Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Around the Farm and CSA Week 9

You honestly can't believe how many seeds I have.
And up until a month and a bit ago, seeds were driving me nuts. Absolutely nuts.
Considering I have worked away at this job for the last 18 years, and never once in all those years have I planted all the seeds I had, over the years this tends to be a bit of an accumulation.
There has never been a year in which I didn't acquire some new seeds....there are always things I want to try, and some times I double order, thinking for two years in a row how cool a certain thing would be to grow, not realizing I have the seed, but didn't plant it.
This year I threw caution, and seeds, to the wind, and cleaned up lots of seed at the same time.
When my friend came to plough up my fields for me in the spring, he ploughed up an area I wasn't expecting to be ploughed. It sat there until one day I rototilled it. I looked at it and then did what I have wanted to do for a long time.
I came into the house, grabbed hundreds of packets of old seed, some as old as 15 years, ripped open the packages and dumped them all into a bowl. It was an attractive mix of seed-squash, beans, greens of every sort, corn, herbs, flowers. I honestly don't know what all.
Out I went to my awaiting bare patch and scattered the seed. It was a wee bit challenging because the chickens were interested too, so I lightly raked over the patch. The rains came beautifully and the seeds popped.
Lots of seed. A surprising amount.
Let this be a lesson to you. You don't need to buy new seed every year. Some seeds remain viable for a long, long time.
Although inevitably some weeds have appeared in this patch and are growing happily too, I call this my garden of dreams.  I always dreamt of doing this and I am constantly surprised by some of the things I am finding in this garden. Today I found a "hot as hades" white round radish, likely 3 inches in diameter.
A pea is blooming here and there, the spigiarello is everywhere, searingly hot mustards colour the patch with there purples.
I won't get too much from it I don't think. It's pretty thickly seeded so things will likely remain small as they lack much room to grow, but I'll interfere very little and let it do it's thing. I am thinking too that I will leave everything I can in the patch and let it go to seed there, so the garden remains a perpetual surprise garden. But try to get some of the weeds out so they don't go to seed too. What is the saying? One year's seed is seven year's weed.

The greens in todays basket were from this garden and will be good sauteed, giving you interesting and bold flavours.
I sure hope they weren't too wilted, but it is tough for them in this extreme heat.

The baskets also contained zucchini of some sort, onions, garlic, beans, basil flowers which are intended for either your flower vase, or to flavour oil or vinegar, carrots, cilantro, basil jelly (please return the jars), tomatoes and possibly something else I am not remembering.

Last year, I bought a kitchen tool that spiralizes veggies, and I barely looked at it at all. My intention was to make zucchini noodles and this year I have finally done it.
After using it to make the zucchini into nice curly long strips, I sautéed them in a bit of oil, popped on my fresh pasta sauce, and it was a hit. Definitely worth a try when the zucchini is coming on strong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On the Farm and CSA Week 8

Every year in the garden is different, but the same in some ways too.
Every spring I till my garden, plant my seeds and imagine exactly what the garden will look like when it grows.
It never does look that way though.
The reason is never looks that way is because the weeds grow. And this year the weeds have been amazing. Big healthy strong weeds courtesy of the rain.

 I am glad we can eat some of them..the lamb quarters for example and the pigweed (which is in the amaranth family), but I'm not eating many of them at this point because of course there are too many other things in the garden to eat. If I want greens...well...right now it is chard. I sure have lots.
So, out with the weeds.
I've fed some to Joey and the chickens...pretty much all they can handle. The chickens, to tell the truth, are not that interested. Really, why would they be? They wander around the property and have been known to pop into the garden on occasion to peck off some strawberries, tomatoes or nice tender lettuce. Weeds? Pfft. Who am I kidding? Maybe in February weeds would seem like a feast to them Not now. Not in mid-July.
I will say my weed profile has changed on this property since I started growing on it some 20 years ago. When I first started growing on my heavy clay, I was cursed with sow thistle and quack grass...signs of a heavy compacted soil.  As the soil lightened up because of years of compost, green manures and mulches being turned in, the pig weed, lamb quarters another annual weeds arrived. Generally as I pull them, I leave them on the soil, because they are good too, to turn into the soil. But this year this technique has been a bit flawed as some of them are rerooting with all the rain. So I pull them twice. C'est la vie.
Will I catch up with the weeds? No-I won't. Ideally I'll get them before they go to seed...or I'll go down trying. My motto is "I do the best I can." I sure am working hard.

A bit more summer was in the baskets today. Yes, again a good big bundle of chard, also beans-mostly Dragon Tongue, a superb Dutch heirloom, onions, basil, beets-mostly white ones, sweet peppers, cukes, cutting celery and likely a wee bit more.

With the appearance of beans, I'll post one of my favourite recipes for beans. I hope you like it.

Roasted (Green) Beans

Beans, topped and tailed.
Olive oil
Sea or kosher salt

Heat oven to 450 F.
Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil and lay beans in a single layer on it.
Drizzle them with oil until they are evenly coated.
Cook for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking.
When roasted, remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CSA Week 7 and Garden News

Joey says hello!

And the rain poureth.
When you are outside working everyday as I do, you try to keep track of the weather forecasts, but this year it seems to me the prognosticators have been a little less than accurate.
I could swear that yesterday when I looked at the forecast the chance of rain last night and today was around 30%. When I want rain, 30% never means rain. But this rain I could have done without....a harvest day rain is never that pleasant.
But at least the weed pulling will be easy tomorrow, and with all the rain this year the weeds have germinated like crazy.
I am glad I got around to a late planting of tomatoes in one of the hoop houses. They've been growing like weeds, surviving the days of crazy heat without much water at all. The tomatoes outside are growing well, but I think it's important this year with all the rain, to get the bottom leaves off, as lots of diseases start lower down on the plant and are made worse by the rain. That won't be a problem in the hoophouse.

I'm seeing a few yellow leaves on the bottom of some of the tomatoes, and I know rain is the problem, as well as weeds, which have been inhibiting good air circulation. Yesterday I started going through the tomatoes, weeding and stripping all the lower leaves off the plants and I am hoping for a dose of good dry warm weather to make them jump. I'll finish that job tomorrow.
We have had tomatoes already though. The first tomato to produce was "House", a dwarf plant which is absolutely loaded with nice and good tasting little cherry sized fruit.  The nice thing about these little plants is that they can be potted up in the fall and brought inside to winter in the house. Hence the name.  You'll get a taste of tomato over the winter if you do that. Tomatoes in February? Sure. But this year because the plants are so compact and tightly formed, the damp conditions are being tough on them. Lots of leaf stripping to try to keep them healthy.
Some of the Stupice are producing too, and those first Stupice are just the best tasting of the whole year. They truly are summer to me.
The baskets today contained beets, baby carrots, chard, basil, lettuce, rat tailed radishes, a sampling of tomatoes, dandelion (yes-domesticated), mint and likely something else.

This time of year when the greens are so plentiful, I eat lots of them, but also drink them for lunch most days. The formula I use is based on the "Green Monster" smoothie recipe from the "Oh She Glows" cookbook.
I do vary the ingredients to add interest, but the basic recipe involved a green (kale or chard), a cup of non-dairy milk (I use soy), 1 Tbsp or so of chia seeds, I Tbsp of nut butter,  a banana and ice cubes.
I blend it in my Vitamix, maybe add a bit of cinnamon and lunch is served. I usually use way too much kale, and end up spooning a lot of it out of the glass. But no matter. It still tastes good and gives me a good feeling. I know I'm doing something good and it keeps me going till supper. Which is really something, because I'm working very hard.
And will be tomorrow too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Still planting and CSA Week 6

People in my CSA must be wondering if in fact I planted anything other than greens as today again greens dominated the baskets. Trust me, there's lots in the garden, but some it was planted late.
Some of it in fact was still being planted today.

It's nice having both girls here to help out on Tuesdays. Generally I pick and they wash things up and put the baskets together. The bonus today was that Emily drove the baskets into town for me, helped by Mollie of course, the navigator.
I knew that the weather forecast called for rain, so my goal when they were gone was to get some more seeding done.
It was only yesterday that I was able to get a low spot tilled up, and it still did end up being a bit rougher than I would have like it. But good enough for beans, and my goal was to get lots more of them in.
Not that there aren't a whole lot already, but beans are one of those crops that I never seem to have too many of. Especially when my goal is to have lots of dry beans for cooking up and keeping us all "proteined" up.

Some of the beans are so very special. One that I must plant every year is a lovely green bush bean with purple striping called"Bobis D'Albenga". I bought my original seed for this bean years ago...maybe 15 or so, from a seed company that specialized in Italian seed from New Mexico, but then the company disappeared.  I'm not really sure what happened to them, but I was very glad I saved the seed. I guess it is a pretty rare bean in North America, but apparently it is being sought out by chefs in the US now.
You just never know when the phone rings who it is going to be, and a few weeks back it was a gourmet seed company in the US looking for 50 lbs of this bean seed. I didn't have that much, but I guess I was it while they awaited a shipment from Italy. Interesting. I always knew it was a great bean and I'm glad others are discovering it too.
Today 4 good long rows of Bobis went in, as well as another 14 more rows. Insane isn't it, that for the first 17 years of this farming career, I planted every single seed by hand. Those days are done as I have much more faith than I thought I would in my Earthway seeder. The time it has saved me this year is astounding. I finally figured it out.

More beets went in today too. Some sugar beets, Avalanche-a AAS winning white beet, and Cylindra, my favourite beet of all.
Now is a great time to plant for fall crops.  Celeriac, winter radishes, rutabagas, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, parsnips, salsify and scorzonera if your tastes run that way.
I've got a bit more garden space left and in an area with superb soil, so I'll choose carefully.

Today's baskets contained a head of heirloom lettuce, chard, kale, your first taste of tomato, gooseberries, parsley, mint, golden purslane, zucchini or pepper, rat tailed radishes.

So purslane-what to do? Pesto!

Purslane Pesto
1 bunch purslane
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tsps honey

Blend together all ingredients and enjoy!