Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Early Winter on the Farm

We haven't had much of the above "wintry" weather, but the ground freeze up is a blessing.Today winter is trying. It's Minnesota, Old Man Winter will eventually show up, the question is just if we get to take out our cross-country skis or not. The mild temps aren't bad for the new little porcine nuggets running around the pasture though.

Winter means conference season for us farmers. Time to reconnect with other farmers in our network, immerse ourselves in continuing education and research. The first weekend in December Brooke went to the Midwest CSA Conference in Wisconsin. Enjoying workshops like "Deepening the 'C' in CSA" (above), What's In Your Box, Diversified CSA and Best Practice in Member Communication (below).

A room full of three hundred farmers and an inspiring keynote speaker (below) is always invigorating. Keynote Steven McFadden believe that CSA can be a "cultural, social, environmental and dietary cornerstone moving forward" for our country. There was also a farmer panel on the Changing Landscape of CSA.


From conference to volunteer meeting with the Land Stewardship Project. Participating in a series of brainstorming sessions for the benefit of the organizations forward momentum. It feels great to be giving back to an organization that has so strongly supported and benefited us as beginning farmers. Consider them in your year-end giving and/or become a member, they do great work for our state, and our farmers.

The greenhouse is 99% complete and ready for action! Since the above photo those bottom board have been installed ;) Just a few little final touches, install some tables and she's ready for spring transplants! Woot! This accomplishment feels fantastic.

If you follow our feed on facebook or instagram you know that we have new piglets on the farm! Vera is due this week, and we can't wait to welcome her piglets to the existing rambunctious herd of 17 that are about a month old. So far our first winter farrowing has gone very smoothly, we get better at this each and every time (well I suppose the ladies do most of the work ;). The first batch is castrated (it's always nice to put that behind us) and growing nicely - Sir Renfred has "proven" himself.

The piglets are super spotty! Amazing little creatures :)

Well now you are all caught up on your farm news for the holidays! We hope you and yours have a happy, healthful, stress-free holiday with good food and good company.

In gratitude,
Brooke, John and Emily Knisley
(plus farm dog Hazel, farm cat Ivan, all the bird-brained hens, Vera, Elsa & piglets, Suzy & piglets, a hamster, and a visiting hermit crab)

PS I promise more piglet photos will follow!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Frost and Fencing

The long fall is over and winter is beginning to take hold of the landscape. Frosty mornings and plants finally giving in to the hard cold. The muddy, mucky soil firming up, but not yet frozen.

Frost on clover.
The hard frost always brings some finality to the season, sets us to shift gears. It's always welcomed, it's always beautiful.
Frozen broccoli plants drooping, giving in to the cold.
The long fall meant a more work, in some respects, but it also gave us more time to get farm projects completed. Our biggest project this fall was getting a second "winter pasture" set up for the grower pigs. This meant a second winter-proofed shed and another permanent fence.

Two weekends ago we harvested the cedar fence posts. That may sound like a lot of work (trust us, it is) but with the price of cedar it's worth it! The hillside where we harvest also has native pasque flower, which needs open area, so we are in essence helping to restore the habitat as well. Cool beans.

We moved the kids into the area with electric fence and began to build the fence around them. We got all the posts in place weekend before last and hurriedly filled in the post holes (with mud) as the rains began.

This past weekend John put in the t-posts and we aimed to finish the job up. Next step, bracing the corners and gate posts. Below you can see the horizontal beam on the H-brace stabilizing corner posts.

After the braces went in we added tensioners for increased stability. The thick wire is wrapped high on one post, to low on the other post. Then, the small piece of wood you see is used to wind the piece of wire, until it is tight. Now time for the fence!

H-Brace in the corner with tensioner in place and Dot hanging out in the background.
Hog panels (16') went up, a small gate for us humans and two big gates for moving animals and buildings. Huzzah! Pulled the electric fence out and there we go :)

Princess approves of the fencing job :) A beautiful sunset
celebrating the fruits of our labors.

 •     •     •

Goods still available for Thanksgiving dinner! Holler if you need 'taters or squash. Have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, October 16, 2015

CSA Week #18 ~ Wrapping up the CSA season!

Week 18, the final delivery of our regular season shares. It's always a bittersweet end. I love seeing our awesome and enthusiastic members every week, but it's also nice to move on to the next wave of chores and projects. This year we will be will be delivering our first "Fall Share" in two weeks, plus we'll likely attend a few markets until we bring our inventory down a bit. Cheers to a great season all!

CSA Newsletter Week #18 ~ Featuring: farm news, info on Fall Shares, produce still available, recipes for radish butter & winter squash-chipotle quesadillas and a poem.

CSA Box Week #18 ~ October 14, 2015
In the Box: butternut squash, broccoli (half shares), red & gold beets, parsnips, yellow onions, 2 bulbs garlic, acorn squash (tan), 3 green peppers, 2lbs German Butterball potatoes, red onions, radishes--Cincinnati Market & White Icicle, pint ground cherries and Brussels sprouts.

A look inside a packed box.

The young herd is growing! After CSA finishes some of our time is spent cleaning up the field--removing crops that are left, planting next year's garlic crop and removing fencing and debris, tilling in what we need to and removing the rest. We will be finishing up our greenhouse and preparing the pigs, pig shelters and pastures for winter. We are expecting the next round of piglets in December after all!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

CSA Week #17

Today and yesterday were absolutely beautiful days for harvest! Ending up in beautiful and bountiful fall CSA boxes. The ninth week of deliveries for our A-week half shares, which meant their final delivery. Next week will bring the final week for everyone else.

CSA Week 17 ~ October 7, 2015
In the Box: 3 green peppers, carrots, broccoli (half shares), 3 red onions, large butternut squash, 8 jalapeno peppers, 5 yellow onions, 1lb parsnips (half shares), 2lbs Nicola potatoes, Dinosaur kale, mixed radishes, 1lb leeks, 2 bulbs garlic, sage (half shares) and basil (full shares).

CSA Newsletter Week #17 ~ Featuring: farm news; info on Fall Shares; Featured Veggie: Parsnips; recipes: Grilled Parsnips, Parsnip & Potato Puree, Butternut Squash & Sage Soup with Sage Breadcrumbs.

Half Shares all packed up.

Full Shares all packed up.

Radishes washed and ready for CSA boxes.

I can't believe I picked basil in October! It's starting to look a little rough, but it is aromatic and tasty as ever.

Parsnips, a fall treat.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

CSA Week #16

Week 16 boxes were hefty with butternut squash and potatoes! Fall broccoli began coming in, tomatoes and cucumbers end.

CSA Week 16 • September 30, 2015
In the Box: leeks, cucumber, Valencia tomato, broccoli head (full shares), Waltham butternut squash, Caraflex green cabbage (half shares), pint cherry/grape tomatoes, yellow and red onions, herb bunch: sage, 2 Russian Red garlic bulbs, bunch carrots, 2lbs Nicola potatoes, muskmelon (some half shares, not pictured).

CSA Newsletter Week #16

CSA Week #15

CSA delivery from September 23rd. This is a couple weeks late! Needless to say we are keeping busy on the farm ;)

In the Box: 4lbs baking apples, 2 bulbs Georgian Fire garlic, yellow and red onions, Thelma Sanders acorn squash, Valencia yellow tomatoes, bunch celery (half shares), Kennebec potatoes, muskmelon (some half shares), brussels sprouts, green peppers, cucumber (full shares), pint ground cherries, green cabbage.

Week 15 CSA Newsletter

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Apples :: Wealthy

Mid Season • Sweet

Early September

Refreshing, sprightly, vinous flavor. Crisp, juicy flesh that makes a great pie. An excellent fresh eating, dessert or baking apple. Wonderful for single-variety pies.

Originating from Excelsior, Minnesota on Peter Gideon's farm, 1860. The random result from planting seed from a Cherry Crabapple. Named after his wife, Wealthy Gideon.

Offspring: Epicure, Haralson, Laxton's Fortune, Red Sauce, William's Pride.

6 weeks

Wealthy has a long blooming period, making it a great pollinator for other varieties.

Apples :: Prairie Spy

Late Season • Sweet

Prairie Spy apples at market.
Late October

A sweet apple with excellent flavor, which only improves in storage. Good sized, firm and dense apples. Great for fresh eating, cooking and storage. An attractive fruit that is cherry red over green-yellow.

Introduced in 1940, by the University of Minnesota.

Parentage: Unknown.

Extra long keeping winter storage apple. Keeps 3- 5 months in storage. Stores very well until mid-January, then waning in quality into March.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Carrots :: From Field to Table

There is a lot of work that brings carrots to the point of being harvested, but today we'll look at harvest and post-harvest handling or getting those big, crunchy sweet carrots from field to table.

Sometimes harvesting carrots is a muddy job! Using a broadfork, or digging fork, we loosen the carrots in the soil profile, then pull them out, removing large dirt clods at this time. Transporting by crates and wheelbarrow to the washing table.

Carrots, fresh out of the ground.
The dirty roots head into buckets of water for a little presoak to loosen the dirt.

After the presoak the tops get trimmed and roots laid out for spraying.

The roots are then sprayed to remove the rest of the dirt.

Then the roots are put into a tank of cool water. This is the hydrocooling part of the process, where we remove any remaining field heat and cool the carrots down to the core. This helps preserve the quality of the carrots, as well as preserve and extend storage life. We use an organic sanitizer in the water tank to sanitize the carrots as well.

Carrots come out and are weighed and bunched. Harvest weights are recorded to evaluate planting methods and carrot varieties. We remove tops, as the greens can take moisture from the roots, depleting their storage life.

Bunched carrots.
Now the carrots are ready for CSA boxes and market display!

Carrots at market.
Carrots are a very hands on crop, from seed, to harvest, but they are one of my favorite crops to grow.

Farmer Brooke and a bunch of carrots.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

CSA Week #14

This week's delivery brings  even more tastes of fall, with acorn squash adding to the heft of the box. The quote below struck me the other day, this is what we are trying to do--create change. Create an alternative to the current food system, ways of thinking, ways of living. You too are creating change as a consumer in this new way of thinking/eating/being.

"Change in ourselves and in the world in which we live may not take place in a hurry: it will take time. 
But if we don't make an effort nothing will happen at all. Change will not take place because of 
decisions taken by governments or the UN. Real change will take place when individuals 
transform themselves guided by the values that lie at the core of all human ethical systems, 
scientific findings, and common sense." 
-Dalai Lama

Week #14 CSA Box • Sept. 16, 2015
In the Box: Hale's Best muskmelon (full shares/some half shares), 1-3/4lbs beets, 2 red storage onions, 2 bulbs German Red garlic, herb: sage, Valencia tomatoes, leeks, 2 Regent apples, Thelma Sanders heirloom acorn squash, 1 bunch Swiss Chard (pictured) or kale, 6 jalapenos, 1 quart specialty tomatoes (Flamme (orange)/Wapsipinicon Peach (yellow)/Riesentraube (red), 2 Northern Spy heirloom apples, 2 green peppers, bunch celery, 1-2 Gilbertie roma tomato.

Week #14 CSA Newsletter ~ Featuring: farm updates; what members/farmers are making; recipes for acorn squash.

Northern Spy and Regent apples went into CSA boxes, Apple Boosters and Apple Shares.
Leading up to packing CSA boxes and custom Farm Share orders I harvest, sort out items to get delivered (packaging up tomatoes, counting out peppers and onions, weighing out items). Then I line up all of the produce items in the order they will get packed into boxes - my little assembly line.

It looks a little messy, but really, it's totally organized. ;)

CSA packing assembly line.
I also sort out my CSA boxes for the week and fold them so they are ready to go. As you can see we pretty much fully utilize the whole packing shed!

CSA boxes ready for packing.
 Here is this week's box fully packed and ready to go! Stick a newsletter in and we're done.

 Four more weeks to go!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Garlic :: Field to Table to Field

Read all the way down for information on the beneficial qualities of garlic and some prep tips.

Garlic has come full circle this season. The excitement of garlic begins in mid-late October, here in the North county. This is when our garlic is planted. With time enough to put down roots (to protect against frost heaving), but not sprout.

Garlic laid out for fall planting.
Around the end of July, to beginning of August, we harvest the entire garlic crop, then hang it to cure. This sets the skins and preserves the storage quality of the bulbs. It took a lot longer to cure this year, as it was so humid. We ended up adding a third fan in the packing shed to help with the drying and air circulation.

Garlic hung for curing in the packing shed.
From there the garlic needs sorting. Bulbs are sorted out for our seed stock, about 25-30% of the crop. By growing our own seed we can improve our product over time and the garlic becomes more and more adapted to our growing site. The remainder of the bulbs are cleaned for use in CSA boxes and sales at market.

It takes a little while to do this process, but its a easy job at the end of the day, or during rainy weather. When cleaning garlic, the stalks are trimmed down and the outer dirty wrapper taken off. Below sorted and trimmed garlic being cleaned.

Cleaning garlic.
Cleaned garlic.
When garlic is cured garlic is set aside to go into CSA boxes every week for the rest of the season. The remainder of the garlic is sold to Farm Share members and brought to the farmers' market (Saturdays, New Ulm). We also stick a basket of garlic in our pantry for the winter and use it frequently, in healthy quantities. Properly stored garlic lasts for months, alongside our onions, potatoes and winter squash.

In another month we will be preparing our seed garlic for planting and starting the process all over again. 

Seed garlic, ready for planting.

Include Garlic in Your Regular Diet

Make sure to use this healthful veggie in your regular cooking! Not only does it taste fabulous, but it protects your immune system through its anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Garlic lowers bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol; helps lower high blood pressure; prevents dangerous blood clots; as been shown to limit cancer growth.

Preparing Garlic

Chopping and crushing preparation techniques stimulate the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound with many health benefits. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait 10 minutes before eating/cooking the garlic. Many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking. Observe this 10-minute wait before adding any high acid ingredients to the garlic (ex. lemon juice). Research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic uncrushed or whole will deactivate its enzymes.