Monday, August 29, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts. leeks, basil, mint, watermelon, and crab apples.

Field Notes. The longer and cooler nights mean we are back in the lettuce. Ken has tried many things, but we always have a one or two week gap in August. The shorter days have us looking at the to do list for the season. For mean reality sets in during the month of August. All those many plans of May...

It may be difficult to believe, but it is a bit dry in the garden and field. We are hoping for rain before irrigation becomes necessary. In the photo Ken is transplanting fall greens.

Ken and I are still working to get the future field ready for the big equipment. As I write this, Ken is out "knocking down some trees." For photos and more explanation check out a prior blog entry.

From the Kitchen. Leeks! This is the creamiest member of the onion family. Great in cream or other soups. One friend uses them in any onion recipe; she says they have a mellow onion flavor. To remove any dirt, cut lengthwise and rinse. Enjoy!

Brussels sprouts are fun. My advice: don't overcook them. I like to steam about three or four minutes and top with butter and salt. I also like to cut carrots in matchsticks, cook, and combine with Brussels sprouts for a contrast in color, shape and texture. See last week's CSA newsletter for more ideas.

Mint is not just for juleps. I like to dry mint and add it to herbal winter tea blends. It is also great in tabboulleh, a bulghur salad from the Middle East. Prepare the bulgher as directed. Chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint to add with some olive oil, salt and pepper. It is a nice cool summer salad.

I brought my basil tomato salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to a pot luck Sunday. It was a real hit. Everyone agreed it is a change of pace. Ken especially likes it served with a cucumber salad with a cream dressing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cutting Wood - in August?

Usually we cut wood in the fall or winter. But this year because Ken is clearing a larger space for the mobile high tunnel, he is taking down some trees.

And once a tree comes down, he assesses how best to use it. We are running the brush through the chipper borrowed from Resilient Northern Habitats.

The chips are loaded into a manure buggy and piled in the field.

He decides if any trees are good for lumber and takes them out with his winch.

Then he cuts wood in one of three lengths: 40" for firing the pottery kiln, or 20" for the wood stove on the bottom floor where the studio is or 16" for the wood cook stove on the main floor of the house.

The wood is loaded onto a trailer and brought to the yard . Even the "poles" are useful for the pottery kiln and cook stove.

Long pieces are cut to shorter lengths on the buzz saw.

Wide pieces are run through the splitter.

As Ken is buzzing or splitting, I am stacking in one of the three piles.

And often my piles lean!

Those Pigs

Here are some pig photos for their fans.

Pig in the shade.

Pigs heading for mud

Pig in heaven

Pig thinking about food

Life is good

Sunflowers and Transplanting

The other night when I went to pick eggs and shut in the chickens in the south coop, Ken was still transplanting fall greens. He said I should get a photo of the sunflowers that he transplanted from Evan's pile of manure.

So I went up to the house to get the camera.

I tried to get a shot of Ken with the sunflowers to show how tall the sunflowers are.

And then my husband started clowning.

No, it is not a scarecrow - that's my husband!

Thanks, Evan!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


A week ago Monday Ken received a call. A friend was cleaning out his llama barn and for the price of hauling, Ken could get a couple loads of manure. (Ken usually loads and hauls, but the press is on for the mobile high tunnel.) So Ken said yes! And after two dump truck loads we got another call - would we like more? YES! We got six loads. Ken is very excited. Good manure from healthy animals is a valuable resource. He uses it in his compost blend.

Elderberries - Get them while you can

The elderberries are just about ripe - maybe this weekend. Email or call to place your order. I could deliver when I deliver vegetables on Tuesdays to central drop sites in Amery or St. Croix Falls. Don't delay - once they are ripe the birds start in and they don't have shelf life!

Monday, August 22, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, Walla Walla sweet onions, Beets, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts, corn, parsley, thyme, and crab apples.

Field Notes. We are in the bounty of summer - corn, apples, tomatoes. Today we finish the first crop of corn, and there will be another in a week or two. The peppers have finished their first flush, but the plants have small peppers coming.

Ken is balancing necessary field work with getting the area ready for the mobile high tunnel. Areas that were weed free in mid-July before the rains started have weed pressure now. Most of the crops are well ahead of the weeds, but Ken is working one crop at a time to catch up. The photo is of buckwheat growing under the asparagus plants.

Progress on the mobile tunnel continues at a good clip. Sunday we had wonderful help from the Merton family and their exchange student "O" from Thailand. They helped move all the brush to the chipper we have borrowed. We filled two loads of chips and they are now out in the field for future use as mulch or a compost component.

From the Kitchen. Each year when I cook with Walla Walla sweet onions Ken asks me if I have added sugar to the dish. These sweet juicy onions are wonderful in salad or cooked dishes. The germination was low this year, so enjoy the few we have!

Once the nights cool in August the Brussels sprouts really size up. I love Brussels boiled or steamed and topped with butter, salt and pepper. We also like them in a basic white sauce or a cheese sauce. We have a friend who pickles Brussels sprouts. I also add to soups near the end of cooking time. This week you could make a borscht variation with the beets and Brussels sprouts.

The crab apples in today's box are wonderful quartered cored and poached in a bit of apple juice with some cinnamon or mace. Ken quarters, cores and uses them for pies as well. We don't peel them - just rinse them off. If you have a juicer they are great combined with beets or carrots.

Progress on the Mobile High Tunnel

Yesterday was a BIG day here at Keppers. The crew from Mertons - Keldi, Mike, Ian, Alastair, Avia and "O"(the new exchange student from Thailand) all showed up to help us move brush to the chipper. Sounds easy? Lots of lifting and hauling. They really made short work of it!

Each person has much to contribute: Avia did lots of smaller detail clean up, O was in the thick of it in spite of a short night's sleep, Alastair hauled but also pulled some oak rods for walking sticks (I felt better about the oaks having a second useful life),

Ian was our muscle guy - lifting and hauling small trees and logs, Mike was our big picture guy - co-ordinating and safety aware, and Keldi provided the three c's: competency, confidence the job was doable, and cheerfulness for all. I want just a bit of her enthusiasm!

And with so many people there was actually a bit of time to pause now and then as the chipper caught up to the piles assembled.

After the main haul we ha
d filled more than one manure spreader load of chips.

We broke for lunch and tackled more and them wrapped up the event with the first watermelon of the season.

As I fell asleep that night I kept thing of that phrase from the movie Ghostbusters. I modified it only slightly "Who you gonna call? BRUSHBUSTERS!"

So, the opening in the woods is larger and cleared of brush and nearing a field to set up the mobile high tunnel. Thank you Mertons plus O!

Monday, August 15, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, garlic, beets, summer squash, green peppers, cabbage, bok choy, kohlrabi, parsley, basil, apples, and the first corn.

Field Notes. Last Monday we unloaded the mobile high tunnel. This week we received a call from a friend; he was cleaning the llama barn - did we want any manure and bedding? You bet! Ken moved the wagon of high tunnel parts, so the dump truck could maneuver. We have gotten several loads of llama manure and bedding for the price of hauling. Soon we will be mixing it with leaves people bring us for next year's (and maybe more years) compost. Finding good manure is pretty exciting here. All manure is NOT created equal. Healthy animals eating their natural diet without chemicals provide good manure. Here is a photo of last year's leaves and corn and purple coneflowers.

The dry weather has been a relief to crops that were showing stress from too much rain. The next crop of celery and fall celery root had some rust - a first for us here. The chard had been a sorry sight, but is perking up now.

As the days shorten the plants are pushing to set and ripen fruit. We are experiencing a tsunami of cukes - anyone wanting to buy cukes for pickles, please call or email us.

From the Kitchen. We invited people to dinner on Sunday, and had several foods from the garden. Ken grilled green onions, summer squash, and meat. I made a tomato salad with sliced green onions, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper and tomato wedges. We also had a cucumber salad with a cream, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and parsley dressing.

We had our first tomato sandwiches this week. One of the few times we eat white bread! Toast, homemade mayonnaise and tomato slices. It can be a juicy mess, but so delicious - it tastes like summer!

For people who don't eat butter: try steaming or roasting corn and top with umeboshi paste - a pickled plum from Japan. It is sweet, salty, and slightly sour. We buy it at the co-op or natural food store. It is also great on green beans or other vegetables as a change of pace. It gets more expensive each year, but a little goes a long way.

These apples are an early sweet soft variety - Ken eats them raw, but I usually cook them. Great for applesauce, pie, cakes. Eat them soon - these early varieties do not keep long.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mobile high Tunnel Update

Monday afternoon the truck arrived with our mobile high tunnel. Because our drive is narrow for a large truck, we unloaded by the highway.

We were the last of the three deliveries as we are the farthest north. Our parts were the farthest inside the truck.

We thought we had arranged help and would have a call from the driver when he finished the prior stop. I had spoken to someone at the shipping company to explain we needed some time to alert our helpers - they were busy at their own places. And I explained we were not listed correctly on google maps and that the driver needed to be west, not east of Turtle Lake.

Well, we got a call when the driver was lost east of town and a few hours later than expected. After many calls to voice mailboxes, etc, three of us toughed it out.

Because this hoop is anchored to the track, not the ground, the structure is heavier and more complex. Many parts. Lots of inventory. We remain grateful we were chosen, and are excited to continue moving forward on the project. We are so glad to get all the pieces onto the wagon and trailers and onto our farm.

Now Ken is improving the site for the tunnel. After he worked on the mobile high tunnel at Resilient Northern Habitats last weekend, he rethought location and how he wants to set it up. He will be clearing this week and the big equipment will follow soon after that.

Stay tuned for updates as the project progresses.

Art Opening

Last night we attended an art opening at artZ Gallery in Amery, Wisconsin. We have some work in the co-operative gallery and I work there one or two days each month.

Each month the featured artists speak about their work at the reception.

Last night's featured artists included a nature photographer, a painter, and a fiber artist. Keldi, the fiber artist, works with me on Fiber Thursdays on the third Thursday each month this summer. It has been fun to see her projects and become inspired to work on the piles of rags I have to get ready to weave into rugs.



Ken currently has two batches of chicks.

The small ones have been creeping under their mother on these cool mornings.

The larger ones will be ready to move in with adults soon.

Honey Prospects Good

This year Ken expanded from two to four hives. Three are doing really well, and he is running out of supers (boxes), so we will be taking off some honey soon.

Apples Looking Good

Last season we had a frost on Mothers Day. Most of the apples were killed with that frost, so it was a very lean apple year.

Although we had a cool spring, we did not have a late frost this season. Most apples survived.

And we have had plenty of rain for the apples this season. Now we are watching for signs of problems that occur when we get too much rain. So far things look very promising!