Posts Tagged ‘jacksonville’

Turnip the Volume!

April 17, 2013


Recently I have been considering the turnip.  To many people, the poor, lowly turnip is like the red-headed stepchild of the potato.  They are certainly not well known in the modern American kitchen, but as a small-scale turnip farmer, I ask that we pause and reconsider why this versatile and nutritious veggie has been unceremoniously banished from most of our diets.  Well it can’t be because it is hard to prepare.  These under-appreciated roots are easily roastedsautéedboiled and mashedor even eaten raw with a side of hummus.   Could it be their appearance?  Well with a striking purple top and gleaming white underside this seems unlikely– I mean, geez, your average potato looks like a warty football  and yet we Americans eat them by the ton.  Could it be something in their history that has kept us away from this veggie outcast?  Well the esteemed website  claims that before we carved pumpkins as jack-o-lanters we used to carve  scary faces into turnips.   That’s it!  We think turnips are haunted!    Well, never fear,  we have found the antidote to the turnip poltergeist : butter and cream.  (check out recipe below).   Don’t give up on the turnip, its a lovely vegetable!

olden Gratin Of Carrots And Turnips

Recipe By : Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison, page 280
Serving Size : 4 

Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
——– ———— ——————————–
Butter for the dish
2 cups cream or for more flavor prepare a Thin Béchamel Sauce for Gratins
(click link for that recipe)
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 small onion — finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
24 ounces turnip
peeled and julienned
8 ounces carrots
peeled and julienned
1 cup  bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 2-quart gratin dish.  Cook the onion in the butter in a small skillet over medium heat,
about 8 minutes; then combine with the rest of the vegetables. Season with
salt and pepper and transfer to the gratin dish. Pour the sauce or cream over the
top, cover with the bread crumbs, and bake until bubbling and golden on
top, about 45 minutes.


Compostest with the Mostest

February 18, 2011

I have said this before, but the key to good organic farming is good compost (and a loving wife with a job that supports your farming habit, but I digress). The more compost you have and the higher quality it is the better your plants will grow and the better they will fight off bugs and disease. Simple, eh? I always supposed that there was more than one technique for making compost, but a while ago we discovered the wisdom of J.I. Rodale who published a 700 page book about composting. From the shape of your compost pile, to what you put in it, to which micro-organisms you invite to the party, there are oodles of composting options. Here at the farm we got very excited about “14-day compost” because, frankly, we want compost and we want it now! The 14-day method is supremely labor intensive as we hand turn our piles every four days, because the more often you aerate the pile (which is what turning does) the faster it breaks down and the richer it is in nutrients. Now with all of Rodale’s writing, he never suggested the best secret of compost turning that I have figured out here at the farm — have your intern do it. Thanks Jenny! (By the way if you are having your intern turn all your compost piles, make sure you show lots of appreciation. First, because its the kind thing to do. Second, because after a few weeks she is going to be strong enough to bench press an electric car and you don’t want to be on her wrong side)

A good walk spoiled

May 1, 2010


What could be more joyous and fulfilling than a cool morning walk though the rows of veggies still wet with dew? And what could be more life giving than hearing the haunting sound of a morning dove singing nearby and breathing in air perfumed the with the sweet scent of honeysuckle blossoms clinging to the surrounding trees. Ahhhh. And what could be more painful than brushing my leg against a giant specimen of stinging nettle as I am savoring a farm walk? Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! Our farm, most unfortunately, is home to scores of very crafty nettle plants that lay in wait, huddling patiently under a kale or chard accomplice and then shooting its poison arrows into its unwitting victims. A number of folks have heard me whine about our scourge of stinging nettle and have taken the glass-half-full approach by mentioning that nettle has numerous medicinal properties like improving circulation and fighting arthritis. Unfortunately, the internet (specifically a UF website) state that my stinging nettle. known as heartleaf nettle has little commercial or medical benefit. However it did mention that this indigenous plant delivers more toxins through its stinging hairs (known to some by the catchy name urticating trichomes) and is more painful that its nutritious cousin yippee, And you thought being a farmer was all fun and radishes!

Teenagers: Not so bad

April 24, 2010

Hello Folks!

There are times in the season where I make long lists of things that need to get accomplished. The list has lots of things that are necessities for running a farm like planting and harvesting and repairing the geysers that have sprung from our irrigation. Then there are many things that I put on there that are not absolutely necessary but, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could” types of things. One of those great tasks is mulching. Many organic farms use plastic mulch out of necessity to manage weeds, prevent fruit rot and hold moisture. We are small enough that we can weed by hand, and, if we make the time, we can mulch using leaves and newspaper (Thank you Times-Union!) which will break down and enrich the soil, not head to the landfill like the plastic mulch. Unfortunately there is rarely time for such worthwhile but time intensive pursuits unless we were to happen upon a magical band of energetic farm volunteers to help us out. Ha! Well, forty-one ninth graders motoring to our farm on their mustard yellow bus was pretty darn magical. The River City Science Academy kids returned last week and mulched about five hundred feet of cucumbers, squash, melons and blueberries. Oh and they helped finish building a permanent raised bed, washed dozens of buckets, weeded row after row and helped catch an escaped chicken — all by two o’clock! And as always they work with enthusiasm, joy and lots of curiosity. The discovery of a rather large wolf spider on a bag of leaves converged almost the entire class in about five seconds. You would have thought someone discovered a treasure chest filled with free pizza and cell phones. Anyways, ninth graders get another thumbs up from this farmer…………

Tuber Time!

April 17, 2010

Hello Folks!

For the last few weeks one of our regular tasks has been hilling potatoes. Its a bit arduous, but mounding up soil on the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the plant gives the precious tubers more room to grow and keeps them from that most treacherous of substances, sunlight, which can turn them green and give folks a tummy ache. In searching the internet to make sure that my hilling technique was good (it is!) I found a few interesting facts about taters. My favorite was that after it was brought to Europe from its native South America, many were afraid of this vegetable. The French thought that they caused leprosy and resident’s of colonial Massachusetts thought they were left by witches. The fear of spuds reached its height in 18th century russia, where peasants referred to them as Devil’s Apples. The Irish were the first in the region to overcome their fear and take it up on a large scale, but we all know how that ended up. The potato late blight disease, caused by the fungus phytoptera infestans, wiped out the entire potato crop of 1845 and changed the course of history. The biggest cause of the Irish Potato Famine though, was the over-reliance on one crop, a potato mono-culture. In fact, it was this incident that lead to the popular phrase, “don’t put all your devil’s apples in one basket.” Or something like that.

Super Farmer Dad

April 10, 2010

Hello Locavores!

Early this week I had a grand moment where my roles as an organic farmer and father of an adorable infant came together magnificently. The balance of these roles (along with others such as “husband”, “ultimate frisbee player”, and “kitty litter box cleaner”) is not always easy. On Monday though, I placed my content and cooing baby Abigail in a carrier nestled against my chest and ventured outside to check on our squash plants. Within a few moments she was sleeping soundly. The squash, however, were being overrun with pigweed and needed attention. What to do! Well, it won’t work all the time, or even most of the time probably, but for about an hour I freed those squash plants from the tyranny of an invasive weed while simultaneously comforting my newborn daughter with the sound of my beating heart. Wow! Super Farmer Dad! This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek ,of course, as my brief stints of working with an attached baby have made me think in awe about women all over the world that work in fields with their newborns. Truly amazing……..

The farm is continuing to look more wonderfully chaotic as our spring veggies (and their weed counterparts) are really taking off and the cooler weather crops are drawing to a close. Much of our broccoli and all of our arugula have gone to seed so they have sent up huge stalks of white and yellow flowers. In one sense this is sign that I need to clear them out and prepare for the next crop, and in another sense they are lovely flowers and its nice to just enjoy them.

Our Spring Miracle

March 20, 2010

Hello Folks,

This weekend we will be marking the Spring Equinox, though the budding red maples and mulberry tree in our yard told us about the coming season change a few weeks ago. The perfect crisp weather and extra sunshine to bathe has put a little extra spring in our compost shoveling. We are filling up the field slowly but surely with an array of tasty spring delights. This time of rebirth and revival got us excited to take in some more baby chicks to add to our little bird family. We picked up these little ladies on Tuesday evening, one dozen silver laced wyandottes, a breed the nice lady at Standard Feed said would grow up to be beautiful and well tempered egg layers. We had a nice large container to house them in transit from the store, and at a stopover at a friends’ we put a little plastic container of water to make their rubbermaid house feel more like a rubbermaid home. All is well, I assumed. Unfortunately chicks need to be kept at a reasonably warm temperature especially when they are very young. When we got home they were all doing fine except for one poor little bird that had apparently flipped the water bucket over on herself. She was cold and dripping wet, laying on her back unable to move. I flipped on the heat lamp (one of the few good purposes for those old school incandescent light bulbs) and held the trembling almost lifeless bird up to it for warmth. I momentarily considered mouth to beak resuscitation, but the baby chick started moving a bit (she also started steaming a little like a fresh baked potato–those 200W bulbs put out some serious heat!). We were not out of the woods yet, though, as the little sweetheart still could barely stay on her feet and had no interest in food or water. I figured something that weighed about as much as two paper clips tied to a cotton ball didn’t have a huge energy reserve to rely on, so Jon and I sat with the her and tried to hand feed her and dip her beak in water over and over and over until she took it. Eventually our miracle chick took some food and water and by morning she was as perky and happy and chirping a melodious chick symphony that resonated throughout her rubbermaid home. A story book Down to Earth Farm happy ending !

Olivia: Farm Girl, Strawberry Fiend

March 13, 2010

Hello Folks!

We are just two years into our little farming experiment, and it is easy to say that the magic of the experience has not worn off. My daily walks up and down the rows are still enthralling to me as I see broccoli heads balloon in size or the stark white curds of a cauliflower appear overnight. But I didn’t anticipate how much more joyful and magical it is to share that experience with our daughter Olivia. Of course, there are drawbacks to indoctrinating an almost three-year-old into small farm life. The most notable is that she is a strawberry fiend and has gotten pretty good at spotting the biggest, reddest and sweetest ones from yards away. And since our berry patch hasn’t peaked yet, there are only a few ripe ones at a time, so I find myself negotiating with my daughter to have even a taste of one of the fruit. The losses in the strawberry patch are more than made up for in the kale patch. For some reason, Olivia has only moderate interest in kale once in enters our house. “Your parents are organic farmers for Pete’s sake, please eat your veggies!” we point out with minimal success. But outside that precious little girl will happily lean over a kale plant and tear off huge mouthfuls like a contented heifer in spring pasture. It’s quite a sight to behold! And nearly as cute is watching her “feed” the chickens. She often doles out one yogurt cup of grain, a teaspoon at time, while sing songing “here chickens” over and over to the exasperated flock struggling for the tiny portion that Queen Olivia has offered up. It is satisfying to see that she is so comfortable out on the farm. Now I am just counting the days until I can put her on tractor duty:)

Greenhouse Pondering

March 4, 2010

Hello Local Food Lovers!

Near the end of January we seeded our first spring trays of vegetables–tomatoes (black cherries, sungold, yellow pear and crimson plums), eggplants (3 types) , sweet red peppers (2 types), summer squash (four varieties), acorn squash (two kinds), swiss chard and basil. Oh yeah, also sunflowers (two kinds), callaloo, cut flowers (about 8 varieties), sorrel, marigolds and some lettuces (three types). I waited a bit longer than usual to start this bounty because we had just experienced one of the coldest stretches in recent memory and almost all of these varieties like it nice and toasty. Every morning I walk through the greenhouse to see how all our little babies are progressing and look for overachievers or for warning signs of disease or distress. Well, our little hot house is packed to the gills with plants that are crying out to go in the field. In a world of limited resources, my most scarce is probably time. Which is ironic because I will sometimes stare at these precious little veggie trays for interminable amounts of time trying to decide which is the most important to get planted out. Questions like, “which tray is the most rootbound?”, “where will this fit in the crop rotation?” and “why in the name of all that is holy do I have 400 squash plants?” jump around in my little mind. Our first season we were much more scripted and did lots of math equations to determine where everything would go and exactly how much to plant. The gods and goddesses of gardening got a good chuckle out of that bit of hubris. Cut worms, crazy weather and poor seed germination have reinforced my ‘non-plan’ plan to plant a whole mess of stuff and then organize the survivors. As we begin our third Spring we are excited about the abundance of potential that is stored in our greenhouse, but we just need these goshdarn freezes to stop! Feel free to send some warm prayers our direction!

Cardinal Sin

February 27, 2010


One of the usual joys of our little two and a half acre farm is the abundant and diversified bird life. On one day alone last week we saw countless robins flaunting their red breasted pronouncements of spring, a red headed woodpecker pounding a tribal rhythm on the upright remains of a pine tree, and a red shouldered hawk blocking the sun for the blink an eye with its beautiful wing span. Yes, from mocking birds to cattle egrets there have been all varieties of birds that make us look up from our weeding to admire them. I was even initially tickled when a gorgeous male cardinal seemed to be temporarily trapped in our greenhouse. I tried to open the sides as wide as possible to let it fly out, but the witless little bird just kept knocking into the clear plastic roof. After a couple minutes I decided to just let it be and assumed that it would find its own way out and it eventually did. This was still a fond memory for me until the next afternoon when I was checking out our precious seedling trays. I haven’t been swindled too many times in my life, but discovering whole trays of sunflower and cucumber seedlings devoured and littered with seed remains, I felt like I helped an old lady across the street only to realize later that she swiped my wallet. I suppose I will still enjoy the vibrant bird life on our farm, but now my joy will be accompanied by the tiniest bit of suspicion.

We will be at FRAM (9-12 under the Fuller Warren bridge) this Saturday with a healthy supply of our delicious greens. We will have red russian and dino kale, fresh cut spring mix, sugary sweet broccoli shoots, a few bags of tender baby turnip greens, vibrant heads of oakleaf lettuce and a delicious culinary oddity — garlic scallions. Use these beautiful stalks (greens and all) in any dish that calls for garlic and you will be pleasantly surprised. We also have a few of our “never ending salad bowls” for sale as well as our last three or four strawberry plants.

Remember to bring your bags!

In peace,

Brian, Kristin, Jon, Olivia and Abigail