Newsletter #6 – July 25, 2011

It’s finally rained around here and although it’s holding up our fall planting operations, we’re not going to complain.  It’s been bone dry round these parts and we’ve been irrigating our fields on a daily basis.  Friday our rain gauge read 2”!  We were caught in the barn washing and sorting veggies for the markets when the excitement hit.  Lots of rain, lighting, wind and hail and all we could do is sit in the barn and watch it come down.
All in good timing though.  We planted the last of our winter squash and hope to harvest pumpkins, butternut and spaghetti squash into late October.  This rain helps to counteract the oppressive heat and water in those little guys and give them a good start.
The tomatoes are loving the heat, but haven’t quite started to turn.  We may be able to harvest a round of sungold cherry tomatoes (the best!) for the CSA.  Soon we’ll be inundated with heirloom tomatoes.
We’ve got a good crop of beets on the way and our second planting of carrots look good too!

Growing The Farm:

flower & bee is now offering cut flowers organically grown at Blackberry Meadows Farm. Grower, Joan Guerin, designs creative floral arrangements for weddings, special occasions and “just because.” flower & bee’s small local apiaries produce fabulous honey and key ingredients used in our handcrafted, small-batch skincare products which come in sizes perfect for gifts.

Help on the Farm: Allan and Kathy Montgomery

We have been encouraging Jennifer to work with fruits and vegetables since she was about 4 years old. She helped tend a small garden when she was in elementary school in Nebraska and worked in the large garden behind our house in West Virginia while she was going to high school and college. She also worked on an organic farm. We made market tables for her to use and grew horseradish in our garden and processed it for her to sell.
During all of these years, she watched and later helped us make jellies, jams and pickles and can fruit and tomatoes. She is no stranger to either the steam from a canning kettle or the popping of Kerr lids as they seal shut on jars of delicious red-raspberry jelly.
We both retired from careers in the Federal government in the spring of 2006 and immediately moved to our home in Edinboro; 15 miles south of Lake Erie and 2 hours north of Blackberry Meadows Farm. We threw our support behind Jennifer and Greg’s decision to buy Blackberry Meadows Farm and have been helping them with farm projects ever since.
In Spring we show up to plant thousands and thousands of seeds in the warm sun of the greenhouse and in the Fall to wash and stack seed trays, getting them ready for another productive season. During the Summer months, we travel to Blackberry Meadows Farm each Tuesday morning with a complete nutritious and tasty lunch prepared for about 16 hands who are there to harvest, wash, and pack the produce that makes up your CSA share. When the first rays of the summer sun reach the hilltop and the Wednesday morning mist lifts from the fields, we head for the barn to get it ready for the weekly CSA pick-up.
We inventory and price the bread and cookies baked fresh that morning at Allegro Hearth Bakery in Pittsburgh; we stock the freezer and cooler with farm –raised organic chickens and eggs, fresh artisan cheeses, and 6 or 8 varieties of your favorite flavors of Red Ribbon Soda, a local product of the Natrona Bottling Company. Just before opening time, we pull the freshly picked and washed produce from the cooler and arrange it on the tables according to the list that Jennifer writes on the barn’s CSA green chalk board.
Once CSA members start arriving for their pick-up, Kathy checks their names on the weekly schedule and tallies up the sales of bread, berries, eggs, chickens, soap, honey, and everyone’s favorite flavor of ice-cold Red Ribbon pop. I keep busy making sure the totes on the tables are full with a good selection of farm produce and help by carrying extra bags and boxes of farm products to the waiting vehicles.
We enjoy our days on the farm supporting the great work that Jennifer and Greg and all of their associates are doing and we truly feel they are “making a difference”

Jennifer’s mom and dad, Kathy and Allan Montgomery, work at the counter in the barn helping with the CSA pick-up. “No, no,” she says, “you can’t have another chocolate chip cookie!”

Animals on the Farm: by Kristen and Nate

This Friday was like a roller coaster ride. A new batch of baby chicks had been shipped out for us on Wednesday and we expected them to arrive anytime between late Wednesday and Thursday.

They were a day late arriving which had us worried that they wouldn’t survive the extreme heat during such a long shipping period. We had also made arrangements to set them up in a different space which would hopefully be less hot for them. They arrived Friday morning on a busy harvest day so we got them settled quickly. They appeared to have survived the long, hot trip quite well so we went about the day’s work.

We were all trying to deal with the high temps and even had to hold off picking some of the produce for the later evening hours. Just when we thought we couldn’t take the heat, a late afternoon storm rolled through bringing with it some much-needed cooler weather. What we weren’t prepared for was the intensity of the storm. It ripped through the farm bringing hail, high winds and heavy rain. On a farm, there’s much to worry about in a storm. We have all of the animal shelters, greenhouses and high tunnels to be concerned about but also wind, rain and hail have the ability to severely damage crops.

As the storm subsided we ventured out to see if all was well. It appeared as if the farm was still intact. The newly purchased awning over our poultry processing equipment took the biggest hit but more concerning was that the new chicks had gotten wet. In an effort to ventilate this space in 94 degree weather we opened the windows which unfortunately allowed rain to come into the space. Since this was a makeshift space for them, we were also unaware that the roof leaked in several places.

Their bedding was wet and the poor little chicks were wet too. All of this after their already long and stressful journey to the farm. We acted quickly getting them warm and dry and amazingly, they all recovered well.

Quite an exciting first few days for these little ones!

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