Natural, farm fresh produce. Grown with love.

  • 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
  • Daikon and turnips
  • Dynamic duo
  • Foggy and frosty walk
  • Architecture
  • Red choy
  • Claytor Lake Dam
  • Turnips


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.


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.



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)


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:

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:



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.



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


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



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?


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?


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:


From High Mowing Seeds


Still peeved that I let the frost damage so much of our gorgeous produce, I was excited to pull our first daikon radishes from the field this morning. I’ve never grown these…or eaten them before. The greens were nipped, but the radishes seemed OK.

Now I can see why these things are planted to loosen compacted soil! Gigantic.

Daikon and turnips

Daikon and turnips

Curious to see what these taste like.

Have any favorite recipes?

Weekend pasture walk

The Wonder Dogs took a stroll with me to stretch our legs and investigate the world around us.

Here is what we found.

Dynamic duo

Dynamic duo

What's this?

What’s this?

A frozen pond! Cool.

A frozen pond! Cool.

Turtle under the ice

Turtle under the ice



2015 Grower’s Academy

I was pleased to learn that the Grower’s Academy was rescheduled for 2015 in Wytheville, VA. What a great opportunity for beginning farmers to learn about starting an agricultural business and for existing farmers to discover how to expand their existing operation.

The Grower’s Academy class Jordan and I attended in 2012 helped guide our nebulous daydream of farming into a living, breathing reality. What knowledge and confidence that course gave us! As an added benefit, we gained lasting connections to local growers who became mentors, friends, and real-time sources of information.

If you are at all interested in farming or want to see how you can make your existing operation more productive, you should consider this course.

Just had to share it with you all….

2015 Grower's Academy Wytheville VA

2015 Grower’s Academy Wytheville VA


Radio silence

Sorry for the long “radio” silence. Awkward and disappointing…my apologies.

It has been a rather hectic end to the market season, and surprisingly, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. (How did that happen?)

The farm “to-do” list hasn’t shortened. Nope. The only thing short around here is time and daylight. How in the world am I to get everything mulched when it is dark by 5:30pm? When will I get these garlic cloves planted if the ground stays frozen? What will our days be like when our pig and heifer move out here?

The other interesting dilemma at the moment is the fact that I still have half of the garden producing…but I am hesitant to market anything. Huh? Well, if I go to harvest anything in the morning, odds are that it will be frozen (despite being under row covers). Solid. If I go to harvest anything in the evening, the same thing could be faced. Wacky.

At any rate, I remain hopeful that this weekend will be very productive…that I will get the lovely garlic cloves in the ground and tucked in for winter. That I will finish cleaning out the dead summer plants from the main garden. That all bare ground will be covered with the new straw that just got delivered over the weekend….and that all the producing items will be lovingly mulched so as to make it possible to even pick them!

Have any weekend plans? Are you bored? Tired of being cooped up inside? It’s actually supposed to be decent on Saturday. Come on out. I am sure we could find something for you to do! :)



This morning was crisp and crystalline…my first farm frost.

Foggy and frosty walk

Foggy and frosty walk

Forgotten sweatshirt

Forgotten sweatshirt

Frost on grass

Frost on grass

Frost on clover

Frost on clover

Unfazed dogs

Unfazed Wonder dogs


It is always interesting to travel, to see new places and people.



Cabled suspension bridge in Omaha, Nebraska leading to Iowa.


Take off

Take off – view of Iowa


Somewhere over NC

Somewhere over NC

It is always good to be home.


Making the mad dash

I am so very grateful for an understanding boss and for friends and family who love and support our farming efforts!

It was a mad mad dash today. Winter arrives…….TONIGHT! The folks came out and pulled all the pepper plants, picking off all hot and bell peppers in order to save them from the impending arctic blast. I left work early to try and get the rest of the productive beds covered with row covers to help decrease chill injury. Ideally, I also would’ve mulched the heck out of all the beds with a comfy, thick layer of straw. Of course, as is typical with my part-time farming adventure, I am usually late enacting what I want to do. No one’s fault. It is just life and how it works out.

At least these beauties are tucked in and have a better shot of withstanding the rain, snow flurries, and blustery winds that are forecasted for tonight and tomorrow. (Wind chill in the 20s? Seriously? Oh boy).

Bok choi

Bok choi

Red choy

Red choy

New River

Just some morning mists on the New River this morning:

Claytor Lake Dam

Claytor Lake Dam

Fall reflections on the New

Fall reflections on the New

Salad turnips

I posted a little blurb on our Facebook site the other day about the fact that this year was a first for me and turnips…specifically salad turnips (Hakurei variety).

Salad turnips

Salad turnips

This WEEK was a first for me in actually eating the darn things. Yep. I know. I grew them in the spring and now for the fall, and not once did I eat any until now.

What was I thinking? These things are fabulous!

It all started with a little weeding and accidentally harvest of a pretty turnip. What the heck, I brushed off the dirt and ate it right there on the spot…then proceed to pick a bunch more for dinner. DELICIOUS.

So later that evening, I found a very simple recipe on Epicurious for sautéed salad turnips. The original recipe called for turnips, water, butter, salt and sugar (I didn’t add the recipe amount and boy was I glad of that. The turnips are sweet enough as is). I made the recipe again last night with a few modifications. Here is what I did:



I cleaned about 6-8 turnips with cool water, cut off the tops (setting aside) and trimmed off the tiny root. I then quartered the root and put it in a pan. I added sliced onion and enough chicken broth to allow the turnips to boil. A pinch of Kosher salt, some fresh ground pepper. Bring all to a boil and cook until turnips are tender (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Turnip greens

Turnip greens

Then…add the greens and cook until they are wilted. Please don’t throw those beauties away. The greens are a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins,  vitamins A, C, E & K, and several minerals.

Read More

We wound up with a nice side for our grilled pork chop covered in pepper jelly and gorgonzola cheese, fresh from the garden green beans, and wild rice.






a blog about women who do amazing things

Jillaroo Jess

Memoirs of a country bumpkin..

Fresh Ingredients

“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” ― Julia Child


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

Sustainable Market Farming

Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres


Photographs from my world.

Sandyfoot Farm

Growing a market garden in the Piedmont of Virginia

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman | Ree Drummond

Natural, farm fresh produce. Grown with love.


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