Monday, May 19, 2014

Summer CSA Shares - Coming Right Up!


We harvested our first pile of cucumbers this weekend, which must mean the summer CSA season is right around the corner. We have room for new members! The season starts June 25th. Please visit our registration page to sign up. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring is Here, and It's CSA Time!

Winter here was incredibly short and dry this year. Here we are in the first week of spring, and our spring crops are already all planted. Today we're preparing a section for summer crops. Over the next month, we expect to start harvesting lettuces, artichokes, kale, mustard greens, peas, beets, carrots, and more! If you live in our area and want the freshest veggies in the world delivered to your door, now is the time to sign up for our CSA. Just click here to go to our new registration form.

Spring seedlings are all planted.

Using straw mulch to keep seeds moist and row covers to keep the bugs off.

The chickens are having a blast eating down the cover crop.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Photo Journal of Fall Farm Goings-On

It's been a long, busy summer here. Here are some of the things that are going on around the farm this fall:

1. We've had an awesome tomato season, harvesting about 20 different varieties, mostly heirlooms. Earlier this month, we had our annual tomato tasting potluck party. As usual, we chose the hottest day of the month (not on purpose) for this event, but about 25 brave souls came out anyway to taste our best tomatoes.


2. We are also having a great year for winter squashes, and we're getting ready to harvest most of them this week. The butternuts look particularly promising.

3. Our fall crops are just about all planted now, and the weeds are going nuts, as usual, but so far I've been able to keep the veggies taller than most of the weeds.

4. I'm preserving food for the harsh California winter. Just kidding. Despite our year-round growing season, it'll be nice to have these ginger plums, plus tomato sauce, blackberry jam, etc. in the cold months.

5. Hubby is bravely clearing blackberry brambles out of the creek bed. The creek is dry right now, but once it starts raining it fills up quickly. Last year it came within inches of overflowing the banks. We're trying to give the water a little deeper channel to flow on out of here this winter.




Monday, July 1, 2013

Threshing and Winnowing Wheat by Hand

Wheat kernels
This is the continuation of the previous post, in which I described our foray into small-scale wheat growing and harvesting. At the end of June, we hosted a threshing bee here on the farm! Several of our friends and farm members came over to share a meal and to help us bring in the grain harvest. Both kids and adults seemed to have a tremendously fun time of it, and we all ended up with quite a bit of wheat by the end (I don't know exactly how much, since everyone got to take home wheat if they wanted). Here is how it went:

1. Threshing
Threshing in a pillowcase
The basic idea of threshing is to knock the wheat kernels off the stalks. We found a few ways to accomplish this, all of which were good fun. One of my favorite ways was to put a sheaf of wheat in a pillowcase, hold the pillowcase closed, and beat it with a stick for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Other methods included, smacking the wheat against the sides of a bucket, stomping on the wheat in a sturdy box, and swinging the bag of wheat against a hard surface.

2. Winnowing
If you are using a pillowcase, carefully pour the wheat into a bucket. I like to then shake it back and forth several times. The wheat falls to the bottom, and the chaff (hulls, stems, etc.) rises to the top. Then I scoop off the chaff and discard it. The next step is to pour the wheat (carefully!) from one bucket to another, allowing the chaff to blow away in the wind. If it's not windy, a box fan will speed up the process. You'll have to pour it back and forth about 5-6 times before it's clean.
Winnowing with a fan

3. Storing and Eating
The wheat berries should now be fairly free of chaff and ready to store. I just put mine in an airtight container in the cabinet. They are very dry and hard, so I imagine they'll last a long time. So far, I've been eating them as a whole grain, like rice, rather than grinding them into flour. Wheat berries are totally delicious! Simply put them in a pot with water at a ratio of approximately 3:1 water to wheat. Bring it to a boil for about 5 mins, then lower to a simmer and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Then you can season them as you like and eat them warm or cold. I am particularly fond of mixing them with plain yogurt, salt, zatar (Middle Eastern seasoning mix), and olive oil.
Some of the finished product

Update: I just finished threshing and winnowing the last of the wheat. We ended up with about 10 quarts of wheat berries, which is 20 lbs., out of an area of about 240 square feet.
 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Planting and Harvesting Wheat by Hand

One of the new things we tried on the farm this year was growing a small patch of wheat. Although we're not thinking of becoming wheat farmers, I thought it would be interesting to try to grow a grain since they are such a staple in our diet. I'm sharing our process here because I found very little information available about wheat growing on a garden-scale. My disclaimer is that this is our first time growing wheat, so we are definitely not experts on the subject.

We are in USDA zone 9b, and we planted the wheat in October. It's Hard Red Winter Wheat, one of the most common varieties. We planted an area of about 240 square feet. To plant the wheat, we just made furrows with a hoe, sprinkled the seed in and then used the hoe to cover it with soil. We irrigated it with sprinklers until the winter rains came. It was extremely easy to grow and basically looked like grass throughout the winter and early spring. It started making heads in early May.
Heads filling out in mid-May

Next came the critical step of figuring out when to harvest it. Based on what I've read and an introductory workshop at Pie Ranch, I determined that the wheat should be all brown, and the kernels should not be chewy anymore. However, you don't want to wait so long that the plants drop their seed. We began the harvest on May 31st.

Since this is just a small experimental patch, I didn't want to buy any special tools or equipment for harvesting. We ended up using a serrated knife and pruning shears. I think the knife was probably more efficient. We grabbed each handful of wheat near the base and cut through the stalks with the knife. I found that it's easier to start with small bundles, about 3-4 inches in diameter. While holding the bundle in my left hand, I would use my right hand to tie it together. I found the most efficient thing to do was  use a stalk of the wheat to tie it. I would just bend the stalk about halfway up, wrap it tightly around the bundle (twice if possible) and then tuck the end into the wrapped part to secure it in place. Each of these bundles is called a sheaf.

Using a wheat stalk to bind the sheaf
Harvesting a sheaf
 We collected the sheaves in a big box, and when it was full, we brought the sheaves to an open place in the yard and stacked them together into "shocks." Each shock consisted of about 15 sheaves of wheat leaning together, with the seed heads up, so as to hold each other up. The best way I found to do this was to choose four of the larger sheaves and carefully lean them together to form the base. The key is to gently squeeze the heads together, so they tangle up and hold onto each other. Then I just keep adding additional sheaves in sets of two on opposite sides. Finally, I covered the top of the shock with a piece of row cover/remay (cheesecloth would work too). It's not as pretty with the cover, but it'll keep the birds off.
Bringing in the sheaves!
Now we'll wait until the wheat is completely dry, and then we'll begin the process of threshing and winnowing, which will separate the wheat grains from the chaff. To be continued....
Some of the sheaves shown here are covered and some not

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Zucchinis... Coming Right Up!

Thanks to a super-warm spring, our zucchini plants are already quite big, and it looks like we may have our first harvest as early as next week. I'm really happy that they look so good because I nearly lost them after transplanting due to an irrigation mistake.

Around this time of year, I always like to clarify the difference between zucchini, summer squash, and winter squash. The short answer is that there is almost no difference. Summer squash refers to fruits that are harvested before their seeds mature, when their skin is still soft. Zucchini is one kind of summer squash, as is yellow crookneck, pattypan, etc. Winter squash are mature squash fruits with hard skins. Winter squash include butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. An immature winter squash is a summer squash, and a way overgrown zucchini becomes like a winter squash. Of course, the varieties we know as summer squash have qualities that make them particularly good for that purpose, and same goes for winter squash. To clarify another common misconception, both are grown in the summer. Winter squash are harvested in the fall, and keep well in storage over the winter, hence the name.
Female squash flower with Golden Zucchini forming underneath.

Male squash flower (no fruit forms beneath it)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our New Logo

Here it is, our beautiful new logo!


Look for it wherever the freshest, most delicious produce is sold (within Morgan Hill, that is).

The logo was designed by CSA member Marieke Ruys http://mariekeruys.com. Check out her collection of hand-printed, eco-friendly napkins, the perfect accompaniment to all your locavore meals.