Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring has sprung! It has been a long cold winter, but the grass has finally begun to green and the spring crops are getting into the ground this week.  We have already planted peas, shelling and snow,
pea seeds going in April 4th
radishes, salad turnips, pac choi, and fava beans. Later this week we will put in spinach, mache, onions, shallots and beets. The greenhouse is full to the gills, bursting with peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers along with the regular spring crops.
We also sheared the sheep this past week and took care of their hooves for the season.  Their paddock is finally starting to green up and they and the llama have been happily munching away.  th and in the meantime we are getting the house ready for them. We have 50 baby barred rock bantam chicks (say that 5 times fast) coming that will produce tiny eggs to serve in the kitchen.
Jeremy and a just sheared lady
Our current flock of chickens are about to go into retirement.  They are now a little over three years old and their egg production has really started to decline. A few of the local ladies from town are taking them home to live out their retirement on some small backyard farms.  Our new baby chicks arrive April 29
This past week our new farmer started her new position. She came to us from Arizona, but is a native Virginian. Jenna Brownell is a 4th generation farmer from Bluemont, Virginia.  She has a degree in Environmental Studies form Prescott College and has worked on farms all over the country as well as a few in Italy.  She has been eager to start her position with us and can’t wait for the summer to begin. Joneve is moving on to start a new adventure. She will be traveling for one year, volunteering on farms in Europe Asia and South America and plans to share her adventures on her new blog; Farmer Seeking Roots. For more information please visit
Shady, Jenna's dog and Blue faithfully guarding the greenhouse

Jenna will be taking over the blog from here and is eager to share the garden’s trials and triumphs with you all in the future. 
Red veined sorrel, a new microgreen for the kitchen

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I am leaving The Inn to start a new adventure. I have loved every minute of my time here.  The Inn is a close family and I will be sad to go, our new farmer starts next week, and we will overlap for a month of training.  I’m launching a new project in June called Farmer Seeking Roots. I plan to travel through Europe, Asia and South America for one year volunteering on farms and following the food home with a consumer to cook, eat and share recipes. I will explore many avenues of sustainable agriculture; family farms, cooperatives, school gardens, community gardens, pastured animals, urban farms and many more. I want to labor alongside the multitude of ardent family farmers in both developed and developing nations. I hope to share growing techniques, new varieties, and recipes, but also I want to share their passion.  I want to highlight these farmers and consumers for the important decisions they make about food every day. I want to have a conversation with both farmers and consumers about their choices to support sustainable agriculture from either side of the plate.
I hope that through sharing these conversations I can inspire others to grow/ eat organically and sustainably. I hope to share techniques that I find with other farmers, in an effort to further their food enterprises. I want to encourage others to support their local farmers and food producers, to grow something towards their own nutrition and the nourishment of their community.   I want to highlight farmers that are growing food in such a way so as to rebuild their soils, improve the local environment and engage with their communities. I want to highlight farmers and consumers that are creating and contributing to a movement much larger than themselves. Organic, sustainable, family farming is what is going to feed our world. People that engage with their land, that work to see it and the land surrounding flourish.  Our personal health is dependent on the health of the soil, the forests, the oceans, the animals and people that surround us. We can no longer be insular in our decisions about food.  We vote with our dollars more often and more impact fully than any of our votes at the ballot box. We, as a global community must support enterprises and people that are furthering the sustainable food movement.
I will share this journey; the triumphs, struggles and the people that I find through a photo journal and blog on my website: . I invite you to follow me.
I am currently fundraising for this endeavor. You can find my campaign at
There are a lot of great perks on offer, including prints of my photographs, a gardening guide that I have written, online and in person garden consulting and of course a huge thank you from me.

Joneve Murphy

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hi Everyone.  Well I’m back from my winter break and back to greenhouse grind.  This year I didn’t go anywhere too exotic, I spent my time visiting family and friends in Maine, New York, Vermont and California.   The time flew by. I did some snowy hiking in Maine,
Trees in Maine after an ice storm
went sailing in the San Francisco Bay, hiking in Lake Tahoe, I went to the San Francisco
Alpenglow in Lake Tahoe
Botanical Gardens, had some beach time and of course ate some really great food. It was amazing to see all of my family this year, which I don’t always make a lot of time to do.  I have no time for visits during the summer,
Lichen and moss covered tree Lake Tahoe
and often when I leave in the winter to go to some far off land, I want as much time as possible to explore and have adventures.
beach in SF
I got back last month and most of my time has been split between the greenhouse and the office.  I put the seed order together for the season, and I’m in the process of writing the crop plan.  As dreary and cold as it is outside, this is one of my favorite times of year.  Shopping for seeds allows you to dream of what could be.  You can picture in your mind’s eye where the plants will go and how they will look in all their mid-summer glory.

In the greenhouse I have started all of the micro greens again, and we are already 3 plantings deep.  February 10th I started all of the onion, shallot and leek transplants.  I like to start all of mine from seed rather than sets.  It gives me more choices on varieties, but it does mean that greenhouse work starts much earlier than it would otherwise.  Most other vegetables don’t need to be seeded before March.  I don’t like to start my transplants too early, because I think it stresses them to sit in the greenhouse in pots that are too small for them.  They become root bound and the shock when you finally plant them is much worse.  So my advice for the day; be patient spring is coming.

Monday, December 9, 2013

November 27th
Wow November has been a really cold month. Much colder than the November we had last year. We have even had one night below 20 degrees.  That means almost everything, under cover or not, is dead, and my record of harvesting until Christmas is now blemished. Luckily I harvested all of vegetables before they actually died.
slug eggs hiding under a beet

The only things left in the garden now are beets, carrots and spinach. The beets and carrots will be harvested next week, as will the last cutting of spinach for this season.  After I cut the spinach, (carefully, so as to not damage the growth tip) I’ll cover it with straw for the winter.  I can pull the straw off in March and we will have a nice early crop.
I have spent most of my time this month cleaning up the garden and organizing the shed and greenhouse for the winter. I’m still producing micro greens, and we have bumped up production for the busy holiday season, so they are keeping me pretty busy as well. I planted the garlic last week and covered it with straw.
garlic clove waiting to be planted
And finally, we have been holding our end of the season meetings.  We use this time to sit down, farmer, cooks and Chef Patrick, and discuss both the failures and the successes from the past season. We also discuss potential new crops to try for next season.  There are quite a few interesting varieties coming out for next year.  I saw a daikon radish yesterday that was purple all the way through and a green when ripe cherry tomato covered in pink stripes.
I finished all of the harvest records and we were well over last year’s numbers with a whopping 8000 pounds of produce pulled out of the garden this year.  I was surprised as a lot of the heavy vegetables such as eggplant and peppers didn’t produce so well, but I guess we made up for it in cucumbers and sweet potatoes.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be spending my time still cleaning, organizing and getting the crop plan ready for next year.

November 1st
Butter Lettuce
Well, we have had our first official hard frost.  That means that all of the summer vegetables are truly finished and almost everything else needs to be covered. So far our lowest night was 28 degrees.  Vegetables such as beans, peppers, and tomatoes die at 32, but many other vegetables can survive in lower temperatures.  They can freeze and thaw many times during the fall and early winter, and reserve their growth periods for when the weather is favorable.  

This makes growing really slow, but it can work in your favor, a garden that has been planted well can have tons of vegetables “hanging out” and waiting to be harvested. For example we planted 5 beds of carrots in early September; they have pretty much stopped growing by now, but can wait in the soil for another few months before they need to be picked. I’ll harvest a few at a time until Christmas.

Andrew with a cardoon plant
As the frost loomed, we harvested the last of the beans, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  With the tomatoes I pulled off all of the green ones as well as the red, and will ripen them in the shed over the next few weeks. I also dug up all of the sweet potatoes to cure, and cut down the giant cardoon plants. I harvested most of the lemongrass and potted up the rest in the greenhouse to plant in the garden again next year. We also lost the cucumber plants, which was a little sad. I was hoping to hold on to them for a little longer.

chickens enjoying a mountain of beet greens

Right now in the garden we still have lettuce, French radishes, Japanese fresh turnips and Pac choi under cover.  Kale, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, purple top turnips, celeriac, mustard greens, spinach, carrots, beets, cauliflower and romanesco are all exposed to the elements and happy to be so, though most of those will need to be covered or harvested soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall has arrived

So, the season seems to be wrapping up. I say this somewhat skeptically since we had 90 degree weather just a week ago. For the last 6 days it's been cold, blustery and wet, the perfect trifecta to herald the beginning of fall. There are still a lot of vegetables and a lot to do but the end is officially in sight.  The last few weeks have been spent planting lettuce, spinach, radishes and turnips to harvest until Christmas.  The weeds have slowed way down, but they are still growing, and still need to be plucked. The cucumber house is growing like crazy, and the vines are well over 10 feet, requiring pruning and tying up at least twice per week. Other than that I have spent most of my time harvesting, vegetables are coming heavily which is always a great way to end the season.

I have begun to assemble the harvest lists for the season and reflecting, it has been surprisingly good.  With the somewhat cool and wet weather we had this summer I expected the numbers to be a little grim, I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Here are a few highlights of harvest so far; 683 bunches of beets, 550 pounds of tomatoes, 200 quarts of shishito peppers, 1500 european cucumbers, 2650 pickling cucumbers, 300 pounds of French beans, 400 bunches of carrots, 856 heads of pac choi, over 600 heads of lettuce, and last but not least we have produced more than 250 pounds of micro greens this year to date.  I think these are some pretty impressive numbers. Last year we produced around 6000 pounds of vegetables, I’m interested to see what the total will be this year.

Harvest is still running strong and some of the true fall vegetables are already starting to roll in. On the list for this week we have sweet potatoes, celeriac, carrots, beets, French beans, radishes, turnips, cauliflower, romanesco, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, pac choi, all the herbs, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and of course micro greens.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Facts About Stink Bugs...

So this posting I wanted to talk a little bit about Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB).  I have heard so many crazy theories about them during my time in Virginia, and I’d like to take the time to set the record straight. 
First though, I’ll share a few funny examples of things I've heard about BMSB.
“The government released the BMSB back in the 90’s to take care of the overpopulation of lady bugs”
“They were purposely released by the Chinese government as a form of bio-terrorism”
“Ladybugs and native stink bugs mated to create the super bug”
OK, those are pretty funny, especially to a bug geek like me.  But let’s get to the facts.
Here in VA we have over 13 native species of stink bug, a few of which are very beneficial in the garden.  For example the assassin bug (which I mentioned in a post last year) is a serious predator in the garden, using those sucking mouth parts to kill other insects. BMSB or Halyomorpha halys is native to China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, and is considered an agricultural pest, though the populations are not as high as they are here. It was first documented in the US in 1998 in Allentown PA, but was probably here before that.  Most likely the first individuals were stowaways in shipping containers. (We all know how they like to squeeze into small spaces) They are now found in at least 35 states though they may not be breeding in all of them. They were first documented in VA in 2004, and they had invaded the entire state by 2010. In VA they can have up to three generations per year depending on temperature. When they emerge from our houses, wood sheds and barns every spring they head out to the forests and farms.  They then feed and mate for about two weeks before they begin to lay eggs on the underside of leaves.  Each female is responsible for about 400 eggs.  They are laid in clusters and take between 3 and 7 days to emerge.  At this point they are in their first nymphal instar. They will go through 5 of these with about a week in each stage.  All of the nymphal stages are wingless; wings develop after the 5th instar. When they are adults, and have wings, they become very mobile, moving easily between crops as some food sources are exhausted and more become available. There are over 300 different hosts for BMSB, including grapes, berries, tree fruit, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, and some ornamentals. Their feeding results in deformation and rotten blemishes rendering the fruit worthless. I couldn't find any comprehensive information on the agricultural economic damage these pests have done, but in 2010 farmers reported a loss between 25 and 40% to apples resulting in a 37 million dollar loss for that year.

OK, now for the good news. First: our native predators and parasites are already adapting to utilize this new food/breeding source. There was a study conducted in OH that started in 2005. They collected stinkbug eggs from around the state and found that about 5% had been parasitized by wasps that lay their own egg inside that of the BMSB. In 2012 they conducted the same study again and found that up to 29% of the eggs were now parasitized.  It has also been shown that native birds are feeding on these insects much more than they did initially. Second: there are a lot of people working on this problem from various different angles, and there is a lot of money being put into it. The US dept. of AG has classified the BMSB as the top invasive species of interest. The US department of Ag, the Land Grant Universities, the EPA and the USDA are all putting money and resources into finding the solution. Several universities are testing the possibility of releasing the parasitic wasp that is native to Asia and keeps the population there in check. (Parasitic wasps are nothing to be afraid of. They are tiny creatures that do not bite or sting humans.) Unfortunately it was recently stated that it will probably be three years or more before this is a possibility. There is also a group that is sequencing the genome for BDSM in the hope that they will find a key to an extremely targeted pesticide, or a key to their defense mechanisms. There are groups working on mass trapping projects using the bugs own pheromone as a lure. Most institutions agree that a biological (as opposed to a chemical) control is the best way to go. Let’s hope the solution presents itself sooner rather than later.

For more information on the current studies that even you can participate in regarding BMSB please visit  
Who knew that chickens love watermelon?

Now, for the garden. It has been a pleasant few weeks; Great weather and a lot less rain. We have been harvesting quite a bit, and planting all of our greens for fall.  We put in kale, chard and mustard.  We plant lettuce, spinach and pac choi weekly. We have also been seeding French radishes and Japanese salad turnips every other week.  All of this work should keep us rolling in produce well past frost. We removed the shade cloth from the green houses and the plants seem to like it.  The second generation of cucumbers is coming along really well and started to flower this week.  Peppers eggplant and tomatoes have begun to slow way down, but are still ripening and doing well.  The king lima beans began to flower this week and it looks as if we should have quite a bumper crop. I checked on the sweet potatoes yesterday and they are coming along really well. The kitchen is already starting to experiment with them and yesterday I got to taste a sweet potato ice cream that was delicious.  

Our current harvest list includes; lettuce, spinach, radishes, summer squash, baby carrots, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, haricots verts beans, okra, water melons, shallots. Edible flowers, herbs and micro greens.