Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29th: The Never Setting Sun

Farm News

The Chicken Palace.  The mobile chicken coop that keeps our flock happy and healthy out on green grass.

Sugar snap peas are a real garden treat.  The entire crunchy pod and juicy peas are edible. Just break off the tiny stem.  Every year we thick about not growing sugar snap peas, because their window of pea production is so short and it takes forever to pick them!  We end up growing them because they are so delicious, and we want to make sure our CSA members get some special veggies! Their season is very short; we’ll only have them for a few weeks.  Make sure to use your sugar snap peas right away; their flavor is reduced with storage. 

Planting of Kale

We’ve been chugging away here with the long days filled with sunshine. We need the extra daylight to keep up with planting the baby veggie seeds and plants, and to try to hack the weeds back. And everything is so much easier when the temperature is only in the mid eighties.  In the past two springs, we were hit with drought like conditions very early in May, and the inhospitable weather kept going all summer. No one likes hot, dry, scorching weather in May. Especially not the plants.  This spring is just right for us so far. 

A planting of summer squash

Teeny Zucchini

Rooster Keeps Watch

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Perfect for plants, perfect for insects!

     This week saw the final big transplanting sessions in the garden.  Our biggest job in the spring is taking all of the babies we’ve started in the greenhouse and getting them out to the field.  We want to get them in nice and early so they will be ready to harvest sooner.  But we can’t plant too soon or they may get nipped by cool weather.  For each crop cool weather is a little different.  Cool season crops like lettuce and kale don’t even mind a light frost very much.  But peppers will complain if the nights get below 50.

                Besides transplanting seedlings the other method we use to plant is to direct seed crops.  We do this for crops like lettuce mix, arugula, beets, and radish.  These small, quick growing crops don’t appreciate the root disturbance that comes from transplanting.  To direct seed a crop we have to start with a totally weed free, nicely loosened garden bed.  We can’t have any weeds because they will quickly out compete the crop that is trying to sprout from seed.  The soil has to be the right texture so that the vegetable seed will come into contact with moist soil for water and nutrients.  But we don’t want to pack it down too tightly or else it’s like asking the seed to grow in a brick. 

                This week the seeds we planted: lettuce mix, arugula, and radish all came up in about 2 days!  This is incredibly fast germination because the temperature and moisture conditions were ideal.  Back in the early spring when the soil was still cool (probably about 55 degrees) lettuce mix took a solid week to germinate.  We like it when the vegetables germinate faster because it gives them an edge over the next round of weeds (there’s always a next round of weeds).  It also means that it will be ready to harvest sooner.  The tricky part about accelerated germination and growth is that a later succession of a crop can catch up to an early one providing and over abundance one week and leaving a hole in the harvest the next.  For example: we might plant lettuce mix 1 week apart.  But the weather is so much better for growth the second week that that planting comes up only a few days behind the first.  Now that its up and the weather is nice it might even catch up.  To help solve this problem we try to space out the planting longer and longer as the spring goes on.  So the early successions might be 1 week apart while later successions space out to almost 2 weeks.

                A downside of this perfect plant growing weather is that it is also perfect insect growing weather.  We’ve had our hands full with several of our common pests.  Squash bugs are starting on the squash, cucumber beetles have enjoyed their favorite appetizer of swiss chard and are now headed to the cucumbers themselves.  In the potatoes a herd of potato beetles was munching until we got out there with one of our biological controls and took care of them!  The other big muncher is a small insect: the flea beetle.  The fleas beetle got its name form its small dark look as well as its habit of leaping away form threats.  It particular enjoys eggplant (which we think we saved just barely) and certain cabbage family plants like arugula, mizuna, and tatsoi .  You may notice small holes in the spicy salad mix leaves-that’s the handiwork of our friend the flea beetle.

                Out in the big vegetable field we are enjoying a subtle flower show.  Our potatoes are blooming!  We grow a nice variety of potatoes for the CSA and for ourselves.  This year we are trying a purple variety as well as a red, white, and gold type.  After the plants have grown for a month or so they send out delicate flowers at their tops.  The flowers are not necessary for crop production because the potatoes we eat are all clones of the mother seed potato.  This year the purple type has one of the nicest flowers: a lavender petal with a rich buttery center.  We’re looking forward to the potatoes later this summer!

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Garden Harvest

Plenty of garden fresh vegetables for you at the Morganton and Conover Farmers' Markets this Saturday, May 11th.

 Grown with love using organic methods.  No synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. 

This week’s harvest:
Baby salad mix
Radishes “French Breakfast”
“Red Russian” Kale: See the Kale Chip recipe below!
Curly Kale
Romaine Head Lettuce- “Rouge di Iver,” a red heirloom and “Forellenschluss,” a speckled heirloom
Buttercrunch Head Lettuce-
Swiss Chard- small, early harvest bunches

Free Range Eggs: The hens are still laying well! Plenty of free range eggs from hens fed organic grains.
Pastured Pork:  Don’t forget a pound of sausage or ground pork to cook with some good greens.
Pastured Chicken: Never roasted a chicken? Go ahead! It is not an exact science; try this great Herb Roasted Chicken recipe and my tips for a great roast chicken.

Here's William checking on animals in pasture.  Our hens and sheep gooble up the spring clover. Clyde the guard dog is always watching!

Roasted Kale Chips
1 bunch kale- any variety of kale will work
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Optional:  A drizzle of balsamic vinegar (about ½ tablespoon)
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (175 degrees C)
With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. (I like to use my hands to strip the leaves from the stem.)Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Place kale in a plastic bag. Drizzle kale with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with sea salt. Thoroughly massage the bag to mix the oil and vinegar into the leaves.
 Using several baking sheets spread the kale pieces out so that they are not touching; I use 3 or 4 sheets.  Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, about 7 to 12 minutes. Make sure to check the chips almost every minute after 7 minutes have passed.  Every oven is a little different…Adjust this recipe’s time to your oven!

~Marie, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

It is egg season at the farm! Pick up some of our eggs at the Farmers' Markets tomorrow and make this wonderful egg salad.
Our hens are free range out on pasture, and we feed them certified organic grains (multi grain with flax seeds too- good enough for a breakfast cereal!)

Catch Bluebird Farmer this Saturday at the
Morganton Farmers’ Market 8-noon
Conover Farmers’ Market 7:30-noon

My Favorite Egg Salad
A great recipe with a dash of fresh herbs and smooth spices. Serve on a bed of lettuce or a nice piece of bread.
Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon  vinegar or pickle juice
1teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pickle relish
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste
Spices: (any of the following are optional or try them all)
 dash of paprika, cayenne, and coriander
½ cup finely chopped green pepper or celery
(optional, we don’t use it if it’s not season in the garden)
8 hard boiled eggs, chilled in icy water for 15 minutes and then peeled

1.       Cut the eggs in half and separate the yolks.  Mash the yolks with a fork until mostly smooth.
2.       In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar and stir. Add the mayo, mustard, relish, chives, dill, and spices and green pepper. Stir. 
3.       Add the smooth yolks to the mayo mixture and stir. Chop the whites and mix gently into the egg salad.

The flavors are best if the egg salad is chilled for at least 30 minutes.

From 5-4-2012 farm

That Bok Choy is so wild and crazy!

Catch Bluebird Farmer this Saturday at the
Morganton Farmers’ Market 8-noon
Conover Farmers’ Market 7:30-noon
We’ll have fresh eggs, pastured pork, and chicken, all from animals fed certified organic grains and raises outdoors.

Freshly harvested from the garden:
Bok Choy- Add chopped uncooked Bok Choy to salads to add a crisp texture! Lightly sauté with mushrooms, sausage, and a dash of soy sauce.

Pea shoots- add these tender little shoots and flowers to your salad. The shoots have a snap pea flavor and the texture of delicate baby spinach
Mini Head Lettuce- Romaine and Boston bibb types
Baby Lettuce Mix- You always need a package of baby lettuce mix in your fridge in the spring! It’s the season of freshly harvested salads.
Dill- Sprinkle chopped fresh dill over a salad of arugula, radishes, and goat cheese. The taste of spring.
Cilantro- There is no substitution for chopped cilantro. Try chorizo, kale, and black bean tacos topped with cilantro. You won’t even miss the cheese or sour cream.
Arugula- How about arugula and strawberries or arugula and dill…
Radishes, “French Breakfast”-cut into long slices, round slices, or grate.  William, who used to not like radishes, now happily enjoys entire bunches of grated “French Breakfast” radishes dressed with a sweet white vinegar and a touch of salt. He has been converted.
Kale- We have the first harvest of this year’s spring crop. Try chorizo, kale, and black bean tacos topped with cilantro. You won’t even miss the cheese or sour cream.