Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hardy crops yield tender greens

My good friend asked me the other day "what's in season?" Well usually this time of the year not too much. Ramps are popping up, but first you mind find them and I haven't found any. Asparagus and rhubarb are starting to make their appearance at the local farmers markets. But if you are as lucky as I am, you will have already taken home some kale, spinach and parsley fresh from the garden. Yes, I said garden. These hardy suckers were left in the ground and survived the winter. The kale started sprouting tiny young leaves with the early hot and dry weather we've had this month.

We pulled out all the plants last week to make way for the new crops and greedily split up the bounty amongst ourselves. I looked at the kale with mixed enthusiasm. Happy to be taking home a local green vegetable after a winter of eating a lot of root crops and the occasional greenhouse salad. But skeptical if I would even like it. I am not a big fan of of collard greens and I think I tried kale last year and was rather unimpressed.

I was given advice by my fellow co-workers and epicureans to sautée it in olive oil, garlic and salt or to make kale chips. I tried both, they were deeeeelicious! I wolfed down three helpings of it. My husband and I devoured the kale chips. They tasted almost like salty dried seaweed/broccoli.

The recipe is really simple:

Kale Chips
preheat oven to 350F
1 bunch kale washed and dried and large stems removed
1 tbs olive oil
sea salt to taste

lightly coat kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
bake for 8-10 min checking to make sure they don't burn

Yesterday we were weeding in the herb garden and I pulled out about 10 parsley plants (they are going to seed this year and we don't want them spreading.) Lise and I started talking food. But that is nothing new. All of us girls talk about food, at least once, if not twice, or even three times a day. We talk about what we ate last night, what we are making for supper this night, what recipes we want to try, etc ,etc. So, I started throwing out ideas for the parsley. Tabbouleh? Lise suggested pesto. Yum, pesto. I went home and threw the washed parsley into the food processor with some pistachios, salt, olive oil, and garlic and made a nice paste. Boiled up some spiral egg noodles and tossed the pesto with the pasta. Pefecto!

As for what I have been up to the last three days, it can be summed up in three words: weeding, weeding, and transplanting.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep your Lady in check!

Thursday was Allium day. We transplanted onions, leeks and scallions into the ground. But it was not without a bit of drama.

Dana and I were on the hill picking out rocks and turning over sod when Lady, the bottle baby, comes running and mehhhing up the hill to greet us. She is small enough to escape the pen and has been growing braver everyday. She often greets me at my car in the morning as I park by the barn.

We thought it was kind of cute until she started towards our trays of onions and leeks on the ground. Dave started shouting for us to get her out of there, I made a mad dash towards her and scooped her up in my arms. I brought her down to the barn only find to find her running back up the hill. This time Dave started chasing her down the hill, only for her to turn around and run back up the hill again towards us. Dave picked her up and brought her into the barn and put her in the vacant horse pen where she couldn't get out.

With our plants saved from foraging we focused our attention of preparing the beds. We had already put down compost on Wednesday, all that was needed was to mark the rows and holes with the dibbler. Yes, that is a real farm tool, or at least I think it is. Anyways we basically drag the contraption over the soil as it make holes and lines in the soil. It gives us a guideline of where to place the plants.

We started transplanting leeks, over 800 of them, and then transplanted 3000 onions. We put in Red Wing, Mustang, Cortland, and one other variety. In another section of the garden we put in 800 scallions. It took us the whole day to transplant and I felt pretty stiff from the awkward position I had been in all day. I was sitting on my knees in the aisle parallel to the beds and then leaning over to place plants in the holes and bury them. I couldn't sit perpendicular because I could potentially compact the soil in the next bed.

Lady and Donald
On Friday Lady grew even bolder and followed me down to the place we have our morning meeting. When Donald and I went to feed the pigs, Lady followed us. We rolled with it. As we walked through the barn we heard sporadic mehhhhs as she obediently followed behind us. We fed the pigs, she sniffed around, and then she followed us back out the building. Donald said we should bring her back to the barn, so I put her in the truck with us. I guess now I understand why people dislike bottle babies so much, they become really attached to humans. But we also have become attached to her. She is our mascot and our wing man.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I work with all kinds of hoes

Monday we were in the garden scuffing up the surface of one of the beds and removing weeds. Dave, Garden Manager, told me to grab a hoe. I went over to the pile of tools and saw no such thing and I inquired if I should go to the shed. He replied that there should be one in the pile. The problem was all I saw were two rakes and a thing that looked like a metal stirrup at the end of a long wooden handle. Dave pointed out that that was in fact a hoe. Puzzled, I told Dave I always thought hoes looked like a flat square blade set at an angle. Note, what I actually said was I thought it had a square thingy at the end, but for clarity sake I will provide you a more accurate depiction. I was then given a preliminary rundown on the variety of hoes. Apparently there is a garden hoe, the hoe I know, oscillating hoe, also known as stirrup hoe, diamond hoe, collinear hoe, and swan neck/half moon hoe. To find out what each one is useful for in the garden check out Garden Guides.

Yesterday, we took a break from weeding and had a little Bobcat 101 tutorial. Bobcats are pretty awesome. You basically sit in this chair strap yourself in with a seat belt and then a harness similar to what you use on a roller coaster ride. You have no breaks and the only way to control the movement is by using two Atari style looking controllers. The controllers move you backwards and forwards, or 360 degrees if you want, and you can move the bucket up and down and the angle of the bucket. There are also buttons on the controllers but I am told we don't use them. This may be wish full thinking, but secretly I think it could be used to shoot missiles or some other projectile equivalent at multiflora roses. But because of the economy they prefer that we clear them by hand.

It took me a while to get the hang of driving the Bobcat. I had a hard time turning because I instinctively pushed the controller to the right when I wanted to turn right. That had the effect of tilting the bucket instead. The key was to push one controller more than the other for the Bobcat to turn. After driving around a bit, I tried my hand at turning one of the compost piles. I was a little to gentle on my run up to the pile and would only fill half my bucket with compost. Whereas both Dana and Nicole drove straight into the pile full gear and scooped up a ton of compost. One thing is for sure is you are constantly thinking to yourself, do I push left to raise the bucket and then right to dump? or is it the other way around? I am sure it become second nature with more practice. I am more than willing to spend time practicing!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weeding, mulching and fending off a rooster attack

This is the first week that I spent almost entirely in the garden. The week consisted mostly of hacking, digging, and pulling up plant matter. First we pulled Broccoli and Kale plants that were left in the ground over winter. Then we spent the rest of the week removing nasty Coles Foot (pretty yellow flower that resembles dandelions) and other grasses and weeds from the raspberry and rhubarb beds.

Monday we planted Chioggia Beets and two varieties of carrots. Wednesday we started broccoli and Chinese cabbage seedlings in the greenhouse. On Thursday we put the leeks and onions outside to harden them off, since night temperatures are above 35F and day temperatures are around 50 to 60F. If temperatures dip below 35F at night we will put the plants in the cold frame.

The Rhubarb bed with Colts Foot
Rhubarb bed after weeding mulched with wood chips

Rooster attack
Sadly, I don't get to see the animals as much anymore. Me and the other two interns rotate each morning helping the guys do morning chores. Wednesday I went to help with the chickens and pigs. Minding my own business I was collecting eggs in pen three when the head rooster came into the pen, he started towards me with his wings out and staring me down. I put my foot out to scare him or push him back and he started vigorously flapping his wings and flying towards me. I started screaming for Brian, who was two pens down, telling him the rooster was attacking me. He did not hear, nor come to my rescue. I started swinging the egg bucket towards him to get him to back off and ran out of the pen. My heart was racing. Brian went into the pen and the rooster jumped on his shoulder and started to peck his head. He threw him off and sprayed with the hose. Brian and I retreated out of the pen and tried to gather our thoughts. The problem was there are two roosters that looked the same but we did not know which one attacked us. So, Brian grabbed a broom and we went back into the pen. I went into the yard where the rooster was and tried to see if any of them would attack me. I felt like CSI bait. I was so scared I ran back into the pen. Apparently, one of the roosters attacked Dana last week and put a hole in her leg.

Keep it up rooster, you may end up soup before long..

Monday, April 5, 2010

Evil Pea Weevil

We were notified by one of the seed companies that the pea seeds for this year may be contaminated with Pea Weevils. Pea Weevils only affect pea plants and are a pest that live in the seed. They advised us to burn them, or alternatively check to see if they have holes or yellow spots and conduct a specific gravity test. Specific gravity test is a fancy way of saying dump the seed packet into a tub of water, see which ones float to the surface and take those ones out. The ones that sink we kept.

After checking the seeds we rolled them around in Mycorrhizal fungi and set them aside to dry out a bit. Meanwhile, we finally got a chance to get dirty! In the garden we removed the mulch from three rows. In order to plant in a straight row and maintaining a desired distance between each row we used twine, poles and measuring tape to guide us. Using our fancy seeder, that took four of us to figure out how to load, we went down the three lines sowing our seed. So exciting!

Monday we did more garden work, pulling up broccoli from last year, removing mulch, weeding, and mulching the raspberries.

The most adventurous part of the day was when it was time to put the chickens away. As I may or may not have mentioned, one set of chickens are in the mobile coop. These little devils are really difficult to put away at night. It takes five people to put them in. We must look more than a little comical chasing around the 60 plus chickens with our sticks, that we use to hook on their ankle. They fly and run away, and hid under the mobile coop. We basically have to catch each one by hand because they haven't learned yet that this is their home and save haven.

Today we started some broccoli and cabbage seedlings and furtigated. I love that word. Furtigating is using a fish emulsion diluted with water to fertilize the seedlings. It contains alot of phosphorous and nitrogen. It smells like Sea World in the Greenhouse for about an hour after applying it.

In the afternoon we prepared some beds by turning the soil and adding compost. We then planted beets and carrots.

Its been fun being out in the garden the past few days. But I had to check in on the goats before lunch. The little kids hop up on top of the fuzzy sheep and it looks like they are surfing. It is by far the cutest thing ever.