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Sunday, March 24, 2013

EatWell Natural Farm Week 1

This week began a new adventure in farming as I started in my role as Farm Manager at EatWell Natural Farm.  The farm is owned and operated by EatWell DC

"Eat Well DC was not just conceived as a restaurant management company, but a place where synergy is created. We bring together great food, service and people to create an exciting & provocative atmosphere. EatWell DC operates five neighborhood restaurants and employs over 180 people. The partners also own and operate a private farm in La Plata, Maryland, less than 40 miles from DC. We care very much about our many loyal guests and care equally about our team. We’re in business to make a profit but we do it with our people and the planet in mind first. Quality of life and profitability go hand in hand at EatWell DC."

I arrive Sunday night and Monday morning I woke up to this!

Old Tobacco Barn

Snow covered deer fence

The main field behind the farm house

Luckily it warmed up and all that snow was melted by the afternoon.

I am staying at the farm for a few weeks while I settle in and find a comfy spot to plant myself in Southern Maryland. It is a beautiful farm house with some great WWI and II era artwork. 

Feeding the Farm

As soon as the snow melted the work started. These fields have been worked for 2 seasons now and the original soil tests indicate a low pH and low organic matter content. So each year they spread lime, manure and compost. This year was no exception and these tasks have kept me pretty busy all week. 

First I spread Lime to raise the pH of the soil. Veggies like a pretty neutral soil between 5.5 and 7.5.

Next I spread 3 pallets of composted manure, about 9,000lbs with a a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Talk about a shitty job. Just kidding. The weather has been amazing and it felt good to get back to the land after a long cold winter.

On Saturday we received delivery of 60 Cubic Yards of compost. This truck was only half the load. Tony, one of the partners at EatWell DC, helped me spread all the compost. He dumped it in small piles all around the fields with the tractor and I spread it out with a rake. It only took about 4 and a half hours.

One thing there is NO lack of right now is Lady Bugs! This surely bodes well for a successful season. 

Here are a few Lady Bug Wive's Tales, I find them quite charming. 

  • The Norse believed that the ladybug came to earth by lightning and was connected to the goddess of love and beauty.
  • In northern Germany, counting the spots on the backs of ladybugs would tell if they could sell their harvest. If the ladybug had less than seven spots that meant they would have a large harvest.
  • The French believe that a ladybug in their vineyard is a sign of good weather.
  • Austrians would ask ladybugs for good weather.

  • In Sweden if a ladybug walks on a girl’s hand it signifies that it is measuring her hand for wedding gloves, which means she will be married soon.

  • If a ladybug lands on you and then flies away watch it carefully, the way it flies is the direction of your true love.

  • When a ladybug lands on a woman in Burgundy, she should count the dots to see how many children she will have.

  • The country dwellers of England believe the spots on a ladybug stand for the months of happiness that are to come.

  • In Canada, finding ladybugs in your garage during the winter is a sign of good luck. If you pick up the ladybug and make a wish the way it flies is the direction in which the luck will come.
On a more practical note, one Lady Bug can eat as many as five thousand Aphids in a life time. That makes these cuties a valuable beneficial insect and explains why they are so loved by gardeners all over the world. 

There was also cleaning, inventory and ordering to be done. 

Crop Planning and Seed Orders

Harvest bins being washed and counted.

Seed Delivery, this should get us through May

And I was formally introduced to a very important member of our team, Priscilla, the tractor.

Hard to spot but there are huge hawks flying around each morning and evening.


Sunday I met Jillian. She is a local landscape designer, master gardener, permaculturist and cool chic. She, Jesse (local kid/awesome helper), and I spent the afternoon inoculating Oak logs with Shitake Mushroom spores in a sawdust medium. Jillian did all the research and ordered the inoculant and the tools. Jesses cut down the trees (you have to use live wood) and sawed them into 4' logs. Then he drilled all the holes. Jillian and I injected the inoculant with special Japanese tools and sealed the holes with hot cheese wax. 
Red and White Oak logs ready to go

Holes drilled 6" apart with a special bit
Special Japanese tool :)

Jillian injecting the inoculant

Melting the wax on a camp stove

Sealing the hole with hot wax

Inoculated and sealed

12 Shitake Mushroom logs!

Eating Well

As things shape up around here I may return to my old format of Harvest, Production, Maintenance, Planting and Farm Life and I think I'll add this one; Eating Well. I hope to feature some of the foods I enjoy from the farm and locally around Maryland as well as some of the food from the EatWell DC Restaurants. 
There were a few things left to harvest that had over wintered. This week I thoroughly enjoyed the Brussel Sprouts. 
Looking up at the head of the plant

Sauteed with olive oil, sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. 

I also harvested the last of the Kale and sent it off to the restaurants with Tony. I did keep a little for myself as a treat for all that compost spreading.
Fresh Kale

Braised with a little butter and sea salt

Puddy Time
Soaking up the sun

Because she is so cute, and because half of you would get up and walk out if I didn't include it, here is a little Puddy time for you. For those of you new to the blog, Puddy is my 5 year old lab/pitt mix who loves hanging out on the farm with me. She keeps me company, keeps the ground hogs at bay (hopefully) and brings a nice close to the blog every week. And so, without further ado, it's Puddy Time...

Surveying her new realm

Jillian brought her dog, Betty. Betty and Puddy had a blast chasing each other all over the farm. As I write this Puddy is passed out on the couch after a long day of running and playing. 


  1. Yea! So excited to follow your new adventure! You inspire us and our gardening! Cheers sweetie! -Brianna

  2. Keep at it Erica, all positive feedback


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