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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome. Organic. Experience. All about our farm, food, and organic, small farm life.

Flurry of August

August has to be the busiest month of the whole summer. I can’t remember ever having a calendar that had a blank day in August.  I have heard it said that August is the month of timelessness. The produce is producing at max, so there is more harvest than normal, more varieties of produce are producing and needed harvested in August, and everything  from apricots, peaches, tomatoes, green beans to pickles needs to be canned, jammed, dried or froze. It is also the time of year when we need to start to think and plan for the school year and then there are all the birthdays and BBQs planned in August. There are so many days in August when my head is spinning and I scream, ” Aaahhh, really, how do we do it all?” On those days, I take a few deep breaths, start with one task at a time and drink a few beers. Everything gets done in long run and all is okay . . . . .. or the produce I was suppose to be canning for winter starts to go bad and I feed it to the pigs or chickens, I have enough canned from last year to last the winter. Right? ? ?

Here is what has been keeping us busy on the farm in August:

We have a wide variety of producDSCN7728e that is producing well: seeded watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupe, green beans, swiss chard, kale, bell peppers, serrano peppers, chile peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, slicing tomatoes, Sun Gold tomatoes. The san marzano and roma tomatoes are slower to come on but are slowly starting to produce. Our carrots are doing amazingly well this year and we are happy to have baby carrots with or without tops available. The garlic and onions have been harvested and cured, we have  been cleaning and getting it ready to sale.

Last year, our melons grew and produced well. We also had request for melons that we didn’t have so this year we decided to plant many more melons. It has been incredibly surprising how many melons the plants are producing and we have harvested the last tDSCN7722wo weeks. We have had a mountain of melons to sell at the farmers’ markets. They have such a sweet aroma and can be smelled from several feet away. And the smell is nothing compared to the taste. Yummmmm!

Unfortunetly, our eggplants are not producing yet. The plants are big and beautiful, but there are only a few blooms and they aren’t making eggplants. This is very unfortunate since my mouth is watering for eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush. We are hoping they will start producing abundantly before frost. They better hurry, I’m thinking we are going to have an early frost this year. And our beets rotted in the ground so no beets this year.

I know this season will wind down all too soon. Then it will be cold and I will be dreaming of summer again. In all the busyiness there is lots of joy to be had.  I really do love summer and all that goes along with it. I even enjoy canning, and yes, I do get enough canned, jammed, dried or froze to last us the winter. And at the end of an exhausting day, there is nothing like having a beer while sitting on the porch gazing at the moon and stars and listening to the insects. Cheers!

Farm Kids & Nature

The wheat stubble has been watered so any wheat that was left in the field can grow. Then the pigs get the field to forage on awhile. This will be thrilling for the pigs just like it was thrilling for the kids when the wheat was thrashed and the straw was baled and stacked. Before we started watering the field, the kids turned the wheat stubble field into their playground and race track. They would ride their bicycles several times a day around and across the field. They would race and loved the thrill of bouncing over the corrugates. It was more of a competition to see who could wreck the least.  I love watching my farm kids turn ordinary things into fun activities. Like earlier this summer, they dug a series of forts in the ground (that they could actually fit inside of) and pretended they were rock chucks. Pieces of wood become boats and suddenly the kids are pilgrims, pirates or explorers. And large zucchinis make better babies than the ones you can buy and are a lot cheaper to replace.  Our kids have a play set with swings and a slide and a two-story playhouse, but none of that keeps their interest or keeps them entertained for very long. It’s the ordinary everyday things that keep them entertained: soil, sticks, rocks,wood, insects, a field, plants, and possibly a shovel. Basically, all kids need is lots of room to run that is full nature and natural resources.

Kids don’t need all the toys that are sold in the stores. These toys won’t entertain them for very long and they won’t remember them. When they play outside, use their imaginations and explore what is around them. Then they are entertained, learning and having fun. I feel farm kids are the luckiest kids in the world.

I wrote an essay in college about if I could give my children only one toy from my childhood what would it be. Any guesses what it was? Hint: I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time outside. It was a backyard and farm full of natural resources. Amazingly, it is one of many toys our kids have and the toy that is used the most. My professor was impressed with my paper and what I called my favorite toy. I hope to find the box that has all my saved papers in it and I will share the essay as a post.

 

 

Summer Heat: Thrive or Hide?

The summer heat has arrived and has been good and bad for the farm and the farmers. The lettuce has just about stopped growing. It’s  like it is saying, “This heat is just too much for me.” The same thing that the farmer says when he goes in search of shade. On the other hand, the corn, tomatoes,  eggplant, and melons are thriving. I image them saying the same thing that I say when the summer heat has finally arrived, “Aaawww, now I’m comfortable, let’s get to work!” So the corn has jumped in height and is making ears, the tomatoes are ripening, the eggplant are getting ready to produce, and the melons are spreading and growing large beautiful melons. The cucumbers are doing well in the heat too. They are covered in blooms and starting to make little cucumbers. This is the part of summer that this farmer’s wife loves: the heat, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn, peppers, eggplants and melons. All my favorite things of summer!

In other farm news, the green beans are ready to be picked. The picking begins this week. The peppers were producing well, but were getting sun burnt. So we covered them with a shade cloth and will be able to offer higher quality peppers rest of the summer.

We also have a little experiment going on. The broccoli was so infested with aphids it was either mow it all the way to the ground, till it in and prepare the ground to plant something for fall or mow the tops of the plants off to try to get rid of the aphids and get the broccoli to grow more heads. We decided to mow the tops and wait a week or two to see what happens. So if mowing the tops of the plants off doesn’t take care of our aphid problem or if the broccoli doesn’t grow anymore heads, then we will be mowing it off to prepare the bed for a fall planting.  Either way it’s a win/win situation for us.

As we harvest the garlic, onions and radishes and end their growing season, we are preparing the beds for fall planting. We plan to plant a fall crop of greens, broccoli, cabbage and any other cool season plants we can and cover with them low tunnels to extend our growing season ( or maybe I should  say to extend our working season). We hope to offer produce as long into the fall and possible winter as we can.

I don’t want to think of the cold yet though, the heat just arrived! So the farmer is planning for fall and I’m headed back out into the summer sun!

 

Managing & Thrashing

It felt kind-of like a “normal” farm around here this week. We had our wheat thrashed with an actual combine, no harvesting by hand (with market garden farming everything except our peas and beans are harvested by hand). Getting the wheat thrashed takes a little pressure off, but kept the farmer busy with “normal” farm work instead of the market gardening type of work. It feels good to check a harvest off of the to do list and have it be done for the year. Now to swath the straw, bale and stack it, water the stubble and let the pigs out in the field.

Speaking of pigs, we are having issues with pigs. We have not been able to keep them in this week. Apparently the old saying is true, it’s greener on the other side of the fence. We have spent a lot of time putting the pigs in and fixing fence. Some say that pigs respect a hot wire. Well, ours don’t! They go right through the hot wire, lift the panels up, destroy the woven wire (they will go through and destroy three fences in 30 seconds flat!) and go where they please. . . .  which has been into the squash and corn patch. So we will have very little corn and winter squash this year thanks to the pigs.

So that leaves us thinking: what to do now? What to do differently around here? And most importantly, how to manage pigs that don’t want to be managed?

For the market garden farming, the ladybugs have arrived! The kale is not on20160725_111740ly covered with aphids now. It is also covered with ladybugs that are feasting on aphids. The ladybugs are not as abundant as the aphid population, but the ladybugs are plentiful and busy feasting. It is a beautiful site to see from our point of view.

20160725_111405
In this picture, there is another insect (middle of photo) on the kale along with the aphids and ladybugs. We don’t what kind of insect it is and have not taken the time to research it or its identity. If you know what it is, please let me know.

And the apricots are ripe and plentiful! The sweet taste of fruit in the summer is so pleasing and such an easy snack. When we get hungry when we are out working, we simply stop by the apricot tree to have feast of apricots. And now to think of recipes to use apricots.

20160725_112302

Are We Farmers or Gamblers?

There was a devastating storm that went through the Magic Valley this week. We are blessed to not have suffered any damage from the storm. The opposite end of valley was not as lucky. Several farmers lost their crops to hail. If the hail would of hit our farm, we most likely would of lost our wheat harvest and all our produce; along with our income for rest of the year. It would of been a devastating loss. I believe this is one way that God shows us He is in control. When you choose farming as a living you have to rely on praying or maybe just gambling as to if you will have any income for the year. There are so many days that it feels like a waiting game . . .  a very long game of DSCN7425waiting and having no control of what happens next . . .  .  we are at the mercy of someone else or a higher power and we have no idea how the day, weeks, months or even the year will turn out. From my experience with the farming life, it is like riding a roller coaster with the faith that you will make it to the end of the ride. There are lots of ups and downs
and you had better enjoy the ups while you are up and find a way to manage when you are in the downs. Focus on the positives because if you focus on the negatives you are not going to enjoy anything in this life.

Honestly, I think  anyone that is crazy enough to choose farming as a living is a risk-taker, probably enjoys gambling once in awhile and likes to be spontaneous. In this farming duo, the farmer is a spontaneous risk taker. I like routine and everything planned in advance, but also like to gamble once in awhile, just a little bit. So I believe we are both,  farmers & gamblers. And it doesn’t matter if you call yourself a farmer or gambler or both, you need to have something to believe in and to keep you grounded.

For the not-so-good-but-to-be-expected-news of the farm, we have aphids in our broccoli, cauliflower and kale, and grasshoppers are eating the collard greens like crazy. So we are waiting or gambling that the ladybugs will move in to have an aphid feast! The zucchini is slow to grow this year, but is producing a little. Maybe that is just God telling us to stop talking about the abundance of zucchini and actually treasure this vegetable.

For the good news, the peppers have started to produce. The wheat has turned and looks like a beautiful crop with lots of straw. And we finally started to process chickens this week. They are ranging in weight from 4 to 6.5 pounds.  We are starting to get pork back from the butcher. And the beef will be back soon too. So we have lots of meat in-stock. This farm wife is excited to have a few less animals on the farm. An abundance of animals (especially chickens and pigs, my least favorite farm animals) gets to be too much for me and my yard to handle.

May we all have a blessed week to come with lots of positives to rejoice in!

Farm Update

The ducks have grown up, they are probably full grown now. And are still beautiful. We love having them part of our farm life. They have been turned out and are free range ducks now.  Although, they are not taking advantage of the being free range and running the whole property like DSCN7408the chickens do. The ducks are staying in their safe zone we are calling it. They are keeping themselves contained to the back, out behind the yard and around beside the garden. At this point they are so well behaved, they are the favorite animal of the farm. They have access to a ditch and love playing in the water. And we love to hear them splashing around and quacking merrily. They are not laying eggs yet, but are keeping the grass and weeds ate down so I don’t have to do any mowing or weed-eating back there. That means less work for me, they aren’t destroying my yard or garden and they don’t scratch. That makes for a very happy farm wife!

 

DSCN7409
The ducks playing in the water of a shallow waste ditch.

The tomatoes are getting tied up and are full of blooms. We are hoping to have tomatoes by the end of the month. The peppers are blooming and setting. We may have ptying tomatoeseppers very soon. The eggplants are blooming their beautiful purple blooms too. The corn is growing taller and loving the heat we have had. The melons are really sprawling and growing too. We have even seen a few baby melons on a few of the plants. We are looking forward to lots of vegetables and melons.

And, of course, the weeds have gotten away from us and are growing out of control. That is probably how it is going to stay. Weeds have way more energy than we do.

Elderly Wisdom & Farming

This farming wife has had a hard time focusing on farming lately. We have been so touched by the elderly around us and their circumstances. I just want to take some time to focus on how to take in every word they say, apply it and cherish every moment with them. We are facing the fact that we may lose one of the dearest people that we have every had the privilege of having a part of our daily lives. Losing this person not to death but to distance. It saddens us greatly to not have this person a part of our daily lives. I know it is a fact of life that people either pass on or move on. But let’s take some time to take their words to heart and learn from them.

 

So we have been told by the elderly that, “The golden years aren’t so golden,” “Don’t wait to have fun until you are retire. Have fun while you are young and can still move,” “Getting old is terrible, don’t get old!” That leaves me wondering . . . . . .  how do we have fun and enjoy life while living this farming life or more like this market gardening dream? It is very labor intensive and requires us to be on the farm or marketing for the farm everyday of the week. We have been trying to take one day a week off to have fun, but that doesn’t allow us time to travel or get very far from the farm. The only answer I have to my own question is to learn to live on less, money isn’t what matters, just enjoy our time together, and don’t put fun activities off until tomorrow or wait for retirement. My vote is to do it now! And make time to visit your grandparents and all the elderly around you. Listen to their stories and advice and take it to heart. They know what they are talking about; they have lived through a lot and experienced more years of life than you have. That makes for a lot of knowledge they are carrying around. What if my generation applied that knowledge now, I think we could live a very enriched fulfilling life. There is a famous quote that I have heard many times, “Wisdom is knowledge applied.” So let’s seek out that knowledge, apply it, and savor the time with the ones around us. Then we can be wise.

Best Strawberry Rhubarb Pie & the Crust Failure

This is probably the best pie I have ever made.

strawberry rhubarb pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

The farmer and our son love pies, any kind of pie. The farmer especially likes fruit pies. The problem here is that I stink at making pie crust. By the way, that is hard for me to admit. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I will work on something until I perfect it. And I have worked on making pie crust for the last 13 years, I haven’t had one that has turned out or been good. So I tend to stick to graham cracker crust and cream pies, I know it’s not a healthy option, but I can make them and they are good. The problem is that graham cracker crust and fruit pie filling don’t work too well together. And the farmer is a little picky about his pies; he doesn’t want a soggy crust! And he will let me know when things are too soggy, too salty, under cooked, too bland, too anything, the list can go on. However, the one thing he has never commented about is food being cooked too long or too crunchy. He likes food well-done with some crunch to it and I like everything under-cooked and rare.

Anyway, back to the pie. Last year, our son helped make a strawberry rhubarb lattice pie and it was delicious. By the way he made the crust himself last year and it was good. Yaaay, it’s a bit embarrassing, my 8 year old makes better pie crust than I do. So this year, I decided to try it with a graham cracker crust and a crunch topping. And it was amazing!!! Even the farmer loved it!

So here is the recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

12 graham crackers ( I always use the one without high fructose corn syrups or dyes)             1/4 C Butter                                                                                                                                                          3 1/2 C Rhubarb, chopped                                                                                                                              3 1/2 C Strawberries, hulled and halved if they are large                                                                     1/4 to 1/2 C Sugar, depending how sweet you want it. I always use the least amount so 1/4 C. 1/4 C Cornstarch                                                                                                                                                1 1/2 C Oatmeal                                                                                                                                                 1/4 C Brown Sugar                                                                                                                                             1/4 C Pecans, Walnuts, or nut of your choice

Melt the butter. Crumble the graham crackers and mix with melted butter. Press into a pie plate. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. I cooked mine until it was dark, overcooked to me, but just right for the farmer. Set aside and let cool.

In a pot, combine the rhubarb, half of the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until thickens, stirring often. Remove of stove top and stir in the rest of the strawberries. Pour into the prepared pie plate.

For the topping: in a food processor combine oatmeal, brown sugar and nuts. Blend until chopped up or the consistency that you like. Sprinkle on top of pie. Let pie cool and set up, then enjoy! I hope you enjoy this pie as much as we did!

 

 

Recipes . . . . Collard Greens

As a farmer’s wife, it is thrilling for me to be able cook meals with ingredients that come directly from our farm. And I love doing it on a daily basis, however, with farming life tends to get really busy when the produce is abundant. We get consumed by task that need to be done on the farm and don’t make time to cook meals from scratch some days. On busy days we come in the house late and everyone is really hungry and tired, we tend to fall back on eggs for our quick and easy go to supper. There are so many ways to cook eggs and it is quick, then we can fall into bed to get some rest.

 

I’m always willing to try new recipes or ways to prepare things and like to experiment with my cooking. The farmer teases me from time to time that our kitchen is more like a lab.  So when I have successful new recipes or favorites I want to share it with you. I may even let you know about some of my failures. I’m wanting to spread my joy of cooking farm fresh food. I’m hoping to share on a regular basis some of our recipes that we use for preparing our produce and meat. We always eat what is in-season and readily available on our farm.

 

So at this time my focus is going to be on collard greens. I’m actually new to growing and eating this leafy green. We have been told it is a southern food. So I turned to our aunt and uncle that lives in Alabama for advice on how to cook these greens.  Tcollard greens 2hey gave me some ways to cook collard greens and I came up with some of my own ideas after search the website for recipes. Then, of course, I didn’t follow any reci
pe exactly. I do my own thing, always do!

 

Here is how we have prepared and ate collard greens so far:

  • Saute in a frying pan with bacon grease, salt, pepper, and chopped green onions and green garlic. Cook them this way on a grill and they will taste even better!
  • Throw them in a soup!  I made my version of Italian Wedding Soup, which involves just cooking sausage (not making meatballs . . . .  that takes too much time) and throwing everything in the pot to simmer. So I used collard green in the soup instead of kale. It was delicious!
  • I  boiled a ham hock with water and chicken broth. Then added sauteed onion, green garlic, salt and pepper. The ham hock simmered for several hours, then about 45 minutes before we wanted to eat I put the collard greens in the pot to simmer. This turned out like a soup, I had lots of broth in the pot. It was very good, the kids even loved it!
  • Cook the collard greens  in a pot with a little chicken broth and onions, season with paprika, salt and pepper; then drop in cornmeal dumplings on top. Put the lid on and steam the dumplings until done. This one is a favorite of our aunt and uncle from Alabama. I have yet to make this but plan to be cooking it up this week, except I plan to add chopped fried bacon to the greens. Yummm!  I will most likely post on our facebook page how it turns out.
  • Substitute them in any recipe you would use kale or cabbage.  They can be tough when ate raw, but I think they make an excellent Cole Slaw salad.

 

I am loving collard greens now! They are so versatile and don’t cook to mush, unless, of course you cook them waaaayyyy too long. Then they can turn to mush.

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