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I bet for some new CSA-ers (because I had this thought myself)  the first few harvest weeks in late May-Early June, seemed overwhelmingly packed with leaves, leaves, and more leaves.  Sure I can do spinach, I can do lettuce….but kale? The thought hadn’t come to my mind that the first crops to harvest are the leafy plants.

The facts are that leafy veggies like the cooler temperatures in the spring and they dig the moisture (hence the nice juicy leaves.)  But what to do with all collards and kale and bok choi…oh my!

So for some of you first timers out there (like myself) here is an awesome website that lets you in on some good facts about these lucscious leaves.

Milk is a Pesticide

It didn’t take long before I realized that although the greens were greener, and the tastes tastier, the bugs were a huge threat.  While planting my first row of bok choi, within my first hour, of my first day, I was told to chomp away on extra baby bok choi greens that needed to be pulled from the pots.

And chomp I did, until about half way through the row when Ilene came to see how everything was going.  Aphides.   Sneaky little guys hiding in the creases of the leaves.  Tons of them, and tons of them in my stomach.

“I knew we should’ve got the plants out of the hoop house earlier,”  Ilene told me, but with that she also said not to worry because they would try to kill off the pesky critters.

Me, being as new to the farming field as the baby bok choi were that day had no idea how you could possibly kill off hundreds of little aphides.  “I think milk works for aphides,” claimed Ilene.

Although those aphides seemed to clear themselves out with the unsteady early summer temperatures, I found out that not only is milk a good organic pesticide, but eggshells, garlic, and organic soaps can also do the trick.  No need to use pesticides that unleash harsh chemicals to the earth, simple natural tricks do the job just as well!

About halfway through my junior year as a journalism major at the University of Maryland, I came to realize that the career path I was headed for was missing one major aspect that I always cherished, living and functioning in the great outdoors.  But it wasn’t until D.C. and myself were buried waste deep in snow before my antsiness finally told me, “No Lisa, please, please, please, don’t be inside all summer long too.”

But what could I do?  I had no skill in landscaping, I was banned from ever using my dad’s rider-mower (due to a 13-year-old’s confusion between where the grass was and wear a tree was..oops), and PennDOT wasn’t looking to good for me.  However, I had just been discussing with a Peace Corps adivsor how I would love to start learning the way of the land and getting in some agriculture knowledge before applying to the corps, and that’s where the thought started to grow.

When my sister called me and asked if I had heard of any parks she could work at over the summer, I began to go through my e-mails through the ENST advisor at Maryland.  Low and behold, I came across an e-mail from over a year before, talking about a wonderful internship at and organic CSA Farm, House-in-the-Woods.  I called up Ilene, knowing so little about farming that I pretended to know what a hoop-house was when she discussed how the snows just crushed it (I pictured some sort of silo…wrong!)

Two months later, with the snow gone and the spring rains turning the field into a hillside of feathery greens, I sat down and nervously began to plant my first row of bok choi.  Just a month and a half later, I have found so many answers to so many questions.  I learn something new every day, and the feeling of the success I get from eating a jalepeno I planted in those early weeks makes me feel like a champ.

And although I sometimes feel as though I must be the only girl on that farm without a clue in the world, I am sure there are many CSA members, as well as anyone in the world, who pick up there vegetables each week without a clue of the process that went into growing that turnip, or that beet, or those rows and rows of sweet potatoes.  So I am beginning this blog to share what I have learned at House-in-the-Woods, and what I feel that a veggie-eater (which all of you should be!) should know.

Sincerely your House-in-the-Woods intern,

Lisa Curcuruto

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