Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Website Woes

It's one of those cool rainy days when it is too wet to do much work in the market garden or around the yard so I decided today would be a good day to update the Boulder Belt website. The first thing I did was upgrade the site and lost the banner ads that had been there since I created the site 8 or so years ago and also gave me more bandwidth so more people can visit the site. In the past I did not care about bandwidth but since I got my own domain name ( the traffic to the site has increased greatly. Used to be I would get maybe 1000 visitors per year and now I get that about every month and the traffic is growing as more and more people use the web to search for organic foods. That, and the fact I got a domain name and do not have to use the URL: That domain was simply too long and too anonymous for the search engines to pick up on so the Boulder Belt Eco-Farm site was never high in the search rankings (unlike this blog that consistently shows up in the top ten if you do a search for sustainable ag topics or home made catsup, or hoophouses, etc..).

Okay so I paid angelfire to host my site and lose the ads. I probably could have done better but it was cheap and easy (don't have to ftp files to another host and all). After doing that I decided to upload several photos to put on the site and that is where troubles started. The damned photos would not upload. On the 3rd try I got 3 uploaded on I put them on the website. I updated the farm store page, than I noticed that the photo files were not in the correct directory (actually they were but copies had gone to the wrong place) so I clicked on one file to delete it. The page that asks if I really want to delete the file came up and I click yes. Than I noticed I made a rather costly mistake. I thought I had clicked on farmstore.jpg. But no! I had really clicked on farmstore.html and deleted the page I had just put new photos on and also updated the copy. AHGGGGGG!.

I did not have a copy of the html on the hard drive so I had to recreate the page from scratch. This was not overly hard. I used a template that angelfire provides and that I use on all the other pages of the site so all I had to do was cut, copy and paste a customized template from another page and than delete all the old copy (except the links) and put in what needed to be there. this would have been a lot easier if I could have remembered what I written for that page but I did not so I had to wing it. I think I came out with a better web page, more streamlined and easier to read

That was my afternoon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's a Balloon!

Yesterday evening a hot air balloon landed in our bottom field. The balloon was owned and piloted by Mark Frazier out of Middletown. He was taking a couple for a ride on their 41st anniversary who were from New Lebanon. Mark said he was having a hard time finding a place to land in the sea of corn and soybean fields and came over some trees and saw our fallow field and put the balloon down.

I was in the house when they landed and would have missed it if the dogs had not gone nuts barking at the balloon. I walked outside to see what they were barking about and saw this:

So I walk down the hill to what's up and meet the ballooners who ask if I am the property owner (yes) and if I have a problem with their landing on the property (no). He than asks if there is a way to get a truck with a trailer down into the valley and I say it is possible but not easy. Just about than the chase crew and the anniversary couples kids and grand kids all arrive and are walking down the hill to meet the ballooners.

Eugene who was up on the roof trying to get some priming done was now on the ground walking the hill with the pilot and I was meeting the chase vehicle driver and told him to go a talk to Eugene about getting a truck down to the balloon. Finally it was decided that the balloon needed to go up the hill to the top field and so a leash of sorts was attached to the balloon and the envelope (what we would consider the balloon itself) was filled with enough hot air to lift it about 3 feet off the ground and was lead up the hill with 5 people (including Eugene) holding the gondola and one person pulling on the leash attached to the envelope.

Once the got the balloon up the hill they put it between the line of cedar trees that are on the ridge and the market garden. Once the gondola was on the ground again it was time to deflate the envelope on stuff it in its' bag. the initial step was to shut off the heat and with the leash still attached guide the envelope gently to the ground. It was a still evening but the envelope initially did a bee line towards the only things in its' vicinity that could badly damage it. Namely, some pieces of rebar we have holding some raised beds together that stick up about 18" out of the ground.

But at the last second Aaron, the guy on the leash, was able to persuade the envelope to come a bit south and land safely on the ground. Once that was done, it was time to get all the air out of the envelope and all the grasshopper off the envelope (this seemed to be highly attractive to crickets, katydids and grasshoppers as there were hundreds all over the envelope). This was a group effort (okay, most things with a hot air balloon seem to be a group effort). We got in a line and started squeezing the air out of the balloon so it would be able to be stuffed in the big bag that held the deflated envelope.

When that was done we all got in line again and lifted the balloon onto our shoulders and started putting it in the big canvas bag. many hands made light work of that and within about 2 minutes the thing was packed away and ready to load into the trailer on the chase vehicle. Another couple of minutes and the gondola was put away. the people who hired the balloon took lots of pictures of the crew and landowners after the loading and than they went on their way back home. The balloon people stuck around to check out the farm store and they bought a lot of stuff which was good as they were the only customers we had all day and about the most interesting customers we have had to date

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Covering Up

It's still summer for another 58 or so hours but we are facing our first chance of frost tonight. last night it went down into the low 40's which was enough to get Eugene and me to put row covers on the peppers, eggplant and the 3rd tomato planting. we thought about covering the green beans we are currently picking but decided the beans could easily weather a cool night. And they did.

We were hoping to be done with covering plants but the weather this morning predicted a low of 39˚F this morning and at noon they dropped that prediction to 38˚F. I figure by the 5 o'clock news they will be saying 35˚F and by morning we will see frost crystals on the lawn.

And so Eugene is, as I write this, putting hoophouses over the tomatoes and peppers and will put heavy covers over the beans.

Sometimes I think our penchant for season extension is on the crazy side. After a long hard season of growing crops maybe it is time to let the tender plants die and that in turn would let us take a bit of a break. But tomatoes and peppers are good income generators, especially when you are the only people at the farmers' market with them. Not to mention the fact we do a lot of fall crops such as arugula, lettuce, kale, brussle sprouts, leeks, potatoes, spinach, spring mix, carrots, turnips, radishes, parsnips, etc.. so killing off the tender crops does not relieve much of the work burden but will cut into the profits quite a bit.

And so we cover the crops with row covers and hoophouses and than we worry about whether of not they will survive. Such is the life of the small market grower in fall (or in this case late summer)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Row Covers

Row covers in High summer protecting young brassicas from the ravages of pests

I have an article on Row Covers published on the Farm & Garden Website
A lot of information on something we use year 'round here at Boulder Belt


For the past umpteen years I have been a total coffee snob. All I would buy is gourmet coffee, Guatemalan Antigua shade grown being about my all time favorite, though there are some lovely Sumatran coffees too. The past 8 years or so all the coffee I bought was fair trade and certified organic (and usually Guatemalan Antigua).

My Husband would tell me that I was spending way too much on coffee and it really didn't matter as far as taste goes if the stuff is fair trade, organic, shade grown, whole bean or not. He is sooo wrong about this. But than I'm the gourmand, he is not (but I am working on him).

I am drinking a cup of Yuban coffee and I am here to tell it does matter. This stuff is pretty bad (and we have a huge can of it to go through before we buy more...maybe). I opened the can 2 days ago and for some reason was not paying attention to what the stuff tasted like the first day and yesterday decided I made it too weak so today I upped the coffee content by 50% and at least it is not too weak but even with a lot of raw cream in it it is still not very good. Better than instant but not even close to some good whole bean shade grown, organic, fair trade coffee.

At least the stuff has caffeine in it so it is not all bad, but pretty darned close. And because it is too weak for my tastes if used per directions I will be using the huge can up far more quickly than anticipated and can get back to fair trade yummy coffee sooner than later.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Playin' Hooky

It's a rainy day so we skipped going to market. Instead I washed the kitchen floor which was way dirty (but much cleaner now) and Eugene cleaned onions for a lot of the day and right now is up in the garden doing gardening things because it quit raining about 4pm (but looks like it will start again any second).

We probably should have gone to market even though there was no way to harvest anything this morning due to steady rain until around 4pm. That said, we do have a lot of tomatoes, sweet onions, winter squash and other items we could have taken. But days such as this usually mean really slow sales to the point of it not being worth the effort of packing up everything, driving a half hour one way to market, setting up in the park and making $50 bucks on the day (Oh sure, $50 is better than nothing you say but than you would not be working a collective 10 hours for that $50).

Sometimes it is better to play hooky from work and get some other things done that you had no idea when or where you would find the time for.

Keyword Questions

A keyword post where I answer what is on the keyword list from my blog counter software.

Today's first keyword question asks: why do my chickens cannibilize each other
Answer: Because they do not have enough room. Caged chickens get their beaks cut off to prevent this but pastured chickens should not be de-beaked and given more room to roam.

The second keyword question is: were can i get my own farm and chiken.

Answer: chickens are bought at hatcheries and chicken sales. of course you will need good sturdy housing to keep the predators from killing all the chickens plus feed, a place to store the feed so rats and mice do not eat it, feeders, waterers, bedding, fencing and if layers egg cartons and nesting boxes.

To find a farm start driving around rural areas. Go to the county courthouse to look up the owners of farms you might like. Peruse the realty web based data bases and if you don't have several hundred thousand dollars in the bank, line up a mortgage. Of course, before you jump into chicken farming you might want to work on a chicken farm to see if you like the work. Having livestock means saying bye bye to most vacations and a lot oof long hours for low pay.

Monday, September 11, 2006

911 Remembered

5 years ago today I was sending off a newsletter about the farmers' market we thought we would be attending that day. My last act before the terrorist attacks started was to hit the send button for that email and than Eugene said to come in a see what was happening on the TV.

He was watching the Today Show and eating cereal when the first plane hit the tower. I came in and started watching the event unfold in front of my eyes. I immediatly said this had to be a terrorist attack. Eugene was not so sure than about 20 minutes later the second plane hit the other tower and the pentagon was hit and I said this was more than a terrorist act it was an act of war. And so it was.

It was a beautiful late summer day. Warm and perfectly clear with light winds. We lived in an area with several flyways both military and commercial. I was on the porch just after the whole thing started smoking a cigarette and saw my favorite plane fly over-a DC 9 from the 1940's. A beautiful plane. Likely going up to Greenville. About 30 minutes later the FAA had grounded all planes in the USA and I was outside still and saw the DC 9 coming back. After that no planes and that was strange because we normally had anywhere from 4 to 20 planes in sky at any time-heavy air traffic. And suddenly none. As an environmentally aware person this is something I had wanted, no air traffic, but when it happened it was kind of distasteful, too strange.

Eugene and I started discussing whether or not we should go to market. By this time I was glued to the TV. Flipping through the stations (no cable/satellite here) to see which network had the best coverage. To glean any new information. To watch the horror unfold in front of my eyes. And I was getting really scared. It was getting very unreal.

So after much discussion we decided not to go to market. I thought it would be in bad taste and until we knew what was going on. Not to mention, that most people would be doing what I was doing-watching the TV-and not going out to shop at the farmers' market. And I was watching TV and not getting prepared for market (which takes 6 to 7 hours). So we stayed home and I was told to quit watching the TV (which by now was repeating the tape of the towers burning and falling, not a good thing to watch ad nauseum). And I started cleaning yellow storage onions.

Onion cleaning was what I did most of the day and got several bushels ready for winter. I remember cleaning them on the front porch so I could also watch the TV so Eugene's plan to disconnect me did not really work.

The more I watched the number I got. This was not happening, it could have been an elaborate movie set. And yet it most certainly was. There was a major this does not compute message going through my brain and the brains of hundreds of millions of others. Cleaning the onions was a good thing to do while this was going on. It can be a rather Zen thing to clean onions and a way to keep connected with the fact there will be a future. The onions were to be used all winter for food.

Skip ahead to late afternoon. I am about done with the onions and have gone inside with Eugene. We have been hearing reports of presidential movement around the country. He had been hopping from one AFB to another. We were in the kitchen when we heard a sound that sounded like two explosions. Two big booms that rattled the windows. I hit the floor and Eugene ran outside and starts scanning the horizon for smoke. I get up go outside and look up I see two fighter jets and Air force 1 flying overhead. Weird, but since 9-11 we have discovered AF1 makes regular fly-overs in this airspace. We are both relieved that is was just Bush and not bombs.

That was my day what was yours?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Victorio

It's almost fall and that means tomato canning time. I have already written about catsup and the wonderful victorio and here is a picture of the victorio with tomatoes that were made into plain tomato sauce.

Today I am canning up probably the last sauce I will make this year, the sauce tomatoes did not yield well at all and many of the plants were crossed with other things so did not produce decent sauce tomatoes at all. I should get 18 or so quarts of sauce in the end and along with a couple of jars from last year plus the frozen sauce we ought to be all right for the winter/spring.

My Victorio strainer is an old model. A 200 that seems to have been replaced by a new and improved 200. I am hoping the parts I need are still around. seems to have the things I need but not all are in stock. And there seem to be a couple of parts I have never possessed (but than I go this from my Father, lightly used, so perhaps they were there at one point back in the mists of time). So I may be looking at not being able to get all the parts I need to get the thing back up to almost new condition. Since I have been using it hard in less than almost new condition I suppose I could continue to do so. It still works quite well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


If you missed this last year now is your opportunity...

Get ready for the Second Annual World Naked Gardening Day (WNGD)! People across the globe are encouraged, on Saturday, September 9, 2006 to tend their portion of the world's garden clothed as nature intended.

Gardening has a timeless quality, and anyone can do it: young and old, singles or groups, the fit and infirm, urban and rural. An elderly lady in a Manhattan apartment can plant new annuals in her window box. Families can rake leaves in their back yard. Freehikers can pull invasive weeds along their favorite stretch of trail. More daring groups can make rapid clothes-free sorties into public parks to do community-friendly stealth cleanups...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Homemade Catsup

Every year I try to do a new canning project. Last year it was pickle relish made from lemon cukes (golden relish) and this year it is catsup. I have this book with a lot of pickling recipes in it and it has two catsup recipes. One is for catsup that taste just like Heinz™/Hunts™ catsup so I used that for the familiarity of the taste and because it used more tomatoes than the other recipe as well as a lot of onions which I have an abundance of including several pounds of semi rotten ones that need using ASAP.

So I get out the Victorio Strainer set up (the kitchen tool I can not live without this time of year) and bring in a crate of various tomatoes (red, yellow, pink, striped) that are beginning to go. Than Eugene brings me a bucket of maters that need using before I hit the ones in the crate. Than I find several pounds of green peppers and 5 large onions (actually 8 or 9 medium onions). I prep the onions and peppers for the catsup first by cleaning them and than putting them into the Cuisinart and pureeing them into a frothy green substance. Added a bit of vinegar and let that sit while I put 25 pounds of tomatoes of various colors and flavors through the Victorio Strainer. Added the maters to the green froth and than added the sugar some salt and the rest of the vinegar and put the whole mess (which was by this time in the largest roasting pan I have, one that can hold a 30 pound turkey, aka birdzilla) into a 200˚F oven. The directions said to cook this for 10 hours but I gave it 14 hours and turned up the heat the next morning to 250˚F and the stuff was not a thick and rich catsup but rather a runny sweet and tart tomato sauce. So I took the roasting pan full of sweet and tangy tomato sauce out of the oven and tried to thicken it with corn starch (Rumsford GMO fee corn starch!). This did not work very effectively, it thickened a bit but not much. Probably did not use enough to get the job done. Or maybe I should have used a flour paste...

Any hoo after attempting to thicken the catsup I gave up on that idea and got the canning jars out of the boil canner and proceeded to fill them up with the sweet and tangy tomato sauce, put the lids and rings on and canned up 7 quarts leaving 1 quart extra.

The extra quart I put in a sauce pan and cooked it down on low heat for 3 or 4 hours to see if I could get it thick enuff to call catsup. Nope, could not. So than I decided to try thickening it this time with a flour paste (a couple of table spoons of white flour with water added to it than stirred well into a thin paste or slurry). This worked very well and I had before a substance that tasted a lot like commercial catsup.

So if I do this again I will be changing the recipe quite a bit. I will toss out the corn syrup (don't want no GMO's in my catsup if I can avoid this) and replace with brown sugar (did this in the first batch with good results). I will for go the several days of slow cooking in a low over (will cook over night) and instead use a the flour paste thickener to get the right consistency. I will use a cup more of vinegar (I used rice vinegar rather than the cider vinegar called for because that is what I have in abundance) and perhaps use a bit of balsamic. I will add either garlic powder or fresh pureed garlic and a tablespoon more salt. Than I think I will have an excellent catsup.

I am quite excited to learn how to make my own catsup. It is a condiment we use a lot around here and I have never liked the fact that when eating this I am eating High Fructose Corn syrup, a food additive I try to avoid like the plague but because I use a lot of commercial catsup I do eat. Not to mention we will no longer be spending a couple of dollars a month on the stuff.

Next will be BBQ sauce. I will use roasted ripe peppers, some OJ and bacon in the catsup recipe, maybe some molasses too.

Oh yeah, the catsup I fooled around with on the stove became Sloppy Joe base and it was excellent and that is probably what the first batch will end up being as it is not really catsup.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

1 Year

It's Saturday it is raining and we had a good market this morning despite the light misty rain that was not supposed to happen at all. It is cool and the skies are leaden, like late October. So we took winter squash to market-appropriate.

Friday marks the first full year of farm ownership for us (also means this is almost a year old). It has been a real trip owning a farm, or any real estate, for that matter. We have come a long way in the past year turning this farm from a cow pasture into a produce market farm. We have put in grapes, several fruit trees a 1.5 to 2 acre garden. Planted perennial flowers around the pond and house. Cleaned up several tons of junk left here by the former denizens (sold a lot of it, made use of a lot, burned some and landfilled very little) and now have a working micro farm.

We are a lot further along than I imagined we would be at this time last year. The whole buying and moving to a new farm project seemed so massively overwhelming but we got to work and are building a nice place.

We still have work to do, lots of work.