About Joanna

Joanna manages many behind-the-scenes aspects of work on the farm, taking primary responsibility for vegetables & other cultivated plants; she selects varieties, develops and implements the planting plan, monitors and identifies problems, and saves seed. She also takes charge of recordkeeping, database management, scheduling, technical aspects of web development, and accounting. A geologist by training, Joanna enjoys landscape exploration in various forms, including hiking, canoeing, and nature observation, especially bird watching. She also enjoys cooking and eating really good food.

Jimmy Nardello’s Italian Pepper

Though it may look like a hot pepper, Jimmy Nardello’s Italian Pepper is actually a very sweet, flavorful pepper. The flesh is relatively thin. They’re great raw, cooked, or dried for later use. We quite often eat these straight off the plants in late summer when we’re hungry and need a snack. This is Eric’s favorite sweet pepper.

This is an open-pollinated, heirloom variety that the Slow Food organization has recognized as being exceptional by including it on the Ark of Taste list.

Organic seed source: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Under Construction

We’ve finally made the switch to WordPress, allowing us to integrate our website and blog. But the site is still a construction zone with a good-sized to-do list. Feel free to comment on other features you’d like to see (or give advice on some of the items that remain on the to-do list).

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Tobacco Hornworm

Hornworms of the genus Manduca can be a major pest of tomato plants. Contrary to the claims of this Mother Earth News letter, hornworms can and do eat the fruit of tomato plants. Our hornworm population was happy to provide photographic opportunities to set the record straight, as we did here.

The species shown here is Manduca sexta, which (according to reference books) goes by the common name of Tobacco Hornworm, even though this is the species that we invariably find on our tomato plants. (This is confirmed in David L. Wagner’s excellent book, Caterpillars of Eastern North America.)

To minimize hornworm damage, we pick them off by hand and smush them with a boot. The trails of droppings are often the first sign that these well camouflaged moth larvae are present.

The photo below shows what hornworms are capable of doing to a tomato planting if populations are left uncontrolled. We didn’t check on this planting for about a week and a half before taking this photo (due to family visits, the fact that this is a winter-keeping variety of tomato that doesn’t need to be harvested until later in the fall, and the slightly out-of-the-way placement of the planting since it was being isolated for seed saving).

In early fall 2013, I “adopted” a Tobacco Hornworm so I could watch its life stages. Having to feed it indoors gave me even more appreciation of just how much one can eat! In October, it formed its pupa:


I kept the pupa in a pot of soil indoors over the winter. In April or May, I unearthed it to check on it. Twitching of the pupa upon contact convinced me it was still alive. I kept an eye on it, and in the days prior to emergence of the adult, the color noticeably darkened and shriveled slightly. This photo was taken on the morning of emergence (on May 27):


It emerged sometime that afternoon, but I missed the actual event.


Here’s the recently emerged adult:

bio_Carolina_sphinx bio_adult_sphinx

Carrot, Danvers 126

A relatively short, pointy variety that does well in heavy soils. Very sweet in cold weather (fall/winter harvests). Spring plantings also have good flavor. Our standard carrot.

Organic seed sources: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Rabbits deserve their reputation as enemies of vegetable growers.

We’ve seen populations vary over time at Chert Hollow Farm. They were minimally problematic during our first few years (to the extent that we didn’t even list them with other pesky mammals on our first organic certification form). But there was a population explosion during the summer of 2011. The 2011 spring peas grew with no protection from rabbits and an early summer edamame planting was fine, but they devoured late edamame plantings several times over and barely minded an electric line that we put up around the plantings for protection.

Here’s a baby:bio_rabbit_baby

Populations boomed in spring 2014, with a rabbit even coming into the greenhouse to nibble on plants. We accidentally discovered a relatively effective trap bait to catch rabbits: sweet potatoes. (Some roots that had failed to produce slips were sitting on the patio, where a rabbit came to gnaw on them, thus the idea.)


Rabbits do provide food to keep the local predator populations happy. That’s almost certainly a rabbit in the mouth of a coyote in this nighttime trail cam photo: