alliums ameraucana Anthony Bourdain aphids Appleseed Permaculture aquaponics arthritis artichokes Asian Vegetables aussie basil baby chicks baby turnips bearss lime bee keeping beet greens beneficial insects benner tree farm Biochar Bitter Melon blight blooming hill farm boothby blonde cucumber brix broccoli brussels sprouts cabbage cabbage hill farm camp hill farm cancer caraflex celeriac chicken coop chickens children chinese tamale chives cilantro cilantro root coconut cold frames collard greens Compost coriander corn crop rotation cruciferous crucifers cucumber Dan Barber dan kittredge Dave Llewellyn detox dirty dozen dragon fruit Dutch white clover dwarf citrus eggplant Elderberries factory farms farm to table farmer's market farmers markets Fava beans ffarm to table fish oil flea beetle flowers food allergies food combining food miles founding farmers four wind growers Fred Kirschenmann french bulldog G6pd deficiency garlic garlic festival garlic scapes geese Glynwood grass-fed beef Great Outdoors Listening Tour green tomatoes greenhouse growing indoors Hanalei Hemlock Hill Farm heritage turkey heritage USA hudson valley farms hurricane Irene hyssop iced tea infections influenza Insect control isothiocyanates joan gussow jolie lampkin joong kaffir lime kale Kauai kohlrabi korean licorice mint Ladybugs late blight leeks lettuces local food locust tree maine avenue fish market menhaden meyer lemon mycelia mycorrhizal natural fertilizers nectary nightshades No Reservations Nurse cropping nutrient density okra organic Baby food organic christmas tree Organic Pest Control Parsley Paul tappenden peas Permaculture pesticides pesto petite watermelon plant sap pH plymouth barred rock pole beans potatoes preserving food purple basil qunice Radish Greens rainbeau ridge farm raised beds rampicante raw food real food campaign red hook Rockland Farm Alliance ronnybrook farm row covers salt-preserved duck eggs sambucus nigra seed saving seedlings Sheet mulching small space soil analysis soil blocks soil conductivity sorrel Squash Vine Borer star fruit sugar snap peas sustainability sustainable fishing Swiss Chard tabbouleh TEDx Manhattan terracing three sisters tomato sauce tomatoes trellis trovita orange turkana farms Tuttle Farm urban zen volt white clover winter harvest Winter Squash Young Farmers Conference
Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention







Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm


Walkways in the farm and garden: Dutch White Clover

After the last few super rainy seasons our farm walkways between the raised beds have gotten a beating.  Where we had originally planned to have wood chips, torrential rains have managed to wash them away to the bottem level and on top of that, eroding the pathways as well.  Since then, we've been trying to figure out how to solve this problem assuming that extreme weather patterns will continue.  This season, inspired by Joan Gussow's garden, we've decided to plant dutch white clover inbetween all the raised beds.  You've seen dutch white clover before: it's typically in non-chemically treated lawns (along with dandelions) and produces a white flower if left to grow.  We needed something that has mutiple functions.  It needed to be:

1) steppable and tolerate, at times, high traffic conditions

2) provide erosion control

3) benficial to the farm by producing nitrogen and attracting beneficial insects and be

4) asthetically pleasing

Because this serve multiple functions, it is considered a permaculture plant.  Sounds great?  We hope so!


Here is a snapshot from Joan's garden...she told us the trick with planting these is to be very vigorous in pulling out competing weeds in the beginnng. 



Spring Has Sprung: The Year Ahead

Well, this isn't what you would expect for the second day of spring.  Forecast calls for even more snow today and tomorrow.  Though St. Patrick's day is the usual signal for us to get the peas into the ground, snow on the very last day of winter has deferred our plans giving us a little more time to plan.

This year we have decided to forego our seedling sales at the farmers markets and local plant sales and concentrate efforts on really perfecting things on our micro-farm.  It's a bittersweet decision.  We are relieved that the hard work that starts from February and ends around Memorial Day will come to an end but we are sad at losing that seasonal connection we have with our community.  We've already gotten so many emails from people who have grown our plants in the previous seasons, wondering if we'll be doing them again.  Marie from Nyack told us that she was only able to grow a certain Italian eggplant with our seedlings because of their strength and vitality; prior to that she had tried many times and failed.  This makes me a bit sad, but with a toddler, I have the pull the reigns in and prioritize!

So the key words for this season are "simplicty and abundance".  With that in mind, we're opting for less maintenance and more permenance. For example, we made our greenhouse just a place for dwarf citruses: Sweet navel orange called "Trovita", "Golden Nugget" mandarin orange, Bearss Lime, Keffir Lime and Meyer Lemon trees.  We found a great source for them at Four Winds Growers in California.  They were really exceptional at helping us choose what would work in the ground in a permanent greenhouse and we look forward to citrus fruits winter through summer.

Where we were growing things for large yields, we realized that you can actually have too much garlic.  We are trimming back on the amount of garlic grown and using beds to plant low yield veggies that we're interested in like artichokes.  We already started to seed them.  They are tricky to germinate because they need to spend 8 hours in temps of 85 degrees and the rest of the time in temps of 70 degrees.  A heatmat in the greenhouse will serve as a place for those alternating temperatures naturally.

Our Plymouth Barred Rock and Ameraucana. The Ameraucana just went through a period of broodiness which we were able to break.New chickens will be integrated to our current flock that has been whittled down to 5 chickens after some illnesses and predator attacks (one that included our own dog).  There's an art to integrating them so hopefully that will go smoothly.  Two years ago we ordered day old chicks from Ideal Poultry in Texas and they were sexed properly - we didn't get one rooster!  Look for updates in late spring... Speaking of animals, we are also toying with the idea of getting a cat to help keep the chipmunks and squirrels at bay this year but the thought of one more life to care for at this moment is definitely making me hesitate.

And finally, we want to better manage what we have already planted for the best yields.  That means really paying attention to pruning and training especially after a year of grape vines gone wild.  And we'll also continue more with the nutrient density soil management we were on top of before the baby came into our lives.  Hopefully this mama will get back on track continuing the blogs about what we do here after a short hiatus due to sleep deprivation.

Even "dwarf" citruses can grow up to 12 feet. Ideally they should be planted 4-5 feet from each other at the very least.

Happy Spring and may this season bring you simplicity and abundance!





In Defense of Okra


From our farmer Pippa and nutritionist in-training...

What did okra ever do to you? Besides being an itchy plant when it grows, it is harmless. But, throughout so much of the country it has gotten a reputation for being slimy, unappetizing or only good for frying. I am here to stand up for okra and tell you why you should give it a second chance. I first came across okra on a trip to India in 2007. In India they call okra “lady’s fingers”. The traditional dish is called bhindi masala where the okra is chopped up and mixed with onions, garlic, chilis, tomatoes and a variety of fragrant and mouth watering Indian spices. Serve me that and some warm roti (Indian whole-wheat bread) and I am in heaven. I fell in love with okra immediately. Upon my return to the states I began to seek it out. And it was then that I realized that we are a nation of okra-haters. Slowly but surely I had to make my case one dish at a time. I made jambalayas, I added it to stir-frys, I roasted it and I, of course, made a lot of bhindi masala. As a future dietitian I appreciate the fact that okra is low calorie (50 calories per cup) and high in fiber (3g per cup). But my favorite thing about cooking with okra is that it is a natural thickener. Instead of added flour or roux to a recipe, okra becomes a natural, low calorie – zero fat way of providing thickness and texture to dishes. So, the next time you see okra at the farmer’s market don’t run away. Pick out the smaller pods (they are the most tender) and go home and try this recipe for bhindi masala and tell me you haven’t come over to my side!  

RECIPE: Punjabi Bhindi Masala (Okra sautéed with Onions and Tomatoes)


  • Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
  • Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
  • Nigella (kalonji) Seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Green Chilies - 2 (chopped)
  • Garlic - 2 cloves (chopped)
  • Ginger - 1 inch piece (chopped)
  • Red Onions - 2 medium (sliced)
  • Plum Tomatoes - 3 (sliced)
  • Okra - 1-1.5 lbs (wash, dry, trim ends, slice)
  • salt to taste
  • Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander Powder - 2 tsp
  • Mango (Amchoor) Powder - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh Cilantro Leaves - 1/2 handful (chopped)

Click HERE for the recipe instructions.



The Natural Medicine Cabinet: Elderberries for Immune Support

The permaculture growing area we planted in the Spring of 2011 surprisingly began to really mature this year.  We didn't expect to have much in the way of fruits so early on and we also didn't expect to be stripped of most of it by early summer due to squirrels and chipmunk activity.  Fruit protection will be another venture for next spring but there were a few things that the animals left for us: blackberries and elderberries.  While blackberries are easy to come by, elderberries, or sambucus nigra, are a rare find.  A plant with many uses, these berries are edible, their flowers bring beneficial insects and the berries have medicinal properties.  Elderberries have relatively strong scientic evidence that they have activity against the flu and can reduce the duration of symptoms by 56%.  The popular extract "Sambucol", made by Nature's Way, was specifically studied.

You can tell that the primary flavinoids are the anthocyanidins based on the deep fuscia color in the extract (don't wear white when preparing it!).  These anthocyanadins are thought to have immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory effects.  Laboratory studies show activity against H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) and inhibits replication of several strains of influenza A and B.

Be careful not to use unripe berries, leaves or stalks of the plant which contain cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide when consumed.

Uses: Drizzled on top of vanilla ice cream, in a cocktail, mashed in some bananas for baby food, and as a medicine.  We plan on having this ready as a syrup for upper respiratory infections for us and baby during the upcoming winter months...



I made this without honey since we have an infant under 1 year old...

8 ounces of elderberries


Directions: Carefully heat elderberries in a small sauce pan.  Add a few teaspoons of water to prevent burning.  Using the back of a spoon, mash the berries as they very gently simmer.  When you've extracted all the juices, strain through a fine sieve.  The liquid will be a gorgeous dark fuschia color. 

Put liquid back into sauce pan and for every 1 Tbs of liquid you extracted use a little less than 1 Tablespoon of sugar into the pan.  Gently simmer stirring frequently.

You can use this right away or use a canning method to preserve the syrup for future use.  The end of the summer is right upon us and this is the time to squirrel away all that food you've grown to enjoy in the upcoming months...



An Afternoon with Food Legend Joan Gussow

Every growing season brings its successes and failures.  What was easy to grow last year for us was much more difficult this year but on the upside what we've struggled with last year grew beautifully this year.  When the New York Times wrote about the "bumper crop" of tomatoes this season a few days ago, I became angsty since that hasn't been our experience.  Our tomato "trees" filled with large gorgeous fruit early in the season became a big hit with seemingly all the squirrels and chipmunks in Rockland county.  Some furry creature must have spread the word.  We were all but stripped of our fruit until we took action with 1) Predator netting 2) Fox urine (Shake Away: A product Eliot Coleman uses) and 3) a solar powered owl perched on one of the raised beds.  Our eggplant were also under attack by flea beetles but on a very positive note, we somehow dropped off the radar for the squash vine borers and all of our brassica veggies grew strong, healthy and abundant.  We are always keeping an ear open to hear about how our neighbors and other farmers compete with the pests and bugs and this past weekend we had a special visit with local and global food legend Joan Gussow to hear about her experiences.

Sitting on the second floor balcony of her home overlooking her garden and the Hudson River, we began comparing notes for this growing season.  Even with decades of growing experience, gardeners like Joan are always surprised at new discoveries.  And the best gardeners are the ones that assume very little.  What Joan found was that when she planted her tomatoes in a bed that still had last season's brussels sprouts stalks intact, they grew vigorously and prolifically!  I wonder if the deep undisturbed root structures allowed beneficial microbes and mycorrhizal fungi to stay intact in the soil ready for spring's tomato seedlings...

LEFT: Eggplant with one singular flea beetle.We were thrilled to learn some tricks that have worked for Joan.  Our Japanese eggplant suffered much this summer from the flea beetles.  I'm usually on top of this with a little organic neem spray but alas Farmer Gabriel kept me inside most of the summer.  Joan plants radishes at the end of the eggplant row as a trap crop and it will be a definite trial here next year.

Other discoveries included Joan's white clover groundcover.  I knew about this from our permaculture studies as a nitrogen fixer but never knew it could be so beautiful and so steppable.  She said the trick is to make sure you pull all other weeds out early on as it starts to grow in.RIGHT: White Clover: Ground cover and nitrogen fixer

Two new varieties really caught our attention. One is a pepper called "Puerto Rican No Burn Pepper."  It looks like a habeñero, has the smoky unique taste of one but there is NO burn.  I was hesitant when Joan asked me to bite into one but it was truly a surprising taste.

The other variety that excited us was a basil that does not flower.  As I was behind with the flea beetles this year, I was also behind trimming off the flowers on my Genovese basil.  This variety not only does not flower, you can save it as a cutting over winter and then just replant the flower in the spring.  It has a more sweet cinnamon taste and grows in a columnar fashion.

Aussie Basil

And if you've read Joan's two books: This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader and Growing Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables, you will know this famous fig tree that is thriving very well.


And here is a shot of seasoned farmer Joan and our new farmer Gabriel who attentively basked in all of Joan's stories as we sat there...



Recipe: Burnt Okra with Potatoes, Garlic and Basil

Our intern Pippa requested Okra to be grown this year.  We had little experience cooking/eating okra and heard it was slimy.  The trick is to harvest when young (less than 4" long).  From a greenhouse bed measuring 4 x 6, we've been getting 1/2 lb every 2 days.  Here is a delicious way to serve them...

Peanut Oil

2 cups Okra tops discarded sliced 3/8"

2 cups small dice potato

1 Tbs minced garlic

2 Tbs minced basil

salt and pepper


Using a cast iron skillet, coat the bottom with peanut oil and heat to medium.  Add okra in one layer and cook until browned.  Stir and then add potatoes, salt and pepper.

Stir and cook until potatoes have browned adjusting heat or adding more oil if necessary.  Once they have browned, add garlic and stir.  Then add basil and stir once more.

Serve immediately!

Adapted from a recipe from Food52