Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 15, A Few Short Rows . . . Follow up to Previous Newsletters

The beef cattle are grazing the pastures where the chickens grow and prosper, which prompted the idea to follow up on the value of pasture and organic weed control. First, we failed to mention much about poultry grazing patterns last week. The birds eat the nutritious cloverleaves and the small tender leaves of various weeds. They like Bluegrass leaves, but fescue, not so much. They also scratch and dig in the soil providing natural minerals, while searching for and eating insects, but this activity essentially cultivates the soil in small patches allowing the desirable species to have room to expand their foot print by extending underground shoots known as rhizomes or stolons into the open space. The single greatest value of the pasture for the poultry is the natural cleaning properties the pasture provides for the birds. By continually moving the birds to fresh pasture, the beneficial bacteria and fungi associated with plants, acts an anti-microbial keeping the birds clean and free of disease or parasitic issues, much like compost does for the soil. 

Now, back to those pesky weeds. The taller weeds that we mowed to keep things short for the poultry are seeing their stalks wither, while smaller weeds are sending the energy to the lower branches that were not cut.  Yesterday, we saw where the cattle are snipping off the seeds as they ripen, leaving the less mature plants alone. So, the plan is to mow the field as soon as the cattle move to the next field. This is the optimum time since the cattle have consumed most of the desirable vegetative growth, allowing our 50-year-old 7-foot bush hog mower to chop up the remaining weeds, as they stand alone in the field. In this field we can then send in the sheep to eat the new emerging shoots and seeds that ripen.

More about the tractors on the farm: Tractors are still rated in terms of horsepower.  A tractor has to be heavy enough to pull a load up a hill and heavy enough to stop a load at the bottom of a hill. It has to have a strong enough pump to force the hydraulic fluid through the hoses at very high pressure in order to move the cylinders or motors on the equipment. The Power Take Off (PTO) shaft out the back must be strong enough to turn with enough force to have the equipment operate, as it should. For example, swing an empty five-gallon bucket in a circle like a Ferris wheel. Then fill it half full and try it again. Do not attempt it with the bucket full ‘cause you ain’t got that much horsepower in ya.’  This is called the PTO horsepower, separate from the engine horsepower.  A tractor has to do all these things, at the same time. By the way, all tractors no matter how big or small, what country they are made in, no matter what color they are, are still mounted from the left, just like mounting a horse since the time of Caesar.

We have had several questions recently about GMOs, or more accurately, how to avoid them. There are only two ways to keep them out of your body. (1) Consume only Certified Organic products. The organic certification program ensures no usage of GMOs through meticulous records evaluation, seed sourcing verification, and buffer zones that offset potential harm from neighbors – all done to keep GMOs out of organic foods. (2) The other way is only consuming processed foods that have gone through a Non-GMO verification certification.  However, Non-GMO verified gives no consideration to synthetic fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, or fungicide use, much less the principles of soil building, biodiversity and continual improvement, which are the tenants of organic farming. Kentucky’s bourbon industry can be considered a GMO-free zone. Because GMO products are not allowed in the European Union and Japan, the distillers contract with farmers for GMO-free grains to make their products. Did you catch that? No GMO products on the shelves of an entire continent, period!  And here, the products do not even have to be labeled. Some people think that GMO labeling may be only a few years away in this country.

We hope you are enjoying your share from Elmwood Stock Farm this season. Your support helps us stay focused on what we know to be the right way to grow food, and to consciously care for our little piece of the earth.

In Your Share

Green Beans – organic
Blackberries – organic
Sweet Corn - organic
Bell Pepper - organic
Potatoes – organic
Tomatoes - organic
Garlic - organic
Radishes - organic
Okra - organic

Recipes to Enjoy
Tomato and Green Bean Pasta, serves 6, adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 lb penne, rigatoni, or shell pasta
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb tomatoes, diced medium
1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste
¼ C olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
black pepper
1 C crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
½ C fresh basil, dill, or mint

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes less than package instructions, then add beans and cook until just tender. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, oil, and vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add pasta, beans, and half the feta and herbs; toss to combine and season.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with remaining feta and herbs.

Corn and Zucchini Flan, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe she found online.

4 large eggs
¼ C half & half
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 T cornstarch
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 ½ C corn kernels
2 T fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare six 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups by spraying lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, half & half, cream cheese, cornstarch, and salt & pepper; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute, or until well combined. Stir in zucchini, corn and basil.

Spoon mixture equally between the ramekins; place each on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until puffed slightly golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Fresh Corn Saut̩, serves 6 Рa nice change if you get tired of corn on the cob. Recipe from Simply in Season.

3 T butter
1 C green pepper, chopped
½ C onion, chopped
4 C corn
¼ C water
1 T honey
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 T red sweet pepper, diced (optional)
½ C cheddar cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

Melt butter in fry pan.  Sauté green pepper and onion for 2 minutes.  Add corn, water, honey, salt, pepper, red pepper, and stir well.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes.  Sprinkle cheese and bacon over corn and serve.

Master Recipe for Mashed Potatoes, from Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Vegetables, serves 4 to 6.

2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed (today’s share contains an heirloom red skinned white flesh variety that has great flavor for mashed potatoes)
8 T unsalted butter, melted
1 C half-and-half, warmed
1 ½ tsp salt
ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with cold water to cover by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when pricked with a thin bladed knife, 20 to 30 minutes. 

Drain the potatoes.

Spear a potato with a dinner fork and peel back the skin with a paring knife.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes.  Working in batches, cut the peeled potatoes into rough chunks.

If you like silky, smooth mashed potatoes, use a food mill or ricer.  Set it over the now empty but sill warm saucepan.  Drop the rough chunks of potato in the hopper of the food mill or ricer.  Process the potatoes into the saucepan.

Stir in the butter with a wooden spoon until incorporated.  Gently whisk in the half and half, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

NOTE: If you like chunky mashed potatoes, use a potato masher.  Drop the peeled potato chunks back into the warm sauce pan and mash them with a potato masher until fairly smooth.  Proceed as directed, but REDUCE the half and half to ¾ C.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Toast 2/3 C small to medium-large garlic cloves, skins left on, in a small covered skillet over the lowest possible heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the cloves are a dark spotty brown and slightly softened, about 22 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat and let stand, covered, until the cloves are fully softened, 15 to 20 minutes.  Peel the cloves and cut off the woody end.  Add the peeled cloves into the food mill or when mashing with the peeled potatoes.