Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Orchard/Farm Photo Update 4.27.16

Planting began the earliest it ever has this year! On April 17th we began our planting. We have heard the same from our conventional farming neighbors as well. Many annual vegetables, as well as perennials fruits have gone in the ground. That good inch of rain was a day of sun would be great!

New orchard trees.
For the first time we bought in some larger trees for the orchard. These trees will come into productions in a couple years, while we are still waiting for our younger grafted trees to mature. Rejoice apple lovers - we added 12 Honeycrisp, as well as 6 Smokehouse, 7 Pristine, 7 Ashmead's Kernel and 5 Blue Pearmain. A special thank you goes out to our Sponsor-A-Tree members whose investment in our orchard supported this purchase!

Brooke with a bare-root Honeycrisp tree.
Over the last week buds have been swelling at the orchard going from "full pink" and now many are in "full bloom." Two hundred newly grafted apple trees were also planted in a nursery bed for this season. This brings the total number of trees on our home farm close to 400.

Flower buds on an apple tree.
Our new greenhouse has been an amazing asset! Plants have been moving out of the basement into real sunlight and benefiting from that. It is unheated, so the temps varies with the conditions of the day this year there will be a lot of focus on simply learning how the greenhouse behaves and how we utilize that best. Here's a little glimpse into the greenhouse.

Plants growing happy in the greenhouse!
Lettuce was the first item to be transplanted into the field. These are the best looking lettuce plants we have grown. Growing them in soil blocks, instead of open flats, and real sun in the greenhouse have been positive. In the field we have also seeded more lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, peas and potatoes. When we can get into the (damp) field next the parsnips, radishes and beans will be seeded and onions, leeks, shallots, kale and cabbage will be transplanted

Lettuce transplants headed to the field.
Of course growing in the field already are shallots and garlic, planted in October, as well as our perennials - asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.

Shallots and garlic.
I have seen kohlrabi and beets germinate and I expect to see the peas pop up any day, as I dug down and found those little green orbs germinating. Soil temps warmed up quicker this year, which should benefit us with faster germination and a greater percentage of the seeds germinating.

Pea seed germinating.
This is the earliest we have ever planted potatoes! Generally our tubers go in the ground May 1st, but what you want is 60° soil temps and we had it. Another key indicator is when the dandelions start blooming well. It was perfect timing to get an inch of rain following planting.

Farmer John planting potatoes.
This week a big round of soil blocking will happen in the indoor greenhouse. I'm heading down toe seed cucumbers, basil and more. We finished blocking up (moving 3/4" soil blocks onto 2" blocks) all of the tomatoes, but the peppers, broccoli, and swiss chard need the TLC now. Perfect for rain days!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sausage Making 101

Earlier this month we made our first sausage!! Our first on farm butcher experience gave us the opportunity to learn this new skill and make our own nitrate-free ground sausage and patties. (This "101" is not necessarily a tutorial on sausage making, but rather our 101 in making it!) In total we put close to 40 pounds of sausage in the freezer.

First, the meat needed to be ground with the right ratio of fat/lard.  Then we used a mixer to blend some of the ground pork with an Italian seasoning, some with a breakfast seasoning and we left some plain (seasonings are listed at the end). We were able to use herbs we dehydrated last summer, as well as some dehydrated onions. A huge thank you to Jason Moody for lending us the great equipment and showing us the ropes.

Ground pork, ready for seasoning.
Some pork was wrapped in full pound, and half pound, portions, the remainder was formed into patties. We used a regular canning ring to shape them. Another thank you goes out to Larry helping! It really was fun to share the experience with friends and family, plus it made relatively short work of the project. Thank you to the boys - John, Jason and Larry - for doing the work with the meat, I was happy to work on the packaging and labeling instead.  ;)

Sausage patties formed with a regular canning ring.
After forming the patties they were frozen on large baking sheets. They needed to be completely frozen before we packaged them in vacuum sealed bags. Patties were packaged in bags of 4 or 6.

Mmmm. So far we have enjoyed some delicious breakfast sausages, pasta with Italian sausage and zuppa tuscana (potato-sausage-kale) soup! It really is such a treat to put so much ground pork in the freezer, we always run out. I think a sausage quiche may be in order this weekend!

Italian Mix

per 2 lbs of meat
•2 tsp parsley
•2 tsp Italian seasoning
•1 T garlic
•1 tsp onion
•1/2 tsp fennel
•1-1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp paprika
•1 tsp red pepper
•2 tsp salt

Breakfast Mix

per 5 lbs of meat
•2 T salt
•1-1/2 tsp sage
•1-1/2 tsp thyme
•1/2 tsp ginger
•3/4 tsp nutmeg
•1/2 tsp white pepper
•1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
•1/2 cup water

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Medicine Cabinet :: Bruises

So, Suzy stepped on my toe the other day - the weight of her front foot felt fully on my pinkie toe. Somehow just one toe. Here it is after a full day and nice rainbow of purple, blue and red.

I thought this would be a great chance to take a peak into our natural medicine cabinet.

350 lb pig - 1, my toe 0
Of course ice is a good call, but the other items in my medicine cabinet I grabbed for include arnica and lavender essential oil.

I always keep on hand a tube of arnica ointment to rub on bruises, bumps and strains. Arnica is also in my homeopathic medicines kit, which I will take internally to aid in healing. Lavender essential oil (EO) is a must have for your EO line up, I will apply it with or without the arnica rub.

Lavender is great for reducing inflammation and speeding up the healing process. (Plus, it smells great.)

Arnica is considered one of the best bruise remedies.

I have also decided to put this comfrey salve on my to-do list for this summer, for use for the humans and animals living here.

Other items you may consider include rosemary EO, aloe and comfrey.

Friday, March 4, 2016

CSA :: Rich in history, ripe with possibilities

I think there is so much more to CSA, community supported agriculture, than most consumers - and even some farmers - realize. CSA is much more than just getting your seasonal fare locally. While we focus on the story of CSA at our farm - our trials and tribulations - there are many stories (1,500-1,700 by Steve McFadden's estimate) unfolding at the same time; building on the deep history of CSA itself.

While there are principles at the core of the CSA concept - share risk, seasonality, community - each farm is unique, I love that about CSA. We tailor our farm to our personalities, our values. Customers can find a CSA that fits them, because with any relationship we all have certain needs to feed our individual souls.

When we started our farm I was well versed in the CSA concept and logistics, but I didn't know that much about the history of the movement. As with anything I have learned so much over time, and continue to through our personal experiences, continued connections with other farmers and broader coverage of the food movement as momentum continues.

I really enjoyed this two part article on the history, as well as the future of CSAs in our country. I do strongly believe CSAs have such power to change the way we eat and think. In our ever disconnected world of individualism the concept of community becomes more and more important to build our economies, mend our spirits, and nourish our bodies and souls.

Pre-season member meeting - connecting with our farm community.
Heading into our fifth year of farming and CSA the element of community moves more into our focus, as we wish to deepen this relationship further. In this endeavor we will look to our members, our market goers and our peers in the farming world (whether they have come before us or are growing along with us now) for inspiration, ideas and participation.

You might enjoy these articles on CSA, if you do, we'd love to hear any thoughts you have on them.

The History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part I
Community Farms in the 21st Century: Poised for Another Wave of Growth?
This is the first in a two-part series exploring the birth of the CSA movement in the United States as well as the potentials for this growing and successful model of community agriculture.

The History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part II
CSA’s World of Possibilities
When Steven McFadden first wrote about CSAs back in 1990, there were about 60 CSAs in the country. Now in 2004, he says, there are around 1,700 ... and he sees a strong potential for another wave of CSA development, a wave that could not only triple or quadruple the number of CSAs over the next few years, but also raise in importance the role these farms play in their communities.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Muck Day, Mud Day

What weather we are having! I thought I would dislike the melting snow, but it is actually kind of nice - the chickens can explore more and the drifted mountains in the pig pens are shrinking away from the top of the fence. Despite the 40 mph winds yesterday, it felt nice to work outside - the smell in the air was refreshing.

Chickens in the compost bin. Very efficient ladies adding nitrogen for us!
CSA customer Pat asked a couple days ago if we were ready for the mud. Likely the most dreaded season of the year, mud season is always an interesting part of spring. Two key tools for managing mud - rubber boots and straw.

Standing in a puddle. By the end of the day most puddles had soaked in.
My barnyard chore Friday was to muck out the barn (see the panorama below). With wet mud season ahead, a cleaning of the barn removed dirty straw and gives the pigs clean, dry straw to enjoy. The straw we remove is spread in the winter paddocks over muddy areas to help with the spring mess.

Removing straw in the barn with my pig "helpers." 
One month old piglets exploring the straw stacks.
 It was so gloriously nice outside that the piglets were very active!

Cutie patootie.
A view of part of the barnyard, below. Mucked out straw spread out. Adding organic matter to the beaten winter paddocks. Mud management for our porcine friends.

Barnyard panorama.
All in all the mud didn't end up being as bad yesterday as we thought it would be. The wind helped with the drying and puddles were soaking in. Perhaps this springs mud season will be more spread out!

A couple more piglet photos, for good measure. The piglets are fully weaned from the milk replacer and on feed. Here they are all lined up at the trough; however, some of them are sleeping and some of them are eating.

Piglets, eating and sleeping at their trough.
Little Salt kept coming over to see what I was up to. Our sweet orphan piglets are so friendly, since they have gotten so much extra time with us. Gotta love those ears. And that nose...and the eyelashes...

 Stay tuned! The season is gearing up, CSA sign up continues, supplies are rolling in and seed starting begins next week!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love and Loss: Farming with Animals

This past weekend we said a teary goodbye to our matriarch sow, Vera. After complications during farrowing it was clear that she would not be able to be bred again, but we hoped for some recovery, so she could care for her last batch of piglets and live out her last days comfortably. Sadly, this was not the case and we did what we had to do. We gave her her few last treats, hugs and thanked her for her time with us. She was an amazing lady.

Vera at the orchard. 2015
She was one of our first breeding sows and had been with us for two years; we expected to have her for many more. While loss is part of having animals, this loss was felt a bit more deeply. John and Vera had a special bond, he could always read her so well and she really did like him best.

Vera and her brand new piglets. 2016
She raised her piglets to ten days old, giving everything she had to provide them with the best start they could have in this world. At about nine or ten days they can start digesting feed. Now they are drinking milk replacer and we are slowly introducing feed. Her memory lives on in these little nuggets.

Vera gave us memories, three litters of beautiful piglets and she added to our experience and taught us new skills. The best way we can honor her memory is by not letting her go to waste. So, we had our first on-farm butcher experience, as we processed her meat for our personal use. 

We move forward with this loss felt deeply, with more experience under our belts as farmers and humans and an ever-deepening respect for life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

CSA Shares Available!

This year will be our fifth season offering CSA and Farm Shares to our local community. We will continue to offer Saturday farmers' market sales as well.  We invite you to join us in this coming season's bounty and adventures by participating as a member in our Community Supported Agriculture program.

Full and Half CSA Shares are available, offering boxes of seasonal produce each week (18 weeks) or every other week (9 weeks). Full Shares are $485, Half Shares are $265, with a deposit due up front to reserve your share. More information on 2016 Shares.

CSA Boxes are filled with 7-14 seasonal items.
Mostly veggies, with apples and some herbs.

Early season share begin with strawberries, lettuce and spinach, radishes, peas, spring onions and garlic scapes, as well as some ARF apple butter.

As summer rolls in we begin to add more diversity - cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, beets, summer squash and more.

Newsletters provide you with weekly updates from the farm, as well as tips for storing, preparing and preserving your fresh produce.

CSA is unique, because it offers you a direct connection with your farmer, an opportunity to get the freshest produce (more nutrition for the dollars you spend), know how your food is grown, eat in season, and support a family farm/local business by sharing in the rewards and risks/bounty and loss unique to each season.

Farm Shares are available in $150 or $200 options. At this time we are sold out of Farm Shares, but taking names on our wait list, in case we make more available.

Please contact us with any questions you may have!     Brooke & John