Monday, September 19, 2016

2016 CSA Week 15 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm and Welcome to Week 15 of our CSA.  Week 15 is an egg week.  After this delivery there are 7 weeks remaining in the CSA.

It is early Monday morning, the sun has yet to rise and a gentle rain is falling.  Oh how we need this rain, and as I have said before, I really enjoy a nice rainy day.  I am sure the entire farm is soaking up this beautiful rain.  Saturday, I was up tending to the pigs and their area was so dry and dusty.  Large billows of dust drifted into the trees as the pigs charged around, excited to be receiving their vegetable treats.  Our crops were also feeling the lack of rain.  We have several beds of direct seeded crops for fall which also are enjoying this gentle moisture.  Plant growth and germination in these beds had pretty much stopped.  Hopefully it is not too late for them to recover.  However, as beautiful and welcome as this rain is, Monday rains are not always a welcome site here on farm.  Mondays are our marathon day of harvesting and packing for CSA deliveries.  Harvesting in the rain and mud is always a challenge.  Equally challenging is dodging the leaks in our pack house roof as we wash and pack the harvest!

On farm, our fields are in transition.  We are still harvesting summer crops, but we are slowly moving into fall mode, with more greens becoming available as the season progresses.  We anticipate peppers and tomatoes being available at least until we get a killing frost.  I think we are starting to see an end to our zucchini and summer squash harvest.  Sweet potatoes should be available through week 22 and we will be digging another bed of regular potatoes soon.  Our sunflower harvest is coming to an end, as is our basil harvest.  We have a nice bed of arugula planted, which should be available for harvest in a few weeks.  Our rutabaga are planted and starting to size up.  We have a small planting of kohlrabi which will also be ready for harvest soon.  This rain should push our lettuce planting along, so look for more lettuce and salad mix coming your way.  This week we started to harvest a few radishes and hopefully the rain will help the remainder of this bed mature.

In the kitchen, well on farm as well, we are still drowning in tomatoes.  Which isn't a bad thing!  I am still in canning mode.  Quarts of canned tomatoes, pints of sauce, half pints of ketchup and relish are all lining my shelves.  Although I have a pressure canned, the products I have been making this summer can all be canned in a hot water bath canner.  To me, there is something comforting and fulfilling about my old black graniteware canner, filled with jars, boiling away on the stove.  And once the jars are removed from the canner, there is nothing more satisfying than the familiar plink of a sealing jar. 

It seems when I am not canning tomatoes, I am eating tomatoes!  Last night we had a favorite and simple salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil and dressed with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  With fall coming, I am looking to make some soup and I love tomato soup.  With sweet potatoes being harvested this sweet potato/tomato soup becomes a farm favorite. .  The soup calls for canned tomatoes, but fresh tomatoes can easily be used.  To quickly peel tomatoes, score the bottom of each tomato with a knife and dip the tomatoes in boiling water.  Chill the dipped tomatoes in ice water and then slip off the skins.  On farm we also often make a quick no cook tomato sauce over pasta.  No cook sauce is an easy recipe to master.  I generally use a variety of tomatoes, cherries, slicers, plum and heirlooms.  Dice the tomatoes, being sure to reserve the juices.  Place the tomatoes and the juice in a bowl and a couple of table spoons of olive oil, some basil, minced garlic and salt and pepper.  Allow the tomatoes to rest/marinate at room temperature for 30 or so minutes.  Meanwhile cook and drain your pasta.  Add the still warm pasta to the bowl of tomatoes and top with some fresh grated parmesan cheese and enjoy.

Speaking of tomatoes, we have cases of canning tomatoes available for purchase.  These are red slicing tomatoes, perfect for canning whole or cut up.  If you are signed up with the CSA buying club, you can order through the buying club.  If you are not a CSA buying club member, please contact the farm and we can arrange to get tomatoes to you. 

And as long as we are talking buying clubs, let me take a moment to explain our two buying club options.  We offer a buying club as an add on to our CSA.  This buying club is only available to our CSA members and requires a $50 deposit.  Purchases will be deducted from the deposit and items will be delivered with your CSA share.  Our second buying club is a winter buying club and is open to anyone.  The winter buying club is generally only open when our CSA is not running and we are not attending markets.  For the winter buying club, we meet customers at a designated location to deliver your purchases and collect payment.  If you have questions about our buying clubs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We do still have a few members, who elected to pay for their CSA memberships with a payment plan, who still owe money to the farm.  If you have yet to pay your September payment, it is now overdue.  Thank you for your cooperation!

Staying with the reminder theme.  Please remember to return your share boxes, egg cartons and berry boxes for re-use.  Also please remember to treat your pick up site with respect.  Many of these sites have limited space for box pick up and storage, so please try to keep share boxes in the space allotted for them.  Share boxes do fold flat, to save space.

So, now it is night  and harvest is done and boxes are just about packed.  It was a wet harvest, but the rain did end in the morning and held off until afternoon, when we received another nice gentle rain.  As our chores for the night came to an end, I finished up a batch of ketchup.  The timer just went  off indicating the jars are ready to be pulled from the canner.  Then I need to head to bed, for tomorrow is another long day.

Thank you again for your support of our small farm.  Be safe, be well and enjoy the veggies. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

2016 CSA Week 14 Newletter

Greetings from a fall like Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to CSA Week 14.  Week 14 is not an egg week.

First let me apologize for not  sending out a newsletter last week.  Some weeks are busier than others and last week was one of those hectic weeks and before I knew it, it was time to write Week 14's newsletter!  Speaking of where does the time go.  Here it is already after 4!  I am only halfway through my chore list for the day.  I guess cleaning will have to wait, again.....

What a difference a day (or even several hours) makes!  Yesterday was hot, hot, hot and oh so humid.  This morning, around daybreak here on farm, we were still hot and humid and then a cold front came blowing trough.  Unfortunately, it blew through dry and we did not get the good soaking rain our plants and animals could use.  It did however bring clear blue skies, lower humidity and cooler temperatures.  Today really feels as though fall is on its way and from looking at the forecast, we may need jackets and maybe even a blanket on the bed later in the week.

In the fields, I have to say, our tomatoes continue to produce.  We are harvesting lots of heirlooms, cherries and red slicers.  We anticipate our tomato harvest to continue until we get a killing frost.  Our tomatillo planting is also doing well.  Fennel will most likely continue to be available for several more weeks.  We have lots of greens in the field and they should enjoy this week's cooler temperatures.  We have had a nice little break from lettuce and salad mix, but the plantings are looking good and will become more plentiful as the season progresses.  Our new plantings of Asian greens, including mustard, are growing nicely and we should be harvesting them in the upcoming weeks.  The first of the winter squash and sweet potatoes are hitting the boxes this week.  Summer squash is starting to wind down.

In the kitchen we are still in tomato mode.  We continue to eat tomatoes at least 2 meals a day, if not 3.  I am not sure if I have passed on a favorite recipe of mine using chard, cherry tomatoes and eggs?  If not, it is makes a good quick dinner and here is the link  .  This just reminded me of another favorite egg and tomato dish, Shakshuka.  I guess traditionally, in Israel, Shakshuka is served for breakfast.  However here on farm, we generally have it for dinner, with a nice crusty loaf of artisan bread to soak up the juice.  Also, since we love our greens here on farm, we sometimes change the recipe a bit by adding some chard or kale to the tomatoes.  If you are not familiar with Shakshuka, here is a good write up and a basic recipe  . 

In the kitchen, I am also in preserving mode.  Recently, each weekend has been dedicated to canning tomatoes and this weekend has been typical.  Yesterday I made and canned tomato sauce.  Today my sister and I canned tomatoes.  As I type, I have a pot of sauce cooking down on the stove and will can it later this evening.  I tend to make plain sauce and add spices, garlic, onions and peppers, later, when I use the sauce.  I flash freeze peppers and dry spices for this very reason and generally we have onions and garlic in our cellar until spring each year.  I really love putting food up and only wish I had more time to spend in the kitchen on this task!  I used to pickle quite a bit, but found I was the only one eating the pickles, so now I generally just make a few freezer pickles for a midwinter treat.  This year I did make some zucchini relish and other than more tomatoes, I am also hoping to make and can some applesauce this fall.  I also would love to be able to can some of our sungold tomatoes.  So, I am in search of a good recipe for canning (maybe pickled?) cherry tomatoes, so if anyone has a good recipe, please pass it on. 

We will again have a limited amount of freezer pork available this fall.  We anticipate pork being available the beginning of November.  If you are interested in freezer pork, please contact us for more details and pricing.  We sell our bulk pork by the half and whole.  A whole hog will yield 125 to 140 pounds of meat and will require a at least 7 cubic feet of freezer space for storage.

So now it is after 5!  Where does the time go?  My sauce is processing in the canner.  Farmer Don is still in the field, turning some plots over in our lower field for some late season plantings and cover crops.  I need to get some chicken in the oven for dinner or we will be eating at midnight!  Soooooo  as Farmer Don would say:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies"