Monday, September 2, 2013

Chores or Work, Week 18

Every morning each of us heads out to take care of chores. Sometimes it is early before daylight since there is work to be done at a certain time (going to farmers market, loading livestock for processing, etc.) Sometimes it is during that special time between first light and sun up, just to get a jump on the day when a special project needs to be completed.  Sometimes it is just early enough to get the chores completed before the work crew shows up to start the ‘real’ work.  But, no matter when one starts the day’s work, there are always chores to be completed first.

To a visiting family member or friend that tags along during chores, it may appear like work. Moving electric fences, hauling poultry feed, watering plants in the greenhouse, moving flats of plants to a new area of the greenhouse, moving cattle from one field to the next, are examples of chores.  Sometimes the chores turn into something more than routine if things are not just the way they are supposed to be and require a corrective solution.  Like a leaky hose, animals being spooked in the night by predators and moving themselves to a different location, or a limb that has blown down across a wire and drowning out the electric fence. Keeping things as they should be is just performing the chores.

In the winter, the work of setting up the float tanks or irrigation and heating system in the greenhouses must be done. This is the time when we try new systems or equipment to increase efficiency or productivity. Seeding the trays is orchestrated to utilize the space and give us the right size plant when we expect to need it, and that would be considered work. But from then on, monitoring the greenhouses are just part of chores, to be sure all goes as planned.

The cattle have their hay unrolled for them with a tractor, no matter the weather conditions, and the water supply must not be frozen. Similarly, the poultry and sheep are fed and watered twice daily. The worse the weather, the longer it takes, but still just daily chores.  Sometimes at the end of a long day, we may ask each other “did you get anything done today”? Usually the answer is “a little bit” or “I hope so”.  Sometimes when the chores take all day, you don’t get to the work.  

In spring, preparing the fields for planting, and planting are the work. The daily scouting for insect activity, adjusting irrigation hoses, estimating produce ripeness and picking schedule, that’s just chores. Caring for newborns or the arrival of new chicks, adds to the chore schedule, but is just what spring means down on the farm. Both with poultry and the greenhouse, spring brings the challenge of vast temperature swings from day to day, or from nighttime until mid-day. The ventilation systems may need to be adjusted several times a day to keep the plants and animals out of a stressful situation and productive. Replacing equipment bearings, welding brackets on an implement, and changing fluids in a tractor are considered work, but the daily greasing, oiling, cleaning, and adjusting are just part of chores.

Summer is when chores and work start to look more alike. The fields are being planted and harvested at the same time. The moms and their babies are moved often to ensure their health and vitality. Poultry of different ages are inside the brooder in the barn and outside in the field. Trucks and trailers are being loaded daily for market or CSA delivery. It feels like when the morning chores are done; it’s time to start afternoon chores.
As we feel fall settling in this week of Labor Day, the work of preparing for winter will soon begin, while the summertime chores stay the same. Many indicators point to a harsh winter, so we start to do one thing each day to get ready. Fences and water systems are much easier to work on now in maintenance mode, than have to make a needed repair in the dead of winter. Above ground irrigation systems will be dismantled as frosty conditions move in. By making slight improvements or little changes as part of chores, it keeps from making work later.

The seasonal variation of chores keeps us in tune with weather patterns, but also provides the opportunity to be part of the natural world we live in. Chore time is when we can focus on our interactive relationship with Mother Nature. The birth of an animal, witnessing shooting stars in the pre-dawn light, finding beneficial insects devouring some pest, or simply seeing a calf with milky froth all over its mouth from nursing its mom, are examples of why chores are a special time for us at Elmwood Stock Farm.

In Your Share

Blackberries or Raspberries – organic
Sweet Corn – organic
Garlic - organic
Lettuce - organic
Green Onions – organic
Potatoes – organic
Tomatoes – organic
Okra - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Couscous Salad, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this timely, delicious recipe.  It’s a nice way to enjoy the pear and cherry sized tomatoes in your share.

½ C whole wheat couscous prepared in ½ C boiling water
¼ C sliced black olives
¼ C chopped green pepper
½ C sliced yellow pear tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes
1 or 2 T chopped onion
2 T olive oil or more
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare couscous according to package directions (leave out the butter) and let it cool slightly.  Add other ingredients and stir.

Oven Roasted Potatoes with Spices, thanks to a friend of the farm for sharing her favorite potato recipes

Basic instructions:  Heat oven to 450°F.  Toss 2 lbs cut up potatoes, 1 T olive oil, and favorite flavorings in foil-lined 13 x 9-inch pan.  Roast 35 minutes, stirring once.  Garnish.

Curry: 1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tsp curry
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp sugar
garnish with 1 T fresh chopped mint, parsley or cilantro

Greek:  ¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp oregano
¾ tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
garnish with 1 T fresh chopped mint

Mexican: 1 ¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped green onion
¾ tsp cumin
¾ tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
garnish with 1 T chopped fresh cilantro

Fresh Sweet Corn Sauté with Okra and Tomatoes, adapted from a Bon Appetite recipe shared by a CSA member several years ago.  Tossing the okra in cornmeal before frying creates a crisp coating, adding texture to this colorful, summery dish.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1/2 C cornmeal
1/4 tsp (or more) cayenne pepper
12 okra pods, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
6 T olive oil, divided
2 C fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears of corn)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 C cherry or pear sized tomatoes, halved
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, chopped

Mix cornmeal and 1/4 tsp cayenne in small bowl. Add okra and toss lightly to coat. Pour okra into sieve and shake off excess cornmeal.  Heat 4 T oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add okra and sauté until coating is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer okra to paper towels to drain; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Wipe out skillet. Heat remaining 2 T oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add corn and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes; cover and cook about 4-5 minutes. Mix in okra, cilantro, and green onions. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more cayenne, if desired.

Romaine Salad with Garlic Mayonnaise, recipe from Dazzling Delightful Delicious, serves 6

8 ounces romaine lettuce leaves
1 C good quality mayonnaise
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash, rinse and dry lettuce.  Combine next 4 ingredients in a bowl, then season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Serve lettuce with the dressing.

Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, yields 1 1/3 C, from Simply in Season

½ C maple syrup
½ C oil
1/3 C lemon juice
1/3 raspberries
1 tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 T onion, minced
2 T poppy seeds (optional)

Place maple syrup, oil, lemon juice, raspberries, mustard, salt and pepper in blender and blend until smooth.  Add onion and poppy seeds and pulse briefly.