Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 19, CSA News

Landscape Architecture

When the Bell family expanded their farming operation in the 1950’s by purchasing the Elmwood property outside of Georgetown, those that farmed it before had set the basic footprint of infrastructure and much of the field layout we work with today. The original home place was built in the late 1700’s, complete with well and spring house, smoke house, out house, cisterns, and numerous other out buildings. The fencerows were established in accordance with the topography and access to water. Hilly areas were fenced off for cattle or sheep, while flat lands lent themselves to cropping, haying and grazing.

Thankfully the value of access to the water in the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek was considered when the farm was platted, so we have some “bottom” land across the highway near to irrigation water. Were this section of the creek not behind one of the many old milldams, it might have been only good for canoeing. The milldam allows a deep pool of water to form so that pump intake pipes can be immersed, and the pool is replenished by normal creek flow between irrigation events. Back in the heyday of Kentucky tobacco production, there was a lot of demand for creek and river water, and the dam pools were often pumped dry during droughty summers. This year was severe for drought, but there are fewer farmers raising fewer acres of crops, so the milldam pool near Elmwood filled sufficiently. 

Trees were allowed to grow along the fencerows to provide shade for livestock and wind breaks for crops and livestock. Years ago large steel tanks were cut into rings, imbedded in concrete with underground pipes supplying water into them.  More modern tanks are made of cast concrete or even heavy plastic.  These water reservoirs are placed in the fencerows so livestock can access them from two, sometimes three fields, and they do not impact field-cropping activities.

Gates to access fields were strategically placed in the fence line.  Some of the older, dry stone laid rock fences had a passageway constructed within the fence to allow people to cross, but not animals; or small livestock like sheep to pass through when needed.  In consideration of animal behavior, more modern gate openings are near the corners, not in the corner. Generally to move cattle or sheep, we open the gate and call the animals. They know fresh pasture awaits and will follow the lead animal that draws the others through the opening. A gate being ten or twenty feet from the corner makes a nice funnel but also keeps the lead animal from turning abruptly after passing through the opening. Were this to happen, young animals that lag behind may see the first few momma cows moving back towards them along the fence (although on the other side of it.)  Young calves want to stay close to their moms, so they are unwilling to leave her to go around through the gate opening, turning a small job of moving the cattle through the gate into a lengthy task.  A gate must also be hung so it folds all the way back against the fence and does not create a blockage sticking out into the funnel area. Some gates rest on a peg or rock when closed so as not to pull the post it hangs from, making it sag and eventually not open freely. Gate latches may range from a chain hooked over a nail head, clips that need human hands to open, or horse shoes on chains, which are fast and easy to open, especially in cold wintry weather with gloves on. 
Barns and sheds are strategically placed around the farm to allow easy access relative to slope, wet conditions, and patterns of use. The difference between a barn and a shed is that sheds are open on one side for ease of access into the protected space. Equipment sheds are long and narrow so each implement can be backed into its spot out of the weather but easily re-attached to the tractor the next time it is needed. Livestock sheds allow the animals free access to a protected space in inclement weather. Our produce packing shed has sliding doors along one side to allow multiple trucks to dock as items often go out about as fast as they come in.

All of the sheds in our area are open to the east. Weather systems generally come from the northwest, but the storms along the front come from the southwest.  Usually, very little rain blows into a shed with the east side open.   Look as you drive through horse country and you will see all the horse run-in-sheds face east. Occasionally in late winter and early spring, there are storms that approach from the east and when that happens they are usually doozies, which means we will have bigger storm problems than wet equipment or wet floors.

We continue to develop and maintain farm infrastructure, from planting a few trees each year to renovating old buildings, to putting in new waterlines.  We are appreciative for what was already here to work with, and have learned the importance of sustaining it.

In Your Share

Stringless Green Beans- organic
Cilantro – organic

Lettuce - organic

Onion – organic

Green Bell or Sweet Italian or Chocolate Brown Pepper - organic

Hot Pepper - organic

Potatoes – organic

Tomatoes – organic
Sweet Basil - organic 

Bok Choy - organic
Garlic – organic
Cippolini Onion - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Roasted Jalapeno Tomato Salsa with Cilantro, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this Rick Bayless recipe

1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes
2 to 3 fresh jalapeno chiles, stemmed
Half of a small white onion, about 2 oz, sliced ¼ in thick
4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ C water
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1 generous tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cider vinegar

Heat the broiler. Lay the whole tomatoes and jalapenos out on a broiler pan or baking sheet. Set the pan 4 inches below the broiler and broil for about 6 minutes, until darkly roasted — even blackened in spots — on one side (the tomato skins will split and curl in places). With a pair of tongs, flip over the tomatoes and chiles and roast the other side for another 6 minutes or so. The goal is not simply to char the tomatoes and chiles, but to cook them through while developing nice, roasted flavors. Set aside to cool. 

2. Turn the oven down to 425 degrees. Separate the onions into rings. On a similar pan or baking sheet, combine the onion and garlic. Roast in the oven, stirring carefully every couple of minutes, until the onions are beautifully browned and wilted (even have a touch of char on some of the edges) and the garlic is soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes total. Cool to room temperature. 

3. For a little less rustic texture or if you're canning the salsa, pull off the peels from the cooled tomatoes and cut out the "cores" where the stems were attached, working over your baking sheet so as not to waste any juices. In a food processor, pulse the jalapenos (no need to peel or seed them) with the onion and garlic until moderately finely chopped, scraping everything down with a spatula as needed to keep it all moving around. Scoop into a big bowl. Without washing the processor, coarsely puree the tomatoes — with all that juice that has accumulated around them — and add them to the bowl. Stir in enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Stir in the cilantro. 

4. Taste and season with salt and vinegar, remembering that this condiment should be a little feisty in its seasoning. If you're planning to use your salsa right away, simply pour it into a bowl and it's ready, or refrigerate it covered and use within 5 days. 

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Pesto a Martha Stewart recipe, you can use basic basil pesto, or experiment with arugula pesto, beet green pesto, or even garlic scape pesto you might have in the freezer.

1 ½ pounds small red new potatoes, scrubbed
1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 – 4 T pesto of your choice (see recipe that follows)

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon (reserve pan of water). When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into quarters; place in a large bowl.

While potatoes are cooling, return reserved water to a boil. Add green beans; cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well; transfer to bowl with potatoes. Add pesto, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Martha Stewart’s Easy Basil Pesto this recipe uses pecans rather than the traditional pine nuts; you can also try walnuts or omit the nuts altogether

½ C packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 C pecans, toasted
1 small garlic clove, chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a blender or processor, combine basil, pecans, garlic, lemon juice, oil, ¼ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, and ¼ C water; blend until smooth.

Mexican Style Stuffed Peppers, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this internet recipe, she reports using several types of peppers with equal success. 

1 pound ground beef (or cooked chicken or turkey)
1 oz taco seasoning
¾ C water
2 tsp chili powder
½ C cooked rice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
16 oz tomato sauce, divided
3 large red bell peppers
6 (1 inch) cubes Colby-Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. 

Place the ground beef into a skillet over medium heat, and brown the meat, breaking it apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Drain excess fat. Stir in the taco seasoning, water, chili powder, cooked rice, salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and half of the tomato sauce (8oz); mix until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove stems, membranes, cores, and seeds. Place a steamer insert into a large saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the peppers into the steamer insert, cover the pan, and steam until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  (This can be done if the microwave).

Place the steamed peppers into the prepared baking dish, and fill lightly with the meat filling. Press 1 cube of Colby-Jack cheese into the center of the filling in each pepper, and spoon the remaining 8 oz. of tomato sauce over the peppers. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.   Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot, 25 to 30 minutes.