To Dream of Fall

Is it really true? The Autumnal Equinox is this Tuesday, which means this weekend is the last weekend of the summer. What to do, what to do? This quote rings true for me right now:

Autumn has caught us in our summer wear. – Philip Larkin

I’m not quite ready to let go of summer yet, but I can taste fall, and that little taste grows a yearning in me for cool nights, sweaters, spiced teas, and again, the cycle of life.

fields and the autumn morning light

fields and the autumn morning light

By |September 19th, 2014|News|Comments Off on To Dream of Fall

Books to Get You Started Living Simply

Are you looking for inspiration on your dream to live a simple life?

This book genre has exploded in the past few years, and it’s no surprise. The ideas of eating seasonally, supporting local farmers and artisans, and becoming self-sufficient are all very much a part of pop culture right now. But where to begin? We have two book recommendations from friends of Blue Moon to get you started.

The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing
Recommended by Marc Kline

Scott and Helen NearingThe book is actually a compilation of two works, Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life, which detail the decision and story of the Nearings’ leaving New York City for a rural life of self-sustainable homesteading. It contains as much philosophical discussion as it does documentary tale, and while the book is not about organic farming per se, it helped to spur the “back to the land” movement and is on many a bookshelf of farmers young and old. In fact, Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Farm is not coincidentally located just down the road from Helen and Scott’s final and longest standing homestead in Harborside, Maine. He often cites his early experiences with them as crucial to his farming career. I visited this homestead in Harborside while I went to school about an hour north of it. While Helen and Scott have both passed, their homestead still hosts an individual or couple of apprentices who use the property much as the Nearings did and provide tours to the public.

Leda Meredith

The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith
Recommended by Erica Evans

“A GREAT book that I love when I first got into a more “locally minding way of living” is Leda Meredith’s The Busy Person’s Guide. She is fantastic, and has a great blog as well!” Leda Meredith coverings gardening, simple food preservation, cooking with odds and ends, foraging, and food storage in her book. The book is presented as a guide to living locally while living in New York City (where to get the best vegetables, shop for goods, etc), with a straightforward tone and lots of practical advice. Check out Leda’s blog here.

By |July 25th, 2014|News|Comments Off on Books to Get You Started Living Simply

A Salad by Any Other Name…

Why is a salad called a salad? These are the questions we (ok, I) ask ourselves as we chomp into the first bites of locally-grown lettuces this season… 

“Salad” comes from “sal”, ie, salt. In ancient times (and modern, as well), salt was an ingredient in the salad dressing. As they say, clothes make the man, so it goes for salad.

From An A-Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto:

Etymologically, the key ingredient of salad, and the reason for its getting its name, is the dressing. The Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads, many of their differing hardly at all from present-day ones–a simple selection of raw vegetables…–and they always used a dressing of some sort: oil, vinegar, and often brine. And hence the name salad, which comes from Vulgar Latin Herba salata, literally ‘salted herb’.

So our ancient ancestors enjoyed salad much the same way we do today (less the brine). And then somewhere, in the turn of the century, things went horribly awry…

From Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century by Laura Shapiro:

Salad greens, which did have to be served raw and crisp, demanded more complicated measures. The object of scientific salad making was to subdue the raw greens until they bore as little resemblance as possible to their natural state. If a plain green salad was called for, the experts tried to avoid simply letting a disorganized pile of leaves drop messily onto the plate…This arduous approach to salad making became an identifying feature of cooking-school cookery and the signature of a refined household…American salads traditionally had been a matter of fresh greens, chicken, or lobster, but during the decades at the turn of the century, when urban and suburban middle class was beginning to define itself, salads proliferated magnificently in number and variety until they incorporated nearly every kind of food except bread and pastry…Salads that were nothing but a heap of raw ingredients in dissaray plainly lacked cultivation, and the cooking experts developed a number of ingenious ways to wrap them up…The tidiest and most thorough way to package a salad was to mold in in gelatin.

Gelatin salads have not, thankfully, been in vogue for some years, though I did see a recipe for one on Pinterest last week. Most home cooks and restaurant chefs prefer a simple dressing to salad, some combination of oils, acids (vinegars), and other flavors (mustard, herbs, etc). The salad greens we grow here at the farm have enough inherent flavor to be eaten un-dressed… but would it still be considered a salad, then?

A very Blue Moon salad, topped with Edible Flowers (lightly dressed)

A very Blue Moon salad, topped with Edible Flowers (lightly dressed)

By |April 18th, 2014|News|Comments Off on A Salad by Any Other Name…

How Climate Change is Changing Farming

Drought Affect on soybeans in TexasFarming was never an easy gig, but lately it’s been downright frustrating.

Record heat waves, floods, cold-spells, and droughts are cutting into yields and in some instances ruining entire crops. Analysts warn that such climate change-driven extremes could reduce grain production in G20 countries by up to 8.7 percent by 2020 if no significant action is taken.

Last June’s epic rainfall is a prime example. New Jersey saw an average total of 9.57 inches, 5.55 above the 4.02 average. At our Pennington farm, over 13 inches fell in a 30-day period, wreaking havoc on our more delicate lettuces and brassicas.

“When where we’re getting ¾ of an inch in 20 minutes, the ground becomes completely saturated,” Pennington farm manager says. “All the oxygen is forced out of the soil, and the plants suffer.”

Extreme Weather on the Rise.  

According to climate change scientists, such extreme events are likely to increase. As the world’s climate continues to warm, the National Climate Assessment predicts higher rainfall totals and temperatures, along with more intense droughts and hurricanes. Events like the Colorado wildfires, Superstorm Sandy, and the 2010 Russian drought will likely become the new norm.

All of which bodes ill for agriculture.

“Every year now is made of record-setting months in either temperature or rainfall,” he explains. “Rain comes down so heavy that it rips the leaves, making plants vulnerable to disease.”

If there’s any good news, it’s that organic farming seems best poised to handle these extremes.

Organics to the Rescue

Organic-Farming-in-Promoting-Sustainable-LivingIn a report titled, Organic Farming and Climate Change, the FiBL argues that organic agriculture, thanks to its adaptability and reduced dependence on inputs, will fare better than its conventional counterpart. Organically-managed soil retains significantly more water during drought, and resists erosion more successfully during floods. Organic farmers, necessarily more attuned to changing conditions, can more readily swap crops or tweak techniques than those who rely on chemical inputs. And finally, organic agriculture’s diversity—differing crops, fields, rotations, landscapes, and farm activities—ensures the survival of at least some crops in any given season.

“Already we’re doing a lot to mitigate extremes,” he says. “We grow our heirloom tomatoes in high tunnels to keep the heavy rains off, and give them shade during heat waves.”

We also incorporates a low pressure irrigation system to make efficient use of well-water during drier times. Grassy buffers around the farm’s perimeter prevent valuable soil from being washed into nearby streams. And the promotion of soil biology aids in moisture retention, structural integrity, and nutrient cycling.

An Uphill Battle.

Organic farms, however, account for only 2 percent of total farmland. And while organic sales have been increasing—5.3% in 2009, 7.8% in 2010, and 9.45% in 2011—conventional agriculture still dominates. To defend against the coming floods, droughts, and heat-waves, we need not only narrow this gap but take significant strides in climate change-resistant technologies.

Part of this includes creating cultivars of drought- and heat-resistant species. And because climate change lengthens growing seasons, new disease- and pest-resistant species too. Irrigation and water use will have to become more efficient. Conservation and reduced-tillage practices will need to be refined. And finally, new crops will need to be experimented with.

“The goal is to build a more resilient system,” he says. “And if you’re doing everything right, your farm will be better suited to handle the ever-changing climate.”

Storm clouds may be gathering on agriculture’s horizons, but humans are nothing if not resourceful and innovative. Put our minds together, and we can solve this puzzle.





By |March 28th, 2014|News|Comments Off on How Climate Change is Changing Farming

What does it mean to transplant plants?

Here at Blue Moon Acres, we get a jump on spring by starting items that will be growing outside in the greenhouses first, using a method known as transplanting.

Transplanting literally means to uproot and replant. We begin the plants in the heated, warm greenhouses in trays, and then gradually transfer them to the ground. Transplanting enables us to start the seed in optimal conditions (the greenhouse), and also allows us to extend the growing season by beginning the plants indoors before they are able to survive outside.

We transplant items at both farms- cut flowers, edible flowers, herbs and vegetables in Buckingham, and our baby heads of lettuce and some vegetables in Pennington.

Patti transplanting flower seedlings into a large seed tray, so that the roots have room to spread out

Patti transplanting flower seedlings into a large seed tray, so that the roots have room to spread out

Tray of seedlings in the greenhouse, in late February

Tray of seedlings in the greenhouse, in late February

Transplanted Johnny Jump Up's growing happily outdoors in the flower garden in early May

Transplanted Johnny Jump Up’s growing happily outdoors in the flower garden in early May

By |March 7th, 2014|News|Comments Off on What does it mean to transplant plants?