Wednesday, May 29, 2013

April Showers and Barn Makeover

Contributed by Stephanie Willette, assistant farm manager

There was a flurry of planting as we tried to get everything in the ground once the warm weather hit on April first. So far we’ve managed to plant parsnips, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, onions, potatoes, peas, salad greens, beans and beets outside already. I’m sure there are a few that I’m forgetting.  The hoop houses are beginning to fill up with tomatoes and peppers. With the cold nights in April, tomatoes around the edges of the houses got burnt with frost, even though we covered them with cloth. I had to go around and replace the dead ones with leftover starts from our seedling area.

The large amount of rain last month left our fields flooded with water. The kids dragged a canoe to the backyard and paddled around in the new “pond”. Jen placed a pump in the middle of the flood, with a pipe that ran across the whole farm to the ditch near the road. We pumped the water out of the fields, but I fear the leeks suffered too much water damage to survive. Don’t worry though, we’ve planted more.

A big project for May was to fix up the barn. It got a new paint job and a flower bed around the border. We were worried about rain water rotting away the sides, so we broke out the tractor to regrade the soil. Jen pushed dirt to make a hill that slopes away from the barn so the water will drain away. The flower bed is also there to help soak up rain before it gets to the wood.

The chickens have been misbehaving and escaping from their enclosure. It seems they’ve forgotten their role on the farm and think they own the place. We fenced off a new area for them and cut a hole in the barn to create an entrance into their coop, so they can walk in and out with ease. Before, they were using the barn door for this, but we think this new feature will help keep them in their designated area. Before beginning construction, we tried to get most of the chickens outside so they wouldn’t freak out from the noise. Unfortunately, we missed one. As Jen turned on the saw to make the first cut, a chicken burst out of its nest with a squawk, just inches from her head. It startled both of us, and proceeded to lead me on a fruitless chase around the yard as I tried to catch it. I eventually gave up and let it find its way to its fellows on its own, which it did.

One of the ‘in season’ veggies I am super excited about right now is rhubarb. It has a wonderful tart taste but is great as a dessert, or paired with strawberries. In fact, it’s one of the few veggies eaten as a dessert, rather than in savory dishes. Try a recipe for a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Or, even better, simmer the rhubarb on the stovetop with water and a lot of sugar, until it cooks down to a syrupy consistency. You can poor this over pancakes or vanilla ice cream. Rhubarb has delicious stems, but its leaves have poisonous substances, such as a high amount of oxalic acid (something a lot of vegetables have, but which is bad for you in high doses). Still, one would have to eat a lot of rhubarb leaves for it to cause much harm.  Since it’s in season right now, I highly recommend keeping an eye out for this tasty veggie.