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: And if that interests you take the time to watch this video, at 90 minutes it is long, but worth your time: 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.


Maple Torte

Monday, April 4, 2011


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


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…