Friday, March 30, 2012

Farmer's Market Help Wanted!

We’re in search of friendly faces to work at our stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market from April-November.  Rain or shine, hot or cold, we attend all the outdoor markets from mid-April through November. 

In this position, you will help set up and take down the stand, restock vegetables, assist customers with sales as well as answer questions about the produce, cooking and recipe ideas, the farm and our crops.  As a representative of the farm, we will train you in basic facts about Harmony Valley and the vegetables we grow and sell.

We are looking for individuals who are physically fit, friendly and able to communicate well with the public.  Sales or customer service experience, good math skills, an interest in organic vegetables, high energy, and a smiling face are required.  Experience in cooking and canning/preservation will be very helpful as well.  We’ll ask you to commit to work 2-3 Saturdays a month so our customers get to know you at the stand.  Hours are usually 5:30 am-2:00 pm.  Compensation includes $85 for the day and $15 in veggies from the stand. 
If you would like more information, contact Andrea at the farm: or 608-483-2143 ext 4

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Favorite Color Is Green....Is It Really Still March?

Our valley landscape is quickly changing from shades of brown to shades of green. The buds on trees are opening, and some of the trees are flowering. I was thrilled to see the hazelnut trees we planted last spring in bloom! The spinach field is full of gorgeous, deep dark spinach leaves that are so full of flavor...I can't get enough! The floor of the woods has exploded with all kinds of green plants and the hillsides in the ramp woods are full of delicate ramp leaves as far as you can see. The garlic continues to amaze me with how quickly it is garlic is not far away. I even harvested some chives and sorrel today!

The peeper frogs have been joined by a whole host of critters that can be heard and sometimes seen at all hours of the day and night. Last night we went to sleep listening to the coyotes howl and yip somewhere on the surrounding hills with owls in the background. Today I spotted two different bees out in the woods and was happy to have a huge bumblebee trail me on my walk. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle since I wasn't far from their nest, but today wasn't the day.

The greenhouses are filling up quickly. Last week Hector and Felipe worked very hard to prep the flower tunnel for planting and by Wednesday the tunnel was planted and the irrigation was running to water the seeds so they will germinate. We still have some violas to transplant in there, but it looks like we should have flowers in time for the first salad mix! As soon as they finished the flower tunnel, they moved on to our cold frame greenhouse. This proved to be a big job getting the soil worked up and grading it for better drainage. They worked very hard and I'm very pleased to report that it is ready to receive plants on Monday. Good thing because the broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and cabbage plants are growing really fast and need to move into a cooler environment where they will have a more moderate rate of growth to form a stronger plant.

We transplanted the first of our celeriac plants last week and will finish those up this week. The lemongrass plants came last week and they are already potted and starting to sprout. The first round of fennel is up and those flats will move to the Big House tomorrow to make room for basil and a second planting of broccoli and cauliflower.

The packing shed crew is pulling double duty right now as both packing shed and field crew. Monday and Tuesday we'll be busy washing and packing overwintered parsnips and sunchokes. By midweek though, we're planning to harvest spinach for the first time. It's time to take our salad area out of winter storage mode and get it cleaned and ready for washing greens! Simon will be busy Monday and Tuesday getting the salad washing equipment cleaned and greased.

Ramps should be ready to harvest in about one more week....and we anxiously await the arrival of our harvest crew. In the meantime, we're watching the fields to take advantage of the opportunity to start planting. We thought we might be able to get in this afternoon to plant some salad, but we had a really heavy fog in the valley this heavy you could see the moisture in the air.

I've been craving green things and hate to say it, but I am done eating turnips until we have those tender, delicate, sweet baby white spring salad turnips! Lunch today....Spinach and sorrel salad with almonds, blue cheese, apples, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of apple vinegar. Dinner last night....Overwintered spinach salad with a creamy garlic dressing and marinated flank steak. Lunch yesterday......Burgers topped with sauteed shiitakes, ramps and Wisconsin Cheddar. In the works for dinner this week....meatballs with a creamy sorrel mushroom sauce.

Only 4 weeks until the first Farmer's Market and 5 1/2 weeks until the first CSA pack. One more week of's going to be a busy one!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Valley is Waking Up

It's a gorgeous day in Harmony Valley. It's 72 degrees, sunny with just a few clouds in the sky and there is a nice breeze in the air. While we still see a lot of brown in the landscape around us, every day things get a little more green. The birds are chirping in the background. I haven't seen a blue bird yet, but I have seen some purple finches. The peeper frogs are awake and ready for spring. When we drove through the valley last night, it sounded like they were peeping in stereo. In some places it was so loud...what a beautiful sound. There are buds on the trees, the bees are buzzing, and we are thankful for the breath of fresh, spring air.

We're hoping to plant this week...pending rain in the forecast and the field is still a little too wet to work up. We shaped beds in this field last fall to help them dry more quickly this spring so we can get in more quickly. This field doesn't look like much now, but give it a few weeks and it will be multi-colored and lush. The planter is out, the seeds are soon as Richard says go, we'll be rolling. Salad lettuces and greens, baby bok choi, cilantro, dill, mustard greens, spinach, arugula, baby white turnips, radishes.....I can hardly wait to eat it all!!

Jack and I took a walk along the Bad Axe River. Evidently the water isn't too cold, since Jack had no hesitation to jump right in. He had his eye on a long stick which he promptly retrieved and pulled over to the bank. Richard is always trying to clean up the river to keep it flowing within its banks and make it the thing of beauty that it is. Seems that Jack has learned a few lessons through observation. We also spotted some little tufts of wild won't be long before I'll be spreading nettle pesto on a pizza topped with spinach, ramps and morel mushrooms!!

Of course we had to cross the river and tromp out into the woods to check on the status of the ramps. Last week we only found small, purple sprouts. This week we found green leaves!! The biggest plants are only about 3-4" tall, but if they keep growing at this rate, it will be just a few weeks before they are ready to harvest.

The green garlic and overwintered green onions are several inches tall now too. Grilled green garlic on top of grilled salmon......always dreaming of meals to come.

We have a lot to do this week. More sunchokes to dig, ground to work, planting salad in the field and dandelion, broccoli, cauliflower and sage in the greenhouse. We're hoping to put some nasturtium and calendula seeds in the flower tunnel this week too.

The forecast right now is for chances of rain and thunderstorms all week. It's anybody's guess what we'll get. If the temperatures stay warm, we could be harvesting overwintered spinach within a few weeks too!! Game on!

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness: Parsnip Harvest & Greenhouse Update


We've had a week of 70 degree temps so not only are we taking advantage of the warm weather to get out in the fields, but it's looking like the green growing things are liking it too!  The greenhouses are filling up and the plants are thriving.
Cabbage pushing through

Trays and seedlings continue to graduate from the Nursery greenhouse into the Big greenhouse, and we're preparing the Cold Frame greenhouse too!

We actually hope to get the first fields prepped for planting next week with the first salad mix, spring spinach, arugula, sauté greens, cilantro, dill, bok choi, mustards, and radishes!

We're also out in the field digging our overwintered items:  planted last year and having spent the winter in the ground, you end up with a frost sweetened delight!  Here's the overwintered parsnip harvest, plus we'll soon have fresh sunchokes, crosnes, and soon enough delicate & delicious overwintered spinach!
Parsnip Harvest: lift, extract, put in buckets

Put full buckets into big bins to be refrigerated and washed only when needed

We're up to 22 bins of parsnips so far this week!

In the office, the CSA sign ups are coming in nice and steady - seems everybody waited until the last minute to get in on the March 15 early bird discount deadline!

We still have lots of shares though, in the Twin Cities, Madison and our local area (LaCrosse, Onalaska, Viroqua).

Gerardo seems awfully happy about the weather & the work!

We're also waiting to hear back from the government (DOJ, Labor, Homeland Security) about our H2A visa approval and then interview appointments.  We'd like to have our crew back soon - we miss them and with this early spring, we need them!

I have a feeling things are going to come together quite nicely this season.  Must be all this sunshine in my eyes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Field Trips Resumed.....

Every Sunday afternoon Richard and I take time to check out the fields and make plans for the week. We obviously take the winter off, but looks like it's time to resume our Sunday field tours! It's a beautiful, sunny day in our valley and here's a glimpse of what we found.

SUNCHOKES: We left some of the sunchokes from last year's crop out in the field to overwinter. Here's what the field looks like above the ground.......dried stalks that we'll have to chop. Richard dug a few tubers to see what is happening underground. The report is they look just fine. We're going to try them out for dinner tonight. I'm thinking roasted sunchoke soup with a pickled black radish salad. If all goes as planned, we're hoping to dig sunchokes later this week.

RAMPS: We couldn't resist. We carefully crossed the little foot bridge to cross the river into the ramp woods knowing it might be a little early to find anything, but we got lucky!! The sprouts are just starting to push through, but we found them. The forecast this week is for a pretty nice, warm week. If the weather holds, we could be looking at starting our ramp harvest in 4 or 5 weeks! If you are trying to find the sprouts in the picture, look for the purple leaves will come soon.

GARLIC: The garlic field looks really nice covered in it's blanket of mulch. But what is going on under that blanket? A lot has been going on under that mulch and the bulbs we planted last October are doing their thing pushing down roots and pushing sprouts out the top. We even found an area where the sprouts are pushing through the mulch and peeking out. Look at the end of Richard's finger if you are having trouble seeing the sprouts in the picture.

Looks like this will be a busy week ahead of us. We still need to finish pruning the currants and the crew has just a little more pussywillow to trim and bunch. The celeriac in the greenhouse started to push through yesterday so it's time to move it off the heat table and put the first round of brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and cabbages) on the table. The ginger and tumeric seed arrived last week.....and it's gorgeous!!! We'll put that into flats tomorrow, put it under the tables and wait impatiently for 4-6 weeks for it to do something!