Friday, October 1, 2010

Early this morning during a restful sleep I woke to the dull, crackling sound of distant thunder, a sound I have not heard for some time. I appreciate now more than ever how much farmers pay attention to the change in the weather. This past July here in Southern Nevada was the hottest in recorded history. It was all we could do to get the work of planting and weeding done before 10:00am before we were personally cooked out there. Just when I thought things were cooling off in September the thermometer soared back up to 100 plus degrees finding us here at the farm scurrying for cover by noon. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever cool down. Then somehow it happened! Some how the forces of nature knew that it turned October today. I am hopeful that the weather knows the unwritten law that the temperature cannot rise above 100 degrees this time of year! It was as if I was being given a sign early this marvelous morning while hand watering in a few rows. I looked up into the beautiful cloud laden sky and there it was, hidden just a bit in the clouds, here and there fragments of a double rainbow. It was so subtly hidden in the clouds that I might have missed it if I hadn't taken the time to look up. I stopped watering for awhile taking time to enjoy the beauty of it all. Monte and our interns were all at different locations on the farm. I hoped they were able to see the grandeur of the moment. It's moments like this that make July worth while. I love this time of year!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hot Off the Press Apple Cider

Recipe for making Homemade, Old-Fashioned, Fresh Pressed Apple Cider, Step by Step

1. Find an old organic apple orchard hidden in the middle of the desert.

2. Select your favorite apples for juice. Most people like a blend of sweet and tart apples. I prefer straight crisp, tart Jonathans.

3. Bring friends along who think a work weekend is a vacation!!! Meet Lynn Patterson. He climbs the trees and gives them a good shake. We run for cover! We collect the apples in tarps that we have strategically placed under the trees. It is no bother if the apples get bruised as they will be mushed to a slop of wet pulp soon.

4. Leave Symbria under the tree and forget to tell her about step 3.

5. Be sure to bring Sara!!! Note how many bushels of apples Sara has gathered compared to her mom (Symbria) above?!

6. Give the apples a good washing. Try not to get those around you wet. (Hee, hee!)

7. Convince family and friends that cutting up apples and slicing out worms for two days is therapeutic. Be sure to bring band-aids, if not for mistaking your thumb for an apple than for the blisters you get cutting for hours on end!

8. Pulverize the apples to a wet, sloppy, juicy sweet goo. We use a garbage disposal used only for this purpose to do the job. It does it nicely. (Notice how we gave this job to Lynn, and how he is sitting way over there by himself!)

9. Pour the apple slop into clean cotton kitchen towels. (These brown towels were once pure white. Quilters often die white cloth with tea to give it an antique appearance. No need, just give me a call!)

10. Well in advance, be sure to marry a man who can literally do anything. This is very important! He is "one of those guys you can send out into the wilderness with a pocket knife and a q-tip and he builds you a shopping mall." In this case Monte has converted bits of scrap oak, pressed boards, scrap metal and plastic into a grand work of art. An authentic first-rate old-fashioned press. Man he turns me on!!!!

11. Visit every antique shop and yard sell for old 1/2 gallon narrow necked canning jars. (Symbria has an absolute obsession for these narrow necked jars. If you have some you would like to part with you will be her friend forever! Better yet, give the jars to me and I will gloat in front of her at my fabulous fortune!) Sterilize the jars in boiling water. Be careful to not glug the piping hot water all down your front as the jars fill with water!)

12. Heat the pressed cider to 160 degrees. If you forget this part you will have "apple jack" in no time! 24 hours and the cider begins to take on new life! Carefully fill your precious jars with your liquid gold. Place clean hot lids on jars and set off to cool. Soon you will here what is called the "canners symphony", the sound of the lids popping letting you know that the jars have properly sealed.

(You will notice my favorite All-Clad 5 gallon stainless steel pot has turned tar black from the flame of the fire. Oh well, what can a girl do?)

13. When you pick your victims, I mean friends to "help" you with this project, be sure to pick the kind that want to come so bad that they will cook for you. Someone never told the Pattersons that you don't bring linen napkins when you are camping! We will never tell!!!)

14. To maintain nourishment during your labors it is very important to eat really well! Both we and the Patterson's are eating "local" as much as possible. All food in the following pictures (steps) are from our Quail Hollow Farm, the Patterson's Red Acre Farm, the Molto Vegas Farmers Market, or artisanol cheese from Jack Rabbit Ranch.

Breakfast Day 1: Light Omelet with Neuftchatel Cheese and Rosemary, Herbed New Potatoes, Farm Grown Sausage and Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice. (shown above)

Lunch: Sauted Corn Cakes, Summer Squash Carpaccio with Arugula, Pecorino, and Almonds; with an assorted Cheese, Apple, Cracker plate. (shown below)

And for Dinner: Creamed Tarragon Chicken with Apple Cider, Foil Roasted New Potatoes with Garlic and Thyme; Golden Beet and Blood Orange Salad and for my birthday boy what other than Warm Applesauce Cake baked in a Dutch Oven.

Day Two Breakfast: Herbed Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Honey Whole Wheat Pancakes with Apple Cinnamon Syrup, and of course by now Fresh Apple Cider.

Lunch: Turkey, Apple, Sprout, Jack Cheese Sandwich; Tomato, Lemon Cucumber with Chevre and Basil Salad; Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm's Slaw; Salami and Cheese; Fresh Melons.

Dinner: Harvest Vegetable, Bean Medley with Pesto Sauce; Lynn's Homemade Rolls; Apple Tart with Rustic Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.

Breakfast Day 3: Carrot Zucchini Bread with Fresh Yogurt, Homemade Peach Raspberry Preserves and Sausage.

15. All that work and eating requires a bit of relaxing and entertainment. Be sure to bring Grandma & Grandpa to play your favorite Blue Grass songs such as "Arkansas River", "Nobody's Darling", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and the ever popular, Grandpa's "I Just Don't Look Good Naked Anymore". And don't forget the grandkids who can entertain for hours catching and playing with huge bull frogs.

When it is all said and done this is the reward for your labor. This year we pressed over 70 gallons of cider. With every sip of cider throughout the year we will remember a wonderful experience with family and friends and the flavors of fall from the apple orchard. Life is good!

By the way, if you are interested in some of the wonderful recipes that were served this weekend, many of them came from these two outstanding cookbooks: Eating Local by Janet Fletcher and Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. I highly recommend them!

For next year we are taking reservations for confused work-a-holics. $500 per "participant!" (think Tom Sawyer and the white fence!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

OK, I've turned over a new leaf and have recommitted myself to keep this farm blog up to date!
A most marvelous, wonderful, much anticipated and longed for thing has happened since I last posted on this blog. Monte, (Loverboy to me), my much adored husband has retired from his contracting business and has "come home to the farm"! I could never, ever have supposed that this farm would someday develop to the point that it would literally provide a viable income for us. It really helped push us in this direction when the construction industry crashed.
Although Monte's business was able to hold its own, it gave us pause to dream of working the farm together and now it has become the most wonderful reality! It is not all bliss and merriment as the work is hard and the hours are long, but we are enjoying every minute together and the farm is so much better for it. Monte has longed to have time to work on building and improving the farm. Little by little it is improving every day. One of the new improvements is that while he can work the farm with the help of our interns, I can spend the time needed to keep track of all the details such as time to return emails, write newsletters, keep the books and make new posts on this blog!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cinderella Pumpkins & Moapa Squash

I love this time of year! We woke up this morning to the freshness of a morning rain. The air was clean and still. The colors of the earth, the crops and the sky were richer and more vivid than usual. The temperature was brisk, cool not cold. I felt that I was being nourished with each breath.

One of my favorite things about fall, aside from the weather, is winter squash and pumpkins! I love to grow them. I love their variety and diversity. The winter squash that you had this week in your share basket is my absolute favorite! I found this squash three years ago from an older local farmer. The seeds of this squash were brought to our valley from the early pioneers and have been handed down and saved since then. I had never seen this beautiful, unusual squash in any seed catalog before. I named it Moapa Squash for our valley. (Pictured in the very middle of this wagon.) With a little investigation, I have since found out that this is an old heirloom Cushaw winter squash named Tennessee Sweet Potato. It is listed as one of the endangered varieties in Slow Food's Ark of Taste. The outside of the squash perfectly fits the description, but the meat of our squash is a bit different. The flesh has a beautiful light-salmon color to it and is very delicious!!! I am sure that through the years this squash has cross-polinated with other varieties making it our very own unique "Moapa Squash". It is delightfully mild and a very hardy squash for our area. One of the great things about this squash is that the plants are not affected by the wicked squash bugs! I hope you are enjoying it this week. Cook it as you do any other winter squash. It also makes great soups and pies! (I will have seeds available at our Local Seed Exchange event next month.)

Next week in your share baskets you will be receiving a portion of a famous pumpkin. It is nicknamed the "Cinderella Pumpkin" because the Walt Disney animator of Cinderella patterned her coach after this old french pumpkin. It is named Rouge Vif D'Etampes. For those of you who speak French you can tell me what this means. (Sonia, help!) Last year I did not have much luck with it but I thought I would give it a try again. We had much better success with it this year as you can see in the picture below. This is the most gorgeous pumpkin I have ever grown! It is a brilliant red-orange color with deep ribs around it. (I can just see the country field mice hiding under the vines ready to be turned into handsome coachmen.) We did not have enough of these pumpkins available for our pot luck dinner, but we will have plenty to share next week. This squash can also be baked into pie for the holidays.

Enjoy the fall harvest and this wonderful weather!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Potluck, Pigs and Pumpkins

This weekend we had the most marvelous time at our farm! My favorite part about our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the "Community" part. I love the agriculture part of growing and tending to living things, and producing healthy crops, but community is what it is all about. This weekend on our farm we got to play, visit, laugh, and eat incredible food together with many members of our "community". We all have a common interest of appreciating fresh, local, organic, sustainable, nutritious, wholesome, "slow food." This is where it gets really fun for us (your personal farmers.) We get to know and love the people that share in this community. We are not just growing food for a market, we are growing food for Jason and Kelly and McKinley and Megan, and on and on. We are literally growing families! How great is that!!!

For this years potluck we had tables set up to accommodate different food preferences. We had a raw, vegetarian, carnivore and everyone's favorite table, dessert. All of the different dishes were excellent this year! We all found ourselves throughout the night going back for more. (It doesn't hurt to have some professional chefs among our shareholders!)

In addition to the great food we enjoyed, we were also treated to some excellent entertainment from Blue Grass and modern music to classical guitar. One of the highlights of the evening was an impromptu dance performance by some of the children dancing to Bach's Chaconne and the ever popular Blue Grass "Stone Soup" song.

During the evening, every child or family got to pick a pumpkin to take home.

We were pleased to have the chapter President of Las Vegas Slow Food, Bill Wypyski and his wife with us for the evening as well as several "Slow Food" families. Bill is also one of our QHF shareholders and a great advocate of local, sustainable food in Las Vegas.

We are so grateful for everyone who made this evening so wonderful!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Honey

This summer Monte and I jumped head first into beekeeping. For the last several years we have always had a hive or two, but this summer a dear friend and local beekeeper asked us to take over his bee business as he is no longer able to care for it. We now have 25 active hives and all of the equipment necessary to produce a lot of honey! In July we moved the bees to Panguitch, Utah where they have been working the alfalfa fields and wild flowers for the last few months. We have tended to them from time to time adding new supers (the boxes that hold the honey frames,) as they have needed them. We have been very pleased with their progress over the last several weeks. They have literally been busy little bees. This week we loaded them up and brought them home for the winter. It is honey harvest time now!!

I love the smell of warm beeswax! Monte is uncapping the honey frame to extract the honey by centrifugal force in the honey extractor. This allows us to keep the honey in its raw state. The cappings will eventually be melted down into pure beeswax which we will make into tapered candles for the table. Nothing better than candlelight dinners. We are quite fond of them! After the honey is spun from the cells we simply filter and bottle it, or in the case of our cut comb honey we simply cut it from the frame and place into the containers, literally untouched. The cut comb honey is Montes favorite. He loves the chewiness of the soft wax, especially as it melts over hot biscuits. It is a great treat! (Much to Monte's dismay, I do not have a picture of melting honey over warm biscuits - maybe tomorrow "honey.")

We now have fresh, pure, raw honey available for purchase. We have packaged the honey into 1 pint glass jars with a sliver of cut comb, 1.5 & 3 pound squeeze bottles, or 1 pound cut comb squares. Let us know which you would prefer. Look in your email for prices and availability.

While I have been writing this blog, I have noticed Monte quietly fixing up my candle mold for me. I know he has "better things" he would rather do.
I guess I had better go make some biscuits!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Morning Musings

I have finally embarked into the blogosphere. Pretty scary stuff! I hope to use this as a way to keep you connected to what's happenin' on the farm.

I love to do my routine farm chores in the morning. Everything literally appears to be coming alive. There seems to be something magical about watching the first rays of sunlight hit the slumbering plants. You can almost see the leaves stretch to meet the sun and feel the warmth of the new day. It makes me feel happy and content.

This week on the farm we have been busy continuing our fall planting. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pac choi, radishes, arugula, and mizuna have been planted into perfectly straight, linear rows. Ok, I exaggerate here. It drives Monte crazy when I can't seem to till a straight line. Its all he can do to keep from digging it all up to fix my mess. I on the other hand look at it as being, well, creative. Yeah that's it! Anyway, I love to see the new crops coming up and growing each day. (They don't care if the row isn't straight!) Now the fight is on to keep the wild rabbits and a few pesky chickens who have figured out that there wings can be useful away from the emerging plants. No the garden is not always a pastoral scene. Sometimes it can be downright war! It seems that we have won the battle, at least for today.

What I am most excited about this week is the arrival of our two new interns!!! Kylee and Elise have arrived on the scene and boy are they helping to shape things up around here. Elise is from Salem, Utah and Kylee from Meridian, Idaho. They are here to learn not only about organic farming, but also the skills of sustainable home production. In addition to learning to raise small farm animals and vegetable crops, they will also be learning to make candles, soap and cheese, to bottle, pickle and preserve the harvest, and the management of the farm. They both have an infectious enthusiasm for what they are learning, and have each expressed a desire to have a CSA of their own some day. I am not only enjoying there company, but am thrilled to have two wonderful women to share my passion with. Life is good!!!

From the farm,
Laura Bledsoe