Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Coming soon to a CSA box near you - strawberries
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has different varieties of lettuce, salad greens like pea shoots, lambs quarters, spinach, braising greens like mustards, green onions, radishes, turnips, asparagus and herbs  - tarragon, dill and thyme.

Field Notes.  Wow! From nearly ninety degrees last week to nearly freezing tonight is a wide temperature spread.  Plants get stressed out.  The rain was great, but in some situations the rain and the cold night temperatures set back planting.  In a few days Ken will go over the entire garden and field to cultivate the weeds that emerge with the rainfall.

Later planting of potatoes
Ken's trip to his grandfather's farm - now his cousins - was good.  He reported back on all the rain in western Minnesota.  We got about three inches last week.  Parts of Minnesota got over 5 inches.  The organic matter in our soil acts as a sponge and tempers wet or dry soils, so we do not have standing water.  This is a very good thing.

I was out in the field Tuesday morning laying netting over the strawberries.  the birds found them before the first ripe berry - it had a peck mark in it on Monday when Ken cultivated and I put down straw mulch.  Netting acts as a deterrent so the birds have more difficulty getting at the fruit.

Onions planted and cultivated a couple weeks ago
From the Kitchen.  What did Ken bring to his family event?  Lettuce!  Two aunts were amazed at how tight I could pack the cooler, and how many varieties we had.  It was the hit of the meal.  And "Kenny" brought it.  These people have known Ken since he was an infant; don't try using Kenny on Mr K unless you want a negative response.

I have been grilling asparagus in a skillet.  A favorite customer tells me his daughter uses the broiler.  Last week I served asparagus with home made mayonnaise (see last week's newsletter for recipe).  It is a good combination - the richness of the oil with the tang of the lemon juice and mustard.

This week we are adding some new herbs to the box.  Thyme is my favorite all purpose herb - great with cooked vegetables, delicious in soups, gravies, sauces.  I use it fresh and also set some on a rack in a dry airy place out of the sun.  Once it is dry, I put it in jars with tight lids and place in the pantry out of direct sunlight.  Tarragon has a slight anise like flavor and is a subtle addition to chicken and other meats and vegetables.
Until Next Week, 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CSA Newsletter

lambs quarters
Greetings form the Garden!  This box has asparagus, different varieties of lettuce, spinach, salad greens, lambs quarters, green and red mustard, French breakfast radishes, Asian turnips, green onions,  and dill.

Field Notes. Ken is busily planting. And planting.  He is also clearing space for more planting.  He has most of the hot weather crops in, and is focused on the late planting of potatoes.  Soon he will plant the sweet potatoes, too. He also maintains clear space for sequential plantings.

On a personal note, Ken is heading to his farming roots this weekend.  is family farm is passing from an uncle to a cousin.  He plans to attend the auction and visit with the older generation while they are still here.  I will be here minding the ranch

Yesterday I attended a post harvest handling safety workshop.  I am happy we follow safe food practices, and that I have learned new ways to improve our systems.

And we are asking for your help.  We were asked to plant greens for a wholesale account that did not materialize.  We have extra greens for sale.  Please let other people know.  Our list is on the web site under order veg.  If you need to purchase more greens, please order or email me and we can deliver your additional order with your CSA box.

From the Kitchen.  We have been enjoying turnips.  Last week I suggested slicing them and adding salt.  I have also been washing, slicing and steaming.  Serve with butter, salt, and pepper.  I have a great recipe from Deborah Madison where she cooks roots, and then blanches the greens.  She dresses the greens and places them on the plate like a nest and then tops with the roots.  Beautiful image.

Last week I finally made mayonnaise.   It is not difficult.  Beat two yolks with some dry mustard, salt, a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar, honey, and powdered red or black pepper.  Then slowly add about a cup of good quality oil like olive or a nut oil like walnut or sesame oil while beating constantly - this is one of the few times I use an electric hand mixer.  Near the end add an additional tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.  I then make macaroons or meringues with the egg whites.  I use this home made mayonnaise as an asparagus dip, or in salad dressings.  If you are worried about raw eggs, you can dip them in water at least 165 degrees to kill and salmonella on the outside.  And if an egg is cracked, cook it thoroughly.

Asian turnips and red mustard
I also tried the Asian style of salting sliced roots with a combination or radishes and turnips.  The red skinned radishes were a delightful color and flavor addition to white turnips.

Lambs quarters is considered a weed by some, but a nutritious delicacy by others.  It is a mild green - great in salad or braised.

'Til Next Week, 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beautiful greens

lettuce and seedlings
This is greens season. 

Mustard and turnips greens


And with the rain all the greens have perked up dramatically. 

thinned beets
Most like cool and damp weather. 

The dry dusty wind and temperatures were stressful for lettuce, spinach, and all the greens.   

Ken has tilled the garden as space has opened up for new plantings.

Order your greens on line at our website today! 

Piglet and poultry photos

Ken and a friend got the poultry fence up by the mobile high tunnel Friday.  They moved the geese into the rye.  

This is a real treat for the geese - grass eaters.

And Saturday Ken and I moved the tom and one female turkey who is neither sitting nor parenting.  They seemed to be disruptive to the one sitting on eggs and the new mom.

Here is a shot of the new mom and some of her babies - they are tough to spot.

Everyone asks for more pig photos - they seem to be the most popular of any I post.

Here are two in a deep sleep.

And here is one I interrupted while it was eating.

They are still sharing small feed dishes. Soon they will outgrow them and Ken will use bigger troughs for feed.

They are lively, happy pigs.

Flowers at Keppers these Days

Things are blooming at Keppers.  This wild apple tree was at the edge of Ken's yard when he moved here.  Then he made the drive a loop, and kept the small tree.  
Each year it fills the yard with the most heavenly fragrance for about a week.   The fruit is tiny, and most years our fall and winter birds feast on it.

The iris have begun to open.  They are one of my favorites, and I have several varieties.
About the same time the daisies start.

This faux flox is a fragrant self seeder.  The bees and butterflies love it and visit it during sunny weather.  

The trilliums have been fading to pink, and are starting to disappear.

And as they fade the fragrant Sweet William 

and valerian are just starting.

The classic bleeding heart is here.

This wild columbine is at the edge of the woods near the pig yard.

So many beautiful spring flowers to enjoy.

Mobile Tunnel Update

Ken has been busy in the mobile tunnel.  First he has prepared raised beds and irrigation.

Then he transplants - first tomatoes.

Next the peppers,

And some cucumbers.

He also got a support system in place for the tomatoes and cucumbers to go up.  He is really happy to have this in place before the plants get large and the task is much more difficult.

It may look like modern art, but it is functional, too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Watering onion transplants
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, spinach, baby beet greens, salad greens like pea shoots and baby kale, braising greens like mustard, baby turnips, asparagus, green onions, dill, chervil and sorrel.

Field Notes.  Ken is busily weeding perennials like strawberries.  Most years he weeds early when it is too wet to do other field work, but this year he fired the pottery kiln.  The weeds are larger and it takes longer, but he is making rapid progress.

Onion seedlings
Ken has also begun planting what I think of as the "one time" crops.  He plants several crops weekly or every other week or a few times per season, but crops in the nightshade family like tomatoes and curcurbit family like squash are planted once in the season The onions are now planted.  This is part of why spring is so busy around here.

Tomato plants in mobile high tunnel
Ken also spent time making raised beds in the mobile tunnel.  He had planted greens in the garden before we knew we would have the tunnel done last fall.   He planted some greens in the mobile in late winter, and those greens are in your box today.  Next Ken will continue planting in the garden, field and greenhouses.  He is also continuing to work the soil for the next mobile location for the late season crops.

From the Kitchen. Asparagus.  We have had grilled asparagus a couple times.  That has become our favorite way to cook it, as grilling seals the flavor into each spear.  My second favorite is to saute asparagus in olive oil in a cast iron pan.  I have been making pasta salads with olive oil based dressing, a bit of cooked chicken or our sausage, green onion tops, chopped olives, and sauteed asparagus pieces.  It is a great warm weather supper.

It is a big salad week!  I have been making lots of different dressings.  Each year I get a request for salad dressing recipes.  Ken and I create different combinations of the following: an oil or dairy like yogurt, a sour like lemon juice or vinegar, a bit of something sweet like honey, salt and pepper. One of my current favorites for spinach salad is feta cheese, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.  Some ground paprika or chipotle is a nice addition. With tossed greens I usually combine olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, herbs, honey, salt and pepper.  For an Asian variation I use sesame oil, a bit of toasted sesame oil, sweet rice wine called mirin, rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce for the salty, powdered red cayenne pepper, and a bit of honey and toasted sesame seeds.  The Asian dressing is great on blanched spinach now, and cucumbers in summer.

What a surprise last week - not just turnip greens, but also the baby turnips, too.  I usually braise the greens like a mustard.  The greens are a powerhouse of nutrition.  The turnips, a Japanese variety, really shine when washed, thinly sliced and salted for about a half hour.  The salt brings out the sweetness.  If salt is an issue, just rinse before serving.

And speaking of nutritional power houses, dill is one.  Ken is reading a companion planting book, and the herb section states dill has more vitamins than parsley!  The book also states dill is a spring crop.  Ken has been saying this for years, and was glad to see it in print. Dry or freeze your dill now for those late season pickles.  Summer dill is never as nice.

'Til next Week, 
Bon Apetit!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Ken out standing in his field - hip high rye
Ken frequently plants rye as a cover crop and green manure.  Rye over winters and comes up from its roots in spring.  Covering the soil in winter prevents erosion. Rye's  deep roots break up hard pan and add organic matter to the soil.  The green grass can be tilled into the soil, fed to animals, or used as mulch. 

Ken is the tiny spot in center of photo
Many people avoid planting rye because unlike peas, oats, buckwheat and many other cover crops, rye does not winter kill.  That means a few more steps are required in preparing a bed for crops. Ken mows and then tills the rye and waits between these steps.

Beds have been mowed; other rye is left to grow

Here is a photo of the mowed rye.

Tilled beds will be allowed to rest before planting
And here is the tilled rye.  Ken will plant these beds with crops like winter squash.

Rye by the mobile tunnel
Years ago we participated in a three year study with the Center for Integrated Agriculture in Madison.  During a farm visit from the leader of the study, we were told our farm had virtually no exposed soil.  This is one of Ken's goals - to have crops, cover crops and green manures everywhere so the soil is temperate and there is optimal microbial life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Mobile wide open with rye around it
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, spinach, salad greens like teen lettuce and pea shoots; braising greens - baby turnip greens, lacy red mizuna, mustards; baby beet greens, green onions, bulb onions, potatoes, and the first asparagus!

Field Notes.  Ken is busily planting and transplanting.  He plants by the Biodynamic calendar, so greens go in on leaf days, tomatoes and peppers on fruit days, onions on root days, etc.  Over the years we have seen a difference, so when possible, we follow the calendar.
Bed preparation
The greens in the mobile high tunnel are coming out just as Ken is going to start hot weather crops, so we won't move it - yet.  Ken has been doing bed preparation in the current location.  Then he will be amending and improving the soil with green manures and compost for the fall crops location.

A Guy in his rye
Rye!  Ken has used rye as a cover crop and green manure for many years.  It over winters and sends roots down to break up hard pan.  The root fiber adds organic matter to the soil - all good things.  He has begun mowing the rye where he will be planting in the field.

Picking asparagus with rye on the edge of the field
 From the Kitchen.  Asparagus!  What a spring treat.  Each year I feel gratitude when I think of all the work - weeding, feeding, planting a cover crop and mulching, mowing, and picking - thank you, Ken. Asparagus is a true medicinal food as it breaks down uric and oxalic acids that cause kidney stones.  Spinach has quite a bit of oxalic acid, so asparagus keeps it in check.  

As for cooking, asparagus is great grilled.  I used to steam it for about 3 - 5 minutes, and that is fine, but grilling or even sauteing in a cast iron skillet tends to seal in the flavor.  I brush with olive oil before grilling or sauteing.  The BIG thing with asparagus is DO NOT OVER COOK IT.  Most people who dislike asparagus have tried to eat something over cooked that is rather slimy and unappetizing.  I serve asparagus dusted with salt, or add it to pasta salads.  And of course there is cream of asparagus soup - great hot or cold.  Cook some asparagus and onion in soup stock to soft, run through blender or food mill, add cream and a tiny bit of nutmeg just before serving.  Voila!

Both baby turnip and baby beet greens are versatile. The turnip greens can be added as a garnish to salads, beet greens are sweet and nice in salads for texture, flavor and color.  Both are delicious braised.  Enjoy!

'Til next week - Bon apetit!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CSA Newsletter

The garden in warm weather this week
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad greens - different types of lettuce, claytonia, tatsoi, pea shoots; braising greens like mustards, red mizuna; spinach,  green onions, sorrel, bulb onions, radishes, potatoes, and the last of the sunchokes.

Piglets with their "nanny" Oscar
Field Notes. Last night we picked up this year's piglets.  It looks like they will have a warm week for their transition from barn to outdoors with a shelter.  Pigs are an integral part of the farm.  They turn leaves for compost, eat garden waste like lower cabbage leaves and corn stalks.  They love to dig, and giving them a project like clearing a fence line or renovating a section of the field helps the farm.  For photos, see prior blog post.

Ken is balancing field work and getting pottery ready for our spring opener this weekend.  We are not only selling pottery.  Honey and maple syrup, eggs, and greens will also be available.  Many people come and check out the animals, fields, or just enjoy a walk in the woods.  The trillium are starting to bloom.

The planting for annual crops has begun.  Leeks and onions for next fall and winter go into the soil now.  Ken has started  peppers and tomatoes inside and they are reaching size.  He is starting seeds for  the curcurbit family - cucumbers, squash, melons.

From the Kitchen.  We have been eating green this week.  Each day we have a tossed green salad for mid day meal.  Sometimes evening as well.  I have been making either spinach omelets or poaching eggs in a clear broth with green onions and braising greens for breakfast or supper. 

Radishes are part of our daily routine.  I rinse and add to the condiment tray with our cultured vegetables.  We have not had them for breakfast yet, but they are also a nice side to pasta with pesto, another evening meal.

If the greens like spinach begin to overwhelm you, I suggest cooking them.  They shrink dramatically.  In Japan they often serve blanched spinach with a dressing of sesame oil, a mild vinegar, a bit of sweet wine (honey would be a good substitute), a bit of ground red pepper, tamari or soy sauce, and some toasted sesame seeds.

Coming Soon: asparagus!
Enjoy the week - hope you can make the spring opener.