Friday, August 26, 2011

Farmers market!

Saturday is another wonderful farmers market day! I will be there with our delicious pasture raised pork. Our hogs spend a good life doing what pigs love to do, rooting in the woods, napping in the mud, and of course eating! Most pigs are stuck in a small pen not even large enough for them to turn around in! When pigs are allowed to be happy and healthy it shows in their meat. Tomorrow I will have our pork chops unlike any pork chop you find in the store. If you want a little treat for breakfast or maybe a new twist on the great BLT (eat your tomatoes, they'll be out of season soon!) try our thick cut uncured bacon. For a recipe on how to cook the bacon see our website at this link. We have our full selection of sausages: bratwurst, Italian Sausage, country sausage, spicy mexican chorizo, and our new fully cooked smoked kielbasa and spicy cajun andouille.

Yummy weeds!

I will also have our mouth watering whole pasture raised chicken. Whole chickens are easy to cook and provide a great variety of meals: roasted, smoked, pulled off the bone for salads and sandwiches, and of course use the bones for soup stock. See recipes here Our chickens are raised on grass and moved daily. Crowded chicken houses can't produce anything that tastes like this.

Its great to be a chicken at Bluebird Farm


For more information on how conventional pigs and chickens are raised check out the website Food Inc

I will also have some of our organically raised eggplant. It is a small asian variety great for sautes and stirfrys. It is a beautiful bicolor fruit. We like to cook it with tomatoes and squash for a simple vegetable topping for pasta.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Week of the Legumes

Week of the Legumes

This week was a week of legumes. Beans and peas are part of a larger family of plants called legumes that form special relationships with soil bacteria to make atmospheric nitrogen available to the plant. The second succession of fresh green beans that we have been watching with such anticipation still looks wonderful. The plants are large and full of blossoms. But when we went to pick them there were hardly any beans ready. However, the first planting that we had given up on started pumping out more beans. I guess they just needed a little rest through the really hot weeks in early August. We are very glad we didn’t mow them down after the first picking.

The second legume we harvested this week is edamame. It is a soybean for fresh eating. They make a delicious and nutritious snack full of protein. The edamame patch turned into a huge jungle of tangled bean bushes and weeds. We had to put on our bushwhacker outfits to venture in. We are very glad that the beans ripened now because we had started having our first deer problems in months. As Petunia the ferocious guard dog has aged she doesn’t patrol as often as she used to. She does a great job guarding the layer hens, but prefers to nap next to them instead of touring the edges of her territory. The deer noticed the lack of dogs and took the opportunity to sample our beans. Fortunately, they only ate the top leaves off. We harvested them before they found the rest.

Edamame Jungle

More on Edamame

Edamame soybeans- Fresh edamame is a special, nutritious treat. You may have had the edamame appetizer at a Japenese restaurant. The frozen pods are always tasty, but you can’t beat the delicious fresh ones! At home you can recreate the edamame appetizer. The beans are boiled or steamed whole in the pod and sprinkled with soy sauce. 8-10 minutes of boiling or steaming makes lightly cooked beans. Edamame, like all legumes, is high in protein, B vitamins , and potassium.

Cool weather

As the night time temperatures stay in the low sixties our summer crops slow down dramatically. Tomatoes ripen far more slowly, beans grow at half the speed, and the peppers seem to never size up. It’s as if the summer garden is in slow motion. Meanwhile, our cooler weather crops are enjoying the change. The chard planted last week is looking great as it stretches its colorful leaves to the sky. We look forward to harvesting it in September.

August around the farm

Sprouting Radishes


Baaaa!

Yummy!

Tomatoes

Mexican Sunflower

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August

Baby vegetable delivery

This week our babies arrived. Jeff Mast of Banner Greenhouses (the large greenhouses you see around mile marker 90 on I-40) brought about 15 trays of swiss chard and 15 trays of various types of kale. Banner Greenhouses uses Integrative Pest Management to grow their plants without synthetic fungicides or pesticides.We look forward to planting the babies and to growing yummy fall greens. I could almost taste them when I walked out into the cool, dry air this morning.

We also have baby vegetables sprouting in our greenhouse. Lettuce has poked its tiny head above the soil, ready to grow, grow, grow. It is almost a challenge to make sure it doesn’t grow too fast for its own good and become stringy. Still hiding under the soil are some cilantro and dill to spice up our food this fall.

Tomato Blight

Our tomato crop is suffering from tomato early blight. This is the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine by destroying the potato crop there. . A blight spore most likely landed on our plants way back in June during one of the frequent rainstorms. The blight is extremely common in tomatoes in the southeast because of our hot and humid weather. In fact, it is almost always of question of when and how bad, not if, your tomatoes will get the fungus. It shows up as blackened leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and working upward. Black lesions also appear on the stem and fruit. There are very limited options in both conventional and organic systems to slow blight. It is not curable, but we can slow its spread with an organically approved copper fungicide spray. We alternate with an organic bacterial spray. We apply it roughly every week and hope to prolong our yummy tomato harvest for several weeks.

Preparing for fall gardens

All week we have been getting ready for the fall garden. Out in the big field at Silver Creek Farm I mowed the cover crop (see last week’s newsletter). After letting it fry down for a few days I hilled up beds and tilled the tops smooth. Now we will wait a few more days before added our organic fertilizer and making a final shallow pass with the tiller. This will leave a smooth, mostly weed free, and fertile bed ready for our transplants.

At Bluebird Farm we added some composted horse manure to our beds and worked that into the top few inches. Then we raked them smooth and put out the irrigation tape. Just last night we were transplanting kale and Swiss chard. Unfortunately, didn’t finish until this morning because it is already getting dark so much earlier! Planting small baby plants is pretty difficult when there is not any moonlight.

Today we woke up to a downright chilly morning. Our thermometer even suggested it was below 60, maybe 59.5! The cool morning, and working at Bluebird Farm where it is shady until about 10 am, fooled us into not putting sunscreen on. We realized at about 4 pm when we were both turning an uncomfortable shade of pink-oops!

While we were busy burning our selves we were planting a variety of fall crops. We wanted to plant them about a week or two ago, but with the weather still so hot and dry decided it would have been a wasted effort. Most fall crops really prefer it quite cool, and all seeds need to stay moist. It is almost impossible to germinate lettuce when it is 90 and hasn’t rained for two weeks! But, now they are in the ground: lettuce mix, arugula, beets, and radishes. We hope for cooperative weather and a tasty fall crop. We hope to get some good harvests from the fall crops before the end of the CSA in end of September. Much of the fall crops will produce then and keep producing in October and November.

Mediterranean Salsa

Fresh flavor! This is a great salsa, salad or pita stuffing.

1 medium cucumber, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced, remove as much of the spicy ribs and seeds as needed

1 bell pepper, diced

1 bunch parsley, finely diced

2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup pitted kalamata olives

Juice from 1-2 fresh lemons

Combine all ingredients and toss well. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Harvesting in the heat

July 13th Humidity!

The other night we could have cut the air with a knife, or perhaps stabbed it with our digging forks. We had waited until the sun was safely sinking behind trees to go dig potatoes. But the heat lingered in the sweat soaked air. Trees only 100 feet away were blurry around the edges from the water in the air. It was like digging potatoes while swimming, only not as refreshing. Fortunately, the recent rains had softened the soil so it was relatively easy to dig. Just last week, before the rains, I had dug a few test plants. I had to jump on the fork just to force it into the soil. Now I could easily stab it into the earth with only my arms.

A healthy soil is only about 50% solid material. The rest is airspace that fluctuates between air and water. When the soil is very dry the soil particles are locked together, they do not want to yield to a fork or shovel. Water filling some of those gaps makes the soil more malleable. It will move over so to speak for the tool as it digs in. We certainly appreciated the extra help!


Potatoes before harvest


July 20th Season of Harvest

Lately it feels like all we’ve been doing is harvesting. All year leading up to this point we’ve prepared beds, weeded, started transplants, set transplants out, weeded some more, watered, trellised, and many other vegetable projects I can’t even remember. Of course we were harvesting, but now we are really harvesting. All the summer crops need to be harvested every other day at least because the fruit just keep on coming. They’re not like greens or root crops that can wait until a planed harvest day. Instead, it’s just harvest, harvest, harvest. It is wonderful to be able to see the fruits of all our hard spring labor coming to harvest.

Cherry tomatoes with their friends the marigolds

Marie in the cucumber patch


August 2nd Farm News

This week we have finally been catching up to ourselves and cleaning up some of the spring crops. The least fun part of that job is cleaning up the old irrigation line. It is a thin plastic tube that we laid out on the nicely tilled ground back in March. Since then dirt has been thrown over the tubing and the weeds have gone crazy. Now we get to not only find the irrigation line in all that mess, but pull it out, without losing the many 6 inch long sod staples we used to hold it in place before the weeds took over. Then we get to do it 36 more times-once for each line! With that out of the way the job gets considerably easier. I hop on the tractor and prepare the ground for a cover crop, plant the seed, and use the tractor to till the seed in.

Before the tractor work could begin though we also had to play a fun game we called “find the black widow spider!” In the spring (and fall) we use a thin cloth covering to help protect our plants from the frost. We hold the row cover down with sandbags. This spring, when we were done using them we just piled them at the heads of the bed. Today we had to move them out of the way of the tractor paths. It turns out that the moist, cool, full of good hiding spaces habitat formed by a pile of sandbags is ideal for black widow spiders. We found 10, most with egg sacks, in only 3 piles! We had previously noticed that we were finding more than usual around our house and farm already. It must be a good year for them. So if you are going our back to move and old lumber pile or clean up the junk heap, be careful!

In addition to planting one cover crop we are busy incorporating another. A cover crop of millet and cowpeas we planted in the spring had reached head high-ready to mow. Some of the crop I had to mow because we needed to chop in down quickly for the imminent planting of fall crops. However, in another section, we are letting the sheep do the mowing. When we first put them into the paddock they were a little nervous because the crop was taller than the grass they were used to. Consequently, they couldn’t see very far. They kept poking their heads up as high as they could reach to try to get a better view. Every time another sheep or Clyde the guard dog would unexpectedly burst through the tall plants they would spook and jump away. Interestingly, they all turned their noses up at the crop for the first few hours. They wanted their regular grass and were having no part of the millet and cowpea mix. The sheep just weren’t sure they believed us when we told them that a book had told us that they would like the cover crop. Fortunately, instead of breaking out of the fence they eventually sampled the available food and decided it was acceptable.