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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
There has been a great deal happening, though. We've been battling an especially persistent hawk that's been taking young chickens with annoying regularity. We also had our first light frost last night, proving my oft-repeated rule that whenever the NWS forecasts lows of near 40 in Columbia, we're in frost threat. At dawn on Thursday, the Columbia airport was reporting 45, our house thermometer read 38, and there was clear frost on the lowest parts of the garden and field. Knowing these local trends is part of farming effectively.
Joanna gets home tonight, my mother leaves on Monday, and so next week we'll start returning to normal and trying to get ahead on all the fall tasks coming up. Lots of beds to clear and mulch or plant in winter cover, garlic planting is almost here, winter animal housing needs to start being planned, and logging season is just around the corner. In the meantime there are still lots of greens and more to be harvested, sold, and enjoyed.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The first turnips will be available. I just roasted a few of these for lunch with sweet potatoes and beets, for an easy, tasty meal.
Cherry tomatoes are finished, I think. This week's cool, cloudy, rainy weather has resulted in mostly splitters, and the few whole ones just don't taste good enough to sell. Might get one more week off them if the weather warms up, but the plants are on their way out.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
By 7:15 we were in the house, with folks seated and food starting to come out. Basically everything in the entire meal came from the farm, except for oil, vinegar, salt, butter, and a couple spices, as well as Missouri fruit, nuts, honey & sorghum. Here's the final menu we served:
Black Cherry tomato, Sheepnose pimento, Costata Romanesco squash, Burmese okra, Fin de Bagnol green bean, Poona Kheera cucumber, Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg & Hutterite soup beans, farm-fresh cheeses.
White Acre cowpeas, onions, garlic, hot peppers, tomatoes, mixed greens, fresh cheese, and more. Paired with the same dish prepared with commercial black-eyed peas, for comparison.
Mess of greens
Mix of collards, mustard, & kale, sautéed with garlic and vinegar.
Fresh-ground cornmeal, farm yogurt, farm eggs, butter, leaveners, and salt. Served with Missouri honey or sorghum. Three batches, each with a different variety of corn: White Hickory King, Mandan Bride, and Arikara White.
Fried green tomatoes and okra
Fresh green tomatoes and mixed okra breaded with fresh-ground cornmeal and lightly pan-fried in cast-iron.
Fresh greens topped with tomatoes, peppers, squash, and more.
Green tea steeped with mint: Spearmint, Orange mint, & “Best” mint.
Apple-pecan cake with farm eggs and yogurt, plus Missouri-produced apples, pecans, honey, and wheat flour.
Custard using farm eggs & milk, with fruit topping (Missouri cherries, farm-grown rhubarb, wild gooseberries).
We spent the next few hours preparing and serving these dishes in a round-robin fashion, and finished up around nine. We were able to make some time to circulate and talk, and I think we were able to chat with everyone at least a bit. As far as we know, everyone had a great time, and here are some of the comments we received:
Wow--what a fantastic evening! Thanks for the tour, the dinner and your enthusiasm for growing and marketing "righteous" food.
LOVED the experience last night. No complaints. Beans, cornbread & greens is one of my comfort food meals. Couldn't have picked anything better for me. And the fact that you GREW everything!!!!!!!
Our many thanks to you for creating such a memorable evening and bringing a whole new depth of understanding to what we've read and seen on your wonderful blog. You are at the cutting edge of the new realities we are facing in growing food more locally and it's a pleasure to lend our support as you share your experiences with wider audiences.
Thank you both. It was wonderful; have heard nothing but compliments on
the superb food and tour and hospitality!
We certainly intend to repeat this event next year, and also got some good feedback for improvements next year. The biggest and best change would be to get some help in the kitchen, so we can spend more time with guests. We did kind of have to leave people to their own devices at times. Right now our goal is to do a different cuisine each year; the top choices so far are German, Italian, and Filipino.
So in summary, we're really thrilled with the event and are very glad we did it. Well worth the effort, and we really enjoyed the intelligent and interesting guests and conversation. We're now members of Slow Food, and the local group was kind enough to make an additional donation to us to help cover costs of ingredients and time. Thanks to Slow Food Katy Trail for all their support and help in making this happen; we hope it's the beginning of a great annual event.
Monday, September 21, 2009
In any case, the best gems from this week include:
A new camel's milk dairy in the Netherlands, and all the predictably bizarre bureaucracy the young entrepreneur had to fight to open the business.
Increasing numbers of no-till farmers planting fields of radishes as a winter cover crop in their grain/bean rotations. The radishes improve the soil's texture and nutrients in a natural manner that reduces the need for tillage and fertilization. Great example of simpler ways to farm effectively & naturally.
Tom Vilsack advocating rational food policies at a major policy conference:
More than once, Vilsack noted the importance and relevance of healthy eating to
meaningful health care reform.“If we meet the daily allowances, we will do a
better job of reducing health care costs,” Vilsack told attendees.
Now if they can just balance that with reductions in the water & commidy subsidies that are at the core of the problem...
Friday, September 18, 2009
NEW THIS WEEK
Fin de Bagnol green beans are back! Our favorite green bean ever, these small and tender beans are good raw and even better lightly cooked. We'll have a few pounds on Saturday and expect the yield to keep rising as the plants grow.
We'll also bring some dried dill heads; this is still a good time to pickle items like cucumbers and okra, and fresh dill heads/seeds are perfect.
Mustard greens, kale, collards, turnip greens, baby greens mix, mizuna, bok choi, radishes, tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, okra, and herbs will all be back. The main planting of tat soi has some insect damage, and we'll have to take another look at harvest time to decide if it is worth selling.
DONE FOR NOW
The stand should be about the same as last week.
Monday, September 14, 2009
First is a column by Michael Pollan regarding the role food and agricultural policy ought to play (but isn't) in our national health care discussion. Though we sometimes disagree with Pollan on his prescriptions (no soda taxes, thanks) and he can come across as a thorough coastal elitist, we've also found that nearly everything he writes connects dots in some new and thought-provoking way that makes him always worth reading. In this case, it's his argument that requiring insurance companies to eliminate pre-existing conditions and forcing them to cover everybody regardless of situation will, in effect, force those companies to look at the diet-related causes of American health problems.
When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.
I'd never thought about it that way, although I've long been bothered by that fact that health care and coverage pay almost no attention to personal responsibility, choices, and lifestyle.
Second is a column by Dan Barber, chef at a rather pretentious (but tasty) sounding Hudson valley restaurant. (Seriously, does the NY Times even know the Midwest exists?). Barber does an excellent job of summing up some of the challenges and potential for local food systems, basing his analysis on the devastating late blight outbreak that's been wiping out tomatoes all over the East Coast. This outbreak has been traced to a few very large southern plant growers who supplied most eastern chain stores with tomato starters, so of course when they shipped diseased plants, they infected half the country. Sound familiar to anyone worried about the consolodation of the food industry?
In any case, while we're at work scrubbing the house and kitchen while keeping up with harvest and maintenance, these are worth reading. We'll post a recap of Wednesday's event in due time.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The specific idea was hatched through talking to friends in Slow Food about the expensive membership costs (which are set nationally with no control by the local group). We felt that many farmers (including us) would find the cost too high, despite being the folks who actually underpin most of what Slow Food advocates. So we hatched the idea of a fundraising dinner on a farm, where the donation-cost of the meal would cover a membership for the farm, who in turn would earn it by growing, preparing, and serving the food (and hosting the meal). Our local chapter loved the idea, and the event was born.
You can read all the details at Slow Food Katy Trail's blog, but here's the menu summary. We're hoping to make this an annual event, featuring a different cuisine each time. Already we have Italian, German, and Filipino as obvious themes we're familiar with and can easily do with our farm's products. Oh, and if you were wondering, all 16 slots are sold out.
The proposed menu reflects a time when farms still supported themselves, and visitors could be assured that any food offered was sourced from the farm with pride. All but a few basic ingredients such as oil, vinegar, and spices will be harvested and/or produced on-farm for this meal, which will be prepared by Eric & Joanna. They chose a Southern theme this year to reflect Missouri’s heritage and as an American cuisine traditionally rooted in fresh ingredients and local flavors. Food will be served in a tasting format, one item at a time as it is prepared, to ensure that each is enjoyed fresh. This meal will be vegetarian-friendly, as meat on Chert Hollow Farm is seasonally available and butchering does not happen until later in the fall.
THE PROPOSED MENU (Menu items subject to change based on availability.)
Hoppin’ John Our take on a classic bean dish prepared with heirloom cowpeas, onions, garlic, hot peppers, tomatoes, mixed greens, and more; topped with fresh cheese from the farm’s goats.
Mixed beans A simple tasting of heirloom dried beans, allowing their excellent flavor to be enjoyed.
Nothin’ but cornbread Southern-style cornbread, using only fresh-ground farm-grown cornmeal, leaveners, farm-made yogurt, farm-fresh eggs, and salt. Served with Missouri honey, sorghum, or farm-made jams. Baked in cast-iron.
Mess of greens Mix of collards, mustard, kale, beet, and more, sautéed with garlic and vinegar.
Fried green tomatoes and okra Fresh heirloom green tomatoes and okra breaded with freshly ground farm-grown cornmeal and lightly pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet.
Mint iced tea Freshly brewed iced tea made with three varieties of mint.
Seasonal dessert To be determined.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Products will include fresh fall greens, tomatillos, okra, herbs, cherry tomatoes, and more.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I've finally finished putting the roof on our prep shed, which I started building this spring and got as far as a frame and half a roof before having no more time to work. Still, this much progress let us wash & pack produce all year long under cover. Now that fall is here, and the edamame harvest is over, I've been able to sneak more time on the project, and it's sorely needed.
This is the season when we start bringing in lots of products that need drying, like dent corn, soup beans, and sorghum heads. Especially in a cool, moist year like this one, we often need to harvest these items a little early to ensure they don't rot/sprout in the field. Hanging them under cover in an airy place (like the prep shed) keeps the quality up and makes our lives easier.
Above, you see thick bundles of soup bean plants hanging under the newly-completed north roof. In a normal Missouri summer (hot and dry), these beans would finish maturing and drying on the plant, but it's been too cool and wet, so we pulled the plants a bit early. Otherwise we'd be getting a lot more unwanted situations like this:
We've begun harvesting sorghum stalks as well. These super-tall relatives of corn produce a beautiful long seed-head that was traditionally used for making brooms, though the seeds are edible by people and animals alike. We grow them for sale as fall decorations, and already have an order from a local garden center who will bundle them with cornstalks. Below, you see bundles of sorghum hanging from the shed rafters, where they'll dry nice and straight.
Then there's our corn, which we're bringing in as each variety matures and begins to dry. We want to avoid last year's trouble with kernels sprouting in the ear (though it's not quite as wet this year) so many of these, too, are finishing their drying out of the field. Below is just a sampling of our colorful varieties, which give fantastic flavor & color to cornbread and fried foods. We've received permission from the Health Department to set up a grinder at market and make fresh cornmeal for customers, so we'll probably start doing that later in the fall when other products are less available and the culinary mindset really turns to things like corn and beans. Right now I'm thinking October.
It's a wonderful feeling to have the shed and house full of basic foodstuffs like corn and beans, all drying and ready to carry us through the winter with good nutrition and flavor. Plus we think customers will like them.
Friday, September 4, 2009
In addition to the greens mentioned above, we'll be bringing a few fall radishes, which are quite hot right now, but some folks love 'em like that. We may bring some turnip greens as well, which are strongly flavored like mustard but also cook down well (at least I think so).
Our standard herbs, tomatilloes, cherry tomatoes, okra, and more.
This will likely be the last week for garlic. We have only 3o heads left from our sale stock, the rest being held back for fall planting or our personal supply.
Our fall planting of Fin de Bagnol green beans are flowering, so look for those within a few weeks. Dent corn (for cornmeal) and mixed soup beans are also on the agenda for later markets.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment.