Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slow Down a Bit

Today I just couldn't get myself to move so I did the wash and hauled most of the canning equipment back to the basement. I love canning, but I hate hauling all those heavy filled jars downstairs. Still, they look pretty on the shelves. I tried making apple and pear butter in the crock pot for the first time this year. I will let the butters sit a while before trying them to see how they taste. They look all right. Tom wants me to make a relish with his Lemon heirloom peppers. He got the seed from Jungs and let me tell you, those babies are HOT. I wanted to make hot sauce with them and mix them with some of my hot peppers, but he wants a relish with them only so I guess I'll have to find a recipe. I put a lot of my hot peppers in the dehydrator. I'll use them in organic pesticide concoctions next year. While I waited on the clothes dryer, I harvested a lot of seed from different veggies, went outside and turned over my compost bins and started a new section with the unsalable veggies I harvested from the field before the frost. I think I'll wait another year before spreading out the compost on the field. I also made a 16 bean soup with a ham bone from the freezer and I tossed a Serrano pepper in the pot; it turned out ok, but it still feels like there is something missing.

We finally got some good rain last night. I don't know how much we got, but I think it was a couple of inches, and it soaked right in. Next time I go out to the field I'll check the rain gauge. We could probably use 10 more inches.

Tom wanted to make tacos for supper yesterday so I trekked out to the field to cut some fresh lettuce and dodged a rain shower by going into the high tunnel. Wouldn't you know it, everything in the high tunnel but the cool weather plants was black and dead. I don't know if the hard freeze got them or if they got cooked by my having closed up the high tunnel before the hard freeze. Looks like I need to do a bit of research on growing in high tunnels. No tomatoes this year after all! After I cut the lettuce I took a look at my sunflowers. They were drooping and blackened, too. I went and cut the broom corn and hanged the heads straw side down in the garage. It will be fun making good luck hearth brooms this winter.

Tomorrow is bowling day with Ed so I don't know how much in the field I'll be able to get done, but I would like to get all of the currants and gooseberries moved close to the house. I am already thinking about planting more apple trees . . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First Snow

We saw our first snow on September 13th. Tom and I were having our morning coffee while watching the morning news when we looked out the window and saw snow falling mixed with rain. Of course, nothing stuck, but it was still snow. We had a light frost that night, but on the 14th we had a really hard frost. I was so glad I had cleaned out the garden and covered what was left.

Out in the garden Ed and I took all the vegetable matter and hauled it to the compost area (a large dip in the field where the old well was years ago when Nelson's Camp One was there). I will put all the compost materials there and eventually the dip will level off (I hope). I dug up a couple of cabbage plants and the deer-chewed collards and moved them into the hight tunnel. I may be able to get some collard greens yet since the central stems are ok, and the cabbages I hope to over winter and replant out in the field next year for seed. I will let the parsley that is already in the high tunnel go to seed next year, too. I have St. Valery carrots still out in the field -- they have been sold in the ground to a guy who plans to come out this way October 1st. There are plenty of White Egg and Gilfeather turnips still growing, Southern Giant Leaf Mustard greens, late planted dill, more parsley, Bull's Blood beets, and Forellenschuss lettuce (which looks much better than the early planted lettuce!) In the high tunnel I have late planted carrots, beets, spinach and scallions.

I have received the seed garlic for next year from Seed Savers Exchange: I got Czech Tan again, more Samarkand, and some Chesnok Red -- another purple stripe hard neck variety from Soviet Georgia; it is a medium hot, sweet when cooked without losing that garlic taste variety. I am looking forward to trying it. I will plant the garlic in October on Columbus Day weekend, so I will have some time to finish overhauling the garden before planting. I still plan to move the berries closer to the house and the new fruit trees will be coming so I need to ready their holes. I still want to work on the fence, too.

We have only two more weeks of market this year already. I can't believe the summer went so fast! It was a lot of fun again, and I really enjoy my regular customers and meeting new people. I only had one complaint this year, and it happened yesterday. I had a woman complain about the Hannah's Choice melons she bought. She said when she cut them open they were mush. I thanked her for the comments about the melons, and I told her I was hoping to get feedback on the melons as I needed to know if I should grow them again. I immediately gave her her money back plus some to thank her for the feedback; I think she was surprised I didn't give her a hard time. I honestly don't know if there was something wrong with the melons, or if it was merely a matter of taste because last week I had another woman tell me she absolutely loved her Hannah's Choice melon. I don't know. Anyway, I won't grow them again because when I tried the melons, I thought they had no taste. The interior color was great, and the melons smelled heavenly, but I really think they lacked for flavor. I was very disappointed in them overall. Now the Charentais melons were excellent and I should get a lot of good seed from them. (I kept most of them for ME). I will try a few of the Green Nutmeg -- I haven't tried to sell any of those because I'm not sure they are ripe. They are out in the garage with the pumpkins, along with the rest of the winter squashes and the remaining Moon and Stars melons, which I will definitely plant again. Boy, you put those Moon and Stars to cool and them cut into them, and OH, is it sweet!

I had a good day at market. One guy came and said he wanted some of those "little Laos peppers". A friend of his bought some and liked them, and this guy wanted some. Well, the peppers were really starting to ripen and the quart looked like a rainbow of color. He bought the whole quart! I sold quite a few of the Thai Hot 2 and 3, and my Chicago Bears man came and bought about half of the Early Jalapenos. Another young couple talked with me a bit about the difference between Asian and traditional hot peppers, then bought some of my Joe's Long Cayenne (my favorite along with Tabasco -- if I can ever get the Tabasco to fruit up here). Anyway, I was surprised the hot peppers did so well because I was told I would never get anyone to buy hot peppers this far north. I also sold another bag of White Egg Turnips, and I have people asking me for Collards. Seems lilke I am getting a reputation for having Southern cooking ingredients. The okra sold out every week and I am saving the remaining pods out in the high tunnel for next year's seed. I have even been selling the mustard greens, though those are a bit spicy for most people here. That's ok because I don't have ANY problem with freezing them for my own freezer! I love my greens. I am going to buy some bacon from Jump River and really look forward to frying it up and adding some mustard greens and onions and a dash or two of Tabasco sauce. A side of black-eyed peas and maybe some ham and biscuits. I better shut up before I talk myself into gaining back the 30 pounds I lost this summer.

With the cooler weather, Tom is in turkey mood. He fixed turkey for Sunder dinner today with all the trimmings, and it was great! Now, while he watches Sunday football, I am back in the kitchen making pickled beets (bought from Czerniaks at the farmers market yesterday) and I'm steaming the plums I bought in Bayfield the other day in my new Mehu-Liisa steamer/juicer I bought from Lehmans (did I tell you I went to Bayfield on Tuesday to get apples and came home with three bushels of Wealthy, Cortland and Fireside apples, 1/2 peck of pears and two pecks of plums?) My kitchen looks like a food co-op. I've got stuff all over the place. Anyway, I'm trying to get the canning done so I have more time to spend in the field. I want to be finished with everything before our Missy La has to go to Marshfield for her bladder surgery. We are still waiting to hear from the surgeon's office about that.

I have to go to town on Tuesday to renew my drivers license. When the Dell Horoscope magazine said that September would be a busy month for Scorpios, they weren't kidding! It seems all I have done this month is run. This coming Thursday, Eddy starts bowling with the Chequamegon Special Olympics in Park Falls (I was able to become a certified volunteer with Special Olympics). I was really happy when I got my volunteer card. I'm starting to feel like I am settling in as a community member. It makes me feel good.

It's such a beautiful day today. The leaves on the trees are rapidly changing color; I think the color may peak this week. The sky reminds me more of October than September with the steel gray clouds intermingling with white linen ones blowing across the bright blue sky on a cool northwest wind. It's nice to look out the window -- and smell my pickled beets simmering on the stove.

Well, I've ranted on long enough. It's time to check on the plums!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Makin' Hay

I have some new pics for you! Here they are:

They are in descending order: English Arrow pea vines drying for next year's seed; newly harvested Stuttgart onions; Tom building himself another compost bin; B's Flambeau Acres is one of our great market vendors; onions curing in the garage; our farm stand; another market vendor, Mary Lou Czerniak from Taylor County (Czerniaks make up the southernmost participant of Price Direct while I am at the northern end); and Rich Tobe from Jump River Dairy in Catawba. B's sells honey and maple syrup, the Czerniaks sell produce, flowers and great berries in season, and Jump River has organic eggs, great meats, and good, wholesome sheep milk.

We had a great market yesterday despite the fact that many people had gone to area Labor Day Festivals. You should have smelled my Hannah's Choice melons! They were heavenly and when the market opened, people lined up and bought most of them -- only the ones not quite ripe were left. One customer told me they wanted melon to eat today, not next week. So I wound up taking a couple of them home. Hopefully they will be ripe for next market. It was a lovely day, and I asked people to give me feedback next week on what they bought. No one wrote down on my sheet what they would like to see me offer next year; maybe they want to think about it. I took a bowl of hot peppers (from the Laos seeds Bill and Linda sent me) and because they were so small, I sold them 5 for $0.10. I sold most of them! One person told me that they love hot peppers so I told her I will bring all of my hot peppers next week -- the Laos, Thai Hot, Thai Hot2, Thai Hot3, Joe's Long Cayenne, and Serrano. I will have to check the Early Jalapeno and Tobasco because I don't know if those got any fruit this year. The peppers I don't sell I will dry and use in organic pest mixtures next year. Serrano peppers are going for at least $7.00 a pound!

We had our first unfortunate instance with a vendor this market. It was an old lady who was a crafter. She showed up at the market at 8 a.m. and set up. One of the other vendors who arrives early showed this woman a copy of the market rules which clearly state that you may sell crafts but at least 50% of your stand must be food items that you have grown. The woman read the rules and put up her stand anyway. I arrived late and saw the woman, said hello, and hurried to set up my own stand; I didn't look to see what the woman had on her stand thinking I would check it out later when I had a chance. Well, the market opened and I was busy for a while (melon rush). Then the market manager called me aside and told me that people had come up to her and said, "Do you know you have someone not selling food?" So, she went to check out the woman's stand, and then asked the rest of us vendors who have all signed market contracts and participate in making decisions about the market, what we wanted to do. At first I thought we should let her stay seeing as she was an old lady and already set up, but that we should tell her at the end of market that she couldn't come back unless she conformed her stand to market rules. But because we discovered that the woman had been shown a copy of the market rules and she set up anyway, the majority voted to ask her to leave. I support the group so I went with them. That woman had no interest in the goals of the market, what we as a group hope to achieve, or our rules. She is a professional crafter and all she gave a damn about was making her buck. She accused US of being greedy(!) and based her "right" to be there on an ad that was placed in the newspaper for the market. The ad did say "food and crafts" in it, but there was a phone number to call. It would have been logical (polite and ethical) to call first to be sure you conformed to market rules before showing up cold turkey. We apologized for any ambiguity in the ad that might have caused her to misconstrue it, and told her the ad would be corrected. This woman was a first class bitch and I am glad we told her to take a hike. Later that day I spoke to an attorney about the incident and was told that for the sake of good will we could have let the avaricious old sow stay the one day to get her "feed", but we did right in sticking up for the market rules; the woman was taking advantage of known customer traffic at the time and place allotted to the farmers market with no intent to conform to market rules or become part of the market group. (Being part of the market group is not required to vend at the market, but committed interest would be nice.) She tried to pass off the Indian corn she was selling as a food item, but when we looked at her stand, the wood crafts were front and center while the Indian corn was on the side line and being marketed as a decoration and not food. I told her that, which only incensed her and she glared at me. She threatened us. She said, "You can bet word of this is going to get around." I told her she could go sell at the Pamida parking lot in Park Falls and she replied she'd alreay been there! Obviously she thought she wasn't making enough money at Pamida. She also said she had a trailer full of crafts she could have brought and that she had a space rented for the Harvest Festival which she was tempted to cancel because of this "incident". We told her we had nothing to do with the Festival and that she should not take out any anger on the Festival people. (The attorney I spoke to told me that the old battleaxe won't cancel her spot at the Festival because she wants the money. I'm tempted to go to the Festival just to see if she shows up.) Anyway, good riddance to a most disagreeable person!

When I got home from market I was all nerves and got Tom and Ed to go with me to cut all the sweet corn. The market sold out of corn right away and EVERYBODY wanted sweet corn. I set up the canopy at the end of the driveway, but only made one sale. I should advertise, but I never know when I will be able to just sit at the stand for a couple of hours. Tom doesn't like to do it, and I don't like to leave him with the kids all the time. Lara can't (and doesn't want to) sit outside because she is sensitive to heat and sunlight with her medications even with the canopy, and Ed would be ok, but if he wants to go in the house, I would have to leave the stand alone because Ed can't be left by himeself at any time. Our schedule for September is already very busy so unfortunately it will be difficult to connect with us at the farm if you want to buy anything. (Just keep an eye out for the red canopy because that means I'm out at the end of the driveway selling.) It will be nice to build a good stand that has better shelter. (I have some wonderful building plans for one I got from the University of Delaware.) I might be able to run an electric line out to it so there would be heat on cold days and I could run a radio for Lara (If I could get her to come out with me for some fresh air). Anyway, next week I will have New England Pie Pumpkins, Sugar Loaf Delicata squash, and from Tom's garden, Sunshine winter squash, along with Perkins Long Pod Okra, Stuttgart onions, Forellenschuss lettuce, Southern Giant Leaf Curled Mustard, White Egg Turnips, hopefully some Moon and Stars, Green Nutmeg, Charentais and more Hannah's Choice melons (pray the hot weather holds) and all my hot peppers I mentioned earlier.

I have been really thinking hard about the garden layout. I have decided to move the perennial section to the house under the trees where I can keep a better eye on it and I will plant more fruit trees in that field section. Bill MacKentley at St. Lawrence Nursery in New York probably recognizes my handwriting by now! Drought three years in a row has just been devastating to me trying to get the trees started, but I know that I have good ground for fruit trees and if I can just nurse them along till they take hold, they will be strong trees. St. Lawrence Nursery has excellent stock! It sure tries to live! I plan to buy about 1,500' of 4' high deer fencing to overlap the woven wire and be on top of the smooth wire of the perimeter fence. I am also thinking about adding either 4 low tunnels or another high tunnel from FarmTek. And, I will build a gate since My Own True Love prefers to think about things to do instead of actually doing them. (I guess watching Cops is preferable to exercising your brain and body by building a needed wood shed and tool shed, but then again, those are things I want done.) There is another beaver around (I noticed a new skid mark going down to the creek) and several good sized trees down that I can use for fence braces, so if I can get to those things before the ground freezes the garden should be pretty secure.