Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blog Comments, etc

Hi all - I've changed the settings on the blog. If you would like to comment on a posting, you will need to join as a follower. I was finding that people I've never heard of, sometimes from across the world, were posting links to sites that we do not know. So, I thought I'd add an extra step and hopefully avoid a little more spam. So, please join up and comment. Let me know if you have any problems or suggestions.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I think we can all agree that this has been one year for weather. On Friday we planted again - another triple row of carrots (Boleros which are supposed to be great keepers for the winter), beets, some salsify, schozonera and parsnips, rutabaga and again, celeriac (third time for this little guy). Around 6:00 the storm of all storms passed through. It started as a normal rain without excessive thunder or lightning. But, within 20 minutes, the trees were flailing, the house was singing and we headed for the crawl space.not too much

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Great work Day & new Hoop Coming

Thanks to Sarah, Pete, Sejica, Phil, Jenny, Anny, Francisco, Gerrie, Linda, Carl, Kris & Kurt for spending a good chunck of your day with us today. Kristina, Ginny and I worked with everyone today. We swept the potatoes for potato beetles and the tomatoes for horn worms. They found a huge horn worm which might now be a pet? We harvested the remaining items for today's distribution & made the final prep for everyone who picked up today. We then moved on to weeding - no small task this time of year - did a little planting and then harvested some onions. The Stuttgarts are looking beautiful and are now laid out to cure in the barn, alongside some garlic. The herb garden is back in shape, the cabbages are visible, new parsley and snap dragons are in. Very productive day.

We'll have another work day in mid-August and another one again in September so if you'd like to stop out, please do. Children are welcome - I can tailor jobs for them - as long as you oversee them. It's pretty fun, generally.

Overall, the garden is doing very well. We have gotten so much done over the past two weeks. We've spread 3 or 4 loads of mulch. Much of the cabbage, peppers tomatoes and onions are now mulched. The tomato cages are in. The beans are trellised for a second time, the tomatoes have been retrellised and the peppers have been tied up in the hoop using a new trellising system that I went in on with Jeff McCabe (thanks, Jeff, for sharing your knowledge and this technique). The arugula has been pulled, the spinach has been tilled under, the first couple of plantings of lettuce have been turned under, etc. These areas are ready for fall plantings which will include radishes, spinach, more beets, more carrots, fall lettuce, fall arugula, turnips, etc. We're also getting ready to start seeding for the plants that will go into the hoop this winter.

I have been meaning to tell everyone this very exciting news: we've been approved for a grant through the USDA which will assist in financing a new hoop house. The grant (yes, it's a GRANT!) will cover approx. $5,000 toward a 30 x 96' hoop. The hoop is projected to cost between $8 and $10,000 so we'll have to finance the difference. Depending upon how the hoop is used, estimates are that the payback will be between 12 - 24 months. I'm sure that also depends on whether you're looking at gross or net numbers but I'll report back after some time. However you look at the numbers, it's very exciting and a bit daunting. I'll move to full-time production. The hoop (both) will not be heated. Crops such as bunching onions, lettuces, mache, spinach, chinese cabbages, carrots, and of course kale, chard and collards, will do well in the cold climate of the hoop. I have heard the biggest challenge will be the lack of sunshine in December/January. We plan to offer a limited CSA and also to sell wholesale to either restaurants or retailers. We're also considering participating in a new co-op which sells to institutions.

There's always something going on here. For the immediate future, we're focused on preparing for the main harvest. As soon as the tomatoes, beans and second planting of summer squash comes in, it will be all that we can do to just pick the produce. So whatever weeding we can do now will help position us for the upcoming mountain of veggies. If anyone knows a high school-aged person that would like to work for 3 or 4 weeks helping to harvest, please forward their info. to me.

Enjoy the bounty - it's coming!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Survey Results

OK - the results of the survey are in. 37 people voted and 32 said that the quantity is just right. 1 person said they wanted improvement in quality/cleanliness and the rest voted that the quality/cleanliness of the vegetables is what you expected. So, overall, it's a good result.

I will send out another survey later in the year. It will be interesting to see the results at that time.

If you have any further comments, please let me know. One idea is that we could have certain items available for additional purchase - a quasi farmer's market. For example, I know some people like a lot of lettuce - we could sell additional bags for those that eat a lot or if you're having a party, we could make additional items available. I know some people divide their share with multiple households so maybe this would be of interest.

Thanks for your feedback!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Purslane & Welcome to Kristina

First of all I'd like to welcome Kristina. She is a student with the Sustainable Ag. program at UofM and will be working here for the next few weeks as part of her work/study program. She started last week and is not afraid to tangle with the many weeds that have grown with this favorable weather. She is helping Dave, Sheryl and I to keep things moving. Thanks!

Also, thanks to Kristina, we have purslane in the box for tomorrow's distribution. We'll also pick some for Wednesday's boxes. After that, we'll probably offer it as an optional item on the extras table. If you only pick up every other week and would like some, please let me know and I'll pick some for you. Anyway - Kristina has had this in the past and cooked up a panful for us for lunch today. We always try to eat some veggies so that we can all taste what we're growing. I had never had purslane. It's kind of like Lambs Quarter - yeah you can eat it, but why would you? Both are surprisingly excellent! Also, I've read quite a bit over the last few years that the plants that grow locally as "weeds" such as dandelion, purslane, lambs quarter, etc. contain many anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which are very benefcial.

Here's how to prepare it:
  1. Remove the purslane from the bag. Cut off the roots. Remove any hay that might be in there. Soak to clean.
  2. Cut up the stalks in 1 - 3" pieces. Use the whole stem - no need to take the leaves off of the stem. The stems are a bit crunchy but they're not woody.
  3. Preheat a skillet with a little oil. Add a bit of garlic or onions or both and saute.
  4. Add the cleaned and cut purslane.
  5. Sprinkle in a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Saute until wilted and slightly darker green (maybe 6 - 10 minutes on med. heat).
  7. Serve.
Very yummy - surprisingly. It's a bit like spinach and would probably be good in a stir fry. Enjoy!

Here's what "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of The Kitchen" (Harold McGee) has to say about purslane (by the way - this is an excellent book if you're interested in the technical side of food):
"Purslane is a low-lying weed with fat stems and small thich leaves, which thrives in midsummer heat on neglected ground. It's a European native that has spread throughout the world. One nickname for purslane is pigweed, and the 19th century Englishman William Cobbett said it was suitable only for pigs and the French. But people in many countries enjoy its combination of tartness and soothing, mucilaginous smoothness, both raw in salads and added to meat and vegetable dishes during the last few minutes of cooking. There are now cultivated varieties with larger leaves shaded yellow and pink. Its qualities are similar to those of the cactus pad because both have adapted in similar ways to hot, dry habitats. Purslane is notable for its content of calcium, several vitamins, and an omega-3 fatty acid, linolenic acid."

Here's another interesting excerpt from the same book: "Cactuses, purslane, and other plants that live in hot, dry environments have developed a special form of photosynthesis in which they keep their pores closed during the day to conserve water, then open them at night to take in carbon dioxide, which they then store in the form of malic acid. During the day, they use the energy from sunlight to convert the malic acid to glucose. Pads harvested in the early morning therefore contain as much as 10 times more malic acid than pads harvested in the afternoon. The acid levels in the pads slowly drop after harvest, so the difference is less apparent after a few days."

Note: We harvested the purslane at around 2:30 in the afternoon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More On Insects & Plant Culture

We took a few photos last week.