Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Keeping it All Under Control!

*To all of my gardening friends... don't let the weeds break you! You can do it!! Just keep weeding, mulching, hoeing, and don't lose hope! Even if there are a few (or even sometimes a lot of) weeds in your garden, veggies will still grow.*

I'm tired! It's been a long week, but we have been so productive! It only rained for about 20 minutes today, we got so much weeded. Monday we had some help weeding the Asparagus, and got it all done! I weeded and cultivated half of the potatoes. Andy weed-whacked around the greenhouses and gardens. We got most of the tomatoes strung up. I cleaned up the Kale beds. Ohh, it feels so good to get those things done. We are hoping that by the end of next week we will have all of the gardens cleaned up and under control... HA! I don't think that there is such a thing. Nature is always elbowing her way into my garden weather I invite her or not. I guess that's why I love my job so much.

I just thought I would update you all on how the Sandy River Farmers Market is going. The Tuesday market has been a success! On our best day we had 7 vendors. The Friday market is picking up as well. I would say the most we have had so far is 11 vendors. As the season progresses there will be more and more farmers showing up with their veggies and other goods. As of right you can find spring vegetables (greens, peas, radishes etc.), soap, beef and other meat, eggs, bread and other baked goods, potted flowers and vegetables, cut flowers, and sometimes pie.

This week we will have turnips, radishes, rhubarb, swiss chard (picture above), beets, beet greens, broccoli, kale, maybe peas, eggs, bread (multi-grain, anadama, cinnamon raisin, whole wheat, oatmeal), oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, blackberry rhubarb muffins (maybe), cinnamon rolls, and maybe I'll have enough time to make another cake!

Also just a reminder that STRAWBERRY SEASON IS HERE!! It's been a really horrible start to the season for the strawberry farmers because they have a gorgeous crop, but no one will pick in the rain. The berries are rotting on the plants! The first set of berries (the king berries) is the best, so go strawberry picking soon!

Thanks for reading, EAT WELL!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Bees are Swarming!

Last Tuesday (I know that's a long time ago, it's been a busy week!) I was finishing up with the baking for the afternoon market, when our friends ( drove in and told us that "the bees are going crazy by the barn!" Weslene has one hive and it is beside the old barn just near the driveway. So we went outside to find a cluster of bees in an apple tree not far away, they were SWARMING! Here is a picture of the swarm when we first found it.

Luckily Andy had just built a bee hive, known as a "Top Bar Beehive" (to learn more about this user-friendly, very inexpensive way to keep bees, visit the Barefoot Beekeepers website at A few weeks ago, Mike and Paula told us about them, and then invited us over for bee-a-palooza. At bee-a-palooza, Paula and I stayed upstairs to make lunch, talk about...well just about everything, and watch the boys, while Mike, Andy and Forrest went downstairs to build the hives (they're so crafty!). I digress...

So, we split up, I got the camera and my bee book, Andy and Forrest got the hive, and Paula stayed with the little ones. Andy got all suited up and grabbed ladders, saws, snippers, and anything else he thought we might need. He climbed up the ladder and grabbed hold of the branch with the swarm of bees on it. I climbed up the tree (the same tree with the swarm of bees on it, only I didn't have a bee suit as we could only find one!) and sawed the branch with the bees on it. Unfortunately, it was a lovely crab apple tree that Andy's grandfather had planted. Luckily, when Wes came home, she agreed that cutting the branch was the best thing to do.

After the branch was sawed off, Andy (like a champion) carried the branch to the hive, positioned the swarm, then HIT the branch so the cluster of bees fell off of the branch and into the hive! It was amazing!

When a hive swarms, it means that there are too many bees for that one hive to support, so they start raising a new queen. When she is ready, they kick out the old queen and half of the bees go with her. The cluster of bees we found were all worker bees that were protecting their queen. Each bee filled up with honey before leaving the hive, so that they could start building a new one somewhere else (this makes it really hard for them to sting, think about how fast you move after Thanksgiving Supper!). Luckily, when we tapped the swarm into the hive, the queen fell in with the rest of the bees. It seems like they like their new home in the blackberry field next to our veggies. It has been a very damp June, so we are hoping that they are able to find enough nectar to build an adequate home for themselves.
If you are in the Farmington area, you can get honey for a good price at the Sandy River Farmers Market, online at or at the Better Living Center. All is local, yummy, and costs less than what you get at the super market!

Needless to say, we were very late to the Tuesday farmers market, so if you were one of those waiting for us, we apologize!

That was the excitement of our week. Other than that, it has been rainy. I've been trying to combat the weed problem in the blackberry field, but it's really hard to do in the rain, not to mention, it's not very good for the plants.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rain drops keep fallin' on my head!

Yet another rainy week. I really can't complain, it is making the garden (including the weeds)grow very nicely! We have taken the washed out days to work in the greenhouses, which we have been ignoring since it has warmed up. So, with the help of two of our very hard working helpers, we weeded the entire tomato greenhouse, and strung up the tomato plants.. finally!

The tomatoes are looking great! We planted about 50 different varieties of tomatoes this year. Most of those are paste tomatoes, as Andy wanted to find the BEST paste tomato out there. We planted the tomatoes under the caller ties of the greenhouse, then hung baling twine from the caller ties. We bought tomato clips from Johnnys Selected Seeds, a bag of 500 for probably $15. Well worth it! We will string up the tomatoes as they grow. In the picture above, you can see my little basil plants inte-rplanted with the tomatoes. They are doing pretty well, but they are very hard to weed around.

Here is one of the first baby tomatoes, it is a Juliette Roma tomato. Andy says 3 more weeks until we have the first ripe tomato... I can't wait! Until then, the broccoli in our big greenhouse is calming my cravings for crunchy, fresh summer veggies. We have about 100 broccoli plants with beautiful broccoli crowns ripening. The best part about this broccoli is that it is too early for cabbage worms, so there will be no surprises in your steamed broccoli!

In other farm news, the chickens are doing wonderfully! They are loving being outside, eating all of the bugs and grass they could ever want. Their crops are so full that they wag whenever they walk. It's pretty fun to watch them. The ducks, on the other hand, are not doing very well. I have lost all of my drakes this spring. George to a heart attack, Perchutto to a fox, and now Buddy to a very strange disease that his girlfriend now has. I have Marla and Maggie left, and they are showing signs of this disease, so I am going to put them on antibiotics, put them of fresh ground every day, and clean clean clean up after them.

Also, I am looking to start a small flock of sheep for spinning wool. I have decided on Corriedales. I can't wait to find some and get started! So if you know of anyone who has lambs or ewes to sell, let me know!

Okay, here is a broccoli recipe. It is simple enough to add to any meal, yet is original enough to really stand out in any meal! Capers taste a bit like little green olives (yum!), and are easy to find at the grocery store. Also, the recipe says to peel the broccoli stems... if you buy fresh, local broccoli, you should never have to do this!!! Enjoy!

Sicilian-Style Broccoli

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

1 Head Broccoli

2 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped

1/2 C. Vegetable Broth

2 Tbl. Capers, drained and crushed

1/8 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut off and separate the broccoli flowers. Trim the tough ends of the stalks; peel if necessary, and cut crosswise into 3/8 inch thick slices.

In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and stalks, vegetable broth, capers and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the broccoli is tender, but still firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high, and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until any remaining broth evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thanks for reading and eat well!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spring Salad Greens

Salad greens are growing abundantly in the outside gardens. The weeds have been conquered in most of the bed, and it is time to harvest! We have been growing salad greens in very large quantities for 3 1/2 years now (wow!). It was the first crop that we sold wholesale and our first customer was the Homestead Bakery in Farmington. At one point we were harvesting 40-60lbs a week. It was a great way to learn the basics of farming, and to get our name out there to retail customers.

All of our best lessons learned have been from the worst mistakes made on salad greens! We learned that there is nothing more valuable to the vegetables health then the addition of amendments to the soil, it could be compost, leaves, grass clippings, chicken, horse, sheep, rabbit or cow manure. Just as long as it goes into the soil the second a crop comes out of the ground.

This year we have decided to cut back on our salad greens production and focus on other parts of the farm, such as the commercial kitchen, and the mixed vegetable garden for the CSA members and Sandy River Farmers Market. Salad greens are very labor intensive and a lot can go wrong quickly. We are having much more fun with them now that we don't feel pressured to have a lot of salad greens all of the time!

Right now we have a 100 ft. row of greens that include red and green lettuce, mild mustards, baby bok choi, kale and arugula. We harvested half of the salad greens this week, and in 2 weeks from now the same plot will be ready for harvest again.

We use sheers to cut the greens like grass by the hand full, and throw them into a bin. Once we have harvested a little bit of many different varieties of greens, we mix them, then soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes.

Then we go through the salad mix one hand full at a time looking for imperfections in greens, weeds, and whatever may have made its way into the bin. We rinse the greens twice in cold water, spin them dry in a 7 gallon salad spinner, weigh them out and bag them. It takes us about 3 hours to harvest, wash, dry, bag and clean up for 20lbs of salad.
It is now available at the Sandy River Farmers Market! But it goes very quickly, so get there early!
Thanks for reading and have a great day!!