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Showing posts from 2008

Miracle of Holler Fest

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It was Friday morning, August 22, and Holler Fest would begin in a few hours. I had lots to d0 - I had more things to do than I even knew I had to do! I was up at the barn "doing" - focused, intent, and looking down at the task at hand. Something made me look up. The barn overlooks the garden, and as I straightened up and looked out, I caught a glimpse of the new lettuce patch. This is the patch that we seeded weeks ago in order to have a fall crop. We planted it in our best ground, watered diligently, and waited...and waited. This year's drought seemed too much for us, and we had all but given up the possibility that those tender seedlings could or would even want to germinate into the relentless sun and heat that has characterized the summer of '08. Daily we would check for seedling emergence and daily we saw only dirt. Maybe they knew best. But my glance toward the garden that busy morning caught a faint glimmer of green coming from the lettuce patch. I stopped,

Bon appetit!

From A Word A Day, one of my favorite virtual visits, other than the sprouting community of "ladies food blogs". More on that later. At a time when the bounty of summer produce is starting to pour from our gardens into celebratory meals and gatherings, consider this: A THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. -Alice May Brock, author (b. 1941) And here's something mighty tasty to do with that good garlic. Beet Caviar - adapted from a Khazakstani dish Boil one large or two medium beets until tender; remove skins Grind one-half cup walnuts (may toast them first but not necessary) Mince 2-4 cloves of garlic, depending on how "good" you want this dish to be! Grate beets and mix everything together with one-quarter to one-third cup mayonnaise. Serve as a dip or spread with some good crackers. I

Catching up

Whew -- last post published July 9 - not good! I'm afraid I'm too busy working in the garden to stop and write about it. Since the last post we started a CSA, and now 25 beautiful boxes of produce march off to market each week to be picked up by the shareholders. It's fun; I didn't realize how invested I would feel in these good folks who trusted us enough to plunk down a major chunk of change that assures them they will eat our veggies each week. Confession: I enclose a one-page "newsletter" with each box. So if I am able to write anything, it goes there. It's not the same as blogging; I play it pretty straight and try to literarily behave myself (no commentary from Spike...yet). We have also gained an excellent helper, Elizabeth, since the last post. She pedaled into our farm life from Ohio and has pitched in mightily from the get-go. As we move into full swing, we find seven or eight part-time helpers each Friday making salad and helping bring the har

The backside of strawberries

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Well, this is a goodbye to the berries kind of blog. And appreciating the help we had this year plucking myriad little flavor nuggets. As you can see from the photo, picking berries is a crawl on your knees, bend your back over, stick your nose in the foliage kind of proposition. Berries seem to nestle under their leaves, so it takes time and concentration to uncover the clusters of little treasures in the straw. Hours. And more hours. But what you can't see in the picture is that each one of those pickers has probably just eaten a berry or is just about to. The berry picking perks are oh so sweet and keep us going down those rows. Again. And again. Cool nights gave us a long and flavorful season. Hope you got some! p.s. Spike and his buddies cleaned up their last patch and hit the road on Saturday. They aren't so crazy about the warm weather on the horizon; they said they might be back in the Fall.
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Yeah, Spike Spinach back. Frog Lady says I should write sumthin' about strawberries cuz all the food blogs is oohing and aahing about them these days. Well, she ain't so creative, I guess, but I s'pose I'll have to join the chorus...in my own way. Yeah, I'm happy to set the record straight on strawberries! Someone asked why they were so hard to grow. I'll tell you why - cuz the berries make it hard! Sheez - talk about prima donnas. They can't grow the same year you plant them - oh no, they have to be planted the year before. AND you have to feed them just right and at just the right time. If they don't like what you serve, they won't make much berries. But, right, you don't find that out til the next year. Talk about holdin' a grudge! And even though they make you plant them one year early, they don't like to go through the winter, I guess, cuz they demand to be covered! Sheez, talk about mixed messages. So the frog farmers get out

Busted

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Yeah, Spinach back. You can call me Spike. We might as well be on a first name basis cuz it's lookin' like I'm gonna be around for a while. Frog Lady and me had a little talk after she found out I'd been postin' on her precious frog log. She don't make it here much so I figgered I could set the record straight on a thing or two. So whaddya know she actually shows up a coupla days ago and she sat there for hours - like she was writin' War and Peas or sumthin'. I thought I was in the clear but she got to the end and saw what I been up to -- guess that last picture of the spinach patch I posted was way bigger than the usual size. And hey, why not, the spinach has been awesome! Oops, I'm goofin' on our agreement. Seems the Frog Lady realized she could use a little help around here, so I'm gonna hang around - check some things out and report back. Only deal is I had to promise not to write so much about SPINACH! Sheez - alright alright. Even

Day-o

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What is wrong with this picture? Yes, one bowl contains bananas, the other morel mushrooms. The bowls are sitting next to each other on the same kitchen counter. So what's wrong with that? I'll let Barbara Kingsolver answer the question. Ms. Kingsolver, long a beloved fiction writer, has written a surprising bestseller titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , which depicts her decision, along with her husband and two daughters, to eat for one full year only food that is organically grown and locally produced, either nearby or from their own labor on their Appalachian farm. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Barbara Kingsolver, that appeared in the magazine, Shambala Sun, in July 2007. (Interviewer): What was the most difficult thing about eating locally for a year? Barbara Kingsolver: Everyone asks that, and I think the answer people expect is that it was really hard to give up some particular food, but it really wasn't. Our undertaking was to focus on what was new,

Yeah, spinach here again.

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Made it to the big city last Saturday, but it wasn't all it's cracked up to be. Like I put on my best darkest green coat and I knew I was lookin' mighty crisp. I don't want to brag or nothin' but folks do say I'm, um, tender, if ya know what I mean. But those city folks weren't gettin' it. They seemed so distracted - like nobody can focus on a little honest-to-goodness bag of greens. They were runnin' around with arm fulls of flowers - yeah, try eating a bloomin' daisy for lunch! Over at our stall it was plants plants plants. Nobody hardly looked at us. Course we was piled up in a box and stuck over in the corner while all the little plants with their cutesy-wutesy signs were spread out all over three stalls with five workers sayin' May I help you? all day. And I swear I saw those lettuce plants stuck out their tongues at me as they went by in somebody's flat - spoiled brats. Personally, I don't think those farmers know much

Tom and Tomatoes

One year ago today, Tom, my writing pal and ready reader, sent me this. Why it didn't make the Frog Log cut, I do not know. One year later, it is still timely...and timeless. Thanks, Tom! Frog Log 22 May 2007 Valencia I leave Frog Holler Farm after a few hours of marking plants in preparation for sale at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Each tomato plant has its own wooden stick, hand written with its name, an heirloom, a cherry, or a big firm tasty variety: Roma, Striped German, rose, Brandywine , Muscovic, celebrity, volcove, Valencia . "So many," I think, "Amish to zebra." I remain amazed mentally viewing countless trays, each one hand planted from tiny seedlings, each plant watered, and coaxed to growth without chemicals, each seedling warmed chilly nights in the greenhouse by the fire of oak dead-fall, hauled from the woods in a burdened trailer behind a burdened tractor, burned fragrantly and faithfully in an ancient slab-wo

check it out

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Yah, spinach here. That frog lady is away so I thought I would take my chance. She's probably off mooning over her precious lettuce -- ooh, look at the seeds! Ooh, look at the leaves! Ooh, see how they grow! Gimme a break!I guess I'd grow too if someone warmed my tush on a lah-de-dah germinating mat! Or transplanted me into "hand-mixed, composted growing medium"! Or personally carried me to the garden and literally tucked me in. And then covered me so I didn't catch a nasty-wasty cold. Sheez -- what a bunch of wimps! You don't see all that fussin' over at the spinach patch. Nah, they just scratch out a row, throw some seeds in, and run back inside cuz it's cold . Seems like it's usually just before the last snow. That's right I said, snow. But we don't mind -- spinach can take it. We been up for a long time. No cheerin', no parades. Just spinach doin' it's spring thing. A little rain, a little hail, a little snow -- brin

Getting close

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We've been following the path of our faithful lettuce plant as it moves from the seed ( Froglog 3/10 - Tower o f Power ) and through the soil ( Froglog 3/5 - Humble Beginnings ). Seed leaves announce its arrival; true leaves establish its place in this season's spring crop ( Froglog 4/20 - True Leaves ). A chorus of sister seedlings now fill the greenhouse benches. Older siblings are already out in the garden and the row is filling out. It won't be long!

True Leaves

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The first leaves that poke through the soil from the germinating seed are appropriately called "seed leaves". A biologist would call them "cotyledons", which is fun to say, but doesn't tell most folks much. These very first leaves are charged with providing "nourishment to the elementary plant". They often look sort of nondescript and, despite their initial vital role, soon take a back seat to the next players on the foliar front: the true leaves. I like that image: true leaves. Leaves that are faithful; leaves that won't let you down. Leaves that are honest and will support the fruiting or flowering of just exactly what you planted. When the true leaves appear, that plant is pretty much on course, conforming to the original pattern, or to the essential characteristics of the genus. True leaves remain loyal, constant to the ideal character of the plant. True leaves are accurately fitted, placed or shaped. True leaves happen according to predi

Buying Local

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Looks like a fairly innocuous item, doesn't it? When the blender gasket went missing, we got along without it for a while, but smoothies were getting messy and it was time to take action. Being a modern woman, I checked online and found a number of small appliance parts suppliers carrying the needed item for seventy-five cents. Being a not-so-modern woman, I couldn't bring myself to cough up $7.00 shipping for a seventy-five cent part! I decided to look locally. My first stop was the Tru-Value Hardware in Manchester. A friendly fellow looked blank when I described what I was looking for, but wondered if he could order it. I followed him to the back of the store, where another salesperson was intently researching hunting rifles on the one computer. He didn't seem all that happy to interrupt hunting season for a blender gasket, but the screen flipped back and forth between the two disparate items as my fellow thumbed through a huge catalog, suggesting different order numbe

Grow Dead Grow

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From the wheelbarrow of soil (Frog Log 3/5) to the tower of seeds (Frog Log 3/10), we now have little seedlings starting to fill the flats. Here is the beginning of our salad mix; these are all flats of baby lettuce seedlings. A few nights ago I woke up with the words "grow dead grow" running through my mind. Kind of ominous when I write it, but I really didn't feel too bothered at the time. It was a weird night, but it reminded me of our very first greenhouse at the farm. We took the side off the old south-facing chicken coop and tried to figure out how to give the plants a head start. We probably didn't have much in the way of heat; I can't really remember - it was so long ago and I was so clueless about the growing process. We weren't really based on the farm much in those days -- still trying to pay for it by working in town. So, not surprisingly, a cool night came along in early spring and we either didn't notice or weren't around to place the

Spelling it out

Being somewhat a linguaphile, I subscribe to a nifty little web offering called A Word A Day (AWAD), written by Anu Garg. Five days a week I receive a word, its definition, and its use in recent publication. The author always includes a quote from known and unknown thinkers from the past several centuries -- no specific word emphasis, but almost always thought-provoking. There is a guest author this week who seems to be a vegan and encourager of food awareness. This was a recent entry: factory farming (FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun An industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine. [From the idea of operating a large-scale farm as an efficient factory.] Some of the characteristics of a factory farm include intensive crowding of animals, trimming of birds' beaks, cutting pigs' tails, force-feeding of ducks, injecting artificial growth hormones, restricting mobility, etc. A fact

Tower of Power

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One son was taking the seeds up to the greenhouse -- all the seeds. And in one trip. It wasn't working so well and as he stopped in the kitchen to regroup, I realized that he was trying to carry our entire season's worth of seeds. So I took a picture and there it is. Those few boxes, with a little added sun and rain, will expand into a colorful cornucopia of vegetable nourishment. You can see that we get a lot of seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds out of Maine. I believe that Frog Holler and Johnny's both began in the same year. Johnny's has definitely thrived and a year or so ago when the founder, Rob Johnston retired, Johnny's became a company that was owned by its employees. No sell-out to Burpee or Monsanto here. Underneath the Johnny's boxes is a box of yummy "baked stuffed potatoes". Good old Fedco seed company. These guys are righteous to the core -- but does a seed company that deals in the thousands of orders, really go out and trash

Humble beginnings

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We mixed our first batch of soil this week. There it sits in the wheelbarrow in the greenhouse. Nothing too special -- peat and vermiculite for the most part. But we'll start our first batch of seedlings in that soil. Once they have two or so "true leaves", the tiny plants will be transplanted to their little compartments -- three or four to a "cell". They will continue to grow in their new quarters until the stems are stocky and the roots established. When the weather welcomes, we will transplant the young sprouts to the field. There, good Lord willin', they will thrive in the springtime sun, rains and gentle breezes. When they have come into their varieties of vegetal fullness - mostly green and leafy - we will harvest them, wash, pack and transport to market. They will shine on the market table, waiting for you to put them in your basket. They'll ride home with you, to be washed, prepared and set on your table. From there to your plate, and then your

Worth a thousand words...

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I did get sidetracked from the seed order froglog (January 25) by those winter tomatoes. In the meantime, the order was completed and the seeds have arrived. We did order a small selection of seeds from a company that distributes seeds from Franchi Sementi spa of Bergamo, Italy, "seedsmen for over 200 years!" The variety descriptions are intriguing and offer a glimpse into the Italian appreciation of vegetables and/or food in general. They say the Inuit have at least 25 words to describe snow; well, I counted 16 different varieties of zucchini in this one small catalog! And each described with a loving nuance, some popular in Northern Italy, some preferred in the South, some most common in the markets of Venice. This speaks to a traditional and regional cuisine, and I suggest that the regionality of the food preferences stems from an inherent connection to the locality of the vegetables grown and consumed. When the order arrived, the large photos covering the entire face

Winter Tomatoes

Well, you may be wondering why I posted the photo of the funky tomato. Why would anyone purchase a tomato in obvious stages of decomposition? I forgot to mention that the particular pictured tomato was not purchased but grown in our garden from a patch planted and coddled to such a late date that we actually could enjoy one fresh tomato in December. One side was definitely a bit funky, but the rest was winter bliss. Earlier in the fall, I had just smacked my lips after a particularly satisfying sandwich and then pronounced that I would henceforth (pause for trumpet fanfare) only eat tomatoes in season and grown locally. When the statement was greeted with gasps of amazement, I then added, in order to assure that my companions would fall to the floor in shock and disbelief, "And furthermore (more trumpets), I will only eat heirloom tomatoes. Nothing else is worth it!" Okay, I'm being a bit melodramatic, but I meant it at the time and I still mean it now. As I write on a

tomato, take 2

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Funky tomato: the backside of the December tomato. Funky or not, it was delicious in December! Surprise! Photos on the Frog Log! I'm trying to learn - wish me luck! I had to practice when I had help but I'm not abandoning my Michael Pollan rant (More seeds, Feb.25). Stay tuned!

winter tomato

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Here is a tomato from December.

More seeds

Well that last blog even surprised me by its rather precipitous ending. Apparently the Frog of this Log decided to reach out its long tongue and snap that little blog right up. That's all, rivet rivet. And he was right; without knowing or planning it, I had arrived at my conclusion. But I'm returning to circle 'round the word pond, hopefully avoiding his greedy tongue until I'm ready for the last period. Or not. My frog muse knows better than I, methinks. So continuing with the last blog where I had ordered Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, and then moved on to making our seed order. Well, the seed order was tough this year. Not only are we ordering as much organic seed as possible, which is expensive, all seed seems pretty pricey. We look at a tomato variety, decide how much we need and then look at the price. And then stop. " How much??" "Can we really do that?" "Hmmm, I guess we have to." Okay, gulp, next!" We orde

Seeds for thought

Uncharacteristically, I ordered something in response to an online offer. It was from a legit company and I did get 40 % off, so I took the bait and pushed the buttons. What I ordered was a copy of Michael Pollan's latest book, "In Defense of Food". The title alone was intriguing and accompanying reviews piqued my interest enough to complete the sale. Michael Pollan is one of the darlings or enfant terribles (depending on which side you're on) of the new food consciousness. His most recent bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma, delivered a behind-the-scenes look at a few of the most popular and pervasive food items in our national diet. The New York Times said that "...you're not likely to get a better explanation of where your food comes from." And The New Yorker added, "...a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our national eating habits." I didn't read that book. Perhaps in a show of hubris, I told mysel