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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April

Come on Spring!

Below average temps have made this spring a little slow to spring!  I'm sure you are feeling it too.  But despite the sleet and cold and rain, the lovely sounds of spring prevail.  The Robins are bustling about searching for worms and the Cardinals donning their bright red tuft decorate the bushes.  It's a reminder that even though the weather is till encouraging me to hunker down, it's time to get to work!  This little song has been floating around in my head.  Honestly I know it from PeeWee Herman, from the 5th grade, we had hand motions to it and everything.  Turns out it's a legit song by Louis Armstrong!  Let me share it with you:


When the redred robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along, along / There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his old sweet song / Wake up, wake up, you sleepy head / Get up, Get up, get out of bed / Cheer up, Cheer up the sun is Red / Live, love, laugh, and be happy / What if I were blue; now I'm walking through fields of flowers
Rain may glisten, but still I listen for hours and hours


My office and haven of choice on blustery April days is the green house.  Bright little plants greet me when I enter, along with the smell of soil and growth.  I've been busy seeding, watering, thinning and transplanting; readying these happy guys for their new outdoor home.  (I even sing to them)  A few things are big enough to be hardened off outside before being set into the earth, but I'll need to wait until the air temps warm up and the soils start to dry.  Soon we will be on our knees for hours popping tens of thousands of plants into the ground!



Another spring haven is the hoop house.  Jean and I will spend most of the day in here harvesting greens for tomorrow's pick up.  Last fall I planted kale and chard in an attempt to overwinter it and have it for April/May pick ups.  Although this winter was colder than usual for long stints of time, most of the plants survived and the flavor is wonderfully sweet.  Spinach still rocks it on hardiness, but I think I'll give the chard and kale a go again this winter.

Cheer up, spring is here and new fresh veggies are on their way!!  Thank you to my Winter Share customers for joining us in another bountiful seasonal eating extravaganza!!!


The Farmer's Table:
Maple Cream Pie -- gotta celebrate Maple Syrup Season!
Beet and beef Borscht w/ cabbage, carrots and celeriac
Don Po (Korean Pork belly) w/ spinach and winter radish stir fry
Smoked Pork Shoulder w/maple cider vinegar yellow mustard BBQ and steamed kale
Carrot sticks for every meal -- we're groovin' on 'em!
and Kim Chi spices everything up!
Along w/ our pickled pepperocinis


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

March

Cuba!  Farm to Table Tour 

This is Kensys, our Farm to Table tour guide in Cuba.  We traveled about 25 miles east of Havana to a farm called "Vista Hermosa" (Beautiful View).  While Farm to Table is common the US, this farm/restaurant relationship in Cuba is the first and one of the few.  Although Cuba has liberalized parts of their economy, since Castro's death, food is still controlled by the government.  This farm has been in the family for over 3 generations.  66 hectare farm plots are given to families from the government and may be kept in the family for as long as the family wants.  In exchange, the farm must meet monthly quotas for each thing they produce (ie gallons of milk, pounds of beef, bunches of bananas).  As long as the farm is successful, they can keep the farm and get paid one of the highest wages in the country.  The food is sold to a cooperative who rations the food among the citizens of Cuba.   

Most of Cuba does not have the money or ability to import fertilizers and chemicals.  After  the dissolve of the Soviet Union in the late 1980's, Cuba was left on its own and entered into a decade of severe economic depression.  It radically changed the Cuban lifestyle, forcing people to live without many comforts they were used to.  It also necessitated the introduction of sustainable/organic agriculture.  The depression forced Cuba into many positive changes that were appealing to us as visitors; slow food, few cars, cloth napkins, little waste, lack of wifi/social media and virtually no consumerism, but it has not been easy for them.  One of the farmers there put it well, "We do all the right things for all the wrong reasons."  They are starting to take advantage of this misfortune though and see the benefits of marketing sustainable/local/slow food agriculture to tourists.

Kensys is showing us vegetables growing in a large area completely covered by shade cloth.  Summers are brutally hot and humid in Cuba and the cloth allows the farm to grow vegetables, including lettuce, all year long.  


The farm is a completely closed loop system.  They grow forage which includes mulberry, sugar cane (left) and sorghum (right).  It is harvested weekly, ground and fed to all the animals they raise.  The animals waste is then used to fertilize the crops. 


Rabbits for meat.  And, if you look close, you can see guinea pigs below the cages.  They have a symbiotic relationship with the rabbits, running free on the ground cleaning up any food or waste the rabbits drop.  Unlike in Peru, the guinea pigs are not eaten, just adored. 


Their pigs are raised much like ours.  They are rotated through pasture, eating fresh grass, vegetable scraps and the ground forage I described above.  An important part of their diet is also rooting under the Royal Palm trees for its high vitamin fruit, Palmiche. 


Cuba is not a place for cheese lovers.  Milk is extremely rare in the country so any little sliver of cheese you may find has been imported.  However milk is an important part of their children's diets, so any milk produced is rationed among the children.  The country is sensitive to those who have milk allergies and therefore provide goat's milk for them.  Vista Hermosa raises the most milk in the country.


I am realizing we did not take very good pictures of the farm!!!  This scene was lovey but I did not quite capture it...the chicken hanging out under the herbs which naturally keep flies away from the milk cows on the right and the working cows on the left.  I should have taken a better picture of the impressive bulls on the left who are used for plowing the fields.  Vista Hermosa is one of the largest producers of beef.  Beef is VERY rare in Cuba.  Partly because it takes so much energy raise a cow (feed, water, time), verses chicken or seafood which is most common.  Cows are sacred in Cuba and are protected fiercely.  



The Vista is much different than what we think of as a farm.  Most of the farm is fruit trees (banana, coconut, mango, citrus) and pasture.


Mediterraneo Habana--the restaurant where much of the farm's "excess" food is sold.  Once the farm meets and sells the monthly quota to the cooperative, they may do whatever they would like with any extra they raise.  The restaurant owner is Italian, so he has taught the farm how to make cheese and dried sausage, a lucrative value added product for the farm.

Although the cheese and sausage could use a little refinement still, it was amazing.  All the food was hand made from the farm's products and amazing -- spinach croquettes, grilled meat and veggie skewers, squash tortellini with mozzarella.  And ice cream for dessert! 


Cubans do not have the income to eat at restaurants, they rely on their food rations and any extra money they may have so they can purchase fruits and vegetables.  


Groceries were small and had very few choices. It was mostly canned tuna, fruit juice and rum.  Seriously.  People we talked to loved their country for it's safety, free health care an incredible education.  Social protection programs have nearly eradicated hunger and poverty yet they wished they had more liberties so they could make more money.


It's a crazy balance this world we live in.  
I came home and was overwhelmed by the inane amount of gum choices in a 2 sqft section of the checkout line.  Yet we have people going hungry in our country.


I hope our farm brings you a sense of simple abundance.
Blessings on your meal.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February

Can you Feel the Love?!

I think February to me feels like what April feels like to the average human living in a northern climate.  The sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer, warmer, brighter.  It smells different, the animals are more active, it feels different.  I can detect a significant shift in February's nature (a similar shift to what most folks feel and enjoy in April) and I love it. I love it because, February is still winter and for me that means I have a few more weeks of farm planning and preparing, going on walks with the pooch and reading thought-provoking books.  (In the summer I only read brainless YA fantasy!)  For me the April shift is exciting and lovely but no longer restful.  So for now, I'll bask in the February love. 


Thankfully Simon is feeling much better and he can accompany me on my daily walk.  He even chased a squirrel the other day!  The snow cover and icy crystals have made for some glorious tours.

My walks are often when I do my best farm brain storming.  I think it clears my mind enough to let new thoughts emerge.  I am excited to continue our local CSA, building it stronger and better; continuing to fine tune the shares to bring the best flavor and weekly diversity.  I'm looking at some new ways of marketing to local folks and I even started an Instagram account!  I'm not the best with social media, but it's yet another avenue for you to see this beautiful place and the wonder of growing food in the moment.  


Once again we idolized our new kitchen equipment and had a meat slicing party!  Our friends brought homemade pastrami (from our grass-fed beef) and Zach cooked one of our hams.  We had several sliders with all sorts of condiments on local rye and homemade potato buns.  Yum yum yum!


So I never knew that "sheet pan dinners" were a thing, but I know realize there are hundreds of recipes online.  We have often cooked chicken in a deep dish surrounded by veggies, but the sheet pan allows for even more veggies.  Of course you could have 2 pans in the oven, one meat and one veg, but the wonder of cooking it all together is a) you only dirty one pan and b) you get the meat juices to help flavor the vegetables.  This one is chicken legs with potato and winter squash.  I'll admit the chicken was a little dryer than we'd like, but the has potential and I think it is a great asset to a CSA share...quick and easy healthy meals!


Eat More Veggies!
Join our CSA

*Supurb Flavor
*Always Fresh
*Certified Organic
*Outstanding Value
*Free PYO flower garden


This Month's Bounty: red/green cabbage, carrot, beet, turnip, potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, celeriac, watermelon radish, winter squash and spinach


The Farmer's Table:
*Sheet Pan Delight -- check out this site for loads of ideas
*kimchi -- it's usually made with chinese cabbage, but i made mine with a green cabbage and watermelon radish and it's so crunchy!!  We are using it in soups, on nachos... check out this site to see what you can do with kimchi.  it's super great for your digestion too!
*beef enchiladas -- from Gimmesomeoven one of my favs, my secret ingredient is chimichurri i have in the freezer which i made this summer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January

Winter!

Well, we certainly have had quite the winter so far!  Below average temps and above average snowfall, it's been both challenging and beautiful.  During the 2 week stretch of single digit weather, the inside of the hoop house was covered in hoarfrost.  It is formed basically when the air gets so cold, the water vapor in the air condenses and turns to frost....yes that means it was really cold!  The "fuzzy" stuff on the walls of the house in the picture above is all hoarfrost.  My camera could not pick up the individual crystals that I could see down the entirety of the house.


This is a close up of one of the individual crystals covering the wall.  Huge and magnificent!
Needless to say, I do not think the greens under the cover in the hoophouse liked the subzero stretch of weather.  I believe they are still alive and will pull out of it, but harvest this week is not likely.


When I am not shoveling, snowplowing or plowing snow I am keeping my office chair warm.  I have attended 2 farming conferences this winter as well as a 3-day farm business workshop, which will include 20 hours of Technical Assistance.  All of been extremely helpful and worthwhile, although I am starting to dream that I have gone back to college!  My brain has been a slurry of ideas, growing tips and numbers.  As always, just trying to improve my farm from all sides.

Seed ordering is complete and most have already arrived in the mail.  It's always a pleasurable task and although I tend to order the same varieties year after year, I am still in awe of the plethora of seeds to chose from.  After visiting Peru last year, I was reminded how the food in our local area shapes us.  And how wondrous mother nature is at giving us something nourishing and the flexibility to grow it in different places.  Fedco hit on this point exactly in their catalog this year talking about how seeds have migrated from one place to another, through animals, wind, water, humans.  They have "traveled over time, across cultures, navigating change" and are "adaptable, generous, tenacious, diverse and beautiful".  

This next part, hit me in the heart, because I think it is true....seeds have "charmed" me into tending them...

"We say that we have domesticated seeds, but perhaps they have domesticated us, attracting us with their charms into a mutual relationship where we weed, water, harvest and transport, taking them into our homes, our bodies, our lives.  People throughout the ages have loved seeds, tucking them into skirt hems, saddle bags....to preserve culture, stories, memories of homeland...for seeds are life--we need them as we need water, warmth and air." --Nikos Kavanya


We continue to be charmed by food in our kitchen this winter, experimenting with water kiefer and sourdough bread.

Veggie prep for Borscht.


Thank you to those who are also charmed by the nature of good food.  The simplicity of it that can be turned into a fanciful meal with few ingredients, respect and love.



This Month's Bounty: carrots, beets, celeriac, turnip, kohl rabi, potato, sweet potato, onion, leek, cabbage, garlic and winter squash


The Farmer's Table: 
 *Borscht
 *Lasagna with ham steak.  We cook the hamsteak in canned tomatoes we are making into a sauce.  The sauce ends up with a lovely ham flavor which we then use in the lasagna.  The ham steak can then be used as a separate meal or added to the lasagna
 *LRF grass fed strip steaks. yogurt sweet potato/potato mash. frozen peas and corn.
 *LRF pork stir fry with carrots, kohl rabi and dried mushrooms.
 *LRF grass fed tenderloin. dry brine. honey butter peas. horseradish yogurt mashed potables. port reduction sauce.
 *LRF German style country spare ribs. sour cream yogurt leeks. apple juice vinegar braise.
 *Butternut Squash Bisque