Monday, August 6, 2012

CSA News, Week 14

Wonderful World of Wildlife

Our relationship with nature to produce wholesome food is part of our motivation to dedicate our lives to this pursuit. In prior news-letters, we have discussed the fascinating insect interactions, the marvels of microbes, and the wrath of weather.  Now, for the wonders of wildlife.  At the farm we employ countless techniques in producing our crops in a manner to co-exist with nature and rearing domesticated animals in harmony with the wild ones.

Let’s start with the feathered ‘friends’. Those beautiful songbirds we all enjoy hearing are able to find safe nesting sites in the abundance of habitats on the farm. When our barn swallow (one pair has a nest in the corner of one of our sheds) returns from South America, we know spring has sprung. When working the fields, which stirs up flying insects, these small birds dive and swoop all around like fighter jets snatching the insects out of mid-air. It is neat to think that many generations will also return to us and announce the arrival of spring. Occasionally when cutting up trees downed by storms, we recognize the orange plastic hay strings that form the intricate pouch like nests of the Baltimore oriole.  However, other birds can cause economic hardship on our business.  We must feed the chickens twice daily instead of once, so feed is not available for the wild birds to consume at will. Blackbirds often will descend in great numbers and eat a few kernels on the end of the ear of sweet corn just hours before it is ripe and ready to harvest. Beach ball size balloons painted with a large eye will help deter them, depending on what other food sources are available in the area at that time.

Speaking of sweet corn, raccoons can completely wipe out a patch in a matter of a few days. They climb the stalks enough to pull them down, eat part of an ear, and move to another. We have been told they travel as much as 5 miles per night to access food and water. Corridors like Elkhorn Creek and Millers Run give them a highway to our farm. As the sweet corn ripens, we use electrified net fencing to keep them out. This must be moved from patch to patch as the corn matures. We also enlist a trapper, who is a fellow Lexington Farmers Market vendor. He sets traps in the winter trapping season, which is strictly regulated and monitored by the KY Game Warden. He has caught coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, possum, and weasel on our farm. These pelts are sold to leather companies and are used for trim pieces on purses, clothing, and upholstery, as they are easier to work with than cow hides.

All the furry creatures listed above also love chicken dinner, given a chance. The electric net fencing is our best line of defense. This is considered a psychological barrier versus a physical barrier. It has a modified current that scares the living daylights out of animals and people, without hurting them.  It must be properly installed and maintained daily to ensure its effectiveness. In very dry weather, an animal is not well grounded, making the effectiveness greatly reduced.  Our Great Pyrenees dogs are also quite effective at keeping prey away, when they are awake. One method this breed of dog uses is to sit out among the poultry at night and bellow for hours on end. This sends a signal to creatures near and far that a very large dog is working here, so you better stay away. Once, one of the dogs lay in the field for days refusing to move.  He was not ill, but would not leave to eat or drink anything. We were not sure what was wrong and you cannot make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Eventually he came walking up with a ground hog. We later figured out he knew where the ground hog was going for water and waited it out. These ground animals, along with moles, voles, and field mice have access to water many places on the farm, except in droughty conditions. But not to worry, they have discovered if they chew through the plastic tubing we use to supply the chickens with fresh water or the plant irrigation tubing, they have all the water they need. We have to search for the leak when it is discovered, make the repair, and prepare to do this task each day.

Deer are a major problem for most Central KY farms. Since we are the first farm East of Georgetown, the deer population is less than our neighbors further out, but we still take into account that the deer will eat some percentage of certain crops. Cha-Ching!

It is quite thrilling to see a Coopers Hawk or Great Horned Owl on the farm, though we know they are eyeing the poultry. It’s also pretty thrilling to see a family of coyotes playing in the snow, hopefully only catching mice and voles to eat.  With documented proof of economic hardship from wildlife activity, farmers can obtain depredation permits from US Fish and Game officials in Atlanta GA. We have not gone this route, preferring to locate new technologies and modify our production methods to peacefully share Elmwood Stock Farm with the wildlife.  

In Your Share

Green Beans- organic
Sweet Corn – organic
Garlic - organic
Potatoes - organic
Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Daikon Radish-organic
Fennel – organic
Lettuce – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Skillet Green Beans with Orange, recently shared in the Lexington Herald Leader, From The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

1 large navel orange
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely grate zest of the orange and reserve it. Segment the orange and keep the sections and juice in a bowl.

In a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan, heat canola oil over high heat, swirling it around the pan so it coats the bottom thinly and evenly. When the oil begins to smoke, add beans (in batches if necessary — don't crowd the pan) and scatter ½ teaspoon salt over them. Cook, stirring only every 1½ to 2 minutes, until beans are half-blistered and blackened, about 8 minutes. 

Transfer beans to a serving platter or bowl. Lift the orange segments out of their juice (reserve juice) and scatter them over the beans. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon orange zest over beans and oranges.

Add vinegar, olive oil and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to bowl of orange juice, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour dressing over beans. Toss, then season to taste with salt, black pepper and the remaining orange zest.

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, you can use any type of potato, you can also switch out the cheese if you enjoy a different type better.

1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.  Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.

Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold.

Savory Tart Shell
1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Daikon-Potato Puree
1 pound daikon radish
1 small potato
¼ C half-n-half or whipping cream
1 T melted butter
½ tsp dried chervil or basil, crushed
freshly grated nutmeg

Peel daikon and potato and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks.  In a medium saucepan cook in boiling, salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender; drain.  Puree in a food processor with cream, butter, and herb.  Serve dusted with nutmeg. Makes 4 servings.

Moroccan Eggplant and Pasta
recipe shared by a friend of the farm

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ + ¾ tsp salt
1 lb ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ cup chicken broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
corkscrew pasta

1.  Prepare past according to package directions.

2.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add eggplant and ½ tsp salt.  Cook stirring, until tender and just brown, 10 minutes.  Transfer eggplant to bowl.  

3.  Add 1 tbsp oil to skillet.  Add ground beef, onion, and ¾ tsp salt.  Cook until well browned.  Drain fat from skillet.  Add garlic, cumin, red pepper, and cinnamon and cook 1 minute.

4.  Stir in eggplant, tomatoes, chicken broth, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

5.  Stir in fresh mint.

6.  Toss with pasta.