Friday, October 31, 2014

a visitor to the farm

This year the hobby farm has corn planted around it and across the road and harvest is in full swing with both of the farmers that own the fields combining the corn and hauling it away in big trucks.  It is cold out and predicted to get colder so I am warming up a bit before I head out to dig up my Brussels sprouts.  I am sitting at my computer and glance out the window and see an animal in the front yard where the lawn meets the road ditch.  It is a bit of a distance away but I grabbed my phone hoping to catch a picture of it.  Sadie my one big dog is napping in the house.  Codie my other big dog is standing up by the house watching but not barking.  I only had a chance to get one picture and it was pretty blurry and far away.

I tried cropping the photo to see if I could get a better view of the animal but it was pretty pixelated.

I sent the picture to my sister who I was in the process of emailing at the time and she sent it to her son and then we sent it to Perry who said that it was a coyote, guessing that it could be the Alpha male of the pack since it was quite large.  I am speculating that all of the activity in the nearby fields had him on the move.  I quickly called for Manny and put him in the house.   It is a good thing that he (mostly) comes when he is called. He will now be a house cat only.  When I went out to the garden Codie went with me and she went down the road halfway to the neighbor's house checking the ditches on both sides of the road.  Others around here have seen coyotes in the area but this is the first one that I have seen and the first time that I know of where one has been in my yard.  It is a little unsettling. 

This was yesterday and I have not seen him again.  Manny goes to the door and meows to go out.  Then he comes to where I am sitting at the computer and stretches up and looks at me with those soulful eyes and begs to go out.  He seems to understand when I tell him about the scary animal outside and finds a place to nap.  Poor Manny.  He'll get used to staying indoors again.


Brussels sprouts

This was the first year that I have grown Brussels sprouts and with cold weather predicted for last night I dug up the plants.  I pulled off the lower leaves so that the stalks would fit better it the wheelbarrow and then threw the leaves over the fence into the pasture.  The herd was glad to get them and worked on eating them up.  I brought the stalks into the house and planned to remove the sprouts from the stalks and blanch them and package them for the freezer. 

on the stalk with most of the leaves removed

my big (12 inch diameter) stoneware bowl is quite full

for the herd

some of the blanched small sprouts in the pan

browning butter and sea salt
These were so good.  Definitely I will be growing these again next year.  I think the next batch I cook I will add to some sauteed leeks and top with some toasted Panko breadcrumbs.  Maybe a little Parmesan cheese...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

a few greenhouse pictures

While I was taking pictures for the previous post I thought I would grab a couple in the greenhouse.

These lettuces were planted on September 30.

The first rain gutter planters with month old mizuna and golden frill greens.

This year I am trying a few hanging baskets.  The lettuces are not tall enough to be seen yet.

These seedlings are being transplanted into gutter planters or tubs. 

Newest seedlings.  At this stage they mostly all look alike.

wow, a productive day at the farm

Today Mom and Dad came out and we had a really productive day at the farm.  We worked hard and will be stiff and sore but we got several good jobs done.  Ten days ago we had our lumberjack day and part of the results of that cutting and splitting and stacking is a pile of brush that we burn.  This year we rented a chipper/shredder and had hoped to chip the branches and use them for mulch instead of burning them.  It worked fine for shredding the bags of leaves but was just not strong enough to grind through the volume of branches that we have at the end of our weekend.  So, today was the day to burn the brush.  The accumulated brush was in a pile that I am guessing was probably 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and maybe 4 feet high.  We had a pile started where we had once burned before and I had been piling weeds and plant material that I did not want to go into my compost pile there.  The plan was to burn that and once it was hot we would feed the brush a few branches at a time onto the hot fire. 

Getting the fire started and hot was a challenge.  The last couple days have been cloudy and damp/rainy.  Even with Dad's 'encouragement' the fire struggled to get going and just when we were thinking that we were going to have to give up and try another day it decided to cooperate. 

While Dad encouraged the fire with various combustibles , Mom and I worked on pulling some nails from Caitlin and Robb's reclaimed lumber.  We had a nice little pile of nail free boards by the time we could begin dragging the brush to the fire.

We also worked on some landscaping around the house.  We decided while we were painting to pull out the old plant material from the front of the house, add some dirt to improve the grade away from the house and then put down plastic and a border and add some wood bark.  I am so pleased that we were able to get the smaller west side done and ready for bark.  

There are no before pictures but here are a few 'afters'.
8 or 10 nail free boards

The fire, winding down. 

Between the tree on the right and the white door there used to be a big pile of brush.

Ready for wood bark.
 I am tired but it is a good tired.  Thanks Mom and Dad for all the help today. 


Monday, October 27, 2014


This year I grew leeks for the first time.  I started them from seed in the greenhouse and then transplanted them to larger cups and then into the open garden.  I planted some of them in my garden and my sister planted some in her garden.  Here is part of the harvest from my garden.

I think that I will definitely grow them again.  They are a long season crop but getting a head start in the greenhouse allowed them to do well for me this year.  Perhaps they liked the cool wet spring..  If I remember correctly we germinated close to 100 baby plants from one seed packet.  So far I have used them in a leek and potato quiche that I have made twice.  It is very flavorful and once it had cooled I cut it into servings and froze individual servings in freezer bags and I am looking forward to pulling out a piece and enjoying it again this winter.  See the recipe for the leek and potato quiche here.

The other type of leek recipe that I saw a lot of on the internet were soups.  Most of the recipes contained a dairy component and I was reading that dairy is not recommended for canning.  I was excited when I came across a recipe for a soup base that was a soup starter that had the dairy, seasonings and other ingredients added when the soup was reheated. I canned a few pint jars and now when I am ready to make soup much will be done already.  To see the recipe for leek and potato soup base go here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

our lumberjack weekend

For several years now we have had a lumberjack weekend in the fall at the farm.  We have lots of old trees and my dad burns wood to heat his shop and my brother has a fireplace and my sister, my kids and I have the occasional campfire.  This year the selected trees for this project was one near the house and a couple more that needed trimming but not cutting down so we had a pro come in and drop the tree and trim the others.  That left us with cutting up the logs into manageable lengths and then splitting and stacking to allow the wood to dry and be ready for burning next winter. 

It is always a lot of fun, working together on a project.  It is a lot of work and there are some aches and pains and stiffness afterwards but it is great to see the wood all stacked.  This year our crew included my parents, my sister and her daughter, my brother, and my son and daughters.  We had a few pickups.

and even more dogs.  This year there were six, two that live with me at the farm and four that visit with my kids.  Missing from the pictures is Indiana, the newest member of the group who was in the house napping when I was taking pictures.  It is a shame that I missed his picture because he is really adorable, a yellow lab/retriever cross who is only 10 weeks old. 

Reese and Honey


Sadie and Codie
This is a picture of the log that my daughter rescued for a future piece of furniture.

This is a stack of logs waiting to be split.

Some of the crew working hard.

our finished product

Friday, October 17, 2014

Manny helps in the greenhouse

My youngest daughter has two cats that live with me at the farm.  One of them is Manny, a cat from the Human Society that came to live here shortly before she graduated from college.  She  saw his picture on their website and sent Mom and I to rescue him.  He is a Maine Coon, a wonderful, big cat.  This summer he has gotten used to being outside during the day and loves to be wherever there is something going on at the farm. 

I have been getting the greenhouse ready for winter plants and doing some sowing of seeds and Manny followed me out there one evening and was busy snooping around.  All of a sudden he was on the potting counter and then on top of the door eying the exposed rafters. 

I quickly grabbed a picture to send to Caitlin, glad that I happened to have my phone handy.  I worried that he wouldn't be able to get down and didn't want him to fall or jump but he was able to jump back to the potting counter without incident.  What a cat.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I have two young apple trees and last year was the first year for them to bear fruit and we had a couple dozen small apples on each of the two trees.  This year the east tree only had a handful of apples but the west tree was loaded with big crisp apples.  Most of them we a half pound by weight.  We have not sprayed and we had a little superficial damage to the skin on some of the apples but really none to the flesh. 

Although we planted the trees straight they both are growing at a steep angle toward the north.  Dad came out and we staked the apple trees.  I had purchased a tree stake that used a rubber tube to apply tension on the tree but it was not strong enough to straighten the tree or even keep it from getting worse..  We changed it to a fence post at an angle with a wire on a high tensile fence ratchet.  We used some pieces of garden hose to protect the tree from the wire and every few days we tighten the ratchet a little more so that the trees are gradually straightening up.  Here is the west tree loaded with fruit and leaning to the north.  In the background to the right in the picture you can see the east tree which is not as dramatic but still leaning. 

 Here the tree has gentle pressure to straighten up the tree gradually.  All of those apples have since been harvested and enjoyed. 
This year I made a small batch of crock pot apple butter with some of the apples and shared some and sold some in the farm stand.  I am not worried about the other tree yet.  I was reading that some trees have an every other year habit of fruiting so I will be anxious to see what happens next year.  I am trying to add new fruit each year to the farm so this years apple harvest was really fun. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

fall already?

I am not sure when it happened but the summer is gone and we are smack dab in fall.  This summer was disappointing in many ways so I would not wish it back.  The weather did not cooperate, the harvests were meager and the blogging just did not happen.  I was thinking that it had been at least a month since I had last sat down to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?).  But it was nearly three months ago since I have written here and my recipe blogs have not fared much better.  I have been trying a few new recipes and taking pictures now and then so that I would have them when I was able to get back to it, so now it is time to get it all on the page and hit 'publish'. 

Where are things at with the garden?  After a couple of overnight frosts that took out the tomatoes we are predicted to have some nice weather over the next 10 days.  I am hoping that will allow me to get the remaining vegetables out of the garden and the garden put to bed for the winter. Moisture seems to be a feast or famine situation this year.  Right now we are in the famine stage and I fear that i will need to water just to be able to harvest some root crops, pull up the old plants and work in some compost.  What a change from our very wet spring and heavy rains of the summer. 

 I am also seeding for the winter greenhouse.  I began planting for the winter on September 30, seeding lettuces, mustards and Asian greens into cell trays.  Those first trays have sprouted and some are developing their second set of leaves.  Soon they will be ready for transplanting into the gutter planters and the tubs.  I have seeded a few more trays which are on the heat mat and there will be more to come once those have sprouted and are moved off the mat.  It is great to be back in the greenhouse.  On sunny days it is warm enough to need to run the fan for a few hours.  After a discouraging summer garden I am optimistic about the winter.  Each year we learn more about the greenhouse environment.  Last year was colder than normal and I ended up moving the tables away from the glazing so this year we are starting with the tables in the center of the room.  Also this year we will try hanging the gutter planters in an east-west direction instead of the north-south direction that we have used since the greenhouse was built.  It should make for easier traffic patterns with the tables in the space where I used to walk.   

baby greens