Friday, February 25, 2011

Onions Growing

 They are coming along!  Next seeding day: March 11.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winter Root Soup

This time of year it can be hard to be inspired to cook with local ingredients.  Here is a warm soup that might help.

Winter Root Soup
from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
serves 6-8

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 turnips, peeled and sliced
1 rutabaga, peeled and sliced
3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
several thyme sprigs, tied together
4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
pinch cayenne pepper
sea salt and pepper (or fish sauce and pepper)
pinch of nutmeg
creme fraiche 

Melt butter in a large, stainless steel pot and add onions, leeks, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, and parsnips.  Cover and cook gently about 1/2 hour over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Add stock, bring to boil and skim.  Add garlic, thyme and cayenne.  Simmer, covered, for about 1/2 hour until the vegetables are soft.  

Remove thyme and puree soup with handheld blender.  Season to taste.  If soup is too thick, thin with a little water.  Ladle into heated bowls and serve with cultured cream.  


Maybe this will inspire you to take a trip to your local winter farmers market and give local food a try, even in February!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hoop Houses in Action

We have started construction on our hoop houses.  In some ways the race is on.  Our three unheated greenhouses have a seeding date of March 11.  That is the day that we plan on planting beets and carrots inside of them.  This will require there to be not only no snow on the ground but also workable soil.  Less than a month away and there are several steps that must be completed leading up to planting.

First the metal poles that will become the hoops arrived and we bent 16 of them on the jig in the barn that Kevin built.  It is simply a matter of wedging the pole in the right spot and using a lot of strength to make the poles bend.

Then we placed (pounded being the more appropriate verb) rebar in the ground where the poles will need to be anchored.  It seems all the warm weather we have had was a real blessing because the rebar did go into the ground.

Rebar is lined up and ready for the hoops.

After that we brought the bent frame over and set it up.

So now we have the frame of one of three hoop houses up.  The plastic that will go on them should be arriving any day now and the sooner we get it up the better so that the snow can melt and the ground can thaw.

Check back soon for more progress on the hoop houses!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Seeding Begins

This past week marked an important stage in the 2011 vegetable growing season.  The first seeding of the year.  It takes a certain level of faith to plant seeds when all I see when I look out the window is snow and more snow.  But the weather is warming up and this morning I woke up to find that the onion seeds had popped out from under the soil.  Spring is on its way!

The thing I love the most about growing vegetables, other than eating them, is the moment that they pop out of the soil.  There is so much promise and intrigue involved in that moment.  I like to think about how they were under the soil, planing their emergence and then there they are, out in the air, searching for light, growing.  And that is just the beginning of how some trays of dirt, with seeds, water and the right nutrients and care will eventually become many, many pounds of food.  What popped up today are sweet onions, which we won't be eating until July which may come faster than I think it will.

Our vegetable CSA runs from early June through November.  The farm share includes many varieties of vegetables and is designed to feed a family.  For more information on our CSA and how to subscribe click here.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I feel like in the short time we have had our greenhouse it has been moved and altered WAY more than your average greenhouse.  It is now pretty much all set for plant propagation and after all it has been through, I feel like that is pretty exciting.  

Kevin bought our greenhouse at a farm auction.  He and a friend took it down and moved it to the farm in Hebron, NH.  Then they put it back together.  A couple months later some doors were built.  The greenhouse was built on tracking so that it could slide from one spot to another spot.  It had no heater and one layer of plastic.  In Hebron it functioned as a hoop house.  In March Kevin planted beets and carrots inside.  This gave them a significant boost over other ones planted outside later in the season.  Because it was built on tracking it was able to move to a new spot where tomatoes were planted.  

This year we are building hoop houses and the hoop house from Hebron has become our greenhouse.  In it we will grow our seedlings for transplanting out in the field.  It will serve as a climate controlled environment for the plants in their most tender stages.  

It feels good to have the whole thing operating and we have tested everything out a few times.  Here is a photo story of the greenhouse and its move west, to Vermont.

Hoop house on a sunny day in early spring.

A Cold March Morning
Early Spring

The one night it got heated in Hebron.  The temp dropped pretty low after the carrots and beets had come up.

The height of the summer in Hebron
Tomato Jungle

After the plastic and walls came down in Hebron

Kevin put his dad to work taking down the greenhouse.

Rob also put it back together here in Pittsford.
After we got both layers of plastic on it.

Sunny winter day

Heater to keep our seedlings warm and pallets to put them on.

There is even a place to hang your coat!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rendering Duck Fat

As a former vegetarian, trapped in a moral dilemma of not wanting things go to waste, I recently found myself where I never would have expected; rendering jar upon jar of duck fat.

I had no knowledge of the culinary elitism of duck fat until I did some google searches on how to get the fat separate from everything else.  What I found online was what seems to be an almost cult following for duck fat.  I had no idea what a delicacy I was about to create.

We took on this project simply because we raised ducks this fall and heard that duck fat is tasty.  I will say that I did not do this the same way that all the instructions online told me to but things seemed to work out well so I thought I would share the process.

Step 1:
Boil duck carcases.  This simply involved taking the largest pot we have, putting about 6 ducks in it and boiling it on the stove for about a day.  By the time it had cooked for a day all the fat had risen to the top of the pot.

Step 2:
Cool everything down.  In order for the fat to separate it needs to cool down.

Step 3:
Skim the fat. This is actually almost the same as skimming milk.  If you have a turkey baster, I believe it would be very helpful to use it to suck up the fat layer without getting other liquid.  If you do not have a baster you can simply use a spoon or ladle.

Step 4:
Strain the fat.  Pour your fat out of the spoon or baster into a container, straining it through a double layer of cheese cloth.

The final product, after it has cooled and solidified.
Wait for the fat to settle.  Then separate the actual fat from water that may have made its way into the mix.

If you want the bonus of broth simply strain the rest of the liquid through cheese cloth separating it from the bones etc and transfer it to a freezer container.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

200 Babies in the Basement

Yesterday we got a package that we had to go pick up at the post office.  It was 200 little chirping birds. For those of you who have not ordered birds via the Postal Service before, I will explain.  The hatchery raises the eggs and hatches the birds.  Then they send them overnight shipping and they get here the next morning (or in some cases 2 mornings later.)  We go pick them up where they are making a big noise in the small post office, bring them home, and see to it that they stay warm, well fed and generally happy.  For the first week of their lives chicks need to be at about 90 degrees.  After that it drops as they get a little bigger and heartier.

Chickens who will lay eggs arrive at the beginning of February.  This means that they will be out on pasture and laying eggs right around the time when our vegetables come into production.  So when we begin CSA distributions, eggs should be available.  Here lies our challenge, February in Vermont is not the ideal time to find any place that is 90 degrees.

The first stage: Once they get bigger we will put them in a larger brooder.

Kevin inspects his new friend.

In the summertime we can keep our meat birds in the brooders in the barn until they are ready to go out on pasture.  A few heat lamps ensures they will not get cold at night.  It is a relatively low stress operation.  But where to put 200 fragile little lives when the snow is up above my waist and the barn seems to actually be colder than the outside. The answer: The Basement.


It gives us more peace of mind, we can hear them chirping, a sign that they are happy and living.  The chicks are Barred Rock and Black Sexlinks.  In a couple weeks another 100 will arrive, Red Sexlinks.  They will all begin to lay eggs in June.  As they get bigger and heartier we will move them to larger brooders in the barn, then they will get an open space where they can get outside and in May, when the danger of them freezing has passed, they will move out onto pasture, where they will be free to roam, eat bugs and grass and clean and fertilize our pastures.  Then they will begin to lay happy, healthy pasture-raised eggs.

Groundworks Farm Pasture-Raised Eggs will be available for sale to all CSA members.  They will also be available for sale off the farm at our farm stand Monday-Saturday beginning in June 2011.  For more information on our Pasture-raised eggs click here.