Disaster Strikes the Bees

Knocked over hive
Bears. It's always the bears.

Bees are supposed to live in a hive. When they are not in the hive, it is generally safe to say that something bad has happened. They could have swarmed and left the hive. There could have been a disease. In this case, a bear happened. Continue reading “Disaster Strikes the Bees”

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Of markets and melons

Ceci n'est pas un honeydew
First melon of the season!

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

We’ll talk of many things today. The farm’s been busy, and this tardy post will cover melons, markets, and chickens all in one fell swoop. (Incidentally, has anyone ever done something in two fell swoops? Continue reading “Of markets and melons”

Days of Our Chickens

Pencilled Rock Rooster
HAVE YOU SEEN ME? We couldn't get his picture on a milk carton, but this silver-pencilled rock's twin has gone missing.

As promised, here’s the much-anticipated chicken update. First off, the current count: 23. We had 24 birds as of about a week ago, but we’ve recently gone down by one. We do know who’s gone: a silver pencilled rock rooster. We do not know how he disappeared. He’s either been eaten by something that wasn’t us, or (and this is my preferred theory) he’s gone feral and will eventually return with stories of fame, glory, and fortunes won and lost. Either way, it’s a shame that one of the better looking birds has gone missing.

Fake Campine
Real breed: modern game bird. Previously believed to be: campine. Currently called: Fake campine.

In the picture above, you can see one of our fake campines, so called because they are not actually campines but convinced us that they were for the first many weeks of their feathered lives. Campines are fairly useful birds, scrawny but good layers. Modern game birds, their rather unimaginative real breed, were raised purely for their looks, making them some of the less-useful birds that we’ve got. Note the longer legs and slim body. If aliens were going to impersonate a barnyard animal and take over the world, it would probably be a modern game bird. We’re keeping an eye on them.

Cochin and Americauna Roosters
Little Dick and the Cochin

 

Little Dick
Little Dick Lets One Loose

In the center/bottom of top picture is Little Dick, so named because of his resemblance to a certain former Vice President early on in his life. The pointed nose and close set eyes made him look like a long-lost feathered brother. He also picked on the other chicks quite a bit, so the name was a nice little double entendre. Little Dick’s one of the more attractive roosters, which will probably keep him off the chopping block for a bit.

Above Little Dick is the cochin, a Chinese breed which should be good and meaty. He’s got feathered legs, making it look like he’s wearing chaps when he gallops. Yes, gallops. He doesn’t seem quite capable of a normal chicken run, but he does seem terribly capable of being delicious.

Cuckoo Maran Rooster
Cock of the walk. Ruler of the roost. Other alliterative/rhyming chicken phrases.

I mentioned previously that there was some drama in the hen house, and this guy is the culprit. The cuckoo maran rooster has really taken over the joint. He patrols the roosts at night, making sure everyone’s in their spot, pecking at chickens that he thinks need to move. By day, he beats up on other troublemakers. If you hear *SQUAWKSQUAWK* during the day, it’s very probably this guy trying to maintain order by latching on to someone else’s neck.

White Polish Chicken
Who has two thumbs and causes a lot of problems? THIS GUY. (note: this guy doesn't really have thumbs.)

The drama comes in around night time. The cuckoo maran has a penchant for kicking people out of the coop, namely the white polish rooster, who can be a little aggressive with the ladies. (I always visualize him running around a la Benny Hill.) The white polish has spent a number of nights outside the coop, either in various trees or under the deck.

(HEADS UP: Vegetarians should skip the rest of this and leave a comment on how cute the chickens are.)

The upside to the polish chicken drama is that it pretty quickly solved a conundrum that we were trying to solve: who gets eaten first? At first we thought the cuckoo maran should go, but then we realized he’s got the traits you want in a good rooster. Or at least we think so, with all of three months of chicken rearing experience under our belts. He keeps eyes on everyone, keeps the other roosters in line, and doesn’t hesitate to protect the hens. But he’s also gentle towards people.

So that leaves an obvious choice: the white polish. He’s got a crow that sounds more like a velociraptor screech, he is constantly in trouble, and the big white mop top makes him an easy target for something else to eat. We figure that means we should get to him first.

That wraps up this week’s chicken soap opera. If anyone’s got experience offing chickens, your advice would be welcome. If you would like to be around for the festivities this week, drop us a line. And if you’ve got any thoughts about whether the cuckoo maran’s behavior makes for a good rooster or a bad one, leave a comment and let us know.

The Floodgates Open

Market stand: 7/22
Our market stand this week, or: "hey, it's not just radishes!"

Things happened this week. That much is pretty irrefutable. With regards to the farm, excellent things happened. Namely, produce is growing! In the picture above, you can see what we brought to market this week:

  • zucchini and yellow squash
  • radishes
  • spring onion
  • lettuce
  • arugula
  • purslane
  • basil (thai, lemon, and italian)
  • thyme
  • sage
  • oregano

It’s really terribly exciting to have more coming out of the ground than just radishes, which had been the trend for the last two weeks. In addition to more produce, we also had 400% more customers than last week! We sold through about 75% of what we had by 10:30am, and by the end of the day  we were left with just a few bunches of herbs. As the market runs until 1pm, we did a lot of explaining to people: “No, there’s more! Come back next week!” Chalk it up to the market having an ad in the paper this week.

In addition to more customers and more produce, we also had more cowbell more heat. That’s pretty good for a lot of things in the field, and pretty bad for a lot of things on the market table. Hence the new greens cooler (note: greens cooler is actually blue in color. Neither you nor I am colorblind. Well, you may be — I don’t really know.)

The last “more” of the week is more newspaper men. Having started with zero of them in previous weeks and zooming up to one this week, they are making up a larger percentage of our customers than ever before. And the market will hopefully be making up more of said newspaper man’s articles, but we’ll have to wait a few more days to see. The slightly-rhyming Rick Hiduck (whose name promptly lodged itself in my head for the rest of the day) of the Rocket Courier came out to see what was up and talk to some of the vendors.

And, of course we’ve got the weekly recipe! These quick refrigerator pickles are easy to make. Our family couldn’t tell that they weren’t cucumbers at a recent cookout.

Quick Zucchini (or squash) Pickles

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini (or squash), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fine-grained sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (small handful) fresh dill sprigs
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar, preferably natural cane sugar

Directions: 

Toss the zucchini and salt together in a colander and place over a bowl to catch the liquid. Cover and let stand one to two hours. Toss once along the way.

Lightly squeeze excess water from zucchini and pat dry. Pack into a pint size jar along with the dill and garlic.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and boil until sugar dissolves. Pour the liquid over the zucchini, seal the jar and let cool. Place in the refrigerator. The pickles will keep for about one week.

Thunderheads
Thunderheads

We’ll leave you this week with some storm clouds moving in on the farm. Allie took this one a while ago, but we haven’t had a great place to reference it yet. Not that right now is all that much better, but hey, it’s your second photo of the post.

If you are curious about the conspicuous lack of post last week, Allie was out in Seattle with her sister (whose great cooking blog I’ll plug: Tessa’s International Cafe). Nick may or may not have taken this as an opportunity to slack on the blog a bit.

I know I promised you chickens last time, and you’ll get them tomorrow. Going to be another scorcher, so I’ll finish up the chicken post while we take the afternoon off. In the meantime, you can check out the new chicken pictures on our Flickr stream.

Market Week 2: Radishes

Radishes for sale
French breakfast, red globe, and purple globe radishes

We made it through week two at the farmer’s market today. And we even had produce! Radishes, to be exact. The location got moved this week to the American Legion on Route 6 in Wyalusing. It’s a great spot, and hopefully we stay stable so folks can keep coming back.

We’ll probably do a longer post about it in the future, but the pre-market ritual is interesting. Today we were up at 6am to get outside, pluck some produce, wash it, group it, and pack it up. As we progress to having more than just radishes, we’ll need to start working the night before. Good thing the kitchen is progressing, as you can see in the picture below. For the last two months, we’ve just had a mini fridge, microwave, and electric kettle. Now, we’ve got a full sized fridge and a gas stove. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life . . .

Washing radishes
Market Prep

We also started a new weekly tradition: recipes. Each week, we’ll have a new recipe that features at least one thing that we’ve got for sale. This week it’s radishes, so here’s what we’ve got cooking:

Honey Dijon Potato Salad

Serves 4-6. Originally from Rachel Ray.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 radishes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley leaves, chopped

Directions: 

Cover the potatoes with cold water. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until just tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine the honey, Dijon mustard, and vinegar in a bowl, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

To the bowl add the radishes, capers, onion, celery, parsley and hot potatoes. Using a wooden spoon, break up the potatoes into large chunks.

Toss the potato salad, adjust the salt & pepper, then serve.

That about wraps it up for this week. Coming up: chicken news. It’s like a reality TV show . . . someone gets exiled and has to spend the night outside.

Mulching Away

Melons and mulch
Pulling out the artillery in the battle to suppress errant grass

You may recall a few posts ago, when we were struggling with what to do about the grass that kept popping up, little terrorist sleeper cells in our battle for agricultural freedom </hyperbole>. Well, we’re hoping part of the answer will be mulch. In the photo above, you can see straw laid out over some of the melons. One row is just straw, another is straw and wet newspaper, and another is no mulch at all. It’s a little experiment to see what works best, tho we admit our control group is a little non-existent since each row is also a different type of melon.

Peppers Mulched
Peppers Mulched

We’re also trying grass clippings as a mulch. In the pic above, you can see it in action on the pepper plants. Besides keeping weeds out and moisture in, we’re also curious to see if any residual nutrients in the grass clippings will leech down to the peppers.

If you’ve got mulching experience and have any sage words of wisdom, feel free to comment!

Fruits (Roots) of Our Labor

First Root at Third Root
First Root at Third Root

There it is. The very first thing we’ve made (with a solid assist from soil and water) — a French breakfast radish. Little bugger was delicious, albeit a little spicy to eat straight up. It’s purple and red globe brethren were equally delicious. We’ll actually have produce to sell this week! We’ll try selling two types of bunches: smaller, sweeter radishes and larger, spicier ones.