Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saline Winter Farmer's Market & Local Tree Farm & Other News

Just in case you haven't heard, there's an indoor market in Saline.  It's at Liberty School on Saturday's between 9 - 12.  You can park within 20' of the door, walk INSIDE, and shop for your veggies, breads, sweets, gifts and other items, all within a very welcoming environment.  I have to say that I am really happy to be part of the vendor team at this market.  All are really friendly and are hoping the market does well as a whole.

Nathan and I have gone for 3 weeks now and traffic is OK but could be better.  So spread the word and come on out.

This past week I took black radishes, watermelon radishes, red turnips (with samples of all three), spinach, napa cabbage, carrots, kale, potatoes, aji peppers, some tomatoes, garlic, french breakfast radishes, cherry belle radishes, cilantro, broccoli and eggs.

Next Saturday I plan to offer chard, lacinato kale, radishes, American Purple Top turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, garlic, dill, parsley, eggs, beets, broccoli, spinach or lettuce, carrots, maybe some tomatoes if they're any good, maybe some peppers and maybe something else.

If you plan to be there and have a request, please let me know.  I think I have some sweet peppers that are still good.  I have lots of habeneros and aji peppers.  Peppers haven't been big sellers but maybe they'll catch on.

Other news:  You may have noticed the rain.  It's a bit much, again.  Maybe 2011 will go down as a year in history - I'm hoping 2012 isn't a repeat of this year.  So far, the west field is relatively flooded - we may lose some parsnips, salsify and winter savory but other than that, all is out of the field and cover-cropped.  The front garden seems fine.  We harvested the remaining turnips, most of the daikon and rutabaga on Friday and they seem fine.  Some might have frozen but most appear to have weathered down to 17 degree nights over the past few weeks.  On Friday, Nick and I harvested a bunch of broccoli from between the hoops.  They were still covered in snow but they weren't damaged.  Most are side shoots which are just as tasty as the main head.  We also harvested a few brussels sprouts stalks which I cooked up last night.  They were small but oh so tasty.  There are still quite a few (maybe 50) stalks out there along with a lot of broccoli, arugula, beets, carrots (which have been mulched), some daikon, leeks, radishes, etc.  The herbs are also chugging along.  I think there might even be some calendula still in bloom.  It really is amazing how cold-tolerant the plants can be.

Oh yeah - we have 2 baby goats.  Finally.  Dixie gave birth last Tuesday to 3 beautiful babies.  Unfortunately one developed a septic infection and didn't make it.  Another was rejected for whatever reason and is now in the house.  In doggie diapers.  Eating every 5 hours by bottle.  But she's super-sweet and likes to follow us around and isn't too loud.  So that's that.  The third is a boy and he's in the barn with Dixie, drinking all of her wonderful milk and getting fat - which is good.  We also kept 4 turkeys this year - one tom and 3 hens.  I hope that at least one of the hens will sit on eggs next spring and hatch out about 20 turkeys.  Probably won't happen but that would be nice. 

Hope you're staying dry and warm and are enjoying the pre-Christmas festivities. 

One plug for a local farm - we have been buying our tree for the past few years from Urquhart Tree Farm:   /  They're on Jerusalem Road, just west of Parker, on the north side.  You can choose from one that they have cut or go out and cut one yourself.  It is a lot of fun.  Susan has also sold me hay for mulch over the years.  I went out one June to pick up the mulch and they were hard at work pruning and planting and irrigating.  It takes a lot of work to make a tree grow in the shape most of us seek.

Until next time, take care and enjoy making snow angels (or at least watching the children do it).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Saline Winter Farmer's Market & pricing

The Saline Winter Market is now in full swing.  Opening day was 2 weeks ago, last week we had a break for a craft show, and the Grand Opening was yesterday.  There are a lot of vendors that attend this market - everything from veggies to bread to eggs & chicken to beautiful baskets to goat milk soap and cheese to alpaca yarns and socks to jams to syrups.  It's a really nice market.  Parking is in a school lot and you just have to walk into the school to shop.  So you don't have to fight the elements and if you buy a ton of stuff, it's not far to get back to your car.  Nathan will even help you carry things if you buy too much.

I posted a bit last night about pricing, etc.  In general, I'm currently going through the costs of various crops and trying to figure out whether to continue to grow as much as we do.  For example, I sold parsnips yesterday for $2/lb.  That can be quite a few parsnips if you select the smaller ones but two really large ones also = a pound.  Those babies have been in the ground since April 6th (ish).  They take 30 days to germinate.  As you're waiting for them to sprout, the other weeds germinate first.  So you weed.  Then they sprout and you weed again.  And again.  Then we mulched to help keep the weeds down.  Then we weeded.  I would say the beds were weeded at least 4 times x 3.5 people x 2 hours.  So right there you're looking at $280 in labor.  Then there's the harvest cost - they take a lot of work to dig and wash so that people can see them.  We planted 6 rows and a lot of them did well but some were flooded out.  Some are small and gnarly.  So, I'm estimating about 65% of the crop is prime and marketable.  So that's a net of 253' of parsnips @ $2/lb @ 1 lb/ft.  An overall estimate of $500 for that crop which took up 390 linear feet of garden space.  And that's if they sell.  Hopefully they will.  Compare that to salad greens which can yield up to $10/lb. and turn over every 45 - 60 days.  A 2' bed will yield about a pound, depending on how densely it's planted.  I could have planted about 195 linear feet of salad greens in the same space that I had planted the parsnips.  That would have resulted in roughly $975 in sales. But the harvest cost would be a bit higher than parsnips (because there are more harvests).

Anyway, these are the types of calculations I'll need to go through this winter.  Of course there's the  benefit of having variety, etc. which must all be taken into account as well.

In the mean time, we'll keep loading up our boxes and taking them to market.  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garlic Planting Time is Upon Us

We began planting garlic yesterday.  We have planted about 50 pounds of garlic thus far and hope to get in another 20 pounds on Monday.  If you would like to buy seed garlic, please let me know - you need to plant soon.  $8/lb and supplies are limited.  2 years ago we planted the following:  German Red (7.5#), Polish White (8 #), Italian Purple (9.75#), and Metechi (5#). Last year we saved the largest heads.  This year we did the same.  So we now have a mix of the original stock and I cannot tell you which variety is which but they are all tasty. 

If you'd like to purchase garlic in bulk, it is still available at $5/lb.  Seed garlic is larger per head than the general garlic.

Other than that, we're working hard to get all of the fall clean-up tasks done.  We're pulling the drip tape from the field and tilling and sowing winter rye when we can.  Where the potatoes once grew, winter rye is now growing.  The peppers have been picked from the field and the tender crops (dill & tarragon) have been covered with row cover.  We're working on buttoning up the hoop houses for winter.  The tomatoes have now been pulled from the middle hoop and it was planted last Monday with winter greens.  They won't produce much until mid-Feb. but they're in the ground and ready to go.  The newest hoop is now rocking and we're harvesting spinach, baby brassicas, collards, kale and soon, lettuce from there.  Carrots and turnips are not far behind.

The day length is currently at a 10h 38m day with every day 2 min. 33 sec shorter until Dec. 21. The seeds that don't germinate soon will wait for a couple of months or more until they feel like stretching their roots, stems and leaves.  Those that do germinate will huddle together between alternating days of pure sunshine and gray skies and patiently wait until we return to this period of 10 h 38 m of day length.  Then they will once again jump up and shout out -  pick me, pick me!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wrapping up the Season

The time has come to finally let go of summer.  We are still enjoying this warm spell but I know that winter is coming.  The days are within 75 days of the shortest day of the year.  This is a time when I struggle with pulling the summer crops to make way for the winter ones.  There are still tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the hoops.  The experimental summer squash is doing well in there as well - it's taking up far too much room and we have to hand-pollinate the fruits because the sides of the hoop have been down which keeps the pollinators out.  No pollination = no squash.  So it's been interesting to get to know the reproductive parts of the squash plant.  How it is evident when the female fruit is ready to accept the pollen from the male blossom or not.

So, very soon we will pass the turning point on planting.  After the end of October, the day length will be too short to stimulate germination.  Once the day length reaches 10 hours or less, growth will all but stop and the plants will go into a holding pattern.  They won't die (as long as you're planting the right crops) but growth will be so slow that they it's difficult to see.  So, if the plants are not at the maturity stage (or close to it) before this point, you have to wait really until early to mid-Feb. before planting begins again.  Anyway - we're getting close to this point.  To maximize profits, all tomatoes should now be out of the hoops.  All peppers should be compost.  All eggplant and basil a memory.  Soon.  It's hard for us and for our members to say goodbye to the fruits of summer.  But soon, very soon, I will have to pull the tomatoes and plant the beds in the hoop house.

We hope you have enjoyed the extended tomato and pepper season.  This is only possible due to season extension through the hoop houses.

A reflection on the season:
This is our third year of CSA.  Every year I learn something new.  What stands out now is that the closer the relationship between farmer/member, the better the relationship.  Of course this is nothing new in any working relationship.  The more we understand of each other, the better.  This relationship takes a huge commitment.  We know that you take a great deal of time picking up and storing your veggies.  And we understand that satisfied members are very patient with us and know that the veggies are not going to be perfectly shaped or sized or clean.  They appreciate small carrots in June or July - because small carrots are better than no carrots.  They understand that we put members before ourselves in serving new crops.  They understand that tomatoes are generally only available at a premium during the months of July, early-Aug. and late Sept./Oct.  They understand that sometimes we intentionally don't wash crops because they can deteriorate faster if sitting wet in a bag than if wilting in a bag, later to be rejuvenated with a cold soaking.  And they appreciate that we grow varieties here that are not readily available in many stores or even at the markets. 
Re. distributions:  This year was an especially-tough year to grow veggies.  The beginning of the season was terrible.  The cold, wet weather really put a hold on working the ground and planting.  Then we had very cold weather which all but halted growth.  So June distributions were light.  Thanks for being patient with us.  We hope that the bounty of beans, tomatoes and greens helped to make up for the early season.  Mid-season brought on floods and tremendous mosquito pressure.  It was VERY difficult to go out on a daily basis and work for 8 - 10+ hours amidst those buggers.  Many of you could hardly even pick up your box.  We pumped out the water but still lost crops.  Thanks for your understanding, again, with  these challenges.

In summary:  Someone asked how I felt the year has gone.  I responded, as I often do, off the cuff.  It's been good.  Really, it's been better than I had expected, given the circumstances.  Of course, if I had provided all of the caveats as herein listed, the person might have understood what I meant.  We have distributed probably tons of veggies.  (we tracked the poundage this year and still need to input it but it was a lot)  Some crops have been bumper crops (beans, tomatoes).  Some have been slim (melons, squash).  Some have been consistent (greens, as they generally do well).  Some have been close-to-hoped (lettuce & carrots).  But overall we're very fortunate to have harvested a good amount this year.

Thank you for your interest in the crops and in how it's going.  I must give a huge thanks to our consistent workers, Sheryl and Nick.  Without their help, we truly would not have been able to serve you weekly.  They showed up on time.  They covered in my absence.  They did a GREAT job.  I hope to have such consistent and fun help next year.

And, as always, we thank you, our members.  You keep local farming possible.  Thanks for your commitment and understanding during the early season and we hope you enjoyed the relative bumper crops of mid and late season.  This is what Community Supported Agriculture is all about.

Jennifer & Crew

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Inspired by soup stock

This rainy cool weather chills us to the bone.  Friday morning we were hastily picking beans, greens and tomatoes in the rain - trying to get it all in before the weather turned worse.  Even though the radar was clear, we had a steady rain.  The kind that trickles into your boots, in through the seams in your coat through to your neck.  The kind that just keeps seeping through the layers until your inner layers are wet.  Sheryl had her rain pants but had left her jacket at home.  She worked until she was too cold to go on.  So we broke at 11:45 for lunch.  I changed my clothes and gave Sheryl a top to wear - she had a sweatshirt in the car to add.  Nick called his Grandma who, graciously, brought him a change of pants.  We had broth, a hot meal and got ready to do it all over again.  Luckily the rain subsided and we were able to work the rest of the day in relatively dry conditions.

Wednesday was similar.  That night I pulled a stewing hen (actually just a leg/thigh) out of the freezer and started a broth.  I added ginger, garlic, onions, bay leaves, and thyme.  Some salt, pepper, maybe something else, can't remember.  I cooked it overnight on a very slow simmer.  It provided a nice pick-me-up on Friday.  The meat was nicely cooked - very tender for a stewing hen.

Tonight I finished the day to find a thawed beef roast on the counter.  Dave was still out working with the animals so I thought I'd get things going.  There were also 3 packages of pork blade steaks in the sink.  So, I decided to prepare the beef for tomorrow night, following a slow-cook recipe from The River Cottage Meat Book.  I was left with the bone and fatty pieces so I pulled some soup bones out of the freezer, added the pork bones to the mix and am now making stock.

This brings me to the point.  To make this stock, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommends certain ingredients.  I ran around the yard collecting everything - a few bay leaves, some onions & carrots, parsley, thyme, celery, maybe a leek and whatever else you want to add to accentuate your stock.  So I now have the idea about adding a "soup stock bag" to the holiday box.  A mix of all of these items that you can throw into a pot and add (or not) some meat to cook down and prepare your own stock or soup.  You can use it immediately or jar it up in pint jars to use throughout the year (I process with a pressure cooker).  Let me know if this is of interest to you.

Until later. Stay warm & dry and feed yourselves well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

August 3 - Too wet for words

Last Wednesday afternoon it finally started to rain.  The fields were dry.  Anything that wasn't irrigated was small.  Even the purslane was wilting.  It was a nice, steady rain.  And it continued.  And continued.  Around 3 a.m. it was a torrent.  In the morning we awoke to a front garden that was 3/4 under water, a rain gauge that tops out at 5.5" which was overflowing, an east garden with some flooding and a west garden with a stream running from the back of the property to the front.  I hooked up the sump pumps and was able to drain the front garden within the day but the west garden contains a low spot which collects water from all around.  So the water level didn't go down.  Thursday night I was hopeful that the rain would hold off but it started raining around 11 and continued.  We received another 1 7/8".  I am sure that we had over 8" of total rain.  The front garden flooded again and the west garden level rose.

So, I bought a gigantic pump.  It took 2 days to pump out that water to the front ditch.  Fellow farmers who grew up on this land say they've never seen anything like it.  I don't know what the future holds but now we're looking at creating some sort of retention pond with an overflow to help keep this from happening again.

Most of the crops will be OK but we did lose a few rows of melons which is disappointing, along with over 200' of fall beets, New Zealand spinach, many of my winter brassica starts and some lettuce, basil and savory.  Also some parsnips and other root veggies.  Needless to say it is hard to have a loss. 

We had seeded a lot of crops in the east garden on 7/23.  I re-seeded this past week, just in case they were washed out.

The good news is that the hoop houses are OK and it appears that most of the crops in the fields will be OK too.  I'm still unsure because some plants are showing evidence of root rot but we're hoping that almost everything makes it. 

I went through the melon patch yesterday and see that there are over 100 melons on the vines now.  Hopefully there will be more but at least everyone will receive a water or musk melon or honey dew.  We might not all have a melon in the same week but over two to three weeks, all should have at least one, and probably 2.  So I'll probably put melons on the honor system (i.e. take one if you haven't had one yet kind of thing).

In the mean time, we have cabbage and a lot of it.  I was considering selling the excess but will probably distribute this instead to CSA members over the next few weeks.  Since some of the lettuce was washed out, I'm anticipating a shortfall in salad makings in 20 days or so.  Maybe we'll have baby brassicas to sub in.  If not, keep your cabbage.  Wrap it up tightly in a couple of layers of saran wrap and put it in your fridge.  It will keep for months this way.  Or, you can make sauer kraut or kim chi.

Think sunny thoughts with an occasional rain shower for the rest of the season.

Many of you have let us know how much you're enjoying the veggies and have let me know how they appreciate knowing what's going on around here.  If you have any comments on quantities (like you'd like larger bunches or smaller bunches or more onions/week, or whatever) please let me know.


Monday, July 11, 2011

July on the Farm

I thought I'd update everyone on what's happening:

It's hot.  The mosquitos aren't bad.  The peas are done.  It's time to plant fall broccoli.

That kind of sums it up.  But if you are interested in more - here it is.

It has been an interesting summer growing season thus far.  Cold and rainy, hot and dry, flooding, dry and now hot and dry again.  Fortunately we had a nice rain today and, even more fortunate is the fact that we have most of the growing area irrigated with drip tape.  This is black tape which is connected to a "header" which carries water under low pressure.  The tape has small holes every 12" from which a drip is released.  The consecutive drips form circles which then expand and finally come into contact with each other and merge out.  It's a pretty good system.  Not as effective at wetting an entire seed bed but for anything within the 12" radius of the hole, there good water available for the plants.  The system requires constant checking because every so often someone punctures the tape while weeding or an end blows off or a leak develops at the connection point.  The rented parcel is not irrigated yet.  To do so, I need to repair the owner's pressure tank which appears to have rusted out in places.  If anyone is good with working with wells or repairing tanks and is willing to give us a hand with this project, please let me know.

We're on target with the succession planting.  Every 10 - 14 days we're planting lettuce and carrots.  We planted various brassicas about a month ago and most are ready to transplant now. Dave and I also planted a back-up seedbed of brassicas 2 weeks ago "just in case".  So we have back-up broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. etc. etc.  Last year I lost most of my fall brassicas to flea beetles so I'm being extra-cautious this year.  Direct seeding of crops such as fall turnips, daikon radishes, spinach, etc. will begin soon.  This requires pulling out the remnants of other crops and preparing the seed beds.

We trellis all tomatoes, peppers (in the hoops), beans, and cukes (in the hoop).  This totals approx. 2000' of trellised crops.  We haven't completed the task yet but we're getting there.  The beans were trellised 2 weeks ago and are fun to check out.  Please don't let the children run through this area - it's tempting but if they accidentally pull on a string, they'll uproot the plants.  It's a hallway of beans.  They're in the east garden, closest to the goats.  The tomatoes in the field are underway and should be done by the end of the week.  Cukes in the hoop will be worked on tomorrow.  It's a very big job.  The tomatoes all require weekly pruning and training.  If anyone wants to learn about this process and volunteer for 2 - 3 hours, I would love the help. 

The harvest has begun.  We harvested about 1/3 of the garlic this morning, before the rain.  We'll need to hang it up in the barn where it will cure.  We'll begin distributing it this week.  It won't be fully-cured which means that it is a bit harder to peel and separate.  But it is very tasty.  Last year I saved the biggest heads for seed garlic and it paid off.  Returning members should notice that this year's heads are quite a bit larger than those from last year.

We walk the potatoes for Colorado Potato beetles almost daily, sometimes twice a day when infestations are large.  We squish the little guys and put the large larvae and adult beetles in water with a little soapy water which keeps them from escaping.  It's kind of gruesome.  But, it's better than spraying the entire patch which would kill all bugs, helpful or not.  I've read that potatoes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops and the beetles have developed resistance to the pesticides, resulting in a cylcle of stronger and stronger pesticides.  We hilled the potatoes a good three weeks ago.  I actually have an attachment this year that goes on our large walk behind tiller but the first time we went to use it, the housing on the tiller broke off.  So, off to the shop it went and we had to hill by hand.  This means that I tilled up the soil between the rows, we weeded between each plant and then mounded up the soil (a good 2 - 4") on each plant.   We then mulched a lot of them and those that weren't mulched will be hilled again.  Big Red (the large walk-behind tiller) is in action again so I hope we can hill mechanically next time.

One of my goals this year was to provide lettuce every week.  So far we've been able to do so.  Some is bolting faster than I had hoped so we'll see whether the supply will hold out.  If not, the summer cabbage is relatively close to harvest time so you might see cabbage in place of lettuce for a few weeks.

Fava Beans and Peas:
They don't like the heat.  The peas are pretty much over.  There are still favas on the plants but they're nearing the end as well.  I hope you've enjoyed them.  It's interesting to experience the favas over their cycle.  We started 2 weeks ago with smallish green favas, then they grew and now they're larger and whiter.  They're nuttier now and crunchier.  I know that some people use dry favas which we have yet to experience.  Don't forget, these contain high amounts of protein for a bean.

We only use sprays that are allowed according to National Organic Standards.  We sprayed some of the eggplant in the large hoop about a week ago with pyrethrin (chrysanthemum extract).  This was to kill the flea beetles which numbered 20+ per leaf.  Then we re-covered the plants.  We also sprayed thuricide today on the cabbage.  This is a bacteria which kills worms (i.e. cabbage worms) and is approved for organic use..   The heads are beginning to form and some are holey and full of poop.  So it was time.  I will probably follow a 10 - 14 day spraying cycle on the cabbage if the poop is still evident.  If I don't spray, we'll have to peel off a good 1/4 - 1/2 of the outer leaves of the heads just to get down to "clean" cabbage.  Of course I could serve it holey and full of poo and let you cut around the bad parts but I don't think most people would be up for that.  We also sprayed a little copper on the potatoes to deal with a small amount of potato leaf blight.  Copper is one of the only fungicides that are approved for organic use but it's use is regulated.  You have to show that you're not increasing the amount of heavy metals in the soil which is done through soil testing.  I will spray some of the tomatoes with Seranade tomorrow which is another bacteria that multiplies on the leaf's surface and is supposed to keep viruses and other bacteria out.  I will try to spray the cucumbers this year with Seranade to see whether it will help keep out Downy Mildew.  Downy Mildew is a virus that is transmitted through the cucurbit family by cucumber beetles.  Once the cukes get it, deformed fruit will occur and death of the plant will follow within 3 weeks.  So, we keep all cucurbits covered with row cover for 42 days (until they begin to bloom) and then remove the covers so the pollinators can do their stuff.

Tomatoes and other Fruits:
It's starting.  The maters in the hoop are beginning to produce along with an early planting of summer squash.  Soon the peppers will be ready to pick.  It's been a bit hot and dry which I think slowed the beans down a bit but they will be coming along soon.  By the end of July, we should turn the corner from a large portion of weekly greens to a larger percentage of fruiting veggies.

We have a few White Holland turkeys that we'll be selling for Thanksgiving this year.  They're still in the big barn but are big enough now to move out to pasture so you should see them around soon.  Chickens are fine - easy peasy.  Our goats are doing pretty well although we did lose a little boy a few weeks ago.  He died of coccidosis which is common.  His mom (Sandy) also got it and stopped eating and drinking for 4 days.  Fortunately we noticed this the first day she stopped eating/drinking and gave her pedialyte (via a syringe) 2 - 3x per day for 7 days and offered her fresh brush.  She is doing better.  The little boy's sister is now showing signs of coccidosis so we began treating her yesterday and hopefully she'll pull through. It's tough on babies and she'll only about 8 weeks old.

We're sold out for the summer CSA - thanks to you all!  Sheryl, Nick and I are working hard to keep up with the weeds.  If you have an hour or more during the day and would like to help out, we'd love to have you.  Other than that, we're have lots of fun with it all.  Already I hear Nick saying - "remember the day when..." and the list will go on.  He's been here about a month. This is Sheryl's second year here and she'd like to start her own business so I will be looking for someone to replace her for next year.  If you know anyone who is serious about farming and wants experience at all levels, please ask him or her to contact me.  I'd also like a pool of people to call for peak periods.  Like now, with the garlic harvest, it would be nice to call in 1 or 2 people for a day or so.  It will be the same with potatoes, beans and tomatoes.  If you know of someone who is interested, please ask them to contact me.

As always, we hope you are enjoying your veggies.  If you have any comments or ideas for us, please feel free to share.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Wash & Store & Use Greens

Hello -
This week's distribution reminded me that I haven't sent my annual e-mail as to how to use greens.  It's that time of year.  We're not quite to summer yet.  The fruiting veggies are a bit off (like 4 - 6 weeks).  So, we have a lot of greens.  Kale, lettuce, chard, collards, choi, mustard, turnip greens, yukina savoy, summerfest kamustuna, etc.  If you have not worked with greens in the past, here's a post I added last year.  Basic Greens  You can also search the recipe blog for collards or kale or greens or other items and see what I've posted.  If you have a recipe to contribute, I can add it to the blog.  I need to add one that Kristi Bishop forwarded last week. 

If you're picking up your box in the middle of the day, don't leave it in the car.  That will be a problem.  At minimum, take it into work and keep it by your desk.  I don't refrigerate things (yet) so if you keep them in a coolish place, that's best.  Best case scenario is to take the veggies home and place them in your crisper drawer.

If you don't have a salad spinner, you might want to buy one.  I don't always wash items as they can keep longer if they aren't wet and sitting in a box for distribution.  If it's really dirty, we'll wash it and try to dry it as much as possible.  So, you will receive greens that might be a bit wilted.  A good way to pep up your veggies is to soak them in cold water for 15 - 30 minutes, spin them in the salad spinner and use them.  If you're going to cook with them right away, just let them drip dry and cook.  The extra water will help them steam a bit.  If you're not cooking with them right away and plan to store them in the fridge, it's best to spin them and place them in an airtight container.  I use zip loc bags but others have raved about Tupperware containers.  I also like to store veggies in the salad spinner.

For greens, it's up to you.  Many people soak, spin and bag their greens the day of pick up.  I find this a bit time consuming. We generally keep our greens in the fridge and then, when we use them, we'll cut them up, wash & soak for a bit in cold water then cook.  It's generally not a big deal to cook wilted greens as they're going to wilt in the skillet anyway.   Try to remember that these are really fresh, even if they are a bit wilted.

For lettuce, soak whole in cold water for awhile, spin and store in either the salad spinner or in your crisper in plastic bags.  If you don't get it dry enough, it will start to deteriorate.  If you have a choice in order in which to consume veggies, I'd start with lettuce and then move to the heartier greens.  We generally have greens every night and I'll pull out the salad spinner which contains washed lettuce (as much as a week or so from picking).  You might need to trim the ends off of the lettuce or pick a few leaves out but it keeps pretty well this way.

Another item that might be worth buying is a cuisinart.  We have a smaller version but, as we do a LOT of food preservation, I wish we had a larger version.  But it works.  This is good to use when making pestos, relishes, etc.  Also, many members have raved about the benefits of a veggie shake maker.  The name escapes me right now (Veggi mite?).  But it's a super-high powered blender which is capable of reducing greens to a shake in a minute.  A great way to use your greens and get your vitamins and minerals in.  Many people combine a bit of fruit with the veggies to enhance the flavor.

I hope members will work with and enjoy the veggies.  They won't always look like those that you buy from the market.  They're not sitting under sprinklers, in coolers.  We know that part of the eating experience is the visual presentation.  But we hope that you can overcome small holes, blemishes, some wilting, etc. and still work with the veggies and try them.  They aren't selected for size or visuals.  We are pretty selective about what we distribute but it's not based upon what the veggie looks like.  We taste the veggies before we pick them.  Sometimes we cook them to try them before we serve them.  So, if you can, please try what's in your box. You can also find other ways to use it, such as soup or stock.

The veggies are grown with true care and are picked, in most cases, the day of or day before you pick up your share.

The share size will increase with time.  For the next couple of weeks it will be smaller than later in the season.  The first week and a half was a bit smaller than last year but it is "growing" with time.

Thanks to you all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Upcoming Events & Update

Hello again -
It's been too long since I last posted.

A few announcements:

  • For summer members:  If you haven't received an e-mail announcing the beginning date for distributions, that means I don't have you on my distribution list.  Please let me know and I'll add you to the e-mail contact list.
  • Violet kidded on Mother's Day.  (Violet's a goat).  We helped her birth a very small boy and a nice-sized girl.  All are doing well and they're fun to watch so if you have time when you pick up your box, check them out.
  • Speaking of goats:  They're enclosed by electric wire.  So, don't touch the wire.  Also, if you try to pet them, don't put your arm behind their horns.  Sometimes they twist their heads and your arm will be wrenched - not good.  In general, you should probably be with Dave, Nathan or me if you want to see the goats.
  • Chickens - we have them.  Our flock is kept for egg production.  They love table scraps.  Meat, veggies, fat, bread, etc.  No raw peelings because it is reported that they can choke on things like potato peelings or cucumber or carrot peels.  Nothing that has been sprayed with chemicals (as we're raising them organically).  They love to be fed and will run up to the fence if you call "heeeere ... chick chick chick, heeeere chick chick chick" in a slightly high voice.  It's kind of amusing to see them waddle and run.  FYI - we do not raise meat birds for sale - only for our own use.
  • Turkeys - they're coming this week.  We'll be receiving the White Hollands this week.  I'll post separately about turkeys and pricing and how to reserve one in another post. 
  • Veggies.  I sent out an e-mail this past week about the beginning of distributions. We will start Wed., June 1 and Sat. June 4.  The veggies will be on our front porch in wax-coated boxes.  There will also be herbs and maybe other veggies on a table.  The white board will tell you what to do.  If we have extra stuff, it will be on the table to the right.  Sometimes the extras are in a box - depends on space.  Just check the white board and you'll know what to do.  I always try to be around during pick up to answer questions but I know that on June 1 I will be gone for part of the evening so Sheryl will be here to help you get into the rhythm.  On June 4 we'll have a work day so I might be busy in the field but you can track me down.  If you're interested in a tour, please come at 11:30 to pick up your box and I can take time out to give everyone a tour.
  • Entry/exit.  We have a horseshoe driveway.  Please enter from the west entrance and exit from the east.  Last year I had people enter/exit opposite (east to west) but I think this will work better.  Please drive slowly.  We have young children and many members also have young children and they like to run around in the drive.  So please, max 5 mph when you pull in.  I always feel badly telling members to slow down upon entry.
  • Half-share members: you should have received a separate e-mail earlier this week which provided your share partner's name.  We don't prepare a half-box.  Most 1/2 share members pick up every other week.  If you are able to arrange with your partner to split your box every week, great.  Otherwise, figure out who will pick up the first week and go from there.
  • The first distribution might be a little light.  It's been very rainy and cold this spring.  
  • If you're interested in being a fan of this blog, please sign up.  I don't know what that does for us but I like seeing the # go up.  :)
  • We still have about 8 memberships available for this summer.  If you know anyone who's interested in joining, please pass on our info to them.
Event Info:
  • June 4 - work day from 9 - 12.  Tour for those interested:  11:30 - 12.  Potluck lunch - 12 - 1:30 or so.  This is peak transplanting time.  Maybe potatoes (second wave).  All of the warm-weather crops will be ready to go, weather permitting.  This means beans, squash, summer squash, okra, New Zealand Spinach, flowers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. etc. etc.  Get ready for successive deep knee bends.  Bring your gloves, a hat, sunscreen, water bottle and insect repellent.  If you're staying for lunch, bring a dish to pass.  All ages are welcome.  Come for any part of the day (work, tour or lunch).
  • June 18 - Hoopalooza.  Yes, it's true.  We're building a third hoop with the help of Repasts Past & Present (Selma Cafe).  I had reported earlier that it would be a 30 x 144 but now I believe the plan is to build a 30 x 96 which will be portable in 2 stations.  Will see.  The date is not set in stone as Jeff McCabe is still working on finalizing his 20 in 20 schedule.  The build will go from 8 - 6ish and will be followed by dinner for anyone that would like to stay.
Other updates:
  • I'm working hard at getting the new parcel prepped for planting.  It's a piece of ground that hasn't been worked in a long time - maybe never?  There are a lot of weeds which include crab grass and Canadian Thistle.  So, it will be interesting to see how it all goes.  The wet conditions don't help either.  I know that the conventional wisdom would say to kill everything with round up and start from square one.   We're not going to do that.  I'll probably have to buy a lot of moldy hay to mulch with and do a lot of tilling - increased costs up front but the soil will be healthier in the long-run.  I tilled down there yesterday and saw a Kildeer sitting on her nest (2 eggs).  Also a nice garter snake population which is great.  A few toads.  Lots of Starlings, Red Winged Black Birds and Crows.  We hope to start planting there this week, if the rain holds off.
  • We have a full work crew.  Nick Clark and Jason Hogans have joined Sheryl Sopoliga and I to provide nearly 3 1/2 full time employees here on the farm.  It's great to have the help!  It's also presenting new challenges as I am now filing quarterly returns and submitting taxes/withholding to the IRS for our employees.  An interesting new learning opportunity ... to navigate through the tax laws and filing requirements.
  • One thing I've really wanted is to upload a slide show on our website - or at least on this blog.  If anyone can do this for me, I would really appreciate it.  I am looking for a person that can come over to the house, sit at our computer and do it - not tell me how to do it.  I just don't have time to figure out something new.  Thanks!
  • Judy Durfy brought out new bees this past week.  She and her husband have 2 hives here on our property.  Unfortunately both hives died this past year.  One almost made it.  She thinks they were alive as close as 2 weeks before she came out.  She said the fact that April was so cold created great stress on the bees.  Apparently if it isn't about 40 degrees, the honey in the hive doesn't flow and the bees can't access it.  So they starve.  She thinks it was a hard year on native honey bees.  She's right.  Generally at this time, I find lots of bees on dandelions but didn't see any until she brought out the new hive.  When a new hive is inserted, the queen been must mate.  Judy said she has to fly out of the nest, do her dance with the drones, mate, and then fly back to the new hive before a bird eats her.  Wow.  I think they did their thing because I'm seeing bees go in and out of the hive.  But I guess it takes 30 days to know if they will survive.
I think that might be enough for now.  I could report more but I risk providing too much info.

Dave says the Woodcock are doing their dance across the street in the large field.  We are seeing Wood Ducks fly out of the woods almost daily.  The Bluebirds are here.  We have even been hearing (and saw) the Baltimore Oriole which I don't remember seeing here before.  The toads are waking up and are quite active in both hoops. The soil is black and rich and strong.

As always, take good care and enjoy the heat.  We look forward to the start of distributions and hope you look forward to seeing what's happening here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Planting Update

Finally we got a break in the weather.  Last year I had much of the early crops planted by the end of March/beginning of April.  I prefer to direct seed when possible.  The plants that grow are stronger and they don't suffer transplant shock so they're not slowed down.  But, the weather did not cooperate this year - frozen ground can't be worked and wet soil will only clump up if worked which is difficult for seeds to emerge from.  So Sheryl and I have been seeding flat after flat.  We have celery, celeriac, kohlrabi, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, basil, lots of flowers, etc. in flats in the small barn and inside the house.  We're getting close to capacity.  We also have nursery beds of brassicas in the small hoop - chois, kales, chards, collards, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouting broccoli, early cabbages, etc.  The cold frames are full of onions and leeks.  The seedlings are starting to take over.

But, as far as I know, you can't transplant peas (on a large scale) or onion sets, or favas, etc.  So I've been a bit worried about the weather.  Now for anyone that knows me, this is not new.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the condition of the soil - is it too wet, is it too dry, is it healthy - you get the picture.  And even more time thinking about whether the plants will grow in time to meet their expected distribution date.  Somehow, it always works out.  It may not be the exact plan I had in mind but it works out. 

But, I digress.  The news is that we planted over 1200' of onions, 1400' of fava beans, 900' of snow, sugar and pod peas, and some garbanzo beans this weekend.  It's a great feeling.  The ground was still too wet to pull out the tractor but we were able to hand till strips in the east garden along with the higher parts of the front garden to get it done.  We have carrots and some beets in the hoops which may make it for the spring season but there's enough to carry over for early summer.  So, we're back on schedule.  Next up - lettuces, transplanting of the brassicas, planting nursery beds of summer squash and melons in the hoops and transplanting peppers, eggplant and tomatoes in the hoops.  We'll also be working on the new land down the street - plowing, discing, tilling, etc. to get it whipped into shape as quickly as possible.

Time is running out to do the taxes.

The Sandhill Cranes are flying over daily.  We are seeing more beetles and earth worms.  The frogs are creating quite a symphony.  I noticed a large ant in the soil today.  I checked on the beehives and I think they made it through the winter (Judy and Randy will need to come out to really check as they're their bees).  Yes, the earth is yawning and is ready to jump out of bed. 

Until next time.  Take good care.  Try not to get sunburned.  Enjoy spring as you jump around.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Distributions begin Wednesday!

Happy Spring, 2011!

I think we can now safely say spring is here!  The daffodils are starting to bud out, the apple trees are starting to wake up, the crocuses are in bloom.  And what a storm last night!  Lightning, thunder, 1.1 inches of rain.  All accompanied by a perigee moon.  It was beautiful this morning, just before sunrise - low on the horizon, shimmering in the haze.

Lettuce with mustard in background
Here are some pictures from the hoop.  For those of you participating in the spring share this year, get ready.  The greens are very sweet and robust.  Try things raw that you normally would cook - I think you'll be surprised.
Lacinato, Siberian and Red Russian Kale
Last night we had a little kale.  We generally remove the ribs of the kale and compost them or feed them to the animals but they're so tasty right now.  We saute the greens, as usual, and then I saute the stems.  Here's the picture.  They take a little more time than the leaves so I do these either before and add the leaves or take the leaves out and cook them after.  Yum!  Allie said they taste like broccoli and she's right.
Kale stems - yum!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Want to support Dexter Schools or UUAA?

Hello all -
We are in the midst of the spring season.  Continual planting, re-potting, planning, etc.  The spring season will start next Wednesday, March 23, and it will be fun!

If you or anyone you know is interested in participating in our summer season AND would like to support either Dexter Schools or UUAA, I will be donating a share to both up-coming auctions.  The Dexter Community Foundation Auction will be held at Ann Arbor Country Club this Saturday, March 19. The Educational Foundation of Dexter Auction The UUAA Auction will be held at the UUAA Congregation March 26 at 4:00.  UUAA Annual Goods & Services Auction

More info. to follow re. plantings and happenings on the farm.  If anyone would like a tour, this is a good time to come out.  Just give me a call and make sure you wear your boots!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring CSA Now Closed

Thanks to all who have signed up to participate in our first spring CSA!  We are now closed.  If you haven't sent in your deposit yet, please do so within the next week.

We still have space available for summer.  If you'd like to participate, please e-mail me and send in a deposit of $100.  Any questions, feel free to e-mail or call.

We have planted carrots, beets, spinach, choi, turnips and mustard in the hoop.  We've also started some flats of kale, collards, onions, parsley, etc. in the house.  There are nursery beds of onions, leeks and collards in the small hoop.  We're in the ground!

We're also working very hard on the planning process for this upcoming growing season.  Charts and spread sheets and notes and seeds are strewn about the house right now.  We've got the wish list of equipment and tools drawn up.  Of course it will need to be paired down - it all adds up quickly.  We've got the list of box supplies started.  Plans for a cooler are in the beginning stages.  So much to do.  But one of the first things on the list is to finalize and enter the seed order - not a quick task when you're considering 5 different catalogs and Dexter Mill and Downtown Home and Garden.

OK - back to planning.  Let me know if you'd like to stop by and take a tour.  Winter is a good time for us to host tours as there's a bit more free time.  You might not be able to see the dirt but you can still get a good idea of what's going on.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Working on Planning and Organizing

It's January.  We've now had a good 30+ days of freezing temperatures with one break of two 40 - 50 degree days about 1 1/2 weeks ago.  We had so much snow the week before Christmas that we were able to make a full igloo.  This hasn't happened this early for many years.  Before the warm spell, the children were cross country skiing every day.

When the snow melted, we once again had full view of the plants in the gardens.  The lettuce and spinach that were pretty small in November are still alive and appear able to take on the challenge of toughing out the winter.  We'll see.  Yesterday I picked up some row cover that I'd left in the west garden and it was amazing - any plants which were under it were still nice and green and the ground was soft and moist.  Even some dill in the herb garden, which had been covered by a pile of row cover (maybe 4 layers) was still green.  I actually picked a sprawling head of Napa Cabbage and red choi from the west garden and we had it for dinner.  It's interesting how the growth pattern of the plants change when the temperatures change.  I'm noticing that with the chard in the hoop - much of it is hugging the ground, as if to duck out of the wind and freezing temperatures which blow through every night.

The hoops are nice and cozy.  Sheryl and I finally covered the ends of the small hoop with "new" plastic.  It's actually construction-grade stuff that I saved from our original wood-frame structure that I built 2 years ago.  It will suffice until we re-skin the entire structure after the snow melts.  We also cleared out all of the plants from last year and I've been irrigating in there for 3 days now with drip irrigation.  The soil was very dry so it takes time to re-hydrate everything.  Within the next few weeks the planting will begin.  I was feeling a bit guilty about not getting to the task of enclosing the structure earlier and one friend reminded me that it's helpful to let the soil temperatures drop so that fungi and pests are reduced.  Even though the temperatures climb to 50 - 70 degrees during the day, they still drop below freezing at night.  In the morning and well into the day if the sun doesn't shine, the soil surface can be crusty and the plants are sometimes frozen.  If it's above 15 or so, the plants don't freeze.  Even if they do, they persevere.

Crops from the hoop now being harvested:
  • Red Russian Kale  - especially sweet right now.  
  • Siberian Kale - also extremely tasty.
  • Lacinato Kale is finally sizing up and we've started to harvest it.
  • The collards are doing well - had a bit of powdery mildew but I've been keeping it trimmed and it appears to be battling off the fungus.  Very tasty as well.
  • The chard (3 types) also has a very different taste.  I usually experience a bit of bitterness with chard - way in the back of the mouth.  But now it is much smoother and actually very sweet as well.  
  • The carrots which I planted last summer, before the hoop was constructed, have taken off and are very tasty.
  • I've been thinning out the choi, mustard and lettuce.  Right now the plants are 2 - 4" tall so I'm treating the thinnings as micro greens and mixing them into salads, along with baby radishes, leaves, roots and all.  Very tasty.
  • There's some lettuce that we transplanted from the field a while back that is now starting to size up.  We're still picking this leaf by leaf but it won't be long until it starts to head up.  There's some nice romaine in there that is especially crispy and full-bodied.
  • The spinach is starting to form it's main leaves.  I'm guessing 2 weeks or so until we begin to harvest.
  • The mache is taking it's time.  This is the first time I've grown mache so I'm not sure what to expect from this crop.  It's maybe 3/4 cm tall and was planted October 31, along with the spinach, choi, etc.
  • The veining in all of the greens is more apparent.  As I've said to some, if you don't like greens this time of year, you never will.  Really, they're so tasty. 
A couple of weeks ago I planned the menu for the spring CSA which runs for 10 weeks and will start March 23.  I'm pretty excited about it.    I'm planning on 8-12 items per box which will be some combination of the following:
  1. Napa Cabbage
  2. Beets
  3. Choi (red choi and joi choi and tatsoi)
  4. Kale
  5. Carrots
  6. Collards
  7. Chard
  8. Spinach
  9. Salad Mix & Head Lettuce
  10. Chives
  11. Cilantro
  12. Thyme
  13. Parsley
  14. Mint 
  15. Rosemary
  16. Radishes
  17. Turnips
  18. Mustard
  19. Arugula
  20. Nettles
  21. Purslane
  22. Kohl Rabi
  23. Peas
  24. A few flowers
Most of spring production will come from the hoops - some, such as nettles, from the woods.  Some from the herb garden, etc.  The Spring CSA is limited to 20 spots and we have about 14 people signed up so far.  So, if you're interested in participating, please let me know.

Until the spring CSA starts, I'm selling veggies to people that inquire.  The list of what's available is above and we also have quite a few eggs right now.  Judging on the condition of the plants, I expect to have a lot of greens in about a month and might go back to the Farmer's Market.  When the sun starts to shine consistently and the days grow a bit longer, those mini-leaves will go crazy!  If  you need a fix of greens before then, give me a call and stop by and I'll sell them by the bunch - $3/bunch.  I also have a few pumpkins and acorn and butternut squash that I could sell.