Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Harvest Share - December

Well, Christmas is almost upon us. Last night I delivered the first of the December Holiday Harvest Shares to Bangor. Below is a picture of one part of the share. I couldn't fit everything into the boxes so I had to add a bag for the potatoes and apples. The share consists of 1 Blue Hubbard Squash, 2 Long Pie Pumpkins, 1 Spaghetti Squash, 2 Baby Buttercup Squash, 2 Baby Butternut Squash, 2 Bulbs Elephant Garlic, 2 Bulbs German Extra Hardy Garlic, 4 lbs Red Cipollini Onions, 5 lbs Mixed Yellow Onions, 3 Bunches Danvers 126 Carrots, 1 Bunch Parsnips, 1 Bag of Tadorna Leeks, 1 gallon of Cider, pressed yesterday and 1 bag of apples. All Cider and Apples are from Mainely Apples in Dixmont, a small, family owned and operated orchard. There is also a bag with 12 lbs of potatoes. 3lbs each of Keuka Gold, Kennebec, Butte and Red Norland.
Here is the share in all it's glory! This is quite a bit of food and frankly, should last the average family of four well past one Christmas Dinner. Everything in the share with the exception of the apples, cider, carrots and parsnips are from our root cellar and were harvested this fall. The carrots and parsnips were dug from the snow covered earth just last week. Everything can be stored in the root cellar at your home with the exception of the cider (unless you want vinegar) which should go in the fridge or freezer (if you want to drink it later [don't forget to take out about a cup or two to leave room for expansion]).
Some notes about a few things in the share:
The potatoes all represent different methods of culinary preparation. The Keuka Gold (which are the small gold ones on the bottom of the bage) and Red Norland potatoes are best for boiling or roasting as they are small and tender. The Kennebec (the larger yellow ones in the middle) are a great baking potato and the Buttes (the dark brown, long narrow tubers) are a russet. This makes them good for french fries or frying in general.
Parsnips are one of those root crops that really should be grown and eaten by the majority of the people in Maine. They are extremely hardy. I have the majority of mine in the garden still, under the snow and will harvest them next spring when they will be sweeter for the cold and snow. A great idea for cooking parsnips is to put them in a pie. There is a great recipe in the Fedco Seeds 2009 catalog but you should be able to find one on the internet by searching 'parsnip pie'. I don't recommend eating them raw as they are quite an acquired taste that way.
The Hubbard squash is a very large variety. The 'skin' as it were is actually more like a suit of armor. Cutting into it is not for the weak at heart. Make sure you are careful and have a big knife and lots of elbow grease.
Other than that everything is self explanatory. I hope you enjoy and that everyone has a safe, happy and local food holiday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Inside activities

Well, the first part of the seed order for 2010 has been mailed. I work with a group of farmers in Winterport and beyond to compile a group order for Fedco Seeds and we just sent in that order today. I took this picture a couple weeks ago when I needed a slight break from compiling seed orders and perusing catalogs. (Photo ops make nice breaks.) This planning phase is one of my favorite times of the year. People seem to think that all of my work is done in the summer. I work just as hard throughout the year but on different things. Right now we're working on planning next year's crops, crop rotations and more. I've also been working in the greenhouse to repair the damage from our windstorm and cleaning up some of the things that took a back seat this summer. After the holiday the real work begins as I will need to begin to do things like oil tools, make soil blocks, prep work stations, get in applications for our apprentice program and so many other things. The list never gets shorter...but what a wonderful way to live.
Speaking of wonderful ways to live, here is a shot of part of our root cellar, which is broken into two major categories. As you can see, this is the section where we keep our pumpkins, squash, some onions and garlic and my home made beer and hard cider. On a day like today when it's hard to think of anything growing outside (actually it's hard to even think straight it is so cold) it's a wonderful sight to open the basement door and be greeted by a bounty like this. Why 'civilization' ever got away from subsistence living is literally beyond me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the bright side

Hooray! The greenhouse is finished (again) not a moment too soon. The new, improved design is simpler to allow for easier moving when the time comes and I bought some serious anchors for the corners. You can sort of see one on the near corner, it's sunk in the ground about 2 feet and then bolted and screwed to the foundation of the greenhouse. John also had two 50 gallon drums full of cement lying idle on a stone wall. They are now tied to the middle of the greenhouse. Just in time for another blizzard and wind storm yesterday. It's still standing and after yesterday I have confidence that it will make it through the winter.
Holiday harvest shares are coming up for the Christmas share folks. I went out in the garden today and shoveled the snow to reveal fresh carrots. Here they are, fresh from the garden, the good earth, spongy and sweet, still clinging to the sugary roots. Most root crops can be stored in the ground the way they grow until spring with a heavy mulch. An early, substantial snow like this makes an awesome mulch. Isn't nature grand when we get out of the way and recognize that she is providing for all her creatures?
Here is our meal from the other night when it snowed. How local are you? The dish shows pumpkin soup with dried thyme, both of which came from our gardens, (milk from grass fed cows at the Old Ackley Farm in Blue Hill), roasted garlic from the garden, spaghetti squash with fresh thyme, also from the gardens and root cellar. The bread was a last minute thing or it would have been local as well. But for the bread everything on the table came from no more than 30 miles from our house. We're getting better all the time, striving to be completely self-sufficient.

Finally, our beautiful baby girl helping daddy make pumpkin cookies from our Long Pie Pumpkins (another gift from the root cellar...and a summer of hard work). She loves to stand up on a chair and help us cook. She gets her own spoons, spices and pile of flour. A wonderful tradition passed down through the generations from my wife's grandmother.

Doesn't she look grown up in her apron and so strong to carry that heavy pumpkin all the way from the door to the cellar to the kitchen. She is very much enjoying the cookies as a reward for all of her wonderful help.

Until next time...
local food, global change

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a twistah!

I have recently learned that there is nothing more shocking and depressing than walking around the corner of a barn, looking out over the garden at a glance and then doing a double take because there is no greenhouse where there should be a greenhouse. Nothing, that is, except walking further around the corner and discovering what is left of the greenhouse and where it ended up.
Saturday was a windy one at the farm (and at the Burgess Farm that's saying something). Travesty struck...several times. Here is our brand new, fully mobile greenhouse in all its glory.
And here it is 1 wind storm and 75 ft later. The wind was powerful enough to pick the entire thing up (ripping the anchors out of the ground) and set it down 15 feet away and then drag it another 60 or so feet.
These pictures really don't do it justice. You can sort of see where the new wheel system dragged through the garden. It also ripped through our low tunnels, crops and newly prepped beds. I also have pictures of the snap pea trellises in horizontal position (that isn't how I last left them) and our new stake organization boxes on their sides (also not how I last left them). Nature is awesome in all her glory. Sigh...time to start again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday in which they were surrounded by family and friends and wonderful food. I spent the day threshing beans in the barn (great rainy day activity in the fall). These first two photos are the result. First is Tiger Eye and the next picture is Saturday Night Special (an heirloom variety developed by a Maine breeder several decades ago). There are lots more to do and it's tiresome work so I'll save it for another day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday Harvest Thanksgiving Share

Happy Holidays! Thanksgiving is almost upon us and that means that our Holiday Harvest Shares are finally ready to be harvested, put together and delivered. I have spent the last week preparing the boxes and bags and filling them with the items from our root cellar. This all culminated today, which I spent, mostly in the rain (flashback to summer!) harvesting the plethora of fresh food from our gardens, greenhouse and low tunnels. Here is a shot of what our Holiday Harvest Share members will be receiving today.

This is the first season we have offered this Holiday Harvest option and I'm quite pleased with how the Thanksgiving version ended up. I'm very interested to know how our members feel after hosting their various holiday get-togethers. The share includes, in the front row: beets, carrots, turnips (both large storage type and small bunched, butternut squash, broccoli, decorative gourds, salad mix (baby spinach, baby Bull's Blood beet greens, baby Red Salad Bowl lettuce), spinach, apples from Mainely Apples in Dixmont (a family orchard run by some friends of ours), potatoes (white and red skin), baby onions, Long Pie pumpkin and buttercup squash. On the top row: leeks, large onions, freshly pressed cider (also from Mainely Apples), decorative white pumpkin, Elephant garlic, German Extra Hardy garlic, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Here is everything bagged up and ready to go.

If you happened to get on of the pie pumpkins that isn't fully ripe you can hasten the process by keeping it in a warm, sunny spot. A south facing window is a wonderful place to ripen a pie pumpkin. Also remember that fruit ripens from the inside out. The color that we associate with ripe is simply natures way of telling us that the fruit is ready inside. So even if the pumpkin isn't fully orange by the time you are ready to use it, chances are it will still be ripe enough on the inside.

Enjoy and happy holiday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Blog - What's new at Parker Produce

Welcome to the new and improved Parker Produce Blog. We hope that this new blog will be easier to use for both us and our members.

Looking outside right now I can see the heaviest frost of the season. But there are a lot of wonderful things still happening in our garden. I removed some row covers the other day to behold some beautiful purple cauliflower had begun to ripen. These are transplants that I am putting under quick tunnels.
I have also finished construction (but for a few cosmetic touches) on our new, movable greenhouse. You can see the track system below. The examples I have seen are all metal but I wanted to use local vendors and materials so I got cedar from a sawmill in Corinna and bought my track from a fence company in Newport. It came out great. I can't wait to move it in the spring with nothing more than some elbow grease.

Finally, I just wanted to plug our Winter Club. A few of our CSA members have been enjoying produce from our root cellar and fresh from the gardens. You too can sign up to receive emails telling you what we have available each week. Imagine fresh spinach, lettuce, carrots, turnips, beet greens and much more from right here in Maine throughout the winter. If you would like to receive these emails please contact me and I'll get you on the list. Enjoy the sunshine!