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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Garlic Time

A Picture of the garlic cloves at about the half way point. When I was all done I had broken apart around 30 pounds of garlic

Ah the stinking rose!

Monday and Tuesday were taken up with garlic activities.

Monday we spent all day (8am to 6:30pm) prepping garlic for planting and than planting around 2000 cloves. prepping means collecting the nicest bulbs we have and than breaking the bulbs down to the cloves. this is what I did Sunday from 8 am until around 3pm. Tedious work that has, in the past, made my left hand very sore and swollen (but not this year for some reason). After breaking up garlic bulbs so I have 3000 cloves more or less (more really since about 1/3 of the cloves in most of the bulbs do not make the cut for seed garlic due to size and/or quality) I count them to make sure we have enough (and for two of the 3 types I did not have nearly enough and had to go hunting for garlic bulbs that were big enough to yield suitable cloves for planting and spend another hour or so breaking them up).

While I was working with the garlic Eugene was up in the garden putting a hoop house back together. The plastic came off in some unexpected high winds that came through Saturday night. than he helped prep garlic for a couple of hours than went back to the garden to do final preparations on the 6 beds slated for garlic production, taking thousands of cloves with him. By the time I got up to the garden he had the German White just about laid out (I wish I had brought the camera with me to get a photo of this). I helped him finish laying out the cloves and than repositioning them (another tedious task, but if this is not done in an anal retentive, OCD way we pay big time in the spring and summer because things are not growing exactly where we need them to be growing) So after 45 minutes of repositioning the cloves and adding a bunch more to the 2 beds I started putting the cloves into the soil.

By this time the sun was sinking low in the sky but was not yet really setting. the air was brisk but the soil still had summer warmth. I sat down (this saves the back big time)and started poking cloves into the soil with the root end always pointing downward. We always plant 3 rows per bed with the cloves set 4" inches apart. I worked on the middle and one of the outer rows working my way north. While I planted the German White Eugene laid out 2 beds of Chesnok Red (AKA Shvlisi). By the time I finished the germ white Eugene was poking the Chesnok Red into the soil. I wandered over to those beds and got to work poking garlic cloves (root end down) into the soil and as the sun started setting we finished up 2/3 of the 2008/09 garlic planting.

Tuesday Eugene finished up the last 1000 cloves including the two new types we have-Purple Glazer and Music. So We have around 3000 cloves planted that should grow into around 3000 garlic plants that will be harvested in early to mid July 2009.

I traded tomato seeds with my virtual friend Natalie Foster (AKA The Garlic Lady) for garlic and she sent a lot more than I expected. I got a box with 4 bulbs each of two kinds of garlic. It will be nice to have two additional garlic types after growing the geopolitical trinity of German White (Germany), Chesnok Red (Georgia) and Persian Star (Iran).

While Eugene finished planting, I started the process of drying garlic for our famous and powerful Progressive Garlic Powder. First I had to clean up tarragon and cinnamon basil with which I had filled the two Excalibur dehydrators. That took about an hour. After that was done I was ready to load garlic into the dehydrators. I started with all the cloves that did not make the seed garlic cut plus any extra garlic cloves that were big enough to be seed but we did not need. I put those cloves on dehydrator trays. In the past, I would have filled up all the dehydrators I had (a small Excalibur plus 3 other cheaper models) and still had more garlic to do. This year, because I bought the biggest dehydrator Excalibur sells, I had enough room in the one big dehydrator for almost all the garlic. But all the garlic are not just the rejects from planting. I also use any deformed, damaged or small bulbs that are in the sales baskets. This meant I had to collect more garlic bulbs and break those apart so they would be ready for the dehydrator. Now the garlic just has to dry out for about a week and than it will be ready to be processed into garlic powder. And than we will have garlic powder again and that makes me excited.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Boulder Belt CSA Lives

So I did something I did not think I would do again for a long time if ever. I started up the CSA again. The market season ends for us in less than 2 weeks and the store has been dead for the past month and it is not looking like there will be carloads of people flocking to the store to buy fresh and local produce in November so I got a bit desperate the other morning thinking about how we have quite a bit of stuff planted for fall winter sales along with long storage items like garlic, onions, potatoes, etc., and no real market for it all.

So I thought why not see if I can get any interest in a short winter CSA so I sent out an email to everyone on the official boulder belt email list and within an hour had 5 seriously interested people and within 4 hours 4 of the five had committed (and I believe the 5th potential member is a go as well).

The ressurection of the CSA upset Eugene for a while but he seems on board with it. He's worried that we won't have enough food and if we were going the entire winter instead of November through mid January I would agree. But a 6 week CSA should be no problem for us. I also told him there would be no delivery so none of us have to drive food anywhere. The members will come here and pick up their food. And hopefully the members will take advantage of being physically on a farm and walk around and see the sights.

My ressurecting the CSA with a short winter affair now has the two of us thinking about doing the CSA pretty much year round and replacing the Tuesday market with the CSA. If we can get 10 members at $25 a week we will be making more than what we averaged this season at the Tuesday market. And we won't have to pack up stuff in the van, drive 30 minutes to Oxford and unpack it. Set up our farmers market stand, sell food in all weather, repack the stuff, load it back in the van, drive home and unload before we can relax at 9pm or so. If we can sign up more members, even better. But with the "you have to drive out here to get the food" condition I don't really expect to get more than 10 to 20 members for the summer season.

I really got burned out on doing the CSA and killed ours about a year ago (or was it two?). The CSA had become a delivery service and was not doing what I wanted it to do, which is to connect eaters with the farm. If we deliver the food and the CSA members never come out to the farm how can they connect? It got so bad over the years that we did not even know all our members. They would sign up through the web via our Local harvest Store and come by the drop point and get their food. yes we got our money and they got their food but the whole idea about connection simply was not there. Nor was their any community in our CSA (CSA BTW, stands for community supported agriculture). So after 10 years I decided it was time to not do CSA.

So Boulder Belt was no longer a CSA and we were pretty damned happy about the decision. And now I have ressurected the thing but with a deep change. We will not deliver food shares to our members (as has been mentioned several times in this post). They have to come to the farm to pick up their shares and it is my hope when they do they will become engaged in the farm and therefore much, much more engaged in their food and start paying attention to the state of agriculture as a whole. The fact the members have to pick up their shares here on the farm also means no longer will we have mystery members and thus community will be far better served.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things That Happened in the Past Week or So

The dogs all got baths this past week. Here is Danny all wet and unhappy (he hates the idea of wetness). After his bath he felt much better.

We invited Jules and Rosie out for dinner and pear wine making as we have for the past 5 or so years. here we have (from left to right) Rosie, Jules and Eugene busily cutting up pears.

The pot of pears that we planned on making into wine. but so far this has not happened. the pears were heated (it turns out too much) and than cooled and than wine yeast was pitched (added) but so far after 3 or 4 days nothing has happened. The yeast was old (expired 2 years ago but usually yeast vacuumed packed last many years beyond expiration dates) and so far has not worked. because of that we went to Dayton yesterday and bought fresh wine yeast at Belmont Party Supply on Smithville Rd (if you brew beer/wine or just like drinking great beers go there they have all the brewing wine making supplies one could ever want (or they can order them) and they have one of the best beer selections I have ever seen). While there we picked the owner's brain for ways to deal with this potential wine disaster and he gave us lots of ideas and sold us stuff we may or may not need for the wine. So plan B is to reheat the pears, cool them again and pitch the new yeast and see what happens. It may be we start over with new pears and instead of using whole pears put the fruit into the cider press and use the juice (which would take a lot less time, actually). One way or another we will have a 2008 pear wine vintage.

We went to the farmers market. And here is a rare picture of me at the West's stand across the way from our stand at the Saturday market. We have 2 more weeks of Tuesday and Saturday markets and than we are done with regular markets for 2008. that said we are not done with harvesting and selling food. If you need our food check out our farm store page for instructions on how to get our food when there are no longer 2 markets a week in Oxford and our farm store is not holding regular hours

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cleaning Red Turnips

People often comment on how beautiful our produce is but it did not start out that way. What you see at the farmers market or on the sales floor of our store is the result of many hours of wet muddy work on my part (Eugene does some post harvest/cleaning of produce but I do most of it-like 85%). The produce generally comes in muddy.

Some things, like these red turnips are dirtier than other things like tomatoes or peppers which hardly ever need washing

I had 6 crates of red turnips to clean and what you see here is a crate of turnips yet to be cleaned up, a compost crate over stuffed with turnip greens that were not usable and next to the pears in the corner turnip greens that were sellable being put aside to be cleaned after the turnips got washed.

Some turnips that have had their greens removed and have been tossed in the wash water.
The wash tub late had about 10x as many roots as are shown in this photo.

The finished product. A crate of beautiful, clean turnips ready to go in the fridge for storage so we can sell them for several weeks. They will store beautifully in the fridge for about 3 to 4 months but we will likely sell them out well before that.

39 items

I was just updating the Boulder Belt website's farm store page and noticed we are offering 39 different items at the store and farmers markets. Not bad considering we are winding down for the year

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fall Garden Pix

The battery in my camera said it was dying so I figured a few shots should kill it and than I could replace it with a fresh battery. Well, after about 75 shots (many using the flash) the battery is still not dead. Here are just a few of the pictures I took whist trying to kill the battery yesterday evening.

Leeks, a hoop house full of melons and zucchini, leafy greens under the covers

As regular readers know we do a lot of season extension. here we have row covers and a hoop house that we have put up in the last 10 days. the hoop house is protecting melons and zukes which will be gone by the end of December (probably earlier than that) and than the hoop house will be moved over top of the leeks next to it. the row covers are covering things like spring mix and carrots. more for protection from pests and to keep the moisture in the soil (it has been very very dry here for the past 3 months. yesterday we got our first rain in over 3 weeks) than cold proection. Hoop houses will eventually go over the carrots and some of the spring mix beds (but not the one to the left of the leeks as it will be history by the time it would need such protection)

Lincoln Leeks, what we are harvesting at the moment. When you buy Boulder belt leeks they are nice and clean. They do not start out that way. when they are harvested they are covered with soil and have a lot of dead brown leaves on them that have to be removed.

King Sieg leeks. These will be used for winter harvest. At some point they will be covered by a hoop house so they thrive (not just survive) all winter.

Fall sugar snap peas, just about ready to harvest.

The sun sets on the garden

Nate (blonde), Arlo (black) and Danny (blonde out in front) heading home. Actually, they are hoping I am heading home and not about to do something that would prevent me from going to the house and letting the dogs in so they all take naps indoors. Unfortunately for them the camera batteries did not die after this shot so I continued taking more pictures as it got darker and darker. the cover next to the dogs is covering red turnips which we have been harvesting for a couple of weeks. Today I plan on puloing most/all of them and cutting off the greens so the roots will be able to store in the fridge for a month or more so we can sell them well into the fall. We will sell the greens too but they will last only a short time, not well into the fall (even though it is well into the fall already).

Friday, October 03, 2008


Yesterday evening we decided to go fishing based upon watching lots of fish in the pond hitting on anything we threw into the pond including grasshoppers, dessicated grubs, spit and clover flowers.

We had old bait-grubs Eugene got the last time he dug potatoes-that were pretty dessicated. Too dessicated to put on a hook. I caught several grashoppers and Eugene put them on the hook and he got some decent hits from the grasshoppers. But it wasn't until I found a single grub under some particle board by our fire pit that we started catching fish. On this one grub Eugene caught 4 pan sized fish, 1 was tossed back into the pond and one got away at the last second, leaving us with two for dinner. We started thinking about this grub as the magic grub.

We have lived at this farm for 3 years and we have never eaten any fish out of the pond. For a long time we decided the pond was too polluted since a lot of the water in it comes from run off from the road and neighboring fields. But we got to thinking about other places we have fished and eaten the catch and how those bodies of water are likely more polluted than our pond. Over the three years we have been here lots of plants have grown up around the pond which are filtering the water and removing a lot of toxins. We have also allowed grasses and sedges to grow where the water comes off the road so that the water hits a 500' natural filtration system before entering the pond. Now that I think about it the pond may have better drinking water than the well.

So long story short, we decided last night to eat some of the fish we caught and they were good.

Catching them was extra fun because a bull frog decided the bobber Eugene was using had to be prey and would go after the thing and try to swallow it (this frog had a rather large mouth but not large enough to the bobber). We found that while frogs can learn but have short term memory loss-it stopped hitting on the bobber after it tried to eat it something like 10 times in a row but after not seeing the bobber for 5 minutes would forget and hit on it again several times before ignoring it.

After having fun with the frog for a bit we got back to fishing using the magic grub. Eugene tossed a line in and within 30 seconds had a fish on the line. He played the fish for a couple of minutes and than landed it. The fish was well hooked but did not get the grub. We put the fish on the bank (we had not planned on keeping any of the fish so did not have a bucket or a stringer to keep the fish we caught in some sort of sane way) which amazed the dogs. Nate could not keep his attention away from the fish on the ground. I do not think he had ever seen a fish just lying there. And he figured out this was potentially food so I had to keep him from picking up the fish and carrying it away. A couple of minutes later Eugene caught another fish and decided to call it a night and I picked up the two fish and carried them up to the house and put them in the kitchen sink where they could not get into trouble flopping about.

Than I put newspaper on the table on the deck and on top of the papers a large cutting board. Eventually, Eugene came up from the pond and prepped the fish while the dogs and Storca mingled all excited that Eugene was killing non vegetables on the deck.

He cut off the heads, gutted and scaled the fish and than sent them inside for me to wash and cook. I opted to bread them and than bake them. I had breading left over from making jalapeno poppers last night and it was nothing to make a milk and egg wash. So I preheated the oven to 350˚F, rinsed the fish dipped them in eggwash and than breading and baked them for 20 minutes. Served them with an arugula salad and basmati rice and it was a delicious meal.

We will be eating more of our fish in the future. Who knows maybe we will sell some eventually as well.

Storca waiting for some fish guts (which he did not get)