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Groundhog Day

Happy Father’s Day to all you Fathers out there! I’m taking a break from chasing groundhogs around (second favorite activity only behind chasing chickens) to give you a quick farm update. Everything is growing great…that is covered, unpalatable, or out of reach of groundhogs. It’s become so bad that last week we planted lettuce in the morning and came back after lunch to plant cucumbers. Much to our consternation, the whole lettuce row had already been taken out by those cute, fuzzy, malicious and evil creatures.

I’ve never had much of a problem with them before, but the writing was on the wall – I’ve been trying to coexist with a family of them that lived behind the barn for a couple years now. Well, nature has run its course and it seems they’ve become a bigger, hungrier, evil extended family. Of course my garden butts right up to a hedgerow absolutely infested in poison ivy and rocks galore, so there’s no eliminating their habitat. And I’m too much of a softie to eliminate them, so I’m building Fort Knox up here on the hill. To simply pick a head of lettuce, last count there were 2 fence chargers I had to turn off, 5 fences I had to step over (you can see them if you look closely), and then remove the cover off the lettuce. On the bright side, I have become more limber stepping over tall fences 800 times per day. Down side is that I’m SO over these groundhogs. I just want my gorgeous, uncovered lettuce back!

That said, we have TONS of lovely (covered) lettuce with your name on it. Scallions are new to the list, and are incredible right now – they’re so tall they’re hitting the cover above them, but still as tender as the day they were germinated. Order away and don’t forget the egggggs!

Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

 

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Happy Hens

Happy hens make happy eggs, and a happy (mentally) healthy farmer. Unfortunately, the ladies and I have yet to fully reach that agreement. Chickens aren’t known for their smarts, but I swear we got the extra simple chickens this season. The eggs at least are quite delicious and prolific, it’s just that I have to retrieve them (the eggs and the chickens) from everywhere. Just today, as we were finally putting the wheels on this far too large of a coop, a chicken who was sitting on the perch immediately outside the nest box shot an egg out as we watched (literally while we were thinking ‘she looks like she’s trying to lay an egg, but she would never lay there right?’). Me and 8 chickens chased the egg as I swear it ping-ponged around the coop and started rolling down the hill.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve had a lot of practice catching chickens lately so I beat them to it before they could eat it. Yes, chickens will eat their own eggs (see sentence 3). And that’s just the tip of the chickenberg – if you have a couple hours, come up sometime and ask me how else these ladies have brought me to my knees a few times already. If I had to monetize how much labor and frustration these eggs have been, I would have to charge a million dollars to break even, so they’re a steal at $6/dozen!

Having tamed the older flock almost a year ago now, it took me a while to remember how challenging they are when they first arrive. The good news is they’re pretty much maintenance free at this point, which makes this farmer quite happy!

Along with the million dollar eggs, we have a limited selection of veggies available for purchase. It’s greens season, get them while they’re at their best! The lettuce especially has been incredible. And my apologies for the late notice, but I’ve been chasing chickens!

Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Coming Up For Air

Happy June y’all! Wow, what a few weeks it has been! I mean months. Time flies when you’re having fun, or when you consolidate three months of work into a few weeks. The long, wet end of winter we had seems like a distant memory, but it was only a month ago that I was dying for some sunshine and warm weather. Careful what you ask for…it’s too soon in the season for 90s, let alone half a dozen of them in the last two weeks. Could we get a few weeks of spring before winter starts again!?

Cliff Notes:
Eggs, Meat, and (some) Greens available this Monday from 4-7pm! Plenty of eggs and maybe a few yummy greens from Potter Hill, and pastured meat and handmade sausages available for purchase from Jeff at Short Creek Farm. Veggies and eggs will be first come first served, but you must order your meat by Sunday evening by emailing jeff@shortcreeknh.com

Jenni and Paddy Rose spent the last week in Ohio visiting the family, so I’ve been working sunup to sundown trying to catch up. Literally. And we’ve made great progress, so I’m finally coming up for air…ironically in an urban park in Eastie. Jenni left her laptop and iPad in security on the way out of town, and since lost and found closes at 4 and she’s not getting in till 730, I’ve been forced into some downtime. I consulted with my little brother, a former resident of East Boston on where to go and where to eat. I ended up at this gorgeous park and community garden a stone’s throw from the Mass Pike and two minutes from Logan. I definitely feel like a fish out of water here with my Carhartts and John Deere gear on, but what an oasis this place is! Next up is some good food at my little brother’s favorite hole in the wall. Apparently, you can find good food, and people growing good food, anywhere!

It’s been an up and down start to the season so far, but I think most of the perceived downs are only a result of my lofty expectations for the year. With our heavy, rich soils, we’ve always got a late start. Thanks to my experimental dive into no-till farming, I was in the ground much earlier than last year, though also much later than I was hoping. The first market of the season previously has been a source of stress in terms of what, if anything, I’d have for sale. It’s still a few weeks off and already we have plentiful lettuce, bok choi, swiss chard, kale, radishes, salad turnips, cilantro, spinach (huge beautiful leaves), pea tendrils, and micro greens. And eggs, lots and lots of eggs! Next year I intend to start the pickups regularly by now – this week is just a teaser of what’s to come! 
Check out what Jeff has for sale via this link. While Jenni was gone, I survived almost exclusively on sausage from his farm, combined with our greens and eggs. It’s not a long-term diet I intend to follow, but I ate REALLY well! Looking forward to seeing some of you Monday!

Thanks!!
Paul

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Flip Flop Season

Y’all Massachusettsans are crazy! It eked above 40 degrees today and I spotted the first flip flops of the season on a kid walking home from school. It’s as sure of a sign of spring as the robins that have been invading the hill the past couple days. In fact, I saw my first robin the same day as the snowstorm that never came – clearly they knew something the meteorologists didn’t! I haven’t gone so far as to get my sandals out of storage, but I did take advantage of the beautiful day to work outside and in the greenhouse all day. We’re supposed to get one more cold front coming through (on my birthday of course), and then it’s all 40s and blue skies from there. I haven’t been this excited for 40s since college!

With a lovely white blanket still on the fields, it’s looking like another delayed start to the season. It’s a shame too – with my beds already made from last year, I had lofty plans to seed peas a week ago…but I’m pretty sure they won’t germinate in snow! Regardless, it’s shaping up to be another fantastic year. With the newly minted CSA selling out in 5 days, I’m launching an alternative called a CSA Card that can be used at both the Monday pickups and the Wednesday Grafton Market. I tested it out on a few regulars last season and they loved it, as do I. It’s a super-flexible way to support the farm. The upfront expenses of seeds, supplies, and labor early in the season are steep, while veggies are a labor of love and patience. Without the revenue from pre-selling CSA shares and now CSA Cards, we don’t start earning anything back until the year is half over.

The CSA Card is essentially a gift card that you purchase at the start of the season and then use throughout the season. In return for investing in your health and the farm, you get a bonus added to your card. Plus you make my day, which is all the reward you really need right?

It’s all automated – it uses the same card reader that allows me to take credit card on my phone – so you get receipts emailed to you every time it’s used. And don’t worry, you’ll never forget it because I keep them on a keychain in my cash box. Easy peasy! Questions? Reply to this email. Ready to order? You can choose from the 3 levels ($300, $450, and $600) directly on the website!

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In Like a Lion

Wow, what a couple weeks! 70s in February, 70 MPH winds in March. You never know what’s going to happen next! Actually, I’m looking into the future now and there is delicious, handmade sausage in it. And chocolates? Jeff has clearly been busy in the kitchen as he has 14 different sausages for sale, plus lots of other goodies. As an added bonus, for meat customers only, we will have fresh eggs for sale…assuming the ladies survived this wind!

So, it seems like the CSA was a hit! I was hoping to get 5 people signed up in the first 5 days. How about 35?! And a few people on the wait list to boot. If you think you signed up but haven’t heard back from me, please let me know. CSA checks have started to roll in, just in time to help pay some big early season bills. This morning I put in a $2,500+ supplies order, to go along with over $1,200 in seeds ordered in January, and a $1,500 equipment order last week. The tractor needs to be split (again) and fixed and then comes almost 4 full months of work before we make our first sale in mid-June. Farming certainly is a funny business, so you can see why I’m so appreciative to all who took the leap and joined the CSA!

That CSA boat may have sailed, but fear not, there will be another boat that will launch as soon as I put the finishing touches on it. It will be a “CSA Card” and can be used at our regularly Monday pickups or the Grafton Market on Wednesdays. I did a test run with 5 customers last season, and they loved it! Stay tuned.

I’ve had a hard time adjusting to non-80s weather and not being in the pool with the little one, but fortunately February was quite kind to this wannabe snowbird. March seems like it may have a little more ‘tude, just like my 20 month old (going on 16). I’m itching to get my hands in the dirt, but I’ll have to settle for some potting soil as soon as it arrives next week. Onions will be first to be seeded, with so much more to follow. Can’t wait!

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Dreams of Weeding and Big Announcement

Hey y’all,

We’re back! And not just back in your inbox – we just returned from an epic vacation, our first in 5 years. Jenni had a veterinary conference in Orlando for the first week, while my mom and I chased Paddy Rose around the pool. We then met up with my father-in-law and ventured even farther south to sunny and hot Fort Myers Beach, where we did pretty much nothing but shop at farmers markets, eat delicious home-cooked meals (and lots of fresh citrus), and adore PR constantly. I intended and pretended to do some garden planning, but I gave up after only a couple days. I realized it’ll likely be another five years before we go on another vacation, so I soaked up all the sun and quality time with my girls as I could get. Best decision I’ve made in a long time!

Our last night there, I had a serene dream of weeding the garden. Weeding may not sound too peaceful, but it was preventative weeding rather than emergency weeding – a big difference! I’m a couple of months ahead of last year on all my big winter tasks (seed order, organic certification paperwork, etc), so maybe staying ahead of the weeds won’t be just a dream this year! Perhaps the warm weather inspired it, or maybe it was the anticipation of returning home to the season ahead of us. Either way, it got me wicked excited to get my hands in the dirt and to fill y’alls bags full of delicious organic veggies again!

But I’m not just invading your inbox to gloat about our fun in the sun. Drum roll please…ever since Jeff started Potter Hill Farm 7 years ago, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has been in its future, but the timing hasn’t been right. Now that I’m going into my third year, I feel the time is finally right to add a CSA, and conveniently Friday is National CSA Sign-Up Day!

If you’re unfamiliar with the CSA concept, it is a direct relationship between our farm and you as a customer and community member. The upfront expenses of running a farm are steep, while veggies are a labor of love and patience. CSA members purchase a “share” of the harvest in advance of the growing season. This helps provide the farm with the capital needed early in the year to buy feed, seeds, compost, supplies, and pay for labor. In return, members receive a weekly “share” of the farm’s harvest – fresh, top quality, organic vegetables grown and harvested right here on our farm.

Please consider making a commitment to your health and supporting our farm! You can choose from a small and full-size share, and if you know anything about me, you know it’ll be a you-centric, flexible program. I’m even partnering with a local food blogger for simple ways to use your share. Pickup will be Saturdays (the Monday ordering system won’t change). Details as always can be found on the website. I’d LOVE to get my first 5 sign-ups by Friday, so please share this widely. And as always, reply to this email with any questions you may have. Thank you!

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Wild Weather Week

Happy New Year to you all! A newsletter wasn’t even on my radar, but with weather like this, I can’t pass up writing about my favorite topic. With the current tropical conditions, it seems like that brutal cold stretch is a distant memory. A memory I’d like to wipe clean from my mind. It seemed as if that bomb cyclone detonated right up here on the hill, with the fallout (wind) from the explosion cutting through the walls like butter. As I dreamed of a tin man and munchkins, I felt the house shaking and ready for takeoff. If you think I’m exaggerating, spend a windy night up here sometime. And then multiply that by 100!

Fortunately, the house stayed grounded and the worst inconvenience we endured were on again/off again frozen pipes for a week. Even more fortunately, those pipes only cracked and we don’t (currently) have a puddle in the basement. That, however, will change if we get the predicted 1.5″ of rain tonight on top of the large mounds of melting snow, although I’m much more concerned about what that amount of precipitation will do to our fields, which are still frozen solid. With no where to soak in, that water will run on down the hill with our topsoil along for the ride.

If we extrapolate the weather from the first full week of the year, we’re in for a wild ride in 2018. Indeed, it seems the only thing more erratic than our president right now is the weather. For the record, in this wacky week of records, consider the following;
-it’s currently 23 degrees warmer here than in Houston, TX right now
-Just 5 days ago, we set a record low of -9 degrees
-We just set a record high of 62 degrees today

In case you’ve been wondering what we’ve been up to on the farm besides fretting about the weather, below are some pictures to give you an idea. And planning. Lots of planning. And lots of Paddy Rose. Stay tuned to hear all about our big plans for 2018. And more pictures of PR!

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Encore Harvest

I’ve been hearing your chants of ‘one more week, one more week’ in my head all week. Or maybe it’s just the end of a long season and I’m deliriously hearing voices. Either way, we harvested all day today in preparation for the grand finale to a fine 2017 season. Sweet baby kale, gorgeous gourmet baby carrots, and (almost) unlimited savory spinach, along with some other treats I’m selfishly keeping to myself. But you guys, those carrots…I ate 6 of them after dinner tonight. I’m sure they taste better when you work so hard to get them out of the ground, but they’re the best Potter Hill carrots I’ve ever eaten – and that’s a downright bold statement.

Typically we wait until Monday morning to harvest so that everything is super fresh. However, with the impending snow and cold headed our way, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get anything out of the ground come Monday. And I guess fresh is relative anyway – three day old veggies from the farm is a good two weeks fresher than anything you’ll get in the grocery store.

Including the storage crops still for sale, it’s not a bad haul for the first week of December. Add a high tunnel to the mix next year and we’ll still be in full-swing right up through Christmas and hopefully beyond. Speaking of swings, those lettuce heads from Upswing Farm were a yuge hit and will be back again this week. They will be full-sized heads this week, so order accordingly. Cheese and chocolates are available again as well. Stock up for the holidays!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 10am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Last Call?

Hey y’all – I’m highly confident and somewhat certain that this is definitely, possibly our last week, maybe.  But if it is, what an epic last week it will be! I’m pulling out all the stops to make sure you have a delicious and nutritious start to December to make up for the rest of the month. Are you ready for this? We have:
-LETTUCE is BACK. My friend is (still) killing it over at Upswing Farm in Ashland, and has extra lettuce and kale to go along with our killer spinach. Go green!
-Meats: Have you seen Jeff’s winter setup for his pastured pigs? I know from experience, it’s not easy being that generous to your animals. Despite your best intentions, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. I can guarantee, these are the happiest (and tastiest) pigs in the Northeast. His availability sheet is here – email him directly at info@shortcreeknh.com to order.
Cheese: Award-winning cheese. Enough said.
Chocolates: Sarah has some great new stocking stuffers up (if you can manage not to eat them before Christmas).
-Certified organic, locally grown siracha and salsas (what?!) First come first served, not on our website.
-Apples (conventionally grown) from Foppemas – Excellent dual-purpose Mutsus and Empire apples.
-Oh, and I almost forgot all of our awesome veggies. Carrots, celeriac, squash, beets, onions – all of these will keep until March…stock up before it’s gone!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 10am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Taking Stock and Stocking Up

I keep getting  the question of how much longer we’ll continue with the pickups. Short answer – until we run out of sweet delicious carrots and the rest of the stock of veggies we have stored in April’s basement! My gut tells me it will just be one more week after this one. But then again, the spinach is looking fantastic and we’re actually just about to start harvesting from the next planting (a very late, optimistic “why not” planting). So who knows….does that clear things up? Either way, time to start stocking up!

It’s always hard to pull the plug on a season, but sometimes you get subtle reminders that maybe, just maybe, it’s time. Like Monday, after our big Thanksgiving pickup, I found this in our mailbox – the first seed catalog for 2018! While attempting to keep my mind on the task at hand, I find myself daydreaming about big plans for the future. And what a great question on the front – certainly an off-season newsletter subject! Short answer…I grow for the cutie pictured above with the huge grin on her face while eating a carrot almost as big as she is that I pulled from the clean organic dirt a few minutes prior which wasn’t sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or any other type of ‘cides. Why do you grow?

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.