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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture is for You

Winterfare Market February, 2012

For some people the initials CSA are just another of those annoying acronyms that can make our conversations sound like an unintelligible inter-office memo. For some CSA means Community Supported Agriculture which encompasses delicious local food, help for the farmer, and a community of like-minded folk who enjoy fresh food, and enjoy knowing they are supporting farmers and farms, and the very land and environment that surrounds us.

Small farmers never think they are going to get rich doing what they love. They only hope they won’t go broke after a bad season. In the 1980s a new idea came on the scene when the first community supported agriculture farms were first organized. The idea is that people would buy shares in the farm and its harvest at the beginning of the growing year, essentially sharing the risks the farmer would face over the course of the season. Would there be flooding rains? Drought? Would blight kill all the tomatoes? Mother Nature can throw all kinds of disasters at a farmer. CSA members are essentially buying the harvest as crops are planted and becoming a part of a community – a “we’re all in this together” community sharing the risk, the worry and the joys of the farm.

When I first became aware of Community Supported Agriculture some years ago, there were not many CSA farms or people buying shares. The organizational elements were fairly standard. An individual or family would buy a share in the spring, and then as the May and June harvest started coming in they would pick up their weekly boxed or bagged share of greens, beans, radishes and vegetables of every type in season. Because man does not live by carrot alone, many CSAs also included a bouquet of summer flowers.

Now there are many more CSAs in our area. I spoke with Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) who said that in the three counties, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, in 2009 there were about 4550 farm shares sold, but in 2012 that number had increased to about 7300 farm shares sold. Some of those shares were to people outside the three counties. The expectation is that the number has continued to increase but statistics are only collected every five years. Korman pointed out that those farm shares did not include winter shares which are now available.

In fact, there are now many more kinds of CSA shares that people can buy. In addition to the regular vegetable garden shares, there are shares for meat, fish, eggs, flowers, and grain.

The last few years have seen other changes in CSA distributions. Originally, a shareholder paid up, and then picked up that share weekly at the farm. Nowadays CSA shares can be delivered to various sites including schools, retirement communities, and work sites.CooleyDickinsonHospitalallows staff to pay for their share with a payroll deduction, and the share is delivered to the hospital.  Some people share a share with a neighbor

Hager’s Farm Market and Upinngill Farm sell vouchers. The Hager vouchers are dated for use throughout the season, but they can be used at the Market on Route 2 in Shelburne with the shareholder making his own choices, for produce or pies, eggs or yogurt. Upinngill’s vouchers are not dated. Several can be used at one time. In both cases, at the Hager Farm Market and the Upinngill farmstand, the vouchers provide for a discount, so you are saving money, as well as getting wonderful produce.

There are 15 CSA farms inFranklinCounty, inGreenfield, Montague, Gill, Leyden, Colrain,Sunderland, Ashfield, Whately, and Berndarston. Each CSA farm delivers its share one day a week. All of them are now signing up shareholders for the 2014 season.

Western Massachusettshas been “an incredibly receptive community” to desiring and buying local farm products Korman said. The first local, and now longest running CSA farm is Brookfield Farm inAmherst. The first Winterfare was created inGreenfieldby volunteers just a few years ago. Now farmers plant winter storage crops for the 30 winter farmers markets that are ongoing across the state. CISA was the first non-profit organization in the state and created the Local Hero marketing project.

Currently there are 55 Local Hero restaurants using local produce for a total of about $2 million a year. There are also 240 Local Hero farms. They sold between 2002 and 2007 $4.5 million worth of farm products, but that amount has now doubled to $9 million. Food coops account for $16 million in sales. Right now in the three counties between 10%-15% of our food is fresh local food, but CISA’s goal is to have 25% of our food grown and enjoyed locally.

I was shocked that we are eating so little local food, but Korman gently pointed out that the whole population ofFranklinCountyis only half the population of the city ofSpringfield. I can see that it will be a great day when everyone inSpringfieldgets 25% of their dinners from local farms. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone lives in our beautiful and fertile valley or near a hilltown farm where fresh food is available for a good part of the year.

It’s finally getting warmer. It’s time to think about fresh salads, grilled vegetables and corn on the cob. It’s time to think about the possibility of joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm.

You can find a full listing and information about local CSA farms on the CISA website. http://www.buylocalfood.org/buy-local/find-local/csa-farm-listing/

Between the Rows  April 5, 2014

Susan Valentine – Translucent Flower Paintings

Susan Valentine – Hosta blossom

Before she began painting flowers Susan Valentine was a gardener.

“Focusing on what each plant needs and what it produces if it gets what it needs was what I thought about most of my waking hours. Painting their portraits came very naturally out of that process,” she said when I asked how she came to paint these translucent blossoms.
Flowers have always been a popular subject for painters. They are varied in color and form – and they sit still.  Susan’s flowers are often large and glamorous, with light shining through the petals and foliage. For me the way she handles light, in her flower portraits or landscapes, is what I find most amazing and delightful

Susan Valentine’s hydrangea

Susan Valentine’s paintings, including these two, are currently on display at Hope and Olive Restaurant in Greenfield until the end of April. There will be a reception on April 20 from 3-5 pm.

In addition she will be exhibiting at the Northampton Coop Bank in Amherst.This is a group show that includes work by  Sandy Walsh, Karen Chapman, Mari Rovang, Phil Schuster and Marti Olmstead. This exhibit will also run through April.

Finally, her work will be exhibited at the Greenfield Community College Student Art Show that will be up from April 17 through May 9.  This show is always great fun. I love knowing our community is so rich in talented and skilled people. For more about Susan, her life and work, click here, to read an article written by Mary McClintock for The Recorder. Both images here courtesy of SusanValentine.

 

Cellars and Cave Tour with the Heath Agricultural Society

Sheila Litchfield in the Dell

The Heath Agricultural Society gave us all a chance to  go exploring the cellars and caves of our neighbors  this past Saturday. Root cellars, cider cellars and a cheese cave. Who could resist this opportunity? Over 50 people signed up for this tour, many of them from towns beyond Heath. Even Springfield! I took one group around beginning with Sheila Litchfield who first explained the basics of cheesemaking. Chemistry. Bacteria. Sheila is a nurse so she knows all about bacteria. When Sheila isn’t milking her three goats to make cheese, serving as Rowe’s town nurse, and serving as a member of Heath’s selectboard, she spends ‘her spare’ time canning the produce from the large Litchfield garden. Oh, and she also gives cheesemaking workshops!

Cheese Cave

Sheila built her cheese cave in the cellar. Here, with carefully monitored temperature and humidity, she stores cheese that needs aging.  She explained that she can only have one kind of cheese in this small cave, because the different cheese bacterias will infect each other, to the benefit of neither.

Litchfield Root storage

Our group got a bonus! Sheila showed us how she stores root vegetables, in crocks, on the bulkhead stairs. Not too much left at this time of year.

Andrew at Benson Place Blueberry Farm

Then it was off to the Benson Place Blueberry Farm, where noted artist Robert Strong Woodward  often painted, and where  I often took young grandsons to pick their own low bush blueberries. Andrew and his family have been farming here for three years. When the basement was given a cement floor in the 1960′s a corner space was left unpaved, in expectation of a root cellar. Andrew finally finished the root cellar which now has two cement foundation walls, and two walls built of rigid silvery insulation panels, extra fiberglass insulation and heavy weight black plastic. His root cellar has a window which makes it possible, with the help of flexible ductwork, to bring extra air circulation. At this point Andrew says they buy bulk vegetables from farms like Atlas Farm to store. They also use the root cellar for other foods like yogurt and meat when the refrigerator is too full.

 

Draxler root cellar

Andy and Sue Draxler could not put their root cellar in the cellar because their furnace made that space too warm. They poured a cement floor in their large garage/workshop, but left one corner unpaved to provide the necessary moisture for their root cellar. While Andrew’s root cellar is a little room with a window, the Draxlers built what is essentially a large closet. It is divided in two, with the intention of providing dry cold storage on one side, and moist cold storage on the other.  That has not worked out as they expected, and both sides are quite moist. Sue Draxler explained are working on a fix  for that. They do have their potatoes on one side and apples on the other. These two should never be stored together because the apples produce ethylene gas as they ripen, and this will cause the potatoes to sprout more quickly. Like, Andrew, the Draxlers have very little left in their root cellar at this time of the year.  Sheila, Andrew and Sue all acknowledged that they had some produce loss because of the extremely cold temperatures for an extended period this year, made it impossible to keep root cellar temperatures above 32 degrees. Generally speaking root cellars should be keep between 40 and 55 degrees.

Bob Bourke and his cider press

After root cellars, we went off to explore cider cellars.  Hard cider, that is. Bob Bourke took everyone down to  his cellar to show his equipment  and fermenting carboys of cider. Then we all went up to the porch to see his cider press. Bob  bought his house and property about five or six years ago and was happy that it came with a cider orchard. He has 45 trees of various apple cultivars like Golden Russets, Baldwins, Northern Spy, Gravensteins, Jonathans and others. Good, complex ciders depend on a flavorful mix of apples.  Making cider also depends on controlling the yeasts, which means cleanliness and isolation in air-locked barrels and carboys. Bob explained that it is not really difficult to make cider, but cleanliness is vital. It is also very  timeconsuming when it is time to sterilize the bottles, fill and cap them.  He gave out samples to our thirsty crew.

Doug Mason in his cider cellar

Doug Mason gets most of his apples from Bob. They  do a lot of work – and tasting – together. He has some additional equipment that we hadn’t seen at Bob’s. To cut down on the time required for washing and sterilizing bottles, he has bought several stainless steel kegs, like those that beer  comes in. Much easier to clean a keg than  bottles for an equal amount of beer. He also has a bottling and capping gadget that, with a two man crew, makes this operation fairly quick. He also gave out samples. Warming!  And very nice. This cider cellar is about 50 degrees. Chilly. Doug ferments his cider in the barrel for  about a year or so, then bottles it, and keeps it for another year. Bob’s cellar is warmer, and it takes the cider longer to mature in Doug’s colder cellar. So much to learn.

Lunch!

Back at the Community Hall we could warm up. Hours spent talking about food and drink prepared us for a fabulous lunch, chilis, soups, breads, pies and cider! All prepared for tour participants by members of the Heath Agricultural Society. That is Justin Lively, Society President, in the center rear of the photo. Lots of enthusiastic conversations! The big question? What other kinds of tours can we have in Heath? What kinds of tours might other towns create?

Greenfield Winter Fare 2014

Winter Fare veggies

If I am counting correctly this is the 7th Greenfield Annual Winter Fare which will bring truckloads of fresh local vegetables to Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 1.  Enter from Kent Street off Silver Street. Beyond  vegetables there will be preserved products like pickles and syrup, honey and jams. Frozen meat!  And to keep you shopping from 10 am til 1 pm music will be provided by Last Night’s Fun, and soup provided by The Brass Buckle, Hope and Olive, Wagon Wheel and The Cookie Factory will help you keep up your strength.

At 1 pm there will be a Barter Swap. Anyone with extra home made or home grown food can gather for an informal  trading space where you can make your own swapping deals.

There is more to the Winter Fare than the Farmer’s Market. Open Hearth Cooking Classes on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm at Historic Deerfield.  Contact Claire Carlson  ccarlson@historic-deerfield.org.  $55 per person.

Screening of Food For Change and discussion with film maker, Wednesday, Feb 5, 6:30 pm at the Sunderland Public Library. Call 43-665-2642 for more info.

Annual Franklin County Cabin Fever Seed Swap Sunday Feb. 9, 1-4 pm Upstairs at Green Fields Market, www.facebook.com/greefieldsunflowers for more info.

Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb 9, 1 pm at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sponsored by Share the Warmth. More info: Holly Westcott  westcottha@verizon.net.

Winter Fare is obvioulsy about more  than Fare, this is a Fair atmosphere that brings a community together.

Halloween in Heath

Welcome to Heath Halloween

Because we are such a rural, spread-out town children can’t easily go trick or treating  from house to house. A Tailgate Halloween in the town center was planned, but the rain called for an instant revision. The community hall was quickly turned into Trick or Treat Central and the youngest children, baby pumpkins and kittens, arrived first, followed later by the older kids who had a map of all the houses in town where the Trick or Treat light was on.

Fortune-telling

Even the witches needed to have their fortune told before going on to the main event. Candy!  Also apple cider and donuts.

Candy – all you can carry

This is the only night when the grown-ups urge children to take more candy. Go on. You can have another handful!

Gypsy storyteller

For some there were scary stories! Bats in the library, terrified bunnies, scared siblings. Max and Ruby – what are you doing?

Ghouls and witches

All the ghouls, witches, kittens, spiders, frogs, French knights, gorillas, elephants, Princess brides, and fishermen of all ages in town turned out for a sweetly ghastly celebration.

Greenfield Community Farm on Blog Action Day

Greenfield Community Farm – New Shed

Accessible healthy food is a basic human right. The Greenfield Community Farm helps insure this right to the Greenfield Community.

The Greenfield Community Farm out on Glenbrook Road is actually comprised of four gardens. First, there is a production market garden, operated by grant-funded David Paysnick and his assistant Daniel Berry, that grows produce for sale through the Just Roots CSA, at the Farmers Market, and Green Fields Coop. This garden includes a greenhouse where seeds are started in the spring, and a high-tunnel greenhouse that extends the season for tomatoes, and exotic crops like ginger. Extra vegetable starts, and seeds, are given to the Food for All Garden.

The market garden makes use of interns, from high school and college students to older people who sign up for a season. There are spring chores including working in the greenhouse and soil prep, summer chores including weeding, succession planting, and preparing produce for sale, and fall chores include marketing, farm upkeep, and mentoring a younger person. A full description of these internships is on the justroots.org website.

A second garden, unpoetically named The Education Site, is a currently colorful demonstration garden created by students, parents and educators where students from 8-18 can engage in meaningful and creative work on the land.

Community Garden

Shelly Beck

Shelly Beck, Community Garden Coordinator, oversees the final two gardens. These are the community garden plots tended by their gardeners, and the Food For All Garden that grows produce for the Stone Soup Café and the Center for Self Reliance food pantry. I visited with Beck to see how the first growing season and harvest went.

“Pretty well!” she said with joyful enthusiasm. I could see that the better part of the harvest had been gathered in, but cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale were still growing as were a few squash plants. Bright nasturtiums and marigolds bloomed here and there. Even hard core vegetable gardeners can’t resist a few brilliant flowers. It looked like a productive season to me.

The 50 community garden plots come in two sizes, 20×20 feet, and 20×10 feet. These plots were cultivated by experienced gardeners, novices, people who were interested in vegetables, some who only wanted flowers, and some who were particularly passionate about herbs. A Daisy troop took possession of one plot and inmates from the Kimball House, the Franklin County Jail’s Re-entry program cultivated another.

Volunteers built a handsome garden shed to hold tools (they can use more tools and wheelbarrows), and there is a drilled well to supply that all important garden element – water. Soil amendments are also available for plot holders. For those with the need there are also high raised beds to plant. More raised beds are in the planning.

Raised bed

Food For All Garden

“The Food for All plot has really been my plot this year,” Beck said, “but I’ve had lots of volunteers helping. Kimball House guys spend two mornings a week here, and community groups call and come. We even had a ‘weed-dating’ session!”

For those who are not part of the dating scene, speed-dating is an event where attendees spend a very few minutes talking to each other, exchanging cards, and then moving on to the next. “It’s more fun to chat over the weeds,” Beck said. “We’ll probably do it again, and we’d like more men to come.”

Beck had to explain to me that the Stone Soup Café is the pay-what-you-can café that is held every Saturday at noon at All Soul’s Church. Volunteers cook and serve up a great delicious and nutritious lunch. Those who can leave a donation. Even those who cannot attend, can send a donation to help cover costs.

Beck has taken an interesting road to bring her to the Greenfield Community Farm. She grew up in Massachusetts, but it was at Evergreen College in Washington State that she began taking eco-agricultural courses. “Evergreen immersed me in the world of growing things and sustainability. I never dreamed that organic would one day be so much of our culture so that you can buy organic produce at the Stop and Shop.”

In 1996 she moved back to Massachusetts and found a real home in Greenfield. She was a single mother with a child but she found housing at Leyden Woods where she started her first community garden. She began working Green Fields Market and said she really felt the community taking care of her.  She worked as a science teacher at the middle school, and  at Enterprise Farm. “It was a great place to see what farmers are doing on a big scale.” While she was there she helped put together the Mobile Market that brought fresh produce food deserts from Somerville to Northampton, senior centers, a YMCA and housing projects.

Nowadays, Beck’s day job is as Pantry coordinator at the Amherst Survival Center which offers free health care, and a free store in addition to a free lunch and regular pantry food distribution. She worked with local farmers and made sure that the food pantry offered fresh produce as well as the regular non-perishable foods.

Fall Festival at the Greenfield Community Farm

If you have a garden you must celebrate the harvest. This is doubly true if you have a big garden, with many gardeners big and small. Sunday, October 27 the Greenfield Community Farm is hosting a Fall Festival with workshops, a farm tour, garlic planting and a pot luck meal. All are invited to come and learn more about the gardens, and celebrate this first of many harvests. The website www.justroots.org. has full information about the Fall Festival and all the gardens. ###

Between the Rows   October 12, 2013

The Wedding – Emily & Nick Begin

Wedding tent

The Wedding Tent is ready.

Family and friends

Family and friends are assembling.

Emily and Nick

Emily and Nick join hands. The wedding ceremony is beautiful.

The bride and guests

The bride is hugging everyone. Everyone is hugging the bride. The cameras are rolling.

Photographers everywhere

Everyone had a camera and everyone was snapping away. Here is Christina photographing me photographing her. We are all wanting to capture this moment forever. I was reminded of a song from the delightful, satirical musical Little Mary Sunshine.  I was mis-remembering some of the lyrics of Every Little Nothing,  sung by the wise old woman character. My ‘ revised’ lyrics fit my mood.  Every little moment means a precious little moment/if we make it gay.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/but it cannot stay.   For every little moment has its moment/then it flies away.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/take it while you may.

Admiring family

Many branches of the family have gathered to admire the beautiful couple.

Cousins

Do you imagine they might be thinking of future weddings?

Wedding cake moment

An important wedding ritual. The wedding cake. The bride and groom fed each other daintily. Thank heaven.

Time to dance

Then let the dancing begin. Conga!

The Bride and Groom

The golden afternoon was drawing to a close, but the bride and groom walked across the meadow, perhaps thinking of all the precious little moments that await them, even as these fly away.

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.

Great-Granddaughter Bella’s First Heath Fair

Bella baking for the Heath Fair

Bella came to visit in time to prepare her exhibits for the Heath Fair. Baking for the Fair is almost as much fun as the Fair itself. At the age of 6 Bella is in a real competition which means that she has to  make her cookies all by herself. No one else, not even Granny, can touch the cookies. She measured the ingredients, operated the mixer, and used a tiny ice cream scoop to measure the dough and make cookies of a consistent size. Consistency is key to winning a blue ribbon in all baking and vegetable entries.

Bella in the Friends of the Heath Library book tent

Bella helped set up the Friends of the Heath Library book sale tent – and then she spent all the money ($2) granny gave her for the fair on books.

Bella and Hazel feeding the sheep

The Heath Fair is a small agricultural Fair. There are sheep to feed, and fair activities are always more fun when you are with a friend. But we also watched the goat judging, admired the bunnies and the chickens in their special house. Some of the ducks were penned outside where they could have a little swimming pool. There were cows, and two big workhorses that gave people wagon rides around the Fairgrounds.

Bella and her cousin hooping

The Heath Fair only has a couple of mechanical rides, but really, what is more fun than climbing the 20 foot tall climbing wall (she really did even  though we don’t have a photo) or spending hours! leaning to hula hoop. The whole family joined in this. Even the boys, and little Lola, Bella’s 4 year old sister.

Family at rest

After all that hooping everyone had to rest and refresh themselves. Lots of visiting.

Bella on horseback

What is every little girl’s dream? Horseback riding! Look at that head held high, proud and confident.

Bella’s blue ribbon cookies

Hard to say what was the most exciting event of this year’s Heath Fair, but Bella’s first blue ribbons has to be right up there. Notice the consistent size of those cookies (one of the 6 already eaten). Consistency is key. It cannot be said too often. Her vanilla sandwich cookies with raspberry jam filling also won a blue ribbon. Blue ribbons – and eight dollars prize money.

Garlic

Not all my entries won blue ribbons, but no one could argue the beauty and size of my garlic.

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

 

Trash Transformed – Xu Bing at Mass MoCA

 

Xu Bing’s Tiger Rug

Xu Bing, a noted Chinese artist, has transformed trash in the most stunning and delightful ways at Mass MoCA. We go to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams at least once a year, often bringing grandsons with us because there is always something weird and wonderful to see.

Cigarettes into Tiger Rug

I consider cigarettes, even unsmoked, as trash. For Xu Bing they are the raw materials of art.

Classical Chinese Scroll

Xu Bing took this scroll as his inspiration, and then recreated it. How?

Back of Xu Bing’s ‘scroll’

He attached trash to a lit panel.

Xu Bing’s illuminated ‘scroll’

Artist’s description

The artist’s description does not really explain the mystery.

Xu Bing’s Phoenix

Mass MoCA has an enormous gallery – and even here it was almost too small for the magnificent Phoenixes, made from trash on a construction site in Beijing.

Detail from under the Phoenix’s tail.

Of course, there is even more to see at Mass MoCA this summer: ne minute videos, Marko Remec’s Totally Totem, the amazing Life’s Work by Tom Phillips and Johnny Carrera and MORE! Even music. Bang on a Can.

Music at Mass MoCA

Even the Music at Mass MoCA is weird and wonderful.

 

 

Cameras are rolling on the Bridge of Flowers

Warner Brothers’ camera

The cameras are rolling in Shelburne Falls. The camera dolly was ready on the Bridge of Flowers early this morning, but it was  covered with camouflage netting.

Camera dolly under camouflage netting

The dolly was covered with camouflage netting to hide it from the circling helicopter that was taking aerial shots.

The Bridge of Flowers flowers were unimpressed. They bloom like this, cameras or not.

Blue irises

Yellow Fairy Bells

Two irises

Tree Peony