Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heavenly Tomato Soup

This is a family favorite.  It is so easy and quick.  Unlike a lot of soups who take hours for flavors to develop, this is a quick jaunt from pot to bowl. You can top it with chicken, tofu, or shredded beef.

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 med onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 28 oz can of whole tomatoes or 3 pints of your canned tomatoes or 4 1/2 cups peeled cored chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 16 oz vegetable/chicken broth
  • 1 tbs Italian herbs or 6 leaves fresh chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in pan and add carrot, onion and garlic.Saute until onion is tender. Add flour and stir till veggies are coated.  The little bit of flour helps to cut the acidity a bit and make the soup thicker.

Add tomatoes, stir and heat through.  Add broth and spices. break up tomatoes and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.  

Puree soup in small batches in blender or with immersion blender in the pan.  Add cream, heat through and serve.

Cook's Notes
  • If it is still too tart I add 1 tsp brown sugar/honey/agave nectar.
  • Add 1/4 c Parmesan with cream for a spin.
  • add minced sun dried tomatoes with herbs for a little kick.
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes really makes it zippy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Get Your Greenhouse Ready!

I'm itching to get in the dirt!  Good news we have a greenhouse.  Bad news is, it needs to be cleaned.

Unfortunately our greenhouse has a tendency to build up stuff over the summer.  We "stick" stuff in there promising to get it "later".  Later has come and I need to get the tarps and pots out and get ready!

Getting ready for greenhouse use:
  1. Remove everything possible.  By getting everything out of there I can see what need to be done and have room to do it!
  2. Weed the floor. If you have nothing but dirt, consider weeding it and putting down GOOD weed block. You can cover it with gravel.  I like the medium round rock as it is easy to weed and never compacts making weed removal easy. It's also barefoot friendly.  I like to be barefoot as much as possible.
  3. Take old soil from seed bench.  Removing old soil gets rid of any pathogens.  Ours is plastic lined and I will be washing with bleach water to sterilize the tray. See how to build a heated seed box.
  4. Begin sifting soil.  We built a really nice soil box last year for screening our soil and making our own blend of potting mix.  I highly recommend screening soil.  Getting the box filled with screened soil mix makes it easy to fill trays quickly.
  5. Create transplant area. Last year we had a little table with two chairs just across from the heated seed box where we start a lot of our seeds.  I noticed that a lot of soil fell to the floor.  I want to put down a tarp this year under the table.  The more soil that fall down into the gravel the more places for weeds to live.  I want to keep the floor free of dirt as much as possible for the longevity of the greenhouse.
  6. Sterilize seed trays. Dip all your tray packs and pots in a water bleach solution to kill pathogens and fungus.  You want to start as clean as possible in the greenhouse.  Fungus is your enemy in this prime environment!
  7. Fill sterilized trays with soil for direct seedings.  As soon as the temp permits we will begin sowing some seeds directly, like squashes, into tray packs.  Having the soil in the trays beforehand--but not too early (leaving soil in trays too long could allow fungus spores to land!)--makes me ready to just come in and plant.
  8. Create a schedule for planting. Having a schedule for starts in relationship to their days to maturity, greenhouse time and when they can go out is imperative.  When you have 30 things headed out at different times with different germination rates and days to maturity, you need to be able to look at a schedule and get it out of your head.  Very few of us can pull off something like multiple plantings and their needs without something to reference.
  9. Get a journal in place with pen attached. Keeping notes is a must.  Make notes about where you got your seed (you can even just glue seed packet on the page), it's germination rate, and any notes about stresses you potentially create to determine the viability of the seeds.  Maybe they all sprouted and then you stressed the heck out of them so yields were down.  Trust me, you won't remember the whys next year!
  10. Get any needed materials. Buy your seeds.  Get new containers if needed.  Pick up soils. You can now order our seeds.
  11. Reorganize and refine storage.  Think about flow and what worked the year before.  Get your supplies organized so that life in the greenhouse is a joy. Disorganization is a bummer.
Taking these steps will help you to enjoy your time in the greenhouse and get a lot done!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
                                                      ~John Muir

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flooding on the farm

So we watched the last few days as our neighbors field filled with water.  This is what we do here when it warms and rains increase.  It creeps steadily toward the road and eventually crosses, sending the river into our neighbors farm.

When it hits this high it actually fills our front field and takes water, debris and top soil over to our other neighbors farm, Sweet Leaf.  Our garlic crop is under water right now.  :-(

Hoping there will be no damage, but I can't help but think that this is not the first flood of the year.  It is thrilling being out here on the farm watching the water rise and wondering how high it will get!

Thinking that next year we will not plant this field until the spring and rather stick to the side field and mid field.  However, I believe our crop will be fine if the water recedes in the next 48 hours.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Growing Squash Two Ways

I have really enjoyed growing and selling squash. For me it has been a great crop to learn a bit about the farming process from soil prep to planting to harvesting and market.

We grew squash 2 years in a row.

Year one:  The first year we decided to do squashes simply because JJ said they would be fun for me and an easier crop to start with.  When we delivered 10 cases and had them returned because they all suddenly turned, we knew we had failed.

 What not to do:

  1. They went in the ground late.
  2. The season was so short they were immature.
  3. While being harvested they were bruised and nicked.
  4. They were rinsed before storing.
  5. They were stacked too high.  
  6. They underwent way too many transfers compromising them further.
In addition we did not have adequate boxes to work with for packaging when ready and we had very little forethought as to what we would to with 2000 lbs of squash.  We tried to do farmers market too late to push the paper work through!  What a learning experience.

Year two: We planted the squash at the perfect time.  We literally had to weed twice because of the timing between tilling was so right on.  That is a something to look for.

What we did right:
  1. Worked the ground and fertilized well before planting.
  2. Allowed plants time to mature.
  3. Waited till the last possible minute to harvest them.
  4. Hired very careful help who harvested kindly.
  5. Purchased boxes from local company.
  6. Did NOT rinse them, but wiped in field at harvest with dry towel.
  7. Put in the cooler immediately no higher than 3 boxes high.
  8. Tried to maintain temp in cooler with heater on cold days.
  9. Made a market schedule for calls and delivery and followed it.
  10. Checked periodically for rot.
  11. Checked all boxes before leaving for markets.
 Things to do next year:
  1. Remind markets of who we are well before season begins.
  2. Gently turn and wipe off fruits while growing to avoid sitting spots.
  3. Side dress once early on.
  4. Have more than enough boxes to avoid multiple runs.
  5. Get shelving for cooler.
Why I like growing squash:
  1. It's easy care.
  2. Chokes the sun out to discourage weed growth.
  3. Deer don't eat it!
  4. Lower watering needs.
  5. You can sell blossoms too.
  6. It stores for 3-6 months 
  7. Common, everyone loves squash?!!
We didn't get rich, but we made money on this crop!  I can hit the market for 4 months and be done, so I can do other things.  It was very satisfying to grow indeed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;"
                                                               Shakespeare -As You Like It