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.