Some of the most nutrient rich vegetables like Kale and Spinach can also be some of the most unfamiliar when it comes to preparing and cooking often scaring folks away from purchasing and/or growing these amazing greens.
Most greens such as Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Mustard Greens can be prepared in many different ways (sauteing, boiling, eating raw in salads, and even baking). We love to cook in our house and there are several ”foodie” blogs that help in our efforts to preparing meals with these various greens. Here are a few of our favorites!
For the past few weeks we have barely had time to stop. Everyday we have a new “to do” list that is daunting and exhilarating. Josh and I both secretly love our lists, seeing checks by all of the items accomplished for the day. My Type A personality is rubbing off on him. School is just about out for the summer which means more time to dig, plant, weed, harvest, repair, etc., etc. Josh’s mother flew in from Colorado this week and has been a tremendous help during this time of planting. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of the help. There are not enough hours in the day and it only reaffirms my constant thought that time just goes by way too fast.
What’s New: Fence, Lots of greens growing in the hoop house, 20 + tomato plants transplanted in the garden rows and in the hoop, 100 + leeks transplanted into the ground, 25 + cabbages transplanted, cantaloupe, herb beds growing, mustard greens, potatoes, and red, yellow, white onions in the ground. Unfortunately the bunnies got a hold of all of our broccoli transplants before the fence was completed; we will need to re-sow. The chicks do not look like chicks any longer and literally change in appearance overnight. All-in-all, things are looking good for our first season and a VERY late, cool, wet spring.
When the snow melts you have to start and thankfully the weather has finally allowed for some good work time outdoors.
The farm is coming alive as spring arrives and the list of “to do” is continual. We have four raised beds of greens planted in the hoop house with the sowing being in 3 week increments: Tat Soi, Arugula, Kale, Swiss Chard, Loose Leaf Black Seeded Simpson, Loose Leaf Red Salad Bowl, Bibb Lettuce, Lincoln Sweet Peas, and radishes.
The greens are coming along nicely and should produce a decent salad by the first of June for our members. We have started to harden off other vegetables (brussel sprouts and leeks) that were started in the green house, always a good sign of warmer weather. Once we can be sure that overnight temperatures are going to be consistently warmer we can transplant 45+ tomato plants!
In the evening after school, Handy J has been building a layered fence around the pasture garden to prevent the herd(s) of deer that meander through the area. He also finished the chicken coop just in time for the arrival of our 10 Rhode Island Red chicks which arrived on Monday afternoon. So far all 10 are still peeping, eating, drinking, and pooping. The signs of life are all around us and the adventure continues!
Our resident artist, Handy J’s mother, designed wonderful garden bed labels during her recent visit. Each label drawn by hand with plant/growing specifics. We look forward to getting a ton of use out of them and are so thankful to her for helping make our garden beds an organized system! A big thank you goes out to Handy J’s family: father, mother, sister, brother-in-law for helping on the farm and getting some big projects checked off the list!
Although it has been a less than desirable spring due to snow, cold temps, and more snow, we are still very excited to get the growing season underway. We have already started many plants and have high expectations for a plentiful bounty for our shareholders for the 2013 growing season!
- salad mix greens: Arugula, Tat Soi, Head Lettuce, Loose Leaf, Romaine, Kale, Collards, Swiss Chard
- tomatoes (many varieties-all heirloom)
- zucchini and squash
- beans: dry beans, shell beans, & fresh snap
- wild blackberries
- leeks and onions
- herbs (planted/fresh cut)
- eggs (Rhode Island Red – brown eggs)
- maple syrup (1 Jar)
- pumpkins and gourds
- Variety of annuals: marigolds, diablo cosmos, bachelors buttons, one perennial butterfly bush
It would seem that Groundhogs are bad at predicting the weather. Our winter this year struck hard in the month of March reminding us of its cold fury. I have been wondering if it will go out like a lamb or like a lion? Thankfully we have had some days with upper 30′s and with sunshine it feels like a heat wave! Winter can’t hold out to much…the signs of spring are beginning and hope is just around the door.
One of the surest signs of spring for us this month has been the rise and fall of the river with the spring thaw and freeze. One week it is rising then next it is frozen solid. This same freeze/thaw cycle is the reason we have Maple Sap runs in the woods right now. The rising temperatures get the freeze/thaw cycle moving for the sap runs in March. As of now we have collected just under two gallons of sap from 6 taps. Mind you this is paltry to the 30: 1 ration of gallons to sap to finished Maple Syrup. I think that we will hit a more regular flow this week with temps starting to ebb upwards into the 40′s. This is fine by me as the wood stove that I plan on finishing the Maple Syrup off in arrives next weekend.
This being my first year the learning curve is steep. Reading extension bulletins, DNR guides, and magazine articles I put together a somewhat planned and organized attempt.
What is going well: 3/25/13
- Purchased Taps arrived on time
- Re-purposing plastic food grade tubs attach nicely to tree and are easy to pour out with a turn.
- 7/16 drill bit for my brace was on sale!
- One of the trees is out producing the others dramatically. So I tapped it again on (3/24)
- Using Re-purposed Ice Cream buckets for storage in fridge until boil down.
- We have around 2 gallons of sap so something must be working!
- Wood burning Stove arrives soon!
What is not going well:
- One tree has been completely dry.
- Squirrel is onto me. Gnawed a bucket to get in. Squirrel=0 Me=1
- Stag-horn Sumac tap creates an amber color as it drains thru the Hollow Branch
- One tap was too shallow and it leaked Sap the first day. Bad tap = little sap
- The lids the containers have rub up against the bark so that debris falls into sap. This will be filtered….but…
- I maybe should have ordered a few extra taps
Update as of 4/8/13
- We had a run last week basically from March 28th to about April 6th.
- Pulling in maybe 8-12 gallons a day on 6 taps.
- Boiling down on the woodstove is slow but worth it in the long run. I love the hint of smokey flavor.
- Finishing inside has been a learning process. Our first batch was highly concentrated and a beautiful dark amber. The next batches were not concentrated enough and hence were a lighter grade honey like color. This has been adjusted.
- I almost couldn’t keep up with the sap. We were running out of containers and I had a lot.
We love maple syrup in our family; who doesn’t like real deal maple syrup. The one thing about maple syrup that I don’t like is the cost. With 15 or so maple trees on the property, we are going to attempt to tap that sap!
A bit of research on Handy J’s part always leads him down some interesting paths. He postulates that there are roughly 15 or so trees that could be tapped on our farm. Most he believes are Silver Maples which have a sugar content of 2-2.5 %. This compared to Sugar Maples at a 3-5% sugar content. Basically it comes down to boiling. Lower sugar content means more boiling to remove the water from the sap.
His plan is basically to tap only a few trees this year to feel it out and not overburden us with the long process of boiling down tree water (outside). We are planning on tapping six trees this year. This should produce around 60 gallons of sap for the season, we hope. Then its boiling time to reduce that 60 gallons to basically 10 quarts of sap. Not a years supply by any means but a start.
Now its time to order the spiles or make our own out of Staghorn Sumac branches, which Handy J is tempted to try out. Nothing like attempting some pioneering skills to save $2.00 on equipment!
So now to the trees we watch and wait for sap to start running. Hello signs of Spring!
35 Tomato plant seedlings currently under grow lights.
Last Saturday evening we were getting our hands dirty planting another batch of seeds. It was a family affair as Handy J’s mother was in town and helped us divide and replant, get more seeds started, and watched two little munchkins while we gave the green house a thorough cleaning before we jam pack it full of seeds!
The weather is starting to warm (37 degrees) and the snow/layers of ice are starting to melt away. Let’s hope that furry, little groundhog tale has some truth to it and that winter is wrapping up soon! We’ve got plants to grow!
On the planting list for 2/23/2013:
- Broccoli (Waltham, 12 starts)
- Cauliflower (Early Snowball, 12 starts)
- Leeks (American Flag, over 100 leek seeds)
- Cabbage (Early Jersey Wakefield, Winningstadt, Late Flat Dutch – 12 starts each)
Our seed inventory is quite extensive and is kept in Handy J’s black garden journal – it is a treasured book full of farm/garden research, lists, ideas, and a few bits of male randomness. It has a Table of Contents, it’s written solely in pencil (the use of pen is strictly forbidden), and it’s totally Handy J. In this farm story book is our 2013 Seed Order. The following are seeds that have been replenished due to their previous successes or newly added seeds to add to our gardening repertoire:
- Waltham Broccoli
- Long Island Improved Brussels
- Minnesota Midget Canteloupe
- Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard
- Marketmore 76 Cucumber
- Red Salad Bowl – Lettuce
- Red Russian Kale
- Black Seeded Simpson – Lettuce
- Lincoln – Pea
- Black Beauty – Zuke
- Giant Mammoth Sunflower
- French B-fast – Radish
- Autumn King Carrot
- Scarlet Nantes Carrot
- Colossa Red Magel Beet
- Purple Globe - Turnip
- Rouge de Hiver – Romaine
- Tom Thumb – Bibb
- Vermont Cranberry Shell Bean
- Blacktail Mountain – Watermelon
What I’ve learned: I have a difficult time reading Handy J’s handwriting.
When we purchased the farm, one of the features that excited us was a large hoop house that sat on the property. One valued at around $9,000 something we would never have had extra funds to construct. It was built by the previous owners back in 2002 and has had little use in several years. It is in need of some repairs and restoration.
A view from inside of the hoop house as Handy J begins to build raised beds.
Initially, we thought all of the plastic on the hoop house would need to be replaced which estimates to be around $450. Not excited. After speaking with a representative from the company, there is hope that we can perhaps put it off a year by band-aiding some of the tears with Poly Patch. Feeling better. It is also potentially in need of three new blowers which are around $73 each. Handy J and his trusted sidekick father are going to give them some cleaning and oiling with hopes that the blowers will once again run and inflate the hoop house as needed.
With spring just around the corner and planting season already underway in the green house, having the hoop house to extend our growing season by months will be essential. It gives gardening in the north land a southern feel!