Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Link Through the Ages: Week #9

This week we’ve been busy harvesting potatoes. Thankfully we got them all out before our little rainstorm in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning. This year the potato harvest was an adventure. I had a new potato digger to work with thanks to my dad’s determination and hard work. A couple of months ago my dad brought a very old potato digger back from the family farm that my cousins run in west central Illinois. How old is this potato digger? Old enough that it was originally designed to be pulled by horses! That’s right, this potato digger, which is basically a spade with a grate behind it and two handles, used to be hitched up to a big draft horse. It required two people, one to drive the horse and one to manipulate the digger. My dad saw that old piece of machinery and saw a possibility to help his daughter get those potatoes in quickly this year!

So, after much sanding off of rust, adding a couple wheels and replacing some bolts, the potato digger found it’s way up to Grayslake and onto my farm. I was a little apprehensive at first, wondering if this machine was going to create more work rather than less. Well, we tried it out this week with some moderate success. We did manage to break one wheel on the digger, but thankfully it stayed on long enough to finish the potatoes! We had to also do a little hand digging to get some of the potatoes out as well. But overall, it was definitely a back saver and we had a good time trying to figure out just how to get this thing to do its job. Hurray for new life on old machinery!

Enjoy the box! This week’s theme is SALSA!!

What’s in the Box:

Tokyo Bikana– This Asian green has a wonderful mild flavor and I use it as a replacement for lettuce. It has a slightly different flavor, but is crunchy and a green that will grow in the heat.

Carrots– More of these tasty and funny shaped carrots.

Potato-Another round of these great potatoes!

Sweet Onions– These onions are great in any dish, raw or cooked. Keep in the fridge because these have not been “cured” or dried.

Tomato– The first of the tomatoes! Here’s a mix of the red and yellow tomatoes that are finally ready! I love the little yellow ones since they have less acidity than the red ones. Store tomatoes on the counter if they’re not quite ready yet and put them stem side down. They’re more sturdy that way and don’t get moldy.

Bell Peppers– the first of the peppers are ready! Right now they are still green, but eventually they’ll turn orange, red, and yellow.

Basil– remember to keep this fragrant herb in a glass of water on your counter. The fridge is just too hot.

Cilantro– another great and fragrant herb. Salsa anyone?

Recipes:

Fresh Tomato Salsa– from allrecipes.com, you can leave out the serrano peppers for a mild version

Balsamic Roasted Baby Potatoes and Carrots– from food.com

Steak Fajitas– from simplyrecipes.com

Balsamic Tomato Basil Pasta– from food.com

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Rain! Rain! Rain! Week #8

What a difference a week makes! Since the last newsletter (sorry for the bogus link last week) we’ve had 3, count them 3!, inches of rain! I can’t believe it. Plus, each rain has mostly been a gentle rain, slowly accumulating over time, which is perfect! No downpours for me, thank you very much. Even this morning was a gentle rain. It definitely looked ominous. As I drove to the farm the sky was black, and not because it was so early in the morning. We were braced for a huge storm to break. We even had a discussion on where we were going to run for shelter if the storm got too crazy. Well, I guess it’s always good to be prepared. Instead we spent half the morning in the greenhouse sorting through garlic (!) and seeding lettuce. Then we ventured outside since the skies were no longer threatening disaster and spent the rest of the day out in the fields and at the washing station getting things ready for the CSA box and the farmers markets. Despite the ominous clouds it was a very calm day. You just never know what to expect on the farm!

Now you may be wondering how does all this rain affect the farm and the drought? My answer, it’s a mixed bag. All this moisture is definitely soaking in and thankfully there isn’t much run off. There isn’t even any standing water in the fields, which is perfect. The rain will definitely help the crops that are already growing. It’s been such a relief to have to move irrigation around and decide what gets water and what doesn’t. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, there is already drought and heat damage that this rain can’t undo. I’ve lost about three seedings of crops such as turnips, beets, salad mix, greens and carrots already. They just never germinated. I think the soil temperature must have been too hot and I just couldn’t water enough to give them the moisture they needed to grow. It’s not a death knell for the season, but it is terribly frustrating. My heart goes out to the farmers who only grow a couple of crops that take the whole season to grow, like soybeans and corn. The farmers only get one shot at growing those crops each year. So in a year like this many farmers aren’t going to get a crop. The corn and soybeans aren’t as tall as they should be and predictions cite a 10% yield on such crops. Some farmers have already started to till in the crops, not waiting for the ears of corn, but chopping it up for to feed livestock the silage (chopped up cornstalks). All I can say is, it’s tough being a farmer, no matter what you grow.

On a happier note, the box is full of goodies. This week we’re putting in the first of the garlic! Enjoy!

What’s In the Box:

Red Potatoes- another helping of these wonderful potatoes

Cipollini Onions– a sweet Italian onion that is great in any dish

Carrots– they may be funny shaped, but these carrots are full of flavor!

Cucumber

Eggplant– this week we have an Italian globe eggplant. They are great in eggplant parmigiana or grilling.

Gold Beets-another bunch of these great tasting beets! These I think are my favorite.

Dill– this refreshing herb will go well with the cucumbers!

Garlic– the first garlic of the year! enjoy these wonderful bulbs!

Recipes:

Eggplant Parmigiana– from foodnetwork.com

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Goat Cheese– from allrecipes.com

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze– from simplyrecipes.com

Roasted Carrots– from foodnetwork.com

Mr. Mantis on My Shoulder: Week #7

Well, it’s hot again on the farm. Nothing new there! So I’m going to have to find something else to talk about and think about in the field!! Though I was not happy to be greeted by high 70’s temperature at 6 this morning, the day is turning out to be full of fun discoveries.

This week we are harvesting the first of the potatoes. You’ll be getting red potatoes in your box the next few weeks, but that’s not the point of this story. While we were harvesting the potatoes one of my farm hands, Kelly, looked up and started pointing at my shoulder. She calmly, yet excitedly, announced I had a praying mantis on my shoulder! I looked over and, lo and behold, she was right! There on my left shoulder was a bright green, young looking praying mantis. I was fascinated! I’ve only seen three praying mantises in my whole life, now four! Each one has been on a farm too. In fact the third one I saw was just last week. My other farm hand, Anya, found it on a harvest crate.

I tried to take some pictures, but they only came out blurry. Soon the mantis got a little camera shy, crawled down my back, and leaped into the weeds. Hopefully, it went on eating bugs that would otherwise be eating my crops. Mantises mystify me. I always thought they would be easy to see since they are a bigger insect, but they hide so well. There are a great bug to have on your farm or in your garden since they prey on other problem bugs.

So that was the fun discovery of the week. There were other, not so fun, discoveries this week. As you may well guess, the farm is struggling with this season’s drought and hot weather. Up until now things have been going well despite these hardships. However, the farm is now really feeling the need for water. It’s actually been in need of water for the last month. Multiple seedings have not germinated and growth is stunted in other crops. I’ve been running irrigation, but I don’t have the ability to water everything. So what this means is that the boxes will be a little smaller these next few weeks. I’m hoping that as we get closer to tomato season (which is right around the corner!) I’ll be able to give you the kind of variety I’ve done in the past.

This is all part of the risk of farming and I appreciate you joining me in that risk! Thanks for your support and let’s keep hoping for rain!

Cheers!

What’s In the Box

Red Potatoes– The first of the potatoes are in! These red potatoes are great in salads or just boiled and topped with butter.

Cipollini Onions– These disc shaped onions are a sweet Italian onion. They are great any way you fix them. Saute them with the fennel for a tasty duo.

Baby Beets– These young beets are quite tender and delicious. Don’t bother trying to take the skins off. The beets are so tender that you won’t even notice the skin is on!

Fennel-(This is the fern like vegetable in your box) Did you know that you can use every part of this unique veggie? The fronds you can use like dill, the stalks like celery, and the bulb like an onion. They all have that wonderful anise flavor.

Cuceumber

Zucchini and Summer Squash

Mixed Herbs-There is a combination of thyme, oregano, sage, savory and chives in the box. These herbs go well with any meat or vegetable dish. Below is a recipe for your own mixed herb marinade. Time to fire up that grill!

Recipes

Garlic & Herb Marinade– from marthastewart.com

Orange & Fennel Salad– from foodnetwork.com; you can use the two small bulbs for the one big bulb in the recipe.

Six Great Recipes for Zucchini– from cookinglight.com, a series of great recipes for zucchini and squash. Take your pick!

Beet Recipes Even a Beet Hater Can Love- from nytimes.com, another list of recipes that are all great!

Dog Days of Summer: Week #6

The dog days of summer are upon us! Are you ready for a little education? Ever wonder where the term “dog days of summer” came from? Originally named after the time when the dog star, Sirius, would rise about the same time as the sun. It’s often the hottest time of the summer and also the time when the least rain falls. According to the farmers’ almanac the dog days lasts for 40 days, starting July 3rd and ends August 11th. Oh man, are we in for it!

The cooler weather has sure been nice this week. I’m feeling much better after spending time inside and in air conditioning this past Sunday. The seeding and transplanting are back on schedule. We are also weeding like crazy. Somehow the weeds are finding enough moisture to grow incredibly well. Our afternoons are filled with pulling weeds out of the chard, kale, leeks, and celery. At the end of each weeding session we take a moment to view our progress. It’s quite satisfying to see what changes we’ve made in each section.

I just realized, I have an exciting announcemThe farm has also gotten a new arrival! Last week my new (to me) tractor arrived, thanks to my dad and his fearless trailer driving skills. We spent the Fourth of July unloading the tractor, figuring out how to get it started and looking for the reverse gear. We finally figured it out and toasted the new tractor in the shade! It may be hot, but there’s always something going on at the farm!

Driving the New Tractor

A Toast to the New Tractor

A champagne bath for my new beauty!

What’s In the Box:

Green Cabbage– Time for the traditional cabbage! That means coleslaws and cabbage rolls. Check out the easy roasted cabbage recipe. It brings out the sweetness in the cabbage.

Japanese Eggplant: These purple cylindrical veggies are great for roasting or grilling. I like them because I can add a little to a stir fry dish and not have any left over.

Cucumber: You know it’s the middle of summer when the cucumbers start coming in! Excellent and refreshing dipped in the green goddess dressing (recipe below)

Zucchini and Squash: Another great grilling vegetable. Sauteing is great too. Another veggie to dip into the green goddess dressing!

Chard: This leafy green is packed with iron and vitamins A & C. You can substitute it in recipes that call for spinach. The stems are edible too, just put them in the pan a few minutes before the leaves. They take longer to cook. I like to saute chard and then scramble in a few eggs for a healthy breakfast!

Pearl Onions: These pearl onions are a little bit bigger than usual. That’s because this farmer forgot all about them! Use like you would any onion.

Italian Parsley: Parsley is high in vitamin C and has become one of my favorite herbs. It’s way more than a decoration! It adds a fresh flavor to any dish and is wonderful in any whole grain or bean salad. Try out the chickpea salad below.

Basil: This popular herb goes well in almost anything. The best way to keep basil is on your counter in a glass of water, like a bouquet of flowers. The fridge is too cold for this tender herb and the water keeps it from wilting.

Recipes:

Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs– from bonappetit.com

Green Goddess Dressing– from chow.com

Thai Spicy Eggplant with Sweet Basil– from vegetariantimes.com

Roasted Cabbage Wedges– from marthastewart.com

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One: Week #5

Hello and welcome to another hot week on the farm! I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but geez it is hot! Ok, I just had to get that out of the way. I feel better now.

Seriously though, this heat and lack of rain is most of what I think about these days. I’ve even started changing some of my seeding and planting plans that I made way back in December and January. Back when I was planning for the perfect season and everything would germinate right on schedule and we would get an inch of rain each week, preferably at night. Suffice to say, plans need to change. I’ve put a hiatus on all seeding in the field until next week. It’s just too darn hot, and without rain (or enough irrigation) the seeds won’t germinate anyway. Don’t worry! That doesn’t mean the farm is stopping altogether. I’m just waiting for the cooler temps and I’m putting together some new sprinkler lines to accommodate for new plantings. The farm has been one week behind schedule before. It happens. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go of plans.

The tomato patch on the farm doesn’t seem to mind the heat and some dryness though. (It’s also one of the crops that gets watered regularly, no matter what. I do play favorites.) Dare I say it, the plants look lovely and there are green tomatoes all over the place. I’ve been busy tying up the plants so that they don’t drag on the ground. The cherry tomatoes have already been tied up three times. They grow so fast!

Now before you start salivating and dreaming of caprese salads (am I too late?). I must tell you that we’re still a few weeks away from tasty tomato goodness. How many weeks? I don’t know. Let’s hope for early August. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. (Like tomatoes!)

Well, I need to run off and move some irrigation lines around. Hopefully I’ll remember to turn them off before I fall into bed tonight. Oh a farmer’s job is never done!

Enjoy the box!

What’s in the Box

Bok Choi– This is an Asian green with thick white ribs and green, spoon shaped leaves. It has a strong flavor that makes great stir fries!

Pearl Drop Onions– this small round/disc shaped onions are delicious. You can use these just like regular onions. They’re great for grilling (kabobs anyone?).

Spinach– Miracle of miracles, we are getting a little spinach in the midst of all this hot weather! I don’t know how it happened. It’s not a lot, but it’s tasty!

Savory– This is the spindly herb in your box this week. Savory is great with any meat, especially pork and poultry. It’s excellent rubbed onto meats before grilling. A little goes a long way so start off slow using it. You can hang it to dry in your kitchen if you’re not using it fast enough. I love this herb!

Salad Mix- this week’s salad mix has a strong flavor to it. You can thank the hot hot hot weather for that. It’s great with a creamy dressing, mmmh I’m thinking a creamy ceasar dressing will be just the thing!

Carrots– It took a little digging to get these suckers out of the ground, but man was it worth it! Snack on them raw or add in salads. Just enjoy!

Sugar Snap Peas– Last round of these dainties! I can’t believe how much these peas have produced with so little rain.

Gold Beets- These gold colored beets are fantastic! They are sweeter than the traditional red beets and they don’t bleed! Try roasting them on your grill wrapped in foil. They are so good!

Recipes

Grilled Country Ribs with Summer Savory Mustard Marinade– from epicurious.com

Stir Fried Bok Choy with Ginger and Garlic– from foodnetwork.com

Warm Golden Beet Salad– from thekitchn.com