Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer Recipes

As promised here are some recipes for a couple of delicious summertime additions to the kitchen.  First is Baby Carrot Top and Basil Pesto.  A nice treat in the early summer when early basil is ready and the carrot tops haven't become bitter.  You will need the following:
 A bunch of basil.

A bunch of baby carrots with the greens still attached.

You will need some sort of garlic.  At this time of year that means Garlic Scapes.  This is essentially the seed stalk of the garlic plant.  It's more complicated than that but essentially that covers it.  But it's edible.  In fact the entire plant from bulb to greens to scape is edible.  So for now, until the bulbs begin to be harvested in August you can use the scapes.  Below is the Parker Family Recipe.

Baby Carrot Top and Basil Pesto.

1/4 bunch Parker Family Farm Baby Carrots with Greens
1/4 bunch Parker Family Farm Fresh Basil
1 stalk Garlic Green
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1-2 tbs organic olive oil
3 tbs pine nuts or salted cashews (if using cashews leave out the tsp salt).

Remove the leaves from the stems of the basil and place in a food processor.  Remove tops from carrots and place greens in processor with basil leaves.  Remove the roots from the garlic greens stalk and chop coarsely.  Add garlic to processor to taste.  (remember that the white part of the garlic green is stronger than the green leaves at the tip)  Add all other ingredients to food processor.  Process on high until smooth.  Add to chicken, pork chops/ham or combine with vinaigrette mixture for grilled romaine.
FYI, carrot tops are incredibly high in nutrients that other leafy greens lack, such as potassium, due to the deep reaching tap root of the carrot.  Thus, you can increase the benefits of pesto by adding carrot tops.  Young, tender tops are best as they loose their sweetness later in the season.  

Next is a new discovery for us that is quite a nice surprise.  Grilled Romaine.  One of my customers at the Hampden Farmer's Market suggested it a couple weeks ago.  I came home, looked up some recipes, gave it my own twist and the rest is, well, delicious.

Grilled Romaine:

Remove the stem up to the bottom leaves.  Be sure to leave enough of the stem that the leaves remain intact.  Using a sharp knife, remove the top 1-2 inches of the lettuce head in one, even cut.  Combine the following in a small bowl:  1 tbs organic olive oil, 1 tbs organic vinaigrette (flavor of your choice), salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbs minced garlic leaves or garlic cloves.  Using a basting brush, coat the entire outside of the romaine evenly.  Place on the rack of a preheated grill and cook for 4-5 minutes turning occasionally.  Be sure to watch the romaine closely while cooking to avoid the oil catching fire.  Remove from the grill and carefully cut the lettuce into quarters the long way.  Sprinkle with Kenona Farm Goat Cheese and serve immediately.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Long time no post!

Greetings!  It's hard to believe it's been so long since I was able to post to the farm blog but there it is.  Always a million things to do!  While I'm harvesting for market I figured I'd let the computer upload some photos from this morning, taken before sunrise.  Things are really bursting here at the farm as we approach the solstice.  
 Yesterday we received our newest batch of chicks.  7 Barred Rocks.
 The raspberry crop is looking like it has the potential to be mighty fine!
 Our grapes are also shaping up nicely.
 Last year I put in 8 high bush blueberry plants.  Looks like we might see some fruit this year (if I can keep the chickens out of them!
 I spent these last few rainy days in the hoop houses trying to mulch everything and solve the weed problem. Not to shabby.
 I'm very happy with this year's first Rouge D'Hiver Romaine offering.  Sizing up nicely and looking it's usual beautiful self.
 Scallions planted in between.  No wasted space!

 Peas, Romaine and beet greens all in the same bed.
 Thanks to Becky and Lydia the carrots are looking very, very weed free!

 Don't look now but under the row cover the zucchini is flowering.  Shhhhhh...
Sunflowers in the process of being mulched.  There are also peas just emerging in there but you can't see them yet.  I'll plant pole beans at the base of the sunflowers and they'll grow together.
This one flowered early.  So pretty I'll let him off the hook.
Our newest hoop house is all mulched and nearly trellised.  It's set-up in the style of the french market gardens.  Hopefully it will yield many a watermelon, muskmelon and some serious cucumbers!
The boys at breakfast time!  Get out of the way...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A layer of protection from the elements

One thing I learned about farming right at the beginning was the importance of an extra layer of protection.  This is true for me, the farmer who must be out in the elements no matter what they happen to be on any given day.  It is also true for the plants, for some cultivars, throughout their lives here at the farm.  Eliot Coleman talks about this in several of his books.  One more layer of protection can be the difference between survival and a good harvest, or wilted, dead plants.
A layer of protection is helpful, it turns out, to many things at the farm and I've tried to apply one to as many things as possible this season.  Some of these ideas are well practiced here at the farm but others are new experiments this winter in an effort to try and make certain chores more efficient.
Something I do every year is take cuttings from some of our fruit and nut trees during the pruning process.  These cuttings are called scion and they can be grafted onto other specimens to duplicate the genetic characteristics of the tree from which the scion came.  Storing the scion is an issue because it needs to remain very cold but not freeze and it also needs to be protected from drying.  The way I accomplish this (and many people do this same thing) is to put the scion into reused plastic bags (labeled!) and pack them in snow inside a cooler.  It works quite well.  As the snow melts (eventually) the water is still cold but helps to keep the scion moist. 

A perpetual problem in our climate in the winter is keeping things from freezing.  While there are many things I want to be frozen such as the skating pond and the top few inches of soil in the garden (pest control), there are also innumerable things I don't want to freeze.  One example is the pig milk.  Each week I go to a local grocery store to pick up their spent dairy products which would otherwise go into the trash compactor at the back of the store.  This is something the pigs really enjoy and it also helps to lessen the staggering statistics on food waste in the U.S. (There is a brief discussion of this in the most recent ACRES  But in the winter the milk obviously freezes.  This has led me in the past to bring it into the basement of the farmhouse.  This adds about an hour to my labor each week because of the extra walking, not to mention it's up and down a flight of stairs and through my in-law's living room, etc.  Not the best set-up.  So this season I took some insulation I had from another project and built a small 'warmer'.  I took two windows (seriously, I never throw away anything that might have a future use) and framed up an insulated box facing south through one of the barn doors.  The glass acts as a solar collector and the insulation keeps just enough heat from escaping to prevent the milk from freezing.  The milk crates are black and that helps too.  Thus far, nothing has frozen!

The other project I mentioned above is this new closet for the water pump.  One of the yearly rituals has habitually been unhooking the water pump in the fall, bringing it to the basement and storing it until spring when the process is reversed.  This has always meant that I've simply 'made do' by lugging water from the house for the couple months of late winter when it's too cold for the pump but the seedlings have been started.  But as I've begun to grow more and more this has become a non sequitur.  I could spend all day every day hauling water 10 gallons at a time all the way from the house, pouring them into watering cans and then watering the seedlings.  I have also had to bring water for the animals.  This new closet has saved me countless hours already just for watering the pigs and chickens.  I'm also building a new seedling house (another post about that will arrive at the Thought Grower soon) and once it's up and running I'll need water. This closet along with some black hose and electric heat tape (powered by the farm's 6 Kw photovoltaic array) will allow me to be much more successful in the beginning of the season and that translates into stronger, healthier, less stressed seedling being transplanted into the garden when the time comes.  
The lumber for this closet came from the farm which made building it even more rewarding.
You may also be able to see the black extension cord draped over the wall and going down into the insulation.  This is a key feature.  It's a light bulb which I plug in when the weather is going to be particularly cold for a particularly long stretch (not unlike the stretch we're in right now).  With the layer of protection provided by the insulation, this light bulb produces enough heat to keep the water pump from freezing.

Projects like these are definitely getting crossed off the TCWUW list left and right this winter.  I'm also hoping to construct an ice house and a new packing shed which will also save me countless hours in the long-run because I've always used the old milk room in the barn (fairly distant from the garden) to store veggies.  That's a lot of wasted time walking back and forth to/from the garden.  Hopefully, all this will be done by the end of February!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

After a quick harvest for our Hampden area members I moved one of our greenhouses.  I was finally able to align the stars and catch it on video.  I'll include links to the Youtube channel so anyone who is interested can watch the video and see how we make our mobile houses work in the garden.  First, some new items on our weekly member's email list.  
Brussels Sprouts aren't new but with the first couple of major frosts behind us they will begin to sweeten up.  A real treat!

Speaking of treats, here is one to go with the trick or treat holiday.  I experimented with a late planting of white satin and scarlet nantes carrots and it paid off with our Halloween Carrots Mix.  Beautiful, seasonal and delicious!

I forgot to rotate this picture before putting it on here but you can see one of the key ingredients in next spring's greenhouse move success.  If you don't grease the rails before assembly they don't come apart very easily (and that's a nice way of saying it)!

And here is the greenhouse all prepped and just about ready to move.  You can see the newly shaped, fed and planted beds in the foreground.  At this hour it's already nestled into it's new home for winter.  I've included the links to the videos I shot this morning while moving it.  Be careful with the first one if you are easily motion sick from video.  Sorry, my first walking and filming didn't go well but I didn't realize it until I watched the video later.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Happy Fall!  What a week this is shaping up to be.  I'll be working on our firewood, planting and mulching garlic and getting beds prepped and planted for the annual fall greenhouse move.  The weather will hopefully cooperate with a respite from the rain.  Before getting the week started I figured it was high time for a blog post.  Below is a photo of some of the ribbons from the Common Ground Fair.  I wasn't able to take the time for a photo shoot while we still had the fresh greens, peas and beans but the ribbons in front represent those items.  All in all we did pretty well.  28 items entered, 13 blue ribbons and 14 red.

This Connecticut Field Pumpkin was one of my favorite entries from our farm.

The next few photos are dedicated to Tim.  He is probably back in England now but he was an invaluable addition to our farm this spring.  In fact, without his help we wouldn't have had nearly the amazing onion crop we have.  He dedicated himself to the health and watering of our seedlings in the spring.  I know he'll take pride in these ribbons for our Ailsa Craig, Red Wing and Patterson Onions.  

Some of our dry beans!

I'm very pleased with this Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.  I had never grown them before but they are now a permanent addition to the Parker Family Farm annual squash field.

Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage.  We didn't have much of a cabbage crop this year but hopefully I'll get a chance to convert what we did get into kraut!

Diablo Brussels Sprouts...and lots of them!

Leeks.  This year I experimented with a new inter-planting idea.  Leeks in the middle of our early beet crop.  It worked very well.  Now the beets are long gone and thanks to Jim and I the leeks are all well mulched for fall.


The weekly Brussels Sprouts harvest requires a long, sturdy cart (only 10 stalks is nearly too much for me to push up the hill to the compost pile) to move them to the compost pile for de-leafing and heading.  

Well, that's all for now.  Off to prep beds and stack firewood.  Be well.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Welcoming Autumn on the farm

Happy Autumn everyone!  Lizzie wasn't feeling well this morning so I stayed home from market.  This not only gave me the rare opportunity to take my time with the harvest and packing, but also to do a long delayed blog update.  And it turns out autumn is a wonderful time to catch things on the farm in photos.  Below are some of the items that are currently being pulled in from the gardens and some items that are soon to be available to our members and at markets.

Our large, slicing tomatoes are a big hit this time of year.  Not long from now the plants will be frosted but until then we'll get plenty of enjoyment from a great tomato season.

Our newest offering is a mix of baby chard, baby beet greens and baby lettuce.  This is also a very popular item after a month and a half without lettuce or greens during the heat of summer.  Nice to be back!

The winter squash field is looking very nice with the plants dying back to reveal a bounty like none I've experienced thus far as a farmer.  It makes me look forward to our annual tour during which we'll offer hay rides for pumpkins!

Farmer's Choice Heirloom Tomato Mix.

Blue Hubbard Squash.  This one is the size of a beach ball!  Enjoy Jim!

Lemon Cucumbers.  Our Farmer's Choice Share Members will find two pounds of these beauties in their share bag this week.  They are a wonderful, interesting, prolific cucumber.  This time of year when we start to get a little rain again and it's still hot, the plants go nuts and so does the amount of fruit.  I can barely stay ahead of them and I only have 5 plants!

Your standard salad cucumbers.

Another item that our FCS members will find this week that's new is this flat pod Italian type of green bean.  Don't let the 'weird' shape fool you.  This is a great tasting bean.  Unlike many of our other bush beans though, I recommend cooking this one rather than sampling raw.  They tend to be a bit 'toothy' when raw but that disappears when sauteed lightly in olive oil or steamed.

A flat, yellow podded pole bean.

Another shot.  Ok I was just enjoying playing with Em's fancy camera here.

Ruby Ring Onions.  I'm sometimes surprised when orders come in on Monday night about what is hot on the list.  This was one of those cases.  Our members like red onions...who knew?

Our lettuce mix is back as summer winds down and autumn picks up.

Another new item for our FCS members.  Red Kuri Squash.  This is considered an Hubbard squash and is marketed by Johnny's Selected Seeds (where I purchased the seed for this variety) as a 'Baby Red Hubbard.  There is nothing baby about the flavor or the color though.  Very nice addition to the autumn harvest field.

People also went nutty for garlic this week.  I as surprised to see how much we needed to clean and pack.  This is a beautiful example of Russian Red.  I nearly kept this one out for my yearly entry into the Common Ground Fair Exhibition Hall.

Acorn Squash

New England Pie Pumpkin

Delicata Squash on the left, Buttercup on the right.

Butternut, a later squash, which I was pleasantly surprised to see is beginning to be ready in the squash patch.  Can't wait for the first butternut of the year.

We grow and Heirloom pumpkin for jack-o-lanterns.  Connecticut Field Pumpkin.  I actually passed by the largest one I've ever grown last night in the field.  I can't wait to show Lizzie and Martin.

Ok, this is the highlight of my season.  Lizzie and I look forward to going to Mainely Apples in Dixmont every year as autumn draws near.  However, I also graft my own fruit trees with the intention of someday having an orchard of rare varieties that I cannot get from our friends in Dixmont.  Anyway, I graft every year and you always have to assume that if you're lucky and take care of the trees you'll get a crop of apples in 5-20 years.  I was walking by the nursery this morning and happened to notice this apple on one of the trees that I grafted 2 years ago!  The first apple of the season is always a momentous event for me when we go and pick at the orchard.  But I can tell you it is nothing compared to the excitement of the first apple ever in your own orchard from a tree you grafted.  I can't wait to show Lizzie and Martin and Emily and then slice into this beautiful apple.

Our honey bees are performing admirably in their top bar hive preparing for winter.

Now for some of the potatoes that will be available to our members shortly on the weekly email list.  This is my favorite potato.  Butte.  It's a russet and quite wonderful both from the viewpoint of the grower and an eater.


Always knocking on the door of Butte for my favorite are these amazing spuds.  King Harry is a variety I have grown for a few seasons now and I really love them.  They produce under pressure from weeds and potato beetles but they also taste great.  A nice baking potato.

That's all for now.   I am off to build some more drying racks for our onions as we continue to harvest them and then off to Bangor to deliver for our Members.  Be well.