Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Planting Potatoes

It has been a crazy week (my sister so kindly reminded me that it is only Wednesday). Andy had a freak accident on Monday (more on that later), and I have had to do all of my normal work, plus all of the work that Andy does with his right arm (he's left handed, thankfully!) But the gardens are looking great and now it is raining. We got our summer Swiss chard, beets, carrots and potatoes planted in the back garden just as it started raining this morning. It has been a slow and steady shower since.

I thought I would write about planting potatoes today, since they are so easy and fun to grow! We have a few varieties that we have fallen in love with. The varieties that we are growing this year are kennebeck, red Pontiac, la rotte (fingerling), durango red, red thumb, russet, all red, all blue, yellow finn, kyuka gold, and our favorite variety, rose finn apple (A small fingerling potato that is absolutely delicious and beautiful).

The first step in planting potatoes is to find good seed potatoes. You can use potatoes that you buy from the store, but we have had much better results and found much more interesting varieties from seed potato vendors. FEDCO has "Moose Tubers" which you can find online, but the deadline to order has passed. We buy our potatoes from a local farmer and friend, he has great varieties and we like supporting him. He does have some potatoes left so if you are interested, let me know and I will get you in contact with him.

Cut the seed potatoes if they have a lot of eyes (probably more than 6). Cut into pieces that have more than 2 eyes each.

Plant the potatoes 3-4 inches deep with the eyes facing up, 1-2 feet apart in furrows at least 2 feet apart. As the season goes on we make sure to keep the weeds down, and hill the soil around the potato plants as they grow. Potato plants are gorgeous, I think. The leaves are dark green, blue or purple, and the flowers are white or purple with bright yellow centers.

Here's a yummy potato recipe that includes kale, a green that grows in abundance this time of year, and is extremely healthy! They are potato pancakes, great served with eggs and a veggie side dish. I apologize to my vegan friends, I really need to find recipes for you too!!

Cheesy Bubble and Squeek

3 Cups mashed potatoes

8 oz. shredded kale, steamed

1 egg, scrambled

1/2 C Cheddar cheese grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the potatoes and kale, egg, cheese and spices. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into thick patties. Cool in the refrigerator for about and hour. Toss the patties in flour. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan until hot. Slide the patties into the oil and fry on each side for about 3 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Andy is healing well after his freak accident. He was walking through the garden on a blustery day when he turned around to see a piece of steel roofing boomeranging through the air at his face. He blocked it with his arm, but it still got his nose, just a half an inch away from his eye. It was incredibly unlucky that he was right there at that moment, but it could have been so much worse then it was. Here are a few pictures of his progress. His handsome face is slowly returning to its normal size. A tech at the hospital said that this was the worst broken nose she has ever seen! Poor Andy. He's such a trooper, he hasn't even taken a day off. To all of you who have offered your support, thank you so much!! Where would we be without our wonderful friends and family?

Thanks for reading!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Full Moon and The Frost...

Ahh Memorial Day weekend! This is a big weekend in agriculture in this state... Traditionally in Maine, this is the weekend to put frost sensitive plants outside, after they have been properly hardened off.

We have decided to put our plants out next weekend, since we still feel it is a bit early for where we are located. Plus, the full moon is only a few weeks away. At the Sandy River Farmers Market, I heard another farmer say "Full moon is on June 7th, we'll probably get a frost around then". When I first started farming I would hear it all of the time! I didn't understand, but it truly did seem to be that when the moon was full, it was colder. What is that all about anyway? So I decided to look into it.

I found many articles on the subject, but none scientific. Apparently, people believe that the heat of the full moon evaporates the clouds in the upper atmosphere. When those clouds have disappeared, there is no cover in the upper atmosphere to hold in the heat of the lower atmosphere, leaving us with colder nights down here on earth. I just don't believe this hypothesis. I could find nothing to back it up.

The closest I got to a scientific paper was on the MOFGA website: By comparing the full moon cycle to temperature records from Houlton ME over the last 38 years, Mitch Lansky found that between May 18th and September 20th (the official growing season for Houlton), "only 26 out of the 232 days (11.2%) of full moons plus one day on either side coincided with frosts. The same period had 267 frosts out of 2280 days, so the chance of a frost on any day was 11.7 percent. Thus the coincidence of frosts with full moons seems to be random."

All of the other information that I read said the same thing. There really was no correlation between frost and a full moon. You know, I think that I will keep that to myself the next time Gramp says "full moon tonight, there will probably be a frost". Did he hear that from his father? Probably, he was a farmer on the same land that we are on now. Why spoil a perfectly harmless thing?

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Seeder

We got a new toy! It is the EarthWay Seeder and I love it!! It is so easy to plant and I can't wait for June 1st when we can plant our beans and corn because it is going to make our lives SO MUCH EASIER!!

I used it for the first time to plant Brussels sprouts (I know it's a little late).

Here is a picture of the EarthWay Seeder:

To use it we put the correct seeding plate in, then fill it with seeds. This plate spaced the seeds too close together, so I mixed 1 part Brussels Sprouts seeds to 2 parts radish seeds. The seed plate is the white disk.

Then I put down the row maker to mark the next row which was about 18" away. As I push the seeder and the wheels roll, the seed plate turns picking up (ideally) one seed at a time, then drops it into a shallow trough dug by a tiny plow behind the front wheel. The seeds are neatly spaced, and covered lightly by a chain that drags behind.

In other news, the Sandy River Farmers Market is going quite well. We are expecting to have other vendors arrive in the next few weeks with more perennials, vegetables and baked goods. It is open Fridays from 9am to 2pm and Tuesdays from 2pm to 6pm and is located in the Better Living Center/Movie Theater parking lot on Front St. in Farmington.
We have beet greens, kale, spinach, Bok Choi, Cilantro, Onions, maple syrup (a limited supply left), and lots of baked goods available!
Hope to see you there,
Eat Well!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rainy Day

It has been raining every day for the past... well, since the farmers market started up on May 1st. Our gardens are loving every minute of it. Not only that, but there has been a few bursts of sunshine, just enough to dry up the ground so we can walk through the gardens to check on our seedlings. Almost everything that we planted has germinated, except for some herbs. The beets in the outside garden are looking pretty good, sparse in some spots. The spinach has the first set of true leaves, and we are heading out to weed the mesclun mix as soon as I wolf down a hummus, spinach and tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread!

My next projects are to finish my herb garden, and fix up our display for the farmers market.

My herb garden is in major disrepair. It is very small, full of weeds, and needs some organization. This year, I am going to be planting thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, mint (oregano and mint in a place where they can take over and I won't mind), dill, savory, lavender, basil.. and probably a few more things that I forgot. Here is a picture of a beautiful purple sage plant in my herb garden last year. I potted it up and brought in inside last fall, but there wasn't enough sunlight in our snow-cave for it to survive.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


We received our asparagus crowns yesterday! We got an order of 400 Jersey Supreme crowns from Nourse Seeds. We made out a bulk order with two other farmers in the area. These are the healthy crowns... Beauties, aren't they? The crown is up near my thumb, you can see the little nubbins that will soon be asparagus.

To plant the asparagus:
We spread a nice composed mixture of horse manure, sawdust and chicken manure, and some ashes from last winter using Doug's' (Andy's brother) tractor.

Andy rototilled using the tractor to get the manure and ashes incorporated deep into the soil. Then he used the push rototiller fitted with a furrow attachment to make the rows for the crowns. We made 4 rows; 2 rows 2 ft. apart, then a 5 ft space, then 2 rows 2 ft. apart.

At a spacing of 1 ft. apart, we spread each plants roots out in the soil, then covered them up so that the crown was just below the surface of the soil.

Once the asparagus has emerged, we will start mulching with whatever we can find to keep the grass out of the bed. The asparagus will not be ready to fully harvest until the spring of 2012. Andy pointed out that we will be 30 when we are able to fully enjoy the benefits of this planting! Even still, the asparagus ferns are so beautiful at the end of the summer with their bright red berries that hang off of the branches like Christmas bells. Hopefully next year we will have a small harvest of healthy, delicious asparagus!

If you are lucky enough to find some fresh asparagus at your local farmers market this spring, here is a recipe that looks absolutely divine! I found it in the new issue of Cooking Light Magazine. It suggests grilling the pizza, however I am sure you could put it in the oven just the same. It seems like a pizza peel would come in very handy if you do decide to use the grill. Have fun!!

Grilled Pizza with Asparagus and Caramelized Onion
Cooking Light Magazine

1 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 C thinly vertically sliced onion
2 C (2-inch) slices asparagus (about ½ lb.)
1 Tbl. thinly sliced ready to use sun-dried tomatoes
⅛ tsp. salt
1 (8-oz.) portion fresh whole wheat pizza dough.
¾ C (3 oz.) shredded fontina cheese
1½ tsp. fresh oregano leaves
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
2. Heat 2 tsp. of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Add asparagus to pan; cook 5 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes and salt.
3. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; brush each side of dough with ½ tsp. remaining oil.
4. Place dough on a grill rack; grill 1½ minutes or until crust bubbles and is well marked. Reduce grill to low; turn dough over. Arrange onion mixture over crust; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Cover and grill over low heat 3½ minutes or until cheese melts; remove pizza from grill. Sprinkle with oregano and black pepper.