Heather and Beth inside the greenhouse

Farm Update

Farms are all about place, right? 

We are located in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio. We’re lucky to live in a very beautiful area with a lot of natural richness. Check out the Arc of Appalachia to learn more.  They do amazing work and several of their preserves are within a few miles of us.

Our focus is on the American elderberry, a native plant in this region. We have about 450 elderberry plants in the ground right now and make Elderberry syrup and Elderflower syrup from what we…

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elderflowers drying

The Flower of our Labors

This year we’ve been going through the liquor at an astonishing rate.

Really, it’s mostly been me. Beth being a lightweight, and having declared her first taste of gin “nasty,” has not contributed evenly. But to each their strengths. 😂

Honestly, though, I’ve not been drinking much of the alcohol we’ve run through. I mix a drink, take a sip, dump the rest. Then I alter the proportions, mix another drink, sip, dump. It’s not gone down the drain because I’m nervous about what all that alcohol, a …

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8_oz elderberry

Bigger and Better?

In October we did a production run of elderberry syrup in a larger commercial kitchen. This kitchen sported a huge (100 gallons!) kettle that allowed us to produce 4x more than we normally produce in a day. The automatic filler was great too. We typically fill the bottles by hand, a process that requires a lot of concentration around hot liquid. Children aged 3-6 are introduced to the practice of pouring liquids in the Montessori curriculum, and maybe if I’d attended a Montessori preschool I wou…

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Ironweed blooms

Ironweed

In late August the elderberry bushes are nearly finished fruiting, and as the dark purple berries fade a new palette emerges across the fields: purple ironweed and goldenrod, now fully in bloom. Ironweed intrigues me perhaps because, unlike goldenrod, it is a flower I didn’t grow up with, but one I first met as an adult in southern Ohio.  It’s also a plant that starts as a humble florette of spear-shaped leaves at your feet in May. Then you turn around in August to find the flower head nodding d…

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spotted wing drosophila on flower

SWD

No, it’s not Single, White Divorcee. It’s Spotted Wing Drosophila (aka Drosophila suzukii), and it’s the enemy of berry lovers everywhere.

SWD is a fruit fly from Asia, first detected in California in 2008.  2008 doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but this little fly is no laggard.

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A field of elderflowers in bloom

Is this Elderberry?

Elderberry has huge white, umbrella-like flowers but so do poison hemlock, Queen Anne’s lace, or pokeweed, all of which bloom at the same time. That can cause some (understandable!) hesitation if you are trying to harvest elderflowers for culinary or medicinal use. So here’s how to distinguish elderberry from these lookalikes.

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elderflowers close up - white with yellow stamens

Elderflower Eruption

The elderberry bushes are now flowering outrageously. What a month ago resembled small florets of broccoli have developed into 6” wide umbels of creamy white bloom. These blooms will roll out in waves over the next month or so, transforming our humble field of bushes into an ever changing floral ocean. 

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violet jelly

Violets in Spring

Just as I was starting to think about preparing the lawn mower for its first run, the yard breaks out in purple. 

A thousand wild violets dot the lawn, welcoming the early bees.  I set the mower deck high and shave the grass above their heads.  Mowing so high means I’ll have to cut it again soon, but it’s worth it to let the flowers continue their bloom. 

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spring garlic in hand, with roots and dirt

Spring Garlic

Spring brings some fleeting culinary pleasures such as rhubarb, asparagus, and violets. Among them we count spring garlic, which we have been enjoying these past few weeks. Their mild garlic flavor is a great accompaniment to meat or rich vegetarian entrees, or a nice addition to your morning omelet.

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