Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The season of slow transitions

In late May, as our cheesemaking year draws to a close, the days are at their longest, and I can't wait for winter chores to be done with. It happens gradually... first the cows start spending nights outdoors in mid April and our late night visits to the barn to " sweep the cows in" ends. Then, in early May the pastures begin to get green, and the hay feeding season ends. And I can't wait to be out of doors. We make cheese around 50 times a year, and by batch 49 I am so ready to stop.I cannot ever imagine wanting to be tied to the barn and cheeseroom again.
So, here I am today, October 28th. We let the cows up from their pastures to give them hay since its rainy and cold and there is a chance of snow flurries tonight. As I walked down to the haymow , I found myself thinking about milking, and winter chores. And, I found myself remembering the winter barn. And I started thinking about our slow transitions between the seasons. It begins with feeding hay, then putting in the barn windows, cobwebbing, washing the mangers, and generally getting ready for the next wonderful season.... untill its time for the next!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The trials of farming

Naturally, if farming were easy, and things didn't go wrong, it really wouldn't be farming, and everyone would want to be a farmer. Just imagine, beautiful, sunny days, copious amounts of fresh organic produce.
This growing season has had a lot of ups and downs. ( great red peppers and eggplant for example) Today it feels like more downs We had inch upon inch of rain in July and August and were unable to get all of the broccoli in the ground in a timely manner. Now, when we should be 1/2 way through our harvest, we are done... unless we have a wonderful and warm November. Then there are the shallots. Last year they were our cash cow. We were able to store and sell shallots straight through until April. The price is really high, and at one point even thought we could just grow shallots. Well, this growing season got rid of those ideas ! They have been curing in the greenhouse for about a month. Today was a rainy day, so we went into the greenhouse to begin boxing them up. Sadly, a great majority were rotten ! Just like that, no shallots ! Guess they really didn't respond well to all that rain
Ah, well. We've always thought our motto should be ".....next year " !!I suppose its that forward thinking that makes this all possible.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The last geese of the season?

There is a wonderful place where we walk in the mornings . It's called the water works, and is many preserved acres. An old reservoir, it now is a place of serene beauty. Early in the mornings, the woods are alive with warblers and other song birds. And, if we hit the timing just right, as the sun rises and hits the water, the geese take off for the day, coming back in the evenings. I tried to get a movie of a beaver swimming and otters playing, but it didn't look like much. So here is my first movie posting.... geese flying at the break of day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

channeling my inner peasant

This is what the sky looked like from the porch as we got ready to take an early morning walk yesterday. Its a wonderful time of year, we have another month until the cows freshen ( calve) so we get to go for a walk instead of go to the barn. We had a pretty hard frost the night before, so as we walked on the lower fields, the sun lit up each blade of grass with a billion prisms of shimmering light.
Then it was off to the gardens.

Picking and washing vegetables at this time of year.... when its just this side of being too cold, stirs some deep inner feelings of true contentment in me. It's these days when I find myself smiling,singing, and remembering Mary Oliver's line " Oh, to love what is lovely and will not last ..." trying to hold onto this day, this time of year. The trees still have their foliage, and picking on top of the garden is truly like being on top of the world. Sure, the washing of the veggies is cold, but I even love how cold my hands get. I think of peasants, like us, doing as we have for untold centuries

Saturday, October 18, 2008

cover crops

Just as the quality of the milk and the health of the cow depends on the quality of the hay we feed, the quality of the of the crops we grow corresponds directly to the health of the soil. We are fortunate that we have tons of wonderful composted manure to put on the soil. We also use different " green manures" in the form of cover crops to enrich the soil. In the summer, we use buckwheat. We can seed it, and till it in 30 days later ( see top picture). It adds lots of organic matter to the soil. Buckwheat is very tender, so it's best used as an early summer crop.And because to grows so fast, we can get another vegetable crop on the garden, or, if we don't need the space, we can sow another cover crop( field peas are a favorite for nitrogen, or if we're looking to add lots of organic matter sudan grass is a good choice) Later in the year ( like now, mid October) we like to use oats. They grow well into the fall, and because it winter kills we are able to get on the garden with the tractor to till easier than if we used something like rye that begins growing again early in the spring. The roots hold the soil which is nice on the slope of our garden. In the 27 years we've been gardening here, the soil has really changed from a heavy clay garden to a much lighter soil , and judging from the health of our crops, the fertility is right there.
The oats in the lower picture were seeded after the tomatoes came out. What a lovely winter coat!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mid October, and the cows are still eating pasture ! It probably wont be for long, though. On their last change of pasture the other day we noticed that the grasses are really slowing down. Soon, they'll be eating hay .

Fall is such a time of transition. Along with the colors, we slowly slip from our summer life of being outside all the time. Meals on the porch become meals inside. It is slow because we are still gardening... still have loads of broccoli to pick and cases of lettuce, but when we need onions we now go to the greenhouse instead of up to the garden.And, we are also remembering that window in the barn that needs fixing, and the bales of sawdust ( because there is no longer bulk sawdust available from the saw mills ) need to be moved around.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leeks !

So much more go into leeks than the beautiful white spears you get at the market. They are started in the greenhouse in early spring. Being frost hardy, they can be set out early. We make a deep ( well, not that deep, about a foot or so) trenches, and transplant each baby leek into the trench. Then, through out the growing season we hill them. That's why they have long, usable white portions. In the fall, when they reach their full size they are pulled, cleaned up and washed. All that for a leek? Yes ! We are know locally for our beautiful leeks.
Here is a recipe for an easy and delicious potato leek soup:

Leek and Potato Soup

3 Tb. Butter
4 Cups sliced leeks
3 Tb. Flour
6 cups hot water
1 Tb. Salt, or to taste and ground black pepper to taste
4 cups diced potatoes ( I love yellow boiling potatoes)
2 cups milk added at the end of cooking.( add at end so it doesn’t curdle)

Melt butter over moderate heat in a soup pot, stir in leeks. Cover pot, and cook slowly over low heat for 10 minutes. Then blend in flour, and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, slowly stir in hot water to blend with the leeks and flour. Stir in salt and pepper, and potaoes. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover pot and let cook for about 40 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Potatoes can be partially mashed , or left in the cubed state. What ever suits your fancy!

So easy, and so good!

I'm new to writing recipes, so let me know how this works for you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the edge of frost

It's at this time of the year that I most feel the thin line between the seasons. Closer to the house, and under some trees the frost hasn't hit yet . The first frost was light enough that the remay that covered the eggplant and peppers was sufficient. But, what a tiny matter of degrees!.
Really, the line between the  living and the dead. 
I find it so amazing that there are the tender plants, and then, there are the hardiest of the hardys. Take lettuce for example. How is it that a tender red boston will take temps. in the high 20's, but a rugged plant like a pepper, or tomato will turn brown at 30 ? And basil, the slightest cold wind blowing on it turns the leaves brown. 
The tomatoes are gone. And the clean up has begun. First we  pull up the soaker hose, roll it up, mark the lengths, and store them for next spring.
Then the posts are removed and stacked.                                                                                                                     

Then the ground is tilled, manure spread and, weather permitting, a cover crop of oats is sown. 
I love this time of year.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the first frost...

This week has been a week of getting ready for the frost... lots of picking the veggies that will die in the cold weather. Lots of peppers, both green and red... eggplants, the remainders of the tomatoes. Then we cover some of the peppers and eggplant with a large 30 X 100 foot piece of light fabric called remay. It gives the plants enough protection from light frosts to keep them from dying. 
The veggies not affected by frost are leeks, lettuce, broccoli and carrots. 

I'm on my way to the garden to do some picking,,, I'll add some more pictures later. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Its looking like tomorrow will be out first broccoli picking, a bit late for us, but, oh well. Every year has its hardships... and this summer's heavy rain made it hard for us to get our fall plantings in on time. I'm not sure how to put 2 pictures on a posting , but I wanted to get this beautiful broccoli head on here also. 

Oh, easier than I thought it would be. As I keep learning, I'll try to make this more interesting to read.

I'd like to add a recipe sections for food I love to cook......( once I figure how to add new sections, I'm sure its easy once one knows how) Along with photos of the food.
Let me know what you think too. This is all so new to me! 

Autumnal updates

It's hard to believe in out zone 4 1/2 area we can grow a southern belle like this hibiscus. She blooms mid September, and here we are in Oct......still enjoying lots of blooms. The days are getting shorter, and I think tomorrow ( monday) we'll be picking for a frost. 
But, our greenhouse is full of onions and shallots, and we still have plantings of broccoli and lettuce to come.