wjfarm

Community Action Day, Saturday March 8th, 9am to 3pm!

In Events, Improvements, Partners, Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

By now you will have heard that the farm has something of a reprieve in that talk about “relocating” has also included an understanding that if any construction and development is indeed going to take place at the farm site (still an ongoing discussion, including the illogicality of moving to a possible adjacent space), it may take 12 to 18 months before anything happens.

What does this mean? It means that we can move ahead and prepare the farm for the upcoming 2014 season and further consolidate the farm’s importance as a community hub and unique opportunity for our students to be empowered by growing and eating their own food!

As many gardeners know, Winter is hardly a time for sitting back and waiting for Spring, but should be the period when much of the needed repairs, renovations, and maintenance are completed prior to the Spring surge. While we have moved the debate from shutdown towards reprieve, much of this needed work was not completed so in order to re-energise our initiative we are asking everybody to recruit, cajole, bully, bribe, or otherwise encourage all your groups and supporters to volunteer for a massive Community Action Day on Saturday, March 8th from 9am to 3pm.

We have a ton of work to do which will primarily involve spreading compost, and weeding and tilling all our fields and peripheral areas. We will arrange for the school building to be open to cater to bathroom needs, and we will provide tools and gloves for all.

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Green Tomatoes in November

In Recipes on November 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

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Inevitably, gardeners are faced with the “green tomatoes in November” dilemma and inevitably the majority will attempt to defy the Laws of Nature (and in this case, those of a zone 7 climate) and hold on for them to ripen, but just as inevitably the first hard freeze, in November, will quash any sense of green-thumb megalomania and render the possibilities merely fantasy, or… with a sprinkling of corn meal, we can Bobby Flay them!

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With the formation of the Junior Chefs this year, harvesting green tomatoes for the creation of salsas, pickles, and relish nudged us away from the temptation to hope for a warming spell and provided us with plenty of healthy, yet unripe, fruit to use, especially with many of the herbs still available.

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Green Heirloom Tomato Relish

6 cups green heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tabasco peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup (2 stalks) celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. thai basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. African blue basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. salad burnet, finely chopped
1 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. winter savory, very finely chopped
2 tsp. freshly grated turmeric
1 tsp. lavender leaves, very finely chopped

Following the standard pickling procedure, everything goes into a non-reactive pot, is brought to the boil, simmered for 5, then jarred!

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The question still remains as to how to dispose of the old vines. There is some debate concerning how to get rid of old, and possibly diseased tomato vines, with burning and trashing considered better choices than composting, however even though our heirloom vines probably do have the range of fungal diseases prevalent in tomatoes (septoria, alternaria, anthracnose, fusarium, verticilium, and phytophthera all common to mid-Atlantic farming), as we have a strict crop rotation plan, we’ve decided to follow our minimal-till protocol and use the old vines, well-chopped, as a compost layer knowing that we’ll not be planting any solanaceous crops in the same field for another 5 years.

Pumpkin Harvest Day 2013

In Events, Kids on the Farm on November 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

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The “pumpkin patch” pre-invasion!

Every year the culmination of the year’s growing season is our Harvest Day parade when the whole school celebrates the last day of October. As the school parades around our community in fancy dress, the Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten classes peel off and make their way to the Farm to harvest pumpkins.

Throughout the growing season (seeds planted July 14th, pumpkins cut form the vine October 21st to cure ~ see Inside the Numbers for a few more details) our youngest students have been following the progress of their pumpkins from the first flowers (an important concept introduced at that time is dioecy where members of the Cucurbitaceae family have both male and female flowers), pollination (our Farm’s honeybees and native bumblebee species always oblige with frequent visits to pumpkin flowers as instruction is ongoing), how the female flowers ovaries swell up to become future fruit, and the importance of beta-carotene in a balanced diet (“different colors on your dinner plate”) and whilst the botany of farm crops can become rather complex, “sowing the seeds” of certain biological concepts in young minds helps build a strong foundation for their science knowledge.

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Members of the Cucurbitaceae are dioecious, having both male and female flowers

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One of our native pollinators (there are about 4,000 species of native bee in North America) searching for pollen and nectar

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First fruits (technically a botanical “berry”)~ with successful pollination and fertilization, the ovary on the female flower starts to swell and the petals fall

In addition, supported by a few well-chosen books, the pumpkin crop allows us to also introduce a number of other natural history concepts (Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown ~ “root”, “shoot”, “seedling”) and to continue to develop community values (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper ~ teamwork, friendship, and the fact that pumpkins are not just for carving at Hallowe’en but bona-fide edible crops that provide nutrition too!)

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Pumpkin SOup

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But in the end, the day’s main event created some of their strongest memories!

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