Saturday, May 30, 2015

Big Red - Here a Year

Recently people have asked me about the cat as I haven't posted anything for a while.  Well, next weekend marks one year since Big Red, then a tiny kitten, arrived here.  

Here is an old photo.

Animals help a farm.  Our dog keeps deer, raccoons, bears, and all sorts of animals, out of the garden and away from the poultry.  Our cat keeps down the rodent population, and one cat, Hazel killed weasels - a good thing on a farm with poultry.  Big Red has done an admirable job here.  Before the cat arrived we lost a great deal of greens in hoopettes and the greenhouses from voles and other rodents.

Big Red is a big plus.  We appreciate his hard work and enjoy his playful nature.

Update on Bees

Ken does many things to encourage native pollinators.  He plants flowers and lets other plants like chives flower as well.  The goal is for continuous bloom that bees like.

Ken also maintains honey bees.  This has been a labor of learning and love.  Ken can intuit what plants and animals like poultry and pigs need.  But to think like a colony of bees is an entirely different thing!  HE has taken classes, day long workshops in organic bee keeping, read biodynamic and organic bee keeping books, and joined the county bee keepers group.

Each time our bees do not live through the winter we start again.  This year Ken ordered three packages of bees.  About a week ago the state inspector was here - two weeks after the bees had arrived.  He and other beekeepers (including Ken) went to different bee yards.  It was another great learning experience for Ken.

The sad news here was we had two hives with no queen and one hive with a weak queen.  Ken called the supplier and today Ken received two replacement queens.  He shifted bees and added these new queens.  We are hoping for the best!

Moving Pigs

Ken raises pigs.  They are a great addition to the farm  Pigs love to dig.  

So, each year Ken decides on the pig project and he sequentially grazes them - they dig and we move them to new ground.  

It is amazing to harness the energy of these four legged rototillers.  They also eat garden culls and plants people do not eat - broccoli plants, lower cabbage leaves, etc  They are smart and tidy animals.

Yesterday we moved them from the spot they had started in two weeks ago.  Now they are near the driveway.  

Oscar, the herd dog likes to monitor their whereabouts and establish his role as their herder.  They know he is on the other side of the fence.

In two or three hours they had already dug up a significant portion of their new space

And last night they were tired and seemed content in their fresh hay

Monday, May 25, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has asparagus, parsnips and potatoes, and many greens - lettuce, spinach, braising greens like brassica tops, mizuna,and mustard, beet thins, carrot thins, bok choy,  and either dill or cilantro.

Field Notes.  Ken has started tying up the tomatoes and peppers.  Once this job starts it continues as the plants grow.  He has been carefully monitoring weather forecasts and temperature so the greenhouses are at optimum temperatures as much as possible.  Like Goldilocks the plants don't want it too hot or too cold, but just right.  The more we can do this the better they grow and produce.  

Ken has planted more potatoes, and the sweet potato slips arrived in the mail.  Sweet potatoes like heat.  Once we have consistently warm temperatures and the slips have recovered from their time in the mail, Ken will transplant them in the field. Ken has been seeding and transplanting as well.  

Often I bring a meal out to the field as he is trying to finish a row or a job, and then a meal is a break rather than a trip into the yard.

Ken got some disappointing news last week.  The state bee inspector was here and some members of the bee keepers visited bee yards.  Ours was the second stop.  Of the three packages of bees that Ken purchased, two now have no queen and one has a weak queen.  Ken and the other bee keepers moved all the bees to one hive.  Ken is watching and has set up a space in case they hatch out a new queen and swarm.  A swarm occurs when the hive needs to split.  The older bees leave the  the hive to the younger queen and bees.  The trick is to present the swarm with a place to relocate.

From the Kitchen. We have been eating green here! I have been making spinach omelettes for breakfast or supper.  When people ask me how we consume so many healthy greens...

I explain that we usually have a raw green salad at mid day, but often have cooked greens at breakfast or supper.  Here is a spinach salad.  Spinach and eggs or spinach with feta cheese are two of my favorite combinations.

We also eat spinach cooked - When you see an item Florentine in a restaurant like tomato soup Florentine that means it has spinach.  I like to serve cooked spinach with cream as a side for pasta and tomato sauce.  I like spinach with an Asian dressing of the following: tamari, sesame oil, a bit of honey, hot sauce, mild vinegar, cooking wine like mirin or sherry, and toasted sesame seeds; it is great as a side dish with an Asian style meal.  

The same dressing is great with asparagus.  The other night I made potato salad with a creamy home made mayonnaise dressing and then had grilled asparagus and served it with Asian dipping sauce ( I used miso in place of the tamari so it was thicker and added powdered red pepper for some zip) with a side of toasted sunflower seeds for some protein and fat. I Like grilling asparagus and using it to top pasta salads - here is one I brought out to Ken recently

Bok choy is a great stir fry addition.  I separate top from stem and slice each.  I add the stems sections to cook a couple minutes and then add the leaf sections just before serving.

'Til Next Week, Judith

Monday, May 18, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens and more greens - lettuce, spinach, beet thins, braising greens like brassica tops and mustard, sorrel, claytonia, herbs - either cilantro or dill, chives, salad turnips, parsnips and potatoes.

Field Notes.  The forecast for Monday (tonight) is 32 degrees.  Even though we see people anxious to set out tender and heat loving plants, we vividly remember eighteen degrees on May 18th - twice.  There are several crops in the ground - Ken got the onions planted, but tender crops are under plastic in warmed soil.  

Piglets arrived last Friday.  They are an integral part of our growing produce.  They dig out spots each year and they eat garden items people don't eat - broccoli plants, for example.

Ken has been planting - the onions was a big job.  Here they are after the first cultivation. This is the most onions he remembers planting.  He has also been experimenting with early potatoes. 

In addition to the regular spring push, Ken added a new project - mushrooms!  He has oak logs, and he took a few workshops, and now he has a spot in the woods with water.  It could be pretty exciting!

From the Kitchen.  With this cold weather we have gone back to lighting the cook stove in the morning.  And I have been serving either meat and eggs or soups with eggs poached in them and added to a bowl of chopped greens for a warming soup.

And I have been doing more cooked greens - I like to dip spinach in boiling water, remove and top with either cream or an Asian dressing of sesame and toasted sesame oil, a mild vinegar, a little sweet like honey and either tamari or miso topped with toasted sesame seeds.

And I have been braising greens with sliced ginger root as ginger is warming. I add the above Asian dressing or a light vinegar and oil.

'Til Next Week, Judith

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ken's New Project

Sometimes things just come together.  For years Ken has thought about growing mushrooms.  He has taken classes, talked to people and gathered information.

As our woods grow up around us there are some mature oaks shading our growing areas - garden, orchard, field by mobile high tunnel.  As Ken needs to cut trees he is saving the size wood that is best for growing mushrooms.  He hosted a crew who wanted to learn, and then he and I inoculated some logs.  Now he is going to try a couple more types of mushrooms.

It will be interesting to see how they grow!

The Woods Closes in on Us

When I first met Ken one of the things he mentioned that I found odd was that each fall he felt a gladness when the trees lost their leaves and the woods opened up for a longer view.  And each spring he felt a bit of sadness when the trees leafed out and the woods closed up in their green.

And now I feel it, too.  Each spring the trees leaf out, and although I love the curtain of green, I do miss the openness of fall and winter

Green Manures Growing

Ken plants many green manures.  These are crops that add organic matter to the soil, some add nitrogen, some have roots that break up hard soil.  Out in the field he has peas and oats planted where he will plant  crops in a few weeks.  These peas add nitrogen.

And by the mobile high tunnel he also has oats and peas.   The roots will remain in the soil and add organic matter.

He will probably pasture the hens here later and they will eat the oats and peas.

Wild Flowers Known and Unknown

We live in the woods.  And as we walk through the woods to garden, mailbox or field we see the seasons unfolding. the wild flowers continue to bloom and plants grow.  Some I recognize and know the names like trillium

and geranium 

and yellow violets.

and ferns

Then there are some I see every year but I do not know their names - this one

and these spiky flowers

and these lovely pendulous flowers

I feel odd as I walk listening and looking and enjoying.  But often I cannot tell people names of the birds singing or plants.

The Piglets are Here!

Each year for nearly two decades we have raised pigs.  We get small, weaned piglets from a local man, and raise them on sprouted, organic feed and vegetable culls like the broccoli plants people do not eat, but pigs enjoy.

Ken also grazes them sequentially.  He decides on places and areas he wants tilled as pigs love to dig and eat weeds and their roots.  We do a three year rotation so they have new ground to dig - some years they expand the garden or clear a fence line.  Ken makes sure they have some shade - they love the woods.

We only get as many piglets as we have orders.  People order a half or whole pork and have it cut and packed as they want it.  

I just heard an interview on Splendid Table on Public Radio.  The interviewee had written a book - Pig Tales.  He had done research and reported that 97% of the pigs in this country never get to see the light of day.  I have ordered the book through our inter library loan system.  

These pigs are part of the team here on the farm.  They dig and cycle garden culls.  They add to the farm's fertility.  They are content here and we feel gratitude for all they do.

House Plants Move out for the Summer

Ken has many house plants.  They clean the air.  they bring green in with us all winter.

Each spring he moves them out until fall.  they do well outside and our windows open up.