Annual Report on the Vegetable Garden and Harvest

It is October, 2017 and we are approaching our first frost.  The garden is still straggling along; most of the harvest is in.  It is time for the annual report.  We moved into this house in the spring of 2012. After that first year, have steadily increased our gardening knowledge and harvest.

We had four garden beds, each four by thirty feet:
  1. tomato/cucumber/dill
  2. basil/sweet potato/butternut
  3. potato
  4. onion/garlic/zucchini

    and beans on the tee-pee

We started the year in early April by planting potatoes.  I grew four varieties this year, all from The Maine Potato Lady.  I ditched the 'All Blue' out of disappointment that they were not in fact all blue.  I chose four varieties with colored flesh; going back to my old favorites of 'Adirondack Red' and 'Adirondack Blue'.  And also, tried 'Magic Molly' and 'Bora Valley' for the first time.  In the past, I have left all my potatoes to harvest at the end of the season, then stored them and been discouraged when we couldn't eat them all before their eyes grew and the potatoes got wrinkly.  This year, I only planted one bed with potatoes and I dug them as we needed potatoes starting in July.  They were small, but it was gratifying to have those early tastes.

September 3, I began the full harvest digging all the 'Adirondacks' first.  Then as time allowed I dug the 'Magic Molly' on September 24st; and the 'Bora Valley', on October 3rd.  We have been eating the harvest as needed.  I took the bulk of the potatoes down to the basement to store in our cardboard lined milk crates.

We had maybe a peck of each Adirondack and the 'Bora Valley', a half peck of the 'Magic Molly', which is a fingerling potato and not expected to produce as much as the others.  Over all, the 'Adirondack Blue' is my favorite.  The 'Adirondack Red' is more of a pink.  Perhaps there is a better red fleshed potato out there.  More variety trialing is in order.  The 'Bora Valley' produced well, but was a disappointing wishy-washy blue.  The Magic Molly was indeed a magical dark, almost purple, blue and worth its space in the garden even with lower yield. 


We planned on twenty tomato plants:
  • 12 'Amish Paste', 
  • 4 'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes, 
  • 2 '100 Sweet' red cherries,
  • 2 slicers - 'Mortgage Lifter' and 'Pineapple'
We always seem to wind-up with a couple extra tomato plants, which we throw along the garage.  This year we had an extra 'Sun Gold' and '100 Sweet'.  Then two tomatoes the kids got from the Farmer's Market Kids Power of Produce program.  One was a red plum tomato and the other a red cherry.  The red plum was surprisingly productive, no splitting or other problems.  The German Baptist woman who was running the tent, said they were seeds she had been saving that had been passed down from her grandpa.  I should remember to save some of the seeds too.  Those little toms were great for Caprese and throwing in the dehydrator for sun dried tomatoes.

My paste tomatoes had a rough go.  They got some type of fuzzy white bug, probably wholly aphids.  I should have tried to manage them, but I did nothing and the plants produced, but not that much.  We also had to put netting over them, because there were birds pecking them as soon as they got color.  They yielded about a bushel in the first big flush.  I used them to make pizza sauce.  I had to buy/work-share for  two and a half additional bushels to reach what I needed for canning.  One of the bushels I got was a lug of heirloom slicers that were very juicy, but mostly water, and to get a nice thick consistency to my sauce, I had to cook them down to about 1/3 of their original volume.  It reminded me why I grow paste tomatoes for canning.

The 'Sun Gold' were slow to get started, but have been producing nicely, despite also being infested with wholly aphids.  The '100 Sweet' cherry are my pick for dehydrating.  It is nice to just slice them in half and pop them in.  I froze about two and a half gallons of dried tomatoes this year, most were cherry tomatoes, but some were from the farms I work-share with and some were random tomatoes that had split or needed to be processed immediately and couldn't wait for me to make sauce.

Of the two slicers 'Pineapple' was more productive and tastier than 'Mortgage Lifter' by far.   All that appealed of 'Mortgage Lifter' was its name.  'Pineapple' was a large, juicy fruit, yellow with a red/orange flame and had a full, sweet flavor.  It was prone to cracking, but self healed and sliced beautifully for BLTs.


The garlic was lovely this year.  Last year, I planted five by four feet with cloves.  I have been saving my seed each year, from heads I originally got from the Kindys four years ago.  In the spring, they came up well and scaped in early June.  I made some pesto from the garlic scapes that the kids refused to eat.  It was very strongly flavored.  I froze two batches to enjoy with friends this winter.  I harvested over 100 heads of garlic a month later.  It took me a bit to get them cleaned and into storage.  I held back the best heads to replant this fall and the rest of the garlic is in in the basement ready for the long nights ahead.

My onions were a bust.  I ordered sets from The Maine Potato Lady.  They arrived at an inopportune moment when it was very wet.  They had to sit awhile before I got them in the ground.  And then once they were planted we got a late frost and that was the end for 80% of them.  The few 'Red Wings' that made it past the frost, grew into huge onions. They had a great summer weather and lots of room after most of their brethren bit it.  Hawkins were nice enough to give me a couple trays of their extra bunching onions, which I planted in the now vacant space.  They grew well enough, but they aren't storage onions.  I work-shared for a bushel and a half of storage onions at Joy Field Farm to have something onhand.

Cucumbers and Dill

It seems natural to grow cucumbers and dill next to each other.  We had a good pickle season.  I had more than enough for our dill pickle needs and plenty to share with neighbors.  I planted two kinds of cucumbers 'Harmonie' and 'Northern Pickling'  both were older seed, so I hedged my bets and put two pips of each in my three hills.  Surprisingly both germinated.  The 'Harmonie' were clear favorites.  They have a darker green skin with lots of tiny bumps and a sweet firm flesh.  The 'Northern Pickling' had the larger bumps and lighter green color.  The flavor was watery and the seeds in a four-inch or larger cucumbers were much more developed and harder than the 'Harmonie'.  Guess which one I'll grow again next year?

Dill grew fine, like dill seems to do.  I have been growing a variety called 'Dukat Leafy' dill.  It is nice, four plants produce more than my needs.  For the first time this year, I didn't cut the heads off to prevent self-seeding.  Instead, I let the seeds mature and (tried) to cut them when the seeds were starting to dry on the heads, but hadn't yet started to shatter.   I saved a lot of seeds if any local friends would like any.


I allotted four by four feet to the basil.  Basil is a finicky seed, and doesn't have a long shelf life.  Maybe my seed was old, but multiple sowings did not yield any sprouts.  We got 30 seedlings from grandpa.  Sixteen went in the sixteen square feet of space.  The others in random openings around the garden.  It was a great year for basil, very wet and mild.  We did a good job harvesting regularly to prevent flowering.  Last year we had a low harvest of basil and ran out of frozen provisions in April.  We had to go several months with no pesto and as noted in the allium section, the kids don't like garlic scape pesto.  So I was more ambitious this year.   Over the last couple months, I froze 52 batches of pesto!  That's more than I've ever done.  It's the outside goal of one batch a week for the whole year.


Zucchini is something Jeff insists we grow.  We've both come to like the yellow varieties because they are easier to see and pick than the green versions.  'Yellow Fin' is a nice straight variety that has become a favorite.  We had old seed and poor germination.  Then once new seed was acquired, we over seeded and then didn't thin, so production was low over all.  We did have a couple weeks of plenty in early September.  I didn't freeze any this year.

Butternut Squash is one of my favorites.  It gets sweeter as the winter gets darker and is one of the foods we can enjoy in the lean months of February and March.  My seed for this year was also not cooperative.  We wound up growing random bulk seeds from the hardware store.  They had a late start and are maybe going to make it to maturity before frost.  I've been bringing the squash in as they get ripe and harden up, we will probably yield 10-12 small ones.  I would have loved to have 20-30 butternuts to store for winter.  I got ten more from Joy Field to supplement our harvest.

Sweet Potato

It has not frozen yet and I'm letting the sweet potatoes keep growing.  This is my first year growing them.  I bought six slips of 'Beauregard' and six of 'Covington' from The Maine Potato Lady.  I'm excited to see what they have produced in their hilled rows.  I'll have to come back and update after the harvest.

Green Beans

When Junebug was little I decided she needed a space of her own in the garden, a tee-pee to play in.  I didn't think much about what would grow on the tee-pee, that wasn't the important part.  It turns out neither of my kids liked playing in it much, but it has been an excellent place for pole beans.  We grew 'Blue Lake' green beans because they were available at the hardware store and said they were string-less.  From the six plants, we yielded around three gallons of beans.  Most we ate fresh, but a gallon or so, plus another gallon and a half from the Kindys, were pressure canned into pints.  I've always frozen my beans in the past, but there wasn't room in the freezer this year.  I hope we like canned beans.  After the initial flush of beans in late August/early September, I've been harvesting a handful here and there. There are still flowers coming, but the season is almost over.

Closing Thoughts

And that's it for the 2017 Growing Season.  This was the year of the bountiful basil and the pathetic onions.  In our 480 square feet of space, we grew veggies and herbs to eat fresh and enough to fill most of my canning jars and the chest freezer.  The old coal-shoot in our basement that we use as the root cellar needs more shelves to hold all the goodies we stored for winter.

Next Season 

After spending time reflecting on the garden writing this post up, I have a few ideas I want to write down for my future garden-planning self.

Things to try next year:
  • Nasturtiums - you can eat the flower and the seed pod, plus they are pretty.
  • Save more of your own seeds, particularly try cucumbers and tomatoes - the wet seeds are always intimidating - just go for it.   
  • Be more proactive if onion sets don't take.  Make sure you are buying storage onions like: 'Patterson', 'Copra', 'Red Wing', or 'Red Bull'
  • One bed of just potatoes and one of just allium is good for our family of four.  
  • Maybe expand so you can have more room to try more pumpkins and winter squash.  Wouldn't some French Cinderella pumpkins be awesome for eating and decorating with? 
For more on my gardening and cooking adventures follow me on Instagram where I post daily @FoyUpdateBlog


The State of the Garden this Monday

There is frost for the second time on the garden this morning.  Over the last two weeks we have ripped out the warm season veggies, brought in the hoses and stored the tomato cages, rain barrel, and teepee.  The onions, garlic, winter squash and potatoes are boxed up in the basement.  Yet to do is move the compost pile onto the garden beds and raking the leaves into the perennial beds; then we will be ready for winter.

I'm going to try something a little different and use this space to collect some thoughts about being a better gardener, cook and world citizen:

  • Alli Cherry started her YouTube channel by sharing how she and her husband are renovating a vintage Travco RV.  Then I discovered she also does the capsule wardrobe thing and is working towards a less consumerist lifestyle. It's good stuff
  • My brother in-law has decided to start carrying small bills to give when people ask.  So far he has discovered he doesn't actually run into panhandlers that often.  Three Ways to Responsibly and Compassionately Respond to Panhandling
  • This compilation of links was inspired by the weekly posts of food blogger Joy the Baker and her Let it Be Sunday series
  • A heart warming duet by Yonina singing One Day by Matisyahu. That baby is so cute
  • Standing with Standing Rock and the NoDAPL movement (No Dakota Access Pipeline). Consider sending them a little Thinking of You present for being a strong anti-fracking, pro-clean water voice.
  • Dig out a couple safety pins to put on your jacket lapels.  The Powerful Reason Americans are Wearing Safety Pins
  • I've been reading Jane Goodall's books over the last couple months.  Reasons for Hope is her personal journey through life and how she shepards courage even as the chimpanzee she has devoted her life to are hunted, used for animal testing, and losing their habitat to agriculture and climate change. Roots and Shoots
  • Lessons from a Local Food Scam Artist humor with a side of how racism can hides in our preconceived notions of what a place should be.
  • Who loves a good thrift store? I try to buy my family's clothes and pretty much all kids' stuff second hand.  Here's a look at What to Buy When Thrift Store Shopping.  I love finding signed pottery and wooden cooking utensils too!
  • Cabbage Soup is one of the fall staples around here.  Our CSA share had all the vegetable ingredients this week.
  • A fun listen when your in the kitchen - The Dinner Party Download
  • Before we head into cold weather in earnest, take a walk in a meadow and then make some milkweed pod babies.  I plan on adding one for each child to our Christmas tree this year.  

I hope you have a mug of something warm and go out to see the bright full moon, 

- Foy


Putting By the Harvest

I put an extra quilt on the bed last week and even turned on the furnace one morning when we woke up to the house at fifty degrees.  But we are still keeping watch for frost, waiting for winter to arrive.  I have crested the ridge of putting food by and find the downward slope leaves enough time to write.

Foy Update: Canned Goods in the Pantry 2015
The canned goods in the basement pantry as of the beginning of October 2015

It was a wet spring, which caused flooding at some farms near by.  Our quarter acre with the house and garden are raised above the street level, a side effect of the house preexisting the road.  The garden only benefited from the constant moisture.

We more than doubled the size of the home garden by extending our three existing beds and adding a fourth.  Most of the added space was planted with potatoes.  It might be fair to refer to this year as The Year of the Potato.

Here's what the garden looked like full swing in August.  Next year I'll have to get out the step ladder when taking photos so you can see more detail.

Foy Update: Home Vegetable Garden in August 2015
Our home vegetable garden in August

If it hadn't been for the cutworms we would have easily had one of the best harvests I've ever grown. However, I was determined to get my plants in the ground before I started working on the farms for the summer and so we planted all the tomatoes on May 15th.  And then replanted them over and over again for the next couple weeks as critters cut them off at their base over and over again.  With the help of my lovely online community I learned that getting the tomatoes in the ground early put them in the path of the cutworms who do their cutting for a couple weeks before they pupate into uninspiring, drab moths.  Once I fashioned a bunch of yogurt containers to make collars around the seedlings, we had an effective barrier, and finally our tomatoes got growing.  However, by then we were farther behind then if we had waited to plant until June.

We still harvested quite a few tomatoes.  From the ten San Marzano type paste tomato plants, we yielded perhaps a bushel (45-50 pounds), part of which are currently stewing on my stove.  I tried a new kind of grape tomato called 'Five Star'.  They were quite expensive and quite disappointing in both yield and flavor.  I will be sticking to the heirloom 'Jasper' instead which I grew for the second year and produced lots of tasty, tiny cherry tomatoes.  The ones we didn't eat fresh were dehydrated and frozen for future use as sun dried tomatoes.  For Jeff, I also grew four 'Sun Gold' cherry tomato plants which are delicious, but suffered for their late start and they never really got going so the yield was low.  We also had some kind of blight going on.

Foy Update: Blighted San Marzano Paste Tomatoes 2015
San Marzanos looking a little blighted in late summer 2015

I knew I wasn't growing as many tomatoes as I wanted to put up, so over the last couple weeks I procured another two bushels of paste tomatoes and turned them into pizza sauce and enchilada sauce.  I would still like to make some Kingsolver sauce, assuming I can get another bushel from one of the farms.  That and some apples for apple sauce and I will be done putting up food for the fall.

I didn't try any new preserving recipes this year, rather I did all of recipes I have liked in the past.  I filled all my quart jars.  There are enough empty pints left to get by.  My only innovation was making raspberry/strawberry/blueberry jam.  I didn't mean to make it.  I was trying to half a recipe for raspberry jam, when I dumped a whole recipe worth of pectin into the pot of bubbling fruit.  So I dug around in the freezer and found a partial bag of last year's strawberries and some blueberries we picked in Michigan this summer.  The Rasp-Straw-Blue Berry jam turned out better than expected.

Foy Update: Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans
Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans

Both the refrigerator and chest freezer have been rearranged several times to make room for the zip-lock bags of pesto, bell peppers, green beans, red noodle beans, zucchini and dried tomatoes.

Foy Update: 'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' Potato Harvest 2015
'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' potato harvest

We have boxes of potatoes in the garage, probably in excess of 200 pounds.  I am enjoying having a pretty variety to cook.  I grew 'All Blue', 'Adirondack Red', 'German Butterball' and 'Kennebeck'.

Foy Update: Winter Squash Harvest 2015

This weekend I brought in the winter squash.  I grew butternut and spaghetti squash.  I'll be curious to see how long it takes us to eat them all.  If you follow me on FaceBook or Instagram you probably saw the boxes stored in our guest bedroom.

I regret not having room for sweet potatoes in the garden this year.  If 200 pounds of potatoes proves to be too much, I will be changing some of the garden square footage from potatoes to sweet potatoes next year.

And that's something I didn't hadn't fully grasp until just now.  I can write down how many pounds and quarts of each vegetable I put by, but I won't know if that was a good amount for our family until next spring.  This is the first year I may have grown more than our family can eat.  Or maybe we will have some of the harvest rot in storage before we can eat them.  That's my worst nightmare; do all the work of planting, tending, harvesting, storing and then have it go bad.

This creates a whole new dilemma.  I'm not sure how to store crops like potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic for a long time.  In the past, we have always eaten the dry storage produce by Christmas.   I have been asking around and it seems like a root cellar would be great idea, but we don't have one.  I will have to make do with a detached garage, a warm basement and a guest bedroom that could be unheated.  I have fantasies about sectioning off the old coal shoot in the basement to make a cold storage room.  I feel like a serious gardener now that dreams include building a root cellar.

For my future self and those of you interested, I am going to end this post with a spread sheet of our harvests since we started gardening at this house (2012-2015).

Foy Update: Harvest Data from 2012-2015 for our home garden
Click to see enlarge

It's been a busy growing year and I'm excited to try going even bigger next year.  


Friday Farm Lunches - Summer Seasonal Recipes

One of my favorite parts of the week has become making lunch for the Hawkins Farm crew on Fridays.  I do my best to use produce and meat from their farm, filling in the gaps with goodies from Joy Field and RiverRidge Farms, the cracks that are left are filled in with dairy and grains from the local bulk food store run by a family in town.  It's as local as I know how to make it.  

For my own records, and because folks ask for the recipes, I am writing up a little blog post with photos of the lunches and links to the recipes.
Asparagus Cream Cheese Quiche from FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Asparagus Cream Cheese Quiche from FoyUpdate.blogspot.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

Quiche: I used the quiche Lorraine recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I did change up the fillings.  There was a leek and goat cheese, an asparagus and cream cheese and lastly a sun-dried tomato, goat cheese and spinach.

Quick Collards: Blanch 2 pounds of kale for 7 minutes, dunk them in a cold water bath until cool to the touch, use your hands to wring them out, rough chop, sautee to coat with 3 tablespoons lard, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Add a 1/2 cup chicken stock, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes or so.  Then serve, pass with lemon wedges.

Cucumber slices: the first of the season from RiverRidge Farm.

Rhubarb crisp (passed with cream): 
½ cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup melted butter
4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
½ t cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine rhubarb, sugar, flour and cinnamon and put into 8" x 8" x 2" glass baking dish.
Combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats and melted butter and sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture.
Bake 35 minutes.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Zach Hawkins preparing a pizza at Hawkins Family Farm - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Zach Hawkins preparing a pizza at Hawkins Family Farm

Pizza from Hawkins Farm (secret recipe (which means I don't know it))

Lettuce Salad with radishes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs, accompanied by Creamy Pesto Dressing - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Lettuce Salad with radishes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs, accompanied by Creamy Pesto Dressing

Salad: Butter lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, hard boiled egg

Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup butter (2 stick)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup old fashion rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Mix the flour salt and baking soda.
Heat the butter in microwave until it softens, then mix in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add in the dry mix then fold in the oats and chocolate. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

LLunch with the Hawkins Family Farm crew - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Lunch with the Hawkins Family Farm crew

Shredded Chicken - Boiled 3 small chickens from frozen then took off the meat and used the bones and some carrots, onions and bay leaf to make stock.  

Polenta and Roasted Veggies: spring onions, summer squash, radishes via this recipe from my blog

Spinach Au Gratin from Ina Garten, The FoodNetwork - might have to become a Thanksgiving recipe, it was seriously good.  Also, I couldn't find Gruyere so I used extra sharp cheddar cheese.  

Macerated Strawberries with Vanilla Ice-cream and Oatmeal Cookies

Macerated Strawberries with vanilla ice-cream and an oatmeal cookie - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Macerated Strawberries with vanilla ice-cream and an oatmeal cookie

Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Mix the butter and sugars until smooth; add in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the flower, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, then combine it with the butter mixture. Fold in the oats and nuts.
Ball and place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce, roasted broccoli and sauteed snap peas - FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Roasted Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce, roasted broccoli and sauteed snap peas

Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Garlic Scapes and Grapefruit

Sweet Onion Rhubarb Sauce from EatingWell.com - This was a huge hit, everyone loved it!

Roasted Broccoli from Alton Brown

Snap Peas Sauteed in Butter

Garlic-Scape Compound Buttered Bread - A tasty way to keep your scapes longer, put them in butter.  Garlic scapes uncooked are pretty hot, like spicy hot.  I buttered the bread and then wrapped it in tinfoil so it could heat up and cook for the last 15 minutes in the oven at the end of baking the lasagna.  I have also used the compound butter on top of boiled new potatoes, so good!

1/3 part salted butter, softened to room temperature 
1/3 part shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/3 part chopped garlic scapes 
Olive Oil 
In a food processor or blender add butter, cheese and garlic scapes, drizzle in olive oil as needed to get the mixture to blend.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.   
Chocolate Beet Cake from Joy the Baker - more of a novelty than an amazing dessert.  If you try this recipe, becareful not to over bake and dry out the cake.  It's honestly better the second and third day, so don't be shy of making this ahead.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Vegetarian Lasagna with Lettuce Salad, Creamy Italian Dressing, Garlic Scape Bread and Hot Milk Cupcakes - FoyUpdate
Vegetarian Lasagna with Lettuce Salad, Creamy Italian Dressing, Garlic Scape Bread and Hot Milk Cupcakes

Vegetarian Lasagna

preheat 3500F
½ cup Onion, diced
2 cups Carrots, grated
½ lb. Mushrooms, sliced
1 T olive oil
24 oz. spaghetti sauce
6 oz. tomato paste
1 small can sliced olives drained
1 lb. fresh spinach
2 layers raw lasagna noodles
16. oz. cottage cheese
2 cups Monterey jack cheese sliced
Top with Parmesan cheese.
Sauté onion, carrot, and mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Add spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and olives simmer for 10-15 min. Layer in 9 x 12 or 10x13 pan.
1/3 vegetable sauce
1/2 cheese
1/2 spinach
1/3 vegetable sauce
1/2 cheese
1/2 spinach
1/3 vegetable sauce
Top with Parmesan cheese, cover, and bake at 350ºF for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and let stand for 5 minutes

Bread with Garlic Scape Compound Butter (see previous week's lunch for recipe)

Romaine Lettuce Salad with shredded carrots, thin sliced red onions and diced tomatoes

Creamy Italian Dressing from Ree Drummond - an excellent easy dressing

Hot Milk Cake
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ t baking powder
1 ¼ cups milk
10 T butter, cubed
Preheat 350°F
In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth.
In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined.

Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan.

So that's what I have made the first five weeks for this summer!  


First Weeks of My Three Farm Internship

My body is so tired and sunburned!  I have completed the first weeks of my self-built internship here in northeast Indiana.  Each week I put in a full day at Joy Field Farm, RiverRidge Farm and Hawkins Family Farm, plus making lunch for the Hawkins Farm workers on Fridays.  And although I put on sunscreen and think of myself as physically active, what with carrying around two kids, I was in sorry shape by the end of the week.

These last nights I have been laying down tired of body, but my mind is not ready to sleep. It is spinning with thoughts.  These thoughts are not a cohesive story, but I don't want to lose any of these beginning observations so I'm just going to plunk them down with subheadings and hopefully revisit them with more depth at a later time.

Weeded Chard Joy Field Farm 3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
A row of weeded chard at Joy Field Farm.

There is More Than One Way to Weed and Mulch

Or perhaps every farm has its own weeding philosophy.

At Joy Field consideration is given to volunteer seedlings.  A knowledge of seedlings, wild edibles, and annual flowers is required.  I have learned that Sweet Annie is indeed sweet smelling, and stinging nettles do indeed sting.  The Kindys choose to leave many flowers and volunteer edibles between and in the rows.

Leaf mold and straw are used as mulch to hold in moisture and keep the plants warm.  Long straw is used for potatoes, tomatoes and okra, broken (short) straw for onions and leaf mold for the walk ways.  The Kindys always mulch after a nice soaking rain to lock in as much moisture in as possible.  

At Hawkins Farm the rows are long, 100 feet I'm guessing, and weeding is done by hand nearest the seedlings and with a hula hoe or wire weeder for the farther areas, large swaths are done with a walking tractor.  This year they are not putting straw around the potatoes, opting for row covers for the early season instead.

At RiverRidge Farm plastic is often used as a mulch to create a barrier for soil born disease and to suppress weeds and insects, almost all crops are on drip irrigation.    Planting and harvesting are the primary order of the day and weeding commences when those jobs are done.  On the two days I have worked so far, we harvested until 2:00 pm or so then weeded from mid-afternoon until quitting time at 5:00.  I have also seen straw around the potatoes at this farm.

Go Barefoot, Bleed a Little, Permanent Dirt 

Jeff Hawkins said at lunch that he bleeds a little every week.  It was only mentioned in passing, but I understand what he means.  Farming is physical labor.  I have bruises I don't remember getting and scratches from unknown sources.  I try to remember my gloves, especially for weeding but I constantly have dirt under my nails and on the pad of my thumb and forefinger.

The safety manager in me cringes at the thought of working barefoot.  However, I have seen folks at all three farms working with all their piggies out.  In most cases, where folks are working barefoot there is little risk, no machinery being used, no hoes or other sharp implements being used at foot level.  There is the risk of metal ground cloth staples, irrigation, broken glass and/or sharp rocks at each place.

I find my feet are too tender to spend all day barefoot.  I have chosen a middle ground.  In the morning, when we harvest lettuce at RiverRidge, I prefer bare feet.  The space between rows is as narrow as a balance beam; shoes seem awkward and blundering.  The carefully cultivated texture of the soil seems damaged more by the sole of a shoe then my foot alone.  Plus my feet experience what the roots of the plants do.    I feel more intimately connected and a part of the garden when I walk the soft rows, warm straw and dewy grass.

Sample as You Work

Taste the herbs, munch on the greens, pluck a snow pea, eat fresh from the garden to know your crops.

One of many large compost piles at Joy Field Farm. #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
One of many large compost piles at Joy Field Farm. 

Building Quality Soil

I hope to learn more about this, but each farm is dedicated to soil improvement.  All of them use cover crops.  

RiverRidge Farm also uses liquids like compost tea and fish emulsion.  I can tell where the fish emulsion has been freshly applied, it smells like the fish house at a lake. It's a friendly smell.  

Hawkins Farm uses animal rotation with the pigs, cows and chicken who add manure to the soil while eating up the weeds and weed seeds.  

Joy Field Farm builds huge walled compost piles designed to hold moisture.  The finished compost is added to the rows before planting.  They also bring in leaves from town to use as mulch that break down adding organic matter to the soil.

Cattle at Hawkins Family Farm - #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Cattle at Hawkins Family Farm

Animals are Integral to the Farm

My knowledge lies mostly with the plants as I have a background in horticulture. It is neat to see the roll cows, chickens and pigs have in keeping a farm and its farmers healthy.  Hawkins have the most land and also the most extensive use of animals.  They use chicken tractors to pasture their meat chickens which I have learned are called pullets.   The turkey, geese and ducks are rotated through the gardens along with a movable hen house, and pastured cows and pigs.  Electric fences make rotation possible.  The animals do a fair job of eating down weeds and their seeds, as well as, consuming the scraps from the kitchen and harvesting.

Joy Field and RiverRidge Farms both have laying hens in permanent structures. The girls get grain feed in addition to lots of beet tops, weeds, lettuce thinnings and whatever else makes its way out of the garden.   

Farm Lunch - Asparagus Quiche at Hawkins Farm #3farmsummer FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Farm Lunch - Asparagus Quiche at Hawkins Farm

Give Thanks Before You Eat

I have had the pleasure of eating lunch at each farm.  Each place has its own tradition.  At RiverRidge they speak a prayer over the food offering thanks for the people and nourishment brought together.  At Joyfield they join hands and someone says the first line of a hymn and then together they sing the chorus.  And at Hawkins Farm; Jeff a Lutheran Pastor, creates a rhyme of thanks for the day, reminding those gathered to be present and mindful of the good food, work and folks.   I like the ceremony and the intentional pause to reflect a prayer brings to the meal.

Take Care of Your Neighbors

The first day of my internship, Memorial Day, the Fingerles who are RiverRidge Farm were in a terrible car accident.  Both parents and seven of the eight children were driving home in the van when a car in the opposite lane hit the guard rail and ricocheted into them.  A third vehicle traveling behind them crashed into the wreck hitting the passenger side of their vehicle sending it into the ditch.

Thankfully, no one died and there were no broken bones.   However, three people from the accident, including two of the Fingerles were life-flighted to nearby hospitals.  Word was passed to a prayer line and through social media and soon the entire community, including the other two farms I'm working with, had word.

I wasn't scheduled to start with RiverRidge until the coming Thursday.  I was worried I would be in the way, and that they wouldn't have time to train the new girl with all the chaos that follows something like that. Luckily, they employ a neighbor who was there to show me the ropes and together we worked a long day restocking the farm store.  I was glad to be of service.

It was humbling to see their community rally around them.  Their nine year old daughter came out and talked with us while we were harvesting radishes.  She listed off all the prepared food that had been brought by and spoke with amazement that she didn't have to help with the dishes as the family had been eating off disposable plates another thoughtful neighbor had given.  A steady stream of friends and extended family came by through out the day and each found someway to lighten the load: pushing the lawn mower, sitting with the younger children, folding the laundry.   There is  grace in the act of helping a friend, and also in the act of accepting help.

I will continue writing as I can this summer to share my experiences on the farms.  To find other posts about this experience on the blog and social media search 3farmsummer (#3farmsummer).