Sunday, March 30, 2014

Farmer Party

One thing that farmers like to do to have fun is help out other farmers. It's the perfect way to learn from each other and socialize while also getting work done.

Getting work done is the main thing that farmers like to do.

Recently, a Beginning Farmers group has started meeting up in the Keweenaw area. Yesterday we got together at Wintergreen Foods and everyone was kind enough to lend us their hands. We got a lot of work done.

In fact we filled 85 trays like the one above, which means we planted over 6500 onion seeds.

We finished the project (which would have taken Scott and me a good 3-4 days to complete on our own) in about 6 hours.

Thanks everyone for coming out to lend a hand!

Sara gives Jake and Ashley, from North Harvest CSA in Calumet,
 a quick soil mix tutorial.
Making soil blocks.
Matt, Lynette and Katie planting onion seeds in the blocks.
We ate lunch outside in the snowy parking lot. It was warmer out there than
in the unheated building.
Cold as it was, lots of good play happened :)
We brought the trays home and loaded them into the greenhouse.
After shoveling a bit of snow.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Farming in a Polar Vortex

I know the vortices are over, but we are still dealing with their dense and snowy aftermath.

Plus it's nice to have an excuse to use the word vortices.
 As you can see, the greenhouse isn't quite ready to be put to use this "spring", and it won't be for a while yet.

We still have seeds to start, though, and today was the day we put the very first seeds of the 2014 CSA season in soil. In our living room :)

We started 170 tomato seeds, 80 eggplant, and 80 peppers. They're all destined for transplant in the hoophouse during the first week of May.

For now, they are cozy on the heat mat, with a lovely view of the snow.

Tomorrow's project: Starting basil and lettuce seeds.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 16: 2013 CSA Season Comes to a Close

Fall is here.

Note Scott's hunter orange cap. A sure sign of fall.
It's finally official because we had our first real frost last night. Just in time for the final fall harvest of the 2013 CSA season! The weather actually lined up with our activities for once this year :)

This final harvest is turning out to be a bit of a whirlwind for us. We've shifted the pick-up so that we will be able to attend a family wedding this Friday (thank you once again for letting us make this change!!), which means we need to have shares ready for all seventy five members this Wednesday, rather than spreading the harvest between Wednesday and Saturday pick-ups as we usually would. So, we've attempted to spread the harvest between three days.

We did take time out yesterday to catch this seventeen and a half inch brown trout though:

This was totally all Scott. I had nothing to do with catching this fish.
I was downstream, most likely disentangling my line from something.

Today we got started on the root vegetables.

We got through carrots (you each get three pounds this week)
And about half of the beets (you get one pound this week)

The beets gave us some trouble this year. Remember way back in the spring when it was very wet? That happened just after we planted the beets, in an ever so slightly low area of the garden. Long story short, we have smaller than normal beets this year. So a pound of beets is actually several beets, but they are little. We had hoped to have 2 or 3 pounds for everyone. Enough to make it worth breaking out the canner. If you are determined to have pickled beets, this is the recipe we use: At least you won't have to chop them up!

In addition to carrots and beets, everyone can expect to receive: Tomatoes, Scallions, Onion, Celeriac, Gold Ball Turnips or Winter Radishes, Daikon, Brussels Sprouts, Winter Squash, Rutabaga or Cabbage, Kale or Chard, Fall Salad Mix, and Parsley or Sorrel or Basil.

If you don't know or have forgotten, be sure to roast your Brussels Sprouts. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and chopped garlic (and balsamic vinegar if you are fancy) before roasting them in a single layer at 400 degrees until they are just starting to brown. Roasting makes Brussels Sprouts delicious. Boiling them does not.

You should also try mashing your root vegetables.

Root Vegetable Puree

A simple and delicious fall side dish. If you remove all of the greens and keep the veggies in your crisper (or another cold, high humidity environment), all of the items that go into this dish will easily keep until Thanksgiving, though this recipe only makes enough to serve four. Throw in some potatoes (boil them with the other veggies) or roasted squash if you want to bulk it up. Also, drink a bit of the cooking liquid. It's tasty. Seda tasted some from my glass and said "Mama, did you make a special vegetable tea?" before requesting a glass of her own.

  • One large or two small Rutabaga, peeled and chopped roughly
  • Two large Carrots, peeled and chopped roughly
  • Three very small (or one large) Celeriac, peeled and chopped roughly
  • Salt
  • Butter (about a tablespoon)
  • A handful of Celeriac leaves, if you still have them, chopped
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the vegetables (but not the celeriac leaves) and boil until they are all tender enough to easily pierce with a fork. Do not over boil or you will have a mushy, watery, mess. It shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the cooking water. Reserve the water for another use (special vegetable tea...soup stock). You will want a small amount of the cooking liquid for the next step.

Puree the vegetables with your favorite pureeing device (by now you all know how much I enjoy my immersion blender), adding a bit of the cooking liquid if needed to make a smooth puree.

While it is still hot, stir in butter and a handful of chopped celeriac leaves.

Before you stir, it will look like this. Assuming it is dark out and your
kitchen is not well lit.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 15: Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday.

Seriously, right now. Earlier we celebrated by swimming at the AmericInn and hiking the Summit Peak Loop. The color in the Porkies is perfect today, by the way.

Actually, this photo shows the cakes I made for Seda's birthday
party a few weeks ago. But you get the idea.

As I type Scott and Seda are preparing a birthday "cake" for me. It's an apple-carrot-green tomato crisp. You'll find the recipe at the bottom of this post.

And now you know three items to expect in the share this week. If you recall, the last two shares of the season are extra big. This is the first of those shares. You can expect: Apples, Green Tomatoes, Carrots, Daikon Radishes, Tomatoes (ripe ones), Beets, Onions, Rutabaga or Kohlrabi, Winter Squash, Celeriac, a choice of Herbs, Gold Ball Turnips or Winter Radishes, and Kale or Chard or Dandelion Greens.

The only new thing this week is daikon, which I will get back to in a second. The celeriac may be a challenge for some of you - perhaps you still have some lurking from last week. If you need some ideas for using it, you are in luck. I just went crazy pinning celeriac recipes on pinterest, you can find those if you click here. You could also add some celeriac to the fall soup recipe below.

The daikon is another storable radish (like the winter radishes - incidentally, if you want to store any of your root veggies be sure to remove the greens first and store the roots in the crisper or some other cold, humid place) and can be used similarly. The daikons are nice, because they are full of flavor - like the other winter radishes - but have a crisp juicy texture, more like that of the french breakfast radishes. If you need some more specific ideas, I pinned a few recipes here

Now, I have two recipes for you, just to make sure you can use everything in your shares.

The first is a thick soup. Scott invented it the other day. It is a lovely combination of savory and sweet, and filling with with a hunk of whole grain bread.

The second is my birthday crisp. I invented this recipe, mostly because I still really want to come up with a tasty dessert that features green tomatoes, and Scott made it. I would say that it's pretty tasty, but maybe a bit too sweet for my taste. I understand that he had a four year old helper, and they may not have followed the recipe exactly...Still, next time I would probably only use a quarter of a cup of sugar in the filling. Proceed according to your tastes.

Fall Soup
  • 2 small or 1 large orange fleshed winter squash, halved and baked (Scott left the seeds in and it turned out great - he has a thing for squash seeds. You can take them out if you don't share his thing.)
  • 6 large carrots, chopped
  • One bunch (6-10) gold ball turnips, chopped
  • 1 medium beet, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups apple cider (or enough to cover the above ingredients)
  • Salt, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
Combine all of the ingredients, through the cider, in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the temperature to simmer and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Once tender, puree the soup. We use an immersion blender (you should get one if you don't have one) but you could also use a regular blender or a food processor.

After pureeing, reheat the soup if necessary, and season to taste. Add butter to finish the soup.

Birthday Crisp

Scott made my birthday crisp in his cast iron pan.
Because he loves his pan as much as he loves me.

For the filling:
  • 2 large or 4 medium carrots, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/4 cup water or apple cider
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or much less than that if you are using freshly ground)
  • 2-3 apples, sliced thickly
  • 2-3 green tomatoes, sliced thickly
For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the carrots, water or cider, sugar, and spices in a large saucepan (or cast iron skillet if you are awesome like me husband). Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Then add the apples and green tomatoes. Continue to simmer until the apples are just tender.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the topping.

When the filling is ready, transfer it to a pie plate (or leave it in your kick ass skillet) and sprinkle the topping evenly over it.

Bake until the topping is golden, approximately 15 minutes.

Sing happy birthday to me :)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 14: Thank you!

The true meaning of member support has really come through this week. Thank you everyone who has agreed to shift the final Saturday pick-up to Wednesday so that we can attend a family wedding on October 18th.

You guys rock!

Just to remind everyone, this change really only impacts the Lake Linden and L'Anse members and it won't happen until mid-October. I will spend this week individually contacting (by email) everyone effected by the change to make sure that you all know about it and have a plan to get your veggies and I will definitely be sure to to remind you closer to the time. As you should all know by know, I can be really persistent when it comes to reminding people:

ONE WEEK LEFT!!! click here to contribute

Also, thanks for the kind words about our decision to attend the wedding. It is more or less impossible to travel (or take any kind of time off) during CSA season, but we knew that when we signed on for this gig.

In fact, much of my extended family and my entire immediate family is at a picnic right now, but I'm here doing this. 

So, if you don't mind, I'll be brief.

This week's share will include: Carrots or Beets, Kohrabi or Rutabaga, Turnips or Winter Radishes, Celeriac, Potatoes, Leeks, Brussels Sprout tops, and Tomatoes +

Brussels sprout tops are the leaves on the tops of the plants, which should be removed so that the plants will put their energies into growing bigger sprouts. You can use them as you would kale.

Celeriac is also called celery root. Last year was the first year we grew it for the CSA and we had pretty bad germination, so this year we started about 2000 seeds. And had good germination, but they didn't size up very well. So it kind of worked out and you can expect a bunch of little celeriac in your share this week. The tops can be used like extra flavorful celery (it is perfect for soup) and the roots are like the perfect cross between celery and rutabaga. Roast them with your other root veggies (carrots or beets and radishes or turnips) if you want a bit of yummy. 

The leeks are also on the small side.

The larger leek in this photo is one of the biggest I saw out there.

I could pretend it is because they are babies, but truthfully, this is the first year that we have grown leeks and we are still figuring out how to make them do their best for us. There is always more to learn on a vegetable farm. That is one of the main reasons that I love it here!

Small or big, they will still go wonderfully with these potatoes:

Scott rigged up a potato digger and he couldn't be prouder :)

In the name of brevity, I am not offering an original recipe for vichyssoise this evening, but instead simply sharing a link for  a simple potato leek soup recipe that I think you will all enjoy. If you don't already have plans for your celeriac, add some or all of them in with the potatoes in this recipe for an extra layer of sumptuous flavor in your soup.

Monday, September 23, 2013


It's fall. You know how I can tell?

The squash are on the dance floor.

They're not dancing, they're curing. They need to sit for a bit after harvest to allow their skins to harden and their starches to break down into sugars so they'll be sweet and sturdy when we put them in the shares weeks 15 and 16. Our new location, Wintergreen Foods, is the perfect place to spread them out.

This week, which is week 13 if you are keeping track, the shares will include: Watermelon, Tomatoes, Onions, Green Tomatoes, Parsley or Sorrel, Chard or Dandelion, Winter Radishes or Gold Ball Turnips, Carrots or Beets, and fresh Herbs.

Ah, watermelon, that favorite fall treat ;)

Watermelons are tough to ripen in the U.P. Especially this year (remember June and July, when it was almost as cold as it is right now?). We ended up planting them in the hoophouse this year, or we wouldn't have gotten any. We weren't able to fit all of the plants we started in there though, so our dream of two weeks of watermelon has not yet been realized. Perhaps next year.

Some may be wondering what we're up to with the green tomatoes. Hopefully returning members already have plans for them (fried green tomatoes are even better than the movie). If not, here is a link to past posts which include my fried green tomato and green tomato relish recipes plus a few more ideas.

If anyone has a good green tomato pie recipe PLEASE let me know. I want so much for green tomato pie to be delicious, but all the recipes for it that I have tried are...not.

Gold ball turnips, which are an optional item this week, are just starting to be ready for harvest. They are honestly my favorite thing that comes out of the garden. They aren't like the hakurei, gold balls are small but all turnip, but they are sweeter than your average turnip. I suggest cutting them into quarters and sauteing them in butter until they are just soft. Then, chop the greens and add them to the pan just until they turn bright green. Mmmmm...

If you don't get turnips this week (don't worry, they'll be around for at least another week or two) you will get winter radishes. We are growing four winter radishes: Misato Rose, Green Meat, Black Spanish, and Shinden Risoh. You won't see any Shinden Risoh this week. They are a traditional daikon and, now that we thinned a few out last week, we plan to give them the chance to put on as much size as possible before we distribute them in the final two weeks of the season.

You will see Green Meat, which is a miniature daikon with green flesh, and a few Black Spanish, which are really really spicy but not quite up to size yet, and many Misato Rose. The Misato Rose are hard to describe, because they aren't all the same. Fedco, where we bought them, indicated that they would vary in color on the outside, but all would have spicy pink flesh.

But that has not been the case.
We have seen several pink fleshed misato rose, but the lighter skinned radishes we have seen (upper right in this photo - with black spanish to the left and green meat below) have been white/green fleshed and relatively mild. Still yummy though.

I am having a ton of fun with the winter radishes, because I always get excited the first time we grow something, but Scott thinks my excitement over these particular new items is a little ridiculous. 

Radishes make me sick. I really like them. I just feel like I'm going to puke whenever I eat them.

I braved it though, and came up with a simple radish recipe for those that are not sickened by them. Or those that are, but like them anyway :)

Radish Slaw

I kept this extremely simple, but it could be punched up any number of ways. Grated carrots, ginger, celery seed, parsley, or onions all come to mind as good additions. I'm sure you could come up with plenty more delicious ideas as well. The radishes stay pleasantly spicy in this recipe, but the sweet and sour flavors balance the heat.
  • Three small Winter Radishes (as in the photo above, the misato rose is about 1.5 inches across for reference), thinly sliced and chopped into small pieces, or grated
  • Two small Apples, sliced as for the radishes (you want to end up with more or less equal quantities of radishes and apples)
  • One Tablespoon Honey
  • One Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • A pinch Salt
Combine all of the ingredients and allow them to sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour. Eat it up. Preferably with something grilled.

A spoonful of this over grilled chicken sounds perfect.
Get it while the weather holds.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Week 11: Planning Ahead

You really have to plan ahead on a vegetable farm.

If you want winter radishes you have to plant them in the
 first week of august.

So we did. And now we have a bumper crop of shinden risoh, misato rose, and green meat radishes coming along. We also have a rather bolty crop of black spanish radishes.

At the same time we planted the winter radishes, we put in some french breakfast radishes (which you may remember from last week's share), some hakurei, and some gold ball turnips. 

I love gold ball turnips. SO MUCH. Click here if you, like me, enjoy reading about how wonderful the world's greatest turnips are as you anticipate how awesome it will be to eat them. Because it will be awesome to eat the turnips, though it isn't quite time to do that yet. 

It is time to thin the turnips (another one of those planning ahead things that you need to do on a vegetable farm), which means that this week we get to eat the awesome turnip greens.

Along with turnip greens, this week's share will include: Onions, Carrots or Beets, Radishes or Hakurei, Cucumbers, Rutabaga, Chard or Kale, Basil, Parsley or Sorrel, and Tomatoes etc.

What should you do with your awesome turnip greens? Cook them with an awesome steak, of course. If you are not a meat eater, you can do almost exactly the same thing, just skip the part in the recipe where you put the steak in the pan. The greens will still be good, just not nearly as meaty.

Meaty Greens

The steak I cooked for this recipe was from Kolpack Family Farm. They are just down the road from us and have wonderful meat. I honestly cannot recomend them enough. Also, I threw some sliced radishes in with my greens. I know that I was talking to someone about cooked radishes (they weren't a raw radish fan) the other day. Cooking radishes really mellows their flavor. This is how you do it :)
  • One small Onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 bunch Turnip Greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 Sirloin Steak, approximately a pound of meat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Half a bunch of radishes, sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is just beginning to soften. 

Add the steak to the pan, salt and pepper each side to taste. Brown on both sides. 

Turn the heat to low and continue to cook until the meat has reached your desired degree of doneness, flipping every five minutes or so. The cooking time will vary based on how thick your steak is and how you like your meat. Mine took about a total of ten minutes per side after browning.

Once the meat is done to your liking, remove it from the pan. Keep it warm.

Turn the heat up to medium/low. If you are including radishes, add them to the pan and saute them for about two minutes before adding the chopped turnip greens. Stir the greens in with the pan juices from the steak. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the greens have wilted and turned a more vibrant green color. 

Pile the greens onto the serving platter with the steak.

Once the sun sets, my food pictures tend to get kind of ugly. Sorry about that.
I promise it tastes good.