Friday, June 27, 2014

Ken and Kitten

Ken and I have been socializing the kitten.

Today the kitten came out with me to the field while I picked strawberries and stayed with Ken in the mobile high tunnel while he tied up tomatoes

And after lunch Ken took the kitten out again while he weeded asparagus.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce and salad greens, Bok choy and Chinese cabbage, green onions, beets, asparagus, and the first carrots.

Field Notes.  How quickly everything changes this time of year!  The mobile high tunnel is full of tomatoes and peppers.  We are harvesting the last of the other crops there to make room for them.  The beets, carrots, and green onions are coming out!  From small seedlings, these heat loving plants have taken off, and Ken has to keep them tied so they don't flop and break.

The field is also moving into production.  Tiny pea pods are starting to form, and soon I will be picking those.  Ken's experiments to get early strawberries means that crop has peaked.  He has planted a later variety, and we will see how they do!

It probably sounds like a broken record, but Ken is busy.  He continues planting short season crops like greens and radishes, and the last of the long season crops like corn and beans.  With the rain the plants are growing - and so are the weeds! He also renovated and planted the space where the chickens and geese spent the winter.

From the Kitchen.  The first carrots are always such a treat.  Ken harvested a handful and I scrubbed, sliced and cooked for breakfast!  We had buttered carrots, eggs, and and an interesting combination of avocado, the first garlic scapes, yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice and salt and pepper that Ken had run through the food processor served on our toast.  It was a great combo - rich eggs, zippy spread and sweet carrots.  

I have been cooking bok choy for lunch.  I cut the greens off the stems, slice the stems diagonally, saute for a couple minutes until they start to become translucent and then add the sliced green tops and turn off the heat.  I usually top with a dressing of a bit of honey, tamari, a half teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds.  It would be beautiful served on the same plate as the beets or carrots - a rainbow of a meal.

'Til Next Week, 


Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Busy Little Kitten

Well, we are now into week two of having this kitten.  The little tyke arrived late on a stormy night and spent the first night in the carrier.  Then I fenced in a small part of the yard with a wood pile topped with a piece of plywood.  

Well someone was right at home climbing and hiding between boards and rolling in the sun in the grass.

Today I was worried about boredom, so I setup an impromptu cat toy of a piece of rag  and a plastic part from an ink cartridge for a batting toy.

What a hit.  Soon we will set up a new expanded area in a new location, and so far the kitten is doing great with dog and people.  There are still chickens and geese and turkeys and pigs to investigate.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pigs are Grrowing

Many people request pig photos.  So, here they are.  The pigs are growing and digging.  

In a short time they have dug up the area that Ken had fenced in for them - it seemed large at the time...

So, Ken has opened an area of the garden where there were herbs and other plants we have elsewhere.  The pigs have not found the hole in the fence - yet

Renovating chicken pasture

The chickens winter in the egg mobile near the garden.  The manure piles up and Ken scrapes and piles it.  This will be composted and added to the garden next season

Then he renovates the area.  Soon he will plant a mix of seeds so the soil is covered.

Cucumber Fence

Ken usually works alone in the field and garden. I also usually work alone.  But some jobs require three hands or two people.  This year Evan helped with one of those jobs - the cucumber fence.

Ken designed this fence as cucumbers that are off the grounddo not rot.  They also hang and stay straight.  His idea for this fence must have been a good one as now we see it in a gardening catalog!

Flowers in Bloom

Flowers are blooming - many of my favorites.  The dutch iris have peaked, but now is the time for the Siberian iris - a plant that tolerates heavier soil, more shade and has narrower leaves and smaller flowers.  

They rarely flop over in wind or rain

The peonies have started blooming.  Each time rain is forecast I run out and pick some as they do not withstand rain very well.  

Ken laughed once when I told him that most peonies after a hard rain look like a spitball on a stick.

Ken's self seeding annual daisies are in many places in the yard.
The bees have been busy!

Our Team Expands to include a New Kitten

We rely on animals to assist us.  Oscar the dog keeps deer and other animals out of the garden and field where the mobile high tunnel is.  

And for smaller rodents we have relied on cats.  Last year I was unsuccessful in securing a working cat for this farm.  First the chipmunk population exploded.  Then this spring we found voles had damaged fall planted greens and seedlings that were in the garden to harden off.  Oscar and Ken caught two voles after the damage had been done

Two days ago we acquired a very young kitten.  Of course I am nervous after losing a kitten that was sick last season.  But this little kitten seems healthy and very energetic and curious.  We have fenced in a small area so he can get used to this place and the animals here - dog, geese, chickens, old cat, etc. can get used to him and know that he belongs here.

Green Manures and Why Plant Them

wheat and vetch
People often ask what we mean by green manure.  It is a term used for a crop planted to cover the soil and add nutrients to the soil.  Clover and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil. Rye and deep rooted grasses break up hard soil.  Green manures also cover the soil and keep it more temperate like mulch does.  This promotes microbial life in the soil.  


The root matter of green manures adds organic matter to the soil.  The organic matter helps both sandy and clay soils become more like a sponge that has air and can hold moisture after rain.  Ken read a couple years ago that for each percentage of organic matter the soil has, the crops planted in that soil can go without rainfall - for example a field with five percent organic matter can support crops with no rainfall for a month.  This enables Ken to spend less time irrigating crops.

Ken plants several different green manures and combinations of green manures.  Some over winter and others die with frost.  He chooses based on time of year. moisture, what is needed, and other factors

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has a variety of lettuce and salad greens, baby beets with big tops, green onions, asparagus, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, radishes, and strawberries.

Field Notes.  This weekend marks the summer solstice.  It is the time of the longest days of the year.  Ken is taking full advantage of it, and often works until dark.  This season the push is on as spring started later than usual, so there was less time to do the spring tasks, especially those that depend on length of day.  The fact that Ken is nearly caught up is impressive.

With the warm days comes a whole new set of heat loving weeds.  Ken faithfully cultivates as soon as the soil is dry enough after each rain to stay ahead of the weeds.  On sunny windy dry days one pass with the hand cultivator and most weeds are finished.  Some weeds are a bit more tenacious - purslane for one.  Like many weeds, purslane and dandelions and plantain all came with European settlers as edible and medicinal greens.  Purslane looks like a rubber plant with its succulent leaves, but has a very lemony flavor.  It contains vitamin C and A; we often add it to the box as it is a nice salad addition.

Our other  news this week is the latest addition to our crew - a kitten.  Last year my efforts did not result in a dependable cat; the result was a lot of rodent damage here.  The worst were voles that ate fall planted spinach and spring seedlings when they were hardening off in the garden.  Although Oscar and Ken did catch a vole or two, it was after the damage had been done.  Although this kitten is only in training, it seems healthy and curious.  

From the Kitchen.  The baby beets have begun.  The first crop of beets seems so fresh - the greens are often large and so I see this as one of the "bonus vegetables" that have two delicious parts.  Cut the tops from the roots, and eat the tops soon.  Beets are in the same family as spinach and chard, so the beet greens will work for not only those greens recipes, but most any recipe for greens.  The roots are small and tender - so delicious.  

Chinese cabbage, like many Asian vegetables like bok choy, grows in cooler weather and at a faster rate than European cabbages.  Chinese cabbage is versatile - one friend tells me that Chinese cabbage makes great cabbage rolls.  I like to use the outer leaves in cooked dishes and slice the hearts into thin "ribbons" for salad.  My Asian salad dressing contains the following: sesame oil, a bit of toasted sesame oil, mild vinegar, tamari, a bit of honey,  powdered red pepper, and toasted sesame seeds.  Experiment to find the ratios you like. 
'Til Next Week, 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has a variety of lettuce, endive, salad and braising greens, sorrel,  young cilantro, green onions, radishes, sun chokes, asparagus, and strawberries as we have them.

Field Notes.  We have been getting plenty of rain.  A couple years back during several drought years, Ken joked that he forgot how to grow if we got adequate rain; this year may be the test!  It is so nice to see the crops and green manures look lush.

This has been a week of fencing - the bear fence, expanding the geese and pigs, and the cucumber fence in the garden.  Setting up fences takes time.  It is odd how many different jobs are involved in growing food - it is not just planting some seeds and harvesting!  

Ken has been cultivating all three growing spaces to stay ahead of weeds.  The heat loving plants have been doing well.  Our cool weather this week slows them down, so we will have to wait and see what the weather brings.Cool weather makes for great greens and all the brassica family like bok choy and Napa cabbage.  With heat the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and the members of the nightshade or solanaceae family thrive.  But even the nightshades prefer temperatures below 90; that is when they drop blossoms.

From the Kitchen. Endive is an early season favorite.  Each year I think of a friend who told me that she and her friend got together and their  favorite meal was endive with a creamy dressing and spaghetti with tomato sauce.  That would be a tasty combination!  Endive can also be cooked if it seems to have stronger or more bitter flavor than you like.  I often add rinsed chopped greens to hot pasta and toss before adding a sauce.

Strawberries - a power house of flavor and nutrition.  I eat them when I know their source - Why? Strawberries are often sprayed repeatedly with chemicals.  For more information check the Environmental Working Group's list of the Dirty Dozen - the fruits and vegetables with the highest chemical residues.  These in your box have no chemicals - organic or otherwise.  Rinse, eat and Enjoy!

'Til Next Week, 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heat Loving Crops in the Mobile High Tunnel

With the lettuce and other greens out, the mobile high tunnel is filling up with heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers.  

We are monitoring to keep temperatures at optimum for those crops - too cold means limited growth, and too hot means blossom drop and no fruit.  It feels a bit like Goldilocks and seeking that "just right" situation!

Strawberry Season Starts

Ken is doing some experimenting with fruit in the greenhouses.  

The strawberries in the greenhouse are ready to pick while the ones outside the greenhouse are just blooming

And we get the ones with blemishes - bird pecks, slug bites, etc

Flowers - Wild and Otherwise

So much is blooming right now!  The most fragrant is this wild apple - it has the tiniest fruit- just large enough to hold four seeds.  Ken thinks it is hawthorn or apple.

And the iris have begun!  this one from my friend Lesa..

and this from Janette

and the first of the Siberian iris, possibly my favorite flower.

Peonies from my mother are in the bud

And fragrant valerian is also in the bud

For wild flowers we have geranium

lady's mantle and false Solomon's seal

and annual self seeding daisies