This love affair of mine has been going on a couple months now, ever since early February when I was sawing black locust for heating our greenhouses, and I must say it is still going strong. For you readers to understand this love affair you must know a little about our saws and the wood we are sawing.
Last year, while embarking on our endeavor to harvest trees to build the vacation cabin rental, we purchased a STIHL 441 model with a 20 inch bar, with much more power than our 026 model and capable of felling trees up to 36 inches in diameter. It could probably fell a larger tree, but we have limitations with our sawmill in milling a tree any larger than 36 inches in diameter, so we haven’t yet tried felling a tree any larger than that. When we first bought this saw, Carl provided training for me in using this saw and one instruction that he emphasized very strongly was, “You must be very careful using this saw because it has a lot of kick back.” Since that time I have been very nervous about using the new saw so we nicknamed our 026 model the she-saw and the 441 the he-saw. The saws are named such because I use mostly use the 026 while Carl uses the 441.
Black locust is a very dense and among the highest BTU’s of all wood that we have growing here on our farm so we like to keep a stockpile of it in our wood shed for heating our greenhouses. Someday we hope to establish a wood plot, planting and growing trees specifically for firewood, and black locust will definitely be one of those trees included in our woodlot. Because locust is so dense, sawing locust can dull your chain rather quickly, so almost every day after sawing locust trees Carl must sharpen our chains. I haven’t yet acquired the skill of sharpening chains which is why it always falls on Carl’s “To Do” list. Another astounding fact about black locust is that it has a stronger psi compression rating than concrete with black locust having a maximum crushing strength rated at 10,800 PSI compared to concrete (the strongest on market) at 7,500. Also, the modulus of rupture which is the fiber strength at rupture, black locust is far superior at 19,400 PSI while concrete is 4,000 PSI. We are thankful that we constructed our equipment barn using black locust posts because it is supporting a top floor!
My love affair with the he-saw started early February while Carl, Danielle and Justin were working on the new greenhouse pad and I was sawing locust using the she-saw. The she-saw blade was so dull, and I didn’t want to bother Carl with sharpening the chain, mostly because he was instructing Danielle and Justin in squaring the greenhouse pad and setting the corner posts. So that day I started using the he-saw and was amazed at how much wood I had sawn in such a short period of time. The he-saw has so much power allowing me to quickly cut through dense locust trees with the chain staying relatively sharp all day. I have noticed that while using the he-saw, I am less likely to get my chain stuck while cutting, mostly because the he-saw cuts so quickly I am nearly done sawing through the tree before it can bind from the pressure of the tree.
A little off topic but worth mentioning is that almost daily it seems as though there is always an interesting article written about the mass production of our food. This week I would recommend this article if you eat agri-business meat! The article is very scary and just another reason we grow and raise our own food.
Carl snapped a video of me using the he-saw to cut a black walnut tree that we took down because it is along our new fence line. It is so sad looking outside our trailer windows and not seeing the BEAUTIFUL Black Walnut tree. Gwen Clemens suggested we have Jack Dalton turn this walnut into salad bowls. So that is our plan so that this tree is always a part of our lives!
Our stockpile of locust, that Julie cut using the he-saw, and ready for splitting. This wood will be used to heat our greenhouses come winter. That is, if winter comes again.
What has the farm crew been doing these past couple weeks? Danielle and Justin have been potting up a lot of plants for our upcoming markets and seeding additional successions of greens that we hope to be selling into early summer. The entire farm crew has been transplanting additional succession of greens, planting potatoes, transplanting tomatoes for our greenhouse crop, replacing cucumber plants because a few died off from what we think was phytophthora, weed eating between strawberry beds, preparing our fields for transplanting those seeds that have yet to germinate in the greenhouse and those that are nearly ready for transplanting to the field. Carl and Julie have been clearing the fence line for the new deer fence and are proud that the fence line is completely cleared! We hope to have Alvin take his bulldozer and grade our fence line this next week because the perimeter of our field is very uneven after pulling trees out that the deer would certainly find a way in. We just finished our annual “deep cleaning” of our walk-in coolers where we pressure wash the entire cooler and shelves then scrub the walls, ceiling and shelves. In addition, we pressure wash and sanitize our harvest bins (which is done throughout the season). The entire farm crew is very busy and I am certain to have missed a few jobs that we all have done!
We covered strawberries Friday afternoon. Let’s hope the blossoms and fruit set survived the frost early Saturday morning. We are expected to have another deep frost Tuesday night so say your prayers!
We re-covered our little baby seedlings of beets, lettuce and spinach. Mostly these crops tolerate a frost but not just after sprouting which is why we covered them. We uncovered them Wednesday because the temperatures were never dropping below 50 at night only to recover them on Friday with a freeze warning in the forecast.
We are thankful that the Swiss Chard, transplanted last Tuesday, was uncovered yet survived the frost. We love this “Bright Lights” variety.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) growing in our forest. Don't worry Townes... I did not eat it and It is still growing!
The end of our winter kale crop that is going to seed. We are thankful for this kale as it fed us all winter long!
The end of our winter collard green crop that is going to seed. We are thankful that our collard green crop fed us all winter long!
Beautiful scenery while trying to find morel mushrooms. THANK goodness Carol Dreiling cultivates mushrooms or I would never be eating tasty mushrooms because I only found a few morels!
Last Sunday we made a batch of kimchi for our winter stash, and after allowing it to ferment for a week, we jarred it today. Most of the veggies were from our farm with a few from neighboring farms. We did purchase scallions, ginger, rice flour, fish sauce and salt from the store. This is the first fall we’ve had to buy scallions because our fall crop of is still in seeding trays on our propagation benches just waiting to be transplanted. We will probably end up feeding these scallion transplants to the worms who will turn them into beautiful soil.
THANKS TO MOM AND DAD, who kindly gave us the fermentation crock last year for a Christmas gift, this crock is being used to ferment our veggies into soured kimchi. Hopefully within the next month we will also be making sauerkraut for our winter stash. Kimchi is not for everyone because it is fermented, with a “sour and spicy” flavor, and perhaps an acquired taste. (Just think of the probiotics that we will be getting in the middle of winter to ward off those winter colds.) Danielle’s friend Meaghan was here this past week and I asked her if she ever tried kimchi, and her being a foodie and all, said something like, “No, I just could never get past the smell.”. Like I said, Kimchi isn’t for everyone, and I am not sure I can eat it everyday, but perhaps once a week in the winter. Oh, THANKS Meaghan for all the help you did in harvesting and packing our CSA Shares, doing chores, etc..
We followed Maangchi’s recipe because from reading recipes on her website, she seems to us anyway, the “Queen of Kimchi”. We did modify her recipe a bit because we are using our dried peppers that are very HOT and we do want the kimchi to be edible. (She calls for 5 cups while we only used 1 cup. Perhaps next year we can mix some dried Anaheim and cayenne so we can use more peppers without the heat.)
Our Kimchi Recipe
22 pounds of napa cabbage, cored, chopped into bite sized pieces, and salted as Maangchi suggests, then drained and rinsed with water. (We used 1 cup of salt per 10 pounds of napa cabbage. We could fit another 10 lbs of cabbage and goods in the crock.)
2 cups minced onion
4 cups daikon radishes (GORGEOUS and purchased from Flying Cloud Farm)
8 cups green onions (scallions) – sliced diagonally
2 cups carrots (we got tired of slicing these)
Carl coring and chopping the napa cabbage
All 22 pounds of the napa cabbage chopped. Normally we eat the cabbage that was "cosmetically challenged" by the bugs but Carl decided that our kimchi deserves the best cabbage in the field. So that is what we used.
Carl slicing Flying Cloud's beautiful daikon radishes. We had radishes but after seeing Annie's at Market, I couldn't resist buying them for our kimchi, and I am certain that these radishes will enhance the flavor of our kimchi.
This is a photograph of all the veggies prepped with the exception of the napa cabbage. These veggies look so lovely that we had to resist the urge to eat them as a salad. We controlled ourselves, just so we can have some kimchi for our winter stash, and it will be worth it come January.
6 cups water
1 cup unbleached rice flour (We bought our flour from bulk at the grocery store, but next time I want to look for Bobs Red Mill, the sticky rice kind)
1 – 1/2 cups Fish Sauce (We used the Thai Kitchen brand name)
1/2 cup turbinado dark organic sugar (coarse sugar)
1 cup cayenne pepper (dehydrated from our 2011 crop)
1 – 1/2 cups crushed garlic (cut it back from 2 cups because our garlic is STRONG)
4 tablespoons minced ginger
Fresh Kimchi before fermentation.
Loading the crock with fresh kimchi.
Peppers laid out on our dehydrator racks and ready for drying. Tony was the king of grading peppers for market and setting aside peppers that didn’t meet his market standards into boxes labeled, “Farm/Dehydration Peppers”. He will be pleased that I finally dehydrated these peppers for our winter seasoning.
After the peppers are dry, I pull their stems off, then grind in our food processor. The air in our trailer was filled with pepper dust causing us to sneeze and even having to walk outdoors until the air settled.
Peppers with the tops pulled of and in the food processor.
Our Ground Cayenne Peppers. This is one of our main ingredients in our kimchi and adds flavor to our meals throughout the winter and into the summer before we have fresh peppers.
We jarred our kimchi after it fermented for a week into 1/2 gallon jars. It is very sour and delicious. This batch made 2 - 1/2 gallons of kimchi I am hoping that this should last us through the winter. Another 1/2 gallon is being filled while I took this photograph!
WE FEEL BLESSED! We are still delivering CSA Shares packed full of veggies and are harvesting plenty of greens right now. We have great help on the farm and even though we have had a hot summer, it hasn’t been too awfully hot for the crops, and the creek continues to flow enough for irrigating our fields. Those farmers’ in Texas and other drought stricken areas have no water to irrigate with and in extremely warm places it has been much to warm for fruit to set on crops. WE ARE LUCKY…. We have been harvesting a wide selection of produce and all of it pretty tasty. In addition, we just had our pigs processed so have a good selection of pork for sale.
Our crop loss this season has been mounting up: (1) potato crop failure, (2) mice eating pepper, eggplant, summer squash and melon sprouts resulting in low yields (3) Tomatoes dying exceptionally early in the season after succumbing to leaf mold, (3) Onions being overtaken by nut sedge resulting in crop loss and low yields, (4) Loosing half our sweet corn crop to raccoons. (5) Loosing a good portion of our garlic and peppers to Fusarium. (6) Cucumbers have not produced in the greenhouse nor field. In the past, we grew a great crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse, but have not had success the last couple of years which is probably due to the heat. Probably the most accumulated crop loss we have experienced in years, but nothing compared to what others around the USA and world are experiencing, so for that we are thankful. Winter might be a little financially tight, but it has been for the past couple years, mostly since when we had winter employment. We are mentally prepared, and feel fortunate to have a roof over our head, all the food that we need, plus wood heat to keep us warm.
Read what these farmers’ in Vermont have experienced this past season and they still want to farm! We feel so LUCKY for not having to endure what they have this season. Perhaps they should also consider a Farm Vacation Rental Cabin (a.k.a. Crop Insurance) in with their production mix.
What have we been doing these past few weeks since our last journal entry? In between weeding and hoeing the fall crops, transplanting more fall crops, direct seeding even more fall crops, and harvesting and packing produce for both the CSA and markets. We are extremely happy to report that we have also been preparing our fields for seeding our cover crops. Finally – after removing irrigation pipes, black plastic landscape fabric, drip tame, flail mowing, then disking the fields – we were able to seed our first bit of cover crops. Cover cropping is a very important aspect of any farming operation. Thanks to the farm crew for the photographs.
Preparing to smoke our hog side meat by first starting a fire in the smokehouse. We are using hickory and apple for flavor.
Our hog side meat inside the smokehouse. We can’t leave the door open too awfully much or we loose a lot of heat. Notice the smoke surrounding the side meat producing such a wonderful aroma as the meat is smoked. The side meat is from Peter, Paul and Mary.
Smoked side meat, also known as bacon, looking and smelling so DELICIOUS!
Thermometer used for monitoring our smokehouse temperature and the internal temperature of our meat. It is very difficult keeping a steady temperature in the smokehouse with a wood fire. The temperature in the smokehouse constantly fluctuates.
Cooking the bacon that we made using the smoker.
Our first BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) sandwich in a very long time – I would say probably in 40 years – and it was just as delicious as what is instilled in my memory.
Carl studying for the plumbing test so that we will be able to do all our own plumbing on the Farm Vacation Rental Cabin saving us some of our hard earned money.
Tractor and Disk used for preparing our ground for seeding cover crops. We first flailed mowed our spent crops creating mulch. Then we used the disk to loosen the soil so that the cover crop seed has a better chance of coming into contact with the soil. On some of our farmland, that which we sow before early October, is seeded with a tri-culture of hairy vetch, winter rye and crimson clover.
Getting ready to load our winter rye cover crop seed into the baltic spreader which is the implement used to broadcast the seed onto our fields.
We purchase organic cover crop seed. Organic cover crop seed is much more expensive than non organic seed but we use it so that we are in compliance with the NOP (National Organic Program) standards.
Winter Rye loaded in the spreader.
Carl broadcasting winter rye onto the field. We are seeding about 2 and 1/2 acres this go around. We have about 6 additional acres to seed in cover crop within the next month.
Hairy Vetch in spreader with an inoculant dusted over the top. The inoculant, a rhizobium bacteria, will infect roots forming nodules, to help the vetch fix nitrogen in our soil. This is broadcast in the fields.
Once the rye and vetch are broadcasted, we then lightly disk in the seeded cover crop seed, hoping that it makes good contact with the soil, which aids in germination.
Carl spreading crimson clover with a hand spreader. Danielle is walking along to get a feel of the speed one must walk to have the clover spread evenly across the field. We seed clover last using a hand seeder, because the seed is so small, we don’t bury it with the disk and prefer a good rainfall to set the clover seed into the soil for contact with the earth and hopefully good germination.
Danielle seeding Crimson Clover.
Tony seeding Crimson Clover.
Justin seeding Crimson Clover.
Friend or foe? Harmon and Kaiser.
Production Note To Self: (1) Add field cucumbers back into our planting with each succession of squash because our greenhouse crop has not been successful. (2) Add a late fall succession of cucumbers for greenhouse production.
This journal entry is for Trace!!!! Yes, finally I am taking the time to write in our journal and let me tell you why… Because here in the mountains we are having cooler weather, with finally the nighttime temperatures dropping, making for some fabulous sleeping. This helps motivate me in completing my nightly chores such as journal entries and freezing pesto for our winter stash. Otherwise our trailer is just too hot to deal with being indoors and I find myself sitting outside. (The past few nights we have seen low temperatures around 62 and highs between 85 and 90)
This past Tuesday our neighbor Joe brought over his coon dog because the raccoons wiped out about 50 percent of our sweet corn crop. The coons also ate all the peaches from the peach tree. His dogs didn’t pick up any scent so he will try again Friday or Saturday night. We are hopeful to soon be eating stewed racoons!
The first week of August we transplanted our first succession of fall crops to the field. The plants didn’t look so good because they were being devoured by the cabbage looper so we are praying they survive. Crops transplanted include kale, boc choi, cabbage and lettuce.
After transplanting we covered with floating row cover to keep the flea beetles and harlequin bugs off the crops until they have an established root system. Danielle, Townes, Tony and Justin hauled literally tons of rocks and rolled out a lot of row cover to protect these plants. I got out of the hard work, mostly because I was busy spraying the crops to kill the cabbage loopers, and feel bad that they had to do it all!!! Carl was busy helping our neighbor put up hay. It is strange having the crops covered because you can’t just look at them to see how they are doing. Crops underneath row cover are ignored until over a week after they have been transplanted, then they are uncovered and hoed, then recovered for a couple more weeks. Whereas, crops without row cover can be examined every couple days, and if we visually notice pests or disease, we can be very proactive about dealing with issues as they arise. So who knows what is going on underneath that row cover right now. Hopefullly not an “All You Can Eat Buffet” for the cabbage loopers.
Tony and Carl happy about row cover. Carl just loves floating row cover! Ask him about it one day.
Danielle and Towns unfolding floating row cover. We were fortunate to have a calm afternoon for covering our plants. This job is difficult in high winds.
Danielle and Towns pulling the row cover along the bed of plants that will be covered.
Fall plants covered for protection against flea beetles and harlequin bugs. Justin took the photographs of row covering. I must leave the camera in the car more often because he did a great job documenting the process.
I love Zinnias and miss making bouquets! Perhaps we will add these back to our schedule next year. Hard to believe we haven’t made or sold any bouquets this year.
I love these two…. Carl and Harmon
Our annual, “Post Peak Season” picnic celebration on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though we live in the most beautiful place it is still nice to get away from the farm leaving all the undone jobs behind.
PRODUCTION NOTE TO SELF: For the past several years I have been meaning to plant another succession of swiss chard that we would have for sale in the summer. Our existing crop has petered out in growth and flavor. We need to seed it around 5/15. I must say the bugs like the flavor of swiss chard right now. In addition, we need a back-up crop should we loose our corn. We have had “trellis field peppers” on our task list for several years but never have gotten around to that. NEXT YEAR is a farmers’ famous saying. Our tomatoes are not producing which is a first for us. We are going to try a more leaf mold resistant variety next year and also a later crop. Need to seed the tomato 4/11 for harvest around August.
I went on a hike today after “predator proofing” the chicken coop and had a pleasant surprise of actually seeing bare ground as we have had snow on the ground for the past several weeks. I certainly hope that the snow melts because I would like to begin cutting wood stacked in a field we want to put the back into production. Our chicken coop is never completely predator proof but for now it will keep out the opossums and raccoons once they come out of hibernation. Each spring after the first major thaw, quite a few of critters are on the prowl for tasty chicken, and I would think this spring we will have intense pressure from predators after a record setting cold winter. Our chickens are just beginning to lay, and we want to make eggnog and because we don’t want to loose any chickens to the critters, the chicken coop made it to the top of the priority list.
I love our sauerkraut but not sure how it compares to those krauts that get rave reviews by the food experts because I have never tried any store bought kraut. I also don’t eat kraut frequently enough to know the criteria sauerkraut experts use when giving a particular brand of kraut a thumbs up. Sauerkraut is a staple up here in the mountains and I must say that Alivn’s wife, Martha, made some of the best kraut I have ever tasted. (Again, I don’t have much to compare it with.) When Alvin moved from his house he gave us a few jars of her sauerkraut that was stored in their basement, but that was several years ago, so I can’t recollect the exact flavor or texture of her kraut as compared to ours. I am considering making another run of kraut with cabbage we have stored in our walk-in cooler. Carl would rather eat the cabbage, because he is in the understanding that the best kraut is made from freshly harvested cabbage, and our cabbage has been stored since early December. We have also been eating our stored cabbage each week since greens are scarce this time of the year and cabbage is a green that stores well once harvested which is why we are eating a lot of it. (Except… we have also been eating a lot of spinach. Kale, that we planted extra late this past fall, is about ready for picking but we haven’t had it since November. Our Swiss Chard has not been growing in this cold weather so we haven’t had any since mid December.) So should we make kraut out of our cabbage or eat it fresh so that we are eating greens? I think we should try a batch of kraut with our stored cabbage just to see for ourselves how it compares to this batch of kraut I just bottled which was made with fresh cabbage.
I must say that our cabbage made some fine tasting kraut. Our neighbors can their kraut in a hot water bath so that they do not need to refrigerate it but I can not bring myself to canning it with the possibility of killing off some of the beneficial bacteria. We have the luxury of access to a walk-in cooler with plenty of cool storage for the kraut and I am in the understanding that the kraut will keep in the refrigerator until around mid May. Around that time frame, we hopefully will be indulging in unlimited greens from the farm, that is if mother nature cooperates with us.
Kraut made from our fall cabbage crop and the crock that made it tasty! Our cabbage has been fermenting in this crock for the past 5 weeks at around 70 degrees and just this week I noticed the flavor similar to what I remember Martha's Kraut tasting like. I decided to bottle our kraut and put it in the refrigerator to maintain this flavor. She made her kraut according to the signs and I remember her explaining that you don't want to make your kraut when the signs are in the bowels.
Some might think I mean the cash crop, but after our most recent endeavor we have such an appreciation for what our forefathers have done in hot smoking meat creating incredible flavors. We just smoked a couple 20 lb hams, using a Sorghum Glaze, and the flavor is AMAZING! We now have on our “To Do” list to smoke: Ham Hocks, Hog Sidemeat (bacon) and a chicken. I’m thinking like most of you readers… That we already have enough on our “To Do” list so why add more? The answer… Just because we can and do.
We are putting our lives in the hands of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, the authors who wrote “Charcuterie”, because the FDA and USDA have us believing that proper preservation is essential in preventing death from botulism, so we are using the author’s recipe for curing and smoking. Prior to smoking the meat, we are using the “wet curing” technique for preserving our hams, as apposed to “dry curing” which would have required us to hang the hams at 60 degrees in a humidity controlled environment for a minimum of 3 months (most hams are cured for a year). We don’t have any storage area this time of the year at the recommended temperature and humidity level required for dry curing.
We picked up Peter, Paul and Mary Monday the week of Thanksgiving (11/22) and the butcher left a couple 20 lb hams unfrozen for us so we stored them in our walk-in cooler on ice until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That Sunday (11/28) we de-boned the hams, made a brine solution for the hams, then soaked the hams in this brine solution for 12 days (until 12/10).
This photo is one of our 20 lb hams that we smoked. Our hams are fresh and have not been frozen.
Carl de-boned the ham prior to brining. He left most of the fat on the ham to increase flavor while smoking. This prevents the ham from drying out too much while smoking.
Our “Wet Cure” brine uses pink salt and I am not super comfortable using pink salt but don’t know enough about curing meats yet to know if it is necessary. Apparently it prevents botulism and gives the meat a nice good color. Cure #1 contains salt and sodium nitrite. Apparently, from what I have read, it has less sodium nitrite than spinach. I just wonder the source for this sodium nitrite. I trust consuming this when it is naturally produced in vegetables but not necessarily a source that has been manufactured. I do know that the USDA does not recommend canning beans the way my grandmother did and none of her canned goods ever made her sick. Our food safety rules are getting tougher and tougher yet our population is very unhealthy. Some believe we are more concerned about “Food Safety” rather than “Healthy Food” which is a topic for another day. For now we will continue to use pink salt until I have enough time to research this subject.
Our brine recipe for 40 pounds of meat: 2.5 gallons of water, 3.75 cups kosher salt, 5 cups sugar (we used organic turbinado raw cane sugar), 1 cup kosher salt, and 3.75 oz of Pink Salt (Referred to as Cure #1). We put this in a pot on the stove to dissolve the salts and sugars. This recipe made about an extra half gallon of brine.
One of the hams de-boned and in a brine solution.
During the “wet curing” phase of this project, we turned the hams each day, hoping to ensure that the brine would permeate the entire ham. The book we are using recommends “wet curing” meat for a half day per pound of meat. We think our hams should have been cured in the brine for a few more days, perhaps due to their size, because when cutting the ham for freezing Carl noticed that the center of the ham was a different color than the rest indicating that the brine had not fully penetrated the ham. Our conclusion is that, for a 20 lb ham, it should be “wet cured” 1 day per lb of ham.Interesting link to the history of foods but not sure who authored this nor if the information is accurate.
Friday (12/10) after processing vegetables for market we removed the hams from the brine solution so that they would have a chance to drain and dry out a bit before smoking. The recommendation is to allow them to dry for at least 12 to 24 hours prior to smoking. Drying allows the smoke to stick to the ham.
Sunday we assembled the smoker that Carl built underneath our barn shed. We had hopes of smoking the hams outside near the pizza oven but because it was snowing and windy we had no choice but to smoke in the barn. It is not such a brilliant idea to be burning open fires in the barn which is why we stayed with it the entire time. We put the smoker on top of some half cinder blocks to keep the wood off the ground then built a small fire in a little hibachi grill inside the smoker with the goal at keeping the temperature in the smoker around 200 degrees. According to what we have read hot smoking requires only 2 hours of cooking time at 200 degrees. (For the record: smoked on 12/12)
Pictured we are assembling our smokehouse before the door is installed. Next time we need to put a couple layers of cinder blocks to raise the wood smokehouse above the fire/flames because the wood smokehouse was a little charred.
Carl found some cotton tobacco twine to hang the hams inside the smoker prior to building the fire. Our hope was to smoke the ham at 200 degrees for a couple hours. After building the fire in the smoker we realized that it was more difficult than we imagined keeping the smoker at 200 degrees. This is probably because it was 25 degrees outside, snowing and very windy.
We ended up making a fire outside our smoker to manufacture “coals”. We used all hardwoods from our farm with the addition of hickory and apple for added smoked flavor. We had a fire, in part to keep us warm while smoking, where we would partially burn wood creating “coals”, and accumulating coals in a pile, then nearly every 15 minutes add additional coals to our smoker. Each time we opened the door to our smoker I am certain we lost a lot of heat being that the outside temperatures were below freezing which is why we went to stock piling coals preventing the need for opening the door as frequently. You will notice our lounging area complete with chairs, black box wine and wine glasses. A glass of wine while smoking never hurt anyone!
We began smoking mid afternoon around 1 PM and finished smoking around 10 PM when it just got too unbearably cold to be sitting outside. We just couldn’t keep the smoker at a constant 200 degrees. Our smoker would go from 160 to 210 within a 15 minute period! I now have a new appreciation for thermostats. On the farm…. We have thermostats in our ovens, our home heaters, the greenhouses, walk-in coolers, ice machine, tractors, vehicles, etc. I am certain I am missing a few thermostats on our farm.Here are the folks believed to have invented the thermostat who I pay honor to today by toasting a glass of wine: (My source and not sure how accurate is.)
-Warren Johnson in 1883
-Albert Buzz in 1885
-Cornelius Drebbel in the early 17th century
-Sir Edmond Halley(of the famous Halley’s Comet)
Around 7 PM we began glazing our ham with a Sorghum Glaze. Sorghum is a traditional sugar produced here in the mountains and our sorghum was made by Doubletree Farm who makes the tastiest sorghum we have ever had! THANKS DOUBLE TREE FARM! Our glaze recipe we used was: 2 cups organic sugar, 3/4 cup sorghum, 12 oz of Dijon mustard, a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to clean out the mustard jar and 1 bulb of pressed garlic. (I used our Musik garlic which is our largest bulbs.)
At 10 PM Carl finished our ham in the oven cooking it at 250 degrees for another hour in a half finally finishing the process around 11:30 PM, which is when our meat thermometer registered the internal temperature of the ham 155 degrees.
Here we are slicing and freezing the hams into 1 lb packages. After sampling such tasty, sweet and juicy meat we are planning on having this for our Christmas celebration. I have not had ham since probably my mother baked one for us when I was a youngster years ago at either Christmas or Easter.
Carl is in our wood shop (a.k.a. yoga studio) working on building a smoker for hot smoking hams while I am in our trailer making sauerkraut. According to wikipedia, the German translation for sauerkraut is either sour herb or sour cabbage. THANKS Mom and Dad for buying Carl and I a crock for our Birthday/Christmas present so that we are no longer fermenting in a plastic bucket! Our faithful tailgate market customers suggested the Harsch Gairtoph Fermenting Crock, and since many of our customers are into creating delicious fermented foods, we figured we should take their advice so that is what we bought. We ordered the 3 gallon crock, which wasn’t in stock, so they sent us the 4 gallon size. Right now it has 15 pounds of green cabbage in it and with our bathroom temperature around 65 degrees our kraut should be ready in 4 – 6 weeks. IMAGINE GREAT KRAUT WITH BRATWURSTS! I do hope it turns out.
THANKS MOM AND DAD FOR THE BEST CROCK WE KNOW ABOUT! This crock has a ceramic weight that keeps pressure on the fermenting veggies so that the water is released thus (hopefully) making a better product.
Here is what I did: I tossed a pound of sliced cabbage with roughly a tablespoon and a half of kosher salt, I then added it to the crock, finally pressing down on the cabbage with my hands to release the water. I continued doing this until the crock was full! NOTE: Salting the cabbage causes water to be released creating a layer of brine that will cover the cabbage. If the water released from the cabbage does not cover it within a 24 hour period you will want to cover with a brine solution. (For the record: made Monday 12/6)
I am neurotic and I washed and weighed the cabbage just to know how much our yield will be from our cabbage!
I sliced a pound of cabbage then salted it in the bowl. This bowl was given to me from my mother and she and dad got it as a wedding present! As you can see I am putting it to good use.
This cabbage has been sliced and tossed with salt encouraging the fermenting process. Apparently natural bacteria in the cabbage cause this reaction. If I was Mark Rosenstein I would have sliced the cabbage thinly and evenly. He would have every strand more or less the same size. Someday I want to do prep work like a PRO!
A 4 gallon crock full of salted cabbage! We are trying to keep it at 68 – 71 degrees the first few days until it starts fermenting. After that, we are trying to keep the temperature at 62 degrees for 4 to 6 weeks.
Oh yea… We went to market this past Saturday (12/11) with sales not as good as we had hoped. Here is why…
-> First, on Friday we lost some crops because we failed to harvest them before last weeks cold snap. Next year we must harvest all our napa cabbage at Thanksgiving and store in our cooler. We also float row covers directly on our crops which caused leaf tip burn on the lettuce, tatsoi and baby boc choi making them unsellable. Not sure if the crops would be marketable with hoops keeping the row cover off the plants because we had very cold temperatures that we haven’t yet experienced as Farmers that early in December.
-> Secondly…Our pipes froze at the barn last week because we didn’t winterize our barn space which we normally do the week of Thanksgiving but were holding off until after our final December markets. We had to carry water from our house to the goats and horses in the morning before market putting us a little behind schedule.
-> Thirdly… The van wouldn’t go into gear and Carl figured out a fuse to replace fixing the problem. THANK GOD WE HAD FUSES IN THE VAN AND IT FIXED THE PROBLEM BECAUSE WE HAD THE VAN LOADED. We had a problem like this about 2 years ago and Carl replaced the dash light switch fixing the problem. Could a switch go bad in just a couple years OR is another problem causing our switch to be faulty?
-> Finally… Once at market we realized we forgot all of our market signage for pricing and because we were late we didn’t have everything displayed so customers could see our offerings. I think that people didn’t know the prices so weren’t comfortable buying.
OH WELL. The farmers’ famous last words, “There is next season.”. By the way… This is life on the farm.
GREAT NEWS… We were able to get most of our cover crops seeded Friday September 25th. We were hoping to have everything seeded on Thursday but rain came late Thursday afternoon postponing our seeding until Friday. We are thankful that we seeded even though our soils were a little wet because it seems that we have great germination due to the rainfall after seeding! (Did you read — I said I liked the rain!) This past Thursday we transplanted all of our strawberries to the field that we hope to harvest in 2010. Strawberry picking seems so far away.
BAD NEWS… This past week was our lightest harvest in four years which we are attributing to us being a mediocre farmer. If we actually knew how to farm we would have for sale plenty of onions, garlic, winter squash, kale, mustard greens, collards, broccoli and summer squash. We pretty much had a crop failure on all these crops. Our most recent issue being the ground hog whom has been devouring the toscano kale and the broccoli. The spinach isn’t doing so hot so we hope to foliar spray it however as I write this blog entry it is raining and you can’t foliar spray in the rain.
I definitely think that next year we need to do a better job dealing with the bug pressure that has damaged our fall crops. Not sure how yet, but at least we have the entire winter to think about it, and perhaps we will come up with something new to try for our 2010 season.
In addition, we are trying to think of another means for generating some income, and we don’t want to leave the farm, so at the moment we are dreaming of winning the lottery, hosting farm vacations, trading in the stock market and winning BIG, discovering oil on the farm, finding gold on the farm. And the dreams continue. Farming is just to financially unpredictable.
WINTER STASH: Today I canned a run of pepperoncini peppers. It seems that my run needed more brine so I am thankful that we have more peppers to try another run. I might need to soak the peppers in salt water for a day prior to canning because I think the peppers shrunk while boiling in the hot water bath for 15 minutes. I also froze some pesto and ground up some chili powder. No pictures because Carl has the camera. I will try a few photographs upon his return.
PRODUCTION NOTE TO MYSELF: After Fall crops are seeded in the greenhouse, implement an IPM for the seedlings, this may reduce crop loss due to snails and cabbage loppers feasting on an all you can eat buffet. (We lost a succession of tatsoi and our collard seedlings to this issue). In addition, our fall swiss chard did not germinate in the 200 cell with McEnroe potting mix. Needed to use McEnroe grow which is their peat based mix. (That is what we normally use in the 200 cells. Need better documentation of our practices next year.)
Saturday at Market Vanessa and Alex at Full Sun Farm had the most BEAUTIFUL arugula, radishes, kale and baby boc choi. The last couple years at this time we had kale and baby boc choi but the flea beetles and harlequin bugs have been so tenacious this season that our kale is stunted and our first succession of tatsoi and baby boc choi were completely devoured by the flea beetles. (We can’t even find reminiscent of these plants in the field.) Vanessa thinks perhaps we are simply building up our bug and disease population over the years. She is probably right so we just need to adjust some of our growing practices and keep on trying.
Sunday we were able to freeze 21 quarts of sweet corn so we have one quart each week during the winter! Several years ago we used to can corn but because it is such a low acid food one must pressure can it for so long that it ruined the flavor of our corn. Now we simply cut the kernels off the ear, put it in a pot with a little water, heat the corn through, then remove it from the pot and bag it in quart bags then finally place in ice water for quick cooling so that the corn retains its flavor and texture.
Production NOTE to myself: Cover our end of July direct seeded arugula and radishes. In addition, cover our first succession of kale, tatsoi and baby boc choi. We never considered covering it in summer because it is so hot; however it is just another thing to consider because it certainly works for Full Sun Farm! Consider planting our swiss chard on paper mulch to keep the weeds down. This might mean amending with fish emulsion a few times throughout the season but beats having weeds take over. (We should have reclaimed the bed a month ago.)
I feel a bit lazy these past couple of days. Sunday I didn’t do much but harvest a little squash which aren’t so pretty because the squash bugs are munching on them. We are desperately trying to kill a few bugs so Carl sprayed our crops Sunday while I weeded a little bit of our carrot patch. I had full intentions of going on a hike but instead chopped and froze 4 gallons of peppers. After freezing peppers, Carl and I roasted a few poblano and krimzen lee peppers with our pepper roaster and made some fabulous tasting chili rellenos. We are seriously considering splurging and purchasing a fryer for the few times a year when we actually take some good, wholesome, naturally grown veggies and FRY them in canola oil! Meagan and Joe have a fryer which Meagan used to fry eggplant slices for the best eggplant parmesan one could ever indulge in!
Monday afternoon it was raining a bit so I froze another 4 gallons of peppers; however, I have the guilt trip because I should have been hoeing our lettuce that is being overtaken by buckwheat. We normally don’t freeze peppers until fall, right before our first killing frost, except we have Soooo many grade-outs that are not marketable and figured we might as well save them for a rainy day. We think the issue with our peppers is due to the rain and the peppers absorbing so much moisture they have these mushy water spots on them. (We think it is a problem with bacterial spot.) The portions of the pepper that are edible are tasty and wonderful in the middle of winter cooked in potatoes, fajitas, pasta, or macaroni and cheese. Our plan is to freeze a couple deer and the peppers are wonderful in venison fajitas. We freeze our peppers in gallon bags then you can leave them in the freezer and simply pull off clumps out of the bag as you need them. They are a little mushy after thawing so not necessarily good in salads. One must give up a little of fresh food pleasures during the winter – that is why we appreciate a sweet and crispy red, orange or yellow pepper in the summer – only those who eat pretty seasonally can relate to the feeling of the first tomato, sweet pepper and mustard roasted green beans of the year!