Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CSA Newsletter

squash blossoms
Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, turnips and beets, green onions, basil.

Field Notes.  Well, it has been dry.  Monday night's rain was about a half inch.  Optimum rainfall for growing food is an inch each week.  Although we started the season wet and cool, Ken cannot remember measurable precipitation since early July.  What has saved us has been the years of growing the organic matter in the soil.  Ken read last winter that for each percentage point of organic matter, the soil can hold an inch of water.  So our 6% organic matter provides a buffer when there is no rain.  Other farmers are often shocked at how little we irrigate.  This is the reason why.

corn, potatoes, squash
The cool nights have been nice for sleeping, but they really have stalled the ripening of crops like tomatoes and peppers that like it hot.  We actually experienced a period of dropped blossoms on beans and hot weather plants.  This means a gap in production.  Temperatures did not read above 90 or below 50 degrees, so we are wondering if all our pollinators chose the basswood blossoms over our vegetables!  We encourage native pollinators and have seen bumble bees this season, and Ken has been adding supers to his hives, so the honey bees are busy, too.  We are hoping for a good honey year.  

planting future greens
Field work continues.  Thank you to all who have helped us in catch up due to Ken's horrible reaction to a spider bite.  He is continuing to get better, but tires easily.  This week we will be harvesting the main crop of onions, and then focus shifts to fall crops.

From the Kitchen.  Once the hot weather crops start, I shift focus from lettuce salads to other options - tomato salad, cucumber salad, grilled vegetables like zucchini, and other greens like Chinese cabbage, cabbage, bok choy,  kale and chard - salads and slaws.

zuchetta and "regular" zucchini
 One of our favorite summer squashes is an Italian variety called zuchetta or trombochino. This long summer squash has all its seeds on the bulbous blossom end.  The flesh is firm and stays firm - great for grilling or ratatouille.

Last week I made a tomato salad (from the blemished tomatoes).  I use a combination of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with finely sliced ribbons of basil.  After I served it the guests asked me to bring it to their pot luck! A friend does the same combination, but instead of wedges he slices tomatoes, drizzles the dressing between and reassembles them.  He serves by slicing with a sharp knife - very beautiful presentation.

'Til next Week, 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Blooming potatoes and one variety of corn
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has celery, lettuce and salad greens, bok choy, kohlrabi greens and other braising greens, radishes, green onions, snap peas, turnips, some of the following: peppers, tomatoes, zucchini or cukes, and the first basil!

Currently in the mobile high tunnel
Field Notes.  Ken has begun to feel better, and people have offered to help -it is always amazing how very kind people are.  Ken has been working to keep things moving forward - like tying up tomatoes and irrigating- and catch up on weeds.  Yesterday we had help harvesting the garlic and shallots.  The rest of the onions will not be far behind!  

Blooming beans
Beans are blooming and soon there will be green beans in your box.

Pigs love sprouts
We have also been moving animals to summer pasture - last week four of us moved the pigs across the road from the mobile high tunnel into shady woods,  

Egg mobile - new location
and Monday the egg mobile went down to the tall rye on one side of the mobile high tunnel.  The animals have more to forage and like the new areas. 

From the Kitchen.  Ah, basil and garlic, a great combination.  Basil keeps best in a closed plastic bag with room to move.  It does not need to be the refrigerator.  Basil is a great addition to stir fry, salad or chopped with garlic and olive oil for pesto.

Bok choy, particularly this joy choy is great in combination with other vegetables.  Sunday I steamed some carrots, added the bok choy stems cut on a diagonal, chopped green onions, and then the greens.  I topped with a bit of toasted sesame oil, sesame oil, tamari, and red pepper powder.

'Til Next Week

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pigs Move to new spot on the farm

Coming to see what I have brought them!
We practise sequential grazing.  The pigs get a new spot to dig once they have dug up where they are.  Ken usually starts them in softer soil, and then after we decide on our pig tilling project each season we move them to an area where they "leapfrog from one spot to the next. 

Last Friday was the day to move them from the "easy dig" to a nice spot in shade that can easily be expanded.  This year we had help moving them - Thanks to Ian and Alastair Merton - their first "big pig rodeo" went very smoothly. 

Sprouts are their favorite
And the pigs love their new area - shade, soil, shelter and feed and water - hog heaven!

Cactus flower

Ken's sister gave Ken a cactus.  And it died.  She gave him another and for the second year it bloomed!

The first year there were two blossoms that shot out like antennae and they balanced each other out.

This year one shot out and one morning I found it broken off, so I set it in a glass.  It was beautiful for just a short time

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ken's Definitive Diagnosis

Ken got a definitive diagnosis yesterday.  He has been suffering from a venomous spider bite.  About three weeks ago he was working late.  Once he came inside for the night he saw a small blister that looked and itched like poison ivy - only one bump and he was puzzled - he had not seen any poison ivy while he was working.

The next morning his foot swelled up and he wondered if it was a splinter, so he opened the blister - no foreign object.  Foot continued to turn reddish purple and swelled up like a water balloon.  Then his ankle swelled, so he soaked his foot.  Next fever, chills and loss of appetite.  Rash on neck and upper back.  Finally stabbing pain like sciatica in both shoulders and hips.

He has seen his health care practitioner, been diagnosed and is on a regimen.  It is good to know what it is and it will be better once he is back to his old Ken self!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Elderberry blossoms - fruit soon
Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has lettuce and salad greens, braising greens, green onions, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, celery, carrots, radishes, bok choy, snap and shell peas, dill,  cilantro, and the first zucchini, cukes, peppers and cherry tomatoes


Field Notes.  Heat.  Summer is here.  The basswood trees are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the crops are and weeds are growing.  With the heat cukes, zukes, peppers and tomatoes are just starting.

In spite of feeling under the weather, Ken has been hanging in there and weeding, harvesting, planting greens,  mowing fence lines, mowing down crops that are done like the strawberries, keeping greenhouses irrigated, and more.  I have been picking peas, and in the heat the bushes have slowed down, so enjoy what we have - the end is in sight!  If you need peas to freeze, call or email me. With the heat comes other opportunities - Ken says if it is a short pea season it could be hot enough for good melons and sweet potatoes.  Each season is different, and we wait to see what will do best.

Snap peas left, shell peas right

From the Kitchen.  Snap peas are edible pod peas.  They have slightly sickle shaped pods, and if you open them the pods are thick and juicy.  Shell peas are cylindrical and when you open a pod the pod itself is thin and if you eat it you have a mouthful of organic dental floss.  There are some of each type in your box this week.  We grow more snap peas as they have a longer season and there is more to eat.  But sitting and shelling peas is a fun activity.  Each year I sell some to a woman who gets them for a snack when her grandchildren visit.  I tend to use shell peas in Asian dishes and pasta salads.  Imagine trying to eat little round shell peas with chopsticks!  I like to mix shell peas with carrots cut julienne - a nice color, texture and flavor pairing.  I also hate to throw the shell pea shells in the compost so I simmer them first to make a tasty soup stock.

Dill likes cool weather and so this is the end.  If you need dill for pickles we suggest you dry or freeze some.  Cilantro is great in Asian and Mexican dishes.  I like it added to a stir fry just before serving.  Ken likes cilantro and fish - ooh fish tacos!
Zucchini is great grilled.  Try it!  We are in that time of year when it is nice to cook out.  When I was a child we would often cook out in the summer, and if the bugs were pesty, we would have a cook out/eat in.  
'Til Next Week, 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, salad greens, kohlrabi and other braising greens, celery, cabbage, snap peas, garlic scapes, green onions, carrots or beets, parsley, mint, and asparagus

Field Notes.  We are so grateful for the rain on Tuesday (and so are the plants).   We watched the water levels of the irrigation ponds drop, rain barrels become empty, and wondered how long it would be.  Ken has read that the first rain brings not only water, but the droplets surround particles in the atmosphere and bring nutrients with them.  Because of this it is really important to keep soil ready to absorb that first rain.  Ken keeps the soil cultivated so it is not hard and crusty.  This helps.  And the rain Tuesday started slowly, so the moisture could soak into the soil rather than running off.

Ken has been mowing and weeding and cultivating.  He is less inclined to mow everything and trim edges as years ago when he did that the cucumber beetles, having lost their habitat in the tall grass outside the field, moved into the crops!  HE has also worked to leave some blooming plants for the bees .  During the hot summer days he works outside early and late.  During the heat of the day he finds either jobs in the shade or those that require a slower pace.  

Previous farm tour
Farm Tour at Keppers is Sunday, July 14th 2 - 4 p.m.  A tour of garden, fields, and greenhouses followed by a snack from the garden.  Please let me know if you plan to attend so I know numbers for food. 

From the Kitchen.  Enjoy the asparagus as we are at the end of the season.  The plants need to grow and save energy for next year's harvest.  Asparagus looks like tall ferns once Ken stops harvesting.  We have been adding asparagus to pasta salads, served as a cold salad with Asian dressing, and I actually cooked some in a hot heavy cast iron skillet in bacon fat.  It was delicious.

Last week a woman bought a large quantity of garlic scapes to make pesto - what a great idea.  Her green garlic pesto would be a great addition to sauces, chicken, pasta.  I have been mincing and adding scapes to salad dressing and I added sliced scapes to chicken breasts with Ken's Asian plum sauce.

Our summer cabbage should have a different name.  When one says cabbage, most people think of a big light colored dense head that is best used for sauerkraut.  This early season cabbage has a mild, green flavor.  Summer cabbage is GREAT in salads, slaw or cut into quarters lengthwise and lightly steamed.  Ken adds butter or umeboshi paste - a pickled plum sauce available at natural food stores.

'Til Next Week - or better yet see you Sunday for the Farm Tour, 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

CSA Newsletter

baby beet and turnips to be thinned
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, salad greens, spinach, turnip and beet thins, braising greens like kohlrabi tops, green onions, garlic scapes, radishes, baby carrots or baby beets, celery, asparagus, and snap peas.

Field Notes.  Ken remains busy, but did take some time to see family in Wadena last weekend.  Even when we are busy, it is really crucial to schedule some time off or away from the farm work.  Ken has been planting more full season crops - later than usual as a result of the cool and wet spring.  Soon I will help him with the cucumber fence in the garden.  Fences make sense for certain crops as it keeps the fruit off the ground to avoid bent or rotting cucumbers.  

Pea plant
Tuesday I picked the first snap peas.  Every few years I get excited by reading in a seed catalog there is a new, delicious variety that does not need fencing.  Peas are a short season crop, so it is tough to justify the time spent on fencing.  This year I tried a new variety, and the peas ARE delicious, but this variety would have done better with a fence - duped again!  

Green tomatoes
The tomatoes and peppers are growing and there are some green tomatoes - that is pretty exciting for most people. 

 Peppers are blooming and have tiny fruit.  

Some of the full season crops like Brussels sprouts are really taking off out in the field.  I should have sequential shots of the same spot to highlight plant growth.  It is so satisfying when I actually take note!

FARM TOUR JULY 14th 2 - 4 p.m.  Here at Keppers.  RSVP so I know quantity of snacks from the garden to prepare.  It is a good time to see food growing and ask Ken why he does things the way he does.  Dress for the weather and a walk in the woods (mosquitoes, ticks, etc.)

From the Kitchen.  So many exciting new things this week!  First we have garlic scapes - the first taste of fresh garlic since last year.  I chop scapes and stem and use wherever I would use fresh garlic cloves.  Time for a Caesar salad!

This week we also have the first beets or carrots, and we will rotate beets or carrots through the crop.  The early beets have tasty tops.  The carrots and beets early in the season require less cooking time than the late season varieties.

Snap peas are one of the edible pod pea varieties.  Just snap off the cap at the stem end and "unzip" any strings there may be.  I usually blanch snap peas and either serve hot or in cold summer salads.  I make a pasta salad with salmon, snap peas, green onions, and a dressing of homemade mayonnaise, mustard, yogurt or sour cream and chopped herbs like parsley or dill.

I also like snap peas in an Asian style dressing with toasted sesame oil, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, mild vinegar, a bit of honey and organic no wheat tamari.

'Til Next Week!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bees are buzzing

Ken tells me of photo opportunities he sees.  A couple days ago he told me the bees were busy in the clover in the garden.  Ken plants flowers in garden and field to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

The clover was a buzz with bees.  It was a challenge to get a good photo as they are in nearly constant motion.

The bumblebees were out, too.

And the best shot was of a wild bee in one of our blooming brassicas.  Ken is going to save the seed.

Green Manures

For years Ken has been planting green manures.  Green manures are various crops that are planted to keep the soil covered to prevent erosion and moderate soil temperatures to promote microbial life.  Hot dry soil blows away, and the micro organisms in the soil head deeper to cooler soil,  Mulching crops also works, but green manures can add nutrients - like peas fixing nitrogen.  And green manures add root mass that remains organic matter in the soil for years.

Years ago when we participated in a three year farm study for the Center for Integrated Agriculture in Madison, the leader of the study did farm visits.  He was amazed at how little soil is exposed here.

Ken plants many different green manures: rye, peas and oats, buckwheat, clover.  All have their advantages.

Crop Update

With the long days and a bit of heat, plants are growing at an amazing rate.  

The Brussels sprouts are growing with marigolds in the middle
The corn should be knee high by the fourth of July


Ken has been tying up tomatoes - three times now. 

Many plants are taller than I am!

And the peppers and tomatoes are blooming.

Snap peas are nearly ready to pick

There are even green tomatoes - soon we will have ripe tomatoes  a real summer treat!