Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Patch


Starting this Saturday we will be hosting a pumpkin patch at our farm! Please stop by for all your pumpkin, squash, and fall decorating needs!

We will have small hay bales, corn stalks, decorative squash & gourds along with tons of pumpkins!

It should be a fun time and this weekend is supposed to be beautiful weather so we hope to see you!

The pic above is a small display we put in the CSA pickup room. We will have TONS more pumpkins, do not worry, we have something for everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rain rain, go away...



This time last year we were irrigating our spring crops. This year, we are waiting to get into the fields! It has rained 3.4 inches so far this month, according to Accuweather. They are forecasting another 4 inches this month! Every day, but one, this month they recorded at least a trace of rain, and at least some is expected every day for the next 10 days! That is 40 days people!

Let me tell you, if we have over 7" of rain in April, it will take a solid week (at least) of warm, windy and DRY days before we can get on ANY of our land. We currently have a greenhouse full of starts, a few hundred feet of peas, 1600+ feet of potatoes, and our garlic in the ground. That is it.


We have room in our back high tunnel for more lettuce, greens, scallions, radishes, and some other items like those, but in general we need it to STOP raining. We have 500 pounds of potatoes , 3 cases of onion starts (1800 plants each), 50 pounds of onion sets (6000 or so sets), and that is not to mention the starts!


Thankfully, I am not worried about our CSA, with a mid-June start week we should be fine (assuming it stops raining at some point! We will keep starting plants, and soon will start potting huge amounts up into bigger containers. That way items we would like to be planting soon (like the cabbages), will be able to keep growing. This will make it a bit harder when it comes time to plant them in the field, but they will be big healthy plants! We will probably max out our greenhouse soon if we pot plants up. One tray of 72 cabbage starts becomes 5 or 6 trays of 4 inch pots. You can imagine this type of exponential growth is hard to manage in confined areas, so we will need to look at alternatives, like some quick fabricated low tunnels.


All and all, a wet season is better then a droughty one for us. We just want to be able to get plants in the ground. So please just hope that we do not see 40 days and 40 nights of rain in May...




Monday, April 18, 2011

Ramp Harvesting...

If you have ever tasted ramps?

They are for some THE culinary harbinger of spring, coming before asparagus or rhubarb and just in time to share with greenhouse produced greens.

In fact they are so to more and more people... They are becoming a victim of their own popularity.

When I have always thought of ramps I have thought of them as a quick growing plant, which regenerate quickly. However, this is not the case. They can take up to 7 years to develop a bulb, and typically when you pick you pick the whole plant bulb and all... Often, entire patches are dug, leaving few to replenish a patch. Over 2 million plants will be harvested this year, this is to many. In Quebec they became quite popular in farmers markets and quickly were so endangered harvesting them was prohibited. Ramps are an important part of early spring forest ecosystems. They are not, like Mushrooms, the fruiting body, they are the whole plant, and once harvested, likely gone from that place for years.

The solutions? Do not harvest or buy (or eat) ramp bulbs. The leaves are as tasty, and careful harvesting of these will not kill the plants. When harvested take only 20% of leaves from a patch, allowing a 5 year harvest cycle.

As much of the pressure is caused by commercial harvesting for the restaurant, talk to your chefs. Tell them you do not want dishes which include wild ramp bulbs. If you see them at farmers markets, talk to the producers and tell them the ramp story, they probably do not know. Tell them that you would LOVE to buy ramp leaves, but cannot buy whole plants.

Grist Action alert Ramps...
Slow Food USA blog Post...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Sugar?

Over the past few years our family has done a good job of eliminating HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) from our diet. But this week I read this article in the New York Times with the scary title "Is Sugar Toxic?" My first thought is "Yet another thing to demonize! In 10 years we will be eating nothing but... AIR!" But as those of you who know us personally probably can guess that both hubby and I struggle with our weight, and have both been doing so since we were around 12 years old. We have done a good job of eating a LOT healthier in the past 10 years or so. We eat very little processed food, we cook almost every meal, many of them are heavy in veggies and are vegetarian or use meat as "seasoning." We use only healthily oils mainly expeller pressed, try to avoid GMOs, BGH, and BPA as we do HFCS (if you nodded at that sentence you understand how hard that is, and how all we can do is our best.) As you can probably imagine, most of our meals are organic, much of our meat is grass fed or pastured. But we have also tried every diet out there... At least those we can do without buying processed junk, we do not feel that chemicals are the answer... And we have noticed a few things. First, Atkins works. But no one can (or should) live like that. Second, when you give up sweets you crave them less. Third, when you stop eating foods with a lot of chemicals they can cause "effects" when you slip. Fourth, when we eat something that is artificially sweetened we CRAVE more sweets. So we know that the "modern" diet has a real effect on us. So what is a "Fat Farmer" to do? Maybe give up 90% of our sugar as well as HFCS? Read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html And if that interests you take the time to watch this video, at 90 minutes it is long, but worth your time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM&feature=player_embedded Let me know what you think...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maple Torte with Meringue Frosting

Tuesday Recipes

It is Maple Syrup Time. Here is a great recipe where you get to enjoy the sweetness of maple syrup in a cake, but without the guilt that traditional butter/shortening based frosting can cause.

Enjoy...

Maple Torte

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tillers...

Random Stuff Monday

It is the time of year to start thinking about farm equipment. Tilling becomes a farmers preoccupation in the spring, waiting for the perfect field conditions for good beds all year.

So today's Random Things No One Told Me about Farming is about Tillers!
  1. Are you aware of how much soil will erode a tiller blade, over time? The silver blade started at the same size as the black one. Look at the difference when they are laid on to of each other.
  2. Replacing the blades may make the tiller work as good as new.
  3. Blades are cheap when compared with a new Tiller.
  4. If you have a high tunnel you should maybe consider a walk behind tractor. Earth Tools makes a wide range including BCS tillers.
  5. "Rock burriers" are tillers where the tines rotate backwards. This throws dirt on top of anything the tiller brings up making wonderful beds. But they also cost a ton more, but think about how much heavier that must be made for the tines to go against the direction of the tractor... Also, the tractor must be higher horse power. One of these are on our wish list...
  6. Along with a "spader", these are a tiller alternative which helps maintain more of the soil structure.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Coupons

Frugal Fridays.

Earlier this week someone was talking about this show Extreme Couponing. It sounded very interesting so I went on the computer to try to find it. Of course, TLC does not broadcast their shows on Hulu and we do not have cable, but I did get to watch several clips and trailers.


My first thought was my mom. While not as bad (or good) as these people she went through a phase where she was an avid coupon clipper. Some of this (or all of it) was my fault because I was working at a grocery store with a great coupon policy.


We did 24 hours of cashier training on how to calculate/ring these (this was way back in 1993 and cash registers were not that smart.) The store accepted “Tear outs” from other stores deals. So you had to ring the item, look at the price on the other store’s ad and then subtract and write down the savings. Now we also doubled coupons up to a total value of $2.00 (except on certain days we would triple coupons with a face value of less than $0.50.) But in no case could you give the customer more than the value of the item.


As you can imagine this could get very complicated, which is why the application for the job included a 2 page math test and if you passed you were a cashier, PERIOD.


For instance you bought 5 cans of soup which were $0.89 each. You have a tear out from another store for soup for $0.25 each (for up to 4 cans). So you do some quick math and write down $2.56 on the tear out. So you know that the customer is now paying $1.89 for those cans of soup and then they give you coupons for $.25 off one can and $.75 off 4 cans. So you triple $.25 the one to $.75 (since it is Thursday) and apply it to the remaining $.89 cent can. And the other coupon is doubled to $1.50. But since the customer only paid $1.00 for those cans you can only value it at that. So the customer ends up getting the 5 cans for $0.14.


Don’t think I made this overly complicated on purpose, these are the types of things we had all the time. People came to the store from hours away because the couponing was SO GOOD! We regularly had customers save 80% off their bills. Ringing some of these customers would take an hour.


I taught my mom the ins and outs of the system. She started couponing with a vengeance. She would spend 10 hours a week or so clipping and organizing her plan. ANYTHING she could get for under $.05 she bought, and if we did not need it she gave it to the food bank. She would come home with 10 boxes of cereal and a pile of canned goods almost every trip. But it was a lot of time and commitment.


Now I heard on this show about “Coupon Clipping Services” and looked them up. Pretty cool, you can get good, high value coupons for $.05 to $.12 cents each. If it is a $.75 cent one you double to $1.50 that can be quite a savings. But as I looked through I realized that it is of little good to us.


We use ALMOST NONE of these products, they seem to be 90% highly processed foods, with lots of ingeredients we avoid. But I did do some research and I found a few coupons which looked good. Here are the links if you want to take advantage of them…

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nuclear Power.

Topical Thursdays...

So I guess I cannot hide from controversy forever in a blog. So here I thought I would share this really interesting article from The Guardian in the UK on The Double Standards of Green Anti-Nuclear Opponents.

I thought it made some really good points. And while there are justifiable concerns over the technology, the question is, what are our options? Give up huge swathes of coastlines to rising sea levels all around the world or every 25 years a disaster effects a 15 mile radius. Which is less?

And even though I think renewable power is a great thing we still need non-renewables in the mix, unless you are OK with power being cut to all non-essential parts of the grid (including your home) in the middle of the night on calm days. Biofuels are in the future, but for now, the petroleum/new energy ratio of these systems is a concern.

Hydro power could provide base load power but that is not without it's effects. Three Gorges will flood almost 400 square miles of land, which is roughly equal to the exclusion zone around Fukushima.

Of course, battery systems are an option, in a 100% renewable system, but the cost/resources/energy/oil needed for those seems to be unreasonable if we expect to maintain anything like our current lifestyles.

I know, I know... FUEL CELLS will be the savior. And they may be. But the technology is not that new (Sir William Grove developed the first fuel cell in England in 1839), and has not even begun to come into it's own. Expensive...

Even the thought of a hydrogen economy is scary. Hindenburg anyone?

I am not saying I have an answer, and I don't know if nuclear would be it if I did, but we do need to consider options holistically.


That is not saying that I would not be thinking twice if this was happening at Perry, instead of Japan.


I hope you will take the time to read the piece.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flat Bread Pizza

Tuesday Recipes...

This is our new favorite meal. Easy and quick, and so yummy!

Take two Flatbreads and put it in the oven at 400, on a pizza stone or cooling rack to start to crisp it a bit.

In the mean time put Olive Oil and some Garlic in a pan. Slice a large onion and start to caramelize.

We like to add in a couple sliced roasted peppers to the onions. Once the onions are caramelized pull the flat bread out of the oven. Put a little olive oil on the bread.

Pile a couple large handfuls of spinach on top of the flat bread. Put half the onion/pepper on each. If you like olives add a few of those. Put as much feta on top as you like.

Put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the feta starts to get some color... ENJOY!

This has become a go to meal for us this spring.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Boots - Random Stuff Monday

So last Monday I talked about how important coffee is to a farmer, at least this farmer. This weeks installments of Random Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Farming But Nobody Did is about BOOTS!


As a child my experience with boots was almost solely confined to two types. Children's Snow Boots and my Father's Army Boots. Being an Army Brat and ,as a result, a City Girl, I really did not have much need for any other types. My mother used to help my father off with his boots when he came home, and like us with our snow boots, they were worn ONLY when we had to! Boots were a nasty thing.


In High School I started hiking, and with my bad ankles, needed something more then $10 sneakers. I got a pair of Lady Lite Hiking Boots. This was a big deal, because on the salary of an Army Sargent in the late 80s there was little money for things like expensive shoes, and these were that. At $100, they were probably the most my mother would EVER spend on shoes. But they hiked hundreds of miles with me, and I had those boots for years, I loved those boots.


Now unfortunately, boots don't last that long because I wear them a lot more, but are just as important. So this week's list about boots:


  1. You will need multiple pairs of boots. In our household our boot list includes our everyday work boot, comfortable and utilitarian, these will be on your feet for most of the summer. So be sure you get a pair that is really comfortable. In addition to your main boot you will need a summer Muck boot,and a winter insulated&waterproof boot. (Muck boot note: because the tops are elastic, be sure the calves fit right. I have very Robust (read fat) calves. I needed to get a lower style, or else the higher ones wanted to hold my heel a little off the shoe, which gave me horrible foot cramps, as always FIT is essential.)

  2. Do not buy cheap boots, this is false economy. You are a grown up so your feet are done growing. Cheap boots may last for months, (or weeks in our experience). Good boots are worth every penny. For me my main boots are Airait, my Muck boots are Muck, and my winter/insulated boots are Sorrels. So you can see, you will probably have a couple hundred dollars in your boots.

  3. Take care of your boots. If they require oiling be sure to keep up on this, it is amazing how quickly July dust will crack leather...

  4. When you pick out your boots get ones WITHOUT flared tops. This may seem a strange thing to say but look, many boots have padded tops. These create a perfect place for dust, small stones, and dirt to rest and fall down into your boot. A fitted top is your friend. These boots, for instance, I would not buy...

  5. SOCKS, SOCKS, SOCKS... Good socks to match good boots. Especially in the winter. We love our WigWam socks. Be sure you bring the socks you plan on wearing when you buy your boots. Winter Socks with Winter Boots and lighter socks for your main boots.

  6. Did you know that boots can pull right off your feet in the mud. If the field is muddy enough and you stop moving, it becomes like quick sand, sloppy sticky quick sand. The first year hubby and I were farming together we were out looking at the field on the wetest, most disgusting day ever! Our old farm had drainage problems, so we were walking through the mud. I had overboots on, I got stuck. Pulled my foot right out of the boot (and my shoe) and ended up on my butt covered in mud. Nice! So here is a free tip for you - If your shoe gets stuck in the mud rotate it from side to side, and up and down (like a teeter totter) don't try to pull straight up... Also, do not take your foot out of the boot, stand on one foot, and try to pick up the boot stuck in the mud while balancing (I ended up in the mud that day too.)

Now that I have shared enough embarrassing stories, I will go! Feel free to share your own random boot stories...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugal Fridays...

So in my quest for things to blog about I decided to do Frugal Fridays... This is because when I think about what it takes to be a farmer "Frugality" comes to the front of my mind. This is not the same as being cheap at all. It is about making wise decisions about how to use resources.

In some cases this means spend more money now - on boots, for example. My $100 Ariat boots have lasted me going into the fourth season. The "cheap" $30 ones I got before lasted about 4 months and never were as comfortable.

In some cases this means making potentially difficult decisions. I always ask, if you are farming as a business, is there sense in driving a $25,000 new car and a $5,000 forty year old tractor? In our case we inverted that (value not ages!) The newer tractor will be reliable for years and not cause us some of the grief that the old one did, like when the seat broke in the middle of discing and we had to wait 4 days for a new one to be shipped - Nothing broken, except a seat, but all field work ground to a halt. If the car breaks down, Farmer Hubby fixes it, and if it really bad we can rent one for a few days. The new car will come as the tractor pays for itself, as it is already doing.

In some cases it means making due (replacing the blades on the tiller ($200) instead of spending $5000 on a new one), and in some cases it means doing without (like dropping cable.) In a lot of cases it means little things: sales, preserving, bulk buying, recipes, life style things, and other farm choices.

So in this segment "Frugal Fridays" I see it as being a hodge podge of different things. Some will be directly farming related, some will be food related, and others will just be real life. Hope you like it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Organic means Organic... Right?

Topical Thurdays...
This is an interesting piece by the Cornucopia Institute. "Some pro-corporate members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the panel set up by Congress to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on organic standards, would like to open the door toall synthetic additives to be added freely to organic foods—as long as they have, theoretically, nutritional value."

Read for yourself...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kale and Cheddar Quiche - Recipie Tuesdays

So in keeping with my new "days" I think that Tuesdays I will post recipies, mainly because I ran across this wonderful looking recipie. Since Daniel Klein at The Perennial Plate admited that the recipie is adapted from Thomas Keller’s Quiche Lorraine, I decided I would steal it from him.

Although I have not tried it yet, it is on my list, as soon as my Kale is ready for harvest. Here is the recipie: Kale and Cheddar Quiche If you try it let me know!

The Perennial Plate Episode 39: Frozen Chickens from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Random Things Monday... Coffee

Since I am going to be trying to blog much more regularly I figured I might try to institute "days" to give myself some guidelines.

So the first of these is "Random things Mondays..." based around all of the Random Things I wish people had told me about Farming, but no one did!

This weekend I spent enough time outside for enough time to give me the first sunburn of the year, and while the sun was shining and it looked beautiful, at least on Saturday it was cold, especially on top of the hill in our back field, on top of a ladder. So I was thinking about coffee and farming. So here are Monday's Random Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Farming But No One Did...
  1. Buy a coffee cup with a handle you can hook on things, either on a fence, your pocket, or the tractor you will find yourself in the field with a coffee cup that you really don’t want to set in the mud!

  2. Buy BRIGHT colored coffee cups or water bottles… Then they will be easier to see when you forget it at the end of the row of tomatoes, or drop it as you are driving the tractor.

  3. Invest in a good thermos. Few things make working outside on a cold rainy day more bearable then knowing you can have a sip of something hot whenever you want it. All thermoses are NOT created equal. Typically the more expensive, the better. We use an old Thermos brand metal thermos, which was my husband’s father’s. It sat with him on the Tarmac when he was working as an airline mechanic and now it sits with us in the field, in the hoophouse, and in the barn. There are few days between October and June that it is not filled to the rim before we leave the house in the morning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weather...

Days like this make me nervous, it is hard to remember we are not behind, just because it is beautiful outside.
Our starting schedule has dozens of more items being started in the next couple weeks, and our heated hoophouse has lettuce, turnips, onions, kale, and lots more either already in or just ready to go into the ground. Our unheated hoophouse should be fully planted within the next couple weeks and producing fully by May.

If the rains are reasonable we will be plowing and then tilling for our potatoes and onions the very end of March or beginning of April.

Our first week of our CSA is not until June. We still have more than 12 weeks. Our spring share starts in a little more then a month, but we do not have that many members for that season, and their first couple weeks will be heavy in the greens department and suplemented with some other local products.

Really, our frost free day is still months out, so DO NOT fall to the temptation to put your tomatoes out! A couple years ago I sat at Jacob's Field in the snow in late April, and a couple years before that I saw a farmer loose hundreds of may planted tomatoes when the low hoops they had over them collapsed under a May snow fall.

So enjoy the weather, but remember, it is Ohio, we are NOT out of the woods quite yet...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Little Peeps

Sometimes things seem like a good idea when they are NOT! So I saw a photo online of 4 little chicks sitting in a Peeps box and thought to myself... "I should do that! It would be so cute."
So I went out and bought four different colored boxes of peeps, came home, removed the peeps from the boxes and headed to the barn.

I set up a table all ready for my "photo shoot." And got a box with 4 inch sides and went to the brooder to grab the lucky 12 chicks. So I put the first 4 in the box and by the time I grabbed the next two two of the first four had jumped out. (Since the box was in the brooder no harm was done, they just ran towards the other chicks.) ((Brooder = incubator for chicks - nice and warm))

Now realizing that I did not want chicks to jump off a table, or be chasing them around the barn my original plan would not work. I would have to do it in the brooder.

The chicks wanted absolutely nothing to do with the box! This is an interesting pic because you can see the difference between our Amberlinks and Austrolops. The black ladies are looking at it, and the white ones hiding their heads. We were told the Austrolops were more "aggressive" which is a potentially good trait for pastured hens, but so is knowing when to hide! The first several times I got a chick in the box they jumped right out (notice the legs, she is on the move, and her mouth is open, so is protesting!)

These two were OK standing in the box for a minute, but would not face the right way, and when I went to put a chick between them they jumped out...
Finally I got two to stand still and look fairly cute.
Now, hubby pointed out that the photo I saw was most likelyPhotoshoped, so I am working on that and will post one when I get it looking right...
In any case, after a half hour of fussing and stressing out my chicks, the moral of the story is one you would tell your kid... "THEY ARE NOT TOYS, LEAVE THEM ALONE!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cute things chicks do... Really...

Adorable little fluffy balls. How can they do anything not cute?

These little ladies keep climbing INSIDE their feeder! And we are finding them with their little heads sticking out.

Tuesday morning I went in at 6:00 am to check them after their first night. There was a chick in the feeder. The evening before we had pulled several out, unsure if they were getting stuck. So when I saw this chick laying in the feeder, and I gently poked her and she did not move, I feared that we had lost her, stuck since 10 the night before, unable to get water. So I opened up the feeder and she popped up looked at me and looked around, and off she ran.

As of this morning there were no more chicks in the feeder, so I think they are getting too big...

It is amazing how fast they grow... Like children.

Cute things chick do...

Chicks are a lot like any other babies. They spend most of their time doing one of five things; eating, drinking, pooping, sleeping, and crying (cheeping in the case of chicks.) And wow can 150 chicks CHEEP!

I can hardly express to you the volume they can produce. When the post office called on Monday to tell us they were here the call went like this:

"Hello, this is Leon with the Peninsula post office."

"Hi, Leon, are they here?"

"Yep, they just came in."

"Great!"

"Are you coming to get them now?"

"I will have my husband come get them."

"Is he coming now, because we close at 12 for lunch."

I looked at the clock and it was 11:35. I am at my "real job" and have no idea
what hubby was up to that second. He could be at Lowes, or muddy, or in the back field. "He will come in the early afternoon."

"oh...." And it was a defeated and depressed "oh...."

When he got there at 1:12 he was greeted as he opened the door to the loud and happy cheeping of little voices. Leon looked up and pointed at the cheeping box next to him "Are these yours?" Hubby confirmed it and Leon looked very happy.

Leon said that they had another chick order this morning, it came in with the first truck. A small box, the person came for them right around 11:00. He said he was happy for the quite. As soon as they were gone though another truck came in and this one had our mega box of 150 chicks. Poor guy.

I understand the feeling, because when I was putting them in the brooder I was about to go deaf! I put the box in the brooder and one by one had to pick them up, and dip their beaks in the water to show them where it was. That can take a while with 150, in the mean time they all are PISSED and loud. EVERY one cheeping for their mamas.

Well buddies, I am your mama! But bending over with my head a foot from them for about an hour, I really thought my ears would never stop ringing!

So I guess that is not really a cute thing, you will have to wait for another post for that! It will give me something to post about tomorrow!

(There farmer-boy, 2 posts in 2 days!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chicks are here!

This year one of our big changes will be the addition of lots and lots of chickens to the farm. These ladies below (150 of them) will make up the base of our egg laying flock. At peak production we expect them to lay somewhere around 65 dozen eggs a week.

video

They will be raised on pasture and their feed will be free of any animal byproducts. But that is in the future. In the video above the chicks are just one day old. So they need to stay nice and warm, under heat lamps (about 90 degrees for the first week.) When they are four to six weeks old (depending on weather) they will get to try out grass for the first time.

In addition to these hens we are planning on trying some broilers as well this year. We are planning on a slower growing red broiler, in keeping with the French Label Rouge type and requirements (obviously not certified as this is not available in the US.) If you may be interested in preordering a number of these please let us know and we will get you details as we go forward with this second project.

This is looking like a year of Chickens at our Farm!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grow your own food!


This year we will be offering a handful of events open to the public. The first is April 23 - It is a Starting your Own Vegetable Garden Class.


Great for either beginner gardeners or more experinced gardeners. We will cover lots of interesting topics. Click on the "Gardening Classes" link to be brought to our link.

The class is only $5, but please register early. We will have a series of items avilable for purchase including starts, row cover, organic garden products, row covers, and more. The class will run about 2 hours.