Sunday, July 29, 2007

RAFT picnic a success!

Well, we finally had our RAFT picnic at Half Pint Farm, and are pleased to report that it was a success, the food was fantastic, the farm was pleasure to show off, and the weather couldn't have been better! The menu was:

Chile Relleno on a local corn cake. The mild chiles used in this dish are endangered peppers called Beaver Dam.
Heirloom Tomato and Cipollini Onion Tarts. All of the veggies used in this creation are heirloom varieties.
Mixed Roasted Heirloom Veggies. Every vegetable used in this dish is heirloom and roasted so that flavor stands out.
Romanesco Squash Roulade. The squash used in this egg dish is the ancestor of all modern zucchini squash.
Mixed Grilled Potato Skewers with Bacon. All of the potatoes used in this dish are heirloom.
Huckleberry, Sunberry & Husk Cherry Blintzes. These fruits are annual endangered heirlooms.

The recipes were created in collaboration with the folks at Let's Pretend catering company, who we have partnered with for 4 years, and were stupendous. The huckleberry and sunberry compote created to go with the blintzes was quite the favorite of the day - the color of the sauce was the most sublime purple! Everything else was exceptional - especially the corncakes with the peppers, but so was the romanesc roulade.... OK, everything was spectacular! It was really fun to be able to show folks the actual crops in the field that they had just eaten, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the farm tour. This event gave us confidence that we could certainly hold other events at the farm with ease; so keep an eye out - there were murmurings about a fall harvest event...right around the corner!

So, here's some pictures of the event as well as some of the farm. To look at the previous entries to the blog, you'd think we were just renovating our house! However, farming has indeed been happening as you'll see below.

Let's Pretend staff setting up...

The layout - we had nice clean strawbales to sit on, and strawbale "tables" where the food was.

We set out all of our heirloom seed catalogs and the info we collected from the Terra Madre confrence last October to share.

The parking we provided worked out perfectly, and allowed everyone to see the farm before the tour.

We had an opportunity to share the story about our farm, and talk about the RAFT project, then we went on a tour and shared a lot about our growing practices. All in all, a huge success, and a great incentive to have more!

Now for some farming pictures!

The perennial favorite - colorful heirloom carrots!

Our farmstand at our Thursday farmer's market at Ethan Allen Park!

Potatoes were a smashing success this year - nice colorful varieties!

Beets. They always surprise us how well they sell - then we finally made a great salad and now we can't get enough - beet carapaccio salad with arugula and goat cheese - YUM!

One of our favorites to sell - squash blossoms.

Liz and Mara preparing garlic for drying. This year we had around 1400 bulbs of the best-tasting garlic ever!

Finally got the bean trellis up - we have a row of pole beans and a row of bush beans. The revelation last year was an experimental bed of pole beans: we can harvest beans standing up!? So, now we have a whole 200' row of pole beans that are growing and will be ready to harvest in two weeks or so. Haricot vert bush beans this week, though!

Hoophouse tomatoes - growing like crazy! Finally made our first harvest this week - almost a whole month later than last year! It's so interesting how every year is different.

And, here they are - neat varieties this year. Our recent favorite are the speckled romans - the yellow striped plums in the middle.

A nice morning dew picture of micro kohlrabi microgreens in the greenhouse, awaiting harvest.

More pictures of the season as it wears on!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Deck and door complete!

It feels great to be done with our deck and door installation project in our new home! Of course, there's still a few remaining little things to do, but the hard work is done! We had loads of help from Nancy (Spencer's Mom) and Garth (Stepdad) with these projects, as they flew out from Colorado specifically to help us. They are a terrific help every time they visit, whether it's weeding carrots, building our hoophouse, or helping us harvest for market. This time, they did all of those things (except building the hoophouse) AND helped us to put in our Spencer-designed deck and install our seriously heavy Marvin patio door. There is no way we could have done this without them or their help! Thanks a million - and next time you visit, we promise to do more relaxing on the deck and less working on anything!! Enjoy the pictures of the process!

First, pictures of the door project:

Spencer & Garth put up a temporary wall to bear the weight of the room while we prepared the header.
Header being prepared.
Header in place, window out, Spencer cutting the actual hole in the wall!
Hole in wall!
Us preparing the floor for door installation...
View from the yard...
Putting door in place - Marvin makes really heavy doors! We got our next door neighbor, Red, to help carry it into place and hold it while we prepared the hole further.

Lots and lots of finageling like this for about 6 hours - Nancy & Garth helped to balance the door and keep it from falling out of the hole!
Look, a door!!

Door is in! Placing the shims and preparng to put the insulation, electricity and drywall into place.
Nancy spends an afternoon getting that insulation into place, while Garth wires 2 outlets, a switch and an exterior light.
Drywall is up, and the deck can now be built!

Deck project pictures:
Right after getting the door in, we looked at the ground where the deck would go in, and saw that there was a lot of slate there. So, we decided to remove it all! There were about 40 large pieces that got moved - previous owners had a slate patio here about 30 years ago!

Garth and Mara position the main ledger on the wall - this is what all the joists will connect to.

The ledger is up, and the posthole spots are marked.

Lots of late evenings working on the deck - here we are digging the holes for the cement posts. We dug them with shovels, since our soil is actually 100% sand - we couldn't use posthole diggers; the sand just flowed through the grippers! Oh well - being sand, it actually was pretty easy digging... you can see!

The next day, we mixed the cement for the post holes. You mix cement with a hoe. We thought this was pretty good resistance training for farmers!

Shoveling the cement into the postholes...

Shoveling more cement into the postholes...

Finally getting to put the posts on after the cement hardened. There was a lot of rain during this project.

We laid the black landscape fabric all over the footprint of the deck so that weeds would never grow under it. We got all the posts into place and got ready to set the beams and joists.

Next day, beams and joists in place!

Garth and Nancy put in the bracings while we were at market.

Next up was the stringers for the stairs. This was quite the mathematical process, and took Spencer and Garth all evening.

Cutting the stringers...

Placing the stringers - there's 8 of them, and they're nice deep stairs so that they can double as seating when we have a lot of people over.

The next day we placed all the deck boards and drilled and screwed all day.

Lots of drill holes and lots of screws!

Mr. S tests out the newly screwed-down boards.

This is how it would go - Nancy would space, Garth would push or pull the board, Mara would place the screw, Spencer would screw it down.

Main deck and stairs done!

Placing more landscape fabric under the landing that comes out from the garage.

Screwing down the landing boards. You can see the curved white line that we'll cut to define the edge of the landing.

Cutting the irregular boards off into a nice curve.

Sanding the edges...

Assembling newly purchased grill!

The happy building crew!

This was a great project, that was started and completed in 3 short weeks! Now we are able to work on landscaping the backyard and enjoying our grilled veggies on our deck! Thanks again to Nancy and Garth for all of your help and great insights on this project. Now back to farming for the rest of the season, and leaving all major house projects until winter!