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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

May 2015

Spring. This was early May. Now in early June it looks so much more full and lush.

Things really took off here in May. We had some crazy hot weather with days reaching 90 degrees. That put an end to a lot of our spring crops like the early arugula, broccoli rabe, and choi. Mustard is working its way out and the kale is hanging on by its fingernails (if kale had fingernails). Our summer crops however have been loving the early heat and we already have cucumbers and zucchini in the high tunnel and the field plantings are not far behind. This spring has been much better than last spring with production almost tripled. That has a lot to do with having the use of the protected space in the high tunnel and the fact that this spring was much dryer than last spring (remember all that late snow?) and we were able to work the fields sooner.

We did some new things this month including a shiitake mushroom class and getting chickens! Check it out...


Herbs: savory, oregano, thyme, lemon balm

Hakurei Turnip

first shiitake flush of the year

Strawberries! At one point we harvested 80 pounds in two days! 

My favorite, hakurei turnips

Peonies and English Lavender

Sugar Snap and Snow Peas aka harvest snack

first cucumber in mid May

First Sour Cherries from the orchard

Rainbow Carrots

Chicken Radish (actually a d'avignon)

Red Sails Lettuce

Grape Leaves

Spring Delivery to The Pig: Hakurei Turnips, Strawberries,
Broccoli Rabe, Asparagus, Radishes

Production and Cultivation

Beets and Lettuce interplanted. It is working well but I think could
stand to be spaced a bit wider.

Flame weeding- mixed results so far,
I have to get the hang of it and figure out best timing

Coolbot in action

Cool room partitioned with greenhouse plastic. The front half is cool,
the back half is cold. This way we can keep part of the room colder
and put the produce in whichever half is appropriate 

Cucumbers under row cover to exclude pests

Zucchini, also under row cover

Once the cucs and zucs flowered the row cover was removed
to let pollinators in. Trellising cucumbers up

First cucumbers, much earlier in the hoop house

Shiitake Mushroom Class

May 30th was our first class with the College of Southern Maryland (CSM). The class was called Organic Mushrooms and the purpose was to teach people how to grow their own Shiitakes at home. It was a hands on experience and they learned by doing. We had 9 students and together inoculated 42 bolts for the farm and they each got one to take home.

Fresh cut logs from our woods (they have to be live and you
have to inoculate them within 3 weeks)

Assembly line

First step is to drill holes in the log 6" apart along the length
3" apart around, in a diamond pattern

Next you inject the inoculate into the holes with a special tool
Then you seal the holes with cheese wax

We labeled each log with the date and either a student's name
or a number so we can track production

Moved all the bolts to the swamp for their
spawn run

And here they will sit for 6-8 months while the mushroom organism colonizes
the wood. 

For more info and to grow your own shiitakes at home check out this useful document from the Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)


We are getting a small flock of chickens and a family of guinea hens. It started with the idea to get the guineas so that they can free range and help keep the tick and other pest populations under control. We needed to build a place for them to be safe at night which we settled on doing in one of the stable stalls. Since we were already building a bird house we decided to get some laying hens for fun and fresh eggs. 

The chicks were hatched out by a friend and are living in their nursery pen for now. As soon as the room is finished and safe from predators they will have the whole room to roam. Next step will be to build them an outdoor pen. The guineas are still eggs at this point in an incubator with the same friend. 

Soon to be bird house

Under construction

Chicken nursery

little babies...


We finished up some summer transplanting this month. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatillos all went into the field under black landscape fabric. This will serve to preserve moisture in the soil, block weeds and keep them warm. For the tomatoes it helps to keep soil from splashing up on them when it rains since that is one way they get diseased. 

Irrigation is laid out under the fabric

Indigo Rose transplant with good strong roots

Tomatillos and Eggplant. We are following the contour of
our infamous hill here, that's why it's not quite a straight line

Eating Well

May was all about our restaurants figuring out what to do with all those Strawberries. Here are few of the dishes that I got to sample:
Kentucky Buck Cocktail from Grillfish

My strawberry cocktail and Lane's oysters

This cheesecake was spectacular. The strawberries were pureed
into the cheesecake, cooked into the sauce and topped it off too

Commissary made their own strawberry jam

Union Kitchen

David, Chef Bonk and I took an afternoon trip to Union Kitchen. They are an incubator kitchen in DC. What does that mean? They have a huge commercial kitchen facility with all different areas set up for different food preparation. The layouts, equipment and even temperature vary as you move through their huge complex. They sell memberships to small food companies who can't afford their own commercial kitchen. Membership allows them to store food and have stations to prepare it. When we arrived there were food trucks lined up loading their prepared food to take out into the city. We saw everything from salads to dog biscuits to chocolate being prepared inside. And the best part? We got to do a tasting!

District Cheese had a plate of chèvre to sample

Element Shrub creates delicious mixes of fruit and herbs by preserving it with
vinegar and sugar like they did in colonial days. These were amazing.

Langdon Wood Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

Chups are out to start a ketchup revolution. They want to remind everyone
that you can make catchup out of any fruit and they had some great flavors.
Spicy pineapple was my favorite. 

We also sampled corned beef and pastrami (I didn't but the guys said it was the best they had had in the city) from Singer's Significant Meats, bitters from Embitterment,  and my favorite, chocolate from Undone Chocolate

Field Trip

The Beddow Montessori School of Waldorf came out for a field trip this month. We did a tour and they picked a pint of strawberries each to take home. Their favorite part was finding the edible herbs and of course sampling the strawberries.

picking strawberries

Beddow Montessori School field trip

Puddy Time (and other critters)

Fly patrol in the greenhouse

rodent control, sunning and trying to blend in with the hoses

This guy lives in the stables now

We had a snapping turtle who got stuck in the bottom of our deer fence. We managed to shuffle her into this tub and then let her lose outside the fence. She didn't seem to know we were trying to help and spent the whole time snapping and lunging at us. These things are intimidating!