Posted on

Wet, Wetter, WETTEST

As they say in sports, records are made to be broken. I really hope the one we set this season isn’t though…at least not while I’m still farming. The Boston Globe confirmed what I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen – that this rain was unprecedented. In fact, in records dating back to 1890 (gotta love New England), this was the wettest fall on record. And that was before the 1.5″ of rain last week, and with 20 days left of fall, technically. Here’s another good article this rain obsessed farmer somehow missed at the start of November. Highlights: from 9/1 to 11/6, it rained on 30 days v 8 days with clear skies. And since 9/1, we had 2 stretches (in 3 months!) where it did not rain for 3 straight days.

Ironically, seeing it in writing has buoyed me somewhat. I’ve lived in New England for only 9 years now, but my gut said this fall was NOT normal. I can now go confidently into next season knowing this will not happen again, at least not for a while. Even with the erratic weather we are facing thanks to climate change, the odds of a repeat of this season are minuscule. Which is good because this season sure had me thinking about the future and the sustainability of Potter Hill Farm and small scale farming in general.

Potter Hill is magical on a nice day, especially in the fall. But farming up here is not for the uninspired. I felt like I was fighting nature this whole season instead of working with it. Farming a north facing slope with clay just under the topsoil is challenging (wet) enough in a dry year. Try farming with three times the normal precipitation! And the reward? It needs to be more than the intangibles of working the land at some point. This was supposed to be the year the farm finally made some money for our family. I has some serious temptations to be a stay at home dad after the season ended – I would make about the same and work about 90 hours less per week, depending on your definition of work!

But I’m about as stubborn as they come, which is probably a necessity to be a farmer. So you’re stuck reading my rants for at least another season. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year!

If you read this far, your reward is that we have just enough left to justify another pickup. If you can believe it, lettuce (double covered) and a few other greens survived 8 degrees. Plus we have some roots left, and a number of salsas and sirachas as well, which make an easy and delicious gift at a holiday party. Everything is limited on the website. And sorry, no eggs! I sold the last of the ladies the day before Thanksgiving.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am 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.
Posted on

Perfect Storm

Well that was a fitting end to the season huh? Another epic rain followed by a 19 degree night followed by a high of 30 and heavy wet snow in the evening, turning to rain overnight just to add a little more heft to the already heavy snow. I have to admit, the forecasters were spot on, so I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I just couldn’t do anything about it from the hospital where baby Nora spent a few nights with a bad respiratory illness (getting better everyday). We finally got home with an hour of daylight to spare before the big freeze, and we spent most of it moving the chickens into their winter quarters. I had hopes the next day of removing the row covers from our plants before the wet snow ruined them, but it never got above freezing and the covers remained frozen to the ground from all the rain earlier in the week. So instead of a nice insulating layer of snow falling around the plants, it collapsed the covers and flattened everything green. Long story short, this miserable season’s over folks! And all I’m left with is shredded row covers, squashed plants, and 8″ of water in my basement.

That said, we are doing one more pickup on Monday as we still have some delicious roots for sale. There’s an off chance there will be some greens as well – all dependent on if the row covers are frozen to the ground and how squashed the greens are underneath (they will first come first serve, not available on the website). Jeff will be coming down with the most delicious pastured pork you’ll ever taste. Check out what he has available here and stock up for the holidays by emailing him your order via info@shortcreeknh.com. My mother-in-law made a killer butt roast from him, which went great with our fall roots. Really I just wanted to say butt roast.

On the bright side, I spent all night worrying about how the high tunnel would hold up to its first big Potter Hill winter storm. I chose the “Nor’easter” high tunnel version for a reason, and it lived up to its name. I went out with my roof rake to find it had shed all that heavy wet snow on its own, and the too small but gorgeous greens inside had no idea what was happening to their poor brethren outside. It was a dry, balmy 40 degrees in there overnight.

I know this is the time for being thankful, and I do have a lot to be thankful for. Like a rockstar momma for a wife, two wonderful and (now) healthy  daughters, the bestest customers ever (thank you for all the encouragement!) and so many fantastic new customers from my first ever CSA, which went as well as anything could this season. And yet, what a tough year. I thought starting a farm the same year we had our first child during a record-smashing drought would be as hard as it got. That was a walk in the park compared to this year. It sure has me thinking about the sustainability of Potter Hill Farm, and small scale farming in general. But that’s a topic for another day!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am 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.
Posted on

Fall Colors

We have some beautiful fall colors around the farm, but you’re not going to find them outside anymore – peak peeper season lasted all of maybe one afternoon up on the hill. One tree up here in particular is typically magical this time of year – a mighty maple that’s probably as old as our 248 year old farm house. Or perhaps it’s the offspring of the trees felled to construct this house in 1770. Either way, one of the many monsoons paired with one of the many wind storms we’ve had this past month took down all the leaves overnight…before I even had a chance to take a picture of it in all its glory (picture above from last year).

Instead you can find a little bit of fall when you cut open our roots. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and beets team up to delight your eyes and palate. And don’t forget the celeriac – the ugliest, best vegetable you’ve never tried. Unfortunately pretty much everything is limited at this point, other than potatoes and onions – the only things out of the ground before the faucet was turned (and left) on! But it’s hard to beat fresh things in mid-November.

I almost got through a whole newsletter without giving you a weather report. But how can I not complain when there’s another storm beating down our beleaguered veggies? At least the wind isn’t howling….I guess (Jenni says I need to be more optimistic or y’all will think I’m continually depressed). Why does it seem like we’re always having an epic storm when I write this newsletter? Oh right, because we have multiple epic storms per week so the odds are good. It was like a fellow Grafton Market vendor lamenting the rain just about every Wednesday – other vendors who did multiple markets piped in that our market wasn’t the only one this season constantly under the threat of rain. Oh well, guess it’s just one of those seasons. You know, the type of season when it rains every flipping day from July-November. If any weather junkies out there can point me to a good resource or article on rainfall amounts v average for our area, I’d love to see it!

Thanks for making it this far. Yes, Monday is a holiday and yes we’ll still have the pickup, but I’m going to shave an hour off – so it’s 4-6pm on Monday. As always, if you can’t make it by 6, I can pack up your order…just let me know. It’s going to get pretty cold this weekend – as long as it doesn’t get toooo cooooold, I’m pretty confident we’ll have what is available on the website, and then some. We spent today tucking in all the stuff worth covering. The hardy stock still out there should handle 25 degrees but no guarantees if it drops much below that.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-6pm 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.
Posted on

Worth Thousands of Words

Sorry folks, with yet another monsoon currently inundating our fields (I can literally hear cats and dogs falling outside), I’m going to try again with a week off so no pickup this week. After my last email begging for a day off, I woke up to headless chicken bodies scattered everywhere and a truck that wouldn’t start and in need of towing. Not much of a day off! Maybe I’m just destined to never have a day off…we’ll see come Monday.

Pictures are going to do all the talking this week because Jenni and I are running on very little sleep right now. In fact, I made Pat order me around while moving chickens the other day because my brain stopped computing. Paddy Rose was up a million times a few nights ago, and when she finally stopped waking up, Nora started carrying on. They’re conspiring against us already!!

Captions:
1: My baby being towed away (don’t worry it’s back now).
2. Something got into the chicken pen Sunday morning and it wasn’t the sweet unicorn (3) in the next picture. Sorry for the graphic picture, but farming is rough sometimes. I only found 6 bodies, so it could have been (or maybe was) worse. If this inspires you to keep chickens, please let me know as I am selling the survivors. I do this every year – we don’t have a very hospitable location for chickens up on the hill in the winter.
4. We planted the last of the high tunnel seedlings and tightened up some gaps on Thursday. It’s probably too late to get much out of it, but as another farmer told me, at least now I’ll know when too late is. In case you’re wondering, in the tunnel we planted lettuce, spinach, kale, bok choi, salad turnips, mustard greens, swiss chard, tokyo bekana, tatsoi, cilantro, and vitamin green. Ambitious, optimistic…and likely foolish!
5 and 6: Some greens like parsley and lettuce are still going strong despite everything. I JUST realized maybe nature is telling us not so subtlety what we should be eating…but only if you stop and think about it. Parsley especially. I’ve been continually more impressed by how the parsley is doing as it thrives while everything around it dies. But I didn’t have one bunch of it last month! Must be the sleep deprivation. How much more obvious can it get? Want to be disease free, pest free, and practically indestructible? Eat mor chikin parsly…you are what you eat right? It’s going to be one of my missions next year to inspire a parsley craze.

See you in a week!

Posted on

Boo!

Just in time for Halloween, a gusty nor’easter monsoon timed with frozen ground from a super cold night. At least it wasn’t snow? I dunno, it might have been better for the veggies. In the grand scheme of this year, we really didn’t get a massive amount of rain. It made me wonder why the garden was in such rough shape (underwater) in my brief excursion outside to collect eggs…until I realized the ground must still be partially frozen and there’s no where for the water to go. Either that or the ground is still just fully saturated. It will be interesting to see what survives – sorry, I’m not putting on my waders for a harvest on Monday so there will be no pickup tomorrow!

Plus I need a reprieve! It’s amazing, I can go non-stop all season long and then we hit a week of no sleep and suddenly it’s exhausting just to type this newsletter. I guess it doesn’t help that it’s approaching midnight after a LONG day. I will keep you posted on next Monday – fingers crossed the weather actually looks pretty decent so we could have a good spread if the veggies survived the onslaught. The lettuce especially has been looking great!

 

Posted on

Hot and Cold

Things are getting spicy up here on the hill. We harvested a boatload of hot peppers ahead of the frost. Hot sauce is in your future! If you don’t have time to make it yourself, I bought a bunch of organic, naturally fermented salsa and siracha sauce from an innovative and rockstar farm in Sunderland, MA. Yes, ORGANIC FERMENTED SIRACHA! I brought some in last year and it was a big hit – I ran out of my personal stash a couple months ago and have been dying for this season’s batch to come out. Scroll to the bottom of the ordering page to find them.

The cold wind kept me inside Thursday, so I didn’t assess the damage from the cold night(s) till Friday. I’m not sure which night was the silent killer but it took out all of the tomatoes and eggplant, which honestly were circling the drain anyway. We spent all day Wednesday picking ahead of the cold – in hindsight, there was some precious last tidbits of summer that I could have saved. Coulda woulda shoulda. There was a surprising amount of peppers (mostly green, lots of hots) and eggplant left out there. If any of you are lucky enough to get the limited eggplant on Monday, here’s our go-to eggplant recipe worth it’s weight in gold, courtesy of a wise farmer up north…from back in 2013 when Potter Hill Farm was about as old as baby Nora.

Speaking of who, I was on Nora duty while writing this – my first time alone with her and she snoozed the whole time. She’s definitely a different baby from Paddy Rose so far, though it has only been a week. A seemingly very long week – she’s so seamlessly integrated into the family that I feel she’s been with us much longer! Paddy Rose has had lots of emotions but in true big sister fashion, she has directed nothing but love and kisses toward Nora and plenty of stubbornness and terror at her parents. Just kidding. Sort of.

Lots of great greens going strong still, especially in the lettuce department. A couple new items too, but you’ll have to check the list to find out what!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am 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.
Frosty
Posted on

New Arrival

Baby Nora finally arrived on Tuesday, so this update is going to be light on content and heavy on adorable pictures. We returned from the hospital Thursday just in time for another deluge. Glass half full take…at least I’m not farming down in North Carolina! But still…downright demoralizing. I got a chance to tour the garden before it started and it was finally drying out and looking really good. Now it’s a mud pit!

Mom, dad, baby and big sister are all doing well. Looking forward to telling Nora’s tale sometime, it’s a good one. Long story short, we left the house for the hospital at 6am Tuesday and she was born at 6:47am Tuesday (IN the hospital fortunately). Nora is very squeaky and delightful and Paddy Rose is ecstatic (for now) to have a little sister.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am 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.
Posted on

Foraging

First off, just some quick housekeeping. With the quasi-holiday on Monday, I am shaving an hour off the end of the pickup so it’ll be 4-6pm. If you can’t make it until after 6, no problem – just let me know and I will bag it up for you.

My apologies that you’ve heard a lot of complaints from me lately. Fortunately you’ve caught me in a good mood today! I get rejuvenated via really delicious, fresh food and I’ve had some amazing food this week. Thursday started out with scrambled eggs, broccoli leaves, scallions, and savory for breakfast. Snack was some foraged autumn olives and lunch was supplemented with the 3 pound hen of the woods mushroom Pat and I found on a little foraging walk we took through the woods. If we can find another gem like the one below, I will put it on the list this week or next. It’s so good I want to horde it all for myself and share it with you all because I want you to experience its deliciousness. Apparently it was a really productive foraging adventure, so Pat says I shouldn’t get used to it.

To boot, Pat and I knocked a few things off the to-do list that have been there far too long. Like finally moving the hens down to next year’s garden location in a gorgeous patch of oats and peas to forage on! Better late than never I guess. And digging this ditch in the high tunnel…which is a bit of a ridiculous concept since the whole idea behind a tunnel is to mitigate mother nature’s mood swings. What was left out of that equation is that we’re on a slope so all that water above was just running down the saturated pasture and right through where I was hoping to plant. We dug that ditch on Thursday morning and by Friday evening, water was still running the length of the tunnel and out the far end (not a long-term solution – any environmental engineers out there!?) even though it hasn’t rained since Tuesday. If it ever dries out, I have over a thousand seedlings ready to go in the ground that could feed us for the next couple months! I’m hoping this does the trick because the window for planting is closing fast. Some may say it closed a month ago!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-6pm 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.

Posted on

Mercy

So I’ve decided I’m just growing rice next year. How’s that for a business plan?! 35 acres of rice paddies. Overreaction? Maybe, but I can’t tell you how difficult it’s been to continue to slog through this season. The beautiful days like Thursday are negated by the fact that half of the garden is reachable only by boat. We got our monthly average of rain on one day this week! And then it poured the next night, and more rain today. Demoralizing…mercy!

Misery loves company so I’m at least comforted in talking with my fellow farmers. One farmer I commiserated with is losing all his winter squash in storage to a lovely disease that we fortunately don’t have on our farm, and had 1,500 broccoli plants wiped out by groundhogs. To give you some perspective on the size of his farm, he has 40 acres of sweet corn (to my oneish acre total) and his family started the farm the year I was born. Another CSA farm I know told me they’ve been supplementing their CSA with veggies from local farms all season long and they’ve had an established CSA for years. So I guess I should feel lucky – I don’t have phythophora, all my broccoli plants are in tact (because they’re covered), and I haven’t bought in any veggies to fill out the spread, though that’s certainly in the near future. Honestly, I can’t believe anything’s still out there, but there are some parts of the garden that look great…as I float by on my makeshift raft dreaming of rice. Thanks y’all for your support this season. And let me know what you think about a rice CSA 🙂

On the brighter side of things, my high tunnel is getting “skinned” Sunday morning if the weather cooperates…although at every turn something has gone wrong so who knows. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Because I will be working about 46 of the 48 hours this weekend, I’m limiting the list for Monday’s pickup. Still lots of great stuff though!

PS: Just so you know I’m not romanticizing prior years, I just stumbled across this picture labeled “Late October Tomatoes” a month later than today but two years ago (my first year running the farm by myself). Looks like more tomatoes than we picked in all of September this year in one day in late October!

Posted on

Out to Lunch

I was feeling pretty down about the season on Tuesday night as I was sitting down to make the harvest list for the Grafton Farmers Market on Wednesday. And then I actually made the list and realized it is indeed the season of abundance…just not the abundance of mid-September I’m used to (ie bucket loads of tomatoes). The tomatoes may be circling the drain but our greens and roots game is out of control…and that spicy mix! I happen to be on the farmers market committee and we were making a BIG push for a BIG day since the weather finally looked clear. Kids activities, yoga on the common, and a food truck! I decided to go crazy hoping for a killer turnout and brought bucket loads of veggies

Unfortunately Grafton was out to lunch or something because no one turniped. Literally I didn’t sell one bunch of gorgeous salad turnips! And I ended up with more than half of my spicy mix bags – do you know how much work it is to triple wash, dry, and bag that deliciousness? Fortunately, there is a new restaurant in town that took most of my leftovers. Have you been to Reunion yet? The chef told me they’ve been overrun every night going on a month now and they haven’t even advertised they’re open yet because their kitchen is still at half capacity. And I was able to sell the rest of my leftovers to my awesome neighbors and a few friends.
The Grafton market had been pretty solid up until Wednesday, but it sure let me down on our biggest day of the season. Moral of the story: it made me realize how amazing you all are that I know you will show up whether the weather is awful or mild like it’s going to be on Monday. Your support is highly appreciated.
Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures:
Put your veggie orders in online before 6am 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.