Sunday, August 31, 2008

you say potato

We dug up the potatoes we planted for the Cornell variety trial... by hand!
It was a lot of work. We used the digging forks to loosen up the area of the "hill" just under the dried-up vines, to expose the potatoes. Then we grubbed with our hands to find every last little tater! It sure made me appreciate the tractor. But "for science" the Cornell folks told us, we had to be thorough and accurate. Little Daniel helped out with his digger too.
We took a 5' sample from each variety, and weighed them up. Some were really productive, some not too much. There were red, blue, and yellow potatoes. One of the funniest names was "Prince Harry" which actually had lots of little hairs on it's leaves that prevented insect damage. This plant stayed green long after the others had died, and really did make a lot more spuds. I'll have to taste test them all now.
This is an Adirondack Blue... they don't all look like this one! But they are all bright blue inside.
At distribution, we labeled them all so that people could help us "taste-test" varieties.
A colorful offering this week: Red peppers, leeks, carrots, squash, zucchini, cucumbers,
Lettuce, garlic, and... my famous purple yard-long beans! The variety is called "Red Noodle". Most people asked what in the world you do with them, but thankfully Sister Mary Ann had cooked some up like green beans, enjoyed them, and shared her recipe. I like sauteing them in olive oil with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I only grew a small amount, so I didn't have enough for everyone. I gave them out "first come first serve".
We also offered the chance to take "seconds" onions... the ones that need to be peeled a bit further due to a certain "softness" but are delicious and totally still edible.
And our fall greens are in full swing now. Arugula, red mustard, green "golden frill" mustard, and herbs.
parsley, dill, cilantro...
This is "golden frill" mustard-- pretty spicy! It's good to spike a salad with, or cooked as a green.
And, tomatoes.
The variety above is an Italian heirloom called "Costoluto Genovese".
These huge ones below are from my little heirloom experiment-- I haven't been very scientific about it though, and couldn't tell you which variety is which. They are all delicious!

And another of my little trials, Scarlet Runner Beans:
I had time to harvest a bunch of dill and basil from a row we were tilling in, and hung it to dry on my porch:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

full shares & fall greens

We packed CSA boxes today and could barely fit everything in.
After placing 4 pounds of tomatoes on top of onions, squash, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, beans, and eggplant,
We still had to fit leeks, garlic, arugula, lettuce, & scallions in somehow!
Yes, I said arugula! We're starting to harvest our fall greens already-- the same mix as the spring: arugula, tat soi, red mustard, golden frill mustard, salad mix, as well as radishes & turnips! Well, those aren't all ready yet. And they need a lot of weeding, since we direct-seeded all of them. So we've been cultivating with the tractor, the wheel-hoe, and on our hands & knees.
The painstaking work is flicking out the teeny tiny weeds that grow up in between the spinach seedlings. Can you spot the weeds in this picture? They're there. And if we don't get them now, they will be a lot bigger problem in a week or two.
The sun beats down on us. But it has been a cool morning, so it feels good. I like this kind of work. You get to be in your head a lot, or make idle talk with your neighbor. Nick & I talk about our respective futures-- next year we are both looking forward to starting farms of our own.
My fingers brush against the dry crust of the earth & uncover the moisture just slightly underneath, almost instinctually dislodging anything not spinach. It brings a sense of order to my mind, knowing I got every single weed in the row, and now the crop has room to breathe, grow, and ripen. Of course I will never get every weed--- some cultivation situations are not so satisfying. And they just keep on coming up. But I don't think about all that when I'm on my hands & knees weeding spinach. I just embrace the groundedness, and get lost in the repetition of hopefulness.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

more fair stuff... livestock

Well, I went back to the fair today--- I couldn't help it. I just find it so fun & interesting to watch people, who spend their lives working with livestock, show off the animals they are so proud of.

In the morning was the draft horse show... these beauties are huge Belgians, and some of these girls showing them were about the size of one of their legs.
The judges base their decisions on the physical soundness of the animal, as well as the way the person handles the animal.
There was a costume show for the 4Hers, I especially enjoyed the calf dressed up as a tractor.
And I went to a rodeo for the first time! "Championship Bull Riding"... I had only seen it on television in hick bars before. But now I got to be up close with the real thing. The bulls are quite beautiful, and peacefully chew their cud while waiting for their time in the ring.
I staked out a spot right behind the where the cowboys waited their turn to ride.
I got to watch the whole process where they climb in the pen, situate themselves on the back of the bull, someone else pulls a rope around the back of the bull, ties it in a special knot, then the gate opens & the bull immediately starts wildly kicking around, trying to get that rope off it's private parts & throw the cowboy off.

It's a seriously dangerous sport, and I got to witness some backstage stuff. Like this 17-yr-old rider who I think got his leg stepped on, cringing in pain on the ground behind the ring. At the same time, another cowboy knelt down, took his hat off, and prayed. What a crazy thing to do, get on the back of a 2000 pound animal that's annoyed.
But it was pretty exciting, I won't lie. When they pull that gate open, and everyone's looking at this wild heaving beast.
It felt a little like the old-fashioned gladiator days... with pits of lions & bears tearing people apart.
After 3-10 seconds the rider usually falls off, slides off, or is thrown off. The crowd gasps when he's on the ground and the bull continues to buck, landing heavy hooves close by. The "rodeo clown" comes out to help, and a guy on horseback with a whip & lasso comes to the rescue to shoo the bull back into the pen. As soon as the rider picks himself up, he quickly runs from the bull, sometimes climbing the fence to get out of the way. I felt like I was in the colusseum or something, on these metal bleacher seats, standing-room only. Ah, the fair.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

tomatoes & potatoes & other things too

Harvesting fills the majority of our workday these days. Thankfully, we have several devoted volunteers that show up every week regularly to help out!

Here Farmer Dave is showing helpers what shade of ripeness to pick the tomatoes at:
Little Daniel looks impressed at the amount of tomatoes we picked!
We also dug a whole row of potatoes!

3 pounds of potatoes to each member...
Our new t-shirts look great:
This was again another bountiful distribution-- 4 cucumbers, 1 pound beans, 3 summer squash, 1 1/2 pound carrots, 3 peppers, 1 eggplant (only?),
6 pounds of tomatoes!!!
4 heads of lettuce!
1 pound of swiss chard, 3 leeks, 1 1/2 pounds of red onions!
And pick-your-own cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, beans, scallions, flowers, and cherry tomatoes!

When I'm not harvesting, I'm planning for next year's crops.... dreaming up which lettuce varieties to plant and brainstorming what to call my farm next year!


You can make delicious pickles without any vinegar. The only thing I used in this recipe that wasn't from the farm is salt. All I did was throw cucumbers, bunches of dill, slightly crushed garlic cloves, and some grape leaves (the tannins in them keep the pickles crisp!), into this food-grade plastic bucket, and cover it up with a salty brine. The ratio I used was about 3 tablespoons of salt to 1 quart of water. You just need enough to fully submerge the cukes. Then you need something to weigh it all down underneath the brine... we used a big ziplock bag filled with water, then a cloth over it to keep the dust out. One week later, tangy pickles! And doing it this way, using actual fermentation instead of vinegar, means there are all sorts of beneficial probiotic organisms in there too, to give you a healthy gut.
We also pickled onions, with spices in them like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, juniper berries, tarragon, & sage. The extra brine that came out of the onions made a really yummy broth-- I mixed it with chicken stock & some tomatoes.
They look so beautiful with the whole spices left in them:
And the pickles, too, with their chunks of garlic & dill:
The fridge is overflowing with fermented products now. I guess I've got a bit of an obsession here going....
... ask me for a free tasting!