Category Archives: Canning and Preserving

Just What We Do, by Ben Hewitt


This from my friend Ben Hewitt, will make you think. I have a real problem with today’s obsession of treating food as medicine, which just adds to the hysteria over food choices. “Eat real food, not so much, mostly plants,” Michael Pollan. My mantra.

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Winter Carrots — A Sweet Treat!


This is the second winter we’ve stored carrots underground. The winter carrots are definitely the sweetest and tastiest of all. Something about the cold temperatures concentrates the sugars and flavor.

Here is how we do it…

One last planting of Rainbow and Napoli carrots went in the garden behind my house near the end of the summer, where they grew to full-size.DSC_0204

We sold some at market, gave some to shares which ended in December, and used quite a few in our soups and stews.

Before the ground froze, a trench about 18 inches deep was dug alongside the carrot patch. The remaining carrots were dug out and laid in the trench with the greens still on. Enough dirt was sprinkled in around them to hold them upright. A thick layer of salt hay was mounded on top to prevent the ground from freezing underneath.DSC_0207

Yesterday’s temps were in the 40s, and I went out back to replenish my supply. Moving aside the hay, I groped around in the wet earth and pulled them out one at a time. They were still fresh, firm, and rendolent with that unique carrotty fragrance.DSC_0208

Food? Doesn’t look like much until they come inside for a rinse…DSC_0203

Yummy, sweet and gorgeous! I wish you could taste how different these are from the ones you get in the supermarket!

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Welcome to 2013 and a new Mehaffey Farmer!


Hello 2013 and goodbye 2012. Wow! What a year! It was a year filled with growth and change for this farm and its people. Almost more than we could keep up with ourselves! But that is not a bad thing when you are chasing a very big and ambitious dream, and the dream is only beginning to unfold. Yes, we work hard here, but it is still rewarding and it is the best work I know! Of all the hundreds of photos taken around the farm, I have managed to winnow this year down to a few highlights:

On Dec. 31, New Year's Eve, we welcomed our newest family member, Silas William Mehaffey!First and foremost, we welcomed our newest family member, who belongs to our son Ross and his wife Acacia. Silas William Mehaffey was born on December 31. He is as they say,  a real “keeper!”

In the cold early winter months of 2012, the boys started work on the foundation and drainage for the new cooler. They also began welding parts for the new greenhouse. Bill and I took a vacation in Florida.DSC_0087

When we got back, we started soil blocks for the starts greenhouse, and planted onions and celery on my windowsills.DSC_0077DSC_0675

We held an engagment party.

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In Spring, we added a hive of bees, then dealt with a swarm which gave us an extra hive. We plowed fields, and harvested the first asparagus of the season and started to plant. Then, we put up our second greenhouse.

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This shot of the new moveable greenhouse was taken just after the guys moved into its summer location. It had covered rows of greens, and now  ready to house tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

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Some new animals came to the farm, but first, a beautiful new barn to house them had to be built.DSC_0083

Then came Prudance.

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And Gracie and Lilly, who boarded with us for awhile.lilygrace

After the donkeys left, Pru got a new BFF, Ruby the pony who came to replace them. Hi Ruby! Don’t they look like sisters?

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My sister Leslie came to stay for the whole summer in the role of “House Elf.” She kept order in my house and cooked delicious meals for the crew all summer.DSC_0245

And just look at the bounty she had to work with!DSC_0480

Our meals looked like this…

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and this…pretty much every day!

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Two interns came to work with us, Rosie and Susan, They pitched in and gave 110 percent!!DSC_0158

Rich joined us for another summer. (Shelby adores him!) He kept us in succession plantings the entire summer.

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Desi and I made up the rest of the crew. That’s Inigo Montoya, one of her bunnies. The other is a Inigo’s stuffed toy, which keeps him warm! Later, Desi added a second bunny, “Cinder.”

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That’s me in the new greenhouse, planting the tomatoes.

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We had a wedding shower, followed in short order by the most amazingly beautiful wedding this farm has ever seen.

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Literally everyone we know pitched in to help us make this the most amazing day and we all felt the love. It definitely was one of those: “It Takes a Village” weddings.

Desi’s mom Leslie flew in from Washington State for a whole month, helped us spruce up the place and did a tremendous amount of harvesting too! It was so great having her here.

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DSC_0635The cooler got finished just in time to keep things cool for the wedding feast, thanks to our boys and their friends, most notably Dan LeFave, Russell Sanderson, Rob Swiniarski and Brad Gallant. And thanks to Rich for doing double duty harvesting and cooking up a farm fresh meal with his friend Joe, the caterer.

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They even got the old 1930 Model AA flatbed running, those men. They used it to transport the groom and his groomsmen to the wedding ceremony! Aaoogah!

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(They clean up pretty good, don’t they?) The wedding day dawned a perfect August day, with none of the heat you might expect at this time of year.

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The Reverend Carol Waleryszak, Michael’s aunt, officiated, making the ceremony personal, and unforgettable.

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After the wedding it was back to every day the business of getting in the harvest, doing more markets through Christmas, running our fall CSA, delivering vegetables and buttoning up for winter. Whew!

But first, everyone got in a week of much needed R&R, the honeymooners flew off to California, while some of us went up Maine, to Pierce Pond, our favorite fishing spot. We’re slowly learning to build in some away days in order to survive the pace that the rest of our year demands of us.

Unfortunately, after withstanding two hurricanes and several other windy events, a freak December windstorm did some serious damage our original hoophouse in December. Of course it was totally unexpected, but then, such things never are expected, until they just happen, and we say oh well, it’s not the end of the world, and then we move on. We have already repaired most of the damage, and expect to be growing carrots in there by February.

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This Christmas, Ross presented us all with T-shirts with an awesome new graphic he’s working on. Very soon we’ll have our own Mehaffey Farm hoodies, shirts and caps to wear next summer. The eventual design will end up being a more basic, graphic arts style suitable for two and three color printing, but it’s so much fun having this first edition to wear.

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We are glad the world didn’t end on 12/21/12, and now, after a brief holiday and freezing cold interlude, we get to do it all again! These welcome winter months will afford us a little time to think and breathe and plan and prepare.

All in all it was a very good year and we wish everyone the best to come in 2013!

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Filed under Antique tractor, Bees, Canning and Preserving, Cooking with Fresh Vegetables, CSA Shares, Farm Animals, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Tractor

Garlic!


Richie and I planted two big beds of garlic yesterday. After a surprise snowstorm around Halloween, I began to fear we would be too late, but the ground is not yet frozen, and we are likely to have some milder days before real winter sets in. Hopefully, we are just in time…

Developing your own garlic crop takes great patience. It’s a very expensive crop to grow if you’re buying new seed stock. And when you love garlic as much as we do, it takes steely resolve and discipline to save the biggest bulbs year after year, to replant.

I don’t think I could live without garlic in my kitchen, and nothing tastes better than our own home grown garlic. After the July garlic harvest it’s a garlic bonanza here. In the beginning, it seems like we will have plenty. It goes into all our marinaras, salsas and savory dishes that we preserve and freeze for the winter. It flavors our omelettes and stews, and adds pizzazz to our pizzas. We give it out to our shareholders. We sell some at the farmer’s markets. It doesn’t take long before our supply starts to dwindle and we begin to look longingly at our seed crop. But we hold back. You see, we have to save the best of our harvest to put right back into the ground in October, or early November. It’s hard, but we are strong because we know there’s a huge reward for our stewardship. What’s a large enough garlic crop? When you have to go to the supermarket to buy more, you don’t have enough, and we’re not quite there yet…

Hardneck garlic is the crop of choice in the Northeast, and it needs to be planted in the fall for a mid-July harvest. It takes time and experimentation to discover which varieties will do best in your own soil. Finally, after three years of holding back our best bulbs, this year’s harvest yielded us a 1/2 bushel basket brimming with very large and beautiful Music bulbs. Clearly, this is the variety for Mehaffey Farm– great big fat heads averaging 6 or 7 huge cloves each. Each clove will produce another whole head. We carefully stored the basket high and dry up on one of the beams in my house where they sat, mocking us with their plump perfection for three whole months. (Eat Me!) It’s a good thing we get a generous supply of the smallish, and in the least bit less than perfect heads to use in our kitchen!

Garlic planting time was a little late this year, partly because of the unexpected Halloween snowstorm, but also because October was a chaotic month filled with change at Mehaffey Farm. Ross and Casey and Shelby moved out and into their own place — a good move for them as every young couple needs their own nest! We miss having the baby around every day, and we loved having the baby and her parents here, but it is good for everyone to have more space and a home that’s refuge to go to at he end of the day instead of the Grand Central Station my house had become… And while I miss my morning coffee and newspaper cuddles with Shelby, we still get to see her every Monday and Tuesday when her mama goes to work on the evening shift, where she’s a nursing supervisor at Woodbrier in Wilmington.

Then, at the end of the month, Mike and Desi moved into the farmhouse with Grammie. This is a wonderful turn of events that the whole family is happy about. The old family house where Grammie has been living alone for 7 years is very large and very empty. The kids will breathe new life into the old farmhouse,  which was designed for a family to live in!

Also in October, we are finally getting our chimney fixed by our son Michael! It had started to crumble after living in our house for nearly 30 years, and it wasn’t going to make it through one more winter. Last week Michael signed papers to buy the masonry/construction business from his cousin Graham, who he’s been working with for the past few years.

Meanwhile, we are nearly half-way into our Late Season shares which consist of cold-hearty crops, root storage crops and canned goods every other week until Christmas. We’ve covered large crops of cold-hearty vegetables with hoops and reemay cloth, and we have lots of winter squash and potates in the root cellar. It may seem like the season is over, but our bounty continues. (Here’s a peek into our greenhouse of crops that will appear in our late season shares in December…a post for another day!)

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Honey!


So what if it was 98 and humid on Friday? It was time to extract the honey from the hive, and at those temperatures, the honey flows better! We now have about 35+ pounds of sweet, delicious, light-colored early honey. Meaning the nectar was gathered from the early blooms this year, often the best quality honey. We think it tastes better than anything we’ve bought. Maybe because it’s ours!

Michael  begins scratching the wax capping off the honey cells. The supers were heavy and thick with honey. Loaded!

We only scrape the wax off one side at a time. Less oozing and mess that way!

We spin two frames at a time. It takes a lot of manpower to crank the extractor one way, then the other. Centrifugal force, baby! 

The honey needs to sit in the bucket for a few days until all the bubbles rise to the surface. Then we can put it up in jars to enjoy.

Desi will use the wax to make lotions and potions from her “farmacy” herb garden…

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Mehaffey Farm’s New Website


It seemed like a long winter, didn’t it? But we’ve made it through and spring is here at last. All we need now is a string of warmer days. Any minute now…Even though it’s been almost as cold as February this past week, we’re definitely noticing the strength of the sun in the greenhouse. Every day we’re astounded by the rapid growth of all the little seedlings as they stretch toward the light. We feel it too. We’re starting to crave fresh greens again. All winter we’ve enjoyed cooking up all our stored root vegetables, and finding myriad ways to prepare all the lovely canned and frozen tomatoes, sauces and other delights we put in the freezer and pantry.  Lucky for us, we’re also still enjoying the last row of spinach, the last of the hearty greens we planted last fall in the greenhouse.

In the meantime, we’ve welcomed a new family member, Ross and Acacia’s baby, Shelby Ruth Mehaffey, born Feb. 8. Isn’t she a doll? She’s seven weeks already. How did that happen? Winter is the perfect time to have a new baby in the house, and we’re thoroughly enjoying every minute watching her grow.

We’ve been very busy in the greenhouse, preparing new beds, planting carrots, and lots of spring greens. Bill and I took a much-needed vacation in Florida. The whole family also attended the very excellent Harvest New England workshop in Sturbridge, along with over 850 other attendees. Inspiring! There we learned a tremendous amount and got a chance to network with other farmers and experts from across the region who are invested in doing what we do.

We’ve been buying seeds and new equipment and planning for what promises to be an exciting season. In the midst of all this activity, we’ve also been working on a new brochure. It’s now at the printer, and will be coming in the mail to last year’s CSA shareholders in a just a few days. We’ve already heard from a few of you who’ve told us you’re eager to return this year. Please let us know as soon as you can if you would like a spot reserved for you this year. We’re only adding only a small number of Spring/Summer shares, but we’re gearing up for a larger number of Late Season shares. 

We’re also pretty excited about our new composting program. We invite everyone who wants to participate this year to bring us their kitchen scraps to help us build healthy soil on the farm. Everyone gets a five-gallon bucket and lid, to exchange for a clean one when you come to pick up your share. If you don’t want to participate, or you’re already composting at home that’s fine. The program is not mandatory. But it’s an excellent way for you to join us in our quest toward a more sustainable world.

This brings me to the subject of this post: our new website. Check it out! We’re very excited about it. It’s loaded with information and photos of the farm, and news about the upcoming season. Click here to see, www.mehaffeyfarm.com . We’ve also placed a link in the sidebar here. So please send us your feedback. We love hearing from you!!!

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Changing With the Seasons


What to do with the seven bushels of green tomatoes, a bushel of green peppers, and a bushel of small eggplants we picked at the first threat of frost? Temperatures dipped below 32 degrees here two nights this week and with that, it’s over for the hot weather-loving crops. It’s always a little sad and shocking to see the damage frost does in a garden overnight where just a day before everything was lush and growing. I can truthfully say it’s a relief though. One of the best reasons for living in a seasonal climate is we get to put things to bed and have a rest from the summer’s routines.

We’re still farming however, and there’s lots to do before the snow flies. New beds for next spring still need to be plowed, and we’re working on the greenhouse. We’ve harvested the winter squash.

We’re pulling up plants, which go on the compost pile, and seeding the beds with winter rye. Irrigation hoses and equipment must be rolled up, labeled and stored. We’ve put simple hoop and Reemay row covers over a couple of late crops of hearty spinach, winter lettuce. The brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale) aren’t harmed by a light frost. These will hold out until there’s a killing frost. (Kale being the exception, which will pretty hold up to anything Nature throws at it!) The celery and leeks are nestled under a thick layer of salt hay mulch. Garlic, which winters underground, will soon be planted and thickly mulched.

Meanwhile, indoors, we’re doing our best to preserve what remains of this summer’s best tomato, pepper and eggplant crop ever. How we hate to see it go! But the freezer is filled to the brim with peppers cut into strips for fajitas, halves for stuffing and chopped for soups. Bags of celery are in there that will go into our winter cooking, along with separate bags of celery tops to flavor our stocks. We’ve frozen chopped tomatoes, and several batches of sauce laid flat and frozen in sheets. The eggplant gets sliced and dipped in flour, egg, and panko crumbs and fried in olive oil. We undercook these slightly and freeze them flat. Makes it easy to throw together a nice Eggplant Parmesan some winter night, using our home-made tomato sauce. I also roasted some chopped eggplant cubes that can be thrown into a bubbling pot of Minestrone. There’s going to be much good eating in my house this winter!

But what to do with all of those green tomatoes???

A search of Google turns up some intriguing possibilities. http://southernfood.about.com/od/tomatoes/a/green_tomatoes.htm 

Green tomato pie… green tomato ketchup… baked green tomatoes… tomato fritters… green tomato hash… green tomato chutney… pickled green tomatoes. On Monday we made fried green tomatoes for lunch and they’re easy and good. Coat with a layer of cornmeal and fry until brown on both sides in olive or canola oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for a few more minutes in the oven at 350 until done.

We haven’t yet counted the many boxed dozens of jars filled with things we’ve put up over the course of the summer. Tomatoes, dilly beans, cucumber  pickles, pickled hot peppers of all kinds, salsas and hot sauces, sauerkraut, and jellies.

Many of our green tomatoes are getting made into India Relish, from my mother’s recipe. I think we’re on the third batch. Or is it fourth? I’ve lost track!! Habanero peppers were added to at least one batch, giving those jars a nice kick.

Mimi’s India Relish:

(You can do this in a food processor, but I personally prefer the texture you get with an old-fashioned grinder like my mother always used.  I got mine at the Co-Op. .) Store-bought relish just won’t cut it once you’ve tasted this! My favorite use is on baked beans, but it’s also excellent mixed into potato salad, and of course, on hot dogs…

Grind a peck of tomatoes. (What’s a peck, you ask? It’s one quarter of a bushel, or about 15 lbs…) 

Add 1- 1/2 cups canning salt (no idode) which sweats out the excess water. Let sit overnight. (There sure has been a lot of sweating going on at Mehaffey Farm this year!) [see:https://mehaffeyfarm.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/ratatouille-like-my-mama-made/.])

The next day:

Chop 1 medium head of cabbage

Drain the salty water off the green tomatoes. Add chopped cabbage and 1-1/2 quarts white vinegar. Boil for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile:

Grind 6 green and 3 red peppers, and 6 onions.  Add to the pot along with:

6 c. sugar, 1/2 package of light brown sugar, (remember, this is my mother’s recipe. I think she means one of the small boxes, not the big bag it comes in now…so maybe 1/4 of one of those 2 lb. bags…)

Now, get ready for an intensely pleasurable olfactory experience…(this one brings me right back to childhood in my mother’s kitchen.)

Add 2 Tbsp. celery seed, 2 Tbsp. mustard seed, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tsp. ground cloves.

Cook until the onion is tender. Pour into sterilized canning jars with the two-piece lids. Leave 1/2 inch headroom. Process for 15 minutes.

Mimi would be proud!

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