Thursday, April 30, 2009

Goats on parade

If it can be said that there is anything fun about washing dishes, then for me, the fun part is gazing out the kitchen window. The window overlooks the wooded slope behind the house, and this is where chickens, and recently goats, put on daily parades for my personal entertainment. For some reason, watching the entire troop of goats wander back and forth across the hill together just tickles me. It is especially exciting to watch the goats climbing trees-- there is a fallen tree that extends several yards above the ground, and some of the goats like to jump onto the trunk and walk the balance beam, as if showing off for each other. Goat gymnasts.
I was raised in the suburbs, which are pretty deficient in goats and chickens. Perhaps someday the novelty of this will wear off. But it hasn't yet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CSA members, start your engines...

Well, I'm sure we are all very excited for the beginning of CSA boxes starting next week. Here in the Harmony Valley kitchen, I am charged with preparing dinner using the vegatables in each week's CSA box -- one week ahead of the actual pickup date. So this week I have a box full of next week's forecasted CSA veggies. The week's lead time gives me a chance to experiment with veggie combinations and, hopefully, develop some fun recipes for the newsletter. So I am your guinea pig here on the farm. Actually, Andrea, Terri, and Richard are the real guinea pigs.

So far this week, I have made a burdock beef stir fry (not bad- the burdock retains a pleasant crunchy texture. Make sure to cut it pretty small, or it becomes a tiresome mouthful) and am planning a turkey and sorrel salad for tomorrow night's dinner. I have ideas for the ramps, chives, spinach, and of course the parsnips, which are always a delight to work with. I'm not quite sure yet what to do with those sunchokes. This is complicated by the fact two members of the household are not on very friendly terms with sunchokes. Still, eat from the box we must, and eat from the box we shall. We'll find something to do with those sunchokes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Root veggie study session

Well, my first two weeks cooking on the farm have been very interesting. For our meals, we try to eat from the farm as much as possible. During the early part of the growing season, before there is very much harvesting going on, this means eating lots of storage crops from last season. I had expected that this would mean lots of potatoes, winter squash, and maybe some rutabaga. Actually, I am amazed at the wide variety of veggies that Harmony Valley grows and stores for the winter. Besides the expected potatoes, we have several kinds of radishes, beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, turnips, celeriac, parsley root, parsnips, and newly harvested sunchokes and burdock. Wow. With all of these root veggies around, it can be a little daunting for a new chef trying to remember what's what. I have, on several occasions now, mistaken beets for radishes and radishes for turnips. Although, in my defense, those beauty heart radishes are huge. Like no radishes I've seen before. And those chioggia beets are very exotic looking. Nothing like the predicatable red and brown beets I am used to.
But I'm learning! That's why I am here. So, I have decided that I would benefit from a set of root veggie flash cards. If anyone knows where I can get these, please let me know.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good enough to write home about!

OMG it smells so good up in the office! I can't believe I have to smell these smells & not eat for another 3 hours!
Meet our new Summer Chef, Bri. She is awesome. She spent last week getting acquainted with the kitchen, planning some menus & doing an inventory of meat & pantry supplies.
This week she got a practice run, cooking for an abbreviated crew of about 15 before the rest of the crew arrives on Monday & she'll be cooking for about 40! (Word is that ALL of last year's crew passed their H2A interviews & will return, plus a bunch of new guys. Yay!)
Here's what we've had this week:
Monday - Cream of parsnip soup with ham, Sunflower bread (homemade) & strawberry jam, coleslaw
Tuesday - Beef chili, Rhubarb corn muffin (yum!), steamed carrots & turnips
Wednesday - Beans & sausage, braised cabbage, biscuits, fruit salad (apples & strawberries -yum!)
Thursday - Lasagna, garlic bread (homemade - I should have taken a picture - the loaves were so beautiful!), apple walnut cabbage salad (yum! this woman is creative with the cabbage!)
Friday - this is what I smell this morning, I bet it will taste as good as it smells! Turkey dumpling stew, roasted veggies (she's not sure yet what veggies she'll do - she doesn't want to repeat the turnips & carrots (even though they were really good), but since we've been cleaning the coolers & rearranging, she can't find exactly what she wants), & chocolate cupcakes.
It's always a good sign when a bunch of the crew goes back for seconds!
She also cooks dinner for Richard, Andrea & myself (and anyone else who might come to live at the farm). She can be a little more experimental with us and maybe test out some new recipes to use in the CSA newsletters. Here's what we've feasted on this week:
Monday - Cheeseburgers with carmelized onions, burdock fries, baked apples with rhubarb & walnuts
Tuesday - Garlic ginger pork (yum!), rice, orange almond salad (OMG yum!)
Wednesday - Steak with a ramp & bleu cheese sauce, sweet potato wedges, quinoa salad (which garnered a "this girl is cool" response from Richard):
Spring Confetti Salad
This colorful, crunchy side dish gets its flavor from fresh ramps, one of our customers’ favorite early spring vegetables.

½ cup quinoa
½ cup black radish, grated (or lightly steamed chioggia beets, sliced)
½ cup Carrot, finely diced
½ a bunch of fresh ramps
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Rinse the quinoa in several changes of fresh water. If you do not have a fine enough sieve or colander, you can strain it with the lid of a small saucepan.
2. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Cook covered for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Strain off any excess water and chill quinoa.
3. Rinse the ramps and cut off the leaves from the white stalk. Reserve the white part for use in another recipe. They are great lightly sautéed, or use in any recipe as you would an onion.
4. Cut narrow ribbons of the leaves crosswise with a sharp knife.
5. Mix cooled quinoa, carrot, radish, ramps, and olive oil. A good, flavorful oil is best. (we like the
Frog Hollow 2008 pressing!)
Last night, Thursday: Roast turkey & giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots
Tonight, I look forward to a corn chowder with bacon & a grilled cheese sandwich (maybe on some of my sister & brother in law's bread from their bakery, Falls Baking Co.)
I really look forward to tasting what she creates with the multitude of ingredients that will soon be available to her!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Update from the greenhouse & Fields!

Besides the 3 acres of greens Adam & Richard planted on Saturday (April 11), Cody and Richard planted chard, carrots, turnips, beets and started on parsnips. Very dry here, so early to plant -which is a great start!

The greenhouses are full and thriving! The curly willow have really filled out,

the peppers have been transplanted, the basil is amazing, and look at those onions & fennel!
Outside, there are some volunteer violas in the midst of the empty flower tunnel - nasturtiums were just planted to add to our salad mix for a dash of color and spice.

Our H2A Visa applicants/crew from Mexico had their interviews in Monterrey yesterday, so we should be getting word soon on who & how many will make it to the farm for the season. We submitted 25 names this year, and have a couple more on standby/as seconds. Sometimes a good worker will fail the interview or get rejected for mysterious reasons so it's good to have extra names. But we hope all of last year's guys will make it back! Once they start (hopefully on Monday), we will really get busy in the fields.

Cold Frame Action

On Monday, the cold frames were cleaned and ready to be filled up with seedlings - look at the lovely salad and kale & bok choi and kohlrabi! Big thanks to Hector who has been watering and nurturing all the plants in the greenhouses this spring. We don't know what we'd do without his hard work and goofy humor. Seriously, he is a goof.

Sweet Overwintered Spinach

Available only in the early spring, overwintered spinach is the sweetest and most tender spinach you'll ever taste.

Still too short to cut, it should be ready to harvest in a week or two!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dirt Angel in the Sunchoke field

Last Friday we had a crew out in the sunchoke field, digging and picking up the overwintered sunchokes. It was a beautiful day for it & it seems most everybody was happy to be working out in the field again. Adam drove the machine that dug up the rows, with the crew following behind to pick up the sunchokes by hand and put them in buckets. Then the full buckets get dumped into the bins on the wagons. We store the sunchokes as is (dirty) in the bins, until they are ready to be packed.

I thought Adam was thrusting his arm in the dirt up to his elbow, checking the rows to make sure the machine was doing it's job (depth etc). But no, he was so dang happy to be outside, digging in the dirt, away from the shop where he'd been cooped up all winter. When I saw him later, at quitting time, he told me that I missed his dirt angels - he was so happy to be out there he laid on his back in the dirt & made angels. Spring fever?

Monday, April 6, 2009

April in the Nursery Greenhouse

First Farmer's Market in two weeks (April 18!).
First CSA delivery in 4 weeks - May 7/8/9!

Simone and María spent a couple days transplanting celeriac. Delicate work! Celeriac is started in the 1020 trays (theoretically 10 rows with 20 seeds each row, but we plant more thickly than that) and then when the seedlings are big and strong enough, they are transplanted into the "200" trays (200 individual cells). We use the 1020 trays mostly for germ testing, but also for other crops with tiny seeds, such as tomatoes.

You can't really tell yet, but these trays on the heat table will soon be tomatoes!

Good looking lettuce germ test.

April 2 Greenhouse update

Lacinato Kale


Fennel & Purple Kohlrabi
Broccoli and Bok choi