Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has potatoes, winter tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsnips, carrots, radishes, squash, and greens!

Field Notes.  Neither Ken nor I can remember a fall so warm.  Ken just kept working outside.  Many tasks that usually have to wait until spring are done!  Ken got the compost out to the field and into the medium tunnel, for example.  

 He has been cleaning and clearing sheds, so he can take down the old garden shed , knock down some trees, and build a new and improved garden shed.

Unlike Ken I moved indoors and got bookkeeping caught up and seed inventory and orders done.  

I used to do this in January, but many varieties of organic seeds are sold out by January.  The new seeds are arriving and will get sorted so they will be ready to plant - starting in January with onions and celery.

Ken is planting as I type - he keeps planting for the winter salad mixes.

Underside of the red mustard leaf
From the Kitchen.  With the long nights, the greens are growing more slowly, but the weather has been warm enough for a good selection for this time of year.  The red mustard, tatsoi, and arugula are doing well.  I add them to sprouts for salad.  I tend to cut the large red mustard leaves into ribbons - they not only look nice but it also evens out the zippiness.  Ken preserved some lemons in salt and I have been adding them to salad dressings for the sour and the salt. 

I made a creamy dressing with feta cheese for a spinach tatsoi salad combo a few weeks back and this week I did a classic French (not sweet) dressing with the minced preserved lemon, minced garlic, lots of paprika, pepper and olive oil.  It was nice on raw or cooked greens.

With cooler weather I am using the oven for roasts and baked and roasted vegetables.  Delicious!

Best wishes for the Holiday season from all of us here at Keppers!  Next box in January on the 13th.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Chickens Growing Up - Nearly adults!

Even with cool temperatures and sort days the chicks are growing - and growing!

Soon we will separate the surplus male cockerels from the female pullets.  We will grow them out and butcher them for our use.  

Cruel?  No, I don't see it that way.  Most birds are sexed as they hatch, ad most males are composted when a day old!  They live a full life here until they are full grown. 

Compost to the Green house in the Field

Part of having a greenhouse is maintenance.  There is the frame, the plastic skin and there is the soil in the green house.  When we had the option of obtaining a grant for a greenhouse Ken knew two things: he wanted to "beef up" the structure with some of our own money, and he wanted a long narrow tunnel that, once the grant was concluded and the plastic needed to be replaced, could become multiple smaller greenhouses.  Why?

Well, each crop thrives under slightly different conditions.  Multiple green houses would improve yields.  And even more importantly we could rotate and leave frames open so soil could rejuvenate.  Soil inside a green house often gets stale and needs fresh air and amendments.  

This fall has been unseasonably warm and wet.  Ken wanted to get compost in the greenhouse, but he also wanted the soil dry enough so he did not tear up and compact soil.  Today was as good as it was going to get!  Rain is forecast and the roads and soil would be a soupy mess.

So Ken loaded compost.  Hes uses a front end loader these days.  He loads into buckets so he can haul them into the greenhouse easily - bucket by bucket.  Automation is a relative term.  It has been wonderful to move up from digging and lifting each bucket to a front end loader!

Any way I just caught the loading.  I had other inside tasks that kept me from going out to the field to document the unloading

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ken Makes Compost and Potting Soil

Ken is one of few farmers who make their own compost and potting soil.  Often people ask him why he does it - it is so cheap to buy. When I over hear this question I explain that years ago I overhear two young farmers comparing notes on new weeds that came in with their purchased compost!  

Ken acquired a front end loader and manure spreader to save is elbows!


Compost is only as good as the elements that went into making it.  with our fully mineralized soil's culls and garden waste the compost is truly black gold.  And Ken's biodynamic leanings make us look at the farm as an ecosystem that should go full cycle - those lower cabbage leaves should go to the pigs or geese, and their manure should be composted and brought back to the soil - he ultimate in full cycle dynamic.

Potting soil is the medium to bring seeds to plants.  How can the plants be any healthier than the soil where they start life?  The nutrients must be available to the seeds for the plants.

Seed Inventory

Each fall I go through all the seeds we have.  Some older ones did not germinate well (Ken marks the packets as he plants), some packets are empty, some are nearly empty and some have good looking seed.  I make a list of what we have and note what we need to buy.

Then I hit the seed catalogs.  Each year they start to arrive earlier than the prior year.  It is a delicate balance as I want to order before organic seed is sold out or back ordered, but I want to order after old seed is sold out.  Two years ago the germination rate on red onions was under 25 percent!  As seed costs go up (our favorite eggplant is 13 cents per seed) seed viability is crucial.  When see germinates poorly, the seed companies only reimburse seed cost, not our labor or lost time in crop growth.

And all the catalogs offer seed in different increments - grams, ounces or lots of 1,000.  It is a test of math skills to translate so I can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens, baby carrots, turnips and radishes, winter tomatoes, potatoes, squash, onions, garlic, and cabbage.

Field Notes.  Well, winter seems to be here.  It was a long, warm, wet fall with lots of opportunity to do things out of doors.  I am getting the last of the roots in the root cellar.

People often ask what we do after the season '
"ends" and I have to laugh!  There is still planting, and harvest.  I have been doing the bookkeeping and now I move on to seed orders.  I want to get this done as the organic seed often runs out, but I also want to hold off as I don't want to get old seed that doesn't germinate!   We are doing more open pollinated varieties and saving seed as seed prices go up and seed germination goes down!  

Ken has been making compost, potting soil, moving animals to their winter quarters, cleaning out sheds and working on new designs for winter seed germination and plant growth.  During our less sunny winter last year we had really slow growth for our salad mixes and Ken is working on a solution!

This is also the time of year we assess how last season worked and decide where we want to make changes to improve.  We welcome input.

From the Kitchen.  With cooler weather I do more baking and roasting and soups and stews.  When I get our pork from the meat locker I put the summer cuts in the bottom and the soup bones and roasts on top of the freezer.  I did a shank with beans, onions and garlic with some canned tomato juice to go with squash and cornbread.  Ken has baked squash and made some squash soup.  I made some squash cookies with raisins and dates from Jane Broady's Good Food Cookbook.  

Now that organic lemons are in season I have been making jam with our fruit: raspberry, strawberry and plum.  

'Til December 16th, Judith and Ken