Monday, July 22, 2013

CSA Week 12, It's Not All About Biology

We talk often in your newsletter about the marvels of Mother Nature, the intricacies of the insect world, and how microbes maintain life, as we know it. But even in a well-planned biological farming system like Elmwood Stock Farm, it takes tools, tractors, implements, and equipment to make it come together in your weekly share.

Recently, at one of our weekly Sunday night family dinners where we try to not talk shop and be a family, someone commented that while they were operating equipment working ground for several hours, they figured out we have more than 250 tires on the ground. Some are big tractor tires with fluid in them to lower the center of gravity and add weight to help manage the attached implements; others allow a wheelbarrow to roll freely to move stuff around. Each tire is designed for a certain size wheel, which must meet a certain demand for space, weight, and use pattern. Trucks, wagons, trailers, implements, and other small pieces of equipment are designed to perform a specific function, therefore a different tire size and type. Someone must have the equipment and know-how to “break one down” when it gets punctured or ruined and replace the tire, or if it has a tube inside the tire, replace the tube. Seemingly these things happen at a most inopportune time, like baling hay before a rain, but to avoid that best we can, we check air pressure before use, replace leaky valve stems, and keep spares for many of the more common sizes on hand.

Tractors are rated by their horsepower, which shows the evolutionary heritage of the work to be done. They also must meet various attributes related to ground speed control, wheel base (both length and width,) visibility over the hood, hydraulic lifting capacity for implements that may be attached, and ease of attachment for those implements. The implements referred to are disc mowers for mowing hayfields with-out chopping up the grass, 26 foot rake to put the hay in a row, and a round baler to roll it up tightly for safe storage. We also need plows to turn the sod, disc-harrows and 8 foot rototillers to prep the soil for planting or transplanting, seeders, transplanters, plastic layers, cultivators, twenty foot bat-wing pasture mowers, 7 foot trim mowers, and grader blades for leveling dirt or rock around a project site - just to name a few. Each of these has to be precisely adjusted to perform its function properly. The tractor not only moves the equipment through the field, but many of these need their own power to do their job. The tractor has a P.T.O. (Power Take Off) shaft coming out the back that turns at over 500 revolutions per minute that the equipment attaches to, with a quick connect clamp system that powers the moving parts of that implement. Lots of implements also require a high-pressure hydraulic oil system to function or be raised up and down. The tractor must have the right size pump and reservoir of hydraulic oil, so when the hoses are connected to the tractor, there is sufficient fluid flow to operate the desired function. Tractors use hour meters to track how long they are in service and schedules fluid changes and maintenance procedures.  We still use several with over ten thousand hours of work on them. Our current tractors range in age from six to sixty years since being built.

Then there are chainsaws to remove fallen trees from the fields (where firewood is a by-product,) mowers for roadsides and yards, weed-eaters, ATV’s for light duty fencing and cattle work, tire changers, welding equipment, cattle scales and handling equipment, wagons and trailers for hauling hay, tobacco, equipment and the like. We can’t begin to list all the hand tools like spud bars, iron diggers, shovels, hoes, pick-axe, come-a-longs, sledgehammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, electrical diagnostics tools, buckets, tubs, water troughs, veterinary tools and supplies, and the list goes on and on. Let your imagination wander at the number of different size bolts, nuts, washers, belts, hoses, bearings, bushings, grease fittings, filters, and pins we must keep on hand to be ready when Murphy’s Law kicks in. 

We keep quite an inventory of spare parts for all this on hand, knowing which parts are the most likely to wear out or fail, so we can quickly make the repair and get back to work without having to go to town, or often wait for an order to be shipped in. There are times when metal fatigue or another factor causes the metal to break. In these cases the part must be removed, straightened, and welded back together, sometimes the repair made right in the field. Not only do such repairs require certain parts or supplies, but the experience and know-how to accomplish the task.  While auto mechanics work in a shop with a smooth concrete floor, a roof, and good lighting; farmers work in the grass or dirt or mud, often on a slope and at night, to be back up and running the next day.
Keeping all the mechanics operational is fairly linear in nature: perform maintenance before use, keep things clean and greased. If something breaks, locate the problem and repair or replace it.  The challenge is finding the time this time of the season!

In Your Share . . .

Green Beans – organic

Blackberries - organic

Savoy Cabbage - organic

Sweet Corn

Green Bell Pepper – organic

Red Potatoes - organic

Tomatoes - organic

Collard Greens - organic

Kohlrabi – organic

Leeks - organic

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Fresh Marinated Vegetables, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this favorite recipe.  She says ” it lasts a long time (make it on Sunday, still good on Thursday), and you can use up ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.”

¼ C canola oil
2 T white vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
dash pepper
½ tsp basil
½ tsp Italian seasoning (or oregano)
1 T sugar
½ tsp salt or celery salt

Mix together and pour over any combination of vegetables and marinate at least 2 hours.  Zucchini, yellow squash, onions, tomatoes, carrots, green pepper, broccoli (don't forget to slice the stems!) etc.  I like to chop everything in a small square dice (though I usually grate the carrot to spread the color more evenly).  Anything goes here!

Cabbage Pie, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this Mark Bittman recipe adapted from old Russian recipe; if you don’t have dill on hand, she suggests fennel instead!

2 T butter plus more as needed
1 medium or ½ large head cabbage, cored and shredded, about 2 pounds
1 medium onion, sliced
salt and black pepper to taste
2/3 C chopped fresh dill leaves or fresh herb of your choice
6 eggs (3 hard boiled)
1 C whole milk yogurt or sour cream
3 T mayonnaise
½ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ C flour

Preheat oven to 375°. Put butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is quite tender, about 10 minutes; do not brown. Remove from heat, add dill, taste and adjust seasonings.

Meanwhile, hard boil 3 eggs if not already done. Peel and coarsely chop. Add to the cooked cabbage mixture and let set while you make the batter.
Combine yogurt, mayo, and remaining 3 eggs. Add baking powder and flour and mix until smooth. Lightly butter a 9 x 12 inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Spread half the batter on the bottom, then top with the cabbage filling, smear the remaining batter over the cabbage, using your fingers or a spatula to make sure there are no gaps in what will be the pie’s top crust.

Bake for 45 minutes until shiny and golden brown. Let pie cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Eat warm or at room temperature, serves 4 to 6.

Creamy Leek, Potato, and Sour Cream Chive Soup recipe from From Asparagus to Zucchini

3 T butter
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced, about 4 C total
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 pound potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
4 C chicken stock
½ - 1 C sour cream
4 T chopped fresh chives, divided
salt and pepper

Melt butter in pot over medium-low. Add leeks and tarragon; cover and cook slowly, 15-20 minutes. Add potatoes and stock; bring to simmer, cover and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes. Puree mixture. Return puree to pot; stir in sour cream and 2 T chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each serving with additional chives. Makes 6 servings.

Sweet Corn and Green Pepper Crustless Quiche, recipe adapted from Fairshare’s Farm Fresh and Fast. 

2 tsp olive oil
2 medium green bell peppers, diced
8 green onions, finely chopped (or equivalent yellow onion)
1 ½ C cooked corn kernels (boiled or grilled)
½ T dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
12 large eggs
¼ C milk
¾ C grated jack cheese (use pepper-jack for spicy)
¼ C grated Asiago cheese
1 small tomato, sliced
cilantro sprigs (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Coat 8 ramekins (6 oz) with nonstick spray and set on a baking sheet.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the peppers, onions, and corn.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender.  Remove from the heat and stir in the oregano, cumin, chili powder, and salt.  Let cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk together.  Add the jack cheese and cooled vegetables and stir well.  Divide among the ramekins.  Top each with a tomato slice and sprinkle with Asiago.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set, brown, and puffy.  Garnish with sprig of cilantro.