Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sauerkraut Day

Today we made sauerkraut.  Or maybe I should say Ken made sauerkraut with my help.  He brought up the storage cabbage - four large recycle tubs.  

I then pulled off any wilted leaves.

Then it was rinse and drain.

I moved them over to where Ken was shredding.

He has had this kraut cutter for more decades than I have known him!

We save the cabbage cores in a cool place for the next batch of soup stock.  This season it will be goose bones after we butcher them - once we get another warm spell and some pork bones from the locker

Then Ken weighs the shredded cabbage and adds salt...

...and juniper berries.

Then it goes down to the crock where Ken pushes it until the liquid rises above the cabbage, and then he places a weight over the kraut and covers it.  Fermentation time varies with the temperature.

The last batch just came out of the crock Sunday and is now in jars in the cooler. 

We took a field tip to get organic ginger root for the next batch of fermented vegetables - gingered carrots.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Experience Clay

Four Saturdays in January 2015. 9–11:30 a.m.
Ken Keppers, studio potter, teaches the basics –
Pinch, coil, and slab construction.  Wheels available.
Sign up for one or more classes at $20 rate per class
Or all four classes $65
Ken Keppers 
Turtle Lake, WI
(715) 986 – 4322

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens, potatoes, winter tomatoes, carrots, the last fall dug parsnips, rutabaga, black and daikon radishes, pie pumpkins, leeks, garlic, and herbs - parsley and maybe dill.

Field Notes Ken got his straw and has begun mulching - the garlic is done.  Next he will be doing strawberries.  He mulches after it has gotten cold and wants to avoid the perennials starting too early if we get early warm weather.  The goal is for them to start once we know they won't have frost damage - this occurred a couple years back when the weather in March was in the 80's.  Many plants thought spring had arrived and then suffered later frost!

We covered plants inside the mobile tunnel with fiber for a double layer - we will see how they fare.   We were both really happy to see snow before the cold.  It was amazing how insulating the snow was!  It sealed up all the small cracks along the ground and inside the mobile was warmer and damp - even when the sun was not shining directly on the greenhouse!

This was the week we were featured on Around the Farm Table.  If you missed it you can watch teh Skijoring with Carlos episode and see us http://video.wpt.org/program/around-farm-table

Next warm weather Ken will be wrapping up work on that north coop so we can shift chickens to larger space.  These are next year's layers, and then he will move a hen and chicks from a hoopette to the smaller coop.  He is pretty excited about reintroducing broodiness into the flock.  teh birds we currently have are not successful moms, and we find broody hens that are good moms really give their chicks an advantage by teaching them how to forage and avoid predation. 

From the Kitchen.  The cold weather means we are cooking on the wood cook stove.  It is great for simmering soups and stews.  Both of us have been making soup.  Ken made a tasty vegetable soup and I made a venison stew with rutabaga carrots, leeks and some soup stock. 

Next week we take a break, so this week's box has a pie pumpkin.  I rinse it off, cut it open, scoop out the seeds and either bake in a covered dish or simmer on the stove. Then once it is cool enough to handle, but still warm I scoop the flesh off the skin.  I then use it for pumpkin pie - a great Thanksgiving tradition.  

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  We have so many reasons to be grateful!

'Til December 3rd,  Judith

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mulching Perennials

Each fall Ken obtains some straw for mulching.  He  mulches strawberries and garlic.  He does not do this early, but rather after it has gotten cold.  This mulching is to avoid the plants starting early and suffering frost damage if we get an additional cold snap.

He has picked up the straw and has mulched the garlic.  Next the strawberries

Soup Stock and Lard

We really try to do nose to tail use of all our animals.  When the pigs are slaughtered here on farm, we make soup stock from the heads.  Ken has an outdoor soup kettle he heats with wood.  After a while we pull the bones and I pick the meat - just like that turkey soup after Thanksgiving, then return the bones and continue simmering to break down the marrow and cartilage so it is part of the stock.  Ken also adds vegetable culls for more depth of flavor and minerals.

Then we remove the bones.  Ken strains the stock , we let it cool, skim the fat and then I pressure can most of it for future use.  This year I did two batches of 20 pints and have an additional gallon we are using now.

Once the meat comes back from the locker we render the lard.  Animal fat was said to cause heart problems.  Now we are reading that the real culprit is hydrogenated fat.  Animal fat is only as good as how the animal was raised.  An animal with access to the outdoors will have Vitamins A, D, E and K in the fat.  Also consider that toxins ingested by animals are stored in the fat.  It is imperative to obtain fat from animals exposed to as few toxins as possible - clean water and feed without pesticides.

We both like cooking with lard as a little goes a long way and it can take heat.  I love olive oil for salad, but for cooking and baking, give me lard!

Too Cold for Too Long

All fall we have had beautiful greens.  We got enough rain in August and September and enough sun for all the greens to thrive.  Last year not enough moisture or sunlight meant a poor crop.  

But it all came to an early end.  Most years we have greens through Thanksgiving and depending on the weather through Christmas some years.

We had a big snow a week ago.  I was glad to see it as it would slow down the movement of frost down into the soil and into the hoopettes and greenhouses.  

Then we got frigid temperatures.  We have not had had sun and warm daytime temperatures so the plants could thaw out and recover.  Even with fiber over plants in the greenhouse, many plants froze. 

More snow took out some of the hoopettes.  Ken had experimented with stronger structure.  It was not completely successful

And like the wicked witch of the west those greens are not merely dead but really most sincerely dead.  Some will come back in spring when we get sun for more hours and sunlight with more intensity.

I am thankful for what my dad would say - "It has been a good run."  Stay tuned for shoots, micro greens and sprouts

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens - salad, braising, and fresh herbs - parsley, cilantro and some arugula, winter tomatoes, leeks, garlic, pie pumpkin, carrot and or beets or parsnips, a rutabaga, and potatoes.

Field Notes.  The news is that winter arrived on Monday this year!  Even though I hear complaints about snow, I am so glad we got that insulating blanket of snow before the temperatures drop.  That snow will insulate the ground and slow down the drop of frost - this might save the greens in the green houses.  We shall see.  Even if those greens go, that snow will also add gradual moisture.  The slower drop of frost, increased microbial action nearer the surface and the gradual moisture could make spring easier and earlier.  Again, we shall see.  As a friend says, "I can work magic, but not miracles."  So too with growing produce - even with greenhouses!

Ken has been moving things - the egg mobile to its winter site; geese are also in their winter location, and he has new roofs on the four out of four buildings.  He has secured hay for mulching, but will wait for some warmer weather to pick it up.  The perennial crops can take the cold, but the mulch will prevent early growth if we get warm weather mid winter.  

Now we take stock and offer thanks for what we have.  Even when one or another crop does not do so well, we always seem to have vegetables.  After next week, we will take our first harvest break since April.  And then we move forward to more great boxes.  Thank you for your support.  Please get those preference lists back to me so we can wrap up plans for next season.

From the Kitchen.  Well, we have moved into bake, braise and stew mode with this weather change.  Monday I took a shoulder and browned it with minced celery root, and leeks.  I then simmered it for a few hours in stock.  Then I served part of the meat with rice, pumpkin and wilted greens topped with cream.  

After lunch I took out the meat and simmered root vegetables in the stock - chopped rutabagas, salad turnips, carrots, more leeks, and added more herbs and spices - some smoky powdered pepper, garlic, and savory.  Then I chopped and added the cooked meat back into the pot just before serving.  Often I place chopped greens in a bowl and add the hot soup over the greens to wilt them - this is one of Ken's favorite ways to have braising greens.

Winter tomatoes are a different variety - they are a storage, late eating variety.  They are not the same as summer juicy tomatoes that turn bright red, but they have good flavor.  I store them wrapped in newspaper.  They get a red blush - at that point they are red inside and have a delightful flavor.

And Ken has started making rutabaga "pancakes" for breakfast.  He grates rutabagas and adds salt, pepper, an egg and some hot pepper.  They are great!

"Til Next Week, Judith

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  this box has lettuce and salad greens, braising greens, spinach, French breakfast radishes, salad turnips, cabbage, carrots, beets, parsnips, pie pumpkin, winter tomatoes, and rutabagas

Field Notes.  The pigs have gone to the meat locker.  This frees up space so Ken can complete his tractor work and get the last green manures planted in garden, a;so by the mobile high tunnel where the tomatoes and peppers were, and out in the field.  Even though it is cold and days are short, both winter wheat and rye will start growing now and keep the soil covered over winter to avoid erosion and help moderate soil temperatures if we do not get snow cover.  

This time of year I start to hope for snow cover as it acts like an insulating blanket and the frost and microbes do not go so deep.  this means the soil has more active biology over winter, the snow melts from below due to soil temperature, and We can often plant earlier in spring.  Many people think soil is dead or sleeping over winter, but it is still active and getting ready for spring

Thursday when I was hosting book group, Ken announced he was going to "pick up chicks."  He had answered a posting from a man who could not keep a hen and her chicks.  Ken has placed them in a hoopette in the garden and hopes this hen and her chicks can reintroduce broodiness into the flock

I am still getting roots in the root cellar, and soon Ken will be making his annual batch of sauerkraut.  And soon Ken will be planting greens for December boxes when we must move from beautiful out door greens to indoor micro greens.  It has been a most wonderful fall for greens and we are grateful.  Some years there is not enough sunlight for greens to flourish.  Ken can work magic with green houses, but not miracles!

From the Kitchen Rutabagas are a member of the brassica family.  we get more and more requests for them.  Often people who cannot eat potatoes due to blood sugar spikes, can substitute rutabagas.  We like them in soups and stews, and Ken often makes either a kohlrabi or rutabaga au gratin or rutabaga pancake , and one of our members tells me rutabagas hash browns are a family favorite

Winter tomatoes are a relatively new discovery here.  Certain varieties are bred to be picked and stored for later use.  They are not the same as summer tomatoes - they never turn soft or bright red, but they get a blush and have good flavor.  We have eaten them both raw and cooked

Soaking up rays
Salad turnips can be eaten raw in salads or cooked.  I usually braise the greens and top with yogurt, sour cream or any dressing; some people add them to salads for zip.  They are a nutritional powerhouse! 

'Til Next Week, Judith

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pigs Go Down the Road

Piglets upon arrival
We raise pork.  This is a great compliment to our produce.  Pigs like culled vegetables like the lower leaves from a cabbage.  They live to dig, and Ken plans their pig project each year - clearing a fence line, or clearing weeds along a fence, digging up new garden space or renovating garden space.

Renovating a portion of garden
Ken grazes them sequentially; once they dig up a space, Ken moves the fence so they get a new area.  This year he decided to renovate portions of the garden.  It was disconcerting at first as I thought they were in with the crops.

Late summer
Around election day in November they are large and our cull supply is less.  It is time for them to go.  They are slaughtered on farm to reduce stress and we compost the viscera instead of adding it to some waste stream.  

People tell us our pork is great.  Well, they had a job, a good life, good food and good care.  We appreciate their work to help this farm and we waste as little as possible and are grateful to them for their sustenance.

Ken's New Chicks

Last Thursday when I was hosting book group, Ken announced he was leaving to pick up chicks.

Well, he had called an on line post from a man who had a hen and chicks he could not keep.

Ken has set them up inside a hoopette in the garden on clover with a scoop of leaves.

He is hoping to reintroduce more broody behavior into our flock.  Day old chicks are now about $3 - $4 each depending on breed.  Ken is weighing the lack of eggs for three weeks while the  broody hen hatches versus buying chicks.  We have found that chicks that are raised by hens get a quicker start.   And a chick raised by a hen is more likely to be able to hatch out chicks.

Adding hoopettes by the MobileHigh Tunnel

This year Ken planted greens where he would overwinter the mobile high tunnel AND outside the tunnel.  It has been a stellar fall for greens and they have done amazingly well. 

Now he has decided to set up some hoopettes over the greens that will remain outside the mobile high tunnel.  He is harvesting them first and is also monitoring how greens under hoopettes do in comparison to the ones in the larger greenhouse.  And he is considering placing protection over teh greens inside the mobile for a double layer of protection

It will be very interesting to see how they all perform.