It's Chinese New Year and guess what?    It's the year of the goat!  We suspect our goats are secretly celebrating late at night after the rest of us are tucked in (our warm beds).  Of course, all the evidence is gone in the morning.

Thanks to Cousin Ed for forwarding this article on the new Chinese Lunar Year.  Be sure to check out all the cute goat pictures, as well as what life during the year of the goat means for you.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/31535477

IMG_8826These triplets are nearing 40 lbs at 2 months!

 

It snowed—hooray! I know not everyone shares my excitement, and I wouldn’t want to be living in Boston with 95” of snow, but it’s really beautiful! First thing in the morning it’s so pristine and quiet.   It just seems like for those few minutes, the world is a calm and peaceful place and I love it (so do Snickers and Doodle)!

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The strawberry rows and vineyard looked lovely covered in snow for one last sleep before spring. They are both in a dormant state so the snow will not be harmful.

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Rick, however,  was planning to start pruning vines this week but looks like he'll have to delay a bit.

 

The kids weren’t too sure what to make of the strange white stuff on the ground and the does weren’t leading the way. They all came out of the barn to soak up the sun but only a couple brave kids ventured out to investigate.

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So, this blog isn’t really about snow but it had to be mentioned. It’s about the Valentine Wine Tasting/Strawberry Spread Sampling event last Friday at the Jefferson Pharmacy . We visited with neighbors, including Leslie and George from Thistle Gate Winery and made some new friends.

Sara, Beth, and I had a lot of fun preparing and sharing a couple of new Middle Fork Farm strawberry spread recipes.   We served our old favorite, a melted Brie with Strawberry-Balsamic Spread, and introduced two new dessert recipes: mini no-cook cheesecakes topped with Strawberry-Lavender Spread, and mini “pop-tarts” filled with Strawberry-Vanilla Spread.

Both are simple yet scrumptious recipes. Of course, the strawberry spread flavors can be switched around depending on your favorite or what you have on-hand.

No-Cook Mini Cheesecakes with Strawberry Topping
Makes 30

Ingredients:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened FullSizeRender
½ c. sour cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Middle Fork Farm Strawberry-Lavender Spread
2 packages mini phyllo dough crusts (you can use directly from the freezer or crisp them in the oven at 350 ˚F for 3-4 minutes. Cool before filling.)

Directions: 

  1. Beat cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl; refrigerate 30 minutes.
  2. Spoon cream cheese mixture into phyllo cups.
  3. Add 1 tsp. Middle Fork Farm Strawberry-Lavender Spread to each cup.
  4. Enjoy!

The pop-tarts were really Sara and Beth’s creation, kid-tested by Sara’s daughters, Laura and Maya. Their idea was to come up with something easy for an after school snack. We made a mini size for sampling purposes but they could be made any size depending on how you cut the dough.

Mini “Pop-Tarts” with Strawberry Filling

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated pie crusts, brought to room temperature IMG_8856
Middle Fork Farm Strawberry-Vanilla Spread
Sprinkles (PINK was preferred by the 6 and 9-year old set)
Powdered Sugar Glaze (whisk together 1/2 c. powdered sugar and 1-1/2 tsp. milk)

Directions:

  1. Roll each pie crust to 1/8 in. thin on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Cut the crust into rectangles, approximately 3in. x 1in.
  3. Place a small spoonful (about 1/4 tsp.) of Strawberry-Vanilla Spread on the bottom half of each rectangle.
  4. With your finger, wet the outside edge of each rectangle and fold in half, pressing edges together and sealing the spread inside.
  5. Bake at 375 ˚F for 10 minutes.
  6. Before they cool, drizzle your powdered sugar glaze over each piece and immediately sprinkle with your favorite (PINK) sprinkles!

Let us know if you like our strawberry spread desserts  and send us your dessert ideas to share.

Well, I didn’t meet my goal for writing blogs in 2014, but it’s a new year with new hope and (more realistic) ambition -- one blog per month. So, here’s my January blog…

Wrapping up 2014

Goats: If you’ve been following our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621), you already know we have 21 adorable, rambunctious goat kids -- 12 girls and 9 boys. They were all born in a very busy six-day period from December 9 - 14. The does gave birth so quickly that Bruce and Rick had to convert our 4 spacious birthing stalls into 6 less spacious birthing stalls to accommodate all the new moms and kids.

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With lots of family help, Sara and I tagged, vaccinated, weighed, and photographed all the kids when they were one week old. There was lots of chasing, laughing, and squealing by humans and kids alike (and occasional barking from Snickers and Doodle while barn cats, Jewel and Larry, came by periodically to make sure we were on task). We weighed the kids again this past weekend and they are growing fast—approximately ½ lb per day!

P1070610 We decided that we should pick a naming theme for each set of kids to help us keep track of each generation (we only name the does as the bucklings will be sold). Laura was captivated last year when she studied Greek gods and goddesses (Percy Jackson helped, too), so we decided to go with a Greek theme for this year. Not all the doelings are named but so far we’ve got Hera, Hestia, Aphrodite (of course), Artemis and Demeter.

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Vines and Wines: Rick and crew were busy in the fall winterizing the vineyard. This involved two key tasks: winterizing pipes and irrigation lines and “hilling” the vines. Hilling is just what it sounds like—making hills around each vine. This protects the grafted wood from freezing. As you might imagine, this can be a very labor-intensive process if done by hand. So, in typical Rick style he researched “hillers” and designed and built—yes, built —an attachment for our tractor to make the task more efficient. Yeah, Rick!!

IMG_2554Bruce has also been hard at work making our first vintages of red wine with guidance from his mentor, Matthieu Finot, winemaker at King Family Vineyards. These will be our reds when we IMG_2621open our winery/tasting room in Spring 2016! We had lots of help from family and friends in the fall sorting and processing the grapes before they could be made into wine.

We now have four varieties of red wine ageing in barrels. From these, Bruce plans to make two pure varietal wines and one red blend wine. Three of the four varieties have been “topped off” (in lay terms, the barrels were filled with wine so there’s no room for air) and will rest for a year. The fourth barrel still has to finish its 2nd fermentation.

In late fall, we began working with architect, Susannah Marshall, on the winery/tasting room/farm store design. We’ve picked a picturesque site between the vineyard and the woods and plan to start construction in the spring.

Strawberries and Spreads: The strawberries, like the vines, have been winterized. It’s a longer IMG_8568process because they go dormant much slower than the vines and not only does the foliage have to be trimmed but the wounds from the pruning have to heal before we can put them to sleep for the winter with a cover of hay.

We hope you’ve tasted our Strawberry Balsamic, Strawberry Lavender, and Strawberry Vanilla Spreads. They are available around town at Foods of all Nations, Great Harvest Bread, Jefferson Pharmacy, Michie Tavern, Salt Artisan Market, The Inn at Monticello, and The Bakery in Farmville. We also have 9 oz. jars available at the farm, but we are sold out of Samplers (note to self—make more Samplers in 2015!).

photo 1We received approval from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (VDACS) for our new flavors, Spicy Strawberry Spread and Ginger Lover’s Peach. They will be available through the farm and local stores in 2015. I am working on a new strawberry flavor (can’t disclose the flavor yet) and will write more after I finish experimenting with the recipe. Our farm kitchen now has VDACS approval so in the future we will make our spreads both at the farm and The Prince Edward Cannery. All of our spreads qualify for the VA Finest designation.

Last word on strawberry spreads…we are thrilled to be listed as an Edible Pick in the Artisan IMG_8569Issue (winter 2015) of Edible Blue Ridge!

A glimpse of what’s coming in 2015…

  • Prune the vines, then “de-hill” them
  • Uncover the berries
  • Plant more Merlot vines
  • Plant more strawberries
  • Wean the kids
  • Breed the yearling does
  • Start construction on the winery/tasting room/farm store
  • Open for Pick Your Own Strawberries starting late May/early June

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We had this amazing moment two springs ago when we realized we had transitioned from Middle Fork Farm to Middle Fork Farm and Vineyard.   Now, we are one step closer to becoming not just a farm and vineyard but also a winery!

It takes three years for vines to produce a healthy harvest and 15-18 months of barrel aging to make a good red wine. As our first vines were planted in 2012 and our goal is to open our tasting room in the spring of 2016, we had a challenge. The solution was to buy grapes—Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and contract for custom crush at King Family Vineyards in Crozet. At King Family, Bruce is working with expert winemaker, Matthieu Finot, to make a Bordeaux blend as well as individual varietals.

A couple of weeks ago, equipped with lugs, needle nose snippers, and gloves Rick, Bruce and our crew got their first picking experience. With the help of the vineyard owners, they harvested about 700 lbs of grapes.   They opted to sort as they picked so it took about 3 hours.

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Bruce compared it to taking ornaments off a Christmas tree—there’s always one more ornament/cluster hidden among the branches. He also noted that it is definitely not unskilled labor as you have to be able to distinguish between ripe, not yet ripe, and rotten fruit while lifting the bird netting and moving down the row at a reasonable pace.IMG_2474

To begin, you grab a cluster and check for ripeness and a deep color (not green). Ripe healthy grapes are snipped at the top of the cluster and dropped in a lug. Grapes that are rotten, not yet ripe, or pierced (in this case by wasps) are rejected and either left on the vine or thrown on the ground.   The lug is kicked forward until full, somewhere between 20-30 lbs, and a new lug is started.   Full lugs are left for later and stacked in the pickup truck to make the trip to the winery, where they get sorted again.

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We also purchased grapes from California due to the grape shortage in Virginia. The Merlot and Cabernet Franc arrived last week and Bruce, Rick, daughter Beth, friend Nancy, and I sorted. If I had to pick one word to describe the experience, it would be sticky!

Matthieu, Bruce, and Rick set up the equipment and we went to work.

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Bruce unloaded the fruit, Nancy and I sorted for leaves and sticks (except when I was taking photos).  Initially the sorting table was going a bit fast for our novice hands so Bruce slowed it down. But then Matthieu came by and sped it up—oh no! Nancy and I both remembered Lucy and Ethyl at the chocolate factory and felt their pain. If you haven’t seen this episode of I Love Lucy, it’s a lot of fun. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI.

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Next, it went by a conveyer belt to the destemmer, which shot the stems into a bin and the fruit fell out the bottom to a vibrating table.

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Beth and Rick worked the vibrating table, removing  any stems and nub grapes left by the destemmer.

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The clean grapes traveled by another conveyor belt to a bin where they'll ferment and become wine.

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We've got more picking and sorting to do.  Next time we sort, we know to wear long sleeves, pants, and comfortable closed shoes—grape juice has a way of getting everywhere!

The next day, Bruce and Beth bottled the strawberry wine.  Bruce added a wine tannin so it's a dry fruit wine and quite tasty!

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We are VDACS approved! Our spreads can now be sold at stores in Virginia! Sara, Pam, and I spent a long, productive day at the Prince Edward Cannery (http://www.co.prince-edward.va.us/cannery_index.shtml)

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In addition to receiving VDACS approval, we made lots of strawberry spread. At the end of the day, we were tired but very pleased to load up 347 jars of strawberry balsamic, strawberry lavender, and strawberry vanilla.

We got an early start with coolers full of 5 lb bags of defrosting strawberries as well as sugar, IMG_4724lavender, balsamic vinegar, vanilla beans and Pam’s amazing industrial immersion blender. It could easily be mistaken for a jackhammer. Sara and I were a bit intimidated by it, so there was no question that Pam was responsible for pureeing all the berries.

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Once we unloaded at the Cannery, Emily did the general orientation and began the paperwork process. Next, Chris, my VDACS inspector, went through an overview of the inspection process. Then we donned the very stylish hairnets and plastic gloves provided by the Cannery and got to work.

Sara and Pam were the best helpers I could have had—besides canning experience, each had specialized experience relevant to our task. In addition to operating the industrial size blender, Pam’s experience in a commercial kitchen meant she immediately knew how to use the tools, follow the necessary procedures for cleanliness, and keep the flow going.   Sara’s USDA experience paid off when it came to completing the paperwork, documenting the process, and generating our batch code system. Thank you Sara and Pam! My job to actually make the spread and answer questions posed by Chris, was from my perspective the easiest.

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Sara and Pam were as impressed with the giant steam kettles and 2 minute dishwasher as I had been on my earlier visit. At canning time, the thermal gloves were also a bonus. All of us liked the clean look of our new straight-sided 9 oz jars and appreciated the timesavings generated by the single piece lids.

After making the balsamic spread and before making the vanilla spread, we had a very enjoyable lunch (and caffeine) break at the Fishin’ Pig in Farmville (http://www.fishinpig.com/). By the time, we thoroughly cleaned the Cannery, packed up our boxes, and drove home it was a 12-hour day!

We still have to label all those jars, with our beautiful new labels, but that is getting done IMG_4735slowly on an as needed basis. We discovered that placing a rectangular label on a round jar can be challenging, so Bruce designed a jar holder to assure that the labels go on straight (old engineers never stop engineering, they just become farmers and make everyone’s life easier).

In addition to the Fluvanna Farmers Market and Farmers in the Park, you can now buy our spreads at the following locations:

Great Harvest Bread, Charlottesville (http://greatharvestcville.com/)

Jefferson Pharmacy, Palmyra (http://jeffersondrug.com/)

Salt Artisan Market, Charlottesville (http://saltcville.com/)

The Bakery, Farmville (http://www.thebakeryfarmville.com/)

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You might be thinking that strawberry spread is just for toast or peanut and jelly sandwiches but, if you’ve visited our stand at the local Farmer’s Market (Fluvanna, Farmers in the Park, UVA) you’ve heard about lots of other ways to enjoy our Spreads. This post has some edible ideas and some actual recipes.

For breakfast, MFF Strawberry Spread is not just great on your favorite toast but also on biscuits, scones, and crumpets. It’s equally delicious on waffles and pancakes—either straight from the jar or as a quick strawberry syrup (mix with water or fruit juice to create a syrup imagesconsistency and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop). Or, for a healthy option, make a hiker’s breakfast of plain Greek yogurt, MFF Strawberry Spread, granola and fresh fruit.

Later after a busy day, for happy hour or an appetizer, top Brie or Chevre/goat cheese with MFF Strawberry Spread and garnish it with mint or basil. A customer last week had a great variation on this (Thank you!). She suggested filling mini phyllo cups with a slice of cheese, heating them and then putting a dollop of strawberry spread on top--couldn’t be easier. I’m thinking the phyllo cups have lots of possibilities for dessert, too:

filoshellsMelt a little chocolate then top with strawberry spread or
Fold strawberry spread into cream cheese whipped cream (see https://www.preparedpantry.com/blog/make-cream-cheese-whipped-cream/) and fill the phyllo cup.

Then for dinner, the strawberry balsamic is just right for savory dishes. It has just enough acidity to make a great BBQ sauce, glaze or marinade and goes well with any meat, firm white fish or salmon, or shrimp. Bruce has been experimenting with sauces and came up with this recipe:

Bruce’s Strawberry BBQ sauce
Ingredients:
2/3 C MFF Strawberry Balsamic Spreadphoto 1
1/3 C Ketchup
¼ tsp Chipotle Pepper powder
½ tsp Ancho Chili powder

Directions:
1. Mix Strawberry Balsamic Spread and ketchup
2. Add Chipotle and Ancho powders, stir well

Last night he made tasty Shake and Broil Shrimp by pouring the BBQ sauce into a baggie, adding shrimp and tossing until coated. We broiled the shrimp and served over Basmati rice—yum!

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Finally, for dessert (there’s always room for dessert) try this:

Sara’s Strawberry Lavender Yogurt PopsIMG_6869
Ingredients:
2c plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp honey (I use more than the original recipe, which called for only 2 tbsp)
1/4 c Middle Fork Farm Strawberry Lavender spread (Strawberry Vanilla is good, too!)

Directions:
1. Mix Greek yogurt and honey until well blended.
2. Pour into ice-cream attachment/machine.
3. Mix until starts to thicken, then drop the Strawberry Lavender Spread in by spoonfuls.
4. Continue to mix until well frosted but not stiff.
5. Spoon into popsicle molds and put in freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. To remove from the molds, turn under hot water until loosened slightly, then slide off and enjoy!

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Let us know what you think of these ideas and recipes and send us your favorite Strawberry Spread recipes so we can share them with others.

A lot has happened on the farm since my last post, so here’s an update on the goats, strawberries, vines and bees.

Quizno, our buck,  was happily reunited with the does at the end of the June. Sara says that not only was Quizno elated but the ladies were pretty darn happy to see him, as well. They

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are now enjoying the ample grass and forage in their new field and, hopefully, all or some of the does are already carrying their next offspring.  The average gestation period for meat goats is 150 days, which means we should start having kids on the ground around December 1 (hopefully, we won’t have an arctic blast during kidding as we had this year!).IMG_4377

This year’s crop of does are continuing to grow (especially their ears) and entertain us with theirIMG_4392 antics. You can see Apple’s ear taking off as she and her friends race down the hill to greet Sara (hum, does Sara have treats in her pocket?). Annabeth is the adorable kid playing hide and seek inside the tree and in the next photo, her friend, ShyGirl, is trying to squeeze in with her.

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Snickers and Doodle are continuing to work as a team to round up the kids for us. This is tremendously helpful when we need to catch them for worming, hoof trimming, or any other reason. Check out this very short video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5iR4oBrgWU&feature=youtu.be. Once they have them corralled Snickers patrols the perimeter like a herd dog should, while Doodle prefers to pass out kisses to any goats that are willing. It’s a tough life for dogs and goats at MFF!

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Our strawberry season was shorter than anticipated due to the rains in early June. We were hoping our ever-bearing plants would make a comeback and produce a July crop but sadly it didn’t happen. We still have plenty of berries in the freezer for our spreads so I’m making it as fast as I can! We sell it at the Fluvanna Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, Farmers in the

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Park on Wednesday, and the UVA Market on Thursday. This week we introduced a sampler pack which includes three 4 oz. jars--one of each flavor and it sold out in no time. It’s a great choice if you can’t decide which flavor you like best or as a gift pack (great alternative to a bottle of wine).

In addition to all the traditional uses, we’re discovering lots of new ways to enjoy strawberry spread. Our friend, Mark, served 4th of July ribs cooked with a sauce made from our Strawberry Balsamic spread. I’m trying to get the recipe but Mark’s not a recipe kinda guy -- we’ll see. He also made a chicken marinade by combining Strawberry Vanilla and tomatillo sauce. Daughter Amy created a summer cocktail by combining Strawberry Lavender spread and vodka, then adding sparkling water, and finishing it off with a sprig of mint. Thursday a group of ladies were excited about scones and strawberry spread—a little afternoon tea? And, of course a super simple dessert is topping your favorite ice cream with Strawberry Vanilla spread. If you’ve got a recipe using any of our strawberry spreads, send it to me (with pictures, if possible) and we’ll share it!

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The vines are prospering and look beautiful! It looks like we had minimal damage from the winter this year (those burning hay bales must have helped)! Our new sprayer and spray program are doing great and the irrigation system for Block A and Block B are photo 5operational. As of Friday, all 400 posts for the new vineyard, Block C, are in the ground---good work guys! Next, comes trellis wires and then irrigation to complete Block C.

The beehives are filling up with honey. Both hives now have two supers and the bees are starting to draw out the wax in the upper super. Its really amazing watching them work and seeing the growth of the honeycomb and development of the eggs. Cover crops and crop rotation are an important part of sustainable farming so Rick planted one of the empty berry fields with cover crops, buckwheat and clover, and the bees love it!

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Remember to send us your Strawberry Spread recipes and photos!

P1070177Saturday was our first Pick Your Own strawberries event and it was a big success! Our customers left with smiles and berries (lots of berries!), we met some new neighbors and area visitors, Snickers and Doodles made lots of new friends, and at the end of the day the fields were in great shape (which made Rick very happy!). We saw a variety of picking styles from the very serious selector to the random picker, but all variations included some taste testing in search of those delicious ripe red all over berries.

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We want to thank all of our visitors for following our one rule, be nice to the plants! P1070180We also want to send an especially big shout out to the moms, dads, and grandparents with young kids—thanks for teaching them to respect the plants! Please come again!

Getting ready was a multiday project. Friday was clean-up day for the strawberry fields, mowing around the area, and staging for the morning. Saturday we got an early start setting up displays, canopies, signs, and (very important) the PortaJohn. Rick made a new two-sided chalkboard from an old farm window frame and we discovered that Sara has a highly valued skill—hand-lettering. From now on, in addition to being our goat whisperer she is also our talented sign writer.

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In addition to you pick berries, we sampled and sold our yummy spreads —Strawberry-Balsamic, Strawberry-Lavender, and Strawberry-Vanilla.   They are made with twice as many berries as sugar so the taste is much different than what you’ll find at the grocery store. Each has a unique flavor and, borrowing from my (many) wine tasting experiences, I sequenced the tasting to highlight each flavor profile.P1070174

We began with Strawberry Balsamic, which tempers the sweetness to enhance the naturally rich berry flavor. This was our best seller. Sample #2 was the Strawberry Vanilla, which is made with real vanilla beans. It produces a mild vanilla note that pairs well with the sweetness of the berry (Our young customer, Simon, left with 2 jars and a big smile). We ended the tasting with Strawberry Lavender. According to Sara (its her absolute favorite), “the flavor is unexpected and addictive.” It has a strong berry flavor with a floral note at the end—you can smell the lavender, as well as taste it.  All of the flavors make a tasty and quick appetizer when paired with a soft white cheese, such as brie.  Sprinkle a few nuts on the top or garnish with mint or basil and you're set to go.

It seemed that for many of the kids the creek (the Middle Fork of Cunningham Creek—the source of our farm name) was a bigger attraction than the berries. Laura and Maya graciously Kids@Creekshowed visitors where to find and sometimes how to catch fish, crayfish, and frogs. Of course, rocks, sand and water are enough to keep most kids busy for a long time and on Saturday it really did. I think we even had a few adults cooling off in the creek after doing their time in the berry field.

 

At the end of the day, we “debriefed” about the pick your own experience. We talked about a lot of details but the big question was, should we do this again? We all agreed that Pick Your Own will become a regular part of our strawberry season and we will do it again later this summer.  Next time, we're thinking we'll open "picking" from 9-12 on Saturday morning and 1-3 on Sunday afternoon.  We'd love to know what you think of the Sunday option (send us an email).  As soon as we have dates, we'll post it on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621). And, next season we’ll start Pick Your Own early in the season so more people can enjoy getting their berries straight from the field.

In other farm news, Bruce has finished his winemaker certificate courses through PVCC and UC Davis--kudos! Just for fun, he’s going to make some strawberry wine this summer and then in the fall, he’ll start making red wines so they’ll be aged just right for our tasting room opening in the spring of 2016.

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IMG_6084In my last post I said that spring is fickle (and that rain was coming) – both were an understatement! The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster (or maybe farming just makes us manic)---one day we’re euphoric and then bam, spring’s fickleness hits again and we’re sad and frustrated (but not defeated!).

After the April freeze and midnight bonfires, we were feeling quite accomplished. We’d planted our new grape vines and populated berry field #2 with about 20.000 daughter plants. Life was good! Or so we thought…

On the night of April 30, the rains slowly hung over central Virginia and by morning portions of our new berry field had transformed into a fast moving stream. Many of the new beds were flattened, daughter plants, plastic cloth and irrigation lines were scattered in the fields, creek, and wrapped around trees.  It was not a pretty sight! The creek flowed over the bridge and carried away trees and the natural bridges we’d made, as well as an Adirondack chair and a 60-gallon tank. Rick philosophically said, “who needs Las Vegas when you’re a farmer?”IMG_6030IMG_5986

Like beavers, with our wonderful crew, we put it back to together. The sun shone and life was good again, for a while! Every day we watched the plants produce more blossoms and eventually we saw the first reddish strawberry. Our lovely green fields were speckled with spots of red. Rick guessed that our first harvest would be yesterday but the forecast said rain. So to be safe we opted to harvest on Thursday, using our brand new strawberry carts designed and crafted by Rick. IMG_6072

It was a small harvest but, oh what beautiful, delicious berries! Life was good!

And then as predicted the rain came, again—about 6” of it! It didn’t start gently, it just poured and kept going through the night, along with its sidekick, the wind.   Because of the intensity and the wind, the damage was different. The daughter plants in our newly rebuilt and smaller berry field #2 were undamaged (yeah!) but the water in the creeks and the wind ripped out a portion of the anti-critter fence surrounding field #1 and flattened six rows of mature berries. It also took the other Adirondack chair and all but one of our picnic tables somewhere downstream.IMG_6061

The good news is the plants will recover; the bad news is we lost a substantial part of today’s harvest and we have to delay Pick Your Own.

Even so, today ended with the roller coaster going up. Our friends at Jefferson Pharmacy at Lake Monticello invited us to put a strawberry table in front of the store. Customers were thrilled to find local organic strawberries and strawberry spreads available. One customer bought strawberries, tasted one and came back for more! Pretty cool!IMG_6075

A musician friend of ours used to end his shows by saying, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, see you next time.” Jimmy, we’re going to borrow that salutation and say, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (again), starting in June we’ll be at the Fluvanna Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Farmers in the Park (C-ville) on Wednesdays. And, we’ll definitely post dates and times for Jefferson Pharmacy and Pick Your Own (hopefully) on our Face Book page.IMG_6020

For all its promise and beauty, spring in Virginia is quite fickle…

Every part of the farm is alive and showing growth.  The does are enjoying their lush new pasture and the kids are just plain cute! P1050806 P1050830

Isn't she adorable?

The bulbs and flowering trees are creating new displays of color everyday. 

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The bees are making honey and the frogs are reproducing (by the millions!)

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Strawberry field #1 is packed with blossoms and field #2 has about 10,000 daughter plants!

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About the fickle part… 

The new vines are in the ground and we were starting to see bud break when a nasty cold front blew in freezing temperatures--not good for vines (strawberries are much hardier). We decided that our best preventative would be to strategically place round hay bales around the vineyard and create a smoke layer to insulate the ground (helicopters and wind machines are more effective but just a bit more costly).

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In the afternoon of Day 1, Bruce and Rick checked the wind direction and put 8 round bales in the vineyard (with the help of Snickers and Doodle), ready for lighting sometime around midnight. Unfortunately, in the process of igniting bales the truck got stuck in the mud, so it wasn't until about 2 am that they called it a night.

That just about finished off the farm's supply of old round bales so the next day we called friends and neighbors and located a large stash of really old musty bales, ours for the taking and burning—thank you, Channing!

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Again, we checked the wind and placed the bales. When we were almost done, we looked across the vineyard and noticed that we’d dropped a bale on a smoldering pile from the night before—oops! That one went up in smoke.

When Spring came to her senses and returned to central VA, we checked the vines and it looks like our big burns did some good, despite the 26F temperature-- only limited damage to the vines.

So, enough of the fickleness!  Like all farmers we want spring to bring rain (just enough), plenty of sun, and warm temperatures!

As I write this, our "just enough" rain has turned into 2" with another 2" possible--we might be needing rain boots for our goats!