News and Blog
This has been a productive but hard week. JCPS started this week which means Beth was at school everyday and Jeremy and Sydney took a week off for a short vacation to Colorado. Not as much labor available as normal but we seemed to get everything done. Oh, and today (Aug 16) Beth and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary. Well, not much of a celebration as Beth went straight to the field to cut flowers and is now (almost 10:00 Friday night) making bouquets. No special dinner out but I did make some braised chicken thighs with carrots and honey/ balsamic sauce. Also did arugula salad with a fig/honey/shallot/balsamic dressing topped off with toasted chopped walnuts and crispy thin country ham chips. Beth said it was better than anything would get out at a restaurant but she was probably just being nice!
Usually I do these emails early Saturday morning but I’m anticipating some extra responsibilities in the morning that may prevent me from doing it. I’m glad our tomatoes are starting to come in and we have some very nice basal to pair with it. Also the Zuchinni continues its prolific march toward exhaustion.
Do come see us tomorrow. Maybe we can share with you how we used cherry tomatoes, basil and sage (all three available at the booth) to make an amazing Italian meal. Even used more of the Kentucky prosciutto — aka, country ham.
May be warm tomorrow so leave sweaters and jackets at home and head on over to see us.
Social Media is part of the fabric and fiber of society today. It's used to share personal and family information and is a major part of marketing for businesses. It's kinda like Okra -- some love it and others despise it. But, like Okra, everyone should try it every now and then and find a way that makes it palatable, maybe even enjoyable.
As I shared a couple of weeks ago, Beth has embraced Instagram as a way to continue to share our farm story. She has never been a big fan of Okra (I mean social media) but now enjoys posting pictures of farm happenings. Our right hand man Jeremy has been the main mentor for this and he is often the subject of these posts. Check out yesterday's video and you will see him and his girlfriend Sydney making homemade pasta and sauce for an incredible Friday farm lunch. You will also see some flower bouquets that are stunning and will be available at the market today.
The tomatoes are starting to come on and we will have both cherries and heirlooms as well as squash and zucchini. It has taken time but everything is now coming on. It won't be long before Okra will be here and I hope that you will approach it as an opportunity for growth when it arrives.
This farming thing really is hard work. It's hard mentally and physically. Many of you also work really hard at your jobs. For some it is the mental exhaustion at the end of the day that makes coming home so sweet. For others it's the promise of sitting down and resting those aching bones that gives such satisfaction. I have experienced both and I will tell you that I enjoy physical exhaustion over the mental.
I remember when I was a graduate student in Texas in the summer of 1979. I had just started a part-time job on the grounds crew and was exposed to steady 100 degree heat daily. I lugged huge hoses all over campus and plugged them into water receptacles in the ground under mini-manholes, often occupied with Tarantula spiders, and trimmed and mowed acres of land. I would be struggling to drag those big hoses by the library when I would look in those large windows of that cool, air-conditioned environment and immediately wish I was a librarian. Ah, the promise of the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
When you are mentally exhausted it seems hard to shut down the mind and relax. Usually it is just a desire to sit down and put the day behind you. When you are physically exhausted all you want to do is sit down with a big glass of ice tea and soak in the comfort of a soft chair or bed.
Farming brings both kinds of exertion. Lots of mental stuff goes on, especially when you are confronted with challenges of weather, weeds, pests, disease, labor, marketing, etc. Lots of trying to figure out what to do next. Many hours researching in books and on the internet. Calls to colleagues and professionals for their opinion. All of these mental gymnastics will wear you out and then you have to implement the "hopeful" solution and that usually means getting dirty and sweaty and using muscles you had forgotten you have.
And, it's this physical that balances the mental and brings wholeness back into focus. That is really what we all want. We want to feel whole. That's why you make the sacrifice to buy local, organic food. That's why you put out the physical effort each week to fight the mental stress of driving in town and finding a parking space at the market and then stretching those legs and wandering booth to booth drinking in the atmosphere of wholeness.
Come see us today. Park a little farther away or walk from home. It's less humid this morning. Give your mind a break. This is a wholesome environment.
It has been another very productive week on the farm. When we moved our main production to a five acre field next to the house, we knew that we wold have to deal with watering issues since there were no water lines to that field. Our large production field in the back (which we have used for years) has multiple hydrants and water lines going everywhere. We will eventually put in water lines in the new area but we are still in the "experimental" stage with this field and I'm not sure where they might go. So, in the meantime, we have run a two inch main from a hydrant on the front of the house out to the field. After several 90 degree turns and almost 500 ft of two inch lay flat, we finally got, water to the different plots we are using this year.
However, we discovered that there wasn't enough pressure to spin the sprinklers we were hoping to use. It was back to the drawing board. I made diagrams and took pictures of the system and started sharing them with people in the know to see if they could help solve the problem. This included irrigation company representatives, hydrologists, UK's irrigation specialist and an Amish friend who knows everything there is to know about irrigation. No one could figure it out. The math and physics involved in system design says it should work but it wouldn't.
That's the end of the story. See you all at the market today.
No, that wouldn't be a very good ending. Thanks to the help of our trusted farm assistant Jeremy, I decided to completely redesign the system and try it from another angle. It took us all week and two long days of me driving great distances to get some new irrigation supplies for this to happen. Beth and I spent all day Thursday traveling around Central Kentucky gathering supplies and it took us (mostly Jeremy, like 99% Jeremy) to get everything installed yesterday. So far, it seems to be working really well.
I think sometimes people think of farming as days of boring repetition of the same tasks done each year. Planting and harvesting. Oh, and also weeding. Oh, and also watering. Oh, and also figuring fertility needs and how they should be met. Oh, and examining plants to insect or disease pressure and figuring an appropriate organic method to deal with. Oh, and dealing with -- you name it.
Some tasks can be incredibly boring. We often joke that if we send two people out to pick beans, they will know each other's life story by the end of the day. You gotta figure how to pass the time with a monotonous task like that. Never pick beans alone. It is dangerous. There are therapists who deal with bean picking trauma as their specialty.
So yes, some things are repetitive and can even be boring at times. But then you get opportunities like we had this week. A chance to find a solution when professional advice doesn't shed much light on the subject. We had a chance to be creative. To call upon all those skills, intellect, experience (individual and shared) to find a solution. It took Monday-Friday to finally succeed, and yes, the journey may have been more important than the destination, but in this case we needed the destination to be a place that worked!
As I have told you earlier, we are behind several weeks on much of our produce. But it is catching up and looking great. Squash and Zucchini are especially prolific right now so please come help yourself to it. Beth is excited that her flowers are starting to come in now and she will have several to share with you today. And, the herbs are looking beautiful and looking for a home at your place.
I am proud of the stuff we grow. It is tasty. It doesn't cost that much. It is healthy for you and your family. Oh, and it helps keep us going. Oh, and it inspires us to come up with creative solutions when we could just give up. Oh, and all of us working together are helping to make this world a better place.
And oh, there isn't an end to the story. Thanks to you it keeps going.
Been another good week on the farm. We are slowly getting into the swing of social media and Beth has become the Queen of Instagram! Well, at least she has learned how to post a picture or two. Now you can see some cool pictures of what's happening by checking into #harmonyfieldsfarmky on Instagram.
A couple of really good pictures at #harmonyfieldsfarmky are of Beth's father in his shop on the farm where Beth grew up in Breckenridge County. We enlisted his help several years ago to help make some wooden boxes from re-purposed wood from the farm. It had been a cold spring with a late frost that killed most of the stuff we had growing and it didn't look like we would have anything for the first market in May. Thanks to the internet, we located an Organic Greenhouse in Maryland that specializes in herbs and were able to purchase herbs from them and pot them up into containers that went into the wooden boxes. They have been very popular and much loved by those who have purchased them.
We had no idea that this simple idea would lead to even more wood products becoming part of our market. Next came a kitchen counter compost container that matches the herb boxes. With a removable metal container inside the wooden box, it provides a beautiful option for those who want something more than a can on the counter.
We never did imagine that he would start making intricate bird houses that are of artistic folk art quality. Or that people would be so impressed by theses that he would be commissioned to build replicas of their own homes or lake cabins.
My father-in-law is 87 years old and has farmed his entire life. He grew up in a time that was much different than now. He attended a one room school and actually had to ride a mule to school. When it came time for high school he had to move into a boarding house in town (the town was Cloverport -- still there, don't blink or you might miss it) in order to continue his education. There were no buses and cars were also in scarce supply. And I guess the mule didn't want to go that far. You know how mules can be!
Many young men at that time would not have made the sacrifice to continue their education. Most just stayed down home on the farm. Bill Newman (Beth's father's name) knew he wanted to continue learning. He graduated as class valedictorian and went on the college and eventually got a Master's degree in Shakespearean literature. He retired many years ago from after teaching high school English in Breckenridge County.
He really wanted to farm full time and did take a year off to try it but discovered it wasn't going to pay the bills. Thus, he went back to teaching and farmed a couple hundred acres on the side. It helped having the summers off.
Bill has helped us construct buildings on our farm but we never knew that those skills could be downsized to hand craft the beautiful bird houses, barns, cabins, etc. that he now spends hours on each week. He doesn't sit around and watch TV in his "retirement" but is engaged in doing something creative. Something that still engages his mind and challenges his hands to create.
Perhaps it was all the experiences that he had growing up that helped shape him for having the patience to sit for hours and hand craft wonderful works of art. And I'm sure that he never thought that he would be doing this at age 87 and that in the process he would be helping his daughter (and son-in-law) make a go of it on their farm. We never anticipated taking old dead trees from the farm and crafting something useful and beautiful.
But we have and the direct connection to the land continues. So, when you purchase one of these items you are not just getting something really nice to grow herbs or make compost or provide housing for birds or be inspired by a hand crafted building. You are continuing the connection to the land and hopefully pass these down to the next generation for the connection to continue.
And to think, it all started with a stubborn mule.
Got a little heat wave going on. Beth and I both look like we just climbed out of the pond after falling in. And that was at 5:00 this morning when we were setting up! I do encourage you to come early. We will finally have some squash this week and it is really delicious. As I shared earlier, we are about 4-6 weeks behind on all the "normal" summer crops but we have new plantings going in every week.
It may be a couple weeks till we have more lettuce. We have found that by setting out transplants of lettuce (we used to do everything by direct seeding) that the lettuce can put on enough growth before bolting that produces a really nice head of lettuce. However, it was just too hot this week to put it out so it will have to wait for cooler weather next week.
Hot peppers love heat. They produce more intense capsaicin (that's the stuff in the seeds and membranes that really brings the heat) as they attempt to ward off pests and disease. Usually hot weather will bring out all the bad guys that like to eat your produce. Peppers have a built in defense mechanism that really kicks in when the pressure is on.
We are growing some yellow ghost peppers this year. It will be a while before they are ready but they are already looking good. I can't wait to bite into one and set myself on fire!
So, it seems that there are parts of nature that can turn negative into a positive. That is if you think hot peppers really should be hot. And I do. But, what is pleasure for some is pain for others. That's why we have bell peppers and other types of sweet peppers. Everything balances out nicely.
We have struggled this week with the heat and humidity. Starting earlier really only gives you a couple of hours before it kicks in. Anything after 3:00 is truly miserable. This week I was wishing to be a hot pepper.
I will admit that's during times like this that I wonder why are we doing this. Then I think of our friend the hot pepper who has found a way to turn a challenge into a success. So we will keep going, hoping that our challenges will also turn into success because this work is really worth doing. Good for us and good for you.
May you find only pleasure in all the peppers of you life. But, if you bite into a hot pepper that brings pain, remember that it only last for a few minutes.
It has been a good week at Harmony Fields Farm. We have been able to accomplish some of our field work goals thanks to the lack of rain. A lot of bed preparation for fall crops and continued nurturing of crops currently in production. However, it has been really hot and humid. Beth and I are discovering that it's much more challenging in our 60's to work outside under the hot sun than it was when we were younger.
Many of my fondest memories of growing up involve putting up hay in the summer. Small square bales that had to be loaded on a wagon then hauled to the barn and unloaded and stacked. I remember how hot and sweaty I got but that at the end of the day I still had plenty of energy to go out and play basketball for a couple hours after supper. As they say, "Youth is wasted on youth."
I was lucky that when I was about fifteen years old I apprenticed myself to a farmer in our community. Raymond Hayes was the "big" farmer who managed several farms and grew acres of crops. Most of the farmers in our area were small farmers and most had full time jobs in town. Very similar to how it is today. But if you were lucky enough to talk Raymond into taking you under your wings, then you wold really learn how to do things right. When I started I was not old enough to legally drive (although that didn't stop me from taking the occasional spin down the road ) and my father would deliver me to Raymond's place every morning and pick me up in the evening.
I had visions of driving his large tractors and hauling stuff around on wagons. My first task for him was to organize tobacco sticks in the barn. When you cut tobacco stalks they are speared onto a four foot long one inch square stick until it is full of stalks. These sticks of tobacco are then taken to the barn where they are hung up to dry. In the fall they are taken down and the stalks removed from them and the leaves stripped off and packed up to take to market. Often the sticks are then thrown into the barn in haphazard fashion to be sorted out later. That was my new task in my journey to learn how to be a real, big-time farmer.
As I glanced into the barn I saw not just hundred's of sticks but thousands. Maybe millions or billions. My heart sank as my vision of disking ground on the big IH Super M tractor slowing sank into oblivion. I did not think this was a worthy task of an eager young apprentice who was ready to take on the world of farming in a big way.
It took me two weeks to get all the sticks organized and stacked but when it was finished I felt really good about how things looked. And I also learned some incredible lessons about farming. It takes patience. It takes perseverance. It takes a vision for how things will look when you are finished. And, no matter how frustrating it may be at times, you don't give up. This experience truly helped establish the foundation and blueprint for how life should be lived.
So now, almost fifty years later, the lessons are still the same. Patience, perseverance and a vision for the future. And don't give up. The weather this year has been challenging. But, it is becoming obvious that the changes in weather are no longer a fluke, but an ongoing reality. To adapt we will have to be creative and open to adaptation. This will take patience and perseverance and vision for what organic farming in the future may look like.
I think it's pretty exciting. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Come see us today at the market.
We hope everyone had an enjoyable Fourth of July. One of the things I enjoy most about the Fourth is that the music featured that day on 90.5 WUOL is always by American composers. A lot of Aaron Copland ("Appalachian Spring," "Rodeo", etc) Virgil Thomson's "The River" and "The Plough That Broke the Plains", Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and many other pieces that are a part of our great heritage of American music.
Many of these compositions, though often written to be performed by large orchestra's, are based on folk music. That is, music that came out of the community for the benefit of the community. Not to sell records (oops!, I mean downloads) but express the very essence of who we are as human beings, They have an earthiness and raw beauty that distinguishes them from much other music. This is music rooted in the land. From a period when our country was much more rooted to the land. A time when everyone understood where food came from and the struggle to work in harmony with nature. A time when there were no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. When you hear Copland's treatment of the Shaker tune "'Tis a Gift to be Simple" in "Appalachian Spring", you are immediately drawn to the fields, meadows and mountains of the countryside and can smell the aroma of freshly turned earth and flowering plants.
This is music that speaks deeply to me because it represents much of what I am rooted in and what we are trying to do at Harmony Fields. We are growing food in the context of a community of people who share our values. We are growing food in a way that honors and respects nature.
The fresh earth that has not been tampered with, but only nurtured, will produce even when others won't. We started digging potatoes yesterday. Talk about fresh earth, that's where they grow and they come out of the ground with much of it still clinging to them as if the earthly particles are admonishing them -- "a little of me is going with you -- I have nurtured you and now it's your turn to go nurture another being." Come today and be nurtured with some wonderfully fresh and flavorful Red Norlands.
They are smaller than normal be we feel very fortunate to have any at all. Many organic farmers have lost their potatoes this year because of overwhelming weed pressure. We hand weeded ours and it has paid off. We also took advantage of the dry weather to plant the rest of the potatoes we have been holding in one of the walk-in coolers so hopefully we will have more in the future.
The lettuce also looks and tastes amazing. We have finally gotten all of our transplants and seeds in the ground, but as I said earlier, it will be a while before we will be harvesting.
It's going to be warm today. I encourage you to come early. Come celebrate not only the joy of harvest, but the joy of community and connection to the land that we all have, even if we aren't aware of it. It is deep within us all. It's part of being human. Let it out.
It is a bright, sunny and hot morning at the market. In fact it's so hot that my computer decided to have issues. Still not working well but did want to get something out to you quickly.
We have some lovely lettuce and kale today and Beth will have some flowers available too. The weather has put us about four to six weeks behind our normal schedule but this week sun and heat has given the ground a chance to start drying out and we got a lot of stuff planted that had been hanging around for some time.
So, hope to see you today.
We are looking forward to another great day at the market. Looks like the rain will hold off till this afternoon.
We have taken advantage of the last couple of dry days to get more planting and field prep done. Yesterday we covered an area with ten 100 ft beds with ground cover (also known as landscape fabric) to help us with weed control. We will burn holes where we want to plant. This was very labor intensive to set up but hopefully it will save us lots of time and labor in the future.
We are happy to have Jeremy back working with us on a full-time basis. He is taking a sabbatical from his restaurant job to get some fresh air and exercise. I did ask him for a suggestion for a recipe that combines snow peas, kale and June apples. He would char the snow peas in a heavy skillet, massage the kale leaves (brings out more sweetness and makes more tender) and cut up the apples to make a salad. The apples are pretty tart so you may want to make a sweet balsamic dressing to go on the salad.
We will have plenty of Kale, Snow Peas and June Apples today. I'm pretty sure that we are the only farm that offers local, organic apples. And we don't have them every year but we do this year. I hope we have some leftovers today because I think that salad idea sounds great.
Next week you will have an opportunity to meet Jeremy at the market from 9:00-noon. I'm calling it "Ask a Chef Saturday" so plan on stopping in next Saturday too.
Thank you for making it possible for us to continue to bring local, organic food to you each week. See ya soon!
May have a little rain today but it hopefully it won't discourage people from coming out and supporting their local farmers. Rain has been in the news quite a bit lately. I heard one young farmer interviewed on NPR who said she doubted they would get a crop in this year. She farms with her father in Arkansas and the the fields are not going to dry out enough for them to put in their corn and soybeans. Her father has farmed this land for fifty years.
The rain is keeping us from getting crops in too. You see the ground has to be dry enough to work with tillage tools. Then it must sit there for a few weeks for the soil biology to do its trick of breaking down the raw materials. Then it has to be dry enough to prepare a seed bed. Then it has to be dry enough to plant. This can easily put a farmer behind six to eight weeks. And, all this rain can have a negative effect on plants already in the ground as the ground becomes waterlogged and disease takes advantage of the wet conditions to attack the plants.
But, we work through this and eventually everything seems to work out . Usually. It's nice that we have crops we can grow in succession that don't have to have one window of opportunity like the commodity crops that Arkansas farmer grows.
We will probably have asparagus for the last time today. Also have some very nice lettuce. We are happy to have Jeremy back working for us. He started this week and got more accomplished in two days than I can in two weeks. It's nice to be young.
Please come see us today. We enjoy your company even if we don't have something that you need today.