Monday, June 29, 2009

SAITA presents Sustainable Winemaking at Stargazers Vineyard

We had another good turnout for the premiere of our Sustainable Winemaking workshop Friday evening at Stargazers Vineyard in Coatesville, PA. In attendance were 17 interns, farmers and apprentices, with one prominent Coatesville citizen, Alray Johnson, who brought a video camera to document the event for his 3CTV company, which produces community minded television for the web.

Stargazers Vineyard was the first vineyard founded and planted in Chester County in 1979 by John and Alice Weygandt. It began producing wine in 1996. +20,000 vinfera vines yielding over 45 tons per vintage are situated on the incredibly lovely slopes of the Weygandt's land and John discussed sustainable winemaking techniques with the group. An excellent resource for viticultural sustainability is the Salem, Oregon site

The French call a microclimate with its own specific environment 'terroir'. The intense mineral content in Chester County soils helps to contribute an elegant, complex character to each of the Weygandt's 10 varieties of wine.

John submits that biodynamic grape growing is an impossibility in the southeastern part of our state's climate; it's too wet and the soil doesn't have enough limestone. Organic production has express rules that limit any range of options. Sustainability gives him the most amount of flexibility in his growing practices. He mentions that in replanting young vines there is no herbicide benign enough for his newly planted young vines, most everything will kill them. So his manager and 2 casual workers don't use much on the land, except for minimal fungicides and tubes for deer protection. Another trick for deer is to bait 'hot' electric fence wiring with peanut butter smeared on tin foil wrapped around the wire. The deer finds peanut butter irresistible and is zapped when he licks the wire. 

During an intense Japanese beetle infestation a couple of years ago, he did have to apply Sevin -there is no organic remedy for the insects- and his vines were so compromised by the leaf damage that some didn't withstand the winter. For the grape berry moth, pheromone ties will work well enough.

He will remove his oldest 30 year vines in about a year and has begun replanting more closely together than in the 8 foot rows of the past; now his rows are 4' apart. The economics result in more vines being grown on an acre, and the model follows that of Germany and other parts of Europe where growers have been planting intensively for decades. His mix in the paths between rows is clover and rye, which he mows periodically.

PH is most important for grapes and gives the best indication of maturity. He looks for a partial crop in the 3rd leaf, which means the plant has leafed out 3 times. By the 5th year, the vines should be in full production. Of course, if it's been a dry season it's like starting over in the second year. Grapes are particularly tricky. If you overcrop they'll be stressed and unable to make it through the winter, undercropped and you'll have excessive vegetative growth and the vine will become less productive or fruitful. You need to leave a certain number of buds for dormancy. How many is just right? That depends on the variety and how closely they're planted. In cool, wet weather the vines may also send out 'laterals', which need to be removed. 

John now gets all virus certified root stock and scions. All his vines are grafted except for Riparia, his favorite rootstock is 101-14 - which I had to google and discovered it's a famous and popular French rootstock produced by Millardet and De Grasset, originally released in 1882. A cross of V. riparia and V. rupestris, it is moderately vigorous and resistant to phylloxera and root-knot nematodes. 

We all deduced from John's talk that growing grapes is not for the weak spirited, a productive vineyard takes at least 5 years to produce. He laughed after hearing a salesman's pitch of a 'fertile valley for grapes', because grapes don't want too much nitrogen at all. He doesn't add any to his soil and composts with only organic fertilizer, calcium and magnesium being most important for grapes. He does get a soil analysis every 3 years and usually has to add lime since the native PH of 5.5 is lower than grapes like at 6. In Europe, all rootstock is selected for highly lime soils and Pennsylvania is short on lime.

State laws: According to Weygandt, not too much has changed since prohibition in the 1930's. The state is still trapped in a somewhat reductionist mentality and won't allow local vineyards to sell wines in liquor stores. Unlike the prescient visions of states like NY and Virginia, who followed California in local winemaking to boost their tourism and local economies, Pennsylvania has had archaic restrictions on wine sales. Until 2005, the Commonwealth didn't allow internet or mail order sales of wine. And even though PA is #5 nationally in the number of wineries, the state only allows direct sales from tastings, wineries and farmers markets. John is working with the PQA - Pennsylvania Quality Assurance Group to develop a compilation of PA wineries and standards to match the world's leading wines, as well as to educate consumers about local vineyards and to elicit more support from the state. The group has a matching grant for its activities from the PA Dept. of Agriculture.

With a 9KW solar array on the stockroom roof, John runs his passive solar house and the vineyard's needs without additional power. He uses variable capacity stainless steel barrels for fermentation, controlling temperature with water from the cistern. Weygandt cites sanitation, environmental impact and cost as three reasons not to use oak barrels, but he does add small pieces of oak for his chardonnay. 'The barrel was the 18th century's tupperware' is how he phrased it. At $1000 a barrel, oak or redwood barrels aren't cheap. They are more feasible for larger vineyards, since they can continually  keep the casks full of wine, while smaller vineyards often don't have year round production and must keep sulfited water in them.

1/5 to 1/3 of Stargazers' production is in sparkling wines, one of their specialties. In comparison, even the smaller French champagne makers have a half million bottles in their caves, but may sell 100,000 cases per year. John sells 100-200 cases.

The vineyard is open to the public on Sundays from 12-5pm, you can find many events to attend on their online calendar. And don't forget to check them out at the West Chester Growers Market and at Headhouse Market in Philly- again, check their calendar for specific dates. Appellation America featured John in a March article here.

Stargazers is also offering Big Band BBQ for 3 days over the July 4th weekend, with bluegrass, jazz, wine and a BBQ picnic, provided by Chef Richard Schrack of Moonlight Catering.  What could be better than sitting out under the stars drinking wine and listening to great music?

We'd like to thank the Weygandts for their hospitality - some of us stayed later for an informative wine tasting, presided over by Alice. 

Next SAITA workshop is a double hitter at Philadelphia urban farms on Saturday July 11th. First we'll go over to Greensgrow at 10:30am, and will hit Weavers Way at 1:30 on the same day. Please mark your calendars, plan now to carpool and don't miss these two great workshops!

Happy growing! See schedule and addresses for workshops here.

Victoria Webb

SAITA Coordinator

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rain, rain, go away… just long enough for everything to begin to dry out and allow our new crops to thrive! However, despite the very wet ( and lately very cold) weather, we are continuing to harvest those amazing stir fry greens, carrots, beets, scallions, peas and herbs.

On Saturday June 20th, we are holding our first VOLUNTEER DAY of the season. .Please plan on joining us between 10 and 12:30 and helping in the fields. Bring your family- it’s a great way to spend some time together in the great outdoors! We will be out there rain or shine- preferably shine!!

Join us at 6 pm on Sunday, June 21st as we celebrate the start of summer with our Summer Solstice Potluck Dinner. Sign up sheet is in the barn. Enjoy great food and great company. Feel free to bring friends and introduce them to the farm!!

In our store, you will find salmon, eggs, bread and goat milk soap.
Brian Moyer, of Green Haven Farm, who had previously provided us with chicken is moving to Vermont to take on an executive director position for Rural Vermont; an organization dedicated to preserving small farms and a local food economy. We will miss Brian’s delicious chickens, as well as his presence in Southeast Pennsylvania as an advocate for small, family farms and sustainable agriculture. We wish him only the best in his new endeavor!
We are looking to stock chickens from Ben Stoltzfus in the freezer, so you can conveniently have access to them whenever you pick up your vegetables….. Stay tuned!!

Another cooperative marketing product that has not yet been stocked in the store is the Birchrun Hills Cheeses. Sue Miller has been extremely busy getting the cheeses ready and assures us that she can have the cheeses here in a few weeks…. These cheeses are definitely worth the wait!!

This week, we have recipe from Lynn Pupek, who forwarded this recipe from
Lynn says that she uses not only the beet greens, but swiss chard and mustard greens in this recipe

Beet Greens
1 pound beet greens
1 strip of thick cut bacon, chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
¾ cup water
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/6 cup of cider vinegar

Wash greens well. Drain and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat)
Add onions, cook over medium heat 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic.
Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen up any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. (For kale or collard greens, continue cooking an additional 20-25 minutes or until desired tenderness.)
Serves 4.

See you at the farm!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SAITA presents: Equipment Maintenance and Farm Safety with Shane LaBrake

22 Interns and Farm managers, with one 'general public' attended this important all day workshop hosted by Charlestown Cooperative Farm with Shane LaBrake as the speaker. Shane is an agricultural consultant who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, and often peppers his workshop with moving personal stories about farming. He offered several tabletops full of books and manuals, with resource handouts on tractor and equipment maintenance, safety and operation. I'll include some of the links at the bottom of these notes.

Shane admitted to learning by fire in his twelve years of work with the Ecosystem Farm. Founded in 1957, Accokeek, the parent foundation was one of the nation's first land trusts and Ecosystem served as one of the earliest organic farms to hire apprentices and offer a land based training program. Shane has also worked with the New England Small Farm Institute(NESFI), a non-profit organization founded in 1978 by Women in Agriculture. At NESFI, Shane helped train both new and mid-career farmers.

'Design is the first signal of human intention' - William McDonough.

Shane kept going back to this world renowned architect's philosophy during his presentation, admonishing us to think about what we want to actually do and how, before we begin any project. He suggested that we think about land and resource use in terms of the world's increasing population growth and how the resulting allotment may radically change the world in the future. Sustainability is key, and we want to maximize efficiency in the field, while being a good steward of equipment and resources.

In the West we tend to live our lives in 'mindless timefulness' versus a more eastern 'timeless mindfulness'. Shane suggests that this difference is very important in the literal field. We should slow down and contemplate before we act. Safety is always first in his mind and this type of mental training can help to prevent accidents.

Working while exhausted, careless attention, ignoring safety warnings - all contribute to on the farm accidents that can easily be prevented. Rely on standard procedures and only conduct dangerous work when there are others in the vicinity who could help you. Analyze your mistakes with the same kind of criteria used by a good judge working on a manslaughter case; it could save your own life. Major injuries put a burden on family, friends and community. The question is how do you design your daily routine so that you avoid making mistakes that can cause serious harm to yourselves, equipment or others?

Keep your senses acute so that you're able to respond quickly to any situation. Obviously if you're tired, your reflexes won't respond as quickly. Do not work on farm equipment that extra hour at the end of a long day if you're hot, irritable and exhausted. You'll be more likely to take better care of both yourself and the machine by establishing a pace throughout the day's work. Again, mindfulness and intent is designed with purpose. The main objective is to do no harm.

One great routine to follow is to read the equipment and machine manuals. Shane stresses having a standard operating procedure during your day. Turn off the tractor, put it into neutral and put on the brake when you're finished working. Lower any attachment. Stop texting and start reading. Great books include 'How to Keep your Tractor Running' by Rick Kubik. 'Farm Safety Handbook', Rick Kubik. 'The Compact Tractor Bible', M. Graeme Quick. has great technical information about almost any tractor make or model.

Shane gives his interns paid time to read the manuals while sitting on the tractor, where everything is visible and they can relate the book to the actual machine. He suggests laminating certain procedures, and attaching them to the  tractor itself. That way you're always prepared and the steps become second nature. Try to have both a shop manual and an operator's manual in your barn. 

Wide front ends on tractors are more stable than narrow front ends and can prevent roll-overs. Don't buy a tractor without an ROPS; roll-over protective structure. These can't be retrofitted on older tractors. An enclosed cab, while more expensive, can also help protect a driver, as well as filtering out noise and dust, wayward stones and other objects that you'd rather not have flying into your face during cultivating. Another good practice is to hang a headset on each of your tractors, for ear protection. Throttle down the tractor or shut it off if you need to communicate with someone. Learning how to whistle loudly helps too, as Marvin Anderson aptly demonstrated.

PTO, the power take-off, is the most dangerous part of the tractor. It transfers power through the engine and the shaft spins 540 times per minute. Do not wear untucked shirts, let hair hang loose or sport frayed cut-offs when you're working with tractors and other farm equipment. Shane told of one belly-button piercing gone wrong - you get the picture. Wear steel-toed boots and gloves. Carry a fire extinguisher on board and use tinted or broader sunglasses to help protect your vision. No jewelry!

Photo: The bottom side of the engine block with the oil pan removed, illustrating the position of the crankshaft.  FYI:  the crankshaft transforms the reciprocating motion of the pistons (moving up and down in the cylinders) into a rotational motion that powers the transmission (moving the wheels), and on back to the PTO (power take-off)

Know simple facts: tractors will either run on diesel fuel or gas. Getting your language straight can exponentially increase your credibility when talking to dealers or shop managers. You'll be taken more seriously, and this is even more important for women farmers. You can also avoid time-hogging mistakes like having to drain the gas out of a diesel engine, then refilling and priming it.

Shane went into great detail about how tractor engines work that I won't even begin to try to describe here. He had all kinds of parts spread out on tables, showing crankshafts, gears and explained how the internal combustion machine parallels the human body. Pretty impressive that anyone even came up with the idea. Machinery that revolves fast enough to create forward motion needs lubrication and coolant. Winter weather requires that the coolant doesn't freeze, summer that it doesn't overheat. Make sure you keep your equipment and parts regularly maintained and greased. Write down the number of hours driven and the date when you're changing the oil and filter, just as you would with your car. Get a 17-18 gallon oil pan so that you're not spilling oil all over the barn floor....or yourselves.

Here are more photos and descriptions:

The front of the engine with the crankshaft gear at bottom center; the camshaft gear (to control opening of valves) at top right; an idler gear at top center; and a gear to propel the fuel injection pump, and behind that the oil pump.  The gears are aligned with  timing marks to ensure that the entire combustion process (Power, Exhaust, Intake, Combustion, or PEIC as in Prince Edward Island, Canada) occurs in an exact and specific sequence repeatedly while the engine is running.

A top view of the engine block showing the three "bored" cylinders and additional "bores" for the valves (2/cylinder  - an exhaust and an intake), threaded cylinder head mounting bolt holes, and holes for passage of coolant, sometimes called the "water jacket."  

The finished project.  The 1991 tractor runs good as new!  

The "Valve Train" atop the cylinder head with the exposed exhaust ports on a 1968 Ford 2110 3-cylinder gasoline engine tractor, owned by Audrey Gay Rodgers of Hameau Farm in the Big Valley, Belleville, PA.

Filling the fuel tank at the end of each day, after the tractor has cooled off should be a standard procedure. If you allow the tank to remain half full, rust can develop from condensation. Check your tire pressure each week and write down the recommended psi (pounds per square inch) with a sharpie on the rims or hubs.

Maintenance is preferably done every fall, before you're in a rush to get the fields rototilled or seeded. If you're committed to a CSA or you go to markets, budgeting time into your annual workload for maintenance is crucial. Standard routine maintenance checks save money and time. As with IT logic, try the easiest remedy first for any troubleshooting. Keep spare fan belts and air filters in your barn so that you don't spend half a day driving to the nearest dealer to pick up a part that takes five minutes to replace. Make sure to keep your radiator grille clean, these can easily get clogged with dust and dirt and can cause the engine to overheat and seize. Avoid mineral buildup by mixing only distilled water with the radiator coolant. A shop air compressor can be an integral part of your arsenal, but again make sure you know how to operate these and drain regularly so that condensation doesn't create rust.

Older tractors were not built with current safety standards, such as they are, so don't even think about saving expenses by buying them. Shane suggests that an offset cultivating model like the blue Ford 1710 in the Anderson's barn can be found from the 1980's or 1990's. These haven't lost their value and can easily run from $10,000-12,000. Try also to buy from a larger well known company, they're less likely to go out of business. You'll be more assured of parts and lasting customer service. Burkholder Brothers in Lebanon, PA is a reputable local company.

Brakes on a tractor are used to steer and pivot, and these require critical knowledge to avoid jackknifing or spills. If you're driving on the road in some states, locked brakes is required by law. Other requirements include flashers and slow moving triangle signs. If you find yourself sliding on wet ground or mud, just stop. Step on the clutch, or throttle down to 1st gear and use your differential lock pedal. Assess the situation, then use the lower gear to get the most torque to ease your way out.

Another good safety rule is to allow no other person on the tractor except for the driver. Newer versions offer training seats, but again these can be more costly.  Use your seat belts and thank Ralph Nader for insisting they be used on all motor vehicles.

Shane impressed us with the fact that accidents usually happen when we least expect them. The compromise and burden can be on neighbors, family and friends when you literally don't slow down enough to be able to think about what you're doing. Know where the emergency shut-off switch is. Shut off the PTO lever to stop an implement on the tractor and wait for it to wind down. Call 911 before approaching the scene of an accident. Carry a cell phone while you're working. People have been killed while trying to help others out of accidents so don't be a hero, you may end up saving no one and hurting yourself.

Knowledge of your own capabilities is important when thinking about becoming a farmer. The scale should match the skill-set. Be honest and realistic about what you're able to take on, from all angles; financially, emotionally and time management. This will help in devising a practical and solid design of mindful intent, returning full circle to McDonough's ideology. 

Many thanks to Shane for coming all the way out to Charlestown Cooperative to give this informative and important talk and to Charlestown's Farm Manager, Sarah Rider, for hosting. Much appreciation as well to Annmarie and Sam Cantrell from Maysie's Farm for providing a catered organic feast for the group. Annmarie's luscious homegrown beet salad with local artisan feta cheese hit the spot!

Be sure to attend our very special Friday evening seminar on June 26 at 7PM with Alice and John Weygandt of Stargazers Vineyard, for Sustainable Winemaking. Their amazing all solar house is not to be missed.

Happy growing! See schedule for workshops here.

Victoria Webb

SAITA Coordinator


Ten Commandments of Tractor Safety

From Tinkering to Torquing: A Beginner's Guide to Tractors and Tools, by Roger Welsch

Repair Manuals and Literature:

Jensales, Inc.

I&T Shop Manuals

Yesterday's Tractors

Friday, June 12, 2009

SAITA Seminar with Mike McGrath on Beneficial Creatures

This June 10th seminar, graciously hosted by Sebastian Kretschmer at Camphill Kimberton, was highly entertaining and well attended. We had by my count, about 40 people in attendance, but only 24 signed the sign-in sheet. Please remember to sign in so we can track our attendance, it's important for our future educational offerings. 

Mike McGrath is the host of the nationally syndicated NPR radio show 'You Bet Your Garden' which airs locally every Saturday morning at 11AM on WHYY, and is as irreverently passionate about organic growing in person as he is over the airwaves. Check out his website for great research at your fingertips. You can also listen to podcasts of the shows on the site.

Mike was also editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine from 1991-97 and once an editor of Marvel Comics. I was lucky enough to pick up an autographed copy of his 'You Bet Your Tomatoes'endorsed by none other than 'Michael Jardin, tall guy' and 'Garrison Keelover, A Prairie Home Tomato'.

'In the natural world there are no pests'That set the tone for Mike's talk and that should be your mantra when you're out on the farm wondering how to control those aphids and slugs. One point he made about hybridization and garlic is worth mentioning; most of all the processed garlic is coming from China where there are few regulations for anything, including food products. Mike saves the biggest cloves from garlic he plants himself and replants these. After doing this for a few years, you've culled the best and strongest strain of the bulbs.  

'Do no harm' is the second of Mike's mantras that you should remember. There are 3 major types of pest control that exist in the natural world.

Number one beneficial creatures: Amphibians. Toads eat from 50-100 insects every night. They need an absolute lack of pesticides to flourish and are highly susceptible because of their porous skin. Toads need a water source early in the season to be able to breed well. They and frogs can live for many years, hibernating by burrowing down into soil during the winter. In spring they'll come out of hibernation and will look for a body of water to breed in. It should not be permanent, but temporary. Don't have fish in the water, they'll eat the eggs and tadpoles of frogs.

Toads leave the water as adults and won't live in ponds, but frogs live in water all their lives. Frogs are endangered because of so much runoff from pesticides and agricultural waste accumulating into water. They need vernal ponds that form in the spring or that you can make yourself. When they emerge in spring, they're ravenous and need a safe place to hide. For frogs and toads, build a small temporary pond with a birdbath saucer sunk into the ground.

Since mosquitos take 10 days from larva stage to become adults, you can control the whole population by washing out your saucers every week- frogs and toads won't eat the larvae or the adults, but you can add BTI as an added mosquito control to the pond without harming the amphibians. 

More on mosquitoes: usually found in old springhouses, gutters or damp basements. The last generation of females can sense winter coming, but not the males, who 'are as useless as their human counterparts'.  They need to find blood on the first day they wake up from hibernation and don't travel, so any population you see in early January or February are the same guys from either the previous spring, or even from 100 generations before them. They breed within 200-300 feet of their birth, and female mosquitoes need standing water in which to lay eggs. Usually in your gutters, so if you clean these on a regular basis, you're knocking out 90% of the population before they can breed.

You can also help amphibians flourish by building small shelters for them out of bricks with boards placed over them to shade and create cool, dark areas. Once you've established a breeding population of frogs and toads, it will only expand and your resources to control the bad insects exponentially increased as well.

Fireflies or lightning bugs- does everyone know that these guys are ferocious predators of slugs and snails, but only in their larval form? The glowworm is actually this larvae and amazingly their bioluminescence, used to attract the opposite sex, is already developed at this stage. The adult form doesn't eat much except for water and nectar from flowers for their sugar/energy rush. But the larvae consume a huge amount of bad bugs. They love moisture and are worth 5 times more in the early season of your farming than later on. To encourage adults to breed nearby, turn off outdoor lights at night, allow a small area of your garden to stay moist and a little weedy, and don’t use pesticides.

Number two big bad pest eater: Birds. 90% of what a bird eats is insect pests. We want full-time carnivores in our yards and farms, like the titmouse, nuthatch, woodpecker or the chickadee. Those cute fat little chickadees with their incredibly high metabolisms, eat the most meat of any of the birds and are the most beneficial. Instead of feeding his birds seeds, Mike hangs suet from his peach trees early in the winter to keep them in his garden all year long. He stops feeding in the spring, so that they'll scour his garden during the time they're raising their young, when their food intake dramatically increases. If you work with the natural cycles of birds and insects, you can control a lot of plant eating insects this way.

Never take down a dead tree if it isn't threatening your house, car or a walkway. This is a bird's prime territory for finding insects, and woodpeckers especially need the trees for survival.  Again, birds need a water source and 'wild' water in the heat of mid summer can be increasingly hard to find in developed areas. You can help birds out and keep them around by putting a traditional birdbath on a pedestal in the center of your garden. Keep it filled with fresh water and hose it out every week.

Number three good guys: Beneficial Insects. Water is life to all beneficial insects and they need a safe and easy source to thrive. You can help by filling chipped dishes with little pebbles or stones and placing them in the garden, so that they can get to the water without drowning. Ladybugs are everyone's idea of the best beneficial insect, but only at the larval stage are they voracious eaters. Know how to identify this stage, as it can be a frightening insect to discover and many people mistake it for a bad insect. Another great aphid eating insect is the green lacewing, both its larvae and the ladybug's will eat tons of mealy bugs and aphids. These insects need a safe water source and love small flowers full of pollen. Mike brought in a sample of what most people consider weeds in their yards, small daisies that are the 'candy of choice' for these beneficial insects.

He tries to have something in bloom in his garden very early in the season and uses witch hazel, pussywillow and pansies. As an added benefit, Mike suggests that rutin in pansies will strengthen capillary walls and can reverse varicose veins - just by eating 5 pansy flowers a day in a brightly colored salad! 

Bees: There are 250 different species of native bees in Pennsylvania. By having something in bloom over the winter and understanding the life cycle of plants, you can attract and keep bees on your property.

While yellow jackets may be dangerous to us, depending on where they nest in your particular environment, I've resisting spraying them. They congregated underneath a pussywillow I had near my house in the midwest and one spring ate all the bad insect larvae threatening its demise. Mike suggests that all bees, including carpenter bees, are worth protecting. Contrary to most pesticide company information, carpenter bees don't cause much structural damage and can be deterred by almond oil sprayed on the wood. Make sure you offer them an alternative by drilling holes in blocks of cheap wood and placing them on the borders of your property.

Those little cocoons you see on tomato hornworms' backs are the parasitic Braconid wasp's eggs, which will eventually destroy the caterpillars and seek out others to feast on, so leave them in the garden. The adult wasps like to get their energy from tiny flowers on Queen Anne's Lace, dill, parsley, fennel and carrots left to go to seed.

Spiders: Black widows and brown recluse spiders are often feared for no rational reason. The brown recluse especially, is usually found only in central midwest states and fatalities are rare. People often don't even know they've been bitten. Hey, why do you think it's called a 'recluse'? Spiders are the most beneficial insects; they eat ticks, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, biting midges...they're one of the few creatures (besides man) that kill more than they need to eat. So let them hang out in those dusty corners of your house and hope for them in your garden. I'm lucky to have a huge population of wolf spiders in my garden - they jump all over the place catching pests that would otherwise be eating everything in sight.

In China, spiders are venerated and have been a part of farmers' integrated pest management scenarios for hundreds of years. Those wise farmers create 1 to 1.5 foot tall miniature haystacks in their fields for spiders to hide in. Unlike other insects and beneficial creatures, they don't need much water and get a lot from the creatures they ingest.

If you're using a greenhouse, Mike suggests using a sharp water stream to kill 90-95% of aphids. Ladybugs and Lacewings are great predators, but most companies won't ship them to you in the winter. You'll need a fridge and will need to keep them in raffia, spritzing with water. You also want to have sealed junction boxes if you're releasing ladybugs in the greenhouse; they're attracted to the zap of electricity. 

Sticky traps are a good, cheap way to control insects in the greenhouse and you can reuse them. He suggests using sand for fungus gnats.

Ticks. Fowl are the best control, but you can control ticks by controlling your white footed field mouse population. You can make or buy cardboard tubes with permethrin soaked cotton balls in them. Spread these at the margins of your problem area and watch the tick population decrease. See Mike's description and where to purchase here. Do not ever use Deet, Mike says it doesn't deter ticks and may attract them. You can buy a permethrin spray for your clothing in hunting and fishing stores, that you spray every six weeks. Be careful about the dosage because this has been found to be a carcinogen.

Stinkbugs can be controlled by using boards propped up on bricks again, and you simply scrape them off into soapy water when you find them the next morning. The Korean stinkbugs that overwinter have only been here four years or so. You can try garlic oil spray on the south side of the house as a deterrent.

Biting flies have the same life cycle as a mosquito and can be controlled with permethrin spray or treating standing water with BTI. There will be no effect on other creatures, but the black and green flies and gnats will be controlled in the spring this way. Flea beetles can be controlled by using a covering like Remay early in the season.

Mike's last words were that when you do find an egg cocoon or an insect you aren't sure about, look it up before destroying it. The vast majority of insects are neutral and only 2-3% are agriculturally damaging. 90% of the rest are beneficial. 

We very much appreciate Mike taking the time to come out to Camphill Kimberton, the talk was a great learning experience coupled with his unique and witty brand of repartee.

Stay tuned for this weekend's SAITA workshops with Shane LaBrake. Saturday June 13th is a Spanish speaking 'Intro to Organic Vegetable Production' at Maysie's Farm. Sunday June 14th he'll be at Charlestown Cooperative Farm for 'Equipment Maintenance and Safety'. Public invited as always!

Happy growing! See schedule for workshops here.


SAITA Coordinator

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CSA Update


Hope you’ve all been enjoying making dishes with those delicious peas this week — if you were able to resist eating them on your way home! We still have lots left to be picked and we want to pick them so that the plants continue to produce. That means you may need to do some searching as you’re picking, but if you gently lift the plants, you’ll find them!

We are in a time of transition here at the farm, as we’re going through the foods produced early in the hoop house but we’re still waiting on many outside vegetables to be ready to harvest. Even though crops were planted quite early this year, Mother Nature has given us a cold, wet spring so far and things are taking their time growing. It is difficult to say at this time what will be available this week. The weeds, however, are growing just beautifully and we are doing all we can to keep them overtaking the world.

Speaking of weeds, some of you have expressed interest in volunteering some time at the farm- we would certainly welcome any help you might be able to provide in weeding the vegetable beds.

We are also looking for some people handy with tools, to help us convert the blue shed by the barn into a walk-in cooler. We need to cut and glue large panels of rigid insulation and install an air conditioner and a "Cool Bot" control unit that will allow us to cool a larger amount of vegetables much more efficiently than our current arrangement. The sooner we can get it built, the better!

Please contact me if you would like to volunteer and let me know to what capacity. I’d be happy to set you up!

You may remember that we teased you with some information regarding our unique cooperative marketing opportunity- massages by CSA member, Kevin Koser. Kevin is nationally certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and is a Myofascial Release Therapist. Below this post, you will find information regarding all of his offerings as well as a fee schedule.

Kevin will be offering the massage on Fridays in a private room in the farmhouse. Please contact Kevin directly to schedule an appointment. Just think of how great you’ll feel eating fresh, organic vegetables and pastured meats and dairy and taking some time for yourself for a massage!!

Both Sam and I have been the fortunate recipients of Kevin’s massages and he is a very talented and gentle healer! Sam, who works outside practically 24-7 has personally experienced less muscle and joint pain (which can be a real boost when you’ve got tons of beds to till!!) and schedules regular massages with Kevin to stay on top of his own health.

And, speaking of those pastured dairy products, Ben Stoltzfus is offering 10% off all of his cheeses for the rest of this month!! Be sure to order for pick up on the 19th.

We apologize in advance if you have been trying to call or email without getting any responses. Due to the electrical storm Tuesday morning, we have lost phone and internet service and are patiently waiting to get it repaired. If you need to make contact, please call Sam's cell phone at 484-645-3770.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Summer Solstice Pot Luck Dinner on Sunday June 21st at 6 pm. Come share a great meal and meet fellow members.

And, for all of you returning members, please look for and say hello to Colleen Cranney on pick up days. Colleen used to write the updates for the CSA. She is no longer writing the updates, but continues to be very active with the farm!

Here’s a recipe for to help you use up those peas!

Fresh Pea Soup with Mint
1 Tablespoon raw butter, ghee, coconut or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
½ teaspoon curry powder
Sea salt
10-12 ounces of freshly shelled peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Approximately 1 ½ -2 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
Fresh Cream or yogurt to finish

In medium saucepan, melt butter or heat oil over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic and cook about 3 minutes, until onion begins to soften.
Add celery and curry powder, pinch of sea salt and cook another 2 minutes
Add frozen peas and mint and stir to combine
Simmer until onion is cooked through- approximately 15 minutes.
Transfer half of mixture to blender.
Add water or stock to thin and blend.
Repeat with remaining
Return to pot
Add sea salt and mint to taste
Serve warm or cold, garnished with freshly chopped mint, cream or yogurt and lemon rounds.

See you on the farm!
Annmarie Cantrell (yes, Sam and I got married right before the start of the season!)

Earth Energy Bodywork
Massage at Maysie’s Farm

Kevin Habakkuk Koser, NCTMB — Myofascial Release Therapist
Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Primary offerings:
Myofascial Release Therapy - chronic conditions and recent trauma
Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage
Swedish Relaxation Massage
Reiki Energy Work

Additional offerings:
Pregnancy Massage
Sports Massage
Client Requests

Massage will be offered on Fridays between 3PM to 6PM; appointments preferred to guarantee your desired time. A private room in the farmhouse will be used for massage.

Fee Schedule
30 minutes for $40
60 minutes for $60
90 minutes for $85

25% of all fees will support Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center

Contact Kevin
ph: 484.818.0383 • e-mail:

Friday, June 5, 2009

SAITA Seminar with Dr. Joan Welch- Relationship between Geology and Agriculture

We had a large attendance to this seminar on May 30 with Dr. Joan Welch of WCU, hosted by Camphill-Kimberton; 3 general public and 14 interns. I do not yet have her powerpoint presentation, but hope to be able to post it online with these notes, for your convenience.

The topic was geology and agriculture, diverse land formations in various areas of a region contributing to both the growing season and how land is managed for farming. Here in Chester County, we have the second best soil in the world; Alfisols. Mollisols are the best soils in the country, found in the midwest in prairie soils and in the California central valley. You can find descriptions of soil orders and soil taxonomy maps

The best soils are
loam, and structure is important. The pore space needs to be 50% with 5% organic matter, 45% mineral matter. Clay soils hold nutrients and water, but are often difficult to grow in because of their compacting nature. Loam is equal parts sand, silt and clay.

Dr. Welch called our region 'Rain-sylvania' because our average monthly rainfall is a healthy 2-3 inches. We have few challenges in terms of drought and rarely need to irrigate. Overall for global precipitation variability, PA comes in low, at under 10%. Our dryest month is February (also the shortest for sun), our hottest month is July, an average of 86 degrees F. January is our coldest month, the average 30 year low temperature is 28.

Acid rain is still prevalent in Pennsylvania, and soil fertility is directly impacted by the change to its PH, as is the affect on the aquatic ecosystem. Normal rain is 5.6PH.

Her handouts included quizzes to help us identify state
waterbasins and rivers, and she included topographical maps as a resource for viewing. A watershed contributes to overland flow and groundwater to the stream or drainage basin. Small streams can be 1st order streams that actually don't always have water and are not as dependable as 2nd, 3rd or 4th order streams. Find basic facts about PA groundwater here.

Interflow is the highest area between watersheds that can affect wells. Where you live in a valley affects your agricultural status; if you're on the north slope you'll have a wetter and cooler climate with less sun than on a southern slope. Being located on the edge of a ridge can easily impact moisture, winds contribute to drying out. 

The Mississippi watershed covers most of the middle section of the United States and Dr. Welch used a map to show us this immense area, which includes a portion of western Pennsylvania. Chester County lies within the Piedmont region, a plateau of foothills between the Appalachian mountains and the coastal plain.

As a farmer buying land, you need to be aware that water rights don't always come with land rights even if land is located within a watershed. As development occurs, more impervious surface results in more runoff and Welch noted the impact of land cover on surface water flow.

Camphill-Kimberton and Sankanac created a berm and swale to prevent erosion; they wanted their water resource to stay in place and infiltrate the soil.

Trees can be called inverted watersheds for moisture retention. Canopy covers like meadows and cover crops provide similar means of retaining moisture close to plant roots. Dr. Welch mentioned contour plowing to help water flow over the landscape. 

She cited the Russian born German climatologist Wladimir Koppen, as one of the first scientists to map regions matching native plants. 'It is based on the concept that native vegetation is the best expression of climate; thus, climate zone boundaries have been selected with vegetation distribution in mind. It combines average annual and monthly temperatures and precipitation, and the seasonality of precipitation.'

Thanks to Dr. Welch for an energizing talk- she made geology a fascinating and integral aspect to any farming venture!

Stay tuned for next week's notes on Mike McGrath's seminar, 'Beneficial Creatures' at Rose Hall at Camphill-Kimberton on Wednesday evening June 10th, from 7pm -9pm. Public invited as always!

Happy growing! Schedule for all workshops here.


SAITA Coordinator