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Monday Holiday Hours 12-2pm

You never know what to expect this time of year – depending img_4184on the time of day it can feel like August, October, or worse. That pair of 80 degree days jump-started the tomatoes, watermelon and green beans so they are back on the list. Yes, green beans! I seeded a way-too-late planting of beans hoping (but never expecting) they’d actually produce. We may even get more than one picking out of them before the frost gets them. I scoped out a couple farmers markets today and was surprised to see other farmers had beans for sale. It made me wonder if there are others out there as crazy as I am or if them beans been sitting for a while. A simple trick to test freshness – just-picked beans like you get at Potter Hill have a natural fuzz on them – put them on your shirt and they will stick like Velcro. Unsurprisingly their beans didn’t pass the test.

Three newcomers, pea tendrils, acorn squash, and purple top turnips, join the list, which stands at 24 different items this week. Not too shabby for getting toward the middle of October!

With this fall abundance, I couldn’t justify taking a Monday off, but I am moving the hours up so that anyone still in town can stock up for a BBQ or other delicious feast. Pickup hours are 12-2pm this week. If you can’t make those hours and can’t wait to get your veggies at the last Grafton market on Wednesday, I will happily pack up your order and leave it in the fridge at the farm for you. Just be sure to let me know in the notes or an email.

No extras this week:
-The cheese-makers are taking a break from winning awards to produce their biggest and best yet – their new little human is due very soon.
-You can get Sarah’s chocolates on Wednesday at the market

Ordering Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 7am Monday morning. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 12-2pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

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Transitions

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Well that was a quick change. Last week it was too hot, this week too cold. After 7 years in Mass, you’d think I’d be used to a typical New England fall…erratic, unstable, fickle. We had a very light frost up on the hill Monday morning, and our work-share, Denali, swore he saw snow flakes while we were harvesting for market on Wednesday. The tomatoes may not love our first rainy week of the season – this could be the end of the Great Tomato Harvest of 2016 – but it’s the start of lettuce season. So lettuce give thanks for a flavorful, bountiful tomato season as we transition to rich hearty winter squashes and green leafy things.

Speaking of green things, pea tendrils are back! A delicious snack on their own, chopped into salads or cook them ever so lightly. The celeriac also are sizing up nicely and have been added to the list, joining a million other items we’re harvesting right now.

And then the non-green things. We have meats, cheeses, and chocolates for sale to cancel out all that veggie healthyfullness. That’s right, Monday is the first Monday in October (?!?), meaning Jeff will be coming down with Short Creek’s incredible meats. And after a week off, the cheese is back in stock. I highly recommend their Adelisca cheese on some fresh Potter Hill eggs to get your morning started off right. Or try pairing their award-winning Franciszka cheese on your Potter Hill salad. And last but not least, I have added Anna Banana’s sweets to the online ordering system. Caramel Pretzel Apple…yes please! Please support these awesome farmers too!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

 

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We’re Back!

It’s a strange feeling to take a weekend off during the busy season. I left thinking it might even be good to give the garden a break. I came back wondering what in the world I was thinking. And I was only away for 48 hours!

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We seem to have really hit our stride after a rough summer – the tomatoes and watermelon are still the stars of the show but butternut squash, eating pumpkins, and watermelon radishes (pictured) are new to the list. There will be some acorn and sweet dumpling squash available as well, but only enough so far to make it first come, first serve.

If you’ve been on the sidelines this season for saucing tomatoes, now is the time! Discounts for the red and pink heirloom varieties will be given (but won’t show up in your cart) for 10 ($3.50/lb), 15 ($3/lb), and 20+($2.50/lb) pounds.

No extras this week…the cheese-makers are off winning more cheesy awards (this time at the Big E), and the chocolates have not made it onto the website for ordering yet. See you all Monday!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

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Local Beef Shares Available

imageThere will be no pickup this Monday as I am enjoying a brief and much-needed weekend away from the farm. Jenni’s friend is getting married in NYC – we’re on the train with a (currently) very happy baby. Hopefully she stays that way! It’s unfortunate that it’s this weekend, only because the garden has exploded all of a sudden. We’re still getting tons of summer goodies like watermelon, tomatoes, watermelon, tomatoes, and more watermelon and tomatoes. Today before I left, we delivered 120 pounds of heirloom tomatoes to Anzio’s. I’m not sure what they’re doing with all that flavor, but I’m excited to find out! We also picked a 16 pound watermelon for Tower Hill’s cafe this morning. Gotta love restaurants that actually practice what they preach – a few “seasonal” restaurants wouldn’t even accept the sample produce I tried to bring over!

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In addition to the end of summer abundance, our fall crops have started coming in. I’ve enjoyed sampling the butternut and acorn squashes to see if they’ve reached peak flavor. Expect to see plenty of those at the market on Wednesday. Meanwhile, our greens haven’t looked this good all season, and some late-seeded carrots and beets are sizing up nicely. Now all you need is some meat for a complete Potter Hill meal…

Despite my recent optimism, “challenging” is the one word I’d choose to describe this season. Turns out it’s not easy to take over a farm and have a baby mid-season! I realized early on that I bit off more than I could chew and sold the beef animals that I had just purchased and (mostly) uneventfully transported to the farm. It was a tough decision to make financially, but looking back it was the right one – veggies and Miss Paddy Rose have kept me on my toes this year. Plus, the buyer was a local guy with plenty of farming experience. Many of you know Ken Dion from Community Harvest Project, a former co-worker of mine when I was there. Ken has been taking care of the cattle at Potter Hill the last few months and has finalized beef share details. Shares are available for pickup in October, November and December, and deposits will be accepted until all shares are sold. Inquiries should be sent to him directly at kdionfly@verizon.net.

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Chocolate!

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Is it weird for a farmer to be talking about chocolate? Man cannot live on veggies alone! Many of you know our good friend Sarah, of Anna Banana’s Homemade Goodness. Sarah will be joining the Monday pickup this week with all kinds of goodies – only the caramel apples need to be ordered ahead (it might break our website if we tried to put up all of her crazy creations). You can now get your award-winning cheese*, chocolate, and veggies all in one place. Now if we can only convince the simple folk to sell their bread with us, it’ll be one stop shopping!

It’s become unsurprising to check the weather report and see “near-record temperatures” this season, but hopefully today will be the very last 90 degree of the year. I guess that’s not hoping for too much given that it’s creeping toward mid-September. Most of the garden continues to limp along, especially our previously outrageously productive tomatoes that I’ve been bragging about since July. A few theories on that, one more common, another intriguing, and the third more of the same.

Boring theory #1: We’ve had a few cold nights recently – I even saw 48 degrees one morning! Tomatoes like nights in the 60s, so it’s possible that the loaded, healthy green plants just haven’t been ripening their fruits as quickly. But…the slowdown seems too dramatic. The plants went from overdrive to basically nothing, which makes me wonder about…

Intriguing theory #2: A new friend of the farm stopped by to put in a morning of good honest work. She had noticed that her tomato plants had been dropping brown flowers (future tomatoes) when we had that tremendous heat wave. She researched it (and I verified) and found that tomato blossoms can drop without setting fruit if temps reach 90 degrees for an extended period. Sound familiar? So it would make sense if we hit a lull in the tomatoes, before they start picking back up.

Drought theory #3: We’re in a severe drought…’nuff said!

The shining star is our lower field filled with cantaloupe, winter squash, and watermelons. Yes, we have enough of our incredible watermelon for you to order!! You should see the size of some of those butternut and spaghetti squashes too. The acorn squash will be the first to hit the figurative shelves – maybe even at the market next week. I roasted one up yesterday and it was very good, but not quite ready just yet. I’m not sure where the water came from to make such large and delicious fruits…but it wasn’t from the skies!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

*Get your cheese orders in by 11am Sunday this week

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Rest

There will be no Monday pickup this week for Labor Day. Yes, even farmers need to rest once in a while…at least this farmer needs one this weekend. And more importantly, the garden needs a breather after the driest summer on record, to go along with the hottest August on record. Normally we get somewhere north of 10 inches of rainfall June-August – we haven’t even received half that. It’s a testament to the naturally rich Potter Hill soils, and Jeff’s careful cultivation of it the last 4 years, that anything at the top of the hill is still alive without irrigation.

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We finally enjoyed some relief on Thursday, and the garden sprang back to life almost instantly; the green but fruit and flower-less eggplant, peppers, and green beans put out a nice flush of flowers. It’s quite the site – combined with the thriving buckwheat we planted as a smother crop (and literally alive with honeybees!), and the winter rye/hairy vetch growing faster than a 10 week old baby in the fallow fields, you wouldn’t think we were in a severe drought. Don’t expect a big flush of veggies all at once, but if we do get some more relief from Hermine and the temps rebound, we all might be enjoying the typical Potter Hill September abundance against all odds!

Next week we’ll welcome back our old friends arugula, tatsoi, and radishes and say so long to squash, zucchini, and those lovely big golden potatoes. Monster acorn, spaghetti, and butternut squash are on deck.

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Tomato Time

We progressed pretty quickly from a few tomatoes, to a lot of tomatoes, to time to sauce tomatoes! Unfortunately the drought has followed a similar pattern, despite the bit of rain we got last week. I didn’t even know there was a level up from ‘Severe Drought’ but there are actually two – a good chunk of Massachusetts is now on ‘Extreme Drought’ and we’re right on the border. Let’s hope the 10 day forecast of no appreciable chance of rain is incorrect, otherwise we might just get hit that lest level…’Exceptional Drought’.

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Our tomatoes are the only crop that’s truly loving this dry weather, but there’s still plenty of other Potter Hill organic goodness you can order on our market page. With such little rain, the tomatoes are all flavor – all varieties will be good for making sauce or heirloom tomato soup. (go heavy on the basil, you won’t regret it). We picked 80 pounds of cherry tomatoes in two day – help us eat them all or we’ll have to start pulling up plants! Sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake? Cherry tomato paste anyone? Put them in a single layer in jelly roll pans in the oven and cook at 225 for hours till they are shriveled. Stop there for sun dried tomatoes, or into the blender with a little salt (or not) for paste – from Sarah, everyone’s favorite chocolate maker who will be at the farmer’s market this week. Discounts won’t show up on the website (far too technical for this farmer), but they will be given when you check  out: 10% off for 5 pounds, 15% for 10, and 20% for 20 pounds or more. The same discount applies for cherry tomato pints! 10% off for 5 pints, 15% for 10, and 20% off for 20 or more pints.

After a week hiatus, Couet Farm’s award-winning cheese is back in stock! Franciszka specifically was the big winner, according to the American Cheese Society, but they’re all winners in my book.

Mark your calendars – Jeff will be down with meat next Monday (the 29th) just in time for you to stock up for your Labor Day BBQs.

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. If you’re too busy to choose, you can order a garden bag for only $15 by replying to this email or ordering it online. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

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A Reflection

It certainly has been a challenging year taking over the farm from Jeff. Add a adorable newborn and an endless heatwave to the mix…well, let’s just leave it there, challenging. Fortunately, cousin Natalie was just crazy enough to come east to help us stay above water at home and on the farm. I have no idea what we would have done without her this season. Sadly her time with us is up, as she’s headed back to school on Sunday. She will be missed! Below is a refection on her two months here in Grafton.

Sunset Natalie

Potter Hill Farm has been my home for two months, and now it’s time to say goodbye.  When I think about Potter Hill Farm, I think about the sunsets that look like the sky’s been set on fire.  I think about the frogs that sound like rubber bands being pulled and plucked.  I think about when we let the cows into a field of wildflowers so tall it looked like they were wearing crowns on their heads.  I think about the chickens pecking at the polka-dots on my rain boots.  I think about the barn cat, Ivy, trailing behind us as we harvest for Monday pickup.

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Potter Hill Farm is more than a place, it’s a community of happy animals, fresh veggies, and wonderful people.  I’ve never met a more creative and hardworking person than April, Paul’s right hand man.  And Denali, our weekly volunteer, is an endless source of knowledge and dedication. I once saw a 9 month pregnant Jenni flush out a cow’s wound and treat it diligently just a few days before giving birth.  And there is not a day or night when Paul isn’t trying to make Potter Hill Farm the best it can be for his family and for his customers.

In a time when food is increasingly commercialized and depersonalized, I see Potter Hill Farm as a refreshing change of pace. There’s something about this family and this farm that does more than grow your food.  Paul knows of all his customers by name, and his customers know his baby by name.  We curate veggies with natural sun, water, and care rather than pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals.

If you haven’t already, I would encourage everyone to volunteer an hour or two of their time at the farm—get to know the people and place that grow your food, because, if you see what I see, you’ll find a one of a kind place with one of a kind people.  I might be leaving, but Potter Hill Farm and the memories I’ve made will stay with me forever.

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. Despite the challenges, we have quite the spread of goodies. We may even crack open a watermelon before Natalie leaves to see if they’ve hit peak flavor. Our heirloom tomatoes will knock your socks off – with no rain, the tomatoes are packed full of flavor instead of water. If you’re too busy to choose, you can order a garden bag for only $15 by replying to this email or ordering it online. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

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Worth the Wait

There’s nothing like a just-picked Potter Hill heirloom tomato! IMG_3622You’ve probably seen round red tomatoes for sale at local farmstands for a while now. Though grown in a pot rather than rich soil, hothouse tomatoes are at least picked ripe, so they wouldn’t survive a fall off a semi on the highway…unlike the “fresh-picked” tomatoes in the grocery store! I will admit I’ve bought a couple hothouse tomatoes for burgers, but summer doesn’t officially start for me until I make my first my tomato basil mozzarella sandwich. I made one for my cousin the other day – “easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had”. Our friends at Couet Farm dared me to replace the mozzarella with their Fran de Maquis. Challenge accepted – yum!

On that topic, I can now refer to our ‘friends at Couet’ as our ‘award-winning friends at Couet’. Their Franciszka cheese recently won first place in its category at the American Cheese Society’s 2016 Awards Ceremony. You can now order Franciszka and all their other incredible cheeses for Monday pickups at Potter Hill along with your veggies.

In sadder news, the heat finally caught up with the blueberries and cucumbers. Cucumbers are down for the count, and the blueberries are on vacation for a couple weeks. With the minimal amounts of rain we had, I’ve been busy prepping the garden for fall crops. If we all do a little rain dance, we might be snacking on Potter Hill’s famous frost-sweetened fall carrots after all come November!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday morning. If you’re too busy to choose, order a garden bag for only $15 by replying to this email or ordering it online. We’ll pick all orders fresh Monday morning and have it available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday afternoon right on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Take advantage of this short window of time when the best produce around is grown in Grafton’s backyard!

 

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Relief and a Meatful Monday

Well, a very tiny little bit of relief, but at least it didn’t quite hit 90 today, so I can’t complain. Ok, so maybe just one complaint. What happened to 73 and rain all day!?! Don’t expect a flush of produce all at once, but there is still plenty on the market list for this week. Tomatoes (!!) and beans will be first come, first serve again.

More MatersThe Grady household faced a minor emergency recently…we ran out of Short Creek breakfast sausage last week! In keeping with the trend of having good food come to me, I convinced Jeff to restart his meat deliveries on the first Monday of each month. Fortunately for me and for you, this coming Monday happens to be the first Monday of August. Join me in putting in your order for the best sausages and BACON around. Just like the cheese and blueberries you can now pick up at Potter Hill, all money goes right back to the hardworking farmers who raised the animals AND hand-made each sausage.

Despite the less than hoped for amount of rain, I decided to roll the dice and plant some lettuce that had been waiting for a change of pace from 95 and sunny. Ever the optimist (fool?), I will seed some fall beets, carrots, watermelon radishes, and rutabaga this weekend and hope for the best. What else can I do? The forecast looks decent, though it looked even better yesterday.

We will not be at the market in Douglas tomorrow, so if all you Douglasians need your organic veggies this week, please put in an order for Monday pickup. If you can’t wait, we will be at the Boylston market from 10-1pm on Saturday.

See you Monday!