Monday, April 30, 2012

Piglets are Here

Most years we have pigs.  We get small feeder pigs from our local pig farmer.  During the course of the growing season the pigs eat lots of vegetables people do not eat.  They love the bottoms of cabbage plants, broccoli plants, wilted spinach, corn stalks - that sort of thing.  We only get as many pigs as we have ordered. 

Today we went and got the pigs.  They are very excited to leave their barn and hit the big outdoors where they can dig up roots and grubs and dig through leaves and find acorns.  

Within minutes of their arrival, the piglets all have dirty noses from digging.

They have a "nanny" in Oscar the dog - they are his to watch, herd and guard.

So little and so active and cute.  And smart.  Welcome to Keppers, pigs

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Spring Opener Pottery, Rugs and Vegetables for Sale

Here are some photos of pottery that we will have ready for sale next weekend May 5th and 6th.

We will also have vegetables for sale.  Please come out, enjoy a walk in the woods, and the new work.

Thank you for your continued support!

Opening the Kiln

Once we have finished firing the kiln, we have a week to catch up on all the pressing tasks we have set aside.

Then the kiln has cooled enough so that we can open it.  Another round of work begins.  


First Ken needs to see how the firing went - which spots were cooler or hotter, had little interaction with flame and ash or too much.  

After this analysis, it is time to go over each piece at least twice.  Ken smooths rough spots on the pots, pulls out any that may have a crack or other flaw that means they should not be sold as first quality. He repeats the process to wash and further sand rough spots.

I then go over all the pieces as well and price them.

And we have to pull out all the pottery we made for people who placed orders.  

We will be ready for our show May 5 and 6 here at the studio.

Rugs Progress Report

I have now woven up all the black and white warp.

I cut the warp, remove the filler, and tie knot on the rugs with fringe, and fold and sew the ends on the rugs without fringe.

I will have them ready for the spring opener here Saturday and Sunday May 5 & 6

Goslings on the Farm!

Ken came to the house with the suggestion I get the camera.  Ken has placed cut out barrels and other spaces for geese to lay eggs and hatch eggs.  But it was the goose under the chicken coop who had the first hatch.
 We like to see farm hatches.  The mom can protect and teach in a way we cannot.

One of the first things a mother goose teaches the hatchlings is how to drink.

When Ken saw babies, he got a couple really small low hubcaps so that the babies could reach into, get into, and get out of them.

Then this mom backed up and let them figure it out.

Now we provide what they need,  and hope they do well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has red and green lettuce, the first spinach, salad greens, sorrel, braising greens, the first radishes, green onions, potatoes, sunchokes, and onions.

Field Notes.  Ken has been busy monitoring weather.  Since we still have some mornings of frost, all the hoopettes and greens houses need to be closed at night, and opened in day time. Crops are growing and right now we have a surplus of lettuce.  Consider buying more or passing the word to friends.  We also have room for more CSA members as well.

Ken continues to plant and transplant.  This is an exciting week as we move further from the root cellar (potatoes) and spring dug over wintered roots (sunchokes) and start to harvest spring planted roots (radishes).  So many other crops will begin soon - like asparagus.

Ken is cleaning up the rough edges on the pottery from the firing and soon I will be pricing and pulling the orders; new pottery will available the first weekend in May. We will have vegetables for sale as well. 

We are increasing our chicken population due to demand, so we also have egg shares available if you want a dozen eggs each time you get a box. 

From the Kitchen.  Each spring the first radishes are a treat.  The tender leaves are great in tossed salads and Ken runs them through a blender with yogurt for a green goddess salad dressing.  This variety is called French Breakfast radish.  We have been told they are delicious sliced lengthwise and placed on warm buttered toast.  We tend to eat them raw as a side dish or sliced in tossed green salads.

Green onions are so all purpose!  You can eat them raw, cook the white end and slice the green tops and add them to anything.  I use them in omelets, as a garnish with cooked vegetables and meat, and a salad addition.  If a green onion with a seed stalk gets past me to your box, slice lengthwise and remove the stiff center stalk.  The rest including the flower head, is great.  We have been reading how healthy all the onion family is for us, and eat them at just about every meal in some form.

Spinach is a so versatile - good in salad with hard cooked eggs or feta cheese, blanched and dressed, added to egg dishes or soups.  It is here until we get really hot weather.  Right now it is in its prime - so enjoy!

Til next time - Bon apetit!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad greens, braising greens, sorrel, mizuna, baby bok choy, green onions and or chives, yellow bulb onions, potatoes, parsnips, sunchokes, and a last few carrots from the root cellar.  See the prior blog entry greens for more photos and captions of the various greens in your box.

Field Notes.  Ken is back in the garden, field, and hoopettes and tunnels this week after a week focused on firing the kiln.  He took a couple breaks to plant and transplant and harvest.  This is a busy time as several major crops are planted now for use over the whole season - bulb onions and leeks for example.

We got very low temperatures last week.  One casualty of the extreme weather shifts was some rutabaga tops we have been adding to the  braising mix have started sending up a stiff seed stalk.  I will try them before sending them out.  Plants and animals are confused by these radical temperature shifts, and I do hope things moderate soon.  

Many plants just "give up" and go to seed if we get very cold and then very hot weather.  Plants grow with the purpose of growing seed.  Many can be picked over time - like spinach - until the hot weather means they set seed and become more bitter.  As people rejoice at the high temperatures we had earlier, I felt like a real damper  when I worried about apples blooming too early and getting frosted at just the wrong point in their development, or the greens bolting.  Asparagus also likes cool and damp weather.  I was so glad for the moisture we got over the last week.

From the Kitchen.  Two new items on the list this week: mizuna, a jagged leaf, mild mustard the I braise, but other people add to salads; and baby red bok choy that is great in soup, stir fry or braising mix.  Bok choy was the original ingredient in chop suey. 

I had a fun time cooking over the four day firing as I got so much positive feedback and questions about how I had cooked various vegetables.  We had lots of poultry with roasted root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips.  I had two friends who liked beets, so I left them a plate of buttered beets over the night shift.  

We had a breakfast of soup and rice on a cool morning and fried eggs with chives, venison, and toast on a warm morning.  Salads disappeared quickly.  I used a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing as we had a person who cannot eat dairy in the group. And the night crew used it for a bread dip.  Cornbread from our corn and beans rounded things out.  The parsnips parboiled and braised in butter led to an order of two pounds or parsnips this week.  The fried eggs led to another regular egg customer.  

It has been a good week.  My favorite remark from one of our firing friends was, "I haven't eaten this many vegetables since I was here for the last firing!"  Enjoy your vegetables!

Mizuna and baby red bok choy

Here are some more photos of greens.

This red or green mizuna is a very mild Japanese mustard often found in baby salad mixes.  We grow it out and use it as a salad or braising green.  We both add it to soup often.

Baby red bok choy
Baby bok choy which also can be red or green, is often sliced lengthwise and added to stir fry or miso soup.  Miso soup is a common breakfast in Japan.  Miso is a fermented bean or grain paste that is used like we use boullion.  It is loaded with probiotics.  We never boil it to maintain the probiotics.  I stir  a spoonful into a ladle of broth and add it into the soup just before serving.

Greens - Sorrel, cabbage, claytonia, kohlrabi, mustards

I had a request to post photos of various greens and identify them.  So, here they are!


Sorrel is a lemony herb I especially like in cream soups and egg dishes.  Some people add small amounts to salads for zip.  I like to wilt in butter and add to fish or cooked vegetables.

Osaka red mustard
Green mustard

Mustard comes in many shapes, sizes and degrees of heat.  Cool weather mustard has less strength than hot weather mustard.  

We like mustard sliced in thin ribbons and added to salads. Most often I add it to a braising mix.  I saute an onion, wilt the greens and top with an interesting dressing or vinegar.  Yogurt herb is particularly nice.


Kohlrabi tops are a great addition to braising mixes or can be used in any kale recipe.  We grow both green and purple.


We had some cabbage plants and rutabaga plants overwinter as an experiment.  The grew back and have a mild cabbage flavor.  I really like adding them to soups and stews just before serving.


Claytonia is a mild green usually added to salads.  I also see it listed as a braising green in seed catalogs.  It loves cold weather and even when it blooms it remains mild and succulent

Closing the Kiln

Last Tuesday before we started to fire the pottery kiln, we had to close it up except for the portals where we would be putting in the wood to stoke the fire.

Ken had filled the kiln and all the rolling shelves called cars or trolleys.  

And he had filled the sides of the inside of the kiln, too.

He wants to get as many pieces into the kiln as possible, but we are careful when we close up not to tip or break any.  I am on the chimney end of the kin winding up a cable that is attached to the underside of a car.You can see the cable on the floor of the kiln here.

Ken is at the other end of the kiln watching and calling out to me if I need to stop so he can adjust pottery placement to avoid knocking pots off the shelves.

Here he is moving pots that could be pushed off their shelf.

We repeat this process for each of the cars and the big door at the end.

 Once this is done, Ken is ready to get some barrels up to light a match and start the fire.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Nanking cherry bushes by the garden- hoopettes in background
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad greens, braising greens, french sorrel, parsnips, sunchokes, potatoes, "potato" onions, green onions,  and the last of the celery root and carrots.

Field Notes.  Ken has been busy planting and tending seedlings and transplants.  We will be firing the pottery kiln this week.  Next week Ken will be busy in the garden and field as the pottery cools inside the kiln.  He will be doing more planting and transplanting.  The garden and field are still dry with the small amount of precipitation so far this spring.  We had opened one side of each of the hoopettes before the last rain, and quickly closed them back up before this latest blast of cold nights started.  The last rain was about 1/2."  

The greens really perked up after that rain.  Optimum weather for greens is cool and damp with an inch of rain each week.  If we get really hot temperatures, the greens bolt - that is shoot up a stalk with flowers to go to seed.  When this happens with Asian greens they are still good in a braising mix, but with spinach or lettuce the result is quite bitter.  

The radishes are getting their first true leaves, so they will be ready in a couple weeks.

From the Kitchen. Carrots.  I have been using up the utility carrots - OK to eat, but not cute enough for the CSA boxes.  I have been cutting them julienne and cooking them and then adding frozen green peas at the last couple minutes.  I have also been cutting them in half moons and simmering them for about eight minutes with fresh ginger root and adding sesame oil and sesame seeds just before serving.  Ginger is warming and that is a consideration these last few days.  Last night I made a stew with venison, onions, carrots, parsnips, onion and topped with sage-y dumplings.  It was a hit.

Each midday meal we have braising and or salad greens - spring is the time for greens.  I did a yogurt, garlic, paprika dressing with salt, pepper, honey and bit of powdered chipotle.  It was quite good on the braising greens and a nice change from my usual vinegar or lemon juice dressing.  I also add braising greens to soups and stews just before serving.  Last week I wilted a few in an omelet.  Quite good. I also like quiche, baked crustless quiche and other recipes to use up the braising greens.

Sorrel is a lemony green - great in cream soups, and egg dishes.  I also like to wilt in butter for a buttery, lemony addition to fish or cooked vegetables.  And some folks add small amounts to tossed salad for zest! 

Enjoy the week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Kiln is Filling Up

The progress continues with more glazing and stacking.  

The kiln is twenty feet long and seven feet high at the top of the arch.  

Ken has nearly finished stacking the cars or trolleys and has moved into the kiln to stack the shelves along the sides.

Here is today's view looking in ...

And looking from the inside out.

He places pots close together, but with enough room between the pots that the flame and ash can travel through the kiln.

There are still a few pots...

....And a few spaces left as well.

But the kiln is filling up quickly.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Some Collar

Collar with duct tape accents

Oscar, the younger dog here, runs through the woods in pursuit of raccoons, bear, etc.  This is a good thing.  But last summer he somehow stabbed himself in the armpit with a stick.  Ken pulled the stick out, we watched it drain, wrapped a towel around his neck so he could not lick it and he healed up.

Giving me the look

This spring he somehow impaled himself again.  But this time it was his belly, so surgery and a collar to keep him from licking the hole in his abdomen.

So do I call him your highness or Oscar the Wild?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Ken transplanting greens
Greetings from the Garden!   This box has salad greens, braising greens, green onions, parsnips, sun chokes, "potato onions," potatoes, carrots, celery root.

Field Notes.  Each spring Ken works to capitalize on those windows of opportunity.  If the forecast is for rain, he will try to get seeds and transplants out so they can adjust cloudy, cool, damp weather to to the big wide world.  And now he is looking at space - what can he harvest to make space to plant for the next crops.  He is juggling these factors with getting the pottery kiln ready to fire up.  

And this spring has been a real juggling act as March was unusually warm, but it still had some very cool nights.  So we are covering plants, opening and shutting hoops and greenhouses, and working to lessen the shock of such wide weather variations on the plants.  It has been a very stressful spring to many - maple syrup producers, orchardists who may lose their crops to a frost after the warm weather has brought early blossoming.  

Nanking cherry bush by garden
We are glad we have support for our crop diversity.  

From the Kitchen.  I am thinking of BIG meals as we head toward the firing.  I work to feed everyone delicious and healthy food as firing is demanding work - moving wood, facing a blasting fire, staying alert on the night shift.  I can imagine my grandmother feeding the threshing crew.  I no longer need to put wood in the kiln to feel part of the team.  As I age I realize the great importance of food - as fuel, as friendship and sharing, nurturing and sustaining us all.

So I am thinking about goose, turkey, chicken, pork first as I have to thaw out meat.  And then I am thinking of vegetables - snacks of sunchoke chips, vegetable quiche that can be eaten cold or hot, and warming breakfast soups and stews like borscht or creamed carrot or clear broth with greens, side dishes of gingered carrots for warmth if it is cold, curried parsnips for interest, hot and spicy greens wilted in bacon fat.
And I am thinking up vegetarian, non-gluten, non-dairy alternatives for people with dietary restrictions.  Best of creative cooking to you!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stacking the Kiln

Ken had filled the studio with glazed pots again, so he moved them out to the kiln shed.  There he can place them on shelves in the kiln.  He has a car kiln - rolling sets of shelves (cars or trolleys in England) that roll into the kiln.

I assist in one small task. Since we were dating over twenty years ago, I have offered to roll small balls of clay called wads.  Why do I do this?

Well, Ken places wads on the bottom of each pot and that allows the flame to wrap around the whole piece.  We both believe it adds beauty to the pottery.


Sometimes the ash flying through the kiln combines with the glaze.  If the glaze becomes juicy and runs down the pot, the glaze could bind the pot to the shelf.  Lost pot and a kiln shelf that needs cleaning result - something to be avoided.  A wad lessens the chance of this happening.

Stacking the kiln is a solitary pursuit.  It is like a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle - just how many pots can be fit, and the placement of the pots will direct the flame and ash as it goes through the kiln.