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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December

Winter Has Come! 

The ducks are not impressed.  They are not sure what to do all day now that their turf is covered in white.  Mostly they hang out in our driveway, or on our front porch.  It's mostly cute, like they are waiting to be invited in or for Simon to come out and play.  But then there is the poop....


In late October, Chicken was feeling very lonely since we were not outside as much so we bought 2 more ducks to keep him company. They are about 4 months old now. They still have a few more feathers to come in but two little curls have shown up on their tails (just like Chicken's 2 black curls in the photo above), which is generally a tell-tale sign (ha-ha, get it?) that they are male. We have not had the greatest of luck maintaining a long lasting flock of birds, but hopefully these three will beat the odds, because Chicken really loves his new buds, Rosie and Scooter.

Fall lasted a gloriously long time this year.  I left several crops in the ground until after Thanksgiving and did not mulch the strawberries until December 6th this year, the latest yet.  Global warming (yes it is real) is surly playing with the weather, which will make farming even MORE unpredictable as we move forward...and I thought I was challenged by unpredictability now!  In any case, I gladly accepted the glorious colors, warmth and rain of this extended fall.


Deadon Cabbage kissed by the cold.

This picture expresses the importance of fall Cover Crops.  Cover Crops have a multitude of importance to the soil including adding organic matter, improving soil structure, making nutrients available, protecting and loosening soil. The tall oat grass shown here was seeded in mid summer and despite the dry weather, it grew to a nice height.  Eventually frost and cold nights will kill the oats, but dead or alive, this thick layer of cover crop will protect the soil it grows in.  In November, we received a HEAVY 5" of rain (where was that all summer?!).  This field has a slight pitch to it and if it were not covered, much of my soil would have eroded away, washing out of the field and never to return.  You can see the "river" or path the rain made through the tall cover crop, that's exactly where the erosion would have occurred and exactly why i am glad we had cover crop there!!


Now onto winter.  Snow has arrived and I have transitioned from fall boots to snowshoes and long johns.  I have had this hoop house for 7 years now and for 7 years I have hand shoveled its edges to keep it from collapsing under the weight of snow.  Now I am no fool to believe this snowblower will solve all my shoveling needs, but I must admit today was pretty dreamy.  It took me 15 minutes to blow the edges (and that was with doing an extra pass on each side just for fun!!)  Normally, with 6" of snow, I would have been shoveling for at least 2 hours.  The snow was fairly light and it was not quite over the top of the front box of the blower and I still had to coax it along in a few places, so as I said, I am foreseeing some not so dreamy days with the snowblower along the edge of the hoop house, but today I am psyched!  

Back to making potato rolls....wishing you a warm, happy and restful winter!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Oct 18th and 21st

Summer's End

After what seemed like the hottest, driest, longest summer we have ever had, it has come to a close. Although this week's temps look unusually high (today is going to be 70!), several cold nights in the 30's and one in the 20's has put an abrupt stop to most of my plants. Cleaning out the fields has been an interesting task this fall.  Yes, the plants look tired but they are still LOADED with fruit!  It was the same in the peppers and eggplants. We gleaned off all the mature fruit and we were still left with several tiny fruits everywhere.  Too small to mature if we harvested, they were pulled from the field and will become compost for a future crop.  I felt sort of bad for the plants, apologizing to them that they landed in cold Maine instead of warm California.


I think we may have tomatoes at Thanksgiving!


Last week we "popped" the garlic.  This is the process of separating each individual clove from the bulb.  Since the size of the clove you plant directly correlates with the size of the bulb you'll harvest, we pick the largest, most perfect looking bulbs to pop.  I think because of the dry, most of my heads were pretty small this year, unlike my usual yields of ginormous bulbs.  Hopefully next year we will be back on track.  We planted 2-200' beds, each clove 8" apart in rows of 4, then covered it all with straw.  The straw keeps the cloves from heaving out of the ground over the winter and suppresses weeds as the plants emerge in the spring and continue to grow most of the summer.  Garlic cloves need the winter cold to indicate it's time to start sprouting.  I like to think of them cozy under the straw all winter and then rallying together to be the first plants to emerge in the spring.  Grow garlic! Grow!

Although there are still thousands of pounds of crops to harvest and several tasks to do before the snow flies, I find myself already planning for next spring.  It's a good feeling, knowing that I am excited to start all over again even after a hard growing season.  The work can be challenging/discouraging, but the rewards are usually high.  I know we ate well this summer and our freezer and canning shelves are full of goodness waiting for winter consumption...I hope you have enjoyed this summer's bounty as well and will continue to do so into the next several months. Cheers and THANK YOU for loving Little Ridge Farm!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce mix, pac choi, chinese cabbage, spinach, fennel, chard, leeks, onions, pepper, tomato, carrot, potato, hakurei turnip, kohl rabi and winter squash

Sunday, October 9, 2016

October 11th and 14th

For the Love of Food and Music

or should I say...

I had a rare moment off the farm and met Zach in New Orleans for a few days after a conference he had.  So much fun!!  One of the best places we ate was a "Dat Dog" hot dog place.  The perfect fix for a late night craving!


Crab and corn bisque, Rabbit and Chicken liver pate with pickled watermelon rinds, apple compote, blueberry compote and mustards at "Luke's".  Delectable!


Compliments of the chef at Luke's after we had a long discussion about the wonders of food...a classic New Orleans dessert, Bread Pudding with rum and home made ice cream.


Beignets and Chicory coffee from the 1862 french Cafe du Monde


Fried chicken from the famous Willie Mae's.  Oh my!


Breakfast at "The Ruby Slipper".  Zach's bloody Mary was infused with bacon and topped with dilly beans.  I had two of their signature Benedicts:
SHRIMP BOOGALOO BENEDICT Gulf shrimp sautéed with pork tasso, served over fried green tomatoes & a buttermilk biscuit, topped with poached eggs, finished with Coubion sauce 
EGGS COCHON Slow-cooked, apple-braised pork debris served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with two poached eggs, finished with hollandaise


Lunch at "Coop's"... a little Shrimp Gumbo and Special Jambalaya.  SO. SO. GOOD!


T' Canaille at the Tropical Isle on Bourbon St.  Zydeco!


Street Fun!


Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Cha's playing at the Rock n' Bowl.  Yes they are hip down there!!!  They are making Mainers look pretty boring : )

We danced, we ate, we walked, we fully enjoyed ourselves.  Now we are dancing zydeco in the kitchen and eating home made etoufee  : )



This Week's Bounty: lettuce, onion, carrot, beet, pepper, tomato, fennel, celery, hakurei turnip with greens, lots of greens: pac choi, tat soi, kale, spinach and winter squash.

Delicata Squash -- sweet and creamy.  just wash, cut and de-seed...no need to peel!!  They are awesome roasted or on pizza.

Acorn Squash -- a light flavor these are yummy, stuffed, baked or in soups.



Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 4th and 7th

Autumn Harvest


We built the barn with this hoist in mind, but are now just (9 years later!) getting around to rigging it up.  The upstairs of the barn is used for storage most of the year, but when fall arrives, it's a great spot for curing our onions.  After harvest, the onions need time in a dry airy place for their skins to dry so they will last in storage all the way to May.  


We used to walk up the back stairs to the loft, one crate at a time.  It was a long and tiring task.  Now we are using a pulley to hoist 2 crates up at a time.  Much faster and much easier on the body. Although Jean did all the hoisting and she never complains so maybe she was not telling me the truth.

I stood at the top and pulled the crates into the barn and then stacked them in their respective places according to variety.  My job felt pretty easy...as long as I didn't fall out of the barn. (which is why I had Jean hoist and me pull....not because I was being lazy!)


There was certainly some behind the scenes help with getting this system going.  My Dad did all the leg work for the materials and attached the rail to the beam.  We then borrowed an old Verizon truck from a friend and Zach hoisted the new beam into the barn.  (We had the replace the beam we originally put in 9 years ago as it was rotten.)  We are still perfecting our little system, but already it made the task much less daunting.   


Carrot harvest has begun!  With a little help from our friends.  


Fall's harvest is always heavy.  Even on this small farm, we work in tons at a time.  One summer pick up week averages 1500 lbs.  We have already pulled in over 6000 lbs of storage taters, sweet potatoes, onions and winter squash.  This truck load of carrots, which will be sold to the good Shepard Food Bank, is almost 1000 lbs and we have at least 2500 lbs more to go.  There's still cabbage, beets, parsnips and turnips to haul in.  It's pretty amazing to realize how much food is produced out of tiny seeds and this small space.  And although we do have a few male work shares, it's mostly done by women : )


The cows dining on the leftover corn stalks.  I've tasted them, they are sweet like sugar cane, no wonder why they like them ; )


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, Famosa Savoy cabbage, cauliflower/romanesco, potatoes, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, hakurei turnip with greens, edemame, spinach and parsley

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 27th and 29th

Preparing for Frost

Today it suddenly hit me....this is the last week of September!  I sort of feel like I am in a time warp. Usually by this time of year, most of my crops look tired and have grown to their full potential.  And when the first frost comes, I do not feel too bad letting them go.  but this year, with the cool start and dry season, many of my plants are 2-3 weeks behind and are still vibrant and full of life.  As we covered the pepper plants, I told them that I was sorry that they lived in a cold climate.  

This picture was taken after I reset the fabric on the plants and the wind pulled it off the tomatoes...again.  A painstaking task, covering plants, trying to eke out a few more days or weeks of growth. It always seems to be very windy just before a frost, making covering even more challenging. I'll just have to head out with my headlamp, after the wind dies down, to fix it one final time.  At least it's not raining or lightening, which has happened to me often enough in the past as well.


Carrots...still with their bright green tops, ready to grow.

Peppers and eggplants with happy leaves and tops loaded with flowers and baby fruit.

Today I finally caught up with my pile of "reject tomatoes" that has been stacking up in the barn over the past few weeks.  As we harvest, we set aside the fruit with spots, blemishes, splits etc...and these are what we use to fill our freezer and cupboards for our winter stock.  If any are too far gone, the pigs or the turkeys enjoy it.  I stacked nearly 16 gallons of tomatoes and peppers into my freezer. Then a friend came over, we put on our gloves, and made jalapeno poppers.  In fact they are in the oven right now and I can small them cooking.  Maybe I should check on them...done to perfection. Yum!  It's a game of roulette eating them, some are just a tad spicy and others are blow your head off!!!

  
While working on a farm in France a couple of years ago, I was introduced to Romanesco.  It's in the broccoli family, but closer related to cauliflower.  It is so crisp and sweet, I love to eat it raw.  It's kind of alien looking and the whole planting doesn't seem to be ripening all at once like the broccoli does, so look fir it trickling in with some cauliflower this fall.


Back to the Sandy field that I talked about last week....  It has a bit if a slant to it and the lower end is also in the shade a bit.  So naturally any water settled down hill and the shade kept it cooler and moister.  Although the entire crop had nice sized heads, this added moisture really shined in these heads, each a good 9" in diameter.  They came from the end plant in each of my 4 rows.  So a bit more water does make difference!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, a bit o spinach, broccoli/romanesco/cauliflower, carrots, onion, tomato, pepper, hakurei turnip with greens, edemame soybeans, tat soi or maybe pac choi and basil?


The Farmer's Table:
Eggplant Parm
Jalepeno Poppers
Stuffed Peppers
Pasta with a huge amount of veggies
Loads of crudites with a homemade yogurt chipotle dip

Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 20th and 23rd

Putting the Animals to Work 

Puffa...prepping the the root washer.

Simon...performing a quality control taste test on the corn.

Simon...managing our green bean harvest.


This is the Sandy Field.  It has held a multitude of your food this year.  And although it's the sandiest field we have (hence the name), it has performed quite well this year despite the dry.  When soil becomes overly dry, it is actually sand that can adsorb and hold any bit of moisture we put to it, verses our more clayey soils.  In clay, the drier it gets, the tighter the soil becomes, losing any air space between soil particles as well as space to hold water.  It seems a bit counter intuitive, but this year has been a visual proof.

From the Sandy Field we are currently picking green beans, chard and kale.  And soon spinach, hakurei turnips, cabbage, chinese cabbage and broccoli.  There is also a gorgeous planting of cauliflower and romanesco, which we HOPE will make a nice head before it gets too cold.  Even though this soil can hold a bit of moisture, crops are still a week or so behind.  Since this year was so dry, we've had to do extra work to get many of the crops to perform: overseeding, irrigation, row cover protection, extra nutrients...  A LOT of energy and love go into ALL the crops we grow and to see things thrive is a glorious feeling.  I find myself holding my breath this year, just hoping the last of the harvest will be just as we'd hoped.


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, celery, carrots, cabbage, onion, tomato, pepper, corn, green beans 

The Farmer's Table:

  
 Spiralized Tater fries, pulled pork with cole slaw, cherry tomato salad.


Pepper, Tomato and Sausage "stuff" with sausage and kale.  I think he sauteed the peppers and sausage and then stewed the tomatoes with olive oil and salt and then mixed it altogether.  Yum!!! oh, and those are smoked jalapenos in the background.


This is chopped up onion, pepper and celery (the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking)...the start to etouffee


From the Shareholder's Table:


Thai style cabbage
Combine about 12 cups shredded cabbage with 1/2 cup chopped peanuts and 1 cup chopped mint (cilantro works nicely as a substitute). Combine 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon neutral oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the juice of a lime, and some minced hot chili to taste. Whisk to combine the sauce, then toss with the cabbage. 

A simply tasty meal from LRF food!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 13th and 16th

A Colorful Heaven

From Top Left: Chef's Choice Orange, Pruden's Purple, Taxi
From Bottom Left: Peach, Big Beef, Juliet, Mountain Magic
Oh!  I forgot the Indigo Apple...It has purple shoulders and a reddish/orange bottom.


A mix of Heirloom and Hybrid varieties guarantees color, flavor and production.  Some are meatier, sweeter, juicier...try them all and see what you like!


 
Cheyenne Cayenne (long red) -- sweet and moderately hot, great fresh.
Capperino (round red) -- moderately hot, great for stuffing and pickling
Beaver Dam (big red) -- Flavorful with moderate heat.  Great fresh or stuffed.
Jalepeno (green) -- Hot!
Carrot Chile (little orange) -- Fruity and hot.  I like mins in chocolate brownies.
Hungarian Hot Wax (The yellow and the orange ones) -- Hot. Great fresh or fried.

'
Tis the season for colorful eating!  Although the tomato and pepper season have come a few weeks later than usual for us, we are enjoying it fully now.  Our counter is covered in fruit, ripe for stuffing, grilling, snacking and salsa making.  It's a mouth watering, belly filling, eye watering, finger tingling time of year!!!



This Week's Bounty: lettuce, colorful carrots, green beans, leeks, chard/kale, zukes, summer squash, corn, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, herbs and your choice of watermelon or winter squash.



Recipes:

Zucchini tahini salad -- Mark Bittman's book matrix
Slice 1 pound zucchini thinly, or use a mandolin.
Whisk together 2 tablespoons tahini, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of a lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Toss together. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Thai style cabbage -- Mark Bittman's book matrix
Combine about 12 cups shredded cabbage with 1/2 cup chopped peanuts and 1 cup chopped mint (cilantro works nicely as a substitute). Combine 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon neutral oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the juice of a lime, and some minced hot chili to taste. Whisk to combine the sauce, then toss with the cabbage.

Zuchinni Yumminess -- 






Monday, September 5, 2016

September 6th and 9th

Late Night Farm Patrol

I bought a night vision game camera couple of years ago so I can capture pictures of what is hunting my livestock or eating my crops.  It helps me know what kind of control to use, since each critter is different.  Here Simon is out on his own checking the trap (the metal box Left Center) at 8:24 pm. 


And here is our prickly little corn-eating culprit.  Well, his back half anyway.  Bottom left, you can see that spiny porcupine checking out the corn's ripeness.  He seems to visit every other day. And actually, right now, I am headed out with my headlamp to see if I can catch this little punk!  


Tired of your Zucchini?  Spiralize it!!!  My mom just bought us this gadget and we are obsessed. We've spiralized carrots, potatoes, zukes, cukes...everything is more fun in spirals!!!  We can make ribbon cuts too!  Just a light saute or a little dressing and it's like a whole new vegetable!  Yes, I am excited about the spiralizer!



PYO Tomatilloes are found right next to the hoop house.  These tart little fruits make a mean salsa verde (green salsa).  Salted and roasted, they are great on pork too.  You know they are ripe when the "skins" split, like in the photo above.  The yellower they are, the more ripe.  Fish for the ripe ones down at the base of the plant.  They take a bit of work, but it's a special taste of summer!


This Week's Bounty: cabbage (great on tacos, Mexican style, with salsa!), beets, green beans, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, onions, zukes, summer squash, cukes, tomatoes and herbs ...oh and the last of the melons ; )  ....lettuce and corn next week

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 30th and September 2nd

A Farmer's Tale

Once there was a farmer from Ohio.  Although her home state had dark soils and lack of rocks, she decided Maine was the place she would set down her roots.  Being from Ohio, corn is in her blood. So in Maine she had tried to grow corn like she remembers as a child....over 6' tall and full of ears, bushels and bushels to fill your belly and your freezer.  Alas the local Maine wildlife heard of this venture and has set out filling their own bellies and stores for winter.

Argh!  I HATE rodents!!!!  So much damage can be done in one night.  60 ears gone over the course of three.  And not gone gone, but rather one bite out of each one, ruining it for future use.  I think it is a raccoon, or possibly a porcupine, so I have set up my Game Camera for night photos and our Have A Heart trap for arresting this greedy creature.  No photos yet, and no coon in the trap, but rather a skunk!  A small one.  We released it into a wide open field.  I imagined it skipping off across the expanse enjoying its freedom.  Instead, it took a hard right out of the trap, back underneath my truck and proceeded to cross the Rt 125 as cars zipped by.  Although no one was injured or directly sprayed in this event, the corn patch still reeks of skunk....and the real perpetrator is still at large.


Luckily raccoons do not like melons.  And although, in the past, I have battled crows in the melon patch, not this year!  They are full and ripe and oh so tasty!!!  Tomatoes are also on the rise...10 lbs for full shares this week!


Onion Rings with the Sweet Walla Walla onions--yum!!!


This week's bounty: lettuce, kale, onion, hot pepper, carrot, tomato, cuke, zuke, summer squash, melon, dill, cilantro, basil and corn....unless the coon gets to it first.


The Farmer's Table: 
Onion Rings
burritos with all the fixin's
melons, melons, melons
peach, blueberry cobbler

The Shareholder's Table:
fresh salsa
Chicken Ceaser Pizza
fresh pesto on top of chicken with fresh red/yellow tomatoes on top with mozzarella baked