Cherry Ridge Farm

Nov 18

Tim Reid’s Pumpkin Ale

Guest post from Tim Reid, master ale maker, and Cherry Ridge Farm pumpkin processor, on the making of pumpkin ale.  Enjoy (go to Tim and maybe he’ll pour you a bottle).

x - dh


(Tim Reid) - Beer making still amazes me.  From just a few basic ingredients (malt, hops, water, & yeast), you can make all of the different styles from around the world.


Dick and I have been talking about making beer for some time, and perhaps growing some hops at the farm, when I proposed making a pumpkin beer from the farm pumpkins.

To make our first batch of Cherry Ridge Farm Pumpkin Ale I started by quartering, seeding, and cleaning the pumpkins up, sprinkled them with pumpkin spice and roasted them.  

Next I used a grain mill to crack the chocolate and golden malt berries for the beer.  These get put into a mesh bag and steep in the hot water before the boil begins to release their flavors and colors to the finished product.  

I then readied the raw ingredients for the beer boil (cubed roasted pumpkin, whole nutmeg and cinnamon, pellet hops, and malt syrup.  These get put into about 5 gallons of spring water and boil for an hour to let all of the flavors release and meld together.  You add hops at the beginning for flavoring and at the end for aroma.

Once this mixture called “wort” (pronounced “wert”) has boiled for about an hour, the heat gets shut off, the aroma hops get added and then it’s necessary to cool the wort down to about 70 degrees so you can add the beer yeast.  Once the wort is cool enough, you toss in the yeast and let it ferment in a container for about 2 weeks. During the first 48 hours the yeast have a field day eating all the sugars from the malt and producing alcohol and C02.  You can actually watch the C02 bubble out of the fermenter and smell what the beer will taste like similar to smelling yeasted bread.

After 2 weeks of fermentation, and a release of the used yeast from the fermenter, it’s time to bottle.  To get the residual yeast going again I added a small amount of sugar.  Then the beer gets siphoned into bottles and capped.  The yeast feed on the added sugar and the C02 that’s released actually carbonates the beer.  After about another 14 days it’s ready to chill and serve.


The resulting beer has a dark color from the chocolate malt, some residual spice notes and a flavor of pumpkin.  A delicious fall treat.

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Aug 25

Late-summer Farming and Harvesting

82 degrees, cloudy.

It’s been some summer.  I have to admit, the almost 2-month long fight getting deer and woodchucks out of the garden sapped my strength for blogging (imagine going down to the garden and seeing your corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, and flowers chewed to the ground).

But almost six weeks ago I finally found the deer solution - a second, barbed wire fence suggested by Cheryl Rugowski - apparently, deer don’t have good depth of field vision.  They’ll jump an eight foot single fence (and did, in our case), but won’t jump a multi-layer fence.  Since I put this in, we haven’t had a single deer incursion.

Some of you know the groundhog story - suffice to say, I convinced them not to come into the garden anymore.  Farming isn’t always friendly.

We’ve got beautiful chard, kale, corn on the way, tomatoes on the way (all late because of the deer), onions, cucumbers, basil like you can’t believe, Italian parsley, yellow beans…and lots of squash coming for the Fall.

Potatoes were kind of small this year, not what we’d hoped for - we got the irrigation in on that side of the garden late, probably contributed to the low yield.

Kris and Tom dug garlic and many of the onions - garlic should be ready for distribution to our CSA members in a week or two.

Janice gets special weeding props!

Scott came up and helped build some great tomato stands, for stringing up the plants.  Check ‘em out:

and here…

If you haven’t been up here recently, you need to come on up - we’ve got some delicious basil syrup from Kris that’s just waiting to be mixed into some martinis!

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May 13

Gardening is about food

Partly cloudy, 66 degrees.

Gardening is a lot of work, but at the end of it, it’s all about the food.  Nothing replaces greens and fresh eggs from a farm, and when you add fresh goat cheese, green garlic, and potatoes, along with bread from Blooming Hill, you wind up with a killer omelet.  And that’s just the start of it.

Katie and Paul were up today, and I put ‘em right to work thinning the seed trays of tomato seedlings, leek sets, basil, parsley, and flowers.  Those trays will be planted on May 26.

Next up was fixing the garden gate I ran into with the tractor.  Then Paul and I started on new beds, nailing them down with the rebar I cut the day before.

Katie got to work rototilling and prepping beds for potato planting.  We get potatoes from Tucker’s Taters upstate.  We plant a mix of Dark Red Norland and Adirondack Red’s;  Adirondack Red’s are a brilliant red color, they look like beets.  See below.

After fixing the gate, we put in four more beds, and Sal and Katie did some weeding in the peas.

Take a good look at that mesclun, because this puts to shame the so-called mesclun you buy at the store, both in taste and in texture.  Spring greens that are grown outside are peppery and fantastic, compared to greenhouse greens that taste like cardboard.  We have a lot, so everyone that comes up will get plenty.

This coming weekend, May 19-20, is a big one for us, as is the final planting day of May 26.  We need to finish the beds, do some more rototilling and soil prep, plant carrots, a second planting of mesclun, and other early-season seeds, and lay down solar mulch, which is brown plastic that warms the soil for plants that like lots of heat like tomatoes and squash.

Katie and Paul went home with a lot of mesclun, fresh eggs, asparagus, and a good country suntan.  See you all next week.

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May 5

Spring green

Partly cloudy, 65 degrees

As you can see from the picture above, we’ve now got eleven beds built, with seven more to go.  Peas have flowered and are developing slowly, green garlic is up and in, greens including spicy mesclun, mizuna, arugula, and wildfire lettuce are all up.  Onions are set and growing, strawberries coming along, and asparagus should be up next week.

Tony and Tim did some morning drilling, and I cut rebar for the new beds.

The extra rain has really helped the garden.  Everything looks green and beautiful, except the red salad and the purple asparagus, which look, respectively, really red and really purple.

Plenty of weeding went on this week - thanks to Susan and Kate, Amy and Tony, and Tim for making big progress.  The beds are pretty cleaned up.

More next week!

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Apr 26

Early Season Planting

April 19.  52 degrees, cloudy.

April 21. 55 degrees, partly cloudy.

Blog post date: April 26, 35 degrees in the morning

Last night we had frost.  This isn’t a problem for anything in the garden at this point (peas, greens, strawberries) except for grapes.  I haven’t had the heart to go down there yet to look to see if the frost missed them - here’s to hoping they were high enough off the ground (frost travels low, along the ground, moving up as you head lower than 32 degrees), otherwise it’s no grapes again this year.

Asparagus is up, btw, a good three weeks early this year.

We got a slightly late start on seed trays this year.  I like to get them planted by the 15th April.  The planting medium is mixed in a wheelbarrow - 1 part topsoil (stability), 2 parts compost (nutrients), 1/4 part sand (drainage), and 1/3 part vermiculite (which holds water).  I use a soil block maker, as pictured below, to create the soil blocks.  These can be transferred directly into the garden without needing to pull plants out of plastic trays which can disturb the roots.

Once the soil blocks and trays are finished, they’re ready for planting (see top picture).  Then they go into the basement under growing lights.  It’s important to use greenhouse growing lights, standard fluorescents won’t work.

Scott and Carolyn were up for the second day of seed planting, along with Louis.  We’ve got ten trays - 2 trays of basil, 75 tomato plants, 3 trays of beets, 2 trays of flowers / lavender, half a tray of leeks, and a handful of other things.  I used to start squash and vine plants indoors, but now direct seed them in the garden instead as they don’t take well to being transplanted.

Meanwhile, Janis E. and the girls put in 500 onion sets.  Major props!

Scott and Carolyn worked on weeding after seed planting;  the three garden rows under row cover (peas, greens, kale, chard) all need more weeding.  Below, the pea section - we’re going to have a ton of incredible peas this year, I’ve never seen them come in so thick.  The early season weather has been perfect for them, and the 3.5 inches of rain we had last week were an added bonus.

We are entering crunch time for the garden.  The month of May is ALL HANDS ON DECK month, we’ve been working hard this year but there’s a lot more to do.  ALL CSA MEMBERS NEED TO FIND A WAY TO BE UP HERE AT LEAST ONE WEEKEND IN MAY.  Here’s what’s left to do:

  • remove old plastic from the south sections of the garden
  • build at least ten more raised beds - THIS HAS TO HAPPEN BEFORE MAY 26, ideally we’ll work on it the weekends of May 5-6, and May 12-13.
  • repair the flash tape that blew down, to keep deer out
  • fence repairs along base to keep out groundhogs
  • install the watering system
  • split two beehives, creating a total of four, and put together the two new hives from kits
  • compost in each of the new raised beds
  • seed planting and transplant weekends - our main planting days, May 19-20, and May 26 (depending on weather, if there’s no frost on the horizon we may put everything in May 19-20)
  • cleaning/reorganizing the planting shed!

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Apr 14

Critter Patrol

April 14, 2012 - 52 degrees, Sunny

Part of the fun of having a garden is dealing with the unexpected and particularly challenging critters that love the idea of fresh pea greens for breakfast.  Such as this particularly stubborn groundhog, who showed up several years ago.  Those who have been part of our CSA know this guy and I have been in an ongoing battle for years.  I think he’s gone, and then he pops back up.  Or perhaps it’s one of his relatives…

Bill Murray had it right:

We’ve had several great garden days since I last posted.  Janice E. came up and helped me plant the strawberries on a rainy day in March (the last one we had).  After she left, I got in the new blackberry bushes as well.

The peas are growing, as are the greens.  We also got a second planting in of greens.

The cherry trees are all in bloom…

This weekend we’ll be planting onions, and finishing all the seed trays which will start in our basement.  We’re a week late on that, so we need the help.  Spring is the time for all hands on deck, so please let me or Sally know when you’ll be up next.

This is what it looks like up here today - a gorgeous day to work outside.  Hope to see some of you this afternoon!  We need to start thinking about setting up - looks like a dry year coming up.

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Mar 24

CSA Report - 3/24/12

Temperature: 59 degrees, partly sunny /mostly cloudy, south breeze


- March 31-April 1 ongoing pre-season setup (bed building, second crop planting, strawberry planting)

- April 7-8 indoor seed tray planting

We had a great day in the garden yesterday.  Joining us were new members Katie S. and Paul V., along with our regulars Tony and Tim, Susan P., and Kate C.

We get mostly matured (i.e., rich topsoil) alpaca compost from Rock Ridge Alpacas in Bellvale.  Rock Ridge supplies this for us every year, and it makes a huge difference since our soil is mineral-rich but organic material-poor.  We are getting compost on the beds earlier than normal…very important, as any unconverted manure actually takes nitrogen *out* of the soil (plants need nitrogen) in the process of converting the manure to compost, and in addition it can burn the plants. The conversion process generally take a month or so to complete, after which it’s a great soil enhancement.  If you’ve ever put down manure and then planted immediately afterward, you often wind up with yellow, sickly plants - lack of available, “fixed” nitrogen in the soil is why.

We won’t be doing our second planting of greens until next weekend (by the way - all the greens / peas / kale / chard from last weekend is up).  So we spent most of the day working on cleanup - picking up raspberry stems that were cut last fall, building a new industrial strength gate, and screwing on 2x4 extension pieces and flash tape atop them to keep deer out of the garden.  Paul gets major props for the gate.

Katie, Kate, and Susan did most of the compost spreading and a lot of the other more backbreaking work (I did most of the shoveling, and got to change a flat on the old ‘86 Ford on the way back from one of the retrieval sessions).

Thanks to Tony and Tim for building the anti-deer barrier, 2x4’s with flash tape.  If they can jump this, they deserve to eat the garden, it’s a good 10 feet high.  The tape flutters, and will also help keep out birds.

After Katie / Paul, and Tony / Tim left, Kate, Susan and I planted blueberries and put down a bit more compost.  And after Kate and Susan left, I finished planting a row of thirty blackberries next to where the old ones used to be.

Our next garden day, which will be Saturday or Sunday March 31-April 1, will include:

- building more beds - I’ll get more wood - we need to frame in the new blackberries

- more compost from Rock Ridge

- planting strawberry plants

- doing a second planting of arugula / mesclun, and a first planting of wildfire lettuce

Today I’m stratifying several of the flower seeds.  This involves putting the seeds on wet paper towel, and then putting them in the refrigerator for several weeks, until our seed planting weekend which will be April 7 and 8.  Please come up if you can, we can use all the help we can get to get seeds in the planting trays and to create the planting mix.  Between now and then, I need to get up to the border of Massachusetts / Connecticut to pick up totally mature compost.

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Mar 18

First day in the garden 2012

March 18, 2012 Weather:  Foggy morning, Temperature 54 degrees, sunny afternoon.

Today was our first real day in the garden for the 2012 season.  The Feikens were up, along with Jack’s friend Dan, also Carolyn Cairns and Kris Burns, and the Huey girls all helped out.

Today’s projects included rototilling, planting early season vegetables, some fence repair, and staking more beds.

The soil’s unexpectedly warm for this time of year.  Also, it’s been dry, so rototilling was easy (last year at this time we were buried in mud).

Once a row was prepped (rototilled / hoed / raked) we planted.  Today we put in:

- snap peas

- shell peas

- dwarf peas

- spicy mesclun

- arugula

- dinosaur and russian kale

- rainbow, red, and green chard

Everything goes under the Agribon row covers.  From past experience, this is the best way to get the plants up and out of the ground without birds / groundhogs / baby bunnies getting into them.  Once the cover’s off, all bets are off with bunnies.  On the flip side, once the bunnies are out, all bets are off with our Australian Shepherd bunny hunters.

Dave, Jack, and Dan laid out several new beds, including the asparagus bed pictured above.

There’ll be a lot of work coming up weekend of March 24, including:

- deer protection on the fence - we need to add 4 foot 2x4’s on top of every other fencepost, and then string flash tape around the top.  Anyone that has a nail gun, please bring it (I have an air compressor)

- groundhog protection under the fence - we need to go around the base and sort out any groundhog holes

- alpaca manure - assuming I can get in touch with our supplier, we’ll be putting down alpaca manure on the unplanted beds

- berry bushes - we’re supposed to be receiving thirty new blackberry bushes, five new blueberry bushes, and sulfur for the existing blueberries.  We’ll be rototilling the area where the new blackberries will go and then planting them

- seed stratification - we’ll be stratifying flower seeds - means putting them in a container in the fridge between wet paper towels, so the seeds think it’s winter

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Mar 1

Indiana Berry Company

March 1, 2012 Weather:  Foggy, Temperature 37 degrees, inch of snow on the ground.

Doesn’t sound like much, but winter’s losing its grip, and planting season is around the corner.

This morning I ordered berries from our favorite supplier, the Indiana Berry Company.

Our upcoming March Garden Days are:

- March 18

- March 24-25

CSA members should mark at least one of these dates in your calendars, come on up and get muddy (not entirely a joke - for new CSA members, muck boots or at least a pair of destructible tennis shoes or work boots are pretty much required, depending on the weather).

Our berry order looks like this:

- 25 Ouachita Blackberries (replaces Navajo, which we lost to Blackberry Rust last year)

- Sulfur - for soil ph-lowering in the blueberries

- 5 Blueray Blueberries, to replace existing plants and some missing ones…

- Earliglow Strawberries, our last crop didn’t do well and this one will do better in the clay, rocky soil of Orange County.

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Oct 16

Columbus Day is for Garlic Planting

Everyone in the Northeast remembers Columbus Day Weekend as the first weekend for the last half of the summer where we had three beautiful days in a row.  Perfect for getting the garden together for the 2012 planting season.  A big thanks to Team Feikens, Tony and Tim, Naaz, and Francesca and Caroline, who all spent time down in the garden doing a tremendous amount of work.  In Dave’s case, he also sacrificed his knee to a sledgehammer, but that’s another story.

The day started with this pile of 120 landscape timbers and 21 12-foot lengths of rebar.

This last year we let the garden fallow…just didn’t have the energy, needed to recharge after the loss of my mom who was part of the inspiration for much of the planting we do, a million other reasons.  I’m glad we did, for the above reasons but also because this was one of the rainiest seasons on record and it would’ve been a tough year to be organic.

Dave got to work on the rebar, Tony and Tim drilled holes in the ends of the landscape timbers.

Lucy provided encouragement:

After a couple hours, we had enough rebar cut and timbers drilled to head down to the garden to get started.

Loaded up the Kubota, with the rototiller on the 3-point hitch.  This machine has saved the day a hundred times on the farm, it’s the best purchase I’ve ever made for farming.  I managed to get it stuck almost immediately in a deceptively dry-looking corner of the garden which was actually soaked, unfortunately no pics of Dave and Tony helping me put boards under the tires to jimmy it out.

This is jumping ahead a few steps, but you can see what our plan was.  Five 40’ x 4’ planting beds in each section, this particular day we were working on the northeast and northwest garden quadrants.

Once I’d measured/marked and rototilled the beds, we set down the landscape timbers, and drove in 1’ rebar in either end with a sledge.  It was during this time that Dave decided to put his knee between the sledge and the bar he was trying to hit.  It looked like it hurt.

This first bed next to the raspberries is the garlic bed - Julia and Lee shucked all the garlic from last year up top:

And then they planted it all.  Naaz showed up to help.  Stars!  You can see the beds taking shape here.

By the time we got to the end of the day, we were all beat and ready for the Michigan game.  I wasn’t sure Dave was going to move, he stayed in this position for a *long* time.

It was beer o’clock by this point, I went up and served up brats on the grill, beans, and Creamery ice cream, and we all took in the Michigan game.

Meanwhile, the weekend provided some of the finest views of early fall from the garden.

Frenchie (and Caroline) came out on Monday and we finished up the back three beds.  There are still two beds to do before winter, if any of our other csa members want some fine weather and work in the coming weeks.

We’re also planning on planting green manure - probably winter wheat - in each of the beds, that’ll probably happen the weekend of October 22.

I drove to the store to get lunch…not a bad view over Warwick Valley, down by Manos’ farm.

The final evening of the weekend gave us this sunset.  All in all, a great Columbus Day weekend, full of work, but very satisfying to get our hands in the dirt and wind up with a great framework for next year’s CSA.

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