Independence Days Update: Getting Ready to Party

Sharon June 17th, 2010

I was away three days last weekend, and I came back to the preparations for Eric’s 40th birthday party, so not as much has been accomplished this week on larger farm projects as I’d like.   On the other hand, the grass is scythed, the flowers are blooming and the barn will be cleaned out tomorrow, so that’s good - sometimes the trade offs are aesthetics vs. infrastructure, otherwise, we sometimes fall too far into “infrastructure and ignore the aesthetics.”

I’ve already frozen several lasagnas and 100 shortcake biscuits for the party - got to make one more lasagn and a big batch of tomato sauce.  It is nice, the first basil harvest is ready just in time, and there’s plenty of oregano and thyme and it makes for amazing tomato sauce with all that fragrance imbued.  The menu is lasagna (with some pasta and tomato sauce for the vegans), pesto bread, asparagus with lemon-caper dressing, a big green salad, and for dessert, a huge quantity of strawberry shortcake.  There will also be chips, salsa and snap peas for nibbles beforehand. 

I’ve done a bunch of prettification stuff (I did a bunch before Memorial Day weekend as well, so the place is looking pretty decent) - I finally bought a dark purple clematis to twine up the porch (wanted one for years, keep forgetting about it), and got the front path weeded (bleah!). 

Meanwhile, I’ve also been working on the usual planting, both the herb infrastructure for the new medicinal project (what do y’all think of “the homegrown apothecary” for a name for the medicinal line - I haven’t googled yet to see if it is already taken, though), and all the normal perennial and annual things.  I’m getting the wetland medicinals in over the next week or two - Viburnum opulus (crampbark), blue vervain, marshmallow, valerian, angelica, eclipta, betony…  I’m enjoying putting these beds together and making them look nice.

It is time for the first major herb harvest as well here - but I haven’t done much of it.  The chamomile is blossoming, as is the motherwort, betony, yarrow, catnip, lemon balm, red clover and other herbs that need to be cut for aerial parts.  But they will have to wait a week, other than a few bunches to make the house smell good.  I’m still trying to figure out whether I can make tinctures for sale in my kitchen, or if I have to actually rent a commercial kitchen for the process, which would suck, but I could do it.  I’m planning on doing the commercial kitchen thing anyway for a few of my crops, notably black currant and elderberry syrups and juices, but I’d really like to avoid having to do that every time I want to pour Everclear over plant matter ;-)

We had a bit of a setback this week when the goats learned to open the gate to the side yard - the goats got in and had a field day.  I don’t mind the strawberry losses (they’ll grow back, and they were past their time anyway) or the geraniums (which are just for pretty), but I do resent that every single broccoli plant was eaten down to the nub - no brocc here for another month yet, I fear.  I had plenty of transplants yet to replant, but oh, what a pain!

The goats are almost dry now - due dates begin the last week of July and run through the third week of August, and everyone looks pregnant, except Tekky, who may just be carrying thin, or may not be.  If she hasn’t taken in four months with a buck, though, we’ll have to sell her.    I’m looking forward to a run of babies.  I’m also kind of enjoying the end of milking for a short while - and when we come back, we’ll have enough does in milk that we will be milking only once a day.  I’m looking forward to the end of long evening chores - I never really minded them, but it frees up a bit of time.

Our shared sheep arrangement doesn’t seem to have happened so far this year - my friend with the sheep has had a series of troubles and they’ve never come, which means my pastures are growing up, which means I need sheep!  I really want icelandics - so if anyone knows of a local herd of icelandics with ewes for sale, I’d be interested.  Also, bonus if they do disease testing, since some of the things sheep can get are more serious in goats.  Please drop me an email if you know of a good herd near me!

Otherwise, all party prep and prettification this week - next week will be the last serious hurrah of getting in the very last of the garden, and then I move on to the fall garden.  The work never ends, but I like it, and that’s the reality of the farm. 

Plant something: More broccoli, chard, calendula, marigolds, clematis, viburnum, gingko, mulberries, corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, flax, lettuce

Harvest something: lettuce, chard, kale, bok choy, chinese cabbage, snap peas, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, motherwort, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint, catnip, yarrow, milk (pretty much the last of it) and eggs.

Preserve something: 18 pints of strawberry jam - half strawberry rhubarb, half strawberry-masala chai.  A good year for strawberries.  Some dried strawberries, and a few dried herbs.

Waste Not: Gave our battered baker’s choice stove, in wild need of radical reconditioning away to someone who will love it and give it a good home.  Otherwise, the usual.

Want Not: Nothing in particular.

Eat the Food: Eating up last year’s pickles in anticipation of lots of cukes, snap peas at every meal.

Build community food systems: Was asked to consult by a municipality on local food design - am hoping to do more of this kind of work.

How about you?


14 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Getting Ready to Party”

  1. Claire says:

    Still warm and wet in St. Louis, almost 3″ of rain so far this month at our house and it is just clearing off from the latest rain. I’m still behind on planting but getting through it little by little, and I have till the end of the first week of July to get the summer crops in. Good thing.

    Planted: in the garden: seedlings of peppers, eggplants, and basil, and melon seeds. Also planted a few more cabbage, broccoli, collard, and bok choy seeds in flats for the fall crop, as I do not have as many seedlings yet as I want.

    Harvested: lettuce, snow peas, basil, calendula and nasturtium flowers, fennel, dill, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, garlic scapes, garlic bulbs, potato onions

    Preserved: dried the calendula flowers. The big preserving task is drying last year’s popcorn. It turned out that the solar-powered food dehydrator worked perfectly to do this; the dried popcorn popped beautifully. I’m in the process of running some of the 20+ pounds of it through the dehydrator whenever it’s at least bright-overcast for several hours. Still have most of it to go.

    Waste not, want not: just the usual in both cases.

    Build community food systems: outside of sharing some of the abundant raspberry harvest and a couple of the best still-unbolted lettuces with neighbors, nothing this week. Oh, I did offer garden advice to two friends who had problems (at least they were questions I could answer; makes me look smarter than I am).

    Eat the food: a mixed fruit salad of lots of raspberries and a few blueberries and apricot halves one morning. Yesterday we had a friend over and enjoyed a salad from one of the still-unbolted lettuces with chopped herbs and nasturtium flowers; the main course was basil pesto on pasta; and dessert was very generous quantities of raspberries over ice cream, plus a glass of homemade mint wine. Probably one of the largest proportions of homegrown to purchased foods we’ve managed so far for a full meal (except for the supper of homegrown salad and popcorn which I ate a couple times in the past week or so).

  2. Karin says:

    here is my update..sometimes I get the linky thing to work and sometimes I don’t.

  3. Lise says:

    I like “homegrown apothecary.” And I surely hope you can pour alcohol on plants without a lot of hoopla!

    My latest update is here:

  4. Sarah says:

    Plant Something:
    We are getting a very late start on gardening…finally found some ground to work at the Community Center. Planted peas and squash. Tomatoes and peppers at home are doing well.

    Harvest Something:
    Lemon Balm (used for making curries), Radishes, one strawberry.

    Preserve Something:
    Cherry Port preserves, Brandied Cherries, raspberry leaves, lemongrass.

    Waste Not:
    Kept the tops of Lemongrass from my Thai cooking class to make into teas.

    Want Not:
    Working on small garden space at Community Center. Saved a large number of strawberry plants.

    Led a community kitchen teaching thai cooking. We made two huge batches of Red and Green curried. Created three dished in class for students. Spoke at local gardening group. Gave ideas on using up what they have growing now, new ideas on using up greens

    Eat the Food:
    Using up the last pickles and pickled radishes from last year. Used the last jar of brandied cherries to make clafoutis. Greens and more greens.

  5. Ms Betterhome says:

    Happy partying!

    Plant something: Turnips, radish, silverbeet (aka chard).

    Harvest something: Mizuna, parsley, pak choy, rocket, radicchio, oregano, fennel tops, & sweet potatoes (a lot more potatoes than I would have expected to grow in a foam box!).

    Preserved something: Orange pickle.

    Waste not: usual composting, worm-farming & recycling.

    Want not: Stocked up on organic tofu, 40% off from the co-op (before they closed for a holiday).

    Build Community Food Systems: Big co-op shop, plus blogging & chatting about CSA & backyard gardening.

    Eat the food: Kale wraps with home-made Mediterranean chutney, veg curry & dal with home-made nectarine chutney, home-made chickpea cutlets with garden salad, banana bread & soup from the freezer.

  6. Karen says:

    Sharon - this might be useful on the Icelandic sheep.

    I think they had a meeting at NY Sheep and Wool in Rhinebeck last year too - not sure about this year. I don’t know much about the breeders personally - I was looking for farms with sheep for an Icelandic Day I’m helping to organize.

    I know a breeder in NH and ME, but I know there are a number closer to you, including the farm the breeder in NH got her sheep from. I’ll check on the name of that breeder.

    If you’re interested in Icelandic sheepdogs at any point, let me know. I’d be more help with that. :)

  7. Anne Trudell says:

    Alternating days of rain and sunshine are making my grapes happy and lush. Some bunches are already starting to expand to actual grapes.

    Plant something: late corn

    Harvest; rhubarb, spearmint, snow peas, lettuce, spinach, garlic chives, garlic scapes, arugala, parsley, oregano, dandelion greens, lambs quarters, sage flowers and sage, lemon thyme, thyme, green onions, yellow strawberries, red strawberries.

    Preserve: Mint Rhubarb concentrate, rhubarb pulp for fruit spreads, spicy rhubarb BBQ sauce, dried soup greens, dried oregano.

    Waste not: installing another rain barrel under a renovated gutter system, using wood scraps for its stand.

    Want not: stocked up on pad thai noodles, vinegar.

    Eat the food: salad, salad, salad! Used the chili garlic sauce I put up in the spicy BBQ sauce, also a jar of sweet mustard relish. Adding snow peas and garlic scapes to stir-fries.

    Community food: nothing special this week.

  8. Leigh says:

    And here’s mine -

  9. dewey says:

    Because a tincture is not a conventional food form (like, say, tea blends), it automatically becomes a dietary supplement under federal regulations. The FDA’s manufacturing regulations for dietary supplements, which are being fully imposed on the smallest producers just this summer with FDA’s overt expectation that many of them will be put out of business, are based on drug regulations (in contravention of the instructions of Congress in 1994 that they create food-like regulations).

    You should google “dietary supplement GMPs.” It will amaze and enrage you. You are required to keep exacting records of every batch, to have written protocols for every product and the sanitation of every object, the regular documentation of the calibration of your scales, etc. etc. You must have written procedures for recording and forwarding Adverse Event Reports. Of course you have a self-closing restroom door, right? And for everything you do, you must employ a second person to watch you weigh and measure things and check off that you actually did it. I believe you are required to register your facility right off the bat, so they can stop by any time they like to make sure all those records and protocols are in order.

    You must use “validated methods” to document the identity, purity, etc. of your material both before it goes through processing, and after - in case it has magically transformed into some other species. If methods of confirming identity after processing exist at all (e.g., a chemical fingerprint that costs $900 per run at a contract lab), you must use them, even if you have already documented plant identity beforehand based on the fact that you picked it and can jolly well see what it is. (You have adequate botanical credentials and training to be qualified to identify it, right? And you’ve saved voucher samples of each batch of raw material, right?)

    This is NOT the end of it, either, only the parts I find most memorable from a 300-page document. In contempt of the Constitution, FDA asserts the right to impose these illegal regulations on people who sell their products only locally and therefore are not part of interstate commerce. They did claim that they would exercise “enforcement discretion” where herbalists compounding individualized remedies for single clients were concerned (otherwise, since the herbalist cannot watch herself and since every bottle would cost $1500+, this would amount to criminalizing herbalism). At least, they will let that slide until it’s such a fringe practice that they can crush it with public approval. But if you are selling multiple-bottle batches to the general public, this is the regime that they say you must live under.

    I don’t suggest that you actually do that, because it is plainly impossible for a person in your position to do so. But I do suggest that you BE VERY CAREFUL and keep your sales under the radar as much as possible. If you can make it appear that you’re primarily a locally practicing herbalist, rather than legally a “manufacturer,” so much the better. Obviously, if you’re selling on the internet, you’re not making products for one client at a time; don’t do that. You might want to emphasize products like teas that you can sell in greater safety; or for tasty plants perhaps you can claim that alcoholic extracts are flavorings. Under no circumstances make even the most innocuous and truthful statements regarding the health benefits of any product.

    I wish you luck. I prefer to buy herbal products from someone who makes them individually with love and care; favoring the Germanified standardization model is like thinking that McDonalds makes the best and safest hamburgers, or Campbell’s makes the best and safest chicken soup. But the more the medical industry and the corporate manufacturers feel pinched by this economy, the more frantically they’ll try to have affordable alternatives crushed. I know enough about this subject to make good herbal medicines, but I would never dare to try to make a living at it.

  10. KC says:

    This posting is for 2 weeks - I’ve been so busy, I could barely find time to post!

    in Virginia: I feel like I live in a rain forest sometimes - warm and humid and the garden is growing very fast . Did I overfertilize or is the warm and wet creating fast growth soil microorganisms? (I did innoculate with biodynamic field spray).

    It feels like summer here - eating summer veggies (green beans, summer squash, kale, collards…). The favas are blooming, but not sure they like this hot weather. Still trying to finish up the summer planting while making new beds. Spent a day weeding, thinning, and mulching the spring beds - they were out of control. The favas started making pods - what an interesting looking plant!

    I’ve been wanting to plant elderberry, but haven’t found the time or space. We just discovered the weedy looking plant that has been growing in a bed near the front door - is now blooming with elderberry flowers! - A bird must’ve planted it there for us. It still seems as though everything is 3 weeks ahead of schedule this year (native flowers and fruits). I’ve seen some ripe blackberries.

    plant:polecat peas (a type of crowder pea like a black-eye). butternut squash, pole beans, dried beans (black coco and tiger), more summer greens, parch corn, sweet potato, miriam sunflower, okra, peanuts, cucumber.

    harvest:lots of yellow summer squash, purple podded green beans, nasturtium flowers, thinning the beets (they are a good size already!), calendula, dill, cilantro, kale (armloads!!!), collards, chard, mustard, my first broccoli (purple peacock) and first kohlrabi,a tiny carrot or two, and I started harvesting the garlic. Also zinnia, marigold, borage. I harvested (and pulled up) the last of the peas this week.

    eat the food: multicolored beets and beet greens, stir fries with yellow squash, kale, broccoli, chard, salads with nasturtium flowers and borage flowers, potato salad with green beans yellow squash and dill. Roasted beets (still a few left from last year!) I learned how the Tibetans make their flat bread: take a ping pong ball size of the 5 min refrigerated sourdough and roll into a thin circle. heat cast iron frying pan on high (no oil). place dough circle in the pan until it bubbles and starts to rise, then flip. It will start to fill with air - then remove iron pan from the burner and drop the dough onto the open gas flame - it will puff up with air and then quickly flip it. do this a couple times and it is done. - soft , cooked throughout and tender and chewy.

    preserve: yellow squash in the dehydrator and also dehydrating purple podded green beans (blanched first). These are delicious in winter soups. Froze more greens.

    waste not: I am using newspaper to mulch the paths between the beds and will cover with leaves.

    want not: bought a used loveseat at the community yard sale and gave away our old sofa bed (30 years old and still in good shape). The retreat center gave me some vegetable scraps for compost. I am still mulching with the brewery grains - (feeding the worm overlords).

    community food: sharing garden produce with the neighbors. Tomorrow, we play music at a local orchard and hopefully take home some peaches.

  11. John Edmonds says:

    Dewey is very correct in the dietary suppliment FDA requirements. I did tintures for years but have pulled all my stock and will no longer offer to the public. You sell to the public and you may stay under the radar but you are always be just one phone call from a full investigation and fine. This was the intent of the phased in GMP regulations to run us out of business. There is a far more sinister side to this and that is that these regulations were written and approved by the DRUG INDUSTRY. Who wish to control all food suppliments as well as all drugs available to the US citizen.

  12. Gabrielle says:

    This an update from the last two eventful weeks.


    Harvest—Salad greens—beet greens, butterhead, iceberg, romaine; radishes, peas, spring onions, crookneck squash, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, leeks, two types of kale

    Preserve— I tried to save the seeds of onions and broccoli raab without much luck. The onion flowers that I was watching were abandoned when we had another funeral to attend. The broccoli raab fell over with the weight of the seed heads and I had to remove about half of it from the garden. From what I can tell the seed pods on the rest are a few weeks away from being ready to harvest the seeds, but I’m new at growing it. We’ll see how it goes. I did manage to dry some pea seeds for next year.

    Waste Not/Reduce Waste— We received another small bag of hand-me-downs from a friend at church for our daughter. They gave her a pair of flip flops that had only been worn once, and our daughter was thrilled! Again I resisted the urge to buy a bunch of new clothes for her at Gymboree. I looked in her closet and drawers at what clothes she has for this summer, the fall and winter, and next year. I was pleased to see a lot more than I realized she had. I moved a few of the clothes that she cannot fit into anymore into storage.

    I organized the food and meal prep for VBS at our church this last week. As long as I’ve been involved, they’ve used paper plates and plastic ware. This year, I decided to try to use the real plates and silverware that we have to see how it goes. Overall, it drastically reduced the amount of disposables that would have been used. Instead of using over 100 disposable plates and the equivalent of plastic forks/spoons, we used about 10-15 disposables each night. The kids eat in shifts, and we had enough time to clean the plates and silverware for all but one class. We still used disposables on the last night of the event, but even then we tried to choose options that had less waste (recycled paper napkins, for instance). It might not be perfect, but for feeding so many, we were pretty proud of the progress! The great thing is that we now have more information so that we can expand on this in future years.

    I continue to help with the recycling at our church, and one friend now jokes that I’m the recycling dictator. Hubby and I brought bags and boxes home to recycle for the church, and I was so glad that all of that waste didn’t end up in the landfill.

    Want Not/Prep/Storage—Daughter and I did a major overhaul on her room in preparation of my sister coming into town. Hubby added the next tiers to the potato boxes. The potatoes are growing like crazy this year! I worked on getting the bookshelves looking a little neater, which also entailed gleaning some of the many, many pieces of art our daughter makes.

    Building Community Food Systems— Our church was highlighted in the local paper for its money saving efforts. In the article the reporter talked about our church garden and how we use it to help others. Two of the older ladies in our church were photographed, and they talked about how special it made them feel to be phoned by so many friends who had read the article.

    I worked in the food pantry to make up some boxes for easy distribution. I brought lettuce from the church garden to a local senior apartment complex. I organized the food for VBS, mentioned above, and brought salad from our home garden to serve with a pasta dish we had one night. I’m going to encourage the group to have VBS a few weeks later next year if possible so that we can benefit from having more fresh fruits and vegetables in season and ready for use.

    We continue to attend the local farmers markets on the weekends when we are in town. In one of my weekly blog posts that highlights deals at local grocery stores, I’ve made a special section that tells readers the kinds of foods that they can look for at the market that week. So many people say that they do not know what is in season and when, and the response from readers has been that this is helpful.

    Eat the Food— The shitake mushrooms on the grill were delicious, and each time we eat them, I’m so proud that I made the mushroom log with my own two hands. I also made some potato and kale soup, which my dad says is now his favorite soup ever. The stir fry that I made on Sunday was probably my favorite one I’ve ever made. With all of the colors and textures of veggies from the garden mixed with the brown rice and a bit of chicken, it was wonderful.

  13. Sharon says:

    Dewey and John, I know that the GMP standards are applicable - I’m actually more concerned with the farmer’s market standards ;-) , since I’m going to be breaking federal law anyway. I agree that the problem is awful, and the situation awful, but I don’t think anything will be helped by my not making them.

    I know better than to make health claims and am definitely sticking with “culinary” implications -because, after all, everyone wants to add valerian extract to their muffins, right? Mmmm…smelly feet flavored muffins ;-) .

    But hey, there’s no accounting for taste.


  14. Sharon says:

    Karen, thanks for the info - I’m still sort of hoping someone knows one of the farms personally, but that will be my next resource. Icelandic sheepdogs are so cute - but until Mac the Pyr fully masters his projects I don’t think I can handle another dog!

    Thank you!


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