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The Season Grows Nigh: Planning for 2015

2014-02 vince4Though spring may seem a long ways off, we at Blue Moon have already begun to prepare for the 2015 growing season. Planning begins as early as the summer, but ramps up in earnest around the winter solstice. From seed-sourcing to crop rotation-planning, there’s much to do in these cold months.

As early as late summer, we begin by assigning cover crops to specific fields and plots. A good winter cover-crop—radish, rye, oats—protects the soil against erosion and ensures continuity of essential biological processes. With the arrival of consistent hard frost, we remove and compost residual summer and autumn crops. Mulch is applied to blueberries and other essential crops to prepare for the following spring. This ‘winterization’ is as much about protecting the fields from harsh winter elements as it is about clearing the way for the next year’s growing season.

Once the winterization is complete, we gather to review the previous season’s successes and failures, so as to be better prepared for the coming year. New crops are introduced; some are jettisoned. A large seed order is then placed—as early as possible, to ensure we get what we need. At this time too, we finalize our crop rotation plan. Crop rotation, planting different crops on different fields each year, hedges against soil nutrient depletion, ensuring a healthier, stronger, more disease-resistant plant.  And finally, we purchase fertilizer and other components to add to our amazing compost.

After the orders have been placed, we begin the seeding process. Early January sees the planting of cold-weather loving crops—kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli— in heated greenhouses.  Come February, these seedings will be large enough to be transplanted into our high tunnels. And by the end of March, weather permitting, our first crop of baby lettuce heads will be ready to be harvested!

There’s always something to prepare for on the farm. Fortunately we have the winter to get it all done!

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By | January 16th, 2015|News|0 Comments

A Roadside Cleanup Event with Blue Moon

download (38)On Wednesday, October 8th, Bucks County got a little cleaner. In concert with Heritage Conservancy, Blue Moon Acres held a roadside cleanup event on Upper Mountain Road between Durham and Quarry Roads. It’s a gorgeous stretch of road—wooded, cloistered, populated with deer, raptors, and wild turkeys. It’s also a favorite dumping ground for litterers.

Litter is a massive problem, both environmentally and economically. Each year, 1.9 billion tons of litter wind up in the ocean, harming marine life and damaging riparian communities along the way. Each year too, $11.5 billion is spent to clean up that litter, money which could be better spent on health care and housing. Cigarette butts, which are made of cellulose and take more than 10 years to disintegrate, comprise around 50% of roadside trash. But the most commonly-found object during clean-up events such as ours is fast food wrappers.

But litter creates more than economic and environmental problems; it creates aesthetic problems too.  Litter just looks bad. It’s demoralizing. It forces us to confront the fact that there are those in our society who would rather sabotage the landscape than exert the small effort to properly dispose their waste. It turns even the most beautiful roadside into a landfill.

Organizing a roadside clean-up, however, is a way of combating this demoralization. In addition to benefitting the environment, and the biology dependent on that environment, it provides a sense of empowerment, a way of overcoming the helplessness that a littered landscape elicits. And if conducted with coworkers, it provides an extraordinary sense of camaraderie. Cleaning up that stretch of road was fun. It gave us an opportunity to bond over a meaningful and important action, and helped us remember that we’re friends as well as coworkers.

It’s easy to take the view that roadside cleanup events are little more than symbolic, that the problem is too huge to solve with volunteer efforts alone. But such a view misses the point. We clean roadsides not because we think we are going to save the world, or even because we think those roadsides will remain litter-free, but because it is the right thing to do. And doing the right thing, reflexively, without consideration for what’s practical or achievable, is precisely what’s needed in this age of deeply-rooted, unconscious cynicism.

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By | January 2nd, 2015|News|0 Comments

Five Steps to a Greener, Gentler Christmas

downloadThis just in from the North Pole: Jolly Ole Saint Nick’s going green. That’s right: Father Christmas is reducing his carbon footprint, and so should you. As you probably already know, Christmas is a notoriously wasteful time year, contributing greatly to swollen landfills and polluted skies. According to one source, 1.9 billion Christmas cards are sent each year, and 20.8 million trees are cut down. In Australia alone, the holiday is responsible for the emitting of 2,285,000 tons of greenhouse gas. Santa’s doing his part; what can we do?

 

 

 

 

 

1. Support locally-owned businesses

Ditch the malls. Boycott Amazon. Find local purveyors of your favorite goods and patronize them. Not only will this reduce your carbon footprint, it’ll boost your local economy. What’s more: small, independently-owned storeowners are more likely treat their employees fairly. And that’s what Christmas is all about.

2. Cut down on the lights

They’re bright and pretty, but they sure use an awful lot of electricity, 50% of which comes from coal-burning power plants. If you must use lights, why not try LEDs? They use 90 percent less energy and are even prettier than conventional lights. (In my own humble opinion….)

3.  Say no to disposable dishes and cutlery

Yes, doing dishes is anathema to the very idea of holiday, but do you really have to use paper plates? The little effort it takes to load the dishwasher is well worth the rewarding feeling you’ll experience having not used disposable dishware. And you’ll save money to boot!

4. Consider purchasing a living Christmas tree

Unless you plan on using a single artificial tree over the span of your life, it’s more environmentally sustainable to get a living tree. Living trees can be composted after use, or used in other beneficial ways. And they smell really really good.

5. Make your own decorations!

Because, why wouldn’t you? It’s fun, it’s creative, and it allows you to have complete, aesthetic control. Plus, if you use items from nature (pine cones, berries, evergreen sprigs, apples), it’s ecologically friendly. You can also make edible ornaments—popcorn, cranberry strings, et cetera—which can be snacked on while creating! What can be better than that?

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By | December 5th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Thanksgiving: An Occasion for Agricultural Activism

Thanksgiving-BrownscombeI used to hate Thanksgiving. This was in my mid-twenties, when I was coming to grips with the realities of our forebears’ less-than-compassionate treatment of Native Americans. The narrative I’d been told my whole life—that Thanksgiving was a celebration of congenial relations between Pilgrim and Indian—had been proven false, and I was bitter. To me, Thanksgiving was when privileged white people congregated in houses built on land stolen from Native Americans to ignorantly gorge themselves on foods whose propagation would have been impossible without those same Natives, whose warmth and wisdom were rewarded with fraud, disease, and genocide. Like I said, I hated it.

These days, however, I love Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the holiday’s true roots—the title ‘thanksgiving’ after all, originates from the name the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor gave to the massacre of 700 Pequot Indians on the morning of their annual Green Corn Festival. It’s that I’ve come to embrace what Thanksgiving is, rather than what it was. It is a once-a-year chance to share a meal with friends and family. It’s also an occasion to promote and spread the joy of wholesome, organic foods.

In my family, Thanksgiving is a collaborative effort. We meet at either my Mom’s or my Aunt Lisa’s, each family member bringing a dish or two. Aunt Lisa, however, always provides the turkey. A stickler about quality, she gets her bird from Bolton Farms, a small, family-owned outfit based in Sellersville. She also insists on providing as many organic/non-GMO side dishes as possible. It’s a tradition she initiated many years ago, when my Thanksgivings were spent stewing silently over the crimes of my forebears. And as the years passed, the rest of the family caught on, giving more consideration to the food they eat—how it was grown, where it came from, etc.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be bringing my own organic dish. Two, actually. Brown rice and butterball potatoes from—where else?—Blue Moon Acres. The ability to share food that satisfies both my high standards for taste, as well as my high ethical standards is a source of deep pleasure. As is the awareness that, in my own small way, I’m casting a vote against conventionally-grown produce.

I may be incapable of rewriting our nation’s brutal history, but I can work to make our present better. I can choose to buy organic, locally-sourced foods; and I can chose to share the good news about those foods. And, little by little, together with friends and family, we can resurrect the great spirit of the Native Americans that was lost so long ago.

By | November 26th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Top Five Coolest Harvest Fests!

Fruit Fest

The harvest season is upon us, and harvest festivals abound. Here in the U.S. we celebrate autumn’s bounty with pumpkin and apple fests, with wine fests and apple butter frolics, and, of course, with Thanksgiving. But harvest festivals are not a uniquely American entity; they are as abundant and varied as autumn leaves are colorful.

1. Chanthaburi Fruit Fair: Chanthaburi, Thailand.

Thailand’s annual fruit fair is to fruit what Thanksgiving is to vegetables. Vendors line the street selling delicious fruit you’ve never even heard of before—durians, rambutan, longans, and mangosteens. There are also produce competitions, art displays, beauty pageants, and parades with floats made from thousands of tropical fruits and vegetables. Prizes are awarded for best fruit display and best tasting fruit. A fruit lover’s dream!

Sukkot2. Sukkot: Jerusalem, Israel and elsewhere.

Sukkot (pronounced ‘Sue Coat’) is both a celebration of Israel’s bountiful harvests and a period of somber reflection. Observers build makeshift huts called sukkah, with roofs open to the sky, where they eat and sleep for the next seven days. Every day through this seven day period, the ‘lulav’ and the ‘etrog’, a willow wand and a type of lemon respectively, are shaken in all directions to honor the gifts from the land. These ceremonies are meant to memorialize the long years the Israelites spent in the desert.

 

 

Olivagando3. Olivagando: Magione, Italy

At the Olivagando Oil and Autumn Festival, the olive is king. This two-day festival, held in Magione, Italy, is celebrated in concert with the feast of St. Clement, patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths. The high point of the festival is the sought-after olive oil made from la dolce agogia. Along with the oils, attendees enjoy wines, fresh walnuts and chestnuts, hand-made cheeses, cured meats, and truffles. There are also oil tastings, workshops, art contests, antiques markets, and horseback tours. And if that’s not enough, the Magione Theatrical Company provides entertainment in the form of singing, dancing, and storytelling!

 

Yam Fest4Yam Festival: Ghana and Nigeria

Yams may be but a side dish here in the States, but in Ghana and Nigeria’s harvest celebrations they are the piece de resistance. Unlike other harvest celebrations, the Yam Festival isn’t held on a specific day, but whenever the rainy season ends, usually in July or August. Corn, okra, beans, and cassava are also served, along with fish, chicken, lamb, and various soups. Desserts include mangoes, guavas, pineapples or oranges. There is also ceremonial drumming, singing, mask-wearing, and other festive activities including parades.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Itel’men Tribal Harvest Festival: Kamchatka, Russia

This frosty festival celebrates the harvest of the tribal indigenous Russians of the Koriak—the Itel’men and Sunda peoples. In homage to their ancestors, tribes-people make a 43 mile hike to the top of Mt. Elvel where they leave a sacramental wooden carving. Festival-goers also enjoy a sweet rice dish known as “Pongal” to celebrate the apple, nut, and honey harvests. A type of homemade Vodka is consumed, and villagers compete for the tastiest variation on salmon, potatoes, berries, and gir (bear fat). Also included in the festival: dancing, drumming, chanting, singing, and totem-carving.

 

By | November 14th, 2014|News|0 Comments