Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall is coming

Although it has been hot this week, there are some indications that autumn is coming.

There are yellow leaves on the walk to the woods

The onions are harvested and curing in the racks.  Soon we will move them to make room for winter squash.

I am not sure whether I love the season I am in - how very "in the moment" of me, or whether I love to anticipate the one just ahead in the road.

Moving the Egg Mobile

Last season Ken built a portable chicken coop that I call the egg mobile.  

It is a great addition to the farm.  Ken had the egg mobile in an area with tall rye.  The rye provides a degree of protection from the hawks and owls - predators from above.

The poultry fence is less to keep chickens in as it is to keep predators like raccoons out. 

The chickens are happy to have a new space.  Soon Ken will renovate the soil where they were for future crops.

Pigs Cool off in Mud

With this heat we have made sure the pigs have mud.  Pigs use mud and damp shady soil to cool off during hot weather.  Pigs get a bad reputation because of this, but pigs are actually quite intelligent and tidy.  Pigs keep eating and toilet areas very clearly defined.  

A nice cool mud "puddle"
Pigs love to dig.  They have huge muscles to do so, and they will often eat plants and then dig and eat roots.  Because they often have dirty noses, their water gets muddy.  We dump their muddy drinking water to a depression that they dig deeper.  

And then, on hot days they head to the mud


And double ah 

They lounge until cooled off

Once cool, they are once again ready for action!

Pigs are opportunists.  Have an itch?  Find a place to scratch!


Ken plants flowers.    He starts many flats each season.  A few make it to clearings in the perennial bed.  Many go to the garden and field.  He encourages wild flowers as well.

People often ask Ken why he gives so much space to flowers.  

There are several reasons.  Many flowers attract pollinators like our honey bees and native pollinators like bumble bees.

And butterflies
Others are homes for beneficial insects that combat the insects that attack crops. 

Some deter insect pests

Not to mention just the beauty of having them as part of the yard, garden and field.  Here is a combination of bean flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies and purple coneflower that beneficial insects like.

Yes, it's a good thing.  Thank you, Ken for adding practical beauty to our lives.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greeting from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini and or zuchetta, Walla Walla onions, broccoli, Chestnut crab apples, corn, and basil.

Field Notes.  Hot and dry!   What an interesting season - cool snowy at the start, hot in June, cool in July, and now REALLY hot.  Overall it has been dry.  We were fortunate to start out with good soil moisture.  That and the organic matter that Ken has built in the soil has carried us through.  We do need rain, but I feel I should be careful what I ask for !  One summer we got a great deal of rain in August and two things occurred - the winter squash was like water balloons and did not keep and the melons lacked sweetness because the sugars did not concentrate.

Ken is doing much better - he tells people he only needs one nap a day!  Most days he gets no nap, but he has been balancing work by activity level.  And in the heat we both try to schedule active work for the coolest parts of the day. 

 Ken has been rethinking what he will be doing on the bee and honey front.  His primary goal this year is to create healthy hives, and he is reading that people are now asking for honey from bees never fed sugar water.  These bees have not had sugar water, so he may take off less honey and leave the bees their natural food.  We have several native bees, but we really need pollinators!  Much of our food requires pollination: peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, raspberries, apples, plums, grapes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash.  The problems with honey bees and native pollinators is one that affects everyone who eats.

Days are getting shorter, and we can see the annual crops pushing to make fruit and seed.  The tsunami of tomatoes is a prime example.  Enjoy summer's bounty!  This week we have broccoli earlier than planned.  Ken planted three crops for a long fall harvest.  With the wide swings in temperature it is all coming at once.  Want broccoli to freeze for next winter?  Call or email us

From the Kitchen.  Salad time!  We have been eating cucumber salad most days.  Cucumbers help cool the body down in the heat.  Ken usually makes a salad with yogurt or sour cream, vinegar, honey, onions, salt and pepper.  For a change of pace I do an Asian dressing with sesame oil, sesame seeds, mild vinegar, honey, tamari and some pepper.  We add red pepper hot or mild for color and zip.

I have been packing up the tomato in balsamic vinegar and olive oil with basil for pot lucks, and we have only had a bowl of dressing to bring home!  

Summer cabbage makes a sweet and lovely salad or a quick steam and voila.  I often do a traditional slaw or with steamed wedges it is usually butter or umeboshi paste.
'Til next Week, 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Sunflowers and dent corn
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini or zuchetta, peppers, Asian eggplant, red cabbage, bulb fennel, carrots, beans, beets, broccoli side shoots, crab apples, basil.

Field Notes.  The rain a week ago was great.  We could use more.  It has been a lot less than the ideal one inch per week.  Ken has been cultivating and irrigating.  We have had lots of help this season, and we appreciate it.  Ken is feeling better, but is still a long way from 100%.

Bees in the Sunflowers

Last week I took this photo in the garden and posted it on facebook.  A friend "stole" it and now it comes up with her name.  What fun and how flattering - I take snaphots, not photos...

This week I did the Saturday Amery Farmers Market.  If we have surplus, we may do it again.  Farmers Markets are the most risk and least profitable of marketing options.  It is not our first choice as we would rather be on farm growing rather than on a parking lot.  If you know of people who would like to join the CSA or online ordering group, please let them know about us.

Zucchini plant
From the Kitchen.  Last week I came home from doing deliveries and Ken had made a summer bake.  He likes to use a flat platter or pan so the vegetables bake rather than stew.  He used Walla Walla sweet onions, eggplant, zuchetta, garlic, peppers, and tomato with some grated cheese on top.  He bakes so the vegetables bubble and the cheese browns.  He prefers this bake style ratatouille, and I agree.

Walla Walla sweet onions are a large juicy and sweet variety.  They are not the firm storage onions.  Each season the first time I cook with them Ken accuses me of adding sugar to the dish they are in - that sweet.  I use them in salads or cook them.  Ken fried some to go with some pan fish a friend caught and gave us.  Delicious.

Tomato sauce, tomato juice, last applesauce and first apple juice
Ken canned one batch of tomatoes - a neighbor came by and bought the rest of the canning tomatoes on Saturday.  Ken has figured out a way to get juice and sauce without boiling down and caramelizing the tomatoes - it is a close to fresh tomato taste.  He is also working on a tomato ketchup that also captures a fresh tomato flavor.

'Til Next Week, 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ken in the Kitchen - tomatoes and apples

Although we have had tomatoes for weeks, we keep hearing how few other people do.  Last week we may have crested the tomato wave - a tsunami of tomatoes.  So we decided I would bring our surplus of beautiful tomatoes to the Amery Farmers Market.  I also had beans and cucumbers.

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch", Ken started processing the not so cute.  I sent someone to him for canners, so he only had one batch to do.  I got home to find tomato juice and sauce in jars, and apples cleaned and cooking.  I ran the applesauce apples through the food mill and got the applesauce and and the crab apple juice in jars.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Drying Herbs

One of our preservation tasks is drying herbs.  Ken took an old crib and made a series of open shelves in a part of the hose that gets no dirct sunlight, but plenty of ventilation.

Once dry, I put herbs in jars and watch them to make sure there is no residual humidity to make them mold.  After a couple days I put them in the pantry with label.  I transfer to small jars as needed to keep them potent.  The more exposure to air and light, the faster they lose their punch

Beans in a pancake recipe

From our Friend Tom

Puff pancake is really simple.   Preheat a cast iron fry pan in a hot
oven for ten minuets or so.  Put in a coupe large table spoons of oil
and continue to heat for a min.  Batter is . one egg..half cup table spoon flour.
Whisk vigorously.  Pour into hot pan and return to oven for eight mins
or so and it will puff up and curl up the sides of the pan.  I just
sizzle a large hand full of green beans for a couple mins  in the oven
before I pour in the batter. It puffs up and looks like a lot but is
mostly air.  It is good with sweet or savory.  Measurements are never
exact....just wing it.

Eggplant recipe

from Dianne
As for the eggplant, I fried it  along with some zucchini in olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  Delicious.  My favorite way to cook it however is to dip it in egg then flour and fry it till brown then eat it with soy sauce and rice.  Some of Ken's salted/pickled cabbage  on the side make a complete and wonderful Japanese style dinner for me.

Thank you for sharing, Dianne!

Preservation of the harvest begins

Each year as we start to harvest vegetables, I assess what we have used since last year.  Often in good years we can enough to cover bad years.  For example three years ago we had a bumper apple crop , and we canned quarts and quarts of applesauce and apple juice.  Last year when we had no apples due to a late frost, we have used up all that applesauce and most of the juice.  This year I got enough Nanking cherries to juice and can.

Ken even came up with a creative use for the pulp.  He ran it through a food mill to separate seeds from pulp.  He made a wonderful mousse dessert, and we froze some pulp for winter use.  The seeds I saved to use in rattles.  A friend told us about making cherry pit pillows, heating them and then wrapping them around necks, hands, etc.

Next The applesauce apples have ripened.  I have canned a few batches and have one more batch today or tomorrow.   These yellow transparent apples are not much for eating raw, but cook down quickly and there is very little pulp left to feed the chickens or pigs.  I cut the fuzzy blossom end out, and pull the bitter stems.  Then I quarter or chunk depending on the size of the apples.  It is nice to cook with a cinnamon stick or other spices.  One year Ken used mace and we had given some to my parents.  My Dad who grew up in a family restaurant called to ask what the spice was -

Now the crab apples are starting.  They seem small this year.  Ken attributes it to the dry July.  He often quarters them, scoops out the cores and seeds and poaches in apple juice with spices.  If they are too small, I will run them through the steam juicer and can apple juice for later use.  We see it as a local source of sweetener and add it when we want to sweeten a dessert or fruit or Ken adds gelatin for fingernail strength when he is making pottery.

And as the wave of bean has crested, I will blanch and freeze some for winter.  I like to rinse, snap ends, blanch , chill and freeze on a large cookie sheet then place in a freezer bag so I can grab a handful or two as wanted.

It is work, but it is in the category of work that is deeply satisfying.  We feel grateful for what we have

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, beans, basil, peppers, eggplant, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, and applesauce apples.

Field Notes.  The rain Sunday was a welcome sound!   Ken had been talking about starting to irrigate, but with the one inch of rain we received, it has become unnecessary, and the crops look great.  Irrigation will maintain crops, but rainfall is superior.  We are grateful.

The gardens and fields have the full season look.  Each year I see the garden and field like a person - perky and cute as a high school cheerleader in June, like a young mother in July, like a woman in her prime in August, and moving into crone in September and October.

We received a real compliment last week.  A friend who has been farming organically since 1978, his son and an intern came to help Ken catch up in the field and garden.  It was a great kindness to leave his work and help us out.  All three enjoyed seeing another farm and seeing the difference in crops here and at the farm down near River Falls.  Our tomatoes and peppers in the mobile high tunnel were ahead of his, and both he and his son complimented Ken on his vigilance in maintaining optimum greenhouse temperatures.  He has had tunnels for years, so this really made an impression on us.

Ken continues to work as he can, but is still not back in full swing.  No one seems to know how long a full recovery will take.  We are deeply grateful for all the help we have received this season.

From the Kitchen.  In addition to having help in the garden and field, I have been making more food for all our helpers.  It has been a great joy to receive compliments on my cooking.  I truly believe that starting with great ingredients makes preparing a good meal so much easier.  I laugh and tell people that rather than learning how to fix poor food, I have learned to work to enhance the good food Ken brings me from field and garden!

So, what have I been serving?  Well many tomato salads - the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sliced basil over tomato wedges is popular. The cucumber and Walla Walla onion salad with yogurt dressing is always cleaned up, and the cubed boiled turnips with butter and cream cheese goes as well.  Zuchetta cooked in a tomato sauce with crumbled feta. I was amazed that our high school graduate liked the eggplant and green pepper kinpira.  All recipes from the last few newsletters.

Now is also when I look at produce and start to preserve peak harvest.  I made and canned applesauce last weekend.  I will freeze some beans and soon will be juicing crab apples and canning tomatoes.  If you want produce to preserve, please contact us.

'Til Next Week, 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, zucchini and or zuchetta, peppers, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, chard, Asian eggplant, kohlrabi, pearl onions, turnips, garlic,  beans, sauce apples and basil.

Field Notes.  Until last night it has been dry.  Ken has begun irrigating in the garden.   Last year's drought forced hard choices - certain crops were really small in size.  This year Ken planted celeriac in the garden.  It is one of our full season, late harvested vegetables that needs consistent water or it does not size up.  And speaking of sizing up, all the rutabagas grew dramatically with the last rain and cool nights. All the members of the brassica family like rutabagas, Chinese cabbage and bok choy look great this season.

It has been unseasonably cool the last couple weeks.  This slows down the crops that thrive in heat: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and eggplant.  They do best between 60 and 90 degrees.  We have been vigilant about opening and closing greenhouses, and that has helped.  

Ken is planting fall crops.  We are hoping for some rain to help with seed germination.  Hard to believe it is already August.  Soon we will be thinking about frost!

From the Kitchen.  This week we are starting to harvest chard.  Most years it is so hot in July and August that growing lettuce is a bit dicey.  The nice thing is when the lettuce may not be in its prime, there are both salad options like cabbage and Chinese cabbage slaw, tomato salad, cucumber salad, beans.  And there are also greens options like chard, kale, Chinese cabbage and bok choy greens.  Last week I made a stir fry with carrots cut in matchsticks, green onions, and bok choy.  As it was cold I used ginger - a warming spice, and added a bit of sweet wine, tamari and organic corn starch mixed with water for the sauce.  Ken and the work crew cleaned it up.  Ken also used a bok choy in a tomato soup he made for Saturday.  

Chard is a cousin to beets and spinach; since it has less oxalic acid than spinach, so many people who avoid spinach can eat chard.  It thrives in hot weather.  I like adding it to egg dishes like quiche.  It makes a great final addition to stir fry and soup.  The flavor is mild and green, so it is versatile.

 Today's apples are an early applesauce variety.  I rinse, cut the fuzzy blossom end out and pull the stem, quarter and set in a pan with a bit of water.  In very little time the apples soften and I run them through a food mill for smooth and delicious applesauce. 

I made a basil and parsley pesto with green onions and toasted pecans one evening to go on pasta with sliced tomatoes on the side.  I rinsed, chopped and then used a mortar and pestle for the basil and parsley and salt. Then I added olive oil and finally the nuts and pepper.  What a fresh, summery flavor.

The Asian eggplant are one of our favorites - unlike its larger European counterpart, Asian eggplant is mild and does not need peeling soaking or salting to lessen bitterness and toughness.  I just rinse, chop and add to any of my favorite recipes - ratatouille, eggplant and peppers  kinpira, etc.  From May 2011: Enjoy!


What is kinpira? Kinpira is a Japanese cooking technique. In spring one uses carrots and gobo - burdock root - cut into matchsticks. In summer chefs combine thumb sized pieces of Asian eggplant and green pepper. And in fall squash like our buttercup cut into thin crescent shapes is common.

Start with a cast iron or heavy skillet. Toast some sesame seeds and set aside. Use a cooking fat or oil that can take heat, and add some dried hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add the vegetable that takes the longer cooking time (gobo in spring and green peppers in summer). Cook over high heat, and keep stirring. Add the second vegetable. Cook to al dente. Add a teaspoon to tablespoon of sugar, Stir to caramelize, but don't burn. Add a splash at a time of a sweet cooking wine like Japanese mirin or sherry. I use homemade parsnip wine. Finally add some good quality tamari or soy sauce. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.

The sequence is important as the sugar and sweet wine seal in the flavors. Experiment as everyone seems to like a different ratio - some like it hotter, others like it sweeter or saltier. The end result is a toasted sweet, salty glazed vegetable with a bit of crunch. Delicious!

'Til Next Week,