10.06.2015

Putting By the Harvest

I put an extra quilt on the bed last week and even turned on the furnace one morning when we woke up to the house at fifty degrees.  But we are still keeping watch for frost, waiting for winter to arrive.  I have crested the ridge of putting food by and find the downward slope leaves enough time to write.

Foy Update: Canned Goods in the Pantry 2015
The canned goods in the basement pantry as of the beginning of October 2015

It was a wet spring, which caused flooding at some farms near by.  Our quarter acre with the house and garden are raised above the street level, a side effect of the house preexisting the road.  The garden only benefited from the constant moisture.

We more than doubled the size of the home garden by extending our three existing beds and adding a fourth.  Most of the added space was planted with potatoes.  It might be fair to refer to this year as The Year of the Potato.

Here's what the garden looked like full swing in August.  Next year I'll have to get out the step ladder when taking photos so you can see more detail.

Foy Update: Home Vegetable Garden in August 2015
Our home vegetable garden in August

If it hadn't been for the cutworms we would have easily had one of the best harvests I've ever grown. However, I was determined to get my plants in the ground before I started working on the farms for the summer and so we planted all the tomatoes on May 15th.  And then replanted them over and over again for the next couple weeks as critters cut them off at their base over and over again.  With the help of my lovely online community I learned that getting the tomatoes in the ground early put them in the path of the cutworms who do their cutting for a couple weeks before they pupate into uninspiring, drab moths.  Once I fashioned a bunch of yogurt containers to make collars around the seedlings, we had an effective barrier, and finally our tomatoes got growing.  However, by then we were farther behind then if we had waited to plant until June.

We still harvested quite a few tomatoes.  From the ten San Marzano type paste tomato plants, we yielded perhaps a bushel (45-50 pounds), part of which are currently stewing on my stove.  I tried a new kind of grape tomato called 'Five Star'.  They were quite expensive and quite disappointing in both yield and flavor.  I will be sticking to the heirloom 'Jasper' instead which I grew for the second year and produced lots of tasty, tiny cherry tomatoes.  The ones we didn't eat fresh were dehydrated and frozen for future use as sun dried tomatoes.  For Jeff, I also grew four 'Sun Gold' cherry tomato plants which are delicious, but suffered for their late start and they never really got going so the yield was low.  We also had some kind of blight going on.

Foy Update: Blighted San Marzano Paste Tomatoes 2015
San Marzanos looking a little blighted in late summer 2015

I knew I wasn't growing as many tomatoes as I wanted to put up, so over the last couple weeks I procured another two bushels of paste tomatoes and turned them into pizza sauce and enchilada sauce.  I would still like to make some Kingsolver sauce, assuming I can get another bushel from one of the farms.  That and some apples for apple sauce and I will be done putting up food for the fall.

I didn't try any new preserving recipes this year, rather I did all of recipes I have liked in the past.  I filled all my quart jars.  There are enough empty pints left to get by.  My only innovation was making raspberry/strawberry/blueberry jam.  I didn't mean to make it.  I was trying to half a recipe for raspberry jam, when I dumped a whole recipe worth of pectin into the pot of bubbling fruit.  So I dug around in the freezer and found a partial bag of last year's strawberries and some blueberries we picked in Michigan this summer.  The Rasp-Straw-Blue Berry jam turned out better than expected.

Foy Update: Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans
Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans

Both the refrigerator and chest freezer have been rearranged several times to make room for the zip-lock bags of pesto, bell peppers, green beans, red noodle beans, zucchini and dried tomatoes.

Foy Update: 'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' Potato Harvest 2015
'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' potato harvest

We have boxes of potatoes in the garage, probably in excess of 200 pounds.  I am enjoying having a pretty variety to cook.  I grew 'All Blue', 'Adirondack Red', 'German Butterball' and 'Kennebeck'.

Foy Update: Winter Squash Harvest 2015

This weekend I brought in the winter squash.  I grew butternut and spaghetti squash.  I'll be curious to see how long it takes us to eat them all.  If you follow me on FaceBook or Instagram you probably saw the boxes stored in our guest bedroom.

I regret not having room for sweet potatoes in the garden this year.  If 200 pounds of potatoes proves to be too much, I will be changing some of the garden square footage from potatoes to sweet potatoes next year.

And that's something I didn't hadn't fully grasp until just now.  I can write down how many pounds and quarts of each vegetable I put by, but I won't know if that was a good amount for our family until next spring.  This is the first year I may have grown more than our family can eat.  Or maybe we will have some of the harvest rot in storage before we can eat them.  That's my worst nightmare; do all the work of planting, tending, harvesting, storing and then have it go bad.

This creates a whole new dilemma.  I'm not sure how to store crops like potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic for a long time.  In the past, we have always eaten the dry storage produce by Christmas.   I have been asking around and it seems like a root cellar would be great idea, but we don't have one.  I will have to make do with a detached garage, a warm basement and a guest bedroom that could be unheated.  I have fantasies about sectioning off the old coal shoot in the basement to make a cold storage room.  I feel like a serious gardener now that dreams include building a root cellar.

For my future self and those of you interested, I am going to end this post with a spread sheet of our harvests since we started gardening at this house (2012-2015).

Foy Update: Harvest Data from 2012-2015 for our home garden
Click to see enlarge

It's been a busy growing year and I'm excited to try going even bigger next year.  

6.29.2015

Friday Farm Lunches - Summer Seasonal Recipes

One of my favorite parts of the week has become making lunch for the Hawkins Farm crew on Fridays.  I do my best to use produce and meat from their farm, filling in the gaps with goodies from Joy Field and RiverRidge Farms, the cracks that are left are filled in with dairy and grains from the local bulk food store run by a family in town.  It's as local as I know how to make it.  

For my own records, and because folks ask for the recipes, I am writing up a little blog post with photos of the lunches and links to the recipes.
Asparagus Cream Cheese Quiche from FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Asparagus Cream Cheese Quiche from FoyUpdate.blogspot.com


Friday, May 29, 2015


Quiche: I used the quiche Lorraine recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I did change up the fillings.  There was a leek and goat cheese, an asparagus and cream cheese and lastly a sun-dried tomato, goat cheese and spinach.

Quick Collards: Blanch 2 pounds of kale for 7 minutes, dunk them in a cold water bath until cool to the touch, use your hands to wring them out, rough chop, sautee to coat with 3 tablespoons lard, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Add a 1/2 cup chicken stock, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes or so.  Then serve, pass with lemon wedges.

Cucumber slices: the first of the season from RiverRidge Farm.

Rhubarb crisp (passed with cream): 
Topping
½ cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup melted butter
Filling
4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
½ t cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine rhubarb, sugar, flour and cinnamon and put into 8" x 8" x 2" glass baking dish.
Combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats and melted butter and sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture.
Bake 35 minutes.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Zach Hawkins preparing a pizza at Hawkins Family Farm - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Zach Hawkins preparing a pizza at Hawkins Family Farm


Pizza from Hawkins Farm (secret recipe (which means I don't know it))


Lettuce Salad with radishes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs, accompanied by Creamy Pesto Dressing - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Lettuce Salad with radishes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs, accompanied by Creamy Pesto Dressing

Salad: Butter lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, hard boiled egg


Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup butter (2 stick)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup old fashion rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Mix the flour salt and baking soda.
Heat the butter in microwave until it softens, then mix in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add in the dry mix then fold in the oats and chocolate. Bake for 9-11 minutes.



Friday, June 12, 2015



LLunch with the Hawkins Family Farm crew - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Lunch with the Hawkins Family Farm crew

Shredded Chicken - Boiled 3 small chickens from frozen then took off the meat and used the bones and some carrots, onions and bay leaf to make stock.  

Polenta and Roasted Veggies: spring onions, summer squash, radishes via this recipe from my blog

Spinach Au Gratin from Ina Garten, The FoodNetwork - might have to become a Thanksgiving recipe, it was seriously good.  Also, I couldn't find Gruyere so I used extra sharp cheddar cheese.  

Macerated Strawberries with Vanilla Ice-cream and Oatmeal Cookies


Macerated Strawberries with vanilla ice-cream and an oatmeal cookie - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Macerated Strawberries with vanilla ice-cream and an oatmeal cookie

Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Mix the butter and sugars until smooth; add in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the flower, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, then combine it with the butter mixture. Fold in the oats and nuts.
Ball and place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Roasted Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce, roasted broccoli and sauteed snap peas - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Roasted Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce, roasted broccoli and sauteed snap peas


Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Garlic Scapes and Grapefruit

Sweet Onion Rhubarb Sauce from EatingWell.com - This was a huge hit, everyone loved it!

Roasted Broccoli from Alton Brown

Snap Peas Sauteed in Butter

Garlic-Scape Compound Buttered Bread - A tasty way to keep your scapes longer, put them in butter.  Garlic scapes uncooked are pretty hot, like spicy hot.  I buttered the bread and then wrapped it in tinfoil so it could heat up and cook for the last 15 minutes in the oven at the end of baking the lasagna.  I have also used the compound butter on top of boiled new potatoes, so good!

1/3 part salted butter, softened to room temperature 
1/3 part shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/3 part chopped garlic scapes 
Olive Oil 
In a food processor or blender add butter, cheese and garlic scapes, drizzle in olive oil as needed to get the mixture to blend.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.   
Chocolate Beet Cake from Joy the Baker - more of a novelty than an amazing dessert.  If you try this recipe, becareful not to over bake and dry out the cake.  It's honestly better the second and third day, so don't be shy of making this ahead.  


Friday, June 26, 2015


Vegetarian Lasagna with Lettuce Salad, Creamy Italian Dressing, Garlic Scape Bread and Hot Milk Cupcakes - FoyUpdate
Vegetarian Lasagna with Lettuce Salad, Creamy Italian Dressing, Garlic Scape Bread and Hot Milk Cupcakes


Vegetarian Lasagna

preheat 3500F
½ cup Onion, diced
2 cups Carrots, grated
½ lb. Mushrooms, sliced
1 T olive oil
24 oz. spaghetti sauce
6 oz. tomato paste
1 small can sliced olives drained
1 lb. fresh spinach
2 layers raw lasagna noodles
16. oz. cottage cheese
2 cups Monterey jack cheese sliced
Top with Parmesan cheese.
Sauté onion, carrot, and mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Add spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and olives simmer for 10-15 min. Layer in 9 x 12 or 10x13 pan.
1/3 vegetable sauce
noodles
1/2 cheese
1/2 spinach
1/3 vegetable sauce
noodles
1/2 cheese
1/2 spinach
1/3 vegetable sauce
Top with Parmesan cheese, cover, and bake at 350ºF for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and let stand for 5 minutes
.

Bread with Garlic Scape Compound Butter (see previous week's lunch for recipe)

Romaine Lettuce Salad with shredded carrots, thin sliced red onions and diced tomatoes

Creamy Italian Dressing from Ree Drummond - an excellent easy dressing

Hot Milk Cake
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ t baking powder
1 ¼ cups milk
10 T butter, cubed
Preheat 350°F
In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth.
In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined.


Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan.

So that's what I have made the first five weeks for this summer!  

6.09.2015

First Weeks of My Three Farm Internship


My body is so tired and sunburned!  I have completed the first weeks of my self-built internship here in northeast Indiana.  Each week I put in a full day at Joy Field Farm, RiverRidge Farm and Hawkins Family Farm, plus making lunch for the Hawkins Farm workers on Fridays.  And although I put on sunscreen and think of myself as physically active, what with carrying around two kids, I was in sorry shape by the end of the week.

These last nights I have been laying down tired of body, but my mind is not ready to sleep. It is spinning with thoughts.  These thoughts are not a cohesive story, but I don't want to lose any of these beginning observations so I'm just going to plunk them down with subheadings and hopefully revisit them with more depth at a later time.

Weeded Chard Joy Field Farm 3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
A row of weeded chard at Joy Field Farm.

There is More Than One Way to Weed and Mulch


Or perhaps every farm has its own weeding philosophy.

At Joy Field consideration is given to volunteer seedlings.  A knowledge of seedlings, wild edibles, and annual flowers is required.  I have learned that Sweet Annie is indeed sweet smelling, and stinging nettles do indeed sting.  The Kindys choose to leave many flowers and volunteer edibles between and in the rows.

Leaf mold and straw are used as mulch to hold in moisture and keep the plants warm.  Long straw is used for potatoes, tomatoes and okra, broken (short) straw for onions and leaf mold for the walk ways.  The Kindys always mulch after a nice soaking rain to lock in as much moisture in as possible.  

At Hawkins Farm the rows are long, 100 feet I'm guessing, and weeding is done by hand nearest the seedlings and with a hula hoe or wire weeder for the farther areas, large swaths are done with a walking tractor.  This year they are not putting straw around the potatoes, opting for row covers for the early season instead.

At RiverRidge Farm plastic is often used as a mulch to create a barrier for soil born disease and to suppress weeds and insects, almost all crops are on drip irrigation.    Planting and harvesting are the primary order of the day and weeding commences when those jobs are done.  On the two days I have worked so far, we harvested until 2:00 pm or so then weeded from mid-afternoon until quitting time at 5:00.  I have also seen straw around the potatoes at this farm.

Go Barefoot, Bleed a Little, Permanent Dirt 


Jeff Hawkins said at lunch that he bleeds a little every week.  It was only mentioned in passing, but I understand what he means.  Farming is physical labor.  I have bruises I don't remember getting and scratches from unknown sources.  I try to remember my gloves, especially for weeding but I constantly have dirt under my nails and on the pad of my thumb and forefinger.

The safety manager in me cringes at the thought of working barefoot.  However, I have seen folks at all three farms working with all their piggies out.  In most cases, where folks are working barefoot there is little risk, no machinery being used, no hoes or other sharp implements being used at foot level.  There is the risk of metal ground cloth staples, irrigation, broken glass and/or sharp rocks at each place.

I find my feet are too tender to spend all day barefoot.  I have chosen a middle ground.  In the morning, when we harvest lettuce at RiverRidge, I prefer bare feet.  The space between rows is as narrow as a balance beam; shoes seem awkward and blundering.  The carefully cultivated texture of the soil seems damaged more by the sole of a shoe then my foot alone.  Plus my feet experience what the roots of the plants do.    I feel more intimately connected and a part of the garden when I walk the soft rows, warm straw and dewy grass.

Sample as You Work


Taste the herbs, munch on the greens, pluck a snow pea, eat fresh from the garden to know your crops.

One of many large compost piles at Joy Field Farm. #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
One of many large compost piles at Joy Field Farm. 


Building Quality Soil


I hope to learn more about this, but each farm is dedicated to soil improvement.  All of them use cover crops.  

RiverRidge Farm also uses liquids like compost tea and fish emulsion.  I can tell where the fish emulsion has been freshly applied, it smells like the fish house at a lake. It's a friendly smell.  

Hawkins Farm uses animal rotation with the pigs, cows and chicken who add manure to the soil while eating up the weeds and weed seeds.  

Joy Field Farm builds huge walled compost piles designed to hold moisture.  The finished compost is added to the rows before planting.  They also bring in leaves from town to use as mulch that break down adding organic matter to the soil.

Cattle at Hawkins Family Farm - #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Cattle at Hawkins Family Farm

Animals are Integral to the Farm


My knowledge lies mostly with the plants as I have a background in horticulture. It is neat to see the roll cows, chickens and pigs have in keeping a farm and its farmers healthy.  Hawkins have the most land and also the most extensive use of animals.  They use chicken tractors to pasture their meat chickens which I have learned are called pullets.   The turkey, geese and ducks are rotated through the gardens along with a movable hen house, and pastured cows and pigs.  Electric fences make rotation possible.  The animals do a fair job of eating down weeds and their seeds, as well as, consuming the scraps from the kitchen and harvesting.

Joy Field and RiverRidge Farms both have laying hens in permanent structures. The girls get grain feed in addition to lots of beet tops, weeds, lettuce thinnings and whatever else makes its way out of the garden.   

Farm Lunch - Asparagus Quiche at Hawkins Farm #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Farm Lunch - Asparagus Quiche at Hawkins Farm

Give Thanks Before You Eat


I have had the pleasure of eating lunch at each farm.  Each place has its own tradition.  At RiverRidge they speak a prayer over the food offering thanks for the people and nourishment brought together.  At Joyfield they join hands and someone says the first line of a hymn and then together they sing the chorus.  And at Hawkins Farm; Jeff a Lutheran Pastor, creates a rhyme of thanks for the day, reminding those gathered to be present and mindful of the good food, work and folks.   I like the ceremony and the intentional pause to reflect a prayer brings to the meal.

Take Care of Your Neighbors


The first day of my internship, Memorial Day, the Fingerles who are RiverRidge Farm were in a terrible car accident.  Both parents and seven of the eight children were driving home in the van when a car in the opposite lane hit the guard rail and ricocheted into them.  A third vehicle traveling behind them crashed into the wreck hitting the passenger side of their vehicle sending it into the ditch.

Thankfully, no one died and there were no broken bones.   However, three people from the accident, including two of the Fingerles were life-flighted to nearby hospitals.  Word was passed to a prayer line and through social media and soon the entire community, including the other two farms I'm working with, had word.

I wasn't scheduled to start with RiverRidge until the coming Thursday.  I was worried I would be in the way, and that they wouldn't have time to train the new girl with all the chaos that follows something like that. Luckily, they employ a neighbor who was there to show me the ropes and together we worked a long day restocking the farm store.  I was glad to be of service.

It was humbling to see their community rally around them.  Their nine year old daughter came out and talked with us while we were harvesting radishes.  She listed off all the prepared food that had been brought by and spoke with amazement that she didn't have to help with the dishes as the family had been eating off disposable plates another thoughtful neighbor had given.  A steady stream of friends and extended family came by through out the day and each found someway to lighten the load: pushing the lawn mower, sitting with the younger children, folding the laundry.   There is  grace in the act of helping a friend, and also in the act of accepting help.

I will continue writing as I can this summer to share my experiences on the farms.  To find other posts about this experience on the blog and social media search 3farmsummer (#3farmsummer).  

5.23.2015

Three Farm Summer: Hawkins Family Farm

Bringing in the fresh picked vegetables for the CSA shares at Hawkins Family Farm. 

Hawkins is a diversified family farm a couple miles south and east of North Manchester, Indiana.  The red brick farm house is flanked by the pizza oven, farm store, high tunnel green house, vegetable gardens, pasture and barn.

Most days when I turn off the county road and bump down the gravel lane to the farm store, I look to see if the hen house been rotated and if the sides of the movable green houses are rolled up to let air through, usually there is more than one person to greet with a wave.

Hawkin's has two movable, unheated, high tunnel houses to extend the growing season.  
This spring there are more folks around then in years previous.  When I drive in, it seems there isn't an obvious place to park.  I don't want to block the garage; in front of the pizza oven is already full, so I choose the least obtrusive place in front of the barn, trying to leave enough space for another car, truck or tractor to get through.

The farm store is self serve.  Up until this year, the store shared space in the prep kitchen.  This year the building, which also has a workshop type space, has been extended to create more work area and a little room as a dedicated store.  The store is a refrigerator with eggs, cheese and lard, a chest freezer of poultry, and a second standing freezer of pork and beef, as well as, honey and syrup on a narrow shelf.   Everything but the syrup is a product of the farm.

A view from a section of the garden back to the barn and the cattle.  Row covers are used for frost and insect protection. 

Part of what makes Hawkins an exciting farm, is how many different things are happening all with the intention of rejuvenating the land while producing wholesome food for the community.  Jeff and Zach Hawkins (father and son) are actively trying out new ideas.  I should ask them how they classify their farm - diversified family farm is how I am billing them.

The CSA is integral to the farm.  The Hawkins have been selling CSA (community supported agriculture) shares where a family commits to buying a season worth of vegetables and/or meat.  Each share holder receives a weekly bag of the harvest.  They have a pickup location on the farm, as well as, four neighboring town locations.  They also sell meat, eggs and produce to local restaurants and coffee shops.

Sausage pizza from our very first trip to Hawkin's Farm back in 2011.  

During the summer months, when school is out, the farm hosts Fridays on the Farm.  People come from far but mostly near to buy their locally sourced, brick oven pizza and gather on the lawn of the farm house for a picnic.  The cars park along the lane and often when the weather is nicest, a Sold Out sign will be hung at the end of the drive.

When we first started going to pizza on the farm, we didn't know anyone.  Now we spread our blanket on the grass connecting it to a raft of friends' blankets.  We pass side dishes and ask if anyone remembered to bring a bottle opener.  Fern, who was two years old last summer, insisted on seeing the pigs and turkeys before we gathered our things to head home.  We are looking forward to June 5th when pizza season starts again.


From the end of the first full season I helped on the farm. That's me on the far right.

The past couple of years I have worked on the farm in exchange for a half veggie share.   Early this spring I asked if I could work in exchange for a full share including meat.  We agreed I would work 12 weeks over the summer helping pack shares, working in the garden and making lunch once a week for the farm crew.  I am looking forward to learning more about the day to day operations, see how they use a new walking tractor and how they have expanded from last year.

Hawkins Family Farm is one of the three farms I will be working for the summer 2015.  I will profile the other two farms in the coming blog posts.  To read more about what I am up to here is the introductory post:  Internship Plans: Three Farm Summer

4.08.2015

Annual Vegetable Garden Plans for 2015

Home Vegetable Garden Plans- Doubling the size of our vegetable garden to grow more of our own food. From FoyUpdate.blogspot.com


When we bought our house in 2012, I was excited about the big side yard in full sun.  The next year we cut in three beds for our vegetable garden totally 264 square feet of bed space.  This year with the goal of feeding our family locally we are adding a fourth bed and extending the existing beds to give ourselves 480 square feet.  I'm so excited to have almost doubled our annual vegetable space.

Three simple dug vegetable garden beds 22x4 feet each - FoyUpdate


Above is last year's vegetable garden.  To expand we are adding eight feet to each of the three existing beds and adding a fourth bed over on the right.

Jeff measured the beds out Sunday afternoon so we are ready to cut the sod.  In the brief time when both babes were napping Monday I managed to cut the edges of two of the extended beds using a flat shovel.  I had just started pulling up sod chunks when Sunny woke up.  

While I was working with my shovel the neighbors across the way were using a small tractor to level and spread manure on part of their yard.  Machines are faster, they are also expensive and require fuel.  I had to give myself at little pep talk while I worked, "Hand tools will work just fine; and if we keep plugging our little garden plot will get finished same as theirs."  

The 'Kennebec' and 'Red Adirondack' potatoes arrived in the mail from Johnny's Selected Seeds on Saturday.  (Read how I selected my potatoes in this blog post.)  With the seed potatoes sitting in the mudroom sprouting their eyes, now there is an urgency to getting the garden expansion finished.  And I want to have the veggie garden completely started by the time my farm internship starts the last week of May.  

I did plant the 'Kennebec' potatoes on Easter Sunday.  JuneBug, two and a half years old,  helped plant the "tatoes".  I dug the holes and she put the seed potato in and covered it up with her little trowel.  She told me they would be yummy and she would "eat them all up."  

When I sat down to do the garden plan a week or so ago, I realized even with the garden expansion I won't have room for all the vegetables I am planning to grow.  I have a couple options here:  
  1. Make the garden even bigger
  2. Plant less
  3. Plant some of the veggies in the perennial flower bed.  
Right now, I think planting less and putting some of the lettuce mix and other greens in the flower beds makes the most sense.  There might also be a fourth option, succession planting.  I do some succession planting now, but there could be more.  Maybe I'll learn more about that from the farms.  

After sitting down with my garden map I have decided I do not have enough room to grow sweet potatoes.  I just called Johnny's and canceled my order.  I'm a little sad, but also relieved.  Everything else I wanted to grow now fits in the garden.  This will be the year of the potato for us!

Here's the plan:  

Home Vegetable Garden Plan for 2015 - FoyUpdate

Bed 1:
  • 'All Blue' Potatoes
  • 'Adirondack Red' Potatoes
Bed 2: 
  • 'Dukat' Dill
  • 'Kennebec' Potatoes
  • Garlic (from RiverRidge Farm)
  • 'Candy' Onions
  • 'Zeppelin' Onions
  • Basil 'Genovese'
Bed 3: 
  • 'Harmony' Cucumber
  • 'Travoli' Spaghetti Squash
  • 'Metro' Butternut Squash
Bed 4:
  • 'Piasano' San Marzano type paste tomatoes
  • 'Tiren' San Marzano type paste tomatoes
  • 'Jasper' Red cherry tomato
  • 'Five Star' Red grape tomato
  • 'Sun Gold' Yellow cherry tomato
  • 'German Butterball' Potato
  • 'Calypso' Cilantro
  • 'Renegade' Spinach
  • 'Rhubarb Red' Swiss Chard
Now to finish digging out the expansion and additional bed. 

3.31.2015

Internship Plans: Three Farm Summer

My Three Farm Summer Internship in Local Food Producers - FoyUpdate
Packing shares at Hawkin's Family Farm.  I've helped with the CSA since the fall of 2011. 

There are three family farms less than ten miles from our house: RiverRidge Farm, Hawkins Family Farm and Joy Field Farm.  Over the three years we have lived here in northwest Indiana their meat, eggs and produce have made their way into our pantry and onto our table.

They are a friendly bunch of farmers. Whenever I get the chance I corner them with my pressing garden questions including but not limited to: how they store root crops for winter, build their soil and extend the growing season. 

There are many commonalities between these farms beyond their location.  All three are family farms with strong faith, and deep ties to their community.  I have a reading list that will take me years to finish from their recommendations.

They are scholarly agrarians.  Not quite in the way the professors we hang out with are scholarly.  Professors tend to be interested in how to teach a foundation of information for their specialization.  These local food producers are seeking knowledge for practical application: How can we protect the environment through local food production?  How do we feed our community body and soul?  How does working the land put people in greater connection with nature and god?  How do we get good quality food to the people most at risk for food insecurity in our community?  

Last summer I was sitting out on Hawkin's Farm enjoying a pizza from their brick oven, hanging out with family and friends, when I saw a trio over at a neighboring picnic table.  I put together what I knew about each of them and realized two of them worked with Joyfield Farm and the other worked over at RiverRidge Farm.  I imagined them sharing gardening tales and discussing the merits of different harvesting techniques.  One of the things I miss most about working at public gardens is talking plants.  My kids are great, but their agriculture conversation could use some work.  The little group of farm girls made me smile.

RiverRidge Farm lettuce mix in covered rows spring #3farmsummer FoyUpdate
Nathan at RiverRidge Farm shows his mixed lettuce growing under row covers at his 5-acre family farm. This photo is from the first time I met him on a farm tour in March 2012.  

I didn't think about it too much at the time, but later when I saw a Help Wanted sign at one of the farm stores, I considered I could get some first hand experience too.  Somewhere along the way that evolved into maybe I could work one summer at each farm.  The more I thought about it, the more I like it.  But I also realized taking three summers to learn when I could be using that time to earn money for the other things a family needs and wants didn't seem practical. I mentally condensed my three summers into just one. Then over the winter, I folded in the goal of feeding my family locally produced or home grown food for a whole year.   (Here's the goal setting blog post.)

In early March I drafted a letter proposing I work one day a week at each farm in exchange for food for 12-weeks over the summer.  A couple weeks later, I visited with each farm and found all of them very willing and even excited about the idea.  We talked about how they could best use me and the potential things I could learn and I put together a schedule.

It's going to happen!  It's going to be a three farm summer.  I will get to learn by doing, observing and experiencing what it takes to make a living on a diversified, organic, family farm.  Part of my plan is to share the experience here on this blog (and on social media using #3FarmSummer).  I will start working the last week of May and go through mid-August 2015.

In April, I'm going to write a little about each farm as I understand them now.  I'm curious to see how my views change as I get to know them better and gain first hand experience working on these farms.

It's going to be an exciting #3farmsummer!  

3.24.2015

Selecting Blue, Red and White Potatoes for the Home Vegetable Garden



How to select potato varieties for the home garden and how much seed potato to buy to grow enough to store for winter. From Foy Update

It happened again.  I haven’t ordered my potatoes and it is late March which means places are selling out!

Potatoes have gotten a bad reputation because they are made into processed foods like french fries and chips then packaged into crinkly bags and marketed heavily.  However, if you are cooking at home roasting, baking, grilling and boiling are all healthy ways to enjoy a potato.  There is lots of good nutrition in a potato, don't be fooled!

Buying seed potatoes online - how to select a variety and how much to buy for your home garden
The five pounds of 'Adirondack Blue' potatoes I bought from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I was excited to get them and a little apprehensive because I had never grown potatoes before.

Last year I bought five pounds of ‘Adirondack Blue’ seed potatoes.  We had a nice harvest and we ate our lovely potatoes until they ran out in the beginning of November.  This year I am determined to grow even more; two times more so we will have more for the winter.

As I work towards feeding my family locally year-round, we will be eating fewer grains and relying on winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes for the starchy components of our meals.  I estimate we eat five pounds of potatoes a week; roughly a half pound of potatoes per adult per day.  Yes, that seems like a lot of potatoes.  If I wanted to have enough to store for nine months (September through May), we would have to grow 126 pounds of potatoes (assuming we lose none to spoilage or low yields).

*** Warning Math Ahead ***

According to Ohio State Extension, "A good yield would be 150 to 175 pounds of usable potatoes from 100 feet of row" or about 1.5-1.75 pound per foot of row.   For standard size potatoes one pound of seed potatoes are needed for every ten feet of row; approximately 1/10th a pound per foot of row.  (Fingerling and specialty potatoes are usually more.)  Now I am going to do some math.  

Here's how to figure out how much potato you should grow, how much garden space you will need, and how much seed potato to buy:

How many potatoes should you grow to feed your family through the winter?  
(number of pounds potatoes eaten in a week) * 36 weeks = number of pounds you should grow
5 pounds of potatoes a week * 36 weeks = 126 pounds of potatoes 

How many feet of row should you plant of potatoes?  
(The number of pounds you should grow) / 1.625 pounds per foot of row = number of feet of row you should plant
126 pound of potatoes / 1.625 pounds per foot of row = 77 feet of row needed

How many pounds of seed potato do you need to buy?
(The number of feet of row you should plant) / 10 = number of pounds of seed potato needed
77 feet of row / 10 = 7.7 pounds of seed potatoes needed  

Where to shop for seed potatoes?  


To get the interesting and organically grown varieties, I look online.
  1.          Johnny’s Selected Seeds (JSS)
  2.          Seed Savers Exchange (SSE)
  3.          The Maine Potato Lady (MPL)
  4.          High Mowing Seeds (HMS)

Yummy breakfast: Pan fried blue potatoes, over easy egg, avocado and salsa
The 'Adirondack Blue' potatoes fried up nicely for breakfast with some avocado, egg and salsa.  #yummy

I consider my options.  I know I want a blue or red potato.  The seed companies who sell the ‘Blue Adirondack’ variety I grew last year are sold out, I consider what’s in stock (as of 2/24/2015).

Blue or Red Colored Flesh Potatoes

  • ‘Red Adirondack’ the red version of my aforementioned blue, early set and good storage (JSS)
  • ‘All Blue’ respectable yields, stores well (MPL, HMS)
  • ‘Magic Molly’ a deep blue waxy fingerling (JSS, MPL)
  • ‘Papa Caco’ Peruvian fingerling potato with pink flesh, roasting (MPL)

I would also like a good all around white potato that stores well.

Good All Around White Potatoes:

  • ‘German Butterball’ noted for its taste as well as long storage, late-season (SSE, HMS)
  • ‘Kennebeck’ good all around potato coming from a strong bread for resistance to lots of potato problems, mid-season (JSS, MPL)
  • ‘Yukon Gold’ excellent yield, great keeper, slightly dry flesh, early-season (JSS, SSE, MPL, HMS)
  • ‘Russet’ excellent flavor, long storage (there are several different varieties)
  • ‘Purple Viking’ early blue skin, white flesh variety with excellent yields (HMS, SSE)
As I make my choices, I am also looking for an early and a late season potato so that I have some available to eat in the summer through fall and then some to store for winter and hopefully into the spring. 

I will probably regret how many seed potatoes I ordered when I have to dig all the extra bed space this spring, but I am excited to try new varieties and see how storing large quantities of potatoes goes. 

Home Vegetable Garden in June - Potato Patch
Here's my little patch of potatoes from last year in early June. I had two rows each 10 feet long.


In the end, I ordered four varieties in two purchases; one from Johnny's Select Seeds and one from High Mowing Seeds:
‘Red Adirondack’ 5 pounds - The red version of my aforementioned blue, early set and good storage   
‘All Blue’ 2.5 pounds - Respectable yields, stores well 
‘German Butterball’ 2.5 pounds - noted for its taste as well as long storage, late-season  
‘Kennebeck’ 5 pounds - good all around potato, bred for resistance to lots of potato problems, mid-season
I also ordered some sweet potatoes.  I've never grown those before.  I got the only variety that was still available from Johnny's or High Mowing, one called 'Beauregard'.  

What potatoes will you be growing this year and where do you buy them?  

3.12.2015

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - All You'll Ever Need to Know About Making Marmalade Recipe

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - a shot of summer to get you through the cold winter

Here is a lovely taste of spring when it seems like the snow is hanging on forever!  Sweet summer strawberries meet tart lemon juice and the slightly bitter zest in this Strawberry Lemon Marmalade.

Last winter we hosted a friend who was on her way cross country.  Indiana was a nice way point.  She left a thank you jar of homemade ginger marmalade.  It was divine.  I didn't even try to convince  Junebug to try it again when she didn't like it because of the "sticks" in it.  More for me!
Then summer came around and we found ourselves in the happy position of taking care of a neighbor's strawberry patch in the middle of the strawberry harvest.  We ate as much as we could hold and I froze three big bags of berries for winter jam making.  While looking up strawberry jam recipes I came across this one for Strawberry and Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  I pinned the recipe knowing I would have to wait until December to find organic citrus because that's when Florida and California are harvesting.

Since the peel is used in marmalade and regular lemons are treated with fungicides and other chemicals to keep them looking good in the grocery store, I knew organic would taste better and be healthier.  
December rolled around and it was busy so I figured I could put off marmalade making until January.  Then in January the grocers were constantly sold out of organic lemons.  Finally in February, I found a 2-pound bag, hallelujah!  Thank you California citrus growers.  It was jam making time.

Lemon and Strawberries make a tart and sweet strawberry lemonade marmalade

I went back and reread the recipe I had pinned only to realize I needed more information.  I wanted to know more about the time and temperature which thickened the marmalade; and how much peel to soak; and how to do the cold plate test to check to see if there is enough jell happening.

First I tried my cookbooks and the only one I found a marmalade recipe in was my Ball Blue Book of Canning and it was a very brief recipe and did not answer any of my questions.  Next I did the internet search, hunting down marmalade recipes with lots of detail.  
  • This Williams Sonoma orange marmalade recipe told me more about the cold plate test.
  • This BBC Good Food orange marmalade recipe had even more information about the cold plate test as well how to know when the zest was cooked enough and descriptions of what the marmalade should look like as it cooks.
  • This Ina Garten's orange marmalade recipe included temperatures and what to do if the marmalade gets over cooked.
  • This Alton Brown's orange marmalade recipe said to use a candy or deep fry thermometer to reach the very specific 222-223 degrees F.  
  • And lastly I followed Love and Olive Oil's link to find the original recipe at Simple Bites which was a guest post by Food in Jars.  
Then I set about making my strawberry lemon marmalade.  First thing you need to know is it takes two days.

When making marmalade create a bundle of the seeds and rinds to soak in the juice.  This draws out the pectin that will help jell the preserves.

Day 1:

On day one zest the lemons and then juice them.  Then put the zest in the juice along with a bag full of any seeds and some of the leftover rinds.  You put them in a bag so you can take them out easily since they won't be in the final marmalade.  The soaking does two things:
  1. Softens the zest so the cook time is reduced
  2. Releases pectin from the rind and seeds so that a firm jell happens when you reach the magical 222-223 degrees F. 
How to zest for marmalades - use a vegetable peeler and a paring knife to make ribbons rather than a micro-plane grater.
The micro-plane grater (left) created too fine zest that did not produce the right consistency for traditional marmalade.  I found my vegetable peeler plus paring knife (right) allowed me to make nice small ribbons of zest.  If I had a zester tool I would have used that instead.  

Also, on Day One macerate the strawberries by mixing them with half the sugar and let them sit covered overnight.  I learned from Sauver that macerating does some useful things:
  • The sugar breaks down the fruit so cooking takes less time,
  • The sugar draws the water out of the strawberries making a syrup,
  • The sugar makes the pectin stronger, and
  • The longer the fruit macerates the richer and stronger the flavors become
If you want to do everything in one day, instead of letting the juice/zest and macerated strawberries sit overnight in the fridge you can do just three hours at room temperature.

Macerated strawberries and lemon juice and zest create a sweet and tart marmalade

Day 2:

The next day make and bottle the marmalade.  First, take the bag of seeds and pith out of the lemon juice and discard them into the compost.

Before cooking started here is the mixture of the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest to make Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Then add, macerated strawberries, the remaining sugar, lemon juice and zest to a wide, heavy bottomed pot on the stove.  (A wide pot increases the surface area to speed evaporation and a heavy bottom heats evenly; in case you were wondering why that specific kind of pot.)

Cook it all together until enough water evaporates, the color darkens and it reaches the magical 222-223 degrees F.

The marmalade recipes I had open all suggested that it should only take 15-30 minutes to cook the marmalade.  Well it took me a little more than an hour.  I suspect it had something to do with the slow to heat nature of the enameled, cast-iron pot I used and the extra water in the strawberries.  Traditionally marmalade is just citrus fruit.

As my marmalade cooked, I used the Cold Plate Test and a thermometer to check progress.  Once I had a nice jell, I bottled and processed the jars in a boiling-water canner.

My only regret is that this recipe just makes four half-pints.  Here's how you can make it too: 

Strawberry Marmalade AKA Strawberry Lemonade Jam

1 pound of strawberries fresh or frozen 
2 pounds of organic lemons (9 small or 5-6 large lemons)
3 cups of sugar

 Day 1:

  1. Zest all the lemons.  You can either use a zester (not a micro-plane grater) to create small ribbons of zest.  Or use a vegetable peeler to shave off the top layer of rind and then use a sharp knife to cut the shaved peel into fine ribbons.  
  2.  Juice enough of the lemons to yield one cup.  Wrap any seeds and at least a third of the rinds into a small linen or cheese-cloth sack to create a bundle; preventing any of the rind or seeds from escaping.  
  3. In a large bowl add 1 cup lemon juice, zest, and 2 cups of water.  Then submerge the bundle with the seeds and rinds in the bowl.  Cover and let set at room temperature for 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  
  4. In another large bowl, macerate the strawberries in 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add the sugar to the strawberries and stir to coat.  Cover, then allow to set for the same amount of time as the lemon juice and zest.  You do not need to chop the strawberries, let the sugar do the work for you.  

Day 2:

  1. Sanitize your canning jars and lids.  You will need 5 half-pints or the equivalent jars.  
  2. Heat a boiling-water canner to just about boiling and keep the water levels up while the marmalade cooks so you are ready to start canning when the marmalade is ready. 
  3. Take the bundle of seeds and rinds out of the lemon juice bowl and discard them (hopefully into your compost).  In a wide, large, heavy bottomed pot combine the lemon juice, zest, macerated strawberries, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar.  
  4. Over medium heat bring the marmalade up to a simmer.  Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir every 5-10 minutes.  Once a simmer is reached cooking should take 40-60 minutes.  Use a thermometer to watch the temperature. As it approaches 222 degrees try the cold plate test to check the texture of your marmalade.  Also, visually the mixture will darken in color and the bubbles will become thicker and gloppier when the 222-223 degrees F is reached.  Here's what mine looked like when it was done cooking:
    Strawberry lemon marmalade cooked and ready to ladle into jars
  5. When you have the marmalade cooked, bring the water-bath canner up to a boil and fill the prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth before putting on the sanitized lids.  Then promptly process in the water-bath canner.  If you are using half-pints, process for 10 minutes at a boil.  
  6.  Remove the jars from the canner, let set on a towel over-night to completely cool.  Check the seals.  Any jars that have not sealed should be refrigerated and eaten in the next 3-4 weeks.  Store your sealed marmalade in a cool, dark, dry location.  
Strawberry Lemon Marmalade Recipe at FoyUpdate.blogspot.com