White Rose Farm

  (Taneytown, Maryland)
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Dandelion Wine

Dandelion wine: the sound of it conjures up old-time country living. Two weeks ago, Erin, a farm member, called to ask if she could bring her family over to see the spring peepers. These tree frogs live around my farm pond and peep in chorus at night.  

I had noticed the dandelions were blooming profusely in my garden. They were young and firm; the day was a flower day according to the Stella Natura Calendar. It was a perfect day to pick dandelions, if I had volunteers, I thought. I mentioned dandelion wine to Erin: she nearly swooned: she had always wanted to make it, she said. Her two young children and her husband might be able to help.  

I called my friend, Charlie, a veteran wine maker. H agreed to come over later with a recipe and wine supplies. We would need seven cups of dandelion petals, he said.  

My niece was visiting. She picked dandelion blossoms until her hands where orange-yellow from the petals. The family arrived; they too picked dandelions. Charlie arrived with his equipment, wine supplies, years of experience and a natural attention to detail.

He knew that dandelions close at dark. The petals are much harder to pull after the blossoms close.  He advised us to tear the petals without touching the green sepals surrounding the petals—the green would make the wine bitter, he explained.

We finally used small shears to release the petals from the stems. Erin’s husband and my niece shared stories of Cajun cooking, as we worked into deep dusk to finish the job.  

The next morning, Charlie saw me in church. “You know, he said thoughtfully, “Your porch is not the ideal place for the wine to ferment. It needs attention for the next several days and constant 70 degree temperatures. “

I called the family to see if they wanted to take on the next phase, but they did not have a good place at their house to coddle the wine. Charlie took it to his house where he monitored it and has now put it into a gallon jug for a secondary fermentation.

“Dandelion wine takes two or three years to be ready,“ he explained. Meantime, he returned this Tuesday with a bottle of vintage dandelion wine—1988. It was smooth and strong and complemented our meal of roast chicken, asparagus spears and strawberry/rhubarb sauce over chocolate cake.

Good eating. Good life. White Rose Farm. 

Planting Broccoli

Planting Broccoli

 I am sharing more about the process of growing food—through this blog and also by inviting people to work in the garden with me, mornings and evenings (except Wednesdays and Sundays.) I want people to understand more about the process.

I garden with the stars—I get better crops with no chemical inputs. Because of the dramatic changes in the weather, I am working harder and using all the intelligence and sensitivity that I have developed as a gardener and farmer. Even with my best efforts, I may not have a crop to sell—because of some freak storm or some animal damage.  

Let me tell you about planting broccoli last week.  According to my planting calendar, Wednesday morning was a good time to plant broccoli. We have about five hundred small broccoli plants in plastic trays ready for transplanting. They must be planted in cool weather to produce a crop: broccoli do not like heat.

When seedlings are first planted, they are like babies: they need extra attention. Their roots are not yet connected to the soil, and they  can draw in only limited nourishment. Ideally, a gardener transplants seedlings in the evening, in cloudy, cool weather, just before a rain. Heat, wind and sun kill baby plants easily—they wither.  

Wednesday morning: the weatherman predicted high temperatures in the 90’s with strong west winds. Hot. Sunny. Windy. Each of those factors can kill a seedling. We had all three. The sudden heat and wind felt ferocious, brutal—for the plants and the gardeners!  We had to make a judgment: would we plant? But if we did not plant broccoli on Wednesday, when would we have our next chance?  

We planted with care. We watered the seedlings with water warmed by the sun; we planted the broccoli quickly and deeply, then watered again.  We put clay flower pots in the rows to create height, covered the pots and broccoli with lightweight fabric I use to protect the plants from sun and wind, and anchored the fabric with clods of dirt so that it would not blow away. The pots kept the plants from baking.

Then we blessed our work and the plants. That evening, we watered the plants again. Five days later, I pulled the fabric off; the plants had taken. The process had taken twice, even three times as long as it would in a year with “normal weather.” On Sunday, we put a rabbit fence around the plot—so we would not lose the seedlings to hungry rabbits one night. Now I am watching for the first sign of insects…

Next time you eat a broccoli, think of a farmer—and if you want to learn more about this process, come help on the farm!  

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