Monday, February 28, 2011

Seeding Starting at The Funny Farm

Today I began starting seeds indoors for planting out after the last frost. Our average last frost is at the end of March however we have had frost as late as the middle of April many times in the last 10 years. I am in no hurry to get my tomatoes, peppers, and other warm season vegetables in the ground so I schedule my indoor seeding to have tomatoes ready by April 15, peppers at the end of May and eggplants in the middle of May after the first onslaught of flea beetles has subsided. All of these plants need warm soil to grow in so there is no reason to take a chance in my opinion.

My Seed Starting Method
I start all my seeds in a mix of 75% Funny Farm Gourmet Worm Castings (more about how I produce that in the next post) and 25% local granite sand. The sand helps with drainage, adds micronutrients and is cheap. A ton costs $35.00. I plant all of the above in 112 plug trays because I can germinate lots of plants in a small space. When the roots fill the plugs i transplant them into 2 1/4 pots to grow out to the size i want to plant in the beds.

I have a 4' grow light set up in the basement (it stays about 60º) over a bed of granite sand through which in have a heat cable run. When I originally set this up i skimped on the cable so the sand bed only gets up to about 65º. Between it and the heat from the grow lights, which are positioned about 8" above the flats the soil warms up to 70º, ideal for tomato seed germination. I can grow out 9 flats of plants with this set up. After they have been transplanted into the larger pots and have a day or 2 to settle in i move them to the unheated greenhouse to grow out to transplanting size.

Peppers and eggplant need a soil temperature closer 80º for good quick germination, about 7 days. I built a box under which i place a reflector with a 100 watt light bulb. I put the plug flat of peppers on top and keep the light on until the seeds germinate. After germination i move the tray with the rest under the grow light. I could have bought a heat mat but i had all the materials on hand to build the heat box so that is what i did. It's a permaculture thing.
Plant List for Today
Tomatoes- Amana Orange, Big Beef, Tomato Berry, Yellow Cherry, Eva Purple Ball, Jersey Giant
Peppers- Habanero, Early Jalapeno, Corno di Toro, Snapper Bell
Eggplant- Brazilian Oval Orange, Ping Tung Long Purple
Okra- Burgundy, Burmese
Other plants- Flat leaf Italian parsley, Bachelor Buttons Frosted Queen Mix, Fennel Zefa Fino

Spring is coming Y'all!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Greenhouse Project Update #2

Here is a look at the greenhouse after a week of warm weather. Arugula, radish greens and Outreduous lettuce are ready to harvest for salad greens. The bright green seedlings are Tokyo Bekana greens that were planted 6 days ago. The weather forecast calls for continued warm weather this coming week so good growth should continue.
It is working! Yiipppeeeee!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Duck Breast Proscuitto - #Charcutepalooza Challenge No.2

Duck breast, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and time. Simple, natural and delicious. We had dinner with our dear friend Laurel last evening and I wanted to bring an appetizer featuring the proscuitto. I thought about different things I could wrap it around; fruit, grilled baby leeks, maybe a mushroom ... Ultimately I decided to serve it straight up paired with a creamy deviled egg.
It was the right decision!

Funny Farm Deviled Eggs

6 large yard eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 small clove garlic - finely minced
2 teaspoons finely minced bread & butter pickles
pinch of salt
smoked paprika

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a full rolling water. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 12 minutes. Pour off the water and add cold water to cool the eggs. Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks into a bowl. Add the mayo, mustard, garlic, pickles and salt. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Spoon the mixture into the egg whites. Dust the tops with the smoked paprika.
Try not to eat them all before leaving for the dinner party!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mustards - Add Some Spice to your Life

When selling his mustard greens at our farmers market, Farmer Bobby Britt has a good pitch. He tells his customers to think of the 3 S's, salads, sandwiches, sautee´. Raw mustard greens add a nice heat to liven up salads, burgers and other sandwiches. Gently sauteed they lose much of the heat and become wonderfully tender and succulent. I would add another S or 2 to the list; soups and stews. Mustard greens make a nice addition to hearty soups and stews. We like to combine them with beans, whole grains, root vegetables and simmer in a nice bone broth with fresh herbs to make a warming meal on a crisp winter day.

This fall we planted 3 varieties of mustard "greens". I have to admit I again indulged my passion for purple vegetables. We grew Purple Giant, Ho Mi Z and Osaka Purple. The Purple Giant grew quickly producing huge tender leaves, however when the temperatures dropped into the mid-teens they were killed. Ho Mi Z did not produce well at all. Osaka Purple is the clear winner in this fall's mustard trials. The leaves are stunningly beautiful, large twisted, oval shapes that look like glistening purple and green metal. At the market we display them in bundles like flower arrangements and our customers always comment on their beauty as they put them in their market bags.

Osaka Purple is one tough customer too. She pulled through the cold and snow like a champ. With the warmer, sunnier days we have had the past couple of weeks she is starting to grow again. We will be harvesting some of her spicy goodness for market later this week.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Salt Cure - #Charcutepalooza Challenge No.2

Robin and I have been preserving our own food for over 30 years. We learned about canning, pickling and jelly making from our grandmothers. When the #charcutepalooza challenge began flowing like a raging river through my twitter stream last month I decided it was time to launch my canoe and add a new life skill to our repertoire.

My friend chef Terry Kovall had been serving delicious house cured bacon at his restaurant, Farm Burger. I had been considering the idea of trying it myself when the 2nd challenge was announced. I contacted Tink Wade, owner of Tink's Grassfed Beef , a vendor at the farmers market I manage to see if she had a pork belly i could buy. She said she did and brought it to me at the market. When I tried to pay her for it she said she would give it to me to experiment with in return for my sharing my experience with her as she wanted to try it herself. How awesome is that!

What i love about this experience is the community-building that has occurred as a result of over 300 people working simultaneously on the challenges. The majority of us will never meet each other outside the twitterverse yet friendships are blossoming, information and support are graciously shared, and triumphs celebrated. An example: Neal Foley (@Podchef on twitter), chef, farmer and meat curing expert generously posted videos and photos of the simple smoke house he built at his Claddagh Farm in Maine. I am inspired by him to build my own smoke house in the next month or so, adding yet another skill to further our self-reliance.

Oh, we did cure some bacon too! And it is deellliiissshhhuuussss! Salty, peppery, with a hint of sweetness and undertones of bay. It fries up nice and crispy just like we like it! We have another piece of belly rolled up and hanging in the closet to dry into pancetta. It is hanging next to my suit!

Next time i go to a funeral i guess i will smell like bacon.