Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In the Share - Week 17

cucurbit family fruit
TOMATOES (F/P) A combination of slicers and cherry tomatoes

COLORFUL CARROTS (F/P) This may be the last week of these. Thank you carrots of all colors for nourishing us during a brutal summer!

YELLOW OR RED ONIONS (F/P) The yellow onions are our best keepers and they’ve got a bite to prove it.

WATERMELON, CANTALOUPE OR PUMPKIN (F/P) We realize this is an odd-ball of a choice, but it is what we have. Choose which big ball of fruit you want.

 HOT PEPPERS (F) We continue to have a lot of hot peppers, one of the few fruiting plants that is not affected by high temperatures.

RATTLESNAKE BEANS (F) Precious, precious beans! Finally after months of watching six rows of beans sit and do nothing in the heat, our pole beans are ready to be picked. ‘Snake’ beans can get big but they stay tender and have a nice nutty flavor. Partial shares will get them next week and hopefully the full shares will too.

OKRA, BEETS OR EGGPLANT (P) The last of the beets until fall. Okra and eggplant should be going on for awhile more.

GREENS CHOICE (F) There is some kale and collard plants that need to be picked. They won’t be big bunches but it is nice to have something green for a change.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) We are sending in more dried herbs along with sage and thyme.

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, and beans. Arugula and radishes, we hope. Garlic returns.


The big news on the farm is the glorious high tunnel taking shape over in its corner of the farm. See Tom’s post for more on the work day on Sunday, but I must say we are stupendously fortunate to have such capable, friendly folks in our corner. We slopped around in the mud together and cogitated over the plans together and in the end we managed to get a lot done and have a good time doing it. Today we began seeding the plants that will call the high tunnel home in about a month’s time.

Lettuces, bok choy, bunching onions, beets, and bulb fennel are seeded so far. Also on the list to enter the tunnel: radishes, carrots, young turnips, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, rapini and endive. Since we have never done this before we are very hesitant to predict how the season will turn out, but we hope to offer an extension of the CSA season by three weeks to a maximum of 50 current CSA members. The twenty-fourth and final week of the regular CSA season will be the week ending October 20th. Once we get to October, we will ask you to let us know if you would like to extend your share.

beneficial insect:  predatory lacewing

In the meantime, we are looking forward to the beginning of a new harvest season. The small bunches of kale and collards are ushering us into what looks to be a bountiful fall. The 0.75 inch rain on Sunday gave the thousands of baby seedlings a nice drink, but six inches down the soil is still dry. The irrigation pump stays on to supplement what nature provides. We are keeping an eye on Hurricane Isaac but it is unclear if any rain will get here. So far we are a foot of rain below average for the year. We hope that everyone stays safe down in the Gulf Coast and that they send some of their extra moisture on up to us.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 17

The high tunnel work continues. You can view the latest progress by clicking on the video to the right. Thanks once again to all who helped. Today John and I framed in the second end wall. The view from the top was quite nice.

High tunnel beds ready for planting
We hosted a farm tour for Lincoln University and MU Extension, as well as the Mattie Rhodes Center on Saturday and had a good time. Marlin Bates, one of our local horticulturalists from MU Extension, gave a talk on GAP or Good Agricutural Practices. The students toured our packing room facility and we talked about the importance of safe hygiene.

Lincoln U./MU Extension tour
Dr. Jamie Pinero, an entomologist from Lincoln talked about pests, beneficials, trap cropping, and stink bug and cucumber beetle management. We will be working together with him next year and feel good that we will develop systems for reducing loss from these pests over time.

The target of these bugs is the cucurbit crop, which includes melons and pumpkins. That is why we don't have enough pumpkins for everyone, or watermelon for everyone, but have just enough for them to be a choice. Some are larger than others so sorry if your portion size is small, we are working on it.

Melon Additives
Picking vine fruit like melons is a tricky process. You have to know the signs of ripeness, be they a thump or a sniff or a look. So we can not guarentee perfect ripeness in every melon. If your melon is just not up to ripeness, you can enhance the flavor a bit with some salt, sugar, honey, citrus, or whatever you like.

Rebecca uses a syrup of juice of half a lime, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp honey. I like a dash of salt.

Lastly, you have to see this picture of a sunflower that grew in our yard all by itself. No tilling, planting, hoeing, weeding, trellising, pruning or watering. We estimate this helianthus is 12 to 14 feet tall. Amazing.

Farm Flowers

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What to Do With Your Share---Week 16

It's been a roller coaster of a summer. The cool spell we are about to leave did a good job of reviving the farm and farmers. The future sounds dry though, and the words drought and vegetable farm are ones that we don't like to use in the same sentance. But in late-August 2012 that is the weather situation.

Despite it all we continue to plant vegetables and cover crops. The picture below is apprentice Dani Hurst seeding some buckwheat and tillage radish in the beds where the Spring broccoli was. It's our second try in those beds, and we really need rain to get the seeds to germinate.

Planting cover crops

Fried Potatoes and Peppers
The recipe this week is a repeat from the past, from Week 16 of 2009. We love peppers, onions, potatoes and garlic all together. And while we don't have beans just yet, you can get the idea with this recipe. You can modify it to whatever ingredients you have at hand. Also, the potatoes fry up better if they are first cut to size and parboil in water for about 15 minutes. Parsley and marjoram are perfect herbs for this mix.

As Rebecca mentioned we hope to hand out our regular 2 heads of garlic per share every other week for the rest of the season. We have had to cull out several hundred head of soft-neck garlic due to poor curing, but luckily it seems the problem is concentrated only in that type of garlic. Other varieties have done fine, and we appear to have plenty of high quality seed garlic to plant next year's crop (we need over 700 heads.) We hope that you enjoy this fresh, local garlic as much as we do.

Pond Field sunrise

In the Share - Week 16


TOMATOES (F/P) Most of the fruit is coming from our “heat-set” hybrids, which are packed with flavor thanks to the drought.

POTATOES (F/P) This will be the last week of potatoes in the shares for the year. There is an assortment of fingerling, yellow and red.

GARLIC (F/P) After checking the seed garlic, we have enough to plant and some more we can hand out to you for a few more weeks.

CARROTS (F/P) Plain orange this week, no weird colors but boy are they sweet.

SWEET PEPPERS (P) A combination of shapes and sizes.

BEETS (F) The spring-planted bulk roots are shining right now as they help us over the hump to autumn.

CHOICE: OKRA, HOT PEPPERS, EGGPLANT, SALSA PACK, OR ONIONS (F) Choices, choices, there are many.

HERB CHOICE (F) Marjoram, parsley or a dried herb. We’ve pulled together some more dried herbs for the selection in order to give the basil a break. Any week you can choose a dried tin instead of a fresh herb.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms CSA shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, sweet peppers, okra, hot peppers, carrots and onions. A few more beets.


The farm is running full steam ahead as we have since the pace quickened sometime back in March. Every August we more-or-less repeat the Spring planting in order to have lots of tender greens and roots feeding us through the fall. The sweaty work is usually compensated by a bountiful end of the growing season. We are hopeful that we are headed in that direction. The irrigation pond is holding and has actually risen since we began filling it from the old pond. We are about finished with that process and think that we have plenty of water to make it until first frost.

We realize how very fortunate we are to be in this position. Farmers across the region are experiencing losses to crops and entire seasons of income. Today the weatherman said, he had “never seen anything like this”. Humidity is at a desert level, 17%. They talk of a chance of rain this weekend and we are hoping it happens despite having a busy weekend scheduled out of doors. We hope to get the high tunnel finished on Sunday with a good crew signed on to do the job. We will happily cancel and re-schedule if it means it is too muddy to work. We haven’t had been able to use that excuse since sometime in March or April!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What to Do With Your Share---Week 15

What a crazy year. One week you're blogging about how hot and dry it is, and the next week you are handing out winter squash and cool as a cucumber. The thing that amazes me is that not one single meteorologist saw this coming so quick. Shows how hard the weather is to predict. Must be the butterfly effect.

Well as I said, I am writing about winter squash. This year's crop is a long story that will be shortened to say that we spent a lot of time and effort on it, and it performed beautifully for a long time, but bugs and heat finally got the best of it just as the fruits began to ripen.

In order to salvage this wonderful flush of fruit we picked it a little younger than we would have liked. So that means you should eat the winter squash within a week or so. You can store it in the fridge without a bag for a week to 10 days.

Our recipe suggestion follows below. In using whatever we had at hand we found butternut squash, onions, garlic, beets, hot peppers and sage. We figure it is possible that you have a few ingredients in the back of the fridge that will compliment this recipe and we hope you search them out. Otherwise you could wait til next week as we should have beet readily available.

You can clean the butternut squash by cutting off the top and bottom and then cutting it from top to bottom and scooping out the seeds. The skin is edible, but if you want you can peel it off with a vegetable peeler.

Roasted Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 medium onions, 3 medium carrots, and 3 medium beets cut into bite-sized chunks
6 to 8 sage leaves, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 hot peppers, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin oil oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tsp salt
cracked pepper to taste

 Preheat oven to 425 deg F.
Mix the marinade with the squash, onions, carrots, sage and beets and let set 15 minutes.
Place the vegetables in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes
Add garlic and hot peppers, stir and roast for 10 minutes more, or until desired tenderness.
Garnish with parsley, thyme or summer savory and a little sour cream or yogurt.

In the Share - Week 15

colorful carrots

TOMATOES (F/P) Everyone will either get a few slicers or a quart of cherry tomatoes. The slicers are ripening slowly so give them a few days on your counter before attempting to eat them.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH (F/P) Yes, it is a bit out of season but we have no choice. The pests killed off the plants before the fruit fully ripened. They are still good, but they won’t keep long. See Tom’s post for a recipe.

COLORFUL CARROTS (F/P) We finished the harvest of the spring plantings. The carrots are quite crisp and tender despite the arid weather.  We  are looking forward to having them in the shares for several weeks now.

RED ONIONS (F/P)  everyone gets a quart.

SWEET PEPPERS (F) I like to eat the small ones for a snack. The red-horn shaped ones are especially sweet.

HOT PEPPERS, OKRA OR SALSA PACK (F) Take your pick. We are hopeful that the okra will kick in as it usually does in August. So far it has been shy about giving up its fruit.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) Basil, sage or a dried herb.

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, carrots, peppers and okra. Potatoes, garlic and beets return.


In a little under 48 hours the air shifted from sultry heat to cool and almost coastal. The farm crew had to dig to the bottom of their closets to find long pants and sweatshirts for the dewy mornings. Despite almost constant clouds, only a few drizzles have fallen since the “hallelujah” rain of 0.8 inch rain last week (see Tom’s post from then for the beautiful weather that brought the rain to us). With the doubling of our so lar power last year (thank you, federal stimulus!) the panels generate about 400 watts of energy with full cl oud cover. That is at half-strength, but still enough to water a big block of crops. We are already seeing the response of the plants to the decrease in temperatures. Finally after many weeks of worrying over the pole beans, they are beginning to set fruit. Young, green fruit cover many of the pepper and tomato plants.

More fall crops went in the ground this week: lettuce, bulb fennel and more cauliflower.

 We have also been seeding all of the fall roots and greens. Many are up and looking good.

We expect the shares to be light for a few weeks, until the fall roots and greens are ready. We have some room for a light week or two thanks to a warm spring that allowed us to sta rt the CSA season a week early. So, we hope you enjoy the offerings from the tough-as-nails plants that survived Summer 2012. We figure by the middle of September we will be reaping the harvest in the form of lettuce salads and freshly dug turnips.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rain at the Farm

It has been a while, but we finally got some relief. A full 0.8 inches of rain fell last night at the farm, quenching and cooling the soil and the plants. This precipitation will be greatly appreciated by all, especially the recently seeded carrots, beets, radishes, turnips and arugula. The forecast of two 80 degree days are also welcome.

The rain was preceeded by an enveloping wall of windswept clouds. It was a "you had to be there" moment, but I hope that the photo gives some indication of the beauty of it all.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In the Share - Week 14

the rainbow of sweet peppers ripening at the farm

TOMATOES (F/P) The main crop is on a bit of a break now. The plants are setting new green fruit so hopefully we will have a nice late season flush. In the meantime, the late planting of “heat-setting” types is coming in.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F) More snack-sized fruit for your enjoyment.

POTATOES (F) I can’t remember the last time we had weather like they have in Ireland or the mountains of Peru, the home of the potato. So it should come as no surprise that the potato crop did poorly this year. Partial shares will hopefully get some next round.

MELONS (F/P) The last of the melons, cantaloupe and more yellow watermelon.

SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) Peppers love the heat for sure, but they also love a lot of water. We’re doing our best to keep them watered but as quickly as we can pour it on, the ground sucks it up.

EGGPLANT (P) The “plant” is going to take its usual mid-summer hiatus a bit earlier this year than usual.  With a little luck in the form of rain it should make a nice resurgence in the early fall.

GARLIC (F/P) Tom can tell you more about the garlic, but the prognosis is not good. Everyone gets one head this week while we assess the damage.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) parsley, basil, summer savory, thyme or a dried herb

HOT PEPPERS, SALSA PACK OR OKRA (P) If anything is thriving right now on the farm it is the hot peppers.  If you can't stand the heat, try one of the other options or get out of the kitchen ... or field in our case!

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms CSA shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra. Carrots, beets and onions return


The farm is beginning to enter a period of smaller harvests due to the extreme drought and heat. We continue to draw water from the pond constantly. We have mulched each and every crop with a thick layer of hay. Even these efforts are not enough to keep the plants thriving. While we keep the summer plants alive, our attention increasingly is focused on the newly planted fall crops. The cabbages, broccolis and cauliflowers have been in the ground for several weeks. Kale, kohlrabi and lettuces are in too. This week we began seeding the roots: carrots, beets, turnips and radishes. We are gambling on the forecast of cooler temperatures and perhaps even a bit of rain. We need a break from the heat and drought for these crops to do well and are hoping that the forecasts are correct and some relief is on the way.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 14

August is here, and the wear and tear on all things living on the farm is showing. Weatherunderground.com archives show we have had 21 days at 100 degrees or more since June 27th. In this 42-day stretch there has only been 0.80 inches of rain. This punishing weather may subside over the next few days and we are awaiting a couple of days in the 80's and maybe some rain. We shall see what the future brings us.

One of the casualties of this year's unusual weather is the soft-neck garlic. The hot and dry Spring caused our garlic plants to die back early (five weeks early), before they were fully formed. The result was that the cloves in the center of the bulb never developed. The centers instead consist of a mass of garlic paper that was so moist it never dried out properly, and instead lead to rotting in many a bulb.

Early June garlic harvest
Today we had the sad job of culling out these soft, withered heads and had to throw away an estimated 60 to 70% of our softneck. Other varieties fared better, but we are in the process of cleaning and inspecting all of our garlic to make sure we have enough to hand out in future shares, as well as to plant for next year's crop.

So, because of all this the full shares will only get one head of garlic in their share for the near future. The other thing to know is that you may break your garlic open and find some remnants of a soft center in it. If that is the case, do not throw out the whole head, but save any outer cloves that are firm. If you use garlic regularly you can store the good cloves in an open container on your counter. Otherwise you can store them in the fridge.

This Week's Recipe
While I write the recipe section of our blog, it is not without help from Rebecca in the kitchen. With a ready vegetable supply, a freezer of Parker Farms meat and the internet at hand, we are never far from a plethora of options for a tasty meal. Last week our search of the cooler, freezer and world wide web included "eggplant" and "lamb."

The results were exceptional, as the Google suggested the simply named recipe Lamb with Eggplant from the blog Porcini Chronicles. I will not reprint it here, as you can follow the link. Eggplant, onion, tomatoes, ground lamb and spices were all at hand and the results were delicious. It was a sweet and savory dish that we will no doubt repeat in the future.