Fields Without Fences is excited to be presenting two talks this weekend at Duke Farms as part of NOFA NJ’s Open House. We invite you to join us Saturday for “Integrating Permaculture into Farm Site Design” & “Brewing Kombucha” - Many thanks, FWF
This Friday marked opening day at Ottsville Farmer’s Market. Fields Without Fences is so grateful to be part of an impressive community of vendors and fun loving market customers!
In front of the old stone barn at Linden Hill Gardens, we had so much fun getting to know all the folks, and chit chatting about our early season offerings. Fields Without Fences came to market with a healthy dose of wild edibles, herbs, early spring greens, and sunchokes. We tried to provide a true taste of Spring in the temperate northeast. Delicate baby greens and wild edibles of the sweet, tart, and bitter variety are just the tonic we need after a long winter. We encountered so many open minds curious about trying something new, and we were happy to be almost entirely sold out of our produce stash within a couple hours!
This market will be running every Friday 4-8pm through October. The scene is part market, part BBQ, part outdoor festival that really feels like a harvest celebration. In the center of the vendor ring there is a large stone grill set up and locals cook up freshly purchased fish and focaccia. Someone walks about with a plate of grilled fiddleheads for all to taste. At picnic tables around the grill folks laugh and uncork bottles from the local vineyard purveyor two tents over. An impromptu jam session erupts with hand drums and guitars, the children run around laughing and calling out to one another. We try to make friends with all that pass by. We forgot to eat before market and were happy to fill up on some smoked salmon crepes sold by the local food truck vendor. We forgot our table (yikes!) and the fine folks and Linden Hill Gardens let us borrow one in a pinch. We handed out recipes and were happy to turn curious market goers onto buttery sunchokes, and nutrient dense nettle. At the end of the evening, Meg who is selling sourdough breads at the table next to us, offered us two left over loaves. We gave her the remaining few handfuls of garlic chives and the suggestion of pesto. We’ve been devouring the delightful gift all weekend, and I can’t quite determine if this is the best bread I’ve ever eaten, or if I’ve simply forgotten all that came before? Spring is for lovers.
Please join us next weekend as we return with similar offerings and big smiles. The mood will be high and sunset will be beautiful. Say hi to us friend :)
With open heart & mind,
Fields Without Fences
Any doubts about life’s capacity for persistence and resilience?
This little Crocus tore through black plastic and heavy gravel stone to emerge. Don’t hold back friend, the sun is shining for YOU!
Nearly everyday lately our favorite mailman Brett has been dropping off wishes on our doorstep, and we can hardly contain our excitement about all these seeds!
Since our massive terra-forming construction phase last season, we’ve been looking at a whole lot of dirt out there. But like the spark of an idea, that becomes a possibility, then a new vision of reality - these seeds are so small, but entirely full of infinite potential!
The species list for this season is a mix of over 250 perennial and annual cultivars. Some will be sold at market, some will be sold wholesale, and some will be left alone to get comfortable and multiply. Our aim is to encourage a complex diversity of species that functions as a habitat for wildlife, forage for pollinators, food and medicine for humans, and from it eek out enough earning potential for us to be upstanding self reliant citizens. Here at the ground level of all that intention, these seeds look small but hold the future of Fields Without Fences.
Each seed will turn into a plant that will play an important role in our evolving system. Our favorite species tend to be multifunctional perennials for a variety of reasons; less work, deep roots, resiliency, and redundancy. Nature likes a good win win, and as bit part players, we take our cues from the star of the show. Below are a couple plants we are feeling pretty stoked about!
Johann’s excited about… Cardoon & Celtuce!
Dynamic Accumulator: Cardoon has a fairly long maturation period, but while we wait to eat the stalks, the roots are busy reaching down into the soil and mining minerals and nutrients, sharing the resources with other plants.
Tasty Market Crop: Generally, the long celery-like stalks of Cardoon are blanched and steamed to produce a flavor very similar to Artichoke. They are a Mediterranean culinary favorite and gaining popularity with chefs around the world for their reputation as a delicious delicacy.
Easy On The Eyes: Cardoon can get very large and take up a lot of space, which is fine by us because they sure are pretty! For this reason, Cardoon is frequently planted as an ornamental - a plant you might consider as you endeavor upon your edible landscaping.
Centaur: Celtuce looks like it sounds, lettuce on top, celery on the bottom, and likewise tastes like a mild combination of the two. This Asian green is very popular in China where the preferred preparation is in stir fries. Eat the leaves like lettuce, or the stalk like celery, or do some one-stop shopping in the salad department and eat the whole damn thing.
Mystery: We’ve never grown Celtuce before! Will we like it? Will it like us? Will other people like us and it? We hope so! It’s the homecoming dance freshman year and our date is part man, part horse!
Lindsay’s excited about… Comfrey & Stinging Nettle!
Permaculture Favorite: Comfrey possesses amazing versatility and usefulness and therefore is a favored plant amongst organic gardeners, and permaculture enthusiasts alike. Its is a dynamic accumulator and the mature leaves can be chopped and dropped as a green manure and mulch. Planting comfrey underneath trees accomplishes many tasks mining nutrients, shading out grass, and functioning as an in place mulch producer. Oh yeah, and pollinators love it too!
Healer: Topically Comfrey is a strong medicinal healer, great for treating wounds, torn ligaments, strains, bruises, and any injury to the bones or joints.
Compost Activator: When tossed into the compost heap, Comfrey adds a healthy dose of nitrogen to the pile. For similar reasons, the plant can also be made into a tea-fertilizer for other garden species.
Infamy: Stinging Nettle is a rather infamous plant because of its tiny stinging hairs called trichomes which act as little needles zapping and shocking the skin of any animal that touches or brushes against its leaves. Last season I found myself wading through large patches of the of the stuff harvesting the tops and feeling a bit like an walking static sweater at a car convention. Zap! Admittedly an acquired preference, but I happen to enjoy the sensation, and no lie, I felt positively charged for the rest of the day!
Delicious & Nutritious: Nettle tops are the tender most portion of the plant and when steamed or stir-fried taste like a sweet delicate spinach. They are packed with vitamins like iron, calcium, potassium, silicon, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and chromium among others! And rest assured, heat very quickly dissolves the stinging hairs, so don’t be afraid to put it in your mouth.
Medicinal & Life Enhancing: Stinging Nettle has a variety of medicinal uses. Topically it has traditionally been used to treat arthritis, increase blood flow, and treat itchy scalp & dandruff. Internally the tonic plant is great for liver and kidney health, combating seasonal allergies, makes hair shiny and skin clear, and can alleviate symptoms of PMS and menopause. In the garden, the nettle provides an essential habitat to pollinator insects, makes great fertilizer for vegetables, and are beneficial as companion plants.
Now bring on the Sun! Please :)
“Perhaps it is not surprising that, ignorant and indifferent as we are, we have allowed the economies of agriculture and forestry to mimic the economy of mining, making potentially renewable and sustainable resources nonrenewable, taking much temporary wealth and returning permanent ruin to the land and its natural and human communities.”
–Wendell Berry, What Matters? Counterpoint, 2010
New post up! Give it a read! Many thanks!
We made a new website, www.fieldswithoutfences.org thanks for taking a look at it! Outside the air is crisp and blustery and carrying with it a freshness poised to renew.
Following our first full time season at Fields Without Fences, we have so many reflections, ideas, and projects, buzzing around in our mind’s eye for the upcoming season. Last year was a particularly transformational time for us - too much chaos to count or name, but out of the tumult arose such meaningful insight that I can’t help but be grateful for all that has happened.
Which reminds me that there is probably one ongoing project for the new year worth spelling out, if only so we don’t forget. This year, we finally stop resisting, we finally say “yes, and thank you” to anything that shows up on our doorstep, be it sunshine or storm, lamb or lion. It is impossible to calculate the totality of the year while complaining about and trying to erase one number. Just say yes - feels better already. Oh yeah, and thank you.
Warm Wishes, Fields Without Fences
A while back we were contacted by Rafter Ferguson, a doctoral student from the University of Illinois to participate in a survey of Permaculture commercial farms and gardens. Looks like this will be an expanded study worth watching. (see link above)
We are in the throes of this very type of experiment on our land out of concern for ecologically minded growing practices, as well as out of necessity. Because we are on marginal, abused ag land with a laundry list of limiting factors - we have approached our cultivation style based on Permaculture principles and techniques - for the simple reality that conventional growing will not work here.
In a best case scenario, we will be part of a growing movement of “alternative” growers innovating the way we approach agriculture in the future. In a worst case scenario, we will fail to produce the product necessary for a solvent business model, and the effort will have to be modified or possibly abandoned. Moving into our second full time season, the outcome remains open and unassigned.
In the coming weeks/months I hope to begin posting more about some of the techniques we have/are implementing as we continue to rehabilitate and cultivate this land. We hope that the work and experimentation we are doing here will be helpful to those interested.
With open mind & heart,
Fields Without Fences
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of NJ is a terrific organization that works tirelessly to help and promote organic farming practices in the Garden State.
This year they are rolling out an amazing program that will provide land, resources, and equipment to ambitious beginning farmers without access. Please consider making a donation to their Kickstarter campaign which is quickly coming to a close.
It takes a lot of resources to help farmers get started, and while they have reached their Kickstarter program goal of $15K, they are still $35K short of reaching total funding of the program. Please help donate to this wonderful program if you can! Every little bit counts :)