Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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Field Trip: Freshtown Farm

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One of the best parts of my gig leading the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club are the field trips. These three evenings provide a great excuse for me to get out during the season and see what other farmers in Columbus are up to. Tonight we visited with Marcie Todd at Freshtown Farm, at their northside growing site. 

The kids (and their parents) had a great time walking around checking out the space, a parcel FF leases from a generous long-time supporter of urban growers. The site is just over two miles from our farm, but feels like the country.

We tasted young hibiscus leaves, broccoli, zucchini, and mulberries. And we got to meet and pet the property owner’s two goats – both males so no milk, sadly…

This aspect of the program really gives the kids perspective on the various ways people are growing in our city. Meeting the folks they see at the market is good for the farmers too. Our kids (and their parents, aka the ones who have the money!) are excited to go find Marcie’s booth and buy her produce.

A final note of thanks to the folks at Acre for a gift card we presented to Marcie to thank her for the time she gave us. If you haven’t eaten there, summer is a perfect time to try their farm-to-table offerings.


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Scenes from the Field: May Catchup

Here’s a bunch of photos from this past month. Those who follow us on the book of faces or instagrams might have seen some of these already. Lucky you. Reruns in the age of media bombardment ain’t all that bad…

May 19th we had a HIGHLY productive work day. A steady stream of CSA folks through the gates helped get lots of tasks knocked off the chore list.

I continue to be amazed by how great everything is doing this season. The plants in the ground are booming and so far the succession planning is going well. CSA members are impressed by the size of the bags they are picking up. One this past weekend asked, “This is all for us?!”

I’m going to say no more lest I jinx the whole thing. You can see the bounty for yourself. I’m proud.


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Season 3: CFM Kids Garden Club @OTFUF

We’re thrilled to be hosting the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club for a third season! (Seriously, about the exclamation point.)

A few kids came around in late April for a garden cleanup as part of Earth Day Columbus’s week of service. We got started with our regular weekly meetings the third week in May.

There are lots of new participants which is exciting. The veterans are moving up into mentorship roles – leading weeding and seeding jobs, reading to the younger kids, and setting a great example as they model appreciation and respect for the work we do together.

The first session we planted tomatoes and strawberries gifted to us by our friends at Mother’s Peace Urban Farm and Animal’s Garden collective. When they weren’t planting in their space, the kids went on a scavenger hunt for different flowers around the farm. Our last five-ten minutes are always reserved for visiting with the hens.

Our second session the older kids read Peter Brown’s Curious Garden to the younger kids. And everyone worked hard to get the herb, eggplant, pepper, and sunflower plants Swainway Urban Farm donated to us in the ground. We’re so thankful for all the support we get for this program from our local urban farming community.

The kids tasted a range of things we’re harvesting on the farm now. The snow peas were an obvious favorite. That so many of them ate the celery shocked and amazed me.


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Scenes from the Field: 2.3.2019

Yesterday the sun came out and melted the dumping of snow we got last Friday, which followed a multi-day Polar Vortex that brought temperatures down to 0 degrees with windchills around -25.

As I ventured out back to see what survived, I was reminded of a story Eliot Coleman tells in Four-Season Harvest. I’m quoting it at length because a) I love it, and b) because it remains an inspiration for the season extension work we do at Over the Fence, and the seasonal eating we do in our home.

During [our] January trip across France, we had an experience that emphasized the point. We were visiting the Jardin des Plantes in Montpelier, one of the oldest botanical gardens in France. Like many such venerable institutions, it was showing its age. Some of the walls were beginning to crumble and panes were missing in unused glasshouses. But we were not there for the architecture. We had come to see the “non-existent” vegetables. When we had called ahead to learn the winter hours and had inquired about the vegetable garden, the nice Frenchman on duty told us not to waste our time because the vegetable garden was “non-existent” in the winter. Ah, well, we had heard that song before. “There is nothing in the garden” is usually synonymous with “it doesn’t look nice like it did last summer.”

The vegetable garden at the Jardin des Plants occupies one quarter of a parterre in front of the orangerie. Admittedly it probably did look nicer during the summer, but it was just what we wanted to find in January. Despite the disclaimers of the garden staff, this abandoned Zone 9 garden, which had probably seen no care since October, still contained ready-to-pick crops of chard, salsify and scorzonera, six different types of lettuces, radicchio, sorrel, mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens, kale, cabbages, winter radish, red and green scallion, leeks, and spinach. If that garden were in our backyard, we would have considered it a source of fresh main course and salad vegetables for the rest of the winter. It was a cornucopian example of a garden truth we have long notes–if you just look around in a post-season garden, you will almost always find something to eat.

After you read this post, head out to your winter garden and see if you can score some greens for your next meal. Here’s what I found yesterday, when the high got up to 55.

Not too surprisingly, Tatsoi did great.

Lacinato Kale is also tough and super cold hardy.

The few heads of  Napa Cabbage still hanging around lived to see another day.

And even these tiny heads of Romaine (which I left as a test) were insulated enough to survive.

The Arugula I didn’t chop down in January still tastes amazing.  Hoping for a small bounce back crop from these plants as temperatures return to the 30 and 40s.

The Swiss Chard was glowing.

A few heads of Raddichio are waiting for their turn at the table.

This Pac Choi was in the high tunnel, under a second cover, but managed to get burned. Need to investigate that.

Another cold weather winner, Giant Red Mustard, is ready for a growth spurt to welcome back Persephone.

As are these baby Red Russian Kale. Though they look like they could use a drink of water. The high tunnel can get a little dry this time of year. Might try to catch some of the rain coming this week and move it in before the overnight temperatures dip down again.

Our cold frame-within the high tunnel started seedlings are patiently awaiting transplant. In this box, Pac Choi, Red Russian Kale, and Tatsoi…

…and here, spinach….

…which looks amazing up close, and tastes like good health.

The biggest Polar Vortex surprise by far is that one of the chickens started laying! I suspect Hermione or Ginny since their combs and waddles are the most fully formed. Won’t be much longer until we’re (happily) drowning in eggs again!

As a reward, the girls got to come under one of the low tunnels for a snack and dust bath.

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And the humans all enjoyed post-Vortex salads with dinner!

 

 


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Naming Our New Flock

Our new flock of chickens are nearly five months old and finally have names. We (Read Cora who was 4 at the time) named most of our first flock the day we got them. When one died after just five weeks, a friend cautioned us not to name them so early again, it was bad luck or something like that. (Reminds me of the Jewish superstition against naming babies before they are born.)

At any rate, if we weren’t going to name them right away, at least we could talk about names. For me, it started with “Professor McGonagall.” When we got these chicks in September, I decided I wanted to name one after her. It’s just fun to say, and the thought of a chicken professor made the human professor in me laugh.

When a friend pointed out that McGonagall’s first name was Minerva, I got even more excited. Hens and vintage lady names go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you aren’t familiar with this habit, search the interwebs for “old lady chicken names” and read on.

The Professor was reluctant to have her photo taken, she kept coming after the camera and pecking at me, so this is the best I can offer of her at this time. She’s the Golden Laced Wyandotte pecking at the ground.

Hermione Granger, a Rhode Island Red, was more accommodating.

Ginny Weasley proudly posed for her glamor shot. Ginny is a Golden Buffington.

Luna Lovegood, a White Plymouth Rock is a favorite of Cora’s.

Madame Maxime is one of my favorite’s and the most gentle of the bunch. She is, appropriate to her namesake, a Black Jersey Giant.

Finally, Nymphadora (another amazingly fun name to say!) Tonks is a Dominque. Her comb is coming in the slowest. She’ll look a lot fancier once she’s got her crown.

Here’s looking to your six month birthday which we will celebrate by feasting on quiche, egg salad with fresh mayonnaise, and fried eggs on EVERYTHING!


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Scenes From the Field: 1.16.2019

Yesterday was overcast and the high temperature only reached 33 degrees, but somehow it didn’t feel as cold as it had the few days before. I spent a solid hour and a half out back harvesting greens and playing with the chickens who ventured into the yard for the first time in days. The weather is supposed to get nasty again the next few days and through the weekend, so I pulled up my snowpants and made the best of it.

Here are a few scenes from the field.

A solid blanket of snow covered everything and made accessing the tunnels a chore. I did a little maintenance, but have more to do to support the ends of our low tunnels when this melts…

While the world outside the tunnels was white, a bounty of greens lay beneath. This short tunnel (covered in Agribon and plastic) contains tatsoi, pac choi cilantro, romaine, and arugula. I’ve noticed growth increasing already since the winter solstice. I harvested most of the lettuces and left a little to see how they would hold up to the sub-zero temperatures coming early next week. I wondered if plants packed closer together would fair better than those hanging out alone, which I’m noting here to remind myself to check.

A bowl of arugula, some of which was buried under the row covers, which collapsed on the ends, from the weight of the snow.

Swiss chard, tatsoi, and pac choi under a low tunnel.

Same low tunnel – Lacinato and Red Russian kale in front, spinach in the back.

Close-up of arugula in a second short tunnel.

The high tunnel continues to enchant us. The pac choi on the left was hit hard by cold two nights before but completely bounced back (see below). I plan to add some low covers inside the tunnel in advance of the super cold temperatures coming next week.

 

Did you know cilantro embraces the cold?

Spinach starts in a cold frame, inside the tunnel. Surprising to me (but perhaps not to someone with more scientific understanding), these frames are not holding temperature as well as the tunnel itself (see chart below). These will be transplanted into a bed the next warm spell we see. (Note: This experiment was introduced in an earlier post, referencing the MidOhio Food Bank that made it possible.)

In the basket, chard, kale, and mustard for our harvest. On the ground, the chickens’ fodder.

After school, Cora helped me document temperatures in various locations.

 

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And the hens came out to play.