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Monday, July 21, 2014

Many Hands




just picked. by many hands.
This morning I did some quick math and figured out that about 5 billion hands have worked these Powisset fields over the last seven and a half years since I’ve been here.   OK, I’m not one for quick math with many hands multiplied by many hours multiplied by many years, but there have been so many people that have given work and time and love to this farm, making it what it is today.  And this morning as Tessa and I walked the fields making our plan for the week ahead, we passed our summer crew picking hundreds of pounds of cukes, two volunteers spending their morning weeding our herb garden and a greenhouse full of garlic, picked by friends the day before.   I imagined seeing all of the faces of the many people who have worked in these fields, lined up across the horizon, as if we were taking some group picture together.  I imagined them smiling, arms up towards the sky, like an old picture I have of a past crew member, as she tossed cherry tomatoes up above her, one summer day in 2007.
 
Yesterday, we had a special volunteer day.  Our crew invited our friends and family out to the fields for a work project and potluck dinner by the flower garden.  During the farm season, it can be challenging to make time for the ones we love (even when we live with them).  Our twelve hour days and exhausting work make it hard to make (or keep) social commitments and most of my friends know at this point to come find me at the farm if they want to see me, or wait until fall.  When we are focused on the weeding and the broken tractors and the endless harvesting we don’t always get to share the beauty of the farm with those that hold us in community outside of the farm day.  So, we decided it was time to bring our friends to the farm.  
 
this week's bok choi
And they came.  Family and friends arrived with food to share and energy to give.  Together we pulled over 10,000 bulbs of garlic, now curing in the greenhouse.  They pulled the beautiful alliums, significant because they represent the past and the future; planted last fall with our 2013 crew, to be enjoyed this season by our current farm community.  Like our friends and family, they see us through all the seasons; the calm of the fall, the cold of the winter, the hectic spring and the tired summer.  I ran the tractor through the fields, loosening the bulbs from their roots, watching new and old friends see me in my element, help me with my work and become even more a part of it.  

This farm can’t happen with my one set of hands. Can any farm?  I may write the plan with one pen but the words come to life as they are read and interpreted by countless crew members, volunteers, visitors, friends, family and strangers.  Yes, I think it’s been a billion hands in these fields. So far.  We lift bins together, pull potatoes, obliterate weeds and give high fives.  I hope we get a billion more hands in the next seven and half years.  That’s a lot of high-fives.

See you in the fields (and ready for a high-five, they are still cool, I swear),

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew


scallions


What’s in the share (most likely):

Full: lettuce, carrots, beets, squash, cukes, celery, potatoes, scallions, onions,
 cabbage or bok choi, basil

Small: lettuce, carrots or beets, squash, cukes, potatoes, 
 onions, cabbage or bok choi, basil

PYO: beans, parsley, sunflowers, kale or chard, dill flowers,








Events and Awesomeness at the farm:
Tuesday: Jordan Brothers Seafoood at the farm from 1:30-6:30
Friday: 2pm-3pm, volunteer in the flower garden for Flower Power Hour
Saturday: 8am-noon, volunteer in the fields with the farmers
Saturday: Great Sky Solar will be tabling from 10 am to 2 pm. 
Here’s what they will be offering in their own words: 

Greetings all! Great Sky Solar is making its way to the Powisset Farm share! We're Boston's only democratically owned solar panel installer. Just like the farmers at Powisset Farm we are local, bringing the community together to provide you with the best service and the best quality product made in the USA.

 Our cause is to work with you as a part of our green community to fight for a sustainable future. Here at the Powisset's Farm share we'll teach about how Massachusetts is providing huge saving incentives on solar. We are supplying a special opportunity to make $750 on each solar refferal!  Last but not least we are giving away free site visits!

 
This Week in the Stand:

Breaking Bread
They say, “What must you break apart in order to bring a family close together? Bread, of course.” And so this week, we’re very excited to offer bread in the stand. Our bread baker, France Murphy, grew up baking and cooking alongside her family in her aunt’s restaurant and bakery. Since that time, she’s been a chef, freelance artist and dog walker, living and working on both coasts of the country. She’s returned to her baking roots and is baking small batch baguettes in Medfield with four simple ingredients: organic flour, organic yeast, organic salt and water. She’ll be baking in the morning and delivering those loaves for our Tuesday and Saturday distributions. Enjoy; and as usual, let us know what you think!

Check the Fridge
New to us this week is Alpine Cheese from Appleton Farm. It’s a fresh swiss cheese without all those pesky holes.

You may also notice we’re transitioning over to Powisset Farm Eggs! Our ladies are finally getting their laying legs, and we are bringing a few dozen a day up to the farm stand. They are still in short supply, so be sure to get here early if you can.


Herb Garden:

Have you checked out the herb garden lately? It’s awesome! It’s that small garden behind the flower garden.  Did you know you can take home any herbs in there any time!? Yes, you can.  Please feel free to take a few springs for some sun tea or to eat with your veggies!  Right now there is: spearmint, chives, lavender and even some chamomile!  Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Woman and Machine




view from my favorite cultivating tractor
Have I talked about how much I love tractors?  I must have.  But maybe I haven’t yet, this season.  I love tractors.  I love the noises they make.  They rumble and hum and if you listen closely there is so much that a tractor will tell you about the task you are working on together.  I love the way the soil sounds as the tractor pulls plow blades, discs, or shanks through the fields.  The blending of the sounds of the whirling tractor combined with the earth flipping and turning, all muted through my ear protection is like listening to the album, ‘graceland;’ exciting and soothing and familiar and makes you want to smile and dance.   On tractors I am quiet and focused.  I have to be. It’s dangerous to drive tractors.  I have to be present and breathing and aware of both everything around me and only what is exactly in front of me.   On tractors I am strong even when my body isn’t.  On tractors, I kill weeds.  

I love tractors, but I hate when they break.  (this is only partly true, but I’ll get to that later).  And the other night, on a Thursday night after distribution, I sprinted out from the closing barn door to launch into a tractor seat for some late night work on our precious tomato crop.  Our tomatoes are prone to a fungus referred to as “late blight.”  So a couple times a season I spray the rows with a protective copper spray to shield them from the fungus that can take whole fields down in a matter of days.  I like to do this at night and all at once and swiftly and accurately.  And at the end of an already twelve hour work day, I have to be particularly focused.   

Well, so focused I was on finishing the task, that I forgot to fill the tank on the tractor, so I ran out fuel and then proceeded to incorrectly bleed my diesel engine, something I’ve done dozens of times. Yes, I am saying that this farmer, made one of those mistakes at the end of a long day that just makes you sad and frustrated and feel a bit ridiculous.   There I was, in full spraying gears: goggles, my handkerchief up around my mouth, ear protection on, sweat building up under my long-sleeved shirt as I grew impatient with myself.  The tractor was broken. And I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in that moment.  It was now 8:30pm.  There was pizza waiting inside for me, getting as cold as my face grew hot.  I finally gave in, tore off my gear and left a bucket under the tractor where the fuel was now escaping.  

Standing there, hot and worn and wishing I hadn’t cranked so hard on that bolt, I grabbed my teal bike with the basket and headed up towards the barn for the parts manual to the tractor.  I shut the fields’ gates as I rode and let out some long breaths.  At the barn, I tossed the thick blue and white manual into the basket and started to ride back , manual bouncing with each turn of the pedals.  Then I noticed the light, the sky, the orange and pink and stretched out clouds and the barn and fields were lit up and my face was now reflecting the light of the dying sun instead of my impatience with myself.  The land was soothing me and now I was smiling at this absurd moment; so much frustration set to such a gorgeous sight.  The days come and go and are beautiful and full of light and unexpected wonderful minutes as much as they are filled with mistakes and frustrations.   And sometimes tractors break.  And then they can be fixed, but that story is for another time.

look what tractors can do!


See you out in the fields! Maybe I’ll be on a tractor.

our oldest Cub. 1949.

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew

 


What’s in the share (most likely):

Full: lettuce, cukes, squash, onions, scallions, beets, carrots, fennel or kohlrabi, 
basil, cilantro, choice of greens
Small: lettuce, cukes, squash, onions or scallions, fennel or kohlrabi, choice of herbs, choice of greens, choice of roots

PYO: favas, herbs










Events and Awesomeness at the farm this week:

Tuesday: Jordan Brother's Seafood vendor...during pick up! 
(he's been running out by 6pm..some come early!)
Friday: 2pm-3pm volunteer in the flower garden during: Flower Power Hour!
Saturday: 8am-noon: volunteer in the fields with the farmers! All welcome




This Week in the Stand:


Meal Planning Made Easy
We’re introducing a new product in the Farm Stand this week: Farm2Fork Kits! These are kits put together by a small group in Wellesley, looking to provide creative and nutritious meals for folks that participate in CSAs. You take your kit, you take your CSA veggies, throw them together and boom: dinner. We’ve chosen just a few to try out, based on what veggies we’re currently pulling out of the field. The crew has taken these home and sampled them for you and it turns out they are as easy and delicious as you would hope. A favorite stand out is the farro and kale kit, but it’s  also hard to top a tasty zucchini bread, especially as our fridges start filling up with pounds of summer squash. Let us know what you think!

Get Yer Pies!
It’s pie week again, and we’ll be bringing in a small number of pies for purchase in the Stand. This round’s sweet flavor? Blueberry lavender with a cornmeal almond crumb. It sounds ridiculously delicious. Available this Thursday and Saturday this week!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Twining Tomatoes

The wind woke me up early this morning when I heard the tree branches shaking their leaves in a thick symphony deep into the woods outside my window, surrounding the farm.  I lay in bed thinking about the week ahead.  I did a mental scan of the fields and thought about what the crew would be up to this Monday morning.  I kept thinking of the tomatoes, those overflowing beds of green stems and soft leaves with yellow flowers and green fruit starting to take over the rows.  We would need to twine today.  I fell into a hazy morning slumber thinking about tying up the plants, protecting them from disease, getting them ready for harvest.

We plant our tomatoes into black plastic rows.  The plastic warms the soil, keeping the temperature high for the heat-loving plants.  The plastic also acts as a mulch, keeping weeds down, especially close to the plants.  Then we drive stakes into the earth, between the plants, at intervals of three or 4 plants.  As the plants grow, it is our objective to twine along with the plants, supporting them as they grow from six inches to nearly six feet, depending on the variety.

To twine, we slip the roll of twine onto our belt loops, becoming one with our string.  We pull the white string, strong yet thin, from the box and tie off to the end of the bed.  We scoop low along the plants, making our way from one stake to the next, in a move that could easily make it on to some work out video.  We squat and walk and extend our arms low along the plants and then high up over the top of the stake, holding it tight with the other hand so that we keep the tension on the twine.  Once around the stake, then tighten, then once around again.  For a five foot person it's uncomfortable, my fingers are fully pointed to the sky and I may even grunt unexpectedly to finally hook the twine over the top of the stake. However difficult, I embrace the challenge and start picking up speed as I move along the row.  Once we reach the end of the row we turn back down the other side to sandwich the wild tomatoes between the two sides of twine. 

If done well, you can look down the rows and see the plants standing up straighter, pulled up from the ground.  We twine so that the tomatoes are off of the soil, where they pick up diseases.  We twine to provide better airflow to our plants.  We twine so that we can harvest on upright plants.  We twine so our fruit does not rest on the ground where it will rot or be eaten by the bunnies who can't help themselves. 

Sometimes, the plants win.  They grow too fast for us to properly twine them.  Or, they grow limbs of tomato plants from the bottom out...and we can't tame them with our thin twine.  We do our best.  The tomatoes do their best.  We dance along rows and stretch our arms as tall as they will go and we walk with a kind of swagger with those boxes of twine resting on our waists.  Like so much on our farm, I love the ritual of twining.  Of being up close to the plants.  Of being a little uncomfortable, but pushing through it to see results.  And when those first ripe tomatoes hang perfectly at waist height and I reach in to pull one out between tomatoes and twine, I am proud.  Hopefully you will feel that same joy as you reach in for your first sun gold of the season, coming soon.

See you out in those fields of tomato stakes,

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew




What's in the share (most likely):

full: lettuce, carrots, beets, fennel, choice of greens, onions, scallions, potatoes, squash, kohlrabi
small: lettuce, carrots, choice of greens, onions or scallions, squash, choice of roots.

pick your own: peas, herbs, fava beans, flowers


Events and Awesomeness at the farm this week:

Tuesday: Jordan Brothers Seafood vendor at farm 1:30-6:30
Friday: Flower Power Hour, come volunteer with us: 2-3pm
Saturday: volunteer drop in time: 8am-Noon!

  
You can still Join Powisset's Flower CSA! (this is the last week to join)
Do you want a bouquet each week from our farm, expertly arranged? 
Check this out! 
THE SHARE: 
 10 weeks of beautiful blooms arranged by Powisset Farm flower growers especially for you!
WHERE:
 Powisset Farm (37 Powisset Street, Dover, MA) in our CSA barn
WHEN:
  Tuesdays (1:30 – 6:30) or Saturdays (10 - 5)
DATES: 
 the beginning of July - ending the beginning of September
What you can expect:
  Each bouquet will feature fresh picked, sustainably grown focal and filler flowers tastefully arranged for your home, office or as a gift. Large, vibrant, mixed flower bouquets including your summer favorites: Sunflowers, Dahlias, Snapdragons, Zinnias, Asters, Celosia, Black Eyed Susans and other exciting and unique blooms.
How it works:
  At the beginning of the season, when you sign up for your share choose which day makes the most sense for your pick up day, Tuesday or Saturday. Flowers will be harvested the day before and kept cool to maintain freshness and extend their vase life.
Cost:
  $100 ($10/week for 10 weeks) for a $150 value. You’ll be getting a high value product while supporting our farm and the expansion of our flower production. You’ll also be supporting flowers grown locally without harmful chemicals, by farmers working in a healthy working environment.
HOW TO SIGN UP: 
 If you’re interested in signing up or have questions please email Kasey - kbutler@ttor.org
 


Monday, June 30, 2014

Picking Peas



This afternoon I walked through the overflowing rows of peas with a good friend.  We chatted as she filled a container with shelling peas and her almost eleven-month old grabbed onto pea tendrils that brushed against her tiny hands.  As we picked and talked I realized that I had not spent any time eating or picking or enjoying these rows of tender pods.  It felt special to reach into the massive plants and wind my way through the leaf-mulch pathways and come out on the other end, full, smiling and hardly remembering that cold day with the crew when we laid the peas, by hand, into the cool spring earth. 
carrots this week!

I am lucky because I get to hear from some of you about how you experience the farm.  There are the vegetables that we share; the crunchy lettuce, the first carrots of the season, the taste of freshly picked broccoli—all of us eating along with the seasons together.  We share the practice, the ritual, of bringing food from the farm to our kitchens and creating something from the simple to the extravagant, feeding ourselves and our loved ones.  But the experience of being at the farm, the way it feels, is different for all of us. 

Lately, the theme seems to be this sense of stepping away from your day-to-day as you know it; slowing down, taking a deep breath.  The farm offers many of you a break from your routine (even as your visits to the farm become a part of that routine).  At Powisset, you can walk down the farm road, slowly.  You can carefully choose each sprig of parsley, imagining how it will add depth to your salad, or beauty to your counter.  I like the moments when I can see that slow-down, the chatting in the rows of herbs, or the savoring of a snow pea as you taste it before deciding to fill your pint, making sure it’s how you remember it from last year. 

broccoli harvest continues!
For me, the farm is my workplace and my home.  It is the place I am the busiest and loudest version of myself and it is also the place I can be the quietest and most reflective.  My experience of the farm changes with the weather, the crew, who our CSA members are and how many weeds are trying to take over my world.  It feels different during my morning field walk and my evening field walk.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays-so different.  All of these experiences are the farm to me and all of yours are the farm to you.  I find strength and comfort in the places where our rituals at the farm intersect and overlap.  I think I’ll head out and pick more peas just to walk down those rows and see what you’ll be seeing this week.


See you in the fields,

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew



What's in the Share:

Full: lettuce, arugula or greens mix, kale or chard, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, scallions, choice of roots: radish/beets/fennel, cilantro or basil
Small: lettuce, kale or chard, scallions, choice of roots, broccoli, cilantro or basil, carrots

pick-your-own: lots of peas! parsley/dill/greens



Our new kitchen space!

Just a reminder to fill out the survey which will help us to hear how you all want to use our new space. If you have not yet filled out a survey during CSA pickup, please click below to fill out our short survey. Thank you for making time to share your input with us!

 
 
 
Get your July 4th pie this week from Bushel + Crumb!

Open to pie share members and non-members alike. Be the hit of the BBQ! Two varieties will be available: Wild Maine Blueberry Maple & Savory Sweet Pea, Herb and Ricotta. We're taking special orders through Monday online at: http://bushelandcrumb.com/blog/ 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Present Harvest, Future Harvest



Powisset Farm, almost at dusk. photo:k.benner
It’s a beautiful, sunny, warm Monday.  I can hear weed whacking out my window and the sounds of the part-time crew chatting and laughing as they hoe the tiny weeds emerging in the pepper field, not too far away.  My dog and cat are lounging on the couch—taking up all the good spots.  I’m finishing up lunch and I glance at the calendar for the week and take a deep breath in awe of this being the last week of June! Four weeks into the CSA and I’m caught in that place between feeling like I’ve been doing this forever or for only a day.  

We are at the point in the season where those first plantings of lettuces, spinach, broccoli and arugula have come and gone.  Harvested, mowed, and turned under deep into the soil to become food for new successions of the plantings.  Those precious first seedlings that provided awe and were a platform for teaching the nuances of planting, cultivating and bunching are already a memory.  The same crops that I held in my hands and sank into soft earth with the perfect mix of love and purpose, I am now ruthlessly erasing from existence.  On a farm like ours, space is always needed, so I have to be swift to move through the fields, making quick decisions to save or not save those last ten heads of lettuce at the end of the bed.

This week we have winter squash to plant and our watermelons and the rest of our sweet potatoes! So, I mowed the broccoli stalks from last week’s harvest, plowed-in the old rows of bolting spinach, saved a few beds of huge lettuce heads and made new sections of field ready for the fall crops to hold court for the remainder of the season.  Four weeks into the season and we are already planting and weeding crops that will be harvested for the winter CSA.  This work of preparing for the future often makes it hard for me to stay in the present.  But I suppose that’s a struggle for life…how do we enjoy the harvest of today while planning and caring for the future harvests.  For now, I’ll try to do as the pets do—take a moment to take up the good spot on the couch and appreciate this day, the first Monday of Summer!


See you in the fields!

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew


What’s in the Share (most likely):
Full: lettuce, choice of greens, kale, scallions, garlic scapes, cabbage, beets, 
choice of turnip or radish, broccoli
Small: lettuce, choice of green, scallion, garlic scape, choice of roots, broccoli

Pick your own: peas! Parsley, kale

Events n' things at Powisset this week:

Tuesday: Jordan Brother's Seafood vendor at the farm
Friday: 2pm-3pm: Flower Power Hour: volunteer drop-in time
Saturday: 8am-noon, volunteer drop-in time


Meet Tessa Pechenik:
Assistant Farm Manager. Awesome Person.
Did you ever wonder if there was a mastermind behind the beauty of the Farm Stand, or the clever tips on the chalkboards above the vegetables?  Did you ever wonder whose artistic eye arranges the honey and jam jars and brings in the beans, meats, granola and cheese!  Let me introduce you to Tessa, Powisset Farm’s amazing assistant Manager!  Tessa is the leader of all things post-harvest (in addition to all her amazing field work)! She keeps things moving from the field through the wash station and into the barn with the perfect balance of speed, efficiency and attention to high quality.  She has trained three seasons’ of apprentices in the art of cooling and cleaning vegetables and has nurtured and grown our farm stand and distribution area into a truly beautiful spot for picking up vegetables.  Powisset is lucky to have this incredible farmer working our fields.  Here she is in her own words:

Hello! My name is Tessa and I’m thrilled to be sharing the 2014 season with you all!

Tessa!
Powisset has been my farming home since the summer of 2009, when I first came here as a volunteer. That August afternoon of harvesting onions - gently pulling the plump allium globes from the field and nestling them one after the other into a bag - was more significant than I could have imagined at the time. I came back each week to spend an afternoon on the farm and before long I was hooked. With the help of the patient crew, I learned how to seed in the greenhouse; how to wield a hoe in the war against weeds; how to carry bins overflowing with veggies out of long rows; and how to really taste and appreciate food when it is grown with such care. It really is no wonder that once I started to spend time here, I dug in my heels and refused to budge.

My favorite farm tasks include harvesting kale in the early morning - rapidly snapping off crisp stems and gathering the leaves that still hold dew; and anything to do with hot peppers, which I think are beautiful and present exciting culinary possibilities. And tractor work, of course. Any time I can be driving around the fields on an ancient piece of farming history, I’m thrilled. Everyone looks good on a tractor.

When I’m not farming, I’m usually cooking, getting lost in Noanet with my partner, Reuben, or attempting to read while actually falling asleep. Before living and working in Dover, I lived in Washington, DC, a city I genuinely miss - although not as much as I miss my hometown, Oakland, California. But the seasonal cycles of New England, which play out so beautifully at Powisset, are irresistible and come summer in the farm fields, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.



photo: k.benner
Happy Birthday to Powisset’s 4-H Club!

 

Congratulations to Powisset Farm’s 4-H club!  The club celebrated its third birthday this past week with a small celebration at the farm with its awesome members and their leaders, Melissa Gilbert and Kim Benner!  Our 4-H club has been working with our pigs (and chickens when we have them) for three seasons now.  Each season, the members of the club care for, and show pigs at the Worcester State Fair!  Last season we even had a pig show here at Powisset Farm and we’ll try to host one this season as well!  Our members are between 8 and 15 years old and are committed to learning about animal care and having fun at the farm!  Happy Birthday to our club!


4-H club! photo: k.benner