Jones' Farmer Blog

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


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.

 

Advertisements


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

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 3rd), 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 2017 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 2017 season on Friday March 3rd.  The Spring Season Hours will be Fri/Sat/Sun 11a-5p.

.

 


Leave a comment

100 Days.

Today, September 16th, is 100 days till Christmas.  To some that may seem like a long way off, and about this time is when folks are upset about seeing winter season displays in stores when it hasn’t even finished summer (that technically occurs on September 22nd)!

It is a VERY busy time for the farm now.  We post regular photos of our farmers at work behind the scenes on our Instagram feed, and long-form videos on our Youtube Chanel. Here is a sampling of what is occurring here this week.

Pumpkins:

IMG_20150916_141454199.jpgWe are busy harvesting the pumpkins as this crop has become ready.  Beyond the traditional jack-o-lantern carving pumpkin, we have many other ornamental squash and gourds, and harvesting these fields allows us to disc the soil and seed it with a cover crop of grass to get established before the winter.

IMG_20150917_145445749.jpg
Sugar Pumpkin Flower Wall (1).jpgHarvesting pumpkins now and placing them in our barns to “cure” (the outer skin hardens a bit) makes it tougher for the skin to avoid being blemished or nicked.  We have MANY edible squashes and delight in the many recipes that utilize them over the colder months of fall and on into winter (squash can store very well if kept in a cool dry place).  Our website has many recipes for your inspiration.

Staff have been busy creating a new theme for the Pumpkin Season!  This year’s theme is a new one for the farm, and it incorporates many educational elements that are also entertaining!

Pumpkin Season begins on Saturday September 24th at our Pumpkinseed Hill Farm location: 120 Beardsley Road.  Follow our signage as your phone or GPS is often incorrect.

Winery:

The Winery aspect of the farm is one enjoyed by more people every year as new vintages of our wines are produced.  Currently, the Winery’s Tasting Room is open Thu-Sun, 11a-5p.  Stop by an see why we like to say “Memories Are Always in Season”!  There is much information on our website regarding a Wine Tasting Experience, the various wines we offer, and most other aspects related to a visit.IMG_20160914_122339126.jpg

2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Big E Exposition where this year our wines were judged as some of the best!  Our Pinot Gris was awarded a Bronze Medal, with a Gold Medal going to our Woodlands White, Blueberry Bliss, and Ripton Red.  Our First Blush received the 2nd highest ranking of all wines at the entire competition, and was awarded a Double Gold Medal!  Our staff will be at the Big E again this year, so give them your congratulations if you stop by!

IMG_1530.JPGThis is the time of year when our vintner has completed the process of production in our fermentation tanks, and the bottling begins!  All of our fermentation, finishing, aging and bottling is done right here at the farm, and there is great satisfaction to see all the hard work come to a conclusion with the bottle sealed and labeled!

 

IMG_20151015_145740262.jpgThen of course, there is the current year’s harvest of grapes from the vineyard!  Thankfully the different varietals become ripe and different times, and not all at once!  Removal of nets that have protected the crop from birds is the first step, then the harvest begins in earnest to collect the grapes into large bins which we put into refrigeration units to chill them down.

The Winery’s Tasting Room is located at our Homestead Farm location: 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road.  Please note that our pumpkins and winery are separate addresses.  Our website has detailed information for visiting either of our farm locations.

Christmas Trees:

IMG_20160907_150657340.jpgThe Christmas Tree season will be upon us shortly after Pumpkin season, and some preparations for that winter period are already underway!  We have done some regrading in the barnyard, painting of buildings, and replacement of sub-grade pipe infrastructure.  With the Winery’s Tasting Room open Thu-Sun, that gives us a short window of Mon-Wed to do this work.

You may have noticed the refurbished stone wall along the parking lot at our Homestead Farm.  That was all part of this year’s improvement to the Homestead Farm’s setting for arriving guests!

IMG_20160812_194435205.jpg

Miscellaneous:

The popular Harvest Kitchen Cooking Classes have a few openings, but many are fully subscribed.  There are many exciting offerings as each class is a unique experience.

The fall school programs are fully subscribed and our educators are excited to welcome the students to learn about how we grow pumpkins, squash and gourds!

As always, our Crop Report Message (203-929-8425) is the current and regularly updated information for what is occurring around the farm.

Our website is an excellent resource for information about most every aspect about the farm.  That URL is http://www.jonesfamilyfarms.com

 


Leave a comment

Winery Opens 2016 season

Today, March 4th, is the opening day for our Winery’s Tasting Room!  We look forward to seeing some familiar faces visit again this year, as well as introducing ourselves to new guests.  The spring hours for the Tasting Room are Fri-Sun 11a-5p.

Behind the scenes, we always use the period between New Years and March to revitalize some of our spaces – such as the Tasting Room.

FBCover02g-IMG_20150131_145154762During the first weeks in January, the holiday decorations were put away and furniture moved to storage.  All of the counter tops in our room were sanded down and given several coats of urethane finish.  The wood for all the counter tops came from the farm, and we want to make sure they last for many years to come!

The building was historically a Dairy Barn, and although the guest foot traffic isn’t as heavy as the cows of days gone by, the floors were stripped and re-finished to maintain a fresh appearance.

IMG_20150922_122518453The spring furniture is brought back in, shelves get restocked with our award winning wines and farm made jams, local honey, maple syrup and other farm goodies are arranged for guests to choose from.

We look forward to seeing you back at the farm this year!


6 Comments

And So Here We Are

As I post this, I can see my belongings are packed up in boxes, waiting patiently by the door. If my lack of posting through October and November hasn’t been much of a tip, there has been a lot going on here on the farm–most of my days during the pumpkin and christmas tree seasons have been spent in the Harvest Kitchen baking thousands of cookies, though last week we finished baking the last of the trail mix cookies and began creating goods for the gift shop! What a lovely change of pace; I’ve become quite the master at baking granola and elected to make a couple of batches of this particular one from King Arthur for holiday presents. The recipe is called Vermont Maple Granola (they are based out of Vermont), but I used local maple syrup from Connecticut, so I suppose mine would be more properly called Connecticut Maple Granola.

Over the past week I have been oscillating between a heavy and light heart–I have met so many wonderful and beautiful people throughout these months, and to be sure I have never been very good at saying good-bye, so it is especially difficult for me. I have had opportunities and experiences that I never once thought would be possible; I have learned that I am capable of more than I have ever imagined. I moved here after reading a book! Who does that, really? Though, it seemed completely normal to me at the time, and I suppose that is another lesson to learn from this: Do what feels normal to your own heart, even if it may not make sense to most.

Above, you can see the adorable gingerbread house we were working on in the Canteen during Santa’s Weekend. Part of a little demonstration, it started out incredibly frustrating until one of our guests suggested using egg whites in the frosting as a binding agent. Such great advice! We got a little carried away with this one and made immense additions–a greenhouse, deck…there is even a second floor to this one right here and inside there is a ladder for the nonexistent occupants to venture downstairs.

These past seven months whizzed by; it feels as though just yesterday I was moving in and so nervous, and now I am moving on to the next thing. Strangely, I am not nervous this time around–I think this is because when I came here I was not particularly sure what was going to happen; my intention in coming here was to learn what on earth I had to contribute to the farming world, or at least move a little more in the right direction and find out if I am even cut out for this lifestyle.

And I have. I have gotten a little bit closer to figuring out what exactly I want to do in the farming world, but the most important part is the fact that I figured out that there isn’t anything I want to do more than working with animals and the land and teaching people about both. I have the Jones family to thank for that–for inviting me to their farm to work and live and figure this all out.