Tag Archives: greens

Suddenly Summer–Time for Bees and More Planting


The sun sets over the farm. The rows are laid out with drip tape and plastic, using our “new” bed layer, all ready for planting melons, cabbages, and eggplants. We will slowly convert all of our irrigation to this system which saves water and reduces weeding. We will wait another week to plant the heat-loving melons, eggplants, tomatoes and peppers though, as nights here still hover just above 40. We need nights in the mid-50s for these plantings. It is so hard to be patient!

In the meantime, several successions of cold-loving crops have gone in, such as onions, (more than 3800 of the sweet Walla Walla variety, plus more bunching onions) spinach, kale, chard, beets, turnips, lettuces and greens. All this on top of the protected plantings of carrots greens and onions started in February and March in the two hoophouses, which were moved last month. The two houses are already filled with their summer crops.


Artichokes, a new crop we’re trying out this year, have been planted inside the small hoophouse. Since this photo, a row and a half of cayenne peppers also got put in. You can see the garlic growing on the other side of the hoophouse.DSC_0013Rosie was game to try out the new two seater planter we got on loan. Our maiden voyage was to plant 600 strawberry plants for next season.


Rosie and Bill took their positions on the back while Mike drove.


After a lot of trial and error they got it done. We still need to learn how to set up and use this tool properly!


Each person alternatively drops a plant between two revolving discs which open up the ground and put the plant in the proper position. It was a little bit daunting, but in the end, much kinder on the knees! We hope to use this planter to get all the broccoli and cauliflower in.

DSC_0009Meanwhile, in the large hoophouse, the tomatoes are growing very well. We’ve also planted a bed of ginger along one side, and will grow pickling cucumbers on a trellis along the other side. We are working to maximize valuable growing space inside the hoophouses.

DSC_0008The mesclun mix is ready for its third cutting! Romaine heads are getting bigger, in time for our first CSA shares which begin June 10. Bunching onions will make a delicious addition to our first shares, along with baby spinach, radishes, and fully grown sweet winter carrots!

DSC_0081And in the middle of all this activity, the bees arrived! We lost all four of our hives last winter. One we knew had a weak queen. We knew we had at least two swarms,  maybe three, last summer. Two of the hives hung on until nearly spring, but didn’t make it. We were left with two broodboxes full of honey, which we will put on the hives in September to help get our bees through next winter. We are about a month late getting the two bee packages in. However, we have enough hive equipment to give these new bees fully built out comb in two deep boxes, which should help them along. If you are starting from scratch, it takes the bees quite awhile to just build comb on all the frames, so we are hopeful that the bees will have an advantage this year. Our main intention is to get these bees pollinating our crops. Some honey at the end of the season is really a bonus for us!

DSC_0056Two of our interns, Rosie and Alisha (doing a great job as photographer, which is why she is not in the photos! Thanks Lish!) helped install the packages. It was a first for both of them, and quite exciting!

DSC_0034This was a first for me, as well, installing packages without Mike and Bill’s input. But we did ok.  The queens must be accepted by the hive (by smell,) so they come protected in little cages that you hang inside the hive. They chew their way out through a candy plug. By the time they get out, usually, the hive has accepted her. We will check in 7 days, and hopefully remove the empty queen cages. In another 7 days after that, we check once more to determine that the queen is laying capped brood. Fingers crossed!


Rocking that bee-hoodie Rosie!


Filed under Bees, CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Uncategorized

And… Away We Go!

First, a shot of the small hoophouse in its new position where it was moved on Sunday. The carrots underneath the hoops are recovering nicely from the compost burning, thank goodness! The house was closed up and black plastic was spread over the soil to warm it in preparation for the next crops to be planted soon: artichokes and hot peppers!DSC_0959

Last night, the large hoophouse was moved into its new position. It will house tomatoes, ginger, basil and parsley.


See the tractor in the distance? Two 200 foot lengths of cable are attached to the back of the tractor. The cables run through pulleys screwed into two short posts that have been put at either end. This keeps the greenhouse on an even plane as its pulled by the tractor.DSC_0949

And there it goes! The preparation to make the move took longer than the actual move itself…DSC_0950

Which was, literally, over in seconds…DSC_0952

Like buttah…DSC_0954

Afterwards, the hoops and reemay cloth were replaced over the crops, since our nights are still hovering in the 40s. They are probably fine without this protection now, but we don’t want to take any chances of a freeze. Plus, the crops underneath will be hardened off to the direct sun over a period of days. DSC_0962

Spinach and lettuce has already been planted in the rows alongside the greenhouse, and here, Mike is preparing a few more beds so we can plant beets and turnips today.DSC_0965

As the sun goes down, a parting shot of the whole picture.DSC_0966

As I went home, here’s the new view from my house.


Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Tractor

More Greenhouse Planting Means Spring Can’t Be Far Behind!

DSC_0519Come, take a walk through the snow with Shelby to find out what happened in the large hoophouse Saturday!


The snow was over her froggy boots!

DSC_0522Inside, things were very different!


She found that everyone was working on something. Richie was using the broadfork to loosen and aerate the compacted soil…

DSC_0513Then, papa worked with the broadfork and Uncle Mike pulled weeds from the onion bed…

The remaining spinach, red lettuce, mache and bunching onions had been harvested. Most of these crops had been harvested for shareholders before Christmas, sold at the last farmer’s market in December, and fed our family during the winter months. Time now to clean it all out so we can plant again! This time: carrots, more lettuce, bunching onions, and spinach for spring!

DSC_0527Ok, I can do this. I remember the rake! Mimi taught me how to use it last summer!

DSC_0529See? You use it to make a path on the dirt!

DSC_0531 And break up clumps, like this!

DSC_0532And then we use this stirrup thingie to get out the weeds!

DSC_0533See? It makes a real nice path on the dirt too!

DSC_0534So many weeds we need to dig out! I can definitely help with that!

DSC_0537We get down to our shirtsleeves and the real work begins. The temperature is a perfectly comfortable 72 inside, while outside its in the low 40s.

DSC_0539We are putting all the weeds into the crate to give them to the chickens. Yay!

DSC_0542A little minute of rest first please…Whew!

DSC_0543Look how many weeds the chickens are going to get!


Good dirt to grow things in!

DSC_0550Now, me and Papa bring the weeds to the chickens.

A whole bed of bunching onions is growing nicely. We planted them outdoors in September with the other crops before the greenhouse was moved over them in November. On this day, we planted a second bed of carrots, and a large bed of mesclun mix. Soon, we will also put in more spinach here, and a third bed of carrots in the small hoophouse.

A very productive weekend indeed, thanks to everyone’s help!


Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring

Late January Harvest

I will never forget how excited I felt when I first read Eliot Coleman’s book “The Winter Harvest Handbook,” and saw the photos of fresh greens growing under a layer of cloth in an unheated hoophouse in the middle of winter. “Oh, I want to do that,” I thought, and so we did…

This is our second winter of growing food in our own unheated greenhouse and it has been an amazing experience. Last year at this time, we had had over 47 inches of snow, it was so much colder, and we shoveled heavy snow to keep the greenhouse from collapsing, at least 6 times. The small amount of greens we planted in there all got harvested by Christmas. We started some carrots, and several plantings of other hearty veggies, beginning at the end of January, planting several successions through March.

We moved the hoophouse off those crops in April once they could survive outdoors and then planted tomatoes in there a whole month early. All of these crops thrived, pointing the way to our successful future. We got an extra month on either end of the season with the tomatoes, and the early planted carrots and romaine heads gave our CSA customers a gorgeous first couple of shares in mid-June, way ahead of what we were able to do in earlier years. We have already bought the steel to build a second, larger hoophouse.

This year’s unusual temperatures has kept everything alive in the hoophouse much longer, and with much less snow shoveling (yay!). Yesterday, January 26, I harvested spinach, mache, arugula and leeks to sell at a local food event  in Manchester-by-the-Sea tomorrow. I’ll be one of several vendors selling for a couple of hours. Afterward, I’ve been invited as the farmer representative, to speak about local food on a panel, followed by Q & A. A late January market is a first for us, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

But first, I must show you my daily commute. A far cry from my former life as an administrator at a local college, my commute now requires no gasoline to be burned. I’m so happy about this! That’s Charger, my son Michael’s dog, who spent the morning hanging out with me. Since he doesn’t have any sheep to herd, his job of keeping the sticks in order around the farm is taken very seriously.

 You can see how he got his name…

Zoom zoom!

Ha ha! Here I am!

Here we are at last, nearing the hoophouse, about a two-minute walk away…

Inside, the crops are protected under hoops covered by a second layer of Reemay cloth. This protection gives us conditions that are a couple of zones further south to grow in.

Peeling back the cloth is an easy, one person task. We’ve already been eating glorious fresh salads, so there doesn’t appear to be much left…However, appearances are deceiving!

The temperature inside, and out, as well as the relative humidity when I began harvesting at noon. It was a little cloudy.

And of course, the coat comes off right away!

Here was the day’s high, at around 2:30 p.m. after the sun had come out. Note the drop in humidity due to my comings and goings through the open door.

The day’s harvest.

Later, I will show you how we kept the carrots fresh in a deep hole in the ground covered with hay. I will be harvesting those this morning for tomorrow’s market…


Filed under CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Uncategorized

Old Friends on the Farm

The whirl of the holidays has at last ended and we wish you a Happy New Year!

We’ve really enjoyed the extended season (and extra vegetables) afforded by the unseasonably warm weather, up to and including New Year’s Eve Day when it was pushing 60 degrees here!

Unlike last year at this time, we are still harvesting from the greenhouse. Here’s mache and fresh arugula we harvested, for our Christmas salad, served with gorgonzola crumbles, candied pecans and a lovely maple basil balsamic vinaigrette. So delicious!

Last night the mercury dipped to 6F Ouch! But more like January. (Couldn’t we at least have some snow? Please? I know, be careful what you wish for…but I so want to go snowshoeing in the woods behind the farm…)

Our old friends Karen and Ralph (Ralph prefers “good friends,” to “old”, sorry Ralph…) drove up from New Jersey to help us welcome in 2012. We’ve known each other since “before…” before kids, before marriage, before granchildren, all of which proceeded for us in tandem over the past 30+ years. Now all of our respective kids are married, or are about to be. Grandchildren have arrived or are arriving soon. Truly “old” friends are the best kind!

As I said, it was pushing 60 on New Year’s Eve day and we took full advantage of the lovely weather for various pursuits on the farm. Karen and I visited the greenhouse to harvest another salad for our New Year’s gathering.

Meanwhile, Ralph got out his metal detector and Bill grabbed a shovel to see what they could find under the newly turned earth. Ralph was wishing for an old pocket knife or watch, or ring, or a buried cache of coins under the old stone walls…

Dave, our friend from Parker River Alpaca Farm joined the fun.

Nothing but a few coins were found…but cameraderie and exercise trumps treasure any day, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, Karen and I wandered around the farm and found Desiree out back with her bunny, “Inigo Montoya.” Sadly, Inigo’s friend, Wesley died last week, so until a new friend arrives (soon!) Inigo has “Pony,” his stuffed animal to snuggle with. Sometimes Suchi (Desi’s mini-Pom) gets into the cage to snuggle with the bunnies.

Then, Karen and I took a good long walk in the woods. Life indeed is rich, isn’t it?


Filed under Cooking with Fresh Vegetables, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse

Late Season Goodness

People think as soon as Labor Day arrives garden time is over.

Not so. Not here.

Our Late Season shareholders will tell you different.

  • Here’s what their second share looked like last week:





But surely, you say, in the meantime, we got 5 inches of snow and all kinds of cold weather! Of course the garden is gone now!


Lots of things are still growing and thriving under the hoops and inside the greenhouse, not to mention what’s in the root cellar.

Cold-hearty crops such as beets, lettuce, rutabaga, kohlrabi, mache, spinach are all doing very well thank you, under here:







And carrots here!







And take a look in the greenhouse! These crops will be ready for harvest in December.

1 Comment

Filed under CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse


Richie and I planted two big beds of garlic yesterday. After a surprise snowstorm around Halloween, I began to fear we would be too late, but the ground is not yet frozen, and we are likely to have some milder days before real winter sets in. Hopefully, we are just in time…

Developing your own garlic crop takes great patience. It’s a very expensive crop to grow if you’re buying new seed stock. And when you love garlic as much as we do, it takes steely resolve and discipline to save the biggest bulbs year after year, to replant.

I don’t think I could live without garlic in my kitchen, and nothing tastes better than our own home grown garlic. After the July garlic harvest it’s a garlic bonanza here. In the beginning, it seems like we will have plenty. It goes into all our marinaras, salsas and savory dishes that we preserve and freeze for the winter. It flavors our omelettes and stews, and adds pizzazz to our pizzas. We give it out to our shareholders. We sell some at the farmer’s markets. It doesn’t take long before our supply starts to dwindle and we begin to look longingly at our seed crop. But we hold back. You see, we have to save the best of our harvest to put right back into the ground in October, or early November. It’s hard, but we are strong because we know there’s a huge reward for our stewardship. What’s a large enough garlic crop? When you have to go to the supermarket to buy more, you don’t have enough, and we’re not quite there yet…

Hardneck garlic is the crop of choice in the Northeast, and it needs to be planted in the fall for a mid-July harvest. It takes time and experimentation to discover which varieties will do best in your own soil. Finally, after three years of holding back our best bulbs, this year’s harvest yielded us a 1/2 bushel basket brimming with very large and beautiful Music bulbs. Clearly, this is the variety for Mehaffey Farm– great big fat heads averaging 6 or 7 huge cloves each. Each clove will produce another whole head. We carefully stored the basket high and dry up on one of the beams in my house where they sat, mocking us with their plump perfection for three whole months. (Eat Me!) It’s a good thing we get a generous supply of the smallish, and in the least bit less than perfect heads to use in our kitchen!

Garlic planting time was a little late this year, partly because of the unexpected Halloween snowstorm, but also because October was a chaotic month filled with change at Mehaffey Farm. Ross and Casey and Shelby moved out and into their own place — a good move for them as every young couple needs their own nest! We miss having the baby around every day, and we loved having the baby and her parents here, but it is good for everyone to have more space and a home that’s refuge to go to at he end of the day instead of the Grand Central Station my house had become… And while I miss my morning coffee and newspaper cuddles with Shelby, we still get to see her every Monday and Tuesday when her mama goes to work on the evening shift, where she’s a nursing supervisor at Woodbrier in Wilmington.

Then, at the end of the month, Mike and Desi moved into the farmhouse with Grammie. This is a wonderful turn of events that the whole family is happy about. The old family house where Grammie has been living alone for 7 years is very large and very empty. The kids will breathe new life into the old farmhouse,  which was designed for a family to live in!

Also in October, we are finally getting our chimney fixed by our son Michael! It had started to crumble after living in our house for nearly 30 years, and it wasn’t going to make it through one more winter. Last week Michael signed papers to buy the masonry/construction business from his cousin Graham, who he’s been working with for the past few years.

Meanwhile, we are nearly half-way into our Late Season shares which consist of cold-hearty crops, root storage crops and canned goods every other week until Christmas. We’ve covered large crops of cold-hearty vegetables with hoops and reemay cloth, and we have lots of winter squash and potates in the root cellar. It may seem like the season is over, but our bounty continues. (Here’s a peek into our greenhouse of crops that will appear in our late season shares in December…a post for another day!)


Filed under Canning and Preserving, CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse