Thursday, December 20, 2012

Busy sitting down

Like many of us, I spent my twenties moving through a series of office jobs trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a living.  Most jobs revolved around my interests -- education, community organizing, or political change -- but the setting was always the same: some version of a room with a desk and computer, which I sat behind dutifully.

For a long time I was unhappy at work and I always thought the job was the problem.  Invariably after a year or two, I would polish up my resume and head for greener pastures.  Rewind and repeat.  You get the picture (and may even find yourself caught up in it at the moment).

In my early thirties, I found myself in the job I had been working towards, directing a small, scrappy advocacy organization that was working for social change and finding success.  But there I was, behind the computer, moving in and out of meetings, the sun and sky and outside world in a window hanging on my office wall like a picture.  And I had a jarring realization -- what if it was working in an office that made me so unhappy?  That was a lot harder to change than a job.

A recent NY Times article about the sedentary routines of our modern life made me think about all of this again.  The article was mostly about obesity, but linked that growing epidemic to a much larger problem -- the western "sedentary life-style that is colonizing the world".  Research studies noted that almost 45% of American's are caught up in daily routines that are almost completely inactive, failing to walk or be active a minimum of twenty minutes a day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Breaking ground

They key to healthy vegetables is healthy seedlings. This past year we did everything we could to nurture our young plantings... but nothing beats the temperature control, sunlight exposure, or humidity control of a greenhouse.

42" deep into the 1st foundation hole
Luckily for us, a very friendly neighbor gave us a disassembled Lord & Burnham Imperial Evenspan with a curved eave greenhouse. He had it stored in his barn for years, above his sheep stalls and high up in the rafters. He got his hands on it from another neighbor, who got it from another neighbor, who salvaged it from a rooftop on a flophouse in New York City's Hell's Kitchen in the '90s. And even more luckily for us, our neighbor who salvaged it wrote every single part number on every single piece, and we managed to get our hands on the 2-inch thick stack of plans and papers and blueprints for the structure that have been passed around to even more neighbors.

Just this week we broke ground. We are sourcing some local locust for foundation poles and will build the 3-foot foundation the plans require, hopefully before the ground freezes or snow gets in the way.

And this is all in the name of healthy vegetables.

Kinda what our greenhouse will look like

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Recipe with corn

Corn souffle

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients: Corn, onion, butter, sugar, salt, cayenne, cornmeal, milk, eggs, cream of tartar

Preparing: Melt 4 Tbsp butter. Add finely diced onion and cook until soft. Then add 2 cups sweet corn kernels (we used frozen, so be sure to drain out excess moisture). Cook until onions and corn have browned, about 10 minutes (when using frozen corn). Add 3 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, cayenne, and 2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, then turn off, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together 1 cup cornmeal and 3/4 cup milk. Immersion blend the corn mixture and reheat. Once mixture is boiling, whisk in cornmeal/milk mixture slowly and cook a few minutes until thick. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400F now. Once mixture is room temp (and oven should be heated by now), whisk in 3 egg yolks. In a separate bowl, beat 3 egg whites and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar to stiff peaks. Fold in egg whites into corn mixture, one-third at a time. Put in well-greased (I used crisco) 1.5 qt souffle pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Eating: Serve immediately out of the oven, but it's also delicious reheated the next day. When serving at the table, just spoon the souffle out. I like this as a substitute for cornbread, which I often find to be too dry.

Dish history: We had friends over who had supplied us with all of our sweet corn, so we had to showcase the vegetable.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


After writing about it over a year now, sinking the foundation poles last November, and a lot of other farm work in between, we've finally raised the roof on our wood shed/rain harvest roof/pole barn. We had the help of some friends, advice from others, and a really windy day to make the mounting of our last metal roofing panels that much more challenging.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Do it for the workers

We listened to a story this morning on the radio about immigrant farm workers in New York. Apparently, state labor laws do not apply to them: they are not entitled to overtime pay, have no right to a day of rest, and can not collectively bargain.

When will farm workers' wages be something us customers are willing to pay more for? I pay extra to buy organic seeds, organic food, free-range chickens. A lot of this extra cost is going to workers, precisely because there are some (organic farming is more labor-intensive than conventional farming). But why is it so difficult to get me to pay even more so the laborers who are planting and harvesting and packaging can earn a decent wage and a day off?

There are plenty of driven advocates working on this issue. But rather than tax incentives to farmers to encourage higher pay, I think we're in need of a cultural change. We all have to start paying more for our food. So farmers can make a living and their workers can, too.

But raising prices is not what most producers want to do. Perhaps we can start, market by market, with farmers collectively agreeing to charge a little more so they have more to give back to their staff. And we can continue, market by market, with creating educated consumers who learn to care more about the welfare of human laborers than a farmyard animal.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our changing climate

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, I, along with many others, have been thinking about climate change. I was engaged in a conversation just the other night with a family friend who does not subscribe to the argument that indeed our planet is warming due to increased emissions of CO2. So I asked him, "Why do you choose not to believe in it?" He immediately replied by asking me why I do believe.

I believe for three reasons.

First, I have concern for future generations of humans, wildlife and plants and the overall life of the planet. I do not want us or them or it to become extinct prematurely. Just as I exercise regularly to be sure I live long and prevent premature death, or someone quits smoking cigarettes or another person receives heart bypass surgery to do just the same, I am willing to take action to prevent the premature extinction of our earth and its inhabitants.

Second, I am a scientist. I have read research on global warming and climate change and understand the use of statistical models to predict the future, and based on my read of the decades of evidence, see a potential for truth. In other words, the evidence is strong enough to me that I reject the possibility that the patterns we are observing are happening by chance alone.

Third, I appreciate the argument's ability to raise ecologic consciousness. If I choose to believe that the warming of our climate, rising of sea levels, and melting of ice caps are a result of me and my fellow humans, it makes me very conscious of what I do on a daily basis. What natural resources do I consume, and can I potentially reduce my consumption? How far do products travel to get to me, and can I choose local purveyors to reduce that travel time? This daily self-reflection, I think, is healthy, because it makes me consider things in a broader perspective. It connects me to so many layers and nodes around the globe and empowers me to realize that what I do matters.

My friend's response to my question of why he chooses not to believe can be boiled down to two reasons, unfortunately (mind you, I'm boiling them down): because the solution costs too much and he doesn't like being told what to do. It's a fascinating response, and I wonder if there are other reasons to shrug off the evidence of climate change... in spite of the storm that flooded NY and NJ after years of rising sea levels and a changing jet stream. I am very willing to listen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

First roast

It's getting cold outside, so we decided to enjoy a nice roast chicken - eating the first bird that we harvested a few weeks ago. It was tasty and substantial and we can't wait to appreciate more!

First roast

Recipe with roots

Glazed roots (such as turnips, or carrots, radish, rutabaga, parsnips)

Ingredients: turnips, butter, sugar, water

Preparing: Cut turnips to desired size. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a shallow pan. Add turnips, sugar (can use brown or white sugar) and water (can use broth) and a pinch of salt. Cook on low heat, partially covered, until the water has evaporated and the turnips are glazed (the longer you cook the more caramelized the turnips will be- but be careful not to burn!).

Eating: A good side dish to add to your Thanksgiving table.

Dish history: Our take on the classic glazed carrots. You could mix a variety of root vegetables, I'm sure, but be careful of different cooking times. You could try honey or maple syrup as the sweeteners, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There's always time to vote

After a long day of mulching and covering up vegetables, we voted. Hope you did, too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall happenings

Nick clearing the West field
Gathering mulch for beds

We are starting to close up shop. We've got parsnips, carrots, beets, turnips, leeks, lettuce, collards, spinach, parsley, scallions, Brussels sprouts and cabbage still in the ground. But all the rest of our vegetable beds have been put to bed, with hefty doses of manure (thanks workationers!), compost and mulch. Nick is clearing a new field to the west of our garden where we will put our pigs this spring. The hens have been moved to their winter housing. We are burning the burn piles in the orchard space so we can bring in our friend with an excavator to dig 30 tree holes. Our roofing material will be delivered on Monday so we can complete the wood shed/rain harvest roof. And we are planning out the foundation for our future greenhouse. This point in the season is really a race against snow cover...

Putting the beds to bed
Hens in their winter coop
Wood shed waiting for roofing

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Recipe with squash and greens

Squash and greens

Ingredients: winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.; could even use sweet potato or yam), greens (collards, chard, spinach, etc.), bread (can be stale), garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar

Preparing: Peel and cut a winter squash into cubes (the size of a dice; we used butternut). Put in baking dish, drizzle with oil (don't be stingy) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes (until perfect, not falling apart and not too hard). Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat olive oil (1-2 Tbsp). Cut bread into cubes (the size of dice) and fry in the hot oil until nice and brown. Add a bit more oil if necessary and add sliced garlic (3-5 cloves), ground cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until garlic has browned (which will give a nutty taste and aroma). Then pulse bread/garlic mixture in a food processor or blender to make breadcrumbs. In another, larger saucepan, heat some olive oil and cook chopped greens (we used collards). Once desired texture (collards took about 10 minutes), add 1-2 Tbsp vinegar (we used red wine vinegar) and cook off a bit. Add breadcrumb mixture and mix well. Then add squash and mix gently.

Eating: Great with a steak.

Dish history: Found this recipe and adapted it to use some of our sweet butternut squash and frost-kissed collards. It's a great way to use up some stale bread, too. The toasted breadcrumbs really make the dish.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Using all of the parts

I hate wasting. I'll even re-use a piece of saran wrap or a pretty clean paper towel. So it's no wonder that I try to make use of all of the parts of the food I cook. I do things as obvious as making a stock out of a chicken carcass or toasting croutons out of stale bread, and will even be adventurous and use carrot greens and fennel fronds.

With recent estimates warning us that Americans waste nearly 40% of our food, I wish that some others might start to hate wasting as much as I do. Sometimes we waste because we buy too much, we over-consume, our shopping carts are bigger than our family's stomachs. And so food gets thrown out with the garbage. Other times we just can't be bothered to make use of it all - how many of us have been guilty of not making turkey soup after Thanksgiving? And a lot of the time we just don't have any idea what to do with all of those parts. It takes time and energy to be creative with your onion ends, flat beer and watermelon rinds.

That said, there are some things even I haven't figured out how to eat myself... and so there's always pets and composting.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recipe with butternut squash

Butternut squash ravioli

Ingredients: Pasta (2 c flour, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks); Filling (butternut squash, sage, mozzarella or ricotta cheese, garlic, salt); Sauce (butter, shallot, sage, cream, maple syrup, salt)

To prepare pasta: I use Alice Waters' recipe and technique. Simple.
To prepare filling: Put a little bit of water in a baking dish and put whole butternut squash in. Bake at 350 until tender. Once cool, scrape out flesh of squash and mash with mozzarella or ricotta cheese. Smash garlic cloves with salt and add that to the squash, along with some chopped sage.
To prepare sauce: Melt about 4 Tbsp butter. Saute diced shallot. Add small sage leaves once the butter has started browning a bit. Add about 1 cup heavy cream and a drizzle of maple syrup (to taste). Whisk for a minute or so, add some salt to taste, and you're done.

Eating: You can't eat pasta without some fresh parmesan.

Dish history: I finally made use of my pasta machine and it made me realize how easy it is to make your own fresh pasta. We usually eat our butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter/sage sauce, but we decided to try this more decadent sauce. Double the recipe and freeze your leftovers for another day.

Recipe with carrot greens

Carrot top "seaweed" salad (adapted from Melissa Clark)

Ingredients: Carrot greens, sesame seeds, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar

Preparing: Cut off greens of carrots (cutting off most of stem, too) and wash well. Blanch greens in salted water for 2 minutes and then plunge in ice water to stop cooking. Then soak greens in cold water overnight, changing the water about 3 times (this removes the bitterness of the greens). The next day, drain and cut greens to 1-2 inch pieces. Make dressing: Toast 3 Tbsp. sesame seeds and grind into a lumpy paste (if you can't grind all seeds well, then drizzle some sesame oil into the dressing), and mix with 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp sake (or white wine, if you don't have sake), 1 Tbsp mirin and 1/8 tsp sugar (or up the sugar amount a bit, if you don't have mirin). Pour dressing over greens and let marinate for at least an hour before eating.

Eating: Tastes delicious with any Asian-inspired meal or otherwise.

Dish history: We were visiting Jason's sister to celebrate his niece's birthday and we decided 7 bunches of carrot greens couldn't go to waste, so we tried out this recipe at the party. It really does resemble seaweed salad (mainly because of the dressing and color) and accompanied delicious sloppy joes and tabbouleh salad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recipe with pumpkins

Roasted pumpkin tacos

Ingredients: Pumpkins, tortillas, various fresh veggies (radish, cabbage, onion, scallion, parsley, cilantro, ginger, etc), roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), cheese, sour cream, lime juice, hot sauce

Preparing: Wash your pumpkin, cut in half, scoop out seeds (and roast them with salt while you are roasting the pumpkins!) and cut into wedges. Coat wedges with some oil and sprinkle with salt and a spice (we use homemade garam masala, you can use cumin, oregano, cinnamon) and roast in a single layer at 350 for 40 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, chop up your fresh veggies as taco toppings.

Eating: We make our own homemade flour tortillas, melt some cheese on them, throw a pumpkin wedge or two on there and then top with anything we can get our hands on.

Dish history: We made this for a local farm-to-table event and they were a hit! We leave the skins on the pumpkins since they were grown organically (in fact, the roasted skin is the best part). And we top the tacos with our homemade hot sauce. Enjoy!

Recipe with flour

Flour tortillas

Ingredients: Flour, milk, vegetable oil, baking powder, salt

Preparing: Mix together 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. vegetable oil, 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Slowly add 3/4 cup warm milk. Stir until sticky ball is formed and knead on floured surface for 2 minutes. Cover dough for 20 minutes. Then break off 8 sections, roll into small balls, cover and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Now you're ready to roll out each ball on a floured surface and cook on a hot-hot-hot cast iron skillet for ~30 seconds each side.

Eating: Perfect for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. The hot-hot-hot cast iron skillet (with grill ridges, if possible) is really key, as it blackens the tortillas a perfect amount.

Dish history: While living in Argentina we would get serious cravings for tacos. And there were no ready-made tortillas readily available. So we found this recipe that uses wheat flour (as opposed to corn flour which we also could not find anywhere) and are always happy with the outcome. Nothing beats a warm, freshly made tortilla with your taco fixings.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Organic vs. Local

I have been asked so many times what I think is "better"... organic or local?

Hands down, my first answer is "both." There are small, local farms popping up all over the place, and the majority of these farms farm organically. That's organic with a little "o"... the uncertified organic practices that rely on crop rotation, manures and composts, integrated pest management and other ancient ecologically non-degrading practices, but haven't spent the years or $$$ to become official with a big "O."

If you can't have both (even though you can, see websites such as this to find the dynamic duo near you), then it's time to weigh the pros and cons.

Going local might mean you actually know your local farmer and can ask him/her directly about their practices. You can find them at farmer's markets or driving on secondary highways. They may not be able to label themselves as Organic, but their practices might be. But sometimes these local guys run conventional farms, which means they use inorganic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. And this is a tradeoff that we make, that we consumers should consciously grapple with when we purchase our vegetables, fruit, and even honey and wine.

Going organic might mean your foods are (nearly) inorganic pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer-free. This is good for your health and the health of the environment. But a lot of times the organic avocados, lettuce, celery and other produce we buy in supermarkets comes from humongous farms across the country or even the world. So what we spare in runoff into our water and waste streams, we contribute to in carbon footprint as our produce travels thousands of miles just to get to us (not to mention heavy irrigation, or unfair labor practices, etc.; see this article for some commentary). This is a tradeoff that we make.

There is considerable debate on this issue that continues in journals, the media and around dinner tables. I say go with your gut. Let's actually think when we make purchases about what values we want to uphold. And rather than ignore the part we play in modern agriculture's destruction of our ecology, get active each and every time we make that exchange of $$$ for food.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Week 20 CSA basket

Thank you for joining us for our first CSA season! We learned a lot and grew a lot and are so grateful you were a part of it.

Expect the following this week:
Butternut squash, potatoes, parsnips, garlic, chard or spinach, parsley, scallions, sage, oregano, cabbage, pears, beets, fennel and kale.

The pears come from this property's century old pear trees that are dripping with fruit that stores well, bakes well and tastes delicious.

We hope you enjoyed this season's bounty. We were so happy to share. Until next year...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 19 CSA basket

Expect the following in this next-to-last basket:

Butternut squash, potatoes (fingerling, Austrian crescent, alba baking), lettuce, parsley, kale or chard, tatsoi cabbage or bok choy, parsnips, turnips.

We have a huge bounty of butternut squash, thanks to PJD's plot. We just harvested them yesterday, so it is best to put them in a warm, sunny spot in your house for about 1 week to "cure." This helps the outer shell harden for long-term storage. Your butternut squash can last until the spring if you store it in a cool, dark place once cured (not your fridge).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A taste of our harvest

Longhaul Farm participated in the "Taste Our Local Harvest" event at the Westchester Country Club this year, showcasing our produce and cooking skills. Farmers were paired with local restaurants to create a "farm-to-table" experience for patrons, and in our case, we were both the farmers and the chefs (or, cooks, as I'd prefer to call myself). We cooked up a roasted pumpkin taco with all of the fixings... which was really just a vehicle to taste our homemade salsas: mild salsa verde, medium sriracha, and hot jalapeno sauce.

Crowd responses were positive, showing interest in our Supper Club, devouring our hot sauces, converting to pumpkin, and expressing amazement that we could do it all with a 7-month old in tow. We had very special help at the event - couldn't have done it without Jason's oldest niece, who womanned the tortilla-warming station and added super positive energy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recipe w/ hot peppers

Longhaul Farm's "sriracha" sauce

Ingredients: 1.5 lb. hot peppers, 3/4 c white vinegar, 3/4 c water, garlic or scallions, 3 Tbsp. each salt and sugar

Preparing: Cut your hot peppers. For a hotter sauce, include seeds and membranes. Blend your peppers with garlic (about 10 cloves) or scallions (about 5), vinegar and water. Add salt and sugar and simmer in a wide pot for approximately 20 minutes. Once cool, re-blend for a few seconds to desired consistency.

Eating: Use this on anything... tacos, eggs, rice, pastas, pizzas, bagels, greens, soups... whatever you'd put your sriracha on.

Dish history: We had a serious abundance of hot peppers this year... they are prolific! And this year's harvest was H-O-T. We made a green sauce with jalapeno and a red sauce with red portugals. And we've finally perfected a recipe. Enjoy!

2012 Work-ation / October-fiesta

The rain stayed away and our people came ready, willing and able. We had 70 visitors over the course of the day who got down-n-dirty with farm work. Thank you for all of your time, sweat, labor and friendship!

Together we accomplished: skimming and prepping 10 new vegetable beds... hauling 6 truck-loads of horse manure... mucking out 2 dump-trailer-loads of sheep manure... shoveling a trailer-load of (ripe) goat manure... collecting 2 truck-loads of wood chips... creating a huge compost pile...harvesting over 250 pounds of potatoes, 35 pounds of hot peppers, 20 pounds of tomatillos, 80 pounds of squash and pumpkin and 15 pounds of daikon radish... wheeling 120 wheelbarrows of manure and compost... prepping 40 beds for the winter... clearing brush for the pig pen... and burning a huge brush pile into a lovely pile of ash for the garden. This is work that would have taken the 2 of us weeks to accomplish. Not to mention our great cooking team who prepped 80 cups of tomato soup, 70 baked potatoes, 10 quarts of beef and pumpkin stew, 50 ears-of-corn-worth of creamed corn, a huge fresh salad and 50 whoopie pies for dessert.

It's good to get outside and work on those muscles, but it's even better to join a community in some teamwork and camaraderie. We hope you enjoyed yourselves and will come back for more in April 2013.

Thank you again... enjoy some shots from the day:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week 18 CSA basket

We are coming to the end of our first season. No frosts in the forecast this week, so we are holding off on parsnips and the cabbage family. And these rains have put our popcorn harvest on hold, too. Let's hope for some dry, sunny days.

In your baskets this week:
Fingerling potatoes, pumpkins, onions, bok choy, Napa cabbage, spinach, chard, parsley, lettuce, peppers.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

No more wake-up calls

This past weekend we harvested our 5 remaining meat birds. They were causing too many problems with our laying hens after we had to house them in closer proximity following the massacre a few weeks back.

It was intense. Jason was a pro at catching the birds and eviscerating them, but couldn't handle the actual kill... left to yours truly. The de-feathering was such a chore compared to the last time I did this, where the facility had a centrifuge that spit out bare birds in 20 seconds. But thank goodness we had the help of a friend!... and the audience of her 22-month-old and little Seneca added to the festivities. It is certainly interesting to imagine what was going through their little brains as they witnessed the production.

Plucking the chicken
So we are now down to our 24 laying hens. There are no more wake-up calls in the mornings, with the crowing roosters now gone. Some neighbors have commented on the silence. I hope they enjoy it now... we've got 15 new chicks in the brooder getting ready for their life on the farm.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The security in farming

I haven't met any other farm owners in the Hudson Valley who don't have a day job off of the farm. It's just the simple economics behind it - food is cheap in our society and you can't make enough off of it to completely support your family.

But what small-scale farming lacks in income earnings, it makes up for in security.

Today's labor market is becoming increasingly unstable. Unemployment is up, retirement packages and pension plans are disappearing, workers are asked to bear even bigger portions of their health insurance costs, and worst of all, many jobs are expendable and reaching obsolescence. Add to that heavily indebted personal expenses, full of mortgages, credit cards and loans and a declining savings rate. So when one has a job and an income that covers expenses, all is good. As it should be.

But that's not always the case, and increasingly so. A friend of ours just disclosed to us that he has been laid off and has 90 days. He is middle-aged, with a mortgage and children, and had relocated his family for this job. Can you imagine the shock and fear in his life right now? Another friend of ours is stuck in a job she hates because she relies on the health insurance, the income to pay off her loans, and is committed to her 401k plan that will hopefully see her through retirement. But is she happy?

The jobs we have here off of Longhaul Farm are equally as precarious. And although the income we bring in from them is essential to us maintaining our lifestyle as we now live it, we are privileged to know that we could live with less because of our farm. Our farm, which brings us food, community, happiness, activity and a few customers. It is a great sense of security in this stage of the economic game, where people are no longer lifers in a company with retirements to look forward to nor have the ability to pay off mortgages in a lifetime. And most of all, we enjoy the work, the satisfaction of production, the sustaining food... and the long, relaxing winters.

So are we secure? Thankfully, yes. This farm gifts it to us.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Week 17 CSA basket

Just a few more weeks left in the season. We're now heavy on the root vegetables and greens.

Expect the following this week:
Pumpkins, leeks, radishes, sweet peppers, lettuce, tatsoi cabbage, mustard greens, kale, parsley, cilantro.

The pumpkins we're giving out were grown by PJD in the same plot where we got our delicious corn and cukes from. This variety is meant to be eaten! It is sweet and delicious and they each have a ton of seeds for baking, too. They can be left out for weeks and be eaten after you've used them to decorate your house for the fall.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Massacre on Longhaul Farm

Shooing the hens into their new hut
'Tis a sad day on Longhaul Farm. We have lost our meat birds - started with 25 and are now down to 5.

We left for vacation on a Thursday with a healthy flock, admittedly adventuring out of their electric fencing and co-mingling with the laying hens. When we arrived back one week later we counted only 6 birds and heard tales of a beheaded hen a few days back and coyotes cackling nearby at dusk. The beheading is a classic move by an owl. But 18 birds gone missing?!? Those coyotes must have had a field day, and are now cackling their mangy heads off somewhere after eating our fattened, 4-month old roosters.

The saddest part of it all is that we were about to harvest those birds next week to put away in our deep freezer, give as gifts to a few helpful hands. And now we are left with so few that have to meet their maker this weekend to spare the hyper-activity with our poor laying hens.

We have learned many lessons from this. And we are in pain, contemplating if there's enough time to raise some more birds before winter sets in.

Week 16 CSA basket

Enjoying a meal in the dining pavilion in Restoule
We're back from a restful vacation in the northern pines of Canada. And despite a treacherous storm while we were away and a serious tragedy with the chickens, our veggies are looking good.

Expect the following in this week's basket:
Onions (red and yellow), Chinese cabbage, chard, lettuce, parsley, beets, radishes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, and a handful of tomatoes.

We are harvesting pumpkins today and will be curing them in a warm, sunny spot for 7-10 days before we hand these out. Butternut squash will undergo the same process and should be ready to pick next week.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Week 15 CSA basket

Greens are back!

Expect the following this week:
Cherry tomatoes, cantaloupe, corn, potatoes, basil, parsley, Chinese cabbage, carrots, tomatillos, chard, sweet peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, kale, arugula or spinach.

Sorry to report that these cherry tomatoes are the last of this season's tomatoes... hope you enjoyed the bounty.

This time of year will begin to bring different types of cabbage. Try making a slaw with it, or be adventurous and make a kimchi.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Recipe with tomatillos

Salsa verde

Ingredients: tomatillos, onion or scallion, garlic, hot pepper, cilantro, oregano, salt, water

Preparing: Dice the tomatillos and onion or scallion and mince the garlic and hot pepper. Saute these ingredients over medium heat with some fresh cilantro leaves, fresh or dried oregano, salt and 1 cup of water per 2 pounds of tomatillos. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all ingredients are soft and then puree in food processor or blender.

Eating: A great salsa for tacos, burritos or meats. You can all of the ingredients to taste.

Dish history: We were just experimenting with some ripe tomatillos and had all of the fresh ingredients from the garden. We like it spicy, so kept in some seeds of the hot peppers.

Week 14 CSA basket

These cool nights are harkening fall. And our garden is, too. We are reaching the end of tomatoes and our cooler weather crops are readying themselves for harvest. Expect the following this week:

Corn, cantaloupe, tomatoes (last of the heirlooms), cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, scallions, tomatillos, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, beets, green beans, chard, leeks.

Make a salsa verde with those tomatillos, scallions and hot peppers.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week 13 CSA basket

Expect the following in this lucky-number-13th week:

Corn, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cantaloupe, basil, parsley, scallions, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, kale.
Many of you have been asking for your greens again, and rightfully so. During these peak summer bounty weeks, most farmers take a break from lettuce, kale and chard harvesting to focus on harvesting your other goodies. But we miss our salads, too! And next year we hope to grow it throughout the season (but the July and August heat will produce more bitter greens, so be forewarned).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Saving up

Our venture into farming and sustainable living requires us to preserve as much food as possible from our season. Boy, we have been busy. From freezing greens and corn, to pickling beans and squash, to canning peaches and tomato sauce, our deposito and deep freezer are full. Although preserving food for the winter and spring hunger gap is a lot of work, requires a lot of patience and dedication, and makes you sometimes forget to enjoy the the vegetables while they are fresh, it is so worth the effort, come March, when we have a hankering for greens pie or spaghetti bolognese and peachs 'n cream for dessert.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 12 CSA basket

Sorry for the delay in posting this week's produce. The summer bounty continues, full of corn, cukes and tomatoes. But this is the last week of summer squash and zucchini... the squash bugs have taken their toll and we pulled the plants this week.

Expect the following in your baskets:
Unlimited corn, cukes and hot peppers; tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, scallions, zucchini and summer squash, sweet peppers, eggplant, space spinach, onions.

Recipe w/ corn

This is a recipe sent in by Colleen B, one of our CSA members:

Chilled or Hot Simple Corn Soup 

•       5 ears of corn, shucked
•       1 medium onion, chopped
•       1 garlic clove, finely chopped
•       3 tablespoons unsalted butter
•       4 1/2 cups water or stock

Cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife, then cut cobs into thirds. Cook onion and garlic in butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add corn and cobs, water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Discard cobs, then purée corn mixture I used an immersion blender put you can also put batches in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Force soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.  (I like the texture of the corn so I don’t do this but you can.) Chill until cold, at least 1 hour. Thin with water if desired and season with salt.

I have had this soup  both hot and cold. Soup can be chilled up to 3 days.

Garnish:  I put a white fish on top of this soup. I also have put tomatoes, basil and garlic on top. Crab meat or lobster meat, also yummy; or chillies and cheese.

Friday, August 17, 2012

First eggs!

Our hens are 22 weeks old and have given us our first eggs! They laid a few in the nesting boxes we constructed, but some also have a secret spot... under the trench coat of the scarecrow we erected to scare away the hawks.

And what luck! The first egg we cracked to cook up had two yolks in it...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Preserving: Corn

 August is the month for fresh, sweet corn. But if you can only eat so many ears right off the stalk, consider preserving the rest. Just cut the corn kernels off of the cob and freeze. Each ear of corn yields about 1 cup of kernels. For best results, use a vacuum sealer or drinking straw to extract as much air as you can from the bag. Then think about how nice it will be to have a warm corn chowder or creamed corn come December...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Week 11 CSA basket

We have an abundance of tomatoes! Please consider taking a good deal of tomatoes (20-30 pounds) and canning them for yourself. This winter you'll appreciate opening up a jar of local, pesticide-free tomatoes that were preserved at their peak freshness, rather than buying those tomatoes that taste like nothing or using a can opener to open an aluminum can of tomatoes. Here are some instructions on how to preserve tomatoes from a post last year. This is also a good source. Email me if you'd like further details.

Expect the following in this week's basket:
Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini and squash, basil, parsley, scallions, beets, onions, peppers (sweet and hot).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week 10 CSA basket

We're at the halfway point of the season... hard to believe.

And that means we are still in the middle of the summer bounty. Expect much of the same from last week:

Corn, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, cucumbers, fennel, scallions, onions, basil, parsley, beets, carrots, kale and chard.

I hope you're eating your corn the night you receive it! And those tomatoes are going to keep on comin'... we'll post some recipe ideas, but there's really nothing better than slicing up those heirlooms and enjoying them with a tiny sprinkle of salt.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Recipe w/ green beans

Green beans in yogurt sauce

Ingredients: green beans, yogurt (best if Greek-style), sour cream, gorgonzola cheese, green peppers, s+p

Preparing: Steam or boil beans for 5 minutes then plunge in ice water to stop cooking. Chop to 2 or 3 inch lengths. Mix your sauce: yogurt, sour cream (in 2:1 ratio), gorgonzola cheese crumbles (to taste). Chop some green peppers for crunch. Toss green beans and raw peppers into sauce and s+p to taste.

Eating: You can eat this as a cold salad or warm it in the oven/on the stovetop.

Dish history: We had this just the other night, a creation of NBA. The version we tried had mango-flavored yogurt in it by mistake... we suggest using plain : ).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Organic heirloom tomatoes

It's tomato time. Local farmer's markets, CSAs, grocery stores, and home gardens are filled with them. So now's the time to stock up -- so you don't have to eat those Florida-grown-tasteless-picked-green-and-hard-so-called-tomatoes between the months of October to June.

We've got a lot of heirloom tomatoes on the vines: Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Cherokee green, Black Krim, Valencia, Amish paste, Speckled Roman, Juliet, Moskvich, Martha Washington, Pruden's purple, Honeydrop cherry, Peacevine cherry and Black cherry. We also have some Argentinian varieties (we brought home seeds when we came back in 2011): a yellow slicer and a yellow cherry.

Freshly picked seasonal tomatoes are so superior in taste to the ones you might buy in the off-season. But they are not superior in durability. Please be careful with them - store them gently. Don't toss them around. Don't store other things on top of them. If one has a bruise or a crack, just cut away the part you don't want to eat and enjoy the rest. If you have some that are not perfectly ripe, leave them on your counter until they are.

Caring for our tomatoes on the vine is also quite a chore. We have to be sure they are trellised and supported, correctly fertilized, mulched and have the right amount of water.

And water has been an issue this year. Tomato plants need consistent watering - not too little, not too much. So when there is an unplanned downpour of rain - as there has been the past few weeks - the ripening fruit on the vine soaks up all that excess water and tends to burst through its skin. This excess water is what causes cracks in your tomatoes (and sometimes those water-logged fruits). Some tomatoes heal their cracks and others can not.

Excessive heat can also compromise a tomato crop - it can cause "green shoulders." And while some heirloom varieties actually have green tops, many do not. It's best to provide some shade to the tomatoes in these cases, using the foliage of the plant if possible.

When we know a rain storm or heat wave are coming, we harvest tomatoes that are just barely ripening and let them finish the process off of the vine. This doesn't change the taste and helps prevent cracks, soggy flesh and green shoulders.

Hopefully we'll have a huge harvest again this year so you can process jars of tomatoes for use in your sauces, soups and stews over the winter.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recipe with corn

Corn and radish salad

Ingredients: corn, radish, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil, s+p

Preparing: Cut the corn off the cob. Slice radishes thinly. Toss both with cilantro leaves, diced jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil and s+p.

Eating: A great salad with grilled meats.

Dish history: We first had this as a warm winter salad, using butter instead of olive oil. But with fresh corn and radishes, it is a great summer salad, too.

Storing vegetables

Receiving just-picked vegetables is exciting - and enjoying as much as you can on the day of harvest is the best way to use them. But we also have to store some. Here's a how-to on the best way to store farm-fresh produce.

In general, all produce stores better when dry. Wetness encourages decay. That said, we cold-water-rinse all leafy greens after we harvest them to prevent wilting. So when you receive them and they are wet, drying them before storage is important. All other vegetables will do best if you do NOT wash them before storage.

Basil, cilantro, parsley: If the leaves are wet, dry them (wet leaves turn black easily). Fill a glass with cold water, remove the rubber band holding the bunch together and place the bunch in the water (as you would cut flowers). Change your water every day. Keep the jar of herbs away from the stove so they stay cool (you can also store them in your refrigerator in a glass of water).

Lettuce: You can store lettuce 2 ways: (1) Spin your lettuce in your salad spinner and store directly in the spinner in your fridge; (2) Spin your lettuce and place in a plastic bag with some breathability (e.g., leave it open, it can have a few holes) and store in your fridge.

Kale, chard, spinach, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, bok choy, tatsoi, arugula, and other greens: Put an inch or so of water in a bowl, vase or cooler and put the stems in as you would cut flowers. Your greens will last the longest with this method. Or, store as lettuce above.

Beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips and other root vegetables: Cut off the greens, leaving less than an inch of stem (the leaves will continue to draw water from the root, making the root soften quickly), and store in your refrigerator. For long-term storage of carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips (but not radishes), see this post on root cellars.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes: Store in a cool, dark place in paper or cardboard (NOT plastic bags) and be sure they are not wet when you store them.

Tomatoes: Store on the counter top, in a bowl, in a basket... anywhere but your refrigerator! Best position is shoulder side down.

Corn: Don't ever store it! Eat it as soon as you get it.

Onions and garlic: Store in a cool, dark place for long-term storage. If you plan on using them in the next few weeks, they can be exposed to light. Store anywhere but your refrigerator!

Chives and scallions: Store as herbs and greens above or in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, fennel, Brussels sprouts, cabbage: All do best if dry and refrigerated.

Winter squash and pumpkins: Store in a cool, dark place (not in your refrigerator).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 9 CSA basket

This week we've got two of your summertime favorites... sweet corn and tomatoes!

Expect the following this week:
Tomatoes, corn, green beans, beets, onions, summer squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, basil, parsley, scallions, kale or chard or collards.

We'll harvest the corn in the afternoon so you can enjoy it as fresh as can be. We cook sweet corn as soon as we get it (it's best immediately off of the stalk - once it's picked, the sugars begin to turn to starch). Boil a pot of water; once it boils turn off the heat and throw the shucked corn in for 5 minutes.

Thanks very much to the Davoren/Farley family who have farmed some nearby land and have a delicious and bountiful crop of sweet corn that they are sharing with us! 

Another note: this is the last of the cucumbers. The cucumber beetle has taken its toll on our crop and the plants are wilting away.