Archive for August 16th, 2010

Independence Days Update: Waning Summer

Sharon August 16th, 2010

Looking at the forecast I’m hopeful that the worst of the blazing summer is behind us - we’re still very far behind on rain, but have gotten enough to sort of make do.  While the hot dry weather has been wonderful for things like tomatoes, okra, hot peppers and melons, I’m pretty much ready to be done with it, especially since teh canning is getting pretty heavy duty.

I picked a bushel of tomatoes today to put up, and I only stoppped because I didn’t want to deal with more than a bushel.  Then I got a phone call from my favorite local farmstand, where I forgot I’d reserved myself several bushels of tomatoes earlier in the season, thinking I might not have this good a crop if thigns turned wet and cool (last year I didn’t put up nearly enough, so I was hedging my bets) - guess what, they’ve got those three bushels of tomatoes for me.  Oops.

So salsa and ketchup, sauce and whole tomatoes it is.  If you are looking for me, I’ll be behind the canning kettle.  There are also the cucumbers, but I’m in denial about those for the moment.

Yesterday was my 38th birthday, and it was not wholly successful.  First of all, I’d spent Saturday night up with a laboring goat.  This one, Selene, has lingering neurological damage and weakness from her bout with meningeal parasite, and our concern was that she might have trouble delivering, even though she can pretty much everything else.  The vet had been encouraging about breeding her, and friends with a goat who also had the same problems had had good luck, but hey, I was nervous.  So when I woke at 12:30 and checked the barn, I stayed out with Selene.

It turned out she was completely fine, except that the buck kid she delivered was huge (I had thought she was going to have triplets) - in fact, he’s bigger than the triplets born a whole week before him.  But with enough time and maternal discomfort, out popped Heliotrope.  We had agreed we would keep one wether, to use as a transitional goat when one of the boys is in with the ladies, so that we never have to keep a goat solo, and after witnessing the amount of trouble he gave Selene, we’ve decided he wins, and we’ll keep him. Selene does not give birth to buck quality goats, but he’s cute and she’s the best and most devoted mother we have. 

So Saturday night was no sleep.  Sunday morning was supposed to be me getting to do whatever we wanted, but my friend Jesse, who I’ve known and loved for 19 years now left a message on our machine.  You see Jesse had stopped by on a trip west a couple of weeks before, and because he missed the kids, promised he’d stop for a bit on his way back.  Although he was meeting up with friends and his fiancee, we were told it would just be him, and he would arrive sometime late on Saturday.

Well, Saturday passed and we wondered where Jesse was. Late that night we got a phone message from him, announcing that he, his fiancee and two other people I’d never met would be arriving at 11:30 on Sunday.  Oh, and despite 19 years of friendship, it was pretty clear he’d forgotten it was my birthday.  So much of the morning was spent preparing for four people to arrive at lunchtime.  And plotting the ass-kicking Jesse was going to get.

As it turned out, while I still would have preferred not to spend the morning cooking and cleaning, it was lovely - the two friends were lovely and one of them, realizing that it was birthday, announced he had a case of Blue Moon Ale in his car he was looking to drop off - the birthday beer fairy arrived!  So it was pretty awesome.  We had a lovely lunch and pie from the local farmstand (the one now holding unbelievable quantities of tomatoes for me).  The afternoon of my birthday was spent cooking for a friend’s shiva minyan (mourning prayer gathering), since our friend had lost her mother earlier in the week, but we’d planned that.

All of which is a really wordy way of saying that one of these days, I’m supposed to get a birthday day in which I get to goof off a lot.  That said, however, with the mountain of tomatoes facing me, I think that might be, say, in December.

Otherwise, things are quiet - we’re milking again, but most of the does are mostly feeding their babies as yet.  The milk quantities will rise gradually over the next few months, in time for some lovely fall cheesemaking.  

Much of what we’re doing is infrastructure re-working and planning for next year’s farm projects.  We’re working on ways to use the CSA model, which I love, without running a conventional vegetable CSA - we did that for four years, and for any number of reasons, I don’t want to do it any more.  But I love the CSA connection, and the way it ties you to your customers.   I also, being a lazy slacker type, like the ways it forces me to structure my time - once you’ve committed to delivery and specific dates, you have to make that work.

We’re considering three CSA model projects.  The first I’ve talked about here before - a seed starting CSA.  I’ll send out a list of varieties and various options on numbers of plants in December and January, and start seeds for people. I love seed starting, and always start insanely too many, so this appeals to me as an excuse basically to grow more stuff.  This will supplement the plants we’ll also sell at farmer’s market.

Second, if we can pull this off, we’re considering working out a schechting workshop with the only conservative schochet in the US, who teaches “slaughter your own” in a kosher style, and setting up kosher (by the standards of Jews who would accept meat slaughtered on farm by a woman and a Conservative, rather than Orthodox Jew - this is a complicated and fraught subject), organic, free range poultry CSA.   This would be a small and specialized market, but it is one we want to serve precisely because it isn’t being served.  We’d slaughter monthly and deliver poultry to our customers for six months - mostly chicken, but duck and turkey as well.  This exercise is more speculative, because it requires that we find a clientele in our area that want what we can offer, accept its limitations, and want to support it.    But the cost of on-farm kosher slaughter through traditional methods in the Jewish community is prohibitive, and that leaves most people buying meat from far away, if they can get organic kosher meat at all - or they buy kosher industrial.  In our case, we schecht our own, but at this stage I won’t do it for anyone else because I don’t feel I’m expert enough.

Finally, I’m thinking about a medicinal herb CSA, and one that could be done mostly by mail, since these are small, light items.  I’d have two tracks - one for practitioners and one for home use, and it would include a monthly delivery of appropriate herbs as they are harvested and dried, tinctured or turned into creams or oils.  I could also make up small themed mail-order medicinal gardens using plants as well, to get people started in growing their own. 

What I love about the CSA is that it connects me to my customers in deep ways - I get to learn what they need and want, and how to get closer to that, and they get tied to the farm and learn about what we’re experiencing.  So I’m experimenting with ideas that would allow me to bring these things together.  I haven’t yet, however, figured out how to make a goat CSA ;-) .

What else is up here on the farm?  Not a whole lot - the boys are done with a month of camp and swimming lessons, so there’s some more quiet time, and at the end of this week, Eli will be done with his summer program.  The latter is a mixed blessing, since Eli really doesn’t enjoy disruptions in his routine, and making sure his needs are met will take more time and energy - but at the same time, it is nice to have him more fully integrated into our day to day life.

I’m starting to feel the real press of autumn coming on - particularly since the Jewish holidays are so early this year (that, of course, is misnomer - they fall the same way they always do by the lunar calendar, but since we use a solar calendar they seem that way ;-) ) - September will be mostly taken up by holidays.  This is nice in many ways, because it means October will be more laid back, and while we’re eating outside in the Sukkah, it should be warm enough to be pleasant, but it means that school, the holidays and everything else come bang up against us in a just a few week’s time.  Have I prepared my homeschool stuff for this year?  Nope.  Have I ordered firewood yet?  Bought the winter’s hay?  Dealt with the damned tomatoes?  Nope.  Better get cracking!

Plant something: lettuce, spinach, arugula, chives, green onions, peas (for pea shoots, not peas at this point), broccoli raab.

Harvest something: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, onions, carrots, beets, kale, chard, peaches, green beans, summer squash, cabbage, lettuce, fennel, cucumbers, peppermint, vervain, anise hyssop, betony, dill, sage, pennyroyal, holy basil, basil, oregano, thyme, gotu kola, spilanthes, blackberries

Preserve something: Tinctured spilanthes, vervain, gotu kola, thyme. Made ketchup and salsa, dried peppers, dried peaches, dried tomatoes, made blackberry jam.

Waste Not: Collected the first batch of dried leaves off someone else’s yard - yay, free organic matter!  Otherwise, the usual composting, not wasting food, etc…

Want Not: Began to clean out my attic. That will be a job.  Many interesting things to be found, I suspect. I’m looking specifically for canning jars - I know I have a couple more boxes hiding in there somewhere, and I’m nearly out of pint jars.

Eat the Food: Gorged on blackberries - straight, as cobbler, as sauce over ice cream, in cake.  We’re a bit cold for blackberries here, and the only picking place is kind of a haul, so we are only going once.  So we might as well enjoy!  We’ve been eating tons of what I call “tomato goop” although frankly, it needs a better name that is truly evocative of its awesomeness.  All it is is sliced tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and breadcrumbs, cooked in the solar oven until it is all soft and served over toast.  Yum!

Build community food systems: Gave a couple of local talks about gardening.

How about you?