Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Tasks

One of Ken's many spring tasks is pruning apple trees.  It takes time for each cut is a decision.

Ken works from the ground and then pulls out a ladder.  Tonight Ken told me the light was perfect for trimming

Oscar supervises from below

New Acquisition - a Manure Spreader

Today we got a "new to us" used piece of equipment.  It is an older, smaller manure spreader.  

Since we don't have large animals people often ask why we have a manure spreader.  Ken uses a manure spreader for two main jobs on the farm.  

Ken uses his manure spreader to make compost.  Ken uses a lot of compost to return nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

He also makes his own potting soil with the manure spreader.  Once the spreader arrived at its new home, Oscar and Big Red had to check out this new object.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This CSA box  has salad and braising greens, carrots, beets, celeriac, potato onions, potatoes, and parsnips

Field Notes.  The cooler weather continues.  This is not such a bad thing.  One of the worst year for apples was the one when we had 80 degrees in March.  Many plants got an early start, but were hit by frost after that heat wave.  So unlike many people who want early hot weather I prefer a gradual rise in temperature.  The wide swings in weather are difficult for the plants and animals.  And the farmers, too.

Ken continues to plant and monitor greenhouses.  We are just starting to harvest from the greenhouses.  Most years this begins much earlier in March.  Each season is different;and that not only keeps farming interesting, but also makes it nearly impossible to predict.  The current rapid and dramatic weather shifts add more challenges.  Ken contends that farming is all about working with the windows of opportunity.  At one point fields are wet, then they dry enough to work and more rain might force another wait to get into the field.  Working in wet soil squeezes the air and water out; this compacted soil and disrupts the microbial life in soil.

With spring the work load increases for our working animals.  Oscar has been busy pushing the yearlings searching for a new home - raccoons, skunks, bears, deer,  and any other animals looking to move here. Most mornings we can see Big Red's tracks from his rounds from house to sheds to garden and greenhouses.  The good news there is we have not seen the vole and mouse damage that we had last spring.

From the Kitchen.  Happy Easter week!  This is prime egg season, now is a good time to think about egg dishes.  We eat a lot of eggs - from omelettes and quiche to a souffle on my birthday to sponge cake.  And of course there are deviled eggs for potlucks and family get togethers.  

Two weeks ago Ken had pottery in an exhibition in Hammond, and we brought kim chi and deviled eggs.  I googled deviled eggs and used my version of Martha Stewart's recipe.  For half the yolk mixture I chopped and added some of Ken's pickled red peppers.  For the other half of the yolk mixture I added the trimmings of the onion crop - very like chives.  Here is a photo.

 Digging spring roots continues.  Here is a photo of parsnips that have been scrubbed, cut up, parboiled or steamed and cooked in a heavy skillet with butter to the caramelize stage.  A delicious spring treat!

Happy Easter from all of us!
 'Til Next Week, Judith

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's CSA box has salad and braising greens, shallots, kohlrabi, celeriac, carrots, potatoes and the first of the parsnips!

Field Notes.  Ken had expected to harvest from the mobile high tunnel this week, but the cooler nights have slowed everything down.  Spring is pretty unpredictable - one year 80's in March, one year snow and cold.  So we roll with the weather and work in all those windows of opportunity as they pop open.

As much as Ken gets ready ahead of a job, and keeps equipment in good repair,  once the spring weather hits he is incredibly busy - planting, transplanting, trimming apple trees, making compost for the next year, etc

And then there are those unforeseen events - like coming home and finding Oscar in the irrigation pond stuck in ice on Monday.  Go back a few blog entries if you want the whole story.  He is fine and we are recovering as well

From the Kitchen.  Parsnips!  These white roots that are related to carrots and dill are sweet after a frost and even sweeter if left in the soil and dug in spring.  They are sometimes found in stores - often waxed.  Few farmers we know grow them because their seeds are a challenge to germinate, they require the labor of thinning like carrots, and they take up garden space for such a long period of time.  But when one wants to eat local and seasonally, these spring dug parsnips are a real treat!  I usually scrub, parboil or steam 3 - 5 minutes, drain and saute in a skillet with butter just to the point when they start to caramelize.  Parsnips also make a great pie - Ken uses a squash or pumpkin pie recipe, but uses less sugar.  I like to make cream potato and parsnip soup with just a pinch of curry.

Goose egg season has started.  This seasonal treat comes around each spring.  Goose eggs are large - about the size of three large chicken eggs.  They are particularly good for smooth custards, light cakes and  airy omelettes.  We have these available for sale - usually just into May.

PLEASE NOTE!  This is the last week of our 2014 - 5 season.  Our next season starts next week on April 1st (no fooling).  We are no longer delivering vegetables.  St Croix Falls has organized a group pickup at farm, but no one in Amery has, so this is the last box we are delivering to Amery. 

'Til Next Week, Judith

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Close Call for the Dog - All's Well that Ends Well!

Why you may ask is our outside dog flopped out on towels by the wood stove?

Ken and I left for an appointment today and some errands and lunch with two of his aunts as we were in their neck of the woods.  When we returned there was no sign of the our dog he is usually bounding up to the car to greet us.  I was worried (I am the worrier in this couple).  Ken figured Oscar the dog was just on his afternoon rounds.  Ken went to do afternoon chores and I was sorting mail, unpacking stuff, changing into work clothes when Ken shouts in, "Come quick! Oscar is fell through the ice in the pond!"  I grabbed a coat and headed down to the pond by the mobile and Ken was hauling a heavy plank to bash the ice.  Later Ken told me that he had heard Oscar whimpering and so Ken was dashing about trying to find the dog somewhere on 40 acres!

Ken got the ice broken with the plank and pushed it out toward the dog, but the poor dog was too weak to climb on it.  I stripped down (we are all glad THIS is not on a video, believe me) and told Ken I was going in and to hold the plank(I was a life guard and am the better swimmer).  I got two steps out on ice, broke through, grabbed the plank and then the dog,  eased him into Ken's reach and started inching back.  

Ken got hold of Oscar who was wet, and quite heavy. Ken lifted him out of the water and he wrapped his jacket around the dog and headed up to get the garden cart - he couldn't carry Oscar up after his adrenaline was starting to wane - three sprints up and down the hill, hauling and and bashing planks through the ice, and picking up this dead weight of a dripping wet, thick furred dog. I got my clothes up and Ken's gloves and hugged the shivering dog.  Ken returned with cart, we got him in and up to the house.  Ken lit the wood stove, I called the vet and the vet tech agreed that warm water and then time by the stove was a good plan.

Then I grabbed and got on a robe and we poured buckets of warm water over Oscar, got him out and he sat by the stove wanting to be petted.  He ate his dinner, took a nap and then headed for the back door.  He is back on duty on two cushions on the front step with a blanket over him.   I have some cuts and bruises from going through the ice and am fine.  We are all tired and fortunate!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Goose Eggs!

The short season for goose eggs has begun! Goose eggs are large - about three chicken eggs worth of egg.  The yolks make particularly creamy custard.  Although it takes longer to beat out the whites they hold the lift for light cakes, etc.  And my parent say they make the best omelettes as they have a delicious rich flavor

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weaving Progress

When asked what I would like to do on my birthday, I replied, "Weave some."  And I got to do just that. 
After the souffle and buzzing and stacking wood, I moved over to the loom.  

I am working with some denim and over dyed denim in a combination of larger blocks of blue denim 
.  Here is the start with white t shirt to even out the warp and the end that will be hemmed
with the over dyed denim in smaller blocks

I have six different over dyed denim colors and will have six blocks - one of each color - in this rug.  Here is where I left off this afternoon

Here is the cloth beam with the rug so far

And as of today, Wednesday I finished the rug. Here is the under side of the loom with a couple stripes of over dyed denim

The white is the spacer between this one and the next rug. And now the question is what combination next?

Spring Roots - Parsnips

Each spring as the ground thaws there are roots to be dug.  The first is the humble parsnip.  Parsnips are related to carrots and dill.  They are sweeter than carrots, and become even sweeter when over wintered in the soil and dug in the spring.

Many people love parsnips and look forward to freshly dug food in early spring.  There are many parsnip recipes.  The traditional one is to scrub, slice, parboil or steam to the al dente stage, drain,  and then sautee in butter in a heavy cast iron skillet until the slices start to caramelize and brown.  

Ken uses cooked parsnips to make pie.  He follows a  a squash or pumpkin pie recipe, but uses less sweetener.

I like a cream curry parsnip soup.  Saute onion , add stock, add sliced parsnips and peeled chopped potatoes if desired, salt, peppers, and a bit of curry.  Cook until parsnips arr soft and then puree.  Add milk or cream and a green garnish.

Parsnips are best in spring.  Enjoy this seasonal delight!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pullet Eggs

Young hens are called pullets.  The first eggs they lay are called pullet eggs.  they are smaller, but I think they have a higher yolk to white ratio,  Then there are a couple bantam pullets.  Ken calls their eggs pipsqueaks

Transplanting in the Greenhouse

With the warm weather the greenhouses are now warm enough inside to plant and transplant.

Ken has been busy!  He cleaned them out, prepared beds, moved the transplants and water for transplanting.

Then he sets up his grid; this varies with what he is planting.

Then he transplants and waters each seedling

And of course he had help!  

Big Red is often patrolling the greenhouse for mice and voles.  

In between his duties he plays with barrels, Oscar the dog, Ken or me 

Since Ken was in the greenhouse...

Pottery Tasks in March

Ken is planting seeds for greens all year, but in winter there is some time to make pottery.  A couple years back during a drought, Ken discovered clay when we had a man in to dig the irrigation pond deeper.  After prospecting for decades, there it was on our own property!  

Since then he has been running tests and tweaking the clay.  Concurrently he has been making glazes from local materials.  This year it all seems to be coming together!

One of the first steps is pugging clay. A pug mill is an auger with a vacuum pump to take out air.  This creates relatively consistent clay that needs less wedging.

Ken recently made a mountain of pugged clay and let it set to mellow and get even more consistent.  

This clay was just a bit wet

This very wet clay was set aside and it will be mixed in after it has dried a bit more.  

Ken has been making pottery all winter and this shelf is bisqued pottery for an order.  Bisque is to heat the pots to the temperature that will prevent them returning to clay - a first fire.  Ken finds this reduces breakage in the final firing and makes for lighter pottery.

Today he has been glazing pottery.  He will load and fire these pots soon

Big Red - King of the Wood Piles

Once we finished buzzing and stacking wood for the cook stove, Ken got a piece of metal and some pallets on top of the pile to keep the wood dry.  Soon he was calling me to bring the camera.  Well, there on top of the pile was a small cat!  

Yep, Big Red had climbed around to explore the new high and sunny spot!

At first I wondered if he was OK

 I tossed a cat bed up on top and he seemed pretty cozy.

Once I started taking photos in earnest, he seemed to start posing for the camera - pointer cat, 

casual cat,

cool cat, 

and cute cat.  Such a character.  He has proven a valuable team member as rodent patrol.  We are glad to have him here