Jones' Farmer Blog

Behind the scenes and lessons at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT


Leave a comment

What to do with my tree after the holidays?

After the holidays, a Christmas tree has many uses: Place it in the garden or back yard for use as a winter bird feeder.  Here is a photo from our local Shelton Land Trust conducting their annual holiday hike, and decorating a tree as a winter bird feeder.

 

Orange slices, stale bread with peanut butter, and suet attract birds and the branches provide shelter.  If you want to make this a family craft project – here is a great video that offers a variety of items you can create and use to turn your Christmas Tree into a Winter Bird Feeder.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1hlFuY5JZ0

A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed for mulch in the garden or for window box decor.

The trunk can be used for fuel, woodworking projects, or chopped for mulch. Fir tree foliage can be stripped from the branches and snipped into small pieces for stuffing into aromatic fir needle pillows.

Many municipalities provide curbside pickup of Christmas Trees which are incorporated into mulch or compost for their local parks.  Use a search engine to find your town’s Christmas tree pickup process and schedule.  Here is a listing of just some local programs (links at start of paragraphs are direct to the Municipality’s website when available).

SHELTON INFO: Christmas Tree CURBSIDE pickup will be during the week of Monday, January 14 thru Friday, January 18, 2019. ON THE SAME DAY AS YOUR SCHEDULED TRASH PICKUP OR Trees may be brought to the TRANSFER STATION Monday-Saturday, 7 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. OR To the COMPOST SITE open Monday-Friday 7 A.M. – 2 P.M. that week only.

BRIDGEPORT INFO: Every year, Christmas trees are collected and brought to the City landfill to be repurposed. The trees are converted into mulch to beautify the 48 parks and City-owned buildings throughout Bridgeport.  Christmas tree collection will begin on Monday, January 7th and continue until Friday, February 1st. The City of Bridgeport is asking residents not to place Christmas trees curbside before Monday, January 7th to avoid safety hazards. Place trees curbside at 6:00 a.m. on your scheduled Recycling Day. Please do not put trees outside days prior as they can be buried by snow or blown into streets causing a safety hazard.  All trees must be free of decorations, lights, and plastic bags. Artificial trees will not be picked up.  Trees can also be brought to the City Transfer Station on 475 Asylum Street, Bridgeport.

DANBURY INFO: The City of Danbury will begin picking up live Christmas trees on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.  Residents must place their live trees curbside for pick-up. Please note that everything must be removed from the tree in order for it to be picked up. We will not accept trees still containing decorations, tinsel, lights, tree stands or other items.  This program is for LIVE trees only. No artificial trees will be picked up.  The City’s Highway Department will pick-up trees through January 31st, weather permitting.  Residents are encouraged to place their live trees curbside as close to January 2nd as possible to assure your tree is picked up while the trucks are in your neighborhood.  There is no set schedule for this free program.  Live Christmas trees can also be dropped-off free of charge for Danbury residents, as “wood waste” at Ferris Mulch Products, located on Plumtrees Road.

DERBY INFO: Fresh Christmas trees are not eligible for weekly curbside pickup.  However, Derby Public Works offers a special curbside collection in the month of January.  Just place the Christmas tree on the curb in front of your home and it will be picked up automatically.  There is no need to call to make an appointment for the disposal of Christmas trees.

FAIRFIELD INFO: The Town of Fairfield does not pick up Christmas trees.  But a couple of options are available to dispose of your tree.  If you have private trash collection you can contact your hauler to see if the hauler is collecting trees. Drop it off at Harvest New England (formerly GreenCycle) free of charge.  Harvest New England is located at 295 Richard White Way and is open weekdays from  8 am to 3 pm as well as two Saturdays in January (the 5th and the 12th) from 8 am – 1 pm.   A valid ‘A’ beach sticker or dump sticker is required.

MILFORD INFO: The Milford Public Works Department will pick up Christmas trees, but residents may also recycle them. Anyone wishing to recycle trees can bring them to the Walnut Beach or Tri-Beach parking lots on Saturday, Jan. 5, or Saturday, Jan. 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Department of Public Works will be there to chip the trees. For residents who do not to recycle their trees, the Public Works Department will pick up Christmas trees throughout the month of January. Trees should be left at curbside.

MONROE INFO: The Monroe Highway Dept will begin collecting trees on Monday January 14 thru Friday February 1, 2019.  Trees will not be picked up after this date.  All residents wishing to have their trees picked up must have their trees at the curb by 7:00AM on January 14, 2019.  Trees should be free of all accessories and should not be bagged.  It is not necessary to call for an appointment.  Residents also have the option of taking their Christmas tree to the Garder Road Landfill at 211 Garder Road free of charge on Fridays or Saturdays from 10:00AM to 3:00PM

STRATFORD INFO: The Parks division will begin to collect Christmas trees on January 7th. Tree collection will continue until February 15th, and will go through neighborhoods on a similar cycle as yard waste pick up.

TRUMBULL INFO: The Town does not pick up Christmas trees.  They should be taken by your trash hauler or they can be brought by the homeowner to the transfer station located at 101 Spring Hill Road.  Trumbull residents may bring “live” Christmas trees to the Transfer Station on Spring Hill Road for free disposal.  Please note that trees should not be in plastic bags and all decorations such as tinsel, ornaments and lights must be removed.  The town will not be picking up any trees curbside.


Leave a comment

The “Quiet” Season

The question often arises – What happens after Christmas Tree season is over?  Simply put – A LOT!!

We remained open for the week between Christmas and New Years for those looking to purchase some wine for holiday parties, and to conduct Wine Tastings for guests wanting to learn more about the breadth of our wine list.
img_20160914_122339126
Now that our Tasting Room is closed (re-opens on Friday March 1st), you can obtain our wines at a variety of Wine Stores in Connecticut. (link to a listing of the wine stores on our website)
The Christmas Tree fields are evaluated, going through all of them post-harvest.  Where a tree has been harvested, we cut the “whorl” of branches remaining on the stump.  The stump is also cut again as close to the ground as possible with a special chainsaw where the blade will not dull if it touches the soil.  A record is made of how many trees are needed to replant in each block of trees, and then added together by variety across all 200 acres of trees to gauge the amount of nursery and transplant work to come in the spring.
img_20150120_084241872

The stumps from a prior year’s harvest are visible next to the replacement planted in the adjacent spot.  The two trees in the foreground are nearly 4-5 years old.

 If there is no snow and the weather is mild (as it has been), we can get to work on pruning in the blueberry bushes.  By removing the older canes, it allows the plants to put more energy into the growing parts of the plant where fruit will develop
winter-projects-0051

Pruning blueberries before the spring’s new growth helps the plants produce more berries while staying in line.  These plants show straw at their base to suppress grass growth.

In some fields we will add straw at the base to suppress grass growth.  In some of our fields we will instead add composting wood chips, as this additionally helps to retain moisture in the root zone – a growing challenge in our summers.

img_20150114_153755390

Young blueberry bushes receive a layer of composting wood chips to suppress grass and retain moisture at the plants root zone.

Some of our buildings receive their warmth from wood stoves or fireplaces, and we split that firewood from selective tree felling activity during the winter time.
img_20161230_135925339
We keep an eye on all our strawberry fields to ensure that the blanket of straw remains on top of the plants to protect it from the harsh cold of winter.
IMG_20151205_083957943
There is annual maintenance to do, such as refinishing the Tasting Room floors after being emptied of all furniture and products prior to opening in the spring.
FBCover02g-IMG_20150131_145154762
All the saws from Christmas time are gone thru, with sap-gum removed from their blades and reviewed for sharpness before being put away till next year.

img_20141224_142255202

Over at the Winery, there are preparations for the coming year’s vintage to be bottled.

img_1530

The Harvest Kitchen Cooking Studio is experimenting with different recipes to offer during our cooking classes.  (Here is a link to the Preview of 2019 Spring Classes)

img_20170110_104508664

We are creating some delicious dishes during these winter days with our vegetables and squash from last fall.

img_20170120_121924695

That just scratches the surface.  If you want to see some of what goes on across the year, take a look at our Farmer Friday videos on YouTube.

Registration for Harvest Kitchen Cooking Classes begins on Groundhog Day (Feb2) online via our website – www.JonesFamilyFarms.com

The Winery’s Tasting Room opens for the 2019 season on Friday March 1st.  The Spring Season Hours will be Fri/Sat/Sun 11a-5p.

.

 


Leave a comment

Spring 2018 at the Farm

As we kick away the last piles of snow around the farm, the life of the farm jump-starts into high gear away from the “Quiet” season of January thru March.

The Winery’s Tasting Room opened on Friday March 2nd.  Plan a visit during its spring hours (Fri-Sun, 11a-5p).  There is a wide variety of gift ideas, and it’s always a fresh experience to visit with new craft items from many of our local artists and vendors.

IMG_20170329_195300111.jpg

Interesting gift ideas for wedding, or other special occasions, available in our Tasting Room.

We have an exciting promotion occuring at our Winery this spring!  During the period from the Winery’s opening until Apr 29th, we have a “Spring Fling” contest.  3 visits during that period earns an entry in a great drawing for prizes. (Rules are on our website).

WineGlass2018Wild In the above photo you can see the “Philip Pavilion”, created entirely from lumber which came from trees on the farm that Philip Jones planted (many as a young man).  This served as inspiration for this year’s design on the commemorative Tasting Glass guests receive as part of a Wine Tasting Experience.

IMG_4626

When visiting the Tasting Room, inquire about our new “Friends Of The Winery” Program.  You will learn about specialty wine events, be the first to learn about new wines, and accumulate points for each dollar spent in the Tasting Room toward earning special discount on a future wine purchase.  Ask our Winery staff about Program details and sign-up during your next visit!

We have several “Special Tasting”vertical tastings” planned for our wines that have several vintages, such as our Pinot Gris from 2014, 2015, 2016, and our Chardonnay from 2014 and 2015.

jones-winery-pinot-trio-nl

Out in the fields, our Christmas Tree transplanting activity has begun this week!  We pull trees from our nurseries where they have been growing from a seedling for 2 years.  This video from 2009 shows the same process we follow every year in the nursery.

Once pulled from our nursery we ready them in our trucks for transport to the fields.

Let the Planting Season Begin!

It planting in a new field, or renovating an existing field, we spot-mark each location where a tree will be planted,  and dig a hole to ready for a tree.

2b67f-christmastrees_0303copy

When the tree is transplanted, a good course of composting wood chops on top helps retain moisture around the plant, suppresses weeds, and amends the soil.

The Life Of Your Christmas Tree

Elsewhere on the farm, the straw is ready to soon be removed from the strawberry plants after having protected it from the harsh colds of winter.  It’s now time to absorb the sun, get growing, and then ripen as we approach a typical harvest start of early June.

IMG_20151205_083957943

As always, if you want to hear the latest updates about the farm before you visit – Give a call to our Crop Report message at 203-929-8425.  Our website is a great resource to learn more about the farm and all it’s seasons.


Leave a comment

A New Year lit by the Wolf Moon

Farmer Terry Jones contributed the following Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register recently in recognition of the New Year, and the first full “Wolf Moon” of 2018.  It’s content follows:

06076-colorados_1050copy

Seventy New Year evenings have lit the landscape of my life. Highlighted by the celestial and natural beauty of our Mother Earth, the arrival of 2018 was perhaps the most unique.

Our farmhouse is on a meadow’s edge surrounded on three sides by forest. Outdoors, the air temperature hovered near zero, and new snow blanketed the ground.

Add a clear sky and full Wolf Moon and the midnight scene of farm field and forest was profoundly beautiful. The meadows stretched away, bathed in white and bright as day. Even Orion and his faithful follower, Sirius, were nearly hidden by the brightness.

Moonlight dappled the nearby forest floor, which lay crisscrossed by the crisp, black shadows of tree trunks and limbs.

I stepped outside. For fun, I carried a book and standing at the meadow’s edge, I could clearly read by the moon’s light the print of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”

The snow squeaked under foot as only it can in sub-zero temperatures. And different from most New Year beginnings was the sound of silence. No neighborhood fireworks — near or far. Humanity and nature were hunkered down for a very cold arrival of the new year, 2018.

Retreating to the warmth of our farmhouse at the edge of the woods, I sat under a shaft of moonlight spilling through the window beside Jean, my dearest friend and partner of nearly 50 years.

In a reflective spirit, we thought it fun to rest on two heirloom chairs. I sat on the colonial woven-rush seat, owned by my 5th-great grandfather, Gen. John Stark of New Hampshire.

A Revolutionary War hero, revered in the Granite State, Stark is remembered for his pithy quote, now the state motto: “Live Free or Die.” Jean settled on great-great-grandma Fanny Bunnell Jones’ well-worn Victorian rocking chair.

We shared quiet conversation mingling our thoughts with the memories we imagined these old chairs would share if only they could talk. Literally, the entire timeline of our United States since 1776 framed their existence.

Watching the moonlit world outside our window, I noticed through the woods the slim, straight shadow cast like a “moon-dial” by the tall steel shaft of the U.S. Army flagpole erected 60 years ago when the farm forest was cleared to build a Nike missile site at the height of the Cold War.

Since then, the woodlands have regrown and surrounded the flagpole, its moon shadow now lost amongst the silhouette of trees.

So many, many thoughts and memories were spawned by reflections of nature dancing on moonbeams as the wee hours of the nascent year passed while we sat on the old, historic chairs.

Because farmers tend to be practical and think in useful, real-life terms, you may wonder where this New Year’s midnight conversation led us.

RESOLUTIONS! Doctrines of hope for a better world.

Here are our guideposts for 2018. You, the thoughtful reader, may choose your order of importance.

We call our home planet “Mother Earth” for a reason. ‘Our’ mothers taught us if you make a mess, you get punished and have to clean it up. Common sense, reason, and science all dictate the importance of clean environmental practices to sustain the beauty and life-giving function of our world. Always remember: we are the caretakers and not the owners of this planet.

Invest time and resources in our children — their health, safety, and education. They are our future.

Be kind. As Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal that gave her life to her students five years ago at Sandy Hook said, “Be nice to each other…it’s all that really matters.”

Think where 2018 will take us if we cooperate on these three goals!

Terry Jones is a 5th-generation farmer in Shelton, and he serves on the Connecticut State Board of Education, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Board of Control, and chairs Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance.

 


Leave a comment

Earth song fills the air in spring

941fc-terryclovers_1173Farmer Terry Jones contributed the following Op-Ed piece for the CtPost recently in recognition of Earth Day 2017 (Apr22).

Resolve this season of Earth Day to be more attentive to the gifts bestowed on us by our beloved planet. If you live near a tree or any spring green foliage, throw open your windows and let the songs of Mother Earth filter into your home. For this spring season, try awaking to the songs of birds as they usher in each new day.

Do you have a favorite? Mine is the wood thrush whose sweet notes always soothe the human soul each evening or at the breaking of dawn. Their songs are the perfect alarm clock.

If you live near a wetland, the iconic sounds of spring peepers provide a perfect choral background to bird songs. My grandson, Sam, says his favorite bird song is the peaceful cooing of the mourning dove, while my wife of 48 years, Jean, loves the syncopated orchestral percussion of wood peckers.

We also enjoy the almost raucous cheeping of our barn swallows as they hasten to build nests in the rafters of our tractor sheds. After their eggs hatch, they take to the air and gracefully swoop over our fields to capture insects to feed their young.

Whatever your favorite, the bird songs of the many species here in Connecticut are a gift we seldom fully appreciate.

Mother Earth seems to conduct the orchestra of bird song in a most pleasing way. The mingling bird languages please the human ear. By the way, there is a human counterpart to the pleasant songs that a mixed population of bird life provides. Just pass by a school yard where children are at play outside and you will hear the same joyful harmony as their diverse happy voices blend together. I am thrilled as the migrating bird species arrive back to our Connecticut fields, forests, parks, and yards. Spring is here!

They have made long journeys but enjoy the freedom to cross oceans and continents without the impediment of man-made borders and restrictions. I am most amazed at the punctual arrival of a pair of Great Egrets who find our pond each year after their long flight from the Amazon rain forest of South America.

Also, this spring give thanks for the sound of “water song.” After a long but gentle overnight rain, the farm brooks and springs begin to sing again. Their long silence was broken after many months of drought. Although life-giving rains began in late September, it had taken many storms to deeply moisten the land. The trickling of springs and babble of brooks is not what most modern Americans long to hear, but for the farmer in me, it is a sweet and beautiful sound! It reassures us that Nature is resilient and is a humbling reminder that life depends on Her generosity.

As May approaches, the rustle of green leaves mixes with our soundscape of birds and water. The grit of mud season is overcome by the growing greens.

As if by magic, our outside view changes as the growing green leaves create a new landscape for us. The winter views of our neighbor’s yard goes clandestine behind the foliage and we now enjoy the glory of trees draped in spring green. All the while, the leaves are purifying our air and fulfilling our human need for oxygen.

This Earth Day (and beyond), let us open our senses to the sounds and sights of Mother Earth. Take care of Her and She will take care of us.

Terry Jones is a Shelton farmer and grandfather. He is chair of Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance and a member of the Connecticut State Board of Education.


Leave a comment

Spring-ing into action

As we kick away the last piles of snow around the farm, the life of the farm jump-starts into high gear from the “Quiet” season of January thru March.

Staff attended enrichment visits this past winter to become trained for safety, educated at conferences, and certified in various respects at seminars and classes.  It’s always informative to see how other farms operate and the markets they serve.

IMG_1970

Photo from a greenhouse at another farm visited during our winter season.

College interns were interviewed during their spring breaks, and a team is being assembled for our summer Berry Season!  We are even already starting to address what the Pumpkin Season theme will be for October!

JFF Summer Staff at the Memorial Day Parade - Thumbs Up!

Our summer intern team from a few years ago!  Every year is a fresh set of faces!

The Winery’s Tasting Room opened on on Friday March 3rd.  Plan a visit during its spring hours (Fri-Sun, 11a-5p).  There is a wide variety of gift ideas, and it’s always a fresh experience to visit with new craft items from many of our local artists and vendors.

IMG_20170329_195300111.jpg

Interesting gift ideas for wedding, or other special occasions, available in our Tasting Room.

We have some exciting news regarding current offerings from our Winery!  Our “Seven Generations” port-style wine is back on the shelves!  It proves very popular near Christmas, and our inventory was completely sold before December ended. Never fear!  We had the next vintage aging in oak barrels for 2yrs, and bottled it on March 31st.

Port with glass in TR  Brandi.JPG

Seven Generations, a delicious port- style wine.  A “Special Tasting” occurs on weekends.

WineGlass2017Wild

In the photo you can see the historic weather vane that used to be on top of the building when it was an active Dairy Barn.  This served as inspiration for this year’s design on the commemorative Tasting Glass guests receive as part of a Wine Tasting Experience.Cheese Tapas Pinot Ripton

We also have Cheese Tapas Boxes available from our Harvest Kitchen!  Learning about how flavors interact to heighten a culinary experience is always a joy!

When visiting the Tasting Room, inquire about our new “Friends Of The Winery” Program.  You will learn about specialty wine events, be the first to learn about new wines, and accumulate points for each dollar spent in the Tasting Room toward earning special discount on a future wine purchase.  Ask our Winery staff about Program details and sign-up during your next visit!

92592-harvestkitchen

Our “Summer Garden Series” of Cooking Classes has just been published.  You can register for them online, or in person when visiting the Winery.  All classes are taught on Thursday, 6:30-8:30pm, from mid-July tf2fa9-26448_375371319052_42413034052_3713820_108428_nhrough August.

Other events soon to occur at the farm is the Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service held annually at the top of our Homestead Farm’s “Candy Cane Hill” location.  (2017: Sunday, April 16th, 5:45 AM)

Out in the fields, our Christmas Tree transplanting activity has begun this week!  We pull trees from our nurseries where they have been growing from a seedling for 2 years.  This video from 2009 shows the same process we follow every year in the nursery.

Once pulled from our nursery we ready them in our trucks for transport to the fields.

Let the Planting Season Begin!

It planting in a new field, or renovating an existing field, we spot-mark each location where a tree will be planted,  and dig a hole to ready for a tree.

2b67f-christmastrees_0303copy

When the tree is transplanted, a good course of composting wood chops on top helps retain moisture around the plant, suppresses weeds, and amends the soil.

The Life Of Your Christmas Tree

Elsewhere on the farm, the straw is ready to be removed from the strawberry plants after having protected it from the harsh colds of winter.  It’s now time to absorb the sun, get growing, and then ripen as we approach a typical harvest start of early June.

IMG_20151205_083957943

As always, if you want to hear the latest updates about the farm before you visit – Give a call to our Crop Report message at 203-929-8425.  Our website is a great resource to learn more about the farm and all it’s seasons.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Farm – photography tips

Greetings from Farmer Tom.

One of my tasks at the farm is managing the various social media channels for the farm, and create most of the content for them.  This involves a fair amount of photography to augment telling the farm’s story via imagery.  From a single elective class for Photography that I took in college, I never thought I’d be offering tips on what I have found to be successful in photography!

img_20140828_110203308.jpg

Panoramic photos should keep a level horizon when being taken

Since one of my roles as a Farm Manager is maintaining our facilities, I am familiar with the numerous landscape locations on the farm property that can make beautiful photos at sunset, or a scene that is great in winter time versus summer; but I’m not walking around with expensive cameras or lenses waiting to capture them.

img_20151016_074609307

Panoramic photos can also be taken vertically, such as this capture of a tree in color at fall

It may surprise some to learn that all of my photo images and videos are taken with my mobile phone while I’m on the move doing other things.  Using an image from my mobile device allows it’s quick utilization on any of our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, etc).  Many of the images on our website were drawn from this pool of photos taken over the years with a simple phone.

IMG_20151029_163023823.jpg

Consider the infinity point where lines from foreground to background converge upon.

I use a 2013 model Motorola Moto X, which has a pure-Android based operating system.  I use the built-in phone app which has numerous ways to capture an image digitally, such as panoramic mode, or with a depth of focus (see below photo).  Knowing your imaging tool and it’s capabilities is important, be that an SLR camera or simply your phone.

02FebClassRegOpensIMG_20140514_175353.jpg

Use your camera’s depth of focus to bring attention to an area or subject

I believe in creating authentic imagery to illustrate the farm’s activities.  I don’t put filters upon or photoshop any image just to make it look better.  I don’t sugar coat it: If it’s a grey day on the strawberry patch – you will know that.  If it’s a bright sunny day – you will know that too (and don’t forget your sunscreen!).  The only changes I make to imagery is when I “mock-up” photos to overlay text or logos to better inform or watermark the image (see below).

img_20151014_075731806mockedup

So, a couple of things that I consider when trying to get a good shot.

  • I try to be thoughtful in what I’m trying to communicate.  Is it the natural beauty of the farm’s surroundings?  Is the subject matter of a crop that is currently in season?  Is there an experience component that would be enticing to feel in person?  I could be taking photos for a training manual, or documenting a scene for later analysis in order to improve the presentation of a setting in the following year.
  • Photography at it’s core is capturing light.  Light at a lower point in the sky (dawn or dusk) is less harsh on the subject (plants, people, landscape).  A clear day in winter will have less haze to effect a long distance panorama than a humid summer day.  Where will the shadows fall.
  • Focus on the subject.  Taking a group photo of individuals, doesn’t always require them to be centered in the frame.  Sometimes, off to the side, or from on high can work quite well.  Consider experimenting with depth of focus so that elements in the distance are out-of-focus.
  • Remember the background.  Are their shadows that fall into your photo’s frame?  Are their other individuals or movements in the background that distract from your subject.