Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last Nibble of Green

 Although the warm weather is a little disconcerting for late December, it is a thrill to walk through the gardens, harvest knife in hand, to see what I can find.  Nibbles of green.  Flavor.  Nibbles of life even in this darkest time of year.  The bit of cilantro, celery, parsley, mustard green, and kale I find taste so vibrant after being pulled from a crust of snow.  I wonder, are the sheep equally content and wondrous with their mid-winter nibbles of pasture grasses and clovers?  As soon as the snow covers the pasture, it will be dry hay for them.  Out in the pasture, we find peace and an airy, but strong, sunlight unique to the solstice time.  Perhaps it is the longer nights that, in contrast, make this sun so special?  Perhaps it is the snow and cold earth that make the greens taste so wonderful...

 Around the farmstead peace does not last long.  We finished the harvest;  leeks and parsnips now join the rest of the winter crops, clean and snug in the root cellar.  Ruth has fallen in love with the root crop washer.  When she hears it starting up, she drops everything, throws on her rain gear, and heads outside to help.  Even with man-sized waterproof gloves covering her little hands, she is a great help.  After the work is done, Jeff lets her embark on a little fun, crawling around in the root washer while it turns!
We processed a couple of our pigs on the farm, just for us and a friend.  Following was a wave of cutting, curing, and smoking the meat in our home-made smoker.  Jeff has been all over the phone, email, and roads bringing the rest of our animals to be processed and coordinating distributing the meat to our meat CSA members. 

The phone and email also bring us a steady flow of messages from young people who want to apprentice on our farm this coming season.  While it is heartening to us how many young folks want to learn about diversified farming (integrating animals and plants into an ecosystem) and farming with draft horses, the number of applications we have to wade through is at times a bit overwhelming.  We wish we could welcome the majority of these wonderful folks into our farm family, but we currently only have the housing for one or two more. 

Friday and Saturday are busy days for us year-round, as we prepare for and head to Brunswick for farmers' market.  A couple Saturdays ago, we added the Portland Winter Market to the mix.  Jeff and Rich rise early, pack the coolers with meat, bins with winter veggies, eggs, salsa, yarn and lambskins, and pile it all into the truck.  Jeff drops Rich with half the goods in Brunswick, then heads to Portland with his half to sell.  I join Rich with the girls later, after dropping my sister off at her basketball practice.  It is busy, but oh those markets are so fun and delicious!  I highly recommend both: Portland Winter Market and Brunswick Winter Market

The rest of our days bring a bit of rhythm with the daily chores of feeding horses hay, moving the sheep fence to new pasture, feeding and watering chickens and collecting eggs.  As a family we join in the seasonal rhythm of celebration, lighting the Hanukkah candles nightly, stringing lights on our Christmas tree, making new wool felted ornaments with Nonnie (because, well, where DID that box of ornaments go?!), and joining Ruth's school in song at the Alna Meeting House to welcome the solstice.
In the kitchen I have been following my intuition a bit more than the recipes.  Nutmeg made its way into baked stuffed acorn squash along with rice, ground beef, parsnips, onions, garlic...  Not too bad for acorn squash!  Squash soup always starts off with caramelizing the onions and baking the squash with un-peeled garlic in the cavity.  One day I threw in sesame oil and coriander, along with the onions, garlic, and squash, made it silky-smooth in the Cuisinart, then added tender green cabbage, sliced thin and sauteed in sesame oil and a little salt.  Of course, Hanukkah is the time to make potato latkes, you can find the recipe in my Dec, 7, 210 post.  Also in an old post is a recipe for Turnips Anna, one of our favorite turnip recipes.  You can mix turnips and potatoes for this recipe, to try to win over non-turnip lovers!  And the kale from the last CSA share would be perfect for kale chips, as most of the leaves are small so you would only have to wash and dry them, no chopping/ripping; recipe found here in this old post (scroll just over half-way down.)

Happy Feasting, Nibbling, Light and Merriment Making!

Your Farmers,
Jeff, Amy, Ruth and Leah

December 6 CSA Share
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash
Savoy cabbage
Burdock root
Daikon radish

December 20 CSA Share
Acorn squash
German Butterball potatoes
Apple Sauce
Kale mix
 Watermelon radish

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Autumn in Motion

This fall is galloping along for us like a young filly, sometime glorious and coordinated in its movements, other times awkward and confused.  For, who could have planned for such weather?  Sure, the warm days have many benefits for the farmer: ease of outdoor work and sheep still grazing the pasture instead of racking up the hay bill, but it also brings its challenges. The fall radishes bolting in the garden being one.  To fill out the "awkward" section of our fall, Jeff wanted to be sure our CSA members know that they would have had more diversity in their share, if only:
  • The ewe lambs hadn't decided to bust out of their fence one day and gleefully prance down the rows of white remay (a season-extending row-cover), flattening the chard, beets and fall lettuce mix.  Why they couldn't have chosen to gallivant somewhere else, we don't know....
  • An unusual October snowstorm hadn't flattened the celery and mustard greens.
  • The carrot rust fly hadn't decided to descend on our storage carrot patch, tunneling though our otherwise gorgeous and sweet orange roots.  Most of the harvest is still good eating and will be in the CSA share, but it is not as pretty as it would have been.
  • The cows, lambs, and horses hadn't all gotten into the corn (different patches at different times).  Ah, the hazards of a diversified farm.  Next year we'll have to up the charge on the electric fence when the corn is ripening!
  • The cucumber beetle and squash bug hadn't found our winter squash patch so tasty.
Luckily, we plant extra, and we plan for diversity.  When one crop is damaged, we have another to take its place.  And some of the earlier losses in conjunction with the unusually warm late fall led to some crop re-growth, resulting in the bountiful, tasty, and nutritious braising mix we distributed in the share prior to Thanksgiving.  Nightly our dinner table is full, and our first two CSA pick-ups have been full as well:
November 8 CSA Share
Caraflex Cabbage
Black Spanish radish
Green meat daikon radish
Baking potato
Sweet potato
Sweet Dumpling squash

November 22 CSA Share
Pie pumpkin
Buttercup squash
Braising greens: kale (several varieties), radicchio, napa cabbage
Mustard greens
Tender sweet cabbage
Golden turnips with greens

The harvest has been smooth, if at times a bit rushed when the forecast suddenly changed to snow.  We cruise down the garden aisles, sometimes as a family, sometimes with friends, sometimes just Jeff and our apprentice, Rich.  Harvest time is a good time to have Leah in the field.  She can pull up whatever plants she wants, and there are no seedlings for her two-year-old feet to methodically stomp.  Ruth helps a bit, then resorts to setting up shop and selling us daikon radishes from the back of the truck.  Save the parsnips, the root crop harvest is now complete.  Before we pack the harvest into the root cellar, we spray all the roots down.  This is usually a tedious, wet, cold job.  This year we borrowed our friend Keena's (of Little Ridge Farm) root washer, making the task a little easier.  Rich's girlfriend, Kate, is pictured here helping us move the carrots through.

The darker, colder evenings pull the family inside earlier and lure us all to the wood cook stove.  We are putting our big farmhouse kitchen to good use fermenting kim chi and colored peppers, canning dilly beans, bread and butter pickles, sweet pickle relish, and endless jars of apple sauce from a neighbor's old trees.  And, of course, cooking endless dinners inspired by the root cellar below. 

As the kids get older, Jeff and I are becoming more practiced at leaving work behind and making time for family and fun.  While the fall erratic snowstorms were awkward for the farm, they were pure delight for the family.  After you put so much time into making a big snowman, why not turn it into a virtual ski mountain?!  We also slowed the pace to incorporate Ruth's school into our farm for two days this fall.  The kids washed apples, fed the pigs, romped to the brook, harvested sweet potatoes, learned about the horses, and went on a horse-drawn wagon ride.

Currently, I have a big stock pot on the wood cook stove, bubbling chicken, carrots, parsnips celery, garlic, and potatoes, that need to soon be made into soup for dinner.  Leah is insisting on painting, laundry needs to be hung, the sun has slipped past the bare branches to the west, and Jeff needs to head out to do the evening chores.  The cat is asleep on the lambskin on the chair, the kitten dozing on the lambskin on the other chair, and the dog following suit on the lambskin in the kid's corner of the living room.  I hope you are having a nourishing and restful Sunday as well!


Recipes:  Please look in our older posts for some of our favorite winter recipes, including Parsnip Pancakes, Winter Squash Gallette, Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves, and O-Konomi-Yaki (Japanese economy pancakes) O-Konomi-Yakis can be adapted in many ways to use up other veggies you may have kicking around, like kohlrabi or even beets.  Another flexible recipe is the coleslaw.  Below is a new recipe shared with us from our good friend and long-time CSA member Mrs. Leigh.  Along with the cabbage and carrot, I love to throw Kohlrabi in to slaws.

Cabbage Slaw
  • 1 (3 inch) piece ginger, grated fine
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 head Napa (or other) cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienne fine
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, julienne fine
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced fine
  • 1 large carrot, grated fine with a peeler
  • 3 green onions, cut on the bias, all of the white part and half of the green
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a small bowl, or food processor, combine ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, oil, and peanut butter.  In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and then toss with dressing.  You can save some of the dressing to dress noodles that can be added to this dish along with stir-fried pork to make an entire meal.