Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ken's First Batch

Ken makes batches of cultured vegetables each season.  He starts with a volume of one or more vegetables, cleans and slices them.  He then adds the proper amount of salt and places the batch in a cool place to allow the vegetables to become ready.  Culturing or fermenting food enhances nutrition and digestibility.  Sauerkraut is a common example of a cultured vegetable, BUT most sauerkraut has been heat treated and has lost most of its nutrition!  Cultured vegetables are a living food and provide probiotics to aid the body's digestive system.  These are also found in foods like yogurt and kefir.

It is amusing that something known years ago - that fermented foods are good for us - has re-entered the mainstream consciousness.  We thank people like Sandor Elix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation in his efforts to educate people!

New flowers

With all the heat, several flowers seem early this year.

The monarda or bee balm usually does not bloom until mid July.

Holly hocks are usually later with the daylilies in July and August.

The mallow or malva seeds freely, but pulls easily if it ends up where it is not wanted.

Tomatoes and peppers are coming

The tomatoes have been climbing and starting to set fruit.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other members of the solanae or nightshade family like hot weather, but not too hot.  

Last year during a hot spell several plants dropped blossoms, which delayed tomatoes, peppers, etc.until the next blossoms set fruit.

The weather this season has included cool nights and some very hot weather.  It is great to see the start of the tomato and pepper season is approaching!

The spring chicks are growing!

Last year we could not keep up with demand for our eggs.   To meet the increased requests, we ordered chicks as early as possible this spring.  Usually Ken sets up broody hens to sit on eggs for three weeks and hatch out replacement chicks, but this does not dramatically increase the size of the flock.

We ordered straight run chicks.  We always do this.  When people order pullets, chicks are sexed at birth, and the males are destroyed.  We believe in growing out all the chicks, and once males reach size and start to fight, we make decisions on who gets to stay and who heads for the freezer.  We look for a strong, protective rooster who will keep his flock together and safe.  We have seen roosters face off a chicken hawk - these are the guys we want!  And it is an important decision as the rooster accounts for half of the gene pool of the next generation that hatches.

The chicks ordered this spring are out by the mobile high tunnel in a field of rye with a shelter and fenced in with a new acquisition - solar powered electric poultry netting.  They are growing and looking less and less like gawky teenagers.  We can't wait to increase the number of egg layers!

Purslane - a great green

Purslane is a European import.  Many plants brought here from Europe have become "wild" and are considered weeds.  They are all healthy and / or medicinal - purslane, dandelion, plantain, chicory to name a few.  Purslane is a hot weather crop.  It is really high in vitamin C - that is why it tastes lemony.  It also has high amounts of vitamin A.  We rinse, chop and add to salads.  Since cooking lowers vitamin C, we eat purslane raw.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recipe for Red Turnips

We grew a new type of turnip this season.  I experimented today at lunch, and Ken suggested I post the recipe (must have been OK).
I rinsed turnips and separated the root from greens.  I sliced the roots, salted and set aside.  I cut the stems from the greens and cut them in fine ribbons.  I sauteed the lower white portion of a couple green onions, added the greens and a tablespoon of stock to steam and wilt.  Once the liquid was reduced ( a minute or two), I turned off the heat and added a bit of balsamic vinegar and cream.

I set the greens on a plate.  After rinsing the salt off the roots I placed them on top of the greens.  The rest of the meal was asparagus seared in oil, topped with toasted sesame oil, tamari, and toasted sesame seeds.  There was rice, and I made some pork and beans - browned ground pork with chopped onion, cooked beans, turmeric, cumin, Ken's pepper sauce, some chili powder, topped with parsley and the green onion tops.  Bon apetit!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce and salad greens, beet thinnings, bok choy, kohlrabi, celery, Asian red turnips, carrots, snap peas, radishes, asparagus, green onions, and flat leaf parsley.

Field Notes.  Looking back I see I keep starting this section off with "Ken has been busy."  Spring and fall are the busiest times for farming.  Ken has been planting and cultivating.  After every rain he watches and once the soil is no longer sticky, he is out going over the entire garden and field with a triangle hoe.  He moves quickly and efficiently.  He say it is like voting in Chicago - "Do it early and do it often!"  The earlier he slices off the tiny weeds, the easier it is.  And he tends to fluff the top soil layer as he goes down the row. That fluffed soil is more receptive to taking in the next rain.
celery, green onions and radishes

It is also time to thin several crops - main season plantings of carrots, beets, parsnips, etc.  We had a dear friend who could not "kill" any of those overcrowded root crops.  As a result he always had small and spindly root crops.  Thinning is an on your knees type of job.  So Ken balances dancing down the row with a hoe and thinning.

Ken has also been spiffing up the place a bit for the garden and field tour on Sunday July 8th.  Please mark your calendars and let me know if you plan to attend so I have a general idea of how much food to prepare.

bok choy
From the Kitchen.  Summer crops!  Celery has arrived.  We eat celery raw, in stir fry and soups.  We dry the leaves on a sheet of newspaper on a flat surface away from a window so the sun does not fade the leaves, but in a spot with good airflow, so the leaves dry.

Bok choy is an early summer Asian vegetable.  It was the original ingredient in chop suey before celery.  I tend to separate leaves from stem so I can cook the chopped stem about a minute or two and then add the sliced leaves just before serving.  Bok choy is versatile and mild - I add to stir fry and soups.

Kohlrabi is another of what I call the "bonus vegetables." Both the leaves and swollen stem are delicious.  Ken likes the bulb sliced and salted or peeled, cubed and cooked.  It tastes a lot like broccoli stem.  Treat the leaves like the bok choy or cabbage or kale. I slice the leaves and store separately from the bulb. 

Turnips - another bonus vegetable.  Turnip greens are wonderful in braising mixes.  They are incredibly nutritious. Ken suggests you rinse the roots, slice thinly and salt - a beautiful addition to salads or eaten as a "quick pickle.".  This is a new variety for us.  Let us know what you think

Two weekends ago I convinced a cabin owner / regular vegetable customer to try beet thinnings in place of spinach in salad and cooked dishes.  It was a hard sell as his wife likes beet roots, but he does not.  This past weekend he came back requesting beet greens; he actually likes them better than spinach.  Try the beet greens in place of spinach - they are great.

1)  NEXT WEEK Harvest day and vegetable pick up moves from Wed July 4th to MONDAY July 2nd.  Enjoy the holiday!
2) The Keppers Annual Garden and Field tour is Sunday July 8th from 2 - 4 pm.  Tours and talk will be followed by some garden snacks.  RSVP is appreciated so I know how much food to prepare.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Chicks for Ken

Ken and I like to let broody hens sit on eggs and hatch out chicks.  

Although that means the hen is not laying eggs while she sits and raises her brood, it also means we don't buy chicks and the chicks have a mom to teach them and watch out for them.

Ken built a couple brood boxes with runs. His first two hatches were big enough to come out this week, and now he has two new broody hens sitting on new batches of eggs.

Meanwhile a renegade hen disappeared for three weeks and returned with five chicks!

Pigs Report

The pig photo requests just keep on coming.  So here are some recent photos.

Ken has made the pigs some mud to better cope with heat.  Although hesitant at first, they love to wallow and cool off.

When we moved the pigs to this area it was grass.  Just look at it now!  

Who says pigs don't live to dig.

Pigs cool off by wallowing in mud.

They have really enjoyed this spot, but soon we will move them to a new spot to dig up.

Summer flowers

With the recent rain and heat the summer flowers have begun.  This seems early for some.

The valerian has self seeded and taken over!

The hollyhocks have just begun

Some lilies have survived my lack of weeding the past few seasons

Yarrow has opened

The annual nasturtiums are starting to flower

And the Johnny jump ups continue to bloom

Nanking Cherries

Years ago we got some Nanking cherry bushes.  They are a cold tolerant sour cherry bush.  The fruit is small, so rather than pit, I got a steam juicer - one of the best investments in kitchen equipment ever made.  The only thing I have replaced is the rubber tube!

Here is a picture of the juicer in process.  Sometimes I sterilize jars and fill as the juice comes out and sometimes I just fill a gallon jar (Ken's technique).   The cherries start the juicing season. We use the juicer for elderberries, apples, raspberries, plums, and grapes.  We also do combos, too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Probably the last week
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has two varieties of lettuce, kale, radicchio, "topless radishes," asparagus, green onions, garlic scapes, snap peas, strawberries, dill, and the first carrots.

Field Notes.  Rain.  And more rain.  I think of the proverb "Be careful what you ask for."  Last newsletter I was talking dry, and now after over 3" of rain we are saturated. Optimum garden precipitation is 1" per week.  And although the organic matter Ken has built for decades helps with extremes in either drought or heavy rainfall, certain crops suffer.  The strawberries this week have more water, less concentrated flavor and significantly less shelf life.  And if we get more heat and rain, the rest may just rot.  So it goes.  It has been a good run this year.

Celery - soon!
Ken is working with and around the rain.  Although most crops are in, he still has several of the sequential plantings such as broccoli and greens to plant.  And with the rain and heat, the next "crop" of weeds has germinated.  There are early season weeds and then there are the hot weather weeds.  We have seen the first purslane, a hot weather European green that like plantain and dandelions has gone wild.

Ken has also been on maintenance.  In addition to cultivating the weeds, Monday evening he was tying up tomatoes in the high tunnel.  There are blossoms, and that is exciting for all the tomato lovers.   In addition he is moving a pump back and forth from medium tunnel in field to high tunnel nearer the house.  Even when it rains, the plants in the greenhouse need watering. 

pickled asparagus and strawberries ready to freeze
From the Kitchen.   It is starting to feel like summer!  And with summer comes solid root vegetables like last week's beets and this week's carrots.  We also have snap peas in the box.  I have a couple favorite recipes around peas.  First, peas that are lightly steamed and served with chopped dill and sour cream or a basic white sauce of melted butter flour and milk or cream with salt and pepper - chopped green onions optional.  Second a combo of sliced  cooked carrots with the shorter cooking time peas - variety in color, flavor, and shapes.  I love dill and use it not only with peas and carrots, but also in salad dressing.

We went to a potluck last week, and since there were farmers we had great food and several variations of radishes.  My new favorite was sliced radishes in a creamy dill dressing.  Emmet shared his dressing recipe - cream or sour cream or yogurt with "good pickle juice" and chopped dill.  For those non pickle people I would guess it was a little sweet, some vinegar, some mustard, some onion or garlic, salt and pepper.  With the rain and heat we harvested the radishes before they cracked or sent up seed shoots and became woody.  Radishes store better without tops, and hence your "topless radishes" this week.  Once the weather gets hot, the radishes also get hotter.  If you need to back up the bite, slice and salt, set aside for about a few minutes and rinse off the salt.

1)  Mark your calendars as Harvest day and vegetable pick up moves from Wed July 4th to MONDAY July 2nd
2) The Keppers Annual Garden and Field tour is Sunday July 8th from 2 - 4 pm.  Tours and talk will be followed by some garden snacks.  RSVP is appreciated so I know how much food to prepare.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Edible Flowers

This is an arugula flower.  We plant arugula for its greens that we harvest in cool weather.  Once we have hot weather like the near 90's of last weekend, the arugula bolts - that is it sends up a stem with flowers to set seed.

We harvest the stems for the flowers.  They are a great addition to tossed green salads as they retain the delightful peppery flavor of arugula.  After adding the salad dressing top with these or other edible flowers - chives, pansies, violets, nasturtiums, etc.

Beets Tops and Roots

Early in the season beets have beautiful tops. It is a bonus vegetable - two in one.  Most people think roots when they hear beets.  The tops are nutritious and delicious.  

Beets are in the same family as spinach and chard.  Just as it gets too hot for cool weather loving spinach, the beets and chard start.  

Beets tops are a great, colorful addition to tossed green salads, they are tasty in braising mixes, and can be used in any spinach or chard recipe.  I like chard or beet tops in quiche, for example.
Beets are high in vitamins A and C.  The tops are also high in calcium and iron.

Beet tops and roots should be stored separately.  Just cut the tops from the roots.  I use them soon, and the roots will keep longer.  I usually boil the roots until the skin slips off.  Then I slip the skins and either use or store for a day or two in the refrigerator.

Pigs Update

The pigs had dug up most of the space Ken had given them around last fall's and this spring's leaf pile.  

They love digging through the leaves for acorns.  The plan was to move them north of the house into the woods east of the chicken coop.  The pigs seem to do best when they are in a space in the woods.

As we started moving them, Ken suggested we take a break by the garden.  The pigs started eating all the plantain and lambs quarters.  

Ken looked at the size of the space.  It was big enough for a while, so we moved panels there and now they are happily eating the greens and digging.

They also have an interesting form of play with Oscar the Dog.  Oscar on the outside of the fence runs to one side and they charge up to him.  

Then they ignore him so he runs to another side and the game begins again.

They seem quite content here and the fencing Ken set up north of the house will wait until they finish with this space.

Chicks are growing

Mobile high tunnel with rye and poultry netting
Last year we could not keep up with the demand for our eggs.  We encourage broody hens to sit and hatch eggs.  We find chicks with moms have an advantage.  But we don't have a large enough on farm reproduction rate.  So as early as possible this spring, we ordered chicks from a hatchery to add to our flock. 

The tweens

They started in a large box in the house, then they were in one our coops.  Now with the acquisition of poultry netting, we could move them out to the rye by the mobile high tunnel.  They have a shelter and there are guard turkeys and geese.  

Ken's Quonset Coop
They seem to be doing great, and we look forward to an increase in eggs we can offer for sale.