Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New for 2014 - Organically Grown CSA

2013 blew by us like, well, I can't think of an appropriate cliché to describe it.  But with time to reflect over our first Northwoods winter (we sure picked a doozie, eh?), Warren and I have decided to offer a CSA to a limited number of folks interested in a full or half share of weekly, organically grown produce.

We have often had spring fever planting, only to find that there's not much point in going to market with bok choy, turnips, Swiss chard, green onions and other early summer produce without our main product: garlic.

But with folks signed up to receive our produce from the beginning of growing season to the end and beyond (hearty root vegetables and storage crops for the winter), we don't need to stand behind our market table in late June to sell $60 of produce - we can get it directly to you.

Subscriptions, paid in full, are $525 for a full share and $285 for a half, with options to continue receiving storage crops and root vegetables through the winter.  That will include not only your typical produce, but unique heirlooms, apples, possibly mushrooms if our logs produce this year, local hand harvested wild rice, and the garlic we're famous for.

Drop Warren a line at warrenalto@yahoo.com or at (218)259-9740 to sign up or for more information.  All subscriptions must be placed NO LATER THAN APRIL 15.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building up the soil for October Planting

A few days ago, we plowed winter rye under in a patch of old hayfield.  This ground has been hayed for two decades without a lot of TLC, and for us to ready it for our October garlic planting, we've gotta make up for lost time!

After plowing and discing it last fall, we planted it with winter rye, a cheap and easy way to stop winter soil erosion (came in handy over this windy, dry winter!), add organic material to the soil, and keep out weeds.  Rye secretes a natural herbicide out of it's roots, inhibiting other plants from growing - it really is a farmers best friend.

Because of that natural herbicide, however, we've got to wait two weeks from plowing it under for the 'poison' to dissipate before we plant anything else.  We'll be planting a mix of yellow blossom clover and red clover, two excellent nitrogen fixers to help enrich the soil.

Yellow blossom clover grows tall and fast, perfect for adding extra organic matter into the soil when it gets tilled under.  So we'll approximate how much space we need this october and plant it exclusively with yellow clover.  The problem with yellow clover, though, is that it isn't very hardy - a cold, dry winter like the one we just had would have killed it off.  So for the rest of the garlic patch, we'll lean on a heavier red clover mix, which can take our brutal Minnesota winters and bounce back in spring, fixing even more nitrogen in the soil.

Crop rotation is very important with garlic, especially organically grown.  Viruses and nematodes can live in the soil for years; a five-year rotation helps keep those pests at bay.

I'll publish another post when we plant the clover - hopefully by then all this rainwater will have dried up.  Talk to ya soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last of the scapes; Countdown to harvest!

The two of us were both surprised at the number of scapes waiting for us when we got to the garlic patch yesterday.  We both expected maybe 20 or 30, not the hundreds we found.  Good thing - we sold every last one from the previous picking - we had none for ourselves.  Problem solved.

We could both observe the gradual yellowing of the garlic stalks: signs that the bulb is getting ready to be harvested.  Visual cues are never 100% on the mark, though.  Sometimes you just have to dig one of the guys up - and then eat it of course!

Generally, you want about 2/3 of the plant to be yellowing before you harvest, since you want maximum bulb growth.  But too much growth, and the cloves start to seperate from the head, creating more surface area for molds and fungus, and leading to a decreased shelf life.  These "split" garlic heads taste just as good as the fimer whole heads, but they just don't last as long, so figuring out the right time for harvest really does become important.  And with 12 different varieties, each with a different maturation point, well, we're gonna have some work to do.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sun is Up & Scapes are Gone

Well, once again we've managed to get some friends to do work for us!  If it wasn't enough to have our dear friend Nicole come up from New Orleans to visit (and press her into farm service) our friends Steve, a Forest Service locavore, and Kristi, master of all things jam, jelly, and pickle, came out to the garlic field and removed our scapes for us.  Of course, they get something out of the deal - gallons of delicious scapes.  Steve likes to freeze them - and he's right - the texture stays crisp, and the flavor remains piquant.  And if things go like last year, Kristi will sell out of her pickled scapes long before the Farmers Market closes in October.

Even with the beautiful weather we've had this July, we still expect to harvest our garlic later than usual, due to the cold spring.  Our real hope is that it stays dry over the harvest and curing period in August - last year's rain and humidity caused some crop failure.  We'd like to double our plantings this year, so we need every clove we can get.  Thanks for reading - talk to ya again real soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back to Work!

Yesterday was a strangely welcome rain day.  Not that we didn't need the rain - neither Warren or I were looking forward to watering the garden.  But the downtime gave us a chance to rest, and the cool gray weather was a perfect excuse for Warren to make pot pies with a home-grown chicken we had smoked the day before - delicious!

Of course, the best part of that downtime was forcing me to get off my butt and get this blog up, as well as finish online projects for the Grand Rapids Farmers Market.  As with our farm, the Market has a tight budget, but we're making the most of it with local grassroots campaigns.

Warren went to check out the garlic last night, and brought back samples of two varieties, Music, and Italian Purple, shown at the right.  At this stage, they look like thin leeks or giant green onions and is known as 'green garlic'.  Some farmers will plant green garlic specifically by taking the smaller gloves during planting in October and plant them very close and deeper in the soil, in the same fashion that you do with onion sets in the spring to make green onions.  In a larger market, green garlic could be a great spring crop, but in our small rural area, there's not a huge demand for it.  Too bad - it tasted fantastic minced in the pot pies!

Soon, our garlic will be sending up scapes, sterile curlicue flowers that we cut off to encourage bulb growth.  These scapes are another culinary treat overlooked by many.  They have a crisp texture, a beautiful shape, and a peppery garlicky flavor that is wonderful in stir-fries, omelettes, and pastas.  And they make a killer pesto pureed with olive oil, Parmesan and almonds or pine nuts.  Scape pesto, cream cheese and smoked lake trout anyone?

Kristi Neary, one of the vendors at the Grand Rapids Farmer's Market will be coming over for a large portion of the scapes - she quickly sold out of her pickled scapes last year.  They make a killer garnish for one of my favorite breakfast foods: Bloody Marys!

Scapes also freeze well, and provide a summery fresh zest to a cold winter day's soup or stew.  I know we will be sauteeing some up in butter to go with our baby fingerling potatoes soon.

Well, it's time to finish my last cup of coffee and get out there, drizzle or no.  Talk to ya soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hello Everyone!

Hi there, and welcome to our brand spankin' new blog and website.  If you know either Warren or me, you know what technophobes (or my new favorite word, luddites) we are.  So getting this relatively simple site up has taken more than just a few beers!

As you can imagine, there's lots more to put up: pictures, videos, recipes, links... the list goes on.  But this is a beginning, and you can expect great things to come.  Thanks for visiting.