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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lettuce available in the Dairy Store

We harvested some "Black Seeded Simpson" and "New Red Fire" lettuce this morning for sale in the store today. Every year we plant one extra early planting of lettuce as insurance against a cold spring. This year, the first planting of lettuce was even earlier than anticipated, and if we get some of the hot weather that is predicted for later this week it could bolt (bolting is when the lettuce begins to flower, making the leaves taste bitter). Rather than let it go to waste in the field, we decided to make it available for purchase in the store. As we figure out the level of demand, we will try to keep the Dairy Store stocked every day with fresh lettuce until the opening of the CSA on June 10th. Basil and parsley plants are also still available for sale in the store.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Herb plants are for sale in the Dairy Store

Our basil and parsley plants are ready early this year, so we're offering them for sale in the dairy store before the CSA opens. The basil is a variety called Genovese Compact, and the parsley is a flat-leaf variety called Giant of Italy. These plants are ready to go in the ground now! Our tomato seedlings are not quite ready yet, but those will be for sale once the CSA opens. It looks like we will have some lettuce ready before the CSA opens as well, so we are planning to make that available sometime next week in the Dairy Store.

This week has brought some welcome rain at the farm. The wet weather has limited our ability to carry out tractor cultivation, but we have been plenty busy transplanting our first tomatoes and summer sqaush, putting the finishing touches on the hoophouse, catching up on seeding in the greenhouse, setting up drip irrigation lines, and of course plenty of handweeding in carrots, beets, fennel, scallions, lettuce and cabbage! Big thanks to volunteers from New England Biolabs who did a stellar job Wednesday afternoon helping us tack down landscape fabric and thinning and weeding a whole bed of beets!

Colorado potato beetle
 One new task we worked on this week had to do with pest control. This morning the crew spent several hours picking Colorado potato beetles off of our red potato plants and squashing the eggs that have been laid on their leaves. These nasty bugs love to feast on potato and eggplant. We expect them to hit hard every year in mid-June, but this year we've been suprised by an early onslaught of adult beetles. In the past, we have used an organically-approved spray called Entrust to control the beetles. (The active ingredient in Entrust is spinosad, which is a bacterial by-product discovered in a Caribbean rum distillery in the 1970s!) It has been very effective in ensuring healthy potato and eggplant crops in the past several years, but in order to remain effective, it's really important not to overuse it, as potato beetles can eventually build up resistance. We know we'll probably have to spray later in the season for the next generation of potato beetles, so for this reason we're trying to knock back this first flush of beetles the old-fashioned way- dropping them into some soapy water!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cultivation mania!

Our spring peas after tractor cultivation
It's been another busy week at the CSA.  While the dry weather means we have to start irrigating again, on the plus side, conditions are perfect for tractor cultivation. We've gone over all our beets, carrots, peas, leeks, spinach, scallions, fennel, cabbage, potatoes, parsnips, greens and lettuce with various cultivating implements, uprooting all the weeds in between rows. Crabgrass, lambsquarter and nutsedge are tenacious, though, so it's important that the soil be dry when cultivating so that all those weeds don't re-root.

The fun doesn't stop with the tractors, though! With many of our crops, once we've cultivated in between rows with a tractor, we come back through and pull out the in-row weeds by hand. Late spring always means we are particularly busy hand-weeding and thinning carrots and beets. It is a long and sometimes tedious task, but this week we were lucky to have some help from our friends over at Alprilla Farms.  They boosted our numbers to a dirty dozen on Monday afternoon and with their help we were able to finish weeding three beds of beets in one afternoon.  By the end of the week, the crew had also finished weeding our first planting of carrots (all 7 beds!). We still have two more seedings of carrots and beets that need our attention, but we are making fantastic progress.
Speaking of root crops, our parsnips have started to sprout and the potatoes that a group of volunteers from Whole Foods helped us plant several weeks ago have begun to push up shoots as well.  Over the last few weeks we have been preparing our high tunnel for a planting of tomatoes.  This week we finished hooking up a hose to the drip irrigation lines which should keep our tomatoes well hydrated even in the extra heat of the high tunnel.  Out in the field we have been prepping beds and laying plastic mulch for our tomatoes, eggplant and peppers as well as our summer squash, cucumbers and watermelons.  Since many of these crops spend such a long stretch of the season in the ground, it is especially important to control the weeds between rows.  Today we had a very large group of seventh graders from Shore Country Day School helping us to spread straw mulch between the rows of our nightshade crops and laying landscaping fabric between the rows of our cucurbit beds.  Earlier in the week in the greenhouse our volunteers powered through a huge portion of the watermelon and cucumber seeding with our Greenhouse Manager Stephanie. 

After a week like this it is nice to reflect on how fantastic it is to have so many dedicated and involved volunteers to help us make this work possible. Thank you all for being so generous with your energy and enthusiasm. Honestly I don't know if it would be possible without you and I look forward to seeing and meeting more of you in the future.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More cooking classes and a call for volunteers

The Appleton Cooks program has a knife skills class coming up next week on Wednesday. Also, they are looking for volunteers Wednesday-Sunday for help building a new Earth Oven for pizza-making at the farm! See below for details on each event:

In the Farm Kitchen: Knife Skills & Techniques
Wednesday, May 15, 6-9PM

Ever wonder if you are using the correct knife or if there is a quicker way to cut all the veggies from your garden or CSA share? If so, join us for this comprehensive introduction to basic skills and essential techniques for the kitchen. You will learn proper knife handling, sharpening, as well as hands-on experience slicing, dicing and chopping to your heart's content!

This program is part of Appleton Cooks! -- the newest (and tastiest!) addition to Appleton Farms. What is Appleton Cooks? It’s a year-round menu of programs designed for people who love food. Whether you’re a beginning cook or a practiced chef, we’re offering classes, workshops, and farm-to-table dinners featuring seasonal food fresh from the farm.

$45 for Trustees of Reservations Members; $55 for Non Members.
For more information, call Susan Wood at 978-356-5728 x12 or email

Volunteers needed for Earth Oven building!
Join us for a unique opportunity to help build Appleton Farms new Earth Oven. If you have an interest in outdoor cooking, perfecting your pizza making or are curious about Appleton’s new project, then this is for you!  We need 6 volunteer ‘cob mixers’ for Wednesday May 15th, Thursday May 16th and Friday May 17th, from 9am-12pm.  Mixing cob is done with bare feet and promises lots of twisting and shouting! We also need 4 volunteers for both Saturday and Sunday from 9am-12pm (May 17th and 18th). The weekend crew will be helping form the cob into the oven. This is a great opportunity to learn about sustainable and creative cooking practices! No experience necessary.  Please contact Susan Wood at or at 978.356.5728 to sign up or with any questions.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Irrigation irritation

Overhead irrigation on beets and carrots
Spring has returned in earnest here at Appleton Farms and we are glad to welcome back the sunshine, warm weather and greenery.  We are not so glad to welcome back quack grass, lambs quarters and wild mustard which we pulled out in clumps as we weeded and thinned our first planting of beets this week.  The greenhouse is swiftly emptying of early spring transplants such as kale, cabbage and bok choi and just as swiftly refilling with basil, tomatoes and summer squash.  Out in the fields we seeded our first round of radishes, turnips and greens this week.  Fantastic spring salads are only a handful of weeks away now!  The farmers have been really enjoying the weather lately but all these cloudless days have left our transplants and newly seeded crops feeling a little thirsty.  With no rain in the foreseeable future it was time to set up irrigation again.  For those who have never assembled agricultural irrigation before, it involves a lot of lugging cumbersome aluminum pipes around and standing in muddy puddles while you get sprayed in the face by the sprinkler head that you are attempting to adjust.  It's well worth the trouble to keep our vegetables happy.

Now that May has arrived the countdown to CSA opening day is really picking up.  All our members should be receiving reminder letters in the mail in the next week as well as a calendar of our very exiting events scheduled for this year.  We look forward to seeing all of you very soon!