Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 16 CSA

Hello all,

Week 16 box

Edamame- The second and very last week of this sweet and delish baby soybean. Pluck the pods from the stems. Steam or boil the pods for 4 minutes. Splash with soysauce. The sweet beans will just pop out. This was our first time to grow them and it went very well! Next year, I’m growing lots more- they are packed with flavor AND nutrients. The plants are enthusiastic producers of the beans.

Eggplant- There are 3 possible types you may get (a medium round type, a long and skinny type, and a tiny purple and white type.) Yes, they are strange looking veggies. But oh that meaty flavor! These types of eggplants are not like grocery store eggplants. Ours are Asian types that are never bitter and cook quickly. In fact I took a long and skinny eggplant, poked a dozen holes all over the skin with a small knife and stuck it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. It steams the eggplant very nicely without damaging the nutritional content (I checked). I then let it cool down enough to handle them. Cube into ½ inch pieces and mix into tomato sauce with chopped basil.

Tomatoes- Did you know that William had never had a Tomato and Mayonnaise sandwich until today? I can’t believe it. He wouldn’t eat it on white bread either- he had wheat. His personal summer tomato sandwich is tomato and cheddar on wheat bread. It’s placed open faced under the broiler for 30 seconds and then put together as a sandwich. It’s really good!

Cherry Tomatoes- Chop basil and mix with 1 tbl spoon lemon juice to prevent browning. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and oregano. Let the flavors blend for at least 15 minutes. You can eat it like alone, spoon over Italian bread and broil, or toss with pasta and other veggies. (Pull out that food processor and find the special slicing blade if you have it! I have a slicing blade that cuts a entire of pint of cherries in perfect halves in about 20 seconds. )

Peppers- Make sure to freeze some if you can’t use them all at once. You can throw the entire peppers in a quart freezer bag. They sauté nicely with onions and sausage in the winter. (They don’t hold their structure perfectly, but it’s great for a cooked down sauté over rice or on a bun.)

Basil- Try it with the cherry tomatoes above! Also, try the flowers soaked in a light colored honey like clover honey. You can drizzle the infused honey over lots over things like figs, sliced peaches, cornbread, crepes, buckwheat pancakes.

My first adventure of the week since I last wrote began just hours after Wednesday CSA pick-up. We had finally arranged for a load of beautiful horse manure to be brought to our vegetable field so I headed over to meet the truck and show it where to dump. It was supposed to be a quick project (this is the way many farm projects begin). However, I soon learned that the dump truck they brought the manure in was a very special sort of dump truck, specifically a dump truck that does not dump. Needless to say we spent a good hour trying various methods to unload the truck. In the end we faced the inevitable and got out the shovels. But all is well that ends well and now we have our first load of manure in our field for next year’s crops.

We have discovered that we have a rare breed of climbing pigs! Our younger pigs here on the farm are so eager for any compost we might be bringing them that they have developed the ability to climb up to a standing position using the fence panels of their corral. They love to investigate the sound of running water when we fill their water tank. They use their noses to dig all around the bottom of the tank searching for the source of that tantalizing sound. Just watch out if you get in with them-they love eating shoelaces and nibbling on clothes.

If you aren’t careful farming can be a very isolating occupation. Animals and plants require attention every day. On top of that there is always the next thing to be done so it is all too easy to work, work, work. No matter how much one loves what they do, it is tiring to do it non-stop. A wonderful way to break the routine (while still convincing ourselves that we are working) is through “continuing education.” We had a great weekend of reuniting with several old friends from school who are undertaking various farming ventures of their own. We got to swap chicken raising methods with a friend who worked for Joel Salatin and now has her own place in Virginia. We also spent time with a friend working on several organic vegetable farms in the triangle area. To cap it all off today we attended a field day at a NC state organic field research station. There we learned about the development of disease resistant tomatoes, grafting tomatoes, growing fall broccoli, and the efficacy of various weed control methods.

Talking and cooperation are not always traits that come easily to people, especially independent type-A farmer personalities. But an open dialog between farmers, consumers, wholesalers, government researchers and regulators, and of course farmers talking to other farmers, is one of the biggest changes needed in our food system today. Our food is, more often than not, produced behind closed doors (closed even to regulators as is evident from the latest egg recall). Farmers are hesitant (or even prevented by agreements with companies such as Tyson) from sharing ideas with each other or with their customers. It is a system designed to bamboozle, confuse, and hide. It hides environmental destruction, health safety problems, corporate profits, destroyed rural communities, and societal health impacts.

A great NC organization that works to promote the kind of dialog we need is the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. They provide action alerts on food legislation that could harm small farmers, work to educate consumers, and especially promote farmer to farmer networking. Their biggest event of the year is a conference held each December to bring farmers from all over the Carolinas (and sometimes further afield) together to participate in workshops, network, and squeeze in some socializing. We hope to attend this year’s conference in Winston-Salem to continue our “continuing education.” If you are interested in learning more about the organization check out their website at http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/index.shtml

We thank you for your willingness to make the harder choice. Instead of being spoon fed corn syrup you have made a conscience decision know your food, know your farmers, and know your farm. We thank you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 15 Aug. 25

Hello all,
The last few mornings have been almost chilly! At least that’s how my sun baked body feels as the temperatures plummeted to the high 60’s.
The mix of cooler weather and regular moisture has been great for our transplants. The chard, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli we set out last week are all slowly taking root. The first week or so of a transplant’s life takes place very quietly. When they are first set out the shift in moisture usually causes almost all the leaves to collapse. The leaves perk up after a generous watering, but then nothing. By all outward appearances the plants seem to do very little for a few days to a week. But during this time they are sending their roost out beyond the bounds of their former world-the soil block-and into the great wide world of soil. As the plant’s roots recover and grow they begin sending nutrients back up to the plant. Then, usually without our noticing, the plants begin to grow and before we know it we are looking at a big row of broccoli.
But let’s back up a step. I said the roots send up nutrients to the plant. But they can only send nutrients if they are present in the soil. As we discovered this year, the soil at Silver Creek (the big veggie field up the creek from us) has some serious nutrient deficiencies. It seems (I say seems because with soil you never really know) that our most serious deficiency is potassium. From what we have read potassium deficiency leads to small stems, poor internal water regulation, and a general lack of vigor-all things we observed. To add potassium in the short term we found an organic, water soluble, liquid concentrate that we can apply as a foliar spray. Our long term solution is that we will apply granite dust this fall. The granite dust will slowly break down in the soil releasing potassium (and other minerals) as it does.
The other step we have taken to improve our plants’ health is to apply a high calcium lime. This simultaneously addresses our acidic (low pH) soil and low calcium problem. We hope that these steps and others will help us to continue to improve the quality, flavor, and health of our vegetables.
On a sad note we have conceded defeat to the squash bugs. For a time we hand-picked eggs, larvae, and adults; we tried a few sprays to knock back the population, and we performed wild anti-squash bug dances. But in the end their sheer numbers overtook our already heat stressed plants. At this point even if we did manage to somehow kill all the squash bugs off there is little hope of actually getting any squash.
Week 15 box
New this week
Eggplant! Colorful, tender, sweet (never bitter) Asian types. No salt water soaks are required- just slice or dice and use them in sautés, stir-fry, and for grilling. More to harvest in the coming weeks. It’s my absolute favorite. Try it marinated with herbs and olive oil and grilled. It absorbs flavors very easily. My Hmong neighbor at the Morganton Farmer’s Market likes it stir-fried with sweet onions, peppers, lemon grass, and basil over rice. See more recipes below.
Edamame soy beans! Crazy twigs with delicious little soybean pods. We will have them for 2 weeks.
Continuing favorites
Cherry Tomatoes
Peppers- Red and Green bell peppers and long Corno di Toro sweet frying peppers
Cilantro- large fan leaves and fine feathery leaves

Edamame Cooking tips Many of you have had the delicious edamame appetizers at sushi restaurants where you pop the tender, sweet, succulent soybeans out of their shells. Well, now you can have the freshest edamame pods ever at home! They are simple to make and very high in protein, folic acid, omega fatty acids, and other micronutrients.
Pull the pods from the stems of the plant. Use a steamer basket or have a colander ready. Boil about 2 quarts of water to rolling boil. Boil covered for 4 minutes. The pods will be bright green. Drain and rinse briefly. Place in shallow serving bowl with several glugs of soy sauce. (We use about 3 tblspoons of low sodium soy sauce)
Serve warm or cold as an appetizer or as a side dish with dinner. The little pods will pop right open as you eat them. If there are leftovers, take some to work the next day for lunch.

Eggplant recipe:
Pasta and Veggies in Tomato Cream-
12 oz. penne pasta
1 medium eggplant or several small ones, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cups sliced Portobello mushrooms or (1/2 lb Shiitake mushrooms from Muddy Creek Farm
2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped- 1 inch
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl snipped fresh oregano or ½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ cup olive oil
1 28 oz. jar of pasta sauce
Dash ground red pepper
1/3 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta, drain, set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a shallow roasting pan combine eggplant, onion, mushrooms, garlic, half of the amount of fresh or dried oregano, and the olive oil. Toss to coat veggies. Roast uncovered for 15 to 25 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring once. Remove from oven. Stir in cooked pasta.
3. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine pasta sauce, remaining oregano, ground red pepper and fresh black pepper. Bring to simmer, simmer uncovered for 10 min. Remove from heat. Stir in whipping cream.
4. Pour sauce over pasta mixture, tossing gently to coat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Week 14

Hello all,

A bit of business first… Please pick up your boxes at your designated CSA site at the correct day and time. It is very inconvenient for us and for our site hosts when boxes are not picked up on time or simply abandoned. We need to receive notice by EMAIL at least 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE. Please do not call, unless there is a last minute problem. Email.

Please reply to this email to order a nice big bunch of basil for NEXT WEEK (not this week!) to make a batch of pesto. 2 SIZES: BIG AND GIANT -enough basil for about 2 cups of leaves / 4 cups of leaves.

Could it be that fall is just around the corner? We notice the mornings are darker. In fact, they are dark enough that chores can’t start until 6:15-a whole 15 minutes later! Even though it doesn’t feel any cooler in the sticky August air, it hasn’t actually broken 90 out here on the farm for the last four days or so.

In case we couldn’t tell it was fall by the weather, the calendar tells us it is. At the end of July we started out fall Swiss Chard. The hot and humid weather caused some fungus problems with the young transplants, but many survived. Today we were out in the garden planting our babies. It is great to see little rows of greens in the ground again. Its time for transplanting again!

We need to get these fall greens in now because before we know it days will be short and nights will be cold. At that point the plants really won’t do much growing. So we need them to be large enough to harvest right around the time of first frost. The trick is dealing with the late summer pests. We sprayed a cocktail of items to give them a fighting chance: fish emulsion for nutrients, Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) for caterpillar pests, and a kaolin clay to word off sucking insects and provide some “sunscreen” cooling the surface of the plants. To cap it all off we pulled out some of the white row cover you heard so much about in the spring. That will help exclude insects from the garden bed.

On the animal front I had an amusing task yesterday. We needed to estimate the weight of our hogs to see if we could take them to the butcher a month earlier. Since we have no scale we use a measuring tape much like tailors use to fit people for clothes. But this tape measures the pigs length and heart girth (the roundness just behind their front legs). With these two numbers we can estimate their weight. Our friendly pigs really enjoy attention. This usually makes the measuring easier. However, they have been spending their days totally covered in mud to cool off. Then they like to scratch on trees-or people. So as I measured around the pig’s bellies they were trying to rub on me. So I got to hug 200 lb, mud encrusted friendly pigs. Needless to say I needed a pre-rinse before coming in the house.

Today the pigs got an extra fun treat. I took down their fence and moved their paddock to the next space over. After some careful exploring to establish where I had placed the electric fence they started running around, and around, and around snorting and bucking. They thought it was great to be in a new space with fresh ground to root up. Incidentally, a new study has confirmed that pigs can express optimism and pessimism depending on their environment. Pessimistic pigs run from new stimulus while optimistic pigs move toward something new-our pigs are a bunch of sunshine!

Week 14 box


Cherry tomatoes- If you haven’t had a cherry tomato and feta basil salad yet, please do! Simply cut the cherry tomatoes in half and the larger ones in quarters with a serrated knife, drizzle with olive oil, crumbles of feta, and tiny ribbons of basil. Yum.

Roasted tomato basil and feta Pasta

Peppers- Red and green bell peppers AND sweet frying peppers “Corno di Torro” (Horn of the Bull)

Baby “Green” Beans, so nice and tender- just sauté in olive oil with other veggies. Add garlic, lemon juice, sea salt in the last 30 seconds.

Cilantro- Remember to keep in a little cup of water in the fridge. If your fridge is not humid (ie. the cilantro wilts) cover the cup and cilantro with a clear veggie bag.

Basil- What to do with those dainty little flowers? Snip them off and infuse some light colored honey with it! Add a few of sprigs of flowers to about 4 tablespoons of honey. Infuse overnight. Serve with figs, apples, peaches, sweet potato pancakes- get creative!


We have processing tomatoes for sale for $1.50/lb at the farm.

Some Photos of the Farm

Chickens exploring

A chicken exhibiting its athleticism to catch an insect-too fast for the camera!

You know its time to be more social when buckets become your best friend

Flowers always brighten the day

Rain is nice, but it sure makes the grass grow!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 3rd week 12

Everyone and everything at Bluebird Farm has enjoyed several days of cool, cloudiness with the temps not breaking 80 degrees. How refreshing! That meant the soil cooled down from 90 degrees to the mid 70’s. The plants loved the perfect soil temps and we’ve been watching the veggies and grass grow. It was also the perfect time to transplant more cilantro, the last succession of squash and cucumbers, and an attempt to get snow peas seeds to germinate. Hopefully these last squash and cuke plants will have good growing conditions and we will all swim in their fruits.

The flowers are putting on a show

This must be the Week of the Pepper! You have several types of peppers in your box this week. Not all peppers are bell peppers and not all are spicy- check out the Corno di Toro! Look for several recipes for them at the end of this newsletter. If you can’t use them all, try roasting them and freezing for a pleasant surprise in bean chili this winter.

Pepper Flower
In your box:

Heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes




Peppers- see below

What type of chiles and peppers are growing at Bluebird Farm right now?

Green bell peppers: sweet, versatile peppers that are picked before they have turned red or yellow. 2 types:

Red bell peppers: “Ace” is a productive plant- even through this heat that cause most others to drop their flowers! (no peppers if the flowers are dropped) We’ve been watching it develop larger and larger green bell peppers. There’s finally a handful of ripe red bell peppers coming on in the next weeks.

Clockwise from top: Jalopeno, Bell peppers, Coro di Toro, Poblano

Orange bell peppers: “California Golden Wonder” has been slow to grow and ripen, but offers a nice, small chunky pepper. Wait a few weeks to see if they ripen properly.

Long, Sweet Frying chile pepper: “Corno di Toro” or “Horn of the Bull” This highly regarded Italian heirloom is very popular for its sweet taste- never hot. For ease of slicing: try cutting across the whole pepper to make circles up the pepper and then remove the seeds if you wish.

Poblanos on left, Corno di Toro on right
Also try roasting!

Poblano: These are traditionally used for roasting and stuffing (Chile Rellanos is the most famous dish). From the Passionate Vegetarian, “Poblanos don’t offer a nice big cavity just dying to be stuffed. What they do offer is marvelous flavor- sweet, hot, with an undernote of chocolate- and an almost majestic color, a green so dark it’s nearly black. Their cavity is small and triangular; stuffing them is more like filling a small flat purse than a cup. Still, they are not to be missed”
Jalapeño: Small and wedge shaped- Some people love them and others don’t! You may leave the seeds and membrane in for the most heat.

Jalapeño: Small and wedge shaped- Some people love them and others don’t! You may leave the seeds and membrane in for the most heat.

Jalapenos in various states of ripeness

I love roasted chiles! I was first introduced to a freshly roasted chile while staffing a farmer’s market in Colorado for the ranch I was working on. My first bite was of a “Big Jim” chile stuffed with fresh soft sheep cheese, and it was love at first bite! The smells of the propane chile roaster rotating and flame roasting the chiles filled the air, bringing the locals to declare that the heights of summer had arrived!

Roasting chiles is simple. You char and blacken the chile or pepper with intense heat or direct flame. That means you can roast a poblano, chile, pepper, jalepeno or anything else with a gas grill, charcoal grill, gas stove range, electric or gas broiler.

Here’s a quick way to knock out a batch. Place the peppers or chiles with stems under a very hot grill or put the peppers or chiles on a baking sheet under a preheated broiler until the skin blisters slightly and is black in spots, about 5 minutes on each of two sides. Place in a large bowl with a towel over it until cool enough to handle; this steams the skin off. Peel most of the skin off. Don’t rinse the flavor away! Use a paper towel if needed! The pepper can then be used for days in many dishes. Or freeze for later.

Preparing for Stuffing : Cut a slit lengthwise from under the stem to the end point. Delicately scrape any seeds than can be easily removed. Stuff with your favorite stuffing.

Preparing for dicing: Cut a slit lengthwise from under the stem to the end point. Remove the stem, seeds and membrane. Slice and dice.

Or try this relish recipe
Peppers Stuffed with Chile Grits

Try this richly flavored recipe with roasted poblanos, green chiles or bell peppers or even an assortment of peppers! The piquant flavors of roasted peppers melt into the satisfying thick comfort of chile grits. Serve with chips ,salsa, and sour cream or plain yogurt next to shredded lettuce or cabbage.

Note: Have peppers or chiles prepared beforehand. Also note that the peppers are not baked after they are stuffed! I cook the grits while the onion is cooking to save time. Follow the directions on the package. It’s okay to use “quick” grits, just make sure to get plain flavored, watch the amount of sodium in the package, and make them thick!

1 tablespoon oil

2 medium onions, diced

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

2 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned

1 clove garlic

1 cup thick cooked grits or polenta

3 tablespoons roasted, diced green chiles or poblanos, or more to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

6 or 7 roasted poblanos or green chiles or (3 medium bell peppers- prepared for stuffing)

Heat the oil over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Add ground coriander and corn and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add garlic, grits (or polenta), diced green chile, and stir to combine. The filling will need to be thick enough to stick together somewhat. If it’s not, cook and gently stir until thick.

Stuff the peppers or chiles and serve.

Chile Cheese Grits: Add ½ cup shredded cheese to the chile grit mixture and stir to combine

Good thing your farmers are so cool

Silly sheep enjoying new eats. Can you find the odd ewe in the photo below?

July 28 Week 11

Hello all,

Maybe the end of July is a taste of weather to come: Cooler days and regular rain (now just cross your fingers that we don’t get too much moisture causing rots and fungi). We sure hope so because we are already thinking fall. Our greenhouse is full again with trays of baby vegetables. Swiss chards are poking their colorful heads out of the ground, broccolis are stretching, and just behind is kale, lettuce, and cabbage. Can you remember crisp greens? We do! Some of these greens and veggies will be ready in late September and keep going until well after frost into the winter. Did I just say frost and winter? Yes, we’re always thinking of the seasons here. Matter of fact, we will be picking up some high quality hay on Friday for the horse and the sheep. Stocking up on hay from the 1st cutting from this spring. The next cutting of hay this summer won’t be as plentiful because of the dry overwhelming heat. I think the pigs are the only ones who haven’t noticed the heat. They just hang out in their muddy piggy “spa” all day in the shady woodlot pasture.

Chicken Notice

While the weather may have cooled off in the past few days, our chickens were growing up in the middle of the heat wave. In the hot weather they don’t eat as much and consequently are a little smaller than usual. So we will be delaying butcher day. The 3rd CSA chicken pick up will be Wednesday August 11.

Speaking of chickens, we want to hear if you have any favorite recipes you’ve been using with the chickens. We also want to hear if you have had any challenges cooking the whole birds. Marie is considering a chicken cutting and cooking workshop if there are enough folks interested.


Our 100% grass fed will be available at the farm during CSA pick-up. Please ask if you would like to purchase some delicious lamb burger. We also have packages consisting of 2 packs of chops, 1 leg roast, and 4 lbs ground lamb. Respond to this email to reserve your package! These packages cost about $80. We are giving the CSA first choice to purchase these packages. We have a very limited supply so you will need to pick it up this Wednesday or Saturday at the Morganton Farmers Market after reserving your lamb.

Week 11 box


Sweet Peppers (bell peppers and two pointy varieties: lipstick and Corno di toro) Taste that flavor- more than just “sugar water” Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweet pepper, but these peppers have soul! Cross your fingers for ripening peppers... They take forEVER to ripen. You get the least amount of rot if you harvest green instead of red or yellow.

Squash or Zucchini

Basil-Layer a slice of bread or bagel with tomato and leaves of basil, then top with cheddar cheese slices and broil until cheese is melted.

Cucumber (this week we are getting more of our interesting varieties. This may be the first time some of you receive Ruby Wallace Old Time White or Lemon Cucumbers. Both of these cukes are small with light skin: white with yellow tints. Don’t be fooled by the strange looks though, they are delicious and sweet- even with their skin on!) Slice into rounds, sprinkle with a touch of salt and sugar, a splash of vinegar, and some chopped cilantro.

Scallions- mild and sweet, best used for raw dishes for mild onion flavor, like in potato salad

Cilantro- zesty, with the taste of a fiesta! We pulled this one off- cilantro hates hot weather, but we did it! We grew it here at Bluebird, it’s amazing what healthy, fertile soils can achieve!

New Potatoes (large share only) The skins are very tender. No need to peel. Please wash and towel dry if you need to store them in your fridge for more than a few days!

Recipe: Refrigerator Pickles

If your cucumbers have been building up in the fridge fresh pickles are a great way to turn them into a delicious treat. We have also eaten pickled squash that is every bit as good as pickled cucumbers. Maybe you can mix squash and cucs for a colorful pickle mix.


  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups white sugar (personally I prefer less sugar, but this is up to you)
  • 6 cups sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 cup sliced green bell peppers


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the cucumbers, onions and green bell peppers in a large bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Transfer to sterile containers. Let marinade overnight for the best flavor. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week (if they last that long).

Have a great week!

William and Marie