Saturday, November 21, 2015

Big Chicks - 'Tweens

We usually order chicks in August.  We feed them six months and they start to lay eggs in their normal cycle - as the days lengthen in February.  Spring chicks lay briefly when six months old in October or November, but once the days shorten and grow cold they take a break.  There really is a season for eggs and it is from early February to June.  Chickens do not lay as many eggs once it gets hot - July.

This year I ordered chicks late - they are shipped the day they hatch and the egg yolk has given them enough food for three days.  When we get them home from the post office, we open the box and teach them to drink as we put them in a warm lighted box.  As they grow we move them to a stock tank and then out to a shed.

We give them hay and kitchen scraps of greens - carrot tops, Brussels sprouts trimmings, etc.  This year I tried a variety that I have wanted for years - previously they were too pricey for my budget, but this year (maybe as a late season bargain) they were cheaper than usual.  I also got some aracaunas for the green eggs
We get straight run - that means as they hatch male and female chicks.  Once the males start to harass the females and fight for pecking order.  if we separate them from the females the males can live as a unit in harmony instead of as competitors for six months.   So our males have had a full life.  When people order only females, the chicks are sexed and male chicks are killed immediately or they go to places like a raptor center where they are eaten by predator birds.

Here are photos from a couple weeks ago - the birds are about a month old.  Chicks grow quickly

Monday, November 16, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter tomatoes, celery root, daikon radish, onions, and garlic, greens, sage and a pie pumpkin.

Field Notes.  Ken has gotten his compost done before it became too wet.  He has a new to him manure spreader that mixes all his components together.  He will need potting soil to start winter micro greens.  Once the weather is too cold for the full size greens under layers of plastic and fiber, we move on to what we can do with limited space and heat and light - micro greens.

Ken has also been cleaning up old plastic and fiber and sheds - organizing.  There is little time for this during the growing season.  And I move on to paper work that has piled up.  Now is when we are planning for next season.  We welcome your input!

From the Kitchen.  Thanksgiving!  Everyone has different traditions.  We include a pie pumpkin and some sage for the traditionalists, and some daikon radish for the less traditional.  

My suggestion is mix it up.  If everyone wants potatoes, do that, but consider adding a rutabaga dish for the type two diabetics or sweet potatoes. Add some extra vegetable hors d'oeuvres like grated daikon with tamari or soy sauce. 

In any event we are deeply grateful for all we have and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  'Tl December 2nd. Judith and Ken

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has lettuce and other greens for salad and braising, potatoes, winter tomatoes, peppers, celery root, onions or leeks, daikon or black radishes, sweet potatoes or squash, and herbs


Field Notes.  Ken has been making compost and potting soil.  He uses our poultry bedding and leaves and hay that has been in a pile for months.  He loads it into a manure spreader and then spreads or piles it.  Most went to a pile by the mobile high tunnel, but he put some on one mobile tunnel location where the chickens are currently located.  They will stir it and it will amend the soil for next season.  Ken also purchased gypsum.  Just as calcium makes strong bones, calcium in gypsum is necessary for sturdy healthy plants

I have been working in the root cellar.  Ken has been harvesting roots and cabbage and I have been boxing and burying in sand.  Soon he will harvest more and the root cellar will be pretty full - always a good feeling.

From the Kitchen. Last week I made some scalloped sweet potatoes.  They were a nice side dish to some barbecue chicken wings.I also peel, boil and slice sweet potatoes and warm in butter for a quick side dish as well.

Daikon radishes and black radishes are so good in fall.  Here is our friend Jenny with a daikon. Many people grate them and add to slaw or salad.  Daikon is also added to soups and in Japan Ken had boiled daikon on a stick with mustard.  May be a while before we see that at the state fair in Minnesota!

'Til Next Week
Judith and Ken

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Squash - a Primer

We grow several types of squash and pie pumpkins.  They are from different branches of the curcurbit family that includes not only winter squash, but also cucumbers, melons, and gourds.

Winter squash and pie pumpkins usually fall into one of three branches of the curcurbit family.  First there are acorn - pepo.  Pie pumpkins are also in this branch.  Acorn and pie pumpkins have more moisture and fiber.  Acorn squash ripen first and are best eaten soon after harvest.

Sweet dumpling, another pepo, is a cross between the small, sweet delicata and acorn.  They have firmer texture, sweeter flavor and keep for a longer time

Buttercup are in the maxima branch of the family.   Theirs is the driest flesh, less sweet, but great flavor 

Hubbards are also maxima.  They have hard shells and keep the longest, but usually are too large for most of our CSA and on line members

Finally in the moshata branch are the beige butternut squash.  these good keepers have the smoothest flesh and are my first choice for squash soup.

And for many baked goods like squash breads and cookies my first choice is pie pumpkins.  Of course as the name implies, they are also most people's first choice for pie.

No matter which you choose, squash are a nutritional powerhouse and a great seasonal treat!

Root Cellaring

When Ken built his dwelling and studio, he set aside a part for root cellar.  Little did we know we would be storing produce for our CSA!  Each season I experiment with how and what and how much we store. 

Potatoes are boxed so they do not turn green from sunlight. 

Other root vegetables like celeriac, beets, carrots, rutabagas, winter radishes and such go in barrels of sand. 

I used to use taller 33 gallon barrels, but getting to the bottom became a challenge for my back! 

This year I am trying larger cut off barrels.

And some vegetables are going in re-used waxed boxes from a couple of natural food stores.  These boxes cannot be recycled so we feel good that they are getting a second life before entering the waste stream!

Here is a photo of my progress so far - still more to do!

Planting Garlic

Ken plants garlic in fall.  This gives the cloves time to set roots so they can really take off in spring.  Once he has the bed prepared, I take out some containers individual cloves from the largest garlic we have with bags or markings so we can keep track of varieties and which do best in our soil.

Ken plants and later mulches to moderate temperature.  It is a job of much kneeling and he is glad when he has finished

Summer Camp is Over; The Pigs Depart

For years every spring we have gotten feeder pigs from a local farmer.  We take orders for a half or whole as we can then have them slaughtered on farm.  The animals have no stress, and the part we do not use can be composted instead of entering the waste stream.

Once the meat leaves the farm Ken sets up his stock pot and simmers the heads and cleaned feet.  After about an hour I pick the meat off the head.  Then we return the heads and feet to the stock pot so the cartilage and marrow can cook into the stock.

Once the stock is ready, I get out the pressure canner. We skim off the fat and heat the stock, place in canning jars and pressure can.  

Then we pull out and the jars seal as they cool.  They make a wonderful pinging sound as they seal.  

Then I label and place on shelves in the root cellar for future use.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has lettuce and greens, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, peppers, and cabbage or Brussels sprouts

Field Notes.  Rain - lots of rain.  Ken found a window of opportunity and got the garlic planted.  He has been harvesting roots and I am burying them in sand in the root cellar for winter boxes.

This week the pigs go to the locker.  We always feel sadness and relief - Ken has an extra hour or more each day now.  

From the Kitchen.  Greens!  We have greens each day - some times raw for salad and sometimes wilted with cream or vinegar or a dressing.  Ken has been making soup - a potato cabbage soup and a creamed carrot and other vegetable soup.  We often have soup in the morning as it is warming and the egg production drops sharply when the days get short.

I have been making jam now that we could get some organic lemons.  In side by side comparisons we can taste the difference in sugar and lemons - mainstream conventional vs. organic.

'Til Next Week, Judith