Thursday, July 30, 2009

Egg Learnings

This is what my counter looks like with 2 days of eggs being washed.
Usually 1/2 the eggs don't need to be washed which is good because those last a lot longer than those that get washed.  The one that get washed are cleaned with bubbles in a egg cleaning bucket and washing solution.

I love the various colors of eggs but am a satisfied... nope, I need more darker eggs so I'm now on to chickens to give me variety of colors.

After they are washed and sorted by size, each egg is candled with this little box.  You turn off the lights, put the egg on the box, press that red button and look inside the egg.

I love to see the double yolkers.

I've been gathering eggs about 4-5 hours after they are laid and I've been noticing more and more of that white stringy thing (technical name is on other websites) on the end of the yolk.  I assumed that meant the egg was fertilized.  That's why you candle, to look for baby chickens in the eggs as you don't want to sell those to someone.  

Evidently, all eggs fertilized or not have that white string.  The more white string, the fresher the eggs.  So I've been finding more of the white string because these eggs are really, really fresh.  And I put them right in the fridge so I am locking in all that protein.  I had no idea.  

So much for learning on the job....  now I know that the white stringy thing actually means fresh eggs.  Well, ours are really fresh these days!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


It's going to be hard to do a Week 8 update without a camera.  
I'll have to get the flipvideo and see how that works.

The good news is that the tomatoes are ripening and I don't see evidence of blight.  I got worried when people kept telling me about it.  At the 5th person I went out to do a whole inspection of the garden.  So no blight that I can tell, however I do have some tomatoes with bottom rot-- which is not a blight, but rather a calcium deficiency.  I plant them in compost so they seem to do well with that but this can also be caused by excess water when the plants were young and blossoming and the blossoms then get too much water and not enough nutrients.  I haven't found a large number of tomatoes like this but ones around the same age of growth.. so ones that were likely blossoming during the heavy rains.  

The cherry tomatoes and early tomatoes are starting to ripen so there will be some tomatoes in the CSA this week.  In 4 weeks, we'll be calling these first tomatoes--- Boring!- but right now they are wonderful.   

Friday, July 24, 2009

What to do with a Dead Chicken

Kind of like the song, 50 Ways to leave your lover.

I've been running the farm as Mike is away and so far I'm 3 for 3.
3 days he's been gone, 3 dead chickens.

The first must have died of old age and it just fell over and died.  So that one went in the dumpster because it was trash day.

The 2nd was likely crushed by the meat birds in the storm.  It was a laying hen that got crushed.  This is also extremely common with birds in corners and extremely common with turkeys.  This chicken got buried in a shallow grave up the hill near the deer.

The 3rd today got shoved down a fox or a groundhog hole and covered with some straw.  This one might have been an injured bird that didn't make it from the fox attack 5 days ago when Mike was here... so this one might not count as a chicken death today.

So either I'm at 1 a day or I'm at something worse like an exponential curve.  Let's hope its not....

I'm happy to report all other 380 or so birds are still alive and quite happy.  I think they are happy that I'm the one feeding them as I talk to them and they talk to me.  They like singing as well and they don't care that I'm a horrible singer.

We will be getting turkeys August 5th.... Mike will be back to keep those alive!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's NOT our Farm that Smells

Oh my goodness.  I just turned on the AC-- not because it's too hot-- we have great breezes and we really don't need the AC on.

The AC is on because of the AWFUL smell of either a papermill nearby or someone who is turning sludge or turning up their field.

I came home this evening and watered the pigs and then as I walked away from them I thought it was the pigs.  They are a little stinky but they actually do a good job mixing up and composting their own straw.  So I thought, they need more straw.  But then as I kept walking and driving around the farm I realized it wasn't the pigs. 

Then I thought-- did something die?  I had to deal with my first dead chicken last night so I thought, oh gosh what's next.  (some of our birds are older and they just keel over and die sometimes-- it's normal).  So I drove around the farm looking for something dead.  I got down close to the ground to see if it was the compost pile or the meat birds.  No dice.  The compost pile does smell slightly but it smells like compost.  And the chickens were also fine.  I can't believe I leaned down to smell the chickens.....

Then Kevin says "yeah, Mrs W and kids thought the smell was our farm".  Kevin was swimming at their house today which is about 3 miles as the crow flies from our house.  So then I knew the smell was not our farm, but another farm or field that was just fertilized or manured.  Or I guess it could be a paper mill.  The smell is far to chemical smelling as I realized after inhaling it for 20 minutes..... ugh!

If you are in the group that still hasn't picked up your box this week.... just keep your AC on in the car and breathe deeply before you run to get your stuff.  I sure hope the rain that is coming wipes the smell out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Green Akeys CSA Iron Chef Returns

We have one CSA Iron Chef.  If there are more of you out there then send in a picture and maybe we'll have to have a competition.  Mr CSA Iron Chef's main goal is to come up with a meal using only farm fresh ingredients (other than olive oil, etc).  His greatest challenge is to combine all the ingredients in one box into a meal.  I keep thinking that one week I'm going to make him up a box with all sorts of things and see what he creates.

Wow-- Check out this dish!  All with farm produce and chicken.

Squash, snap peas (hmmm- did he freeze them or did they just last that long as I thought snap peas were done 2 weeks ago?), fingerling potatoes and chicken.  
I believe 2 types of garlic were used as well.  One garlic type with the potatoes and another with the veggies.  He probably threw some shallots and onions in there too but I can't tell from the picture.

This week more potatoes--- they are large white fleshed potatoes.  The name of the potato-- not sure because my veggie marker ink wore off the marker and I never got around to writing the potato names in my little book (I figured why take the time when I have these cool markers in the ground).  I'll have to look through my records and see what I bought and match them up after.....  :)

We are HOPING!!!!  for rain so we went outside tonight and picked 45 lbs  of potatoes till it was too dark to tell the difference between a potato and a rock. (yes, I weighed the potatoes after picking them)

Let's all do a rain dance as we need some rain and I am tired of watering.  I'm glad our well is done and we can water, but a nice rain would be so much better.

The Color Ranger chickens are processed and in the fridge/freezer!!!  This is the bird we'll grow from now on as it is fabulous.  They are all around 3.8-4.5 lbs.  Flat price of $15 each.

We will have a batch of cornish cross in 2 weeks.  Those are the same kind of chickens you buy in the grocery store but they also have a much better taste when grown on pasture.  Lots of white meat on the cornish cross whereas the color rangers have less white meat.  

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This dish was made by a CSA member with the swiss chard, onions and eggs from Green Akeys Farm!

Swiss Chard and Chorizo Frittata with carmelized onions topped with asiago cheese!  
Looks fabulous and gives me some inspiration!!

Guess what I saw in the garden today?  A few red cherry tomatoes!!!  Not enough for next week but they are turning RED!!!  Yippee.....  This Frittata needs some tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Week 7

Week 7-- oh my goodness over 25% of the growing season is over.  I know we say 20 weeks of veggies and eggs, but with our temperatures it may be more like 24 weeks.  We'll play out the last weeks and see what we've got!

I didn't get a video of the beans-- but the beans are growing.  There will be 2 varieties of beans you'll get tomorrow.  Yellow wax beans and Royal burgundy beans.  The burgundy beans will turn green when you cook them.  Thanks to CSA members for agreeing to come pick up on Thursday rather than Tuesday.  The beans just needed 2 more days to be perfect for the first picking and by next week they'd be too big.  I am a fan of having you try the vegetables at all the stages of life.  This is why you got baby zucchini one week and this week you'll get bigger zucchini.  You got green tomatoes last week and you might get green tomatoes again next week as they are still not RED!!!  ugh-- but the good news is that there are A LOT of green tomatoes.  So the beans you must also try when they are small and thin.  

I keep missing harvesting day and pickup day due to work travel-- so Mike is left with all the work of picking the beans.  We could wait for the beans to get bigger as then you don't have to pick as many to give to folks as they have more weight.  But then that's the point of a CSA.  You'd never get these succulent beans in a grocery store because it is a lot of work to pick them so small.  But for 1 week, you get them nice and small and then they'll be growing so fast that we'll have a hard time keeping them picked.  So enjoy the various stages of the veggies- it's a wonderful food experience in my opinion.

This week we hung shallots and the first batch of onions to dry.  The garlic has been drying for almost 3 weeks so time to cut off tops and trim off roots.  

This week's variety of garlic is Russian Red Garlic from Johnny's- I bought the organic bulbs.  If you happen to look at the link and see the price per head of garlic and choke when you see it costs $5 per bulb for planting stock, then you'll be in the club with Mike.  I think he nearly fell over last October when he saw the bill for the garlic he planted.  However once you taste the different varieties of garlic, you get hooked.  And this year I'll save 5 lbs for seed stock for next year- so that's like saving $100!!!  And that's just 1 variety.  In that yellow basket is 11 lbs of garlic.

Below are the shallots and onions ready to be hung up to dry and the garlic ready to come down and be cleaned up.  So now I'm also addicted to garlic, shallots and onions in the same way I am with tomatoes.  Do you know how many varieties of garlic, shallots and onions there are?  Oh so many, so many....

I think we may just turn into a salsa CSA---  We've made salsa 2 times in the past week but still with store bought tomatoes.  But soon you'll have tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalepenos, cilantro and other peppers to make fresh salsa.  All you need from the store is a lime.

For dinner on Monday night we cooked pork chops and then had salsa and chips as our side dish.  Then the leftover salsa was put on the top of scrambled eggs at breakfast with chips.  Yum!

Don't forget that the herb garden next to the CSA pickup is pick your own.  Lots of herbs and I think they are pretty well labeled.  Parsley, sage, thyme, basil, dill, oregano, tarragon, etc
And more dill, cilantro and basil is across the road so please help yourself.  As it is picked, I just sprinkle more seeds into that space.

We are ready for meat sales.  Chicken processing is this week for the Red Rangers.  They look fabulous.  Mike is also taking orders for pork.  It's not pastured pork this time,  just plain old pork as the pigs lived and ran around inside the barn most of their lives.  The next batch we'll put on pasture as we've now learned enough about what they need.

Lambs and ewes were separated this week.  Below is a clip of the pasture at night and the sound of the babies calling for mama.  It can sound sad but keep in mind that some of these babies are almost 80-90 lbs and almost as big as their mothers.  The mothers need a break before the ram comes in October.  Most of these lambs will also be available for meat sales soon.  

Beef is available in October/November but Mike needs to ultrasound for ribeye marbling.  I had no idea that's how you checked to see if a grass fed cow was 'ready' to be good to eat.  Now I know.  

I love our hens and they love me (or so I think).  These ladies were far away from their house.  I thought they just wanted to come see me as they do on occasion but I wasn't 'listening' to them properly.  They were coming up to me to say, "Hey lady-- there is a problem with our water supply-- could you please come fix the hose?"  I figured that out an hour later when I went to gather eggs.  I have to remember that the animals do talk to you and to listen to them.   (and to think I still haven't turned vegetarian--)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lower Garden

The lower area garden is my new experiment this year along with the side garden by the veggie pickup area.  

In this area below I have planted sweet corn (left side) in successive rows over the past 6 weeks.  And the corn that was planted week 1 is almost the same height as the corn planted 2 weeks ago.  I have no way to explain this other than they are different varieties with different growing lengths?  The first 3 rows were a shorter 68 day variety of corn and the rest are longer varieties of 79-85 days so maybe the longer growing varieties produce larger corn and stalks?  

Mike has also reminded me how hard it is to grow organic corn.  Actually, his tactic goes more like this "you know you are only going to get 30-40 ears of corn out of all that corn out there-- you should have planted an acre of corn".  Talk about motivation.  That's all I needed.   I've spent several hours hand planting that corn-- it WILL grow and be wonderful.  I've been counting the seeds I've planted in that area and there are about 3,000 planted corn seeds so far.  Assuming 50% make it that's 1,500 ears of corn or more.  In my effort to prove him wrong, I have been investigating organic ways to protect the sweet corn and ensure a great crop in case the corn bugs come out.  This involves buying some beneficial insects in a few weeks and then as the corn tassels I'll need to buy another organic substance and go to all 1,500 ears of corn and put the substance on the corn tassel to keep those nasty corn worms off the corn.  

So here's to Mike being wrong and us all having a wonderful organic sweet corn crop.....if you know of any tricks for organic corn or to keep the worms away-- please let me know.  

The other part of the garden is sunflowers, watermelons, pumpkins and tomatoes.  All growing very nicely.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Week 6 Update

Everything is growing!  But I want it to grow slightly faster.... the weather has been gorgeous lately but we could do with a bit of hot weather for these hot weather plants.

Below is an heirloom tomato coming along.  Notice the shape.  The tomatoes look really funky and weird but oh boy, they taste great!  A perfect example of not judging something by its looks..... these tomatoes are just my favorite!!!!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

We've got a new technique this year to hold the tomato plants upright.  Each plant has a stake it's tied to and then in addition we have t-posts every 8 feet so that we can run twine around the posts and kind of sandwich the tomato plants between the twine.  Should keep all those tomato plants off the ground.

This week is fried green tomato week.  Lots of perfect sized green tomatoes to make fried green tomatoes.  I'll be making them this week as well.  I was told the key is getting the oil/butter ratio right and then put anything you want in that mixture, cornmeal, flour, etc.  Also slice the tomato nice and thin.

This was the snap/snow pea section of garden.  All gone.  Soon it will filled with the 2nd round of beans and edamame.

This is the start of an Amish Paste Tomato.  This is my favorite tomato of all time.  
Last year I didn't do as good a job of watering the plants (as we weren't living here last year) so they weren't as big--- these look like they will be big and hearty.

The onions and shallots have done so well this year (when one vegetable is slow due to the weather-- others do extremely well).  We should have a steady stream of onions all season.  At some point, I'll have to pull out the rest in this field and cure them, but for now they are also great just right out of the ground.  And you don't need much as they've got tons of flavor.

The 7 tomato rows and then beans.  There are about 7 kinds of snap beans.  Purple ones, burgandy, yellow wax and a few green kinds.  Then edamame is growing as well!  Lots of flowers-- thousands of bean flowers, so I'm hoping that we've got beans next week.  

The jalepenos are growing well with this cooler weather.  All the pepper plants are flowering as well.

I've come to the conclusion that the zucchini are not doing as well as I had hoped because we don't have enough bees around.  I've got tons of zucchini flowers but not as many zucchini are growing as I would like.  So I put out a bowl of sugar water hoping to attract some more bees to the garden.

And speaking of bees---- one CSA member keeps a few beehives.  
We had the pleasure of helping out with honey extraction on Sunday and I think Mike and I are hooked.  We need bees to pollinate but we also just loved the idea of honey and it was fun to extract the honey.  Of course there is a lot to learn about maintaining the bees and keeping them, but that's what books are for and bee mentors.  I just like the idea that I won't have to go pollinate my own zucchini next year!  And I plan to start the orchard next year so we'll need bees for the fruit trees. 

Below is a bee hive box.  (It reminded me of a sock or underwear drawer)
The slats inside are where the bees make the combs and store the honey.  This is an empty one.

You take the slat and use a hot electric knife to scrape off the caps over the honey pods.  

The slats then go into a metal extractor that spins the slats around and the honey comes out and down through the spout.  The honey is strained and then you are done.  

The coolest thing is that the bees clean up after themselves.  You leave the equipment outside and the bees come clean up all the honey.  They clean up after themselves... how about that!

Lots of herbs growing next to the pickup area.  If you need herbs, feel free to pick what you need.  There is fresh parsley, tarragon, sage, thyme, dill, oregano and lots of different kinds of basil.  Across the road you'll see even more basil, dill and cilantro.  The basil is marked pretty well and the dill and cilantro should be fairly obvious as it's about 1/2 the mature height at this point.

I'm still working on the rosemary.  Then we'll have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and we can all sing the song as we pick herbs.  I've got 2 sets of it growing.  One set under grow lights and the other in the herb garden.  The first round I transplanted must have been too small for the cool weather and so I killed it.  Lesson learned.  Gardening and farming is all about the lessons.  If a farmer can give you an answer quickly to a problem--- no doubt she's had the problem him/herself.  

Cilantro, basil and dill will be available all summer and will soon be growing in the garden areas in increasing quantities as the cucumbers and tomatoes come to season.   Last year I foolishly planted lots of all 3 herbs to come to maturity BEFORE the cucumbers and tomatoes were ready.   This year I am smarter.  Dill will be at maturity when the cucumbers and pickling cucumbers are ready.  Basil and cilantro will be in high season when the tomatoes arrive for salsa and tomato/basil salads.

Enjoy the garlic flavor of the week.  This week is a German White Porcelain Hardneck garlic.  It supposedly has a "Moderately spicy flavor".  So enjoy!  Hardneck varieties last 3-6 months so those are the garlics you are getting first.  Later in the season you'll get the softneck varieties that will last 6-12 months.  There are 9 more varieties to try the rest of the summer so keep track and let me know if you liked a certain type so that I can plant more of that for next year.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Evening farmers

The ladies....  I really like our hens.  They are the best.  The broilers come and go but the hens become our little workers.  

We gave a tour this morning of the farm and our chickens.  We're starting to get the hang of giving tours.  It depends what the person wants to see/buy as to how long a tour to give someone.  It could take a good 2 hrs to do a proper tour of all the areas and all the animals.  Most folks don't have 2 hrs to spare and after you've seen one set of chickens, you've seen enough.   And it also depends on what type of shoes someone is wearing-- sandals mean one tour-- boots and long pants mean another tour possibility.  We've got a shortened 30-45 min version where we pick out 2-3 animal areas for folks to see.  Today the family wanted to buy some of the colored rangers in a few weeks so that was the highlight of the tour in addition to the ladies.  

The last few weeks Mike and I say the same thing at 630am.... we need to go to bed earlier.... we need to get up earlier...  we said that again this morning as we heard our 10am tour arrive after our late night bonfire.  One family at the bonfire said they needed to break the record from last year and stay past 2:30am....  :)   
After the last guests left, it was also time for me to pack up the dehydrated garlic because it happened to be perfectly dehydrated at 3am.  

I've come to the conclusion that if you don't have a dairy farm, then there is no reason to get up before 7am unless you need to pick for the CSA that morning or you need to water.  I'll officially declare that we are evening farmers.  Though this could change as we get into the heat of July and August where we'll likely switch to getting up early again and then take a nap between noon-2pm- but for now we are evening farmers.  

Most of our moving around of animals happens in the afternoon when the grasses are at their peak and that's when the eggs get collected and more food put in the chicken feeders and I love to garden between 6:30-9:30pm.  I call this time of evening the golden time.  The sun is golden and the farm kind of sparkles.  

So for those of you out there that think you could never farm because you can't get up early.... there is hope for you....  

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Week 6 Part 1

Evidently, you can do a lot of editing of photos with your iphone. These are all pictures from Emily's iphone. Below is a rendition of Groucho Marx by Emily. This is a photo from last year.... no red tomatoes yet--- but bigger green ones. I'm thinking maybe we'll have to do a round of green tomatoes and the CSA members can make fried green tomatoes for a week.

This is Mariah-- love her eyes! Google eyes are always fun!

This is our new lady rabbit Daisy.
She is a silver fox rabbit. She won't be able to have bunnies for 2-3 more months so it'll still be a while before we can sell rabbit meat. But coming soon.... we ate some of this type of rabbit a few months ago at dinner and it was delicious!
(yes, we're crazy for adding another animal to the farm-- but we've had lots of requests and it was hard to find this kind of rabbit to buy-- one of these rabbits came from West Virginia)

This is the male rabbit named Xenopholius. Xeno is Luna Lovegood's father (for those that aren't up on their HP trivia)