Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winter Conference

Ahhh...the long-awaited conference. Right when you need a boost of motivation, ideas, and farm-people the most. Three days in Saratoga, NY - excellent organization, food, and program. Perhaps the most well organized and diverse conference I have ever attended. (In any subject) They manage dozens of small workshops, intensive long workshops, silent auctions, vendor areas, wonderful meals (all with donated food from participating sponsor farms), child care, music, social events, and networking.

Photos would be pretty uninteresting for the most part, (lots of crunchy-granola types dressed in natural fibers, earthy colors listening to speakers in front of PowerPoint presentations and sipping organic tea or munching on organic peanut butter sandwiches...)

But I can share some of my take-aways:

Friday: Cheese making intensive workshop. Should have been a full-day, limited numbers workshop. But, that said, it was led by an excellent presenter, Cliff Hatch. He led the class through the making of 8 different cheeses, using much the same milk, but varying the process, the enzymes, and the molding. Our group made Brie. I have done this plenty of times; but Cliff did a more thorough job of explaining the process and curd handling than any book (or previous employer), so I was happy with the day. Made some very nice friends in our little group, and we nursed our cheese through the three days of the conference, trying to allow adequate time for the mold to form and ripen, but conditions were less than perfect. In the end, it was still cheese, although more feta than brie. The absolute best temperature for ripening cheese: 72 degrees. Great site for cheese making tips and recipes: here.

Saturday: Introduction to Greenhouse and Transplant production. In the greenhouse: never let the end of your hose touch the ground or it transfers disease agents to the seedlings as you water. Making your own planting mix: look here.

The 1/4 Acre Farm. Lots and lots and lots of food production on small plots. Row cropping is inefficient, go with raised beds. Use a four year rotation with three complementary crops and one year of rest (ex. peas, corn, potatoes ) in your boxes.

Visiting the Trade Show/Vendors. Really wanted a custom-made scythe, but it's not in the budget right now. (Will be drooling frequently here.) We will be applying for certification for our laying flock from Animal Welfare Institute. Make your own hoop houses and secure the plastic sheeting around the poles with PVC cut in 6" lengths and split lengthwise to open it up so it fits around the purlin like a clip.

Raising Heritage Turkeys. Best when done on pasture. Turkeys like shiny and reflective things (might be why ours head for the neighbors to sit on their pool...). Use cardboard, barriers or steeply piled shavings in the brood box to avoid piling in the corners by the skittish poults.

Processing Beeswax for sale. Got a recipe for beeswax salves with herb-infused oils. Can't wait to try it. Running 9 frames in a 10-frame box yields slightly larger amounts of beeswax during honey harvest. Beeswax retains very high levels of toxins, pesticides, etc. so rotate out frames with new foundation within 3-5 years.

Sunday: Growing and Marketing Cut Flowers. The 5 most popular flowers from a U-cut operation were Sunflower, Zinnias, Gomphrena, Rudbeckia and Lisianthus. Cut flowers for the Farmer's Market when they are just barely coming out of bud, not in full bloom.

Beginning Seed Saving. You can make your own equipment for much of the small scale seed saving. Place pads of stair runner material in the pan and on the surface of the paddle to crush seed pods. The small seeds hide in the "valleys" of the runners, and the larger vegetative matter is crushed by the "hills". Make your own winnowing boxes with different sized screens to clean chaff as well as dust and dirt after seeds are released. Good source for seed saving containers here.

I purchased two books: Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman and The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. Now all I want to do is curl up and read. And plan. (When it's almost 20 degrees BELOW zero, that's not a problem.) World go away - I'm busy.

: - )

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starting to lose it's shine...

This winter is all the usual stuff. Snow, ice, cold, snow, wind, ice, snow and so on. We in Upstate New York are used to this:

and this:We try to do a lot of this:

And we even try to find the beauty where we can:

... I'm tired of shoveling, I've run out of farm porn (seed catalogs), I'm not even marginally entertained by the neighbor's anatomically correct snowmen, and it's not even halfway through January!

Cicero is begging me to take him on vacation to ANYWHERE...
and I'm actually considering long as he shares the driving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


They said there is even snow in Hawaii. Maybe this is what it looks like on top of the island volcano?

Today, most of the farm looked like this:


But, some chores have to be done, snow or not. Like burning the papers...doesn't it make a neat juxtaposition for our snow day?

(Bet the turkeys would like a little one of their own in the corner of the coop...)
Stay warm, everyone!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


...that the days are getting longer. (In case you didn't notice the extra 8 minutes...)
Egg laying is triggered by day length, so as the daylight increases so does production from the poultry. Yay!

Proof also that I am still playing catch up. The male Tibetan Corturnix quail pair that I am keeping from the summer hatch...are not a pair. Of males, that is.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Do you Peppadew?

If you haven't tried these damnable little things yet, then let me warn you. They are GOOD. I'm not a huge fan of hot stuff, although I can handle my share, but these peppers are just a hint of hot and then sweet, and even smoky. Lovely.

Now the part that makes my blood boil: they are patented. Yeah, not the preparation process, but the actual plant, seed, etc. A farmer in South Africa discovered this natural hybrid growing on his property, developed the sweetened, canned product, and laid rights to the plant and seeds themselves. They are actually known as juanita peppers. (The variety) They fall around 2500 on the Scoville scale. That is right in the neighborhood of the pepper we grew this year: the Cherry Bomb.

So, being ever frugal, and completely frustrated by not being able to create these delectable dainties ourselves, I fudged. I figured out the sugar brine that Peppadews are preserved with. Took our cache of Cherry Bombs, cleaned them (with gloves on!) and packed them up.


Captured the sweet. Missed the mark on the smoky...I believe that is the unique feature of the juanita pepper. Could try alternative spices...but I'm not sure what would do the trick. Cherry Bombs are larger than Juanitas, so the snack appeal is somewhat less, but I can live with that. Also, it was my first time canning peppers. I followed salsa directions for heat and time. May need to adjust to get slightly firmer results. Or it may be a matter of processing the peppers a little earlier, when they are crisper.

Definitely will grow more Cherry Bombs with plans to repeat and perfect the preserving. I think with a sampler jar at the market, I can do quite well in sales. Of course, that doesn't stop me from looking for the elusive Juanita. It's January, and seed catalogs are coming up on the agenda...

( Note: We will not be growing this pepper...ever.)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Steppin' out for the New Year...

....or not.
"What do you think, Della? Is it safe?"
"I'm not sure...that white stuff down there looks awfully deep..."