What a lucky farm girl I am! This week, both of my sisters and my lovely niece helped with the harvest! What fun to get to direct my OLDER sisters about and make them work up a sweat! Here! Pick this! Wash this! Bag that! Such fun. Such fun for a little sister!!
Not only that, the executive editor of Midwest Magazine and his beautiful family stopped by to see the farm on a side trip from Crystal Mountain to the very special Watervale Resort!
We chatted a bit about our common growing methods, and I thought now might be a good time to share with you a little bit about how we grow at Echo Bend. Of course, we do not use any synthetic or petroleum-based pesticides or fertilizers. We make our own compost, using livestock manure and garden waste. We like to have the farm function as a closed-loop as much as possible, and strive to increase this practice in the future. For example, we pasture the chickens, turkeys, and pigs, which fertilizes the pasture on which we will eventually graze cows, sheep, and/or goats.
Supplemental compost feeds the soil, along with kelp meal and sea minerals. A well-mineralized plant is a strong, healthy plant, less susceptible to infection and pest attack. Not only that, the Midwest is known as the Goiter Belt for the high number of thyroid goiters and related problems. My family and I all suffer from thyroid problems, so it is important to me that I grow plants that help to prevent the mineral deficiencies so common in our area due to the lack of iodine and selenium in our Midwestern soil. Some of the fastest-acting, most effective fertilization comes from foliar feeding, and I spray plants with fish emulsion or pest-preventing and foliage strengthening herbal concoctions of brews using garlic scapes, horsetail, comfrey, etc.
I plant intensively, with an emphasis on companion planting, which is planting varieties of plants near each other that will somehow help the growth of the other. For example, radishes planted near cucumbers prevent flea beetles and squash bugs. I plant pollinator plants that will attract helpful insects to the garden, which prey on the nasties. As much as possible, I use no-till methods. Tilling destroys the helpful microorganisms and mycellium that live in the top two inches of the soil, turns up weed seeds (increasing labor and cost of production), and actually compacts the soil underneath the top few inches, preventing strong root growth. Instead of tilling, I build permanent mounded beds and use a broadfork to lift and aerate the soil from deep below. I’d be happy to demonstrate this for you — better yet, let you aerate a bed for us!
I tend to use the tractor as little as possible, saving on gas and exhaust, and instead use my grandfather’s wheel plow/hoe that he used on his own homesteaded farm in Southern Illinois. I like to do it by hand — with care and precision and mindfulness. I am not above using biodynamic methods — ancient wisdom that advocates planting according to the cycles of the moon and stars.
Last year I installed drip irrigation to save on water usage, as our surrounding watersheds deserve the highest care, and I am terribly excited this year to have added a passive solar greenhouse to extend our short growing season with just the use of the sun.
There is so much more to share. So many other practices I employ or aim to learn more about. I love that farming affords me such a grand lifelong learning opportunity. I have so much more to learn, so many more experiments to attempt, so many more failures from which to learn. I’d love to talk shop with you any time you would like! For now, though, I’ll stop and tell you what that well-mineralized, living soil has produced for you this week, on this blessed, beautiful, gift of a harvest day… (Did I mention I LOVE my job!?)
Here are the contents of your share basket this week:
- bok choy
- garlic scapes — chop and garnish salads, pastas, pizzas with them fresh or sauteed.
These are the flower stems of garlic, and have a milder flavor than bulb garlic.
- Chard, Rainbow Lights
- napa cabbage
- mixed salad greens
- raab – Raab is wonderful sauteed (with eggs is my fav), roasted, steamed or grilled in a foil packet with EVOO.)
- sugar snap peas or snow peas
- sweet peppers, baby bell or yellow banana pepper
- HERB: sage
A family favorite recipe, in honor of the gorgeous chard in your basket this week:
Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans w/Greens
1/2 lb. medium or large dried white beans, cooked
3 T butter or olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
7 big leaves chard, cut into wide ribbons and 1-2 stems cut into 1/2″ pieces
Freshly grated Parmesan
OPTIONAL: Add chopped sage from your share basket into the beans while cooking or sprinkle on top as garnish.
Heat butter/olive oil over medium-high heat in biggest skillet you’ve got. Add beans to pan in single layer (or do in 2 batches). Stir to coat with oil, then let sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes, before turning to brown the other side (another 3-4 minutes). The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Add onion and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until onion softens. Stir in chard and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of top-quality olive oil, and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish, but the 4 of us eat it as a main dish.
It is possible to substitute canned beans, but it won’t be the same. You can’t get them crusty on the outside and creamy on the inside. If you cook them too long, they’ll turn to mush. So,instead, cook up the onion and garlic, push to side and add beans; cook until golden. Then add greens and cook until wilted.
Do you have a favorite recipe? I always welcome you to share your favorite recipes using ingredients from your share baskets. That’s part of what belonging to a community farm is about!
COMING UP: asian cutting greens and kohlrabi…
SWAPS: There is a spot on the farmstand fridge labeled swaps where you can trade something in your basket with someone else. Leave something — take something!
TIPS: Angelic Organics has a handy guide for how to store various kinds of produce: http://www.angelicorganics.com/Vegetables/vegetablescontent.php?contentfile=vegstorage
Remember to bring your share bag/basket/box back at pick-up time next Wednesday!!