News and blog

Welcome to the blog
Posted 3/2/2010 11:41am by Gregg Keckler.
Dear Folks,
   Welcome to everyone who has signed up for 2010.  We are looking forward to growing for you this year.  Just three weeks til Spring!  The snow is slowly melting which is good because it will e absorbed better with a slow melt.  The leeks look good.  Mrch is the month for planting seeds.  By the thir week in March we will be planting tomato seeds.  We will start lettuce, chard, peppers, eggplant plus others before that.  If the ground is bare and not very soggy, we will plant peas directly into the soil by March 20.  Potatoes will also be planted by then.
   Gregg, Oliver and I were not able to prune raspberries in February because of the snow.  So as soon as they are cleared of snow, we will get right on them.  In the meantime Oliver has been doing his school work - finishing Algebra II, reading Twain and Kipling, and fighting his way through the Chemistry book.  When we do get out there to prune Oliver is doing the pruning this year and I will pick up the branches.  We prune the black raspberries, yellow, pink, and purple raspberries.  Gregg always prunes the red raspberries.  (They are his babies.)  He also prunes a little on the backberries.  Then don't require too much pruning.  We rarely prune blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and elderberries.
   We have a vining hardy kiwi, but it has not produced any fruit.  We have had it for 7 years.  It flowers, but never produces fruit.  If anyone has any ideas let us know.  We transplanted it from another property and it always produced until we transplanted it.
   Our February subscriptions were higher this year than in 2009.  Thanks to those of you who have signed up in February.  Your checks have allowed us to purchase a used water wheel transplanter which can be pulled behind the tractor.  This transplanter can be used on black plastic and bare ground, if it is dry.  This will be a great time saver and back saver.  Until now we were crawling along the rows: 1 person to dig holes, 1 person to plant the plugs, 1 person to water, 1 person to cover.  So thanks to you only 1 person the drive the tractor and 1 person the feed the planter.

     The Westminster, East Columbia and DOT markets will continue this year as in past years.  We are having a little change is Bethesda.  We will work out a market stand location in the Bethesda area.  We are in contact with 3 possible locations and we are sure one of them will work out.  If you planned to pick up in Bethesda, please bear with us as we work out these details.
   The National Geographic Society Wednesday drop off will remain unchanged.  We will be visiting you folks on March 18 outside the cafeteria.  Stop by and sign up or just visiit us and enjoy a great apple!
   We will be making a drop off on Saturday mornings to 128 Goucher Terrace, Gaithersburg.  So if you wish to pick up here, just indicate it on your subscription form.
  We are looking forward to coordinating a Wednesday delivery to businesses in the Bethesda area.  If your place of business would like to sign up at least 8 CSA shares you can get a delivery on Wednesdays.  Deliveries would be possible at any business or office along I-270 Clarkburg, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, or Bethesda and also any place in Washington DC NW.  Let us know if you would like to be a part of this delivery route.

    One last word regarding markets:  Several of you informed us that Bethesda Farmer's Market was being farmed out to Farm Fresh (a market advertizer).  We know how popular Farm Fresh markets are with customers.  They are big.  They have entertainment.  They encourage lots of competition.  (Check out DuPont Circle and Silver Springs)  They are great for customers and BIG farmers.  A small time farmer friend of ours went to Silver Springs for several years.  This year he finally bailed out.  The market fee was $1800 per season plus 6% of all sales.  As a small time farmer, this is a major chunk of cash. 
   You will notice that most farmers who go to Farm Fresh markets are big.  They can afford to sell for a lower price in order to get high volume sales.  We cannot sell high volume because we don't have acre after acre of produce.  A farmer who attends a Farm Fresh Market must consider the market sales as first priority in order to recoup the fees.  We consider our CSA shareholders first.  Then when they are satisfied  we sell the excess at market.  We could never have enough to sell at a Farm Fresh market that would give us enough revenue.  I am sure that most of you never notice thses things, but if we bring 6 1/2 bushel of peaches to market every week and they sell out - why don't we bring more?  Because we kinow how many peaches we need to supply our CSA abd we cannot afford to sell more or we wouldn't  have enough. 
   All this said - Farm Fresh Markets are great if you are a customer, but not if you are the small time farmer. 

Flashback:  July 27 CSA delivery: blueberries, peaches, cabbage, cucumber, peppers, honey, onion, potatoes, Swiss chard

We look forward to seeing everyone again soon.   If you have any questions or need any information, let us know.  Gregg and Louise Keckler - Orchard Country Produce
Posted 2/23/2010 2:58pm by Gregg Keckler.

The leeks are up and about 2 and half inches tall.  Once they hit 3 inches we will give them haircuts.  By cutting the stalks back it will strength the plants so they can withstand and wind and rain once we plant them outside.  Can't wait for the snow to go so we can start pruning raspberries!  Louise

Posted 2/23/2010 2:54pm by Gregg Keckler.
Dear Folks,
    We can't believe that this could happen so suddenly, but Bethesda Urban Partnership has decided that they no longer want the Farmer's Market - so just like that - There is no Bethesda Farmer's market!  This market was a great market for us as well as our drop off spot for over 20 CSAs   Now what!
    Dp any of you folks know of any location with visibility (store parking lot, YMCA, Gold's Gym, Community Center, etc)  near Woodmont Triangle or else where in Bethesda that would allow us to set up a market stand and sell on Saturdays.  We would be willing to pay  a fee for the space.  We do carry our own liability insurance. 
   If you could help us by giving us any suggestions, we will do our best to pursue them.  We really needed this market.  We had built up a good customer base in the five years we had been there.  Thanks for any help!  Gregg and Louise Keckler - Orchard Country Produce
Posted 2/10/2010 12:53pm by Gregg Keckler.

bee hives

Posted 2/10/2010 12:50pm by Gregg Keckler.

February 10

Posted 2/10/2010 12:32pm by Gregg Keckler.

Today we are snowblowing and getting the salamander ready for action.  Tomorrow we will be planting leek seeds in the greenhouse.  Leeks are a new item for us this year.  We are looking forward to having them this summer.   What have you ever used leeks for?  Let us know!  Louise Keckler - Orchard Country Produce

Posted 2/2/2010 3:20pm by Gregg Keckler.
Dear Folks,
   It is snowing right now.  I am sitting at me desk, relieved because I just finished our taxes using Turbo Tax.  We survived 2009; we paid our taxes and we still have some left to live on until markets start in May!  Yippee!
   This month is when I usually remind folks of the efforts we make to conserve resources in our home and on the farm.  We use biodegradable plastic for ground cover.  We always recycle all rubber bands, glass jars, plastic cider containers, and cardboard berry and egg cartons. 
   We freeze all fruits that are not worthy of sale and make jam.  We eat or can all beans, tomatoes, and others for ourselves if they cannot be sold.
  We also have 33 solar panels on our utility shed.  These create electricity for our coolers, freezers, electric fencing, water pumps, and our home.  This has been a great saving on electricity consumed.  We also feel more energy-conscious knowing that we are doning our part to "save" electricity for urban areas that need it most.
    We are also careful about conserving soil nutrients.  We always rotate crops, plant winter rye grass, use manure, and use little to no herbicide.  We use insecticides sparingly.  Gregg sprays fruit trees consciously during the three bloom stages in April and May.  After bloom is past he sprays as needed.  He inspects trees regularly looking for signs fo blight, wilt, etc.  The whole family turns out in June  to thin fruit trees by hand.  We do not spray to thin. 
   So all of this considered, we try to conserve, save, and recycle as much as possible so our money can go as far as possible. We plan to keep our soil and environment working well for the next generation.

     This month Gregg and Oliver will be pruning the rest of the trees.  They will be mowing portions of the 70 acres that we rent.  We are getting a tractor repaired and replacing a few tires.
   Gregg will be starting some seeds this month in the greenhouse.  We grow almost everything from our own purchased seeds and then transplant plugs from the greenhouse to the ourdoors when the weather gets warmer.
    Thanks to all who have signed up in January.  We had a record number of folks for this month which means we may be closing off subscriptions before April 30.  Folks have asked if they can sign up for only the first session and then if they like it sign up for the second or third.  The answer is Yes.  You can do that.  We usually always have plenty of room for folks once the summer and fall sessions come.   We are always more hesitant about the spring session because we want to make sure that we have enough things for everyone since our spring comes a little later then Maryland.

   Attention: Gaithersburg - there will be a Gaithersburg delivery on Saturday mornings.  I will drop of coolers to 128 Goucher Terrace by 7;30AM.  You can pick up at your leisure.  I will return about 3:30 to pick up empty coolers.  So if this fits your schedule - you can now sign up for Gaithersburg pick up.  Do not mind that the subscription form does not have Gaithersburg on it.  I cannot figure out how to change the form since it is a PDF file.  I must wait for Sarah to come home for winter break to figure it out. 
    NGS:  Thanks to those who have singed up already.  I plan to make a trip to NGS in March and hopefully meet many of you outside the cafeteria.  We will bring our great apples again this year!  We are looking forward to meeting all.  Please stop by and say "Hi!" 


If you have any questions don't hesitate to email us.  Check out our staff profiles on the website.

Just a reminder:  Last year - Week 2 - Session 1 - June 8 - shares included strawberries, lettuce heads, snow peas, spring onions, radishes, sugar snap peas, and a bunch of red beets.  CAN'T WAIT!

     Gregg and Louise Keckler - Orchard Country Produce
Posted 1/29/2010 2:24pm by Gregg Keckler.

We are now delivering to Gaithersburg again!  contact us if you would like to get a share pickup in Gaithersburg.  Louise

Posted 1/9/2010 5:43pm by Gregg Keckler.
Dear Friends and Subscribers,
    
We hope you will take a look at our new website
www.orchcountry.com .   Sarah spent her Christmas break from Washington and Lee University getting it up and running.  We hope that you all had a great Holiday!  Thanks to everyone who has sent in the new subscription form and payment for 2010.  Gregg has been buying a lot of seeds already.  We are planning to rent some more land this year for additional winter squash.  We are also planning to purchase a few more trees.
   Gregg has cleaned out the salamander kero heater that we use in the greenhouse - so we are ready to plant seeds.  We will probably start some seeds as eary as mid- February.
   We are still overwhelmed with eggs.  In spite of the frigid temperatures, the chickens are still laying heavy.  so this year friends and family got eggs for Christmas presents.
  This week we made several flats of Orange Marmalade.  Every week throughout January, February, March, and April we are making jams from last year's fruit. 
   Gregg stuffed newspaper and old rags into the cracks of the bee hives to help keep them warm in this cold, windy weather.  This month we are doing repairs on a snowblower, tiller, and tractor.  We are also replacing some spouting on the house, garage, and barn.
  We hope you have a great month.  Thanks again to everyone who sent checks  this allows us to buy seeds and supplies for spring planting. 


National Geopgraphic Society Employees:  Susan says she is willing to coordinate the CSA again this year - so if you want to sign up for weekly CSA delivery on Wednesday afternoons, please check out the website and download the subscription form and send with payment to us.  Note on the delivery location that you will be picking up at NGS
.
   We will again be offering extras for sale: pasture-raised beef, free range eggs, hormone-free cheeses, fresh butter, and this year we will sell our own sweet bologna.  We just made it and it is delicious.  We have regular sweet bologna and honey bologna (made with our own honey).  We are still trying to figure out how to slice the bologna thinly to use in sandwiches.

  Now that the holidays are passed, we are looking forward to the spring and getting things ready for planting.  Can't Wait!  Thanks to all. 
   Let us know if you have any questions. 

                                Gregg and Louise Keckler - Orchard Country Produce