Greens in February

I am headed to BadSeed Market this afternoon from 4-8pm, if anyone wants a few baby greens (slightly grown up microgreens) or spinach.  I will also take a few sweet potatoes, butternut squash, small onions, and a few other random winter squash, dried herbs, etc.  We’ve decided to hold off on going to City Center Square until March 13th, and then hopefully we’ll have enough where we can go weekly.   

We’ve hired our first apprentice!  I hope you all get a chance to meet Betsy this summer at markets, or at the farm (getting in those volunteer hours…).  She comes with some good gardening experience and lots of great people skills.  I think it will be a great partnership.  She has entered an apprenticeship program (www.growinggrowers.org) and chose us as her host farm.  We also have another apprentice in the program who will start later.  He’s a high school senior who is exploring farming as a career.  It is very exciting to work with others who are considering this line of work! 

We’ve been planting greens this week at the farm- trying to get as much done as possible with this little tidbit of warm weather.  We planted spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, and cilantro all as transplants, and carrots, radishes and parsnips as seed.  Also have done quite a bit of cleanup work and preparation for when the soil outside dries out enough to till and plant.  We’ll let everything have a few days of sunshine and then cover it all up before the next big dip in the temperature- probably Monday.  Well, I’m off to pick greens and pack the truck- hope to see a few of you later.

Warmer Days Ahead

As a farmer, I am often asked what wonderful things do I do to relax in the winter… since I must have nothing to do??…!!  Well, we have taken a few relaxing weekends where I told my brain to ‘shut off and stop thinking about the farm’.  Although, truth be told, we probably had more conversations about middlebuster plows, potato lifters, tillers, vermicomposters, chickens, heirloom tomatoes, and water containment systems than the average vacationer.  In fact, now that my Dad (the Houdini of making all broken rusty things work) has retired and taken more interest in helping us improve the farm, I am having more of these conversations on a daily basis.  How many of you can say you’ve had deeply involved conversations with your father about worm poop?  Our days are filled with the absolutely immeasurable list of all things we could do to improve marketing, production, harvesting… well, it’s like jumping on a luge sled and holding on for dear life.  Or perhaps more like being the sweeper guy on the curling team, trying to direct the path of the curling stone toward the finish line.  Or figuring out how to throw a few less gutter balls in the upcoming year.  This is the time for planning, preventing, and expanding.  Interviews of potential apprentices, ordering of new signage, a year’s worth of bookkeeping crammed into about 10 weeks, new CSA contracts, and hey- why haven’t you updated your blog?  The greenhouse is full- ready to plant those early season crops, if it will only melt a little outside.   

But somehow we do get revitalized.  No alarms being set for 3:30 am, no watering schedule, and a market trailer that has stayed parked since November.  Time to play a few games with the kids, watch way too much TV in the evenings, construct a few marble mazes, build Lego villages, and cook some great meals.

I see that the weekend is going to be warmer.  Maybe I’ll get some of those spinach plants in the ground… 

2014 Happenings….

Calendar of Events for 2014

City Center Square: We set up indoors at 1100 Main on a VERY sporadic (darn those slippery roads and subzero temps)basis all winter long. When we are there, we have produce for sale between 11am and 2pm. Beginning sometime in March, we will be there weekly, and will continue all season long. To find out if we will be heading into town on Thursdays, call Jim at 816.786.6045.

Kansas City Food Circle 16th Annual Eat Local & Organic: We will be at both Expos this year, Saturday March 29, 2014 at the Field House of Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd, OPKS, from 9am to 2pm, and Saturday April 12th, 2014 at the Penn Valley Community College Gym, 3201 SW Trafficway, KCMO from 9:30 to 2:30.

Brookside Farmers Market Begins April 19th and runs through the pre-Thanksgiving weekend. We will be there from 8am to 1pm each Saturday. Downtown Lee’s Summit Farmers Market starts April 5th this year and runs through November. We are planning on being there Wednesdays again and are debating about adding Saturdays. We are looking for summer interns to help at the farm and markets, and will have to wait and see if we can find that perfect person. Market starts at 7am and we usually hang out until 11am or noon, depending on the foot traffic. Jim will be attending KC Organics and Naturals market again this year. It starts May 3rd, 8am till 12:30. He hopes to continue building this site, and will keep adding more produce as we gain in popularity. Stay tuned- we will be adding several 1 day events (we love taking veggies to craft fairs at churches!). I will post as I receiving confirmation from different sites.

Strawberries, Spring Crops, and Life in the High Tunnel

2012-05-03_13-43-22_537

Today is looking like a beautiful ‘warm’ January day, and I am thinking about strawberries.  Can’t wait.  Perhaps I’ll get a few out of the freezer and make us something yummy for lunch.

Last week, I headed out to the high tunnels to check on the progress of a few new crops, because I was concerned their immature leaves were too young to survive the frigid temperatures we were experiencing.  The quiet air was punctuated by the crunch of the frozen ground under my feet and I hunched my ears into my shoulders as I tried to escape the blustery cold January air.  This was going to be a quick outing!  Besides, I had coffee waiting for me back at the house.  I pulled back the plastic end-wall on the high tunnel and ducked inside.  The warmth inside the tunnel told a wonderfully different story:  the air was fragrant with the rich smell of soil and damp mulch, and I found myself pulling off my hat and gloves.  As I peeked under the frost blanket protecting the seedlings I had to laugh at my worries.  They had grown.  Their cotyledon leaves were now accompanied by a tiny new set of mature leaves.  Row after row, the arugula, lettuce, spinach, kale, turnips, chard, carrots, bok choy, radishes, garlic, and broccoli raab were all stretching for the sunlight and seemed unfazed by the frigid weather outside.  Unbelievably, there were even baby grasshoppers that must have just hatched a day or two ago, right in the middle of those cold temperatures outside.  Fortunately, I also saw several hungry spiders scurrying around in the warm space between the soil and the blanket, so I don’t expect to see those ravenous green hoppers on my next visit.

I closed that tunnel tight again as I left, and checked out the next one.  When I pulled back the frost blanket on the strawberries I had transplanted in December (one of those October projects that I finally got around to), I was met with a fun surprise- and a light snack.  Strawberries in January!  When  I transplanted the runners from my outside beds into the tunnel, I pinched off all the flowers that were forming, so the plants would put energy into roots and leaves, but I must have missed a few.  In fact, as I looked down the row, I saw new buds and blooms throughout the entire crop.  I made a mental note to pinch those off- the plants really do need to concentrate on getting rooted in nicely before March.

These crazy strawberries have been fruiting since mid fall. 2012-11-01_13-19-01_320  I took this picture November 1, 2012, and we ate fresh strawberry shortcake with our Thanksgiving meal.  I think the drought and heat stress they endured this year has mixed them up a bit.  We didn’t pick a lot, but probably between 20 and 30 pounds after market season.  As long as they figure out their schedule by May and June, I will enjoy the occasional strawberry snack.  I put my hat and gloves back on, closed up the tunnel, and headed back to the house; the sun was starting to dip in the sky and the falling temperature in the high tunnel was reminding me of my cup of coffee back at the house.

Slowly Getting Started

Hello and Happy New Year!  Okay, I’m a little slow.  But! I am so excited about the new farming year.  I mean, I pretty much have to be after last year’s brutal season, right?!  I feel a little bit like a hibernating bear, although we really have been hard at work.  Really!  I’ve ordered seeds, I’ve started filling out our application for organic certification.  Loads of meetings, lots of reading, constant tweaking of what the next year will look like, new recipes tried, high tunnels are planted (I picked and ate two strawberries last week- honest!)  Whew!  I think I need to go lie down!  Ack- can’t do that- I’ve already packed on my total allotment of “winter-farmer pounds”  Must.Get.Moving.Must.Excercise.  Ummmm…Maybe tomorrow. 

So I’m working on the new CSA Contracts- a bunch of you are demanding I get them done.  Something about wanting to secure your membership spot for this year.  Crazy Foodies.  I love you all.  Okay.  I’ll get going… 

 

 

Produce, weeds and water

Put the Brookside Farmers Market on your To-Do List.  Saturdays, 8am-1pm at the corner of 63rd and Wornall. 

I know it’s hot, but I had the most pleasant day at the farm yesterday- optimism abounds!  Summer crops are coming along great, and a few vegetables are really starting to wake up.  Cucumbers are multiplying, tomatoes are ripening, squash is squashing.  We’ve been pulling onions of all sizes, garlic is curing, kale is putting on new leaves overnight, and grean beans are just about ready to pick.  I plan to pick more blackberries this week, but that tends to be an evening project- as the sun is going down, and the temperatures start to dip, I love to be at the farm.  I’ve been babying the broccoli, so it should hang in there with some delicious side-shoots.  Thank you Brookside for purchasing our flowers- we’ve sold out of bouquets 3 weeks in a row.  We’ll see what is out there for this week’s color display- definitely more sunflowers and a few zinnias.  We’ll bring more of those new potatoes on Saturday- just perfect for grilling.  We’ll have several ‘small quantity’ items as some crops finish up and others begin.  Come early and beat the heat.  See you Saturday. 

We’ve also been pulling weeds and planting new crops.  Planting new crops??!!  Really?  Yep.  We plant every week of the season, in order to have a steady stream of produce.  In the last week, I’ve planted another couple hundred tomato plants (they will hopefully flourish for fall tomatoes, when our earlier plantings are tired), 200′ of sweet potatoes, 400′ of regular potatoes, 3 kinds of beans, herbs, extra eggplant and husk tomatoes.  Still on the list for this week:  more herbs, flowers, fall broccoli and cauliflower, more sweet potatoes, and hopefully some fall onion sets. 

It seems odd- but I actually hate pulling weeds out of some of these rows in order to plant.  As I’m prepping beds for planting, the rows with weed cover have soil moisture and the rows we’ve tilled are bone-dry.  Bare soil requires so much more water then rows with cover.  Doesn’t make for a pretty farm- but makes for a PRODUCTIVE farm.  Kind of counter-intuitive, don’t you think?  As we allow more and more of our weeds to linger, we notice we have more produce and less need to water.   Now granted, baby transplants and seedlings need open space- and that’s why we pull weeds.  But once they are established, we let the weeds go, and, because we have worked so hard on our soil fertility, the veggies can compete nicely for nutrition, and the weeds are actually beneficial.  I have to keep reminding myself of that, as I look out at our farm, but we are pulling more produce than ever out of the same space.  One step better, would be to replace those weeds with a seeding of ‘green manure’- plants sown intentionally to improve the soil, but for now, we can afford weeds!

As another example, our strawberry beds are so high with weeds, you could bale it.  We are starting to weed them, so the small runners have a place to put down roots.  As I clear each row, I notice the exposed plants get so much drier and need a lot more water then the rows with cover.  Once we get everything exposed, and the runners go nuts, we will have to mulch to replace the benefit the weeds were giving!  Go figure. 

Speaking of water- our pond is miraculous indeed!  Or more accurately, perhaps I should say, God continues to provide.  Our little pond continues to have enough water to keep our plants going.  We seem to get a good rain just about when my water-stress meter goes off. I have a good discussion with God about the state of the pond, He laughs at me, and says, “Ye of little faith”, and then he brings a good rain.  We are investigating the possibility of digging a well- but that requires deep pockets, which we don’t seem to have.  But for now, the little pond with the deep hole is doing a great job of keeping up. 

Hey everyone- thanks for reading and have a great day!  -Ami

It’s Grilling Time!

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures to offer… but time seems to get away from me for photographing… you’ll have to use your imagination…

BUT!  You must grill some spring veggies!  We tend to think of summer produce for grilling- peppers, squash, eggplant, etc, but we have created a gourmet grilling blend of spring crops that is delightful.  If you are a member of our CSA program, this week you will receive a sampling of the blend.  If not, then head on down to Brookside Farmer’s Market this Saturday to pick some up for your Memorial Weekend Grill.

The blend includes;  onions, potatoes, beets, peas, turnips, radishes, garlic, and carrots.  We prepared this mix for our Mother’s Day feast to rave reviews.  Just wash, dice, steam to soften, season, and grill.  We used an Italian dressing to season, and then yesterday I repeated it as a ‘roast’ in the oven with a honey-mustard vinaigrette.  You could very simply use a little olive oil and sea salt also.

You may be saying, “What?  You can grill all those veggies?  Are you kidding?  Radishes?”  Yep.  Someone let us in on the ‘secret’ of cooking radishes last year, when we had a particularly huge bumper crop all at once, and we love them!  My Dad is not so crazy about cooked radishes- he would prefer them raw, so you’ll have to try it once and decide for yourself.  I’ve added the m to crockpot roasts, saute’s, and aluminum foil pocket meals.  They totally lose their heat once cooked, but retain their radishy flavor.  Try it!

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