September 15th 2015 Newsletter

The Weekly Menu

What you can roughly expect to receive each week:

Here’s where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares. What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter – may not necessarily be what’s actually ready on harvest day. We’ll do our best to get it right!

This week: Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Green Peppers, Red Italian (Corno Di Toro) Sweet Pepper, Purple Pepper,and summer squash, broccoli raab, arugula, watermelon, and possibly winter squash and/or pineapple tomatillos!

Some Big News

At about 11 o’clock last night, I remembered that I had forgotten something. The newsletter! Yesterday was so busy with off-the-farm activities for me, that by the time I laid my head down, I just couldn’t pick it back up to write the newsletter.

So, here’s the big news: I’m pregnant! I’m at about 20 weeks and due in the beginning of February, just in time to get accustomed to life with a newborn before the apprentices arrive and life gets busy on the farm again. We’ve been waffling between having a home birth (Evelyn was born at home) or going to the Midwife Center. As circumstances dictated, for now, we’re going with the Midwife Center, which means a lot more testing and visits to doctors and hospitals. Not something I’m used to. So. Much. Waiting…. Evelyn was a champ and held it together for my blood tests, sonograms, and waiting rooms. It was a long day of waiting, which was capped off by Evelyn visiting with her pediatrician…. she has pneumonia, poor girl! We left her doctors office at 5:30 – just in time to hit the height of downtown rush hour traffic! We were so happy to get back to the farm!

While Evelyn and I were off the farm, the crew was busy holding it together! We’ve got a nice crop of Spinach, Dragon Tongue Beans, Beets, Radishes, Tatsoi, Arugula, and baby White Turnips coming up. It’s looking great, but needs some weeding. They also harvested our Red Kuri Squash, (which we may not have enough to go around yet). We have a nice crop of pumpkins, which aren’t quite ready – and are mostly carving pumpkins – so don’t feel tempted to buy one at the store yet!

Trevor and Mel from Community Human Services came by as well yesterday, to help Greg with our outdoor kitchen. When we host the “Big Share Dinner and Concert” (buy tickets and support multiple good causes!) on October 3rd, they plan on using our wood oven and grill. Well… the grill isn’t done yet! They spent the day helping to piece marble and lay tile and things are looking great!

Our deer fence, which I’ve been raving about all summer, is still working wonderfully, but…. there’s a design flaw. It’s an 8′ plastic mesh fence – which rabbits and/or groundhogs are chewing holes through and munching our crops. Groundhogs are relatively easy to catch, but rabbits…. they are tough! We’ve lost a row of lettuce to those guys and it’s not pretty! We need a good rabbit-catchin’ dog! Maggie isn’t fast enough.

Speaking of Maggie, some of you might have missed her in the barn last week. Last Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, she could hardly move and wouldn’t eat. She looked and acted like a 16 year old dog. So sad! I at once thought that it was a Limes Disease flare up and took her to the vet on Wednesday. They prescribed antibiotics for her and in about 36 hrs, she’s was back to normal. It’s been long week! I’m glad that everyone is on the mend now!

We need help!

If you or you know someone who has a relatively open schedule – we could use some more volunteer help on the farm. Specifically, for harvesting: Tuesdays 9 – 1:30 or Fridays 9 – 1:30 (we’ll provide lunch). For weeding: Mondays, Thursdays or Saturdays – anytime. Get in touch with Jen@blackberrymeadows.com and let me know if you’re interested! Thanks!!

A note from Woods Of Plenty: The Red Pines

The Red pines at the entrance of Blackberry Meadows Farm provide a great opportunity to create new food production at the farm. Woods of Plenty is currently transforming the stand into an accessible and experiential space for foraging and community interaction. This area shall serve the farm’s goal of providing non-toxic produce and enable those who visit the farm to take a step into nature away from the noise of their day for a session of pure enjoyment.Dropping all of their needles each year, Red pines do a great job at supporting the improvement of soil. The pine needles, dropped branches, and dead trees all play host to decompositional fungi, while the roots play host to mycorrhizal fungi. Both types of fungi assemble water stable aggregates – compounds built with sand, silt, and clay using organic glues produced by the fungi. These aggregates physically reduce compaction and increase the soil’s water, gas, and nutrient holding capacity. Through this increase in fertility, the Red pines, in both life and death, facilitate healthy growth in the understory.

When the canopy broke in the Red pines some years ago, both native and non-native vegetation began colonizing the openings. Often times non-native vegetation will not be balance with the local ecology. Bush honeysuckle, privet, bittersweet vine, multi-flora rose, and garlic mustard – all aggressive non-native plants – found a nice home in the Red pines at Blackberry Meadows Farm. Bush honeysuckle is particularly troublesome because it releases negative allelopathic chemicals into the soil, inhibiting desired native plants from thriving. Garlic mustard as well releases chemicals into the soil that prevents the formation of mycorrhizal relationships. Furthermore, the impact of non-native invasive plants in a forest extend well beyond altering soil chemistry, and include the loss of bird habitat due to improper plant structure and a decrease in not only the number of insects present but the number of species.

As we work in the Red pines, we are restoring strength to the local ecology to enable a booming ecosystem to manifest itself. We dynamically design to create with the existing vegetation and direct the forest’s immense energy towards the production of human food, establishing a Woods of Plenty. The native plant vegetation that currently exists is termed advanced regeneration. The management of non-native invasive plants while supporting this advanced regeneration takes skilled human labor, which we are happy to provide.

As we work we imagine this Woods of Plenty to be akin to a permanent corn maze: there is excitement in not knowing what is around the next bend, yet a visitor will feel safe as this space is open and protected. Our trellises, built with managed non-native invasive plants and desiccated Red pine branches, serve as the walls of the maze and are a place for growing grapes and cane fruit. They guide visitors through the Woods of Plenty to spaces that open up into rooms where the Red pines are the pillars that hold up a living roof. We imagine people sitting under the Red pine canopy on stumps or in hammocks on a hot day to find themselves cool and comfortable. In all cases, a visit in any season will result in finding food.

The forest will change and develop over the years as all things do in nature. Considering that it is a relatively young stand of Red pines this progression will see many new forms. The managed non-native invasive plants are now giving way to Black raspberries, Black elderberries, Sweet cherries, wild apples and wild grapes, with plenty of possibilities to grow more native fruit and nut producing plants. It takes an initial investment to make a Woods of Plenty, but afterwards all it needs is human interaction and enjoyment.

-Woods of Plenty

 

This month!: Outdoor Movie Night!! Sept 19th Please RSVP

We’re excited to try out a new idea – we’re going to have an outdoor movie night at the farm.
Our first ever Movie Night will be Babe! We will try to start it as early as the daylight will allow. The sun sets around 7 in mid September – so the show will start around 8 pm.

We’ll provide popcorn – you bring refreshments, a blanket, bug spray. flashlights, and have fun!

Movie night is canceled if we have rain!

The Big Share

We’re collaborating with CHS (Community Human Services) for The Big Share. A Farm to Table Dinner and Concert. Saturday October 3rd.

Go to CHSCorp.org for tickets!

All profits from tickets sold will go towards buying produce (CSA shares) from our farm which we will then, deliver to the CHS food pantry.

If you’re looking for a fancy local dinner that serves multiple good causes, this is the one! Help benefit our farm and get good, nutritious food to those experiencing Food Insecurity!
Photo Courtesy of Adam Miliron

We need your help! With Garlic!

The great garlic planting is going to be upon us soon – and that means that we need to start “shucking” garlic. We’ve set aside the biggest and best bulbs of garlic as our “seed garlic” for the fall. We need help pulling the bulbs apart into cloves. Ultimately, we need about 10 5 gallon buckets of garlic bulbs. If you all take a few bundles of garlic home, shuck it and bring it back next week, that would be great!

In early October, we’ve got Sewickly Academy coming out with about 70 kids. We’ll have a power planting day with a bunch of student and get the job done in one day!

Family Friendly Days in our Area!

Join us for a day with Farm Family Kindermusik on Saturday morning, September 19th. (Weather Permitting)

Help Celebrate! Christa Beck (one of our long-time CSA members) has been teaching Kindermusik in the Alle-Kiski Valley for 15 years now!

Kindermusik

1212 Carlisle Street

Natrona Heights, PA 15065

MOPS Sarver

It’s about time for MOPS to get together soon! Get together with a bunch of great ladies with a passion for life, love and family! Join their Meet the Moms event on September 2 & 16th. Click on the link above for more details. Once the farm slows down, you’ll see Jen and Evelyn at the MOPs meetings too!

Storytime and Lapsit at the Community Library of Allegheny Valley (Natrona Heights

We really enjoy the story time with Ms Judy! Hope to see you there!

Some recipe ideas for this week:

I think arugula is a Love it or Hate it vegetable. I personally have a hard time eating it – it’s too spicy and bitter for me. That said, if I can doctor it up nicely – I can still eat it! So my trick for Arugula:

Balsamic Arugula Salad:

The salad:
One washed bag of arugula
Lots of other veggies (cherry tomatoes, peppers, squash, beets, onions, etc)
Dried fruit, nuts and seeds (toasted pumpkins seeds are great)
Blue cheese, feta cheese or chèvre

The dressing:
1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup maple syrup (this is the important part)
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and black pepper to taste

Slather with dressing and eat up!

A Generic Greens Recipe: Beans and Greens

There’s no particular recipe that I use when making beans and greens. For the non-vegetarians, there’s a couple of key ingredients that you’ll want to try to use. 1 – Broth… chicken, beef, pork – whatever, but that gives it a rich taste. A hambone is great too! 2 – a lot of garlic!

Above, I’ve linked to a google search for Beans and Greens recipes. I’ll give you the one I use from my head – but any of the ones above, will work, I imagine. (I like epicurious.com best)

Soak beans overnight and drain, and cook in new water the next day for a couple of hours until soft (or used canned beans). Any beans will do: Black, kidney, white, black eyed peas (which cook quicker if using dried beans).

Lightly sauté garlic and/or onions in butter, oil, or bacon grease, add beans and coat in garlicky flavored oil. Toss in your rinsed and chopped greens (chop stems smaller so they cook quickly) and stir around until nicely coated. Put the lid on the pan and let cook for a few minutes. Then, pour in meat or veggie stock and let simmer until greens are cooked and beans are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s nice topped with bacon too. This is a greens recipe that Evelyn has no qualms about eating.

Local Goods:

Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is High Fructose Corn Syrup Free and Local! If you’re gonna eat junk food – it might as well be local junk food!
Allegro Hearth Bakery Fresh bread and sweets available at the farm pickup only. Made fresh every Tuesday night – amazing stuff!
Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.
Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local! The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as other locations in southwestern, PA.
Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.
Brenkel’s Organic Farm – in Zelienople, supplies us with a few veggies too.
Conneautee Creamery – Artisan cheeses made from grass fed cows.
Harmony Hill Farm – supplies us with pasture raised, grass fed beef. We’ll have ground beef on hand at $7/lb.
Northwoods Ranch – located in Gibsonia area, this farm specialies in all pasture raised, Non-GMO and soy free beef and pork. They raise heritage breeds of pigs and Highland Cattle for beef. Currently, we only have ground beef from these guys.
Hunter Farms – keeps us supplied with the best Certified Organic Blueberries around. They usually start up in July.
Una Biologicalcreams, salves, and balms. All made in small batches, with organic and some locally sourced ingredients.

Value added from the Farm

We dabble in a few hand crafted items. We’ll purchase fair trade, organic, green coffee beans and roast them in our wood oven.

Mom’s Red Raspberry Jelly (made with our berries and organic sugar!) will be available this week.

Also – we’ve roasted coffee! We’ll have that for sale too!

Thanks for choosing our CSA. We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you. We think what we do is hard work – but important for our family, friends, and community. There’s a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know. By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you’re helping us to achieve our goals. Thanks!!

Sincerely,

Your Farmers,

Greg, Jen, Evelyn, Matt, Sam, Dawn and Haven

 

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