Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Panciuto leaves the kitchen and Clover's new friend

So Stuart and I were thrilled to have Aimee and Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto come out and visit our farm last week. Not everyday does this man step out of the kitchen, and not every day does Bluebird Meadows have the best chef in town (and one of our best customers) come to visit the farm. In fact, Aaron is the only chef so far to visit our farm. He makes a concerted effort to buy as much as he possibly can from local farmers and for him and Aimee to come see our farm (in the middle of nowhere) shows their dedication. So we were honored and delighted to have some company besides our crazy goofy human-dog Clover.We also think it is important for us as farmers to reciprocate the support we get from local chefs by going for a meal at their restaurants. For Valentine's Day this year we treated ourselves to a meal at Panciuto--meaning potbellied in Italian--in Hillsborough. I will go so far as to say it was the best meal ever.The meal inspired us to raise quail as soon as we have a house on our property and also to return to the restaurant at least twice a year to celebrate slow-food in its finest form. Here is a link to the current menu at Panciuto... http://www.panciuto.com/menu.html ....maybe we should make that a three time a year visit. They also brought us a six pack gift of Peroni, a lovely way to end a long work day on the farm. Hats off to them for coming out.
So I can't resist; I have to post a picture of my younger brother's very unique dog Jizarah. Clover got to spend the long Memorial day weekend with her so they are best buds now. Jizarah is seven months old and weighs 110 pounds. Her mother weighed 130 pounds and Jizarah looks bigger every time I see her. She is super sweet and I prefer her company to most humans. I'll never forget when I was doing my taxes on my brother's computer and Jizarah was with me on the couch and all of a sudden !THWACK! Jizarah rolled off the couch. So funny. Freaked me out for a minute cause I thought it was an earthquake. For some reason Clover looks like such a little redneck dog next to Jizarah. When UNC was playing in the NCAA tournament my younger brother Aubrey picked up a kid's size UNC jersey for Clover and maybe it's the image of her wearing that jersey that makes her out to be a redneck dog around Jizarah. He couldn't find a jersey to fit his girl so the hoss remained jersey-free. Stuart was not thrilled to say the least as his blood runs duke blue. poor fellow. how embarrassing. so next blog I hope to post pics of our Memorial Day weekend adventures up in northern Virginia. We visited Stuart's sister's boyfriend's vineyard where he works, Linden, and saw the winemaking process and machinery. We also did a little hike on the Appalachian trail. more on that later! And as I must include at least one pic per blog of some flowers, here is a pic of market last week. Carrots are in!!! Purple haze carrots for this weekend....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where did all the flowers go?

another busy week to add to the fire. I'm a bit sad that all of our spring flowers have climaxed and are now looking old and dejected in the field with weeds creeping up around them. It's been so cool here that none of our early spring planted flowers have started blooming yet; campanula, statice, bee-balm or monarda, rudbekia, cosmos, scabiosa....ladies, it's time to put forth your best effort and bloom. I don't really know what to do with myself when there are no flowers blooming...I kind of wither up on the inside and my pulse slows, my color fades; people start asking me what's wrong. For solace I turn to squashing potato beetles. They've gotten out of hand and have begun eating our fingerling plants now. The gall. It's too bad we can't bunch up squash blossoms. They are shockingly vibrant. When we put them on our market table people slow down and do double takes, running into other customers and market tables as their eyes are glued to the color. We have no idea how to price them and we have to pick them around 5:30 Sat. morning so they still look fresh and, like picking squash, you have to bear the squash leaves scratching your arms and making you itch. Most people stuff them with a saute (ricotta, onion, a thinly sliced and diced veggie--you could even use squash) and then batter the flower and saute or fry that. We have one customer that puts them in a soup, but that seems like it diminishes their status a bit. They should be the highlight of the meal if you ask me. And can you believe this radicchio??? YUM! I wish we had a grill. Although if that were the case I'd have to abandon farming and just cook all the time. Why is grilled food so freakin good? I guess for the radicchio we'll have to saute it (boring) and pair it with some gluten free pasta for Stuart's sensitive tummy. It should still be delicious.
So to end this blog I have to post a pic of the cool old house we're living in. Built in the 1860's, the original kitchen was separate from the house. There are five of these HUGE oaks right around the house. They make it worth living here. We had to do a serious clean up job to ge the house in order. The kitchen took a couple days. I think it had been around ten years with no one living here. I got completely disoriented when I first went in the house. Up one staircase and down another and I had no idea where I was. Whoever owned this house was well off back in the day. There is a ping-pong table all the way from finland and Stuart and I only got one game in before we utilized it for a greenhouse table. I hope to bring it back out eventually because I will win at some point.
I've also been thinking about what I can do to save the planet. I'm thinking a tree planting party sounds fun. We'll make a map of our property with all the sites people can go to, and we'll have to transplant trees and have them ready for everyone. I guess we'd also have to figure out how to get everyone out here by carpooling since we're light years away from town. And then we'll record who planted what tree and it'll be AWESOME. I'm still brainstorming though. Any suggestions on how to save the earth will be well received.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mothers Day Market and the 11th hour

So we had our best market ever this past Saturday. There were flowers galore; all of our spring flowers peaked just in time for mother's day which is actually pretty miraculous considering I'm not a good enough grower yet to plan for such things. The grace of our garden's bounty is almost always a delightful surprise for us. We're continually shocked by how much produce and flowers can be harvested in a fairly small amount of space. Although to be honest our garden doesn't really feel so small anymore. And everything isn't always so graceful. We're embarassed to say we cannot grow a good beet as of yet, and our first planting of brassicas has been a waste of space (a large waste of space). Also, our potato plants are currently being devoured by colorado potato beetles. I'll have to take a picture of these monsters to show you because they really are disgusting. I've gotten to the point where I can kill them unabashedly, squishing their little larvae between my fingers, gleefully feeling them 'pop' and smatter orange fluid all over the plant and my hand. Gross, I know, but a reality.
After market, exhaustion set in and just today do we both feel semi-normal again after sleeping most of the day Sunday and taking it easy yesterday. I was up til 1:30 am Friday night bunching flowers, and Stuart was actually at a Radiohead show in Charlotte which he thoroughly enjoyed although I missed him being here with me.
On Sunday we watched the movie 'The 11th Hour'. Stuart initially didn't want to watch it, claiming we already knew about global warming and its devastating possibilities. However, recent storms here and across the globe have prompted me to feel not only frightened by the reality of global warming, but yearning for more things I can do to help. Thursday night Stuart and I had quite a scare with a tornado touching down only six miles from our home. And we live in a rackety old 1860s home, a home that just wouldn't hold up in a tornado. We watched the storm coming on our local news radar, and couldn't believe the size and scope of the storm. The flourescent pink areas that indicated hail and possible tornadoes were huge and coming our way. We even crawled under a desk downstairs for refuge at 1:30am, listening to the wind howl and feeling very unprotected and vulnerable. But back to the movie---it was fascinating and completely captivating, despite the cameo shots of Leo. Stuart and I said we would just watch some of it and then take a break to do some other things but we remained glued to the screen for the duration of the film. I recommend we all watch this movie as one of the most fundamental things that needs to happen here is awareness of the problems we face.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kiwis and May madness

This week has been crazy, although every week seems crazy these days. I think May might be one of the toughest months for farming around here. We're still taking care of everything spring, including seeding spring veggies, while trying to get everything early summer into the ground. And harvest for CSA and two markets. And start more summer seed. And weed and water it all. We also have four weddings to do this month. One down, three to go. How do we stay sane? That is a very good question. Lots of dark brooding moments in the strawberry patch and a complacency with a messy house help. We should try and eat better but granola with yogurt and berries, smoothies, and grits and eggs are the foods of choice these days. I'm actually avoiding the kitchen right now so I don't have to make dinner. Its kind of sad with all this absolutely delicious produce we're growing. Just not enough time in the day.
These pictures are of a couple kiwi plants and their fruit setting that our friends Tim and Helga of Four Leaf Farm recently gave us. A wedding present we finally decided to go pick up from their house and boy am I glad we did. The plants (one male and one female in order to acheive proper pollination) are really cool looking and even cooler is the fact that they will eventually produce kiwis! Tim and Helga said they got 800 off of their pair (the female plant really, the male is just good for pollination) two years ago. It's going to be fun taking care of the plants; looks like they require some serious trellising so we'll have to get creative. So not only did we get some kiwi plants, we also got an excellent dinner of salmon they had caught themselves in Alaska and a grand tour of their beautiful farm. They bring some of the nicest produce the Durham Farmers Market has to offer and Stuart and I have always admired their skills so it was quite a pleasure to see where all the magic happens.
We had an awesome market last Saturday. It was pretty close to our all time record which was last July when our melons came in. All the flowers on saturday sold really well except for the foxglove.What was i thinking that it would steal the show? I was very wrong, even though I am still a big fan of the flower. Batchelor buttons of all the flowers seem to be vying for most popular flower. I guess it is the blue. I eagerly await this color all spring and miss it when it's gone. There aren't too many flowers that bloom a true blue. It's edible as well, although I doubt many people eat it. I'm just dumbfounded though to have people choose this flower of all the ones on the table. I guess it's the price as it is the cheapest option on the table. We are thinking this weekend is going to be pretty insane as well at market since it is mother's day and graduation weekend for UNC and Duke (I think). So don't forget your mother this weekend!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fava Beans in Flower and Foxy Digitalis

Here goes another whirlwind Friday, cutting, harvesting, washing, bunching, and of course picking berries. We hope to pick ten flats today for market tomorrow. There was a Sat. last year where we had twenty flats of berries for market. Wowzers! We even sold them all, while our parent/mentor farm down the way brought 18 flats and only sold 16 flats. People go crazy for berries, and maybe it was our red t-shirts that sealed the deal for us. Here is a picture from 4/28/07 from the big berry day last year; that is Stuart in the picture with his back turned away. (he was standing in for Georgio for a minute, hoping no one would mistake that stand for being his own; oh we miss the days of George being our neighbor). Wow, the stock was blooming already! This year we're trying a new variety of stock, the cheerful series, that does not require a vernalization period as most stock do. It is already about 12 inches tall, a new stock height record for Bluebird Meadows. Hopefully it will shoot up a couple more inches before it blooms. Stock is a superfragrant flower that isn't really all that showy, but I guess with the smell and all people seem to love it. One day when we have a hoophouse (hopefully this fall we'll put two in) we'll be able to bring flowers of a more majestic height. Not that I think height is all that for flowers. For example, our calendula is about 5-6 inches tall and it is such a hot flower. Hot on the color wheel that is. Electric orange and yellow colors so far and just gorgeous. We got some calendula seed called Pacific Art shades and the seed was really funky looking for calendula seed. I wish I had a picture as the seed really had character. Right now it is the princess series blooming and it has just started so I'll post a pic when there are more coming in.
This week is our big foxglove week. Foxy digitalis as it is also called. Huge stems (for us atleast) are going to make a good show for tomorrow, which is good since our icelandic poppies are on their way out. Here is a poppy pic and one can see why they have stolen the limelight for the past four markets. Not only are they fragrant, but they look just like paper-maiche, and we get atleast a few people asking if they are real each week. They are the crack of the flower department, along with carrots and beets in the veggie department. A flower we never bring home, except on lousy Wednesday markets in Carrboro. So goodbye to the poppies, we loved you while you lasted. I look forward to not have to drive back to our house from the farm to sear them, as you need to dunk 1/4 inch of stem in boiling water for 20 seconds after you cut them so they can take up water. Crazy, huh? On an ending note, I have to post a picture of the fava beans in bloom. They have such a delicate and cool looking flower, similar to a sweet pea. They smell, and only if we could enlarge them to five times their size and be sure they had a vase life of 4-5 days, us flower growers would be rich. (yeah right.) I mean, really, a black and white flower? The demand would be off the hook. But luckily they will atleast be useful for making fava beans if not for a flower sale. If you enlarge the photo you can see the little ladybug crawling on them to show you scale.