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Monday, July 17, 2017

July 18th and 21st

Summer Beauty

We are blessed with a gorgeous milkweed patch in our backfield.  The monarchs have a blast flitting around sipping nectar.  And the aroma, wow!  If only this photo were a scratch n' sniff.  Luckily the patch is right near the raspberries, so if you venture out to pick, you'll get to experience this special treat! 

The new raspberry patch is looking great!  I picked a bunch this weekend and made decadent raspberry chocolate brownies : )

The farm has been buzzing.  Although transplanting season is nearing the end, we are still putting in some important crops that will be mature in late fall.  We are also catching up with weeds (!), focusing a lot on irrigating and now, with zucchini and summer squash coming in, harvesting on a daily basis.  Humidity makes work harder but we still seem to make it through with a smile on our faces (most of the time anyway).  Hope you are enjoying summer's beauty too.


This Week's Bounty:
lettuce, kale, kohl rabi, summer squash/zucchini, fennel, sugar snap peas and garlic scapes...


Saturday, July 8, 2017

July 11th and 14th

Unveiling Summer

This week is an exciting week on the farm!  The zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers are starting to fruit, so we will uncover them from their protective lair. We are still about a week away from harvesting, but soon, real soon, the taste of summer will bless your palate!


Other excitement is the rebuilding of our rock wall.  It was becoming a bit precarious, so our friend and dry mason, Chris Tanguy, from Maine Dry Stone has taken on the challenge.  Another friend and I had built the original wall nearly 10 years ago, and although I am a bit sad to see it go, I will be more at ease knowing it wont fall down!  It's been a tight squeeze working back there, kind of like too many cooks in the kitchen, but I am impressed at how efficient his equipment is. It's been pretty fun to see all the kids (girls and boys alike) so excited to see cool new equipment in the driveway. Although the equipment is extremely handy, there is still much hand (and back!) work going into this rebuild. We were comparing notes on massage therapists and acupuncturists as I washed radishes : )


And finally the pigs are excited too!  (aren't they always?!)  This little girl's tail is wiggling a mile a minute, so happy in her new green pasture. They are out by the strawberries now, be sure to visit them! You can also check out THIS pretty cute video of them playing in water.


This week's Bounty: lettuce, chinese cabbage/green cabbage, hakurei turnips, chard, garlic scapes and herbs.


The farmer's Table: (a sample of what we ate fro the week)
*burgers (one of my favs)! from our grass fed beef.  with homemade pickles, pickled peppers, mushrooms and Spring Day cheese

*cabbage slaw (on top of 4th of July hot dogs!)

*homemade pizza (Portland Pie dough) spinach, bacon, shitake....

*yummy salads with homemade dressings (use the PYO herbs!) and diced kohl rabi

*Italian Style Pot Roast (we use lovage, from the PYO garden) soo goood!

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 27th and 30th

Berry Busy

Although I admit I am sipping a strawberry daiquiri as I type this blog, we have been working hard this week!  Weeding, transplanting and harvesting on a daily basis...and things are looking yummy! Don't be afraid to try new veggies like kohl rabi, pac choi and chinese cabbage; you will be surprised that they are just as tasty as the veggies you know like cucumbers and zucchini : )

The hoop house is full of beautiful greenery like tomatoes, herbs and even a few rouge flowers to keep us farmer's happy!

Strawberry season is underway!  Come hang with Chicken and Simon in the strawberry patch!  I can't guarantee they will help you pick, but they are sure to entertain!

This is Anna, she and her husband, Lazaro, teach Latin dance through Danza Latina.  Lazaro also instructs some super fun Latin exercise classes.  Check them out!  Zach and I have been taking salsa with them and we have so much fun!! (I also take bachata.)  Now as I weed, I mindfully review my dance moves : )  !Me encanta bailar!
 

PYO Garden is Open!

(Sorry, rhubarb is not for picking.)
The dianthus and the tall flower in the background are presently the best picking.  Below is a photo showing the proper way to cut flowers.  We try and grow "long stemmed" flowers, but some are naturally shorter. If you cut too low, you will kill the plant.

Puffa says, "please cut ABOVE any other flowers that may come so others may enjoy. Meow." Be sure to teach your kiddoes too : )

Props to Sara Sloan, fashion consultant, for gifting me my veggie LuLaRoe pants!


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, arugula, chard, beets with greens, kohl rabi, chinese cabbage, broccoli? pac choi, cilantro, dill, basil snippets

soon to come....kale, shell peas, garlic scapes, green cabbage...

The Farmer's Table:
 (A sample of what we eat during the week here on the farm.)

-lots of salads with homemade dressing and Spring Day Creamery Blue cheese
-pasta with bacon, pac choi and kohl rabi
-panko crusted pork with broccoli
-strawberries and Winter Hill Farm yogurt
-Sunnyside Farm chicken legs with grated kohl rabi slaw

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 20th and 23rd

Farm Tools

For me farm tools are like my toys.  I get excited about new equipment; potential time saved and improved farm efficiency.  The coolest thing about most of the equipment is that is very simple. Many have been invented by farmers, therefore practical, and are fully adjustable to meet the needs of any farm. And, in the past few years, new inventions for "small" farms (like ours) have come to the market.  With the wet spring, and my desire to find a cultivator that works better on heavy clay soils (like ours) brought me to borrow this piece of equipment from Maine Farmland Trust.  Although it wasn't a miracle worker,  I think it is moving in the right direction for our situation.


Hoes. Oh we have many!  And we use them often!!  Since it's been so wet, we have not done much weeding. We took a stab at it with these tools on Thursday and boy did we have our work cut out for us! I like weed free fields for many reasons; better airflow around the vegetables, clean fields leave more nutrients for the veggies, harvesting goes much faster and for me and my clutter free personality, it looks nicer.  For some reason though crab grass found its way here a couple of years ago and that is mostly what we are battling now.  It was like trying to hoe sod....literally.


Our hands. They are rough and cracked and permanently stained.  Jean's grand kids are appalled that she can't keep her fingernails polished and Zach complains that my hands are rougher than sandpaper. Yes, we could wear gloves, but most of the times it just isn't practical.  They do many tasks on a daily basis and although they may not look very pretty they serve us well : )

It's been a busy, labor intensive week of transplanting, covering transplants, getting irrigation set up harvesting and starting in on weeding. At times I felt a little discouraged at how far behind some things are (like the strawberries) and about how far behind we are on some tasks (like weeding) but then as I walked the farm to make the harvest list for next week, I am excited that some of the veggies are making their appearance earlier than ever before (like beets and broccoli).  Every year is different, generally everything works out in the end, and it always feels bountiful.


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, spinach, broccoli, beets, purple kohlrabi, pac choi, rhubarb and asparagus for half shares.


The Farmer's Table: (A sample of what we eat during the week here on the farm.)
please note : )  Chef Zach was away most of the week so it was up to farmer Keena to feed herself.  I ate a bit more simply, but still loaded up on greens!

*Lightly sauteed tat soi with 2 eggs fried in lard
*Lisbon House of Pizza -- (plain cheese) I added sauteed kale and a side salad
*chicken wings (from Sunny Side Farm) homemade ranch dip and parsnip fries (so yum!)
*rice with sauteed pork, beets and pac choi
*leftover rice with lightly steamed asparagus and egg and  Parmesan
*yogurt (from Winter Hill Farm) peanut butter, lettuce, frozen blue berries and water smoothies



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 6th and 9th

Plant with a Passion

Just finished harvesting and washing beautiful greens today for pick up. It's chilly and rainy and my hands aren't typing very well since they are still a bit numb. Every year brings a different set of challenges; last year dusty dry and this year cool and wet.  Despite this challenge, my spring kale is more beautiful than ever before and am reminded that the rewards of this job are great.


Last night I sat eating another amazing dinner of fresh greens and grass fed beef, listening to Etta James. The dinner scene sounds very romantic, but trust me, it's not. I sit at the counter while Zach stands in the kitchen, analyzing every bite he takes. Mostly wondering if he should have added more lemongrass cubes, sauteed the beef a bit less or used the wok instead of the frying pan. Most people talk about their day, world news or watch TV, but here it's all about the food. I'm like the teenage kid, sitting at the counter with fork in hand, so hungry from my day and ready to gobble anything down in 3 bites. Zach reminds me to take it a bit slower and focus on the flavor. I concede to a point, I'm hungry.  


Hope you have a moment to taste the flavor and "eat your veggies"



This Week's Bounty: loads of lettuce, pac choi, kale, parsnips, scallions, herbs and asparagus for the full shares


The Farmer's Table: 

From the wok -- Stir fried parsnip, pac choi and carrot with peanut sauce

Arugula, buttercrunch salad with dill, Spring Day cheese, home made pickled peppers and maple vinaigrette. Buttered bread.

Lemon grass haddock with pureed parsnip and smoked chili garlic spinach

LRF cheese steak -- Minute steak sandwich with frozen peppers, onions, homemade cheese sauce and chipotle arugula

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 30th and June 2nd

Cool Spring

We spend much of our time transplanting May-June.  Almost every minute actually, even though there are loads of other tasks to be done as well.  Before we plant, we dunk each flat into a tank of "nutrient tea".  It's a mix of worm castings, crab shell flour, humates and coral. It smells a bit like a fishy ocean, but the plants love it.  Apparently so does Chicken.


Typically in the spring we cover plants after we transplant them. Sometimes it's to keep them warm and other times it's to keep pesky bugs off of them. Chicken likes to use it as his treadmill. 

Under this fabric, the plants stay cozy and bug free.  It is labor intensive to cover plants (especially on windy days). I admit it is not my favorite farm tasks, but the end result is rewarding. This tat soi, lettuce, chinese cabbage and pac choi are looking very delicious! You will find some of them in your pick up this week!


This pigs are also enjoying their greens! We let them out to pasture this weekend and they had a ball. Rooting, running and chomping on grass. They even had a romp out of the fence...hopefully that will not be the norm for them this summer!


We are excited for this week's bounty even thought it has been tremendously cool and wet.  Time to target your inner rabbit and nosh on some spring greens!


This week's Bounty: lettuce mix, head lettuce, spinach, tat soi, pac choi, scallion, chive, asparagus and parsnips


Farmer's Table: 

Marinated pork chop fried rice with carrots, scallions and parsnips

LRF grass-fed Beef and Parsnip stew

Cajun pork roast with sauteed sweet peppers (some available for sale in the freezer!)

Pork stock (made from the roast bone) with rice and spinach

Dung Po (pork belly) spinach, scallion with rice pasta and homemade plum sauce

LRF grass-fed beef burgers with fresh lettuce and homemade pickles

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 16th and 19th

E-Z Seeding

As I mentioned in last week's blog, most of your vegetables come from plants that are transplanted into the fields.  That means at some point they are seeded into containers, or "flats", in the greenhouse, grown to a large enough size, transplanted into a larger container and then transplanted into the field. Although transplanting has a multitude of benefits (as mentioned in the previous blog), it takes much more time than just direct seeding into the field.  The first thing I plant when I fire up the greenhouse in March is onions.  We plant near 20,000 a year and this task has taken me over 3 days to complete.  A long grueling 3 days in which I have lured in family and friends to help...who have never asked to help again.  It takes precision, good eye sight and patience, most of which humans do not have.  So late last summer I invested in an E-Z seeder.  It's a small, very inventive machine created by a farmer couple in Wisconsin.  The machine itself (basically a vacuum cleaner that is set in reverse) is not expensive.  But the metal plates, that are hand crafted specifically for each farms' use are.  Near $200 each and although I could use 5 or 6, I settled to start with 3.

The first step is to sprinkle the seed onto the plate. (As seen above).


Next I play "roll balls into a hole" game.  (After a google search I think technically that is what the game is called.)  You have all played it, I am sure.  A game found in prize gift bags and Happy Meals alike.  I roll the seeds along the plate until the suction (from the vacuum on reverse) holds a seed onto each hole which is precision drilled into the plate.  (In this picture shown above, there are actually 3 holes drilled close to each other so that 3 seeds drop into each "cell" in the "flat".)


Next, I dump any excess seed into a cup and then tip the tray upside down over the "flat" I want to seed.  (Do not worry! The reverse vacuum is holding the seeds in place in their respective holes.)


Finally, I cut the air from the vacuum (the big red lever), releasing the seeds from their holes and dropping them onto the "flat" by gently tapping the backside of the tray to make sure any stray seeds fall into place.  


And, voila!  I have a full "flat" seeded in near 10 seconds, rather than 10 minutes!


Lastly, I cover the seed with soil and then water each flat.  And then praise the E-Z seeder, a worth while investment!


Cheers to seeds, time saving inventions and locally grown food!!! ....and to those who appreciate it, of course : )


This week's Bounty: spinach, lettuce mix, scallions (transplanted late last summer and overwinter in the filed), over wintered parsnips (oh! so sweet!!), storage carrots and more!


The Farmer's Table:
parsnip/celeriac/beet slaw ... all shredded and blessed with vinegar and oil

the most amazing Baby Back ribs (from our pork): http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/marinated-baby-back-ribs

spinach salad

sauteed spinach


Monday, May 1, 2017

May 2nd and 5th

It all Starts with a Tiny Seed


I could go on and on about how the rain keeps going on and on, but I will save that for another day in hopes that the weather will settle soon.  Instead I will focus on the "growings" on in the greenhouse. Beginning in March, this house is heated with a propane heater, set to about 50 degrees.  There is no soil in here, only tables and it is where most of your food starts growing.  Some seeds we plant directly into the field soil (direct seeding).  These are usually plants that can be spaced together quite close and transplanting would be a daunting task.  (dill, carrots, peas....)  Although technically you can direct seed every vegetable, with our wacky climate and short growing season, the majority of our crops get a head start in the greenhouse and are then transplanted from pots to the field.  Starting here allows a controlled environment for hard to germinate seeds and a warm environment for plants to start growing when planting them outside would be too cold (tomatoes, peppers...).  It also protects seedlings from getting eaten by crows or insects (corn, cucumbers, broccoli...). The photo above is of broccoli seeds just starting to germinate (emerge from their seed).


Once the plants in those tiny celled trays reach a certain size, we transplant them to larger pots where they have more soil and nutrients.  They continue to grow in the comfort of the greenhouse until they mature to a big enough size that they can hopefully withstand crow or insect pressure and the outdoor environment.  We then transplant them into the field.  Depending on the vegetable, plants stay in the greenhouse from 2-8 weeks.  Inka makes sure I do everything right in there.


I love working in the green house!  Especially in the late winter and early spring.  (It gets pretty darn hot in there mid summer!)  I am also protected from the outdoor elements and although the fields are too cold or too wet to work, the greenhouse is full of life and smells of earth. ...not to mention the kaleidoscope of lush growth is beautiful to look at.



Jean and I spent most of this drizzly day harvesting spinach under the protection of the hoop house.  But its description will be for another blog : )


Thank you for joining us for another season of wacky weather, hopefully blogs not too complainy and awesome vegetables from Little Ridge Farm!!!!


This week's harvest: carrots, onions/shallots, celeriac, beets, potatoes and turnips from the root cellar.  Freshly dug parsnips and fresh spinach!

Click on the veggie list on the right for our favorite recipes!

Monday, April 3, 2017

April

Looking for Spring

Warmer days mean I need to start watering the hoop house (the unheated house that has spinach and lettuce growing in it).  The tricky thing is, I can barely find the well head beneath all the snow!  


Simon LOVES winter.  Except for the new smells that come out in the melting snow, he would rather we have snow year round.  (This year it seems like he's getting his wish!)  He also loves to go on hikes and skis.  And now his buddy Chicken likes to go with us too!


While I was in Peru, Chicken followed Zach out into the woods.  At first we were concerned, I mean he is duck and his 3" legs can only take him so fast.  But we soon realized he can hold his own.  He flies on the straightaways and zips along on top of the snow.  If the snow is soft and he sinks, he scoots through the snow on his belly like a penguin.  I posted a short video on Facebook, but I still can't capture the hilarity of it.  And I can not capture the sound of his webbed feet "pat, pat, pat" in the snow, it's really cute.  


It's sugaring season as well, so Simon and I (we leave Chicken at home), head up the road to help our friends collect sap.  It's a good physical workout to prep us for the upcoming season (me lifting 5 gallon pals of sap and Simon racing through the woods with his best friend Bear).  This is the 10th year I've helped in this sugarbush and I know Mitch's woods like my own.  Although I don't drive the horses, I have become pretty comfortable around Dick and Doc.  I'm still partial to my tractor, but I'll admit the quiet of the horses in the woods and the smell of animal sweat verses diesel in the cool spring air is pretty nice and I look forward to it every season.


We've been busy here on the farm too.  The 30,000+ onion seeds are seeded along with some lettuce, chard and lots of Brassicas.  This week I will start peppers and celery.  The seeds have taken longer than usual to germinate since we are only getting sun just about every other day.  The greenhouse is heated at night, but the little plants still need sun for energy!  
  

Simon would rather be in the woods than in the greenhouse, and he still does not fully understand why I work so much rather than just play all day.  If only I could teach him to transplant seedlings.... 


The Farmer's Table:
Rendered Tallow for the best chicken nuggets and french fries
Beef Liver Pate (with bacon!)
Carrot and Red Cabbage Cole Slaw
Celeriac Soup

Blessings on the Meal!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Peru!

A Magical Trip

Zach and I spent a marvelous 2 weeks in Peru.  I had a hard time picking out photos that capture the mind boggling architecture, vast agriculture, sheer steepness, vivid colors, culinary uniqueness and cultural traditions that make this country so incredible. 


Many crops were harvested by hand and carried on backs to sell at market or to feed livestock.


Steeped in tradition; many people still wear bright colors which were hand sheered, hand spun, hand dyed with local fruits and herbs and then hand woven to perfection and practicality.


Right off the plane in Cusco, we taxied down in elevation toward Machu Picchu Pueblo about 2 hours away.  On the way, we passed through the Chinchero District, a breathtakingly beautiful agricultural patchwork of cover crops, potatoes, grains and corn.  As well as free roaming sheep. pigs, donkeys, llamas, alpaca and cows.

Our first few days were spent in the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo.  Pictured here are the Ollantaytambo ruins which were built by mining massive rocks from the tall mountain you see on the left, pushed/pulled (by hand) across the valley and then back up the hill to the ruins.  It was our first insight into the magical powers of the Incas and the Sacred Valley.  The Incas were avid farmers and terraced sheer cliffs to provide growing platforms which included detailed underdrainage to handle torrential rains that fall December-February.


Inca built terraces are still used widely today.  The area remains rich in agriculture, focusing on grains, corn, fava beans, peas and potatoes.  I am not sure if the terraces are owned individually or if they are rented from the district, but each terrace was carefully managed, weeded and irrigated with Inca built waterways.  

It was obvious the Peruvians practiced precise cover cropping and crop rotation.  During the crop rotation, they would also rotate livestock through the fields by tethering them.  Once the space was eaten, the farmer would move the animals to a different position until the field was gleaned.

We stayed two nights at El Arbergue.  It is an historic hotel which has wonderful views and a fantastic restaurant that is provided for by an onsite farm.  We took a tour of the farm with Oscar, the resident farmer.  What an amazing backdrop to work by!!

We enjoyed lunch with freshly harvested vegetables and meats cooked in the traditional Pachamanca style.  A hole is dug in the ground and the meat and vegetables are covered with hot rocks, a wet canvas, more hot rocks and then soil.  The first layer of rocks are covered with huacatay, a type of marigold whose leaves have an incredible spicy minty flavor.  This herb is used in many Peruvian dishes.

Choclo con queso.  This classic street food is boiled corn with a chunk of fresh made cheese and huacatay sauce.  The meaty kernels are 4 times the size of corn you find here in the states and are easily plucked from the cob with your fingers. Yum!

Peru is the place were tomatoes, potatoes and many other roots originated.  The potato especially is revered and consumed in Peru.  Each has a unique shape, size, flavor and use. The Incas found ways to dry and preserve certain potatoes. Some even think they buried them (like a squirrel would) along their treacherous trails to provide nourishment during their long journeys.

We took an amazing tour of 4 different ruins which brought us through farm fields and rolling hills. Although we did get caught in pouring rain, a hail storm and 2 thunderstorms during our trip, I was happy that we traveled to Peru during the rainy season.  It allowed for lush vegetation, bright colors and potato plants (left) that were in full bloom.



One day was spent at a Botanical Garden along the Mandor River in the Sacred Valley.  We saw huge brightly colored birds, tiny hummingbirds, a ferocious waterfall, indigenous fruits and several species of orchids.

Another trip was to Maras.  A town in the Sacred Valley that has naturally occurring salt.  Hundreds of evaporation ponds, started by the Incas, produce well known Peruvian salt. 

Here I am overlooking the Ollantaytambo Valley and the "granaries" where it is believed that the Incas stored food.

Zach, being a "water guy" was mesmerized by the ingenious Incan water ways which are still in use today.  This llama was particularly happy for the Incan invention, as he drank from the hand built rock fountain during this sunny day.

And for the big moment....Machu Picchu!  Just. Unbelievable. 

Llamas mow the grass on the Inca laid terraces.

We hiked Machu Picchu Mountain which reins over the ruins.  A near 2 hour hike up crazy steep 10,000 ft peak.  The downside to traveling during the rainy season....typically the view from this peak is a mind blowing 360 degree spectacle.  We saw nothing but dense fog and lots of flowering plants. Maybe it was better the fog hid the cliff faces, I might have been terrified.

This is Sacsayhuaman, a ruin in Cusco.  I have focused this blog mostly on the plant and ag side of our trip, but I have to show you how incredibly amazing the Inca stonework is.  Not only in its precision (no mortar used) but also the sheer vastness of these rocks which weigh over 360 tons each and are stacked on top. of. each. other!!!!!!!!!

The last part of my trip was spent in Lima.  I visited a college roommate whose husband works at the International Potato Center.  They maintain the largest gene bank of potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Not only does this center save seed potatoes so varieties will never be lost, but they also focus on ensuring agricultural production in developing countries and they are currently researching if it is possible to grow potatoes on Mars.  

There are several potato varieties found in Peru.  They may not all taste good, but they all are important to food security. Each variety carries a trait which may be pertinent to cultivating a new/better preforming variety.  It takes ten years to grow, test and hybridize a plant to perfection. 

The center has several methods of preserving potato diversity. One is in thousands of sterile test tubes, called In Vitro Conservation.  Each plant can only survive in its tube for two years, so scientists are perpetually dividing and retubing plants to keep them alive.  Another, more recent discovery, is Cryopreservation.  In this method, plant tips are frozen, suspended in a tissue protecting solution and kept frozen. This method not only takes up much less space and time, but the tissue can be kept frozen indefinitely with no harm to the plants' vitality. 

Photo of current day potato harvest in the Sacred Valley.

Papa Arariwa, the Protector of Potatoes.  He, along with Pachamama, the Andean earth mother, protect this Sacred country full of agricultural riches, deep traditions and beautiful peoples.  I am grateful to have made the trip.