Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

What would you think if you got this monster sweet potato in your CSA box? (The coffee mug is for scale)

It weighed in at just under 7 pounds. 

Happy Thanksgiving, eat well and be well!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Snow!

It's hard to take a picture of a snowstorm, but it was actively snowing during salad harvest today!  Yesterday was actually the first snow, you can see it in the rows between beds.  It snowed more on the ridge and actually stuck, but it's been a little warmer here in the valley.  Warm enough to make a muddy sloppy mess.

Our crew is dwindling, as the guys go home for the winter.  We'll have another bunch leaving after next week's work and only a small crew through the CSA deliveries in December.  Then things really slow down, enough for a very small crew to handle things until spring.  I'm already thinking spring!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Persimmon Bread

Still have some persimmons hanging around? Or did you like them so much, you bought more?

Here is a recipe I made last week, adapted from (James) "Beard on Bread".
It is super moist and delicious! Great for with coffee or chia for breakfast or as a late night snack!

2 c APF
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c brown sugar
4 oz butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/4 c brandy
1 c persimmon bread (about 4 blended)
1 persimmon, diced
1 /2 c pecans, walnuts or hickory nuts toasted and chopped
1/4 c coconut shavings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together: flour, salt, soda, spices and sugar.
Combine: butter, eggs, brandy and puree.
Stir wet ingredients into the dry and thoroughly combine.
Fold in diced persimmon, nuts and raisins.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and top with coconut.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top to prevent the coconut from over browning. Test center of bread with a skewer. Bread is done when the skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Los Hermanos Morales Peralta

Rafa with Iceberg
The H2A is a special agricultural visa that allows Mexican farmers to journey to our farm for the growing season and return home for the winter.  We are fortunate to have many referrals of friends and family from our longtime seasonal H2A workers and this is how we met the Morales Peralta family.  We are fortunate to have such a smart, energetic and friendly family working with us!
Jenny, Ramon, Vicente, Manuel
We first met Manuel Morales Peralta in the spring of 2009, when he arrived to work at our farm with his first H2A visa.  The third child in a family of 4 boys and 4 girls, Manuel kicked ass his first year!  He came to us with tractor skills, a twinkle in his eye, and a beautiful singing voice.  We trained him in on irrigation and he helped Vicente keep all the fields well watered.  Since then, he’s become an integral part of the harvest crew and our primary salad planter.  You have him to thank for the contents of your bagged mixed greens!  Just by watching and assisting our previous salad planter, he has learned quickly how to operate the machine at the proper pace and settings, and the plantings improved once he took over.  Because of his experience on the harvest crew, planting accuracy has increased.  For instance, from his years bunching cilantro, he knows that we plant it in five rows and that is how he does it.  If you plant it in 15 rows, your plants can’t thrive and you get a poor stand, meaning no cilantro!  He is rightly & justifiably proud of the most recent salad plantings – the fields are brightly colored, vibrant and with extremely straight rows!

Manuel’s little brother Rafael is so pretty.  Andrea and I wish we had his skin and sculpted eyebrows.  Last year he was going for the Mexican Amish look, but this year he’s gone 1985 preppy!  He can pull off either look, let me tell you.  His first season with us (2010), his housemates convinced him to be their cook every night of the week – that is how good he is!  Chef Katie worked side by side with him at last year’s farm parties, learning his techniques for salsas (sauces) and goat/pig preparation.  Along with Angel, he built our new underground oven for pig & goat roasts.

Rafa really likes learning new skills and is not afraid to ask for new, different and more work.  Like his brothers, he is mechanically inclined and quite clever.  After a frustrating season of crop losses due to bugs, pests and uncontrolled disease, Rafa took over our spraying program.  We use organically approved products to protect plants from disease and attempt to control flea beetles during vulnerable parts of the season, and Richard has been able to rely on Rafa to defend the fields with the sprayer.  Rafa maintains the equipment, fixes it as needed and figures out the formulas for mixing the sprayer solutions.  Again, because of his experience on the harvest crew, he has an intimate knowledge of the plants and fields.  While he is out in the field, he does “scouting” for Richard, looking for worms and bugs and fields that need his attention.  Then Richard can hand him a map with the acreage of that crop and Rafa can figure out how many gallons of solution to make for that job.  Just like his brothers, he takes pride in finishing the job, doing it well and then moving on to the next task.  There is very little wasted time with these guys!
Manuel, aka Caleman
Alvaro is the latest addition to our family, from theirs.  One year older than Rafa &  several  younger than Manuel, he had worked previously in Mexico and the U.S.  with horses and other animals.  He is a skilled horse trainer and wise guy.  Even though this is only his first year here at our farm, because of his excellent English language skills, great attitude and mechanical aptitude, Richard has been able to train Alvaro in on a number of new jobs and make him crew leader.

The three brothers work well together and have done a great job taking over the FMC harvest duties.  The FMC is a root harvesting machine that takes 3 skilled operators: Two tractor drivers that have to stay in sync, driving alongside the harvest bin on a trailer, keeping it under the harvest elevator, operated by the third man.   Besides watching the steering cylinder and making other adjustments, you have to watch your speed and turn the elevator on and off appropriately.  Richard has seen people struggle to learn all the techniques and learn the subtleties of this machine, but Rafa learned fast.  With confidence, he can grease and maintain the machine and fix it in the field if it breaks down.  With finesse and skill, he can get those first 4-5 feet of harvest rather than driving over it as he gets properly lined up.
Rafael, selecting discs

As with our other H2A employees, these guys have a desire to do things right and to please us, their employers.  They want to learn everything about working at the farm and they say they want to work here the rest of their lives.  Besides a great work ethic, they have proven to be consistent and more than willing and able to do hard physical work.  Once when the FMC was broken down, the harvest crew challenged themselves to do the job faster than a machine would – and they did! 

The Morales brothers are family men.  We had expected to see Alvaro in 2010, but he decided to stay home and help his family from Mexico while one of their sisters was seriously ill.  They each have a wife at home, raising the children and keeping the home fires burning, until Papa gets back home from work – in 6-7 months! It takes a lot of motivation to leave your family for half the year, but they do it to build better lives for themselves and their extended families.  But they have certainly enriched our lives while they are here in the U.S., and we all certainly would not be eating as well without their efforts in the fields.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feeling Peachy

I like to make a big mess when I'm canning. Hopefully you can keep your canning space tidier than mine!

We had a couple of cases of beautifully ripe peaches hanging out so, we decided to put them up!
I canned 16 quarts of peach quarters and 8 pints and 5 jam jars of peach jam!

To can peaches you must first peel the skin off. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, score the bottoms of the peaches and toss them in the water for 30-60 seconds. If your peaches are a little firm, let them stay in the water for 60 or more seconds to soften them up. Then let them cool in a bowl of ice water. The skins should come off very easily. From here you can make the canned peaches and jam!

Peach Quarters
6 c water
2 c honey
     quartered peaches

Bring water and honey to a simmer. Stir to dissolve honey and remove from heat.
Fill the jars with the peaches then fill with the simple syrup.
Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Peach Jam

This recipe calls for a special type of pectin that is low in methoxyl. This pectin reacts with calcium to thicken rather than sugar. This allows you to make jams and jellies that are full of rich fruit flavor, undiluted by large amounts of sugar. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin which comes directions for making all sorts of jams and a Jamline in case you have questions! I used the basic recipe in the package and then added cinnamon, allspice and crystallized ginger!

4 c peaches
1/4 c lemon juice
1 T 1 t calcium water

1/2-1 c honey
1 T pectin powder

Bring peaches and lemon juice to a boil. If you are using other spices or flavoring agents, now is the time to add them!
Add the calcium water.
Mix pectin with honey and add to fruit. Stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes to thoroughly dissolve and distribute pectin. I used a potato masher to mash up large chunks of fruit.
Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Fill your sterilized jars to 1/4 inch from the top, lid and process in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everybody Loves Jack

I can dive for rocks in puddles and creeks of any depth
 Meet Captain Jack de Wilde, the official Hospitality Coordinator at Harmony Valley Farm.  Somebody quick, make him a cape!  Besides somehow being so dang cute all the time, he does put in a full day at the farm.  Read all about it in this week's CSA newsletter!
Very Zen in the snow

I love winter.  Throw me some snow.

Total spaz.

Jack and his friend Joe

I am proud to represent the best farm ever, Harmony Valley Farm

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet the Crew: Packing Shed Supervisors Logan & Jenny

This spring we had the opportunity to hire not one, but two great people!  Jenny and Logan joined our packing shed crew within weeks of each other.  They’ve both fallen into their roles here based on their varied skills and interests.  While they both share the job of packing shed supervisor, they also have their own responsibilities.  They have been a tremendous help with maintaining inventories, receiving product, managing pest control, monitoring and enforcing food safety procedures and records, managing seeds, ordering supplies, and much, much more!  We’re glad to have them both as part of our team.
We asked them to interview each other for this week's CSA Newsletter.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can Do!

Today I heated up my apartment in Madison with some canning!

I am working on putting up some of my rhubarb. I'm a little behind, I know.

BUT today I made a big dent in my freezer stock pile of HVF produce!

17 jam jars of rhubarb-strawberry jam
10 pints and 1 jam jar of rhubarb BBQ sauce
2 pints of drunken dark cherries (not from HVF, but from Wisconsin)
1 jam jar of drunken cherry molasses

All that and I'm not done yet! I still have a gallon bag of rhubarb to save for another day!just finishing up the bbq sauce!

What have YOU been canning or want to can this summer??

Monday, July 18, 2011

Coming Soon - Melons!

 Tasty personal sized melons, perfect for CSA boxes or gobbling up in one sitting. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Richard thinks the crew will finish the garlic harvest by Saturday.  It's looking good, real good.  Not as great as he would have liked, but that's the way it goes.  With our porcelain garlic you are always hoping for nice, big heads but this year they are a little smaller than he would have liked.

 The bunches are drying in the greenhouse now, grouped in bunches of 15 or 20 and organized by variety.
 Sorry folks, but we have to save the very biggest as seed garlic for next year's crop.  No worries, there will be enough for the CSA boxes for the season and then some.

Just in time for the Garlic Dinner at Harvest in Madison!

Friday, July 8, 2011

July Days

The big news is that the new truck arrived today, just in time to load for the Madison CSA deliveries!   
Our old Mac delivery truck is nearly obsolete - at least finding replacement parts to keep it in good running condition was certainly difficult.  It was just time to make the change.

Pictured left to right: Rogelio (Madison delivery driver), Juan (mechanic & market truck driver), and José Manuel (Madison delivery driver).
After such a slow, cool spring I think we're finally catching up.  Sometimes it's all or nothing, hurry up & wait, you know?  Richard promised me melon pictures, so we'll get those up soon.

Juan Diego
We're harvesting some very interesting items for our CSA members, including radish pods - new this season!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Living Piggy Lives

The pigs were just too cute today. I had to take a few pics of them!

At first, they weren't too sure about me... they maintained a safe distance.

But then their curiosity got the best of them...

Hoping to find some snacks!

I had to reward their trust with some left overs from lunch.
These piggies eat well!

After their photo shoot, they were simply exhausted. Nap time!

Friday, June 24, 2011

menu for June 27-July 1

Another week has flown right by. A rainy week but that doesn't stop the flurry of activity at Harmony Valley Farm. Time to post the next weeks menu.
Monday-Orange beef and barley stew*Leafy green salad with grapes*biscuits and jam
Tuesday-Hamburgers and rolls with condiments and cheese*Roasted Potatoe salad*Strawberry Ice Cream
Wednesday-Chipotly Beans, Rice and Tomatoes*Corn muffins* fresh fruit* Vegetable and greens salad with creamy vinaigrette
Thursday-Vegetable and beef lasagna*Whole wheat rolls*Leafy green salad with fruit
Friday-Pulled pork wrap with slaw*Pasta salad with vegetables*fresh fruit

Monday- test recipes
Tuesday-Chefs choice
Wednesday-Pepper steak with mashed parsnips and carrots
Thursday-Stir-fry with vegetables and cashews*fresh green salad
Friday-Pot roast with loads of vegetables

Monday, June 20, 2011

menu for June 20-24

MONDAY-Grilled Flank Steak*Creamed Baby Turnips and Radishes*Onion Batter Bread*Fresh Grapes
TUESDAY-Pit cooked Goat*Tortillas*Vegetable Couscous*Green salad
WEDNESDAY-Vegetable Au Gratin*Fruited Quick Bread*Red and Green Leaf lettuce Salad with nuts, seeds, and creamy vinaigrette
THURSDAY-Beef and Vegetable Kabobs with mushrooms*Basil Rice with greens, almonds, raisins and garlic*Lettuce salad with citrus vinaigrette
FRIDAY-Lentals a Ditalini pasta with Ham*fresh green salad * Nectarines

Monday-test recipes for broccoli raab
Tuesday-Egg yolk raviolis and beef cheeks
Wednesday-Spare ribs with Kohlrabi batonnets
Thursday-Salmon patties, rice pilaf, steamed vegetables
Friday-Cajun beef wraps with sauteed onions, fruited Quinoa

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

98 degrees and climbing ( or so it seems)

The sun is beautiful but so hot the last two days. I think I could put the crews lunch on the picnic table and it would cook itself in the sun. At least in the kitchen (although it is hot) I don't have the sun beating on my head like the crew does. They are holding up amazingly, drinking lots of water and wearing hats. Tomorrow will be 89, a cool down.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming Soon

Andrea just put the preliminary box plan on my desk.  If all goes well, here's what you'll see in your upcoming CSA boxes!
June 16-17-18
Garlic Scapes, Scallions (white or purple), Strawberries, Mini Green Romaine Lettuce, Mini Red Leaf Lettuce, Bok Choi, Yukina Savoy, Spinach

June 23-24-25
Garlic Scapes, Sugar Snap Peas, Scallions, Kohlrabi, Fennel, Mini Red Leaf Lettuce, Strawberries, Green Top Carrots, Broccoli Raab, Napa Cabbage

June 30-July 1-2
Fennel, Iceberg Lettuce, Green Top Carrots, Broccoli Raab, Kohlrabi, Napa Cabbage, Green Beans, Strawberries, Sugar Snap Peas

Friday, June 3, 2011

Menu for June 6-10

Monday--Hamburgers and rolls with all the extras, Baked beans, Curried pasta and fruit salad
Tuesday--Pork mushroom and barley pilaf, mixed green salad with baby bok choi, cranberry, apple and pear crisp
Wednesday--Vegetable and bean burrito, spinach salad, applesauce
Thursday--Ragout of Beef with carrots, parsnips, onions, and green garlic, Couscous with raisins, Persimmon Cake
Friday--Smoky Pasta soup, whole wheat rolls with jam, mixed green salad with apples

Monday- available soon
Tuesday- available soon
Wednesday- Radish soup and Grilled cheese sandwich
Thursday- Hot and spicy pork salad with Yukima savoy, arugula and spinach salad
Friday-Spinach rice pilaf with meatballs, green salad

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Menu for May 30-June 3

Monday-Ham and creamy corn chowder, mixed green salad, buttermilk biscuits with pear jam
Tuesday- Beef wraps with mixed lettuce, chipotly mayo and chopped jalaenos, Ancho Chile red rice, Rhubarb Sauce
Wednesday-Mac and Cheese with green chilies, mixed green salad with citrus vinaigrette, stewed tomatoes
Thursday-Meatloaf, mashed sweet potatoes, pickled ramps, rhubarb and raspberry cobbler
Friday- Taco hash topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, Soft polenta and green salad with red wine vinaigrette

Monday-Hamburgers and Fries
Tuesday-Tenderloin and risotto
Wednesday-Ham steak with green lentils, mixed green salad with apple cider vinaigrette
Thursday- Sirloin roast and Quinoa with green onions and mushrooms, asparagus
Friday-Oriental Pork Chops with peanut noodle salad, mixed green salad with sesame vinaigrette

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Field Update 5.26.11

 The first sweet peppers, under cover.  The hot peppers (jalapeño and habañero) still need to go in the ground.
 Lettuce and fennel, transplanted earlier this month.  In this cool weather, only growing slowly (but surely).
 Today's spinach harvest.  The first of the spring planted spinach - delicious and nutritious!
 Farmer Richard touring the fields, checking out the weed situation and the plant progress. 

Enough with the rain and cold (frost tonight and tomorrow!)!  We want some sunshine and warm days.

That shiny field is our onion field, from up above.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mid May Update

 Blueberry blossoms are so lovely!  The currants have fruit, and the early strawberries are in blossom.  We're taking advantage of every dry day to transplant and direct seed.  We finally had a couple nice warm days and things are really changing and growing now!  It seems like the leaves on the trees unfurled, filled in, turned darker green overnight!
 These lettuce transplanting pictures were taken at the beginning of the month, May 5 I think.  Notice our goat herd in the pasture across the road (and how few leaves are on the trees).  It takes 7 people to transplant!  One tractor driver, three guys pulling plants out of the trays and depositing in the funnel, and three to follow and make sure the plants/seedlings are safe and secure in the ground.

Here's the valley today (Friday) - much darker green and warm, finally!

 Our new asparagus patch is looking healthy.  We planted it last year and we'll be able to have a limited harvest next year.  We have several older patches that continue to produce well, just not quite enough.
Here's the Super C tractor, with the covered strawberry field in the background.

Besides looking forward to strawberries, we also have spring radishes, arugula, salad mix, rhubarb, Hon Tsai Tai, Egyptian Walking Onions, spring spinach, and Yukina Savoy to dream about.  Coming soon to a CSA box near you!