Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Website - New Post!

Hello All! This will be my last blogpost at this location! We have successfully redesigned our website with the help of Mara's brother Phil Sandoval - the idea is that all Half Pint Farm things will be parked at the website - archive of all past blogposts, all new blogposts, recipes, general farm info, pictures, etc. This is in an effort to keep everything together! We hope that you will visit our blogposts there - please leave us comments and check out our recipes and pictures! Check us out at!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Haygrove, Season #2

This week saw us accomplishing a major project: the Haygrove got its skin put on! This is a very stressful project that almost completely relies on two things to be in line before we even begin to think of it happening: Firstly, you need a crew of willing workers - about 7 will do. Next, you need no wind. We can do this project in 3-5 mph winds, but no wind is really ideal. We set our sights on Wednesday, and began the familiar vigil at the computer, looking at and the hour-by-hour forecast, with particular interest in the wind speeds. We were watching and hoping the weather would be calm and beautiful like last year - anything more than 5 mph winds was a definite no-go for the project. For farmers, horror can come in many disguises: hail, too much rain, not enough rain, vandalism, and wind. For us, our fears are usually placed squarely on wind and hail. Picture a piece of plastic 25'x300' turning into a HUGE kite when the slightest wind kicks up... not a fun prospect, and a real mood dampener when really all you'd like is for the project to go off without a hitch, like a well-oiled machine.
Well, it really did go very well on Wednesday, that is until the winds kicked up from 5 to 7 to 10 mph winds! The plastic was blown off, and gingerly replaced by our intrepid crew of Half Pint Farm helpers. Needless to say, we didn't get too many pictures (stressed out as we were), but our friend Becky DID get some shots over her shoulder now and then during the process. Thank you, Becky! We decided to call it a day (due to being super stressed out after the wind episode), and tried to charm everyone back on Thursday to finish the job - luring people with hot coffee and donuts... ah well, if only locally made breakfast pastries were available at 6am, that could have been the lure! At any rate, we were able to secure our amazing crew once again, and we succeeded in getting the other two bays skinned - even though it was around 10
mph winds! Our trick was to thread the tension ropes AS we were tightening the plastic - this worked like a charm and we were able to send everyone home 2.5 hours after starting! I am proud of us to have the courage to continue on, even though the prospect was not good - windy, very windy. What a major success for this modern barn raising - not possible without the kindness of friends and colleagues; getting up at dawn to face frozen fingers, sore muscles, and a feeling of accomplishment... all for the sincere thanks and undying gratitude of a couple of urban farmers and...oh yeah, a couple of donuts and some coffee, too. We cannot thank you enough - and now our season is off to a rocking start thanks to you! We will be transplanting out our first succession of favas, carrots, lettuce heads, salad mix, spinach, arugula and radishes this very week - a full week earlier than last year! Here's to many hands (Alyssa, Jess, Josh, Chris, Bill, Becky, Aly, Nick, Kris & Linus) conquering the wind - let the season truly begin!

Mara helping to guide the tape to secure the end.

And now on the other side...

Alyssa and Mara holding the tension of the plastic while Spencer secures the top with tape and clips.

Securing the tops.

The doors get put on once all of the tension ropes are in place.

Tension ropes in place.

The doors are on, and we're in business!

The field looking like its old self. The only things missing now are the crops!

From the entrance. Next up - transplanting!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lion-like Exit, March

What a crazy month this has been! The weather has been definitely displaying the death-throes of winter in all its glory. Just when we're getting excited, really thinking this sun is here to stay; we get slammed with snow, sleet, rain and floods. Plus, there's the nasty gray sky that we're all so tired of - hanging in there. Heavily. BUT! Then I look at the forecast today, and see that we've got 70s and sunshine on tap for later this week, and suddenly I realize that we really will make it to Spring and
finally get our rightful daily dose of sunshine! We have been diligently seeding in the greenhouse the past two weeks, and have some micros that need some harvesting come Wednesday - a true sign of it all beginning again! We get our annual delivery of compost this Thursday, tractor work all day to get that spread around our field, then we're off to the races with the skinning of the Haygrove on Friday morning! Next week we till and seed the first rounds of lettuces, salad mix, spinach, arugula, radishes, favas and broccoli raab into the Haygrove and work on the usual spring farm repairs that ready us for the real work as the season starts inching closer!

Spence checking out the flooding - just on the edge of our garlic... not too bad!

Some chickweed trying to breathe through the icy fortress the flood left behind.

Arugula in the hoophouse being strong and vigorous!

My favorite day of all - OK, only after pepper planting day, that is! - is tomato planting day! Such great names, textures and smells! Spencer found a squashed grub skin in a package from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this year - too funny! I love how tomato seeds range in looks from fuzzy and chubby to skinny and shiny - kinda like the fruits they bear. Can hardly wait to sink my teeth into some of these! T-minus 19 weeks, give or take. Geez!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Seeding and Growing!

Just had to share some photos of what's going on in the greenhouse! First two rounds of micros are seeded and sprouting happily, while the rest of the trays of peppers and lettuces, beets and onions are quietly beginning their season in the trays of soil. It's always so rejuvenating to see those little green sprouts begin our season for us - first micro harvest will be next Friday, if all goes well! Some of my current favorite photos:

Seeding peppers - my favorite thing to do in the greenhouse! I especially love how the hot pepper seeds have a piquancy to them that I can detect when I lick my finger to pick up a stray seed to move it to the proper cell - tastes like summer to me!

Some micros - these are giant red mustards... though micro to us!

Red choi

and for a new experiment this year - micro chards, here's yellow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Early Spring on the Farm!

Went to the farm today to try and clean out the shed a bit to make room for our bulk order of organic fertilizers that we're picking up this weekend. It was so nice to see the field ready for us - just needs a bit more thawing and we can get going! Thought we'd share a couple of pictures we took today - it was a gorgeous day, cool and warm at the same time; sure feels like Spring! I heard the weather guy say that yesterday was the end of "meteorological winter". Sounds good to me! Enjoy the pics!

The Haygrove just about melted - will skin it next week if all goes well.

We definitely flooded in February with the big thaw, you can see cracking in the soil of this house... not tons of mache germinating, but some anyway...

We decided it would be a great idea to go ahead and seed some arugula anyway.

There were a couple of champion mache troopers out there, though - keep it coming, guys!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Food Club 2010 and Spring Thoughts...

Here we go! Half Pint Farm Food Club Application is live! Print it out and secure your spot in the best 20-week eating experience of your life! Some great changes to the Food Club for 2010, be sure to check it out! The past several weeks have been an intense flurry of meeting with our chefs, planning our farm season, ordering seeds, receiving seeds, drawing up our field maps, greenhouse seeding plans and putting the final touches on our Food Club application. It is so nice to be able to say that we are ready for Spring! With a couple of gorgeous spring-like days under our belts, nothing could feel better - I actually got a little color in my face from sun worshipping on Sunday - in MARCH! Hard to believe, but we are so excited to be getting much needed sun. I am even more excited to see on my daily runs over the bridge into Colchester that the gradually warmer temps have that ice in the Winooski and Lake Champlain almost entirely melted! That means that the likelihood of our field flooding this Spring is rapidly becoming zero. That means that we'll be able to get in the ground as soon as we feel like it - which, incidentally could be in the next week or so! We will be making our annual pilgrimage to Richmond to pick up our NOFA bulk order of organic fertilizers this Saturday, and bringing it all back to our field. Once it's out there, we'll be able to asses the condition of the soil (just how thawed out it is), and see if we can't get a tractor out to the field next week and get that Haygrove skinned! The 10-day forecast calls for some pretty nice overnight temperatures... surely enough to germinate some mâche, arugula, spinach and fava beans! We're sure to take a bunch of pictures as we get started in the greenhouse next week and start our farm season. Keep posted!

Since we have been ruminating on 2009 a lot lately, we thought we'd share some of the things we think about, and in particular some data that we like to share when we give our talks at farming conferences. First up, our top tens grossing crops for 2009:

HPF Top Ten Crops of 2009
  1. Tomatoes, heirlooms and cherry toms
  2. Salad
  3. Carrots, colorful and baby
  4. Microgreens
  5. Squash/Blossoms
  6. Onions
  7. Potatoes
  8. Head Lettuce
  9. Radishes
  10. Sweet Peppers
It's always interesting to look at crops in terms of numbers, and it really is a representative list. We had a ton of tomatoes, and sold out everything we harvested - true testament to the Haygrove being so useful in such a wet year... We finally feel like we have a handle on how to grow salad consistently, and well. Glad to see it represented in the list! Of particular interest to us was seeing the radishes finally make the list - they certainly pull their weight making the farmstand
look luscious, but rarely make an appearance on the top ten list. So glad they are finally there! Sweet peppers, too - they look so good on the stand and we grow them so well, but they rarely make the top ten. Also interesting to note is that everything on the list except potatoes and onions were grown in the Haygrove. That thing is a true workhorse, and we couldn't be happier about its performance. Glaringly NOT on the list is, of course, the geese, ducks, quail, and chickens. Alas, not our temperament to grow, and NOT our golden ticket, either. In 2010, we vow to stick with what we know and do it even better! Ready to join us? Spring, we are all systems "Go"!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins!

Time to share a breakfast treat! Banana chocolate chip muffins - from Bon Appétit, March 1999. I like to substitute ½ whole wheat flour for a bit more substance (this makes it ¾ c. each whole wheat and all purpose) and ½ oil for the butter (making it ¼ c. each oil and melted butter). Also, I add vanilla or almond extract - not in the original recipe. ENJOY! Perfect for a Sunday morning with a great cup of coffee!

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas; about 2 large (you can also add 1 T. lemon juice to bananas to keep from oxidizing)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ tsp. vanilla or almond extract (optional)
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with foil muffin liners (or just butter if you have no liners).
    2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
    3. Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in medium bowl.
    4. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not overmix).
    5. Stir in chocolate chips.
    6. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
    7. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 32 minutes.
    8. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Favorite All-Time Recipes #2: The Cake I Make

    There is one cake, when the occasion calls for it, that I always make. This is the one cake that really has all the flavors and textures that I really love all wrapped up into one nice neat package. It is a polenta, almond, olive oil and lemon cake that in our house is just called "cake". It is a Deborah Krasner (known for her book on tasting olive oil) recipe that was in Eating Well magazine years ago, and one that I am so glad I clipped and saved in my recipe box. Not being a very accomplished baker, this one always gives me confidence in my baking. I know you'll love it - especially with a nice raspberry sauce to smear each bite through! Enjoy!

    Lemon Almond Polenta Torta
    Preheat oven to 325° F - butter and flour a 9 in. springform pan
    • ½ c. coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
    • ½ c. all-purpose flour
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 1½ c whole almonds (7.5 oz)
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 1 large organic lemon, scrubbed
    • ¾ c. mild extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
    • ½ c. milk
    • 2 large eggs
    • ½ tsp. almond extract (I usually increase to 1 tsp.)
    • 1 T. powdered sugar for dusting
    • raspberry sauce

    Butter and flour a 9 in. springform pan

    First 3 ingredients in a bowl

    Sugar and almonds in the food processor

    Pulse to combine

    Halve the lemon - juice one half, cut into 4 pieces, then seed and cut the other half into 4 pieces. Add juice and lemons to the almond sugar mixture.

    Pulse to chop and combine - about 45 seconds.

    Add remaining ingredients - EVOO, milk, eggs, and extract.

    Looks soupy - time to add dry ingredients.

    All at once is fine.

    Pour into prepared pan, and put in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, unmold when ready to serve.

    Dust with the powdered sugar and some raspberry sauce. For the raspberry sauce, I cook over medium high heat 1 c. frozen raspberries, ½ c. sugar, and usually some lemon zest if you have it, or some maple syrup. Cook down until saucy, then strain out seeds and there you have it!

    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

    The KTB Experience!

    I have long dreamed about working in a professional kitchen. I love cooking and prepping and above all - feeding people delicious food. I knew that if the opportunity ever came along, I'd snatch it up. Well, last December that's exactly what happened; and I couldn't be more happy with the experience! I feel like I know what goes on in the front of the house of a restaurant - at least as a diner, I know how the back of the house looks - because I deliver at the back door, but I have been fascinated by what happens there in the middle - the important step... that step where chefs take my carefully grown produce and transform it into something that will thrill a diner - that was what I was interested in learning, and was so happy to have the opportunity to close my farm-food loop a little more; to get the big picture of what happens to all these seeds that I buy in the deepest time of winter - they get planted, they grow, get harvested, get transformed into something delicious, and customers demand more. I couldn't wait to get started! By way of some background, Spencer and I have a great partnership with Steve & Lara Atkins at The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, VT. Steve used to come to the Burlington farmers market on Saturdays, buy as much as he could carry from our stand, and repeatedly mention how happy he would be if we would just deliver to his restaurant. This went on for a couple of years, and then,
    finally, we gave it a try..... and have never looked back! We love working with chefs like Steve & Lara because they only work with quality ingredients, truly care about who they work with, and have an incredible seasonal menu that features the best that the region has to offer. It was a perfect fit, even from the very beginning. Since then, we have been partnering to create farmers' dinners that feature Half Pint produce - the most extreme of these endeavors being the Outstanding in the Field dinner we did together last August; we even grew cornish game hens for that meal! It was at one of these farmer dinners, I think the heirloom tomato dinner, when the meal was completed and we were sitting with Steve talking about how much we enjoy our relationship that I let it slip that I would be interested in working in a professional kitchen someday. Steve was instantly supportive and intrigued! He promised to let me know as soon as he thought it could work on his end. This past December he was short someone to help with garde manger (cold salads, etc.) duties, and asked if I could fill in - I said that I'd be honored, as long as he understood that I'm a definite newbie and will need instruction, but I relished the opportunity to work with him in this new capacity! It was decided that I'd work from December 1-31 - it was going to be a busy month, because there are company parties, families getting together for the holidays, and they were going to be open on Christmas Eve AND New Year's Eve as well. Talk about learning on your feet! Day one, I was shadowing the outgoing garde manger - a NECI intern at the end of his term. I was immediately impressed with how strong of a team Steve had at the back of the house! Everyone communicated so well, and every plate came together at the perfect time and temperature - a carefully choreographed dance that was always so satisfying to see come together with each table we cooked for. One confusing thing (to me) that still makes me smile is that the waitstaff would drop off the ticket, Chef would read off the items that needed to be assembled first, and everyone at all of the stations would spring into action - I was poised and ready to make my first salad, but I never heard the word "salad" on the first day, though we made plenty of salads! I had to learn the lingo and learn quickly that it was always a "caesar", or a "greens" (salad, implied), or a "beet" (again, salad implied - which was really an arugula salad with cubed roasted beets on the top). I was definitely unprepared for the lingo of the kitchen, but it would prove to be a very utilitarian language that I pretty much picked up in a week. I was so fascinated with the disconnect between the kitchen and the diners - I never quite got over the intense care and love each dish was made with and sent into the dining room... and that plate would invariably make its way back to the kitchen completely devoured and seemingly enjoyed - but we very rarely got feedback from diners. It was as though we were putting all this energy into a plating, and sending it into the void, hoping it all went over well! I am so used to getting instant feedback when I cook at home - this was such an interesting difference. There were those cool moments, though, when a diner would poke their head into the kitchen and thank us all for a great meal; now that felt good! It also became clear immediately that this was a perfect learning kitchen for me - there was no yelling, it was extremely clean (we cleaned the kitchen top to bottom after every service!), there were interesting dishes using lots of techniques, and good humor was maintained all around. My station, as I mentioned above, was the garde manger station - "keeper of the food" (a fitting moniker for me, I think!) - all things cold on the plate came from my station: hand-chopped beef tartare, house-cut potato chips, all salads, all garnish salads, I made all the dressings, croutons, candied nuts, grated cheese, crumbled cheese, pate, butters, as well as assembling desserts! It was a very busy station, and completely to my liking! I feel like I took to it like a fish to water - and would be happy to do it again someday. My favorite evening by far was the New Year's Eve dinner - my last night, but not for that reason at all - I was sad about finishing my stint! It was my favorite evening because we had so many cool things on the menu - sweetbreads, fried oysters, blood orange parfaits, stuffed quail, smoked salmon salad, and some dishes even had components of Half Pint products that Chef had processed in-season to use later - like the Wapsipinicon Peach tomato puree! So cool. Here's some pictures I took from that night - thanks staff of KTB! I had a blast, learned a lot, got to know all of you better, and appreciated your patience with this newbie!

    I had nothing to do with these quail, but they sure looked yummy!

    Hand-cut tartare, salad, potato chips (HPF radishes still!)

    The delicious and addictive fried oysters!

    Arugula salad with house-smoked salmon and blood orange supremes

    Greens with blue cheese dressing, roasted golden beets and candied pecans

    Halibut with summer corn succotash and Wapsipinicon puree - YUM!

    Chef giving the lowdown on each of the new dishes to the staff before service

    Staff diligently taking notes on the changes, while the rest of us stood by with forks poised to sample everything - my first taste of sweetbreads! Everything was of course delicious!