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The season is upon us

We know the one question that has been burning on everyone’s mind.  Have they gotten a chance to plant all those little baby beets, kales, choys and mustard’s that we’ve heard so much about?  And the answer is yes, Onions, kales, collards, beets, choys and lettuces now are taking up residence in our main fields.  With flowers soon to follow this morning.  Meanwhile the space outside the nursery, our little reminder of what needs to be transplanted this week.  It is once again full of the next round of transplants to go out.  And yes we are aware that the real transplanting question in most everyone’s mind is one simple word, tomatoes?  We are pleased to report that our first round of Jen’s grafted tomatoes will also be going into the ground today.  All of these things are great for their own obvious reasons, but the added benefit of transplanting this time of year is freeing up much needed space in the nursery.

As you can see real estate in Skye(the nursery) is at an all time premium in the spring.  One of the major reasons for this is the Spring plant sale.  We’ve been busy re-potting all the most cold hardy herbs and veg that you’ll find available on our website and at farmer’s markets this week.  We love that our customers are into growing food and it gives us pride to provide you with both the plants and food.  Is there something you really want to make sure you have in your garden this year?  Preordering is the best way to guarantee it.  Do you have questions about what varieties we will have or just a growing question?  Feel free to write or catch us at the markets.  We’re plant people and love talking about it.  In addition to plants now being available on the website other notable farm news includes opening day of the Durham Farmer’s market.

Open from 3-630 Thursdays, located right on the town green mere minutes from the farm, it’s our hometown market and it’s good to be back.  Pick up Thursdays at the Durham Farmers market is now a preordering option.

Have a great week

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Here comes the “Sun Angel”

Reading last week’s writing back this morning there is little to do but laugh and be glad we didn’t transplant all those beets, mustard, kales and choys. We moved them out of the nursery, prepped the ground, having all the intention to actually transplant them last Wednesday. Low and behold as I had my morning coffee and checked the weather my plans were literally frozen. With the low temps of tonight and last night, the facts had to be faced, there was no transplanting happening the first week of spring.

However, speaking on the first week of spring and the arrival of it’s harbingers, there was a sure sign of the season’s arrival. Despite last evening’s snow squall and temps in the 20s, here at Star Light our hearts are as warm as a lamb in a wool sweater. If you follow us on Instagram you may know but for those who don’t we would like to officially announce the newest addition to the Star Light Gardens family. Arriving in the early hours of the 23rd our sweet lamb Sun Angel.

Sunny as we have nicknamed her arrived a few weeks earlier then we expected but with the ease that only such an angel could enter the world. Showing up at Star Light North West for morning chores, Jen got her first glimpse of this sweet girl scurrying amongst the flock. Pictured with her is Momma Kenga. Despite being the most skittish of our new sheep, her motherly instincts are strong. The two are doing great needing practically no help from their human companions. Last night we fitted Sunny with an extra wool sweater to keep her warm for the cold night ahead.

Despite the cold on the farm our resolve to plant and transplant this week is strong. Though likely not until mid week. Also taking place this week is David’s birthday. Though he’ll be off celebrating during the week you could likely catch him this Saturday at the farmer’s market. Speaking of the Saturday market this week 4/2 the market moves back outside for the main season. This means opening an hour early from 9-1, hopefully not too many of us vendors will forget to set our alarms.

Stay Warm and enjoy your week

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Yup Spring

If the beautiful weather and time change of the past week hasn’t convinced you, the date will, Spring has arrived. It is a little funny how something you plan and dream about for months can sneak up on you, seemingly out of no where. Like many of you I’m sure the time change certainly came fast. It did for us, if you didn’t surmise this from last weeks lack of content. The past week had us firing on all cylinders, prepping and transplanting outside, uncovering low tunnels, pulling off row cover and yup back to plenty of 10 to 12 hour days.

The nursery is filled to the brim with tray after tray of things to be transplanted, re potted and turned into the season’s future food. From the basement and underneath the nursery table there are little shouts and strangely loud whispers. “Make room for me, I need more sun”, “re pot me I’m getting big”, “hey aren’t you supposed to start more of us?”. Our little plant friends pile up as a constant reminder of the pace and urgency of the season. First to brave the freshly prepped 2022 spring soil has been onions transplanted last week. Next come beets, bok choys, mustards, snow/snap peas and kales. We’ve moved them out of the nursery and into the open air, yes to harden them off, make room in the nursery but also as a constant reminder of what must get planted this week.

As you can imagine things are really starting to grow. The growth on the spinach and claytonia warms my heart, dear friends of cooler weather who will soon be “off” for the summer.

  Be sure to get them while you can. Mean while we walk the fine line of planting enough on time, yet not too much too early.  Yes, the long term forecast looks promising, with only a few nights in the 20s.  But we all know and as Prince said “sometimes it snows in April”.  With that in mind everyone transplanted outside will also have the protection of row cover and the makings of a low tunnel.  It feels really great to be planting outside in March and we’re pulling for a warm April to get things going nicely

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The Real Organic Project

A lot happened last year around the farm.  One thing that we are really excited about (yet somehow, we forgot to mention) is getting certified by the Real Organic Project. 

There has been many changes over the years concerning what is considered USDA certified organic.  Many describe it as a watering down of the organic standards, a statement we do not disagree with.  The Real Organic Project is aimed at getting back to a simple answer to the question, “what does organic mean.”   Healthy soil and humane treatment of animals. In 1995 the USDA defined certified organic as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.” However, recently the USDA has opened their definition to allow big ag to grow fruits and vegetables, and animals, as organic despite the fact they never touch any soil and operate mainly on off-farm inputs. The Real Organic Project wants to reclaim the organic label and re-raise the bar of organic standards.

Recently our rep shared this video with us and asked us to spread the word. https://www.realorganicsymposium.org/post/voices_of_real_organic

There are a lot of organic farmer all-stars speaking on here and there’s a lot of great messages. The two that stuck out the most for me was Leah Penniman and Emily Oakley (maybe because they are both women in a male dominated world but that’s another blog post). It drives me crazy to go to the store and look for the organic options and see a brand that offers both organic and conventional. Like Emily says, if organic is the best option why grow any other way. And as Leah says, we need to reclaim the word organic so that it aligns more with our moral compass. When big ag grows both organic and conventional they are growing organic for the sole purpose to make money, not because they believe in the organic values that small farms like us hold so dear. And, these practices can actually be less sustainable and have more of an environmental foot print because organic at a big scale involves lots of mono-cropping, lots of inputs like fertilizers and herbicides, and get smaller yields.

Now to be clear, we are still also certified organic by the USDA. This is sort of a prerequisite to the Real Organic Project. Although, the USDA has bent the standard to allow big ag to do practices that are unthinkable to the small organic farmer, they still hold high standards about pesticides and other dangerous conventional practices. We are fired up about the Real Organic Project though. It’s the start to a new soil-based movement. Real organic farming practices can produce food to feed communities, restore the soil, better the environment, and have a negative carbon footprint. False organic practices can mono-crop, erode the soil, degrade biodiversity, and raise animals in factories.

 We appreciate our customers who support us doing what is best for the environment and for all of our health. When you make the choice to support small local farms it helps us continue to do what we all know is the right way to treat the land, and animals. Usually, it’s not as convenient as going to your grocery store and doing all your shopping at once. It requires effort and planning and time, and we really value all of you who put the work in.

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Garlic Scape Pea Tendril Pesto

After years of hearing customers at the markets rave about Garlic Scape Pesto, we finally made some and it totally lived up to all the hype! Even Joel, who is famously anti-pesto wanted seconds.

Garlic Scapes are the flowers of the garlic plants, they start growing in an upwards direction but quickly take a nose dive then back up and back down until someone notices them . Once the scapes start making their loopyloops we start walking up and down each of the garlic rows pulling them out. One, because we want to eat them. But mostly because we want to trick the garlic bulb into growing more. We planted over 110 pounds of garlic last fall, so needless to say we have A LOT of scapes.

I found a recipe from motherearthnews.com and adapted it to fit the ingredients we had available. Here is what they called for:

  • 1 Bunch of Garlic Scapes (10-12 roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 Bag of Pea Tendrils (3 ozs)
  • 1 Bunch of Basil
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan

We didn’t have any other nuts besides peanut butter and cheese besides cheddar so I went for it and was not disappointed. I also added juice from half a lemon. Throw all those ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender and voila!

To make it vegan, use nutritional yeast. And to make it nut-free use sunflower seeds/butter.

So far I have enjoyed the Pesto on pasta, scrambled eggs, crackers, salad and toast! So, basically everything I’ve eaten since I made it last night.

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Tomato Pruning Refresher

It’s Tomato Jungle Season around here now. We figured this would be a good time to give some quick tips on pruning your tomato plants so you get the most out of them. Pruning will increase airflow, giving leaves and fruit more room to breath. Most importantly, it allows the plants to concentrate their energy on creating bigger, better tomatoes!

All of the plants we plant and sell are indeterminate, this means they will grow as tall as they possibly can. So, some sort of support is necessary. We hang strings from the top of the hoop houses, but a tomato cage or stake would work fine too. Next we train the plants down to two to four main leaders. These are like the brain of the plant. To determine the leaders we look for the ones that are the thickest, and have the most well established blossoms. Once the leaders are chosen, the rest are suckers. Suckers grow from the armpit of the leaders. See picture below.

Suckers get their bad rep because they can suck the energy out of the plant. If left unkempt, tomato plants could have many,many leaders but still a limited amount of energy to produce fruit. By removing suckers the tomato plant only has to focus on a few leaders and their fruits. This results in large fruits and yields.

Once you’ve decided on the leaders and have removed the suckers, make sure to also clean up the bottom of the plant. We like to remove the bottom 4 inches or so of foliage so the plants have more airflow and there is less room for disease.

Before
After

There is a ton of information out there on tomato pruning. And of course, feel free to reach out to us with any questions! Happy Gardening!

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New, new, new

Welcome to our new website! Unfortunately, our long time website platform dissolved with the new year so here we are now. Admittedly, website building is not our forte but we hope that you will find it to be user-friendly. Please let us know if you have any suggestions or have run into any trouble.

Aside from the new website Star Light experienced a lot of “news” in 2020. New customers, new CSA market cards, new wash station, newly covered high tunnel and nursery, new pick up days, new cat (just one this year..). Probably the most notable “new” of 2020 were our 2 new Caterpillar Tunnels.

Our new Caterpillar Tunnels are named Frida and Lulu,David’s youngest grandkids. Now all 7 grandkids have  a covered structure named after them. Frida and Lulu (the tunnels) are going to be great tools to help extend the seasons and help us grow “on the backside of the calendar.” They will also help us get started earlier in the Spring. That’s right, once we get through this Winter, it will be Spring again, hang in there!  Right now both Frida and Lulu are planted with salad greens like lettuce, baby kale, claytonia as well as turnips, spinach and some radishes too . We are planning on using them in the spring for early beets and radishes then again in the summer for a late round of flowers. But the possibilities are endless and nothing is set in stone so we are looking forward to the future of the newest addition to our farm landscape.