Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has freshly dug parsnips, greens, potatoes, squash, celery root, rutabaga, daikon and black radish, onions, garlic, and cabbage.

Field Notes.  Ken has been planting seeds in the mobile high tunnel. Some of the seeds have already germinated!  We are waiting to see how over wintered greens do this spring.  

And Ken has some onions nearly ready for their first 
'haircut!"  So spring is moving right along here.

Last time Ken was setting up to tap maple trees for sap to boil down to syrup.  He has been boiling and now I am finishing and bottling

From the Kitchen.  Parsnips!  Parsnips are related to carrots.  They are sweeter and get even sweeter when over wintered in the field.   Some times their cores are tougher so I cut them lengthwise in quarters and slice out the centers if they seem tough.  We are growing older open pollinated varieties as they have better flavor and we will be able to save the seed.  The traditional way to prepare parsnips is as follows: scrub, slice and parboil to the al dente stage.  Drain.  Saute in butter in a heavy skillet until they just start to brown and caramelize.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

Ken also uses parsnips for pie!  After making pie crust, he takes the parsnips and scrubs, slices, boils and runs through a food mill.  Then he follows a pumpkin or squash pie recipe except he cuts the sugar to less than half.  He usually uses a bit of cinnamon and mace.

Gobo or burdock is often daunting at first.  Each spring I repeat our kinpira recipe we learned in Japan. It is well work the effort!


What is kinpira? Kinpira is a Japanese cooking technique. In spring one uses carrots and gobo - burdock root - cut into matchsticks. In summer chefs combine thumb sized pieces of Asian eggplant and green pepper. And in fall squash like our buttercup cut into thin crescent shapes is common.

Start with a cast iron or heavy skillet. Toast some sesame seeds and set aside. Use a cooking fat or oil that can take heat, and add some dried hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add the vegetable that takes the longer cooking time (gobo in spring and green peppers in summer). Cook over high heat, and keep stirring. Add the second vegetable. Cook to al dente. Add a teaspoon to tablespoon of sugar, Stir to caramelize, but don't burn. Add a splash at a time of a sweet cooking wine like Japanese mirin or sherry. I use homemade parsnip wine. Finally add some good quality tamari or soy sauce. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.

The sequence is important as the sugar and sweet wine seal in the flavors. Experiment as everyone seems to like a different ratio - some like it hotter, others like it sweeter or saltier. The end result is a toasted sweet, salty glazed vegetable with a bit of crunch. Delicious!

'Til April 6th, Judith 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Planting Seeds in a Greenhouse

What does a farmer do on a rainy spring day?  Plant seeds!  Ken planted some trays for the heat mat in the house and then went down to the greenhouse and planted seeds.

He used an Earthway seeder he has had for many decades.

It furrows, drops seeds through a plate and tamps and covers for good soil contact

Then Ken writes what he has planted and date and location.  Note his portable desk!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Boiling Sap to Syrup Begins

Today Ken began boiling maple sap to make maple syrup.
He collects sap in buckets.

When he has enough to boil, he pours the sap into a large flat pan called an evaporator.  As it boils down he adds more sap

He maintains the fire under the evaporator

He continue to monitor the fire and check the sap as it boils and becomes syrup.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens, cabbage, onions and garlic, celery root, carrots, black radishes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, the last of the winter tomatoes, and parsley 

Field Notes.  Spring seems to have arrived early!  The last two Saturdays have been great for maple sap collection, but this week is to warm and last week was too cold.  Optimum weather for maple season is a combination of warm, sunny days in the 40's and night time lows in the 20's.  

When that happens the sap rises during the day and falls at night.  Too cold and the sap stays in the tree's roots; too warm and the sap will stay up in the branches and the tree leaves will bud out.  We have to wait and see what we get for weather.

With this warm weather orchardists are afraid the trees will bud and possibly bloom so early they will be vulnerable to frost when and if it chills down. 

On a more positive note, Ken is out cutting some oaks that are shading the garden.  He has cut trees around them for decades, and now their time has come.  The wood will be used according to its size - the trunk should make lumber, some of the branches will heat our house and others will grow shiitake mushrooms.

And we have gotten the first goose egg of the season!  We sell them as we have them.  Let us know if you want some

From the Kitchen.  After we reduced the poultry population a couple weeks ago, we had a series of feasts!  There was roast bird with sauerkraut stuffing, sliced breast meat for sandwiches and meat from the simmered bones for soups.  We roasted vegetables with the meat - onions, carrots, potatoes and more.  Then there were soups - a beet and cabbage borscht with the stock and a vegetable soup with minced celery root, onion and garlic, rutabagas, carrots, potatoes and frozen peas.  We also have sprout salads with either grated roots or leaves from the salad or braising mix. Sometimes Ken has made pot pie!

I also have been cooking up the squash with small blemishes, and taking it off the skin and saving for a couple different dishes.  I prepare some with pecans or other nuts: toast the nuts in a small skillet, place on a cutting board and chop.  Heat some cooked squash with butter in the skillet and season with salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg - or for variety a bit of curry.  Once you serve, top with the chopped nuts.

'Til March 23rd, Judith

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pottery Classes End with Great Works

Ken teaches pottery classes Saturday mornings in January, and this year he expanded to February.  We had a great group of students - some came for a week or two and others attended all eight sessions.

It was great fun to watch people's progress - some started at the very beginning while others had taken pottery classes in the past.  

Students made pots using pinch, coil, slab, and wheel.  And then there was glaze week.

This weekend the pottery was fired and ready for students to pick up

There were some really wonderful pieces

Ken will teach again next winter and plans to expand to one evening classes in addition to Saturday morning. 

If you would like us to send add you to the class list, please send us an email

Thank you to all the students

Maple Syrup Seaon Begiins

This spring Ken plans to make maple syrup. Each season is different and some seasons are better than others.  The first step is to drill a small hole in the maple tree.

The next step is to tap in a spile to direct the flow of sap into a bucket.

Then Ken has to check and empty buckets of sap.  When he has enough to boil down to syrup, he pours the sap through a filter and into the evaporator.  Then he will keep a fire under the evaporator to boil the sap to syrup. The sap's sugar concentration varies, but usually it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  For one quart of syrup it takes about two full five gallon buckets.

Optimum weather for maple sap to flow is a combination of daytime temperatures in the 40's with sun and no wind and night time temperatures in the 20's.  

We shall see what the weather brings.  More photos to follow!


The days are lengthening.  Soon we will both be outside.  so I am trying to get in weaving now.  Yesterday I finished my first wool rag rug!  It is blue with end stripes of grey with rose borders - old wool blankets and a grey wool lining from a coat.

I am figuring the color scheme of the next one as I work on denim downstairs.  My goal is to weave up the current warp there and move on to a new idea from a Scandinavian rug class I took a couple years ago.  The denim has been a good run, but I am ready for something new!

Here is how I keep track of length as I weave - today I am at the three foot mark of the second rug