What a month April was! After recording our first March plowing date ever, we followed up with our first April irrigation runs ever. Whew, it was dusty! So the rains have been just perfect. With our solid crew of five experienced people, we will plant continuously for the next few weeks. Our field crops are thriving, and we already have lots of food in the field: a good first stand of carrots and spinach, greens, kales, chard, cilantro and dill, bok choy, cabbages, onions, leeks, potatoes. We covered some of the tenderest crops – lettuce, fennel and beets – with row cover over these cold nights, and they came through just fine. Overall, it’s looking great out there!

In the greenhouse as well, the season is moving along successfully. We brought back some faltering onions, with lots of TLC and extra boosts of our magic fertilizer blends; the onion transplants that we are plunking in the ground now are beautiful. In fact, most of our transplants look better than ever, and are settling into the warmer ground with little shock. With five hundred young tomato plants rooted in several of our unheated hoophouses, Bruce lights a few propane burners in the houses every frosty night, keeping the plants alive, growing and healthy.

But, twenty six degrees on the thermometer a few mornings over the past week. Typical for late April, but tell that to the strawberries! Like the lilac, apple trees, and all of the other perennial plants in our world, the berries are several weeks ahead of normal, meaning the buds are loosening and many blossoms have opened. Larger berry and orchard growers have frost alarms and appropriate equipment for irrigation protection of fields, but we do not. Our protective “blankets” give the plants a few degrees of frost protection, but can’t provide enough warmth when air temperatures are in the mid 20’s (and it’s usually a few degrees cooler at ground level). We have lost many potential fruits from this season’s crop. The nights look to be in the clear, frost-wise, for the foreseeable future, so we’ll cross our fingers that there are still plenty of younger buds out there to produce some fruit to go around.

A few Pick-Your-Own herbs are ready for harvesting now. Come on by the farm any time during daylight hours for herb cutting, in the raised bed just outside the barn. Park in the parking lot and walk through the barn; or park by the house, in front of the barn, and come through the fence gate. Right now, there are chives, oregano, thyme, sage and mint. Chives can be “clear cut” a few inches up from the base of the plant, while the rest should be trimmed by the sprig. Our fresh eggs are for sale as well, in a small black refrigerator inside the barn. While you are here, feel welcome to talk a stroll around, perhaps heading south out to visit our newest flock of laying hens. They are beautiful and calm, a breed called Tetra Amber. If you visit any of our animals, do remember that the fences are electrified.

PICADILLY EGG SHARES are now available for eastern Massachusetts shareholders! Our flocks of Rhode Island Red and Tetra Amber hens are out on pasture, feasting on bugs, worms and organic grain. And laying delicious brown shelled eggs, with bright yellow yolks. For those of you who would like to “add on” an Egg Share to your produce share, read on. Eggs will come weekly with the veggies boxes. We’ll expect to have eggs for 22 weeks (rather than 23 like the produce), as prolonged hot weather can cause a temporary dip in egg laying; so we may skip a week somewhere during the season. Choose either a full dozen a week for $121, or a half dozen a week for $66. About 100 dozen will available each week, so I’m guessing that these egg shares will sell out quickly. For more information on our hens, see this blog post by Bruce from earlier this year: http://picadillyfarm.com/2010/2012/03/19/hens-are-alayin/. Of course, we will also have eggs available at the farm during regular share pick ups here.

UPCOMING PICADILLY FARM DATES:

Friday, May 11th
Open House in Belmont, at our pick up site at the home of Jocelyn Milton and family, 18 Emerson Street.
5:30-7pm, light refreshments
Join farmers Jenny & Bruce, and our site hosts, for an informal meet-and-greet. All are welcome, whether or not this is your regular pick-up site.

Friday, May 18th
Open House in Watertown, at our pick up site at the home of Andy Fehlner and family, 75 Laurel Street.
5:30-7pm, light refreshments
Join farmers Jenny & Bruce, and our site hosts, for an informal meet-and-greet. All are welcome, whether or not this is your regular pick-up site.

Saturday, May 26th
Spring Open House and Planting Day at the farm – usually we plant the PYO garden on this day. And we’ll likely have extra tomato & herb plants for you to take home, if you plant your own garden.

Saturday June 2nd through Thursday June 7th
First CSA Share distributions of the season!

Saturday June 23rd
3rd annual Strawberry Concert, with homemade shortcake, Picadilly berries and local ice cream served at intermission. 1pm.

Hope to see you soon at the farm!

Jenny & Bruce

 

 

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Plowing Days

Friday was plowing day! Susie ran our 1979 Massey Ferguson rig most of the day, tilling the first five acres of the season. Every spring, around the beginning of April, we maneuver carefully through the soggy fields, plowing just the driest sections for just the earliest plantings of carrots, peas and greens. Not so soggy this season, with no snow melt and not much March rain to saturate the topsoil. In fact, we’re wondering if those newly planted beds will need irrigation next week. April irrigation – that would be a “first”, coming on the heels of our first March plowing ever!

In our efforts to reduce field tillage overall, we have moved away from using a traditional moldboard plow. With our light, sandy loam soils, a disk-chisel-type plow serves us well. Seven shanks run as deep as 14”, or as shallow as 6”. These chisels, in combination with two gangs of rolling disks, loosen the topsoil and break up the roots of our winter cover crops, without flipping or churning the soil excessively. The ground we plowed yesterday will fill up throughout the next month with lots of good food – the first greens and roots, then 2½ acres of potatoes, followed by an acre of onions and leeks. We’ll seed down a handful of acres to oats, to be cut in June for straw. Then we’ll use the straw to mulch pathways between beds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, as well as to top off strawberries and garlic in the fall.

Our propagating greenhouse is 90% full of seedlings already.  Crops look great, with two plantings of lettuce and the first beets and cabbage already up. Radicchio and rainbow chard seedlings are just peeking through this morning, giving the first hints of red in the trays. Onions are “damping off” a bit in the flats: the tiny seedlings rot right below soil level, when the “wrong” soil fungi gain a foothold over the “right” ones. So, onions are on the TLC train, getting extra boosts of fish fertilizer and beneficial bacteria and fungi. Our planting buffer will come in handy for this crop this season. In spite of the new challenges and lessons learned every year (and perhaps because of them), I always circle back to the understanding that this whole activity of growing food is a miracle, only peripherally controllable by me. These thousands of small, hard seeds that roll through our fingertips into the soil: the life that bursts forth is an astonishing gift.

The Picadilly chicken population is expanding! Bruce and I have been raising small flocks of laying hens for ten years or so. For the past three seasons, we’ve run bigger flocks of a hundred or so birds. We’ve been dialing in efficient systems for managing a good-sized flock rotating on pasture through our fields, both for the egg production and for the manure benefits to our fields. This spring, we’re ramping up to 350 birds, in anticipation of offering an Egg Share to eastern Mass. produce shareholders. Yahoo! I am still working out all of the logistics with our site hosts, and will let you all know shortly all the details and how to sign up.

We’ll be bringing our shares to a new site, at a shareholder’s home in North Reading, on Park Street five minutes off exit 39 of Route 93. If this site is more convenient for you than where you are currently scheduled to pick up your share, send me an email and we can switch you over. Join us for an Open House in North Reading on Friday, April 13 from 5:30-7pm. Bruce and I will be there, with our site host Cheryl, to meet you and talk more about what’s happening on the farm. All are welcome. 479 Park Street. We’ll have more Open House dates at a few other sites in May.

That’s the news for today. We’re excited to be in the fields and planting for all of us!

Jenny (for Bruce & Susie)

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