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Wilding in Carlton Farms’ Woods

Wilding (aka wildcrafting) is the new word for what our hunter/gatherer ancestors did naturally – eating what nature provides in the wild.

The online urban dictionary defines wilding as doing something crazy in public.  But our rural dictionary begs to differ.  The new wilding is about harvesting food you won’t find in the supermarket.

At this time of the year, we head out to reliable patches of spicy watercress and pungent ramps.  Ramps are either wild onions or wild leeks, depending on who you ask.  Substitute them for onions in your cooking or slice leaves for your salad.

Watercress is in the brassica family that includes kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and arugula.  Its peppery bite reminds us of nasturtium, but the bug-repelling nasturtium belongs to a different family.  Watercress is commonly used as garnish and is one of the main ingredients in the delicious sandwiches usually served with high tea by the Brits.  Domesticated watercress, which can sometimes be found in markets, pales in comparison to the real thing.

Next time you are hiking or just in the woods, keep an eye out for these treats.  Also look for delicious and refreshing dark green wintergreen leaves, spicebush twigs, chaga mushrooms on birch trees, and the bark of black birch to name a few treats commonly found in the woods around here – all thoughtfully available year-round.

If hunting/gathering doesn’t excite your inner cave-dweller, we plan to include some wild-grown goodies  in CSA pickups which begin on June 6.  If you haven’t signed up yet for our 2019 CSA, we’re thinking a little wildness might be just the ticket that helps you decide.  Click here, please, to connect with our CSA membership application.  Thanks very much for your support.

Jennie and Richard




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Stinging Nettle; What’s the Point?

Grab even just one stinging nettle leaf and you’ll get not one point but thousands of tiny glass-like needle points filled with histamine and other irritating chemicals.  Even a slight encounter with a leaf will embed your skin with needles and will give you a quick lesson in herbaceous plant defenses.IMG_0733

Certainly, stinging nettle is an intense weed to have around, so why don’t we just pull it out?

One reason is that it is one of the very first edible outdoor “greens” we eat in the spring.  Mild and flavorful in soups, mixed with eggs, rice, or just straight – we use it like spinach.  Young shoots are chock full of iron, vitamins, minerals like calcium and compounds — including silica — required for bone health.  Dried leaves make a hearty rejuvenating tea.

So, what about that stinging sensation?  Turns out it goes away completely when cooked.  The needles dissolve and the histamine evaporates.  And you are left with a superior vegetable.

But there’s more.  Stinging nettle plays a central role in Biodynamic farming as one of several liquid “preparations” we spray on crops, soil, and compost in tiny amounts to boost fertility and growth.  You could say that despite the discomfort it might cause the farmer, having it around is a necessity on our farm and we allow it to grow, controlled in our herb garden.

CSA members need not worry.  Despite our love for it, you will never find stinging nettle in your weekly share.  But, let us know if you would like to give it a try – we have plenty you can self-pick.  Just bring gloves and a good container, and do it soon as the best time to eat the plant is before it flowers.

Speaking of our CSA, we still have a number of open positions.  The first pick-up is Thursday  June 6.  You can learn more about the program by clicking here and can download an application by clicking 04292019 Carlton Farms Vegetable CSA Membership Application 2019.  If you haven’t already, please consider joining today.

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(Very) Soon to Come: Veggies, Watercress, and Ramps

We have a bumper crop of veggie seedlings poking their way into the world. And out in the woods, ramps and watercress add their wildness to our domesticated goodies.

Playing starring roles in the springtime adventure are our greenhouses within our greenhouse.  Based on a design we came up with a few years back, they are heated at night by small electric bathroom heaters that keep everything at around 75 degrees no matter how cold it gets outside. IMG_0712 2We also use more conventional heated rubber mats that warm our seed trays from the bottom.  And now we have turned a junked refrigerator –minus its cooling unit and plus a small heater — into a cozy germination chamber.


When the seedlings reach a certain size and the weather cooperates, they are moved into the larger greenhouse to “harden up” a bit.  The last step before heading outdoors or to the big greenhouse.

We already have super delicious greens to eat — spinach, kale, bok-choy, arugula, and lettuce and will soon have radishes, carrots, and green leafy things of all variety.  Our 20,000 heads of garlic are already 6″ out of the ground. IMG_0715 3Soon, the asparagus will be breaking through their winter covering, and we will be “wilding” watercress and ramps (wild leeks), long considered a spring tonic in these parts, all from far flung corners of the farm.


The warming weather is speeding everything along and we are grateful to have able bodied helpers.  Kyle, our high-schooler who has worked for three years when not in school, is fixing windows in our woofer housing.  Alex, our intern from Binghamton University two years ago is back with us part-time as he sorts out his career direction.  Ellen is doing her thing in the kitchen with pesto and Fire Tonic while keeping an eye on the sheep and preparing beds for planting.  Jared, our new full-time farmer is managing all the plantings, staying up late to create the best records and the best land use strategies we have ever had.  And this week, our first woofer of the season, Zak — a New York City school teacher — is working for us during his spring break.  We love our team!




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Spring is Here – Hemp is Soon to Follow

Today we saw our first robin.  Geese honking overhead.  And a mating pair nesting on the banks of farm pond.   Green shoots are pushing up everywhere . All that plus the mud-puddles and the mushy ground underfoot mark the official start of new growing season.

Suddenly, sitting in front of the fireplace has lost its attraction and all attention is now to the outdoors, seed ordering, bee health, piglet and chick ordering, equipment shopping, interviewing interns, and getting tractors ready for the season.

The big news is that we have permits in hand to grow hemp and are aiming to plant two acres, which comes to about 5,000 plants.  Finally, farmers like us have what looks like it could be a significant cash crop.  Sure, like marijuana it’s a weed, but to grow well it requires careful tending.  Male plants have to be pulled to keep their pollen from wrecking flower production and the highest quality CBD oil.  And managing ten foot tall plants at maturity promises to be a challenge.  Hemp hasn’t been grown in the US for eighty years so we and all others involved are lined up at the start of a new learning curve.

I’ll add a  photo here as soon as we have seedlings to show.  More to come about all this in future posts.

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Beauty and the Beast

The glistening snow is beautiful and unlike snow in cities, it stays pretty clean until it disappears.  But here’s a messy situation.  The rear tire of our trusty bucket tractor leaked out some of its filling — beet juice, molasses, and windshield wiper fluid.  Don’t ask why tractor dealers use that combination of fluids.  But the weight of it all is meant to balance things out when there’s a load in the front bucket.  This man comes with his truck, extracts the fluid, fixes the leak and puts it all back together again.  We are grateful for people like this who help with tasks we can’t do on our own.IMG_0452