Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Preparing for Spring

While I haven't posted in awhile, there's quite a bit happening around the farm.

Here's the hoophouse update:
  • The hoophouses are close to fully planted.  There are a few beds of veggies that have reached their max. lifespan and need to be torn our, new compost spread, and reseeded.  But things are moving along nicely. 
  •  The small hoop was planted over the past 6 weeks with carrots, broccoli raab, choi, white egg turnips, beets arugula, daikon and komatsuna summerfest.  There are some small black flying bugs in there that are putting some pressure on the turnips and broccoli raab but overall everything is looking good.
  • The middle hoop is coming into full production now.  There is chard in there that has been harvested all winter and I'm giving it a rest now to allow it to re-grow in time for the start of the spring season.  The first planting of choi has almost all been harvested and the second planting is moving into full production now.  There is also spinach and lettuce in there that should be quite large in 3 weeks.  There's a long bed of green onions - still small now and a bit sparse but they should be nice in 4 weeks or so.  A recent seeding of kale, collards and chard is emerging.  There is also a lot of yukina savoy which we've using as a base for salad mix or cooking and a nice bed of a brassica mix (mizuna, mustard, asian lettuce, baby kale and collards) which is an excellent salad mix - very, very popular at the market.
  • The newest hoop still contains a decent amount of carrots (this is what I've been bringing to market) along with 3 types of kale, 2 types of collards, spinach, mustard and lettuce.  There's a recent seeding of cherry belle radishes, lettuce and peas which are all beginning to sprout.  I'm afraid the collards have black rot - which is a fungus spread via seed - so I'm going to pull them and start over.  It's lucky that I planted baby kale and collards for the salad mix because I can transplant some of those babies to another bed and they should be in full production in 6 - 8 weeks. 
Here's the field update:
  • There's a decent stand of leeks that I will be saving for the CSA members.  We mulched them in Dec. and they're looking pretty good.  This will be a nice treat in late March.  There's also a nice amount of carrots outside.  So we should have carrots for the beginning 3 weeks or so.  I also held back some parsnips so you'll see this in the box for March.
  • The garlic is starting to sprout but I still haven't uncovered it.  It is heavily mulched.  Pretty soon we'll have to peel back the hay so it can get some air.  This crazy weather is so hard to predict and I don't want to uncover it too soon.
  • Some of the chard in the front garden is trying to make a come-back.  It didn't do very well last summer - it was in a location that it didn't seem to like - maybe too acidic as it was along the pine tree row.  So we'll see if the plants were strong enough in fall to really make it through the winter.  It would be nice because we could get a few picking off of it but really it's not a big deal either way because it will bolt (go to seed) quickly thereafter.
  • The cover crop of winter rye is looking pretty strong which will help with weed suppression and also with the addition of nutrients back to the soil when we work it back in.
  • The chick weed in the front garden is already doing its thing.  Will probably need to flame weed this soon as it goes to seed very quickly.  This is also a problem weed for us in the small hoop and is trying to take hold in the southeast corner of the middle hoop.  We'll keep working at getting this out.  The fortunate thing about chickweed is that it's edible and actually good for you.  So much so that I had one person come out last year and pay me to harvest it.  But the problem with it is that the plants form a large mat of small roots that are very successful at crowding out everything else.
  • We're in discussion with an excavator about digging a pond to help contain excess water this year.  We'll see.
Other info:
  • The winter market in Saline is still in session.  I've been able to take a nice amount of veggies and still have garlic and potatoes along with the carrots, choi, salad mixes, etc.  Stop in if you need a veggie Some tomatoes, peppers, celery and parsley have been started in flats.  The seedlings are up.  I'll be moving the flats into the small barn and will continue seeding.
  • One of our goats is nearing the kidding stage.  Another is expected to follow.
  • The goat kids that were born in December are doing well.  Noel thinks she's a person which is kind of a problem because every chance she gets, she makes a mad dash to the house and throws herself at the glass doors.  So she'll probably be sold soon.
  •  The spring CSA is sold out.  We still have room for the summer session though so let your friends know.
  • I'm in the process of interviewing candidates for both an assistant farmer position and field hands.  So far no one has applied for the first position but I have a lot of people who have contacted me for the second, as well as prospective interns.  This is great!
  • Big news - we'll be attending the Saline Farmer's Market this year.  The market is on Saturdays from 8 - 12.  I'm still trying to play around with pick up schedules so that it will all work out and will probably send out an e-mail to members that have signed up to see whether you would like to pick up here or at the market.
  • I'm still working on a distribution shed in my mind.  I go back and forth between trying to figure out how to use the existing barns and building a shed closer to the hoops.   One challenge is traffic flow.
  • Overall, things are coming along.  We've moved from a "brand new business" feeling to a more settled operation.  While I'm still wearing many hats, my network of support is growing.  This year I hope to automate the book keeping and figure out how to post the box contents/photos more easily - an i-phone might be in order. 
  • The seed order is close to complete (in my mind anyway) so it's not too late to put in a vote for a favorite variety or item.  The new veggie I'm planning to try this year is ... sweet potatoes.  And yes, fava beans will be grown, along with all of the other yummy items like okra, hot and sweet peppers (hopefully they won't cross again), etc.
FYI - I sent the following section out to members that have already signed up but thought others might also be interested in what might make our operation run more efficiently.  Every once in a while someone asks  this question.

We're continuing to make new investments here in the hopes of making each year better than the one before.  One example of this is that last November we had about 100 or more tons of limestone hauled in to raise the drive and help with the mud issues.  Maybe it won't rain this year as much as it did last but if it does, pickup should be a bit easier.  We still have a wish list that we're working on to improve the farm:

  • We'd like to hire an excavator to dig a pond which will help with excess rain. 
  • A cooler would really be helpful.  One can be built relatively inexpensively with insulated foam walls and a cool-bot.  This would  help keep the veggies looking fresher and prolong storage of fruits, greens and root crops.
  • A distribution shed would be a big plus - complete with a wash/pack station, etc.  One idea is to move the distribution to one of the barns instead of building a new structure.  But then I'd have to re-route the traffic - move fencing, bring in more gravel, etc.
  • A tractor with a loader on it would be a huge plus as well.  This would help with turning the compost pile and moving all of this black gold around.
To help fund one of these items, we might plan a fundraiser.  If anyone has any thoughts or ideas on this, please let me know.
We're looking forward to seeing everyone soon!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Technical Difficulties

Good news and bad news.  First the bad: Somehow I blew out the links to the other 2 blogs that I maintain which are "What's in the Box" and the "Recipe" blog.  So, here are the links, in case you need them before we can fix my error.

Recipe Blog

What's In the Box

Good news is that I have posted some job descriptions for positions that we'd like to fill soon.  Looking for a few good men or women (or combo) to help plant, weed, harvest, clean and deliver all of the tons of veggies that we grow here.  If you know anyone that's interested, please have them contact me.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reviving Greens

Every week I give people advice about how to pep up greens.  You know the ones.  Maybe they sat in the car a bit too long before you were able to complete your daily tasks.  Or maybe they sat in the fridge, exposed to the cold air for too long.  Or maybe you picked them up from your CSA and they were already wilting.  Who knows.  You have two options.  Get rid of them in some way (compost, garbage, feed them to the animals) or eat them.  Unless I have way way way too much of something, we generally eat them.  And they're really good too.  So here's a pictoral of what happened last week.

At this time of year, the plants grow really slowly.  We generally eat whatever I don't sell at the market.  So the veggies have been picked, sat out at market for at least 5 hours, come home and might not get unloaded right away, and then we store them.  As I'm sure you can imagine, they're sometimes a bit wilted.  Furthermore, I might then store them for a week or more before use.  Here's an example of 2 bunches of chard and a bunch of collards that were about a week (or more) into storage:

The chard on the left was about 2 weeks old, the one on the right only about a week old.

This is a bunch of wilted collards.
They were pretty wilted but were otherwise fine.  As long as they're not slimy or something, they're fine.  So I chopped them up and tossed them in the spinner.  Here they are prior to soaking:
Then I soaked them in cold water for about 20 minutes or so.  Here's how they looked after that:
I then tossed them into a pan along with some onions and turnips.  These are white egg turnips which were only about golf-ball sized when I picked them.  They'll get a little bigger but not as big as the American Purple Top.  They're very sweet and tender enough that I don't peel them at all - just scrub them up a little, chop them up and toss them in the pan.

This was a nice, tasty dish.

So the next time you consider tossing out your wilted greens, think again.  This works for lettuce, spinach, choi, collards, kale, chard, etc.