 11am-2pm: Jones Mill Rd. roadside stand, Chevy Chase
Please remember to bring your bags to put your goodies in, we are adding some new specialty products as well.
See you this weekend!
Eris & Torrey
GET READY FOR YOUR HALLOWEEN PARTY
Dear CSA Member,
We hope you are enjoying the bounty each week.
As you can imagine, it is difficult to budget our production with our farmers and to provide as much selection as we try to bring to you each week. We really try to make sure that everyone (no matter if you are coming at the beginning or end) has a great selection to choose from.
This email serves as a courtesy reminder that baskets in step 2 and 3 should not exceed 3 pounds (3.2 lbs with basket weight) for a small and 6 pounds (6.3 lbs for basket weight) for a large AND produce should fit into the basket. We realize that certain items don't fit into the baskets very well, however, these basket weights are based on the heaviest items and it is not a guarantee that everyone should get 3 pounds or 6 pounds.
The baskets are a unit of volume, not weight. Produce varies in weight by the bushel. For example, a bushel of tomatoes may equal 50 pounds whereas a bushel of peppers may equal 24 pounds. By this principal, the baskets may not weigh the same when you fill them. This is why we say, should not exceed 3 pounds for a small basket or 6 pounds for a large basket AND produce should fit into the basket.
Thank you for understanding, we are simply trying to get everyone on the same page as we know it has been confusing. Please feel free to ask for assistance at your pickup regarding weights. We are happy to help and happy to have you at our CSA.
Eris, John and Jeff Norman