Friday, August 18, 2017

Rain again?

"You've got to be kidding..." It's was the only kid-appropriate phrase that I could utter as I watched one more downpour in earshot of my children. After waiting for close to 6 weeks for the window to simply use the flail mower in the garden, I was more than frustrated - as of today, I still am.

I have never experienced an August this wet ever. Typically the ground is hard as rock and dry around this time of year. This period allows those tomatoes and melons to mature and ripen. It's also an opportunity when we get to put some areas to bed, mow down the old crops and weeds and maybe chisel plow the ground to knock back the quackgrass and thistle. This year, however, if I pulled a chisel plow through a field, I'd simply be constructing huge mudballs and construct deep ruts in the group to haunt us for the next couple of seasons. 

As you may remember my blog post a couple weeks back was about the mid-summer reset. Well, we're still waiting for weather to cooperate to do that. Fall brassicas are sitting in trays looking ugly and I'd love to plant some spinach for fall boxes, but putting a tiller in the ground is impossible. 

So, I continue to channel low-grade disgust as I read a forecast or simply look out the window at yet another storm coming our way. Maybe you've got rain fatigue yourself - I feel your pain. 

In the box: 

Potato Leek Soup
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients: 
  • A pound of leeks, cleaned and dark sections removed. 
  • 3 T butter
  • A pound of potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • Chives
Chop the leeks into small pieces.
In a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.
Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream, buttermilk, and white pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately, or chill and serve cold.


Friday, August 11, 2017

The Path to Farming

All the jars stood in a long row on the kitchen counter, the red of the tomatoes all bright and the glass all shiny wet after a hot bath. My thought went to pioneers desperate to push through a looming winter or the grand storehouses of lost empires. It felt right and natural for this 8-year old me to have fantasies of a little cabin in the Beltrami forest where our family hunted, a refuge where I'd chop wood and garden and live an an idyllic life by myself, one with nature.

As I was trying to recall what brought me to today and this is one of my earliest memories of being attracted to farming. I've met few people who decided their life's direction at age 10 and I'm certainly not one of them. I never grew up farming and agriculture wasn't on my high school strength inventory (where you take a test which ID's jobs which would fit your interests).

My only farm-related experience as a kid was gardening in an abondoned lot which sat between some potato warehouses in East Grand Forks. My Uncle Doc was warehouse manager for Ryan Potato, who lived in a trailer on-site and our family shared a gardenspace with his family and my Grandpa Adolph. A lanky man who worked three jobs his whole life, my grandpa meticulously set coffee cans around tomatoes and watered religiously. This plot would never be found in Better Homes and Gardens, yet it brought together family, supplied us food, and gave us kids a reason to explore huge tracts of weeds near the rail line. Reflecting back on it, this minor chapter in my childhood made some mark on my life.

Fast forward to college, the 20-something me re-found his food connection when I stumbled into my local food co-op in St. Peter, MN. A storefront the size of my kitchen, this was the coolest place ever with a countercultural vibe, intermingling a bunch of local La Leche moms and left-wing college kids like myself. I never grew dreadlocks or picketed offices in my radical youth, but I fell in love with the co-op movement as it fit my Midwestern upbringing. It was both radical in spirit and practical in execution. This love affair led me to my two-year farm apprenticeship and four years working for Mississippi Market Co-op in St. Paul upon graduating, rich experiences which truly did make me the organic farm operator I am today.

In the box:

  • Green Peppers
  • Tomato Mix: Man, are these tomatoes slow this year! I had to hunt and peck like crazy to get this little mix of types. 
  • Sweet Corn 
  • Celery
  • Red Onion 
  • Sweet Onion
  • Cuke 
  • Summer Squash 
  • Yellow Potatoes 

Friday, August 04, 2017

Mid-Summer Reset

Well, we made it to the beginning of August. This is the time of year when the major high season crops come in like tomatoes and sweet corn and when we have to turn our attention to fall crops. In the next week I'll need to clear space for salad mix, fall greens such as spinach, and fall brassicas like cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Argo, the farm dog
Seems easy enough, yet I find it hard to do this time of year as we spend a lot of time harvesting, washing, and delivering produce. When you spend your time a lot of time picking Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, it's a juggle which doesn't leave an opportunity for much else. But it's something we just need to take on sooner rather than later since the longer we wait, the further into the fall the crops get postponed. Even though spinach typically takes 45 days, with days getting shorter and shorter, we'll need to plant this week to have ready by the third week of September.

In the box:

  • Beans 
  • Sweet Corn 
  • Parsley 
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Sweet Onions
  • Bunch of Beets: See pickle recipe
  • Purple Peppers: A little deceiving, they taste just like green
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery 
Granny's Quick Pickled Beets

1 bunch beets, tops removed 
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
2 allspice berries

Place beets in large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Low heat and simmer til done, about 20-30 minutes. 

While beets are cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil; simmer 5 minutes. Drain, peel, and cut beets in slices or chunks. Put into a jar and pour hot liquid over beets. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Makes about 1 quart.