Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 20

Hello all,

Rain and beautiful weather usher in the final week of Bluebird Farm 2010 CSA. The official Bluebird Farm rain gauge registered 2.1 inches from the first drops Sunday am to the final rain Monday night. Thankfully, the rain came in well measured bursts interspersed with drizzle. The last thing we wanted was a 2 inch deluge in one hour.

On Monday our older pigs loaded into the trailer to go to the butcher. Getting to the trailer was a little bit of an adventure. We had mixed the two age groups of pigs together about two weeks ago. So we had to somehow open the fence and herd the big pigs out while holding back the seven, very curious and excited little pigs. In the end four little ones came along for the walk to the holding pen. They had a great time exploring the woods without the older pigs bothering them (they were too busy exploring as well). But after the hullabaloo of corralling the older pigs into the holding pen the younger pigs were ready to head home. Petunia had jumped into the herding at the corral (usually she was more in the way than a help) and now she wanted to “help” with walking the young pigs home. So Marie and Petunia led the way along the forest road with the four little ones trotting along behind. I brought up the rear to make sure no one stayed behind. It was pretty funny seeing Petunia’s fluffy tail leading four curly pig tails up the road.

The big vegetable field is looking tired and worn out. The tomatoes are showing more blackened branches than ever before. Many fruit are damaged by insects, the sudden switch from dry to wet, and fungus that invades when plants become weak. It is the sort of garden that makes me start to think about clean up: the hard, dirty, but ultimately satisfying work of pulling up plants, taking down trellises, removing irrigation, mowing, and soil preparation for next year. I can already see the field in its fall state. The landscape of towering tomatoes, sprawling vines, and unruly weeds replaced by the groomed look of a made bed or mowed lawn-a welcome respite from the exuberance of summer vegetable gardening.

The garden from the hill. Next year's garden is in the far left

We feel a little like the garden at the end of a season. Our muscles are past tired and our minds have trouble with basic organization and focus. Cooler weather and shorter days make us want to spend more time reflecting than actually working (of course we don’t get to do that quite yet). As we talk about this year we never cease to be amazed at all the support and encouragement we receive. When we moved back to North Carolina we didn’t expect Morganton to be very interested and passionate in what we are doing at Bluebird Farm.

A moment with the bee (look closely in the center of the photo)

In our early planning discussions we frequently pointed out Morganton’s proximity to Hickory, Charlotte, and even Winston-Salem. But you have shown that you care about what we are doing. You care where your food comes from, you want to know your farmers, and you believe in what we are doing. We have been humbled, excited, and inspired to receive this response. Without such positive feedback it would be hard to want to continue working this job that is challenging in the best of years (and this wasn’t one of the best years). And so, even as we clean up from this year we are preparing for next year. We have been spreading organic soil amendments (manure, granite dust, lime), seeding cover crops, and writing down thoughts and observations about this year’s crops before they fade in our minds.

We want to hear from you as well. Please watch for an upcoming survey about your experience with Bluebird Farm CSA. We will be asking questions about quantity, quality, variety, communication, and logistics. When you do receive the survey please take the time to fill it out. Community supported agriculture requires open communication both ways between farmer and consumer.

With our increased knowledge of the fields we are working, improved soil conditions, and more planning based on a year of work we look forward to a great year next year. We hope you will join us!

Bluebird Farm after the CSA

· You can find us at the Morganton Farmers Market on Saturday 10/2 and 10/9 from 8-noon

· We will restart our Farmer Fridays at Catawba Valley Brewing Company after the Morganton Market ends with greens, eggs, pork, and chicken

· We will continue to be at the Hickory market on Wednesdays and the Conover market on Saturdays through October

· We will have pork and eggs available for much of the winter, see upcoming emails for availability at the farm and in town

· There is one post-CSA chicken batch in mid-November

Week 20 box


Sweet potatoes

Boc Choi

Swiss Chard


Old favorites



Basil has retired for the year


Roasted Sweet Potato Puree with Coconut Milk (from Grub by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry)

3-4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup (molasses is good too, but does have a stronger flavor-start with 2-3 tablespoons if using molasses and taste for flavor)

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

½ cup coconut milk, warmed

· Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a baking dish or roasting pan

· In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, maple syrup, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Toss well.

· Transfer the sweet potatoes to the prepared pan and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until slightly crisp on the edges.

· Remove from the oven. In a food processor, combine sweet potatoes with the warmed coconut milk. Puree, adding more coconut milk for your desired consistency, and transfer to a serving dish.

Parky’s Southern Braised Kale with Sweet Potatoes (from Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon)

3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed

1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil such as canola, corn or peanut.

1 bell pepper, diced

½ onion diced

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers minced

2 pounds kale, washed, tough ribs removed leaves stacked and coarsely chopped (you may substitute any hearty green or combination of greens)

1/3 cup mild vegetable stock

1 orange

1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 medium tomatoes chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

· Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add sweet potatoes, lower heat, and simmer until just tender, about 25 minutes

· Heat oil in nonstick deep skillet over medium high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Saute 5 minutes

· Add kale. Top with sliced sweet potatoes. Pour the stock over the dish, cover, and braise until the call is cooked, but still bright green, 4-5 minutes.

· Grate the rind of the orange; squeeze its juice into a cup. When the kale is done uncover and add about 1 tablespoon of grated rind, 3 tablespoons of the juice, 1 tablespoon vinegar, the tomatoes, and salt and pepper.

· Taste, adjust flavors with orange, vinegar, salt and pepper as necessary.

Preparing for winter

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hello all,

CSA Farm Day- many of you are up to your ears in fall activities and are unable to come the CSA day this Saturday. If you are able to come we need to hear from you by tomorrow evening (Wednesday 9/22).

Remember, after this week there is only one more week of CSA. We have had a great season with all of your support and encouragement. Come see us at farmers markets through the month of October. There will be one more CSA chicken pick up for all chicken CSA members on Wednesday, October 13th.

Friday began early, picking up some baby chickens from the post office. Whenever I call down there in the morning they seem a little surprised to receive such an early call. They also seem relieved that someone is coming to get the noisy babies out of their office. The chicks are usually chirping so loudly that I can hear them over the phone as the post master looks at the address on the chick box. The only way to get them to quiet down just a little bit is to crank the heat in the car on the drive home-even on a hot morning like Friday. Now the chicks are happily munching, cheeping, and growing in their shelter.

Happy chicks

Our pigs are now (at least most of the time) getting along together. Two weeks ago I wrote about the big pigs chasing the little pigs all the time when we tried to put them in the same pen. We had to put up an electric line between the two groups to let the little pigs have some peace and quiet. However, the older girls (who have never broke down their fence before) continually broke through to the young pig area. After almost a week of constantly moving pigs and fixing fences we just took the fence down and told the little pigs to “stand up to those big bullies”. So far they have done just that and everyone is enjoying being a pig in the woods!

happy sheep

In the garden we have planted almost everything we plan on planting this fall. All we have to do for them is some minor weeding and harvest. But there is never time to sit around at the farm! We have been busily preparing next year’s area. We have spread lime to improve our pH, granite dust to make up for our potassium deficiency, and horse manure to add nutrients and organic matter. The next step is to plant a winter cover crop and hope for rain. Actually, because we need the cover to germinate before it gets to cold we will probably put up overhead irrigation (sprinklers-as opposed to the drip irrigation we use for vegetables) to ensure adequate moisture.

Week 19 box

Stir fry mix

Cherry Tomatoes



Peppers- see recipe below




Roasted Pepper Spread

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

6 medium bell or sweet peppers, chopped roughly and roasted (see below)

8 ounces Neufchatel reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1 can chickpeas, 15 oz, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon miso (you can find it at Nature’s Bounty. Maybe Ingles? If you want to substitute it try tahini and salt instead)

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

Minced parsley

Mince garlic in food processor. With the motor running, add each ingredient until smooth. Garnish with parsley.

Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian, 2002.

William and Marie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week 18 CSA

Hello all,
Another reminder to all Wednesday chicken shares: tomorrow is the day to pick up your fresh pasture chicken. If you have a chicken share and you usually pick up your veggie box at Phifer or Nysie’s on Wednesdays, please come to the farm for veggies and chicken.

Important dates for the CSA: This is 18th week out of the 20 week CSA. The last veggie and egg CSA date is Wednesday, September 29th or Saturday, October 2nd. Please remember that you are all invited to the CSA Farm Day on Saturday September 25th for a beautiful fall afternoon of farm fun. The last chicken CSA pick-up is Wednesday October 13th from 4-6 pm.

It has been gorgeous dry, clear, dry, cool, dry, breezy, and dry weather. While we can’t complain too much about the weather we could stand a little more rain. Luckily enough we timed our last several plantings in the garden with the wet days we have gotten.
Our fall transplants of boc choi, chinese cabbage, lettuce, and kale are standing in vibrant green rows out in the field. However, you wouldn’t notice their bright little sprouts against the brown soil at first. What catches your eye are the giant white caterpillars, well not really caterpillars, but that’s what we call them. We have metal hoops about waist high and about 6 feet across from foot to foot. We set the hoops up over our garden beds and stretch a white spun fabric over them. Many of you have seen this row cover at the farm or in our photos. Right now we are using a lightweight cover for insect protection. Later in the fall we will switch to a heavy weight fabric for frost protection. Currently we have three of these hoops side by side running the 120 foot length of the field.
It is like entering another world when you lift the edge of these hoops and look under. The wind doesn’t blow; the air is moister and a little warmer. It’s like a little protected vegetable haven. Under each hoop are two beds separated by a narrow pathway. And down the beds are our little rows of bright green fall vegetables. Their green is almost incongruous with this time of year. Most grass, trees, and other plants are the dark rich, tried green of late summer. But not the vegetables, they have the bright almost neon green of spring in their leaves.
We tried something new with spinach this fall. Spinach is notorious for its poor germination. Ask almost any farmer or gardener about spinach and they will either tell you they have trouble growing it, or they have no trouble because of some complicated scheme they devised to make it work. Our new complicated scheme is to place the seeds between damp paper towels. We then put the towels in a plastic bag in a dark cool place for about three days. At this point almost all the seeds have germinated! They had little roots less than a quarter inch long. I then made small trenches about 1 inch deep and put the seeds down the bottom. I was afraid that the seeding might break off the roots and that the seed wouldn’t be able to regrow. But hey, farming is about trying new things. Next I put fish emulsion across them to give a little boost. Then I tamped the soil back over the seeds. Today we have rows of spinach with their two cotyledons (false leaves) reaching upward. Now the battle with the insects begins. We hope to win that one with the help of cooler nights. With any luck we will have some delicious spinach in a few weeks. Just in time for the last CSA week? We certainly hope it will grow quickly for Week 20, our last CSA box.

Week 18 box
New this week!
Stir-Fry mix (can also be used as a spicy salad mix)
Chop roughly and lightly stir fry in dishes the last few minutes. It is also good added to quiches. If eaten raw treat kind of like arugula-eat alone or add to lettuce for a peppery spice. It’s great with feta cheese too.
Some old favorites
Cherry tomatoes-
Tomatoes- all of the tomatoes are winding down with the cool days, love them now, because they are leaving us soon!
Eggplant- maybe? We’ll see what pops out of the garden tomorrow morning
Basil- Lots of flowers now- soak flowers in honey for a wonder flavor
Look forward to Swiss chard soon!

Pasta with Mizuna and Sausage
Mizuna is one of the primary greens in our stir-fry mix. I love its peppery flavor more than other spicy greens like arugula. Use stir-fry mix in this recipe (I thought it sounded better with Mizuna in the title) Feel free to substitute the sausage with cooked mushrooms.
1 large onion, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 tbl sp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
½ lb-1 lb of your choice of sausage, mostly cooked- a little pink is fine,
½ cup roasted peppers, cut into bite-size pieces
1 bag of Stir-fry mix, leaves chopped into 2 inch pieces, stems diced into ½ pieces
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
12 oz medium bow tie pasta
¼ shredded Parmesan cheese or Manchego
½ tsp. freshly cracked pepper

1. In a large skillet cook onion in oil until tender. Stir in garlic, broth, sausage, roasted peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Add greens; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until greens are wilted. Remove from heat.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta with sausage mixture, basil, cherry tomatoes,cheese, and black pepper.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 17 CSA

Hello all,
We love hearing all of your wonderful food and farm stories. Thanks for sharing- nice stories with good food, family, and friends!

Some business
• Please return your boxes! Thank you for all the returned egg cartons and tomato pints
• We are taking deposits for pork and lamb packages. If you aren’t sure now, there will be another chance in December.
• Don’t forget the CSA day on Saturday September 25 from 4-6:30pm. Please include the number of people you expect in your party in your RSVP. We look forward to a glorious fall afternoon at the farm.

Sometimes while farming we try things that we really don’t know if they will work or not. On Monday we tried combining our younger pigs with the big ones. The younger pigs have spent the last 6 weeks or so in a corral with a small run on it. We were moving them by herding them to the pig area in the woods. Unfortunately, they had become very comfortable with their space and were reluctant to leave their home. Eventually we had to shut them out of their corral and shove them far enough away that they began to explore instead of trying to return. Of course there was one stubborn one that I had to pick up and carry about 20 feet through briar infested woods to get her moving.
Once they were on the road through the woods the little group of seven moved along pretty well. As soon as the big pigs noticed the little ones walking toward them through the woods they leapt to their feet and ran to their fence snorting, “barking” and sniffing. The little pigs, surprisingly enough were not particularly intimidated. I say surprising because the labels “little” and “big” pigs are no exaggeration here. As I mentioned the little ones are still pick-up-able, about 90 lbs, albeit not very comfortably. The big pigs however, are approaching 300 pounds. The top of their back easily come up to mid-thigh on me. The little pigs can literally run between the legs of the big ones.
Once the little ones were in the fence with the big ones the curiosity of the large pigs turned into bullying. If the seven little ones stayed together over in one corner, they would be mostly left alone. But should they try to venture out the big ones would sneak up on them and start chasing trying to get a good bite out of the little ones ears. This culminated in all of the little pigs breaking out of the fence and having a little pig party in the woods. We thought we’d try it out- some pig herds can be mixed ages, but our big pigs don’t enjoy sharing. Now the little ones have their own paddock next to the big pigs. We hope they can sort out their differences across the fence and one day live in harmony. For now they enjoy being neighbors.

Week 17 box

Cilantro- roasted peppers (poblanos) and cilantro with rice makes a great Mexican rice

Peppers- lots of peppers this week- The peppers aren’t ripening anymore with the cool nights, so we are picking big ones and letting little ones grow before frost!
Sweet bell peppers- roast these peppers for bistro-style sandwiches, dips, steaks

Poblano peppers
- sweet and rich flavor, medium spicy, best flavor roasted
This person has an amazing collection of poblano recipes that I love:

Corno di Torro
- sweet Italian heirloom pepper, great for frying or roasting

Feel free to freeze them! How about halving and freezing them ? (takes up less room in your freezer) or better yet, chop roughly and freeze.
Make your own roasted peppers: Roasting peppers is simple. You may roast chopped peppers or char and blacken the entire 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.
Chop roughly into pieces , place on a baking sheet, and roast at 350 F for about 20-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The longer they cook, the more the peppers will caramelize. Make sure to use a “freezer” bag, not storage bag if freezing the peppers.
Here’s a quick way to knock out a batch of whole roasted peppers. 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.

Rustic Ciabatta Pizza

This late summer rustic pizza owes its style to the rich flavors of late summer, the days the vegetables have spent soaking up the sun- their personality blends so well with ciabatta bread and olive oil.
3-4 small ciabatta loaves or 1 large loaf
Shredded mozzarella or feta
Olive oil
Sea salt
***the ratio of the vegetables depends on everyone’s personal tastes***
Cut eggplant into thin rounds or coins and spread very thinly across a baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil. Chop peppers roughly into pieces and spread across a baking pan. Place both pans into a 350 F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the tomato and sprinkle with sea salt. Chop the basil. Slice ciabatta in half and brush with olive oil. Layer eggplant, pepper, tomato, basil on ciabatta halves. Top with cheese and basil and bake for 12 minutes.