Tag Archives: culinary

Old Friends on the Farm


The whirl of the holidays has at last ended and we wish you a Happy New Year!

We’ve really enjoyed the extended season (and extra vegetables) afforded by the unseasonably warm weather, up to and including New Year’s Eve Day when it was pushing 60 degrees here!

Unlike last year at this time, we are still harvesting from the greenhouse. Here’s mache and fresh arugula we harvested, for our Christmas salad, served with gorgonzola crumbles, candied pecans and a lovely maple basil balsamic vinaigrette. So delicious!

Last night the mercury dipped to 6F Ouch! But more like January. (Couldn’t we at least have some snow? Please? I know, be careful what you wish for…but I so want to go snowshoeing in the woods behind the farm…)

Our old friends Karen and Ralph (Ralph prefers “good friends,” to “old”, sorry Ralph…) drove up from New Jersey to help us welcome in 2012. We’ve known each other since “before…” before kids, before marriage, before granchildren, all of which proceeded for us in tandem over the past 30+ years. Now all of our respective kids are married, or are about to be. Grandchildren have arrived or are arriving soon. Truly “old” friends are the best kind!

As I said, it was pushing 60 on New Year’s Eve day and we took full advantage of the lovely weather for various pursuits on the farm. Karen and I visited the greenhouse to harvest another salad for our New Year’s gathering.

Meanwhile, Ralph got out his metal detector and Bill grabbed a shovel to see what they could find under the newly turned earth. Ralph was wishing for an old pocket knife or watch, or ring, or a buried cache of coins under the old stone walls…

Dave, our friend from Parker River Alpaca Farm joined the fun.

Nothing but a few coins were found…but cameraderie and exercise trumps treasure any day, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, Karen and I wandered around the farm and found Desiree out back with her bunny, “Inigo Montoya.” Sadly, Inigo’s friend, Wesley died last week, so until a new friend arrives (soon!) Inigo has “Pony,” his stuffed animal to snuggle with. Sometimes Suchi (Desi’s mini-Pom) gets into the cage to snuggle with the bunnies.

Then, Karen and I took a good long walk in the woods. Life indeed is rich, isn’t it?

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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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Doing it…


 

Ah, sweet spring! So much has been happening here that I hardly know where to begin. I hope to keep this blog going despite the myriad challenges and complexities of getting this whole operation up and running. (Fortunately, I have lots of help!) The good news is that everything we put into place last year and all the knowledge we’ve collected so far has made this spring’s work seem a little less daunting. But with all the excitement and care of a new family member, Grammie has little extra time! I hope to persist with the writings and photos whenever possible!

Last week ended with a spring burn on the last day burning is allowed. What is it about fire that brings out our inner pyromaniac?  

Meanwhile, with the advent of warmer temperatures, the plantings in the greenhouse have exploded in the past couple of weeks. After mulching with a thick layer of compost, the carrots have doubled in size, and we are cutting lettuce and baby chard, kale and beet greens, and pulling up a few bunching onions to go into our salads every day. I’m noticing a craving for greens has taken over my longing for all the warm soups and stews and root vegetables of the past season.

Carrots in the greenhouse have doubled in size the past week!

Deer tongue lettuce. One of our favorites!
 

 

We’ve weeded out the asparagus bed and layered it thickly with compost as well. We are already being rewarded with many sweet stalks. The adjoining rhubarb bed is also growing like mad and soon we will be enjoying the tangy bite of rhubarb pies and crisps from the patch. We even use it in sauces for our main dishes!

The asparagus bed has been weeded and composted. The rhubarb is coming up.

Shelby is going to be a real farm girl! She's already spending time with us as we hoe and rake and do the work on the farm. Pretty soon she'll be helping!

 
The first succession of peas got planted in the U-Pick area about a week ago, and they are already coming up. We’ll be putting in another planting in a few days. Our CSA customers can save a little money and have some fun picking their own peas, green beans and cherry tomatoes this year, as well as fresh herbs from a new area we’re planting just for this purpose. People can also opt to have us pick these items for them along with the rest of their weekly veggie pickup for an added charge.
 
We are very fortunate to have a number of friends who like to come and help us. On Sunday they helped us to plant 36 raspberry canes on the slope in front of our house. Within the next two or three years, we hope for a bountiful harvest of one of our favorite fruits! 

We planted 36 raspberry canes. Nova, a summer bearing, and Heritage, an everbearing variety.
 
Our latest acquisition was a six-row seeder designed by Eliot Coleman. We used it yesterday to plant beds of lettuce mix, spinach, and arugula. Oh yes! Once we figured it out, it worked like a charm and will save us much time and backbreaking labor.  We also plan to use it to plant living mulch such as clover between the rows this year. Living mulches add nutrients to the soil, keep down weeds and retain moisture. The bees love it! And an added benefit of planting clover is that it can be walked on! We will mow it every so often to keep it under control. It dies when frost comes, leaving the soil areated. It will also hold the soil in case of flooding, which has been a problem in some areas of our gardens in the past. (Not this year, fortunately…)  

Michael and Ross trying out the new 6-row seeder.

Cleaning up the beds and adding compost to plant lettuce, arugula and spinach.

Michael, Ross, Richie and Paul worked hard all afternoon clearing out all the weeds in the lower part of the garden where they'd taken hold!

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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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December 21 Journal: Growing Greens in An Unheated Greenhouse


We are extremely excited about the results so far of our experiment to grow greens in cold, unheated greenhouses. Step into our greenhouse on freezing winter day is like entering a temperate haven from the harsh outdoor environment. Even on a grey day, with outside temps of 32, the thermometer in the greenhouse registered 45 F. Hats and gloves come off. When the sun is out, temps inside the greenhouse climb into the high 60s and even 70s, and off come the coats as well!

 The past couple of weeks in December brought night temps to a low of 8 degrees F. These conditions are a true test of how greens will grow in our unheated greenhouse. The greenhouse beds, planted outdoors in September long before the greenhouse was even up, are now well tucked in under hoops and reemay cloth. This shelters not only from the cold, but also from wind, which is most destructive to plants. In an unheated greenhouse such as this one, each layer of covering gives us temps as though we are one zone south, so under the reemay, it’s like we’re in Georgia two zones south of here.

While it may also be cold in Georgia this time of year, the varieties we’ve planted here are cold-loving greens like super hearty winter lettuces, spinach, and mache, a gourmet green grown and eaten all winter long in France. The plants do indeed freeze at night underneath their covers. But as the sun warms the greenhouse, the plants almost miraculously revive to vibrant green life. On the shortest day of the year, December 21, there’s a very brief window to harvest — between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. , with sunset around 3:30 p.m. We can harvest only on days that the temperature inside the greenhouse climb above freezing.

The lettuce and spinach are now baby size, perfect for eating. Harvesting involves cutting the tender leaflets to make a nice salad mix. We leave the emerging tiny heart to continue growing. This way, once the days begin to get longer, the plants will slowly grow well into March, when it will be time to plant the next crop in the greenhouse.

If you’re lucky enough to find mache, also known as ‘Vit’, or corn salad, in the supermarket, it is usually very expensive. It’s a lovely, nutritious, nutty-tasting green that adds a new dimension to a salad, or it can be eaten on its own. The tender whole plant is harvested and left intact until food preparation for maximum freshness.

The lettuce really seems to thrive in this environment. The lettuce actually squeeks with freshness and vitality when I cut it!

Bill cuts individual spinach leafs, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing.

Here is the final share of the season, just a few days before Christmas. Butternut squash, potatoes, fresh lettuce mix, two dozen eggs, and a special treat:

Delicious honey maple hickory-smoked salmon to serve our holiday guests.

Bill has also been preparing lots of smoked cheese which shareholders got in a previous share. These make great gifts from the farm.

 We’re looking forward to a short couple of months of “cave time” indoors, while we pore over seed catalogs, crunch our numbers and create our plans and marketing materials for next spring’s harvest. We also have a new baby to look forward to by the end of January.

Happy Holidays to all! May you be surrounded, as we are, by the love and warmth of family and friends.

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A Hot, Peppery Fairy Tale (the real story…)


Once upon a time in a faraway land, Snow White and Dopey were walking through the forest, and they came upon some giant green and orange fruits. “Eat Me!”  they cried.

“Oooh! Pretty!” said the ever-gullible girl.

All around them were the shiny green and orange and delicious-looking objects. Snowy’s mouth watered.

“Be careful, there’s said to be magic in these woods. And magic isn’t always so good,” said Dopey.

Some of the fruits were looking pretty wierd…

“Looks lethal to me,” said the ever-cautious Dopey. “You know, the Evil Stepmother lives near hear. You might want to be careful.”

“But they’re so beautiful! What harm could there be in just a tiny taste?” said the girl.

Throwing caution to the winds, and ignoring the sage counsel of the wise little dwarf, (poor Dopey, youngest, most misunderstood of the Seven) she took the teeniest, tiniest nibble…

The rest is history…

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