Posted 6/10/2014 11:04am by Judy Lessler.

Farming: We are starting into the seam or the transition period between the spring and summer vegetables. We are beginning to harvest potatoes and squash; however, the lettuces and greens are still plentiful. I know some of you are ready to see greens disappear and to find a box full of compact things like tomatoes, beans, okra, and eggplant. That time is coming.  

The okra that is "on stage this year" is growing. We have planted two types, Star of David and Clemson Spineless 80. Ann Silverman, a local artist and paper maker, is going to make paper from each type of okra. Below are a couple of pictures we made last week when we thinned the okra. Ann came over for the thinning and took some of the young pieces plants.

The first picture shows Ann and Erasmo. Ann is holding some of the thinning, Thinned okra is on the left and to be thinned is on the right. The second picture shows Rene and Erasmo in the process of weeding and thinning. Rene is holding a bunch of quelite, which is a green in the amaranth family that grows wild on the farm. We consider a weed. It actually is delicious and makes a good braising green; however, we have not been successful in selling it. I carried that bunch to the cooler for Rene, and his family had if for dinner that night.



Posted 6/3/2014 10:47am by Judy Lessler.

Farm Notes: Chapel Hill Creamery is one of our collaborators in the CSA. It is run by Flo Hawley and Portia McKnight. After 15 to 20 year careers at Whole Foods, Flo and Portia wanted to change the focus of their careers and get closer to the source of the food that they sold. They decided to make cheese and began looking for a good milk source. They were not able to find the quality of milk that they desired; so, they decided to buy a small herd of Jersey Cows and a 37-acre farm. They chose Jersey cows because the breed is well-suited to North Carolina’s warm climate, and its rich milk produces high-quality, flavorful cheese. The herd spends its time on lush pastures, and an intensive rotational grazing system ensures that the livestock has access to high-quality grass during the growing season.  

Chapel Hill Creamery produced its first batch of cheese in July 2000. And today, just over 14 years later, Chapel Hill Creamery produces a range of artisan farmstead cheeses, whey-fed pork and sausages. Their achievements are many. They have developed nine varieties of cheese, become an Animal Welfare Approved farm, and won awards, included, “Best in Show” at the NC State Fair International Cheese Competition in 2013, 2012 & 2011 and three World Jersey Cheese Awards in 2012. The Creamery has also been featured in Garden & Gun Magazine and Southern Living.  

We are proud to have Chapel Hill Creamery as one of our collaborators.  

Posted 5/27/2014 11:57am by Judy Lessler.

Farm Notes: Okra Chronicles. At Harland's Creek Farm we plant okra in raised beds that are 39 inches wide and 53 inches on center, which means that there are 53 inches between the middle of one bed and the other. The aisle between the beds is about 14 inches wide, ergo the 53 inches on center measurement. We put in two lines in each bed and thin the plants within a line to 12 inches apart.            

In his 1863 garden book which describes the cultivation of over a thousand cultivars Fearing Burr's recommends "at least three feet between the rows and nearly two feet from plant to plant in the rows." Using this spacing, if you drew a rectangle with four plants at its corners, its area would be 6 square feet. One-hundred and fifty years later, the Southeastern Vegetable Crop Handbook recommends a spacing of 4 feet between row and 18 inches within rows with the result that the rectangle drawn with one plant at each of its four corners also has an area of 6 square feet. Seeing something like that makes me wonder if people have just been copying each other for the last 150 years.            

The seed company I buy from recommends a much closer spacing with rectangles of 2 to 3 square feet. Detailed information from the Okra Handbook ( Dhankhar and Singh, 2009) indicates that a wide variety of spacing can be used and that one might choose a method based on ease of picking as well as yield. I was glad to learn this because we leave a fallow bed between the closely planted beds to allow us to pick the plants. This results in lots of space for plants that boarder the fallow bed and closer spacing for those that do not.            

Burr comments that okra can be raised in "any common garden soil" which I found to be a wildly unspecific recommendation and somewhat annoying because I wanted to know what farmers were doing 150 years ago. But I went back and read his preface more carefully found that he specifically had prepared the book to help the public choose varieties "rather than as a treatise on cultivation" and that he did so because there were already many sources of the information on cultivation and propagation. Burr was right, and I soon forgave him because I did indeed find many sources on cultivation and propagation.            

Stay tuned for more that I learned.  

Posted 2/20/2014 10:46pm by Judy Lessler.

Creating a Pear Orchard

Harland's Creek Farm is located on  the Alston-DeGraffenreidt national historic site.  When my husband and I purchased this property in the 1970's, we just knew it was a beautiful piece of land with an old house on it.  Later, we found some old farming records that dated back to the early 1800's. We donated these papers to the NC Department of Archives and History, and they, in turn, had the house declared a National Historic House.  Later some of the land was also put into a national historic site.

We did not have heat; we had kudzu growing everywhere, including the porches which we did not consider as a valued alternative to heat. But, we had a fancy name and aspirations to go with it. 

One of the first things we did was to clear kudzu.  We uncovered old pastures, old roads, and an old orchard.  The orchard was to the east of the house and contained pear and apple trees, all of which were gnarled and cracked here and there. We harvested the fruit for many years, and I made pies, apple sauce, and served cooked pears over ice cream.

The pear trees were an Asian pear variety and some were more than 30 feet tall. Over the years, these trees died out, but, occasionally my husband, who died in 2002, would bring up some that he had found in the woods at an old building site. I pretty much forgot about them.

In 2011, I had to cut down most of a stand of trees that were on the south of our main growing fields because the pines and hardwoods had grown tall and shaded the fields. One small Asian pear tree was not cut because if was of no interest to the loggers. In a fit of joy at having survived the logging or maybe just better growing conditions, it put out several bushels of pears--without spots and with absolutely no attention from us farmers. I realized that this was an offspring of the pears in the old orchard and that it was totally adapted to the conditions on our farm. Thus, we came up with the idea to make it the basis for an orchard.

I talked to my uncle, Uncle LQ, who taught horticulture for years, and he recommended that we graft them on a smaller tree to keep them from growing 30 or 40 feet tall. Unfortunately LQ died in late 2012, and our plans to do this together were never to be. Thinking of him and of this tree that had such a long family history on this farm, I decided to go ahead without LQ.

I did some research and contacted Lee Calhoun who is a master orchardist and author of Old Southern Apples. We now have a plan to grafted about 100 trees this spring and about 50 of them have survived. We are now in the process of preparing the planting area.  The first step has to be putting up a fence to deal with the pesky dear.  We should have a full crop in 5 years. 


Posted 2/14/2014 4:25pm by Judy Lessler.

We had 8 inches of snow topped by about a quarter to half inch of ice. Erasmo, Rene, and Martin cleared the high tunnels three times. We had propane heaters in the Greenhouse, which is built inside of an old tunnel, and in the tunnel we call the Hoop House. These were to keep plants alive if the electricity went out.

The plan was to move both the propane heaters to the Greenhouse if the electricity went out so that we could keep the baby transplants alive. We do not have an alarm in the house to let us know of we lose electricity at the Greenhouse; therefore, we left the lights on so in it so that I could look out of an upstairs window of the my house to check that the electricity was still on.

I got up several times on Wednesday night to check. Once when I was actually asleep but thought I was awake, I heard a loud crack.  I was sure it was the sound of a tree falling and knocking out the electricity. I leaped up to make ready for slogging down to the Greenhouse. Then I realized I was dreaming, or most likely dreaming. I shuffled across the hall and into the bedroom were I could see down to the GH. The lights were shining. I knew I was dreaming and was very glad.

Other farmers were not so lucky, and I am sorry that they were not.

Posted 5/28/2013 11:46am by Judy Lessler.

  Peanut Soup with Sweet Potatoes or Pumpkin

4 servings  

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 medium-large onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 cups carrots, sliced in rounds

1 can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons high quality curry powder

1.5 cups cooked pumpkin or sweet potatoes, mashed

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon salt

0.5 cups chunky peanut butter

Pepper, hot pepper flakes, or other to taste  

Sauté onion, bell pepper, garlic, and carrots in oil until just starting to brown. Make sure you cut the pepper into small cubes and slice the onions thinly or they will not get done at the same time as the onions and garlic. Add diced tomatoes, curry powder, and two cups of chicken broth. Cook mixture until vegetables are tender. Taste and add salt. Depending on how salty the tomatoes and the broth are, you may need more of less salt. Stir in peanut butter and remainder of chicken broth. Cook another 10 minutes to blend flavors. Add more water if necessary. Taste and add pepper, hot sauce to taste. Serve warm with warm bread.   Recipe from Harland's Creek Farm, 2014.  

Posted 5/17/2013 8:33pm by Judy Lessler.

Do not lose hope.  Spring will come and CSA customers will get bronze fennel.  Imagine making this sauce.


Feathery Fennel-Yogurt Sauce with Salmon or Shrimp

4 Servings

 1¼ cups bronze fennel fronds

1 large green onion, trimmed and sliced

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper, white if you have it

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup yogurt, whole-milk or low-fat or Greek if non-fat.

4 salmon steaks or 1 pound peeled shrimp

 Brush salmon or shrimp with olive oil. Place on broiler. Drop fennel in boiling salted water.  Return to boil and drain immediately.  You are just wilting the fennel.  Combine fennel, green onion, salt, and pepper in food processor or blender.  Add yogurt and process to chop fine. Pour into dish and mix in remaining yogurt.  Adjust seasonings.

Broil salmon or shrimp until done. Arrange on platter and spoon sauce over salmon or shrimp. This is also good on rice or grilled chicken.

Posted 5/14/2013 11:40am by Judy Lessler.


 Green Garlic:  Green garlic is the garlic before it makes heads with cloves in it. You can eat a lot more of it than the bulb. The tough outer greens cannot be eaten; however, the flexible stalk and the bulb are edible.  Just slice them like you would a green onion, and go.  Below is a picture of the bulb and other parts.  You can eat all of the parts on the left of the bulb and the bulb.  The leaves on the right are too tough to eat and have been peeled away from the tender stalk.

Green Garlic


Posted 11/16/2012 5:16pm by Judy Lessler.

This is a time for giving thanks.  I am thankful for all the customers of the Durham Collaborative CSA.  You make it possible for us to do a job that allows us to experience the miracle seeing how the earth provides for us.  All of the farmers that participate in this CSA are committed to caring for the earth so that it will take care of us.  We plant, weed, fight pests and diseases, harvest, and pack.  We put a tiny okra seed in the ground and watch it grow to over 10 feet tall.  We see the deer circling the fences in the evenings and hope they will not figure out how to breach them.  We rage at the ground hog but admire his optimism as he attempts to come this way and then that way and under this and over that to get to the produce.  Sometimes these crafty creatures actually get in the fields and manage to build their underground tunnels and houses without us noticing.  I am always a bit sad when we destroy their home and imagine that they had thought that they had set themselves up for the summer only to have the equivalent of Hurricane Sandy come and sweep it all away.

I am very thankful for the all the farms that participate in our collaborative CSAs—Chapel Hill Creamery, Fickle Creek Farm, Pine Knot Farm, and Roberson Creek Farm.  Not once have they failed to meet a deadline or delivery that we were counting on to fill the boxes or to be available for you to pick up at market.  On our farm and on theirs, as well, there are many other farmers who participate in the production of the food.  We are grateful for their efforts as well.


Posted 7/25/2012 11:07am by Judy Lessler.

Farm News.  Here is a short history of some of the tomatoes in your box.  It does not go into how, over the centuries, tomatoes were nurtured into the luscious fruit that we have today or what the farmers that grew the seed did to get the seeds to us.  It just covers what has happened here at Harland’s Creek Farm. 

Last January we ordered seeds and made a planting plan.  On March 27, we prepared some seeding trays with a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, compost, and an organic fertilizer called Plantone and put two tomato seeds in each cell of the tray.  We sat these in our germinating box.  This is a box filled with sand in which we have imbedded heating cables in a serpentine pattern.  We keep the sand wet so that heat is conducted throughout the entire box.

When the tomatoes germinated, we removed them from the heated sand boxes and placed them on the tables in the greenhouse.  When they were about 2 inches tall, we cut away one of the plants, if both had germinated.  Then these trays were set in front of a fan to help harden the stems.  They were watered 2 or 3 times per day as needed, and when we watered them, we also gently brushed our hands across the tops to further harden them. After about 4 weeks they were moved outside to a protected area so that they would have more exposure to the weather and get sturdy enough to go to the field.  Meanwhile we were developing the field infrastructure. 

Tomatoes need support in the field.  At Harland’s Creek Farm we use tomato cages and these are supported by two wires that run from cedar posts that we bury into the ground about three feet.  We add nutrients to the soil and cover the soil with landscape cloth to prevent weeds.  On the day of planting, the tomatoes are dipped into a solution of fish emulsion to give them a nitrogen boost before they go out to the field.  We plant them in holes in the landscape cloth and put a tomato cage over them.  When a bed is complete, we run two heavy wires through all of the cages at about 4 feet and 5.5 feet off the ground.  We use two wires so as to not have a pivot point that could blow the entire structure over during a high wind. 

 Your tomatoes have grown and survived rain, heat, wind, and a little bit of hail. We pick them every day or every two days depending on the weather.  After they are picked they are wiped clean and identify what we call “farmer tomatoes”.  Farmer tomatoes are those blemishes or wet cracks but with lots of parts that can still be eaten.  We try to get them to you in 3 to 5 days.  While they are waiting to make the trip to your house, they are stored in a cool room that is kept at 68 degrees.


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