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.