Memorial Day weekend is often viewed as the unofficial start of Summer. Pools opening, parades, BBQs, maybe even a trip to you local farm or Farmer’s Market. Ask us our opinion on the start of summer and I guess we would say something along the lines of it depends upon the weather. That is the funny thing about farming 12 months of the year. The weeks, months and seasons all have a strange way of bleeding together. We are actively planting and harvesting for one season while our mind is already in the next, attempting to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition. Each season has it’s own bounty and a point where things are plentiful and in their prime. It can be tough to let go of a season as it comes to a close, but it is quite necessary. We must say see you next year to old friends like spinach and usher in the warm weather crops. Time, Mother Nature and the harvest wait for no one, as such we cannot dwell too long in a fleeting season or we run the risk of missing that which is right in front of us.
With our 4th market of the season starting this coming Sunday our opinions about summer’s start are meaningless in the face of the facts. We are pleased to be joining the Chester Farmers Market as a season long guest vendor, Sundays from 10-1. This is the first time in many years that Star Light is doing 4 markets in a season and though perhaps we run the risk of spreading ourselves a bit thin, we also are driven by ambition and the desire to spread the Good Food movement. With the Middlefield location in play we do have room for growth. Though our plan is to slowly and responsibly bring more land in Middlefield into production and so far we have not increased that much. We have to start growing more sometime and the Chester Farmer’s market is an excellent opportunity for just that. Hopefully you will get a chance to join us there, we promise not to tell your usual market we saw you.
As the saying goes seeing is believing and had we not seen it with our very own eyes, we likely wouldn’t believe the success of spud Tuesday. Like some sort of six human powered machine the farmers of SLG, easily accomplished the task of prepping for and planting the remaining 175lbs or so of potatoes. Planting 200lbs of potatoes is nearly unheard of in SLG history, but having all 200lbs in the ground before June is groundbreaking(literally). Ironically, like a cartoon character pulling endless lengths of rope from a bag, as soon as one item is crossed off our pre summer(or is it) to do list, 3 more appear. Having almost too much to get done is a bit of a double edged sword. To grow as much good food as we want there has to be practically more work than hours in the day. Yes, it’s overwhelming at times but it is also juxtaposed with the opportunity to do this work, the good help to accomplish it and the Good Food people behind us supporting all the growers of the Good Food movement.
The week ahead promises to be both beautiful and hot one. We’ll be keeping our hats close by and water bottles full while tackling the tasks of the week. With much progress made on the potato front we want to ensure that the other fruits and veggies are not feeling neglected. As a result the crew will be heading to SLGNW(Middlefield) tomorrow for plant, prep, prune, plant Tuesday. 4XP Tues for short. That will have the tomatoes and cubrits feeling the love but we can’t forget about the rest. With Brassicas(choys/turnips), beets, peppers and eggplant ready to get in the ground and melons and turmeric a step behind those. It will more than likely be a requirement that we spread ourselves a little thin to let our plant progeny know that we are still here for them.
Spring in New England can be quite a fickle thing. Hot enough to remind us of Summer and cold enough to have us reaching for a sweatshirt and considering if thermals make sense in May. Growers of all sorts sit on the fence wondering whether or not to plant, a tough decision to make often resulting in success but all too often resulting in heartbreak. On farm though temperatures did reach near freezing and sprinklers were briefly clogged with ice, Star Light was sparred any heartbreak. A May frost is and has been enough of a reality that when one comes we should take it as a reminder to keep our veggie starts close and our frost protection even closer.
In more pleasant farm and weather news Saturdays rain was much needed and heavy enough only to delay our planting schedule a day or too. As always the inclement weather was no match for the fierce loyalty of the Good Food people, who were out in full force supporting all the vendors at Saturday’s market. This sort of loyalty and consistency not only fills our hearts with joy, but allows us to harvest with confidence. Two simple things that have us feeling more grateful every time it rains(just hopefully not too much).
Last week marked the return of the Durham Farmer’s Market and it felt great to be back. It was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat seeing familiar faces and rekindling conversations never finished last season. After one more market on the Green this week, next week we will be relocating down the road to the New Community Center, same day and time different location 144 Pickett Lane Durham , CT 06422. The Friday market in Madison has been great starting off, a sign that it will be an excellent season there. Friday June 16th there will not be a Madison Farmers’ Market due to the town graduation ceremony being held on the green. The good news is you have your choice of Durham, New Haven and Chester that week to come and get your fix of the farmers’ market and Star Light Gardens.
As you could imagine the actual on farm business in going in all directions and though we do have a lot of balls in the air, controlled chaos is par for the course. We barely put a dent in the seed potatoes last week however, tomorrow may be referred to as spud Tuesday(french fries not included). More choys, turnips, the last of the onions, peppers and beets all went in last week. More peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, squash and maybe melons will be joining them this week and who knows what other surprise guest will also be joining them in the ground. Of course beside the transplanting there is the seeding and the prep, you all know the mantra. The plant sale continues in earnest with more cukes and squash as well as the final tomatoes and peppers being re potted today. Remember our 10 for 50 sale is going on as long as we have plants but some varieties are selling out fast.
This week we kick Market Season into full gear(almost) with the start of our third weekly market. Making it’s return this Thursday from 3-630 is the Durham Farmers’ Market. This year there will be a change in location after the initial first two opening markets. The first two weeks will be on the town green as in past years. Following that the market will move just down the road to the New Community Center. With more adequate parking, facilities and sharing a location with the summer concert series we have high hopes for this new location. We look forward to the return of our hometown market and hope to see you there.
Speaking of seeing, we have noticed the weather forecast is predicting lows on Wednesday Night to approach 39-40 in our central CT location. Nothing to be overly concerned about if you have already planted hotter weather crops outside. Extra peace of mind can come in the form of a little crop protection such as some burlap or a light blanket, just remember to adequately support the weight of any cover that could squish your plants. If you haven’t planted yet these temps are a good excuse to put it off a few more days, continuing to acclimate plants to there new location. As always feel free to reach out with any questions.
This week we are also adding cucumber plants to the website and will be bringing them to market. The plant sale is ramping up to it’s peak with the last repottings of tomatoes, cukes and squash being mere days away. We of course will have plants for the next month or more however varieties will run low or sell out, something to keep in mind. Our 10 plants for 50 sale will be happening as long as we have plants. Just choose the 10 for 50 item on the shop and email us your choices from what is currently available online.
Despite the cool night on the horizon and yes lack of rain, the weather has been good to us. We will have the crew out in full force tomorrow, with beets, choys, potatoes, ginger and turmeric going into the ground. Maybe onions too if we get our acts together enough today to prep that area. This season has really been off to a great start both on farm and at the markets. The combination of a great crew and you the fantastic Good Food people has made the long days and dirty work pass by with ease. Seeing the regular names on the orders we put together at the farm and seeing those familiar faces at the markets is like getting a recharge. We can’t thank you enough and we are honored to grow for you.
It would certainly seem that May has shown up in full force for us this weekend, with a beautiful week to come promised. The flowers and foliage of Spring are in competition with the many bird songs for the title of greatest contributor to the atmosphere of the season. Little do they know that it is the way they compliment each other, making this contest a dead tie. Spring comes with many wonderful things, blooms, singing birds, great weather, but for the grower it also comes with a large list of tasks. Starring at this list can be described as nothing less than overwhelming, except when you have a great crew, who’s enthusiasm and hard work are matched only by how much of a pleasure it is to share these tasks with them.
This is the second week where we have this season’s crew at full strength. With two returning from last year and two more joining us anew, we’ve also enlisted the help of a dear friend for the Saturday market in New Haven. Lindsey and Sam are back to join us with Ben and Zoe here for their first time. But to see them work together will have you thinking that they have been here for years. If you haven’t had the pleasure to meet Emily at the Saturday market yet we recommend it, a life long friend of Jen we are blessed to be called and call her family. Having help on the farm really does show the truth behind the saying”many hands make lite work”. Walking the farm the other evening it was clear to us that we are probably as close to on schedule as we have ever been. This is a direct result of the good folks we have joining us this season. We are currently working on another phrase, something along the lines of many hands and great people make for lite enjoyable work. Obviously some editing and rewrites are needed but you get the idea.
You may be wondering “what else needs to get done around the farm these days?” Well you might know our mantra, plant, prep, seed, repeat, that just can’t stop. There’s also our first outdoor squash planting, the ginger and turmeric, 200lbs of potatoes, some inside cubrits, peppers, eggplant and that’s only the planting(or a portion of it). Needless to say we have our work cut out for us, what were we saying about many hands?
If you are a gardener you too have your work cut out for you(not that we have to tell you that) We are here to help whether it’s all the starts for your garden, simply a little advice or everything in between SLG has your back. Summer squash is hitting the website this week with cucumbers more than likely appearing at the markets and being available online next week. Remember our 10 for 50 sale is going on, just choose that item in the store and email us your 10 choices from what is currently available online.
We all know that in life just like in farming there are no certainties except for change. Often planned, sometimes forced, it can be sad, joyous or both. Change often comes with pain but often also with growth. And after all that’s what we are doing right, growing? Nearly 5 years ago amidst a lot of change David invited J and J to share his home and come live on the farm. A big change for the three of us and the beginning of a big change for Star Light Gardens. Now as certain as the dawn change has come again with J and J leaving Durham and moving into their home. Certainly, you follow the riveting story that is SLG and are aware we acquired land(and a house) in neighboring Middlefield around a year and a half ago. We have been working and growing here for a little over 20 months and now the time has come to live there too. Just to be perfectly clear Star Light Gardens and J and J aren’t leaving Durham, we will continue to love and care for both pieces of land as SLG. Though we aren’t leaving Durham, not living in the community and neighborhood that welcomed us will certainly involve the growing pains that come with change. We’d be out of step to say anything but we are gonna miss you Durham/Fowler Ave/Cherry Ln.
One thing that we are not going to miss this year is the Durham Farmer’s Market. Returning Thursday 5/18 from 3-630. After a few weeks in the original location on the town green the market will be moving right down the road to the community center. Though the green is a nice location with much better parking, bathrooms, as well as sharing a location with summer concerts, we have high hopes for the season. We will of course be adding the Durham Farmer’s market as a preorder pickup location starting that week.
Speaking of pick up locations, you now can choose the Madison Farmer’s market when preordering. The market is back open this Friday running from 3-6 on the town green. In other market news SLG will be a season long guest vendor at the Chester Farmer’s market beginning in mid June. Running from 10-1 Sunday mornings in the heart of Chester, we are excited for the opportunity(aside from getting up early on Sundays). And you guessed it, Chester will also be added as a pickup location.
If you grow as well remember you can pick up garden starts with us at the markets or through preorder for the next 6 weeks or so. The 10 for 50 plant sale will also be running for that time. Simply choose that as an item and email us your choices from what is currently available online. Peppers and eggplant have been added to the website with cucumbers and squash being re potted and started daily. Those faster growers should show up in a week or two. As always feel free to reach out with any questions, comments or stories(we like stories). Until then we hope to see you at the market, time to get to some of that aforementioned repotting.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant and surest signs of spring are the greens, reds and pinks that begin to populate the trees making up our landscape. The soft warm colors, create a hopeful back drop, evoking feelings that reside deep in the fiber of us as animals. We would imagine these feelings are similar to those felt by all the insects and animals who have been patiently awaiting April’s sights and smells . Whether you fancy yourself simply a lover of spring, one of the good food people, an avid gardener or all the above, you too have been patient. Patience after all is a virtue to be admired and rewarded. Spring Garlic, for us is one these signs and yes a little reward. Harvested early while the whole plant is still tender it has a delicate garlic flavor and the entire plant can be used much like a scallion or leek. Around for only a few weeks a gentle preview of what is to come. Reminding us to hold fast and stay strong the paradise of spring and summer is not far off, just look too the trees and ask your animal friends.
While you are out there looking if you are a gardener, take some time and think over what you want to grow. Even if you haven’t grown and are thinking about giving it a shot now is the perfect time. Starting with a wider variety of tomatoes we will be adding more and more variety of warm whether veg. Cukes, squash, eggplant will all be available soon with peppers making their first appearance at the market this weekend. Don’t forget we are running a 10 plants for 50 sale, simply choose the 10 for 50 item when preordering and email us your choices from what is available online. We encourage everyone that is growing from a large plot to a single pot, if you have questions, concerns or even just tales of veg, send us a line or come see us at the market. We love to talk growing and really appreciate being able to share food and conversation with you all.
Speaking of markets and sure signs of Spring this is the last week of only one market per week with Madison set to open Friday 5/5. We are looking forward to another great market season every Friday (except for one in June, date to be announced) from 3-6. Starting next week the Madison Farmer’s Market will be added as a preorder pick up location on our online shop. We hope to see you all soon at one of the markets this season, until then may your patience bring reward.
What is it about summer in April that has part of us throwing on shades and embracing it while the other half is saying “come on it’s too early”. Maybe it has something to do with dragging around hoses to water because all the irrigation isn’t yet in place. Or is it casually throwing on your sandals instead of boots, at times slipping those off to walk bare foot through the grass. Could it be the return of our perennial foes the flea beetle and those pesky white moths. And let’s not forget the freedom that warm weather brings as far as being able to plant, plant, plant without the worry of a frost. Yet still there is the joyous act of covering nearly every new planting, be it with shade cloth or insect netting for protection. What ever it is, this weeks weather promises both relief and good planting conditions. Hopefully a chance to take Mother Nature’s hint and get more instep with the season.
Where the sandals meet the dirt on the farm this week, between all the repotting, starting and transplanting of summer season crops in some regard we are certainly in step with the season. Whether it’s warm or cold, one thing we can be truly grateful for this time of year is the amount of light in each day. Between the fact that long days drive the growth of all the delicious veg of summer we love as well as all the transplanting that needs to get done, we’d take longer days if we could(sometimes). Something that will be new to us this market season is a season long guest spot at the Chester Farmers’ Market. Sundays from 10-1 starting in June, this market will be added as a preorder pickup location, more details coming soon. Other new things you will see is a wider variety of plants on the store this week, more will be added weekly. In addition to that there is an item for the season special “10 plants for 50 dollars”. Choose this item and email us your list plants from the options available online.
In keeping with the seasonal theme, there is an old saying along the lines of “when is the best season to plant a tree?” The answer of course being last year or more relevantly, now. With this in mind Jen, Joel and Sid got into the spirit of the season, purchasing and planting four fruit trees in Middlefield. One cherry, one apple, a pear and a peach will hopefully sweeten many seasons to come in their home. Of course sweeter farmers means sweeter vegetables and we also look forward and hope you Good Food People out there do as well, to enjoying many, many more seasons as part of the Star Light Gardens Family.
It is hard for us to exactly put the into words the feeling that a four season farm gets this time of year. Some sort of mix between excitement, apprehension, gleeful anticipation and longing for what once was. Everything changes so quickly from a sleepy, slow paced, waiting months for things to grow feeling in the Winter. To an all engines firing, 12 hour day, high production environment that comes with the warmer weather and longer days. The summer with all it’s beauty and abundance, gives us the bounty of so much variety. While winter gives us peace, solitude and some time to rest and reorganize. It’s here generally around this time of year where we find ourselves at a crossroads of the mind. Embodied best by the Claytonia flower, this time of year is as bitter sweet as it’s first appearance. Claytonia our winter warrior, provides delicious nutrition and solace to us all winter long, regrowing quickly despite little light and seemingly not phased by frigid temps. Seeing it’s flower lets us know that for Claytonia this season, the time is drawing near. However, it reminds us too that the bounty of summer draws ever closer each hour.
None the less when we refocus on the day, casting our philosophical musings aside, there really is a lot to get done. Ambitious plans of breaking more new(to us) ground at SLGNW are guaranteed to be a challenge considering the geology. A second round of tomato planting is on deck for Thursday, while the tunnel next door continues to remind us with a whisper,”it’s time to prep me for cucumbers and squash.” In Durham our main outside production beds require much less effort and as you can imagine both prepping and planting there is also of top priority. There is too of course the nurseries. Seemingly endless trays of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant wait to be re potted for your garden and ours. More onions as well as cucumbers, melons and squash are in line to be started once we make room in the germination chamber. Then there is of course the warm season weekly ritual of starting lettuce, choys, turnips and mustards for summer production. A lot to juggle we suppose, but easy to manage with such excellent work supported by equally excellent people.
Depending on your opinion this week’s weather is looking to be quite excellent indeed. Sure temps in the 80’s are in most people’s opinions excessive for April, it will certainly be warming the soil. Waking up all those microbes and sleepy bugs as well triggering the alarm for the hibernating gardener in many of you. We are still offering our early bird plant sale for this last week. Buy 4 and get a dollar off each plant, choose the early bird special item in our store and email us your choices from what is available. Despite the summer temps this week we are still offering cool weather plants only. The strangeness of the weather with highs can still go that way with lows too. But rest assured all your warm weather friends are staying nurtured loved and yes warm, looking forward to and waiting for a good home.
The first Day of April arrived, living up to it’s expectations. Of course a rainy April 1st would coincide with the first outdoor market of the year. Still despite the ugly weather, the loyal good food people show up in earnest, warming our hearts and making us smile A look at the long range forecast should have growers across CT also smiling with no below freezing temps in sight. We held off the planting of kales and Swiss chard last week, opting to harden them off instead in one of the high tunnels. So for them today is the day, along with peas , onions, turnips, choys and radish. A lot to do yes but we must keep on schedule for all the obvious reasons as well as others. Most pressing is more space on the tables as well as tomorrow’s ambitious schedule of planting flowers, the First Tomatoes and hopefully more lettuces.
If all this talk of planting has the grower in you getting excited for this season, rest assured. This week we are rolling out the garden starts, with some cool weather standards. For the next two weeks we are running a early bird(or is that gardener)special. Buy four and get a dollar off each plant. To get this deal choose the “early bird special” item in our store and email us your 4 choices of plants from the available choices. There are some items over the years that we have found are not the best for plant sale. Cilantro and peas for example, due to they’re fast growing nature often don’t do well being potted up too long. It is our sincere hope that the garden starts you get from us are successful and thrive. That being said we don’t want to discourage anyone from trying to grow a wide variety of things. So if there is something you want to grow that you don’t see us selling let us know. We will do our best to tell you a good source for the seed, the advice needed to plant it or point you in the direction of someone who does have them. You might even talk us into sharing some of our own seeds as we do occasionally over order. As always we encourage you to asks us questions about and share your tales of growing, after all we love talking plants(in case you couldn’t tell).
Another important thing we should talk about is the Durham Farmer’s Market. We have gotten word that the market though delayed will be starting mid May. Though we have not received any official word yet all details will be passed along as soon as we receive them. One thing we are certain about for the Durham Farmer’s Market is we are committed to being a vendor. In the meantime for those of you who shopped with us in Durham, CSA or not remember you can still pre order to pick up on farm 3 days a week. We also can be accommodating for any Durham Farmer’s market customers whom can’t pick up on those days, just reach out. In the meantime the coffee is getting cold and the sun is warming the ground, you could say the fields are calling us.
With April and arguably the main growing season nipping at our heels, things around the farm begin to look the part. Tell tale signs of the season are popping up everywhere. Plastic low tunnels being replaced with fabric row covers, trays of transplants spilling out of the already overcrowded nursery and a team of 3 or 4 farmers out in the fields. Beds outside are being prepped and even a few already planted, with many more on the schedule for the coming weeks. The thing we have found about April (often when March has left like a lamb) is that a couple of weeks of cold cloudy days can halt and stunt those things planted on beautiful March days. Ambition and over planting are perhaps one of the easiest parts of farming and in fact a necessity to it. So obviously we won’t really be changing much of what we have done in the past, just doing it a bit smarter(hopefully). The majority of what we have planted this past month has been inside the high tunnels. Warm and protected from the elements, the choys, lettuces, beets ect. should arrive a week of two earlier than similarly timed outdoor plantings.
A big push for us to get as many things planted this time of year as possible is simply for real estate’s sake in the nursery. Trays of starts are being potted up for plant sale or on farm planting. As tray after tray of freshly sprouted seedlings eagerly emerge from the germination chamber. Its a fine balancing act between finding enough space and time for all the planting, prepping, starting and potting up. Even with a second nursery up and running in Middlefield, it is still the case that farmer and veg alike jockey for position. Living and working on the farm have a way entering their own ebb and flow, in a way we suppose mirroring life.
Another familiar sign of the season comes this Saturday with the first day of April. We will be back outside for the Cityseed market for the remainder of the year. Same location at Conte West middle school, starting one hour earlier from 9am-1. Preorder is recommended if you still feel like sleeping in. The Madison Market is back on this May starting 5/5. We still await details as to the Durham Farmers Market and will let you all know as soon as we do.