Monday, March 15, 2010

We eat well.

So we have been eating quite well lately. Jess already posted about our lasagna that we made wit hour own tomato sauce, pasta and home made cheeses last week. I really felt it was an accomplishment to grow and make so much with our own food.

Last night we made ravioli with ricotta cheese that Jess made and pasta made from our hens eggs. To be honest Jess did all the hard work and I just helped with the sauce at the end. Last year we made a few small batches of garlic scape and walnut pesto and froze them. I combined them with butter and served them over the ravioli. It was delicious and looked pretty good as well.

We also made a batch of Lemon Ricotta pancakes made famous by Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis.
Ours turned out quite well but still are no threat to the originals. You really should stop in and try them if you have the opportunity. We served them up with a few slices of Lorentz bacon and it was wonderful.

In other news I have adjusted the blog to a more spring like look and added a twitter feed for things that I would like to share about the farm but are to small in themselves to make a good post.

Other than that Spring is in full swing around here. I took down the snow fence and almost all of the snow has melted from the yard. The sun is heating the garden beds and I hope to be planting frost hardy crops by possibly this weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick update

Just a few quick notes.
Spring is starting to show itself. We had our first rain a few days ago and the snow is finally on the retreat. We are supposed to have temps in the 35-40F range for most of the rest of the week.
I have not yet planted the mache that I had hoped to. Perhaps tomorrow will give me time. I also need to start some leeks and maybe the fava beans.
This evening I got the chance to cut down last years hop bines and put them into the burn barrel. I hope to get to the raspberry canes this week as well.
The hens have started to lay us some eggs again. Not that many as the girls are getting a bit long in the beak but still enough to keep us in eggs for now.
I also ordered up a beer kit to make a witbier for summer drinking and a new species of hop rhizome as well. They should arrive this week.

I still have a ton of projects to get going for this season. Luckily we will get an extra hour of after work sunlight this weekend. Woot!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I have been thinking about other traditions to prepare and preserve foods. A while back Jess and I had a great dinner at a Korean restaurant on the way home from work and the meal was served with a selection of lightly pickled vegetables. This led me to begin thinking about Asian influenced pickles in general and I remembered being served some umboshi once in the service. Umboshi are Japanese pickled plums and since we had so many plums this year the idea of pickling them sounded great. Well a bit more research later I learned that those are not the same types of plums but it also led me to the entire class of Japanese preserved vegetables called Tsukemono. One of the first things I found was a tsukemono press that is used to help brine and draw out water from vegetables like a weighted lid is used when making sourkraut. Since this seemed like an elegant way to make quick tasty salt preserved produce during the growing season and also make the occasional batch of sourkraut with, I ordered a press of Amazon. I know this is not terribly frugal but to be honest that has always been the biggest part of this life for me.

So to test drive the press we picked up some turnips and a bit of dried seaweed known as kombu. I first peeled and cut the turnips and quick rinsed the kombu and cut it into strips. I then added them to the press with around a tablespoon of pacific sea salt and closed the press and cranked down the plunger. I let them sit overnight in the press in the refrigerator. Sure enough there was liquid by morning.

To me the result after around a week tastes a bit like the sea. The smell takes me back to the smell of the ocean far out at sea and the pickles taste like licking your lips after an afternoon swim off the coast with a bit of a radishy crispness. Not bad at all!

I will definitely be trying this again this spring and summer with various vegetables. I can hardly wait to get some kale into this thing.

In other non-pickle notes.
We went to meet with the folks from Transition Northfield on Saturday morning and found them to interesting people. They sent us away with a book to read and some suggested videos to view. We also heard about a permaculture class that they were sponsoring at the co-op on Monday night.
Sunday I decided to build a cold frame out of some straw bales and old storm windows. This will be the subject of a future post once I can clean it up a bit.
Jess and I decided to stop by the co-op early on Monday and picked up some milk for cheese making and some Sunchokes to see if we liked them before adding them to the list of veggies to grow this year. We attended the lecture and ran into some of the folks from TN again as well. Then we came home and made our very first ricotta cheese with the milk we picked up. We can't wait to make lasagna this year with our own pasta, tomato sauce and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Well one of our goals here is to prepare for a time when energy may not be as plentiful and cheap as it is today. It is our feeling that as oil stocks are depleted that the world will move to electricity to fill the gap initially. We are already seeing it with some cars and with geothermal heat in many parts of the country electric heat is comparable if not favorable to petrofuels. I have some concerns with the possible ramifications of removing heat from the earth in the winter in the quantities that we need it and rejecting it in the summer in the amounts we probably will. But that is fodder for another post. But the point is that electricity will probably only get more expensive and may rise sharply when oil loses many of it's advantages and the economy shifts to the grid.
So what to do about it? Well first we should look at insulation. In our home one of the biggest electricity users is the furnace. We have forced air heat and the fan uses a great deal of energy. Since we added insulation to the house last summer we have noticed a decrease in the amount propane we seem to be buying but as the beginning of the season was warm and the propane use is difficult to gage we were unsure of how much less we were actually using. Well we now have at least the electricity number for the first two months of the year and we have saved a almost 1300 KW hours so far. We tend to be high users do to the old house and having a well and a barn light on the garage but that is still pretty significant. To put that into perspective it is more electricity saved than we used all of last April. We are really happy with this and it has motivated us to be even more dedicated to reducing our use. So I have acquired a logging meter and have begun to go around the house measuring the use on everything. It is almost fun. I need help.

In unrelated notes we are thinking of throwing a crop mob at the beginning of the season to help us get our big expansion of to a good start. I discovered the idea over at Cricket Bread some time ago. Cricket Bread also has one of my favorite posts ever written.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just a few quick notes.

Still not to much to write about here. We are still tightly in the grip of old man winter. It can sometimes be frustrating watching others around the net talk of planting and first crops while I am trying not to think about the fact that I need to go shovel the walk again. Still the sun comes up a little earlier each day and sets a little latter each afternoon and fells quite strong while it is shinning down. Someday we too will have spring.
We went to the Annual Sustainable Farming Conference at St. Olaf College in Northfield yesterday. It was not as good as I had hoped. There was just not enough practical know how sharing going on. Too many people seemed focused on the negative and not enough focused on what we collectively can do about it. I heard a good deal of frustration, fear and uncertainty in the people in the audience and I totaly understand that. Many of the people allied there had been concerned about issues like Peak Oil, Global Climate change, environmental issues and social justice for a long time and have lost some of their positive outlook and zeal. One common thread was that we all need to find ways to bring more people into the effort. We need to find ways to communicate both the importance of these issues but also the opportunity for society they could represent. So I encourage all of you to keep sharing what you learn with others who may be open to hearing you.

Frustrated Farmer Rick

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter wonderland

For those of you who have had to suffer with early planting dates and warmth, I thought I would share the beautiful view yesterday morning as I went to get eggs from the girls.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go Jamie!!

I found out yesterday that Jamie Oliver was recently awarded a TED Prize for his past and future work in correcting our current horrible food culture. If you are reading this blog the odds are that you are already interested in sustainable food culture but please take the time to watch this and re-post it in front of as many people as we can.

Yes it is 20 minutes long but I promise you that you will be better informed and even more motivated after you watch this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well it has been a while since I posted and the longer I wait the more important it seems to write something of substance. Truth is I need to just write something. So here it is.

First Jess and I just got back from a trip to Phoenix last week. The idea was to lay in the sun and recharge a bit but fortune had other plans. I managed to catch a sinus infection on the way down and was sick much of the time. It also rained much of the week as well. We did get out a few days though and had a good time. I can really see the appeal of the southwest when my home in Minnesota was covered in a frozen blanket of snow and ice. The citrus fruits that were in all the yards were wonderful to see. I am definitely jealous of that. They also have so much luck growing Rosemary they plant it in the medians of the roads. Here is a picture I tried to take as we drove past.

Here I am lucky to keep one alive through the winter in the house.

Other than that things here are going along well. The insulation that we added to the house is paying off. We have had to fill our propane tank much less frequently and also we have noticed a significant reduction in the amount electricity we are using as well.

Keep warm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Be it here resolved.

So I suppose it is time to publish this years resolutions for the homestead.

We recognize that having food in the pantry is good for both body and mind. We therefore resolve to grow, dry, can and freeze even more food in the coming year. We also resolve to cook even more of our own meals using the quality ingredients we will gather in. It is sad but true that we don't use as much as we should of our own home grown foods and we plan to change that. We plan to experiment with cold frames and possibly a small hoop house in order to extend the amount of the year that we can enjoy our dinner salads. As part of our resolution to grow even more food we plan to rent a sod cutter and a tiller to till up approximately an acre of the yard this spring and plant it.

It is also not acceptable to me that others are not fed properly and I resolve to do something about it. For that reason we plan to plant approximately 1/4 acre of this garden with the intention of giving it away to the local food shelf if they will have it. If not we will find some other way to get it into the hands of those that need it. We will also be asking for food donations at events we host throughout the year.

We also recognize that allowing things to go to the dump is neither financially nor ecologically smart. For that reason we resolve to generate less waste in the coming year. We plan to accomplish this by increasing our recycling and composting operations and also by reducing the amount of expendables we bring into our home.

And finally we resolve to find a way to produce some small part of our own power here on the farm. We believe that though the future is not clear to anyone the wise prepare today for difficulties tomorrow. We also believe that every homestead should be as resilient as possible. To this end we plan to either install a small alternative energy system or solar thermal system by years end. We plan to design the system with an eye to future expansion.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year end post.

I have been wanting to write a year/ season ending post for some time but have been having some trouble wrapping my head around just what to talk about.

First I think was great it was to see the larger food culture continue to move twords the fresh, local and organic. From going to see movies like Fresh and Food inc. to the increasing availability of food events like Tour de farm and Gastro non grata it was great to be involved in a the trend to a more sustainable and healthy food culture. We were also able to attend events with Slow Food Minnesota and Simple, Good and Tasty as well. We even held our own fall harvest festival.

We expanded the garden to include a new satellite garden by the chickens for the growing of some of thier food and three additional beds in the main garden. We grew pole beans for the first time, though our trellis design still needs work. We grew our own cabbage and carrots this year successfully. We learned that kale can be biannual at least in our climate. We also had challenges with cucumbers and parsnips and got our squash and pumpkins in too late.

The orchard gave us our first ever apricots and also plums galore. We planted our first nut bushes and along with some red currants and high bush cranberry.

We insulated the house and had the siding upgraded to improve our home energy efficiency. It is too soon to be able to tell just how much difference this will make but so far it looks to be a significant improvement. We also have made our pole barn a more useful and productive place.

We foraged for walnuts to make nocino and managed to put a few birds and some deer meat in the freezer from hunting. We also foraged for nettles to make nettle beer and ferns for the spring table.

Well I guess that was really quite a great deal to do in one year. I am already thinking about what we will need to get done next year but I will save that for another post.