Good Earth Farmers

  (New Market, Tennessee)
Good Food Grown with Care for the Earth
[ Member listing ]

Spring? That's What the Calendar Says..

Another Year?

Our last blog entry was over a year ago--how can that be? We've been busy, of course. This past year only saw us take a couple of breaks from farming. Stephen often remarks about how much we've learned over the past seven years. Now we grow food year-round, not just during the farmers market season. It's satisfying to be able to eat chard and spinach in the late fall, as well as traditional winter greens like collards and kale and the root vegetables.

Over the St. Patrick's Day weekend, Stephen got the warmer days and sunshine he'd been hoping for, after some late frost and even snow. He planted out all the seedlings from our greenhouse into the garden, and also planted new spinach and leaf lettuce beds. Now the tomato seedlings are tucked up under the lights and blanket (just as I described last year--this system may seem quirky, but it works for us!), and will soon be tall enough to transplant.

Tonight and tomorrow the forecast is for freezing temperatures, so Stephen will cover the lettuce and spinach beds with row cover. The cover is also "low-tech"--inexpensive knitted fabric bought at a discount fabric store. We just need to keep the tiny plantlets from freezing.

We and our members continue to find new things to love about kale--we have dwarf kale and curly kale and will soon have the Dinosaur (lacinato) kale. It's fun to experiment with recipes and hear what our members are cooking up in their kitchens, too. Still, we can't wait for the sugar snap peas, asparagus and the rest of spring and summer's bounty!

 
 

Welcome Rain!

Great crashes of thunder and blasts of lightning woke us early this morning. Tall Cedar's old farmhouse shook with the thunder, but the sound of rain on our metal roof was reassuring. It's been a dry winter and we know the soil welcomes the rain.

In the greenhouse, the broccoli and cabbage seedlings are just emerging. The flats are warmly situated on an old electric blanket, close to the additional warmth and brightness of fluorescent lighting. Stephen designed the greenhouse and re-built it several years ago, with help from kind friends. Attached to the back bedroom of the house, it not only gives the seedlings a good start on life, but helps warm the rest of the house. On a cold but sunny day in winter, the temperature is often in the 80s. (We wish we'd built large enough to hold a table and chairs for us to sit with morning tea!)

As Southerners we dread cold weather, but as farmers we enjoy the break winter brings us. Even the coldest winter gives us time to study seed catalogs, stay longer in bed of a chilly morning, and reflect on our lives and purpose.

Still, we look forward to warmer days when we can plant out the first seedlings and sow seeds directly into the ground. Soon we'll see crocus, daffodils and forsythia....

 

 
 

Where did the year go?

Instead of the green of spring herbs and flowers, we are now surrounded by the whiteness of an early winter. It snowed today and our 2010 farm season is over. Soon it will be the winter solstice and the days will begin to grow longer. Even in the midst of snow, as farmers we're looking toward our spring and summer crops.

Although we didn't succeed in keeping up this blog for the year, we did continue our weekly Good Earth Farmers newsletter. Each week we give our reflections on farm life as well as recipes which use the veggies we grow here in East Tennessee. In addition, we give tips and advice on growing veggies organically. Our readers also contribute their own gardening experiences and favorite recipes.

This past week we had photos of the mysteriously beautiful ice flowers which "bloom" in the pasture in this chilly weather. The coyote pup who spent the summer near the pond has vanished and we haven't seen any wild turkeys this fall--but bright cardinals pick through the compost heap searching for seeds. The rest of the wildlife seems to have hunkered down for the winter, although squirrels and housewrens stay close to the farmhouse.

This past week saw the last of the "barn razing"--as Stephen and volunteers took down the old tobacco barn which had finally collapsed over the summer. We're sorry to see the almost eighty year old barn go, but its wood--hickory, oak and cedar--will take on new life. One volunteer will use the wood to make his custom furniture pieces and another is an art student with plans for a large wooden sculpture. The rest of the wood will be "re-purposed" in a variety of ways in a community garden and home gardens. We're glad to be able to share this wood--and part of the farm's history--with others.

Stephen has chopped prodigious amounts of wood for the only heat at Tall Cedar Farm--a wood stove in the living room. A home-built greenhouse, attached to the side of the house, does provide warmth to the back bedroom on sunny days, even in winter. (We raise all our own seedlings in the greenhouse, beginning in December.)

Despite the wind and snow, we're warm and cozy, curled up with seed catalogs and planning for spring. And our first New Year's resolution is to post on this blog regularly in 2011, and also get our own website completed. Whereveer you are, we hope you'll enjoy the warmth of this holiday season and have a very Happy 2011!

 
 

The Spring Comes on "Little Cat Feet"...

Although we've been writing an email newsletter almost every week for nearly two years, we haven't tried our hand at "blogging". By the time we learn how, we figure "blogging" will be a thing of the past--"old-timey" and out of the date. And yet a blog is a good idea--a way for us to give you, if you're a non-farmer, an idea of what life on a small farm in East Tennessee in the 21st century is really like. And if you're a small farmer anywhere, then maybe you'll relate to some of what happens on our farm.

Good Earth Farmers is really two farms and two couples who farm. But only the inhabitants of Tall Cedar Farm have the desire to blog. When we say our farms are "small, family" farms, we mean it. In fact, each farm only has one full-time farmer and neither farmer has any employees. One farmer has a full-time job in the city and helps out when she has "spare" time. The other farmer tends the greenhouse, helps write the newsletter, and handles the correspondence for the email "hybrid" CSA we started.

 This is all by way of background--and also because I feel it's really remarkable that only two people, in this case, two men, grow so much food! It's hard work and except for the coldest, muckiest winter days, there's rarely any time off. But it's do-able.

This proves to us that most people who have the desire to grow at least some of their own food, can do it. And if you're reading this blog, you know that nothing tastes better than freshly picked lettuce, tomatoes, greens, sugar peas, okra, sweet corn .....Just name your favorites! When I began this, I wanted to write about something I love but don't have much time to tend--flowers. But it looks as if I need to leave that blog topic for another day.

Until then, though, watch the spring unfold...this season ,the blossoms seem to be appearing in a slow sequence...coming on gradually, one by one, giving us time to appreciate each one...Which flower, shrub, or tree did you "spot" first? Second? Keep watching...

 
 
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