Monday, September 21, 2009

Week Sixteen

In the Bag
~Butternut Squash
~Cherry Tomatoes (Black Cherries and Sungolds)
~Tomatoes of varying sizes and colors.
~Green Peppers
~Salad Radishes and Turnips
~Summer Squash
~Basil, Sage

Farm Report
This is week sixteen of our eighteen-week season. If you are not looking forward to revisiting the produce section of your grocery store, I may be able to help. Piney Hill is going to collaborate with another area organic farm to offer a five week add-on share to extend the season. I am still figuring out the cost and details, but I will probably have 15 of these shares to offer and I am hoping to only have one drop site, which would be our Uptown Yoga studio drop site (no danger of freezing anything there and it’s a central location for many people). This will be a greens heavy share (lots of kale, collards, chard and salad greens, but will also include some storage crops like carrots, onions, potatoes and squash (the potatoes and squash are coming from the nearby farm—as you know I am giving out all the Piney Hill squash and potatoes to our current season shares). I’ll be sending out an email maybe later this week with cost and other info.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the cabbage in your share this week, try making this frozen coleslaw recipe and storing it. You can also try making sauerkraut right in jars or in a larger bucket or crock (chop cabbage finely and pack into jars with layers of pickling salt), then let it ferment in a cool place for several weeks before canning or freezing it. Cabbage will also stay good in your fridge for weeks.

Here is a frozen coleslaw recipe:
1 medium head cabbage, chopped
1 t. salt
3 stalks chopped celery
1 small chopped onion
Mix together and let stand for 1 to 2 hours. Drain and add pepper.
Dressing: 1cup water 1 cup sugar (you can cut this back if you want) 1 cup vinegar 1 t. celery seed 1 t. mustard seed
Mix dressing ingredients together in a suacepan. Boil for one minute. Cool. Mix with drained vegetables. Pack in jars or bags and freeze.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week Fifteen

In the Bag
~Swiss Chard
~Potatoes (the last of them)
~Hakurei Turnips and Cherry Belle Radishes in one bunch
~Cherry Tomatoes (Black Cherries and Sungolds)
~Tomatoes of varying sizes and colors.
~Green Peppers
~Summer Squash
~Salad Mix
~Basil (in with the salad mix)
~Red Celery

Farm Report
So far September has been very un-September-like on the farm. Last year we had a killing frost on Sept. 9th, which put a quick end to our season. This year, we are thinking it feels more like July, and the crops that are left think it’s divine.

We spent Sunday morning digging the last beds of potatoes to great dismay. Some combination of weeds, potato beetles and early drought led our last potatoes down the path of a low-yield. This seems to be a common theme on the farm this year, and once again I find myself thinking about how I’m going to do things right next year.

The bees are bringing in the last of the buckwheat nectar and we are all getting ready to hunker down. We are cutting wood for the wood stove and dreading the days we have to layer to go outside. But not just yet, right?

We’ve had a few complete farm meals this week. May I suggest a zucchini/tomato casserole that our farm volunteer put together? Just layer slices of blanched zucchini with onion and tomato, sprinkle on some salt and oregano and top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. “I’ve notices you have all of these in abundance” she said before making it. She’s right, and it’s delicious.
We’ve also had mashed potatoes, steamed edamame, salad greens and kale. Apple crisp for desert of course.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Week Fourteen

In the Bag




~Hakurei Turnips



~Cherry Tomatoes (Black Cherries and Sungolds)

~Tomatoes of varying sizes and colors.


~Green Peppers


~Summer Squash

~Salad Mix with edible flowers

~Basil, Rosemary

Farm Report

After much worry and some time spent covering vegetables, we didn’t get that frost last week that I thought we would. This should allow the pumpkins and squash to ripen up.

As we near the end of the season, I have been reflecting on the last few months. Overall, both Matt and I feel like most of the vegetables have done really well despite the June frost, drought and cool weather, then late monsoons. I think that part of our success is due to our hoophouse and irrigation system, without which, we would be having a hard time, though they have been a significant investment from which we might start seeing some return next year.

There are a few CSAs around who have really struggled this year because of the weather. So much so that they have struggled to fill bags and had disappointed members accuse them of fraud and demand refunds. It is somewhat alarming to hear their stories, actually, because as CSA farmers, we rely on the idea that our members are taking part of the risk of the weather and crop failure for good or for bad. It is understandable that members of these struggling farms would be disappointed with the outcome, especially if it is their first year with a CSA. I think that the members who stay with a farm over several years, see the fluctuations from year to year and when hit with a hard year after several good years, understand that there are many factors at play. I hope that as you all tell others about your CSA experience you can convey the idea of “sharing the risk.” This year, there have been no melons for most of you and sweet corn that Matt and I jokingly call “a low-yield” variety. But the tomatoes have been bountiful. Next year will be different to be sure…that’s the deal with farming: there are no givens.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Week Thirteen

In the Bag
~Edamame (fresh soy beans)
~Cherry Tomatoes (Black Cherries and Sungolds)
~Tomatoes of varying sizes and colors.
~Green Peppers
~Summer Squash
~Sweet Corn

Farm Report

The weather has begun slipping toward fall here on the farm. Temperatures at night are slipping below forty degrees, and I am purposely writing this before checking to see if it really frosted last night, so I don’t have to tell you about the dead vegetables. We covered what we could, but the squash field is just too immense to tackle. If it did frost, we will get what we can from it, and say “better luck next year!”

We had a disappointing few hours digging potatoes yesterday…the bed we dug just didn’t yield as many as the last three. Either we were digging the wrong spots, or these varieties just didn’t do that well.

You may have noticed your delivery driver has changed. Matt has taken over the Monday deliveries for the rest of the season, as I have secured a teaching job at UW-Stout that doesn’t allow me to drive on Mondays. Looks like Thursdays are out for me too and our esteemed helper Britta is off to new adventures, so my brother, Louis, will be taking over the Thursday drops.

We have a new volunteer arriving today who will be here the rest of September helping out around the farm.
If you have never eaten edamame, you will be in for a treat…but it’s important to cook it right! Steam the entire shells for about five minutes, drain the water, sprinkle with sea salt if you have it. To eat, pull the beans from the shell with your teeth…the pods just break open to let you do this.

Then discard the pod, don’t eat them. You could, but they are chewy and not very good. These are just a one-time treat for you to try. Enjoy.

Harvest Party September 19th

Don’t forget our farm harvest party will be September 19th…we hope you can make it. Festivities will start mid-afternoon sometime with pumpkin and squash harvesting and hay ride, then followed by potluck and cider pressing. Maybe our friend, Nick will even bring his potato-gun. It’s sure to be a good time.

It may be almost be too late for chilled soup, but try this one: Chilled Dill Soup (begin four hours in advance so it can cook then chill thoroughly)

1 cup chopped onion
4 cups sliced raw potato
3 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 medium cucumber
1 ½ tsp salt
fresh black pepper
2-3 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
freshly chopped chives or scallions

Place onion, potatoes, water and salt in a saucepan. Simmer until potatoes are soft.
Cool above mixture to room temperature. Puree in a blender until very smooth, adding pieces of cucumber as you puree. Whisk in milk.
Whisk in sour cream until uniformly blended. Add dill and pepper. Chill until very cold.
Taste to correct salt and pepper. Serve topped with chives or scallions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week Eleven


It's been another lively and productive week out here on the farm. Erin has
been away working on writing her opus, and so here the rest of us are trying
to figure out how she works her magic with the plants. Erin where did you
put the fairy dust...? Turns out that we can manage just fine, we had he
help of two great WWOOFers (willing workers on organic farms) who were
willing to spend many hours in the gardens weeding and harvesting. With the
house full of workers we have also been eating like kings. We made up a
splendid pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, and zucs from the
garden, give it a try with the goodies in your bag this week.

It has been a hot week out here, and hotter still in the cities I'm sure. We
have been getting up early to avoid the mid afternoon humidity, and calling
it a day when the sweat in our eyes begins to burn. We have made a couple of
trips to a nearby lake and some folks (not me) made their way up some tall
white pines leaning out over a deep spot in the lake and took a running
leap. Everyone managed to clear all the branches and land with a plop in the
cool water.

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending a local foods dinner at the
Campus Club in Minneapolis. One salad on the menu was a mix of blanched
beans, with a simple vinaigrette with a hint of fresh tarragon. Which
reminded me that with all the fresh herbs this week, try thinking outside the
box when cooking. When traveling in Thailand I was surprised to find basil
in many of the stir fry veggie dishes, and even sprinkled on top of fresh
berries. There are all sorts of fun things to do with fresh basil and
cilantro. Try turning some plain white rice into fried rice by adding some
soy sauce, sauteed zucchini or eggplant, some of the spicy purple celery,
onions and then hit it with some fresh chopped basil right at the end. Throw
in a scrambled egg for some added protein if you like.

Here is a list of what you will find in your share this week
Swiss chard
Green and White cooking beans
some eggplant
Green peppers
Basil and Cilantro

Monday, July 27, 2009

Week Eight

In the Bag
~Summer Squash and Zucchini (some of you will get a big one... I reccomend making zucchini bread).
~ Onions
~Cherry Tomatoes (Black Cherries and Sungolds)
~One Tomato (Some are your standard hybrid, some are brandywines, some are Japanese Trifele, which have yellow shoulders and dark purplish skin—soon there will be Yellow Brandywine, Green Striped Zebras, Prudens Purple and Great Whites—I think if they feel soft and look a vibrant color, you can consider them ripe).
~Green Beans or Broccoli
~Cucumber or Eggplant Surprises in some shares...

Why Farm... from Erin

(Something I wrote back in February when I was very excited for the summer ahead, but a good thing to go back and read now to remind me why I like my job...)

I farm because I am either overqualified or underqualified for everything else I apply for. I farm because I wish to spend my life outdoors. I farm because I like to physically exhaust myself, use my muscles, run my fingers through the dirt and watch my toes turn a shade of black that doesn’t come out until November.

I farm because sometimes there are moments, like before a storm, when the air is sticky sweet and the barn swallows and tree swallos are dive bombing from the power line in graceful swoops and thunder is rumbling in the distance, then closer and the earth shivers and shudders and I am witness to that.

I farm because I am by nature a loner who hates marketing, phones, cities and loud parties, but at the same time I want to be connected to the world, to changing our food system and to knowing that my actions and my work does affect other people’s lives.

I farm because organically grown vegetables market themselves these days—if they didn’t, I would seriously reconsider. I farm because I spend my winter in words, holed up, isolated, and by spring I am trying to plant while the ground is still frozen.

I farm to watch the ground I have sewn open for the birth of a pea, that is a slight cracking of a green seed that becomes a tendril, then a vine, then flowers, then fruit.

I farm to sit inside and watch a heavy rain hammer all that life out there, pelt it, soak it, and even stifle it so that it appears the ground is underwater and the line between air and dirt melts into a haze. Even with all that violence, I imagine the plants taking all that water in.

I farm because people want healthy food and fresh vegetables. Everybody eats. Most everybody eats vegetables.

I farm because successful farming requires more intelligence and knowledge than most people realize.

I farm to get a farmer’s tan, but sometimes I farm in a tube top to erase my tan lines.

I farm because I like driving the tractor—it feels powerful—but I hate fixing the tractor.

I acknowledge that there are good reasons to farm and that most days, I like farming, but farming is hard work. Some days farming, there is potential for everything we touch to break and there is always the possibility that everything we have done will come undone in a single storm or early frost.

I don’t believe I will farm all my life, but then, I never thought I’d be farming at all.

Linquine with Golden and Green Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Pine Nuts and Gremolata
(from Hope’s Edge by Francis Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe)

½ pound summer squash (combination of types and colors are nice)

1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
½ pound fresh or dried linguine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
grated Parmesan to taste

Boil a pot of water.

Slice summer squash into ¼ inch thick pieces. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside 1 tsp. garlic to saute with the summer squash.

Make the gremolata by combining the remaining garlic with the lemon zest and parsley in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and add the squash, the reserved teaspoon of garlic, ¼ tsp. of salt, and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to heat the squash through.

When the water is boiling, add 1 tsp. salt. Add the linguine and cook until just tender. Before you drain the pasta, add ½ cup of the cooking water to the saute pan, along with the cherry tomatoes and remaining olive oil. Immediately drain the pasta then toss it with all the ingredients and gremolata. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Week Seven

In the Bag

~Last of the Sugar Snap and Snow Peas to South Minneapolis and Baldwin
~Shell Peas to GC, MPR, St. Paul, Uptown
~Carrots (Thumbelina and Mokum—thumbelinas are shaped like beets—great for roasting).
~Summer Squash (Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Sunburst Yellow Squash—though you may not get all of these at once).
~ Onions
~Red Cabbage
~The Odd Surprise (Things like the Japanese eggplant and tomatoes are starting to ripen...but not nearly fast enough to put these in all the bags, so I will just toss them in here and there and if you find one, think of it as a bonus).

Snow peas are slightly fatter/bigger with small peas inside...they are in with the lettuce. Both kinds are good for raw eating or in stir-fry. I think the snow peas are actually the pods and all. Shell peas should be shelled and just eat the pea raw or cooked.

Farmer’s Muse from Erin

As a CSA farmer and Land Stewardship Project member, I belong to a CSA list serv hosted by LSP. Other CSA farmers can write each other about anything that seems pertinent. This week one farmer wrote to everyone about how she had never seen such dry, cool weather in her many years farming and that it was really starting to take a toll on her crops, and she wanted others to weigh in. No one has, but I’ve been pondering this over the last few days. Is my garden behind? What kind of toll is the weather taking on our crops?

I’ve compared what we are sending out this week and last to last year and it does seem like certain things are behind (tomatoes—particularly cherry tomatoes and eggplant and green beans). Onions are behind, garlic is behind and the winter squash is behind. Cucumbers are way behind. Here it is almost the end of July and so many things are just poking along.

I’m hoping the weather doesn’t adversely affect our total harvest. Hopefully even though the tomatoes are late, we’ll still have plenty (by the looks of the green ones hanging on the vines it seems so).

For now, I’m taking pride in the plethora and plentitude of the carrots (my members from last year will surely agree this years are much bigger and more prolific).

Carrot Fennel Orange Soup (from MACSAC Cookbook)

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 cups sliced carrots
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
4 cups water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup sour cream

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced fennel and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to turn golden. Add carrots adn garlic; cook and stir for a minute or so. Add water or broth and salt; bring to simmer, cover, and cook until carrots and fennel are tender, about 20 minutes. Puree mixture in a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender. Stir in orange juice and sour cream until smooth and creamy. Reheat on low heat, but do not boil. Serve each bowl garnished with fennel fronds.

Carrot Mushroom Loaf from the Moosewood Cookbook

1 cup chopped onion
4 ½ cups grated carrots
1 1b chopped mushrooms
5 eggs
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh, whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup butter
salt and pepper

Crush garlic into melting butter. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté til soft.

Combine all ingredients (saving half the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top). Season to taste.

Spread into buttered oblong baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and cheese. Dot with butter.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week Six

In the Bag
-Swiss Chard
~Sugar Snap Peas
~Snow Peas
~Summer Squash (Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Sunburst Yellow Squash—though you may not get all of these at once).
~Broccoli florets
~Green Onions
~Ornamental hot pepper plants (these will produce colorful little peppers with a lot of spice! This way those of you who really like the spice can have a steady supply...I would recommend transplanting these into a larger planter or garden very soon).

Snow peas are slightly fatter/bigger with small peas inside...they are in with the lettuce. Both kinds are good for raw eating or in stir-fry. I think the snow peas are actually the pods and all.

Farmer’s Muse from Erin

Thank you to all who showed up to weed this weekend. With the help of the Klandermans, Snyders, M. Smith, the Gildersleeves, Haas/Watts, J. Riske, and the farm crew, we weeded out most of the sweet corn and several rows of beans and onions. I’m sure they were all impressed that we can grow such fine, vigorous weeds! We are much better off now and should be able to finish up the last few rows without a problem.

Besides weeding, we have been busy taking care of our honey bees. It seems we have lost on of our queens and now need to re-queen one of our hives. Our bees are moving around the farm and today I saw them pollinating squash and zucchini, crawling into what to them must be an impossibly large blossom and brushing up against the stamen. Sometimes they pack a little extra pollen under their legs and carry it back to the hive with them for later use. I was greatly enjoying watching our bees until I squatted down yesterday to mulch some beans and got stung in the derriere′. Youch!

Matt plowed up another small field area that we will shortly begin cover cropping in preparation for future use, and we replanted a field we will use next year in buckwheat, which will smother out weeds and loosen the soil.

We also took out the brush hog and mowed down thistle around the garden and made some paths for summer walking and winter skiing. We still get excited when we can use the tractor for anything. It makes us feel very farmerly.

The tomatoes grow by leaps and bounds every day and those who walked through our hoophouse this weekend will surely agree we are about to have a bumper crop of tomatoes. They are green for now, but huge and bountiful. In a few short weeks, the true summer bounty will arrive.

Zucchini Feta Pancakes from the Moosewood Cookbook

4 packed cups coarsely grated zucchini
4 eggs, separated
1 heaping cup finely-crumbled feta cheese
½ cup minced scallions
¾ tsp. dried mint
salt and black pepper
1/3 cup flour
butter for frying
sour cream or yogurt for topping

Place the grated zucchini in a colander in a bowl, salt it lightly and let it stand 15 minutes. Rinse it, and squeeze out all excess water.

Combine squeezed zucchini, egg yolks, feta, scallions, flour, and spices. Mix well.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold into first mixture.

Fry in butter, on both sides, until golden and crisp. Serve topped with sour cream or yogurt.

Chilled Cream of Summer Green from the Moosewood Cookbook

1 lb fresh spinach (or other green like kale or chard)
1 small head sweet leaf lettuce (appx. 3 cups, chopped).
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 quart buttermilk
1 ¼ tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. tamari
1 tbs. sherry
¼ cup each chopped parsley and scallions
1 tsp. basil, chopped
dash of nutmeg
½ tsp. dill weed

Remove the stems from the spinach and steam it in one cup of water five minutes. Chop the zucchini and steam it in one half cup of water five minutes. Puree both spinach and zucchini thoroughly in their cooking water. Combine in a kettle or large bowl.

Puree the chopped lettuce in 1 ½-2 cups buttermilk. Add to zucchini and spinach mixture. Whisk in remaining buttermilk, and add everything except the scallions and parsley. Chill until very cold.

Serve garnished with parsley and scallions, and pass the pepper grinder around for extra pepper lovers.

A Yummy Kale Recipe (adapted from Will Allen from Growing Power)

1 bunch kale
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp minced garlic

Chop kale. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat with salt, pepper, sugar, and garlic. When the oil is hot, add kale and stir often 5-10 minutes until tender… Eat and enjoy.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Week Five

In the Bag
-Swiss Chard
~Sugar Snap Peas
~ Lettuce
~Kinko Carrots (an early variety that is short but fat).
~Summer Squash (Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Sunburst Yellow Squash—though you may not get all of these at once).

Some of the sites are getting the last of the kohlrabi for now.

Some of the beans I weeded and mulched yesterday...

Weedathon: n. meaning, an extended weeding event or race -the Piney Hill Farm dictionary

I have spent significant time (significant equaling up to ten hour days for the last several weeks) hand pulling weeds from the garden in order to “save” plants. We are well beyond making the garden look pretty and organized. We are into operaion save the sweet corn, save the onions, save the green beans. I do triage every day, and I have to say there are some vegetables that have been left to die. I just simply cannot weed any faster, and I will never get to the celeriac at the rate I’m going.

It is our own fault really. The field we are growing in was not ready for vegetables. Last year we used considerable amounts of plastic mulch to avert the weed crisis, but this year, being the environmentally conscious person I am, I wanted to avoid using plastic as much as we put those plants right in the ground, thinking we could weed and mulch with straw and no problemo! Wrong.

Some farms would use a tractor cultivator, but we don’t own one, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it. We have tried tilling between the vegetables, which works well when the weeds are less than eight inches tall and there is room for the tiller... but in some places the weeds are over three feet high! If you were here at planting day and saw the potatoes, imagine that over the entire garden and we still have a row of potatoes we haven’t gotten to since then.

Onions that we weeded and mulched this last weekend...

During my many hours of weeding, I have had some time to think. Wouldn’t it be helpful, I thought, if people considered weeding a sport, like running or biking or anything else, and we had weedathons instead of marathons. Think of all the farms that would benefit. I guarantee a great work-out. After four hours of weeding as hard and as fast as you can, you get the same bodily affect as running a marathon (I’ve ran a couple, I know).

If you too would like to do a weedathon, we are holding events all weekend. New records are set daily. We have prizes and a spaghetti feed. I can guarantee a full body work-out and if you go fast enough you might even get your heart rate up. Maybe we can make this so popular that people can get pledges for a charity, but instead of a day-long bike or run, they can weed!

You may think I have lost my mind. I may have. I am very tired. We could use some help. I hate to ask, it’s not like me, but I really want you to have your sweet corn this summer.

First Annual Piney Hill Farm Weedathon

When: anytime this weekend
Bring: gloves if you have them
RSVP if you can come

Fennel can be eaten raw, baked, steamed or sauteed with excelland results. Cut raw fennel into slices and use for dipping, and use the feathery leaves as a fresh herb for seasoning....Try in place of dill...

Here are a few recipes:

Fresh Fennel Bulb Salad (from Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook)
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons white wine or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, partially thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove fronds from the fennel bulbs. Cut away the root and slice fennel into very thin pieces (it can also be grated). Make dressing by combining vinegar, mustard, ¼ tsp salt, and orange juice concentrate in a bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Pour over fennel and allow to marinate at room temperature 20 minutes or longer. Season to taste with pepper and salt.

Braised Fennel from Asparagus to Zucchini Cookbook
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chopped shallots
seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed
1/8 tsp ground mace
2 medium fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise into 6 pieces each
1 ¼ cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in heavy, ovenproof skillet over low heat. Add shallots, cardamom, and mace; saute 8 minutes. Add fennel and toss to coat. Stir in stock, bring to boil, cover, and braise in oven 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Place skillet over high heat and boil until liquid thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Beet Chocolate Cake from Asparagus to Zucchini Cookbook

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3-4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
¼ cup oil
3 cups shredded beets

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans. Whisk dry ingredients together. Melt chocolate very slowly over low heat or in double boiler. Cool chocolate; blend thoroughly with eggs and oil. Combine flour mixture with chocolate mixture, alternating with the beets. Pour into pans. Bake until fork can be removed from center cleanly, 40-50 minutes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Week Three

In the Bag
~Easter Egg Radishes

~Lettuce mix/Spinach

~Bunching Onions

~Herbs (Cilantro)


~Garlic Scapes (the top of a garlic plant...chop and stir fry—nice garlic flavor).


The Week in Review...

-The summer solstice spent weeding until dusk, walking up from the garden to a wine red sky…

-Bees swarming from their hives because they were crowded and needed room, an emergency intervention in full bee suits in 90 degree heat with the help of our Wwoofer, Gina, calmed them…

-Spritz the goat with an abcess gone awry…messy, need I say more?

-an explosion of potato beetles.

-all broccoli ripening at once…filling every nook and cranny of the produce fridge (anyone have an old fridge they want to get rid of?)


-serious, non-stop weeding—it’s like this every year and I swear every year it’s just too hard, but then I do it all over again…

-snap peas are coming, cauliflower I can’t even believe I grew is coming, tons more broccoli, summer squash are even beginning to form, tomatoes are turning into a jungle, potatoes are flowering, garlic is nearly ready for harvest…everything is growing, growing, growing—holy smokes, summer is here!

Creamy Broccoli Salad with Raisins and Bacon

1 head broccoli
½ cup green onion, chopped
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds or walnuts
½ cup raisins
8 strips bacon, fried crisp, drained and crumbled
1 cup chopped apple

1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp. vinegar

Wash and cut up broccoli into bite size florets. Peel and cut stems into bite-size pieces as well. Add onion, sunflower seeds, raisins, and crumbled bacon. In a small bowl, mix dressing, add toss with salad. (You can blanche the broccoli briefly if you like it slightly cooked, then rinse in cold water).

Asian Cabbage Slaw

2 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup grated carrot
½ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
salt, pepper

Combine dressing ingredients and toss with vegetable ingredients.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Piney Hill Farm Newsletter Week Two

In the Bag
~A few more Cherry Belle Radishes before the next radish bed ripens...

~Hakurei Turnips (the white ones—good for raw eating, on salads, or in stir-fry)

~Buttercrunch Lettuce/lettuce mix

~Bunching Onions

~Herbs (Tarragon, Cilantro, Chives)

~Sweet William/Lupine Bouquet

~A bag of mixed cooking greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach—when in doubt, stir-fry!)

-Tall Top Beets—Mix the beet tops with your cooking greens...

The Farmer’s Muse from Erin

Each day I walk the paths between garden beds, gauging each plant’s progress since the last time I checked. Sometimes there is nothing to see. Sometimes, plants have died. This week the broccolis have began forming heads, new flowers have come into bloom, and the onions have finally started to bulk up. The tomatoes inside the hoophouse are forming small fruits and the green beans have sprung from the ground.

This is the busiest, most frantic month on the farm. We are still planting lettuce, herbs, flowers and second and third seedings of carrots, beets and more; the weeds have completely overtaken half the garden and threatening the remainder, and deliveries have already begun so we spend half our time harvesting, packing and delivering the vegetables. By July we might sit back and enjoy the sultry evenings…

About Greens:

In this delivery is a bag of mixed cooking greens: collards, kale, swiss chard and spinach, but you can also add the tops of your beets, radishes and turnips if you wish. They are all packed with calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. They are also very high in dietary fiber.

Be careful not to overcook greens as this reduces their nutritional content. Boil for 2-4 minutes, steam for 5-8 minutes, or sauté for 2-5 min.

Mix them into an omelet, quiche, lasagna or casserole…or toss cooked greens with red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt…or sauté with garlic, butter and onion (my personal favorite, because everything is good with butter, garlic and onion isn’t it?).

You probably aren’t getting too many greens yet, but just in case you are, or maybe later in the summer, you can freeze them easily. Just blanch them for 2-3 minutes, drain and pack in zip-locks for use in mid-winter.

Spanish Greens from MACSAC cookbook

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 pound spinach, chard, collards or other greens, stemmed and well washed
salt and pepper to taste
¼ c golden raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts

Heat oil over high flame in very large skillet. Add garlic cloves and stir-fry until golden, about 30 seconds. Discard garlic. Toss in greens. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; wilt greens 2-3 minutes. Add raisins and pine nuts. Check for seasoning and serve. Makes 2-4 servings.

Fresh Greens Pasta Pie
From MACSAC cookbook

6 oz. vermicelli
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
5 eggs
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or other greens
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 c milk
½ tsp salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large pie plate. Cook vermicelli according to package directions; drain. Stir butter and Parmesan cheese into hot vermicelli. Beat 2 of the eggs and stir well into pasta. Spoon mixture into pie plate, and use a spoon to shape vermicelli into a pie shell. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 10 minutes. Set aside. Heat oil in small skillet, add onion and sauté until tender. Beat the remaining 3 eggs and combine with spinach, mozzarella, milk, seasonings, and sautéed onions. Spoon spinach mixture into pasta shell. Cover pie with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Piney Hill Farm Newsletter Week One

In the Bag
~Cherry Belle Radishes (the red ones—you can eat radishes raw, but also cooked in stir-fry)

~Hakurei Turnips (the white ones—good for raw eating, on salads, or in stir-fry)


~Buttercrunch Lettuce


~Horseradish (the skinny root thing—a little goes a long, hot, hot! Good for meat sauces or an addition to mashed potatoes)

~Herbs (Tarragon, Cilantro, Chives)


~Swiss Chard (multi-colored stems...not to be confused with rhubarb... you can eat the stems and leaves in stir-fry...)

Farm members planting squash...

The Farmer’s Muse from Erin

I am a Virgo. I like things organized, tidy, and maintained. I want to feel in control. I am a perfectionist.

I am finding these personality traits to be at odds with farming. Vegetable farming is chaotic. At this scale, I have no control. Just when everything seems to be going well, I notice the turnips have become infested with flea beetles, or the cabbages are losing their tops to an unknown herbivore, or the peppers are one-by-one being eaten down to the root. “Stop eating my plants!” I yell to no one in particular. There is no one to blame after all.

This year the farm is supplying 65 full shares of produce to members in Wisconsin and the Twin Cities. We are also feeding two gophers, one delinquent chicken, a large snake, and an undetermined amount of small mammals with mysterious identities and eating habits.

This year farming has been more in control than last year. We were able to re-cover our hoophouse with new plastic that is not supposed to rip (last year our plastic tore off in a wind storm). We are cover cropping fields in preparation for next year. We cleaned our maple syrup equipment within weeks after the syrup season ended (last year we didn’t clean the equipment until the following spring!).

Members turned out in large numbers for the planting day. Many thanks to all who turned out. We planted squash, melons, and sweet corn galore. At ten pm, long after everyone had left, we realized it was going to frost on everything that had just been planted… Five of us went down to the field with headlamps and covered every squash and pepper.

We did this two more nights after that… the first week of June! We lost some things to the frost…some of which has been replaced or will be…

As a writer, I revise. I can go back and re-arrange my words, perfect them, mold them into a beautiful thing that on a really good day becomes poetry. I often try and do this with vegetables. I tend to them in the greenhouse, plant them tenderly in the garden, mulch, hoe, water and prune. I watch them grow. I try to create poetry. But where I can control words, vegetables sometimes fail. There is no undo button or delete or copy and paste or thesaurus or poetics in the garden. On a good day, maybe. On a bad day, the cabbage is eaten and the turnip leaves have holes.

The perfectionist in me would like to give you only the most perfect of produce. The realist in me must give you whatever we have. We wash everything here…but we recommend you do the same. Organic gardens are full of life…sometimes this life will make its way into your produce and home. Worms and slugs like organic veggies too.

Despite the frost, drought, extreme heat and now cool temperatures, we are off to a good start. I hope you enjoy the weeks ahead.

Creamy Spinach and Tarragon Soup with Apple and Toasted Almonds
From Farmer John’s Cookbook
Serves 2

2 tablespoons chopped or slivered almonds
1 apple, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
1 cup water
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 ripe avocado, peel and pit removed, quartered
freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon almond oil or olive oil
½ tsp. salt

1. Toast the nuts in a heavy dry skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until they are lightly browned and begin to smell toasty (not burnt).
2. Put the apple chunks and water in a blender and puree. Add the spinach and tarragon; pulse the blender a few times to partially blend in the leaves. Add the avocado pieces, lemon juice, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend the ingredients until smooth, thinning with more water if necessary. Add more salt if desired.
3. Pour the soup into two bowls, top with the toasted almonds, and garnish each with a fresh tarragon sprig.

For those who bought syrup shares, this is excellent!

Sweet Maple and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
From Farmer John’s Cookbook

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Combine and shake in a jar until blended. Toss into salad.

Opal’s Rhubarb Custard Pie
From the Gunflint Lodge Cookbook by Chef Ron Berg and Sue Kerfoot

Crust (pat-in-the-pan)

2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 ¼ tsp salt
2/3 c. vegetable oil
3 T. milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a sifter, combine flour, sugar, and salt and sift into an 8-inch pie tin. In small bowl, beat together oil and milk with a fork. Pour over flour mixture. Combine with the fork until all flour mixture is moistened. Remove about one-third for the top of the pie.

With your fingers, press remaining crust mixture as evenly as you can over the bottom and sides of the pie tin. Flute the edges with your fingers if desired. Set aside.

Rhubarb Custard
1 ½ c. sugar
3 T. flour
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 T. butter, cut into bits
2 eggs
3 c. chopped rhubarb

In medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour, nutmeg, and butter. Add eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in rhubarb. Scrape into prepared pie crust. Crumble reserved crust mixture over top of the filling.

Bake pie on middle shelf of 450°F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F; bake until filling thickens and bubbles around the edges, about 30 more minutes.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

The weather has taken a turn for the cold and I am not so inclined to spend my day outside. But from my window I can see our four goat kids grazing with the elder goats in the field for the first time. We keep them penned up for the first few weeks, but today they decided they'd had enough, and I surmised that if they were adept enough to jump the five foot fence holding them in, they would do fine outdoors.

Last week we had a WWOOFer (which stands for willing workers on organic farms or worldwide opportunities on organic farms depending whom you talk to) here from France. Rosaline arrived ready to work and we spent a week fencing in chickens, fencing out deer, building pea fence, planting potatoes, transplanting brassicas, beets and swiss chard and seeding several rows of carrots.

We painted bee boxes and on Saturday, I drove an hour to Stillwater to pick up my first honeybees. A worker carefully placed two small crates containing two pounds of bees and queen each into my trunk. They asked if I would prefer them in the car with me or in the trunk, but noticing the few bees on the outside of the cage, I thought the trunk would be a better option. At home, we took sugar syrup and pollen patties up the hill with the bees to their new homes, sprayed them with sugar syrup, set the queen aside and dumped the bees with several thwacks into their boxes--not quite as easy as I was made to believe, because several angry bees came charging toward my face (I was not wearing a bee suit at the time). I released the queens, closed the boxes and left in a hurry.

Last night under a deluge of rain, the farm turned green. Asparagus shoots are up, and rhubarb has emerged. In just a few weeks, the garden will be in.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The last month has flown by in a whir of whipping a greenhouse together, tapping maple trees, collecting the sap and boiling it down, bottle feeding baby goats and watching winter turn to spring. On a late afternoon, not more than a few weeks ago, we took a walk to the creek in early evening. The red-winged blackbirds had arrived and the stale winter air took on a new, yet familiar sound of male red-wings telling the world that he would be the best mate this year...

The syrup season felt just right this year...started slow--first too warm, then too cold, and then all the sap rushed out in a matter of days, hundreds of gallons for us. We scrambled to find containers for storing it all. Our evaporator could only boil so fast. For two weeks, the weather was just right: freezing at night, warm during the day, and an occasional snow to cool things off again in time for the next big run. I spent ten days straight sitting by the evaporator, stoking the fire, checking the hydrometer, watching the levels so nothing burned, trying desperately to get through all that sap and make it into something sweet: the perfect condiment.

Our CSA shares are full for this season. I am planting madly in the greenhouse, watching the onions grow in height and width. The peppers and eggplants have been transplanted, the tomatoes are emerging. For now, all those little seedlings fit in one tiny space, but soon they will take up an entire field.

This is a glorious time of year...each day there is something new to see and the sun shines brighter and warmer and longer. Having time to notice all these changes--that is the challenge.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Matt and I have just returned from the MOSES Organic Conference in La Crosse, WI. Though we spent much of our time at the conference volunteering at the copy machine and running errands, we also had time to take in workshops and speakers... Participating in this event with so many other organic, sustainable farmers felt like a validation of why it is that we farm organically and why we farm at all for that matter. Dr. Greene gave a presentation about "Why Farmers are my Heroes" that really pointed to the health effects of our widespread pesticide use in this country. It is a common myth that organic food is for the wealthy because it is so expensive, but Dr. Greene reminded me to think of the many costs associated with conventional food that we don't often account for. Childhood diabetes has increased five-fold in the last few decades...(much of this increase is linked to childhood obesity and diets that lack in adequate nutrition). The average child diagnosed with diabetes will pay three million in healthcare costs in their lifetime (which is now reduced by one to two decades from their life expectancy). That starts to make conventional food pretty expensive. Organic food has been proven to be more nutritionally rich. Shouldn't it be worth more? And as I heard one farmer say recently, if we subsidized organic farmers on the level that we subsidize large-scale crop/commodity farmers, maybe we could bring the price down to a level that everyone can afford. After we heard Dr. Greene tell the story about his wife's struggle with breast cancer that is almost certainly a result of her childhood growing up next to a grape farm where they sprayed pesticides right next to her bedroom window, and he brought up the point that many people say organic food is too expensive...I heard the woman behind me mutter "try cancer."

Beyond the affirmations, we came away with new ideas for creating our own compost, year-round greenhouse production, cover-cropping know-how, another Cobra hand-hoe, some organic fish fertilizer, and many more connections to the farming community. It is sunny and 10 degrees today, but I am positively squirming in my overalls to get outside and plant.

About the Farm

This year we will offer 50 shares (weekly or bi-weekly). Beginning in mid-June, you pick up your share at a pre-arranged drop point. We have drop-sites in St. Paul near Hamline, Northeast Minneapolis (off of Stinson), Uptown (28th and Lyndale), Shoreview, South Minneapolis (near Xerxes and 50th), and Edina (off of Tracy Ave). We also have sites in Glenwood City and Baldwin, Wisconsin.
Weekly shares begin with salad greens, radishes, green onions and early root vegetables and max-out in late summer with the heavy additions of potatoes, melons and sweet corn. We deliver in grocery-sized reusable bags with an eye towards nice presentation. Some weeks there are cut flowers and other extras. There will be a planting day in early June and a harvest and cider pressing party in mid-September.
We believe in organic farming practices and use no chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides…because vegetables are supposed to be good for you! Available as a separate add-on to your share is our maple syrup. Meat shares are offered to members on occasion and a one-time storage share may be offered near Thanksgiving… we will announce this mid-summer.
A 2008 member commented, “Best money I’ve ever spent!”
Our full share (18 weeks of vegetables) will be $500 this year. A bi-weekly share (9 weeks) will be $270. To sign-up please email Erin at altem002(at)