Tuesday, May 30, 2006


You wouldn't believe there was a flood at Open Heart a few weeks ago!

Amazing stuff!

We've all had the pleasure of a taste of summer this week and boy are the tomatoes happy. Today I planted out about 140 eggplant plants (oh! Miss Bono would have a tizzy over that last phrase!...ah the necessary redundancies of farm work...), Josh put the basil out last week - Geneovese AND Thai. The peas are continuing their climb, the violas are raging, and we've been seeding like mad all the greens, roots, and flowers the fields can handle.

Well actually there's lots more space out there, and that's good! Next up is melons, peppers galore, more cucumbers (there really IS a striped cucumber beetle, we've found) and winter squash (yes, that's right! for winter!)

ah, and then the ever elusive Romanesco...with a whopping 120 days to maturity it will be our most pampered brassica - but, the rewards to come are mind-boggling!

Wow maybe I'm being a little too enthusiastic - just glad to be out there with a hoe in hand countering the club moss and coaxing the snails towards the ponds that remain...


Hi everyone!

Hey - just in case you missed...Open Heart Farm has been featured in the past two weeks' worth of Seven Days!

My last blog post was published by columnist extraordinaire Cathy Resmer in the May 24-31st issue (page 8A)

And Open Heart was featured in the Intervale Explorer, compiled by Sarah Jelen


We want to mention some of the latest drama going on down at the Intervale this week - we were visited by a representative of the health department last week, at the request of some of the farmers actually, who gave us some statements (not backed by any data, actually, and that was frustrating!) re: lettuce post-flood - As many of the farmers make a nice chunk of change this time of year on their yummy organic brimming-with-goodness head lettuce right about now, they were very concerned that folks would be put off by some of their crops (and ours too!) having been submerged by the Winooski, and the health dept. rep confirmed and fueled worries - He had no data or evidence really to back up his recommendation that lettuces be tilled under, but that was his recommendation

THEN, One of the Intervale farmers did quite a bit of research on the matter and I will post it below...however...IN SUM...the data we've been able to find states that none of the bacteria that would be inhabiting any lettuces would be able to survive outside of their watery home for more that a day or so - obviously we've already outlived them many times over at this point (since 2 weeks ago, when the flood receded)

BUT - this is of course up to each consumer of said lettuce - and Josh and I are happy to converse with anyone of course about specific crops/fields

ALSO, just so you know, farmers are still selling lettuce hand over foot to local markets, who are all in the know about the flood, and of course farmers and their families are all eating it

we just thought we should detail some of this information that's been floating around us - we're eating our lettuce, and in any case, that's the only thing at OH Farm that is at all in question -

so, without further ado, here's that scientific stuff to add to the conversation:

"The most common waterborne disease-causing agents and their half-life residence times outside the human intestine.
Salmonella 2.4-19.2 hours
E. Coli/Shigella 22.4-26.8 hours second most common disease- causing bacteria in U.S.
Giardia lamblia 4 days at 37 degrees C

These data taken from Environmental Microbiology by Maier, Pepper and Gerba
c. 2000 show that far from the proposal that the enteric bacteria would continue to grow as the plants grow, the organisms would actually decline rapidly in number. These organisms are adapted to thrive within the human intestinal tract and are stressed severely outside of that dark, anaerobic environment.
The fecal coliform test would be the most common method to test for these enteric pathogens and would be an adequate indicator for prevalence of the Salmonella and the E. coli bacteria. The Giardia parasite is less correlated with the fecal coliform test. No fecal coliform test was indicated at the emergency meeting today, but we can assume it may have exceeded the federal guidelines of under 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml as a summer discharge regulation for sewage waters. The limit for water for irrigation of agricultural crops is 100 CFU/100 ml. It is difficult to determine how the coliform levels would be affected by the flooding, since on one hand there is likely to be increased runoff and possible sewage treatment bypass, and on the other hand the increased water volume enhances the dilution factor. In lieu of concrete data, let us assume a magnitude jump in coliform levels to 2000 CFU/100ml on the day of the flood. The most common bacteria will be the Salmonella and the Shigella strains since they make up the highest proportion of human feces (again from Environmental Microbiology). Since these bacteria have half lives of about 20 - 26 hours on the conservative side, we can figure that by Friday, 6 days later, they have gone through 7-5.5 half lives. Conservatively this means that the original 2000 per 100 ml will have reduced to 62.5 per 100 ml. This number even is a high assumption since the water has dissipated and now the bacteria would be dry and exposed to increased oxygen levels, which is inhibitive to their growth. This number loses some relevance since the moisture levels on the plant are no longer measurable in 100ml levels. However, let us assume even that 200 CFUs remain on the plant even after 6 days of dryness. Using the microbial risk assessment criteria from the article Modeling the risk from Giardia and viruses from drinking water in the Journal of American Water Works as cited in the Environmental Microbiology book we can determine the probability of a lettuce eater being contaminated by the lettuce head. Let's assume that after thoroughly washing our lettuce head, it still contains the 200 CFUs of E. coli that contaminated it. Using the beta-Poisson model for probability of infection as follows, P = 1 - (1+N/b) to the power of -a, and using the data for E. coli where a =0.1705 and b = 1.61 x10 6, if N = 200 per lettuce then we get a probability of infection of 0.00003, or about 1 in 30,000. Since the health department appears to use studies from the Federal Ag. Dept. who in turn use California based numbers, this number makes some sense in the scale of California lettuce production. No Vermont-based studies were cited at the meeting today. For perspective the chance of being exposed to aflatoxin (a toxin from rotting peanuts) from eating peanut butter is calculated at 6 in 10,000 or about 20 times greater than our lettuce example."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

look, its true, I can be a little dramatic, it seemed dramatic at the time:

but today brendan (kouku) and leslie, two friends of ours from cote d'ivoire, helped us plant over 100 tomato plants in the past two days, in soil that still resembles a sponge. Rachel and I have another 100 or so to go, trying to reach our total of about three hundred (we did some earlier). Then its on to reseeding lots and lots of greens and scallions and dill, some of the direct seeded stuff that got wiped away.

today the heat turned on too, and it is starting to seem like a place where basil and peppers and eggplant can be happy.

Monday, May 22, 2006


No sun today, not yet, good thing, I don't think the plants or chickens could handle it, they need to be weaned slowly from the clouds and rain...


Let's Dance!

This morning I waded myself out to the field, reluctantly, wearing clean and dry jeans for the first time in about a week, I just had to see, see if maybe, just maybe...

past Adam's raspberries swimming amoungst the jewel-weed and nettles, over floating bits of irrigation pipes and lost bales of hay, seeing in the distance of the horizon our new hoophouse, which had made its way across two fields and along the border of a hedgerow to the edge of Adam's strawberries (which are, as he reported today, miraculously setting fruit)...

I finally made it to our field, on top of a little rise (and how very clearly vital these little rises have become!) and saw the PEAS! happy to be drying off and shaking it out...

and then the BEETS! and ONIONS! dear friends from early days on the field this year (gee, really it's only been 2 months...) - they're AOK, a little muddy but standing tall - high-riding! - also, okay...



so, onto some more of Vermont spring....!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Flood

Before the Hysteria of the spectacle let me say a few practical things to members, though I don't know who besides the computer I'm asking to "let" - one member pointed out that I should remind all members to bring bags to pick ups, so that they can carry away their produce. Secondly, we are darn close to having filled our membership, probably have, given the checks in the mail, so Rachel and I are happy to be done with that. NOW, on to the Flood.

This image was taken by Lucky Ladies owner John Cleary, whose chickens are right beyond our farm. I hope he doesn't mind me using it,: believe it or not thats what rachel's and mine 1 and a half acres looks like. There is lettuce under there and spinach and peas and . . . well you've heard alot about all the other things. Some of those things were longer term (late season) others not. [let me take one moment to add that even talking about the flood is hard, and I'm tempted to read blanchot's book writing disaster rather than actually thinking about it - and on the flip side having that happy go lucky attitude of like: I'm alive, let's dance] - the upsot being, we will see: we will see what has lived and what has not. I know some of John's chickens passed, so that is sad. We, as a CSA, and all that, I think will go on.

But this brings me to my more bitter notes, which I guess exist and not too much in the mood to suppress them, but think will have them happily contradicted nonetheless, probably by andy jones, head farmer of the ICF, who I think rachel and I are meeting with soon: even before the flood itself occured, the few days leading up to the flood, I thought of a late reply to spencer welton's, of half pint farm, question, "what about west africa?" which I took to mean our relation to it: which I fugured to be this: first we brought the people and NOW were bringing everything else, weather included. without explicating that too much I mean their roads version of democracy, social contracts, overall living style etc. But anywho, directly for the farm I think it means it would be rather hard to think that that 2 or three acres is sustainable in and of itself. It would be one thing if it was part of twelve or something and you could hold it in abeyance till most potential of flood is gone, but it is already beginning to sound like that isn't so possible at the intervale. hopefully the flood 2 will end on a happier note: dance?!?!?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Point 5

Thank you Donna, is point five: While her and Tom Daley, Rachel's father, were in town she picked it up a notch, and we re-potted ALL of our eggplant, and lots of our herbs, which we will be selling as windowsill herbs at the markets.

Additionally, we sold our first half case (I guess another allusion to the title .5) to healthy living, a local supermarket that really prides itself on getting whatever it can locally. They are certainly being patient and nice with Rachel and I, given that many factors, unanticipated or understood in our first year, have made production a little slower: like can you believe when we wake up it is still 36 degrees. I'm not complaining, I swear, just learning. As per the last post, I will say, rachel is getting better and it is a joy in many ways to be working with her again. But enough sap!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Veggy Tales

to say its been a long time, and what feels like a lifetime, would be an understatement. On all fronts I might add. I'm half tempted in the spirit of the blog to tell all, but luckily for all I don't have four days to tell you all the various stories, so in brief:

1. Rachel and I went to a Wal-Mart yesterday, I won't deny it. I will say it's the first time in a few years and it was a bit on the nauseating side. Why we went: the prized easy-up tent, or facsimile thereof, certainly produced in china. This tent will be used by us at farmers markets, which, if you CSA members didn't know, we are going to be participating in one or two. Right now we have ten members, so we will certainly have some excess vegetables.
Why Wal-Mart and not another vendor, less nauseating? We tried eBay, which seems to have become not so much of an open market, but really, kinda closed. ie, it's not you or me auctioning a lot of this stuff, it's big vendors, totally skirting the auction mechanism. And bonusly, finding a way to get in some crazy shipping fees, not to be known until after purchase. And from the trademarked easy up dealer we are talking almost triple the price . . . so that's my excuse and hopefully won't have a reason to go back for at least another few years, and I'll spare you all other pithy observation on Sprawl-Mart.

2. Thought this message was funny (I mean, does one really need to specify National Bitter melon council, as if they could be confused with the vermont or arizona bitter melon council), and believe it or not, we hope to be producing some of these bitter melons for you all, and then you can tell your stories to whichever Bitter Melon Council you choose:

--------- Forwarded message ----------From: The National Bitter Melon Council <http://us.f315.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=info@bittermelon.org>Date: May 5, 2006 2:01 PMSubject: Invitation for on-line Contributions: Goya Honoring Day 5/7/06To: Rachel Daley <http://us.f315.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=rachelmdaley123@gmail.com>Dear Rachel, Happy day-before-the-day-before Goya Honoring Day!Goya Honoring Day, originating in Okinawa, Japan, is aspecial day to recognize Bitter Melon as a featuredproduct of that tropical island ("Goya" is the term for Bitter Melon in Okinawa dialect.) In Japan, GoyaDay is celebrated on May 8th because the Japanesepronunciation of the date "May" and "8" sounds thesame as "Go-Ya". Because of the time differencebetween Boston and Japan our celebration will occur on May 7th, which is actually May 8th in Okinawa.To honor the international community that has beengathering around this great gourd, we are asking thosewho we've been in contact with across the globe tosend an email with thoughts, stories, quips, recipies,growing tips, anything involving your relationship toBitter Melon. Email all texts to http://us.f315.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=info@bittermelon.org.If you have any questions, you can call me at 857-928-4196 or reach me by email.We hope to share these emailed comments at our AnnualMeeting which will take place at 4:30 PM EasternStandard Time. Please email them tohttp://us.f315.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=info@bittermelon.org by noon on Sunday if you wouldlike your comments shared. In order to protect yourprivacy, we will not be sharing any email addresses orcontact information with the public at any time. If you would like us not to use your name as well, pleaselet us know.If you have any questions about this project, don'thesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time andinterest, and I will be in touch later in the month when images from the event are posted online.All the best, Andi SuttonDirector of Public Relations, NBMC

3. Another Farm Decision: Rachel and I are definitely not happy using "remay" (sp?) all the time. Until recently I didn't even realize it was a petroleum byproduct product. Trying to remain blissfully ignorant I was. First, to backtrack, let me explain what remay is for those who might not know: it's a fabric that you cover your crops with (and darnit I should have a picture of that, will next time) both for added warmth, but even more importantly in the Intervale, to protect from flea beetles. These very little critters will eat all the leaf matter of any brassica (cauliflower, broccolli, mustard greens, most asian greens) and organically, remay seems to be the standard way of solving the problem, but it is a pain in the butt to drag this fabric across a windy field, then totally seal it off from the outside world, except to take off the remay for an hour to hoe it and such, then put it back on, just talking about it is tiring. So, rachel and I are going to take a few steps to deal with this problem in another way: the first, a) plant less crops susceptible, more insusceptible, such as dandelion greens, chard. b) try neem oil and compost tea, including some of our own home-grown stinging nettle. the crops will once again be open to the air.

4. Rachel has been under the weather, but let it be known throughout the bloggosphere, that it, me, everything, is hoping to hear from her soon, it's a real day-brightener.

That's probably enough points for today, I'll have more business of the farm points for you all soon, so, uh, get ready for the test.