Merry Heart Farm

  (Astatula, Florida)
Life on our farm

Looking Ahead - Making a difference

Many transplants have been set out and the plants have been sprayed with seaweed fertilizer. I sprayed extra calcium on the squash and cucumbers and the broccoli and other cole crops. They seem to have had a boost too with the drop in temperature, the broccoli plants are a foot tall, but no heads yet. Many plants are setting fruit due to the cooler weather like the zucchini and tomatoes. We have several green cherry tomatoes on the vine and we may have some next week or the week after.   Our field sown seeds have been germinating much better also, we have set out carrots, beets, and spinach and the tiny leaves are looking GOOD!!! These plants will mostly be available in the early Winter share, but we will still try to have some thinnings and baby types at the end of this season.  There are dill and cilantro, and diakon radishes coming your way also.  The first fennel is almost ready and we will have corn next week and sweet potatoes after that. We set out onion bulbs for yellow and white varieties and as we pull up each bed of beans and peas we will be planting more carrots, beets and spinach. One variety I am real happy with is the new cucumber from Johnny'c called "Harmonie".  These are the best cukes we have ever had and they have a great flavor.  Arugula will be back soon, it's a favorite. There are some nice butternut squash growing and I'll let you know how they turn out. I am not sure about the spaghetti squash, but the plants are growing, just no fruit yet. 


It has been real nice to get to know all of you and your families. Please know that we are thrilled to be able to share this farm with you.  One member's daughter has shared with her class about her farmer and Farmer Jen went to a first grade class in Clermont and brought chickens, a bunny and zipper peas.  Iris and Garett both spoke to the class. I read in a magazine called Edibles about local farming and was excited about all that is going on in our state, but one person stated that, " we need to be realistic", and think of local as the whole state not just in our area.  I agree, that we are not prepared to find all of our produce in Florida within 50 miles, but I disagree that we should be encouraged to settle and not attempt to find and support the local farmers in your area. Each dollar you spend, extra mile you drive and time you spend will create the food system that we want. The money that was spent on the magazine was not spent on producing you food and that is the real tragedy. Funds are being flooded into our land to MARKET and to create MARKETS not to support the producers.  The producers are warned about the hazards and regulated, surveyed and asked to be insured against losing everything. I believe we will lose everything if we don't begin to make small changes when we can, with what we can.  Learn all you can and keep a watchful eye and ear about what you support.  Even the Long and Scott Farm in our area is a better place than a road side stand to spend your dollars because they produce SOME of the food that they sell in their market. I encourage you to shop there for the things that I am not able to grow yet. They are not an organic farm, but they do practice many safe biological practices that I agree with. 


See you all Tuesday


Farmer Jen

September Strategizing and Cooler Days ahead

The chill in the air feels soooo good. It is energizing and refreshing. I am loving being able to work out side this time of year. An effort to protect the last corn for the season has been accomplished. Oil with Bt was applied to each ear tassle, so we are hoping for less damage in this planting. I have been vigilant with spraying the squash for bugs, and even though the plants look a bit worse for wear, they are still producing.  I am looking forward to Tuesday's  5th share pick up and I believe our decision to wait one week was a wise one. This break will provide those with a full share a more mature selection and longer harvest. We started almost a month early this year and the financial support allowed the farm to be better prepared for the entire fall/winter planting and I believe the food that we were able to produce for the first four share weeks has been tasty and of good quality.  One thing that I would do differently would be to have more lettuces planted earlier.   I had all of the seed trays full of things that we'll be eating throughout the months and I was unprepared for how quickly we had to replace the lettuces due to the heat causing them to bolt. Most of my tomatoe plants that were started from seed did not make it through the early days.  I purchased some lettuces, and bannana pepper plants and roma tomatos to make up for some things that did not do well from seed.


Your farmer was getting a bit frazzled by the bugs, drought and the adjustment to the earlier weeks, but I feel that it was a step we were ready to take and next fall we will have a better understanding of the challenges of production in September. I will be sharing more information in my next message about the timing of our Winter shares and when to sign up. I will also be asking for feed back about the amount of food and how the size of the shares has met your families needs and about the actual amount versus what you anticipated. I have recieved positive feedback that folks are eating through everything, so I am happy that we have not overwhelmed you and I have not heard of any concerns. Please know that you are welcome to share needs and concerns  so that I can help you figure out a better way to use or store your produce, and if it is something we can do our our end I will happily look into making it better.

See you Soon,

Farmer Jen


Radish Leaves!!??!!

Last week we transplanted out collards, kohlrabi, beets, red choi, and broccoli in the Humble Plot. Lettuce, onions, cilantro and fennel in too!  We have had to be really serious about protecting the corn in Friendship Field. One of  the varieties that we  planted did not germinate at all, but the other three are looking real nice.  I have sprayed, dusted and hand picked to keep the caterpillars from eating it before we get a chance. Three plantings of carrots have not germinated well and I have resigned to switch to a pelleted seed from now on, but I can't get back the time lost on sowing those first weeks of tiny seeds.  The dry surface soil has been too much of a hinderance.We have several trays of kale, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi, tomatillas and peppers still to transplant, A set of several trays of lettuces and celery  coming along and we sowed 24 trays of seeds last week.WHEW!!! Cucumber, beans, squash, zucchini, zipper peas, cherry tomatoe, and sweet potatoe plants are healthy and showing flowers and small fruit in the Goodness and Mercy Patch and the Victory Garden. Praise God!

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New Beginnings - Fall 2011

For weeks now I have been meditating on God's word about how our hearts are like the ground that gets hardened and unusable. It is amazing to me how the Bible speaks so often in agrarian terms that come to life for me when I am reading and then later working. In Hosea 10:12, God speaks of repentance and restoration , " Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you."  It has been good to dig up the garden rows and add new earth to give structure and support to the soil.  The soil is so important to the plants growth. We work hard at our farm to prepare each bed before putting in the seeds or young plants. We want them to have a fighting chance against the sun, the bugs, and the weeds. It requires diligence, perseverance, strong muscles, sweat and vision. The places where we put down our roots and the people and circumstances we surround ourselves with are just as important. We must be diligent to remove things that will take our energy, or defeat our purposes and be steadfast in the things that give us strength and hope. It would be easy to give ourselves much credit for our talents and the fruits of our labor, but we believe that there is One greater than we are, that does much of the work for us and has given us everything. People unlike plants need a relationship with the one who created them. I hope you will be encouraged to seek the Lord with the freshness of the season and spend some time in worship and thanksgiving. I hope as you visit to pick up your share that you will turn your thoughts to your Creator and find Him in our garden and in your Bible.


Farmer Jen


A Current Peek into our Process

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Spring is Sprung Again! Has it really been a year?

Wow, it has been a year full of blessings and lessons. I thought I would have more time to write, Here's why I did not:

Our CSA has had three complete growing seasons and we are learning to provide more food to more folks. We have made several improvements, made some decisions about how we will proceed, and look forward with hope to some hard work and warmer days.

 By the way, we did make sauerkraut and it was and is yummy. We still are pulling it out of the pantry. We learned this year to set out plants every two to four weeks for succession and now we just have lots of fresh cabbage and other veggies for our members and families.

Just before the last blog our family had a new addition, the "relative" kind. My husband's Dad and Aunt moved here from San Luis Obispo, CA. They have enjoyed life on our farm and we have been busy improving the living quarters for them and the farm in general. I always say, "Many hands make light work!" Grandpa Jackson is my number one Ranch Manager and he is healthy and happy at 77 years young. Some days I can hardy keep up with him. We are so very blessed by having him right here each day.

It is time for babies again. Last year brought three new kids and six lambs as well as several surprise additions. We have been managing our herd well and a neighbor was kind enough to share some pasture with beautiful grass. We fenced in the front two acres of our property and Grandpa has got electric fencing strung all around. Just this past Thursday one of my sons went to run at 5:30 am, but became sidetracked by a loud bleating. He woke me and we discover that our ewe, named Wooly, had given birth to four lambs, all males. We had missed all their births and the firstborn did not make it. We were expecting her to lamb anyday and had been watching, guessing, and loosing sleep with much futility. His timing did enable us to save the last born and she is taking perfect care of all three little ones. It was a great morning. (Yes, I kissed the little lambs and welcomed them to their new home.)

 It is always a joy to have the miracle of new life around. Spring encourages us to keep working hard and is a reward and a reminder of the mystery of God. He is there even though we cannot see Him and He loves us and wants good things for us. The life on our farm truly magnifies the Lord. Do you know what it means to magnify? Think of a magnifying glass. God's creation  magnifies God so we can see Him better. We can see how beautiful, perfect and creative God is when we witness and learn about plants and animals. Don't take my word for it, you can read it for yourself in a Bible, God's Holy Word. Gen 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

We did find some great homes for our puppies. One farm family traded us two Glouchester Old Spotted Hogs for one of them. We brought Cowboy and Dartagnon home and bottle fed them for a week or so and then taught them to drink out of a pan. Talk about fun!!! Each morning I milked three goats. The hogs slurped their share mixed with grain  and  our family enjoyed the best fresh raw milk. We even made soft cheese with a pepper and garlic crust with some friends for Easter. I look forward to having more fresh milk in about two months.

 I hope you won't have to wait so long for more news from us. To God be the glory, great things he hath done.

Farmer Jen
Merry Heart Farm


Wait or make Sauerkraut?

With 300 head of cabbage in production and 240 Vidalia onions growing every moment we are wondering if our cabbage will beat the heat and make nice heads or if it will bolt to bloom in Florida's heat. Can we make Sauerkraut?
We wait for this and many other things this season. We are waiting for our goats to have kids anyday, and our duck to hatch out her babies as she sits daily guarding the nest - 7 more days?. 
Our guardian Great Pyrenees bred this winter and we wait for buyers to call so we may find good homes for three gorgeous, large, healthy, playful pups.
We wait for rain to help with the dry grounds demands and the ban to be lifted on burning so we can have some nice fires in the evening.
We wait for the time to call about business matters and for the wisdom to make the right decisions for our farm.
We wait and watch as our seedlings get stronger and our children get older.
I am thankful to be waiting with expectations like these. My heart is merry and my burden is light. I don't worry or fret, but I wait. My peace comes from my faith in God and my assurance of a home in heaven.  Lamentations 3:26 "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."

Our God whom created all things will meet our needs and calm our fears. This we can count on.right now without waiting.

Farmer Jen
Merry Heart Farm




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