Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, green or Walla Walla sweet onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, and the first of the tomatoes and garlic!

Field Notes.  After a few weeks with no rain, Ken is preparing to irrigate the fall crops in the field.  He is in the process of reconfiguring how he does this now the long greenhouse is out there.  He keeps looking at the forecast as these younger crops need rain to fill out for fall harvest.

Ken also has picking and doing maintenance.  I snapped this photo of him as he was trimming the tomatoes in the mobile high tunnel.  We have just started to get tomatoes.  This is later than usual and the reason is the wonderful cool nights have slowed down all the heat loving crops.  But they are coming!

Ken has been irrigating in the garden where he has lettuce, celery, and other crops that need a steady supply of water to grow.  With the organic matter in the field the root and vine crops can tolerate a less even water supply.  Ken read a couple years ago for each percentage of organic matter, the crops can go one week without the optimum one inch of rainfall.

Our customer base dwindles each year as home gardens come in.  If you know of anyone who wants vegetables, please spread the word on the quality and service we provide. They can order conveniently from our website - kepperspottery.com -  Thank you!

From the Kitchen. Garlic is a long season crop - planted in fall for mid summer harvest.   The allium or onion family is very sensitive to length of day, and once the tops start to droop, the bulbs are done filling out, and the harvest begins.  Fresh garlic has great fresh flavor.  I use it everywhere - salads with tomato, minced in sauces on meat, in pasta salads, cucumber salads, in vegetable medleys and stir fry, on braising greens.   I read recently that garlic retains fresh flavor if added near the end of the cooking.

Tomatoes are really a fruit.  The first ones are a great addition to salads.  Usually we eat the first raw, and then start to cook and can.  We will have tomatoes for canning and drying.  Just let us know you want some

'Til next week, Judith

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kitten's new spot

Well, Who would think that the preferred new spot to nap is an egg carton on a shelf by the sprouter?

But that is the new spot we find the kitten between his big adventures.  At this point he fits in the jumbo lid!

Don't Mess with Big Red

Poor Oscar.  In his five years he has injured himself three times : twice he was impaled with a stick running through the woods chasing something.  Once he had to go to the vet to have the piece of stick removed.  Last week we heard a yelp and found him with a long gash through his skin.  The next morning it was a trip to the vet.

And stitches.  Ken believes by the tipped feed barrels and other evidence that Oscar had crawled under a table to play with the kitten.  Then a paw with claws came at him and Oscar backed up, caught himself on something sharp and ouch!

The two animals are working out how to play.  Oscar remains a bit cautious.  The moral: Don't mess with Big Red!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has  lettuce and salad greens, carrots, chard, green onions, turnips, celery, radishes or daikon radish, and the first cucumbers, zucchini and raspberries.

Field Notes.  Ken is in the final planning of fall plantings.  This involves not only figuring out what we will put in the root cellar, but also calculating how long crops will take as days shorten. This is very different from spring planting when days are lengthening and heat is on the rise.

Ken is picking about every other day - cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Soon we will make decisions on peppers.  Do we focus on ripe peppers or green peppers.  Picking green peppers means the plant will keep making peppers at a faster rate than if we allow them to ripen.  Ripe peppers take longer and have less shelf life.  That is why ripe peppers cost more than green ones. Many of our CSA members and on line customers prefer ripe peppers.   We do as well.  Ken will probably balance requests for green peppers with those for ripe ones.

From the Kitchen.  Chard, a summer green, is a cousin of spinach and beets.  We like chard in any recipe for greens - I usually braise it, and it is nice in cooked egg dishes. I like to cut out the stems and chop them and cook them a bit longer than the greens which only need wilting - similar to bok choy or Chinese cabbage. We have LOTS so if you want some to blanch and freeze for winter, contact us soon.

Cucumber and zucchini!  These members of the cucurbit family are often the first  heat loving crops  followed by the nightshades or solanaceae family of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants.  Ken often runs a fork lengthwise down the cucumber to form thin lines that break the skin and look nice.  We both slice and salt an let stand about a half hour.  I often add a yogurt dressing and sliced onion or an Asian dressing with tamari, sweet wine, hot pepper, and some sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Flowers

There are so many flowers now - some I planted like the astilbe

Some Ken planted like the zinnias.  

The sunflowers self seeded and Ken moved some, and left others.

Then  there are other self seeding flowers like Ken's morning glories that come back from seed each year

And the comfrey that had bees in it

And the milkweed I leave for the monarch butterflies

There is one short hollyhock in the perennial bed, too!

Ken in the Garden and photos of the field

Ken is always busy in the summer!  He has been trading off location, and in heat he may work a split shift as he comes in during the heat of the day , and then goes out once it starts to cool and stays out until dark.

He clears space for new plantings

He trains cucumbers and summer squash to grow up the fence

picks cucumbers and zucchini

Then there is the mobile high tunnel location - tomatoes to tie up

Out in the field the asparagus is heading out - it is making and storing energy for next season
Many people are amazed when Ken tells them he is still planting - but he is.

For late season crops and root cellaring vegetables for winter, planting continues.  He has been preparing seed beds like the one on the left.

and transplanting; here are some seedlings in the brassica or cabbage family

And there are parsnips, beets and carrots to thin 

Lots to do, and the days are starting to get shorter.  the push is on!

Pig Progress Report

People have been asking for photos of the pigs. Probably after the cute kitten photos, the pig photos are the most popular.  well, the pigs are ready for new space - they have been digging.  The rain this year made it pretty easy.

There are three pigs this year, and they are all characters.  

The red pig was the smallest, but also the pushiest pig - and that is saying a lot! 

Ken feeds them dry organic feed in one trough and sprouted grains in another. 

When given a choice, they prefer the sprouted grains by far - 

And Ken has made them a muddy spot.  

Pigs cool down by lying in mud.  

This makes people think pigs are dirty, but they are quite tidy animals apart from their cooling mud baths.

They seem content and love teasing Oscar and ignoring him as he is on the other side of the fence

New Rug , New tie up system

Last spring I left a rug on the loom.  With sectional warp, one book said leave a rug on the loom, wind that on and the weaver saves time tying up and saves warp lost in tie up.  that sounded wise, but when I did it this time my warp tension went cattywampus.  This is not good.  Rather than wrestle with uneven tension, I started getting out weaving books.  And I looked at pictures in the books.

This old dog learned a new trick!  Previously my two old second hand looms each had an old fabric apron and the warp attached to the same bar.  Why did I get uneven tension and rip even the new apron I had sewn to replace an old one?  Flash.  The photos had one bar going through the apron and another bar with the warp lashed onto it.  Then the two bars were lashed together.  I asked Ken where I could get bars like the one I had on each loom, and he found me a bar and cut it in three (two for each loom).  Then he set me up with his electric grinder and brush so I could smooth the ends and buff off the rust.

Today after I finished the rug I had taken off the loom, I attached the first bar to the apron and then lashed the warp to the second bar.  Tomorrow I will adjust any uneven warp and then lash the two bars.  I am anxious to see how the tension is on the next rug!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Preserving Starts (for me, Ken already has a couple batches of Kim chi going)

By this time most years I am overwhelmed.  This year I just keep chipping away.  The strawberries are all but done and I have frozen the culled berries as I went along so I could make jam and wine.

Now the early raspberries have started ripening.  This is encouraging.  These early berries do not have all summer to grow, and so some years with drought or other weather challenges, the crop can make us wonder if they are worth their valuable real estate and perennial maintenance. 

I started making jam this afternoon, 

 made a second batch tonight and will continue to make jam and start making wine.  The goal is to make room in the freezers and use up the culls that are still plenty good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has celery, the first cucumber,  beet thins and /or chard, Chinese or European cabbage, beets, green onions, garlic scapes, salad turnips, dill, and the last of the asparagus.

Field Notes - Cold nights!  I am always ambivalent - great sleeping weather, but the cool nights really slow down the heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers - even in a greenhouse.  Ken has been dutifully clipping up the tomatoes so they can grow up, not out and break.  He is also irrigating the greenhouses.  Greenhouses mean that summer rainstorms no longer mean a break - one simply moves into the greenhouse to work!  Last week's rain was welcome; the soil outside the greenhouses had gotten the driest this season.

Ken has also been dutifully cultivating.  After falling behind last season due to a spider bite, Ken is particularly anxious not to let that happen again.  June and early July are crucial times for crop maintenance.  Once the crops have gotten large enough to form canopy they are large enough to stay a step ahead and shade weeds. Cultivating and weeding continues, but usually the crop is not at risk of being stunted and lost in the weeds.

Ken is also planting.  There are many fall crops that are planted now.  Sometimes this presents a challenge as the plants that love cool fall weather do not necessarily germinate well in summer heat.

From the Kitchen.  Summer is here on many fronts - we had a glut of lettuce and now we have less.  But there are other delightful vegetables to fill the gap - we have the last of the Chinese cabbage and the early sweet summer cabbage is starting.  Both are wonderful for salads or cooked.  Sometimes when Ken brings in the first of the summer cabbage he simply cuts it into quarters lengthwise and steams it.  Then he either tops it with some butter, salt and pepper or umeboshi paste.  Umeboshi are pickled plums so they have a great combination of flavors - sweet from the fruit and salty and sour from the pickling process.  Although the container looks expensive, a little goes a long way so it is worth the investment.  We use umeboshi paste or vinegar on many vegetables - brassicas, green beans even sweet corn!

Celery makes a great cream soup that can be served hot or cold.  I saute onion and celery, simmer in stock until they are soft, process in a food mill or processor add herbs and salt and pepper to taste, and serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Dill is a nutritional power house.  We have read that it surpasses parsley - wow.  I like dill paired with fish, added to soups like borscht with beets, carrots, and a stir fry with chicken.  This is dill's natural season, and now is when it is at its prime - many people dry or freeze dill to make pickles later in the season.
'Til Next Week, Judith