Two of the best things to happen to the farm last year were the award of a grant from the NRCS to build a high tunnel and Martha, the intern who managed its construction last December. Throughout this year, crops have been started in the high tunnel earlier than they could have been planted outside, while other crops, like peppers, survived long past the time they would have if left to the elements outside the high tunnel.
After a recent heavy rain, we discovered what is pictured above. Some of the peppers in the high tunnel appeared to have frost damage and in the dry leaf mulch we found ashes. Mystified, we began eliminating causes and discovered that water had collected in a pool on top of the high tunnel and had acted as a magnifying glass, intensifying the rays of the sun! The peppers had sunburn, the result of rays so intense that they started a fire in the leaves!
Eliot Coleman teaches a method of gardening to allow harvesting produce throughout the winter months. Three factors are necessary. First, you need a high tunnel to eliminate the dessicating effect that wind has on plants. Second, a floating row cover, which is a sheet of lightweight, translucent fabric suspended twelve inches above the ground on metal wickets (recycled political yard signs work great!) and held in place with clothespins, for an additional layer of protection. The third factor is timing. Plants grow very slowly once the sun shines less than ten hours per day, and in Independence Kentucky, that day is today, November 17. But remember that the intention is not to grow produce in the winter; it is to harvest produce in the winter. So by today, the plants are about as mature as they are going to get until the sun starts to shine more than ten hours per day, which isn't until January 26. We have planted several obscure edible greens such as minutina - a cold-hardy salad plant with slender leaves that will produce into the winter. And claytonia, another obscure cold-hardy winter green. The picture above is of a Bull's Blood beet, not grown for it's root but for it's edible leaves that we hope to harvest all winter.
The variety of carrots we have planted in our high tunnel is called Napoli. The cold condenses the sugar in the root vegetable and makes for a sweet treat in the middle of winter.
We pick lettuce greens in November with great gratitude. There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh lettuce on a cold fall day (alongside a hot bowl of venison stew!). If all goes as planned, we'll enjoy a fresh green salad, grown here at the farm, on Groundhog Day!
On the farm, we honor the rhythm of life and believe that ultimately we are on this earth to feed and to be fed. One of the many blessings of our work to sustain ourselves here is to harvest deer in the over-populated hills of our property.
Two does, harvested in September, are in the freezer and will help to feed us, our families, and future interns coming to further the cause of sustainable living at Red Sunflower Farm. This seven-point buck was found sitting in the middle of Banklick Creek, the back half of his body paralyzed. Our best guess is that someone shot him with an arrow in the spine on his left side (because a bullet would have made an exit wound on the right side), he ran away, and as the infection from the wound spread, it moved to the spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. We killed the animal quickly to end it's suffering, as it was destined for death by starvation.
A Kentucky hunter is permitted to kill only one antlered deer per season. Under the circumstances, the mercy killing of this buck is a true blessing to our farm. The inordinately long periods of time in a tree stand sometimes means that farm chores suffer. We are blessed to have this animal come into our lives and allow us to have more time to get back to our daily life, making ready to process our Thanksgiving turkey, prep for maple syrup production after the first of the year, and plan for next spring and summer's crops.
Thank you, Mother Earth, for this nourishment that will be provided to us through the winter.
Remembering the smell of spring lavender and the image of our two female ducks nestled in the huge bush just outside the farmhouse, it's difficult to believe that those little hatchlings survived and matured. But here we are at the end of October and our population of ducks is healthy and relatively happy.
In the image above,our one and only male duck is pictured in the middle of all the females. We've named him Mr. Beret for the white tuft that isn't quite centered on his head. Mr. Beret is a lucky duck. His chivalrous manner did not go unnoticed, and he was chosen to be the sole surviving male out of the four, er, five males hatched this spring. You see, we weren't sure about the sex of the youngest member of the brood, one calico duck that we'd grown fond of, until we had chosen Mr.Beret to have the opportunity to sire more little ducks. One day we found an amorous Mr. Beret and the calico both mating with a female. His anatomy confirmed what we really hadn't noticed before that incident.
The dilemma: whether to process the calico or Mr. Beret. We contacted a farmer friend and asked if she had a need for a male duck. She had taken another male off our hands when he had gotten too aggressive with the females and babies back in the spring. As fate would have it, that duck, who is named Son of Chuck, was shooting blanks, so the farmer was happy to trade for a new young male. Son of Chuck had followed in the footsteps of his father, Chuck the Duck, who also had a very aggressive nature until he found himself in hot soup. Now upon Son of Chuck's return, he would become dinner and nourishment, providing some good to the world.
So both Mr. Beret and Calico (now renamed Smiley) have an opportunity to procreate, producing ducks that provide eggs and sustenance in times to come.
The crop of fall radishes is coming in quite nicely. We have daikon and plumb varieties, along with a special species served in Munich, Germany during October Fest called Muenchener Bier Radish. We'll have more on those later.
We want to share this recipe involving plumb radishes, ready in just minutes with a little dicing and mixing.
Oops, no picture of chopped cilantro, but most of us know how to do that. And drizzle the olive oil and rice vinegar over the chopped ingredients, adding the pinch of salt to mix thoroughly. What you have is a tasty treat good with fish, chicken, or for an afternoon snack. To see the recipe in it's entirety, follow to the end of post.
5 plumb radishes, tops removed and washed, chopped into small pieces
1 large mango, cut into bit size pieces
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
½ bunch of cilantro, stems removed, washed and chopped
pinch of salt
Toss, and eat right away. Also good in 2-3 days
Amid the occasional squawk of a chicken and the near-constant chatter of the ducks, Patty and I sat for a "get-to-know-you" chat. She's been on the farm for over two months now and we will be sad to see her leave.
Patty is a graduate student at the University of California in Davis. She is studying International Agricultural Development, a degree that teaches about programs to help farmers in developing countries. Some of the classes she has taken include Crop Management and Economics of Small Systems in Diverse Countries. The four-hour seminar that was life-changing for Patty was/is called Community Development for Sovereignty and Autonomy. The course examines a sample of contemporary indigenous communities from South, Central and North America with the goal of understanding and evaluating the failure of basic capitalism in these communities and strategies they have adopted to develop and implement forms of sovereignty or autonomous self-management.
As we prepared to make cucumber kimchi, Patty talked about her dream job. When she entered grad school she thought that perhaps she was meant to be a scholar, but now realizes she has more interest in execution than in
teaching. She has some interest in reporting for public radio and I asked her, if she was sent on an investigative trip, where would she most like that to be. “India”, she replied, because she has interned there previously, the population is growing in dramatic fashion, and she once had a class where she needed to discover how to feed 9 billion people. She would like to find out if organic farming, perhaps in some corner of India, could produce enough nitrogen to feed the world's population.
Patty is most proud of her work in the perennial patch. When she arrived it was in sad shape and in need of serious nurturance. She pulled the weeds, helped the runners on the strawberry plants to find direction, and tended and trellised the raspberry bushes, thinking she may want to return to claim the gift of next year's bounty. We would welcome a visit from Patty or any of the other interns who have given the gift of sweat equity to make Red Sunflower Farm what it is today.
Patty also feels that the squash plants that produced the baby squash that appeared in the CSA shares this week are her little babies. She took them from seed to maturation with little oversight from Barry.
Like so many young people who come to work on our farm, Patty has great respect for the vision that Barry and Mackey are attempting to achieve. She identifies with their vision and feels blessed that they have welcomed her into their lives.
Before she arrived at the farm, Patty was worried about her ability to get up early and put in a hard day's work. But she quickly rose to the task and was often first in the field at daybreak. The next intern will have some big shoes to fill to measure up to Patty's work ethic and especially her mulching abilities.
Patty, Jedi will be waiting until you come again. to help us provide nutritious, sustainable food to the community. Until then, study hard and hopefully you will find a way to change some corner of our world.
Low-Sugar Strawberry Balsamic Jam