Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer's Here!

Finally!  June 21st came, and so did the sun, the storms, the rain, and the growth of everything around us!  It truly feels like the Earth has tilted on its axis to align in the much-anticipated summer configuration.  Now we can enjoy late sunsets, early sunrises, nice overnight temperatures (can sleep with windows open again!), and the rapid maturation of everything at the farm!  The major transplanting period is officially over, the plants have all spread their rooty toes deep into the soil and have established themselves.  So, that means that everything can commence growing in their new places.  And, commence growing they are!  Everything is busting out all over the farm, and so far we've been able to keep all the weeds in check.  Having the Haygrove has really made us realize how crucial keeping rain off the crops and the paths really is.  The rain never reaches the paths to germinate weed seeds, so we can keep ahead of them with hoeing.  What a relief!  What a change!  It's been really fun looking at past journal entries of this time of year to find that we're usually up to our eyeballs in weeds.  Not this year!  All of our Haygrove crops look so much better than they ever have - the squash blossoms are HUGE, the favas are heading for the stars, the tomatoes have a million flowers and tons of clusters of small fruit, the cukes are flowering, the peppers are fruiting, the carrots are maturing faster than expected, and the head lettuces are virtually rot-free!  Outside the Haygrove, we've finished harvesting all the garlic scapes, which means that fresh amazing garlic is just around the corner - perhaps next week?  Also - the potatoes are in full flower - always a delicious smell 
in the air, as well as promise of baby potatoes to come - perhaps next week?  We are sitting in hopeful anticipation!  The animals are doing well, though we had to put down one of the ducks last week due to an apparent dog hassling that happened over a weekend.  I guess this is one of the major drawbacks (as well as an unbelievable asset) to farming in the city - lots of foot traffic and curious onlookers.  At any rate, the duck was limping and then quickly deteriorated over the week, the other birds were not supportive and we had to end it.  Such is life.  On other, more happy news - the quail are feathering out nicely, the chickens have moved to the field and are loving life out there, busily gobbling up weeds and bugs!  Our farmers' markets have been very successful business days and so far we're happy with the 2009 season in general.  We even
 found some time to enjoy a 2-day canoeing trip for our 12th wedding anniversary!  Felt pretty luxurious and we got to know our little state of Vermont a little better.  We came back to find our farm in need of a mow, a haying, a little weeding, and some tomato trellising.  We're taking good care of everyone's future tomato salads, you'll be happy to know!  We know everyone's just biding time until tomatoes come in - we know!  Well, so are we!  Some pictures for your viewing pleasure, and recipes to tickle your early summer culinary kitchen skills - buon apetito!  Addendum: just got back from putting the geese and ducks to bed, and thought I'd try and do a little commemorative attempt at the moonwalk.  Not recommended that you try this on uneven farm soils.  Let's leave it at that!

Spencer happily paddling the Lamoille

Pointing out the covered bridge we paddled under - how Vermonty!

Happy to make it to the portage at the end of the 26 miles - we did it all in one day instead of two!  The day was just too beautiful to stop the fun!

The root wall fringed with green - nice to have so much color these days to add to the spectrum of green!

Ahhh.  Beets - such a nice addition to the fare.

In one week, the tomatoes went from this to...

...this!  What an amazing difference!  You can tell that they are clearly out of the transplant shock stage and into the active growing stage.  Such a nice place to be!

In one week, these three little Paul Robeson tomatoes went from this to....

...this!  I know it's hard to believe - but those are seriously the same tomatoes!  Very promising, no?  Can't wait to taste these babies!

Garlic scape fun!  Not sure what to do with them?  Recipe at the end...

So stately, the favas - they look like miniature olive trees... kinda.


Not sure what to do with them?  Not interested in doing the fava bean two-step dance of blanch peel, blanch peel?  Recipe at the end...

Cleaning up the goods for your eating pleasure!

Potatoes in full bloom!

A close up of the beautiful blossoms of a Satina potato.

Our stand of rye ready for mowin'

Spence getting ready to mow...

...mowed!  Now we let it dry and the bale it - we'll see how many we get.  Any guesses?  On farm guesses range from 2.5 bales to 32 bales.  Clearly we are new at this!

And, in 3 weeks, the quail have gone from this to...

...this!  Chubbin' up, as promised.  

OK!  Some recipes, also as promised!
Garlic Scape Pesto
by: Dorie Greenspan
  • Makes about 1 cup
  • 10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds or any nut you like (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like)
  • sea salt
  1. Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, nuts and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.
  2. If you're not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing.  The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months, by  which time tomatoes should be at their juciest!
Grilled Fava Beans
as suggested by: Aaron Josinsky
  • young fava beans, still in pod
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Set grill or broiler on high heat - at least 350 degrees.
  2. Toss favas with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Place directly on grill or on a pan under the broiler.
  4. Cook until browned, roll around to brown other sides, cook until brown all over.
  5. Put on a plate, sprinkle with a little more salt.  Eat pod and all, great as an appetizer with beer, or as a perfect side dish.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New arrivals, new market, new smells!

We have just received 100 bobwhite quail in the mail to grow out for meat!  This was a super-fun box to receive, they have such a neat chirping sound!  They are so tiny, and really made us think that we had just received a box of bumblebees!  They are round and fuzzy and move about in a mass.  So cute!!!  This is going to be quite an adventure - we know so little about them (experiment #2009 for HPF this year!), it will be really neat to learn as we go.  So far we have noticed that they love heat - their brooder is being kept at 95 degrees.  A little research reminded me that these are desert prairie creatures - of course they like it hot!  As they mature, we'll be able to tell males from females because of their chest coloring - females have white chest feathers, and males' chest feathers are darker.  They will be growing fairly slowly, but here they are and we'll be keeping you updated on their growth.  Fun!
In other news, we had our first New North End Farmers' Market on Wednesday!  It was a great first market, well attended by both vendors and customers!  We really have everything available at this market - veggies, fruit, sweet baked goods, breads, root beer, pork and freshly barbecued pork skewers provided by Mike Betit, our neighborhood pork farmer!  Our new location at the North Avenue Alliance Church was perfect and really had great exposure - it will only get better each week!  Stop by and say hi if you're able - we'd love to see you!

In tandem with the NNE market's grand opening, we had our first Food Club pick-up!  What a wonderful thing to meet all of our new members, as well as our devoted 2nd year members!  Thank you so much for supporting our farm, and we hope you enjoy your weekly bag of goodies!  We have a terrific line-up of recipes and produce for you this season!  Welcome to the club!  FYI: we do still have a few shares left - if you are interested in joining our Food Club, click here.  
In other news, I have been riding my bike to and from the farm every nice day recently.  It has been a wonderful way to start each day and a perfect way to wrap up each day!  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Spring transform into Summer with each day and each new smell as rains come and go, and as the different trees and meadow flowers bloom!  Today was particularly wonderful because the locust trees are all in
 flower!  Their scent is better than any perfume and almost as amazing as the night-blooming jasmine that surrounded our leaf and stick house in the Solomon Islands during our Peace Corps days.  While I'm still enjoying the scent of the locusts on the last leg of my ride into the farm, I turn into the Haygrove and am greeted with the similarly intoxicating scent of the blooming fava beans!  I tell you - it is almost worth it just to grow these beans for the flowers!  Late Spring is such an incredible time of year - especially this year.  This year it has been much drier that recent years, which means the trees flower more heavily, the plants grow more vibrantly, and everything seems more intense, like a distilled essence.  On my twice-weekly trip to deliver to The Kitchen Table Bistro, I love dropping into that valley and seeing all of the mountains splayed out before me - they have just gotten so green over the past couple of weeks, you can almost feel the vibration of the Earth as it supplies all the trees with the proper ratio of nutrients to push out all of 
those leaves!  Where does all that energy come from?  It reminds me of the time our friend Cletus visited us from Nigeria.  It was December.  We drove him all over New England, and he kept wondering why all the trees were dead.  We had to keep explaining to him that in this part of the world, the Earth sleeps, loses energy, and rests until the Springtime, when the switch is turned back on, the energy starts flowing, and then everything gets beautiful and green again.  He simply couldn't imagine that it was possible for all these dead trees to come back to life.  Likewise, when the Earth is vibrating with it's greenness - it's photosynthesizing amazingness, smelling so good and so alive... I can't even remember what winter was like!  Thank goodness!  I am so happy to be here, now.  At the cusp of summer!  A series of photos for you and a recipe to enjoy the wonderfulness of escarole - my favorite all-time salad green!  Enjoy!
First baby carrots - look at this overachiever!

Okay - another baby quail shot - too cute!

So fuzzy!

Onions and potatoes looking soooooo good!  We grow these guys in the biodegradable mulch - what a life-saver!  We weeded the onions today, and knocked the potato beetles into a bucket that Spencer dumped onto the ground and then torched with the flame-weeder.  Now you know how we feel about them!

Tomatoes growing like crazy!  There are tons of little green tomatoes starting - I'd say we're 2 weeks away from the first cherry tomatoes! 

We spent some time on Monday doing the first round of tomato clipping and pruning - always a very satisfying activity!  Everything is neat and tidy now!

Neat rows of rapidly growing tomatoes!

Update on our house garden - everything is growing so well!  Things feel like they've just gotten established and will be really taking off now.  I like the wood chip design...

Our first successful globe alliums!   They are soooo pretty!

Escarole Salad (I feel like it needs a better name - it's just so incredibly delicious!)
  • 1 head of escarole
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into rings
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 oz. crumbled blue cheese (we love Boucher Blue or Gore Dawn Zola)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
  1. Make the dressing.  Combine the balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves.  Blend until smooth.  Chop or crumble cheese, and add to dressing - stir to combine, and let sit while you prepare the escarole.
  2. Chop whole head of escarole, wash and spin.  Place escarole in large bowl.  Pour dressing over leaves, toss with tongs to coat.  
  3. Add onions, and walnuts, if using.  
  4. Plate up and eat.  Enjoy!!!!
  5. This should serve 4, but the two of us always finish it off - it's sooooooo good!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rhythm of the Season, Weather, Feasting!

Well, here we are!  We are at that point in the season where we have planted all major crops.  The only things left to plant are the successional beds every two weeks.  We have been busy planting, which means I have NOT been busy blogging.  Apologies!  At any rate, it feels amazing to be at that point in our season!  We have learned a lot over the last 7 years of scratching at the dirt and plunking seeds in the ground, which is essentially how this all happens.  There is a lot of management in between the scratching at the dirt, and that is what makes every farm different.  How you have chosen to lay out your beds, do your weed management, trellis your crops, irrigate - all of these major decisions separate one farm's style from another.  This year we are much more aware of other farms and their rhythms than ever before.  Mostly this has to do with us spending time on a field we've never farmed before - when we built the Haygrove, we had to locate it on a 1/2 acre
 parcel adjacent to our land.  It is not far from our other main field.  However, it is in a different area which is closer to Arethusa Collective Farm's new field, Adam's Berry Farm and the road that Fat Mitchell's Pumpkin Patch, Open Heart Farm, Straycat Farm, and Intervale Community Farm use.  We find ourselves taking note of who is driving by on what tractor and with what implement everyday - this always tells us what the other farms are up to for that day, and it is a reminder of how little we actually use the big tractors here at the Intervale.  It really is an issue of temperament/willingness to fiddle with machinery/planning style of crop rotations, etc.
Weather.  It's been windy!  Totally freaky weather for new owners of a Haygrove hoophouse!  However, my tactic with the last windstorm was to simply ignore - since I could do nothing but vent my house appropriately and hope.  It worked!  I slept well, and awoke to no catastrophic damage, though I will admit to having a dream a la Oz that involved a tornado ripping up one bay of our Haygrove and plunking it down in a neighboring farm's property - who happened to be in the hobby business of breeding really miniature goats.  Don't ask - they were sure cute, though - and the size of large toads.  Strange.  But then, it WAS a dream, and I awoke to find that none of it was true - tornado OR mini goats.  Phew!  I have come to grips that there is really no weather forecasting website/newschannel that I am satisfied with, I am convinced that they are all based on someone's comfortability with serial conjecture.  It could drive a person mad trying to hold too much stock in weather forecasting, so I have officially decided that I am done trying.  Sure, I'll take a glance at, but I'm still packing a change of clothes, shoes, additional layers, sunscreen, hat, water bottle, reflective blanket (just checking to see if you're paying attention), and emergency chocolate.  Tom Messner from Channel 5 - you and I are on the outs.  Officially.
More importantly, the eatin's gettin' good around here lately!  More and more food from the farm
is available, which sets our creative cooking fires a'blazin'!  A sample from some recent weekly menus (yes, we create menus for our household of 2 every Sunday to ensure that we're eating well every day of every week.  You know - there are so few eating opportunities in a lifetime, each should be as good as you can make it!); larb gai, quinoa tabbouleh, broccoli rabe with homemade pappardelle pasta and pine nuts, ricotta gnocchi sauteed in rendered duck fat, Boucher Farm Hot Italian Sausage sandwiches BBQ'd with a HUGE arugula salad with fresh from the garden lemon balm dressing.... etc.  You see, we are farmers because we LOVE to eat really good food!  We make it a priority in our life to harness most eating opportunities with vigor and passion, and something new included.  You new Food Club members are in for a treat!  Our little mini CSA/farm share program is really all about sharing our love of food and cooking with like-minded individuals.  We hope you enjoy the ride, which begins next Wednesday, June 10th!
OK.  Enough yabber-jabbering.  If you can't tell, I'm slightly sleep-deprived, slightly drunk on the early season abundance, and hopeful of what's to come.  I'm finding it hard to harness my thoughts and be coherent, though most major recent projects on the farm have been accomplished successfully and according to plan - and so, we're off and away!  Enjoy the stream of consciousness photostream and look forward to more focused posts.  I promise!
The Haygrove long-term section planted out with the tomatoes and cool tomato trellis system.
How that trellis gets built - we pound 6' two by fours into the ground in a very safe way...
Like this!  I hold, Spencer climbs a ladder and pounds them in with a sledgehammer.  I should be wearing a hard hat.  It only took us 30 minutes to get them all in, though!
The tools that make it all happen: the ratcheting spool, the duckbill anchor and the 20-penny nail to pound it all in.
Put it all into place, and pound it in until the ratchet is where you want it.
Something like this.  Attach the high tensile wires to the ratchet.
Tighten down a bit.
It should look like you have just strung a telegraph wire.
Next, tie the clove hitch with your tomato twine to the wire...
And plant your tomatoes - burying the twine with the tomato plants!  This is the only way we plant the tomatoes now - it's strong enough to hold everything up and allows for plenty of ventilation.  
Spencer and Chloe getting the peppers and eggplants in...
The coolest looking tree frog we've ever found at the farm!  He was hanging out in the arugula 
So clingy!
The other tomatoes in the Ledgewood house - growing like champions!
Our heritage breed chickens make the move outside!  Awkward stage.
First baby carrots are ready!  YAY!!!
First baby beets are ready, YAY!
The broccoli rabe is out, the biodegradable mulch and the melons are going in!
Spencer's been working diligently on the front yard garden at our house - here's where the Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkins are starting their journey to hugeness!
We'll have a few cherries this year!
There it is!  Nicely mulched paths, and the plants are in, but hard to see at this stage.   They will be filling out shortly!