Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Soil Block Party: The basics of propagation without the plastic


For the last year I've spent my time working in a greenhouse at Stone Barns, persistent in my desire to learn and understand that complex space and all that went with it, I didn't take time venturing into other places on the farm.  I honed in on a specific set of skills that helped me dig deep into my initial understanding of farming.  One of the gratifying parts of working at Four Season Farm is the variety and range of tasks I have had the opportunity to participate in.  Everyone is involved with every aspect on the farm.   In the two weeks I've been here, I've had the opportunity to work on many projects ranging from standard vegetable harvests for markets and restaurants to rare tasks such as roof building for the new chicken slaughter house.  The philosophy involves everyone being able to do anything on the farm when it's needed most.  The skills and concepts come from Eliot Coleman's methods, which he has been perfecting for decades (over forty years and going strong) and his wife Barbara Damrosch, who has been a leading voice in horticulture since the 1970's. Our development and understanding of these methods come through the experience of working, but also by clearly explaining the information and guiding others as we work.  The beauty of this layered teaching method is that information is shared through necessity, which helps develop an understanding of the why.  Skills are taught and directly applied under the pressure of a "real life" situation i.e. restaurants need their weekly orders filled and delivered, market stands need to be filled, customers are waiting for freshly cut herbs, weeds are growing out of control and transplants and seeds need to go in the ground.  There's no orientation week or handbook that preps us on the inner workings of a farm, you drop your stuff off in your little room above the wood shop and dive right in.  One of the rolls I've been wanting more exposure to is...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rhizome Clones: The proliferation of a low bush blueberry plant


One of the most interesting facts I've learned about low bush blueberries is the extension of each plant.  To my surprise, in a 10 acre field there may only be about 10 blueberry plants in total.  Through their wide reaching network of rhizomes, each plant continuously produces thousands of stems underground that sprout up little branches producing the vegetative growth and eventually plump clusters of berries.  Any growth coming from the same set of rhizomes is called a clone. Think about it sort of like an underground tree, there is one main stem that branches off into all these little green leafy plants that eventually produce incredible fruit.

In the 15 acres of fields that we raked and picked blueberries, it was interesting to see how different the berries could taste from different sections.  All different weeds growing, insects and animals inhabiting, all affect the growth and flavor of each berry.  The flavor could range dramtically from sweet to tart, hints of earth etc.  No matter where I've encountered good food or drinks, it is always from a source with incredibly good soil.  Good Food is definitely good dirt.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wild Maine Blueberries: The King of Fruits


The journey continues and after a short stint back home, in Manhattan, I've set sail for coastal Maine, home of wild blueberries and about 80% of America's blueberry production.  While on my way to work at Four Season Farm, home of farmer/writer/lecturer Eliot Coleman and his wife Barbara Damrosch, a twist of fate led me to another farm which happened to be literally next door from Four Season called Blue Sky Farm, a wild blueberry farm run by two incredible people, Costas Christ and his wife Sally.  There I spent two weeks learning and working, picking and processing blueberries.  Maine, an incredible state, which also happens to be home of my first farm travelling experience working with the Seaweed man in 2010.  I had no idea that Maine, or "vacationland" as it is appropriately nicknamed, could offer such breathtaking beauty.  I choose the term breathtaking in-particular because of the way the views and lifestyle force you to stop and stare even of only for one long deep breath. The way I've been describing it is a glimpse into what America once was, treelined, nature full of life everywhere you look, sit, touch, smell, hear and fertility. Endless unobstructed skylines.  I can't tell you the last time I saw a building over two stories.  I'm 30 minutes from the nearest store and it's not really an issue.  Looking up has a completely different meaning out here, instead of admiring the beautiful architectural designs that paint Manhattan's every corner, here it's trees, wildlife, plants of all varieties and gorgeous skies.  I've embarked on another incredibly valuable and awe-inspiring trip through the...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pic of the week


Sail away