Where did January go?

I blinked and it was gone.  And so was the balance of my checking account...!  January is a spend-heavy month here on the farm.  So far I've ordered: seeds, strawberry plants, seed potatoes, parts for my seeder, seedling trays and feed for the chickens.  Still to be decided: what type of chicks to order, where to get another hive of bees, how many sweet potato slips to buy, which cover crop seeds to buy, and whether I can afford any new-to-me cultivation equipment...or anything else until the markets are going again in June, and I have regular sales income!

(Insert shameless CSA sales pitch:) Which is why it's a great time of year for y'all to commit to a CSA plan.  Not only does it help farmers with the planning at this time of year (seed orders, planting calendars etc), but it also provides income at an otherwise slow sales time of year.  And, if you as the consumer start paying for your share now, you can be all paid up by the time you start receiving produce.  Win-win. 

(Insert shameless plug for our delicious organic grain fed chicken eggs:) We also have a fridge full of eggs-$5/doz- if anyone is in need.  The girls are starting to increase production as the days slowly gain in daylight hours.  Start a weekly egg share, or just contact us as you need them, and if we have them, they're yours.

That being said, as much as the winter is a low-cash-flow time, it is also a high-idea-flow time.  It's the time of year I can slow down, recharge, and get excited about a new growing season.  Everything seems possible when there's time to sit by the fire and plan, and recover from the brain-burnout of the growing season.  I essentially get a "Do-over" every year.  When that first box of seeds I ordered shows up, it's a clean slate (more or less...).  Here's hoping for a kick ass 2017!

Our Journey with Corn (part 1)

As you may know, we have been growing various kinds of flint corn for milling since 2010.  Dad started us on the path after reading an article about making your own cornmeal.  As a big fan of cornbread, and being recently retired with more time for gardening, he put in a patch of "Roy's Calais" and "Painted Mountain" flint corns.  Being the wonderful children that we are (and also being fond of cornbread), my siblings and I pooled together to get him a nice grain mill for Christmas. 

The Country Living Grain Mill (with jars of Painted Mtn and Hopi Blue cornmeal)

The Country Living Grain Mill (with jars of Painted Mtn and Hopi Blue cornmeal)

As it turns out, there's no comparison between the complex flavors of fresh ground cornmeal and the sawdust that you can find in stores.  We were officially addicted, and decided there must be others out there who would enjoy the experience.  So when we started Lost Barn Farm in the spring of 2011, we grew an even bigger patch of both "Roy's Calais" (an Abenaki variety originally maintained by Roy Fair of Calais, VT) and "Painted Mountain" (an open pollinated genepool, descended from over 70 Native corns rescued from Indians and homesteaders who lived in the harshest climates of the Northern Rockies and Great Plains regions of the US and Canada) and started selling cornmeal at the farmers markets.

Hopi Blue, Roy's Calais and Painted Mountain from our 2015 crop

Hopi Blue, Roy's Calais and Painted Mountain from our 2015 crop

We have continued to grow Roy's Calais and Painted Mountain, and have since also tried "Black Aztec" dent corn, "Floriani" flint, "Dakota Ivory" flint, "Hopi Blue" flint and most recently "Bloody Butcher" dent.  We have also experimented with a range of textures from our mill, from corn flour to polenta, and have settled comfortably in the middle where, without sifting it, the range of grain size works to make cornbread as well as polenta.  We'll save the fine flour for after we've learned to nixtamalize the corn. (Stay tuned for part 2 where we explore exotic worlds-and words-of nixtamalize, masa harina and posole.  Coming soon!)

Fire Cider

After selling a bunch of garlic and hot peppers to two different customers in October who were making their own fire cider, I decided to try my hand at making some too.  I grow half the ingredients myself, so why not? 

Mine includes equal parts (chopped in a food processor):

  • fresh ginger root
  • fresh turmeric root
  • fresh horseradish root
  • garlic
  • red onion

Plus,

  • 3 serrano peppers
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • raw apple cider vinegar

The horseradish, garlic, onion and serranos I grew myself.  The vinegar I got from Dwight Miller Orchards.  I ended up buying the ginger and turmeric at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, but after the fact I heard that The Walker Farm grew some turmeric this year.  I'll have to keep it in mind if I decide to do this again next year.

There it is in a gallon jar that's been on the counter for a week so far.  In another couple of weeks, we'll see how well I did (or didn't do) with my proportions! Let's hope I don't get too much of a cold in the meantime.

Adventures in Farming (written June 7, 2015)

Here we are at our first CSA share of the season.  And just in time too, as I just ate my first handful of strawberries this year.  Though I had to pick them wet this morning, I don't imagine they'll last long enough in the hands of our CSA members for them to have to worry about the shortened shelf life of wet berries.  Less than ideal weather for picking, but oh they do taste good.

Speaking of weather, it's been a bit of a challenging spring with lots of temperature spikes and virtually no rain for he month of May.  We seem to be basically on schedule with our planting, and although nothing much actually grew last month, the good news is the weeds are behind schedule too.  Luckily our friend Megan was here last week, and although it was her vacation she weeded most of the onions.  Thanks Megan!

It's been a good year for visitors.  My sister and her family have been here on and off for the last 2 months, including my nephew.  At not quite one year old, he is not yet convinced that dirt is something he wants his feet to experience.  Not so helpful in the field, but he doesn't seem to mind the farmers market.

We're very excited to have had bees on the farm for the last month.  They've been working like crazy, drawing out the comb on the foundation in a second hive body.  They're almost ready for a super, which means we may get some honey from them this season. 

CSA week 1:

Full shares - rhubarb, strawberries, scallions, radishes or turnips, braising mix, red and green lettuce, spinach with a few chive blossoms tossed on top (pictured above)

Half shares - rhubarb, strawberries, scallions, green lettuce, spinach with a few chive blossoms

Delicious Cornbread

The days are definitely getting longer, but the cold is still with us.  There's nothing like a good pan of cornbread to combat the chill.  Especially when it's made with fresh ground cornmeal that was grown, shelled and ground right here at the farm. 

Dad is the official cornbread maker.  He doesn't actually measure anything, rarely consults the recipe, and occasionally forgets to include ingredients, but somehow it always comes out great. 

Tonight I went a different route from dad's classic, slightly sweet cornbread, and tried out Anna Thomas' Jalapeno and Cheese Cornbread. (Anna Thomas. "The New Vegetarian Epicure" Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.)  So, I've heard people say that you should never bring an untried recipe to a potluck, but I'm gonna live dangerously and do it anyway!

Jalapeno and Cheese Cornbread

Cornmeal and flour, jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese, onions, fresh corn, milk and eggs-this bread is the entire food pyramid in one dish.  When you mix it up and bake it, it comes out crunchy, chewy, a little bit spicy, and a little bit sweet-in short, just a great cornbread.  The jalapenos, searingly hot when raw, lose a lot of their fire when baked in a batter, so don't be afraid to use them.

  • 1 1/3 cups white flour
  • 2 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 2tsp salt
  • 5 tsp baking
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 oz coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Sift together into a mixing bowl the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and sugar.

Heat together the milk, corn kernels and butter, until the butter melts.  Scoop out some of the corn kernels and set them aside, then process the mixture briefly in a blender, just enough to chop up the corn roughly.  Add back the whole corn kernels.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, and beat in the warm milk and corn mixture.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Seed and chop the jalapenos, and stir them into the batter, along with the chopped onion and grated cheese.

Spoon the mixture evenly into a large (9 x 13 inch) buttered baking dish.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until the bread is puffed up, the top is golden brown, and a thin knife inserted near the middle comes out clean.  Serve hot or warm, cut in squares.

Bacon would also be a great addition, though I didn't think of it in time for this batch.  Adding scallions or chives would add some nice color to go with the onion flavor too.  Next time!  Fingers crossed that it goes over well at the potluck.

Another season gone

New Year's Resolution: Post more regularly.  Clearly I've been neglecting this. 

The holidays came and went in a bit of a whirlwind of food, friends, family and my folk's first grandchild.  My nephew is a cutie, but at only 6 months old, not a very disciplined farmer yet.  We'll see if we can shape him up when they come back in the spring! 

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As usual at this time of year, I am full of ideas for next year.  How will we make 2015 an even better year than 2014?   What projects will we take on?  What new crops will we grow?  What events will we plan at the farm?  The list of possibilities is still too long to be practical, but we'll narrow it down.  We have started the process: after talking about it for the last 4 years, we have finally ordered up 4 colonies of honey bees. 

Our 2014 season was our most successful yet.  We continue to get a little more efficient every year, increasing the quality, quantity and variety of what we are able to grow.  Thanks to everyone who came out to support us all season at our markets and events. 

So welcome to 2015, and the start of our 5th growing season.  I'll have updated CSA information soon (being a bit technology challenged, it'll happen as soon as I figure out how) though the information hasn't changed much.  And in the meantime if you're interested in buying eggs, garlic, potatoes or carrots let us know and we can make arrangements for you to come out to the farm to get them.

You can also find our stuff in the fine fare from the folks at The Gleanery.  If you've never been, you're missing out!

CSA's are great!

Let’s talk about CSAs.   While it may seem early to you, it is in fact a good time to be looking into the possibilities if you’re interested in joining a CSA this summer.  So first, let’s begin with an explanation.

What is a CSA?

Seeding continues in the greenhouse as spring is right around the corner.

Seeding continues in the greenhouse as spring is right around the corner.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The basic concept is that you as a consumer make a commitment to a farm in the form of paying in advance (usually in the winter when a farmers working capital is low) for the right to a “share” of fresh produce every week for a prescribed number of weeks.  Many of the farmers you meet at farmers markets also have a CSA program. 

The concept was born in the 1960’s in Japan at a time when more of the food available was being imported to Japan rather than being grown locally, which corresponded with a loss of active farmland in the country. As this phenomenon was recognized, community members got together with farmers to address the situation in ways that were mutually beneficial.  Contracts were signed where farmers agreed to provide fresh local produce when the families made a commitment to support the farm. Together they took a risk (as agriculture always involves risk) in the hopes of gaining something they’d been missing: fresh food and financial support respectively.

It didn’t make it the US until the mid 80’s where it was renamed Community Supported Agriculture, and since then has continued to grow in popularity. It’s a wonderfully flexible concept that can be tailored to farmers needs, and with so many options available to the consumer, folks who are interested are very likely to find the CSA that best fits their needs as well. 

That’s my synopsis of the concept, but if you’re interested in some words from Robyn Van En, one of the founders of community supported agriculture here in the US, some 30 years ago, check out this website: http://www.context.org/iclib/ic42/vanen/

This site has some background on the concept as well: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Our CSA program

At the Lost Barn Farm our CSA runs for 20 weeks, or most of June thru October.  We offer 2 share sizes, plus the option of a “market share” for folks whose families are perhaps less flexible about their vegetable choices.  We include fruit in the shares when we have it, and offer a limited number of separate egg shares. 

Full share example shares from 2013:

  • week 2: 1 lb rhubarb, pint strawberries, 1/4 lb garlic scapes, 1 bunch salad turnips, 1 lb cauliflower, 1 1/2 lb fennel, 1 bunch kale, 1/2 lb pea shoots
  • week 10: 3 cloves duganski garlic, 1 1/2 lbs Augusta potatoes, 2 european cukes, 2 lbs summer squash, 1 bunch edamame, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 1 lb tomatoes, 1 bunch Walla Walla sweet onions, 6 ears sweet corn
  • week 20: 1 butternut squash, 1 stalk Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 lbs parsnips, 1 bunch atlas carrots, 2 lbs sweet potatoes, 2 lbs red & yellow onions, 1 bunch celeriac, 2 lbs peppers, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch broccoli rabe
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Most of our CSA members pick up on Wednesdays, either at our booth at the Brattleboro farmers market in front of the Bratt Co-op, or here at the farm in East Putney.  Members can also choose to pick up at the Saturday farmers market in West Brattleboro, or the Sunday farmers market in Putney across from the Co-op.  

For more specifics about our program, as well as our 2014 CSA agreement form, toggle on over to our CSA page, under the header "What we Do" at the top of the page.  You'll also find some of the reasons to join a CSA, and a list of the crops we plan to grow.

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Hello from East Putney

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Happy New Year!  And holy cannoli has it been a cold one so far.  Neither the chickens nor the guineas have been venturing far from their coops (though the weather hasn’t slowed the egg production in our hardy hens.)  For that matter, we humans haven’t been spending much time out of doors either.  Definitely indoor project weather, though we did have a snap of milder weather that allowed our friend to come prune our young orchard earlier this month.  (Thanks Gay!)  The poor peach trees in particular took a beating this past summer when they set so many fruit that branches were broken from the weight of the peaches.  They should all be happier this year now that they’ve had such excellent “haircuts.”  We should all be so lucky!

 

After much time spent comparing the offerings of the many seed catalogs we received (somehow the number grows every year), the seeds are ordered and mostly delivered. The seeding greenhouse is ready to start planting tomorrow.  Celery, celeriac, onions, shallots, and leeks, as well as a few herbs, the artichokes, and for the first time here at the Lost Barn Farm, cardoons will all be started anew this week.

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I get every bit as excited about seed catalogs as an adult as I used to get about the toy section of my grandmothers old department store catalogs as a child.  While I can’t get everything in them that looks good, I can at least get some of the wondrous things, which makes the seed catalogs much better than grandma’s “wishbooks” that never yielded any actual toys.  Seed catalogs are really books full of possibilities.  What new adventures will be realized in the fields this year because of them? Stay tuned to find out more updates on the comings and goings, and a few meanderings from here on the farm.

Stay warm, Marisa

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