Week 6: July 1, 2017

Pasture Raised Chickens at We Grow LLC

CSA Participants

Our appreciation goes out to all members who adjusted their schedules so we could skip coming into Medford on the Fourth of July. We thought things would be hectic picking everyone’s produce in half the time, but we ended up having so many volunteers that everything was ready in record time. We were done so fast that everyone headed into the high tunnel to start to clear the way for the farm dinner. Where carrots and scallions once grew, we will soon be enjoying a meal with friends.

The We Grow family did enjoy the holiday to the full extent. We did morning chores, rotated chickens, raked hay, and tucked a wagon load of hay bales away for the winter. Then we headed to Perkinstown to volunteer at the annual celebration and enjoy lunch and the parade. Back home to bale the last 160 bales of hay and water animals and then on to Jump River for a cookout with friends and dutch oven baking by the camp fire. And of course a late night of spectacular fireworks. Every place we stopped, we found CSA members, We Grow customers and volunteers. The network continues to grow.

When each of you signed up for our farm share program, you became part of the community supported agriculture (CSA) movement. A change in the way that we think about food. We meet with you face-to-face and learn about one another. Research shows that consumers who get their food from a farmers market have ten times more conversation than those who shop at a supermarket. You are no longer considered a consumer in the CSA system, you are considered a participant.

As we develop these relationships with our members, we learn more about the skills and goods our neighbors offer. We have made connections with photographers, contractors, artists, store owners and more. Being in a CSA is about consciously making an effort to create a better way of life with a sense of contribution to the lives of those around us. As CSA farmers, we are not striving to reach international markets or seeking to dominate the food system. We simply want to give you better food, food with a connection to the place it is grown and a better community to live in.

Making connections,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Six Newsletter

Week 5: June 29, 2017

Working with honeybees at We Grow LLC

Sweet Priorities

While we’d love to dwell on the overwhelming amount of precipitation we’ve been hammered with this month and the oddly cold weather we’ve been experiencing, we are focusing on the positive. That said, you should be made aware that there are some crops that are not exactly growing as well as normal and we are feeling a bit pinched as we roll into week five. Thank you for bearing with us as we stumble through some of the strangest weather we’ve ever had to deal with as farmers. Keep your expectations in check when it comes to heat-loving crops like sweet corn and watermelons. They probably aren’t going to come to fruition in 2017 at We Grow with this cool June.

Most of you know that we keep bees at our farm and this week we experienced our first swarm of the season. While it was a pretty standard swarm that was identified, captured and transported without incident, the fact that our intern Racheal got to assist on the capture made it quite exciting. Giving someone a tour of a beehive humbly reminds us of the complex biology of honeybees and how fortunate we are to have them helping us pollinate our crops. Especially with summer squash and cucumbers in blossom right now.

Every week, we open the hives and look over every frame to check for the various stages of larvae or new queen cells. We also monitor for problems like mites or foul brood. We decide if the bees need more space and we add colony boxes or super boxes depending on what the bees are doing inside. Each year, our overwintering success improves. This spring we came thru with a little better than half of our hives surviving, which is an improvement but it could be better. Just maybe, the changes on our farm are helping.

Planting the seed of information about the struggle for today’s pollinators is important and significant. It isn’t just the non-native honeybee that is having a hard time surviving in modern times. Aside from the obvious lawn and garden chemicals, crop monocultures and mites, pollinators are struggling with reduced gene pools and climate inconsistency. Mason bees, bumble bees, hover flies and many more count on us humans to make bee-friendly decisions. Education is key. Learn more at xerces.org.

Learning every day,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Five Newsletter

Week 4: June 22, 2017

Radishes at We Grow LLC

The Growing Gap

“To eat well is to eat in a world where everyone is able to eat well.” A line penned by our farming friend, Tony Schultz several years ago in response to “What does it mean to eat well?” Since starting We Grow, we often contemplate how we eat as a society and what influences us to eat this way. We look at other family’s grocery orders and sometimes question what nutrition these people are even surviving on?

The elephant in the room is the amount of sugar the kids are given at everything they do outside our home. They are rewarded with sugar at school for their achievements, fed candy at church for a snack, have it thrown at them in disturbing amounts at every parade, and bring it home from each of their friends for every holiday. Beating sugar feels like a losing battle.

While we tend to focus on the sugar overload, especially compared to just a generation ago, we lose site of what they aren’t eating. The lack of fresh vegetables and fruits in schools and senior sites is discouraging. Especially when specific vegetables are available locally in season! It is not in the budget to eat well, so we all lose two-fold. Our farmers don’t profit from the direct-to-consumer income and people don’t eat as well as they should.

Food inequality goes well beyond institutions. Take a look at the price of real food in the grocery store. Processed, pre-packaged meals loaded with unpronounceable ingredients and preservatives cost far less than the raw products if you were to actually cook the meal. Microwaves dinners were on sale 10 for $10 last month! Take it a step further and consider eating entirely organic. The price of organic groceries is nearly double conventional and financially out-of-reach for many.

Our broken food system is a small part of things going awry on a national level. Supporting local producers is a small step toward changing people’s interpretation of what it means to eat well. Consider the value you place on every person’s right to eat well, not just those who can afford it and how to get people to demand better food, for all.
Feeling contemplative,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Four Newsletter

Week 3: June 15, 2017

We Grow kids Gus and Dene 2017

Finding Balance

When you own a farm, the work never ends. There is always something to do. An eighty hour work week is an easy feat because we live at our job. We can work for an hour before breakfast and two after supper and get a few more hours in after the boys go to bed. As long as there is light to work by, the only thing stopping a farmer is his or her own will. That voice in your head that tells you it is time to rest. And when you’re behind, that voice tells you to keep going. But too much work can break a person down and wreak havoc on your health and family life.

Our boys, Gus and Dene are nine and seven years old and home from school for the summer. They have household duties much like we did as children. At times we ask them to work with us on the farm so that we can spend time together, but it can be stressful if they don’t do a good job or want to quit. As parents, we struggle with wanting the boys to learn the value of hard work through active participation in the family farm versus having pieces of a “normal” off-farm childhood. But today’s normal childhood includes parents constantly running for their kids.

So into our lives steps baseball. “We can try it – sure. Let’s just see how it goes.” Well, now we have committed four nights a week to the sport. Surprisingly, it has been a good change. Other than speeding up meal time, we are forced to drop farm work and leave. At times only one parent, but nonetheless, we have to sit down, rest in the evening sun, and watch the boys play ball. They have our full attention as we practice catch over lunch break or toss a few pitches in hopes to improve their batting skills. Neither of us is any good at baseball nor are we qualified to teach it, so the boys aren’t exactly destined for the majors. But for now, they learn that we can stop working to find a balance with family. And we continue to entrust grandparents to play a huge role in making sure there are camping trips, swimming and visits to the zoo to keep things “normal.”

We just hope that one day they understand the dynamics of having a farm and livestock and the limitations it brings. Those Sunday afternoon fishing trips are at the cost of an unweeded patch of potatoes or an unpicked bed of cukes. Time away comes at a real price, but at the same time is priceless.

Until next time,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Three Newsletter

Week 2: June 8, 2017

Peas and blossoms at We Grow LLC

Careful What You Wish

What a great first week meeting our new members and catching up with the rest of you! As requested, the weather made a 180-degree turn. Now things should grow. As long as the little plants get consistent moisture. The peppers are in their beds and soaking it up. Corn is in the ground. Beans will be replanted as they are coming up sparse. Lots of beets are popping up in rows. Potatoes are coming along nicely too. Carrots, kohlrabi and broccoli from the tunnel should be ready over the next two weeks for your shares. We can’t wait for those carrots! Matter of fact, Dene samples them every day to make sure they are doing good.

This week we moved the young chickens outside and took away their heat. They are adjusting well. Some weren’t sure what to do in the green grass at first, but they learn quickly to chase insects and scratch in the dirt. Realizing our farm emails sent over the winter are often spammed, if anyone else is interested in purchasing processed meat birds please talk to us.

We are doing two batches of 100 birds this summer and they will be available for purchase in late July and early October.
This week, we started attending three markets per week and this consumes a huge amount of time. We had planned all winter on heading to our friends at Pine Grove Pastures to help them get their crops in with our water wheel planter, but the rain kept it from happening in a timely fashion. So finally late last week, Eric and Racheal went there one long day to help them get caught up on planting. Hopefully they will be back on track.

Those of you attending Saturday market in Medford might notice that we have been selling some produce from Red Door Family Farm in Athens. They are very good friends of ours and we help each other in any way possible. They had some produce ready ahead of their schedule and we are excited to offer it to our customers. One thing we noticed about the organic farmers we know is that they are relieved to hang out with people who have the same crazy lives as them and always show up to help you out when it is needed most.

Until next time,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Two Newsletter

Week 1: June 1, 2017

Cool, Wet Start

Here we go! This is your first We Grow share for the 2017 growing season. The shares are definitely lacking on several things we had planned, but we still have veggies coming in albeit largely from the tunnels. So in true CSA fashion, we are going to share with you everything we have at this time and work our tails off to make up for the lack during over the course of the season. Our best estimate is that we are about three weeks behind last season. This is in part due to wet weather, but more importantly the cold. The cold temps have been keeping things we have planted from growing. The photo above is of Mrs. Farmer and Dene at the Medford Market in late May. Fur hat and all! Alas, we still have lots of time to get more seed in the ground and replant those things that did not germinate as scheduled.

Those of you returning know that this is the time of year when we jump start our digestive tracts into healthy eating with lots of greens. We ask that you embrace greens season and make yourself a salad every chance you get. Think beyond lettuce. Add things you’ve never added before: fresh fruits, nuts, grilled meats, or cheeses and try out a new dressing or make your own from scratch with one of our recipes.

Enthusiasm on the farm is at an all time high with lots of great help and so much positive energy. The volunteers have been returning all spring with a great onion mob kick-off event in May. Our intern Racheal has been busy getting her hands dirty and wholeheartedly dives into every task we assign to her. She especially seems to enjoy the tropical temps in the tomato tunnel through all the cold, rainy spring weather. We are excited to be teaching her many of the important jobs on the farm. Plan to see her at some of the farmers markets for us this summer. Susan has also returned and is bringing a season’s worth of experience with her. As we grow, we find these amazing volunteers and employees make all this hard work a bit easier. And that is going to give us some much needed free time with two boys excited to be taking part in baseball this summer.

Eager to serve you the fruits of our labor,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week One Newsletter

Using More Herbs in Your Kitchen

Cooking with fresh herbs isn’t just for gourmet chefs. Fresh herbs pack flavor and nutrition. In this article, we will answer your questions about which herbs pair with which types of food? How much to use? When to add in the cooking process? What to do with leftovers?

Thyme - herbs at We Grow

Thyme grown at We Grow LLC in 2015

Fresh vs. Dried

Choosing between fresh or dried herbs is a matter of preference. Some chefs advise against using fresh when cooking a dish that needs to simmer longer than 45 minutes. Dried herbs pack a stronger, more condensed flavor, so if you’re substituting dried herbs in the place of fresh, then you’ll need to cut the amount in half.
Dried herbs will eventually lose their flavor and should be replaced after one year. There is also evidence that suggests a substantial amount of nutrients are lost in the drying process.
Although fresh herbs tend to have a softer flavor, subtlety when cooking is not necessarily a bad thing. Strive for a balanced blend of flavors so that one ingredient does not dominate the dish.

What to look for when buying

Harvest herbs as close to your cooking time as possible. When buying, look for vibrant color and aroma. Farmer’s markets typically offer the freshest, most flavorful herbs. Herbs packed in plastic should get a sniff test. If you can’t smell them then chances are you won’t be able to taste them.
Avoid limp and soggy bundles with any discoloration in the form of black spots or general yellowing. Grocery stores often overspray their produce to give the illusion of freshness, when in fact, excessive watering encourages rot and mold.

How to pretreat and  store herbs

If you’re not using your herbs immediately, you’ll want to pretreat them before refrigerating. First remove any fasteners. Ties and rubber bands can bruise fragile plants affecting their longevity and flavor. Then, cut the stems fresh and place the herbs in a small glass of water. Cover the herbs with a loose plastic bag and set on the warmest shelf possible in your fridge.
Alternatively, you can wrap fresh herbs in a ziploc bag with a damp paper towel. Make sure the bag has a bit of air inside, and place it in the warmest part of your fridge (usually located in the door). When you’re ready to use your herbs, cut away any wilted or discolored leaves. Fresh herbs don’t have a long shelf life so use them as soon as possible.

How to wash fresh herbs

Water will quicken their demise, so if your herbs are fresh picked, you can skip this step. Only wash your herbs if you’re going to use them immediately, otherwise store them unwashed.
Fill a bowl with cold water and place your herbs inside. Gently agitate to remove any dirt. If there is a significant amount of sediment at the bottom of the bowl, dump your water and give the herbs another rinse. Gently pat them dry using a paper towel or give them a whirl in a salad spinner.

Basil - herbs at We Grow

Purple Petra Basil grown at We Grow LLC in August 2016. Basil comes in a wide range of varieties and flavors.

How to chop fresh herbs

A really sharp knife is a worthwhile investment and makes preparing food a more enjoyable experience. A dull blade will bruise your herbs, changing the color of your leaves from a vibrant green to a dull black. Specialty herb scissors can also be handy for this task.

To maximize the flavor of your herbs you’ll want them finely chopped. The finer you chop your herbs, the more oils released and the more fragrant the herb will be. Delicate herbs like parsley and cilantro should be chopped right before use as they will lose their aroma quickly. Add these more delicate herbs after you’ve taken your dish off the heat or right before serving for max flavor.
When to add fresh herbs

This depends not only on the herb, but also on the sort of flavor you’re trying to achieve. Robust herbs like rosemary, thyme and savory can be used in longer simmering dishes. Gently bruise the leaves with your fingers before dropping them in to release more oils and increase flavor.

Adding herbs at the beginning of your cooking will create a subtle background note. If at the end you find you want to punch up the flavor, just add a bit more for reinforcement. Remember, you don’t want any one flavor to stand out too much.

If you keep the leaves on their stem they will be easier to remove later. Using an herb sachet, also known as a bouquet garni, is another option that will keep you from losing your herbs in a sauce or broth. This also allows you to control the flavor if you find the herbs are becoming overpowering.

Basil

Flavor: Licorice and cloves
Cooking tip: Add at the end of cooking to maximize flavor
Pair with: Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano, pasta, onions, chicken, eggs, pizza, green leaf salads, bell peppers, zucchini, apricots, berries, figs, peaches, plums

Chives

Flavor: Light oniony taste
Cooking tip: Use raw, or at the end of cooking. Add chive flowers to a salad or use chive stems to tie vegetables together
Pair with: Eggs, potatoes, sauces, stews and soups, salads, mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, vegetables, stir-frys, breads

Cilantro - herbs at We Grow

Cilantro grown at We Grow LLC in 2015. Cilantro quickly goes to seed and must be planted in succession every two weeks for a continuous supply.

Cilantro

Flavor: Bright and citrusy; some claim it tastes soapy
Cooking tip: Can be used at beginning or end of cooking
Pair with: Spicy dishes, salsas, chiles, curries, salads, soups, chicken, fish, vinaigrette, apples, bananas, mangoes, pears, summer melons

Dill

Flavor: Combination of celery, fennel and parsley
Cooking tip: Fresh packs greater flavor than dry. Add at beginning or end of cooking
Pair with: Fish, beans, hard boiled eggs, beets, soups, sour cream, cream cheese, dressings, yogurt, chicken, potato salad, meats

Mint

Flavor: Sweet, fresh, slightly astringent
Cooking tip: Peppermint has a stronger flavor over spearmint. Could be added at beginning or end of cooking
Pair with: Lamb, chocolate, pork chops, jellies, sauces, cocktails, berries, figs and dates. oranges and limes, summer melons, cherries, apricots, plums, apples, pears

Oregano

Flavor: Hint of sweetness with some spiciness
Cooking tip: Strong, robust flavor especially if dried. Mediterranean oregano is milder than Mexican. Add at beginning of cooking; if adding in an herb bag, do not strip leaves from stems
Pair with: Pizza, tomatoes, pastas, eggs, cheeses, eggplant, meats, dressings, oil and butter, pesto

Parsley

Flavor: Flat parsley has a peppery bite and curly parsley is relatively bland
Cooking tip: Flat parsley holds up better in longer cooking, curly looks great as a garnish. Stems have the strongest concentration of flavors and can be added diced finely or in a bouquet garni
Pair with: Fish, vegetables, salad, rice, soups, stews, meatballs, pesto, sauces, marinades, bananas, coconuts, grapefruits, mangoes, pineapples, summer melons

Rosemary

Flavor: Pine-like, astringent
Cooking tip: Add whole stems at beginning and remove before serving; great for the grill. Leaves can fall off so might want to use in bouquet garni. If chopping, dice very finely as it can be quite tough
Pair with: Lamb, potatoes, marinades and oils, eggs, fish, poultry, pork, tomatoes, onions, ice cream, oranges, apricots

Sage

Flavor: Slightly peppery with touch of mint
Cooking tip: Robust flavor best with heavy foods. Add at the beginning of cooking
Pair with: Meats, sausage, cheese and cream based items, sweet and savory breads, stuffings, beans, potatoes, risottos, tomato sauce

Dill - herbs at We Grow

Dill flowers turn into the familiar dill seed at We Grow LLC in July 2016

Savory

Flavor: Peppery flavor, winter savoury is more pungent than summer
Cooking tip: Can be added at beginning or end or cooking
Pair with: Beans, meat, poultry, grilled veggies, wild game

Thyme

Flavor: Sweet, mildly pungent
Cooking tip: Great paired when cooked with parsley and bay. Can be added at beginning. If using stems prepare for stronger flavor but remove before serving
Pair with: Broths, soups and stews, flatbreads, meat, poultry, potatoes, stuffings, marinades, cherries, figs, grapes, honeydew melon, peaches, pears

Article adapted from Urban Cultivator http://www.urbancultivator.net/

Fresh Vegetable Storage

General storage tips: Select mature, unblemished fruits and vegetables for storage, and handle them carefully. Check the condition of stored produce periodically and remove anything that appears to have spoiled. Do not store apples, which release ethylene gas, with other vegetables. Produce in storage should not be allowed to freeze.

Vegetable or Fruit
Temp (F) Rel Humidity Storage Life
Apples 32-35 90% 2-6 months
Beets 32 95% 1-3 months
Brussel Sprouts 32 90-95% 3-5 weeks
Cabbage 32 90-95% 4-6 months
Carrots 32 95-100% 2-6 months
Cauliflower 32 90-95% 2-4 weeks
Celeriac 32 90-95% 3-4 months
Celery 32 90-95% 2-3 months
Chinese Cabbage 32 90-95% 1-2 months
Dry beans 40-50 40% 1 year or more
Garlic* 50-60 65-70% 6-8 months
Kale 32 90-95% 10-14 days
Kohlrabi 32 90-95% 2-4 weeks
Leeks 32 90-95% 1-3 months
Onions* 32 65-70% 5-8 months
Parsnips 32 90-95% 2-6 months
Peppers, sweet or hot 45-50 90-95% 8-10 days
Potatoes 38-40 90% 5-8 months
Pumpkins* 50-55 70-75% 2-3 months
Rutabaga 32-35 90-95% 2-4 months
Sweet Potato 55-60 85-90% 4-6 months
Tomatoes 55-60 85-90% 2-6 weeks
Turnips 32 90-95% 4-5 months
Winter Radishes 32 90-95% 2-4 months
Winter Squash* 50-55 70-75% 3-6 months

*Before storing, cure garlic, onions, pumpkins, and winter squash in a dry, warm spot (about 80 degrees F) for two weeks.

FACT SHEET: Optimal Storage Conditions for Common Farm Fresh Vegetables

Adapted from HC Harrison which is published by UW Extension

Butternut Squash Soup

This is the butternut squash soup recipe served at the We Grow Farm-to-Table Dinner Event in October 2016. It received very positive reviews and we were asked over and over again to post the recipe. It doesn’t take long to put this soup together, so it is great when you don’t have a plan for supper.

img_0533

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 6 cups raw cubed butternut squash, seeds removed ( 2.5 – 3 lb squash)*
  • 6 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tart apple, coursely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz cream cheese (at room temp if time allows)
  • salt to taste

In a large saucepan, saute onions/garlic in butter until tender. Add squash, apple, broth, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil; cook 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Cube cream cheese. Puree the squash mixture and cream cheese with a stick blender or in a food processor in batches until smooth. It is ready to serve at this point. You may need to heat it through when time to serve, but do not allow to boil.

*Tender squash can have the skins left on in this recipe as they will be pureed with a blender. Also, roasting the squash in halves and scooping it out of the skins as needed is an alternative to cubing raw. If using roasted squash, there is no need to cook the mixture for 20 minutes. Simply bring it to a boil to meld the flavors before pureeing.

Make up to three days in advance. Freezes well for an easy winter meal!

Week 19: October 8, 2016

Caterpillar Tunnel at We Grow in May 2016

Winter Wellspring

This is our final newsletter of the season, so we want to first say “thank you” for an excellent season. We would not be doing this if it weren’t for each one of you! Please don’t stop eating healthy, organic food because we stop bringing it to you. Carry this on through the winter. Seek out and purchase better food and you will be making a statement with your money that will help shape the industry into something better. Visit the Wausau winter market if you are heading that way – or any winter market for that matter. Consider buying local food when you can.

This weekend brings the first chance of frost we have seen this fall. Many crops that are still growing are usually killed by frost back in mid-September on any other year – peppers, tomatoes, tomatilloes, ground cherries, summer squash. While this has been an incredible fall from a weather stand-point, there are some things you have missed out on. Brassicas such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale become sweeter when the weather gets below freezing at night. They also change colors from bright green to purple tinted.

While most of us dread the pending cold weather, the winter season is actually something we look forward to and savor. We are so busy running spring, summer and into the fall that the down time winter brings is much needed respite. Poet Edith Sitwell summarizes it perfectly: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” We get a chance to sit down with the boys and build legos, we get to spend a Saturday walking in the woods looking for animal tracks, we can linger all day over a pot of stew. We might even catch up on housework! Winter brings wood fires, wool socks, and hot cocoa. Winter means sleeping in until sunrise. It is also an important time for rest in the soil, breaking the pest cycle. While we do have some things planned to work on over the winter, it will be low key. Winter is our wellspring that recharges us, gets us excited about bringing food to the tables of our customers.

Thank you again and have a wonderful off-season.

Sincerely,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Nineteen Newsletter

Week 18: October 1, 2016

We Grow High Tunnel Oct 2016

EXTENDED SEASON

As the market season winds down, we have been doing a lot of reflecting on what we improved on this season and what we need to do better next year. We seem to be reliving last season with a lack of late season goods that might have allowed us to extend our season into winter sales. We have successfully grown just enough to take care of our CSA membership, but that

is it. Looking ahead, we are setting our goals higher with better planning to make sure we don’t run out of planting space and grow better to deliver the products we have planned as the season draws into October.

The first step toward improvement is getting the ground prepared farther in advance coupled with planting in better soil. This we have told you about in previous editions. This week we were busy hauling more manure to get our fertility to where it needs to be. The second step, better execution of succession plantings, we are still trying to figure out the best solution. Right now we are considering either putting the job of seeding into Eric’s hands or perhaps cutting one market from the three we currently take part in to free up some time. Third, we will rely more our volunteers. We’re happy with how much our volunteers are able to get done. Harvesting is a breeze as these people have learned exactly how it needs to be done. Nearly every one plans to return and their experience will be invaluable. We hope to sign on two or three more. Before you know it, we will be able to have our volun- teers harvest while we keep up with cultivating and succession plantings.

Our greatest improvement will be the installation of a second high tunnel. The produce that comes from tunnels is cleaner and easier to harvest, comes in earlier and grows later, not to mention it grows better due to the added warmth. Tunnels are by far the most important tools on our farm being we push the limits of our short season.

It’s worth stating that we are pleased with how this season is turning out. More variety, less stressing about what is coming next and much needed help when we really need it. We were able to grow and distribute thirteen “new” vegetables that never even made it to the crates last year. Not to mention we grew our own rye and straw. So there is some improvement!

Eagerly looking ahead,

Eric & Rebecca

Week Eighteen Newsletter

Brussel Sprout Gratin

This au gratin recipe can be the base for any number of veggie gratin recipes. As our farm volunteer Linda pointed out, it would also be good with spaghetti squash. We would also try it with a mix of broccoli and cauliflower.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
  • 3/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Shave the brussels sprouts horizontally into thin slices with a sharp knife, mandoline slicer or power food slicer. Add to a bowl. Add the Cheddar, flour, thyme, garlic and some salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine. Pack the mixture to an 8×8” baking dish. Pour over the heavy cream.

In a small bowl, combine the panko, Parmesan and oil and pour over the brussels sprouts mixture.

Bake uncovered until the brussels sprouts are tender, the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden,  about 30 minutes.

Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Make it your own by adding bacon or ham, shreds of celeriac, or cubes of butternut squash.

Week 17: September 24, 2016

We Grow Pea Shoots

CLEANING THE FIELDS

The season is winding down and we starting to feel it around the farm. Amazingly, the weather has been holding out with near summer temps day after day. Our average last day of frost is September 13. And we’ve met that goal many times. Back in August we took a gamble when we pulled all the cucumbers in the high tunnel and filled it with beans, salad turnips and carrots. These vegetables are doing exceptional. We have been watching the turnips closely and sampling as needed. They will be shared along with radishes in the near future. We carefully roll the tunnel side up during the hottest part of each day to allow pollinators inside to reach the bean blossoms. Only a handful of tunnel tomato plants have been removed and the rest are still thriving, with a half bushel or more every other day. The greens are growing like crazy in the caterpillar tunnel as well. We should have produce well into November at this rate. What a lengthy growing season!

In the back of our property, we have noted rapid growth in the winter rye cover crops planted in the areas we will utilize next season. The weeds are growing as well, but better to have them germinate now than next spring perhaps. We also noticed that we were able to walk through the new field after an inch of rain this week. This is unheard of in the old field, where we would sink in up to our ankles in heavy mud. Even the pigs are happy to have the warm weather and lengthy fresh pasture as they will be overwintering with us and fed dry grass until it greens up again in the spring.

As the nice weather carries on, so does the work harvesting and cleaning out old crops. Expired plants are coming out of the ground and added to the compost pile. Each week, we remove more rows of black plastic mulch and irrigation line, a dreaded job. We’re also searching for posts, wires and large rocks we inadvertently left lay about for any number of reasons before the weeds consumed the garden. Hopefully Dennis and the rototiller won’t hit too many hazards next spring when everything starts over again.

Enjoying this fall weather,

Eric & Rebecca

Week Seventeen Newsletter

Week 16: September 17, 2016

We Grow Honey

Frame of capped honey on top with bees still working on capping the lower half at We Grow LLC.

Rocky History

This week, we spent a half a day picking rock in a two-acre field at the west end of our property. We spread manure, disced and planted winter rye in the space with plans to grow a majority of our produce in this “new” area in the spring. The soil in this field has a sandy texture compared to they heavy clay we have been working on the east end and the drainage is much better. The soil doesn’t clod into large chunks when wet and we find fewer rocks.

As a farmer, it doesn’t take long to realize that every step in the growing process hinges on our soil type and condition. From seed germination and water retention to laying plastic mulch and getting into an area with a tractor. Rather than forcing the process in an unsuitable area, we are taking the operation to better ground and can not wait to see what this new ground will bring. And for once we feel like we are putting the horse in front of the cart getting some cover crops in rotation before produce.

So while we are out in the field picking up rocks, we can’t help but look around at the piles of moss-covered rocks scattered here and there in each of our fields and pastures. The piles are quite large and centered to make the shortest walk from any part of the field. Some of our piles have rocks as large as a 55-gallon drum! It makes a person wonder about the people who put those rocks there. Who were they? What tools did they have to make the job easier? We know some of these piles were started back in the late 1800’s when this area was homesteaded. Were their children in the field helping or off climbing in the trees along the wood’s edge? What would they think about their land today? Did the deer come eat on their crops like ours today? Were predators a problem for their livestock? Did someone have their hands on this huge rock and try to get it out of the ground a century ago only to find it too large to budge? What it must have been like here when those rock piles were started? How much harder they had to work? How much their lives depended on their ability to be successful in their growing season? How much they relied on community support?

Humbly picking our rock,

Eric & Rebecca

Week Sixteen Newsletter

Week 15: September 10, 2016

Dene assisting with the old fanning mill cleaning the rye seed.

Dene assisting with the old fanning mill cleaning the rye seed.

Catcher of Rye

Farming has been a learn-as-you-go process being neither of us has a farming background. Oftentimes, we simply don’t realize what we are getting into when we get an idea into our heads. From underestimating the necessities involved in making hay to trying to raise animals without a barn.

So this week, we found ourselves borrowing another piece of equipment to do another specialized task on the farm. We needed to clean our rye seed. Taking the grain to a mill to have it cleaned may have been an option, but then we take the risk of it being contaminated with non-organics. Shortly after we harvested the grain, our neighbor came by to buy some rye seed for planting a food plot. Being unclean, we weren’t willing to sell. He proceeded to mention he has a grain cleaner in his old barn we are more than welcome to use. Just like that! We were considering driving 60 miles and right next door, in the back of an old barn is exactly what we need.

Something similar happened two years ago when we had five acres of grass to bale for bedding. We saw an old abandoned baler and rake in the neighbor’s field. He explained it had been sitting out unused for 15 years. It was buried in the mud. A little TLC and we got the old equipment running like a charm and have used it for two years! It makes us stop and wonder what else is out there in the old barns and rock piles that we could use. A lot of the old equipment is too small or no longer useful to large scale operations. Keep your eyes peeled because we will be looking for things like a chisel plow, hay wagon, gravity bin, planters, a potato digger, etc.

This week, when we started to run our rye seed through the neighbor’s old grain cleaner, we heard their stories about hours and hours spent each fall running the year’s harvest through the old machine. Our boys began to ask questions and eventually took over the process on our farm. Turning the seeds at the end of one season, into the seeds that start the next like it was done before hybrids and seed patents.

Living back in the ol’ days,

Eric & Rebecca

Week Fifteen Newsletter