Thursday, May 30, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has many types of lettuce and salad greens, braising greens, spinach, radishes, sorrel and chervil, green onions, asparagus, sunchokes, parsnips.

Field Notes.  Memorial Day weekend is a good time to look back, be grateful, and move ahead.  We are glad to be here and do what we do.  It is wonderful to start the season with water in the irrigation ponds.  It is great that the apples seemed to have blossomed without freezing temperatures.
Rye a couple weeks ago

Moving ahead we are working at planning and planting.  Ken has been deciding which rows of rye to turn up and plant and which to leave growing.  He had some sad news - the electric fencer seems to have lost its charge and there is some deer damage already.  There are many deer in the area and enough food for the does to reproduce and no predators.  This means at times the population is hungry and goes through fencing.  
Plastic drying before we fold it up and store 'til fall

Last week Ken removed the conduit and plastic that makes the hoopettes.  at first the garden looked a bit naked and vulnerable, but everything there can take a light frost.  Thursday night the forecast was for 32 degrees.  When I woke at 4 a.m. and checked it was 34.  When Ken woke at 5:30 it was also 34.  Neither of us saw any frost damage.  Usually we do not get frost after Memorial Day.  
Mustard and turnip tops

From the Kitchen. Braising greens.  I got a question last week from a new CSA member about braising greens - which and what do I do with them.  I refer to all the kale, brassica tops like kohlrabi, rutabaga, and the flavorful mustards like mizuna or red mustard or green wave mustard as braising greens.  Many folks just add as accents to salads.  If you salt or wilt braising greens, the zippy flavor backs up to a milder flavor.  I usually do a flash cook to just wilt.  I often saute onion, add the greens, and then add lemon juice, vinegar or any dressing you like.  We also add them to soups just before serving.  

Last weekend we were invited to a party and asked to bring finger food.  At first I was baffled as I usually bring tossed greens.  So instead I made a dip of yogurt, and some of Ken's pickled red bell peppers, pickle juice that I ran through the blender and garnished with chopped parsley.  I cleaned radishes and cut them in half so they would not roll off the plate.  It was a hit as there were no radishes to return home with us!  So try radishes on the hors d'oeuvres tray with a dip!

'Til Next Week!

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Project and a Vow

I used to have a nice flower garden.  About ten or twenty years ago.  Back in the day I worked in an office and once I had the "cute clothes" off and work clothes on I headed out to the flower beds.  

Then I moved here.  People said it was serious as Ken was planting more carrots (need thinning) and peas (need fencing) and I was moving out perennials.  Some flowers did well in the woods of Wisconsin, others did not.  I lost most of my Asiatic lilies, Pasque flowers, and clematis.  But I had huge Joe Pye weed, and the iris did fine.

soon there will berries to pick

Then we began a vegetable business.  I was the picker of small fruit and vegetables.  Starting with strawberries in the spring, I picked and picked - usually every other day.  I enjoyed it, BUT

a start

my flower garden went to hell.  Grass.  Weeds. Poison ivy.

Last year I did a lot of physical therapy and my knee is better than it has been in years.

so far

I want to reclaim the flower garden.  And putting it here and in writing may just be the push I need to just keep at it.  We will see.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Herb identification Chervil and Sorrel

Chervil is a French herb that loves cool weather.  Most people know it only as part of mixes like the French herbes fines.  It is a delightful ferny plant that has a light slightly anise like flavor.  It is great with eggs or fish.  And it is a nice addition to a light flavored salad dressing on delicate spring lettuce

Sorrel is another French herb or green.  It has a strong lemony flavor and is great with fish.  I like to rinse, pat dry and slice in ribbons and wilt in oil or melted fat.  I use it in place of lemon where I want green color.  The oil preserves both flavor and color

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has a variety of lettuce and salad greens, red bok choy or mizuna, brassica and braising greens, spinach, parsnips, sunchokes, gobo (burdock), radishes, and the first of the asparagus!

Field Notes.  Sunday we had a bit of excitement.  Friends had invited us over to see lambs.  When we left there was a storm warning for Ellsworth.  As we neared our destination, there was a new storm warning on the radio for Balsam Lake, Turtle Lake, and Rice Lake.  We had left the greenhouses open, and both of us had visions of the house in the Wizard of Oz.  We got home and Ken shut greenhouses and we were glad to see rain, not such bad wind, and no hail.  We felt fortunate!  Hail reports scare me as much as fire scared the Straw Man in the Wizard Oz!  Entire crops can be shredded and devastated in no time.  

The rain was welcome after the dry windy weather we had been having, and the irrigation ponds rose to previous levels.

Ken has been planting, and is nearly on a par with where he is most years - in spite of the colder than usual spring we have had.  We do not put heat loving crops out until after May 18th - the latest date we have had under 20 degrees - a killing frost for those crops.  Weather reports look good - not too hot for the greens that like it cool and not too cool for the heat loving crops.  So far so good!  

Ken is also taking the hoopettes out of the garden.

From the Kitchen.  Asparagus!  One of the sure signs spring has arrived is the start of the asparagus season.  Asparagus is a perennial crop that needs weeding and feeding.  But its health benefits are great.  It clears the body of oxalic and uric acid; eat asparagus and you probably will never get kidney stones.  I started grilling asparagus a couple years ago and it is really tasty.  Rinse, trim bottom if it seems tough, brush with olive oil and either grill outside or in a cast iron skillet.  This seals the flavor inside rather than losing it when steamed.  Ken likes it topped with a drizzle of my home made mayonnaise.  My biggest asparagus cooking tip is don't overcook it.  Most bad asparagus experiences can be traced back to overcooking.

Parsnips were a great addition to Sunday dinner's roasted vegetables - some cut up onions, potatoes, and parsnips and sunchokes.  I clean the vegetables, toss in oil and thyme and roast after I take out the meat so I can use a higher oven temperature for a shorter time.  I toss every few minutes so the vegetables are coated with oil and herbs, don't stick and the outside starts to brown as the inside becomes tender.

Radishes make a nice accent in salad.  They also make a tasty salad on their own!  Last season I went to a potluck and had a great radish salad - Sliced radishes had been lightly salted to wilt, then a dressing with yogurt and chives was added.  It was great!   Early radishes with nice small tender tops have a bonus - the greens are great in salads or used to make a green goddess dressing in the blender!

Spring in the mobile high tunnel

One May 18th a few years back, the temperature dropped to eighteen degrees.  Even with cover tomatoes died back to the soil.  As a result we remain cautious about early plantings of heat loving crops.

Now that we are past that cold date, Ken has been transplanting those crops.  As greens are harvested out of the mobile tunnel, he has been planting in the open spaces.  Tomatoes are in and peppers are ready to go.

The irrigation pond that dried up last year and was dug deeper has water in it!


The first hatch of chicks from the old incubator has feathered out.

Today I moved them out to the small coop.  They are enjoying the larger space and the peas shoots I gave them

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring blossoms

Spring has arrived later than usual this year.  With the recent rain and warm weather blossoms are popping!  Most years during our spring opener during the first weekend in May there are wildflowers and the daffodils are opening.  This year we had slush!

The flowers  are open now!  Here is a wild trillium.

Trillium flowers usually appear around Mothers Day.  The snow and moisture means some of the largest displays I can remember!

The same goes for the bright yellow cowslips

also known as marsh marigolds.

And now the bees are buzzing in the Nanking cherries...

and the plum blossoms!

Spring this year is well worth the wait.  The increased moisture has led to a beautiful display in all directions.

Moving the garden out of winter

We seem to have left the cold weather behind.  Ken has begun dismantling the hoopettes in the garden.  

He takes the plastic off the hoops, pulls it out of the garden, 

and brings up to hang on the clothes lines.

Of course there is time to make funny faces at the wife photographer

Then he pulls the conduit

and takes it out of the garden 

to the storage rack 

And the garden opens up for new plantings

With the recent rain, the garden has become lush and beautiful. How wonderful to have adequate moisture this spring.

Rug Class Preparations

I often talk myself out of doing things.  This spring Ken has nudged me to sign up for a rug class.  I want to do it, but it is during a busy time.  I used the rainy weather to get the rags ready and plan out the rug.  I look forward to the class and am grateful to Ken for his nudge and his offer to cover the farm so I can go!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has spinach, lettuce of many sizes and colors, salad greens, braising greens, pea shoots, beet thins, lambs quarters, bok choy or mizuna, parsnips, gobo(burdock), sunchokes, and onions.

Field Notes.  Ken has been busy catching up with planting.  Saturday we got hail and some ice pellets; it was too windy and cold, so Sunday he went all out!  He planted various members of the onion family, celery root, carrots, beets, and parsnips.

Ken is also doing related jobs like getting irrigation in place.  Each spring it is time to get out the pump, hoses and fittings and get it all set up for use.  He is also working on fencing

Although it has been cold this spring, there are signs of progress:  The garlic that was planted last fall is coming up.
And we have gone from ice pellets to eighty degrees in three days!
The strawberries are blooming.  Some blossoms froze out in that last cold, so we will see what we get!

From the Kitchen. We have been eating green.  I braise greens with sauteed onions and eggs and some of Ken's pickled red peppers with eggs for breakfast.  Salad for mid day and then greens in soup at supper.  Spinach is great paired with hard cooked or pickled eggs in a salad.  It is great in scrambled, baked egg dishes like quiche.  And I add it to soups just before serving - lentil soup and tomato soup are good with spinach.  

I also do the braising greens and Asian greens like mizuna and bok choy in stir fry or wilted in soups. 

We have both green and red bok choy this spring

Parsnips are a spring favorite around here.  At first I scrub, slice, boil four minutes, drain, and cook in a heavy skillet in butter just to the point where they start to brown and caramelize.  The last cool night I roasted some with sliced onion, olive oil and herbs - thyme.  And they are great paired with curry especially in a cream soup.

Sunchokes have inulin, an insulin cousin, so they are very helpful for people with blood sugar issues.  My only rule with sunchokes is do not cook for long as they can turn to grey mush!  Think of them as a crunchy addition to salad or stir fry.  They are a great local seasonal substitute for water chestnuts.

"Til Next Week!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crazy Weather

Ken moving slush Saturday morning May 4th
We are experiencing unusual weather this spring.  March had several night time lows in the single digits.  April brought cooler weather and LOTS of snow.  The snow continued into May, and I was washing and pricing pottery in snow and slush.  Our spring opener weather included heavy slush in the morning on Saturday - a first. 

Kiln shed during snow Saturday May11th
And now today, on the Saturday of Mothers Day weekend, we had a blast of cold air - wind gusts to 35 miles per hour, first small hail, and then snow.  When the hail started Ken and I raced out to close the hoopettes in the garden - no one wants pre - shredded lettuce!  It was bitterly cold - very odd for May.

Jack with a layer of snow May 11th

The animals, including old Jack the Dog took it in stride - that is snow on him, not dandruff!