Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First planting and more.

I got the chance to plant a quick line of peas late last week that I am still waiting to see poke their little heads up. But other than that I have not planted any seeds outside yet but this evening I was finaly able to get one of the beds I had prepared earlier planted up. This evening I planted a 10 foot row of mixed radishes, a row of older spinach seed, a row of daikon radishes, a row of mache and a row of mesclun lettuce mix. I also planted a small bed of coriander.
I have also been weeding the garden beds and giving the dandelions and grass roots to the chickens. The girls love them and convert my weed problem into eggs and lovely chicken litter for the compost pile.
We also picked up some wonderful couches and a great chair second hand from Jess's folks over the Easter weekend. Our old couch pillows have already been added to the dogs bed and the old couches have been moved to the garage until I have a rainy day to start breaking them down to constituents for possible future use.
We have been seeing a warmer and drier spring so far this year so I have put out the first rain barrel to catch the pole barn run off. I have big dreams of completely re-roofing the pole barn and adding a 500 gal sump but for now a 100 gal watering trough is a good start.

All this and I still need to get ready for the ducks to arrive on the 19th.

So much to do. So much to do!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First harvest

Well we had our first mini harvest this evening. it was just a bit of chive and a leaf of dandlion. As harvests go it was small but it was still significant. The chives could be combined with the eggs that our chickens are now producing with very little effort to make a nice greens omlet and we could serve it up with some garlic wilted dandelion leaves for a March fresh Minnesota grown meal. I know it can be tricky to eat locally some months of the year around here. But combined with the remnants of last falls pickles the march Minnesota garden can in fact feed you quite well.
In gardening notes,
I have extended the chicken garden. By forking over the loose soil and sod and throwing the sod to the chickens along with the dandelion roots I have already doubled the size of the chicken garden. We plan to grow some grains for storage and for feeding to the chickens during the winter. We will also grow chard to feed them during the summer to supplement the grass and grubs they get on their own.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The sun is ours now!

Well I hate to break it to you southern brethren but the sun is ours now. You have had your dance with our dear sweet sun but now the tune is fading and it is our time. It was a long time since it our days outlasted our nights here in the north but that time is at end for another year. We are pretty far north so even though the days have been lengthening since December it is only now really starting to work it's dependable annual magic.

Earlier this year I started getting a bit antsy and went out into the snow to build the following structure in an attempt to catch a bit more of the sun and possibly get a jump on the season.

Now to get the full effect you have to imagine me knee deep in the snow and digging out a place to build this ill thought out structure. So what was wrong with it? First off I didn't measure the windows and ended up with a structure that was too wide and let in the winter air. Second I managed to put it in the shadow of the big maple even after trying to account for it. So major fail there.

So plan B involved moving the straw bales and windows to the garden which even now has a small corner of snow in it.

So far that is working out much better the soil is almost hot on a sunny day and I think I should be able to start some plants in it this week. Which is good as my windows in the house are already full.

Also here is the annual first rhubarb picture! It has become a bit of a thing to post this picture each year so there it is. You may rejoice once again.

I also managed to fork over a few of the beds I had covered with chicken manure last fall. I am hoping that this helps the soil to warm up a bit quicker. I also hopes it starts the process of the soil making use of the remains of last fall's compost addition. I am thinking of starting seeds of spinach and radishes this week.

In other news I am nearly finished with the duck house. I just need to add the wheels trim down and mount the door and paint it. I spent quite a few pleasant hours working on it in the pole barn this weekend. I also need to put together the crate that is the new shed soon.
So much to do! So much to do!

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.