Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I thought that this morning I would bring you out to Bluebird farm. Don’t worry, you can leave before the hot, hot afternoon!
Out the door. I’m still loosening up my shoulders, neck, and fingers. Every morning those three places are the sorest. Walking to feed the cats and up the hill to the chickens is usually enough to warm up my legs.
Cats are fed. Now comes the hardest part of the morning. I haven’t developed a system of writing down the things I noticed I needed for the next morning’s chores. So I am left to scratch my sleepy head for a moment remembering who needs food and water. I love it when I remember that we are fully stocked.
This is the part of the walk I usually remember that I forgot something. Today, nothing! I hate turning around.
Open, move, feed, and water meat birds and layer hens. Stroll past the pigs on my way back down for breakfast. Marie has taken care of the baby chickens and started the eggs. Mmmm, by this time I am hungry and sweaty already.
Now is when the day really starts. We head over to Silver Creek farm to work in the vegetable garden before it is unbearable hot. These days there is usually something to harvest every day. Most of the greens we harvest in the spring can hold in the field until we need to pick them for market or CSA. The summer crops on the other hand just keep ripening. Squash, beans, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes all need to be picked every other day or we will find baseball bat squashes, tough beans, and rotten peppers and tomatoes.
After the vegetables are in the shade we move on, usually to weeding. While we weed we are constantly scouting for potential problems so that we can address them as soon as possible. These days we are on the lookout for a wide variety of insect “friends.” While the spring rampage of Colorado Potato Beetles has dissipated summer pests are out in force. Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borer beetles, stink bugs, bean beetles, tomato horn worms, and a variety of unknown worms are all causing us difficulties. Our primary line of defense against insects is old fashioned hand picking. When we fall behind neem oil and Bassilus Thuringiensus (Bt) help keep the insects at bay.
The neem oil, essential oil from the Indian neem tree, also acts as a fungicide. Hot, humid weather provides ideal conditions for many funguses including blossom end rot on tomatoes and a black fuzzy mold on our squashes. To apply oil, Bt and anything else we may need to spray on plant foliage we put on our “ghost buster” backpacks. They hold 4 gallons of liquid and use a hand pump and spray nozzle to pressurize and apply liquids to plant. They are a great tool for precession application of fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides (all organic of course).
By now it is almost too hot to function in the field. We are hungry, hot, tired, and usually a little grumpy. This is not a good time to come visit. Homeward bound to lunch and a nap. Rejuvenated we will catch up on inside work during the heat of the day before heading back out to move sheep, seed, more weeding, put up crow
Week 10 box
Peppers (you have been getting various sweet green peppers. All peppers are green when unripe. They then reach a final color depending on the variety-red, orange, yellow… Being unripe fruit, green bell peppers have a sharper flavor compared to the sweet ripe fruits. Last week you also received some jalapeños-the small green pepper with purple mottling)
Leeks are a non-bulbing onion with a mild flavor. The white part of the leek is the sweetest. The greens are perfectly edible. The higher up you use the stronger the onion flavor. How much green to use is a matter of personal preference.
To prepare leeks Remove roots. Then slice half way through the leek along the length. Hold the leek upside down and rinse well. The growth habit of leeks means they tend to fill up with dirt as they grow so they need a good wash.
To cook either
Dice and sauté in butter to serve with just about anything.
Cutting the leeks into three inch lengths and sauté in butter. Then place the leeks on a piece of good bread, cover with a tomato slice, then top with gruyere or mozzarella cheese. Broil just long enough to melt the cheese.
Pesto version 1
1 big cup of basil leaves
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ tablespoons of pine nuts
3 tablespoons of original parmesan cheese
1 ½ medium sized garlic cloves
Crush the basil leaves using a mortar and pestle after washing the leaves carefully (they should not break before you start crushing them. Otherwise they might lose flavor).
Add the olive oil and mix it very well. When it starts to look like a paste add the garlic and the pine nuts and continue mixing all the ingredients.
After you obtain a nice puree season with salt and pepper and continue mixing for another 2-3 minutes. Now, add the parmesan cheese and again: mix it well.
Let the pesto rest before you use it, so the flavor will unfold. 10 minutes should be enough. Use it with your favorite pasta dish or try another dish, such as pesto chicken.
Pesto version 2
½ cup fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup walnuts or pine nuts
½ cup olive oil, approx.
Salt to taste
Directions same as version 1
Pesto can be made with almost any nut. I have had excellent pistachio pestos as well as roasted almond pesto.
A homemade pesto sauce should be kept in the fridge if you don’t use everything in the same day. You can store homemade pesto for about 1 week, if you cover it with olive oil.
To freeze pesto leave out the parmesan cheese. You can add the cheese after thawing. Divide pesto into meal size portions. Freeze in freezer bags.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Hot and humid-but it rained!
A note on the cucumbers: Some of you have probably encountered some of our bitter cucumbers. The heat has worn the plants out. The tired plants send tiny packets of bitterness into the stem end of the cucumber fruit. Some of our varieties of cucumbers are more susceptible to this problem than others. Unfortunately, the bitter plants are the most productive. Last September, William and I enjoyed the amazing earthy taste of the Emperor Alexander cukes. A small number of plants (12!) dumped buckets of sweet cucumbers in that steady, pleasant weather. Now, that same type of plant is producing some of the bitter culprits. Good news, the dark green Straight 8’s, bright white mini cukes, and Little Leaf (mini cukes) are all delicious. Bad news, those varieties make up only 25% of the plants we have in the garden. AND…because of the weather and the fertility issues (overall stress) all of the plants have very little fruit. Those 12 plants last fall would have kept the boxes full of cukes, this summer we have over 150 plants and they aren’t producing properly!!!
Other plant also have trouble when the temperatures get about 90 degrees. Tomatoes and peppers have trouble turning flowers into fruit- (We have 10 tomato plants for every CSA member and over 10 pepper plants for every CSA member!). Frustrating, but can’t complain about the soaring temperatures and dry, crispy weather too much, right? Complaining about it doesn’t get me very far when there is still work to do!
One of the great parts of a diversified vegetable farm is that even when some crops are struggling, others are doing alright. I am absolutely in love with the cherry tomatoes plants. Even if it is more labor to pick them, they are worth it! You can taste summer as you eat the sweet juiciness of the Sungold’s and Black Cherry’s. Their colors of shining gold brilliance and deep earthy red fire beckon me as I pick them from the shimmering tomato vines. Those colors, combined with their productiveness, make me feel at peace in the garden. This is the rhythm I want to see in mid-summer.
On Monday the rain came! I was harvesting tomatoes when the first cool drops fell. I picked the cherry tomatoes faster, making sure I picked any fruit that might swell and burst from absorbing the potential downpours. William cruised through the large heirloom tomatoes, plucking plump globes from the vines. I felt like I should burst into song and pop out into a Bollywood movie set in the middle of a long awaited monsoon. Oh the joy of being soaked by gentle rains after over a month with crispy, dusty soil. We would like to request a little more rain like that, once a week would be perfect.
The rain will also provide a much needed boost to our cover crops. These are non-vegetable crops preceding and following the vegetables. They perform a myriad of tasks in the garden from suppressing weeds to attracting beneficial insects to building soil. We have planted to buckwheat, cowpeas, and millet in areas where spring crops have been removed (they are all food crops, but we are going to till them back into the soil for organic matter).
Our second succession of “green” beans has stated to produce! This week you will find a colorful mix of yellow, green and some purple beans in your box.
A simple, delicious recipe for them is:
Green beans sautéed with lemon
Lemon juice-2-3 tablespoons
Parmesan cheese-2-3 tablespoons
Wash beans. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Cook beans until they are hot through (the fresh beans don’t need much cooking, only heating). When the beans are hot add 2-3 cloves of crushed or finely diced garlic. Add lemon juice to taste (about 2-3 tablespoons). Stir until flavors are blended. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Stir in cheese. Serve as a side with just about anything.
Week 9 box
Potatoes (try rosemary roasted potatoes with the bean recipe above)
Swiss chard (for those of you who did not receive it last week)
Squash and Zucchini
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Thank you all for your words of support after last week’s email. It is so encouraging to hear your positive energy and commitment to local, fresh, and healthy food. I think of some of your emails and conversations several times a day as we try to work out solutions to each challenge we face. The fish emulsion fertigation (fertilizing + irrigating) is one of those success stories.
If “does it smell like fish?” was the question of the night then “The sheep are out again!” was the exclamation of the night. Unfortunately, the bad sheep have learned the tricks to getting out of our fencing. Part of the problem is the lack of high quality grass, so they are never happy. As many of you have undoubtedly noticed it is rather hot and dry. With our irrigation systems we are able to grow our vegetables with no water issues. However, unlike Colorado, no one in the South East is equipped to irrigate pastures. It is simply an unjustified expense in our rainy climate. We hope to revisit that rainy climate sooner rather than later. We (and the sheep) welcome some soothing, soaking rains to gently wake and invigorate the grass.
Week 8 box
Your first taste of Tomatoes! We have a wide variety of types from slicing tomatoes, to thick, meaty tomatoes for cooked dishes, to sweet cherry tomatoes. We will try to rotate varieties among the whole CSA. If you receive cherry tomatoes please return the pint container clean and dry for reuse. The thick, meaty tomatoes are usually long shaped with thick walls and are small (quarter size) to large (5 inches tall). These Roma type tomatoes are for dicing into pasta but they are also great for quartering and salting- then adding to salads.
Basil- Thai, use basil for a flower arrangement, but also use the leaves! The purple flowers can be soaked in maple syrup for infused flavor! Drizzle that over some pork or grilled veggies in the last 30 seconds of cooking for a glaze.
Green Pepper- small, but flavorful- those thick walls sure are difficult to obtain!
Half of the boxes will receive Swiss Chard-Next week the other half can look forward to Swiss chard (we have to give it a longer regrowing period in this hot weather)
Large Shares only-Green beans
Cucumber Yogurt Salad
This is one of my favorite quick dishes for a hot day. Flavors can be adjusted for personal taste.
Dill- ***Sometimes we also add coriander ***
Garlic or Scallions
Either Peel and slice or Peel and grate the cucumber. Salt the cucumber and place in a colander to drain for about 15 minutes
Dice or crush several cloves of garlic
Dice several scallions
Add as much garlic of scallion as you like-personal preference for this varies widely
After Cucumbers have drained mix with yogurt
Mix in garlic or scallion
Add dill and salt to taste.
This salad is a great side for a Mediterranean themed meal.