Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starting seeds

The end of February marks seed starting season for farmers. Even though we're technically 11 weeks before the last average frost date in our region, we sow seeds for vegetables that we want to have early in the season (e.g., spinach, scallions, lettuce, kale) and that have a long growing season so need a head start (e.g., parsley, fennel, chives, leeks). For the next several weeks we'll start seeds in organic potting soil in the sunniest part of our house, outside protected in our cold frame under double plastic, or directly outside in sunny spots under double plastic. If we had a greenhouse, we'd be starting seeds in there.

Here's to a productive 2012 season!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back to the rocks

These spring-like days have drawn us back outside to prepare for approaching planting. Was this a sufficient break from the hard, outdoor labor we did all last year? Are we really ready to get back to the rocks?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicken prep

We're expanding our operation this year to include livestock. In mid-March we have 30 1-day-old laying chicks being delivered. Learning about how to properly brood chicks has been keeping us busy; we've got to feed and water them appropriately, keep them warm until they "feather out" and protect them from predators.

So after reading a reliable book and speaking with a few local farmers, we've sourced our organic feed, built our brooder, ordered our electric fencing and have nearly completed our mobile chicken coop. The mobile chicken coop (pictured here) will protect our laying hens in their early life until we have our growers (i.e., meat birds) delivered in mid-May. This coop will be covered with tarp or plastic to keep the birds dry; and it has already been fitted with chicken and contractor wire to try to keep predators out at night.

Our plans are to construct a more permanent or sturdy chicken coop for the laying hens, complete with laying boxes and roosts, so we can keep them over the winter into their second and third years when they produce the majority of their eggs. The growers, well, they'll lead shorter lives... but happy ones! Because they'll be up in our red pine field foraging around like they are meant to be, rather than being cooped up their entire lives. And since our coop is light enough to be moved, we can rotate them to fresh pasture as often as we need to.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recipe with winter squash

Butternut squash risotto w/ spinach and blue cheese

Ingredients: oil/butter, onion, rosemary, arborio rice, white wine, broth, butternut squash (or any winter squash), spinach, blue cheese

Preparing: Prepare as with any risotto. Heat oil/butter in a pan, add onions and rosemary and cook for few minutes, add rice and cook until slightly toasted or aromatic. Add white wine and boil down. Add diced butternut squash and begin adding hot broth by the half-cup-ful. Stir often. Once rice and squash are done, stir in spinach. Then add blue cheese to taste.

Eating: Pairs really well with a dry riesling (to be exact: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, 2006, Alsace, France).

Dish history: Our friends made this dish for us during our first "fancy wine night." It's all about the texture, and to VC, making a great risotto is a labor of love.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What will this mild winter mean?

Some of our trees are being tricked into budding. I've seen early bulbs breaking through. The ground is not frozen and it makes me feel guilty for not being outside.

All of us farmers are a bit confused by this mild winter weather. Do we start our springtime chores early? Do we wait in anticipation of some late snowfalls? Will we ever have a string of days with hard freezes? Will they hopefully get here soon if they plan on showing up and promise not to come in March or April?!?

Some bee-keepers are happy because their hives are still active. But maple syrup tappers are concerned - the weather patterns might shorten the season. Laying hens are producing well with the mild temperatures. Annual vegetables are enjoying their extended lifespans, but perennials might not be getting an adequate hibernation period.

After last year's crazy weather patterns (i.e., heavy winter snowfalls, fast thaw that lead to flooding and wet fields, a dry June, tropical storm-filled months in late summer), we - as first-time farmers - expected this year to be "normal." Everyone told us "it's never happened like this before..." But I think we'll go into this year's season expecting the unexpected, the "new normal," which really means that anything goes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


For the past year we have used deer netting at the head of our driveway to keep deer and horses out of our farm space, a temporary and cumbersome fix since we had to open and close it every time we or anyone drove a car in or out. A few months ago, with hopes to build a permanent tranquera (a gate, Argentine-style), we set two foundation poles at the gateway into our pasture and cured several logs for the gates themselves. Vegetables, digging and rocks distracted us, and only now have we had the time to construct it.
Jason used his notching techniques to join our horizontal and vertical poles. We used cables for tension support on each gate (these things are heavy, and without support they'd start sinking into the ground). We stapled up deer fencing on the back of the gates to prevent any run-throughs. Hanging the gates was a task - really in patience and luck, having to align the three hinges perfectly while holding up these hefty doors. Now we just have to fashion a latch and string up some more deer-fencing along the sides. A grand entrance to Longhaul Farm...