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Homestead Coffee Roasters is about the closest our podunk Upper Black Eddy will ever have to a downtown. And thank goodness for that, because the place is super rad. Owned by the Lewis family since 1979, the Homestead specializes in fair trade, organic coffee roasted in small batches. Plus you can get all sorts of great food and snacks, right next to the tranquil, historic Delaware canal.

This Saturday, June 19, they’ll be hosting Coffee & Craft Fest 2010, featuring coffee tasting, live music, fuzzy alpacas, crafts, and yours truly. That’s right, Kristen will be there with potted plants, aromatic herbs, fresh greens, handspun yarn, and artisan paper goods. So come out and enjoy some lunch, sip some fair trade joe, and support your local economy!

Coffee & Craft Fest 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010, 11AM – 4PM

Homestead Coffee Roasters
1650 Bridgeton Hill Road, Upper Black Eddy, PA
610-982-5121 map
Homestead on Facebook

UPDATE 6/23: I had a such a great time meeting lots of cool local folks and providing people with healthy food and handmade goodies! Here are a few photos of what you missed:

Our bounty of fresh herbs and greens.

Despite the heat, I brought out some of my handspun yarn.

I debuted some silkscreened, handmade paper cards along with other print and paper items.

People really sniffed out these potted herbs.

My quiet, friendly neighbors, the hum-dinger alpacas.

A small glimpse of the array of venders.


It’s our first workshop in Pennsylvania! And what better way to kick off the curriculum than with an organic garden work party! Come learn how to turn your lawn into an thriving, abundant, edible paradise!

Lee has designed a simple raised bed vegetable garden for a woman who was interested in growing her own food. We will be erecting an 8 foot deer fence, as well as a skirt extension to keep groundhogs out, assembling a raised bed, filling it with soil, and planting lots of veggies!

Come learn about organic gardening, lend a hand, eat some food (lunch will be provided at 1:00), bring an instrument, and have fun!

Please RSVP on the Facebook event or email if you’ll be joining us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

@ Dorothy’s House, 1751 East Saw Mill Road, Quakertown, PA map

UPDATE 6/23: Photos!

Before the workday, Lee dropped off the soil on site

The wood was cut to size to create a 3' x 15' box, secured with L-brackets.

We lined the bottom with uncoated cardboard to suppress any grass or weeds.

The box was filled with soil.

Our helpers arrived and began working on the fence while we raked the soil level.

To deter groundhogs, we made a skirt around the perimeter out of a 4' roll of 1"x4" welded wire.

Deer netting was installed overhead and around the perimeter.

We planted seeds and transplants and watered them in.

The final garden, ready to thwart critters and feed a family!

Great news! Our little corner of Upper Bucks County seems to be beyond the reach of frosty nights until fall. That’s right, our last expected frost date is May 15 around these parts. I might have just jinxed it, but we gotta talk transplanting.

So hopefully all of you have followed the directions in our first post, and now your windowsills and newly-built coldframes are full of little tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, and all those other yummies that would quickly perish in cold weather. If they have at least one set of true leaves, the seedlings are ready for the next stage of life. Here’s what to do with them:

Hardening off seedlings on the porch

Step 1: Hardening Off

If they’ve been started indoors, those seedlings have led a very sheltered life thus far. They’ve never felt a northwestern wind, a driving rain, or the full force of a sunny day. Experiencing all of these new sensations can sometimes be quite a shock. Take care of your young ones and ease them into the elements. You can start indoors by opening the windows or putting a gentle fan on them or even jiggling the table they’re on. This kind of movement will encourage the seedlings to grow the sturdy stems necessary for life in the great outdoors.

A warm, cloudy day is the best time to expose them to the outside world. Place them in the shade, where they’ll be sheltered from strong winds. This first day they should only be out for a few hours. Gradually, over the course of a week, the length of time they’re left outside, as well as their exposure to full sunlight, is increased, until they are macho enough to be out day and night. After acclimating to nighttime temps, they should be ready to go in the ground.

Step 2: Transplanting

So hopefully while the little guys have been hardening off, you’ve been thinking up the best spot for them to live and prepared a bed for them. Depending on the plants’ needs, that might mean loosening the soil or mixing in organic matter, so the roots can start growing deep and strong as soon as they’re put in the ground. To avoid baking your tender transplants, choose a cloudy day or evening. We like to go on transplanting binges before rain, so the roots can get watered in nice and deep.

Hold like so, & tap the pot until the root ball releases

When you’ve figured out the best spot and spacing for the plant, cut a hole with a trowel into the soil, carefully release the seedling from the container, and place it into the earth, disturbing the roots as little as possible. It is well known that tomatoes can be transplanted deeper than the original soil line – they will send out roots at any point on their stem. Some research has shown that peppers and brassicas (cabbage family) can be planted a little deeper, but if in doubt, transplant to the original soil line. Fill in any gaps in the hole and pat the dirt around the roots, making sure the plant isn’t sunken below, or mounded above the soil level. Then, water your transplants deeply, promoting good contact between the roots and soil.

Step 3: Tending the Transplants

Keep your transplants well-watered for the first week or so. This will buffer them against shock and guard against withering in the hot sun. Some plants, like sweet potatoes, benefit greatly from some protection from direct sun at first. One trick is to cut the bottoms off of plastic pots and put them over  the plants for a few days. Let the transplants focus on root development for a couple of weeks before adding any manure or other nitrogenous fertilizer. Then just keep an eye on the weeds and water occasionally, and wait for the harvest!

Red Express cabbages in the great outdoors

The Stoked List

As you might have discerned from the lack of blogging, Lee and I have been particularly busy lately. Part of the reason is that we’ve been tending our new farm away from home. Truth be told, Lunaria is little more than a swampy yard of heavy clay with some spots of fleeting sunlight. So we felt like some lucky ducks when we found out that we were given the use of a sunny plot of land up the street! This corner garden was worked and loved for decades by a special woman named Helen Nast, providing the neighborhood with plenty of fresh food and flowers. We’re grateful to be able to continue that tradition and honor her legacy.

Unfortunately, in Helen’s later years, the garden was left untended, and grass has taken over, obscuring any clues to the original garden plan. Racing against rainy weather, we’ve spent days battling that stubborn turf, using a combination of hand digging, sheet mulching, tarp killing, and rototilling. We even have plans for some squash strangling for the real tall stuff. We were able to carve out enough beds to get some potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and jalepeños in the ground.

Lee finishing the poultry tractor

Constant farm tasks have met us on the home front, too. In another attempt to rid our hens of lice, we sprayed each of them generously with orange oil, and then watched as they wobbled away high and briefly disabled. We built Poultry Tractor 2.0, into which we tried to assimilate the lately-separated chicks and ducklings, but the larger ducks turned out to be bullies. We also received about 300 blueberry, strawberry, asparagus, rhubarb, brassica, and tomato plants that we’re still catching up with.

On Monday, after a sonorous thunderstorm that kept us up half the night, Lunaria farm had a particularly trying morning. The duck tractor proved to not be entirely watertight, and their heat lamp had shorted out at some point. The upper level nest box area of the chicken tractor had collapsed, and the hens laid their eggs in their food. Despite our fencing, a groundhog had gotten into the greens garden and eaten half the lettuce and some of the cauliflower. When I went up the road to the corner garden, I found that our rototilling methods hadn’t accounted for the necessities of drainage, and the paths between our rows were flooded with 6 inches of water. I planted 100 tomato plants in the mud while Lee dug a trench to sink a groundhog-proof fence into. Then it started raining again.

We were ready for some coffee. Just about every day, Lee and I have a “business meeting,” when, for few minutes, we discuss priorities. But it’s really just an excuse to sit down and drink coffee. This time, feeling as dampened as we were, Lee suggested that we start out by making a list of things we were stoked about. Here’s a summary:

blueberries are in the ground!

we have kombucha brewing!

happy ducks!

healthy chicks!

5 eggs every day!

we’re farming the neighbor’s unused sunny garden!

we harvested pretty radishes!

all the healthy, free plants!

our fresh eggs for fresh bread exchange!

200 Roma tomatoes!

rain!

safety-first Lee & get-her-done Kristen are a perfect match!

we have a new french press!

we got some gigs playing music!

Needless to say, we both felt a lot better after recounting only a few of our blessings. The universe will continue to provide, and we’ll go on being grateful. We highly recommend opening with a stoked list before your own business meeting, or just as a way to perk up a dreary day.

Enjoy some recent photos!

Duckling cuddle-puddle, before their move outdoors

Art by Joyce Murphy (pictured, right) and Sheena Mae Allen (on wall) at RAT Gallery Opening, 5/1/10

Frogs in the pond

Bird found dead in the radish bed, any idea what kind?

Magic hour sky at Lunaria

Hey folks, today I’m going to diverge from poultry and plant talk and spread the word about a cool community space in the area. R.A.T. Gallery is a non-profit radical art team focusing on emerging artists “who are not governed by conventionality or status.” Our first visit to the R.A.T. was for Friday’s open mic, which is held weekly. In all honesty, I usually have low expectations for open mics, but the quality of the music, the space, and the energy was fantastic. (A video of Lee and I performing Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine” that night has since surfaced.)

This weekend there will be the usual Friday open mic, but on Saturday there’s a new exhibition opening. Organized by Laura Esposito, the show has been given various titles – Give a Rat’s Ass for Art, Diversity of Community, while I’m a personal fan of Consciousness: Visual & Vibrational. Whatever you call it, come out on Saturday night and see some art and performances.

Here’s a sneak peak of a piece I’m working on for the show, The Official Territorial Claims of Antarctica. Hope you can make it out to see this and more!

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, May 1, 7 – 9 PM

Open Mic every Friday 8 PM – 1 AM

R.A.T. Gallery
5207 Point Pleasant Pike
Gardenville, PA 18902 map

R.A.T. Gallery on Facebook
R.A.T. Music on Facebook

This event is sponsored in part by Brad’s Raw Chips, Murphy & Klein Floral Studio, and generous volunteer & monetary support from lots of rad people.

It seems lately, that each time I go for a trip, I come back feeling an increasing urgency to keep up with the demands of spring. It’s not a stressful kind of urgency, but the voice of a season that says in each breath, “Look alive.”

This time the excursion was to Brooklyn, to visit foodie Daniel Delaney, artists Brandon CoxJennifer Grimyser, and the sustainable butcher shop The Meat Hook. I came back to find the ducklings about twice as big as when I left them, excitedly trampling the chicks as they raced between the food and water dishes to maintain a constant grain slurry in their bills and all over the bedding and the other birds. The chicks, with their more reasonable growth rate but innate sense of pecking order, preferred not to eat out of the provided containers, but to chase the ducks around trying to peck the food off of their sloppy bills. Sixteen birds in one box meant the shredded paper bedding needed to be changed twice a day and they couldn’t make it through the night without drinking the water dry. This had to stop.

The next day we went to the feed store and bought a mason jar feeder and waterer and some straw bales. We got another box set up and moved the chicks to a home with higher walls so they could practice flying safely. We figured the ducks should get the new, deeper waterer so that they could submerge their bills. An hour later we realized that this allowed them to spill most of the water they were drinking, putting almost a whole quart onto the floor of their cardboard box. Oops. But the straw is working out quite well. It doesn’t get as compacted or soiled as the shredded paper, and is better for the compost pile. And it’s probably safer for the ducks to eat, although they will munch on both (have you figured out that ducklings are a handful?).

For the past few days it’s been rainy, which keeps us from focusing on most farm tasks. Today’s precipitation let up enough for us to address some wanting farm tasks. Since their move, we had been ignoring the state of the duckling’s cardboard box, but this morning it was definitely leaking and reeking, no doubt about it. The results of our emergency meeting concluded that a purchase of a huge plastic storage container was in order. The swell and smell are solved, and now, instead of having to scoop out their nasty bedding, we can just dump the contents into the compost.

Next on the agenda was dealing with our laying hens’ lice problem. We got our hens as adults with clipped beaks. They do this at some commercial hatcheries to prevent chickens from pecking each other when they’re kept in those inhumane and stressful factory farm conditions. However, clipped beaks also prevent them from effectively cleaning themselves, and as a result, our chickens are being plagued by poultry lice. These parasites are host specific and can not be transferred to humans. But they seem to be irritating and can potentially spread to our young chicks and ducks, so we’ve made it a priority to get rid of them. Our research shows that it may be impossible to do without Monsanto-made poisons. So far we’ve tried dusting with diatomaceous earth and today, spraying with orange oil. We applied it to one hen today, and noticed that hundreds of lice began crawling away from the skin only to be met by the inaccurate, blunt pecks of her sisters. It’s nice that they try to clean each other, but they’re not very good at it. After spraying that one chicken, she seemed so damp and grumpy that we decided not to soak the rest until a sunnier day when they could dry themselves properly.

By lunchtime I was feeling like I’d had enough of dealing with dirty birds, but then we had our latest version of the egg sandwich – Happy Farm duck eggs on whole wheat sourdough with steamed garden greens and feta cheese. Biting into a bright orange, perfectly runny yolk is a certain kind of  bliss, the taste of which forbidding you to enjoy another lifeless, factory farm egg ever again. This winter in Austin, I got so hooked on these “yard egg sambos” that I found I didn’t feel quite right if I didn’t have one in the morning. Four months later and I’ve hardly skipped a day. I’m not sure if you’d call it an addiction or a passion, but in either case this is precisely when I realize it’s all worth it.

A cold frame is kind of like a mini greenhouse, protecting tender plants from frost so you can harvest salad through the winter or get a head start on summer crops. Plants grown in a cold frame will be stronger than those started indoors; a day with the glass removed is enough to harden them off before transplanting. We’ve discovered that cold frames can also give protection from hungry deer and chickens!

Lee started building these easy cold frames when we were living in Austin, and he’s been banging them out ever since. It basically consists of finding a window, building a box to fit it, and sloping the whole thing toward the south.

Things you’ll need:

– An old window, a scrap pane of glass, or a piece of corrugated roof plastic. Anything that is at least 2′ x 3′ or so and will let light through

– 4 pieces of lumber, about 2×10″, 2 pieces cut to same length as the glass, 2 pieces cut to the width minus 4″

– 4 pieces of 1×1″ lumber, cut to the same width as the larger lumber or a little smaller

– Some nails or screws

1. Arrange your 2x10s to form a box, the shorter pieces set inside the longer. It’s okay if its smaller than the glass, which will just rest on top and can have an overhang. If the height of all the pieces is a little off, just make sure their tops edges line up on one side. Then the glass can rest flat and the plants will have more protection from the cold. Put a few screws in the corners to brace it.

2. Place the 1x1s vertically in the corners to further reinforce the box and keep it square. Make sure they don’t stick out past the top and put some more screws in there.

3. Decide where you’re cold frame will live. It can fit over a garden bed which you plant directly into, like one above, or sit on an unused part of the yard and protect potted things, as below. Either way, the location should receive a good amount of sunlight each day, and be sloped toward the south (or the north if you’re below the equator). This doesn’t mean the ground already needs to be graded that way, although that would be cool. We just dig a little dirt from the south side and mound it in the back to give us a slope.

4. Put your plants inside the box, and the piece of glass on top.

Viola! Didn’t we say it was easy? The hardest part is remembering that those little plants in there still need air. Try to open the cold frame up at least a little every day. We crack the glass by propping it up with a rock, or more so with a stick prop. Most days, though, we just take the whole thing off during the warm hours.

This can get a lot fancier. Try adding hinges to the glass, angled sides, mitered corners… or just get bigger. Show us some of your cold frames!