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Archive for August, 2009

Farm Update #14, Week 12, Sept 1 delivery

Hi Folks,

The weather has continued to present challenges during this past week. The frequent rain does not give the ground ample time to dry out enough for me to prepare ground or plant seeds. In addition high winds which accompanied a storm on August 21 tore the plastic off the high tunnel greenhouse at the Blairstown farm. I was never able to plant anything in this greenhouse due to the wet conditions, but we were using it to dry much of the onion crop. I didn’t become aware of the situation until last Wednesday ,and so on Thursday we were diverted from other pressing tasks in order to gather them and bring them to Andover to be stored in the barn, ahead of the weekend rainstorm. The same high winds knocked over much of the trellising that supports the Rattlesnake pole beans.

In between harvesting and dealing with these various calamities we have been busy transplanting lettuces and the fall brassicas crops. The week ahead is predicted to be rain free, so I hope to be able to seed a multitude of fall crops such as turnips, radishes, arugula, spinach, and various other greens.  Because I have been delayed in planting these crops for so many weeks, greens will be rather scarce for a while. About the only greens I have in great abundance are dandelions and I doubt there are many of you who are huge fans of this bitter green.  The chard has succumbed to fungal diseases because of the damp conditions, but we are attempting to rejuvenate it by cutting it off at base so it can re-grow.  We will save all the clean leaf we find to distribute in the shares bagged, because it is mostly too small to bunch.

With cooler condition beginning the kale should begin to grow well again and we can harvest it for distribution in another couple of weeks.  A second planting of zucchini and other summer squash is coming on and I hope to have sufficient quantities to deliver by next week.

The share for this week will be Romaine lettuce, white potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Rattlesnake beans, beets, leeks, choice of Swiss chard or dandelion greens, garlic, ground cherries, and choice of an herb.

The fruit share this week is nectarines and Italian plums.


Farmer John

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Farm Update #13, Week 11, August 25th delivery

(please note: there is no fruit share this week, but it’ll resume next week)

Hello Everyone,

We have arrived at the mid point of the season. While it has been one
of the most challenging years ever, I am fairly satisfied with what we
have been able to provide thus far. I only hope that you, the
shareholders feel the same. I strive to make each year better than the
last as I learn from my mistakes and improve my soils and growing
systems. In a difficult year this may mean that my production is only
equal to the previous year or at least not much worse.

In almost every year there are crops that flourish and others that
fail.  Last year there were no sweet potatoes because I was unable to
buy plants. This year we have planted about 2500 plants and they are
doing well. Last year we had a bumper melon crop, in spite of problems
with the crows drilling holes in many of them. This year I am sad to
report that the deer have destroyed my entire main planting of melons.
I have planting melons in the open, with no fencing for 12 years and
have never had a problem until this season.

After many years farming I thought I knew what the deer would bother
and what was safe, unfortunately they seem to have continually
evolving eating habits. The problem began right after transplanting as
they started munching on the young plants, pulling some right out of
the ground in the process. We covered them with an ag-fabric normally
used for protection from insects and frost, and they grew beautifully
for several weeks this way. However once the plants begin to flower
and run they must be uncovered so that bees can pollinate the flowers
and the vines can spread. Once they were uncovered the deer resumed
eating not only the vines but all of the young fruit as soon as it
formed.  We planted a second smaller batch of melons later in the
season inside the deer fence and those are growing beautifully, but
were planted quite late and it is uncertain whether they will have
time to mature fruit. For the sake of the melons as well as the winter
squash and other main season crops let’s hope it’s a warm and not too
wet fall.

We are beginning to harvest quite a few ground cherries, so depending
on availability these may be in your share this week or next. These
members of the tomato family are closely related to the tomatillo and
share the paper husk that surrounds the fruit. Simply squeeze them out
of their husk and eat them out of hand, in salads or make a sauce with
them. They make great snacks for kids as they are quite sweet.

Two weeks ago the share included All blue potatoes, an unusual spud
that many people really like.  The following week we noticed that
nearly half of those we had stored had rotted. This particular crop
was planted at another field which has very heavy clay soil and is in
a valley, and so the ground was saturated during much of the season. I
apologize if your potatoes went bad, but it takes a few days for this
condition to manifest itself and there is no way to detect which are
good and which are not. I will now have to decide whether to harvest
the rest of this crop and hold them to sort out the infected ones, or
abandon them entirely.

The share for this week will be Red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, peppers,
eggplant, red skinned potatoes, Rattlesnake pole beans, carrots, red
onions, and choice of an herb.

Farmer John

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Farm Update #12, Week 10, August 18th delivery

Hello Folks,

It finally feels like summer in NJ, with the heat and humidity we’ve come to know and endure. We are enjoying what seems like an unprecedented 5 day period without rain, but it is predicted to end by Wednesday as we head into another week of showers and thunderstorms.

Normally at this time of year I am impeded from seeding crops for the fall by dry conditions. This season however it has been a challenge to find windows of opportunity for planting when the soil is not too wet.  I have been behind schedule on my planting since early June, and as I rush to plant each crop before it’s too late, another crop has to wait until after it’s optimal planting time. Let’s hope it’s a warm fall with no frost until late October! In any given year some crops do poorly due to weather conditions or other variables.

I’m sure most of you have heard about the problems with tomatoes this season due to late blight. While my farm has not yet been affected by this disease, we nevertheless have a plethora of other diseases affecting the tomato crop. Even the tomatoes in the high tunnel greenhouses have been affected. We are harvesting quite a few tomatoes at present, owing to the sheer number of plants we put in. But most of this fruit is coming from plants that are almost dead and will not produce a sustained harvest. We are doing what we can to save those varieties which may have a chance of continued production, but the bottom line is it won’t be a very good year for tomatoes.

Currently we are picking quite a few heirloom tomatoes, especially a variety called Cherokee purple. These have a very dark colored fruit with green shoulders which I and many others consider to be the most delicious of the heirlooms. Keep in mind that they will not lose their green shoulders and you must judge their ripeness by softness.  Heirlooms are notoriously perishable so enjoy them soon after you receive them.

The share for this week will be: White potatoes, green leaf lettuce, celery, white onions, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, choice of dandelion greens or Swiss chard, string beans, choice of red or Savoy cabbage, and choice of an herb.

The fruit share for this week will be peaches.  It will count as a half share, the other half of which I will have to make up later in the season. The reason for this is that I had ordered red plums as the 2nd half and they arrived with 25% rotten fruit. Since the grower was unwilling to make an adjustment on the price I had to reject them completely.  Next week will be the week off for fruit shares, we will resume again in September.


Farmer John

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Farm Update #11, Week 9, August 11th delivery

Starbrite Farm Update #11
Hi Everyone,

This past week we finished harvesting the onion crop, which is a great
relief. With these wet and humid conditions everyday that they
remained in the field they were in danger of rotting. Now we can turn
our attention to other pressing matters such as getting the weeds
under control in the winter squash and elsewhere, and beginning to
transplant the fall broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

The beets have finally sized up so we will be shipping them this week.
There will be some regular purple types and some Chioggia beets, an
Italian heirloom, also known as Candy cane which is white with red
rings inside. The eggplant and tomatoes have begun to produce so they
will be in the share for this week as well.

The tomatoes are rather small and there aren’t that many ripe just
yet, but it’s a start. The truth is that my tomato crop looks terrible
and I don’t expect a very good season for tomatoes this year. You have
probably heard about the problem of late blight on tomatoes in NJ.
This disease, also known as phytoptera is what caused the Irish potato
famine, and is quite devastating. I heard that one local farm lost
their entire crop of tomatoes and potatoes. Fortunately we have not
seen any sign of it yet here at the farm. But there is a plethora of
other diseases affecting the tomatoes; even the tomatoes in the
greenhouse have been affected.

We still have an abundance of the sweet onion, so we will be sending
these again this week, as they aren’t great keepers. While I normally
only send one member of the Allium family each week, I know that many
of you are waiting for more garlic, so we will be sending it as

The share for this week will be: Red Boston lettuce, garlic, sweet
onions, All Blue potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, fennel, string
beans, and choice of an herb.

The fruit share will be nectarines and Kagman apples.
Farmer John

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admin-y stuff

Enid has posted the latest Havenwood Farm egg/broiler/soap/jam order form for July and August on the  google group .  The order form is for July and August, and so if you are interested in getting anything delivered during August be sure to mail it to him soon.  He needs to have the order form and check prior to delivery.

Enid’s also posted the CSA directory on the google group in case you need to reach other members to cover work shifts you’ve signed up for and can’t make, or need someone to pick up your vegetables for you, etc.
Only CSA members have access to this website and therefore to the directory.

And don’t forget! I’ve also set up an unmoderated discussion group on yahoo for Montclair-CSA
members to share ideas, annouce personal happenings, etc.  Membership is currently moderated at the moment, just so it doesn’t ‘get too spammy and participation is optional, of course.

Finally, our new CSA site on Nassau Rd is in its third week and doing well!  If you’re interested in joining, we’re able to take a few more members on, so please visit the Join Up! section here for more info.

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Farm Update #10, Week 8, August 4th delivery

(hi all, sorry I’m a bit late with the blog update! vacation intervened…)
Hello Folks,

I am once again late in writing the update, and for that I apologize
to those who are waiting to know what they will receive this week. All
I can say is that I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment trying to keep
up with so many battles on so many fronts.

We have just passed another wet spell with almost 4” of rain falling
during the past week. This has created various problems such as not
being able to harvest potatoes with my mechanical digger, and setting
me back on my planting of fall crops. And yet I count myself lucky
that it has been only rain.  In the nearby Borough of Andover roofs
were ripped off building by a mini tornado and an orchard close by
suffered extensive damage from hail. I also heard on the radio of a
farm that was almost completely destroyed by a tornado. We are once
again in the position of having to harvest thousands of heads of
lettuce or lose them. Both of my coolers are already completely full,
so I have no more space to store anything. For this reason we will be
shipping 2 heads of lettuce in the share this week. I hope you’re in
the mood for lots of salads!

We are sending red onions this week and this particular crop was
damaged by the hailstorm in June. Because of the torn leaves, water
was able to enter and has caused some to have a single rotten layer
inside. It is all but impossible to tell which ones have this
condition and generally the rest of the onion is fine. I apologize and
ask your indulgence in this regard if you receive some of these. We
harvested most of the onions from the other farm this past week and
they are hanging to dry. Since there was no hail at this location they
look good, so I expect the onions later in the season will not have
this problem.

The share for this week will be: Romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce,
carrots, green peppers, white potatoes, red onions, string beans, and
choice of parsley or basil.

The fruit share this week will
be peaches and blueberries
Farmer John

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