Sunday, November 4, 2012

Emergency Update

Semester’s a little over halfway complete and there’s been no word! Suspicious…(it couldn't possibly be my fault!)

Ehem, so therefore here’s a speedy, semi-all encompassing update as proof of the existence, maintenance and further excellence of Spring Valley ESTUDENTE Farm.

First and foremost there is finally a LOGO!!!!! (look up at the top of the screen for reference) More excitingly, WE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL HAND PAINTED SIGN!!!!!!!!!! (mainly due to the existence and talents of Laura Rice and Paul Parzyszek) Here it is with the Oak Cottage peaking in at the right.

Another unrepresented structure, erected last year, is or marvelous green house. This weekend someone installed a vent! (it's the big tube - our greenhouse aspires to be a green steam train!)

Now what's that structure peaking in from the right? Oh yes, it's Spring Valley Student Farm's own Rimol Rolling Thunder Hoop House! It has gotten a bit further in it's aspirations of becoming a train, it can roll about 90ft down the plot on its very own tracks.

So far, it harbors the leftover swiss chard as well as newly planted baby spinach, kale, and ovations greens.

With the recent frosts, many plants have decided to leave us for the season. The farewell of the zinnia was perhaps the most stunning.

Of the remaining plants, the cilantro has braved the cold most impressively, surviving a most brutal frost which took out our remaining peppers, outdoor swiss chard, and dill. Pictured here, several weeks later, happily coexisting with the common mallow.

The only bright flowers left can be found on broccoli raab... and we're not sure we were supposed to let them get to that point! (But look at how marvelously bright and pretty they are!)

More pictures of the heroic cilantro and mesclun mix!

More hoophouse photos of the hoop house!

This piece is entitled: the boy who fed the chickens mangles

A little bit to the right of Oak Cottage, the beginnings of a new project can be seen. In the works is a forest garden. 

                                                                         The initial steps entail cleaning up a stretch of land between the two houses. Lumberjack Brett Lehner has gotten a jump on things by taking down the invasive Norway Maples. 

A bridge across the vast ravine has formed!

Several educational moments have also been spotted in occurrence! Here is a picture of the Walk-tober event held at Spring Valley Student Farm, an interactive exploration of the history surrounding the farm.

Several people have also been initiated into the order of rototiller drivers. (disclaimer - a lot more jittery than it looks!)

And finally, let me introduce you to the Kousa Dogwood Fruit. 
This funky lookin' berry is friendly,
 smells like a peach and has a delicate taste 
which goes into accordance with the delightful orange color of its insides. 

Surprised that something brightly colored and spiky is edible? 
Yeah. We were too.

-Spring Valley Farmers

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

EcoHouse @ Project Oceanology

Last weekend, EcoHousers (and SV Farmers) Jenn Silverstein, Andrew Brown and Tanya Lama accompanied EcoHouse Coordinator Brigid Belko to the Project Oceanology program at UConn's Avery Point Campus.

Andrew Brown wrestles a spider crab out of the lobster pot, a form of "passive fishing" demonstrated by the staff at Project O. Students pulled in the pot and examined the catch in saltwater basins on deck.

Project O aims to nurture interest and enthusiasm for marine science and environmental appreciation through hands-on learning geared toward a grade-school audience. Formed in 1972 by a group of public school educators and administrators from SE CT, and armed with a $50K grant, they obtained a vessel and retrofitted it into a marine science classroom. Over the years, Project O has grown into a comprehensive marine science and environmental education program, with various classroom spaces, state of the art oceanographic equipment and a fleet of vessels. Approximately 25,000 people each year participate in Project O, which remains a non-profit organization supported by public school districts, colleges, universities and educational institutions. Read more about Project O's history here

Here are a few of the various activities we enjoyed: A big thank you to David Colberg, Public Information Coordinator at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, for coordinating our visit to Project O. 
Jenn Silverstein examines the contents of the plankton net; some phytoplankton, zooplankton, and larval marine organisms. We later had the pleasure of examining the specimens more closely under a dissection microscope. 
A squid!
A red sea robin, named for its extravagant red lateral fins, was amongst the catch hauled in by the otter net. 
A friendly hermit crab emerges to say, "Hello!"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Canning tomatoes two ways

This summer Trevor, Jen K, and farm manager Julia learned how to can tomatoes using a pressure canner. The lesson was held at Uconn and hosted by Diane Wright Hirsch. 

We started the lesson off with an information session on canning and got right to the kitchen! 

The first step to canning the tomatoes was to boil them enough to break their skin. Breaking their skin makes it easier to peel the skins off for canning.

After boiling them the proper amount we peeled off their skin and got to cutting them apart. There are many different ways to prepare the tomatoes for canning but in this session we cut them into quarters.

After cutting and putting them into the jars we sealed them up and got them ready to be sealed shut by the pressure canner. To the left are some of our delicious tomatoes all canned up right before putting them into the pressure canner.
Tomatoes in the Pressure Canner

We then put the jars in the pressure canner and waited 40 minutes for the pressure and heat to seal the jars vacuum shut.

The tomatoes turned out to be delicious and we even got a little inspiration from two examples or other canned items she brought. Who knows, maybe next time we will make pickles, three bean salad, tomato sauce...the list is endless!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blueberry Picking at Uconn!

Nothing is better than going blueberry picking in the summer, especially when it is easily accessible. It is even better when it is right on your college campus. Recently, UConn has started to incorporate edible plants to the campus landscape as part of an edible campus campaign.

Of course everyone at the farm was very excited so we grabbed our buckets and headed over to get picking!

To the right is a picture of a beautiful and ripe blueberry bunch right in front of Homer Babbidge Library.

We had all the Ecohouse farmers come out and after picking we had about 8 containers full of blueberries.

We got so many blueberries we even used some of the blueberries to make Blueberry Limeade, here is a picture of our delicious drink. We juiced fresh limes, added some crushed blueberries, water and a little bit of mint tea and mixed it all together.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SVSF @ Beltane Farm!

To kick off the first week of summer, SVSF paid a visit to Beltane Farm in Lebanon, CT for a seasonal goat milk cheese tasting. (Photos courtesy of Paul Parzyszek)

We even met some roadside llamas along the way:

Spending some quality time nursing the newborns:

After a thorough introduction to the goats, the farmers and the wide variety of cheeses on the menu, we spent an hour in the tasting house enjoying the local art (fantastic pottery, artisan goat milk soaps and local honey) and tasting the selection before proceeding to the checkout to buy a couple pounds of cheese to enjoy at home. A favorite of the group included the chive and black pepper fresh chevre: an award winning cheese made in fresh weekly. Other seasonings include dill, black pepper, boursin and plain

Another favorite was the Dans de la Lune, a French style rinded cheese ripened for 10-12 days, thick and creamy with a tart and fruity finish, great for pairing with white wine. 

The majority of Beltane Farm products are sold at local CT farmers markets. You can check here to see if their products will be available at a market near you. Big thanks to Paul Trubey and his staff for the wonderful visit! Next visit: Cassidy Hill Vineyard in Coventry?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to it's playground!
Well, that's what the chickens at SVSF are doing at least.

Another awesome summer project we took on was to extend the chicken coop and build them a little playground so they have more room to hang out and play when we can't let them out onto the farm to roam and play there. We added an additional 10 feet in length to the chicken's fencing and created a little door way for them to go in and out of the new fenced in area. Here's a snap shot of the new fencing!

In addition to the fencing, you may have noticed the wooden structure in the middle. With the help of farmers Laura, Jen and additional assistance from farm groupie/ Laura's boyfriend, Karl, we used twine and some pieces of wood to create a little "playground" as we like to call it for the chickens to hop up on and roost on top of when they wanna flap their wings but don't want to go in their coop. Here's another picture of it in use by the chickens!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From Plots to Plates

Nothing is better than fresh produce for dinner and us at spring valley student farm definitely understand that! Today while reviewing the fields with Julia we got the opportunity to snag two of the Chioggia beets, also known as candy- striped beets. Using the beets, farm fresh eggs from our chickens and a radish from the field Jenn S and I took to making ourselves a little dinner.

Here is a picture of us with our ingredients before cooking them.

Here are the eggs, the beet and the leaves of the beets. We put the beet in tin foil and broiled it in the oven to get all the delicious beet flavors mixed in. We took the stalk of the beets and after lots of rinsing we divided them up into two sections. We sautéed some of the stalks in a pan with the radish and combined it with the scrambled eggs for a makeshift omelet. The remaining stalks we simply steamed because we wanted to enjoy the stalks natural flavor. 

After 30 minutes of broiling, scrambling and sautéing we got our delicious and completely home-harvested meal to perfection.

In the bowl we have the split apart Chioggia beet and the steamed stalks. On the plate is our delicious beet stalks and radish scrambled eggs. The most fun part of the meal was definitely splitting open the Chioggia beets. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out the beets had a different and almost sweeter taste than normal beets that are darker and not striped.

Here's Jenn S. enjoying her meal that came right from the plot to her plate! 

Post by: Jen Kruzansky

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

Everybody loves beans, maybe you like them in your burrito, or possibly you like them baked, or maybe you just like the song about them. Either way beans are a great crop for our garden and we took no hesitation with the architecture and building of different types of bean poles for our climbing beans. We set out to make two different designs and after much research we settled on two different methods.

Our first idea utilizes wood poles with twine strung across each pole. We hope that the beans will grow up and curl around the different levels.

Our second design is quite different and these ones resemble may poles. We simply took slim branches from the woods and attached twine to the top and fastened the ends into the ground. These are taller and we hope their height will allow them to also grow taller than the other ones.

We are super excited to see the outcome and we will keep you posted on more bean action in the near future.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summertime and the livings...dirty.

This summer has been filled with non-stop plant action. We have been filling our days with clearing out  patches, weeding, harvesting and of course planting! This summer so far we have planted a numerous array of crops. We have planted everything from beans to corn to squash and even a few plants with fun names such as 'diva zucchini'.

Here are a few pictures of our different crops!

Here is some garlic with some lettuce growing in-between!

These are our potatoes, we have hilled them so they can expand their tubers more and make us more delicious potatoes.

This is Mesclun, we are getting ready to harvest these soon!

Here we have Tanner working on our asparagus! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spring Valley Student Farm welcomes summer farmers!

This summer most of the farmers stayed, however we did say goodbye to some for the summer (they will be back in the fall, so no need to worry.) To Lina, Chris, Shane and Paul we wish all of you good luck on your adventures this summer!

While goodbyes are sad it is always nice when they are accompanied by some hellos and we give a big welcome to our new summer farmers, Jen Silverstein, Jen Kruzansky and Brett Lehner!

Both are members of the ecohouse learning community and took a wonderful opportunity to help out and live on the farm for this summer. We are very excited to welcome them and have them join our community. You can check out the "About the Farmers" page to learn more about them!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

NOFA Conference: Bees, Remedies, and Greens

My favorite seminar at the NOFA conference by far, was Marina Marchese’s presentation on bees and beekeeping. As she is the president of Backyard Beekeepers and a long time beekeeper, she had a huge retinue of advice to share about her experiences. She covered basic bee behaviors, favorite flowers, arrangement of the hive, and diseases and treatments. The most interesting parts of her lecture was her knowledge of the behavior of bees just from experience: that they tire, get hungry, become frustrated when it rains too much; her talk really helped humanize bees for me. We learned about the different types of honey that can be made, the collection of beeswax to make candles, and that chewing propolis (fragrant resin that the bees produce) can alleviate a sore throat. Her presentation made beekeeping sound simple, rewarding, and enjoyable. The second seminar I attended was Food as Medicine with Leigh White. Her lecture was all about the hidden health benefits of food, as well as home remedies. We learned about Naturopathic Therapy and its emphasis on natural treatments, cleansing, and detoxification. She gave us insight into the use of ginger, garlic, onion, honey, and tea to simply treat a variety of ailments such as headache, stomach ache, burns, dry skin, sore throat, and toxins. The third seminar I attended with Collards and Other Cold Weather Greens with John Turenne, Wayne Hansen, and Leigh White. This seminar took place in one of the MCC kitchens, where our instructors made quite a few kale, collard, and swiss chard dishes for the class to try. Originally I thought this session would be more on health benefits, flavor, and growing methods of the greens, but I was rather disappointed that it was almost entirely about recipes and cooking techniques. I did fortunately learn how to make some pretty delicious leafy green dishes. Because this seminar ended 30 minutes early, I went and joined the New Farmer Show and Tell with Shannon Raider and Susan Mitchell, which dealt with new farmers and their advice on farming techniques that were most helpful to them. This seminar was small and very simple, with the presenters passing around multiple tools and explaining why they were so useful. I especially liked their talk on the hand cultivator (the name for that forked hoe thing) just because that is perhaps my favorite garden tool which I use as a multipurpose tool to do anything. Overall, I think the NOFA conference was a great success and I’m very much glad that we were able to attend. The Seminars were fascinating, the potluck was delicious, and the venders all had some incredibly interesting items. I was even able to win some organic plant food in a raffle! I was impressed in the number and diversity of the farmers and students who attended, from all different ages and backgrounds. NOFA is definitely something that I would like to attend in the future. -->Paul

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn." - Grizzard

Lots of happenings down at SVSF as we wrap up the Spring semester and prepare for summer.
But first, a shout-out to Shane McNamara on his very happy 21st birthday! ...and a brief recap of the weeks past.
Andrew Lyons and I enjoyed a scintillating workshop at the NOFA Conference on raising nanny goats:

Paul from Beltane Farm (Lebanon, CT), mixing up some delicious chevre cheese for us. Beltane Farms is well known for their delicious artisanal farmstead goat cheeses.

Paul very kindly invited us up to Beltane to drink punch, meet the animals and sample cheeses at his seasonal tastings taking place in May.

Last workshop of the day, Bob Burns (a lifelong farmer and Buddhist monk) taught us the basics of seed sprouting and even let us sample some of his delicious product; mung-beans, peas, lentils, buckwheat and more.

Laura and I taking full advantage of the local vendors! Fresh, brick oven baked loaves packed with herbs.

In other news...

We've been busy planting peas, asparagus, radishes, onions, garlic and a few raspberry bushes seeing as how the soil temperature is just right. How about a little rain?

After a long day in the garden, filling our gullets with good food and good drink!

Rainy wishes,


Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Commeth!

With the season progressing and the weather getting warmer, the Spring Valley Farmers have begun to do more outdoor tasks. This is the yard in front of Birch Cottage, once littered with leaves, invasives, and fallen branches; now it's all been beautifully cleared away, and with only the minor cost of us getting covered in poison ivy.

Lina's gooseberries are looking good! A couple of weeks ago we planted several gooseberry and raspberry cuttings in the predominantly vacant plot of land behind Birch Cottage. Despite the lack of rain and the cold temperatures, they all seem to be thriving! With the additional sprouting of new strawberries and lingonberries, this summer is looking berry good :B
Birch now has rain barrels! Aren't they fancy?

Behold, The Rock Wall! Constructed by us from the rocks in our very own soil, it stands as a testament to our diligence, ingenuity, and the intrinsic beauty of rocks on rocks. If you're not as impressed as we are, it's because you haven't seen it in person.

Despite the fact that seed planting and contra dancing were cancelled due to the cold and wet weather, SVSF still managed to have an incredibly successful Potluck on Saturday March 31. Dishes included sweet potato and veggie fritters, eggplant casserole, baked chicken, pasta, salads, dips, banana bread, pumpkin muffins, and plenty of cookies all made by fellow farmers and guests!

Off we go for an after dinner walk around to the river.

And here is our special "Rorschach Rabbit" which we use to psychoanalyze and gauge the temperament of our farmers. Now tell me, what do you see?