Irrigation manager is on the move

Despite the past two days of passing showers, May has been an incredibly hot dry month on the farm. We are lucky to have a robust irrigation system that we have established over the years, but that system doesn’t function without the work of an irrigation manager. That person this season is Justin Seelaus, and he’s had a busy month with extremely hot temperatures and a lack of rain.

The average rainfall for our area for May is around 4 inches. So far we have received a little less than an inch this month- and that was all in one day. Despite the steady supply of water provided to them since transplant, spring crops are certainly suffering due to the extreme heat. Our sugar snap peas are looking pretty pitiful, despite the attention we have lavished on them over the past month. However, the heat-loving cucumbers and summer squash and tomatoes are growing in leaps and bounds.

This time of year is the peak of transplanting for the season- Justin must hustle to keep the baby plants watered when they are their most vulnerable. And with every new planting, a new field gets added to the irrigation schedule. After an initial soaking in, the goal is to water everything two times a week, for at least 2 hours at a time. This mimics about a half inch of rainfall with each watering.

Justin hooks up drip irrigation on the greenhouse heirloom tomatoes.

Justin hooks up drip irrigation on the greenhouse heirloom tomatoes as the crew transplants them into the ground.

“One of the things I really love about being irrigation manager, is knowing I have a direct correlation with the plant success (or doom!) and seeing noticeable growth from day to day, especially in crops like cucumbers and summer squash. ” Justin’s job takes him around the farm on a daily basis. “I get to walk the fields almost everyday, I have an intimate connection with each bed and each crop.”

The majority of our crops are watered with drip irrigation, though we still do a fair share with overhead irrigation, which is delivered through above ground pipes and sprinkler heads. Overhead is used on bare ground crops like potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes and turnips. We use sprinkler heads called the R2000 Windfighters- aptly named because they actually function better with a little wind, critical on the hill tops of Blooming Glen.

From a water conservation standpoint the value of the drip tape cannot be underestimated. Buried a few inches underground, and then covered by the black mulch, the drip allows us to use less water to achieve the results we need.

On the left is a field of potatoes on bare ground, irrigated with overhead sprinklers. On the right is a field of potatoes planted on black plastic mulch, irrigated with drip, and covered with row covers.

On the left is a field of potatoes on bare ground, irrigated with overhead sprinklers. On the right is a field of potatoes planted on black plastic mulch, irrigated with drip, and covered with row covers. Notice the size difference of the plants.

Each bed, depending on the crop, gets one or two lines of drip. Cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and melons, 1 line; fennel, kale, and onions, 2 lines. So far this season we have laid 16 rolls of drip tape- that’s close to 23 miles of drip irrigation bringing life sustaining water to our plants that Justin has to monitor and repair if needed.

You may spot Justin cruising the farm on the orange ATV we call “The Shark”, one of the perks of the job. This Del Val grad is constantly on the go, turning water on and off in various fields, accompanied by his bucket of parts- connectors, end plugs, tools to build the manifold, knife, screwdriver, cordless drill, pvc fittings, pressure regulators and pressure gauges.

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

The drip lines are laid by the tractor drawn implement, but they all come together out of the fields into a manifold that Justin builds, and each manifold gets a pressure regulator. The drip lines function best at 12 psi, but the well is set at 50 psi, the optimum pressure to run our Windfighter sprinkler heads. Pressure regulators are used to bring the pressure down to keep from blowing the drip lines out.

Even though the drip lines are buried a few inches in the soil, they can still get holes in them during the transplanting process. A certain amount of Justin’s time is spent repairing leaks. The biggest culprit, besides tractors running over the manifolds, is driving in stakes for trellised crops, of which we have about 2 acres. This activity can quickly make swiss cheese out of the drip lines if the crew isn’t careful.

Another crucial job of the irrigation manager is fertigating, which is running fertilizer through the drip irrigation system. Right now Justin has been fertigating the strawberries with a certified organic fertilizer that contains seaweed, calcium, and other vital nutrients that aid in bloom. We also utilize a fish and kelp blend to provide support to the growth of our leafy green crops.

According to Justin one of the biggest challenges of the job is finding the sweet spot where you are running as much water as you can without overburdening the system to the point where it loses efficiency. “It’s something I have learned by observing pressure changes in the lines as more water is turned on.”

Justin makes weekly and now daily maps to plan out his irrigation schedule.

Justin makes weekly and now daily maps to plan out his irrigation schedule.

The ground is still a bit damp from the rain we had a few days ago, but soon enough Justin will be heading out to hook up the drip lines on the newly planted field of sweet peppers, juggling his daily water schedule between the regular farm jobs like harvesting and weeding, and heading home at the end of the day to empty his pockets of all the miscellaneous drip connectors he’s accumulated over the day.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

Posted in On The Farm

It’s been slow growing…but winter is finally on its way out!

The only thing predictable about spring in southeastern Pennsylvania is how unpredictable spring is in southeastern Pennsylvania. Last year was wet and rainy, this year winter just doesn’t seem to want to let go. We’re farmers so it goes without saying we are pretty in tune with the weather (ok, some might say obsessive, but hey, we’re like sailors over here- this land is our sea).

Spring morning over Blooming Glen and the rising heat off the compost piles.

Spring morning over Blooming Glen and the rising heat off the compost piles.

By April the greenhouses are brimming full with rootbound plant starts and we’re sick of the weekly propane deliveries. We’re down to the last of our canned tomatoes, and we’re eager to move through the pages of our planting chart that we labored over during the “off season”. We start scanning for the annual patterns and signs that hint at winters swan song- the first sound of the spring peepers (check), the nesting of the killdeers (definitely), the blooming of the daffodils (late!), the warbling song of the red winged blackbird (still waiting). The dandelions, which I like to imagine are winter’s white flags waving in surrender, typically coincide with our potato planting. Not this year.  They finally reared their sunny heads in the last few days, weeks past when our spuds hit the ground.

Freezing temperatures at the end of last week had us scrambling to unroll our giant row covers and protect the field crops from lows in the upper 20s. Then the constant onslaught of wind has us tacking that very same row cover back on at least every other day.

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We’re not complaining (well at least not too much). We are super thankful for the long stretches of dry weather, which enabled us to till, make beds and plant, plant, plant. Over the past three weeks we have been able to get a ton of crops in the ground, and we’re still going strong. However, due to all those cold windy days, those plants aren’t doing a heck of a lot of growing. Today was the first truly beautiful warm day, and the wind on our hill top died down quite a bit. What a relief! What a day!

So what have we managed to plant out in the fields over the past three weeks?? Lots! We planted 3,000 pounds of potato seed, 5 plantings of lettuce, spring onions, red onions, shallots, bok choy, radicchio, escarole, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard, arugula, spinach, turnips, radishes, beets, field tomatoes, flowers, and sugar snap peas.

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas

The overwintered strawberry plants are just starting to bulk up, and the garlic has pushed through its straw blanket in neat tight rows of green.

Field of garlic

Field of garlic

We’ve pre-sprouted the ginger seed from Kauai. We’ve grafted the heirloom tomatoes and prepped the greenhouses (including reskinning the wind damaged one).

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Grafted heirloom tomatoes; skinning their future home (yes that’s a hot air balloon in the background!)

It’s a steady merry-go-round of plants from the heated greenhouse, to the coldframe to harden off, and than off to the fields where they’ll grow until harvest time. And just as soon as we make space in our propagation greenhouse, Jenna quickly fills it back up with her weekly seeding of more flats. While we’re planting spring and summer outside, she’s always a few months ahead inside- seeding late summer crops like watermelon, peppers, corn and winter squash, making sure we have a steady supply of plants to go into the fields.

The greening of the greenhouses from March to April.

The greening of the greenhouses from March to April.

On a side note we have an awesome crew this year- I hope you get to meet them all when you come to the farm, or at least see their smiling faces- so positive and upbeat and hard working- some new faces as well as a lot of familiar folks that have been with us two, three, even four seasons.

Lexi learns to drive the cultivating tractor.

Lexi learns to drive the cultivating tractor.

Everyone is finding their groove, learning new skills, and excited to be here growing food for ourselves and our community. We are looking forward to the first of the farmers markets this weekend- we won’t have a ton quite yet, but we’ll be representing with a few things like broccoli raab, overwintered leeks and hakurei turnips! And soon enough the bounty will come.

The on-farm CSA pick-ups will start the first week of June: Tuesday June 2nd and Thursday June 4th (hopefully just as those luscious strawberries are ripening). Registration is still open and available for on-farm pick-ups as well as for the delivery share to CrossFit Summa in Doylestown and Congregation Beth El in Yardley. Those delivery shares will start Wednesday June 10th. More details and registration for all these pick-ups can be found on our website. And lastly, we’re having fun posting these photos and more on Instagram (search bloomingglenfarm), yet another way for you to follow the progress of your food from field to fork!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

Posted in On The Farm

Move over March madness, April fever is here!

Stop and go, wait and sprint. That’s April on a vegetable farm. Warm and windy weather means drier soils, and drier soils means tillable ground. If we can till, we can plant! At least until it rains again. That window of opportunity may close again soon- so we race to take advantage.

Tilling and Transplanting

Stop! The tractor got a flat, the irrigation system sprung a leak, the part we ordered to fix the tractor that hills the potatoes has a hole in it. Reshuffle. Come up with a new play. Go! Plant a field of potatoes by hand, take soil samples, decide what fertilizers and amendments to buy. Stop! The wind has torn the greenhouse plastic loose. Go! Repair the broken side! The tomato seedlings are big enough- start grafting. The soil is dry enough- start planting!

Justin coats potatoes with beneficial mycorrhizae before planting.

Potatoes being coated with beneficial mycorrhizae before planting.

Do our CSA members know that spring is here?! The cold weather had us all fooled, but our planning is done and planting has begun. Do you know why we need you now, before the crops are in? So many expenses before harvest- tools and repairs and supplies and payroll, so much planning and planting until we pick that first radish, that first tomato, that first watermelon.

Row cover protects a field of spring greens from wind and cold weather.

Row cover protects a field of spring greens from wind and cold weather.

Has it hit us yet that there is a water crisis in California, the mecca of agriculture in the United States? There is no better time than now to support your local farm. Does our community of eaters know the real costs in growing food, the difficulties in paying a competitive living wage to farm workers, the challenge of keeping hard working idealistic young people on the land? Input costs have risen, but the prices of food have not. Join us on our farm journey. Follow our blog, join our CSA (if you haven’t yet) and walk a mile, or 12, in a farmer’s boots.

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So many choices: CSAs, farmers markets, road stands, chain grocery stores, health food stores, your backyard. Even after 10 years growing our farm, CSAs still strike me as radical, as thinking outside of the box. CSAs are unconventional, they are a shake-up of the current system. They are you, an eater, voting with your local food dollars. You are making that early season commitment, a handshake agreement in a world of legalese. You are saying loud and clear, I will support you, this farm, from seed to harvest. I will look outside at the brown and barren winterscape and envision spring and bounty and fresh vegetables to come. I will eat the food you grow. I will help you buy your seeds and pay your farmers for their labor of love. I will support you so you can make choices that nurture the soil, choices that nurture this community, this land. And then after all the planting, weeding and watering and tending, we will feast!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three on the piece of red earth that is Blooming Glen Farm.

Posted in On The Farm

Here comes the sun…

Did you know that every day in February we gain 2.3 minutes of daylight? It is true that the below normal temperatures we’ve been experiencing this month make it hard to get outside and enjoy that extra sunlight. Typically the month of February hits the mid to upper 40s. No need to mention the single digits and negative wind chills we’ve all been experiencing. It may be colder than normal, but every day it is getting a little lighter as we get closer to the Spring Equinox on March 20. Over the course of February, the day length is steadily increasing. From the start to the end of the month, we gain 1 hour and 7 minutes of daylight.

 

Jenna

Spring will come, I promise! It does every year without fail. Despite the freezing temps, here at Blooming Glen Farm we have the heated greenhouse fired up, and seed by seed we are preparing for the season ahead. Our propagation greenhouse manager Jenna can make quick work using a vacuum seeder- averaging about 30-40 flats per hour depending on the seed size.

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Tomatoes, swiss chard and onions have germinated. Seeded and patiently waiting on the heated bench are kale, parsley, cabbage, kohlrabi, shallots, scallions, lettuce, escarole, radicchio and more.

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Every year foodie magazines and restaurant organizations post their food trend predictions. Though beards, trucker caps and carrhart pants may be “in”, we don’t consider ourselves the trend setting sort. Yet one trend everyone agrees will continue its uphill climb is interest in local organic produce. Good thing too, because I doubt we’ll jump on some of their other trend forecasts, like insects (ant guacamole anyone?) or ramen noodles. Butter is back- though I can’t say it ever left our house. Maybe it’s the guilt that’s on its way out (ditch that margarine, mom!). And it may come as no surprise to anyone that the interest in local has grown to include grains, beers and meat. And if I may add my own non-food prediction- that growing interest definitely includes local flowers.

One trend we have seriously bumped up against this winter is kale. You may not know but there is quite a kale seed shortage, thanks to the increase in popularity of baby kale and kale sprouts. Seed suppliers just cannot keep up with the demand from growers. Thankfully Tom has a good relationship with our local seed rep, and got early word of the shortage, so we are all stocked up. Have no fear- we will be growing plenty of kale this year (and sticking with full size).

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic produce, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three here on the piece of red earth that is Blooming Glen Farm.

Posted in On The Farm

California: Farming in a desert

Like many of you, in the colder winter months when our farm coffers start to run dry we head to the grocery store for our fresh produce. With the exception of kale which we have in our greenhouses, we go on a greens hunt, searching out head lettuce and spinach, and carrots amongst other offerings. Besides Lady Moon Farms in Florida, the shelves are overwhelmingly stocked with produce shipped in from California.

California, the sunshine state, the land of palm trees, surfers, and epic landscapes. What do your Pennsylvania farmers do in the winter? Follow the sun west of course, for a two week road trip from San Fran to San Diego. We embarked on a journey to see good friends, feel a bit of warm sunshine on our skin, and expose our 9-year old to a variety of landscapes from the coastal tide pools of the pacific coast, to the towering redwoods, to the otherworldly boulders and desert fauna of the Mojave. But no trip to California by two curious east coast farmers would be complete without a look at the epicenter of vegetable production in the United States. On our journey through the state we were awed by the scale of the farms and shocked by the unsustainability of a system of farming in a barren desert, where water is a precious and rapidly dwindling resource.

As we headed south from San Francisco we detoured inland through parts of the Salinas Valley. In Castroville, the “artichoke capital of the world”, we hopped out of the car to photograph the artichokes, only to leap back as a low flying helicopter aerial spraying buzzed overhead.

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Artichokes in Castroville, Ca.

Under the hazy sun, we observed endless acres of irrigation pipes, feeding fields and fields of brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and of course, artichokes. In the summer, the fields of Salinas Valley are full of salad greens, but this time of year they are mainly planted into strawberries as far as the eye can see, which will winter over into spring. The lettuce production moves south for the winter to Coachella Valley, the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona.

Thousands of acres of almonds trees in the Central Valley.

Thousands of acres of almonds trees.

Midway through the trip we drove from a little town on the pacific coast north of LA, inland toward Joshua Tree, located east of San Diego, near Arizona. We passed south of Bakersfield through the Central Valley where 850,000 acres of almond trees grow, along with wine and table grapes, pistachios, and pomegranates. The farther inland we drone, the dryer and less green the landscape became. The soil was as sandy and barren as the desert we were approaching, the trees were dormant, the irrigation canals dry. Land that was once farmed in cotton has now been converted to orchards, the trees seen as easier to manage. However the lack of water is causing unprecedented problems. Many farmers are being paid by the acre not to farm, so the water they would normally use can flow west to the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles and its ever growing population.

Garlic in the Imperial Valley fed by a series of irrigation ditches and tubing.

Garlic in the Imperial Valley fed by a series of irrigation ditches and tubing.

After a few days exploring Joshua Tree we were back on the road, heading to San Diego through the Imperial Valley, the “wintertime salad bowl of America.” Here’s where it got interesting. Early settlers saw this valley as a land of fertile soil, lacking only in irrigation water to make the desert bloom. In 1905, torrential rainfall in the American Southwest caused the Colorado River to flood; including canals that had been built in the late 1800’s to irrigate the Imperial Valley. Since the valley is partially below sea level, the waters never fully receded, but collected in the eerily blue Salton Sea, the world’s only artificial inland sea. This sea serves as an important stop on the path of migratory birds, and also helped to create the micro climate favorable to year round agricultural production.

Irrigated spinach fields in the Imperial Valley.

Irrigated spinach fields in the Imperial Valley.

Under pressure the US government built the Hoover Dam to control the river and to protect the productive farmland that was seen as a respite from the dustbowls of the Midwest. After decades of construction, the dam allows the Colorado River to now provide consistent water flow to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland. After river silt is removed in giant basins, the water flows out in 3 major canals. One of these canals, the 80 mile All-American canal, flows to the Imperial Valley and then on to the Coachella Valley. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water through miles and miles of canals, ditches and irrigation tubing keep onions, lettuce, cauliflower, garlic, spinach, carrots, and more growing. Acres of dates, and truck after truck loaded with lemons flew by our car window. 80% of the nation’s winter produce is grown in the Imperial Valley and is all fed by the Colorado River. That is a staggering thought.

Acres and acres of head lettuce in the Imperial Valley.

Acres and acres of head lettuce in the Imperial Valley.

What’s happening as these canals and irrigation ditches run dry, the Salton Sea shrinks, and the water flow slows to a trickle or to nothing at all? There’s a race to the bottom as farmers dig deeper and deeper wells. There’s a 6 month to 1 year waiting list for wells to be drilled, wells that seek water at depths from 250 to 2500 feet deep. Deeper wells dry up neighboring wells at shallower depths, pitting neighboring farmer against neighboring farmer. In a matter of decades underground aquifers are being depleted that were created over thousands and thousands of years. For many farmers the cost to keep trees watered is higher than any profits, so they are pushing them out of the ground. Up north, in the Salinas valley the water problem also exists. There the water flows west from Yosemite, and snow melt. But the snow pack in the mountains is shrinking. As farms produce less, unemployment rises along with the prices. Everywhere you go there are signs to conserve water, and everywhere it is dry.

Cauliflower harvest in Imperial Valley.

Cauliflower harvest in Imperial Valley.

Tom and I were humbled to see food production on such a mass scale- it was a reminder to us of the value of our work, which is at its core, about feeding people. We were also invigorated to be a part of a local farm community charged with finding alternatives to the grossly unsustainable system that currently exists in California. You clearly cannot grow food in a desert forever. To depend on irrigation to that level, to continuously divert water from the Colorado River, is simply unsustainable. The current drought conditions in California only shine a light on a system that is at its heart unsustainable. As much as we may curse the downpours that are typical here in the summer, water is life giving. As if we didn’t need another reason to encourage local farming, our winter sojourn to California delivered one of the most glaring reminders we can offer.  We were also struck with a greater appreciation and sympathy for the challenges farmers face out west, and were given a stark visual reminder of exactly what it takes to bring that head of lettuce to a Whole Foods in Pennsylvania from the Imperial Valley of California.

Reminder: Register and pay in full for the Blooming Glen Farm CSA by February 1st to receive a discounted share price! Registration is on the home page of our website.

IMG_4995Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

 

Posted in On The Farm

CSA Season Wrap-up, 2014

Today’s final CSA distribution marks 48 CSA harvests for the 2014 season. With the equivalent of 300 full shares per week, that’s a lot of produce for a lot of families. Over the season, a family picking up a full share of produce enjoyed 34 cucumbers, 30 pounds of potatoes and sweet potatoes, 8 melons, 13 winter squashes, 26 head of lettuce, 49 pounds of an assortment of tomatoes (not including the PYO cherry tomatoes) 17 weeks of garlic in its various forms, 13 weeks of pick-your-own flower bouquets and so much more!

11/11/14, CSA share #24

11/11/14, CSA share #24

Each season we try new crops and new varieties and this is the time of year when we start to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Some clear successes this season were the popcorn, the long light pink eggplant (dancer), the little gem head lettuce and the kabocha winter squash. We were pleased with two of our bean varieties from certified organic seed- jade and easy pick. Both varieties were high yielding, flavorful, easy to pick and stayed slender and tender even as they matured. Sweet corn went better this season, as did broccoli. We were thrilled with out field heirloom tomato and cucumber yields, as well as winter squash, but felt the potatoes and sweet peppers suffered from various weather related events early in the season. 

Two different plantings of italian eggplant proved that wider plant spacing yields larger eggplant, which seems to be what everyone wants- better for your eggplant parm! Reaching way back in our memories to the spring, we had a great sugar snap pea and strawberry crop. Whether that was because of agreeable weather, good management, or a combo of both, we’re not sure, but we’ll take it!

Weeding next year's strawberry crop as the sun sets.

Weeding next year’s strawberry crop as the sun sets.

Some crops we dropped this season and didn’t miss terribly were okra and edamame. We are quadrupling our ginger seed purchase this winter now that we feel comfortable with the growing process, and we have high hopes of expanding our yields to be able to distribute at least a few weeks of ginger to the CSA. We continue to struggle with growing carrots- a very, very labor intensive crop for our farm, but we are not ready to give up on them yet. A big bummer was the basil crop this year. The lack of frozen pesto in my freezer speaks to the utter failure of this herb- despite growing a supposed mildew resistant variety, multiple plantings were decimated by powdery mildew. Ah well- you can’t win them all!

How does the farm crew celebrate the last harvest for the CSA ? Why with a game of croquet of course!

How does the farm crew celebrate the last harvest for the CSA ? Why with a game of croquet of course!

We hope that you enjoyed the chef demos this season. Next year we plan to try to have them later into the evening so the after work crowd can enjoy them too, as well as do better providing the recipes from the demos. Having a designated CSA distribution greeter and stocker (thanks Sandi!), was a wonderful addition, and we hope it helped make the pick-ups run more smoothly. Please feel free to provide us with any feedback or suggestions for next season- we are happy to do what we can to make the pick-up process a pleasant experience for everyone.

Of course the big news for us in 2014 was getting our organic certification this summer. This felt like a validation of the systems we have developed over the years for delegating, planning and record keeping. Overall because of these extensive sytems being in place, it felt like a rather painless process, one that will ultimately make us even stronger farmers.

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A big shout out to our farm crew this season as they cross the finish line here in the last week of the CSA. This was an exceptionally hard working and agreeable group that was a real pleasure to work with. This includes Corbin on the tractors, Katie in the greenhouse, all our enthusiastic volunteer washers, our part time crew in the distribution room, kitchen, fields and wash area and our farmers market staff, Mikaela who helps me with the website and posts delicious nutritious recipes, Linda and Kurt working behind the scenes to help us create reports from all our data, our super supportive parents and friends, Cathy at Rolling Harvest Food Rescue for helping us waste less and donate more, the incredibly hard working crew over at Zone 7 and all our market customers and CSA community. The list goes on and on!

Thanks so much to everyone that makes this farm function, and thank you to our community of eaters for giving us the opportunity to grow food for your families and for providing us with the means to do meaningful work.

tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

Posted in On The Farm

Poppin’ corn

CSA share number 23 was this week, and the last week for half share “week A” folks. Next week is the final CSA distribution for everyone else. Re-registration info for returning members as well as Thanksgiving boxed share details have been emailed out. Please let us know if you did not receive that information. Registration for new members will open December 1st. Take advantage of an early registration discount and sign-up by Feb. 1st.

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This week in the share is Blooming Glen Farm popcorn! Our crew has been hard at work removing the kernels from the cob for you. Crew member Justin was determined to find an easier, blister-free way to shell the corn. Thanks to the plans for a hand-held tool found on Mother Earth News, things went a little smoother, and relatively quickly.  

At our house we use an air popper to pop our corn. But you can just as easily make it on the stovetop, electric or gas, which I experimented with for the following recipe. I’m happy to say I did not burn it, and there were only a few unpopped kernels at the end.

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Ingredients
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (I assume canola will work just as well.)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
sea salt to taste
yield: about 9 cups popcorn

Melt the coconut oil in large pot over medium-high heat. (A heavy botom Dutch oven is preferrable but my regular 4 quart stainless worked fine- you just want a pot that has a fitted lid.) Add 3 kernels of corn and cover and cook until all 3 kernels pop.

Take the three kernels out of the pot. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover and take the pot off of the heat. Wait 30 seconds.

Put the pot back on the heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally. After about 2 minutes, and the popping has slowed down, remove from heat and take the lid off of the pot.  Pour it into a bowl and add your toppings. I just added sea salt to taste, which is a great complement to the mild coconut flavor imparted by the oil. You of course can add your favorite toppings, be it salt and butter, or try nutritional yeast and savory herbs like rosemary, or go for sweet with cinnamon and honey or sugar. At the harvest fest Kristin did a wonderful seasoning of dark cacao powder and cayenne pepper that was delicious.

11/4/14, share #23

11/4/14, share #23

tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

Posted in Weekly Share Tagged

Frost sweetens fall crops

A sparkling haze of frost blanketed the fields this morning. The crew arrived bundled in warm gear, but had to busy themselves with other tasks, waiting to harvest once the sun rose high enough to burn the ice off the ground.

10/30/14, share #22

10/30/14, share #22

Though the growing season is starting to wind down, the hardy greens and the roots still in the field all start to get sweeter as the weather dips. Crops in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), as well as beets and chard, are known for growing well in cold temps and for being frost-tolerant. The cabbage family includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, and brussels sprouts. Being hit by a blast of cold makes these crops convert their stored starches to sugar. This acts as a sort of anti-freeze, and explains why you can still enjoy these hardy varieties fresh-picked from local farms well into the winter. Most striking, typically bitter tasting kale will continue to sweeten as the temperature drops- another reason to shop local, and an advantage we have over those warm-weather imports from California.

Keep an eye on your emails as we will be sending out the link to re-register for the 2015 season in the next few days. Returning members will have an extra month to register before we go live to the public. To celebrate our 10th growing season, 2015, (that’s right- 10 years!), we will be offering an early registration discount. Register by Febuary 1st to take advantage of this amazing offer!

We also have some exciting new CSA member referral incentives. Refer a new member to Blooming Glen farm CSA and as long as you’re both registered for 2015, you will receive a $20 coupon you can use next season toward bulk crop offerings (like plum tomatoes and slicing cucumbers), or you could use at our farmers market stand, or toward farm swag like a t-shirt or cookbook. And the new member you refer will receive a free cookbook on their first pick-up. Not a bad deal! Just make sure the new member puts your name down as a referral on their online registration form. Now get out there and tell your friends how awesome BGF is, and let’s make year 10 the best season yet!

tcheadshotPost by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Photo by Meghan Clymer. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

Posted in On The Farm

Award Winning Pie Recipes 2014

Blooming Glen Farm’s 5th annual pie bake-off contest dished up some real winners- namely the 100 plus people who got the chance to taste the 14 delicious pie entries. Whether your taste ran to classics like apple and blueberry, or standards with a twist like peach cranberry, honey bourbon pecan, or sweet potato with ginger whip cream, or you prefer fridge pies like chocolate mousse with salty peanut caramel or blueberry dream, or maybe you like to be adventurous with the more unusual banoffi pie or spicy mexican hot chocolate, there was something for everyone.

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Our judging panel went ahead of the eager crowds and evaluated the pies on taste, appearance, crust and texture and awarded their top three choices (actually top four, since they had a tie for third). Our first judge was Susan Kahn from Bucks County Cookie Co. Susan’s cookies and delectables are a Wrightstown farmers market favorite. Susan will be opening a brick and mortar bakery in just a few months in Doylestown behind Cross Keys Diner, so keep an eye out! New to the judge panel this year was Rosemary Vaerth, a graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia Baking and Pastry program, and a veteran of the gluten-free and vegan baking scene in southeastern PA. Lastly, Farmer Tom’s father, also Tom Murtha and affectionately referred to as Pop, came back to judge for a second year, contributing his expertise from over 80 years of pie eating enjoyment.

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Apple Pie
by Angelina and Adrian Arias with the help of their dad, Angel Arias
Judges Vote: First Place

Angel Arias- “I was a professional chef for over 11 years, but never much of a baker. Usually my wife is the baker at home. I now just enjoy making culinary creations for my family and friends, but most of all for my kids! My daughter Angelina (7) and son Adrian (4) help their mother each week to pick up the vegetables at the farm. Angelina who is starting to have a passion for all things organic and farm related, was super excited about the Harvest Fest, and even more so that there was going to be a pie contest. She told her brother about it and they both asked me to help make a pie to enter -since their Mommy was out town for the weekend.

So we went to the local orchard to pick our apples and made 2 pies on Saturday. The kids were so serious about it –that when their friends came knocking on the door for them to play, they sent them away on their very own, and went right back to working on the pies-very dedicated little chefs –if I must say so myself!”

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Judges Vote winners, Julie Thomas, Lexi Berko, Bernadette Rodrigo, and Adrian and Angelina Arias.

“When I asked them what their favorite part was when making the pie- ‘My favorite part was putting decorations on the top crust!’ said Angelina. ‘My favorite part was slicing the apples with the apple slicer!’ said Adrian.”

“I also asked them how they felt when they announced that they were the winners. ‘I feeled weird and fast because I was running!’  – Adrian. ‘I felt weird, excited, nervous, surprised and shy all at the same time. I felt wowed-out!’ -Angelina.”

Pie Crust Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup Lard
1 egg
1 teaspoon white vinegar
5 tablespoons water

In large bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar- mix it well, add lard cutting it until mixture resembles cornmeal. In a small container mix egg, vinegar, and water. Add it to flour mixture, stirring it with a fork. Cut dough in half, make 2 balls and wrap them with plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator while making pie.

Pie Filling Ingredients
8 apples peeled and sliced (I used Empire apples)
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon chopped fine
juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ c. coconut oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ c. water

In a large bowl combine apples, white and brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg and cinnamon.

In a small sauce pan heat coconut oil at medium temperature- once oil is completely melted, whisk in flour to make a paste then add water, mix it well and add it to apple mixture.

Roll out one of the pie crusts put it on the pie dish. Add apple mixture. Roll out second crust cover pie.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake it for an additional 35 to 40 min.

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Honey Ginger Peach Pie
by Lexi Berko
Judges Vote: Second Place

Lexi Berko- “I chose to bake this particular pie with ingredients that were very local, both the ginger and honey coming directly from Blooming Glen Farm. My partner and I are the resident beekeepers at BGF and with a surplus of both ginger and honey, I thought they would make a perfect pie pair. This pie was a hit among the yellow jackets and judges buzzing about the pie tasting table and it made me very thankful for the endless labor put forth by our honeybees! (And they inspired my beecomb design of the top crust.)”

Pie Filling Ingredients
5 large, ripe peaches or 7 medium (or 5 to 6 cups of frozen sliced peaches)
1 cup wildflower honey
3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger 
juice of half a lemon (about one tablespoon)
big pinch of powdered ginger
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
Frozen Pillsbury pie crust

Combine honey and fresh chopped ginger in a small saucepan and heat on low for 20 minutes. While the honey is warming up, pit, peel, and slice the peaches so they’re about 1/4 inch thick. Put the slices in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon over them. Add the powdered ginger, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and salt. Pour the heated honey and fresh ginger over all. Mix gently until the honey and spices are evenly distributed, then taste and adjust sweet, spice, and lemon as needed.

Roll out the top crust. Retrieve the bottom crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling into your bottom crust. If there is too much liquid to fit in the pan with the peaches, fill the pan not quite to the rim with juice and set the rest of it aside. Smooth the filling into a mound with your hands. Place the top crust over the filling. Trim off any excess dough and fold an upstanding ridge. Cut large steam vents. Bake on 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is blistered and blond. Rotate the pie 180 degrees to assure even baking, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 50 to 60 minutes until the crust is golden and the juices start to bubble slowly at the edge — possibly longer if you’ve used frozen fruit. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving.

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Lemon Blueberry Meringue
by Bernadette Rodrigo (last year’s grand champ in both categories for her Cherry Pistachio Pie and 2012 second place winner with her Almond Pear Pie with a Raspberry Glaze)
Judges Vote: Third place, tie
People’s Choice: Third place

Bernadette Rodrigo- “This pie was inspired by our recent trip to Maine. Lemon seemed like a natural complement to the sweetness of the berries and the meringue adds the wow factor.”

Pie Crust Ingredients (makes 2)
2 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
½ pound butter cubed (2 sticks)
3 egg yolks
¼ cup ice cold water

Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter to resemble coarse meal (pea size pieces). In a small bowl beat egg yolks and add water. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a fork until evenly distributed. Dough will be crumbly. Turn out onto counter and press the dough to form a ball, then divide in 2 and form 2 discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Pie Filling Ingredients
3 cups of blueberries (wild Maine berries, available frozen in markets)
¼ cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first 3 ingredients in a bowl then spread evenly in raw pie shell. Break the butter into small pieces and sprinkle over berries.

Roll out one pie crust and prepare pie pan. Bake until fruit bubbles in the middle, about 45 minutes.

While pie bakes mix one 15 ounce can of condensed milk with ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice. Reserve in refrigerator.

Meringue Ingredients
5 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Beat eggs until frothy. Add next two ingredients. Continue to beat adding sugar a little at a time. Stop when stiff peaks form.

When pie is baked and cool, spread reserved lemon mixture over the top. Cover entire pie with meringue and bake at 375 degrees about 10 minutes or until browned. Best served cold.

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Banoffi Pie
by Julia Thomas
Judges Vote: Third Place, tie

Julia Thomas- “I love baking at home, particularly in my big red Aga stove that stays on all the time in the winter…typical British farmhouse! I’m a bit of a freestyler when it comes to cooking and I love it when I pull ingredients together from my fridge/ freezer and cupboards to create something new and exciting. That’s why I love Blooming Glen farm so much… you never know what you will get and what will inspire you.

However, one recipe I always follow exactly is Banoffi pie! It  is hugely popular in the UK, but often varies on its base and the ingredients. I was lucky enough to learn this recipe over 25 years ago from the original creator, as I worked with him at the Hungry Monk restaurant and this version is by far my favorite.”

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients
(
Bakers Note: my recipe below makes enough for 2. You can leave out sugar for regular pastry and add more flour + a tablespoon of iced water)
350g plain flour
120g powdered sugar
250g butter
1 tablespoon crisco
Pinch of salt
1 egg
Egg white for glazing

In food processor whizz together flour, salt and sugar for a few seconds and then add in the butter and crisco in small pieces. Crack in the 1 whole egg and pulse till it makes a ball. Wrap in plastic and put in freezer to rest for about 20 mins or in the fridge for about 45mins. Roll out on a floured surface and line your pie tins, trim off excess dough. Prick with a fork on bottom of pastry case to make air hole. Chill in fridge again for 10 mins. Line with parchment paper and dried beans or ceramic baking beans  to weigh it down and cook at 350F for about 20 mins. Remove parchment paper and brush pastry with egg white. This seals it and stops you getting soggy pie. Return to oven for 5 mins.  

Pie Filling Ingredients
1 tin condensed milk – previously boiled for 3 hrs (covered in water unopened)  – you can do several tins at once and then keep in your pantry indefinitely. Be careful not to boil dry as they will explode and not to open the cans when hot either – you will get burned! This makes a delicious toffee filling, you can keep it as a standby and then make this dessert in a hurry or emergency.
5 Bananas
1 pint whipping cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee  – crush to powder
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/4  teaspoon cocoa powder

Whip the the cream with the instant coffee and powdered sugar until thick and smooth.

Spread the toffee over the base. (You can use the back of a spoon dipped in hot water to help spread it or warm the toffee a little first. Cool off once spread in fridge if necessary, so cream won’t melt.

Peel and then cut in half lengthwise the bananas and lay them on the toffee. 

Finally spoon and spread the cream over the top and sprinkle over the cocoa powder from about 14″ high so that it is a nice fine covering.

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Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie
by Josie Gilmore
People’s Choice: First Place

Josie Gilmore: “I’m currently a junior at Council Rock High School North and my favorite subject is chemistry. I have never made a pie before, but I have taken some cooking/baking classes and worked at my mom’s cooking camps every summer since I was 9. I chose to make a chocolate caramel pecan pie because I really love pecan pie and wanted to incorporate some more delicious flavors into the recipe. I’m really excited to have won this contest and I can’t wait to try and defend my title next year!”

Prepare your favorite crust for a 9-in pie pan

Pie Filling Ingredients
2 large eggs
2/3 cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
23 caramel squares
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup pecans, chopped small
more pecan halves for decoration on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pie dough onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Wrap dough around rolling pin and place onto center of pie pan (I used a disposable aluminum pan). Press dough up sides and trim extra dough around edges, flute edges.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, corn syrup, 4 teaspoons melted butter, and vanilla, set aside. Sprinkle chocolate chunks evenly over bottom of tart shell.

Place caramels, cream and 1 tablespoon butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat until caramel is melted, stirring every 20 seconds. Stir chopped pecans into caramel. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chunks, spread evenly. Pour egg mixture over caramel filling. Arrange pecans on top however you like.

Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 45-60 minutes, until filling is set. If pecans begin to brown too quickly, place a tent of aluminum foil over top. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Baker’s Note: I used extra pie dough to cut out pumpkins and stars, baked them separately for 10 minutes and used for decoration.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Pie
by Michelle Guerriero (2012 Pie Champ with her Maple Custard Pie with Candied Bacon, and 2011 second place winner with her Orange Marscapone Pumpkin Pie)
People’s Choice: Second Place

Michelle Guerriero- “I recently made some Mexican hot chocolate for my family, which I make by simmering milk with a dried chili pepper, then adding melted chocolate and cinnamon. It’s a lovely treat as the weather turns cool, and anything with cinnamon is a winner in my house. This is what inspired my Mexican Hot Chocolate Pie. My first attempt at the pie was a little spicy, so I had to make a mild version. When steeping the chili pepper, don’t overdo it! It can creep up quickly! Or you could omit the chili pepper altogether.”

Pie Crust Ingredients
12 graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons sugar (optional)

In food processor, pulse all ingredients together until crumbly. Press into pie pan and bake for 12 minutes on 350. Remove and wait to fill with filling.

Pie Filling Ingredients (modified from recipe found on cooks.com)
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
2 cups brown sugar
3 whole eggs
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (regular is just fine)
1/2 cup half & half
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 small dried chili pepper 

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Mexican vanilla

In a mixer with a whisk, combine softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Whisk until well combined and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing approximately 1 min. between each egg. Mixture should be nice and fluffy. Stop until it is time to add next ingredients. 

In a small saucepan, combine half and half, vanilla, and dried chili pepper over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer (not boil!) and remove from heat. During the simmering is when you can play with the “heat” in your pie. You may only add the chili pepper for a quick minute, you may want to steep it longer. Taste the mixture until it is to your liking, then remove chili pepper. 

With the mixer going again, very slowly add the milk mixture to the bowl. Do not add too quickly or it will cook your eggs! 

Once combined, pour all ingredients into your pie crust and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, or until the middle of the pie jiggles a little, but the edges are firm. Remove and cool pie.

Make whipped cream if desired by whisking heavy cream, cinnamon and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add whipped cream, sprinkle of cinnamon and chocolate chips on top.

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tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

 

 

Posted in Recipes

First Frost; Cut Flower inspiration

A hard frost hit the farm early Monday morning. Tom and I were out with the headlights shining on the fields late Sunday night, fixing the row covers that had blown about in the wind during the day. It always seems that the major frosts follow a windy day, uprooting our “blankets” of protection, and requiring a late night scramble under a clear star-filled sky. It was incredibly beautiful, actually- so no complaints here!

This week we have been concentrating on getting the winter radishes out of the ground and into burlap sacs for storage. The purple top turnips have sized up considerably as well, and are in the share this week, along with celeriac, a delicious celery flavored root. Just peel the rough outside layer and use in soups, oven roast it with a mix of other root vegetables, or mash it up and combine with potatoes or turnips.

10/23/14, share week #21

10/23/14, share week #21

We’ve begun the process of planting our 600 pounds of garlic seed, but with the rain the last bunch of days, we are now waiting for the ground to dry out in order to finish this last big farm task. Tom and the crew broke out the shovels this week, to experiment with transplanting large kale plants from the field and into the greenhouses for winter protection.

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I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) national conference on Monday and Tuesday, in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a wonderful experience, drawing a few hundred passionate farmers and floral designers from all over the country- Alaska, California, Texas, Virginia, Maine, New York, Wisconsin to name just a few. Having attended annual vegetable conferences on and off over the past 15 years, I was struck how local cut flowers are where local vegetables were 10 years ago. Much education still needs to be done on why supporting local, and sustainably grown flowers over chemical drenched South American imports is important. But it is clear that the demand for local flowers is on the rise, and now it’s up to the growers to start to fill that need, and work together to create distribution channels.

From a personal perspective it was also pretty darn cool to be in a room with so many strong, inspiring entrepreneurial women. Philadelphia floral designers Sullivan Owen and Jennie Love led a design demo that had me itching to learn more about wedding bouquet styling, as I was just able to get my feet wet a bit this year (see photos below). And I felt a kindred spirit in Sullivan’s committment and passion for the growth and success of her business. Needless to say, I will be looking for ways to incorporate more cut flowers and the creativity they inspire into Blooming Glen Farm.

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tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

Posted in On The Farm