Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In the Share - Week 12

TOMATOES F/P  Along with a lot of reds and pinks, the yellow and green heirlooms are ripening.  A new variety for us this year, the Aunt Ruby's German Green stays green when ripe. 

CARROTS F/P  Freshly dug from the summer patch.  They are smaller than our storage types, but sweet.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS F/P  More sweet onions.  It is a bumper crop this year so we are sharing the overage... and we need to make room for the storage onions to come in to the barn from the field.

CUCUMBERS F/P  We have had a good run of cucumbers, but finally the patch is beginning to wind down.  Lately I have been making a quick cucumber salad at night:  cucumbers, onions, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.  It is even better the next day for lunch and dinner too. 



CABBAGE F  The last of the spring harvest.



NEXT WEEK:  More tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, eggplant and salsa packs.  Potatoes and garlic return.  Perhaps the first of the green beans.

In the last 7 days the walk-in cooler needed repair, the exhaust pipe and one of the shocks fell off of the truck, the power supply for our computer went out, the refrigerator at the apprentice house died, and the van needed a tow.

Sweetpea (the name of our VW van since long before we became her owners) delivers the produce to the city twice a week and we are happy to have her back in good working order.  Thanks to the diligent work at the mechanics (and, of course, a decrease in the bank account) the van is running again and most of the other items on the list are fixed or on their way to that end. 

Meanwhile the crops pay no attention to our mechanical difficulties.  They are ready for harvest or to be planted.  They need water and weeding.   This week we transplanted cauliflower, broccoli and kale.

The new barn waits expectantly to be filled with our tools, equipment and workshop.  It looks so beautiful but at this point the only things in it are racks of onions drying.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 12

Flying through July this year. The tomatoes are kicking in, there's lots of sunshine, the barn is bulging with onions and garlic, and we try to stay one step ahead of exhaustion. July is when we try to make ourselves believe the hump is being crested.

The cukes are slowing down, so enjoy them while you can. Among the recipes folks have posted on our group page are bread and butter pickles and chilled cucumber soup. Off the old blog posts there's always tabouleh. From a past newsletter there is the tasty garlicy tomato and bread gratin, and on the same page is a potato/onion hash recipe.

Kraut is on the bulk list again. We are trying to gauge interest in fermented products to see if scaling up is worth it. If you haven't tried sauerkraut in awhile, now is the time to get some. We made it especially for the membership, so give us your two cents.

Tomatillos destined for salsa packs
Out in the fields the feeding continues. The cowpeas and sudan grass in the high tunnel are growing well. A week or so more and we will mow it down and turn it under. The soil is hungry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In the Share - Week 11

POTATOES F/P  Purple Viking potatoes are a new variety for us.  The one we ordered didn't come and these were the replacements.  We think we'll grow them again next year. 

GARLIC F/P  More hardneck varieties that have been drying in the barn.

TOMATOES F/P  Along with the red tomatoes, there are heirloom yellows, oranges, pinks and greens.  We put them in the shares less than fully ripe so that they will last you all week. Wait for them to be brightly-colored and give to a gentle squeeze.


CUCUMBERS F/P  I am looking forward to trying the cold cucumber soup recipe that Merri posted on the FB group page. 

WALLA WALLA ONIONS F  Sweet onions aren't the best keepers so enjoy them while they are here.





NEXT WEEK:  More tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, peppers and salsa packs.  Carrots and red onions return.

Most of our days are spent hauling in the heavy harvest. 

eggplant, pepper and tomato plants
We are fortunate to have a great crew of farmers, farm apprentices, part-timers and volunteers getting things done.  
Olivia, John and Dustin
We also had help from my mom, Sharon, this week while she was visiting from central Missouri.  She took the train back tonight and is undoubtedly already working in her own garden of flowering plants, fruits and vegetables. 

What to Do With Your Share---Week 11

The last big wave of activity for the season is upon us as we begin preparing for fall and winter. We keep the weeding, trellising, mowing and harvesting going while we work to plant the fall vegetables and summer cover crops. On the plate it is the onions and potatoes that dominate.

Since our Week 8 blog we have purchased a julienne slicer and are using it regularly to make zucchini and eggplant noodles. This handy-as-can-be gadget can turn a jumbo zucchini into the equivalent of a box of spaghetti in no time.

Another use of the noodles is in a slaw. Simply mix them with some thinly sliced onions and grated carrots. Add some salt and pepper, your favorite slaw dressing, and it is a raw delight. Some finally chopped hot peppers, or pepperoncini rings are a good addition.

We have had good comments from those of you that have tried the kraut. Here in our kitchen we find it the perfect filling for a Reubenesque sandwich. Our version of this meatless reuben has a combo of Skyview Farms and Goatsbeard farm cheeses---Colby and Pitzicato respectively. A roasted hot pepper per sandwich seals the deal. Yum.

The makings of a Reubenesque

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What to Do With Your Share---Week 10

We continue to be amazed at what the fields here at the farm can produce. For the first time since 2008 we are flush with moisture. While making it hard to get into the field, the rain has also caused quite a flourish of some vegetables.

Eggplant and peppers are two examples. When we have a surplus of these veggies we simply fire up the broiler and cook away. The savory combo of sweet onions and eggplant rounds can be the basis of lots of tasty dishes.

Broiled onions and eggplant
Tonight we let them cool, chopped them up, and added them to a burrito. The rounds are also a nice slice to add to sandwiches. If you are too busy to use them right away, simple freeze them for later.

Another great dish for those many, many cucumbers you are getting is gazpacho. We did a primer on this Andalusian dish back in 2010. It offers good advice for making an authentic version.

And it is now salsa pack season, as the tomatillos start to fruit and fill out. Our recipes for fresh salsa and roasted salsa are in our past blogs, just follow the links.

Onions drying in the barn

In the Share - Week 10

CUCUMBERS F/P These plants continue to pump out the fruits.  Usually the first of our plantings has petered out by now, instead we have double the crop. 

CARROTS F/P  Orange only this time.  For the remainder of the summer they will be topped and bagged. 

SWEET ONIONS F/P  The upper barn is an allium wonderland of drying garlic and these beautiful and big Walla Wallas. 

TOMATOES F/P  So far the crop looks good, although the plants are battling the damp.  Tomatoes don't thrive in cool, wet summers but we planted a lot of plants so we should have a steady harvest for awhile.

SALSA PACK F  Comprised mainly of tomatillos, with a jalapeno, a bit of garlic and a small onion.  Add a tomato from your share if you wish, either way you've got salsa or chile verde at the ready.

SUMMER SQUASH F/P  yellow squash and zucchini in several stripes, shapes and colors.

SWEET PEPPERS F  The last of the green peppers for awhile.  The rest we will leave to ripen. 

EGGPLANT OR BEETS F/P  It would be a tough choice for me, but for some we realize these two can be unfamiliar.  Check out Tom's blog for simple ways to use eggplant.

HERB CHOICE F  Summer savory, garlic chives, or dried herbs.

HOT PEPPERS F  A few of your choice:  Jalapeno, Anaheim, Hot Wax or Pepperoncini.

NEXT WEEK:  More tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, salsa packs, and eggplant.  Potatoes and garlic.

The summer harvest is in full swing now and we have time for little else.  We are made very happy by the sweet onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes that we have been bringing into the barn for storage.  Twice a week we spend the day picking bucket upon bucket of cucumbers, along with crates of squash, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. 

While most of our fields are thriving, we had to mow down the basil plants this week.  The wet weather we have been having are the perfect environment for downy mildew.  We chopped off the top growth and sprayed with a pro-biotic treatment.  We hope that the basil will put out new leaves without mildew.  Until then, we will be relying on our other summer herb plants:  summer savory, parsley and the dried herbs we have in storage.

mildew-infected basil before chopping it down

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SARE Roller/Crimping Project Update

You may remember that back on March 11 we noted in this blog that we were awarded a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant for our project Cover Crop-based Reduced Tillage for Fall Production of Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli Using a Roller-Crimper and No-Till Planting Aid. Since that time we have been proceeding along and are several steps down the line.

Work began on the project last September when we planted a cover crop of rye grass and hairy vetch. The rye/vetch came up well in Spring 2014, despite the extremely cold winter and a dry April & May. 

By mid-May the rye/vetch was four feet tall and flowering.  Normally, we would mow down the cover crop and then incorporate it into the soil with our tillage equipment, a Tortella spader.  For the SARE grant we are experimenting with using the roller on our flail mower to "roll down" the rye/vetch mix to create a mulch that we can plant directly into.  The primary benefit of this system is that it requires less hand labor and tractor-time to achieve the same results as spading a bed and then hand-mulching it.

We are doing a side-by-side comparison of the two techniques.  We rolled rye/vetch area on May 16 and it went well, creating a beautiful, spongy carpet of greenery.

Mowed block on left. Block to be rolled/crimped on right
Rolling/crimping the rye/vetch

Freshly rolled and crimped rye/vetch

Summer Tomato Planting
The beds described above are for our fall brassica plantings. We also ran a test bed for our mid-summer planting of tomatoes.  Half of a 200 ft. bed was rolled/crimped and the other half was mowed and spaded.

These beds proved problematic in June as they are located in a bit of a dip in the fields, and we received 10 inches of rain over the first 3 weeks of the month, making it difficult to do any planting or spading. But we did what we could, and right now things look good, although we couldn't plant the middle portion of the bed due to the mud.

The rolled area of this bed did a good job of keeping down weeds and required less than 10 minutes of weeding with four people. The plants have been caged and are beginning to grow.

Summer tomato plants in rolled/crimped beds.
Mowed and spaded are at far end of bed

Pre-Planting Status of Brassica Beds
By June we had spaded the mowed bed and observed the vetch growing back in the rolled down beds. Subsequent re-rolling did not kill the vetch and so it was mowed off and eventually died.

Re-growth of vetch in rolled bed. Spaded bed on left.
Rolled bed with vetch mowed off.

Unfortunately, we are suffering from a profusion of bind weed on our farm, and while here in July the rye/vetch mulch has held up well, the bed will be in need of a serious weeding within the next couple weeks. This will be coinciding with the initiation of our fall brassica plantings.

Bind weed coming through the mulch

The adjacent beds were spaded twice and harrowed once to keep down weeds and try to form a "stale seed bed." All this work was done during the aforementioned wet June and more recent wet early July.
Fabrication of the No-Till Planting Aid (NTPA)
Perhaps the most challenging part of the project (so far) has been the fabrication of the NTPA. It was initially thought that we could put together this critical tool with existing farm implements, a couple purchases, and some bolts.
However, once we got our technical advisor Dr. Ron Morse of Virginia Tech on board we realized that we should invest in newer and heftier parts to help assure success. This led to the purchase of a new coulter (big round cutter) and fertilizer knife. While putting things together in May and June we then began realizing some of the subtle limitations of the parts we had on hand.
We recently finished fabrication of one of the NTPAs and are in the process of finalizing the other. Along with Dr. Morse we have our CSA membership to thank, as we were able to get in touch with a local steel fabricator that supplied some critial parts for the unit.
NTPA No. 1

Work to Come
Upon completion of the second NTPA we will test it and then prepare the rolled/crimped beds for fall brassica planting. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What to Do With YOur Share---Week 9

The tomatoes are starting and we hope continuing for much of the rest of the season. Along with the cukes, zukes, onions, peppers and eggplant the summer planting is flourishing. The potatoes are the perfect topping to this abundance. We are looking forward to them being in the shares every other week for awhile.

Perhaps my favorite potato dish is fried with onions and peppers. I have learned the trick of steaming everything before frying to obtain the perfect texture. This weeks potatoes, a combo of Red Pontiac and Purple Viking, really make this dish.

Another item this week is garlic. We only recently dug this pungent allium from the ground, and it does best if it is dried back for about a month. This share's garlic is only 2 weeks old, but still plenty edible. We suggest that you use it within the next couple weeks.

freshly dug garlic
We also are continuing to keep up with our cover cropping schedule, recently seeding numerous beds with a combo of cowpeas and sudan grass. These seedings came up well, and bode well for future crops.

cowpeas and sudan grass at sunrise

In the Share - Week 9

TOMATOES F/P The first of the season.  Some will get cherry tomatoes, others a small sampling from the heirloom and hybrid slicers.   The hybrid red tomatoes are first to bear fruit along with a few of the "black" heirlooms.  The cherry tomatoes come in a rainbow of colors.  No matter the color, a ripe tomato should be bright -colored and soft to the touch.

NEW POTATOES F/P  We are determined to start digging the taters tomorrow despite the mud  Don't expect them to be super free of dirt, but they are so yummy when fresh.  Refrigerate if you want to keep them for very long.  They have yet to grow their thick skins.

SWEET PEPPERS F/P  Pruning a few off the developing plants helps keeps them growing. 

CUCUMBERS F/P  The cukes are still going strong.

SUMMER SQUASH F/P  A mixture of zucchinis and yellow squash for all.  We are loving the zucchini noodles!

GARLIC  F/P  The garlic is juicy at this early stage.

BASIL AND PARSLEY  F/P  Basil for the tomatoes and parsley for the potatoes.

LETTUCE F  Small crunchy heads from a late Spring planting.

EGGPLANT F  We like to toss eggplant with olive oil and broil until it as soft as a cooked mushroom.

NEXT WEEK:  More tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, peppers and eggplant.  Carrots and sweet onions return. 

A lot has happened since last Tuesday.  The most obvious change is the new barn shaping up before our very eyes.  It really is nice to see it come together so quickly and nicely too.  In a week's time Arlen and his brothers had the structure up, roofed and concrete poured. 

The rainbow in the photo came after one of the many rain storms that have been around this week.  Storms with strong winds and lots of rain came through last night but everything fared alright.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What to Do With Your Share---Week 8

It is already July. Hard to believe the season is so far along. We have fields packed with garlic, onions, carrots, and potatoes that must be harvested before the month is out. We are hoping to pull and dig everything at its peak and look forward to clearing out the fields.

A favorite of mine, the Tropea onion is at its peak right now. We are happy to be able to get everyone a good bunch of this unique onion. We used it last night as the main topping of our pizza. We sliced the onion thin, sauted it in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, and then turned down the heat to slowly carmelize them before using on the pizza. A hefty topping of Goatsbeard chive cheese, as well as some anchovies, olives and olive oil made for a delicious white pizza.

Our dinner treat tonight was sauted zucchini noodles. Member Heather Gibbons posted her incredibly simple recipe and a photo of the finished product on Facebook. It has been shared to the Fair Share Farm CSA closed group page. Join if you have not already so you can stay up-to-date on CSA happenings.

Our chickens have been happy this year, as they see greener pastures every several weeks. Part of the answer to the question of "what do they eat" is shown in the video below. The seed heads are from oats we seeded as a spring cover crop. They go right for them.

In the Share - Week 8

CARROTS F  The carrots are full size now and ready for harvest.  If you are at the farm this week you may be digging lots of carrots.

CUCUMBERS F/P  The cucumbers continue their onslaught. 

ZUCCHINI F/P  Check out Tom's post about zucchini noodles.  Can't wait to try them!

SUMMER SQUASH F  Yellow squash and Lebanese types, which are similar to a zucchini.

TROPEA RED ONIONS F/P  We are really proud of these heirloom beauties.  They hail from the region in Italy that Tom's grandparents called home before immigrating to America.

KOHLRABI F The last of the kohlrabi until the fall season.

GREENS F  Kale, Swiss chard, or bok choy.

HERB CHOICE F/P  Basil, Thai basil or mint.

NEXT WEEK:  More cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, onions, greens, herbs.  Beets and new potatoes.

Mornings at the farm are now fully focused on the harvest.  Beets, garlic, carrots.  Cucumbers and other summer fruits fill the bed of the truck.  The farm truck, Krusty (after the Simpson's clown), is suited to the short daily commute to the fields and back. 

The farm's flower patch is now open for u-pick.  If you are at the farm for pick-up or a work shift, save time to pick yourself a bouquet to take home free of charge.  Blooming now are many of the perennial flowers and the zinnias are starting.  At some point soon we will add the flowers to the bulk list if you would like to pay for a bouquet to be sent in to your distribution site.   The flowers provide food and habitat to the farm's beneficial insects and pollinators, as well as cheering us humans in our indoor spaces.