Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January at the Farm

Well, Hawaii (see post below) is but a memory now (a nice memory), and it is back to work on the farm.

January is always busy for us. The last 4 years we have helped teach a full day CSA Mini-School at the Great Plains Growers Conference on the first weekend of January. Gearing up to spread the good word about CSAs takes a lot of our focus that first week. The minute the conference is done we dive into the seed and equipment order, with a self-imposed deadline of 1/15.

The seed order has become easier over the years, as computers and the internet are incredibly helpful. But spending $3,000 on thousands of tiny DNA packets still requires organization and planning. This year's order is on its way, with the hope that all the seeds we want are still left. The growth of organic vegetable growing has been a boon to the seed market, but does occasionally create shortfalls. We should be in pretty good shape though, as our order is usually timely.

Ordering the seeds

Thank heavens for spreadsheets

Once the seeds have been ordered, we work at getting all our other purchases to begin moving towards the farm. From potting soil compost, to a new mower, now is the time to get ready for the season. The first week of February is coming up soon, and that is when we start up the greenhouse, seeding the onions.

With the early planning done, and the greenhouse requiring limited tending, we are able to fill our days in late January and February with the fun of home remodeling (for the 8th year). This year's work will include tear out and insulation of our living room and office walls, electrical work, drywall and painting, replacing our wood burning stove with an efficient one, and other tasks if time allows. We are looking forward to completion of this "final" stage of work.

Rocky and the cats are surviving the winter. The cats are going a little stir-crazy though, as they stay inside a lot in the winter, and start getting on each other's nerves. Their favorite spot is under the wood stove. Cozy.

Rocky on the other hand, can take the cold like the Great Pyrennes/Anatolian Shepher cross that he is. Laying on a frozen pond is just fine with him.

The farmers stay cozy too. How can we not, with a stocked larder and freezer. One reason I got into canning and preserving was that, hard work though it is, it has a big payoff. Some folks seem to think you can't eat well with local food in the winter---it is the time that we actually fatten up on local fare. The recipe below is a delicious example of it.

A well stocked larder

Lamb Meatball Stew
The meatballs are an excellent way to make lamb stew, without the need for a cut of meat. You can season the meatballs to suit your taste. The carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and herbs are all part of our winter stores.

1 lb Parker Farm ground lamb
1 tbsp roasted garlic puree (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots
2 to 3 medium onions
1-1/2 lb potatoes
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart chicken, turkey, vegetable or other stock
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour

1. Mix the garlic puree, salt, and pepper with the ground lamb and shape into small meatballs (30 or so).
2. Brown the meatballs and then set side.

3. In the same pot, saute the onions and carrots for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs and cook for 3 minutes more.

4. Add the meatballs back to the pot along with the stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.
5. Make a roux with the butter and flour---melt the butter in a small pan, add the flour, stir constantly for about a minute. Add the roux to the meat and vegetables and blend in.
6. Let the stew simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
7. Serve hot with bread and butter and a cooked green (ours was kale with an olive oil/mustard sauce).
8. Enjoy winter eating.

December Vacation

We do our best every year to push our farm work to the back burner in December, and save time for some serious rest and relaxation. Vacation travel has been sparse the last several years, so this year we made plans to visit Kauai, Hawaii and some free family lodging.

It was a wonderful week, complete with sun every day, great beachs, snorkeling, amazing flora and fauna, and local food that included tropical fruit and fresh seafood. We were able to cook at our accomdations, so we visited the market each day, and prepared many of our meals "at home." Here are a few photos we took. Aloha.

Rebecca along a north shore beach


Taro fields

After a day of paddling an
outrigger with Rebecca's
Aunt Phyllis

The everpresent wild rooster