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 How pretty is this picture? This is a shot of Glastonbury’s own community farm, Wind Hill Community Farm. While this farm has been somewhere on my consciousness for a few years, it finally reached my radar a few weeks ago when the Executive Director asked if I’d consider teaching a canning class. Well, that was a no-brainer, of course I would. But her call just whetted my appetite to learn more about this nonprofit venture.

dairy farm recycle

As I understand, the Town of Glastonbury purchased this dairy farm to conserve open space and Wind Hill Farm operates on a portion of the land. Last year was their first full year of operation and they got off to a great start.  They offered raised-bed plots for seasonal rental (organic only, thank you!). At the gardens you’ll find compost pile, well water, and folks willing to offer gardening advice. But check out their web site for the other community outreach activities such as plant sales, farm-to-table hosted dinners, classes, food demonstrations, and more. All the activities that you would expect from a community farm.

and more this year

For 2013, in addition to the organic raised bed plots, Wind Hill Farm is offering modest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. I was invited to help make the seed selection, and I can tell you that there will be wonderful goodies in your weekly basket, such as lettuces, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and more. If you are interested in more information, contact them directly. Their class offerings include gardening, seed selection, cooking, canning (of course), and more. As you would expect, the cost of the classes is a nominal $10 per session. Then, beginning in May and continuing through October, there will be cooking and tasting demonstrations on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. I know that I’ll want to take in as many of these yummy events as I can with chefs from Pond House Grill, Birch Hill Tavern, Whole Foods Market, and others still to be announced. You can register for classes and tasting event on their web site.

community farms, our local resource!

It’s community farms like this that help keep our food supplies local and help to educate folks about the importance of food and land stewardship.

post-hole digger making home for asparagus crown

We are all grateful to Eliot Coleman for so many reasons; just add this one to the litany. And it’s not for anything to do with winter gardening. It’s for saving my life, or rather the tentative lives of the asparagus crowns that have been waiting impatiently to find their new homes while I attend to business and finish my manuscript on Canning and Preserving (sort of counter-intuitive to Coleman’s philosophy, but we won’t go there today).

My last experience with asparagus was about twenty-five years ago. We read the instructions about digging a trench; my then husband began the digging while I attended to the kids. Several hours later he returned to the kitchen and announced that the bed was ready to plant; with excitement, I brought out the crowns and probably a few toddlers to find what appeared to be a grave site. He had dug more than a trench — a wide pit sufficiently deep to accommodate a coffin at regulation depth. (okay, exaggeration) Knowing that it would do nothing for our marriage if I suggested that it was too deep, I placed the asparagus crowns into what turned out to be their grave. Nothing emerged, ever. Complicating their challenge was the fact that our instructions said nothing about gradually covering them as they grew, so we piled three to four feet of soil on the crowns and challenged them to find daylight. If they made the attempt, I’ll never know.

Fast forward twenty-five years. I’m ready to take the asparagus challenge again. Do you know how many different opinions there are on the best way to plant asparagus crowns? The most common opinion calls for digging a trench about eight inches deep and twenty-four to thirty inches wide, and as long as needed to place the crowns between fifteen and twenty-four inches apart. You do the math; that’s a lot of earth to move. I’m already behind schedule getting these guys in the ground because of the manuscript deadline, and I’m gone for nearly three weeks in May. Yikes!

This is where Eliot Coleman comes in. In his Four Season Harvest, he suggests preparing the thirty-inch wide bed as usual, but then using a post-hole digger to dig eight-inch-deep holes for the crowns, spacing them twenty-four inches apart down the center of the standard bed. Much easier than digging out the entire bed! I modified his directions somewhat based on other sources that suggested you could plant them closer than twenty-four inches. I have the holes fifteen inches on center, and was able to accommodate twenty crowns.

What Coleman and a few others recommended (but curiously not the instructions that came with the crowns) was to place the crowns in the hole or trench and cover with just an inch or two of soil — don’t fill in the entire eight inches. Let the crowns sprout and break through, then continue to fill as they grow, similar to mounding potatoes.

Here’s a series of shots from the process. Let’s hope that soon I’ll be seeing those crowns peeking through, though it will be a few years before tasting the fruits of my labors.

cown in bottom of hole

crown covered with a little compost

asparagus patch for twenty crowns

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