Friday, May 28, 2010

Independence Days #52

This week brought an early taste of summer. All three days I worked out at the farm, the weather was blazingly sunny and hot -- temperatures were alleged to be in the mid-80s, but when you're standing or kneeling over black plastic, you can count on it being even hotter.

Thanks to a hat and plenty of sunscreen and water, I fared reasonably well, though I confess I hope it won't be like this every single day I'm farming this year. If it is, of course, I'll deal with it -- but whew!

Add to that the last-minute news that Local Roots would be open Thursdays as well as Fridays and Saturdays -- starting this week -- and you can imagine that my schedule got very full this week with additional baking.

It's enough to make one long for a long holiday weekend. Good thing we have one coming right up!

Technically, I won't have the three-day weekend. I'll be out at the farm on Monday, of my own free will, since we still have plenty of seedlings to plant out in the fields. But today I'll be taking it easy -- somewhat -- and enjoying the summery weather in my own way.

To recap the week:

1. Plant something: Sweet potato slips at the Southern Belle's garden; Clear Dawn and Red Cipollini onions, Pirat butterhead lettuce, Rutgers and Amish Paste tomatoes, Golden Detroit beets, Golden chard, Calypso beans, Suhyo Long cucumber, dill, Jacob's Cattle beans, Soldier beans, proso millet, flax, Uncle David's Dakota Dessert Squash at the fabulous Jen's garden; more onions, two kinds of cucumbers, straightneck squash, zucchini, and over 550 tomato seedlings at the OEFFA Male's farm.

2. Harvest something: Radishes, oregano, spearmint, lemon balm, roses from the Renaissance Man's garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried spinach, oregano, rose petals, lemon balm.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Used up sliced cheese and frozen broccoli on pizza; used a couple of items left at the end of the market to "reimburse" the fabulous Jen for her help on a newsletter project; saved stems from spinach to be dried and started a "stock scraps" bag in the freezer; took about 20 kohlrabi "seconds" off the OEFFA Male's hands.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Milled wheat, spelt, rye for flour; stocked up on butter, cheese, milk, herbs for this week's baking; put in first major bulk order for flour and such; bought a dozen five-gallon plastic buckets with lids for ingredient storage and started filling them; bought small lidded containers in preparation for selling dried herbs and herbal tea blends at the market.

6. Build local food systems: Picked up basil seedlings at the market for the Southern Belle's garden; baked honey cake for a client; worked at the OEFFA Male's farm three days; baked for market (including four new items to test).

7. Eat the food: Broccoli pizza; honey cake; grits with dill cheddar curds; spicy peanut noodles with pac choi and scallions; mint iced tea; green beans with leftover peanut sauce; French toast; grilled cheese and chard sandwiches; lavender "lemonade" with lemon balm.

Things are really picking up!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Market Report: 5/22/10

After last week's whirlwind surrounding the Grand Opening at Local Roots, I needed a bit of a breather from the market.

I figured that traffic would be a little slower than last week, so I didn't bake quite as much (though still a lot), and I tried to get in and out as quickly as I could, both to drop off inventory and to shop. That worked fine until this afternoon, when I arrived about an hour before closing and decided just to relax and linger.

I picked up my week's specialty baking ingredients on Friday -- chèvre from Lucky Penny Creamery, Ludlow cheese from Blue Jacket Dairy, more butter and milk from Hartzler Family Dairy, and the new shagbark hickory syrup and rhubarb syrup from a new producer. (I look forward to trying and experimenting with those!)

Today, though, I needed to pick up my online order:

Along with a big bundle of fresh rosemary from the Cheerful Lady, I had ordered herb pots from a new nursery/farm producer: rosemary, English thyme, and chocolate mint (something I haven't had for years and have missed terribly!). This new producer is also a member of the local OEFFA chapter, so I'm thrilled to report that the herbs are absolutely gorgeous and lush and well-sized for the price.

I also needed to pick up some basil seedlings for the Southern Belle's garden -- those I started from seed are going to the fabulous Jen's plot -- and when I found that the last remaining seven pots were from the same producer, I snapped them up. Aren't they beautiful? You can almost smell that distinctively clean and tempting fragrance from here.

As for my own market items, sales slipped a bit this week, but I shared pita bread with one person, donated a loaf of pumpernickel, and used a loaf of pain aux noix along with some cheddar scallion rolls to repay the fabulous Jen for her help on a project. (We're fans of the barter system!) I'll enjoy the rest this week in my own meals.

And thanks to these herbs, I'll be able to play more with my baking this week!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Independence Days #51

Another full week! Even though none of the three aspects of my self-employment require my full-time work or attention, I'm finding I have a lot less "free" time these days.

Not that that's a bad thing: at last I'm doing what I really want to do, so my work hours are actually more enjoyable. But the little things at home tend to suffer.

Still, this week I was able to give more attention to the gardens and to get going on my own food-growing and preservation, and that has waked me up as to what else I need to be doing (a LOT).

1. Plant something: Thompson broccoli, Roodnerf Brussels sprouts, Frigga savoy cabbage, garlic chives, Alaska shasta daisies, echinacea, chamomile, hyssop, cumin, orange thyme, elecampane, and Utah celery at the fabulous Jen's; Golden Gopher cantaloupe, Strela Green lettuce, Cherry Belle radishes, Golden chard, Costata Romanesco zucchini, Alaska nasturtium, Sugar Ann snap pea, Maxibel bush bean, Tyee spinach, Harris Model parsnip, Sugarsnax carrot, Peacevine cherry tomato seedling, Rutgers tomato seedlings at the Southern Belle's garden; radishes, beets, lettuce, pac choi, bunching onions, regular onions at the OEFFA Male's farm.

2. Harvest something: Golden chard, pac choi, stinging nettle, cilantro, dill, oregano, radishes, green onions at the Southern Belle's; pac choi seconds at the OEFFA Male's farm.

3. Preserve something: Dried oregano, stinging nettle, pac choi; froze two small bags of pac choi.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Used leftover pita breads from last week's market in this week's demo; ditto with the last of the chèvre and some lingering greens; replanted the smallest of the green onions I pulled; mulched carrots with coffee grounds, greens with crushed eggshells; brought home a bin of pac choi "seconds" from the OEFFA Male's farm to cook and preserve; turned one package of pita left from last week's market into pita chips for this week.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Milled more wheat and spelt for flour; stocked up on butter, cheese, eggs, milk, oil, flour, yeast for this week's baking; stocked up on coconut milk (to go with the pac choi); started list of other baking items needed; getting closer to making a big bulk order on baking ingredients.

6. Build local food systems: Attended and helped out here and there at the Local Roots Grand Opening; presented a demonstration on making delicious pita pizzas; dined with another producer member afterward to savor the day; worked with My Adorable Nephews in the garden and taught them a little more about garden bugs and plants; worked at the OEFFA Male's farm three days; baked for market; potted a Rutgers tomato seedling for My Dear Papa; teamed up with another Local Roots producer for a cooking demo at Lehman's (I made pesto scones, she made rhubarb crunch).

7. Eat the food: Plenty of samples at the Grand Opening; oatmeal with apples; fresh radishes; spicy peanut noodles with pac choi and asparagus; dried cinnamon apple slices for snacks; hash browns with homegrown chard; scrambled eggs with same; rhubarb crunch.

No wonder I just want to collapse this weekend!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In a Matter of Seconds

The first order of business at the farm this week was to clean out two large sections of pac choi adorned in leaves like tattered lace. The slugs have worked overtime to ruin this crop this season, and the OEFFA Male, something of a perfectionist, declared these vegetables to be well under par for the farmers' market and decided to take a loss.

While I understand the reasoning for doing so -- and knew that the discarded greens would feed the chickens, thus saving on feed -- I simply couldn't throw it all out. I waste enough food as it is, even though I try very hard to use it all up, and this would be waste on a much larger scale.

So -- with his blessing -- as I pulled the crop, I ripped off the destroyed leaves and salvaged what I could, for his family's use and mine. Over the course of two days (interspersed with other work, of course), I filled six bins with the pared down bundles of pac choi "seconds" and tossed the rest, slugs and all, to the hens.

For that work, the OEFFA Male invited me to take as much of the salvaged greens as I wanted. And I did: a bin each night.

I spent yesterday and this evening alternating between baking for market and rinsing and preparing the pac choi for freezing or for drying. I ended up with four bags of chopped, blanched greens for the freezer, and after running the dehydrator filled with leaves overnight, I had nearly a quart of dried pac choi to put away for winter.

On the one hand, I hate to see that kind of financial loss for the farm. Granted, it's not my place, but I still want to see the farm do as well as it possibly can.

On the other, I think I'll be able to preserve plenty of "seconds" for winter this year!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Scythe of Relief

The old saying "You have to have the right tool for the job" has been drilled (hammered?) into my head over the years, and the more I get absorbed in my gardening and farming (and baking, too), the more I realize that good tools and appropriate technology are worth the investment.

So does the Renaissance Man -- perhaps even more than I do.

Over the past year or so, as I've delved into small-scale grain raising and he has addressed logistical issues of maintenance at The Farm, the ongoing discussion and question between us -- almost a good-humored rivalry -- has centered on scythes. I wanted one for harvesting grain, he wanted one for mowing grass in odd places.

Who, then, would be the first to take the leap and invest in such a useful, old-fashioned tool?

Dear Readers, though I thought I would be first to the winning post on this race, it turned out that the RM felt the greater need.

His scythe arrived -- in pieces, of course -- this past week, and he spent some time over the past few days sanding and oiling the snath and handles in preparation for the full assembly. This morning, he decided that our post-breakfast excitement would have to entail fitting the scythe blade to the snath.

It took very little time to set the blade into position and fasten the screws on the bracket holding it down, and just as little time to adjust the angle of the blade so that it fitted his hold properly.

Once it was fully assembled, he gave it a few test swings and showed me what he had learned in his extensive reading: that the ridge of the blade stays on the ground, angling the sharp edge of the blade up at the proper angle to cut grass or grains.

He has promised to let me try it at some point, presumably when I'm ready to harvest grains later this summer or fall, and I hope to see him mowing the grass with it sometime soon. (I'd love to see the neighbors' faces!)

And maybe someday I'll get my own...

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Market Report: 5/15/2010

WOW! What an amazing, energizing, wonderful turnout we had at Local Roots yesterday for our Grand Opening! The crowd kept flowing through all day long, and I know I saw several new faces among that steady stream, as well as people I don't see often at the market. Thank you to EVERYONE who stopped by and made it such a success!

I don't have photos of what all I bought over the market weekend, but here's the list:

--one little tomato from the Jolly Farmer and pac choi from another farmer for my demo
--rhubarb from the Sausage Lady
--cheese! chèvre and feta from Lucky Penny Creamery and dill cheddar curds and fresh cheddar curds from Blue Jacket Dairy
--spinach from the Cheerful Lady
--butter and milk from the local dairy
--eggs from the Fiddlin' Farmer
--an herb pot with rosemary, parsley, thyme that I assembled myself
--snacks: a pretzel roll from The Photographer, fresh coffee from One Happy Guy, and two scoops of delectable old-fashioned ice cream (dandelion and maple-hickory nut) from the Scoopers

On top of that, I had the chance to sample some fresh waffles, Turkish panini (with herbed tomatoes, cheese, and pickle on sourdough bread), cheese, and "Cream of Local Roots" soup from another demo. I definitely did not go hungry throughout the day.

My demonstration (in the afternoon) kept the lighter crowd happy with four varieties of pita pizzas:

--homemade pesto and fresh tomato with shredded Burr Oak cheese from Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese
--homemade salsa with fresh greens (spinach and then lambsquarters) and fresh cheddar curds
--chèvre mixed with olive oil and dill, topped with sautéed asparagus and chives, plus walnuts
--spicy Thai peanut sauce topped with stir-fried pac choi, ginger, and scallions

These proved so popular that I had to pull an extra bag of pita bread out of inventory to bake more pizzas and keep people from mobbing me!

By the end of the market day, we still had people wandering around, scooping up final items and enjoying the atmosphere -- and I ended up with an almost entirely cleaned-off shelf (save for one package of pita bread). Having baked 50 loaves of bread for market this week, I found that extremely gratifying! (I also appreciated the last-minute tussle over the last piece of my new honey cake -- two people so eager to savor the flavor, they didn't even leave me any crumbs!)

We apparently broke out sales record by noon, so I look forward to seeing the final sales totals for the weekend as I think we will see a wonderful surprise. And I am hoping that, given the number of favorable comments I heard from newcomers, we'll have new loyal customers coming in more regularly, too.

Thanks again to everyone for coming by and for helping to cultivate Local Roots!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Independence Days #50

Ahhh, the week's end at last. And surprisingly, after the tempestuous weather we've had of late, the sun is shining and the day is warm. I think I might have to head out to the garden!

It's been a busy week behind the scenes, and here's a glimpse of what's been happening:

1. Plant something: More potatoes, more seed-starting for the OEFFA Male; potted white sage, tangerine gem marigold, orange thyme seedlings at home.

2. Harvest something: Lots of fresh sage, from pruning one bush.

3. Preserve something: Dried sage (a full quart of dried leaves!); made kim chi with dried kale, lots of radishes, scallions, etc. (the Purple Plum radishes give it a juicy pink cast).

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Froze extra coffee from last week's baking and thawed it for this week; saved bread crumbs; reused butter wrappers to grease baking pans.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Picked up wheat and spelt from new contact; restocked on butter, nuts, sesame seeds for baking; splurged on a new dehydrator for this season's preserving; started ongoing discussion with a couple of other bakers about ordering in bulk (which would mean finding yet more storage containers and space).

6. Build local food systems: Did another grain mill demo at Lehman's and showcased my buckwheat butter cookies (got a request for the recipe again!); gave two leftover loaves of bread from the market to someone who will use them in a cooking demo next weekend; enjoyed a pizza dinner at The Photographer's place, with all of us contributing to toppings; worked two days at the OEFFA Male's farm; baked for market; promoted Grand Opening.

7. Eat the food: Leftover bread; The Photographer's fabulous homemade pizza with asparagus and greens and other good stuff; pasta with greens; grilled cheese with chard.

Though it looks like I haven't quite finished a year of this challenge, I did skip a couple of weeks over the winter, so I'd say I've definitely made it through a year of Independence. What fun! And I think I'll keep on doing it -- it helps me keep track of what I'm doing and inspires me to do more.

So until next week... enjoy!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bake In Business

The weather this week -- lots of rain -- meant that I only worked two days at the farm this week. The OEFFA Male decided yesterday morning that we had done all we could outside of the fields for the week, and the fields themselves were too muddy for further planting just yet.

So I reveled in the sudden gain of an extra baking day -- in the week leading up to the Grand Opening at Local Roots Market. Just what I needed!

In addition to plentiful quantities of my usual breads, I also decided to make more of the cinnamon pecan bread that was an immediate success last week (selling out by Saturday morning!). It's a pity that fragrances can't be transmitted over the Internet -- the sweet cinnamon mingling with the yeast and fresh whole wheat of these loaves are heavenly!

Our manager had asked if I might be willing to bake something for the door prize drawing during the day Saturday, and since I had extra time this week, I decided to test a brand-new recipe, an original experiment derived from a bread I've never baked before. (How's that for flying blind?)

Behold the cappuccino chip bread. I took a page from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking and tweaked the chocolate-vanilla bread to include locally-roasted coffee and a hint of cinnamon. I made two loaves: one for me to test the flavor (complex, not too sweet, with an underlying wholesomeness) and one for a door prize. It's an expensive recipe, so if I make it for market again, chances are I will make rolls or mini loaves out of it.

Overall, I ended up baking 50 loaves of bread for market -- definitely a new record, and one I'm not sure I want to top any time soon! Whew!

So stop by Local Roots on Saturday (May 15) between 9 AM and 3 PM. Check out the market, if you haven't already -- enjoy the fun events we'll have going on -- and see if you can win this delectable loaf of whole-grain local goodness.

What a great way to end the week!

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Independence Days #49

It's been a very busy week, and I'm really too exhausted to think back over it clearly. But here's this week's report, in lieu of anything else:

1. Plant something: Planted Red Gold and Purple Viking potatoes, Cascadia snap peas, Scarlet Nantes carrots, French Breakfast radishes, Hakurei turnips, Mammoth Sandwich Island salsify, Laurentian rutabaga, Black Beluga lentils, hull-less oats, marigolds, Prize Choy pac choi, Magenta Improved lettuce, and broccoli raab at the fabulous Jen's new garden; more potatoes (fingerlings and other), plus started seeds for more kohlrabi at the OEFFA Male's farm.

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserve something: Meant to, but ended up eating a good deal of what I meant to preserve.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Not so good on this front: discovered a couple of bags of fresh greens that no longer look so fresh...

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Ordered wheat and spelt from new contact; restocked on cheese, herbs, nuts for baking; tucked big bags of local maple sugar into a storage budget with a tight lid.

6. Build local food systems: Did a cooking demo at the market to use and sell my whole wheat pita bread; swapped extra bread for greens; helped the fabulous Jen start planting the garden, sharing what I've learned along the way; worked three days at the OEFFA Male's farm; baked for market; with other board members, met with a tour group of Extension agents at the market; talked with a fellow baker I met at my grain mill demo about cooperative buying of ingredients.

7. Eat the food: Leftover bread spread with chèvre; French toast from leftover bread; radishes on salad; lots of greens, many eaten straight from the bag; spicy peanut noodles with asparagus and fresh greens.

No market report this week: I shopped yesterday and picked up asparagus, cilantro, butter, maple syrup, and a San Marzano tomato plant -- no photos, sorry!

Maybe next week will be less dizzying?

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Market Report: 5/1/2010

Clearly, I have no resistance to Spring -- or to fresh Spring produce.

I had determined this week that I would simply shop online for my fresh produce at Local Roots, and I put in an order for a bag of mixed salad greens and another bag of spinach from The Winter Harvesters. That, I thought, would do it for the week, and I wouldn't need to pick up anything else at the market.

The market, however, had other ideas.

First, the asparagus from the Fiddlin' Farmer jumped out at me, and since it had been so tender and delicious in the quiche this week, I thought I might make something else to enjoy it this week.

Then I spotted the fiddlehead ferns from the Amish Farmers, and since I've never eaten these before, I wanted to try them.

And since the Garden Gal had brought me more stinging nettles and lambsquarters for my cooking demo, I ended up with some leftover greens to take home. Oh, darn!

On top of that, of course, I had to restock on cheeses for my cheese/herb breads for next week, and I needed another dozen eggs after making egg-rich brownies for market. So there went this week's grocery budget.

I spent most of the morning at the market, preparing for and working through my cooking demonstration. Using my homemade whole wheat pita breads as a base, I made breakfast pizzas with scrambled eggs incorporating cooked greens (spinach from the Cheerful Lady and the aforementioned nettles and lambsquarters) and herbs, topped with a variety of cheeses, and sometimes enhanced with a smear of local dandelion salsa.

People enjoyed nibbling on these savory bites, and by the end of my demonstration, all of my packages of pita breads had been sold -- first time ever! I also set out chunks of my pumpernickel bread along with a quickly-thrown-together borani of yogurt, Lucky Penny feta, radishes from the OEFFA Male, dill, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. That, too, won fans, and soon all my pumpernickel bread was sold, too.

In fact, by the end of the day, I had only three loaves of bread (out of 41) left on my shelf. I traded one loaf to the Cheerful Lady for bags of her spinach, kale, and baby chard -- which meant that I definitely will have enough greens to eat this week (and should probably freeze or dry some, too).

Like I said, no resistance to Spring. But who's complaining?

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