Monday, June 27, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuces, bok choy, kohlrabi, beets, salad and braising greens, asparagus, strawberries, green onions, parsley, oregano and the first of the peas.

Field Notes. Ken is busily cultivating and has most of the onion family up to date. Certain crops don't take weed pressure; if you don't stay on top of the weeds, you don't get much of a crop. Sunday night and last night he was out getting new beds ready and transplanting and planting. The garden and field keep changing as the crops come out and new ones go in -

The rain has come just as we needed it. Irrigation takes lots of time, and we are happy it has not been necessary often this season. It looks like hot weather is coming - good for the peppers, but stressful on the greens.

He is also spiffing up the place for the for the
Garden and Field tour. Mark your calendars July 10th at 2 p.m. Ken does a garden tour, and then after a short walk through the woods to the field, he tours there. Finally we have some snack from the garden. RSVP so I know how many people to prepare for.

From the Kitchen. We are doing beets two weeks in a row as we have several every other week members. That way they don't get only beets or only carrots. We should move on to carrots next week. I think of beets, kohlrabi, and bok choy as bonus vegetables - you get both the greens and the stalks or roots. I use beets, bok choy, and kohlrabi tops in stir fry, soup, braised, and sometimes even omelets. We try to eat as many greens as possible and we use them everywhere. Everything I read tells me Americans don't eat enough green food. I am just trying to do my part to change that.

Oregano is a fragrant Mediterranean herb. I tend to use it in pasta dishes, and I like to dry some for winter stews. Oregano or marjoram is a great herb to accompany game meats like venison. Oregano is nice paired with lemon in Greek dishes or added to beans in Mexican style cooking.

These peas are snap peas - they are an edible pod pea. Snap off the stem end that looks like a little cap and pull toward the blossom end to remove any stringy fibers. They are nice in cream sauce, blanched and added to green or pasta or potato salads. We also use them in soups and stir fry. The amount of peas we get really depends on weather - if it gets too hot, they just give up. But Ken says when the peas season is short, the melons could be great.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Poultry Babies - turkey, geese, chickens

Spring is a time of eggs and birds hatching eggs.
First we had a couple small goose hatches.

Then a hen hatched out some chicks and

Ken is most excited that the first year turkeys have hatched some babies. We will see how they do at parenting. I don't count my chicks until they are adults!

Cactus Flower

Ken has moved outside his box!

His sister gave him a cactus and it was totally different from all his other garden and house plants - he is so happy that not only did it live, it bloomed!

Pigs Like Greens

The other day Ken was away from the farm midday and I fed the pigs. I was pretty impressed that given a choice their preference was for greens.

They circled around scoping out what I had given them and some grabbed and moved ...

...while others just hunkered down and munched.

After greens they liked the wet slop. and dry feed was a distant third.

Next week Ken plans to expand their area and in a couple weeks they move to a fresh new location at the bottom of the hill. Stay tuned for a "big pig rodeo" report.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mobile High Tunnel

We were selected to receive a mobile high tunnel through a nonprofit organization called Norther Resilient Habitats. We applied and were one of three farms chosen. We will participate in a study on local food production - some record keeping for three years. And we will help put up a mobile high tunnel on the Northern Resilient Habitats home site - so we can learn how to build that type of high tunnel.

What is a mobile high tunnel? It is similar to our current high tunnel, BUT it smaller and built on a track so that it can move to three locations. Why? This really creates a flexibility in that we could plant a crop and move the greenhouse on or off it as needed. For example - plant greens in February or March, move the tunnel once it is warm enough for the greens and plant hot weather crops in the new greenhouse location. Then after frost, move to the next location for late fall or winter crops. In addition the soil is exposed to air and can be easily revitalized or amended when the greenhouse is in another location.

This opportunity provides us with greater flexibility. Thank you Northern Resilient Habitats - we look forward to working with you and expanding our capabilities to grow for the local market over a longer season!

This photo includes our current high tunnel installed Mothers Day 2010.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Annual Garden and Field Tour - Mark your calendars!

Our annual garden and field tour will be Sunday July 10th 2 p.m.
Dress for the weather. We tour the garden, walk through the woods to the field and have a garden snack sample after the tour. RSVP if you plan to snack!
Hope you can make it to see how your food is grown!

Strawberries for Sale

Strawberries are coming in - Call or email to check availability

Cover Crops and beneficial Insects

Whenever other farmers or people who study farming come here, they usually comment on how little bare space there is on our farm. Ken plants LOTS of cover crops for green manure. Green manures are crops like rye, peas and oats, clover, and buckwheat. Some, like clover or field peas, fix nitrogen;others like rye break up hard soil. They all help the soil, they prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and moderate soil temperature.

Ken usually determines around this time in the season which crops to mulch and where he will plant green manures. When we get rain and the cover crops and green manures will germinate, he plants more of them. In hot dry years he does more mulching.

We also work to have blooming plants to attract beneficial insects. Beneficials are those insects who either kill insects like potato beetles or are pollinators like native and honey bees.

Here is a photo from our niece - she liked all the butterflies in our flower garden.

Blooming in the High Tunnel - Tomatoes and beans

Ken continues to harvest greens planted in late winter - early spring in the high tunnel in the field. As space opens up, he plants the crops that like heat.

When I am asked if we have tomatoes in June, I answer no, they are just blooming. If more questions follow, I explain the process:
these plants bloom, set fruit and the fruit ripens. they like heat, and it has been a cool spring - good for greens and peas and the brassica family - bok choy, mustard, radishes, broccoli, etc.

But now the tomatoes and beans in the hoop are blooming.

I even saw one tomato plant with a couple green tomatoes. They are coming.

And there are bean plants coming outside the hoop so we have a big crop after the small first one.

Onions and Garlic

All the onion family needs constant cultivation - they just don't take weed pressure.

We grow several types of onions and their relatives; our goal is to have at least one member of that family in our weekly CSA box.

We start with the over wintered shallots, then green onions, then green shallots, then large juicy Walla Walla sweet onions, then red onions, then yellow storage onions. And add into the mix garlic and their scapes.

Scapes magically shoot up and we cut them for a preview to the garlic season. They are great in stir fry or salads. The seed head is so good pickled - really worth the effort!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Peas are coming!

So much has changed in the field in a short time. The peas bloomed a couple weeks ago and are starting to have pods now.

Peas like cool weather and have done well this spring. When I hear people say, "Bring on the heat!" all I think of is it could be a very short pea season! I really like peas and I really like cool weather, so I am in no rush for the heat.

Soon I will be picking.

Pig Photos

Everyone seems to like pig pictures!

Of all the things I post to this blog, pig photos get the most comments. I will be out and about, and someone tells me how much they like the pig photos. So, due to popular demand, here are some recent photos.

Last week Ken and his sister and niece expanded the pig yard, and our niece took a couple nice photos of the pigs enjoying their new pasture.

Then I took a couple photos of the pig yard a week ago - just four days after it was sod!

They really had it all dug up. It was truly amazing to see that sod become tilled.

And the pigs love the leaves - nice and cozy on cool days or just a cushy spot for a rest.

Technology Woes

I admit it. In just a short year and a half I have become computer dependent, and seem to becoming only more so. First it was email, then a blog, then a website, then a web cam, then google documents and forms, soon an excell checkbook - and on it goes.

BUT sometimes the computer does not work. A few weeks ago it turned itself off, and then it turned it self off again. And again - all random and for no apparent reason. This made getting anything done a rather slow process. So I hooked up our little back up pink(yes, pink) laptop computer and got back ups off the external drive and started to catch up - but held out for the big black to be repaired.

Well, in it went. And like an uncooperative car it did not misbehave while at repair land. So Saint Celia, our computer support person ran backups and and diagnostics, cleaned it up and we brought it home, plugged it in and SOS - same old stuff.

I am now working on the little pink and will try to get all photos and entries caught up. Otherwise the pigs will weigh three hundred pounds and it will be melon season before I get this month's photos posted. Bear with me. Thank you for listening!

Monday, June 20, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce, salad greens, chard and braising greens, green onions, rhubarb, turnips, asparagus, cilantro, parsley, the last of this crop of radishes and the first of the strawberries.

Field Notes. It was great to get that rain last week! Ken said it was 2.2" and it all soaked into the soil. It had been getting dry. And with the rain everything is growing - even the weeds!

Ken has planted sweet potatoes and potatoes last week. He has been slaying weeds on all the dry, sunny days. During rain he has been starting new greens inside and working in the high tunnel.

Big news here. We were chosen to receive a mobile high tunnel through a program at Resilient Northern Habitats. This will give us even greater flexibility to grow over a long season. We applied, and will have to keep records over three years and in August Ken will be part of the crew building a mobile high tunnel in the Amery area as a learning experience.

From the Kitchen. The box ix getting more heavy items as we move to solid roots like beets and turnips. Beets are a favorite around here. We boil, slip the skins and butter and serve. Greens are great in braising mixes or soups.

During the hot spell when the radishes were under stress, there was some root maggot damage - just cut off the tips if you see any beige tunneling. The flea beetles also attacked various greens and the turnip tops. It is cosmetic only and will not affect flavor.

Although we are glad to get rain, it tends to splash up soil, and so produce may require more rinsing. I do not rinse strawberries because they keep best if rinsed just before serving. We have netting over the berries, but there has been some bird damage from above and slug damage from below. There are still plenty this week. And the first berries are the largest - they are called the King berries. Enjoy!

Our niece Rozlynn took the photo when she came to visit last Monday.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This box has lettuce, salad greens, braising greens, chard, kohlrabi, green onions, asparagus, sunchokes, marjoram, and probably the last of the spinach.

Field Notes. Large temperatures shifts are stressful on all the plants. We had a 50 degree change in less than 36 hours! And as a friend said, " Plants can't put on or take off a sweater; they just stand out there!" The heat was tough on all the greens that do well in cooler, damp conditions. Heat pushes spinach to bolt - that is shoot up and set seed. The brassicas, like the first broccoli crop will probably set
small heads. Maybe the weather will be good for side shoot production. Since I like peas and peas like it cool, I am glad to see the end of that blast of heat for their sake (as well as my own).

Ken is rallying after a bout with an unknown illness. We are glad he tested negative for Lymes. He is trying to get caught up as best he can. He and our helper Sam have weeded much of the field. The onions look great. The peas have been weeded and they also put up the pea fence. Both peas and onions do poorly when they have to compete with weeds.

The heat was also rough on the animals. Chickens lay fewer eggs, and one of the pigs was listless for a couple days. She seems better today. Ken made them a mud puddle or wallow to keep cool in the heat.

The weather has also been stressful on the farmers. It amazes me when I watch the news for the weather forecast and one of the anchors says, "Bring on the heat." And they are in an air conditioned studio! We move more slowly, drink lots of water and adjust the work to do as much outside in the coolest part of the day.

From the Kitchen. All the greens have stronger flavor once there is hot weather and I tend to add green onions or chives or garlic chives to the salad dressings. I also add cheese or toasted walnuts to these more robust greens.

We roasted a goose once the weather cooled and I picked the bones and simmered for soup stock. Both Ken and I like to chop greens and place in the bottom of a bowl and add hot broth soups to wilt the greens. I also like to use bok choy and kohlrabi and turnips in the soup.

Ken calls marjoram the pizza spice. It is great with canned tomatoes. I like marjoram with venison. I also use it with cumin in any "South of the Border" or Tex - Mex recipes. Marjoram is a cousin to oregano and can be used in its place; I find it milder and mellower - less edgy. Deborah Madison often uses it where one would use basil. If you find a new idea, let me know and I will pass it on.

I have been experiencing some computer difficulties and hope to get new photos of pigs and field on the blog soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce, spinach, salad and braising greens, Asian greens like bok choy, turnips, kohlrabi, asparagus, sunchokes, green onions and parsley.

Field Notes. Ken has been busy with several maintenance jobs - getting the irrigation set in the field, mowing under the electric fence, cultivating, getting up the pea fence, and more. He is also transplanting hot weather crops and clearing space in the high tunnel. He set up a tent in the garden so the transplants didn't get stressed. Above 80 degrees the plants (and farmers) show signs of stress. When it is too hot to walk in the garden barefoot, it is too hot for most plants to do well. The micro-organisms are going deeper to get away from the heat as well.

Ken has been spending each Tuesday after the harvest clearing space for new plantings. This week he plans to expand the area for the pigs. Lots to do.

From the Kitchen. Since we are eating lots of salad, I have been experimenting with salad dressings. I have been doing a yogurt, thyme, homemade mayonnaise, lemon juice and honey, salt, and pepper that was well received. I also did an Asian with tamari, sweet wine, tahini, honey, salt and pepper with and without hot pepper. This was really nice with spinach. I also like a little feta cheese and walnuts with salads that have more spicy greens like mustard and arugula.
Try new dressings - it is easy. Most of our dressing has a sour like vinegar or lemon juice, a bit of sweet like honey, an oil or dairy like olive oil, toasted sesame oil, yogurt and a bit of salt and pepper.

This week's lettuce shows signs of heat stress: tip burn. I have taken most of the outer leaves so you may have more hearts than whole heads. As the weather gets hotter, the greens have stronger flavor. I adjust dressings to be more robust and add cheese and nuts to balance stronger flavor.

Grilled asparagus is great. And if you aren't up for grilling, use a bit of heat tolerant oil in a heavy skillet. Or steam or brush with olive oil and bake in the oven. And I use leftover asparagus (when there is any) in salads - pasta or quinoa is tasty.

Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica - cabbage family. It was developed to have a swollen, edible stem and greens like kale. We often peel, slice and salt the round bulbous stem. It is also good raw in salad, or cooked alone or in combinations with other vegetables like turnips. I cut the tops from the stems and store separately. I use tops like I would kale - quick cooked or braised. In Japan cooks slice vegetables and salt, press for an hour, rinse and serve as a pressed salad - delicious.