Monday, May 31, 2010

A Busy Weekend

The garden is shaping up nicely. Below are green peppers planted in hills. This year I am planting more in long hilled rows with drip irrigation. And I love it! I just wish all the hoses could run at the exact same time.

The head lettuces look fabulous! The bok choi did bolt slightly with the high heat so I am trimming off the tops. The bottoms are still really good but will have to be eaten this week.
Much better as a fall crop but I had to give it one more try in the spring.

This is the first week for CSA pickup! 12 lucky folks are getting great veggies!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Surprise!

Well, I guess it doesn't take long for snowpeas and snappeas to grow. The flowers were just there a week ago. Guess what's for dinner?
Lettuce, spinach, garlic scapes, snap peas, snowpeas, swiss chard, french breakfast radishes, bok choi, strawberries----- all beautiful. What a great spring!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

First CSA pickup Day - Next Week!

First CSA day pickup is next week.  Inside this lovely walkin fridge will be fresh veggies and strawberries waiting to be taken home and eaten.

Happy eating!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sustainable Fair

Thanks to all who came to the Sustainable Fair at the Farm Museum last Saturday and tried our food and took a business card.

Mike and I cooked grass fed burgers and merguez lamb sausage for the fair and we met a lot of wonderful people!

Although we didn't meet or talk to anyone during the blur that was 12:15-1:45pm when it took all our powers to keep up with the line. Thank goodness for our wonderful children who have great customer service skills. If we ignored you during that time, please forgive us and come visit the farm and we'll talk for hours!

It was great to meet the folks who know a lot about sustainable agriculture as well as the folks who watched Food Inc for the first time and got a big shock about their food. Welcome to the club-- knowledge is a dangerous thing and hard to go back and pretend you don't know once you do know.

Speaking of things that I didn't know. We are ready to take orders for Turkeys. This year we are doing Bronze Turkeys and we'll only do 40 birds so place your order now.

Did you know that there is no way that all the folks who want 'fresh' turkeys could actually get 'fresh' turkeys given the number of turkeys that can be killed per hour the week before T-day.

So 'fresh' is technically defined in turkey standards as anything that has not been frozen. Now turkeys have a high salt content so they can be in a fridge/freezer at 28 F and technically they are still labeled as 'fresh'. Have you ever got a 'fresh' turkey and wondered why it was kind of crispy cold? That's why. It's probably a month old as you can't process all the demand in 1 week. You need a good month prior to spread out the work. So it's not technically frozen but it is slightly frozen so that it can keep for the time before T-day.

Our turkeys will be 'processed' the Saturday or Sunday before T-day. So they will be fresh. Though if you've read my other postings you know that I'm also skeptical about fresh poultry being really tender so I've got more reading and research to do. I can tell you that my turkey that was 5 days aged was perfectly tender on T-day last year. And it cooked fast-- I mean fast. So a really, really fresh turkey will cook in almost 1/2 the time.

Preorder your turkeys now!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fresh Pasture Raised Chickens

I've read lots of articles or blogs about someone killing their own chicken and then eating it fresh that same day. Best chicken of their life- is what they say.

Yeah, well I'm not so sure if I'm doing something wrong or these people just don't know tough vs tender chicken.

I've tried 4 times now to eat a chicken the same day it was killed, the 2nd day, the 3rd day..... and it's good but tough. In the end the best flavor and most tender chicken is one that is killed, then kept in fridge for a few days, frozen and then thawed and cooked. I don't know how long it needs to be frozen but we just had one that was frozen for 10 days and it was perfect!

So if anyone knows what I'm missing, let me know. I believe the same may be true about turkeys. We made sure that our turkeys last year that folks got had 5 days before being cooked on T-day because any less and I think the turkey would be tough. Our T-Day turkey was really tender on day 5. Though I also have 1 turkey left still in the freezer and I'm going to try out the theory and see if it's more tender. I'll let ya know....

I still think those folks eating chicken the same day of slaughter just don't know good chicken.... or they are doing some kind of fast tenderizing process that I want to learn about.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Definitely a June 1 CSA Start Date

These photos were from 5 days ago. Amazing what 5 days of warmth does to greens. This same area is tripled in size.

I am in love with a spinach called Gator Perpetual spinach. Oh my gosh-- I never knew spinach could be heavenly- but this spinach has big leaves that are sweet and juicy (funny word I know to describe spinach).

Since last year we had a lot of lettuce and not enough spinach, I made sure to get a few varieties so that we'd have more than enough spinach. And if we have too much then we can all blanch and freeze it. Lettuce is hard to freeze and store but spinach can be stored.

Rows of lettuce are coming up as well and the mustard greens have little holes in them from those silly bugs but still taste great.

The next few weeks are planting, watering, weeding weeks. Along with strawberry picking that is.... I would say starting next weekend you can call us up and come pick your own if you want. We've gone out every night and gotten about 4 pints and it's now kicking into high gear. You just need to know that there is lots of thistle and wear long pants and good shoes.

If anyone buys strawberries and gets those plastic containers-- save them as I'd love to have them and reuse them for picking. Also, if you get orange bags or onion bags that are mesh- save those for me as well. I want to do a better job of storing onions in proper bags this year.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spring Garden!

The start of the CSA is just around the corner. It's looking as if June 1-4 will be the first week for pickup if the weather continues as it has with slightly warmer temps.

The strawberries have been shown in previous postings and the raspberries are also in full bloom. Now I have to believe that 5 rows of raspberries is going to be enough for all of us. The deal is this: if we have a bounty of raspberries then we'll pick the first container for you on certain weeks but if you ever want more then you go up and pick more for yourself. I won't fence off this area so you'll be able to find it easily.

On tap for week 1 so far looks like:
loose mixed spring lettuce
loose mustard lettuce mix (has small holes in it from flea beatle)
swiss chard -- it grows like a weed in my garden
head lettuce
bok choi
pick your own herbs-- tarragon, greek oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, dill, cilantro, mint, basil and a few others that are still growing--- like rosemary

--the maybe list includes
Kale, carrots, radishes(french breakfast), celery, turnips, dill, cilantro, beets, arugula, kohlrabi
--these items are small but always amaze me at how fast they grow. So sometimes I don't know what is going to be the right size until a few days before.

The flea beatles get into anything spicy-- arugula, bok choi, mustard leaves..... so they taste great but they just look funky. Better in the fall when those bugs are gone.

Snap peas are coming along and starting to take off. This is another plant that looks like it will be 5 more weeks but then just takes off and suddenly you have snap peas all over. I think snap peas will be ready second week of June. That is the typical time of year.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thistle Strawberries

In the spirit of showing the bad along with the good. This is my strawberry thistle patch.
This side is the worst.... it took me a few hours to convince Mike that I really, really did want him to mow a path down the center of the strawberries. I had a path there anyway and only a few berries extended out that far. So now at least I have 2 paths through the thistle.

And among that thistle are strawberries!!! Today the kids and I picked about 3 pints. Some were not so ripe but we only had 10 that we saw that were animal chewed. So evidently the thistle is working and keeping away the berry eaters. Of course you can hear us all going - ouch- as we pick. We'll need to wear some thin gloves.

It'll probably take the entire summer to remove the thistle. Everytime I go out I'll just pick another 2-3 feet of thistle.... and by end of summer it will be done!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garden Update!

Update: I found Mike's phone and his email address michael@greenakeys is now working.
Still has a dead computer- but he's working on that.
We have a new website page/format:

It's at least live with some relevant information on it-- but still needs TLC. I'm still trying to find the field where I can input the farm because the website template we chose says "YOUR FARM NAME HERE". That cracks me up right now. :)

Thanks to all for emailing about chickens and some of you for taking a few less than you had asked for. The good side of all this as that we'll actually feel good as we officially sold out of chickens for the first time ever.

This year we will definitely have 2 items for CSA members that we didn't have before. Raspberries above. Beautifully training on the wires as well.

And below.... strawberries...

The strawberries are just starting to come out. They are wonderful -- that's the good news. The ones in my hand needed another day to ripen but I had to pick and try them. The bad news is that they are surrounded by thistle. And I mean surrounded. More pictures another time. Though if I look on the bright side- nothing is eating the strawberries except us humans because all other animals don't want to go into the thistle--- so it's all working out!

Rocky the guard dog never made it to the training farm. He's now a working guard dog who protects the chickens and the rest of the farm. He's definitely a guard dog and he knows his job. The fox are not happy.... we heard them crying/screaming at 1:30am the other night. He-he--- guess they'll have to find a new place to have their den as we just cut off their food source.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chicken Orders

We need a little help from anyone who placed a chicken order.
Mike has had a triple whammy the past week. His computer died (the one with his spreadsheet of names of chicken orders) and then we also moved to a new IP address so any email was not getting to him either and he can't get to that mail as it was also on his computer. (he lost his phone as well for 3 days but then I found it)

If you placed an order for chickens please send him an email at

If you've been following the blog you also know that our chicken count was drastically reduced due to some foxes. So we may ask that you take a few less chickens as we have more orders than chickens. We appreciate the support and we'll make it up to you in the next round. We now have Rocky the big bad guard dog and the fox are not getting near our chickens. We heard the foxes crying last night probably because they realized their hay day was gone.

So please send a message and come get your chickens this week!
They look fabulous-- they are different than a typical cornish cross. They are longer and the fat is more yellow which is a great sign. Don't waste one ounce of these chickens! Plan to use all the meat and make stock with the bones and all the leftovers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Great Neighbors

You know you have great neighbors when:

They help you round up the last 2 baby calves and help you get them back into the new pasture area.
And then continue to help as a momma cow also gets out.

As the calves run around their nicely fresh cut lawn....

Ah.... now if we could only find Mike's cell phone that we think got dropped out in the pasture...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicken Orders

Well, unfortunately Rocky didnt arrive in time.  While I was out today bringing him to the farm where he is to be trained further in the duties of Guard Dog Life, we had another fox attack.  This time at least 20 birds were killed.  Electronetting isnt working.  The fox are digging under the perimeter fencing and then simply going right through the electronetting.  Its probably not hot enough.  So, we are down to about 50% of the birds we started with as chicks.  Super.  There were some really nice birds that were killed.  Good 6 to 7 pound birds.

So,  I will go through our pre-orders and I will contact you today or tomorrow if we have birds for you.  It will be on a first come basis, meaning the oldest orders will get filled first.  Im completely sorry to everyone that Im going to have to disappoint about their order.  This really hurts me because not only am I losing the birds Ive worked very hard to raise, less than a week before processing, but Im going to have to disappoint friends and customers that Ive worked hard to please.  The only good thing is that I didnt accept any deposits or partial payments for the birds.  So at least we dont have to worry about anyone complaining about that.  Phew.

I guess I feel better knowing that Rocky is here now.  I just wish I had him a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guardian Dog- Rocky the Gentle Giant

We've been contemplating a Livestock Guardian Dog for about 8 months now.
As fate would have it- we have a fellow farmer friend that knew a family who needed to find a home for their Great Pyrenees dog named Rocky.  He's 14 months old and about as big as a small pony.  I've now known him for 3 hrs and I already know he's going to be a great dog.  He's gentle and obedient and he's in the barn with about 9 hens tonight.  He didn't go after them so that's good.  He did look like he would jump up and attack the barn swallows though so it looks like he's got a good guarding instinct.
We need him to protect the chickens and the sheep and get the fox and groundhogs.

He's going to go to another farmer friend tomorrow who has volunteered to help train him a little more with lambs and chickens for a few weeks and then we'll bring him back and get him adjusted to our farm.  I almost don't want to send him to the other farm for training as I like him so much.

It's amazing how much this farm has changed me and helped me grow as a person- only a year ago I would have been totally scared of a dog this big but I now see through the size and see the actions and personality of the animal.  We were hanging out with Rocky and he was getting a little antsy- so I said to Mike-- he's got to do his business.  Sure enough..... he didn't know where to go.  Big dog looks like he's frantic-- but really he just needed to pee.

Good lesson for life- sometimes a person looks mean/nice/big/small/etc....  but you have to look beyond the outside layers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Small Diversified Farm- that's what we are!

We've been doing quite a bit of tours lately - 3 tours last week!  It's pretty cool because folks are finding us.  Sometimes its through and sometimes through this blog.

The hardest part for me to explain to people is that we are a small operation.  small....
Meaning we'll likely sell 3 steers a year, 25 lambs, 20 pigs, 400 chickens, 12 CSA shares and 600 dozen eggs.   Now if we are lucky- we'll break even this year and cover our expenses.  It will take another year or 2 before we build up and get above break-even.  This is why most farmers we know have a regular job outside the farm.  It is possible to make a little bit of money- it will just take a few years to get there and lots of hard work. 

From a distance up the hill, our farm looks just gorgeous.  
Here's to getting to break-even this year!  
Call us for a tour, we'd love to show you around and sell you some fantastic meat and eggs!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One Task at a Time

I get asked "How do you get all the farm stuff done?" all the time. The first answer is that Mike does 85% of the work. The second answer is that though I do most of the garden work and egg collecting/washing, I just break it all up into little tasks. Little tasks are easier to get done than big tasks and if the task seems too big- then break it up even smaller. (I happen to know that I've got 13 more rows of garlic to weed-- I did 2 rows tonight and will do 3 more tomorrow. Once I'm almost done with an area I'll get extra energy to finish it up.)

Tasks currently on the list:
-prepare for chicken processing (picture above of Freedom Rangers almost ready- totally sold out!!!)
-Weed the snap peas and train to go thru cattle panel

-Weed the small strawberry patch
-Weed 1/6 of big strawberry patch (6 entries... to much to do in one weeding)

-Build one more hive body for bees (there are lots and they need a little more room)
-the honey bees are a new addition this year and they've been pretty fun to watch so far- below is the hive box (you've probably seen them around and never knew what they were)

So if you ever think something is overwhelming- it's probably because it is! But just break the project down into 30 minute or even 10 minute sub-projects and in no time you'll be amazed at your progress!

One of our goals is to get to 100 customers. We currently have about 31 customers. So we are going to slowly work to add 10 customers at a time. I'm hoping that by end of the summer we are close to 100! I think we will based on the rate the last few weeks!