August 30, 2010

Bugs? What bugs?

I just stepped out my back door, at 9 p.m., near a light, and the most amazing thing happened. I did NOT get swarmed by bugs! I don't know if that means the weather is about to change, but I think it does mean we won't have as many insects to contend with for our fall crops.

A girl can hope, right?

August 29, 2010

Flowers for Fall?

Jay likes to grow a wide variety of produce, and this fall he even grew a few flowers. Of course, the girls thought this was an awesome, fabulous, great, stupendous idea... as long as they were pink. And so, they compromised:

Mobile high tunnel 2, filled with zinnias and sunflowers
Sunflowers, just before "harvest"
Maggie got special Daddy-time and the honor of picking the zinnias
Displayed at market, aka Maggie saying "Daddy, it's too hard to smile at 7 a.m. on a Saturday."

The flowers didn't sell very well, but most new products don't sell the first week we've offered them. Besides, think how lovely my house looks!

August 27, 2010

Busy bees, busy bugs

We are so very busy right now. The garden and market business is Jay's summer job, but for school teachers, summer is over. I'm also in school full-time now, and we don't have any paid hired help. So, gardening is done in the evenings and weekends.

Thankfully for us, the garden slows considerably in late August. Because the high tunnels put us ahead of season in the spring, it also makes our end of season one come sooner. Season two, however, is in it's infancy. The fall crops are all planted and the weather has been favorable. The bugs, however, will be our problem this fall. It seems they have "found" our garden spot and are feasting away. The sunflower plants looked ideal on Sunday night; on Monday night, the leaves looked like Swiss cheese. And, let me tell you, the very hungry caterpillar is  cute in a book, when he eats all those lovely picnic foods, but in real life, he is one ugly contender. Even the pretty white butterflies are looked at with disdain in our household. If only us busy bees can stay ahead of the busy bugs, we should have produce for months to come!

What is going on at the farm?

What is going on at the farm? Well that is a wonderful question. Everything! We have been so busy doing everything that we haven't had time to post any new information. With school starting, it has been hard to make everything happen, however with the rain and cooler weather, it makes working outside much more bearable.

What is happening......

In the high tunnels, the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers are still producing. However, they are slowing down. They are loaded with blooms and if the weather holds, we will be expecting larger harvests towards the end of September. This week will be the first time for cut flowers. We have sunflowers and Zinnias. The girls are very excited about them. The fall root crops are planted in the moveable tunnel spaces. We planted 16-32 foot rows of Haikuri Turnips, 16-32 foot rows of Carrots, 8-32 foot rows of Beets. We also planted Radishes and some more turnips outside. We have 3- 40 foot beds ready to plant in one of our big hoop houses, also. We will be planting green onions, napa cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, bok choy and kohlarbi in this space. We are also going to be planting some lettuce inside to transplant in October in the tomato tunnel.

Outside is really slowing down or done. The outside peppers were a real disappointment along with the watermelon. We have a few cucumbers coming and a few potatoes left to dig. The leeks are ok, it just go to hot for them. We have 375 plus broccoli and cauliflower plants out. We will be putting them in side low tunnels as the weather gets cooler.

On the Jelly front- We have been very busy. We have made over 100 jars in the last 2 weeks. Expect to see some new jellies and we are bring back a few more.

August 19, 2010

Color wheel

Who says watermelon must be red to be delicious?


August 18, 2010

Turning Yello'

I am a pretty brave gal. Snakes, bugs, spiders, wild animals... they don't usually scare me. But, what I almost grabbed in the tomato building is still sending shivers up my spine:

Apparently, this is a beneficial garden spider, called the Black and Yellow Garden Spider. (Gee, real creative naming there.) According to this site, here's the basic info on this thing:

The Black and Yellow Argiope is a common orb web spider. Orb web means it spins a web like a circle.

Female spiders are much larger than males, growing almost an inch and a half long. Males grow about 3/4 inch long. Both spiders have a cephalothorax (small front body section) with silver hairs on it. The abdomen (large back section) is egg-shaped with black and yellow coloring.

Legs of these spiders are black with red or yellow bands. Each leg has three claws on the end.

Black and Yellow Argiopes live in fields and gardens. They can be found on shrubs, tall plants, and flowers.

The web of this spider spirals out from the center and can be two feet across. The female builds the large web, and a male will build a smaller web on the outer part of her web. The male's web is a thick zig-zag of white silk.

Black and Yellow Argiopes eat flying insects that get trapped in the sticky web. The most common ones are aphids, flies, grasshoppers, bees, and wasps.

The spider hangs with her head down in the center of her web, waiting for prey to be caught. Sometimes she hides off to the side with a thin silk thread attched to her web. When an insect hits the web, the spider feels the vibrations and comes running.

These spiders prefer sunny places with little or no wind to build their webs. Each night, they eat their web and build a new one.

Now, the one in our garden was at least 8 inches across. Okay, so maybe only 2-3 inches, but it was huge! But, I did the right thing. I backed away and left it there to kill the many grasshoppers attacking our tomatoes. However, I did NOT pick that side of the building for the rest of the day, and won't  go back any time soon, now that Jay informed me we have four "Charlottes" in that part of the cherry tomato building.

Just let Charlotte and her friends stay out of my house, and we'll get along just fine!

August 16, 2010

Planting time?

Even as most of the vegetable crops are wrapping up for the year and this is considered the end of garden season, it’s also planting time on the hill. These new plantings are all for our fall harvest, attempting to keep produce coming in for as much as the year as possible.

In the past two weeks, Jay has planted 200 broccoli, 175 cauliflower, and 700 row feet of green beans. In the next few weeks, we need to plant napa cabbage, bok choy, arugula, brussel sprouts, more cauliflower and broccoli, radishes, carrots, beets, haikuri turnips, green onions, kolorabi, totsoi, lettuce, and spinach. What makes this goal even more challenging is Jay starts back to work as a teacher today and I start school full-time the following week. Most of this will need to be done in the nights and weekends. In other words, this year our Labor Day Weekend will have lots of labor and not much weekend.

August 15, 2010

A Picture to Make You Cry

Okay, so maybe these pictures will only make you cry if you are the cutting these vegetables and don’t have an open flame nearby. (Learned that trick from Alton Brown!)

Jay just harvested the last of the onions for this year. We were happy with the onion crop, both in size and quality of onions. Of the 1800 onion sets planted, we sold all but probably 35 of them. Those 35, I chopped and froze for our use later this winter. We probably threw out less than 50 onions for the year, because they rotted before we sold them or got them froze.

I guess that means next year I can’t scoff at the idea of planting 1800 onion sets. And that is enough to make me cry!

August 14, 2010

Friday's Featured Foods: Grape Juice

With just a few days left before school starts, we have spent the last week or so trying to get done all those summer projects, those activities that are too time consuming to accomplish in the evening or too dreaded to wrap up earlier in the summer. For me, that means canning.

Today's canning
I love canned vegetables... in the winter. In the summer, canning veggies means a hot kitchen and a day at the stove. But, it is worth it in the long run. Last week, I chopped and froze onions and potatoes. Today, I made Italian tomato sauce, pizza sauce, pickled okra, and sweet and sour pickles. I also processed grapes for jelly, which is the actual feature of tonight's post. No, I'm not going to share our Top Secret Grape Jelly recipe, but I'll show you the steps we go through to make the juice that eventually becomes the jelly.

 The grapes used in our jelly come from my parents' vine near Wichita, Kansas. It's not a fancy fruit farm; they just happen to have a fence of grape vines that my dad planted when I was Maggie's age. For the last few years, we've gone down to visit around the time of grape harvest and came back home with a cooler full of grapes. Grapes and grape vines are as full of metaphors as they are of insects; no wonder the Bible has so many references to them!

So, we came home with about 40 pounds of grapes. Maggie, Lainie and I spent a couple hours separating the grapes from the stems and tossing any bad grapes. Lainie was so proud to get to help and have a task that she could do well.

Next, I rinsed the grapes and removed any floating debris or bad fruit.
I then mashed the grapes with a potato masher, just enough to break some of them.

Next, add 1/2 cup of water for every quart of prepared fruit. I had four saucepans, each with 6-8 quarts of fruit.

Bring to a boil, the reduce to simmer for at least 15 minutes. I think getting the juice out was easier when I let them simmer for 30 minutes or more.

Here's my juice extraction set-up: cheese cloth on a strainer that just fits into my stock pot. I pour the grape mash onto the cheese cloth; the stock pot catches the juice and the strainer catches any grape pulp that makes its way out of the cheese cloth.

The juice then got poured into the measuring cup, then pour into quart jars.
The end result: 10 quarts of grape juice into the freezer. Once these freeze solid, I will move them to the deep freeze, for better storage.
My mom always says that clean-up is part of the recipe. And there were LOTS of little spills like this one. My kitchen had a bit of a purple splash to it tonight.

And last but not least, the cook gets to taste the product first. (Yes, the picture is sideways, but it's 1:14 a.m... it can stay sideways.) The little remaining grape juice tasted delicious! If grape jelly sells are down this winter, we could always thaw this juice and have it for breakfast. It doesn't need any sugar, thanks to the natural sweetness of the grapes.

Next on the list: chop and freeze bell peppers (the ugly ones our customers don't want to buy) and make and freeze some fajita and stir fry kits. Oh, and a Farmers Market in... six hours.

August 2, 2010


I love how the sunset makes the mobile high tunnels glow.

This isn't the typical view from our porch for the first of August. We have had a tremendous amount of rain, in just the right amounts, at just the right time. Our neighbors the north (too much) and west (too much) and east (too much) and south (not enough) haven't been so lucky.

But up on the hill, this year's view is looking spectacular.

August 1, 2010

Quick and Easy Summer Time Recipes

In the summer there is never alot of time to cook. With a healthy variety of produce available, here are two quick, easy and one pan meals. If this guy can make them then anyone can!

Sausage and Zucchini

1 pound Fully cooked pork Sausage (you could use ground pork)
4 cups cubed zucchini (1 medium sized)
2 cups Fresh chopped tomatoes (two small/medium)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, (optional) adds lots of good flavor!
1 teaspoon flour, (I added a little more)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook sausage in a skillet and drain. Add the cooked sausage, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, oregano, salt and hot pepper sauce, Cook for 15 minutes or until the zucchini is crisp tender. Sprinkle with flour, toss to coat. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand until the cheese is melted.

I think this recipe was for a smoke sausage not ground sausage, but it tasted great to us! If you are short on one ingredient and long on another it is ok. Finally, I added a bit more cheese, but it was yummy locally grown/made cheese but who is counting!

Zucchini, Okra & Tomato Medley

1 small zucchini
vegetable cooking spray
1 1/2 cups of sliced fresh okra
2 tablespoons of chopped onion
1 cup of chopped fresh tomato
1/8 teaspoon of dried basil
a dash of freshly ground pepper

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, place over medium high heat until hot. Add the zucchini, okra, and onion, sauté for 4 minutes. Stir in he tomato and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Makes four 1/2 cup servings