Monday, July 10, 2017

July 8th compost update

The compost keeps evolving fine with temperatures above 110°F at the active pile and a bit below 100°F at the maturing pile. Marcelo and I added some browns to the right pile by tearing apart some seedling containers and a wet corrugated cardboard box. But we're still low and at this rate will run out of browns very soon.

So... WE NEED EVERYBODY TO CHIP IN, IN ORDER TO AVOID INTERRUPTIONS: If you happen to still have some dry leaves around, PLEASE BRING THEM and add to the browns pile (rightmost one) when you come to drop off your scraps. Other suitable browns are cores of paper towels / toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, brown paper bags, or other low-quality paper/carton, always cut, shredded, or torn into small pieces (nicer paper is best recycled). Sawdust is good but may require a closed container and careful handling to avoid a mess, AND the wood has to be untreated.

Just in case, a bit of info: remember that "browns" is a shorthand for materials that are high in carbon. "Greens" is shorthand for materials high in nitrogen. BUT don't judge just by the color! For example, coffee grounds are brown in color, but are high in nitrogen and thus considered a green in composting. I hope this is not confusing! We'll be offering a mini-training / refresher soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions.


July 8th at the Kitchen Garden

It was another busy morning at the garden! Blanca, Ben, Iris, Linda M, Marcelo, Susan, and Gabriela were in attendance, and Akiko stopped by for a while.

In addition to the usual weeding, harvesting and watering the areas outside the irrigation system, Blanca arranged the tomato plants inside the cages and tied them up. We also planted eggplant, pepper, leek, and Brussels sprout seedlings donated by Hilltop Hanover Farm (THANK YOU!!!). Linda brought the weed tea that Els had brewed for the garden--we will probably use it as a soil drench but did not get around to applying it yet. Gabriela applied more vinegar-based weed killer to the poison ivy at various spots and checked the compost bins. We also took care of some of the containers with failed seedlings: the soil went to the potato pots; Marcelo and Gabriela cut the cardboard containers (along with a wet corrugated cardboard box) and added to the pile of "browns" for composting.

Ben stakes a beautiful volunteer tomato
Blanca and the first beet of the season!
Mark and Akiko brought seedlings donated by Hilltop Hanover--THANK YOU ALL!!!
The "beet" goes on!
Susan tending to her bountiful herbs.
Gabriela adds soil to the potato containers.

 - Gabriela.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 1st at the Kitchen Garden

It was a busy morning, and almost everybody came to the garden this Saturday.

We were all excited about the newly installed drip irrigation system and faucet inside the garden! It looks great and very neat. Now the garden will be watered overnight. We still need to keep an eye to check whether the schedule might have to be adjusted.

In addition to the usual weeding, harvesting and compost management, Susan also brought some flowers and purple basil for the outside of the fence on Oak St. The other big thing this week was that Iris got some asparagus crowns. We made room at the back of the garden and planted two rows. While we are not sure when the plants will emerge, this is a great addition because asparagus are perennial and should keep producing for several years (spears are harvested in early spring).

Els had volunteered to prepare a foliar spray (fermented wild weeds tea) according to a recipe Doug DeCandia had shared in his class. The brew is now ready and Els will bring it to the garden next week. Thank you Els!!

Susan planting herbs and flowers outside the fence.

Our newest gardeners, Ben and Carolyn, check on their plot.
Marcelo mixing the curing compost pile.
Linda M. and Els tending to their plot.
Blanca and Laura weed the area where we'll plant the asparagus.
Solange waters the potatoes.
Iris taking down the peas.
Gabriela cutting some chickory.

Compost update - July 1st.

More people are composting with Roots & Wings, which is great but comes with some challenges! Browns (i.e., carbon-rich materials) are consumed much faster than before, and bins are filling up faster than the older compost is mature enough to be used.

We are considering a few options to sustainably deal with these issues, which will likely require more help and participation from all composters and some creative ideas. We may have a brainstorming session soon but your ideas are certainly welcome at any point!

The most urgent issue is to restock on browns sooner rather than later. If any of you has more dry leaves that you could bring and drop off in the rightmost bin, please do so at your earliest convenience so we can avoid completely running out of browns like last time. If you have other source of browns (e.g., sawdust, please let me know--if we are to use any woody materials we need to make sure they are untreated).

Between June 17 and June 22, Marcelo moved the middle pile (maturing compost) inside the garden into a hole he dug into our "bad soil" pile. We hope the compost will finish curing here and some of it will help improve the quality of the soil for future use. He also moved the left pile into the middle bin, making room for new scraps.

Kitchen Garden update - June 24

There was a lot of activity at the garden; Blanca, Els, Solange, Mark P., Laura, Susan, Linda H., and Marcelo were in attendance. Activities included planting new vegetables, weeding, adding soil to the potatoes, turning the compost, cleaning the area behind the fence and drip irrigation planning.

One of the big topics of the day was getting ready for the installation of the drip irrigation system. A contractor (5 Brothers) will be doing the work on Wednesday and we need to figure out where to locate the spigot. The gardeners met with Dave Person (who has been helping us figure out the technical details and coordinate with the church) and showed him two different spots we thought would be good for the faucet. We market both spots with sticks and thought 5 Bros. could pick the one they thought would be better for running the irrigation system.  Susan and Solange will be at the garden on Wednesday at about 9:30 to go over some of the details.

Marcelo also gave Molly, from the food pantry, 8 heads of lettuce that were ready for harvest.
- Marcelo

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

the spirit of a CSA

If you ever practiced yoga, chess, dance, or any other discipline, you may have noticed that, no matter how advanced you may be in your practice, it's always good to go back to basics once in a while. In the same vein, we thought it was timely to reflect on what Community-Supported Agriculture really means.

When you join a CSA share, you are partnering with a trusted farmer so you can share the harvest. But also, and perhaps more importantly, you are sharing the inherent risks of farming. In a good season, it's all unicorns and rainbows, and you'll get a bounty of super fresh, local produce, picked at the height of ripeness and goodness. But sometimes, the weather does not cooperate and yields (sometimes entire crops) may fail.

To say that we had a very cold and damp spring is to state the obvious. Some brief warm spells followed by cold temperatures made things worse. The weather only began to warm up quite recently, which means this growing season got to a really late and unfavorable start. And this was felt even more upstate where the growing season is shorter. Of course that translates to a less abundant start than usual.

As we cope with a bumpy start, let's remember that the spirit of a CSA is that we are in this together, in good and bad times. Our commitment to a CSA makes it possible for good quality agriculture to happen close to our communities. When we join a CSA we are doing so much more than paying to buy produce! We are supporting local connections and livelihoods, we can establish a personal relationship with the people growing our food, understand what goes on behind the scenes, and have our voices heard. The industrial food supply chain may look more steady on the surface, but is driven by pure economic profit at any cost, with little or no regard for the health and livelihood of farmers, the nutrition or safety of consumers, or the health of the environment. The CSA model is in line with Roots & Wings inspiration in the permaculture ethics of "earth care, people care, and fair share". 

Here's to hoping for more favorable weather for the rest of the season! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, insights, or anything you'd like to share. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kitchen Garden update - June 17

It was a nice day to be at the garden - cool and still moist from the rain. Gabriela, Marcelo, Blanca, Laura and Carolyn came to the garden.

First, some introductions! We're very excited to welcome two new gardeners to the group: Carolyn and Ben will be joining us this season at the garden! Unfortunately today we missed our photographer Iris and none of us thought of taking pictures until it was too late. We'll try to remember to take some pics next Saturday!

Today we worked on, and harvested from, individual plots. We also removed some weeds from the front of the garden, planted some bush beans and more tomatoes, and harvested a few strawberries.

Gabriela managed the active compost pile while Marcelo implemented a new idea. We are filling up the active bin but the compost in the middle bin is not finished yet, so Marcelo dug a whole in our "bad soil" pile and transferred a good amount of compost into it so it can continue to mature there. He then mixed some of the soon to be finished compost with soil and we added the mixture to the potato bins, which are growing nicely.

Good bug or bad bug?

Insect report:
On Tuesday I stopped briefly at the garden and saw a baby praying mantis in the middle compost bin (for a picture, see our compost update). I also spotted another bug in that area, and a third one wrapped in an arugula leaf. If you know what these are, please let me know!

Who's this guy?

For now, the watering schedule is as follows, although we hope to have the irrigation system installed soon!
Sunday: Linda H
Monday: Marcelo
Tuesday: Gabriela
Wednesday: Susan
Thursday: Laura
Friday: Solange

See you next week!

Compost Update - June 17

Things are looking pretty good at the compost bins! The temperature today in the active pile was around 120°F, with some hotter areas! I gave the pile a good mix, removed some stickers and covered with more browns.

Reminder of the week: PLEASE REMOVE ALL STICKERS! Double-check your scraps before/while you're depositing them, remove any remaining stickers and place in the trash bin to your left. These stickers keep popping up wherever you look and will never degrade because they're made of plastic. Please redouble your efforts to avoid this nuisance!

The active bin is filling up quickly but the compost in the middle bin is not finished yet, so Marcelo dug a whole in our "bad soil" pile and transferred a good amount of compost into it so it can continue to mature there. He then mixed some of the soon to be finished compost with soil and we added the mixture to the potato bins, which are growing nicely. (Fore more on what's going on at the Kitchen Garden, see our blog).

Compost visitor
Earlier this week I made a quick visit to the compost bin and spotted a baby praying mantis in the middle bin. These are considered beneficial insects because they prey on other insects, but apparently some of the most abundant species in our area are non-native and quite voracious, eating both good and bad bugs. Let's hope this is one of the good ones!

- Gabriela.

June 10th at the Kitchen Garden

Another day with full attendance at the Kitchen Garden! Els, Linda M, Linda H, Iris, Mark, Marcelo, Solange, Susan, Laura, Blanca and Gabriela were there.

The day started with an iced herbal tea tasting that Gabriela made mostly with herbs from the garden. Then we dived into action! In addition to tending individual plots there was some weeding, installation of tomato cages, planting of new seedlings (including some that Els and Linda M went to purchase from Sprain Brook nursery), compost management, leveling of paths between beds and a heroic removal of a dangling branch from the pine tree by Mark P (unfortunately we could not capture the colorful operation in pictures!)

Here are some pics from the day by Iris
Potato bins are now close to the pussy willow. Please remember to water them!
Solange installing tomato cages

Tending to one of the newly relocated plots
Iris proudly showcasing her peas
Solange and Susan exchanging ideas.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kitchen Garden Update - June 3rd

It was a very busy Saturday and everyone was in attendance: Mark P, Linda M, Laura, Els, Linda H, Blanca, Susan, Iris, Marcelo, Solange, and Gabriela. Unfortunately no pictures were taken!

The main activity of the day was to plant the seedlings that Iris and Gabriela had purchased the day before and some that we had started from seed: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red cabbage, collards, herbs, peppers, eggplants, and marigolds. We also sprinkled some lettuce seeds in between the seedlings for the next harvest. Iris planted a passion flower plant in the box where we had morning glories last year (over by the fence) and some are coming back. Marcelo moved a lot of mint over by that fence too. Gabriela had planted potato seed in two containers (sprouted potatoes from the CSA donated by MJ) over the week.

Susan sprayed the poison ivy with the vinegar mix we used last year. Gabriela will prepare more and make a second round during the week. Susan and Gabriela talked about possibly planting native flowers and shrubs on the outside of the fence on Oak St, and also dreamed about fruit trees shared with the neighboring property (Zion church).

Gabriela managed the compost pile. We have run out of browns (dry leaves and such) but are working on getting more as soon as possible.

Iris brought Japanese knotweed from her backyard to make an inoculant following a recipe provided by Doug DeCandia in his class. She cut it up, added some Epsom salts, Els added worm castings and they left it soaking in water in the shade.

Laura and Blanca found one or more cabbage worms and Susan thinks we have leaf borers on our spinach and beet greens. We will have to keep an eye on them--hopefully as we expand the palette of plants in the garden things will balance out.

- Iris & Gabriela.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Healthy Soil Workshop: May 11

Doug DeCandia led a wonderful workhsop an taught us about the connection between healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy people. 

We started at the Kitchen Garden where Doug talked about and demonstrated the importance of keeping soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance, and what the wild plants (or "weeds") are telling us about our garden, and how they can actually be our allies

We then moved indoors and shared our gardening experiences and questions, and learned some recipes to nurture the soil and plant microorganisms (think about probiotics).

It was a very informative and transformative class where we learned, as Doug puts it, about regenerative, life supporting approaches to growing food (in contrast with the life-suppressing methods of industrial agriculture). 

If you missed the class (and even if you didn't!) you may want to check out Doug's YouTube channelBionutrient Food and Farming in Westchester, which has many short and super useful videos showing how to actually do it all! And here is a link to the inoculant recipes.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 20 at the Kitchen and Labyrinth Gardens

Marcelo, Susan, Gabriela, Iris, Linda H, Blanca, Solange, Lenore and Chris were at the garden this Saturday.

Lenore, Marcelo, Chris and Gabriela focused on the Labyrinth and did some trimming, planting, weeding, watering, and replacing border stones. The Labyrinth is looking pretty good, thought there are some problem areas. We are hoping to get advice from a seasoned gardener on what plants may be best suited to the partially shaded conditions, and how to improve soil conditions. The idea is to choose native plants that will not require watering once established.

Meanwhile, at the Kitchen Garden, the rest of the crew worked on weeding individual beds, lamented some discoloration on the leaves that Susan thinks might signal leaf borers (on the spinach and kale--we cut off those leaves and threw them in the garbage, not the compost), cut down the cover crop in the middle bed and spread it on top of the bed. Marcelo also spread hay on the newly relocated beds and at the front of the garden by Oak St.

Iris and Gabriela.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Compost update: Paper cups and egg shells

May 19th, 2017.

The active pile is filling up quickly and getting hot. The warmest part was at 120°F!

Two observations for this week:
  1. Paper cups are, for the most part, non-compostable, as they are usually lined with a plastic film. These, unfortunately, belong to the trash (and it's best to avoid them as much as possible).
    Don't be confused by the recycle symbol! It indicates that the cup is made with recycled material, but it is NOT recyclable.
  2. Egg shells need to be thoroughly crushed. They take forever to decompose and usually look intact even after everything else is fully composted. They can go to the soil anyway and will VERY SLOWLY provide calcium and other nutrients, BUT THEY HAVE TO BE IN TINY PIECES. An alternative is to use the shells to prepare a liquid fertilizer for blooms.  
    These shells probably spent close to a year in the compost pile and are still intact!
    Crush the shells before composting. The smaller the better!
Thank you for helping return these nutrients back to the earth!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Compost Update April 6-13

Looks like our worms and microorganisms keep working hard! Last Friday the active bin was around 108°F!

Unfortunately, there are still some issues with the scraps. The last couple visits (April 6 and April 13) there were whole paper bags in the active bin and whole fruits and veggies. While paper can be composted, IT NEEDS TO BE IN SMALL PIECES.


  • If you are collecting your scraps in paper bags, empty the contents in the active bin and then PLEASE RIP THE BAG IN SMALL PIECES, COVERING THE SCRAPS. If needed, add more "browns" from the left bin to make sure the scraps are covered. 
  • By the way, covering the scraps will become increasingly critical as the weather gets warmer because the decomposing scraps may attract vermin and become a nuisance. 
Paper bags are OK, but not whole!

That's more like it!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 29th at the Kitchen Garden

Marcelo and Mark started early taking the soil out of the shaded raised bed. Gabriela joined later and tended the compost pile (for more details see the blog post). Els came later and we were all thrilled to see Solange coming back! She helped relocate the raised bed. Els and Gabriela did some weeding, seeding, and watering.

The frame is now in its new and sunnier location and we'll fill it up with soil next time.

Seeds still need to be watered. Hopefully last week's schedule will work this week as well:
Sunday: Linda H.
Monday: Marcelo
Tuesday: Iris
Wednesday: Susan
Thursday: Laura
Friday: Gabriela

Compost update - April 21 & 29

Composting is picking up steam! On April 21st the active pile was at about 100°F and a week later it was at about 110°F! The middle (maturing) pile is stable at 80°F.

What's wrong with this picture?
Fruits, veggies and tortillas should be cut up.
Paper bags are OK but should be cut in small pieces.
And everything needs a cover of browns from the right bin!

Requests of the week:
    The smaller the better; shoot for no larger than 2 inches. As there are more of us composting, it's important to speed up the process. Size matters! Smaller pieces decompose much faster.
    It's getting hotter and this is important to reduce odors. When you drop off scraps, cover with equal amount of browns (from rightmost bin).
Some good news to wrap up: looks like the trash bin is being used. Though some stickers are still making their way to the pile, we seem to be getting better at it!

Earth Day at the Kitchen Garden

It was a somewhat cool and rainy Earth Day and we had a skeleton crew at the garden: Marcelo, Susan, Laura and Iris. We worked some in our individual plots and also on the front shady boxes. 
Proposed watering schedule for this week:
Sunday—Linda H.
Sam stopped by to add some kitchen scraps to the compost.

Marcelo kept working on moving the soil out of the shady bed. 
Laura started planting seeds.
Iris chopped the cover crop in the shady bed and added it to the compost. Marcelo is also going to empty this bed in preparation for moving the entire structure to the sunnier side of the garden.
Susan started working on a small extra plot in front of her raised bed, layering cardboard and compost. She discovered some small paw prints in her plot, reminding us that we need to try to tie up the holes and gaps in the fence asap.

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 15th at the Kitchen Garden

This Saturday Susan, Iris, Laura, Linda H, Mark P, and Gabriela met at the garden.

We were busy planting the individual plots, adding compost and watering. Mark continued to advance the relocation of the shaded beds into a sunnier spot. He transplanted the herbs that came back (sage, thyme, and oregano) to make room for the bed and kept moving soil around and leveling the ground.

We mused about what we could do in the common areas, what new flowers to plant (Gabriela is sprouting lupines and will be planting them during the week), and what perennials could be eventually added to the garden (some thoughts included kiwi and passion flower vines in the west-facing fence, containers with berries, perhaps a dwarf nut tree/bush outside the fence on Oak St?)

Gabriela also installed new signs and a trash receptacle for the compost bins (for a fuller compost update, see the next blog post below).

For this week, we agreed on the following watering schedule to make sure our seeds and transplants are continually moist:

Sunday—Linda H

We were all so intent on what we were doing that no photos were taken!

Compost Update - April 15th

On Friday, Gabriela met with Elisa to touch base on compost pile management now that Kitchen Gardeners will take over during the summer.

Elisa took the temperature in the middle bin, which was about 80° F. The active bin was just slightly above ambient temperature, which is expected because the amount of scraps is still rather small.

We noticed some freshly added fruit peels with the stickers still on 😢. But now we have installed a trash receptacle to the left of the left bin. Please double check when you drop off your scraps, and if you find ANY NON-COMPOSTABLE ITEMS, TOSS THEM INTO THE TRASH BIN! Also, if you happen to notice any stickers or non-degradable stuff already in the bin, please give us a hand and remove and dispose in the trash bin as well (and let us know so we're aware this is still an issue and we can try other tactics to solve this problem--THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!)

Gabriela also installed new and improved signs (thank you Elisa for re-designing them!) so hopefully these will make it easier to remember all the basic steps!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Starting a new compost pile

Thank you to all the Kitchen Gardeners that helped turn the compost piles on Saturday, April 8th and make room for more scraps! (Marcelo, Iris, Els, Susan, Mark, and Gabriela met for the first gardening day of the season! read the blog post here).

  • Please redouble your efforts to remove all stickers, rubber bands, twist ties and any other non-compostable items--as you know these will never decompose and create a problem.
  • Tip: it's easy to forget removing these freaking stickers--we've all been there! A helpful tip: remove all labels BEFORE storing your produce, so you'll have to remember to do it only once!

Elisa came early and assessed the piles as usual, then guided and
helped us turn the compost.

The middle pile had been maturing for several months and the compost was ready to use (we'll tell you more about this next week). So we sifted the compost and took it to the garden where it will nourish the soil and plants as we spread it on the planting areas.
Finished Compost

Once the middle bin was empty, we proceeded to move the active pile (the left one) into the center. This not only created room for new scraps but also allowed us to more thoroughly mix the compost. The middle bin will be now left to mature for several months until it's well decomposed.

We found lots of worms in the compost--a sign of an active and healthy pile!

What's next:
  • Elisa will stop by this Friday at 11:30 but Kitchen Gardeners will tend the pile through the gardening season on Saturday mornings between 10 AM and noon. Stop by to say hi, drop your scraps and ask any questions.
  • We'll install new signs that will hopefully be more visible and provide clearer instructions.
  • We'll install a trash container where you'll be able to discard any non-compostable items that sneaked in.
See you around!