Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Root Recipes

Parsnips look like a big white carrot. Parsnips are sweetest when over wintered in the ground and dug in the spring. They can be eaten raw, but the most common tradition is to scrub, slice, and fry in butter. I tend to parboil a few minutes, drain and then saute in butter until they just start to turn tan and caramelize.

Parsnips are tasty in a cream soup with onions or leeks, potatoes, a bit of celery root, chicken stock, a bit of cream or milk and some curry and hot pepper. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Ken makes a parsnip pie like pumpkin or squash - but you need very little sweetener! Scrub, boil and mash or puree with eggs and milk and a pinch of nutmeg.

Sunchokes are small tubers that look like iris bulbs - with beige or red skins. I just scrub where the skin overlaps to remove dirt. Sunchokes are related to sunflowers and were introduced as Jerusalem artichokes - odd as not from Jerusalem or related to artichokes. Sunchokes contain inulin, a cousin to insulin and are great for leveling blood sugar. They have the texture of a water chestnut and are good quick cooked in stir fry.

Many people add then raw to salads.

I tend to saute with garlic and a dash of tamari with a green garnish of parsley.

They are wonderful pickled with garlic, hot pepper and a bit of turmeric.

DON"T boil sunchokes so long they turn to grey, unappetizing mush!(but isn't that true of all roots)

Gobo or burdock is a common vegetable in Asia. People there use it as a medicinal food for cleansing and tonifying blood and liver.

It is a long thin cylindrical tan root. We just scrub it. Small amounts are good added to soups.

In spring it is cut into matchsticks with carrots and cooked kinpira. Here is how to cook kinpira. Toast sesame seeds in a heavy skillet. Remove and set aside. Heat up high heat oil or fat. Add hot pepper if desired. Add burdock. When partially cooked add carrot. Once both are "al dente" add a teaspoon of sugar. Stir to caramelize, but not burn -add a splash of sweet wine -rice wine in Asia, I use homemade parsnip, or a sweet cooking sherry will work. Just a splash to create steam. Check for done-ness and add another splash if desired to soften or add sweetness. Add tamari to coat. Stir and top with the toasted sesame seeds.

We also cut lengthwise and toast in the oven on the lowest heat possible until the pieces snap. Then we combine with chicory and dandelion roots for a herbal tonic.

Salsify is also called oyster plant. It adds a mild seafood ocean flavor to stir fry or soup.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Hoopettes Grow Up!

Ken has been using hoopettes for several years to extend the season with earlier crops in spring and later crops in fall. He has taught workshops at the Value Added Conference, Beginning Farmer Class through the Center for Integrated Agriculture and several local community ed and garden clubs. Now we are happy to announce we received a grant from the USDA administered by the state of Wisconsin. The grant pays for part of the cost of a larger walk in size hoop for the field. .

Ken picks up the stakes today to get them in the field. He has to get them lined up and on level. Then in a couple weeks as the materials become available, he can begin to build. We are confident Ken's years of small hoopettes will give him transferable skills in this new venture!

We are happy to receive recognition of our extended season pioneering in the awarding of this grant, and plan to continue extending the season for local food.

Spring at Keppers

Ken is busy in spring! In addition to digging roots and harvesting fall planted greens, he is planting inside and transplanting. Onions are particularly length of day sensitive and so they were planted in February to achieve size before they quit growing mid - summer. Ken plants greens to transplant under hoopettes as space becomes available after harvesting the fall planted greens. It is an ongoing task rather than a one planting Memorial Day Weekend event.

Here are some transplants ready to go in!

Greens are Here!

We focus on eating fresh as much as possible. Ken plants greens in fall so they are ready as soon as possible in the spring. This winter we have been reading about advantages of local food and nutrition. Nutritional value drops after harvest. After eight days spinach has lost most of its nutritional value. We harvest greens and lettuce the same day you receive them.

Our first harvest date is April 7th. For spinach or other available greens, call us at (715) 986 - 4322 or email


What IS Ken doing? Why is he rolling a barrel around the yard? It may look strange, but this is a low tech, low water usage way to rinse the roots he is digging that were over wintered in the field. We got a couple calls last week, "How soon will you have parsnips?" And have them we do! The flavor and sweetness improves over winter, and we love having fresh dug roots in the spring.

In addition to parsnips there are sunchokes - a tuber related to sunflowers that is high in inulin, a cousin to insulin. They have a crunchy, slightly nutty flavor and are great raw, quick cooked and pickled. They are a great local substitute for water chestnuts in Asian recipes.

We also have gobo or burdock root - considered a spring cleanse and blood tonifier in Asia. We cut in matchsticks and cook kinpira with carrots. The roots can be cut lengthwise and dried over a pilot light in the oven and combined with chicory, dandelion and other roots in a coffee grinder for a herbal health drink.

There is nothing like roots fresh from the field!

Roots are available for sale.
Call us at (715) 986 - 4322 or email

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Lady Beetles are Back

Hoorrah! The lady beetles are back. We are always excited to see these beneficial insects that feast on the insects that are after our valuable seedlings. Once we start to fill all the windows, they appear - aphids, white flies, fungus gnats, and more. And once the lady beetles appear we are reminded that given chance, nature will find balance. It is a gardener's delight to watch lady beetles methodically work their way down the rows of tiny plants and notice the disappearance of bugs that harm seedlings.

Often I hear other people loudly complaining about the large number of annoying lady beetles that have appeared in their homes with the longer sunny days. Their complaints range from being pinched to smell to the task of getting rid of the pests. My response: Well, lady beetles do not draw my blood, infect people with malaria, yellow fever or Lyme's disease. And Ken's reaction to lady beetles is loud and clear, "I say, bring them on!!"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


We are planning our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season now. Our farm is a little different. We offer 35 weeks of vegetables and you get to select when you would like vegetables from the harvest schedule.

We have 25 years experience doing this and years of growing for ourselves before that. We grow on land never farmed conventionally and we use no chemicals - not even the organically approved ones. Ken focuses on soil health rather than rescue chemistry.

We keep our business small - just us - and harvest within 24 hours of delivery so you have the freshest most nutritious vegetables possible.

Here's a photo from last April after spinach was harvested.

FOR MORE INFORMATION EMAIL US: or call (715) 986 - 4322.


Now that the days are lengthening and the temperatures are climbing, the hens are laying! We have eggs for sale. Our hens are free range - really free range and are fed sprouted organic grain and laying mash. And you don't have to get out the dye for Easter - green eggs, no ham...
Call (715) 986 - 4322 or email us and reserve your eggs now!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let the Season begin!

While I was visiting my parents, seeds I had ordered began arriving. And Ken began planting. First he planted onion family - Walla Wallas, red, storage onions and leeks. Next he planted greens, celery, celeriac (celery root), and parsley. Here are some of the baby onions after their first haircut.

Onions are fascinating. The shoot comes up bent and unfolds like a leg straightening out. So these trays of onions always make me think of a chorus line of Rockettes. Pretty glamorous those onions!

Once they get long enough to be floppy, Ken gives them a "haircut." Often I use the trimmings like chives - great with eggs at breakfast or sprout salads.

Most other seeds get planted in 3/4" soil blocks and then get moved up to 2" soil blocks. Soil blocks have advantages. Soil blocks don't require plastic pots that fall apart. The roots of seedlings grown in soil blocks stay inside the block rather than wrapping around the inside of the plastic pot so they transplant with less stress. Plants have size when transplanted and are well ahead of the weeds. The seedlings don't need to be thinned in the field.

Here are some plants just moved to 2" blocks:
This is the pottery studio by day and the seedling
Warming area by night. Tomorrow they move to
the main floor where they are my watering

Ken follows this sequence all spring: start new plants on a heat mat, move them up and out, and start more. Soon all our windows are filled with seedlings. Then the soil under the hoopettes warms up and they are transplanted into the garden or field.

Other than watering, I act as seed organizer. Yesterday I got the call for flowers. Today the eggplant and pepper seeds.

Here are seedlings moved up a couple weeks ago.
They fill out the 2" blocks quickly to "form canopy"
as Ken says. This is the time when they can be harvested as baby greens or transplanted for more room to grow.

Aren't they beautiful? So nice to see green!

Planning for Pork in the upcoming season

Even with the last of the snow on the ground, we are asking former pork customers for commitment so we can secure feeder pigs for this season. Last year we had a tough time finding piglets. Ken has thought about keeping gilts to breed them as demand seems to exceed supply of piglets.

Meat is as good as the life of the animal. Ken often says, "Animals are solar panels!" When they get outside they can provide us with vitamins A, D, & E. Animals who are outside and have room to move have less stress and more dietary choices.

Whenever we get feeder pigs, they only take about five to ten minutes to start digging. They love to root, and we keep moving them to fresh ground so they can dig. They enjoy the lower cabbage leaves, yellowed spinach leaves, limp beet tops, broccoli stems and other vegetable parts you and I don't eat.
We also pasture them with leaf piles and they dig through for acorns and other treats. Their digging speeds up the compost process. Pigs are a great farm addition. We sell pork by half or whole. Get your order in soon!

Ken in Lacrosse

While in Lacrosse Ken not only got to attend the Midwest Organic Farming Conference, he also got to visit friends Bentley in the foreground, and his wife Laurence in the background.

Ken arrived Thursday to register at the conference, and stayed Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with Laurence and Bentley.
Although Ken was up early to go to morning yoga, he got to have breakfast and compare yoga notes with Laurence, a yoga teacher in the past. Ken and Bentley and a third friend Mike toured land and talked about possible crops for the hilly property.

And while Ken was in Lacrosse, I could send Bentley email and check up on everyone. Bentley has helped me with computer questions so often!

Thank you to Bentley and Laurence for sharing their home and friendship!

Ken at the Conferences

Here we are in March! As March begins, the conference season is winding down. Ken just returned from the Midwest Organic conference in Lacrosse. It was a good trip for him as he attended interesting workshops, got to meet new people, see old friends, renew network connections, and stay with friends. These conferences really rejuvenate Ken. He gets to exchange ideas and learn new things. I insisted he get a photo for the blog and press releases. And here it is.

Next week Ken attends his last conference / seminar. This one is in Superior, Wisconsin. Ken is most excited about a seminar presented by a greenhouse builder. Ken has wanted to build a greenhouse for a long time and has been gathering information from several different sources.