People always warned me of Maine winters, and I was certainly impressed by last winter's offerings ending with a 12" snowfall on April 1. But six inches in October? Rather uncalled for, I'd say, especially since we still have a week of CSA pickups. I guess we'll be digging in the snow for Tuesday's harvest.
Integrated Rodent Control has arrived on the farm. After noting a spike in chipmunk and mice populations, we decided it was time to increase our biodiversity to cope with the imbalance. Meet Saffron and Charlie, siblings from the Animal Refugee League of greater Portland:
Despite the noblest of intentions, it has been too long since our last post. In that time a lot has happened, as one would expect during harvest season on farm.
Our first pigs made their final voyage to the butcher a few weeks ago, filling the freezers of our customers and leaving us the gift of a hundred pounds of smoked bacon and whole-hog sausage (now for sale on the farm). Four new piglets have already taken their place, and have been up to their ears in soil ever since!
The turkeys are growing visibly every day. They are by far the friendliest livestock on the farm, closely following all visitors while pecking avidly at their shoelaces. They are also easily entertained by an empty bucket.
We transformed the greenhouse recently in preparation for a late fall crop of mesclun greens and spinach. It had become quite a jungle of storage and tomatoes over the summer.
And of course it wouldn't be a complete blog post without some photos of what's been harvested lately.
We've been enjoying lots of salsa verde these last few weeks as all the ingredients for this delicious condiment - or side dish, depending on how much you enjoy it - are ready to harvest!
Tomatillos on the vine. These fruits are related to a tomato, but perhaps not quite so delicious raw. When they begin to pop out of their 'paper lantern' like husk, they are ready to be picked!
Jalapenos! When small stretch marks develop along their sides are they are ready to go. Each jalapeno seems to have it's own level of spiciness. The seeds will make it more spicy too - things to consider when making your salsa!
Cilantro! You cut this one like most herbs, a few inches above the base of the plant, use the leaves, not the stem or flower, and leave the rest to regrow for another harvest.
Onions! When the tall green tops begin to dry out and flop over, these onions are ready to be pulled out of the ground. They can be eaten right away, or cured in a dry place to store away for winter.
On to the cooking! This is a simple recipe developed here on the farm - exact quantities and times are unimportant. What matters is that you use fresh ingredients from your local farm! Ingredients:
2-5 Jalapenos (depending on desired spiciness)
1 large Onion
1 bunch Cilantro
Juice from 1 Lime Method:
Grill (or broil) Tomatillos, Onion, Garlic, and Jalapenos 5-10 minutes or until surfaces are lightly blackened. Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend for 10-20 seconds or until desired chunkiness. Serve with tortilla chips or as a garnish to just about any meal.
We ate lots fresh but also canned some to enjoy this winter. We recently acquired a pressure canner that makes canning easy and safe. 10 psi for 10 minutes is sufficient to kill the potential of botulism in pint jars of salsa verde. If you're a canner, this will make sense, if not, no worries, just enjoy it fresh! It's great with swiss chard tacos, fried eggs, or just about any meal! Buen provecho!
The Cornish-Rock is the industry standard meat chicken breed. It has been bred to have an astounding feed-to-meat conversion ratio, excessively rapid growth, and obscenely large breasts. This is the chicken most of us are used to, as it is the only chicken available in grocery stores. The downside of the Cornish-Rock's turbo-charged growth and top-heavy physique is its inability to act like a chicken after the first few weeks of its life. A true chicken scratches, ruffles its feathers, dust bathes, roosts, and chases grasshoppers. Mature Cornish-Rocks pretty much just eat and sleep (thus their 'efficient' use of feed).
In light of these discoveries over the last few months, we have begun raising an alternative variety of chicken. They are called Freedom Rangers, and are derived from the American and European old heritage breed of chicken that was developed in the early 1960s to meet the highest standards of the French Label Rouge Free Range program. They are like the traditional birds raised on small farms in the good old days - healthy and vigorous foragers with succulent flavor and texture. So far ours are doing great - they've been thriving on pasture since day one, and should continue to grow (at a healthy and reasonable rate) until we process them here on the farm mid September.
Apparently June and July are busy months for a farmer, and time in front of a computer is difficult to find. But here were are at long last, picking back up after a few months of 16 hour days, bountiful harvests, and delicious eating, and minimal blogging. So far this summer has called for lots of hard work and has rewarded us generously with an abundance of good times and great food.
Highlights of the last couple months include the start of our CSA season,
...the growing of our pastured egg layers, broilers, pigs, sheep, and turkeys,
...the official approval of our processing facility for poultry,
...and finding our niche at the Scarborough Farmer's Market.
We have been fortunate to have a great group of CSA members and regular customers who have been supportive in many ways. We are very grateful to all, and look forward to everything to come as we approach the midpoint of our season. And apologies for our blogging delinquency - we hope to show a better cyberface from here on out!