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.