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Monday, November 13, 2017

November

Fall Harvest 

I probably say it every year, but this year flew by.  Actually that seems like an understatement, I think it flew by at lightening speed!  Seems really strange that I am packing the cooler again with winter storage crops and am already receiving 2018 seed catalogs in the mail.  After what seemed to be a grueling season at times, we had record harvests in several crops.  I was aiming for 5000 lbs of carrots and we finished with over 6000 lbs, the cabbages are as big as basketballs and the winter radish and turnips are pleasantly more beautiful than they have ever been. 


We've had a glorious extended fall which has made for an extended harvest and smiles while doing it.  Generally the sun has been shining, even if the temps are cool and the wind a bit strong.  Speaking of wind, we had several trees down in the big wind storm and lots to clean up, but thankfully no damage to speak of.  I hope you all were just as lucky.


Simon, is generally hunting rodents in the cover crops while we harvest, although, on this rainy day, he preferred to cheer us on from the comfort of the truck.  I think he is sad not to see his friends on a weekly basis, but he is happy because now I have more time to take him for walks at the end of the day...and he loves wearing his orange hunting vest : )


The fall rains were welcome, but it resulted in muddier roots.  Carrots, turnips, beets, radish and celeriac all surfed through the root washer on a slower speed and with additional hand spraying to get them sparkling clean.  An extra step, but worth it.
   

After washing we lined the crates up in the barn to drain overnight, then bagged them in 50 lb sacks and stacked them in the cooler.  In the last week, we have moved over 3 TONS of food, literally.  I am always amazed what our small farm can produce!  Luckily I have friends with extra cooler space, because I had a bit of carrot and cabbage overflow : )


The extended warmth has blessed the field crops with a few more weeks of growing.  Although we have had several light frosts and now several freezes (below 25), the color in the beds are still glowing.  We will harvest as much as we can for the Thanksgiving Share.  The problem is when nights are in the low 20's, they take awhile to thaw the next day (we cannot pick them when they are still frozen or they will get mushy) and the the sun goes down so early .  So our harvest window is very tiny.  And believe it or not, it takes several hours just to harvest a few crates of spinach!!


The extended fall made it very hard to prep the hoop house for overwintering crops for two reasons.  First, I felt guilty pulling out the tomato plants when they were still loaded with so many fruit!  Second, the warm temps made the spinach germination very spotty (upper left hand corner). We had to fill in the gaps with more seed and now, with the cooler temps, they have germinated nicely, but it will delay their harvest from Jan to Feb or March.  This year we are experimenting with overwintering kale and chard.  We transplanted them in late October, maybe 2 weeks later than expected.  The look nice now, but hopefully they have had enough time to prepare themselves for the cold months ahead.  Having just one hoop house is a balancing act with the seasonal crops I would like to grow.   I have toyed with erecting another one, but the labor that goes into maintaining the house is greater the the revenue I would receive through the CSA, so we are just keeping to the one for now.


Puffa was extremely helpful while I was trying to put "remay" over the plants in the hoop house (ok, extremely cute, but not helpful at all!).  Remay is a woven fabric that insulates the crops.  It keeps the plants a few degrees warmer than the outside air and it keeps frost from settling on and damaging the leaves.  We have to remove it before we harvest, we do not crawl underneath it like Puffa prefers to do : )

I hope this finds you brimming with thankfulness, whatever that may be.  And that it may lift your spirits for days to come.  Happy Thanksgiving!


This Month's Bounty: winter squash, pie pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, turnip, watermelon radish, kohl rabi, fennel, savoy cabbage, leek, onion, scallions, garlic, celeriac, celery, spinach, kale, apples and potato rolls

The Farmer's Table: 

*Watermelon Radish -- like a radish, but BETTER!!  It is stunningly pink inside so it makes a lovely crudite. The skin is slightly spicy but the inside is sweet, so it's great raw.  It is also wonderful sauteed or roasted.

*fermented cherry and pepperocini peppers
*cabbage kraut slaw -- so yum!  There are lots of variations on line
*penne alla vodka with fresh tomatoes
*etouffe with homemade seafood stock, celery, sausage, green pepper and onion
*egg/tomato/avocado fritatta (the avocado was gifted to us : )
*Apple fritter bread 
*and we just got fresh liver, so we made our Powerhouse on a Plate pate of course
*lots of oh so sweet raw carrots
*finished the last of the broccoli (steamed) and cauliflower (roasted)
*acorn squash stuffed with sausage, onion, garlic and peppers
*aji amarillo pepper paste -- I grew a pepper we fell in love with in Peru.  It is  staple in many of their dishes, so we are trying to replicate!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 17th and 20th

The Close of Summer

This is it, the last pick up of summer.  With it being so warm, it feels like I am quitting mid August!  Although we could go another week, we need to shift gears and start fall harvest, plant garlic and button up the farm before we get caught waiting too long.  Sooooo be prepared, we are stocking you up with veg this week!!!


The weather has been blissfully wonderful and even though it is dry in the fields, the veggies look so bright and vibrant!  I'll be turning on the irrigation today to water field spinach, chard and kale in hopes it will survive well into November.  It's the latest I have ever had to water!  Usually this time of year, we are frantically harvesting root crops before the ground gets so soggy I can't get the tractor through.  I must say the warmer drier weather makes washing much easier too.  Jean, my sturdy 66 year old employee, washes over 6000 lbs of carrots in the fall (not to mention other heavy root vegetables).  She also helps harvest and weigh them, so that means she's touches the carrots at least 3 times!  You may think I am a brutal employer, but we are just making sure we are warding off any osteoporosis by keeping her bones strong : )


I think I mentioned a few blogs ago that I don't grow "baby" or "mega" crops.  Well apparently the celery and the savoy cabbage didn't get the memo, because they decided to take off this fall.  It's kind of fun...i just hope you can fit them in your fridge!


We hope you enjoyed this season's bounty!  I feel like it ended with a bang and we are excited to go for it again next spring!  I'm already experimenting with overwintering some new crops so we may have them early next season.  We planted onions along with the scallions; an onion variety which should (hopefully) survive the winter and then make a bulb so they are ready to enjoy late May/early June.  And soon we will transplant chard and kale in the hoop house.  (As soon as we get all of those tomato plants out of there!) The plan is to harvest some late in the winter share and then have some for early summer pick ups.  We'll see how it goes!

Hopefully we will see all of you again next summer and we look forward to serving many of you this winter.  Thanks for spreading the good news about Little Ridge Farm!! 


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, kale, spinach, tat soi, arugula, cabbage, celery, fennel, pepper, kohl rabi, watermelon radish, gold ball turnip, rainbow carrots, beet, potato, onion, leek and winter squash

The Farmer's Table:
- Roasted fennel peppers and leeks
- Apple squash cheese bacon pie : )
LRF Organic Apples for Sale this week!!!



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October 10th and 13th

A Look behind the Scenes

Although I try to post mostly positive things about the farm, the day to day isn't always rosy.  Every year has its own stresses and for some reason this one seemed harder for me than most. Weather is the biggest unknown stresser and then there are the random events.  Now that that the veggies are mature and the season is nearing an end, I can reflect on the hardships and sigh that they are over, and not shed another tear.

Despite having some of the most beautiful onion transplants ever, they just decided not to grow this spring. I am still not entirely sure why, but we spent MANY frustrating hours trying to save the crop.  They survived (!) but are smaller than ever so the overall is yield was very low.  At least they are tasty and I believe the few hundred pounds (we usually have a couple thousand!) we have will store nicely. 


This summer brought more weeds than I have ever seen before.  I don't mind weeding (it's actually very satisfying), but this is a little much!  I am maybe a little more obsessive about weeds than most farmers, but in a weed free patch there is better air circulation, no competition for nutrients and harvesting is MUCH easier.  The multitude of weeds definitely got me down this summer, so many hours spent.  Hopefully we can get back on top of them next year.


I LOVE raising livestock.  They make me laugh and their happy life with just one really bad day makes me feel ok about being an omnivore.  But sometimes they get sick.  Sometimes they even die, which breaks our hearts.  Luckily we have not lost a large animal in over a decade, however this year we did have a sick pig.  We are not sure what caused her high fever and shakes, but luckily over the course of 4 days with lots of extra love and attention she fully recovered.


Chicken, our #1 farm worker, companion and entertainment disappeared.  It's been a couple of months now.  We liked to think he flew down to the Androscoggin, found a mate and is now living happily on the water's edge.  We miss him, but are happy for the memories of his shenanigans.

We all have rough days.  Sometimes those rough days have consequences and other times they just make us grouchy.  In this farm community, although I try not to burden you with too much reality, I do think it is important for you, as shareholders, to know that although we are trying our best, sometimes we have really bad days.  Thank you for understanding that some things are out of our control and that some years you will get onions the size of softballs and other years not.  Zach and I are pretty used to the roller coaster diet of seasonal eating with a twist of unpredictability.  We have been doing it for over 17 years.  We are ok with small potatoes or an overabundance of eggplant, but we realize some of you are still testing the waters of being a part of a CSA and we appreciate your support and excitement to try.  And we love our tried and true members that have been with us from day 1!  We hope you all have come to appreciate the gifts of the land, the flavor of fresh food, seeing the perfect and imperfect and realizing they taste the same and the notion of eating seasonally.  Cheers!


This Week's bounty: lettuce, chard, pac choi, fennel, kohl rabi, carrots, beets, peppers, broccoli/cauliflower, acorn squash, pumpkin, tomato (they are ripening much slower now, so lots of green ones this week) ...i think that's everything

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October 3rd and 6th

A View from the Farm

I've been taking lots of photos lately. (I just haven't had time to blog!)  The farm has been almost overwhelmingly bountiful.  It's been a challenging season and to have so many happy images this time of year is a relief .  The cooler, less humid, air this week was also a welcomed relief (both for us and the plants).  This is my view as I weed lamb's quarter out of our oats and pea cover crop.


Usually this time of year, the tomato plants start to look pretty sad and harvest is not so much fun, but this year they still look lovely and are pumping out gorgeous tomatoes.  This is view I had when I rolled up the side after having it closed for a chilly night.  My phone doesn't take the best photos and this doesn't quite capture the beauty of my view, but it's close.  


Jean and Eileen harvest spinach while the pigs frolic in the background and I fill crates with broccoli florets.  This was my view last week at 8 am; it was already 80 and humid.  It looks more romantic than we felt : )  But still a great harvest!


Our best cauliflower crop ever.  Nice sized heads and plentiful.  We have been eating roasted cauliflower every day and loving it.  


The greenhouse has turned from a seedling house to a storage house of winter squash and sweet potatoes.  It's a colorful view full of various shapes and sizes.  The field where these grew is now bare and reseeded with cover crop for the winter.  it's the first thing I see when I cross the ridge into the back field.  Seems like just last week we were planting the little plants and covering them for protection.  We spent a lot of time weeding this crop this year and pampering it a bit, but it all paid off!  I'm sure it's making your mouth water just looking at the photo : )


This Week's bounty: lettuce, fennel, hakurei, chinese cabbage, kohl rabi, tat soi, cauliflower/broc, rainbow carrots, pepper, tomato, winter squash, onion -- yum!  Now I just need the frost to melt off so I can harvest everything!!!!

Recipes:

type in "fennel and kohl rabi", oh my there are lots of yummy looking salads with apples too!!

The Farmer's Table:
*sweet and sour eggplant and peppers
*veggie lasagna
*stir fry beets and pork with rice noodles
*roasted cauliflower
*pork roast stew with celery, carrots and spinach

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19th and 22nd

STUFFED 

It's noon on pick-up day and the cooler is stuffed full.  The barn also has crates stacked high of peppers, eggplant and edemame.  I still need to harvest the tomatoes!  After a challenging season, I must say these past few weeks of harvest have been satisfying.  Huge heads of broccoli, nice ears of corn, colorful peppers...and wait till you see the cabbage and winter squash to come...beautiful!


Many summer crops are having their last hurrah, but they are being replaced with some diverse fall veg like celery, pumpkins, sweet greens and much more.  It's been a treat not to have an early frost, lessening our work load and worry and allowing us to get some extra weight out of the fields.  It's inevitable though, frost will come, so be sure to enjoy the warm season crops while they last...


Including the flowers (and cherry tomatoes)!  Yowza are they are grand this year!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, tat soi, spinach, broccoli, yellow/green beans, corn/melon, radish, hakurei, cabbage, peppers, eggplant, edemame, zukes....


The Farmer's Table has been full of crudites and dip this week and lots of melons for breakfast and snacking.  We also enjoyed a fresh pasta sauce with broccoli, carrots and arugula.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12th and 15th

Fall's a Coming

It's hot and humid out today, but fall is approaching quickly.  Although I look forward to cooler weather and fall colors, it feels like it's coming way too fast!  Zach commented last night that I have a lot of food out in the fields.  It's true!  After a tough year of super wet then crazy dry, most crops pulled through and are aplenty.  We've got a thousands of pounds of food to harvest in the next few weeks...and we are psyched!


I always look forward to pepper harvest.  The plants look like Christmas trees, decorated brightly.  This week, you will be happy to also find beautiful broccoli and luscious ears of corn! 
   


This year we have been making lots of fruit juice.  Since we are so busy, we find this is the most efficient way for us to process perishable fruit.  And it's a luxury item to have waiting for us on the cupboard for winter!  Here we have plum, pear and cherry.

We hope the seasonal shift finds you looking forward to a shift in veggies too.  The cukes have quit, but the winter squash is just around the corner, along with spinach and cauliflower : )


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, arugula, radish, broccoli, corn, melon, tomato, pepper, beans, zukes


The Farmer's Table:
*cherry tomato and corn salad
*diced melon!

The Shareholder's Table:
*Tomato Basil Pie
*Tomato soup with tapioca 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 5th and 8th

 The Ways of Farming

(2014 season--epic outdoor tomato year)

There certainly is not a tried and true way of farming.  Even on your own property, one way may work one year and the next it fails completely.  An uncountable number of factors affect plants' performance, it can be overwhelming. 

Throughout the season, I take notes on what works, what doesn't and connect with other farmers about problems and ideas.  Of  course, during the growing season, time is constrained so many of these conversations are cut short and put on the back burner until winter.  Luckily we have several outlets (conferences, UMaine Extension and seed companies) that help tremendously.  I try and go to at least one conference every winter.  Farmer conferences are pretty awesome.  As you can imagine, we eat well, complain about the season's failures and brag about successes.  Our conferences are unique in that they are set up to allow several hours of conversational/idea exchanging time between growers rather than just going from session to session, having "experts" talk at us.  The biggest issue is that we are all movers and not used to sitting in one place for long periods of time, so our conferences are short; 2 hours - 2 days tops!

A hot topic lately has been growing in hoop houses.  The seed companies and extension service, as well as growers, are seasonally (all 4 seasons) testing different ideas (crops, crop varieties, planting dates, etc) to try and maximize hoop house growing.  Several things make hoop house growing extremely appealing and in many ways can maximize profit and yield.  I put mine up specifically for two reasons 1) to grow winter spinach and 2) to grow summer tomatoes.  One appeal to growing tomatoes indoors is that it prevents excess moisture from reaching the leaves and therefore reduces disease pressure.  Airflow is important and one way to control that is through pruning and trellising. That is exactly what I was experimenting with this year.  Traditionally, I have done what is called the "basket weave".  Twine is wrapped around support stakes and then on each side of the plant, so it's sandwiched between 2 pieces of twine.  This is repeated every foot or so as the plant grows vertically. You can see this method in the PYO cherry tomato garden.  (And in the above photo).  I've done this method for over 17 years, so I am used to it.  I do minimal pruning.  The hardest part is pounding in the stakes and then removing them at the end of the season.  Sometimes they break, bend or fall over and that can be a huge mess.  Sometimes, harvesting through all the excess vegetative matter can be a hassle too.


Another method, which I tried this year, is to "clip" the stem of the plant to a twine which is attached to the roof of the greenhouse.  The clips are reusable (or you can buy compostable ones too) and you continue to clip the plant as it grows vertically.  There is less set up and material needed in this method, the time sink is the heavy pruning.  As you can see in the photo, harvesting is easier because the fruit is easier to reach.  Studies indicate that the yield is greater too since the plant is putting less energy into vegetative growth.  Although I haven't seen much difference in yield between the two trellising methods this season, I did note that the clipped tomatoes ripened earlier.

My verdict?  I'm not sold on one over the other yet.  I did note that some varieties were harder to clip than others, so I will continue to basket weave those.  So I'll try both methods again next year and continue my experiments.  And continue taste testing of course too!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, cabbage, beet, potato, beans, leeks, radish, tomato, melons, zukes, cukes?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 29th and September 1st

The Color of Bounty

I have several parameters when choosing which seeds to buy and grow for the CSA:  
1st) Flavor 
2nd) Disease Resistance/Growth Performance on our soil
3rd) Size at maturity (I don't do baby or gigantic)
4th) Price of the seed
and lastly) Appearance

I don't usually get sucked in to the descriptions of appearance in the catalog, but I am a true sucker for flavor descriptions.  However, while harvesting, I am amazed at the colors.  And I can't lie, it makes harvesting much more fun. 


Harvesting peppers is my favorite.  The plants are soft, not spiny or hard to get into.  The bright colors treat my eyes and my stomach knows how sweet they will taste.  Lots more to come in your share this season!!


Beets! I know not all of you love them, but you must be inspired by their impressive color!  Yes, they stain our hands a dark purple when we harvest, but they are another of my favorites to look at.


Tomatoes!  Talk about drooling while reading the seed catalog!  It's almost overwhelming the sheer amount of tomatoes to choose from nowadays.  Still I focus on flavor and disease resistance...that's what will give us beauties in end.  Indigo apple was a new one last year and the flavor is remarkable...as well as pleasing to the eye.  I can't say that our hands are very pleasing after tomato harvest, they are usually a hornworm green and remain stained for several washings!  

I hope your eyes are dazzled by color during pick up and food prep.  And your bellies are happy too!


This Week's Bounty of Colors: lettuce, carrots, chard, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cukes, zukes, melon, corn, dill, parsley, cilantro

Farmer's Table:
*Porkbelly-greenbean-ricenoodle-peppers


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22nd and 25th

 Ahhh Rain!

We ended up with 1.4" of rain last Friday and it was wonderful!!!  I did a walk around Saturday morning and it was so nice to see the soil a little darker and the plants perkier!  Even the birds and the bugs seemed livelier!  This photo is of buckwheat cover crop.  It has a beautiful white flower that attracts all sorts of pollinators.  If you could only HEAR this photo, it is BUZZING with activity!


The next succession of green beans and cabbage are looking happy!


This field is full of the late fall/winter luxuries like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beets and carrots.


The rain even spurred the spinach to germinate--yeah!
Be sure to take a moment during pick up and walk around the farm.  It's at its peak right now and soon crisp fall air will be taking over.  See it whiles it's hot!


I spent much of my weekend in the kitchen preserving and baking.  It was lots of fun and a good break from harvesting and other serious farm labor :)  Our peach trees didn't yield quite as many peaches as we hoped, but enough to can some for the winter AND eat lots fresh.


Then I made some blueberry goodies, pickled pepperocini peppers and pesto.

Hope you are preserving summer too!


This week's Bounty: lettuce, kale, beets with greens, beans, broccoli, melon (?), pepper, eggplant, zukes, summer squash, cukes, tomato, dill, cilantro, basil


The Farmer's Table:
-cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and balsamic
-cucumber, sour cream and dill salad
-sauteed mushrooms and pepper with steak and eggs
-fresh pepper, cucumber, tomato and cheese

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August 14th and 18th

Oasis

I'm beginning to feel like my garden plots are little island oasis amidst a desert.  I'm sure you have noticed, the lack of rain has made the ground rock hard, the native plants, like golden rod and milkweed, wilt and the grass turn a crispy brown.  I grew up in Ohio and then lived in West Virginia awhile where the trees where huge, the road edges lush with wild flowers and the poison ivy leaves were bigger than my head.  Alright, I don't miss the large poison ivy, but I am starting to miss lush green.  We've had three dry years in a row now and I think I have decided to drill a new well.  It's an unexpected expense, and I would much rather buy a new implement, but I feel as though we are starting to tax our personal wells and is an important step.  A friend and dowser came and picked "the perfect" spot, so hopefully we'll strike it rich!  I even felt a pull with the dowsing rod, so just maybe...


Color me red and yellow and pink and orange and purple!  The tomatoes are coming in strong and their bright colors are much appreciated.  And the flavor is outstanding!  


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, hakurei, cabbage, carrot, beans, cukes, zukes, summer squash, eggplant, pepper, tomato and basil


The Farmer's Table: (a small sample of what we indulge in here at the farm!)
*more roast beef sandwiches, this time sliced with our new meat slicer : )
*a take on Tiella Barese, but with lobster instead of mussels (thanks to a generous gift from a shareholder!)  new potatoes and Pink Oyster mushrooms

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

August 8th and 11th

FREEDOM

The "baby" turkeys (now 4 weeks old), have been released from the barn into the jungle of tall grass, and branches. Don't worry, they can still hide in the barn if they are feeling timid and I still shut the barn door at night to keep them safe.  They still have another few weeks before they'll be feathered enough to sleep outside on their own, but for now they are having fun chasing bugs, sunbathing and exploring their new world. 


Speaking of jungles, we have been wading through the sea of cucumbers these past couple of weeks.  It's a tangle of vines, bees and prickly leaves.  We planted less this year and have harvested more than usual.  We had a record 674 lbs last week!  The field is 200' long and we have to traverse this distance while doing Cucumber Yoga the entire way.  (Cucumber Yoga is a cross between Twister and difficult yoga poses!)  And soon we will be wading this sea for melons-yeah!


Thanks to all who picked up more cukes this weekend.  I did my part to and made some Sour Mustard Pickles.


RAIN!  We ended up with .35" last night/this morning and it felt so good!  I am sure the plants will respond positively to the much needed moisture.  As you can see, the blog is a tad late this week again this week.  We have been busy!!!  Setting irrigation takes a lot of time and because of the possibility of rain, we worked double time this weekend, seeding fall crops, cover crops (to protect the soil this winter), mulching asparagus (with a rented mulch chopper/blower) and harvesting.  There is still a bit of weeding and planting here and there, but mostly now we get to harvest the bounty. Life is looking good here at Little Ridge Farm, thanks for joining in on the fun!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, hakurei turnip w/ greens, beets w/ greens, sweet onions, green beans, new potatoes, zukes, cukes, summer squash, tomato, dill, parsley and basil


The Farmer's Table (a sample of what we're cooking for dinner)
*Roast Beef sandwiches, from our top round roast, soaked in a sugar salt brine.  Made with lettuce, tomato and yogurt horseradish sauce. (now Zach wants a meat slicer!)
*Oyster mushroom Duxelle.  So good!!!  can eat on pasta, with beef or on crackers
*New potatoes with parsley and lemon
*Summer Casserole/Lasagna.  Ham steak braised in tomato sauce.  Lovage, zukes, grated beets and cheese.
*Pasta Free--used chard leaves, eggs, ricotta, mozzarella summer squash!

Yes we ate well this week!!!!!!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August 1st and 4th

Fruits of our Labor  

Tomatoes are starting to ripen!  With some exciting new varieties!  (This is Tye-Dye)


New Red Oyster Mushrooms too! 


We're working hard! (just a few weeds)


And eating well, hope you are too!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, fennel, cabbage, carrots, purplette onions (mini red), scallions, zukes, cukes, summer squash, a tomato and dill


The Farmer's Table (a sample of what we eat here on the farm!)
-Italian Short Ribs--fennel, scallion, red wine and clove
-Eggplant Caponata
-Whole chicken with cajun spiced summer squash