Tuesday, August 31, 2010




The other day, we assembled all the bows for the new high tunnel greenhouse and today we stood it up. Erecting the skeleton took the better part of the day and unfortunately we ran out of sunlight before getting the last two bows up. Overall, the process was more time consuming than challenging, although there were elements that required intense physical exertion. So many places we've volunteered have had existing greenhouses in place, and it's a delight to see how one is set up.

First we took measurements and drove rebar stakes into the ground in each of the four corners. We ran string along the perimeter, and double checked the angle measurements using the pythagorean theorem. Adam said being an inch or two off here or there could lead to a disaster in the end. Once we knew exactly where the greenhouse would stand, we mowed the grass to ensure if and when we dropped equipment, we wouldn't have to needlessly rummage through high grass to find an important part. We then started raising each bow, one at a time, and secured them to each other using purlins as supporting beams. Each bow has five purlins that get attached, and we used a template to assure each bow is precisely four feet apart at all five locations. We quickly realized if we only used the template near each base and on the top, the bow could still bend, and it would be bowed out, which would compromise the overall integrity of the structure.

From an engineering standpoint, the skeleton isn't too fancy. It's mostly just tightening lots of nuts and bolts. But when we put the skin on in a few days, Adam's custom design will shine through. Most greenhouses have a small door on each end with a fan to circulate air, but the flow is often limited and the air is stagnant. This design features entire roll-up walls, so the air never hangs heavy. That combined with its rolling ability makes this particular greenhouse revolutionary...or so Adam keeps insisting.



Waste not, want not isn't just an expression for us, it is how we live our lives. We really take reusing to a whole new level. What most people would put into the trash we find uses for; what people would put directly into the recycling bin, we find second lives for before it hits the blue bin.

On a farm, there is a very fine line between having far too little and having far too much. If a farmer plants too few crops. he or she will have a hard time meeting the demand, and the supply will always fall short. On the other hand, if a farmer plants an overabundance to ensure meeting the demand, sometimes there will be excess and thus food is wasted. Food is not wasted when it's turned into compost, but it is wasted in the sense that it is rendered unconsumable, at least in the short term. For us, who are not used to seeing hundreds of pounds of every vegetable under the sun, we cannot help but think of hungry people yearning for those blemished tomatoes or misshapen squash that make it into the compost bin. We are wired to try to find a use for things before they rot. Melody and Adam think we're kind of crazy, as they are used to all the excess and routinely compost what isn't at the absolute peak of freshness. We're doing our very best to consume and preserve as much of their bounty as possible. But we realize that no matter how hard we try, there will be an abundance of food that we'll never be able to eat, jar, freeze, preserve, pickle, and/or turn into sauce. Being the creative people we are, we found a new way to use unripe and overripe tomatoes: tomato baseball!

Sunday, we went hiking to a few Adirondack swimming holes with some other local farmers Adam and Melody know. It was fun to explore the territory and to cool off in the crystal clean mountain water.

Saturday, August 28, 2010







There is a strange sensation here we're feeling that we did not feel at any other farm. It's an urge to do as much work as the farmers. At all other places, the WWOOF hosts have worked more than us, and we felt comfortable with that, seeing no reason to break our backs, since we were only volunteers. Here however, the combination of Melody and Adam being our same age, in addition to it being the peak of summer and produce needing to be harvested each and every day compels us to go above and beyond the call of duty. Trouble is, on a day like today, when we worked 13 hours, from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm with a short lunch break, we worked less than both Melody and Adam by a solid 4 hours. They keep saying "it's not your farm, go home," but there's work to be done and how can we sit at home, not learn, and do nothing when there is so much needing attention? It's great for us to see how maniacally they work; is this something we really want to do? Is it something we even can do? But it's only the summer, and they probably have 4-5 months of snowy weather here when they cannot do an ounce of work on these beloved, belabored fields.

Tomatoes. That one word sums up today pretty well. When we agreed to come here, it was under the impression that there were 6 acres of tomatoes that needed our attention. This statement proved so true today. There are several varieties of tomatoes growing here, in two separate areas: in the rolling greenhouse, and in the lower fields (there are three field areas: the upper, that has clay soil, the middle, that has lush, loamy soil and the tomato greenhouse, and the lower, with amazing soil in a flood plain). The tomatoes in the greenhouse grow in a managed, magnificently cared for manner, and less than 5% of these tomatoes are lost to rot, fungus, or other undesirables. The field tomatoes however, grow in a more Vietnam jungle type atmosphere, and unfortunately, nearly 50% of these tomatoes fall victim to, for lack of a scientific term, smushing. Because they are so densely packed in and not staked, the vines are literally falling on each other. Many plants crush other plants, many obstruct sunlight preventing even ripening, and others are crushed by the soles of our shoes as we wade through the thicket trying to harvest others. In the greenhouse, one can harvest 100lbs of tomatoes in less than 15 minutes. In the field, it takes well over two hours. It's so hard to find them, and half the ones you find that are red and seemingly ripe are rotten on the underside. It's tragic to see so many tomatoes that are 3/4 flawless, with one big soft rotten spot, assuring no sale could ever take place.

With hundreds of pounds of organic tomatoes harvested, some for CSA customers, most for wholesale at local restaurants, the crop was divided into three levels of quality. The most pristine ones are off to the restaurants for $2-$4 a pound, depending on variety. The middle level is given to the CSA. This middle level of tomatoes is far superior to any tomato you will find in a supermarket, because it ripens fully on the vine and tastes so sweet and delicious. It might just have the smallest spot or blemish somewhere. The third division is bruised or most often, slightly cracked and soft tomatoes. These in theory are the ripest, sweetest tomatoes, but because they don't look perfect, people don't want them. Consumers are so used to perfect, unblemished produce, they would never consider purchasing a cracked or bruised piece of fruit. Luckily for us, we got to take them and make one killer tomato sauce for dinner. Mamma Mia, we made a lot of sauce!







Jen spent the afternoon with Melody at the North Creek Farmer's Market. This market is one of the five Juniper Hill currently sells at and it was fun to go help. After working hard in the fields it is a real treat to experience the another side of farming and to watch consumers sample and ogle the fresh produce we are providing. Obviously after a summer of market after market, Melody has her system down. The way she sets up her table is very clever, putting boxes on angles, ensuring the color of the tablecloths contrast with the food on the table, and using unique holders such as old bicycle seats and fun baskets, guaranteeing everyone who visits the market will stop by her table. Fighting high winds and traces of rain, we held down the tent, literally, and sold nearly everything we brought to market.

The North Creek market is small, with only 10 vendors. There was only one other vendor selling vegetables, while others sold meats, chocolates, jams, cheeses, and locally baked goods. Adam and Melody are doing alright, but they are killing themselves to sell their produce and flowers at five farmer's market each week, on top of having a CSA and selling produce wholesale to restaurants. What they are producing is outstanding and if they were in a larger market, near a larger city, they would sell out of everything in no time at all. Instead, with such a small community and population in the surrounding towns, they are struggling. Almost their entire annual income is based on the two to three months. They harvest and sell their produce and flowers almost exclusively in the summer when tourism is at its peak and there are more people in town at these markets to purchase their offerings. It's incredibly inspiring to watch people younger than us running a large operation so well, and it gives us hope that one day we could actually have a farm too. But watching them work 15 hour days, six or seven days a week reinforces the need to live near a large city where there are plenty of people willing and able to pay for good, nutritious, organic goods.






With one rolling greenhouse in place, Juniper Hill Farm is expanding their operation and building rolling greenhouse number two. After applying for a federal grant, they waited and waited, as bureaucratic decisions are slow to process. Getting tired of waiting, they just built a greenhouse. The logic was if they waited, the greenhouse would go up too late in the season and serve no purpose. Later in the season, they received notice they had been awarded the grant and decided to construct another greenhouse. The catch is, they had to front the money, erect the structure, and have it approved by government agents before receiving the subsidizing funds. In theory this prevents someone from earning this grant and spending the money on something unrelated, but in practice it puts farmers who don't have thousands of dollars at their fingertips in a tight spot. Raising that kind of capital is no easy task. The farmers are taking a major risk and hoping their building will be "up to snuff" and their funds reimbursed. Adam and Melody intend to plant strawberries, raspberries, and spinach in their new greenhouse, enabling them to extend their season and have fresh berries in spring before anyone else, and also in the fall, later than anyone else, something impossible under normal conditions in a cold climate such as the Adirondack Mountains. We're excited to help construct the greenhouse and we're taking careful notes; this rolling design seems excellent and it's something we'd like to emulate on a smaller scale in the future.

We're not the only ones helping Melody and Adam at Juniper Hill. There is one other WWOOFer, Haley, who comes from North Carolina and is 21. She has also been WWOOFing all summer. Juniper Hill Farms also employs a few young kids to help out, some who are still in school. The operation they run is simply too big and demanding for just the two of them. Without WWOOFers, and on days their workers mysterious don't show up, getting by seems mindbogglingly difficult.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010









We harvested haricot verts, field tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, okra, bell peppers, jalepeño peppers, habeñero peppers, and flowers today. We worked hard and long, but the highlight of the day was having fun with Ernest and Tammy.

Ernest comes from a long line of flat nosed eggplants. Growing up, everyone made fun of him for his funny hook shaped nose. None of his friends or family had a nose like his, and he was sad and self conscious all the time. Meanwhile, across the garden lived another long nosed lonely plant, Tammy. All the big mean tomatoes made fun of her long nose since none of them had noses like hers. She would blush terribly at their insults, and she blushed so much she turned bright red.

Then one day, a beautiful enchanted lady traveled a long and weary road to Juniper Hill Farm. This woman was wise beyond her years, and knew better than to look simply at the surface of what she encountered. "Skin deep is no way to judge living beings," she thought. When she was playing in the garden one day, she met Ernest the Eggplant. Ernest told her how sad he was, but she cheered him right up. She complimented his suave eyes, his dashing haircut, and explained how in some cultures, a long nose was a very desirable attribute. She told Ernest he was talented, and if he put his mind to it, he could one day be eggplant parmesan on the King and Queen's table. She left Ernest and he was much happier. But before leaving, she promised to remain faithful friends and return soon.

Time passed, and the enchanted lady continued her sojourn. One hot summer day she happened upon a tangled tomato patch. The lady was delighted to make the acquaintance of so many new friends, but one new friend in particular stood out: Tammy. Tammy and this lady both had something in common, and that is that they both get rosy cheeks in the summer heat. As they were talking about sauces and gazpacho, she told Tammy, "I have a friend that you simply must meet. You have so much in common, and I think you two would look divine together." Tammy was reluctant at first, worried how a stranger would react when seeing her Pinocchio shaped nose, but she was excited at the prospect of a new friend. The lady convinced Tammy, and so she met Ernest one fine summer evening for a picnic. It was love at first sight. They fell deeply in love with each other, and the two lived happily ever after.



Serves 5-7

4 small eggplants
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, chopped
handful of sungold tomatoes (the more the better)
cheese, grated or sliced
broadleaf thyme, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1) Slice eggplant, zucchini, and squash lengthwise, thinly. Parboil in salted water.
2) Caramelize onions and saute garlic, and sungolds in olive oil until it cooks down and becomes saucy. Add saffron, thyme, salt & pepper to taste.
3) On a flat surface, stack layers of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. Roll into concentric circles and place in baking dish. They should look like sushi rolls.
4) Cover with sauce and top with sliced tomatoes and cheese.
5) Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts and becomes slightly crispy.

Note: We do believe this dish would taste even better if the eggplant slices were battered and fried before stacking. We didn't do this because frying is time consuming and/or not healthy, but we imagine the taste and texture would be vastly improved.


Serves 5-7

2 large heads pac choi
large bunch of green beans
several cloves of garlic, minced
fresh ginger, roughly chopped
sesame oil
sesame seeds
nutritional yeast

1) Remove bottoms of pac choi so leaves are separated. Cut ends off beans if necessary or desired.
2) Saute garlic and ginger in sesame oil. Add greens.
3) Once pac choi has cooked down, season with Bragg's to taste.
4) Remove from heat and top with nutritional yeast and sesame seeds.

Note: Don't be stingy with that nutritional yeast!!! Also, this dish would work equally well with any other leafy green. If you don't have access to Bragg's, you can substitute soy sauce. Bragg's is a natural alternative that contains no soy, no sodium, and no GMOs. It also contains 21 essential amino acids. If you don't currently have Bragg's in your refrigerator, go out and get some!

***In response to a recent comment, heirloom seeds and varieties of plants are open pollinated, organic, non-hybrid, non-industrialized crops. Heirlooms were the only type of crop grown and produced until the Industrial Revolution. They are often less vigorous not resistant to diseases, and as such are not being grown by conventional, large scale farms. Often heirlooms have strange and unusual shapes but taste far superior to conventional and hybridized varieties of crops. They are always more expensive. In our opinion, they are certainly worth their price.***

***In reference to another recent comment, raw okra isn't so grand. It's too firm and doesn't have much natural flavor. It tastes stringy and gooey only after it's cooked for a long time, and that is the consistency that makes it so wonderful.***

Monday, August 23, 2010



As previously mentioned, Melody and Adam's apartment directly on Lake Champlain had a bit of a disaster last week. Their neighbor is the only cab driver in town, and apparently, he is a well known drunk. Rumor has it he likes to cook, and rarely cooks without several beers at his fingertips. He also saves his grease, since he believes cooking with old grease enhances the flavors of his food. Unwisely, he stores his grease in a pan on his stove, and when he accidentally turned on the wrong burner in an alleged drunken state, he started a grease fire. The grease fire quickly spread, swallowing up his entire apartment in fiery flames. In an almost unbelievable fire response time, less than three minutes, water hoses were soaking the fire engulfed apartment and the whole surrounding area to prevent spreading. Trouble is, Melody and Adam's apartment touched the neighbors apartment, and in the process of extinguishing the flames, the fire department poured 20,000 gallons of water into their place. The neighbors house was totally decimated, 2 pets in fact deceased, yet while this tragedy luckily left Melody and Adam unharmed, the fact remains: their apartment, where we were going to stay while WWOOFing here, is completely unlivable, many possessions soaked and/or ruined, and the place must be gutted to prevent mold damage. Yesterday we helped them move to another apartment instead of working on the farm. Shouldn't there be some sort of friend time prerequisite for helping someone move? But how could we not help? Everyone in town is helping them in their own way by donating furniture, funds, and physical labor on the farm. Adam's dad owns a defunct pizza shop with an apartment above in town, and the four of us are now living there. Anyone want to open a pizza shop in Westport? It's near Wadhams!

The rains started last night, and didn't let up all day. It is a thorough soak, and tonight, there seems to be no signs of it letting up. But just like the postal service, neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor...stands in the way of a harvest. At the farm, we bravedy the bugs and rain to harvest sun jewel melons, eggplants, zucchinis, okra, broccoli, yellow summer squash, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, salad mix, arugula, basil, and carrots for the market tomorrow. They participate in 3 markets each week, but will sell at a 4th until Labor Day. Some of the squash is starting to show early signs of powdery leaf mildew, and there is growing concern that some of their crop will be lost. In a conventional farm system, farmers would spray pesticides and fungicides preventatively so this disease wouldn't occur. But then when you eat the skin of the conventional summer squashes, you'd be a fool to think there are no traces of these chemicals found. Juniper Hill Farm, not wanting to employ such non-organic methods, is toying with the idea of spraying a copper solution, allowable under organic guidelines, to prevent the onset and spread of the mildew. We are interested in learning how this problem gets attention and is or isn't resolved.

Tonight, we went to a farmer potluck with live music and six, count em', six kegs. Farmers sure aren't like city folk. There were babies running around, people playing with fire, and of course, amazing organic food. It was really fun to mingle with the locals of the Adirondacks, something we never would have done, had we not signed up to WWOOF.

Saturday, August 21, 2010










Wasting no time, since there isn't a moment to waste around here, we were in the fields by 8 o'clock this morning and worked virtually nonstop until 7:30pm. Literally, we didn't even stop to eat a normal lunch, and Jen didn't even have time to find a bathroom all day! In lieu of lunch, we nibbled on raw fruit and vegetables all day long. If you've never eaten raw sweet corn, you have never lived. If you are buying quality corn, there is absolutely no reason you should have to cook it. Despite not stopping for a proper lunch or having many breaks it was a good day.

We're staying in an apartment in town, 10 minutes from the farm. By the time we arrived at the farm, Melody, Adam's girlfriend, already had the van packed and ready to take off to the market while Adam had already harvested over 100 ears of sweet corn. No matter how much we work here, and it will be more than we've worked on any other farm, Adam and Melody will always be at work before we arrive and will always work well after we've finished for the night. We started the day by harvesting 40 bunches of beets, each bunch containing 4-7 beets depending on their size, for the CSA. We harvested golden beets, candy striped beets, and bull's blood. We spent the rest of the morning and the beginning of the afternoon pruning, tying, and suckering the tomatoes in the greenhouse. This was no small task, since Adam's greenhouse is almost 15 feet tall, and so are all his tomatoes; we've never seen anything like it. The rope system Adam has devised for his tomatoes to climb up is inventive and so effective that it makes tomato cages and wooden stakes seem like child's play. Sometimes people affix the stalks of a tomato plant onto ropes or stakes for support, often using zip ties or string, both cumbersome and disposable, while Adam uses reusable plastic clips that snap onto the rope and around the stalk, supporting the plants as they grow. Adam has given each plant nearly 50 feet of rope, leaving about 30 extra feet wound up at the top. Tomatoes develop first at the bottom of the plant and bear new fruit clusters towards the top when the first fruit is ripening. With his system, Adam can harvest the first tomatoes at the bottom and then unwind some rope down, essentially lowering the entire plant onto the ground and giving it more room to grow vertically. This means he can grow a 30 feet high plant in a 15 foot tall greenhouse.

Later in the afternoon we harvested field tomatoes, anana melons (yellow oblong melons with white mild flavored flesh), and peppers. Juniper Hill's CSA members come to the farm between 4 and 7pm each Friday to retrieve their produce. This CSA is different than others we've seen because no boxes are made and brought to a central drop off point. Instead, all the produce is laid out on tables and people come and pick and choose what they like best. They're offered everything, but today plenty of people didn't take all that was available. In addition to the beets, field tomatoes, melons, and peppers we harvested, on today's table was: oriental eggplant, salad mix, carrots, onions, squash/zucchini, sungold tomatoes, and sweet corn. We'd sure be thrilled if we were offered this bounty for $23. Reflecting on what we've seen from past CSA operations, we think although this method of having people come to the farm has definite benefits, if we were to have a CSA, we'd probably drop off boxes to customers. Timewise, both ways of operating a CSA are probably similar: either you spend time packing boxes and taking them to town or you spend time setting up a stand on the farm and bringing all your produce there and staying there for three hours to monitor it all before breaking it down and putting everything away. For Adam and Melody, this works because their customers all live quite close and none of them mind coming to get their goodies. However in a larger CSA in a bigger city, a huge benefit is food gets delivered directly to customers and they don't have to go out of their way to pick it up. The plus of Juniper Hill's way is members don't ever get food they don't want or won't eat since they simply don't take home carrots if they don't like carrots. This system felt more like a farmer's market to us, but with fewer customers; but on the flip side, we bet those customers enjoy coming and seeing a bit of the farm and being able to talk with Adam and Melody. Almost all of these members are family and friends and are all very supportive of this relatively new start up farm, but we can't help but think the hours Adam and Melody spend manning the tent could be better spent elsewhere.

Just before sun fall we helped Melody harvest flowers. In addition to fruit and vegetables, Juniper Hill is also growing certified organic flowers. Melody makes bouquets and sells them at farmer's markets throughout the week and just like the vegetables and fruits, the flowers require care and massive amounts of attention. Her bouquets are beautiful, her flowers are magnificent, and it was fun as well as interesting to talk with her. We're really happy to be here and we know we'll learn a lot from our contemporaries (Adam: 27, Melody: 25) who are running a successful, small organic farm. It's a huge eye opener to be here, to see the endless work they do, and the ever growing list of needs they have is staggering; how they manage it all as young farmers is impressive.









Juniper Hill Farm represents our 19th wwoof host. Previous experience has taught us to arrive before sun fall, but feeling eager to return to farm life after our traveling across the entire country hiatus, we arrived early in the afternoon. Our new host, Adam, asked us if we felt up to getting straight to work, and we decided to jump right in. It was the best decision we made all day.

He led us to his rolling green house where he has tomatoes galore: green zebras, sungolds, and other open pollinated heirloom varieties. This is the first greenhouse we've seen that isn't stationary. It rolls along a track, and this feature enables him to plant a cover crop in the location where next year's crop will go. This ensures something can always grow inside the greenhouse but also that cash crops are never planted in the same place in successive years. By planting cover crops, there is less chance for disease, and the soil builds nutrients, but the greenhouse never goes to waste. It is a pretty clever system. We harvested over over 75 pints of sungolds while Adam picked larger heirlooms.

Keeping the harvest going, we picked spinach while he picked mixed lettuce, all of which he sells at nearby farmers markets, or to his 30 member CSA, or to local restaurants. After the harvest, we submerged the salad greens in cold water so their temperature would cool quickly and thus make the lettuces have a longer shelf life. Adam had converted an old washing machine to act as a large salad spinner, an ingenious idea that works well, but only when he can jimmy rig the washing machine just right.

There's a lot to do here for two reasons: (1) there are six acres of lush ripe vegetables that need our attention (2) Adam's neighbor's place burned down Sunday night and severely damaged his apartment (note: he lives in an apartment in town and farms his parent's land 5 miles away) rendering it unlivable. We're ready to rolls up our sleeves and get to work.

Thursday, August 19, 2010












Jimmy has worked in the horse racing industry for over 30 years, and the main draw for visiting Saratoga, in addition to being a stopping point to break up a long drive to a farm near Lake Champlain, where we are headed off to tomorrow, is that we could get a private tour of the track by someone who knows seemingly every employee, jockey, trainer, and owner by name. By 6:30 in the AM, we were at the track watching the horses exercise and seeing what goes on behind the scenes at the oldest horse racing track in the United States. These thoroughbreds are treated better than children, and seeing them pampered is a far cry from the way some farm animals are treated. Some of these horses are worth over a million dollars; hard to imagine any other barnyard animal fetching that kind of price tag. Of course these horses are fast, really fast, a skill that separates them from all the other animals, but still, the way animals are raised for food versus the way animals are raised as pets is a curious paradox.

It was a treat to see the morning workouts, and get so close to these beautiful, large creatures. We've been around a lot of horse manure on our trip, but not too many horses, and listening to them breathe and whinny makes us giggle. There's nothing like back stage passes.

By one o'clock, we made our way into the stands to watch the afternoon's 9 races. Consistently placing $1-$5 bets on various horses in various combinations for various reasons, we made short work of losing $30. There's a running joke that although Jimmy works for the track, any horse he thinks will win invariably disappoints, and after his predictions yesterday, we see no reason to think anyone should take his advice anytime soon. In one race, he predicted the top two finishers; one did win, but the other took a spill on the far turn and the crowd held its breath. Luckily neither the horse nor the jockey were injured, but seeing as we picked him finish in the top two, we slapped our thighs with our racing programs in exasperation. Nancy however had great success, and on two separate one dollar exacta box bets on three horses, she earned over $150. When you win at the track, you curse yourself for not wagering higher amounts, and when you lose, you curse yourself for having made a bet at all.