Friday, June 29, 2007

My first cheese!

I made my first batch of chevre last weekend, and it was really tasty and relatively easy. The hardest part has been milking Latte and saving enough milk to actually be able to use.

I got my cheese supplies from, along with a book and dvd that came in a beginner's kit. I'd highly recommend both, as they made the process much easier. I also really appreciated the advice of friends and the wonderful Fias-Co Farm website.

I thawed the milk overnight in the refrigerator, and the longest part of the process was bringing the milk up to the proper temperature. I ended upovershooting a bit and had to let it cool down some before adding the culture. I then let it set for 12 hours. By about 11pm that night, I was ready to ladle the curds into a cheesecloth and hang overnight to finish draining the whey. Unfortunately, I didn't think to save any of the whey for the piggies or baking, but I will next time.

I ended up splitting the batch in two so I could make one plain and one herbed chevre, knowing Jules really wanted her own plain goat cheese. To flavor mine, I used fresh parsley and chives from the garden and a clove of minced garlic. Mmmmmm! We've been enjoying fresh goat cheese all week! I'm looking forward to making yogurt this week flavored with our delicious homegrown black raspberries.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Those Pesky Potato Bugs

Potato bugs are one of the biggest pests we face on the farm, as they can quickly defoliate and kill entire rows of potatoes. The adult Colorado potato beetle looks like this, and they over-winter in the soil, emerging to feed and lay eggs as soon as they find a suitable host plant. This is where our garden plot rotation becomes particularly useful, giving us lead time to be able to hand-pick these buggers before they get a strong foothold.

The eggs can be found on the under sides of leaves, so some hunting is required to prevent them from emerging—the best case scenario. They are oblong and orange, and whenever I find them, I squish them with my fingers. Kind of gooey, but oh so effective.

Below is what the larva look like once the eggs are allowed to hatch, and a single hatch can quickly defoliate an entire plant. If you look closely, you can see a larva above the eggs as well in the previous photo. These are particularly gooey to squish and have that lovely pop that goes along with it. Beyond gross, but I remind myself how delicious those homegrown potatoes taste and how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy them without any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and pop, pop, pop I go.

Jim wants full credit for these photos, as I was totally unsuccessful with the close-ups I tried to take with my camera. After two weeks, the bugs didn't disappoint and were available for photos once again, though the potatoes down in the new market garden have been blissfully unaffected by these pests. Hmmm, now that I think about it, we may need to plant a trap crop in this space each year just to confuse the bugs even more.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Farm to Table

This is part of a new segment I'm offering CSA members over on our "professional" blog, but if I put it here as well, then I can take advantage of blogger's automatic sizing and storing of photos, which wordpress doesn't offer me. Plus, it gives me two posts for the price of one.

The plan is to help CSA members visualize what they can do with the different foods in their bags, maybe give them some fresh ideas while marketing at the same time.

Dinner on Wednesday:
Heritage chicken brushed in olive oil and sprinkled with thyme and rosemary, slow cooked on the rotisserie grill.

Salad with purslane, black seeded simpson and red salad bowl lettuces, green onion, garlic scape, and sunflower seeds with a creamy horseradish dill dressing. For the dressing I combined olive oil, cider vinegar, sea salt, horseradish greens, dill and a generous dollop of creamy horseradish condiment and whirred it all in the blender for a few seconds.

Herb Focaccia for the bread machine:
10.5 ounces warm water
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp yeast

Roll out dough into a rough square or rectangle, cover and allow to rise again for approx. 20 min, though this step can be skipped if you're in a hurry. Brush with olive oil and garlic, add chopped dill, thyme, rosemary, parsley, garlic scapes, chives and coarse sea salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes on pizza stone for best results.

Wine: Santa Julia Chardonnay, a reasonably priced tasty white wine from Argentina; although I prefer their Torrontes, both are quite good for the price.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Organic Schmorganic

Well, it's official: we've finally switched over to organic feed for our animals. After going back and forth over whether double the cost is worth it or not and negotiating with a local feed store to get it for me, I made the plunge.

Why? Because the organic label and pesticide free is better for the animals and the earth? Partly.

The biggest sway, however, and what eventually got me over to the organic feed side has more to do with being fed up with GMOs and industry by-products in feed. There's little whole grain or whole anything in "natural" feed anymore—as most of the stuff comes from the oilseed, cereal, brewing or other industries, after all the other processed mush has been removed from it and extruded into familiar shapes like Scooby-Doo or Spiderman or other wholly unnatural shapes for food—what's left over is sold to feed mills and reprocessed into something resembling protein and carbs.

One custom mix feed mill operator wrote,

The main thing I see is that it is VERY IMPORTANT to start with whole grains. Most mills "reassemble" grains from byproducts. The more I learn about the biochemistry of grains and animals the more convinced I am that there is a lot of undiscovered science out there that we'll someday use on an everyday basis. Most things work best if you start with a whole grain. It doesn't need to stay whole by any means, but the feed should include the whole thing.

The reason it is so expensive to buy whole grains to make your feed with versus buying in commercial feed is that the commercial feed companies are making their feed from grain "fractions"—they are not using whole grains in many of the feeds you are buying. It's accepted practice in the industry to use wheat midds instead of wheat, for example. Wheat midds are a fraction of the price of whole wheat. Well, YOU can't get wheat midds cuz they are bought by the truckload or more likely railcard load.

Some of it is the buying-in-volume thing, and some is that there is an actual difference in the ingredients. Most feed companies are connected with human food companies and are basically using up the leftovers to keep the main company more profitable. Of course the sub-company is expected to also be profitable, but they are ensured a source of ingredients through their parent company and are not shopping for them on the open market as you and I are.

I get irritated with the whole "organic" industry itself for similar reasons of commercialization, industrialization, and control. Organic for the sake of "organic" as a symbol, whether political or social, just doesn't do it for me. The issues of impact are far more complex than simply purchasing something with an organic label. My goal had been to locate non-gmo local sources of whole grains, but apparently that's nearly impossible these days, as the corn at all the local feed mills is not only gmo but mostly trucked in from the mid-West anyway. Short of growing our own grains, for which we have neither the land nor the equipment, organic is the only way to get whole food to supplement our animals' foraging here at the farm.

Nature's Best Organic Feeds are milled in Pennsylvania, about 120 miles northeast of us, and while I'm sure they truck their grains from all over, I've decided they're the least-impact compromise in this complex game.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


From this...

To this...

To this...

To this...

Mmmmmm. A "capraccino"—what I have dubbed a goat's milk cappuccino, being that "capra" is goat in Italian. After a week+ of milking Latte, our Nigerian Dwarf goat, I am finally getting some payback.

Of course, I am robbing her of her milk, so it's hard in my more rational moments to begrudge her obstinacy and downright recalcitrance. I don't know whose idea it was for me to learn to milk on a first-time dwarf freshener, but it was a ludicrous one.

Oh yeah, it was my idea.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


This week marked the start of our seasonal CSA shares, and to the left is a sample of what our members received in their share bags. The whole bag included a dozen eggs, for our egg members, a head of red butterhead, purslane, a salad beet, three large radishes, horse radish greens, spinach, broccoli raab, 2 small heads of romaine, oakleaf lettuce, simpson lettuce, red leaf lettuce, 1/2 lb of peas, 1 lb of strawberries, dill, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, citrus thyme, and lavender.

We've kept the CSA very tiny this year and probably won't expand all that much next year, to be honest, because our goal is to make it work for us, not the other way around. We currently have 2 annual members and 4 seasonal members. I think the most we'd ever take would be 10, at least the way our lives are now.

At this point, I'm still figuring out the different packaging options, how long it takes me to harvest, and how to best keep items once they've been harvested. Trial and error, basically.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Elegant Strawberry Preserves

First, start with two adorable farmgirls to help harvest the berries.

Second, wash and sugar the berries.

Third, bring to a slow boil, taking about 2 hours.

Fourth, separate the strawberries from the syrup, placing in a shallow pan, and bring the syrup back to a boil for about 8-10 minutes.

Fifth, let set overnight before reheating and ladling into sterilized 1/2 pint jars. Then pick more berries and begin process all over again.