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Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 19th and 22nd

All in a Row

The piggies moved to greener pastures this weekend.  They were a bit timid at first to cross the "fence line" (which we had removed, but hey clearly remembered its electric bite).  But once they finally crossed, what fun they had!  These little critters bring me such joy with their individual personalities.  There is one this year, we call Pillow, who loves to be petted.  He just faints with joy, rolling over so I can pat his belly and then softly grunts with pleasure.  So cute.


Speaking of greener pastures....despite the hot and dry, most crops are bounding with beauty.  And sweetness too--did you love that broccoli last week?!  I don't usually eat it raw, but I enjoyed it in a salad.  Lots of new items are on the horizon: scallions, chinese cabbage, peas....


Bright Lights Chard ... 


LRF lettuce mix, radish, broccoli & pickled peppers with Spring Day Creamery Award winning Blue Cheese


This Week's Bounty: Lettuce, kale, chard, purple kohl rabi, tat soi and spinach(?)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

June 12th and 15th

Transplant Your Heart Out

June is the official "transplant month" here on the farm.  Yes we put tens of thousands of onion seedlings in the ground last month, but it does not compare to the hundreds of flats and thousands of plants we get in the ground in June.  Our short Maine season means there is small window of time to get plants in the ground so they will mature before fall frost.  Many crops take over 100 days to mature and in our 136 frost free days, that's tight.  The dry dry dry soil and windy days are complicating things a bit, making transplanting a bit more stressful for the plants.  And even when they are settled they are growing quite slow.  The nice thing about lack of rain is the weeds grow slow too, but at this point, I will take a few days of weeding for some rain.  


These little twig looking things are sweet potato slips.  They were sent to us from an Organic farm North Carolina.  We stick the slip in the ground and from it sprouts roots and a vine and hopefully large tubers.   Sorry to tempt summer shares with these pics....sweet potatoes are reserved for Holiday and Winter Shares : ) 


Puffa helping me do evening irrigation repair and remay covering after the winds died down.  He's a very good supervisor.  He even goes under the remay to do inspections.  If only I could get him to bring tools with him under there and he would actually do repair work while he was there, but for some reason he is easily distracted by bugs and leaves he finds along the way. 


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, arugula, radish, tat soi, pac choi ...

The Farmer's Table: (a snippet of our weekly feasts)
*Roast Chicken with a Japanese marinade
*tat soi, arugula and radish leaf sautee
*Anise Baked Pork Belly 
*Crunchy yummy salads with a homemade "good seasons paleo dressing"



Monday, June 4, 2018

June 5th and 8th

 Seasonal Transitions


It's funny, I have had conversations with several folks lately and I am realizing most people do not obsess about the weather like I do.  They hop out of bed and head to work without even looking at what the weather will bring.  Me?  I am constantly checking: how windy will it be, what's the predicted high/low temps, will we get any rain or a crazy thunderstorm...  It effects so many aspects of growing veg for you, it's almost as if what I do does not matter.  Ok yes it does.  But sometimes it feels totally out of my control.  Currently my obsession is if we are going to get rain.  We did, about 0.4" which is not much but it is something.  We do have drip irrigation (water slowly drips out of emitters which are embedded in that black tube you see).  It's super efficient, you can even water on a hot sunny day and will hardly have any loss to evaporation (although we tend to water in the am and pm to get the best results).  The downside is that it is always in the way.  I am constantly breaking it with the truck/tractor/hoe.  We also have very little water to use, so we can only run a few beds at a time for a short duration.  It would take 2 weeks to water the entire farm properly.  My love hate relationship with drip irrigation will continue until I die.  You cannot say I am not committed : )  

My camera did not quite capture it, but the above photo was snapped early in the morning and the drips from the irrigation were sparkling like diamonds in the sunrise.  Little gifts dropping into the soil for the plants.  And of course Simon giving love to all.


We just finished our big seasonal transition in the hoop house.  We cleaned out all of the winter spinach and most of the lettuce and transplanted tomatoes in their place.  Soon the beets you see in the photo will be harvested as a part of your share (they were seeded in here in March) and the house will be lush with tomatoes.  The hoop house is a ton of work, lots of winter maintenance and summer fussing, but it adds so much diversity to the CSA.  It allows for the candy like winter spinach, luscious early spring greens, early season beets and herbs and healthier tomato plants.  Feel free to walk up and see what's happening in there, or on the entire farm, it's constantly changing!  (Just be sure to stay on the edges and not walk through the gardens : )


This Week's Bounty: lettuce, herbs, tat soi, pac choi, spring onions, arugula, rasish? rhubarb, carrots, parsnips

The Farmer's Table (A sample of our dinners from the farm's bounty)
*grilled NY sirloin and asparagus
*loads of crunchy salads with pickeled carrots
*Philly cheesesteaks (with our minute steaks) and sauteed onions and frozen peppers
*roasted veg -- parsnip, carrot and the last of the spuds

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May 22nd and 25th

They're Ba-ack; Signs of Spring

So many things come and go in our seasonal climate and spring is a time to welcome many things back.  Hummingbirds, flowers, bright green grass, leaves...  Specifically on the farm, we also welcome back a multitude of things.  Many bring us great joy (fruit blossoms pictured above) and the not so joyous (black flies and other insects).  Here's a little spring farm tour:


Mushrooms!  These flavorful beauties are back!  I still have not gotten the timing down perfectly, so that I have them ready for pick up, but have no fear everyone will get a shot at trying these all summer long.  They pair perfectly with so many of the greens we grow, they are almost addictive. 


Pigs!  Every year, these guys bring me joy.  They are all pink this year and will be harder to tell apart, but their personalities shine and crack me up.  I've got a few this year who almost melt when I scratch them.  It's mutually beneficial; they get love and their itches scratched and I get a natural brillo pad buffing of my rough farm hands!  Come visit them, they love company : )


This is Jean and I doing surgical repair on remay.  It's a fabric that covers the plants to protect them from the cold and insects.  I'm not exactly sure who made this monstrous hole (eh-hem Simon? or maybe a deer) but we have found another use for duct tape.   Remay is typically just a spring and fall thing (thank goodness); hopefully the insects won't be so bad this year that we have to cover crops all year.


Another one of our patients--Proteknet.  Note we were covering holes about half the size of a baby aspirin, that's because the insect we are trying to keep out is about the size of a pin head.  A flea beetle.  It is a hard sided beetle that jumps like a flea.  They LOVE brassicas (kale, pac choi, broccoli, radish, turnip....).  We grow a LOT of brassicas.  That equals a LOT of covering.  And not just covering, we have to bury the edges of the fabric in soil these critters are so voracious.  The kale in the hoop house is NOT covered, since it is so big now.  You will notice this week's kale is not as perfect looking as last time...the flea beetles have fully woken up from their winter slumber....  welcome back : )


This Week's Bounty: storage carrot and onion/shallot, spring parsnips, fresh greens and herbs.  Asparagus for some (eventually all, but it will be on rotation)

The Farmer's Table (A sample of our meals prepared from the farm's bounty)
*asparagus and mushroom fritatta
*Afrikan Stew -- lrf stew meat, carrot, parsnip, spinach and lots of spices

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May 8 and 11

Good Day Sunshine!

Finally some sun and warmth!  It has made a huge difference all over the farm, both inside and out; for both plants and farmers.  Jean and I enjoyed our Monday transplanting the first broccoli for the year and harvesting spinach for the first pick up of the year.  It feels good to working the soil again!


The last several weeks have been about gathering final materials for the season.  I made my annual trip to Fedco and Johnny's to pick up potatoes, soil, fertilizer, last minute seeds...and a few peach trees for ourselves.  We are so lucky to live in a country where these items are readily available and in a state that provides them.  Of course it takes gas and time for me to head north on this trip, but it still saves money skipping the shipping cost.  Plus it gives me the chance to ask questions directly.  Many of the employees at these places, especially Fedco, are farmers too and many of them grow the seed and plants that can be purchased.  Although Maine does not seem the typical ag state like those big mid west states, the Organic movement here is HUGE and it's awesome to be a part of it...and even more awesome that YOU want to support it!  So thank you.


The past weeks have also been about hoping, waiting, probing the soil to see if it's warm enough, dry enough to get on it to prep, and work it for seeding and transplanting.  Spring for me is always a "wring my hands" sort of season.  Many times I think I have the timing right for seeding (peas for example) but then the weather changes and cold wet sets in too long and all the peas rot and I have to seed them again.  It's frustrating, time consuming and expensive (I have to buy more seed), but I am committed to trying my hardest so that the CSA is diverse and bountiful, so I til and seed again.  Not everything goes as planned, but this challenge is partly what draws me to farming.  It reminds me of the precious strength of a seed and the mind boggling abundance one tiny seed can bring.  It's phenomenal really ... think of it when you bite into a 7" long carrot this week, that it grew from a seed about the size of this next period .  Amazing.


I have transplanted onions in the cold snow before, but never in 85 degree weather!  But we survived (onions included) and all 18,900 of them are standing at attention ready to grow.  Jean, Eileen and I transplanted out nearly 22,000 plants in 3 days, put hoops up and covered many of them in remay and then weighted it down with sand bags.  (Remay is a type of ag fabric keeps the plants warm and protects them from insects).  Kind of like boot camp for farmers.  We rocked it -- thanks for your hard work ladies!

Welcome to Little Ridge Farm!  We look forward to growing for you this year and hope you find wonder in all you eat!


This week's bounty: storage carrots, beets, celeriac, gold ball turnip and onions.  Fresh spinach, chard and kale!

The Farmer's Table (What we ate this week with our food)
*pork stir fry with beets, carrots and frozen peas  (I have 1/2 a pig left for sale, email if ur interested!)
*sausage soup with kale and the last of the sweet potatoes
*steamed kale and celeriac
*mashed turnip and celeriac

Celery Root & Turnip Mash
Yields: 4 servings
2 large celery root
2 medium to large turnips
3 scallions, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic
⅓ c. butter, ghee, lard, or tallow
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Directions:
With a sharp knife, cut the rough outer layer off of the celery root.  Chop into small cubed pieces.  Peel the turnips and cut into similar sized cubes.  Add them to a medium pot of boiling water.  Add a generous pinch of sea salt to the water and bring to a boil.  Simmer until fully cooked, about 15-20 minutes.
While the vegetables are simmering, combine the scallions, garlic, butter, sea salt, and black pepper in the bowl of a large food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.
Drain the cooked celery root and turnips and let the steam release for about 3-5 minutes.  Add them to the food processor and process until the mash is smooth and fluffy.

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