Natural, farm fresh produce. Grown with love.

  • Had a big day
  • Jett
  • Crisp, crunchy and oh so sweet
  • Snap shot
  • Lucky foods cooking
  • Hoppin' John fixins
  • Sun and shadow
  • Last of the cabbage
  • Nature's splendor
  • Mulching crew
  • Risotto
  • Hot peppers
  • View from neighbor's pasture
  • 2014 first snow
  • Bodies in the bottom
  • Fire and setting sun
  • Persimmons
  • Story_of_a_Seed

Latest

Harvest helpers

Here are my potato harvest helpers from this afternoon…

Had a big day

Had a big day

Pooped pup

Pooped pup

Potato hunter

Potato hunter

Fun in the sun

The photos say it all…

Jett

Jett

Franklin getting spunky

Franklin getting spunky

Wonder dogs all in action

Wonder dogs all in action

Mr. Legs

Mr. Legs

January thaw…

We had sunshine and warmer temperatures today. Enough of a warm-up to finally thaw the ground.

Thank goodness! The pantry was getting low, and it was time for a harvest…

Crisp, crunchy and oh so sweet

Crisp, crunchy and oh so sweet

Our winter favorites…carrots. Crisp. Crunchy and oh, so sweet. Napoli, Nelson and Romance.

Turnips

Turnips

Hanging on under row cover, Hakurei salad turnips.

Beets

Beets

Also hanging on under row covers, Chioggia and Red Ace beets.

Taters

Taters

Finally! A resupply of potatoes – French Fingerling, Red Gold and Kennebecs. YUM!

A very good day today.

All is quiet on the ridge

It has been a little while since our last post, but strong cold spells tend to put a halt to one’s outdoor efforts and ambitions.

So, while the ground is frozen and the temperatures fall…what is left to do for prepping a garden?

Planning.

Yes, this post is not at all exciting. There are no fun photos. Little actual activity. But this part of garden preparations is just as important as all the physical stuff.

Here is what is going on right now while we try to keep warm and snug inside…

1. Crop rotation. Being a visual person, I always have to sketch out what has been where and the next spot it can go. Crop rotation is an essential challenge. To help minimize accumulation of pests or depletion of soil nutrients, we try our best not to put crops from the same family in the same spot year after year. With our current setup, we should be able to perform a 4 year rotation, meaning, for instance, that it should take 4 years of moving around the garden before tomato plants make it back to the spot where we first planted them.

2. Crop plan. Once the crop rotations are smoothed out, the crop plan pretty much is developed. Another important component to developing this plan, however, is the results of the previous season. No need including something that we couldn’t grow well or that didn’t sell. All of that harvest and sales data was entered into a spreadsheet over the fall. For the tentative crop plan, again…I have to have a picture, so I map out the layout and where everything is supposed to be located in all the fields. Closely coupled with the crop plan is the seed starting schedule, the planting schedule and the succession plant. I feel pretty good about the seed starting schedule (though we will be testing a new growing area this year). The planting and succession calendars don’t always work out how I like. Still, it is always good to at least have a plan.

Snap shot

Snap shot

3. Seeds and supplies. Currently in the works are the season’s seeds and supplies orders. At this point in time, all of the information comes together to plan what we want to grow in the 2015 season. We have to consider all the seasons, all our successes and anything we want to experiment (there always has to be something new to try).

It is at this point that feedback is valuable and influential. So…with that in mind…

are there items you’d like to see us grow? Are there things we should stop growing?

What are your garden plans?

 

Good luck foods – some thoughts and recipes of the day

Well, our first big meal of 2015 is in the books…and it was pretty good.

Lucky foods cooking

Lucky foods cooking

Prepared today:

Hoppin’ John – southern dish traditionally made of black-eyed peas or cowpeas. Black-eyed peas are considered to be lucky and saved many a hungry resident of Civil War days. Beans are considered a humble food, simple. Dry beans, looking like coins and expanding with cooking, also are considered a symbol around the world of money and increasing wealth.

I found a highly rated recipe on Food Network from Emeril Lagasse, and I would concur with the ratings…

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock (I used some leftover smoked ham I found in the freezer)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf (I used two)
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves (I had fresh and used about 6 sprigs with the leaves pulled off)
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice
Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice. (I had no liquid evaporate. I used a potato masher and mashed some of the beans to make it creamier)

Next up, Sautéed Pork Tenderloin

The richness and fat of pork symbolize wealth and prosperity. The rooting and pushing forward behaviors of pigs also symbolizes progress.

I thawed some tenderloin medallions I had cut and vacuum sealed last month. I seasoned the medallions with salt, pepper, and a little garlic and onion powders. 1 tablespoon of butter was heated in a skillet and the medallions were browned (about 3-4 minutes a side) then removed/set aside, placed in the microwave to keep warm. To the skillet the following were added and mixed until heated through: 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. The sauce was poured over the medallions which were then garnished with fresh parsley.

Now for some Sautéed Collard Greens

For most, the folded, green leaves of veggies such as cabbage, kale, collards and such look like money. Greens are eaten across the world for hopes of financial well-being.

Fresh collards from the garden were cleaned, rolled then cut into ribbons. Some of the smoke ham was cubed. 1 medium onion was sliced. 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter was melted in a wok. The onions and ham were added and cooked for about a minute. The greens were added in stages and cooked to a wilt. A little salt and pepper were added to taste.

Finally, for sweet success, some Cornbread

Cakes of all kinds are served around the world on New Year’s Day and serve as symbols of sustenance, richness, and treasures. Cornbread’s golden color is a symbol of wealth (gold). For southern New Year’s cooks, an old saying sums it all up:

“Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”

I used another Food Network recipe for honey cornbread muffins:

Honey Cornbread Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Patrick and Gina Neely

Ingredients

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin NOTE – I did not make muffins but put batter into a 9″x9″ cake pan.

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. I added the batter to a greased 9×9 bake pan.

Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Then add a little pat of butter and enjoy!

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/hoppin-john-recipe.print.html?oc=linkback

Welcoming in 2015!

Happy New Year!

We hope that everyone had a good time welcoming in 2015 and send you all our best wishes for a promising new year.

For some good luck…

the blackeye peas soaked overnight and are ready for making Hoppin’ John (all recipes will follow if they meet the taste tests)…

Hoppin' John fixins

Hoppin’ John fixins

The pork tenderloin is seasoned with salt and pepper (it will be pan sautéed in butter followed by a sauce of mustard, Worcestershire and lemon juice prepared with the pan juices), rice is in the cooker (for the Hoppin’ John), collards are cleaned and chopped (pan sautéed in butter with a little of the ham hock and onions), and the cornbread is ready to spend a little time in the oven…

Collards, cornbread and pork

Collards, cornbread and pork

Have any special traditions?

Merry Christmas

Beautiful bursts of sun and shadow on Christmas morning…

Sun and shadow

Sun and shadow

Dogs running in the tall grass and stiff breeze…

Going

Going

Going...

Going…

Gone

Gone

Coming...

Coming…

Back

Back

Taking pause….

Pause

Pause

to enjoy…

sun and shadows again

sun and shadows again

Yumminess

How cool is it to be nearing January but still able to eat fresh vegetables?

Trick question.

It’s pretty super cool.

Tonight we had a harvest meal. Simple. Just a basic vegetable medley sauté. What was so special about it is that 99% of the produce was freshly picked from the garden or stored from an earlier harvest…carrots, turnips, Tokyo bekana, potatoes, cabbage, onions and garlic. Only purchased items were butter and celery.

Last of the cabbage

Last of the cabbage

So wonderful to have one last head of savoy cabbage mixed with the sweet and delicate Tokyo bekana.

Can’t beat the taste! Here’s to the simple pleasures and to looking forward to the next growing season…it won’t be long.

PTHF is feeling…blessed, lucky, loved, thankful…pretty darn good

I love this time of year. It is a time of reflection. Of thanksgiving. Of blessings and community. It is a time of family, friends and fellowship.

We, at Pear Tree Hill Farm, are feeling very fortunate at the close of this year. We are thankful to have such great support, to have hard work reveal its rewards, and to ponder all the wonders that next year will bring.

To everyone out there, during this holiday season, we wish you joy and love, relaxation and fun, safety and comfort and all the best in the coming New Year.

Nature's splendor

Nature’s splendor

Definitely a beach lover

Definitely a beach lover

Coastal wildlife

Coastal wildlife

Words to live by

Words to live by

Refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for 2015.

Sunny Sunday

It was a damp, dreary, rainy Saturday that kept us working inside.

But Sunday….a beautiful, crisp, sunny day that DEMANDED we be OUTside.

It was a productive Sunday of garden work. Yes, I know. What garden work? It is almost officially winter! We’ve already had killing frosts and snow! What in the world could there be left to do?

Well, only all the stuff I have YET to do.

So, the pepper plants that I finally pulled last weekend were finally hauled out of the garden yesterday.

The zinnias, long past their last blooms and gone to seed, were all pulled with the plants placed along our outer fence board (in hopes that there might be some self-seeding in our permanent flower border).

I am well passed the time for dispensing more cover crop seed :(, so two straw bales were man-handed (by this woman) into position for unrolling. Let the mulching begin! Winter garden goal = no bare earth exposed (woefully late on meeting this garden goal).

Of course, I had excellent help with the mulching…

Mulching crew

Mulching crew

And I thought that I was queen and conquerer of the straw bales…

Just TRY to get up here

Just TRY to get up here

I am MIGHT DOG - roar

I am MIGHTY DOG – roar

Spreading straw is fun…for puppies.

Stuffy nose, runny eyes and itchy everywhere later, we called it quits due to a social call and a wicked wind that had whipped up, threatening to thin my straw mulch and scatter it hither yon, and well beyond my control.

After lunch, we used the last of our daylight to do some landscaping around the house (much needed). And then decided we should catch our breath…by the fire pit…

Where's Franklin?

Where’s Franklin?

(Where’s Franklin? Well, he went to bed…cold and tired from a busy day, he buried deep under cover and was snoozing in the warm comfort of inside).

Hope you had a nice Sunday, too.

Risotto

I finally attempted a version of a risotto last night. It was easy and tasty, though I would make a few changes for the next batch.

Risotto

Risotto

Here is the recipe I used as a foundation, my changes are noted in parenthesis and italics:

Easy Parmesan “Risotto”
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided (of course, I had no homemade stock. I used a natural chicken broth I had on hand.)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Asiago only because I am hoarding our delicious chunk of parmesan)
1/2 cup dry white wine (most of our wines are zingy but not dry, I have a photo of what I used)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt (this part I would change – I used 1 1/2 tsp, and it was too much. I’d decrease this amount to just 1 or even 1/2 depending upon the cheese. A good bit of salt came from the cheese.)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas (I used fresh broccoli broken down into tiny florets, diced onion and garlic. I put these fresh veggies in the reserved cup of broth and simmered so that they were steamed and soft by the time they were added to the rice)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I was just home from work. I used our convection bake setting).

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock (my broth was not simmering. Jeez, I jut got home from work! One cup was cold (from the fridge) and 3 cups were room temp – none of this temp difference seemed to matter) in a Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Cover and bake for 45 minutes (using the convection setting, I baked for just over 30 minutes…may be 35 minutes), until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente (my pot had a glass top, so I could see the liquid status). Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock (also had the steamed broccoli florets, onion and garlic), the Parmesan (asiago), wine, butter, salt (SERIOUSLY, cut the amount of salt you add to the recipe…this batch was a little too salty even though I used less than the recipe called for), and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas (clearly, did not use peas) and stir until heated through. Serve hot.

2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, All Rights Reserved

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/easy-parmesan-risotto-recipe.print.html?oc=linkback

So, I didn’t really have a nice, dry white wine. The reds we have are too full bodied. A friend, however, dropped off this lovely rose’ that surprised us by not being sweet but a little dry. I used this wine:

Wine

Wine

Clearly, used the wine for the recipe and beyond.

This risotto was easy, only demanded attention at the end, but was too salty. Use caution with that seasoning depending upon the cheese that you use. Adding fresh veggies to the reserved, simmering broth worked great to get the fresh veggies cooked (but not mushy) in time for addition to the main pot. All in all, a good recipe that I think could be adapted to other flavors.

Peck of peppers

Here is what a mess of hot peppers look like after some time in the dehydrator…

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

I love all the colors along with the different shapes and sizes. This mix has habanero, poblano, serrano, and Hungarian hot wax.

Not shopping today

Today, we are NOT out shopping.

We took a brisk walk around our pasture earlier in the day.

We fed “Wilbur” the pig and gave him some more dry bedding.

We sorted through green bell peppers, poblano peppers, and other mixed hot peppers that have been in storage….throwing spoiled ones on the compost heap and bringing the good ones inside to work on preserving them.

We ate Thanksgiving leftovers for………………….ahem………..breakfast. Yes, breakfast.

We watched a story about aquaponics on PBS…while eating our leftovers.

We looked up some recipes online. Thinking of a risotto for dinner (soft food diet – might as well be spectacular).

We took another walk, this time the long way around our neighbor’s pasture then ours.

View from neighbor's pasture

View from neighbor’s pasture

Still a brisk walk, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Full out joyful run

Full out joyful run

There is some melting underway, so the crusty snow from the morning is a little slushier (FloJo prefers the slushy over the icy). The sun is out. The birds are singing. It’s all better than the best bargain!

Who buys what?

Ever wonder what your peers buy? What others shop for at a market?

As a beginning farmer, I am fascinated by what people purchase, and admittedly, I use such information to help shape my next season’s crop plan.

So….our market data are all entered, and here is the summation of our two market seasons in terms of our top 10 (and then some) “best” sellers.

2013                                            2014

1. Beans                                     1. Lettuces

2. Cabbages                               2. Beans

3. Cukes                                     3. Beets

4. Beets                                      4. Onions

5. Lettuce mix                            5. Kale

6. Carrots                                   6. Carrots

7. Kale                                        7. Cabbages

8. Potatoes                                 8. Squashes

9. Tomatoes***                          9. Peppers (hot and bell)

10. Onions                                10. Potatoes

________________________________________

11. Greens                                11. Tomatoes***

12. Hot peppers                      12. Cukes

13. Bell peppers                      13. Mesclun

14. Squashes                           14. Cherry tomatoes

15. Lettuces (head)                15. Radishes

***our main crop tomatoes succumbed to blight two years in a row or they might have been in the top 5.

Do these results surprise you?

What is it that you look for each season? Your “must have” item?

Crop planning for 2015 is underway. Now is your chance to have a say.

Thanks for your interest…

Happy Thanksgiving

I just had a tooth extracted today. It couldn’t be saved. A molar. It will be missed until it is replaced.

What does that have to do with Thanksgiving? I mean, no one really wants to know another person’s dental history, right?

Well, I was told…prescribed…soft foods and liquids for the next couple of days. The two days are today…and tomorrow. Ahem. Thanksgiving day.

So…..while thinking of what possible soft foods and liquids might even be palatable, I find my mind completely wandering off task to all the fond memories of eats that our family has enjoyed over the years, on the very Thanksgiving day.

After all, it is one of the most food-centric holidays out there. The one day that gives us a winning ticket, a “get out of jail free” card, a license to eat to near bursting. The one day where cooks work feverishly and hosts tighten their aprons. The one day where someone fills a table with the most amazing items of all shapes and sizes and hues and then says “have at it…as much as you want as long as you’d like.” Only a few other days during the year even compare. It’s almost magical.

And here I sit. Thinking of my favorite sides, breads, desserts…and, of course, the entree.

Do you go traditional (twice bakes candied sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie)? Do you break the mold (mom likes to do a luscious prime rib roast, and one year I begged for chocolate mousse)? Do you have secret dishes (mom’s cranberry relish is my absolute favorite – fresh berries, orange zest, and other tasty bits…so sweet and tart all at once…refreshing)? Do you have old standbys (hello green bean casserole)?

This day should be celebrated at least every week if not every night!

Great food and companionship awaits tomorrow. So, despite my prescription, I will be certain to enjoy the day and all of the magnificent dishes I’ll encounter. Hail to all the cooks, hosts, and helpers out there.

And………..have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!

The first significant snow of 2014

Just back to the farm from being in town to find this:

2014 first snow

2014 first snow

Row covers are flattened. Metal hoops are down or bent. Some fiberglass hoops have snapped, tearing the row covers.

After sweeping

After sweeping

It was a wet snow. Temp is now 39 degF. Melting has begun, but the weight of it all is too much for the simple row covers. I tried to sweep some off, but it was a bit much. It will just have to be as it is.

Snow isn’t a bad thing for a garden. It is actually insulating and protective to the growing plants. Provides good moisture.

Snow is NOT good for light season extension equipment. Time. Money. Effort. Bleh.

Oh well. Our minimalist try at season extension wasn’t ideal from the start. We’ll still have deliciousness we can dig out and enjoy, but our market season, for sure, is over.

Demise of a hive

And now for some bad news.

After a second try at our top bar bee hive, another failure. Yes, I am disappointed and saddened by this outcome.

Here is what I think happened…

The hive truly seemed to be doing very well during the peak garden season…July. Lots of activity. Our top bar has 3 openings. At the time, only one opening was unobstructed. I decided to “help the bees out” by allowing access to another opening. I think that this decision was my biggest mistake. My second big mistake was that I had stopped feeding them.

Understand, I am new at all of this business. With the bees, I don’t want to be always in their business (i.e. constantly entering their hive). Perhaps not the wisest plan.

So…what happened? Well, the hive got quiet. Bees were still going in and out, but the numbers seemed much less than usual. Eventually, no activity was going on.

Opening up the hive revealed:

  • no honey
  • no brood
  • no bees

Did they swarm? One of the combs had what looked to be a queen cell/swarm cell…I need to read more on the difference.

Were they robbed? This thought is what I am leaning towards. Why? All the bodies. When I removed all of the top bars, this view is what I saw:

Bodies in the bottom

Bodies in the bottom

Bodies were also present outside the hive (hard to see because I had mulched with straw around the hive).

My suspicion is that when I opened the other access hole into the hive, my new, weaker hive was unable to defend both openings fully. My neighbor has two established hives just down the hill from us. I bet his bees found my hive and helped themselves.

Thinking I was helping my hive, I think I caused its demise simply by removing a cork.

Combs

Combs

See that funny looking “growth” on the comb…top of the photo, sorta orange in color? Queen cell? Swarm cell? I don’t know. Did the swarm? Were they robbed?

Any thoughts?

Well, I’ll be trying again in the spring. At least I have some beautiful comb on the top bars that will give my next bees a head start. I’ll have a different management plan for next time, too:

  1. Keep only one access hole open
  2. Check the hive at least once a week
  3. Provide supplemental feed for the whole season
  4. Consider relocating hive to a different spot in the garden

Fire and light

A few weekends ago, we appreciated the company of friends, out at the farm, for our very delayed harvest festival.

We enjoyed oodles of delicious foods, lots of energetic kids and dogs, some pumpkin shooting, and a nice bonfire to combat the chill.

There is just something about gathering around a fire with friends that makes it that much warmer! Couple that with a beautiful light show at sunset, and you are living large.

Fire and setting sun

Fire and setting sun

Persimmons

Walking the pasture this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see this…

Persimmons

Persimmons

Our persimmon trees are still hanging on to a good bit of fruit. Yes, it is all in the tree tops, but there is a good bit up there. I knew nothing about persimmons until this farm came into my life.

I really must do something with these guys.

Look at them all…

More persimmons

More persimmons

May be this week, with the holiday, there will be a little ounce of time I can squirrel away for focusing on these fruits.

Story of a seed

Ever think about the process of providing?

What?

Well, let me rephrase.

Ever ponder the process of putting vittles on your plate?

That’s right…the tremendous tale of how we tantalize our tummies?

Huh?

OK. The path of production – plant a seed, watch it grow, pamper it, and BOOM – you have produce (hopefully)!

Part of the reason I am trying to become a farmer is because I am completely fascinated with the whole process of going from seed to plate.

This info I am about to share with you came from High Mowing Seed’s blog. I thought it was a pretty cool portrayal of a seed’s life.

The title of the poster is “The Story of a Seed – From Pollination to Your Plate.”

Have a look see:

Story_of_a_Seed

From High Mowing Seeds

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FrugalFeeding

n. frugality; the quality of being economical with money or food.

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Sandyfoot Farm

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Confessions of a Pioneer Woman | Ree Drummond

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