Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Big Red Farmstand, Wed. August 14 & Sat. August 17, 1pm to 6pm

Hello friends,
A Brandywine in the hand
of a grown man (for scale)

Well, the past several days have been another round in the prolonged game of Will-It-Rain-Or-Won't-It that is the 2013 season.  Clothes have been soaked, cell phones ruined (well, just the one really), and tomato-picking schedules thrown to the winds.

We take great care not to handle the tomato plants in wet conditions, as it's easy to convey fungal diseases from one plant to the next on wet hands or tools, so we can only pick tomatoes when it's not raining (and hasn't been raining for several hours).  The past few days we've snatched an hour here and a half hour there when it's dry enough to pick, and we've managed to get through most of the varieties, but not all.  However, it's supposed to be sunny on Wednesday, so no worries!  Our tomato supply should be right up at the usual level.

Our lettuce supply is unfortunately another story.  We won't have lettuce this week, and probably not for the next few weeks.  See below for more...

It's late summer, so the farmstand table is more colorful than ever before!  In addition to our many colors, shapes and sizes of tomatoes, we're harvesting colored peppers after what feels like a long wait!  Maybe you all know this already (we didn't till we started farming), but green peppers are just "unripe" peppers of other colors.  If we leave them on the plant, and nothing bad happens (such as sun-scald or an insect moving in), those green peppers will eventually turn yellow, orange, or red.  The pepper varieties we're growing on the Big Red Farm were selected for maximum color variation; we have red, yellow, purple, orange, and even a "brown" variety called Chocolate (it looks dark red to me, but with vegetables I think you take what you can get).  They also taste great -- try some this week!
The flower garden

The other thing lending a splash of color to farm life is our flower garden, which, having been weeded and plentifully watered (thanks, 2013 season!), is really coming into its own.  We're picking Zinnias, Scabiosa (weird name, pretty flower), Rudbeckia and Verbena, and the sunflowers and Tithonia will be along before we know it.  We have beautiful bouquets for sale every week.

A muddy farm dog, 
fresh from the groundhog hole.

One of the many reasons we miss Jayber the dog: groundhogs. When Jayber was around, he spent a lot of time and energy on these furry pests.  He never caught one (that we know of), but he used to spend hours obsessively monitoring their dens.  Though it was a pain when he wouldn't leave a groundhog hole to get in the truck to go home at the end of the day, we agreed that this was an important part of his job as farm dog, and the groundhogs seemed to get the picture, as we didn't see any groundhog damage all spring.  None.  Well done Jayber.

Now that there's no more farm dog, the groundhogs have gotten bolder.  Within two weeks of losing Jayber, we were seeing them in or near our fields, and in the last two weeks or so, they have decimated the lettuce plantings that were supposed to provide salad for all of you now.  

The groundhog salad bar,
pretty well picked over
Every farmer and gardener I've ever spoken to has a raft of groundhog stories.  They're incredibly destructive, they're hard to catch (why go into the Hav-A-Hart trap when there's all this delicious lettuce out here?), and there's just a mountain of the little fellows, growing fat on our hard work.  I know people who have tried flooding them out and smoking them out.  I know people who have spent small fortunes on exterminators.  I know people who, having successfully trapped one, drive hours and hours to let it go somewhere far enough away that they hope it won't come back.  And I know people -- this is my personal favorite -- who shot the groundhog, made stew out of the meat (delicious), and a banjo out of the skin.

The thing is that all of these approaches require a certain amount of work on the part of the humans.  A farm dog with even a vague grasp of his role takes care of the problem without us having to lift a finger.  So, in Jayber's absence (and we're the first to admit that his grasp of the role of farm dog was nothing if not vague), we apologize for the lettuce hiatus as we figure out how to combat this new threat.

"Nubia" eggplant

Ratatouille is pretty much the perfect summer dish.  Its main ingredients -- tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, onions and eggplant -- are all harvested at about the same time, it goes with everything, and it freezes like a dream for winter enjoyment.  Summer or winter, we like to serve ratatouille over polenta, with a little parmesan grated on top.  (Ratatouille)  (Also, here's another ratatouille recipe that I've never made but looks incredibly beautiful.)
Slow-cooking some tomatoes

I made this very easy tomato sauce last week, to use up the pile of cracked and less-than-perfect tomatoes that accumulates on our counter and threatens to infest our house with fruitflies (actually, I've made 4 batches and counting).  The slow cooker makes it almost entirely hands-off, and using a food mill at the end means not needing to skin or seed the tomatoes beforehand.  Thanks to Penny Foss for the inspiration!  (Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce)


This week, we hope to have the following available on Wednesday and Saturday from 1pm to 6pm:
  • Basil - $2.50 bunch
  • Beets - $2.50 bunch
  • Carrots - $2.50 bunch
  • Chard - $2.50 bunch
  • Cherry Tomatoes - $3.50 pint
  • Eggplant - $3.00 lb
  • Eggs - $5.00 dozen (limit 1 dozen per customer)
  • Flowers - $2.50 bouquet
  • Hot Peppers - 2 for $1.00
  • Okra (limited quantity) - $2.50 pint
  • Colored Peppers - $4.00 lb
  • Green Peppers - $0.75 each
  • Roma (plum) Tomatoes - $3.00 lb
  • 'Juliet' (mini-plum) Tomatoes - $5.00 quart
  • Heirloom Tomatoes - $4.00 lb
  • Scallions - $1.50 bunch
  • Slicing Tomatoes - $3.00 lb
  • Summer Squash/Zucchini - $2.00 lb
  • Tomatillos - $2.50 pint


Going North on 206, turn right at the Community Garden, and follow the gravel road back to the left. You'll see signs for parking. Bring your shopping bags and walk through the woods to the barn (there will be signs for that too).

Hope to see you at the farm!

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