Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad, micro, and braising greens, the last tomato, Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, rutabagas, potatoes, squash, black radishes, red onions, shallots, sage, and  garlic.

Field Notes.  Snow!  This is GREAT news for farmers.  We had warm temperatures and the ground was not frozen, so every drop of this moisture will slowly go into the soil.  The moisture and more moderate temperatures will promote microbial action in the soil.  In extreme cold the microbes, worms and every other living thing goes deeper or dies.  Snow insulates the ground so the frost doesn't go down so deep, and we can get into the garden earlier next spring.

Loyal has built a goat transport for his goats so they can journey to get bred.  The goats will be there a few weeks and return home.  If all goes well we will have kids and goat milk in spring.

Ken and Loyal have been wrapping up several outdoor tasks and getting everything off the ground before snow - otherwise we won't find it until spring!  There are indoor jobs as well - Loyal is shelling dry corn as I type and Ken is making a squash pie. 

 I have caught up the bookkeeping and next I do a seed inventory.  Then Loyal and I do the seed order.  He is already scouring catalogs for new, improved, and heirloom varieties.  The push is on as the catalogs have begun to arrive and last year my January order resulted in some back orders and other items were out of stock

Ken and I took a couple days off away from the farm.  It is great to return with fresh eyes and new ideas.  Thank you, Loyal!

From the Kitchen.  We are excited about the greens in your box.  We are experimenting with the various areas under plastic and micro greens and root cellaring cabbage and Brussels sprouts.  This year's Brussels sprouts and black radishes reflect the drought - they are smaller, but have great flavor.  I usually combine Brussels sprouts with carrots.  I cut carrots julienne or matchsticks and steam for about five minutes.  Then I add the Brussels sprouts and continue to steam for no more than four minutes.  Brussels sprouts are best al dente rather than mushy!  I top with butter and herbs like thyme or a cream sauce or a cheese sauce.

The small black radishes are known as the most alkaline food - they are really potent.  I often grate and add vinegar.  Ken uses them in kim chee combinations.  The black skin and white flesh is beautiful.

Sage is great when sealed in biscuits, stuffing, egg dishes.  Recently I made dumplings with sage and they were a real hit.  

Happy Holidays to you all.  Thank you for your support.  We welcome feedback.  We wish you a great year to come!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Textures of snow

With the first snow I see things in a new way - a pile of chains on the orchard fence has a new look.

The pig panels become a pattern of metal and snow 

Field fence is suddenly interesting

The garden rocks and trees have a new form

The pottery with snow have new color and shape

Old farm machinery has a new look
Even the buddha looks different
With the snow comes quiet contemplation and introspection.  And snow shoeing!  How I love winter.

Loyal's Hilton Junior

Years ago Ken built a structure I named the Hog Hilton as it was large, solid, windproof, and all a hog could ask for in accommodations.

A few weeks ago Ken and Loyal discussed how they were going to move goats to get bred and they came up with a smaller structure that could fit on one of our existing trailers.  Loyal did just about all of the building - Ken assisted a couple times.  So here he is with his "Hilton junior" as he calls it.

First Snow

Today we got snow!  I walked around and got some photos of our place in winter -

Ken believes in straw bale construction for winter dog shelters.  They round the corner out of the wind and have a cozy spot during cold weather.

The bees are ready for winter

The egg mobile has also been winterized.

Chains are now on tractor.

Harvest moves inside

and winter settles in.

First Snow - for the geese, it's a party!

Today we awoke to real, measurable snow!  It is amusing - when there's precipitation, the chickens usually head back to the coop, but the geese come out chatter and seem to be having a party!

And one of the turkeys seems to have joined them!

Clay on site

Ken discovered clay on our property during the excavation work to dam up water by the garden and deepen the irrigation pond by the mobile high tunnel.  He has started testing it to see how it will work and what may need to be added to work for his high firing temperatures.  Out the back door one sees several buckets on a pallet with a tarp covering them.

And inside is CLAY! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Irrigation ponds

This year we experienced severe drought.  It was so dry that our irrigation pond by the mobile high tunnel went dry.  Our well was sucking air.  So we hired a heavy equipment operator to dig the dry pond deeper...

 and set up another pond by the garden so we would not have to use well water.

With the last rain the ponds held water.  What a beautiful sight!

Garden in Fall

Ken and Loyal have been planning, getting beds ready for planting, planting, setting hoopettes in place, planting in the medium tunnel, and soon will plant in the mobile high tunnel - there has been no water to transplant.

So first they add compost to the beds and rake them out.  Then Ken tills and they plant and set up hoopettes.

With rain, the seedlings are starting.

And now the garden looks like this.

Corn crib project

Years ago Ken bought a corn crib at an auction.  He dismantled it, brought it home, and carefully stacked the parts.

This year during the drought our irrigation pond by the mobile high tunnel dried up.  We decided to have a heavy equipment operator in and deepen that pond and set up another for the garden area.

As he dug, rocks appeared.  Ken and Loyal have been vigilant about moving and sorting rocks before they were reburied.  They decided where they want the corn crib and set up a transit and strings and placed rocks as a base.  Then sand was added and soon they can put it up.

Hurrah! The cat is back!

Our outdoor, working cat has been missing most of the time since Loyal and his animals appeared at the end of September.  

This has had me worried.  I not only miss the cat, I have seen more rodents - near the house, in the house, in the greenhouses.  

But a couple days ago Ken spotted him!  And he has been around the past couple days.  Maybe he needed to work it out with the new dog or new animals.  I am just glad our working cat is back!

At the Gallery

Ken is one of two featured artists at artZ gallery in Amery, Wisconsin this month.  He brought in pottery and set up his exhibit.  

He was asked to set up the front window with pottery.  He thought about what he wanted to do and brought some of his larger sculptural pieces people often  place in gardens or entry ways. 

 He went to the gravel pit and got some pea gravel to set up tiles at a more effective angle.  These were remaining from a beautiful commission installation he did at the medical clinic in Barron, Wisconsin.

Then he was asked to bring vegetables the night of the opening reception.  He harvested and my friend Tom and I cleaned and priced vegetables for a table in the middle of the installation.  Tom hauled everything in and Ken set up the table.

People admired and purchased both pottery and vegetables as soon as installation was complete, so pots and vegetables were shifted, and the installation kept changing.

Ken's vegetables were at the gallery for a week, but the pottery will be there for the month of November.  Ken will continue to have pottery at artZ after the show as well as at Dancing Bird studio in Cumberland, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, salad and braising greens, mizuna, cabbage,  potatoes. the last of the sweet potatoes and turnips, pie pumpkins, leeks or onions, rutabagas, carrots, and sage.

Field Notes.  We left Sunday afternoon for a funeral in Wadena, Minnesota.  We left fall, and entered winter.  Many vegetables were under plastic or fiber, but not all.  After two very cold nights we will see how they fared.  We are racing to harvest and root cellar before consistent cold temperatures damage what remains in garden and field.

Bed prep in garden
Ken and Loyal are leaving for the Biodynamic conference in Madison on Thursday.  I will be home tending animals and catching up on many tasks.  The conference is usually held on either coast, and the Midwest location this year makes it possible to attend.  This is the direction our farm has been heading, and the additional information from the conference will help us move further ahead in the process. 

Ken and Loyal continue to prepare garden and field for winter with additional plantings of spring crops and green manures.  They also have some soil amendments to add. 

The irrigation pond work was completed before this last rain, and we were all delighted to see it holding water!  This was where we invested a chunk of our savings so we will have water during future dry periods.

pie pumpkins
From the Kitchen.  This is the "Thanksgiving" box so it has a pie pumpkin and sage and other holiday essentials.  Ken has been making squash pies right along with any blemished squash.  Pie pumpkins make an equally delicious pie, or are great in cakes and cookies.  I cut a cap like a jack o 'lantern, scoop out the seeds, replace cap and bake, or cut into chunks and steam.  Either works - it just depends on whether I am lighting the oven or if it is already full.

sage in garden
I know most people do mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.  So today's box has a good mashing variety.

Sage is a delicious herb best used in a way that seals it in - stuffing, biscuits, egg dishes, for example.

Thank you to all of who who attended the opening reception at artZ gallery last week.  And thank you for your vegetable purchases.  Everyone seemed to have a fun evening and the questions directed to Ken were great.

Happy Thanksgiving.  We count you among our blessings.  Thank you all for your support.
Next box December 12th.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CSA Newsletter

the humble rutabaga
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has potatoes, sweet potatoes and /or squash, lettuce, daikon radish, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and leeks.

Field Notes.  Our pigs went to the meat locker this week.  Ken is pulling fence and picking rock where they were last.  Now our animal population is thinned for winter.  Animals are a crucial part of any farm.  Pigs clear and till, chickens eat insects, ticks and weed seeds, geese mow the lawn.  And their bedding is one component of the compost used in the garden.  This is one of our main nitrogen sources.

Men and compost
Ken has been planting and planning for the season ahead.  There are greenhouses and hoopettes to plant.  Some space will be left open for early season crops next year, too.  

The irrigation areas expansion project progresses.  Those big pieces of machinery can do a lot in a short time.  And we all feel better about having places to hold water as it seems we are getting either too much or none.  We did get some rain and flurries on Monday and with the short dreary grey days of November the push is on to prioritize and complete outdoor tasks.

Ken and Loyal are attending the Biodynamic conference in Madison next week.  Ken leaves on his 60th birthday.  The schedule and speakers look really promising.  I will be here feeding remaining animals, root cellaring, catching up on book keeping, computer work, and getting our seeds inventoried, so I can hit the seed catalogs and order early.  Delay means several varieties could be sold out or back ordered past intended plant date.

From the Kitchen.  I have been sick.  Ken has been making his own interesting meals.  One was a cabbage, potato and leek soup.  I got some as I felt better before it was all gone.  He used goose stock - very rich in flavor.  I came back to the living through a brown rice gruel - brown rice cooked in soup stock to the very soft stage.  I added miso just before serving to boost my probiotics.

We have also been eating organ meats as we butcher.  Ground gizzards in tomato sauce with onion, garlic and pepper sauce is great with eggs in the morning.  Or with pasta at night.  Liver pate.

But back to vegetables!  Ken makes a sweet and white potato scalloped potatoes using a standard recipe - it is great.  And Squash soup with spicy sausage is tasty.  Rutabagas are delicious au gratin with potatoes - or mashed with potatoes.

'Til Next Week!