Quick update!

So much is going on…

We made an offer on a house in Charlottesville! Honestly, as a Hokie, I never, in a million years, thought I would be excited about living in Who-ville, but really – this place is going to be amazing. It’s a fixer-upper, and a foreclosure… Translation: Great deal, wonderful location, and all-around lucky find. Barring any catastrophes, we’re excited to close July/August! (I’ll share some pictures after our visit this weekend)

Our mama hen hatched a chick! With moving, worrying about moving chickens, and an 8-chicken massacre on Mother’s Day, were weren’t really planning on having any babies this summer. But our mama was determined – and lucky. I gave her a “what the heck” egg 2 days after the killing spree (which took out our two roosters), and thought there was no way she’d get that egg to hatch. So, last night Tripp said she was on the floor of the coop, instead of in her nesting box, and the egg was gone. I told him she’d probably “done away with it,” as she did last summer (twice). But when he went in today to close everyone in for the drive tomorrow, he heard a little cheeping and realized he’s scooped up a chick with Mama. That girl is tenacious! I can’t wait to meet the little one tomorrow after my hennies make their way down to good ole’ Virginny!

We’re staying with my dad right now, getting acclimated to our new “home,” and taking it easy. We left PA in a bit of a rush as my dear old kitty came down with a serious bladder/kidney infection that caused serious urination…”issues”… just as we put our sweet little home on the market. Fearing her lack of bladder control might turn into a complete basement remodel, we opted to pack up and hunker down here in VA. She got better quickly with antibiotics, and we sold the house the week after we got here! Now we’re just waiting to close on the PA house, and then the VA house.

We visited the Scottsville Farmer’s Market today! It has really grown since we went last summer – SO many new faces, and so much good, local food! Not all organic, but enough was, and for really good prices. I even got a hookup for some raw milk! It was a good day.

The kids are settling in but really missing their friends (as am I). We’re about 45 minutes from the new house, so it’s tricky figuring out where to “get involved.” I’m planning to sign them up for swim lessons at my first favorite place in Central VA, and we’re looking for a place to take horseback riding lessons. Since we all want a horse and pony ASAP, I figured they should learn how to take care of one – and ride! So excited.

Walnut Creek Park

Swimming Lessons in a lake @ Walnut Creek Park

Homemade Ramen Noodles

I thought it would be fun to share a simple homemade ramen recipe with you today, but as I started, I realized I needed to share another recipe with you at the same time.

Homemade Ramen Noodles

Ingredients
4 cups chicken stock*
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. salt
1 carrot, sliced thin
Chinese curly noodles
Chives
2-3 cloves garlic

Directions

  1. Add stock, spices, salt and carrot to a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. When the carrots seem almost cooked, add noodles and continue to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  3. When noodles are cooked through, add chives and garlic. Serve.

I have only ever found the curly noodles at Wegman’s, so let us know in the comments if you’ve come across them elsewhere. and the Chinese Five Spice is something I purchase in bulk from Frontier Co-op, though I’m sure you can buy it in smaller quantities in a well-stocked gourmet or whole food market. Or you could make your own!

*For about a year and a half (?) I’ve been making chicken stock with the carcass of a Farmer’s Market chicken. We roast the chicken first, or sometimes I just part it, and then use the bones, skin, neck, entrails – whatever is leftover – to make nutrient-rich, delicious chicken stock. There are lots of different ways to do it, and many recipes, but this is what works for us. And, like so many other “recipes,” I work with what I have and leave everything else out if I don’t have it. I think it’s still healthier than anything I could buy in the supermarket…

Homemade Chicken Stock

homemade chicken stock setup

Decanting 1 quart of stock

Ingredients
1 chicken carcass
water
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped

Directions

  1. Place the chicken carcass in a 6-quart crockpot and cover with water.
  2. Add chopped veggies and cook on low for 24 hours.
  3. Using a ladle, remove 1 quart stock and then add more water to the crockpot. {I use a fine mesh sieve to catch any of the chicken or veg bits and then add that sludge back to the pot. See photo.}
  4. Next day, same time, remove another quart of stock and add more water.
  5. I usually do it for a total of 3 quarts.

I’ve taken more each day and find that it gets very thin. Taking only 1 quart yields a dark, rich stock. We use the stock when cooking grains like rice or barley for dinner and as the base for soups. During the cold winter, it’s lovely to take a scoop, add some salt, and sip it like tea. Truly a homemade super food.

Ten Reasons to drink Bone Broth {chicken stock} from KitchenStewardship.com:

1. Immunity Boosting Fat
The yellow fat from pastured chickens holds immune boosting powers that are only the tip of the iceberg in the power of a properly prepared chicken stock to keep you from getting the next cold or other bug that flies through your house.

2. Warm Liquid is Soothing
It’s okay to mention the obvious. There are plenty of other immune-boosting strategies, like apple cider vinegar water, using lots of raw garlic, and taking fermented cod liver oil, but the soothing feel of a warm liquid on a cold day can’t be beat. (You’ll still want FCLO from Green Pasture for the Vitamins A and D and omega 3s, but you might not want to sip it as you sit at the computer!)

3. Super Mineral Boost
Bone broth contains minerals from the bones that are not only abundant but easy to assimilate into our bodies (unlike the whole mess with whole grains and phytic acid and such – see the soaking grains series for more info on that). Minerals that will help you stay in optimal health include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • other trace minerals

SEVEN more reasons here!

What in the world am I doing?

It’s the end of August, and another summer not living on a farm is almost gone. In April we “moved to town,” and I tried to figure out how that could be a step in the right direction. Although our chickens are living on someone else’s farm and my neighbors are less than 100 feet away all around us, I do feel closer to realizing my farm dream. Since March I have been working for Barefoot Gardens, a small market garden within the borough limits of Doylestown, PA. Eric and Linda grow vegetables for the Farmer’s Market, a local food distributor and at least one restaurant. They grow everything from roots, to greens, to herbs, and flowers. Linda operates a small herbal shop in town where she is able to offer her clients medical advice as well as homegrown herbs and remedies.

Starting in March gave me an opportunity to see the growing season from the very start. I spent my first few weeks freezing my rump in the unheated greenhouse, seeding most of what we would be growing throughout the season. Lettuce, onions, and kale, and eventually tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. My fingers were numb, but all that quiet, one-on-one time allowed me to ask 100s of questions. Why this variety and not another? Why seed into this size tray and not the bigger one? How do you know when to transplant? Why a market-based CSA this year? On an on it went, for days, weeks!

In April and May we spent more time seeding and some time transplanting those little seedlings to the field. My first few beds were terrible, due to my inexperience, of course, but also the age of the seedlings. Many farmers experienced the same long, cool, wet spring we had, so getting transplants into the ground was often a race against the rain. My little Cauliflowers, Broccolis and Kohlrabis were too small to transplant into the 6-inch holes our transplanter made. Fortunately, my teacher was very patient and encouraging, and even though the Cauliflower and Broccoli were overcome by weeds and never harvested (!!!), the Kohlrabi was a huge success at market. As we started transplanting lettuce {1-inch blocks of soil}, we realized the 6-inch holes {filled with water} were just not going to work. So we devised a quick-fix out in the field. We raised the transplanter wheels so they wouldn’t pierce the ground, but we kept the water turned on. As we drove down the beds, the water trickled along and I was able to plug the tiny lettuces into the soil very easily. This method also allowed us to plant at a little closer spacing – we used 4″ spacing on one variety! I wouldn’t recommend that going forward though: our weeding tools were too wide to fit between the heads of lettuce. Depending on your tools, I wouldn’t recommend anything closer than 6″. The soil does have to be pretty soft to make that work effectively too – we tried in rain packed soil and were nearly breaking our fingers!

In June it was time to start harvesting. And weeding. And harvesting. And weeding. Luckily our crew grew from 2 to 6 people so all that work was spread out just a little. Our ages range from a freshman in college to a university english professor, and we have a great time together. I learned more about managing farm employees, managing the workload, and what a hot, humid summer can do to your plants – or rather your WEEDS! I got to pound 6-foot tomato stakes into the ground in 90+ degree weather. And then I got to see what happens when you don’t have time to string up those tomatoes! Harvesting from plants that are not trellised is my number one mistake to watch out for in the Owl Moon Farms Garden.

When the Farmer’s Market started I was responsible for posting the week’s Harvest List on the farm’s Facebook page. Posting the list on Thursday or Friday let the CSA customers know what to expect at market, and allowed them to plan to arrive early if necessary. One downside of a Market-based CSA is that your members are competing with the other market goers for the best selection of produce. Our market opens at 7am, so unless you’re a really early bird, you might miss something like Asparagus or Strawberries or even Lettuce which often sold out by 9:30am. We talked about putting out half of the veggies at 7 and half later, but that never really happened. Our market stand was always one of the busiest and we just didn’t have time to make a run back to the farm.

My other responsibility during the market season was to find, format and provide recipes for one or two veggies that were new to the stand. Many CSAs do something like this throughout their harvest season, either through a weekly newsletter {emailed or included in the share box}. With such a small team, Barefoot Gardens doesn’t have a history of consistent communication with CSA members, so if recipes were going to happen, I had to print them and bring them myself. Luckily, customers seemed to really appreciate it – especially if they hadn’t seen a particular vegetable before. “Oh, these are Fava Beans?!?! How should I cook them??” “Why, here’s a recipe to try!” I did Kohlrabi, Asparagus, Kale, Zucchini, Squash Blossoms and more.

So, even though I don’t live on my own farm yet, I’ve finally become a farmer, and it feels great. I’ve been seeding, planting, growing, harvesting, weeding, and composting two days a week since March and I feel confident that I could handle a fairly large garden plot.

What’s in Season?

Each month I will share a little bit about a garden veggie that is in season where I live {Eastern PA}. Some of them I have grown myself, some I have grown at work, but all of them I have cooked and eaten. Look for these at your nearest Farmer’s Market or wherever you buy fresh, local produce!

What’s in season in June? Kohlrabi!

kohlrabi from nuttykitchen.com

White Kohlrabi {photo credit: nuttykitchen.com}

It’s almost summer time, so the Farmer’s Market stands are really starting to fill in. Cool weather means the brassica-family plants (broccoli, cabbage, etc) are still mild and sweet, but as the heat of summer hits, many of these will begin to “bolt,” or direct their energy to growing seeds, rather than developing tender, yummy fruit.

Kohlrabi is a new vegetable to many first-time CSA members and farmer’s market visitors, but its versatility makes it a perfect candidate for culinary experimentation. Delicious raw, pickled, or in stirfrys, Kohlrabi is easy to grow and even easier to eat!

Thinking about growing kale in your garden this year?
Kohlrabi grows in loose, average soil. For a spring crop, direct-sow seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost; plant ¼ inch deep, 10 seeds per foot. Or start seedlings for a fall crop indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost. When seedlings are around 4 inches tall, thin plants to (or set out transplants at) 5 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart. Keep plants well watered and free of weeds; put down a mulch to help accomplish both tasks. Cultivate carefully to keep from damaging the delicate, shallow roots. Use young leaves in salads and stir-fries. Harvest immature “bulbs” when they are no more than 2 inches in diameter, cutting the stems 1 inch below the swollen stem. Remove the leaf stems and leaves, and use the remaining stem as you would turnips. Kohlrabi will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator and for several months in a cold, moist, root cellar. {http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/kohlrabi-growing-guide}

Need a recipe?
I made these last summer and enjoyed them for many weeks. We eat most of our kohlrabi raw with homemade hummus, but if you’re looking for something a little different, give these yummy pickles a try! This recipe makes one quart of pickles.

fridge pickled kohlrabi and carrots

photo credit: beckyintherootcellar.com

Fridge Pickled Kohlrabi and Carrots

Ingredients:

4 small kohlrabi
2 large carrots
2 Tbsp. salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. pickling or kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dill seeds
1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
6 black pepper corns, crushed

Start by peeling and slicing the kohlrabi. Place in a colander and salt with 2 Tbsp. salt. Allow the kohlrabi to sit for an hour. In the meantime, peel your carrots and cut into sticks. Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan. When kohlrabi is done draining, rinse and pack with carrots into a quart jar. Boil remaining ingredients until all of the salt and sugar are dissolved and pour over carrots and kohlrabi. Cover and allow to cool on the counter then refrigerate. Let this sit in the fridge for two days before jumping in.