This week, we placed & converted the scavenged playhouse, transforming it into the kick ass chicken coop it was always meant to be.
We learned a lot about how to gradually”crib down” large loads in the move, and lots about the joys and pains of working with hardware cloth in the conversion. The results were worth the strain, and we both are in love with the coop – and with the fence that will allow the chickens to roam a good-sized patch of partially wooded outdoors. Especially, perhaps nerdily, excited for the chickens to climb or hang out beneath the ladders we arranged as a chicken roost playground / hawk shelter, and to see them exploring the ferny undergrowth.
They’ve been in their new coop (with the screened porch and ground level) for two nights so far, and we’re pretty sure they’ll return to roost upstairs rather than try to make a home in a tree, now.
Tomorrow morning we’ll let them out for the first time. Pumped.
Let’s see .. we were awakened Tuesday night by a some monkeys screaming from the woods around the trailer – to Gabe’s ears. Kristin was startled from sleep with a dreamy belief that it was owls conspiring to get into the coop and murder our new chickens – by calling in coyote reinforcements.
She was right about the animal though – turned out to be a couple of Barred Owls, making sounds a bit like this – but louder, wilder, and MUCH CLOSER. Pretty neat. The same black bear we saw last week was again sighted down on the far edge of the field – he ran away when he saw a human.
Also: We weeded the beets; 150 feet of hand-picked to beet greens cleanliness. We went to the farmer’s market. The folks that had their tent blown to death last week had not been able to salvage it, and sat out in the direct sunshine all day. There are worse working environments. But we’re grateful for our pop-up canopy.
Because diatomaceous earth is powdery stuff made of diatom skeletons. They’re tiny and sharp at a scale that bothers nothing but very thin-skinned insects and mites, abrading them between their exo-joints so that they dehydrate to death. Killing nasty potato potato grubs with dead diatoms is both bad ass and organic. It’s also refreshing – to be kill bugs without squishing them individually, by hand. WWOOFer Abe earned the nickname “Choppy” by continual practice with the splitting maul. Kristin and her chainsaw kept him in oak rounds.
Oh, and we went to a real live tractor pull!
It was down at the Wolf Creek Bar, which is close enough that after we got bored watching the tractor division compete and went home to the Farm, we heard the bellows of the truck division, pulling to their mechanical limits, until the sun went down and the whip-poor-wills came out that night.
Inside the Box – “Prime stir fry time is upon us.” – Amy
Rainbow Chard – We packed it with the kale, both to reduce bag waste and because you can use them together/interchangeably . They’d be perfect together for this recipe that we both enjoy quite a bit. Also, note that you can totally eat the red, pink, yellow, and white stems.
Zucchini – young & tender. At this stage, just add them to something else – your stir fry, your breakfast hash, your salad, if you like them raw (we don’t much).
Peas – We have been eating a lot of peas at home. We really enjoyed them today on the harvest lunch break – sauteed lightly, whole, with some garlic and dill. We’ve loved them them chopped them up in salads. We’ve chopped em up, cooked them briefly in a little oil, cracked fresh eggs over them, covered it, finished the eggs sunny-side up, and then seasoned/herbed them. NOM.We find that this is a great (simple, tasty, variable) way to enjoy almost any vegetable for breakfast.
Basil (two kinds)
Kale (Red Russian & Dinosaur varieties) – bundled (& shown) together with the Rainbow Chard. Use them together, perhaps.
Turnips (purple top & salad varieties)
Salad mix – red ruby lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, arugula, & some pea tendrils too.
Also – it’s big leaves this week – chop it up with a good sharp knife if you prefer your greens in a more readily-managed format.
some other images from the week
The weather is just about perfect, and the sky is beautiful. Hope you are enjoying it too!
It was another cool weather week up on the Farm, with lows down almost in the 40s at times, and lots of cool days with occasional rains.There are thousands of june bug grubs in the compost, all kinds of crazy bugs everywhere, and the mosquitoes went through a wane and then waxed again – but still haven’t returned to their horrible peak levels we saw a few weeks or so back.
And of course, it was also another busy week!
We had our second Saturday at the Saint Croix Falls farmer’s market, where we sold out of most everything we brought, and almost blew to Kansas when the wind storms moved in toward the end of the day (one of our fellow vendors lost their tent catastrophically, and we only barely kept ours down and together).
The rain has the bindweed and ragweed blowing up in the unmulched rows, and we worked hard to keep it from shading out any of the young summer and fall crops, building up our weeding calluses (on the middle outer edge of both pinkies). We found some time to help our neighbors with their vineyard – four of us put in a couple hours of work right up til the storm rolled in and downpoured on us as we fled.
We built a cucumber trellis out of old cattle panels, hooked up a three-hole sink to the well for washing dishes, and picked and canned a ton of strawberries from Kristin’s farming mentor’s patch (we’re bartering with them for veggies this summer).
We got the heavy chicken coop off the trailer and moved into place behind the semi-trailer “barn” with Kristin’s dad’s help, and are now ready to get it into chicken–habitable shape before we bring the first cluckers home early next week. Along with the nifty insect life we’ve been seeing in the woods and around the trailer, there are some more and less welcome creepy crawlies in the field – orange, gross looking potato beetles we squish by hand, predatory stinkbugs that spear said potato beetles with their long stabby proboscis faces and drink their guts. Then the grossest bug of all – one that drove Kristin to have to shower after she squished a few – and with good reason … the bugs that we had to destroy from the tomatillo row looked like little piles of poop. Because they were, really … these sickos (grubs of a type of potato beetle) defend themselves from birds and people by piling up their excrement on their backs. Yuck. yuck, yuck. Nature, you nasty!
Thankfully, we had help this week from Abe the WWOOFer, who has fallen in love with splitting firewood with our 17 pound Monster Maul.
He had never split wood before, but now he’s quickly turning into a pro – Kristin had to cut down a big standing dead red oak to keep him stocked with splittable wood (we’re piling it up to cure for this fall and next spring’s home-warming and cook fires).
Storage note: the best way to store most veggies is to keep them in the fridge – bagged, but closed only loosely – let it breathe some, but don’t let it dehydrate and wilt.New items this week are:
Peas – This year, we upgraded from last year’s variety – these are stringless! Stir fry em, eat em fresh, chop em up and dress them in a pea salad.
Kohlrabi – The big alien thing in your box! Cabbagesque flavor. Peel it, eat it fresh if you like or sautee it. The leafs are also edible (treat just like any other cooked green). Pairs well with apple, lemon, and black pepper.
Basil – the bestest smelling thing ever. Chop it up to flavor a salad dressing or add some chopped and fresh atop a veggie stir fry. Or just carry it around in a bag and huff on it periodically to enjoy the smell …
Collards – these are still young and tender, don’t need to be cooked for a long time as old, thick collards require. Like all greens, they cook down significantly in volume, so consider combining them with the other greens.
Returning veggies this week include:
Turnips (purple top & salad varieties) – cut off the greens ASAP for storing (they will dry out the turnips if you leave them on.) The greens are extremely nutritious and quite tasty cooked. They would combine well with the kolrahbi and collards if you made a meal of cooked greens. Oh, and by the way – if you make bacon, try cooking your greens in the bacon grease, it’s delicious!
Salad mix – red ruby lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, pea tendrils, arugula, mizuna, beet greens, and baby chard
Red head lettuce – great for sandwiches, so we kept it separate from the salad mix.
Boxes will be ready for pick-up between 5:00 and 7:30 – see you soon.
Thanks again for being a part of this adventure with us!
It was a mostly gray and rainy week; good for mosquitoes, early season cool weather crops, and harvesting. A black bear yearling had been hanging around the field, but not messing with the crops … the neighbor saw him hightailing it out and across the road, so he may have been introduced to the electric fence.
We had a booth at the farmers market in St. Croix Falls on Saturday morning; it was our first market we have ever attended, and it went great. Met a lot of interesting folks and sold almost everything we brought with. Worth waking up at 5am to harvest for!
The weeding and mulching continued throughout the week, using our giant rolls of paper as a weed barrier beneath the hay mulch.
On Monday, we went to pick up a free children’s playhouse (to repurpose as a chicken coop) from Craigslist with Kristin’s dad – thinking that it might take a few hours to cut it down from its stilts and get it out of there on his trailer.
However, the thing was built to last thousand years and Wade thousand or so pounds. In spite of a brilliant plan to get it cut down and lowered onto the trailer, it wound up flipping over and smashing into the ground just as we almost succeeded in our mission. (for the record, our approach was sound, but the owner’s son failed to keep one of the support beams in place …)
Six hours after we started, we finally had it wrestled back up right, secured on the trailer, and ready for the road.
Of course then the truck stalled out for a bit, but we got it running again before finding out just what AAA would have to say about towing our billion-pound 8 1/2-foot-wide future chicken coop the rest of the way out to the farm.
We were joined new a new WWOOFer yesterday -Abe from Minnesota. He’s already been a big help in the field and in the processing area, as well as proved a quick study in splitting firewood with the Monster Maul (is time to start getting wood split and drying for the cold weather not all that far away)
The Weekly Box:
New this week:
Cilantro – add it fresh to stir fry, salads, salads,etc. the exit with cream cheese and spread it on a bagel. Great with Mexican food.
Turnips (white) – oh my god. You have never tasted turnips like these. You can literally just eat them raw like apples, and enjoy them. Seriously.
Turnips (purple top) – a more standard flavored turnip, still delicious but perhaps not as likely to be enjoyed raw and alone. Delicious sliced up in salads or stirfried.
Kale (dinosaur, dwarf curly blue, and red Russian varieties) – there is so much you can do with kale! We enjoy it as baked kale chips, cut up in salads, or as cooked greens. Can be steamed, sautéed, or snacked on raw. Great in soups too!
Salad Mix of the Week: with red ruby & oak leaf lettuce, baby kale, beet greens, and baby bok choi.
Familiar faces in your box include:
Pea tendrils – lots of them! Go great in a stir-fry, as a raw snack, or added into the salad mix.
Arugula – you know the drill; add some for peppery green goodness in sandwiches, salads, pesto, etc
Curly cress – very spicy! Add some kick to any recipe. Maybe not desserts. Unless you really want to I guess. cut off the ends and put in a case or glass of water, if you want it to perk up overnight.
Redhead lettuce – add to the salad mix or use separately on anything where lettuce is tasty.
Broccoli – the spring broccoli is starting to run out, but still producing side shoots – and the next wave of fall broccoli seeds have just sprouted in the greenhouse.
Bok choi, bagged with Tatsoi – these Asian greens have been slightly damaged by flea beetles, but are still perfectly tasty. Perfect for stir fry, or raw, or chopped up in salads.
Thank you for returning your share boxes for us to reuse! See you soon,
What a rainy week! Thanks to our sandy soil we never flood, so the deluge has been nice for the crops … but it’s also been a joy for the weeds, which can seemingly quadruple in size overnight. So, it’s no surprise that we did a whole lot of hand weeding this week, as well as mulching like crazy to prevent future weedsplosions.
We also scored two free massive rolls of paper from Craigslist (each weighs 450 pounds!), and rigged up a hanging spool system beneath the semi trailer “barn” on the edge of the field.
This will allow us to easily pull out 200 feet at a time, to serve as weed barrier beneath the mulch, in the walkways between rows.
You might think that moving to the sticks from South Minneapolis would result in some comparatively silent nights; nope. The nocturnal sounds here have been off the hook and fascinating, especially recently with the bright moon and the increase in animal activity this brings. We live on the upper edge of the Saint Croix River valley, pretty much surrounded by wooded state land. The nights here are busier than Chicago-Lake Liquors. There are foxes that scream like possessed babies, coyotes that yelp and howl, black bears that are silent until you startle them and they go crashing through the forest like drunken sasquatches, whip-poor-wills that loudly call their own name all throughout the night (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTATW8H8zpQ), several types of owl, choruses of crickets & tree frogs, and some downright mysterious sounds.
For example, there was the mystery of the all-night drumming we heard coming from the direction of the river, on multiple nights. We would’ve thought it was hippies camping out and having a drum circle, if it had not been so continuous – going on steadily all through the night, and if it had any discernable rhythm. But the more we listened to the constant drumming sound, the more convinced we were that it was not likely actual drums being played, and that itwas coming from more than one direction along the river. If it weren’t for a lucky result when I tried Googling “drumming sound Saint Croix River, we would likely have never figured it out …
So, sheepshead fish live in the river, and they spawn in June, preferring exactly the type of environment found directly across from us. Sheepshead are the only freshwater member of the Drum Fish family – so named for the loud drumming sound the males make when spawning (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fish/freshwaterdrum.html). This is little-known phenomenon is almost certainly what we’ve been hearing, drumming up from the river bottoms.
The weather was also quite the noisemaker the last few night – the wind was insane Monday night; we woke up Tuesday morning to find that the mosquito fortress my sister gave us as a wedding present had been utterly demolished, as if by a truck. Fortunately, the mosquito population has really been decimated by the swarms of dragonflies, and we won’t need the shelter just to avoid death by insectile anemia.
And last night, we were bombarded by hail – which is plenty loud on our metal roof, as well as on the shipping container and our collection of 55 gallon drums …
Hmmm, in other news we saw a dung beetle on the side of the field and Gabe was amazed, not knowing they existed around here. There was a giant spider that caught and killed a cricket. A carrion beetle with orange symbiotic mites A pair of pileated woodpeckers, Fresh black bear tracks. Sandhill cranes, dinosaur-bird style. We painted a banner for the Saint Croix Falls Farmer’s Market.
Our first WWOOFers moved on after helping out tons, headed for the gorgeous Michigan Upper Peninsula.
Widget hunted rabbits. We got the well pump to run off the solar power system instead of the generator (thanks to a friend of the farm that donated both a second battery and a powerful inverter!). The broccoli pulled a sneaky trick and went to flower under the row cover when we had our backs turned – the few days of heat kicked it into warp drive – we’ll still get smaller side shoots from it, but we plan to plant a second wave of fall broccoli to come up after the heat of summer has passed by.
The Weekly Box
It’s salad season – enjoy your fresh local greens while they are here, because soon the summer heat will come and end many of these … the bag of spring salad mix this week contains oak leaf lettuce, beet greens, sunflower greens, pea tendrils, baby swiss chard, baby curly & red Russian kale, wild spinach, mizuna (the frilly, spicy stuff), and a little bit of amaranth leaf.
Some stuff you had last week is back this week, including:
Radishes(Hailstone, Easter Egg, & Champion varieties) – spicytastic if eaten fresh, mellow & mild if roasted – kind of like small, slightly radishy potatoes.
Radish greens – these make great pesto – you could combine them with the arugula for an absolutely delicious pesto. (You can also use pea(nuts or sunflower seeds instead of spendy pine nuts!) Try to use them in the next couple of days, and don’t try to eat them fresh – they need to be cooked to be enjoyed.
New stuff this week:
Broccoli – the sneaky stuff started flowering on us while hiding beneath the row cover, but don’t fear – the yellow flowers are not only pretty, but pretty tasty … every part of the broccoli plant is edible, including the entire stalk. You don’t see the flowers in grocery stores because they are fragile and don’t keep forever or ship across the country. Enjoy eating the flowers; they are a hallmark of fresh and local broccoli! You can oil up the entire broccoli bouquets and grill them whole, or cut them up – the thicker parts of the stalks can be chopped up and stir-fried, or add them to soup.
Baby bok choi – steam or stir fry! Would be good with the radishes and broccoli for sure.
We had beautiful weather for our first harvest of the year, and help from a pair of WWOOFers that are spending two weeks camping, helping, and learning on the farm with us.
Similar to the two-month “working honeymoon” (http://www.quesehrafarm.com/category/honeymoon/) we took this winter, Tom & Taylor are traveling around the country for up to a year working on farms for room and board – before returning to Iowa to start their own farm up.
Your box this week contains the earliest risers of the season:
Radish Greens – these are super nutritious, and delicious in stir fry, soup, etc. One simple preparation is to chop them up with a clove or two of garlic, cook them together in a little oil for a couple of minutes with some salt or soy sauce.They cook down in size considerably, and have a much more pleasant taste and texture cooked than they do fresh. Cooking with also hide the minor blemishes caused by hungry flea beetles (the holey damage is purely cosmetic, and very difficult to avoid in with organic practices). Eat them in the next couple of days – they don’t keep for long! Some recipes can be found here: http://www.thekitchn.com/dont-toss-those-radish-greens-145724
Curly Cress – horseradishy goodness. Too strong and peppery to throw into the salad mix we thought, but delicious once you taste test a bit of it and experiment. Try adding some to sandwiches, deviled eggs, steak, soup, or salads, in a quantity that suits your tastes.
Sunflower greens – great for snacking on plain, on sandwiches, or added to your salad mix. We prefer them raw and have not much enjoyed them when cooked – they lose their appealing texture.
Green onions – can be used whole or chopped up, sauteed, added to your radish greens, or perhaps chopped up with oil and vinegar to make a dressing to go with your:
Salad Mix of the Week: this seasonal mixed bag includes Arugula, Ruby Red lettuce, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Amaranth (the beautiful red leaves), Pea Tendrils, Baby Kale, Baby Bok Choi, Wild Spinach, & White Clover flowers.
Red Russian Kale (large-size shares only) – we had just enough for the big box shares this week, but everyone will get some soon enough!
Wash your stuff before you use it – we do rinse and spin dry most everything, but it could still use a rinse before eating to get any remaining grit off!
Note: we’ll need the boxes back to use again and again, and we’d love to get the produce bags back if they are clean enough to reuse!
Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks, leading up to today’s harvest!