Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Garlic plants - weeded!
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has Romaine lettuce, other lettuce, salad and braising greens- pea shoots, kale, brassica tops, beet thins, turnip thins, Chinese cabbage, green onions, asparagus, parsley, thyme, strawberries, and the first celery.

Ken cultivating
Field Notes.  Ken continues planting, cultivating, and weeding.  The high rainfall meant it was too wet to work the soil, but not too wet for the weeds to germinate and grow!  I was out weeding the peas and am happy to see not only pea blossoms, but also tiny peas starting to form - thank you pollinators!  So much of our food requires pollination, so we are happy to see our honey bees, native bees like bumble bees, and butterflies.

Mobile all shut up - early morning
Ken has also been monitoring temperatures in both greenhouses to try to maintain optimum temperatures for the heat loving crops.  We are opening some as soon as we get up, and watching sun and heat to determine how much venting is required.  Both greenhouses have sides that can be rolled up and doors or vents that can be open on the ends.  It means more options and more to experiment with and more to manage.  We are excited each time we figure something out!  The tomatoes and peppers look great - growing and flowering and there are some tiny tomatoes starting to appear - again thank you pollinators!

Pigs - hate the move, but love the new space
Tuesday we moved the pigs - always an adventure.  This will be the last time Ken can pick them up, so next time we move into herding and rodeo mode.  They are happily digging away, and Ken is always happy to see them digging - less tilling for him to do.

Ken and celery plants
From the Kitchen.  Celery!  With the Chinese cabbage and celery we are moving from early greens to what I call solid vegetables.  Celery is a great addition to salads and soups and stir fry dishes.  It is a hydrating vegetable - high in water, and has vitamins A, C, B complex, E and several minerals.  It is often found on the dirty dozen list put out by the Environmental Working Group- one of the higher pesticide residue vegetables, and that is why I am  so excited Ken will take the time and trouble to grow it!

Romaine lettuce is the classic Caesar salad lettuce.  I like to not only make Caesar salad, but also mix it with other greens for its great crunchy texture.  Romaine takes at least one week longer to grow than other lettuce varieties, so enjoy!

Last season's asparagus plants in late summer
And enjoy the asparagus. Soon Ken will stop harvesting and let the plants grow to store energy for next season.  We keep talking about getting the grill out - it is our favorite way to cook asparagus.  Drizzle with olive oil, grill and sprinkle with a little sea salt - voila!

'Til Next Week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Tomato preview
Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has Romaine lettuce, salad and braising greens like mustard, peas shoots, beet thinnings, and arugula, asparagus, Asian turnips, radishes, carrots, parsley, green onions and Chinese cabbage.  There will strawberries as we have them.

Field Notes.  As a friend of mine would say, Ken "has been running like a dog."  He is nearly caught up planting, has been  weeding perennials, and next will be moving animals to their summer homes.  

Last week he got the tomato plants tied up for the first time this season.  He says the first time is the most bending, stretching and time consuming.  But it will continue about every week during the season.

Ken got the irrigation pump working.  Mechanical work is not his favorite work, so it is nice to be done and move on.  Although irrigation sounds odd with all the rain we have had this spring, the plants in the greenhouses don't get the rain, so Ken must water them.  He moves the pump from field to mobile high tunnel as needed.  
rye and the mobile tunnel

The greenhouses are a great tool, but like any new tool, one has to work with them, learn what they can and can't do, and incorporate them into the farm.   We are learning things like venting.  The greenhouses can get colder than the heat loving plants like at night, but must be opened before they get too hot.  Last year there were days with the greenhouse wide open that had temperatures too hot so the blossoms on tomatoes dropped - a gap in production of about six inches on each plant.

From the Kitchen  Chinese cabbage is a sure sign we are moving into summer and "solid greens" with European cabbage to follow.  Chinese cabbage is versatile.  I usually cook the outer leaves and make salad out of the hearts.  Our friend Sandy tells us Chinese cabbage in great for cabbage rolls, too.  I usually cut the leaf from rib as I cook the rib for a couple minutes, but only cook the greens to wilt them.  I like to cut the hearts into ribbons and dress with an Asian style dressing of sesame oil, a bit of toasted sesame oil, mild vinegar like rice vinegar, tamari, a little honey, chopped green onion tops, toasted sesame seeds and some crushed hot pepper.

And I also dressed some grilled asparagus with a bit of toasted sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds for a change.  It got a thumbs up from Ken.

We had a clear broth soup for breakfast as it was cool Tuesday.  I added greens to the bowl, and poached some eggs in the broth with herbs and green onions, and placed the eggs on the greens and then ladled the hot broth to wilt the greens.  A great warmer upper on a cool morning.

'Til Next Week, 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ken is Catching Up

Ken has been working diligently.  First, with the late spring,  he has been planting so much in so short a time.  Now he is weeding the perennials like garlic, raspberries, etc.  

This has been a challenge to accomplish between rainfall.  I love to walk out to the field and see him in action.  Years of experience means he can go down a row more quickly than I can walk!

The field is looking great.  The garlic was cultivated today, the raspberries,

 and several annual crops were weeded and thinned - like the parsnips...
..and the beets crop  On a sunny day the weeds dry up and die rather than rolling over and regrowing.

With the spring rains several crops look good at this point - like the grapes.

The pea plants are blooming.  Peas like cool, damp weather , and so far the plants are doing really well.

Each season has its challenges and its rewards.  It is exciting to watch it all unfold.

Monday, June 17, 2013

June at Keppers

Interesting.   It seems like each of the last few spring seasons I have typed "it has been an unusual season..." This year it was a cool and late spring - I don't remember single digits at night in March, I never cleaned and priced pottery in snow in May, etc.  Last year we had 80 degrees in March.

May, honest!

This year's cool, wet spring has led to some challenges for Ken. 

Planting onions a few weeks ago

Most years he can start planting crops out doors in mid to late April.  This year's late start has meant a real push to accomplish what he may do over six weeks most years to a much shorter time this year.  

Ready to plant and fenced to keep geese out
Ken has finished many of the spring plantings, and it is dry enough he can now get the soil ready for others.  He has planted heat loving crops in the mobile high tunnel.  Soon he will be planting other crops in the medium tunnel.  

And on the other side of the mobile high tunnel, the rye is heading out.

There are signs of catching up - pepper plants are blooming!

And there are even some marble sized tomatoes

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Pigs Have Arrived

First day here
The pigs are here!  Each spring we get small pigs for the season.  Pigs love to dig - they are each like a four legged rototiller.  They are a valuable asset to our farm.  

Less than 24 hours later!

Because they live to dig, each year we decide on a pig project.  Over the years they have cleared fence lines, dug the sod all around the garden for easy garden expansion, and renovated portions of the garden and field.  

Smart and great personality

We sequentially graze the pigs.  Ken gives them new space about weekly.  They also get some of the parts of plants from the garden that people do not eat - lower leaves of the cabbage plant, broccoli plants for example. 

People who get pork from our farm rave about the quality.  We are excited to have pigs as part of the team during the growing season!

Birds, Bees, and Butterflies

Spring is an exciting time!  We are excited by the diversity of life here, and work to promote and encourage pollinators and wildlife.

 Each year Ken has robins in various places on the farm - two in his tool shed in the field, one in the Nanking cherries by the garden, one in the wood stacked on the driveway, etc. They come back year after year.  Today he came in to tell me of a new nest with tiny  birds in it.

I went out to get a photo and I think this is one of the parents arriving with food.

And with camera in hand, I looked for new flowers blooming.  Instead I found a beautiful butterfly, 

and a bumble bee.  And I thought, "Go Pollinators!"


shy goslings run from photographer
Each year as the various poultry females get broody, Ken tries to give them space and time to hatch out young.  

Mom sounding the alarm that I am nearby
Gander watching over goslings  it takes a flock....

We have found that we can incubate eggs, but babies with mothers need less attention from us...

... and they seem to have a real advantage with poultry parents to show them what to do.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flowers in Bloom

One of my favorite flowers in the iris.  And they are starting to pop open.  

For years I have neglected my perennial beds as I shift focus each year to picking peas or beans or....

The good part of this is that certain plants like trillium and Solomon Seal and false Solomon Seal and milkweed also have found space to grow and bloom....

... and wild geraniums.

Coming soon: peonies!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Scandinavian Rug Class and the Result

The loom at class - newer and more complicated 
than mine at home
In March, I heard about a Scandinavian Rug Class in the Twin Cities.  BUT it was in June, one of the busiest times of the year here.  Ken nudged me and I did not need a second nudge!

My rug on the loom

I went in for a pre-class information meeting where we learned the basics of the process and what would work well for this style of rug.  The teacher and the rest of the class members use new printed cotton like quilters use.  I returned home and dug through my many rags.  I found some interesting prints I thought would work together

My neighbor's rug - she gave me some 
of the bright yellow fabric
The instructor was really supportive and helpful.  I learned so many ways to make warping easier, make my selvedges more even, a cleaner, easier way to finish the ends of the rug and more. 

Finished except the ends

The class members were delightful people, and it was a real learning experience to see what fabrics and colors they chose.  Each of the rugs was so different and so beautiful!


And I am happy with my rug.  Photos of the whole class and rugs can be seen on the Weavers Guild of Minnesota's facebook page:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has Romaine and other lettuce, baby beet greens, pea shoots, mizuna, mustard and other braising greens, salad turnips, radishes,  green onions, sunchokes, parsley, and asparagus.

Field Notes.  Ken is tackling many jobs on several fronts.  He is nearly up to date on planting - quite the accomplishment with the late spring.  He is working on fencing and moving animals to new and greener pastures.  All the animals here are part of the team - geese clip grass, chickens eat ticks and other insects, and pigs are four legged tillers - they love to dig.  Ken provides pigs with new space to dig about weekly.  Some years they clear fence lines, other years they renovate portions of fields. 

Yesterday he checked the bees, and they seem to be well established and doing well.  After his day long seminar on organic bee keeping, Ken is working diligently this season to create strong hives this year.  He has been monitoring for any problems and so far so good!

Ken has been weeding perennial crops like asparagus and raspberries.  As he often says, perennial crops mean perennial weeds and one must be vigilant to have a crop.

I have just returned from two weekends of weaving class.  Thanks to Ken for holding down the fort in addition to all the other work.  I learned a lot, and it was a great teacher and group of people.

From the Kitchen.  Green onions. Chives.  I love that fresh green and onion flavor combined.  I don't trim tops when I clean onions so all the onion except the root can be used.  The white firmer portion is good either cooked or raw - I saute and add braising greens.  The green tops are great in salads, egg dishes, even cornbread!

Mizuna is an Asian green I like it as a salad accent or braised with a dressing  or lemon juice or vinegar, or chopped and added to soups or rice just before serving.  It is a member of the brassica family.
Baby beet thinnings are a great salad accent - they add not only color but a sweet, green earthy flavor.  I also braise them after I saute some onion,  And they are great added to a soup just before serving.

Parsley is a nutritional power house.  I add it to salads, rice dishes, egg dishes, stir fry  just before serving.  We grow both the familiar curly variety and also the Italian flat leafed which seems to have more flavor.

'Til Next Week