We are conducting a survey to see how we can improve the farm experience and make your next visit more fun, safe, and educational. Were you appalled? Excited? Interested? Confused? Ecstatic? We would greatly appreciate it if you could take five minutes to fill out our online questionnaire which you can access here. We do our best but we know that it’s always possible to improve. It only takes a few minutes and we need you to help us! Thank you!!
Hickory Nut Gap Blog/e-Newsletter
Experience life at Hickory Nut Gap Farm and be the first to know about exciting sales and recent happenings by checking this blog and signing up for the e-newsletter.
A farm in the spring is a busy place. I haven’t had much time in the past few months to write much of anything because the whole crew has been scrambling to keep up with all the projects that seem to be piling up in front of our eyes. We also had a major setback when Farmer Jake, our illustrious intern, broke his wrist while playing basketball a few weeks ago. He has been relegated to working in the office and the farmstore, his left arm firmly wrapped in a bright pink hard cast. His absence from the more physically demanding chores has left Walker and Jamie and me with a lot more on our plates than we had anticipated what with apple spraying, taking care of the U-pick berries, maintaining a mowing schedule, feeding and moving the animals, fixing fences, harvesting asparagus and mushrooms, attending farmers markets…
The problem is that there is no end to the chores you haven’t done on the farm, so making time to write can be difficult. There’s always something else that seems more pressing or has more time sensitive consequences than posting on the blog. Considering all that, I’m going to take satisfaction in the small number of posts I have made and, once again, resolve to be more diligent in the future.
What else can I tell you about the past few weeks? We…well, I… did have a near catastrophe with the apple sprayer that scared the wits out of me and very nearly caused a major setback in our attempt at holistic orcharding.
I had been spraying the trees with Kaolin Clay all morning and the tractor and sprayer looked like they’d gotten coated with powdered sugar. The clay is meant to deter the curculio beetle, a pest that lays eggs in the developing fruitlets and can destroy and apple crop without proper attention and management. The clay is ground microfine and when it is applied liberally to the apple trees, flakes off on the beetles and inhibits them from completing their reproductive activity.
When I had finished spraying and cleaned out the spray tank, I headed back up the mountain to park the 300 gallon sprayer in the shed. What I didn’t realize was that I hadn’t completely secured the sprayer hitch to the ball on the back of the tractor. While there was spray in the tank, the weight kept the whole thing from bouncing off but now that it was empty, the contraption balanced precariously on its one set of wheels and was only resting lightly on the tractor ball. As I pulled onto sugar hollow I noticed that a black Lexus was coming around the curve behind me but I didn’t give it a second thought. A slight bump in the road made the tractor seat bounce but then I heard a snap and saw the sprayer handle and connection lines tear from their mount on the tractor beside me. I spun in my seat only to see the oddly shaped machine careening back down the road and gaining speed as it went. The driver of the Lexus seemed oblivious for a moment that the vehicle in front of him was headed straight for the recently waxed hood of his sedan. Or maybe he was just inclined to play a one sided game of chicken. I waved wildly at him and tried to shout over the thrum of the tractor. Finally he broke out of his momentary stupor and swerved into the other lane. He sped around the whole scene and, without so much as a “ Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you”, ran the stop sign at the top of the hill as if he couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Fairview.
The sprayer didn’t make the curve in the road but instead went straight over the edge of the road, down a steep bank, through a barbed wire fence, and crashed into a rhododendron bush. I pulled the tractor off the road and ran down the barn, legs shaking slightly, to get help.
Walker, Jamie, and I were able to pull the sprayer back onto the road and found that, through some miracle, it hadn’t been damaged beyond reckoning. Only the handle, which extends from the spray tank to the tractor, and the odd little platform on the back of the sprayer had gotten mangled. Everything else was more or less untouched by the accident. I kicked myself thoroughly for not correctly securing the hitch, but I guess sometimes those kinds of mistakes are good. I will never, never pull out without checking and rechecking that connection again. Ever. I suppose it was just lucky that the Lexus driver didn’t play his game of chicken for one second longer, and that the rhododendron bush stopped the sprayer from crashing all the way down the hill, and that the odd little platform on the back that acted like a rear bumper. Oh yes, I’m counting my blessings on this one.
I love living in a place with such varied and diverse weather throughout the year. There is nothing so enlivening as a warm day in April to thaw all thoughts of darkness which have accumulated through February. Likewise, those cool autumn mornings are such a blessing after the torpid heat of summer. The steady cycle of seasons here in the mountains is simply unimpeachable.
I think that working on the farm has given me a heightened appreciation for the spring season in particular. Despite the fact that this winter was relatively mild and we even experienced some balmy days in December and January, I am ecstatic that the warm weather is finally here. Jake and I decided that it is probably because, more than any previous year of our lives, we spent this winter outdoors, enduring the cold and wet. I don’t mean to complain. I know that many people suffer much more severe weather; shorter days, longer winters, and colder temperatures. My hat is off to anyone who works outdoors in Vermont or Montana or Canada or Russia. For them, spring must be almost unfathomably precious when it waltzes in, turning the barren earth green again.
For us at Hickory Nut Gap, spring means daylight after work! It means watching the apples and blueberries and blackberries emit tiny green buds from silvery twigs and branches. It means checking the asparagus patch for the shoots that sprout so quickly from the mulched ground. It means raising chickens again (and trying for all we’re worth to dissuade the hawks and owls and raccoons from taking their fill). It means working in t-shirts and shedding our long johns, sweaters, wool socks, insulated gloves, toboggans, scarves… It means happy pigs, finally out of the barn and into a paddock where they can root and grub and explore. It means new baby goats! It means swarms of bumblebees in the wild cherries and dogwoods. It means basketball after work. It means so much vim and vigor returning to our work and to our lives.
Maybe Jake and I were wrong. Maybe it’s not that we were so cold all winter that makes us appreciate the spring so much now. Instead it could be that we are, like everything else on the farm, ready for spring because it is time for spring. We can all feel that winter has held sway long enough and now we can press on, we can grow and reach out and find new energy in the world that is coming awake.
Nothing hits the spot in early spring like fresh, tender asparagus. In April and May we will have organic asparagus available at the farmstore, grown right here at Hickory Nut Gap. We expect the young spears to start shooting up in the next week, so keep an eye on our facebook page to see when we begin harvesting.
If you’ve never seen asparagus growing, it truly is a fascinating sight. The young spears sprout up out of the ground, emerging like green fingers from the beds. We have to keep a close eye on the patch because if we let them grow too high, they become stringy and slightly bitter. When they reach 6-9 inches we cut them off just above the ground and bundle them together. Asparagus is packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants and is also a good source of dietary fiber. The crisp spears are excellent as an addition to salads, stir frys, or steamed on their own with nothing more than a pat of butter and a dash of salt.
Our pastured pork chops are on sale this week and next for $7.50 per pound. The weather has finally taken a turn for the better and it’s time to break out the grill and get your chop on! Here is a tantalizing recipe for spicy grilled pork chops that will make for a great spring evening outdoors. http://www.marthastewart.com/316323/grilled-pork-chops-with-spice-paste.
If you want to try some seasonal cooking, this is a recipe that includes fresh asparagus! It’s hard to beat a combination like that. http://www.charmofthecarolines.com/charm-of-the-carolines/2011/10/asparagus-asiago-stuffed-pork-chops.html. The sale ends April 20th so don’t miss out!