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Spring produce is poking up at Halcyon Acres

Those hearty cold weather delights are popping their heads up despite the frigid temperatures and repeated snow storms. I was most delighted, and a bit shocked, to see the tender purple asparagus shoots peaking through. Since I don’t recall a single day in the last three weeks hitting 50, this was unexpected from this plant usually triggered by soil temperature.

Peas were a close second in bringing a broad smile to my face. As I walked around each bed this weekend to detect the slightest sign of growth (does anyone else do this more than once a day in early spring?), I found some welcome surprises.

Purple Asparagus baby shoots at Halcyon Acres
Purple asparagus getting stubborn about waiting for warmer. Me too!

Among those hearty seeds or bare root plantings that decided to become leaves braving the chill were strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, turnips, garlic (of course), romaine lettuce and carrots. Still waiting on broccoli, spinach and a few others planted on that 65 degree day in February I thought was the mark of an early spring, but I’m quite pleased I won’t miss the season this year for some of my heat-recoiling favorite treats.

Fresh pea seed starts
Fresh peas, anyone? Won’t be losing that one to heat this year. I like to play with my food, so this is a favorite spring snack treat for me.
Elephant Garlic at Halcyon Acres
Elephant Garlic rounds out the mix this year as a new selection with six other types of hardneck and softneck varieties from prior years staying steady.
Artichoke seedlings
This is a new try this year – artichokes. No idea if these promoted perennials will produce even once, let alone in years to come, but figured I’d give it a shot now that I’m far enough south to consider such a thing.

Too anxious for spring vegetables

This isn’t a new thing. I tend to anticipate spring too early when I’ve had enough of cold temperatures and the weather teases sunny, warm days. About three weeks ago, I packed most of my winter clothes in the attic and set out to the garden to get cool loving crops planted outside. We hit a record high of 84 degrees and I figured if I didn’t act quick I’d lose the joy of harvesting cool-loving vegetables (again). Big mistake.

My first year in Roanoke (2016), I lost most of my favorite crops to bolt after planting from seed into the ground too late. Same thing happened in 2017. Fool me twice – OK, maybe it’s once but I’m a slow learner.

While it’s a seemingly slower pace in Roanoke, Virginia than my Rochester, New York most recent roots, it’s not when it comes to the “don’t blink” spring that happens in what I now recognize is “the south”.

I miss the New York weather that sustains lettuces, broccoli, peas and other staples long past early June and again into the fall. In fact, I’d plant leaf lettuce every three weeks all summer long for delicious continuous greens. I didn’t realize Roanoke can go from 40s to 80s overnight and once that heat hits, those crops that thrive in Finger Lakes climates are gone to bitter bolting because those cooler nights don’t come.

Roanoke outdoor vegetable plantings so far

This year, I was determined to ensure I didn’t miss that short window between freezing temperatures and stifling heat. Looks like the freezing temperatures are back for a few more weeks. Yesterday showed the first signs of peas emerging, so I’m thinking those spring crops will survive, but it will be a while before they thrive.

Outside seed starts so far include a wide range of carrots, romaine lettuce, several varieties of peas, broccoli, spinach, turnips and red cabbage. I’m also trying anew a strawberry crop this year (the deer have been devastating in the prior two years) with 25 plants put in last week plus five more purple asparagus root plantings.

I assembled, then tore down, an outdoor walk-in greenhouse once the 60 mph winds forecast hit. All my container seed starts are now living indoors for the next couple of weeks anyway, with grow lights in small greenhouses and the warmth of electric heat.

Indoor seed starts

Trying different types of lights on each shelf to see what works best for container seed starts.

I’m trying some new things with the seed starts. This includes artichokes (a total experiment likely to fail – the seeds were cheap enough to give it a go) and sunflowers (the deer have annihilated direct to ground starts in prior years) with hopes more mature transplants will survive in the field of tall yellow sunbursts I’ve always dreamed of. Of course, that would have been a lot more doable when I had 117 acres than this tiny lot, but won’t it be amazing if I can make it work here?

I’m giving my last go to some standards – curious and unusual heirloom tomato and pepper varieties, leeks and cauliflower.

What grew well in my little town of Potter, New York, doesn’t tend to thrive here. The soil is great (a lucky find in this town, I realize) and the sun exposure is decent enough even though I’m in a valley of mountains, but I’m still learning about the seasons and the critters that delight in taking my harvest before it’s done producing.

New and old this year for chemical-free produce offerings

This year, I’m focused on doing more of what’s worked in the past with hard-to-find crops that have thrived here.

This includes a lot of root harvests that survive the critters, the weather and the occasional neglect. Garlic is a big one with more than six pounds planted of half a dozen varieties. Carrots, turnips, beets and curious potatoes are back.

Asparagus will be a staple for many years to come. I’ve planted both purple and green but am focusing on the former for the future. It’s thriving here and last years’ harvest was delicious on a crop that usually takes three years to mature.

This is the last year I’ll try strawberries. I’ve moved the beds and plan on deterring the deer with Irish Spring soap (the best repellant I’ve found among many tried) and bird netting. If the deer win this year, I’m crying uncle on that crop.

Spaghetti squash has been a big hit and productive crop, so I’ll continue with this one. Summer squash and zucchini are out. I’ll try acorn squash for one last time this year. Fails in past years here have left me frustrated.

We’ll be continuing with our fresh herb crops – currently at about a dozen varieties. Sadly, my big rosemary producers died this winter, but I have more than a couple dozen seed starts to repopulate. Might need to keep them indoors for a year or more before they’re strong enough to go into the ground with whatever is killing them off (my guess is it’s the black walnut trees on the property).

Lots of new fun stuff I’m trying too – but will have to wait and see if these crops flourish here.

Stay tuned for updates on what’s working, what’s not and the chemical-free produce available to you in the Roanoke area coming soon from Halcyon Acres.

Custom orders available starting July 20th

This year we have a large selection of fresh herbs. This includes rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, dill, basil, chives, cilantro, oregano (tons of tasty oregano this year so if you’ve never tasted it in salads, with eggs or to top off a dinner delight, consider adding this tasty addition to perk up a meal), peppermint and lots of lavender too.

Is garlic a taste you savor? We planted five different varieties of both softneck and hardneck garlic. Ever tried it fresh? It’s delightful! Put in your orders for next year if fresh is your preference as we just pulled up the last of it so it’s dried for the rest of 2017. Ever had garlic scapes? We offer them too but they’re only available for about three weeks in May-June and go very fast so pre-orders are a must on these (get in line for 2018).

If you love potatoes but are looking to reduce starch, surprise your guests with our Adirondack Blues that are purple all the way through or our reds that are so tender and sweet you won’t need to add condiments to enjoy the flavor and texture. These are dug up fresh for a taste you won’t recognize if all you’ve had before is store bought.

While we do have tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other standard fare, this year we’re trying to offer what most others don’t. Items like fresh carrots, turnips, beets, red cabbage, bok choy, leeks, Brussels sprout and spaghetti squash that is so delicious you won’t miss pasta ever again.

We’ll be planting for fall soon so if there’s something special you seek, let us know and we’ll try to plant it for you. This is sure to include loose leaf and romaine lettuce, fresh peas (one of my favorites to eat like popcorn) and kohlrabi, but if there’s something you like and we can fit it in, we’ll give a shot and let you know if it grows.

We deliver to individuals and businesses in Roanoke City and South County. .

Isn’t summer wonderful in western Virginia?

 

 

Cucumbers, spaghetti squash, tomatoes and more new this week.

Looking for in-season produce picked morning of and delivered to your home or business in South County Roanoke or Roanoke city?

Here’s what we’re picking at Halcyon Acres the week of July 18, 2016

Vegetables & Fruits

  • Turnips (& turnip greens)
  • Kale
  • Beets (& beet greens)
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes (blue)
  • Carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • Beans (green)
  • Onions
  • Fresh garlic (with tops)
  • Wheat grass
  • cucumbers
  • green peppers
  • tomatoes
  • spaghetti squash

Fresh Herbs

  • Dill
  • Parsley (curly & flat leaf)
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro

Coming within the next two weeks:

  • Acorn squash
  • Potatoes (Yukon gold & red)
  • Egg plant
  • Flowers
Chemical-free, same-day picked produce delivered to you in Roanoke at http://HalcyonAcres.com

We’re harvesting garlic this week!

If you haven’t tasted  fresh garlic, you’re in for a treat. It’s more tender and less pungent then the dried sold in stores, so you can add it for punch to foods without cooking it. Of course, you can always dry fresh to use for the rest of the year, but there’s only one season you can get fresh garlic. In Roanoke, that’s now.

If garlic is one of those food items you relish and you live in the Roanoke area, give Halcyon Acres a call at (540) 400-7106 to place your order  for fresh garlic delivered to you. Comes with greens attached in case you have creative ways to use that portion of the plant. Try fresh garlic in salads, atop cooked vegetables, grated over pasta or as a tasty kick for mashed potatoes. In fact, you can grate it over just about anything including sandwiches, rice, quinoa or eggs to add a softer flavor with more retained nutrients.

raw garlic havest at Halcyon Acres in Roanoke VARaw garlic offers more health benefits than the dried version. It’s a good source of selenium (trace mineral that helps improve brain function and reduces signs of aging by helping the body make antioxidant enzymes). It also provides significant amounts of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) as well as Vitamin C, manganese and copper and also has some iron and calcium to boot. Studies on garlic have revealed benefits including cold fighting power, blood pressure reduction and lower cholesterol levels. With virtually no calories, this is a great food item to add to your meals.

What else is in season now at Halcyon Acres?

Admittedly, this year has involved some trial and error. New locale, new climate, new soil and a new market have all contributed to a learning curve that’s been exciting and challenging.

The ease of a longer season for heat loving crops has been a blessing. It’s amazing to already have green pepper edibles (May 30th is the frost fear hurdle in Upstate New York, but during 20 years there, snow’s fallen in June more than once, so even Memorial Day weekend plantings can be iffy).

Lettuce and salads delivered  to you in Roanoke VA
Sometimes what makes sense doesn't work. the hot sun exposed lettuce areas did better this year than seeds started with some shade protection.

The downside is, I’m still working on a strategy to keep one of my favorite crops, lettuce, producing through the summer. I figured shady area plantings would flourish, but the first seeds there of a Mesclun mix and black seeded Simon didn’t fare too well. Curiously, the high sun area flourished even as temperatures hit the 90s, but pickings are waning there. Need to test soil. Hopefully, next year I’ll come up with a good strategy for making lettuce (and salads – prepared with with thinly sliced garden vegetables and fresh herbs – yummy delivery client bonus) work as heat hits. I’ll also be testing head lettuce in the fall.

Anyway, here’s what we’re currently harvesting at Halcyon Acres:

Vegetables & Fruits

  • Turnips (& turnip greens)
  • Kale
  • Beets (& beet greens)
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes (blue)
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Swiss chard
  • Beans (yellow)
  • Onions
  • Fresh garlic (with tops)
  • Wheat grass

 

Fresh Herbs

  • Dill
  • Parsley (curly & flat leaf)
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Chives

Coming within the next two weeks:

  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes

If you live in the Roanoke area and are looking for customized deliveries of just-picked vegetables and herbs call (540) 400-7106 to get yoursChemical-free, same-day picked produce delivered to you in Roanoke at http://HalcyonAcres.com. Know, though, once you’ve tasted your first delivery, supermarket produce will be tough to enjoy. That’s a challenge you won’t have to face until winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get custom herb planters delivered free to you in Roanoke at http://HalcyonAcres.com

Halcyon Acres offers chemical-free planted herb deliveries in Roanoke

It’s early in the season but growing vegetables and herbs is so much more fun in a climate where frost concerns don’t extend until the end of May. We’re already harvesting planted outdoor crops, including lettuce, spinach, radishes, strawberries and herbs. It looks like we’ll have some baby carrots soon too.

Eager to jump into the growing season early, we’ve experimented on what works, and what doesn’t. We now have herbs in planters and decorative indoor herb wall hangings healthy and available. Want to customize what’s inside the containers? We can now offer this year-round on the herb planters and decorative units (although it may take a month or so have your selection healthy and ready for delivery).

Have a favorite group of herbs? We custom plant your selection from seed. Flowers able to mature short and handle small spaces for roots are available as an alternative or component of an herb mix during summer months.

These containers are designed with the black thumb in mind.

The planters provide drainage ample enough to ensure your herbs stay healthy even when left out in the pouring rain. It’s almost impossible to overwater (the biggest reason most kill potted plants). Outdoor hearty is important too. We won’t deliver after seed starts they’re comfortable to live indoors or out, with sufficient size and exposure to adjust to your challenging conditions (think American Tourister).

Indoor herb decorate units at http://HalcyonAcres.comThe decorative wall units are ideal as a gift for the passionate cooker seeking to eat healthier (it’s great as a present for yourself too). Fresh herbs offer such flavor (plus the smells are heavenly) that sauces, dressings and processed junk gets easy to leave behind with better ingredients at your fingertips.

These are also designed for those not yet claiming a green thumb. Soil and plants are separated from the decorative rocks below with a cardboard divider. You’ll quickly see if overwatering is an issue as rocks get submerged in liquid. If you want to try the DIY route, there’s a two-part post on Roanoke Revealed that provides a shopping list and, on the following Friday (DIY is Friday’s theme – much of this features projects to feed the plant-lovers soul), assembly instructions.

These custom herb planters and decorative units are delivered free to residents in Roanoke. Give a friend, relative, business associate or yourself a present that brings smiles daily for some time to come. You’ll be remembered for your unique and thoughtful gift.

Call (540) 400-7106 or e-mail Nanette at HorseSenseAndCents.com to learn more or to place your order.

Halcyon Acres chemical-free produce in Roanoke

Halcyon Acres is now in Roanoke Virginia

Looking for local chemical-free produce delivered to your (business or home location) door? We’re now filling slots for the 2016 season. Eight spots remain.

Weekly deliveries include a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and some fruits. Each week we can discuss what you like, what you don’t and what you want more of for customized deliveries all season. No upfront subscription costs, but I hope you’ll honor our handshake on the season as once I’m full, others are declined.

Halcyon Acres chemical-free produce in RoanokeIt’s like Christmas every week – a great value for you in discovering what’s contained in the bountiful packages (including recipes to help you combine in-season freshness) and a smile for me as we unpack and discuss the goodies.

Custom requests are encouraged, both in crops planted and delivery items.

E-mail Nanette@HorseSenseAndCents.com or call (540) 400-7106 if you want to secure your spot as a 2016 client. We’re offering an early bird special (just pay for your first week) of $45 weekly until March 30th. After that, the price will be $55/week.

You’ll save tons at the grocery store buying organic (mostly from Mexico), needing meat to add flavor to your meals (wait until you taste picked today) and get great ideas for cooking healthier with vegetable combinations, herb additions and creative recipes (provided as part of your package) for new, fun ideas for preparing foods that come to you just picked on your delivery day.

Good food resources in the NY Finger Lakes area

 

halcyon acres produceHalcyon Acres® is in the process of relocating (read, the farm has been sold and we haven’t set up in a permanent new location). We will be offering herbs (custom mail order anywhere in the United States) in the coming months, along with a limited produce supply, but plans for next year will put us in another state (to be determined) as the produce season begins.

That said, you can still find chemical-free, fresh-picked produce in the area, if you’re willing to take a drive. Thanks to Angela Bedient for providing the information below.  

Local (Branchport, Penn Yan, Canandaigua) Farmers Markets 

The Branchport Farmer’s Market begins Tuesday May 28th and runs every Tuesday through October from 4-6:30 pm.  This market is located at the Branchport Fire Department.

 Penn Yan Farmer’s Market begins Saturday May 25th and runs every Saturday through October from 7:30 a.m. to noon. This market is located on Main Street Penn Yan.

 Canandaigua Farmer’s Market begins Saturday June 1st and runs every Saturday through October from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Find this market on Mill Street, which is one block off Main on Beeman Street.

Angela Bedient is a Potter local (my home town for 20 years up until this month of May) providing beef, pork and chicken year-round by the piece, small packages or half and whole animals. Bedient Farms Natural Beef is located on West Swamp Road 2 miles from Potter central (don’t blink – there’s a town hall, restaurant and usually some kind of signage on the other side of the road announcing the latest fire department fundraiser). She sells from the farm by appointment, offers local deliveries and has a booth at the Branchport and Canandaigua Farmer’s Markets. You can reach Bedient Farms and Angela via phone at (585) 738-3114.  

Consider including sage as a hearty, tasty and fun perennial in your garden

what does young sage look like?
When I first started vegetable and herb gardening, I struggled to find images to help me identify plants looked like before they were mature or harvested to know what to weed out. We'll try to provide photo journals from seedlings to harvest on this blog in the future. That was the prime reason for setting up the pictures feature (yet to be populated - check back next week).

Sage is a plant and herb that anyone can learn to appreciate. It’s pretty in a landscape with its green/grey leaves and delicate purple flowers it displays during a decent part of the season. It also tastes great, smells wonderful and survives through tough conditions once it’s established.

How can you use sage?

I’ve learned to appreciate sage fresh in recipes not ordinarily associated with this herb – like salads and eggs. It adds a delightful flavor and texture to a raw green and vegetable mix. Experience the delicious zest it adds to omelets or a scrambled concoction (I like to combine it with thyme, mushrooms and little bit of Swiss cheese – talk about a mouthful of tantalizing flavors that combine for an exciting new experience).

Sage provides a festive aroma when dried and burned during the holidays. It’s also been purported for eons as a cleansing agent for groups, spaces (rooms) and people – removing old energy and inviting the new.

Growing sage in your garden

sage is a great herb in Zone 5 for Halcyon Acres
Three feet of snow at Halcyon Acres didn't deter the hearty sage plant from staying fresh.

The great news is, it’s easy to grow. We touched on this in our growing herbs blog post, but I wanted to offer a spotlight for this remarkable herb in a stand-alone post.

While it’s relatively easy to start indoors during cold winter months (we’re in Zone 5 here) for spring planting, the gestation period is fairly long, so don’t get disappointed if you’re not seeing shoots after a week or two or three of watching. At Halcyon Acres®, we’ve had good luck starting seeds indoors in the ‘green houses’ you can buy at farm supply stores (they run about $100, but you can get them on sale for $50) that stand about five feet high with four or five shelves, have a zippered translucent plastic woven cover and measure about three feet wide by two feet deep. We use grow lamps with covers to focus the heat and light close to the soil surface and keep the cover closed for a few weeks (the seedlings seem to like humidity) with no need to water after an initial spritzing.

Once you have a couple of good leaves showing, it’s fine to start acclimating the plants to the outdoors, adding an hour or so each day (unless you have a cold frame set up – they’ll usually survive fine here), provided frost is no longer a concern.

Once you put it in the garden and get the roots established, there’s little that will kill a healthy sage plant. It’s not invasive and occupies a relatively small space even at full maturity. It lives great with crops that shade sunlight from the soil (like strawberries or oregano).

Enjoying the hearty nature and health benefits of sage

Sage is also one of these herbs you can enjoy year-round – even in snow belts. Leaves often stay hearty and fresh under snow cover. They’ll survive a hard frost. Plants thrive relatively early in the spring season.

It’s so much fun to have these plants around as you enjoy the scent wafting around during the summer season, dig through snow to find fresh delights in the winter and enjoy an early harvest in the spring.

Want a perspective from a chef on sage? Check out this post from the Healthy Food and Diet blog for tips on cooking with sage and more.

 

Seven easy tips for growing garlic

Seven easy tips for growing garlic

growing garlic at halcycon acres
Photo courtesy of foter.com

Garlic can be a wonderful addition to just about any meal. While the norm is to dry it before consuming, I like it best fresh out of the ground. So do my clients. It has a slightly earthy taste and is milder than bulbs that are aged, but it’s wonderful raw (here a little bit does go a long way as you’re not reducing flavor – and health benefits – by cooking). Try it very thinly sliced as a condiment on pasta, salads, soups or anything else you want to enhance with a burst of flavor.

Traditionally you plant garlic in the fall for next year’s crop (usually at the end of October in the Northeast United States, where Halcyon Acres® is located). If you didn’t get it in last year, don’t worry. Elephant garlic can be planted in the spring for same-year harvest.

If you’re looking for some ideas on cooking with garlic, Chef William offers tips on his blog.

Seven ideas to help you enjoy better garlic crops

  1. Plant regular garlic in late fall, before the ground freezes but after temperatures have cooled.
  2. One clove produces one plant (I haven’t found working with seeds to be very effective). These can be planted about an inch or two deep, depending on the size.
  3. Garlic doesn’t need a lot of room so you can plant rows closer together than you would most other crops. I put it in with perennial plants because I leave it in the ground to harvest as needed (very unorthodox approach) so like it somewhere that’s not going to be replanted. But, if you’re culling garlic in the traditional manner, you can plan on putting another crop in that space usually about three months after the growing season starts. So, the way you map your rows may depend on what will go there next.
  4. As garlic starts to mature, a round, curved shoot comes out of the center of the leave shoots. These are very tasty, by the way, and when you can find them, sell for a fortune in the supermarket. Pull this out when you see it as this is how the plant goes to seed. Your cloves will be much bigger if you remove this.
  5. You’ll know your garlic is ready when some of the shoots start to yellow (although this can also be a sign of distress – if conditions are dry, water). Of course, I can’t help checking plants weeks before they’re ready. You can still eat these too, the bulbs just won’t be as big.
  6. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Old panty hose are great for hanging garlic to dry.
  7. Enjoy the taste and satisfaction of home grown garlic for months to come. Stored right, this stuff lasts a long time.

Garlic is one of these plants that’s so easy to grow, it’s shocking more people don’t include it in their home gardens. The taste of what you harvest is so much better than what you can buy. If you liked this post, please use the share buttons to the right of this page to tell your friends.