Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Tuesday morning 4/23
Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has salad greens, braising greens, Chinese cabbage, the first lettuce, onions, potato onions, potatoes, carrots, and dried muskmelon.

Field Notes.  Wow!  The transplants are taking over the house, studio, and greenhouses.  Usually we dig parsnips and over wintered roots in late March, but this year not yet.  Usually Ken has transplanted all the onion family; this year - not yet.  Usually Ken has planted peas - not yet.  Usually Ken has transplanted many of the early brassica family - broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kohlrabi.  Not yet!  This is the first year he is planting the late season brassica seeds like fall cabbage and Brussels sprouts before he has the early season plants in the ground!  It has been the latest spring either of us can remember.  But after Monday night's snow, we hear it will warm up by the weekend.  We are ready.  Ken has lots to do, and I will try to help.

A few weeks ago when we had bare ground
Ken has been busy, though.  He has weeded, watered, and put out some transplants as time and weather has allowed.  We have had some sunny days, and we had to open hoopettes and green houses so the plants don't cook.  Other nights temperatures have dropped into the teens, so many of the seedlings and transplants are under fiber inside the greenhouse.  

Tuesday 7 a.m.

The maple sap season began late this year, but has been a very busy one.  Ken has been moving buckets of sap and cooking down the sap.  We have finished and bottled a couple batches, but I am told the next one will be BIG.  The bottles and caps are ready.  We sell syrup, and you can ask us to add a bottle to your box.

I have been weaving rugs and will have some rugs and place mats for sale this spring.  Once it warms up after Thursday I will be washing and pricing pottery for our Spring Opener the first weekend in May - new pots, some vegetables, rugs, and maple syrup will be available.  We are part of the Earth Arts art opener tour.  Hope you can stop by.

Tokyo bekana
From the Kitchen.  Greens have begun.  Ken has started harvesting from Mobile tunnel and hoopettes in addition to the window greens.  Greens are so welcome in the spring!  We often have greens in soup at breakfast or supper.  We usually have a raw tossed salad at midday.  
 They are starting more slowly than most years, but Ken has worked to have greens in every box - year around.
Cutting rib from leaf to cook rib a bit longer
Chinese cabbage and Asian greens are versatile - good raw or cooked.  I usually cook the outer leaves and cut the heart into ribbons for a tossed salad or slaw or an Asian salad with a dressing of sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, hot pepper, a bit of honey and a bit of vinegar.  

Ribbons for stir fry or salad
I like to cook Asian greens in medleys.  As an example - saute onion, add some sliced carrots and stock.  Once the carrots are al dente, add the ribs of the Chinese cabbage to cook for a minute or two.  Turn off the heat, stir in the leaves, and dress as you please.  Sometimes I do vinaigrette, creamy or cheesy, or Asian - it all depends on the rest of the meal.

Dried muskmelon is a grab and go snack.  We usually only put items we have harvested withing a day or two in the CSA boxes, but this season the weather has prevented us from digging the over wintered roots, and the greens are slower than usual.  So we are sharing last season's bounty in these early boxes.  Enjoy!

'Til Next Week, 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has greens - both salad and braising, arugula, onions, potato onions, carrots, potatoes, and the last of the celery root.

Field Notes.  Wow.  I think this might be a case of be careful what you ask for - I had really hoped we would not have eighty degrees in March again this year as many fruit were nipped in the bud and greens bolted.  I also wished for more moisture.  Never did I expect this much snow and cold weather.  The good news is the irrigation ponds are filling up.  The good news is we have a maple syrup season this year - albeit later than most years.  The good news is the transplanted greens are perking up with the longer days and water Ken has been hauling down to them.  The good news is the parsnips and sunchokes are protected under the snow and will be delicious when we can dig them.

Space is tight.  Ken usually starts the late season cabbage now, and he has not yet transplanted the early cabbage - too cold.

Older punky wood
Ken has been busy getting into shape hauling maple sap and boiling it down.  We just bottled our first batch, and it is available for sale.  Send me an email and we can add it to your box.  

Open vent on a warm day
He has been planting, transplanting, monitoring the temperature in hoopettes and greenhouses, and some days has been opening and closing vents and doors so plants don't get too hot!  He has been hauling water to the mobile high tunnel via sled when snow cover allows.

From the Kitchen.  I am still lighting the cook stove and have been making slow cooked meals.  Last night I made some onion soup.  Slice and saute onions until transparent or even slightly caramelized.  Add herbs like thyme and savory and soup stock.  Simmer to blend flavors and add salt and pepper to taste.  I served with a bit of cheese added with some cornbread on the side.

I usually make our salad dressing.  I have been making a kefir and blue cheese combination that is great with arugula. And I also have been making a vinaigrette with the potato onions and herbs, vinegar, and olive oil.

Braising greens are so versatile. I usually saute onion and add chopped greens to wilt, turn off the heat and add anything that will work with the rest of the meal.  If I am serving something a little sweet like pork and onions, I will add a zesty dressing or vinegar.  If I am serving a zesty meal like spaghetti with a spicy sauce I will dress the greens with a creamy dressing with yogurt and or cheese.

Poached eggs in soup broth and greens
I also add greens to a bowl and pour soup over them.  It is one of Ken's favorites.

'Til Next Week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Finishing Sap - the Last step of making Maple Syrup

Ken has been boiling down the sap and yesterday we brought the first batch in to finish and bottle.

We strained it into two flat stainless pans and two pans.  As the sap evaporates, we added sap from the pans to the flat stainless pans so there was more surface area.

Then I boiled water to find the exact temperature it boiled - this actually varies with humidity, etc.  We boiled until the sap became syrup - eight degrees above the temperature water boils.  And then we filtered and bottled.

If you have bottles like this, please save them for us- we will gladly reuse them!

Trimming pottery

Making pottery involves several steps.  When Ken demonstrates throwing a pot on the wheel, people think it is finished.  Once when we counted all the times Ken handles the clay from a lump to going out the pottery as someone's purchase, we realized it can be a dozen to thirty times (think teapot - pot, spout, handle, lid, etc). 

Ken has been trimming the bottoms of pots and tops of the lids.  The part that was on the wheel is rough and needs to be smoothed out.

Ken waits until the pot is leather hard so that it doesn't mush or collapse when he trims it.

Then he puts on handles and knobs on lids.  Then he puts the pottery under a sheet of plastic so the pieces dry evenly

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Making pottery on a Snowy April Day

It was too cold and snowy to continue trimming apple trees.  The sap was not running.  What is a guy to do?  MAKE POTTERY!  Ken has been running glaze tests and tests on the local clay that he discovered when the irrigation pond was dug last year.  Today he began throwing pots with his new local clay.

His wife appeared with the camera, and he graciously continued to throw so she could get some photos.  

After all these years Ken makes it look easy.  It isn't.  Ken uses a foot powered treadle wheel.

"This wild clay throws like a dream."
And soon the table was filled with cups, honey pots and their lids.

The next day he cut and drilled holes in the next batch of test samples.  

The hole is so he can attach a label to the  glaze bucket for future reference.

And for a break, Ken moved up some seedlings to larger space

And Oscar waited for him to come outside for afternoon tasks.  All in all, a pretty good day at Keppers.

Sewing Strips for Rugs

As everyone else awaits warmer spring weather, I cherish these colder days as they give me more time to weave and get rags ready to weave.  Soon I will spend most of my time outdoors.  I like that, too, but I will miss weaving.  

It was rather dark and I was unsure what I wanted to do differently on the next rug.  For some, denim is denim.  For me it is a challenge to enhance it, add variety and interest and of course, use up the huge pile of denim that I have.

While I was figuring it out, I took a break and I headed upstairs to sew strips together for weft in rugs.  The cat appeared from nowhere, and thought she would "help."

I sewed strips together.  I had finished up one color, and then moved on to pink. 

The scraps will be filler in future dog and cat beds
I kept thinking of the Robert Frost poem "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening," except I kept saying miles to sew before I sleep!

And it did come to me - a rug with no fringe on the ends and a pattern of one shot of denim and one shot of warp as weft.

The white is the previous rug's fringe, then the edge that will be folded under and sewn, and now rug number three.  Ken likes the contrast with the white filler and dark weft. Next rug!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Soup For Breakfast

People have requested I share our morning soup for breakfast recipe.  It varies widely with what I have, but here is today's version.

Simmer soup stock - this was some I had from simmering the bones from a whole chicken we had eaten Monday night.  I also added some left over sauce from cooking meat yesterday - it had some pickled peppers, cooked onion, thyme and other herbs.

Chop some Greens onions, and get some eggs ready to poach.  This is some wild rocket on top and some red mustard below.  I also had the last of some onion seedlings Ken had trimmed a couple days ago.

Add the eggs to the stock

Put the greens in your bowls

Add the poached eggs to the bowls gently to avoid breaking the yolks.

Add the hot stock 

There you have it.  We usually have toast or cornbread or a cooked grain with this

Greens identification - Arugula and Mustard

Last year I received a request to label some of the greens we grow so people know what they are and how best to serve them. 

Today Ken has begun harvesting from the greenhouses while I am cutting the greens in the window boxes. Pungent greens thrive in early spring.  Here is arugula.  Arugula comes from Italy.  It is a peppery green that reminds me of wild mustard.  A few nights ago I served arugula with cooked beets and toasted nuts and a dressing with kefir and blue cheese.  I like arugula with goat or sheep cheese, creamy dressings in combinations with a sweet side dish like beets, squash, or carrots.  The flowers are delicious in salad!

Mustard comes in many shapes and colors from all over the world.  It is a member of the brassica family with cabbage and broccoli.  Cool weather mustard has a milder flavor. 
I like to roll the bigger leaves and cut into ribbons for salad.

Mustard is also great in braising mixes; braising is a quick and light cooking technique that just wilts greens.  I often saute an onion and add braising greens after I have turned off the heat, just before serving.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This box has greens, onions, potato onions, potatoes, carrots, celery root, beets, and eggs.

Field Notes.  Ken has been busy with the transplant juggle.  With each succession of plantings - onions, celery and celery root, peppers, tomatoes, and the continuous plantings of greens - he is moving more things out to greenhouses and covering with fiber so they don't freeze.  This week the snow and ice receded enough so he could open up hoopettes and see how the fall plantings are doing.   First he weeds out the hoopette, and then he fills in where there is space with transplants.  He has planted some items out in the medium tunnel in the field and in the mobile high tunnel.

He was unable to fall plant in the mobile tunnel as the irrigation pond dried up and our well was sucking air!  Each morning when he opens the curtain by the bed, he looks out over to the dam that is filling with melted snow, and he comments on how good that feels!  We really noticed some of the plantings were small last season after we had to make hard decisions about what really needed water the most.  We are so happy to watch all this snow melt!  As Ken says. "Bring it on!"

We are also making maple syrup.  Ken does the bulk of the work - tapping trees, emptying buckets, boiling down the sap outside, and pouring it into large kettles.  I will do the finishing and bottling.  Ken balances his time between opening and closing greenhouses, making syrup, and working in the garden in areas under plastic.  The open soil is still covered in snow, and we await the time when we can dig the over wintered roots.  This is the latest we can remember; the previous record for late digging was April 7th.

From the Kitchen.  I am still lighting the cook stove each morning.  And most mornings I cook us a couple eggs.  Yesterday I poached them in soup broth.  We got in the habit in Japan of eating a hot breakfast.  It seems easier on one's digestion to start the day with warm food.  I am still cooking a lot of eggs as we have a lot!  

Last night we had some friends over for dinner and they really liked a beet salad I prepared.  I laid some wild mustard that Ken had brought me on the plate, Then placed sliced cooked beets, then some of our hazel nuts I had toasted in a skillet and chopped.  For dressing I used some blue cheese crumbled into some kefir I had made - yogurt would be a good substitute.  I then put a half a pickled egg on the side.  The color, flavor and texture contrasts were really nice.  For years I had read about arugula, beet, and blue cheese combinations.  It is good!

As we move into spring, the onions start sprouting.  I take the sprouters for us.  I saute the bulb and use the chopped green tops as a garnish - so much color,  flavor and energy in those small sprouts.

'Til Next Week,