Mid July

When I asked Aaron for a recap of this week on the farm from his perspective, he said simply "can't, too tired." This may have something to do with the fact that we may have driven to New Jersey and back last night to hear Jay-Z and Beyonce in concert and weren't in bed until 2 am (this goes without saying, but it was amazing), but it's also been a very very busy week on the farm.  We started harvesting carrots, cukes, green beans, squash, leeks, and onions, attended three markets between Thursday and today, and had many serious meetings about the exciting next moves for our farm.  We're eating squash blossoms and roasted green beans daily. And summer squash, by the pound.

We're full and grateful. Here are some photos from this past week around the farm:

While we toil away on all sorts of chaotic July tasks, the tomatoes grow quietly and steadily, laying in wait, getting ready to ripen. We're SO ready.

While we toil away on all sorts of chaotic July tasks, the tomatoes grow quietly and steadily, laying in wait, getting ready to ripen. We're SO ready.

The nigella are blooming, delicate and spiky and mysterious.

The nigella are blooming, delicate and spiky and mysterious.

My all time favorite color of snap dragon - I've got two plants out there making me these beautiful stems. To die for, if you ask me.

My all time favorite color of snap dragon - I've got two plants out there making me these beautiful stems. To die for, if you ask me.

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Picklers and Salt + Pepper cucumbers

Picklers and Salt + Pepper cucumbers

A harsh reality of farming without pesticides: when the eggplants get overrun with Colorado Potato Beetles, the only thing to do is slowly walk the rows and systematically smush them with dirty fingers.

A harsh reality of farming without pesticides: when the eggplants get overrun with Colorado Potato Beetles, the only thing to do is slowly walk the rows and systematically smush them with dirty fingers.

Luckily, the eggplants continue to grow strong and healthy through some significant bug pressure. We grow 'em tough.

Luckily, the eggplants continue to grow strong and healthy through some significant bug pressure. We grow 'em tough.

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The Four Market Week

It's been quite a week here at DF, and we're going to bed shortly (hopefully before dark!) - we know that next week will be just as crazy as last week, but Sunday evenings offer us a rare moment to sit quietly and breathe slowly. Before bed though, some photos from around the farm from the past few days!

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Look, we even make time for fun! This was a watermelon eating contest in honor of Elise's birthday - each contestant got half a watermelon, a butter knife, and five minutes. Your melon was weighed before and after. Suffice it to say, people were pretty juicy by the end, but the birthday girl was victorious - with a whopping 1.86 pounds!

Look, we even make time for fun! This was a watermelon eating contest in honor of Elise's birthday - each contestant got half a watermelon, a butter knife, and five minutes. Your melon was weighed before and after. Suffice it to say, people were pretty juicy by the end, but the birthday girl was victorious - with a whopping 1.86 pounds!

Summer squash has arrived! We planted 8 Balls, Flying Saucers, Saffrons, Zephyrs, and Patty Pans in addition to the standard zucchini and yellow squash because... they're awesome?

Summer squash has arrived! We planted 8 Balls, Flying Saucers, Saffrons, Zephyrs, and Patty Pans in addition to the standard zucchini and yellow squash because... they're awesome?

Flying saucers landing everywhere!

Flying saucers landing everywhere!

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Sometimes we get so preoccupied by the output that we forget to look around and appreciate the whole complicated machine. We're thankful.

Sometimes we get so preoccupied by the output that we forget to look around and appreciate the whole complicated machine. We're thankful.

Summer blooms.

Summer blooms.

Summer Solstice

Here's hoping that the summer solstice finds you well! The longest day of the year was yesterday, and we made sure to savor all fifteen hours and six minutes of sun. The veggies are enjoying the long hot days, growing fast and healthy, and we've finally worked out the majority of our market schedule for the summer. Click through to our markets page for updated details. 

It was a sweltering and misty 80 degrees by 7 am last week.

We're ramping up into the breakneck pace of high summer - harvesting summer crops as quickly as we can plant fall ones, going to countless markets, and hardly ever sitting still. This is the time of year when a pint of strawberries, a fistful of arugula, and a few peas is a totally legitimate dinner and a shower at the end of a sweaty day starts to seem increasingly optional. We're grateful for the warm evening breeze, the swarms of dragonflies that circle the barn hunting mosquitos, and cold beer.

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In the fields, the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are settling into their new earthly beds and, despite some suspicious deer munching, are getting bushy and full and fat - just how we like them. Summer squash is about a week out - prepare yourself. We're growing all sorts of weird varieties for you this year. 

Our very own TomatoLand.


Yes, let's consider it a late June miracle... CAULIFLOWER! We could hardly believe it ourselves, but it's true. Cauliflower was the very first thing we planted outside in mid-March, and our eagerness has been rewarded a thousand-fold in the form of little, tender, delicious heads of cauliflower in June. And they said it couldn't be done! If there's one thing to remember about the team over here at DF it's this: we love love LOVE cauliflower. 

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More new pictures, posted here.

Memorial Day Weekend

The first harvest of each crop is always the most delicious, the most beautiful, and the most nourishing, and we're (oh so happily) in the late spring season of many first harvests. The first bok choi is especially crispy, the first flower is especially colorful, the first hakurei is especially creamy. We're honoring each and every first, by admiring and then eating them. 

The first flower, a cosmo of course.

Strawberry flowers, green strawberries growing by the day.

The chickens are happy it's spring too, apparently. 

Broccoli raab

Chinese Broccoli

Chinese Broccoli

A carrot germination experiment. 

Chard and kale gets uncovered.

Ginger goes in the high tunnel.

Garlic forest. We're checking for scapes every day, as they seemingly grow by the hour.

Hakurei turnips

Hakurei turnips

DF (Finally) Gets Cool

After years of complicated choreography involving a rotating cast of multiple refrigerators (some of which dated back to the 1950’s), too many extension cords running heavy on delicate fuses, fans and wet towels trying to preserve moisture and humidity, and a truly scary root cellar, the unspeakable has happened.  We built a cooler.

We’ve gone to great lengths to keep our veggies fresh and cool - which is a problem that you have never considered until you have a farm, and then becomes the most urgent need you’ve got. We’ve begged and borrowed space to maintain the right temperature for our growing harvests. We’ve woken up hours before a market to find a fridge full of frozen lettuce. We’ve developed completely insane techniques for fitting more crates into a standard size fridge than you would think possible. It’s been a near-constant and near-impossible juggle for years. We may very well be wary of domestic cold storage equipment for the rest of our lives.

I may be an architect but my dad is the real building genius. When we asked him to help us build a completely freestanding cooler in a small historic barn, using lightweight and easily movable materials, for significantly less money than a prefabricated walk-in, he didn’t even blink. Instead, he showed up with a trailer full of 2” pink insulating foam – and my family, the best building crew in the universe – in tow. And 24 hours later we had a cooler, mostly consisting of foam and weatherproofing tape, which was brilliantly designed to be maximally efficient and simple to deconstruct and move. It reached precisely 41 degrees ten minutes after we turned it on, and has stayed that way ever since. We have rejoiced. To say my family is awesome is a vast understatement, and we’ve got the perfectly stable cold storage environment nestled in our barn to prove it. 

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And remember the most important rule: you can't let the tape stick to itself or you're screwed. THANK YOU, Guckers. You rock.

First Market of 2014

Hallelujah, it was brilliantly sunny and warm in Edgewood Park for our first market of the season. It felt like spring has finally settled in, as of this morning, right on cue!

We'll be selling seedlings and wild ramps through May, and spring greens are coming - we'll have more every week as the weather keeps warming up. Click on through to the ramp entry in the veggie database for a few of our favorite ramp recipes.

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Signs of Life

Scallions in the field

Scallions in the field

Garlic, confidently busting out of the leaf mulch that kept it protected all winter.

Baby chard in the greenhouse

Baby chard in the greenhouse

Turns out flower seedlings come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes.


The snow finally melted last week, and the woods around the farm were swamp for as far as the eye could see. Luckily we're blessed with fields that drain - when we started prepping rows in the upper field we turned over soil that wasn't too wet, or too cold. The first round of brave seedlings, scallions and cauliflower, headed out into the field to be planted this week. It's supposed to be 65 degrees this weekend, and with plants in the ground it feels safe to finally say: it's spring. And we couldn't be happier. 


I'm positively in love with this baby red russian kale. We found it underneath two layers of remay in our recently rebuilt greenhouse, growing contentedly in a corner long after we assumed everything was dead dead dead. It's very, very small, but somehow that makes it seem even more lovable. We've been picking and eating single leaves, in devoted appreciation.

Late March

The end of March is feeling bleak and colorless on the farm. Though there have been a handful of days warm enough to smell a hint of mud and trees, the ground is still frozen solid. Many building projects and field preparation tasks around the farm are being put off another week or two until it warms up just another few degrees. When we go outside to wander around the fields and listen to the wind, though, we can feel an energy in the soil and in the trees - everything is poised and ready.

Our seedlings are growing diligently in the greenhouse, blissfully unaware of the snowy wet forecast this week and the frigid wind rattling the windows. We understand each little baby plant to be a promise – a promise that it won’t be long before the whole landscape explodes in color. A promise of permanently dirty hands and feet, of slow moving thunderstorms, and of mountains of spicy salad greens on our plates.


At this time of year we're reminded of a beautiful poem by Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese poet:

If winter should say, ‘spring is in my heart,’ who would believe winter?
Every seed is a longing.

The ghost of last year's kale, haunting our upper field.

The skeleton of our soon to be resurrected high tunnel - lost late last year in a brutal wind storm. 

Many tiny green promises.


There are some fun projects keeping us busy in these last few brown weeks of March, and small signs of life appearing around the farm. Though we immediately recovered them to protect against impending snowfall, we may have spotted a few garlic sprouts in the leaf mulch, and Aaron has been busy with sap collection and boiling.

The wide variety of color and consistency we're getting in our syrup is as mysterious as it is delightful; I really don't think I've ever tasted anything as complex and delicious as our fresh syrup, just a few hours out of the tree and still warm from the boiling. Plus, our house smells so cozy, humid and warm with sap.

Sap, straight out of the tree. 

This maple syrup, only a few hours old and still warm, steaming up our kitchen.

This maple syrup, only a few hours old and still warm, steaming up our kitchen.

Last year's hops, grown right here on the farm, becoming this year's maple beer.

Last year's hops, grown right here on the farm, becoming this year's maple beer.

Seeding

In the dark and frigid days of this cold early March, we've started our first few trays of seedlings - mostly onions and flowers. We'll spend the next few weeks keeping them warm, while mother nature makes up her mind and spring, hopefully, arrives. 

The first tray of flowers.

The first tray of flowers.

The seedlings take over our study until they're big enough to go outside to the greenhouse.

The seedlings take over our study until they're big enough to go outside to the greenhouse.

I don't know who let us loose with the seed catalogs, but at last count we had 14 varieties of tomatoes, 15 varieties of hot pepper, and 10 different types of eggplants.

I don't know who let us loose with the seed catalogs, but at last count we had 14 varieties of tomatoes, 15 varieties of hot pepper, and 10 different types of eggplants.

Winter on the Farm - January 2014

Welcome, 2014. Welcome, dark and snowy winter days.

It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since we’ve updated the website, and for that we beg forgiveness – late summer was a whirlwind season of blistering hot days, an epic tomato hornworm battle, harvest after harvest after harvest of fresh food, busy markets, new jobs, and little sleep. Not an excuse though; in 2014 we vow to update the website frequently and enthusiastically.

After a challenging and a rewarding summer that saw our expansion into a second field and our attendance at City Seed’s Edgewood Market, the season’s end snuck up on us. Before we knew it we were covering the arugula, planting the winter greens, pulling up the dead tomatoes, and watching the fall storms roll in. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, we were mulching the garlic and drying peppers in anticipation of the imminent first frost. Caitlin, for her part, spent the entire fall season feverishly canning and freezing veggies, with a disproportionate preference for hot sauces and relishes. Aaron didn’t stop moving even once until November, when he finally finished his superhuman feat of working both at Darling and at Massaro, which he’s been doing for two whole seasons now. The cold nights then fell, and we built a fire, put on slippers, and rested.

Which is all to say: we’re happy to report that the 2013 season was a success here at Darling Farm and we’re already looking forward to some major changes for 2014 season, including bringing on a third farmer (our wonderful friend, the impossibly knowledgeable, effective, and gung-ho Rachel Berg), expanding to a few more fields in our neighborhood, experimenting with growing flowers, and attending a second market. Aaron has been tirelessly analyzing last year’s numbers, and crop planning has begun for next season.

Check back in March for our spring schedule, but in the meantime enjoy the restful winter season. Summer will be here before we know it.

Spring 2013 - May 5, 2013

After a restful winter, and a long, cold spring that really dug in its heels and refused to leave us these last few weeks, we can now safely say: it's farm season; and, we're back!!

Spring has brought many exciting developments to the farm and we're accelerating into the growing season with optimism and joy, feeling ready. The first major announcement is that we've joined a new market - the CitySeed market at Edgewood Park on Sunday mornings from 10 am - 2 pm. Our first market was yesterday, and we're happy to report that we sold out - the fresh young greens and ramps were a hit and the market scene is vibrant and exciting

The other major development is that we've significantly expanded our growing area from last season! There's a field just south of our house that we received permission to plow and cultivate, so we'll be growing in three times the area that we worked in last season.


Early in the spring, after a dramatic structural failure, we found ourselves without a greenhouse to house our quickly growing brood of seedlings. After a long few weeks of moving 60+ trays indoors to our guest room every night, and then back outside every morning, we fortuitously partnered with a neighbor farmer and friend RoJo Farm to assemble the high tunnel he had but didn't have space for. The new high tunnel is a dramatic improvement over our old greenhouse and will allow for productive fall and winter growing. The nights are still cold and the days are very dry, and the seedlings require constant monitoring, but the weather has slowly fallen into line and we're out of the proverbial woods - everything is happy and growing by the hour.

Season's End - November 11, 2012

With a fire going in the fireplace and our winter socks on, we can finally say: it's winter. Fall vanished suddenly before our eyes last Wednesday with a unexpected 12-hour blizzard that left us with almost a foot of heavy, wet, sloppy snow.

But, to back up. In the long weeks since our last update we've finished our market season, closed our farm stand for the winter, survived a hurricane, and adopted a flock of chickens. We knew to expect the end of our market season. The hurricane and the chickens, however, were surprises.

Darling Farm escaped the October superstorm relatively unscathed. Our fence has required major rebuilding and some of our brussles sprouts and broccoli got toppled in the wind, but most of the smaller crops were just fine thanks to hardy row cover. Thankfully there were no major trees down around our historic house, though there were many down in the area, and we only lost power for short and irregularly-timed periods throughout the four-day ordeal. 
We've also excitedly become the adoptive parents to a small flock of 13 hens and 2 roosters, who came to us from a friend who needed to find them a new home. They fit seamlessly into our little ecosystem and are happy to see us each day as we bring them food scraps and say good morning.

And now, the snow. Again thanks to the hardy row cover, many of our crops are still growing happily and we'll continue to eat well from the fields for the next few weeks or months, temperature permitting. But with our fridges stocked full with canned and frozen evidence of warmer weather, and the days getting shorter and shorter, we're happy to say that it's time to rest.

We're so thankful for our extraordinary first season here at Darling Farm - thankful to a tireless crew of friends and family, a enthusiastic market crowd, and a mostly-cheerful meteorology. We can't wait until it's seed catalogue time in January or February, but until then, signing off.

September, Already - September 4, 2012

It's hard to believe, but it's also true - we woke up a few days ago and it was September. As the onions, shallots, and potatoes dry and cure, as our fridge overflows with pickled and preserved everything, our giant black walnuts trees have started to shed their leaves. The evenings are cool but the sunflowers are bright - we're in the transition season where daylight hours feel more precious and more fleeting by the day, but where the field is still growing and green and happily producing.

After ordering row cover and low hoops, we've optimistically cleared and planted many rows of hearty fall crops that we will usher through to Thanksgiving, at least. New successions of salad greens, kale, radishes, carrots, scallions, and winter squash happily continue to grow. And with the sunflowers as encouragement, we've started looking forward towards new projects for next season, when Darling Farm will already be a seasoned establishment.

DF Goes to Market - July 30, 2014

Big news this week: DF has joined the new and much-needed market in Ansonia, CT on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings! Ansonia is a small town just to the north of Woodbridge that has never had a farmers market before - but thanks to the tireless efforts of the Economic Development Commissioner, Vinnie Scarlata, that has changed, and Darling Farm will be a regular vendor throughout the summer. Only two weeks into the market, we can already feel the energy and excitement gathering in the community; direct access to fresh, local produce is a welcomed addition to downtown Ansonia, and we're very happy to be involved.

Come find us at the market on Thursdays from 2pm - 6 pm, or Saturdays from 10 am - 2 pm. Check out the facebook page for more information, and directions to the market.

Early July - July 15, 2012

These past few weeks have been characterized by a contradiction: the quickest and easiest way to get absolutely covered in wet sloppy mud is to move the soaker hoses from bed to bed every three hours, an activity that has been necessitated by an astonishing dry spell and requires wrapping the dirty hoses around your body as you walk the rows to avoid crushing plants. Keeping everything watered has felt like a full time job, but the plants have stoically and happily continued to grow, flower, fruit.

Less than two weeks ago we finally moved to Darling Farm, and, although much of our life is still packed away in boxes, we are so happy to wake up every morning in this ancient, creaky, crooked, beautiful carriage house. Mid week we realized with surprise (yes, we should have known this day would come!) that we had lots of veggies waiting to be harvested, so we happily flew into action. We made a few restaurant sales, got our zoning variance, set up our farmstand, and harvested. Spicy salad greens, salad turnips, french breakfast radishes, zucchini, kale, and chard are all officially for sale.

We had our first farm dinner with a few friends this past week, for which we harvested and cooked a full meal’s worth of veggies, baked fresh bread and lavender cake, and grilled. It was an important reminder about why we’re growing all this food in the first place - not only to build a healthy world, but to eat it in the company of people we love.

We had an invaluable team of helpers this weekend - friends, friends of friends, and parents. Not only did we check almost everything off of our lengthy and urgent list of small tasks (seeding more greens, pruning tomatoes, planting lots of seedlings for second successions, making more kale beds, weeding) but we also built a greenhouse. We pretty much made up the construction method, using cheap electrical conduit and a pipe bender for the frame, PVC footings, and plastic we're borrowing from a friend. $12 of the $40 we spent on materials was for binder clips from Staples, used to attach the plastic to the frame.

And then a perfect end to a productive weekend, after almost three weeks of powder dry soil and constant water worry, it rained. We got exactly what we needed most.
 

The First Planting Day - June 10, 2012

It was amazing to see the land transform from a field of dirt to a vibrantly green, growing farm in one day - thanks to the help of an incredibly buff and enthusiastic crew of friends and siblings!

The very first things we planted were potatoes and green beans, in a funky bed-sharing configuration that we hope works. Then we planted all the hearty brassicas (LOTS of kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, bok choi), and the chard, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchinis, leeks, scallions, shallots, and onions. Meanwhile, there was lots of direct-seeding happening: black beans, carrots, peas, radishes, arugala, mizuna, tatsoi, and basil.

In the late afternoon we planted our tomatoes and peppers, which came all the way from Brooklyn in the back of a station wagon, from an exciting new farm on some vacant lots on Bergen Street. We teamed up with our friends Tom and Clare, the masterminds Feedback Farms, to use our land and their healthy starts to grow a delicious, colorful, and unique variety of heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers

Getting Started - May 2012

Here's how we inherited the field just six weeks ago, and how we worked to prep it for planting. Because we got access to the land so late into the spring, we had to work hard to get it ready for planting early enough that we wouldn't be at a seasonal disadvantage with summer racing ahead of us at full speed. Starting seeds in the greenhouse weeks before the field was ready was crucial (thanks, Steve!) and now we're officially on track to have our first harvests in mid-July