Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens, cabbage, onions, shallots, garlic, pie pumpkin or squash, rutabaga. potatoes, carrots, kohlrabi, celery root, and the last of the winter tomatoes.

Field Notes.  Later this week Ken will start full season crops. The crops planted now will be transplanted later as the soil gets warmer and drier. 

Ken has also been cutting down trees that shade the gardens and fields to the point where crops will suffer from lack of sunlight. In August Ken is looking at where and when the garden is in shade and often marks the trees that will need to come down. Ken also assess which trees are competing for space and sunlight. Trees need thinning just as carrots do.  We use this wood to cook our food, heat our house and fire the pottery.  When there are long large straight trees we also saw lumber for building projects

On a recent cold day, Ken cleaned some of his saved seed.  This time of year I start work on improving our various computer uses like the web site, the vegetable ordering process, etc.  We are always looking for more user friendly options.

From the Kitchen.  During the long nights and in cool weather Ken often cooks - he is the more creative of the two of us.  One day he made a Finnish ham from our pork and some bread.  He has been doing soups and stews with root vegetables.

 We use the Dutch oven often.  Ken made a batch of chili with some Chorizo style sausage we had made, the last of the leeks, garlic, some winter tomatoes with soft spots, and dried beans that we grew last summer.  Friends came to visit and really liked it.  I made some cornbread to go with it.

But they were really excited about the sprout salad we served them!  It had sprouts, grated carrot, radish, and celery root.  I also clipped some of the sprouting roots for leaves and tossed with salad dressing.

'Til Next time - February 11th, 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Splitter Works! Wrapping up the Wood

We usually have the wood for the current and next year cut split and stacked by October or early November.  this year the splitter has been in for repairs multiple times.  It is old - they told us it was a "throw away engine when we bought it.  But this week we have it back, and it works!  So first we got the cook stove wood caught up - here is the whole pile

On the left is the greener wood for next year

In the middle is where I am taking last year's wood with cat dish above dog reach and crates of small pieces and bark I will use for kindling.

We have also filled the right section that we have already emptied this year with the cold start we had - that wood is dead and dry enough to burn 

By the back door we had a big pile of wood Ken had cut to length but it needed splitting

Now that pile is gone (and Ken can see out the studio windows) - 

It has moved to a neatly split and stacked pile ready for the larger wood stove in the lower studio level.

All that remains is some long birch for the side stoke holes in the pottery kiln

And here is Ken, Oscar and a sleeping Big Red - hoorah!

Ken in the Kitchen

Ken loves to cook.  Many people know Ken as a potter, many know Ken as a farmer, as a builder of buildings, and so many other things.  Ken put himself through college doing two things: construction work and cooking.  He takes time in winter to cook.  He often takes on a project - find sugar plum or fig pudding recipes, ham without nitrites, bread from whole grains, making his own candied fruit without artificial color for fruitcake to name a few.  this year he wants to return to baking bread.  So yesterday he baked a loaf from whole grains he had rolled and soaked overnight.  

He also did a Finnish ham - brined overnight then stuck with cloves, and baked with a mustard glaze.  Both were delicious!

Saving Seeds

Many people ask us if we save seeds.  In some cases we grow several varieties and they would cross pollinate; we don't save those.  We do grow a few old hybrid varieties, and since the saved seed would not come true, we don't save those either.  

But we do save open pollinated seeds.  Ken has been saving hardy varieties of several crops for years.  He has to let the plant go to seed, collect, and he places plant with seed in a paper bag.  On a cold winter day - like this one that started at minus 22 Fahrenheit - Ken gets out screens, newspaper, and jars.

He screens the seeds with progressively smaller mesh

Once he has clean seeds he pours them into a jar

and saves them for planting

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has winter tomatoes, salad greens, carrots, beets, onions, shallots garlic, a pie pumpkin and sweet dumpling squash, and either kohlrabi or rutabagas

Field Notes.  Ken is always planting greens.  In late January he will start full season crops like onions and celery root.  The seeds are arriving and the field plan is shaping up.  Ken not only rotates crops, he looks at each of our three ecosystems and decides which best suits each crop.  And then where in the field is best - parts are lower, wetter, higher and drier, shaded from asparagus after July, etc.  

I have  ordered seeds, and wrapped up the books for 2014.  After careful analysis we have made one big change for 2015.  All produce will be available to pick up at the farm only - no deliveries after March 2015.  We encourage people to organize group pick up in the months before this changes.

With the time not on the road Ken plans to focus on some building projects like a garden shed to replace the one from the 80's that he built from scrap lumber.  It now has ever growing holes in the floor.  Also on the list is a gazebo for display of produce and pottery.  It is quite confusing to first time visitors to see pots here, vegetables there, and no signage or people.  We are excited about growing and look forward to people meeting us at the farm and seeing where their vegetables are grown.

From the Kitchen.  Ah winter and the wood cook stove.  Now is the time of year I take all those larger or cheaper cuts of meat like shanks and shoulders and simmer and braise with vegetables for soups and stews.  I brown the meat in our large cast iron Dutch oven, then add onions or leeks and cook to transparent or caramelized. Next I add soup stock and spices and herbs and simmer.  When the meat is 1/2 - 3/4 cooked Depends on size, cut , etc) I add chunks of rutabagas, turnips, carrots, garlic and spices like smoky paprika or ancho pepper, Ken would add our dried cayenne or chipotle, too with herbs like savory, thyme, celery leaves.  I also add pearled barley I have soaked over night for variety.

As I sort squash and pumpkins, I pull the culls and cut out soft spots, scoop out the seeds cut into chunks and simmer in a bit of water.  Once tender I pull off the heat and once it is cool enough to handle I scoop the flesh off the skin.  I save the cooking water and add to soups and stews.  We have squash in any of several ways - heated in a skillet with some butter, salt pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, warmed over a bed of toasted pecans in butter, pureed and combined with a bit of egg and milk so it rises when cooked.  and Ken makes pies.  I also made a cookie recipe from Jane Brody for tea treats at the first of Ken's clay classes:
Oven 350 - 375
Cooking time 10 - 12 min
Cream 1/2 c fat - butter, lard, or schmaltz with 1/2 - 2/3 c sugar (I use less and brown sugar)
Add 2 eggs, then 1 c squash or pumpkin puree
Sift together and add 1 1/2 c flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/4 t, salt 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t, ground cloves
Once mixed add 1 1/2 c rolled oats, 1/2 c chopped dates, 1/2 c raisins, 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans
Drop rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheet. Bake 10 min or 'til center is thoroughly cooked but not so long the bottom chars. Orig from Jane Brody with my changes

'Til January 28th, Judith

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Glaze Testing and Getting Ready for Clay Class

Ken mixes his own glazes, and he makes them from local materials.  There is no recipe.  So he starts with his decades of experience and knowledge of materials.  He crushes local rock powder in a ball mill filled with porcelain balls.

He makes pots and cuts them and bisques them and applies the test glazes.  then after he fires the pieces he examines for opacity, color, texture, crazing and other factors.

He then makes adjustments, repeats the process - sometimes many times - until the glaze is right.  

He keeps copious notes.

He is doing this before clay classes start this Saturday and before he goes into winter pottery production