Monday, June 29, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has salad and braising greens like lettuce and Romaine lettuce, kale or cabbage, carrots, radishes, green onions, garlic scapes, strawberries, and the start of cucumber, zucchini, and snap peas, basil, and probably the last of the asparagus.

Field Notes.  Although Ken is still planting and transplanting, he has also started mulching.  Mulch accomplishes many things: it reduces weed pressure, keeps the soil cool for microbial life, and as it breaks down, it adds organic to the soil.  

This is the time of year when Ken starts talking about canopy.  What he means by canopy is that the crops have enough size to shade the soil.  This also reduces weed pressure and keeps the soil cooler.

And speaking of weed pressure, Ken is wrapping up the bulk of weeding perennial crops like asparagus. He usually stops picking asparagus about the end of June and lets the plants grow and store energy for the next season.  He has weeded strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, and some annual crops like the onions.

Weekly he ties up tomatoes, and on the way back from the field today I spied these first tomatoes.  Soon they will be red and Ken will be harvesting.  The great, comfortable cool sleeping nights slow down the heat loving plants ripening, but the cool loving plants like the early cabbage is sweet and beautiful!

From the Kitchen.   I love to mix color, flavor, and texture in vegetable medleys.   Today I sliced green onions at an angle, cut carrots in ovals and had finely sliced cabbage.  I sauteed the onion, added the carrots and a bit of stock, then the cabbage.  I added some umeboshi vinegar and sesame oil.  Umeboshi is a Japanese pickled plum that adds three different flavors - salty, sweet and sour.  Another variation is to add turmeric to the saute oil and maybe a pinch of curry or cumin, and top with angle cut snap peas for a bright green color, OR an Asian variation with sesame oil, a sweet wine, miso or tamari, and some toasted sesame seeds.

These early summer cabbage are so sweet!  I like them in salads, or just cut in wedges and lightly steamed.  Sometimes I top with butter, salt and pepper.  Other times umeboshi paste.  Or cream and herbs.  It all depends on what else is in the meal.  I am always trying to mix and balance color and flavors - Beans with hot sauce and smoky paprika, rice with turmeric and green onions, cabbage and cream.  With a creamy venison Stroganoff  I would serve sour and spicy.  

Summer is here!  Basil is one the smells of summer - fresh and pungent.  Yest I add basil to tomato sauces, but also vegetables just before serving or grilled meat. 
The best way to store basil it to bag it and leave it out on the counter in the sealed bag.

'Til Next Week, Judith

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Green Manures - Then and Now

Ken plants green manures.  They are crops grown to keep the soil covered and cool, they often add nutrients - like peas add nitrogen, and once tilled they add organic matter to the soil.  Organic matter is key!  For each percentage of organic matter in the soil the crops have the equivalent of 1" of rainfall.  So, if you have five percent organic matter you could withstand a five week drought with minimum crop damage! 

 Like all gardening and farming, it is ongoing. Here is an example of Ken's process.   He planted and grew peas and oats out in the field 

A few weeks before he wanted to plant in that space, he mowed the peas and oats.  In some situations he pastures animals like chickens or pigs where the green manure is planted and grown to size.

He tilled the space where the peas and oats had been.  Next he prepares the bed for the crop - raking or trenching - it depends on what will be planted. Here he planted a late potato crop.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Crop News from the Garden and Field

Summer has begun.  There is always a shift at this time of year.  Spring crops include many foods that like cool and damp - spinach, lettuce, greens, radishes, asparagus.  Several summer crops like growing in cooler weather - like peas.

Summer comes, and many of summer crops move forward rapidly - Peas are ready to pick.  

Tomatoes and eggplant, and peppers grow dramatically

The curcurbit family - squash, cucumbers, melons loves heat and Ken has started picking the first of the cucumbers and zucchini

And we have moved from the early radishes and salad turnips to carrots and beets.

The spring bok choy and napa are done and we have moved to small sweet European salad cabbage - a treat raw or cooked.

Yes, we love growing and eating with the seasons

Monday, June 22, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has salad greens like lettuce, pea shoots, sorrel, and braising greens like turnip thinnings and mustard, asparagus, green onions, garlic scapes, beets or carrots, cabbage, and strawberries

Field Notes.  Each season some crops thrive and others have more difficulty.  Trying to anticipate weather conditions while a crop will grow is a challenge.  As weather becomes more extreme in temperature shifts and precipitation, the plants often experience more stress. 

One of this year's successes has been strawberries - we have had several good pickings from the first crop and are moving on to subsequent varieties.  If we do not get rain, the berries are small.  Too much rain or heat and they will rot.  We are glad the first crop has done so well.  Another crop, the early potatoes, looks very promising at this point.  People have requested we grow more potatoes, so Ken planted some earlier than usual.  Again we were lucky as they neither froze nor rotted.

On the bee front, one hive seems to be doing well.  Ken brought a hive with a weak queen to a friend's place.  They are trying to re-queen the hive with a stronger, healthier queen.  Although it is late for a hive to produce honey for us, Ken is focused on strong colonies that can over winter rather than honey production.  We are doing our part to help all the pollinators.  About a third of our food requires pollination.  Some examples are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, peas, berries, melons.  

From the Kitchen.  Happy solstice.  We are moving into longer days, consistent heat and new crops.  The end of asparagus and cool weather greens approaches.  Be comforted by all the new crops - cabbage, carrots, beets, and peas!  

My cooking style changes with summer weather.  I light the oven less and focus on saute, steam, and stir fry.  I also continue to make soups, but  more vegetable based with soup stock canned last fall.  And with Ken's first mushrooms we have had many breakfasts of eggs, mushrooms and green onions.  Mushrooms are available to purchase

'Til Next Week, Judith

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has salad and braising greens - lettuce, spinach, mustard, pea shoots, edible flowers, bok choy and napa cabbage, radishes, green onions, asparagus, and strawberries.

Field Notes - Ken is a blur these days - so much to do.  He has been weeding the perennial crops like  asparagus and strawberries, mowing and turning green manure in preparation to plant later crops, planting the end of full season crops like squash and melons. 

He is also working with a fellow bee keeper to reestablish a queen in one of his hives.  Our source has sent five queens and only one might be viable - not very good odds!

I have been picking strawberries and setting up the pea fences.  The first crop in the garden is blooming.  Soon I will be picking!

From the Kitchen. Green onions and garlic scapes!  I always welcome those fresh, pungent members of the onion family.  Ken made some mixed herb pesto - pesto means paste in Italian and there are infinite types and he used some chervil pictured at left - and added garlic scapes; it was so nice to taste that fresh garlic flavor.  It is great to have some pesto on hand for a quick pasta supper.  I went out one afternoon and came in to find Ken had made pasta with pesto - what a treat!

I love green onions in just about everything.  I use the white part to saute - eggs at breakfast, stir fry with bok choy at mid day, and the green tops as garnish and in tossed green salad for supper.

'Til Next Week, Judith

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pigs Move Again

Ken and I moved the pigs again on Monday.  They are in some tall grass and weeds.  The first couple days was fun as I could hear them and I could see tall weeds moving, but didn't see the pigs.

Now they have dug around the perimeter and we catch sight of them

It is amazing how much pigs enjoy digging - here is their last location when they first arrived, 

...and just before we moved them a couple weeks later!

Pea Fence

Each season I try to order short varieties of peas. They have a relatively short season, but most require some sort of fencing so they don't flop or break.  Picking is much quicker when the plants are supported and upright.  Peas like cool weather and seem not to do well with heavy wire that gets hot in the sun - like hog or cattle panels or field fencing.  Ken devised this system.  He has mulched and cultivated, and last night when I was going out to the field to pick strawberries, I also got the pea fence up.

Ken brought some fencing back from the field, and once the rain ends I will get the fence up in the garden, too.

Friday Night in June

Ken has been transplanting full season crops like squash, melons, Brussels Sprouts.  He likes to do this late in the day as the plants have the night to acclimate to their new location.  

Last night I was out setting the pea fence and picking strawberries after our open hours.

Ken had been going back and forth with tractors and equipment as he had mowed the green manure

Ken was planting 
and planting.  

I came back to the house to get the berries in the cooler, and Ken had left me a supper!  I lit the bath and it was ready when he got in - nearly dark.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This CSA box has lettuce, spinach, salad greens like arugula, bok choy, radishes, asparagus, and strawberries

Field Notes Ken got home from a Bio dynamic meeting in Viroqua Sunday and promptly returned to work.  He is nearly done with full season transplants like onions, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, squash, and melons.  He will be mowing and turning some green manure in the field for future plantings. 

We moved the chickens and geese to a new spot on one possible location of the mobile high tunnel where the heat loving crops were in 2014.   The poultry are eating a crop of green manure.  It will be gone soon and Ken will move them, let the soil rest and the plant for late season on that section, and after the heat loving crops are done, we will move the mobile there.

Monday we moved the pigs to a new location.  They seem quite content here and are renovating various areas of lawn and garden near the house.  Then they will move down the hill across from the mobile high tunnel

We got over three inches of rain this last week.  One inch per week is optimum.  Although we started the season with a lack of moisture, the current situation is pretty soggy and Ken is working with weather - moving animals when soil is too wet, cultivating once it is dry enough, etc

From the Kitchen.  Radishes!  These French breakfast are some of Ken's favorites.  They are wonderful in tossed green salads, and a couple years back I had a wonderful salad at a pot luck that was radishes and green onions in a creamy dressing. Delicious.

Consider freezing a bit of asparagus for a midwinter meal of cream of asparagus soup.  I also heartily recommend  asparagus quiche.

We have had some delightful bok choy side dishes this week.  I rinse and separate the stem from greens and chop them.  I start with the stems and add the greens just before serving - they only need to wilt.  One cool day I used garlic root slices and some dried cayenne pepper in the oil.  I added some sweet cooking wine, then tamari, then some toasted sesame oil, and some organic corn starch mixed with water. Finally I garnished with toasted sesame seeds.  Another day I started with tiny carrot thins and onion, then the chopped stems.  I used about 1/4 teaspoon of honey, some tamari and garnished with chopped cilantro.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has salad and braising greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, sorrel, mustard, and pea shoots, and bok choy, asparagus, spring rutabagas,  and strawberries.

Field Notes.  Ken had some disappointing news for me.  The best ever crop of grapes was frozen when we had that cold weather below freezing.  This is a first, and we do not know if they will start over for this season or not.  Stay tuned and we will keep you posted.  Although we had cold weather this past week, we did not have freezing temperatures.  We are hoping this is the end of cold weather, so the heat loving plants can forge ahead.

And the heat loving crops in the high tunnel are forging ahead!  Tomatoes are blooming, peppers are growing well, and the cucumbers in the greenhouse are taking off.  We got the cucumber fence up in the garden for the main cucumber crop.

We also got rain last week; many crops are doing better since the rain.  It was nearly 2".  Monday was dry enough in the garden that Ken could go through and cultivate.  Tuesday he did by the mobile high tunnel and parts of the field. Keeping ahead of weeds right now makes a big difference for the rest of the season.  The work now means Ken can stay ahead of the work load rather than falling behind and working all season to catch up!

From the Kitchen.  Rutabagas in June?  This was an experiment. Rutabagas germinate in cool soil.  Usually Ken struggles to get them to germinate in summer so they can fill out during cool fall weather.  This year he had some saved seeds and tried planting for the tender spring greens and also got bulbs!  Let us know what you think!  I tend to add rutabagas to soups, but many people eat them raw or grate them and make rutabaga hash browns.Here is Ken's rutabaga pancake - he adds egg, salt, and pepper

Bok choy left, Chinese cabbage on right
Bok choy was the original chop suey ingredient.  When it was unavailable celery was substituted.  I love bok choy in stir fry like chop suey with a side of rice.  I start with a hot pan, add some small pieces of meat, the white portion of green onions or any onion, the chopped bok choy stems and just before serving I add some organic corn starch mixed with water to thicken the liquid and finally the chopped greens tops of the bok choy.  Any other vegetables can be added - just move from the ones require longer cooking time to shorter cooking time. 
Oscar at the greenhouse door - guarding Ken

'Til Next Week, Judith