Monday, May 31, 2010

The Garden Shed in the Field

The last time I was out in the field and went into the garden shed, a robin started making noise. And there high on a shelf was a nest. Once I made noise, the baby robins woke up and started to talk. Since I didn't start feeding them, they got louder.

And up in a nearby tree their mother was letting me know I was not welcome.
Ken tells me they have already flown off. Most years a second batch comes through.

When we say we grow with nature, we mean it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Radicchio and Endive

Radicchio is an Italian green with a robust, pungent nature. Most people have seen the type of radicchio that looks like purple cabbage with white veins in salad mixes. We grow a Treviso type as it does better at our farm. Radicchio is good as an accent in a tossed green salad. I cut the leaves in thin ribbons. It truly shines in braising mixes. I saute an onion or shallot and add clean ripped or chopped greens like mustards, mizunas, chicory, endive and radicchio to wilt and then top with an interesting vinegar like umeboshi or balsamic or a lively dressing like one with goat cheese and walnuts. Radicchio is also good grilled.

Endive is a frilly European green. We grow a variety called frissee. Like radicchio, endive is a pungent green that works well as an accent to a tossed green salad. We have a friend who wants endive whenever we have it. She likes to serve spaghetti with a tomato sauce and endive salad with a creamy blue cheese dressing. We had endive grilled over a lamb chop last summer - that was quite good. I like endive with a robust dressing with yogurt or sour cream and blue or goat or feta cheese. Endive is a great addition to braising mixes. We also had a CSA member give us a recipe from Rachel Ray with blanched chicory (an endive cousin) added to freshly cooked pasta with Caesar dressing and Parmesan or Asigo cheese. Sounds great!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pulling the Plastic

Thanks to all who came and helped pull the plastic on Mothers Day!

People began arriving around 10 a.m. Ken had gone to the field to tighten some bolts, and I was cooking lunch and selling pottery and vegetables.

When I got out to field the plastic had already been pulled without a hitch.

People were screwing channels and wiggle wire for the pipes for the crank ups.

Many hands made light and enjoyable work.

Once the plastic was in place, we returned from the field for a meal.

Ken carved and we moved the food out for a picnic.

Some were shy, but most had good appetites.

After the meal there was a garden tour -

And after everyone left, Ken went out to check out his hoop - THANK YOU ALL!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Leaves and Soil Building

Why is Ken so happy? He has leaves! On Thursday, afternoon, the men and the garbage truck came with a full load of bagged leaves from the spring cleanup. They wanted to finish the job before it started to rain and so did we!

Once the leaves arrive, we unbag them and make a pile. Ken uses the leaves for mulching, and in the compost blend he will use next year in the potting mix and as a soil amendment. Compost is often called black gold as it is beautiful, dark, rich soil. Ken will turn the leaves and stack them with the front end loader, or some years we fence the pigs in the pile and they turn the leaves for us.

Leaf matter is one component of the mix for compost. This year's blend also has llama bedding from Don, some horse manure from Judy, and our chicken bedding. We are always w
orking to replace nutrients we take from the soil when we harvest vegetables. Ken uses green manures - like rye and peas and oats and buckwheat - and compost to maintain soil health - organic matter, nutrients, biology, etc.

Now we just have to get rid of those bags of about 500 empty bags!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Insect Life

A few years ago Ken took a workshop where he heard a sentence he has often repeated. "Weeds are the soil's engineers, and insects are the cleanup crew." When a crop has a problem, Ken looks to the soil for the answers, not "rescue chemistry." If the soil is deficient in some way, or there is a farming practice that isn't effective, and the crop is under stress, the insects that devour that crop appear. Over the years, Ken has found solutions to several insects. We really are down to two ongoing pest problems: the flea beetle and the Colorado potato beetle.

Flea Beetles are tiny dark beetles that hop like a flea. They live in organic matter and during warm dry periods they begin to punch holes in members of the brassica (cabbage) family. All of a sudden your Chinese cabbage has lacy looking leaves! Here is some mustard that flea beetles have found. Ken just started trying a plant he read about last winter to repel the flea beetles. So far it looks promising!

As for the Colorado potato beetle, ken has been doing research, and found that lower mineral content in the soil may be part of the problem. We are surprised at this as we did trace mineral tests and added the recommended minerals in 2008 at a cost of $600. But now we plan to do another test and add as necessary and see if that helps. Stay tuned for the results.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ken's Chicks

Last week we had our first batch of chicks in the south coop. It is difficult to count, but we think there are nine chicks. Ken has created a floor nest box with a fenced in run for the hen, so she can sit quietly for the required three weeks without distractions or interference from other hens trying to add eggs to her clutch. And his system seems to be working as we had four batches last season and our first of this season last Friday.

And this week in the north coop we have a black hen with a batch of peepers. It MUST be spring!

Shiso and Sculpit

We grow two herbs that are new to many people. Silene or sculpit is an Italian herb with grey green thin leaves on a woody stem. It is a wonderful Italian herb for salad - green or pasta, egg dishes, and risotto. It tastes like a blend or arugula, chicory, and tarragon.

Shiso is a Japanese herb that may be familiar to people who enjoy nori maki - rice wrapped in nori that is often filled with vegetables and sliced like refrigerator cookies or a jellyroll. Shiso is used to flavor rice dishes, soups, stir fry, and salads. It is a lively fresh green herb, and is often called Japanese basil as it has large green leaves with a great distinctive flavor.