Local beef

Local rib steak dinner

A cool change with the much bigger farmers’ market we’re at this year is the easy access to lots more local food from other market vendors. We’re there every Saturday, and so are they! (Nothing better for really appreciating a farmers’ market than being both a seller and a buyer…).

The biggest change for me is, suddenly, there’s all sorts of LOCAL MEAT. There’s beef, bison, chicken, emu, rhea (ostrich-like), plus a cured-meat-and-sausage vendor, a butcher, and more (venison and elk, I think, and there must be pork in there as well). Still haven’t gone through it all, but I have started to taste my way through the beef. This week, I’m on to a second beef farm.

My sampling approach is simple: buy a steak cut (I prefer rib) and some ground, expensive and…less so. In the first taste test, the beef was certified organic and 100% grass-fed. Today’s, also certified, is fed a combination of grass (pasture in summer, hay in winter, of course) and corn silage, all grown on their farm.

The meal is pretty local: rib steak, grilled to medium-rare and lightly salted, topped with grilled garlic scapes, tossed in a salt, pepper and olive oil, and our all-lettuce mesclun, just cut, with a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar.

The scapes are from our market stand neighbors (it’s so sad not having our own fall-planted garlic in the garden this year!), happen to be organic, gotten on a trade for mesclun. The beef was purchased for full price (vendors give each other a 10% discount here, but I didn’t bother to identify myself just for the savings, I’m sure we’ll get to know each other over the summer…!).

All in all, totally tasty, and even easier to buy and cook than to write about! :)

Early season harvest day

Handweeding garlic

It’s a harvest Friday, second for the farmers’ market, and first for CSA, but the load is still light. After picking snap peas, we spent the day doing other field work. In the photo, Libby, Jordan and Michelle are hand-weeding the small strip of spring-planted garlic, and we spent some labor-intensive time thinning a 400′ (122m) of carrots, and several beds of beets (the thinnings were the beet greens harvest). In late afternoon, time to cut greens: spinach and mesclun. Plus a little parsley.

Checking back over the last four years, at this time, we had broccoli once, radishes usually, baby Swiss chard a couple of times. And, of course, garlic scapes. And, a couple of years, no peas yet. So, all in all, with the slightly slower planting schedule in this start-up this garden, and all the cloudy weather, we’re doing pretty well!

Early season harvest: peas and greens

Extending the chickenhouse

Chickenhouse, Part 2

First day of summer, and the day before the arrival of 25 20-week-old, ready-to-lay Shaver Red Sex Link CHICKENS. Clearly, time to begin building out their new home. It shouldn’t take too long! :) Working on and off through the day, the frame went up, and by early evening, the plywood flooring is down, the door is built (on the right) and even a first plywood panel is up. A little more work tomorrow, and we should be good to go. No problem!

Last of the spring planting

Transplanting winter squash & pumpkins

It’s another week till the start of CSA shares and the first picking of peas, and at least 3 weeks until some of the heavier crops—broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash—are ready, so Friday’s are still about general fieldwork, not HARVEST. Just ahead of the end of spring, Lynn, Libby and Jordan planted out a last wave of winter squash and some fast-maturing (80-90) Neon pumpkins. That brings the spring planting to a close, a little later than usual, overall, but considering the first-year, start-up situation, really good!

We also put in one bed of melons under infrared-transmitting (IRT) plastic mulch (above).  For a couple of years, I planted 5-10 50′ beds under IRT mulch (more heat to the soil), but yield wasn’t worth the effort, including the extra watering (didn’t use drip tape under the plastic). This year, with one bed to focus on, it’s an experiment—we’ll try to give them extra special care!

Lynn vanished early from lunch, only to be found reading her new herb book under a tree. This photo (below) doesn’t nearly capture the scene: it looked like an impossibly peaceful countryscape, from a simple, carefree world—fit for a postcard. We were laughing, and Jordan spontaneously got out his camera and took photos, too.  I asked her if she’d scouted the location for the setting (joking, but I can also be a bit of a cynic! :), she said it was just the best spot she could find for shade!

Reading in the shade of a tree

Welcome back, my friends

Transported pigweed

An interesting surprise discovery today, my own little transplanted patch of pigweed, accidentally imported from the old farm, growing strong in the shelter of three relocated and thriving rhubarbs (top right). I suppose some pigweed seed got shaken out of the root clumps of the transplants, and eventually made their way to germination. This is the first time I’ve seen pigweed on the new farm, and it instantly brought back a flood of memories from our multi-year…relationship at the old place. Not unpleasant memories, pigweed is forever a part of this tiny farm experience, still, it’s not missed. Nice visiting, now it’s time for a quick hand-weeding!

Beet greens!

First beet greens

If you love beet greens, you can practically taste this photo! Fresh-picked, sauteed just to wilting in olive oil and butter, with a smashed and chopped clove or two of garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heaped on a plate. Topped with a couple of poached farm eggs. It’s hard to imagine anything easier to cook and more perfect to eat.

The greens from the first planting of beets—Kestrel (above) and candy-striped Chioggia—are just sizing up. They can be harvested at any size, from quite tiny for eating raw in salads, to huge, for cooking. I’ve never grown beets just for the greens, they come from thinning the plants, which usually happens when the leaves are 4-6″ (10-15cm).

On Friday, we’ll thin the beets for Saturday’s market. For the beet greens with poached egg, our new 20-week-old hens arrive on Monday, ready to lay. Life makes sense. :)

Planet Jr. rising

Planet Jr. seeder in action

This year the antique Planet Jr. seeder finally took over from the Earthway, to handle most of the direct seeding. We’ve been using it for everything but tiny carrot and lettuce seed, where the lighter Earthway is easier to maneuver for closely spaced rows. Here, Lynn rolls out a third planting of beets, no problem. The PJ is heavy and initially hard to handle, but also more precise, uses way less seed than the Earthway, and lays down a well-packed row.  And the choice of 60 or so seed holes, at first a pain, turns out to be a great way to appreciate variations in seed between varieties and fine tune seeding rates—we used three different openings to best fit three types of beet (Golden Detroit, Chioggia, Kestrel). It’s great. With this well-aged Planet Jr, old turns out to be our new and improved!