Posts Tagged ‘organic farming’

April 17, 2013
Since starting with us in September, our intern Terry has become the best friend to our 28 hens and one strutting rooster.   She is exceedingly attentive to their needs and especially quick to bring them a tasty morsel from the garden.  While we all enjoy watching the endless quirkiness of our birds, from their almost ridiculous manner of running (a clumsy, wobbly, yet graceful burst of  beak-first  momentum) to the earnestness with which they take dirt baths.  But Terry takes her appreciation a bit further with her evening coop sit-ins.  For a few minutes at the end of almost every workday Terry (aka St. Francis of the Hens) lays out a clean cloth and sits  serenely as the girls (and boy) investigate the creature that has wandered into their territory.   Terry says that she simply enjoys their fun nature and genuinely enjoys being in their company.   Based on the photo below, I think that they have happily accepted her into the flock :)



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.

There’s a First Time for Everything

April 17, 2013


There are a handful of milestones that are simply universal in their significance:  births, baby’s first time walking, baby’s first words, graduations, college graduate’s first time moving back in with his parents (Ha!)
Well, on a really wonderful stroll around the farm a couple days ago, the Lapinski Family was witness to a rather heartwarming ‘first’:  our rooster’s debut “cock-a-doodle-doo”!  Actually, his first words were far from cock-a-doodle-do and were more like the sound of an 93 year old doing an Axl Rose impersonation.  Mr. Rooster was a fast learner though, as it took him only about seven or 8  very strained “Cockles” before he successfully (if not harmoniously) forced out the “doodle-do”. And it bears mentioning that Mr. Rooster was a “happy accident”so it is a particular gift that we get to hear his song.  By accident  I mean that we ordered a dozen Buff Orphington hens one of them seemed to be growing twice as fast and sprouting a particularly elaborate comb on its head.  Check out the picture below and see if you can figure out which of these birds is not a little lady……..


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!

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 !

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

Strawberry Fun(gi)

February 14, 2010

Hello Folks,

The last couple weeks I have set aside some time to tend to our little strawberry patch. The recent cool, cloudy and moist conditions have been absolutely ideal conditions for fungi to grow on our beloved little plants. I have not sent our plants off to a lab as of yet to confirm my amateur diagnosis, but my one course in plant pathology (I got an A!) taught me that 75% of plant diseases are fungal and a google image search shows that we might have a disease called leaf scorch. So, armed with the confidence that my plants are being attacked by mean-spirited fungi, I loaded up the seldom used Down to Earth spray gun with neem oil which is purported to have antifungal properties. About an hour or so later I had removed all the diseased leaves from the plants and sprayed the tops and undersides of the leaves with the neem oil solution. We have about 400 plants in our field which comprises 250 feet of bed space. I became overwhelmed when thinking about an acre of strawberries which has 30 to 50 thousand plants. A little research into the conventional production of strawberries showed me that one of the techniques that is used on large scale farms is a process called soil fumigation, where nearly everything in the top couple inches of the soil is killed (good or bad). One of the most popular soil fumigants, methyl bromide, is being phased out because of its high toxicity. In fact, of the major crops grown in Florida, strawberries have one of the highest rates of pesticides present on them.

Looking at the large mound of sick leaves that I removed from my plant, I understand how difficult it is to grow this tasty little fruit on a large scale. I wonder if we could grow the number of acres that we have now organically? I am not sure. But I look forward to the fruit from our little patch!

Casting Call

December 12, 2009


Many folks have wondered if we were going to add any livestock to our little farming adventure. Of course we added our chickens a few months back, but more than one person has advocated for some more cuddly animals to be thrown into the mix. Well we have happily given in. On Wednesday we welcomed 3000 cuddly composting worms into our little family. Olivia has not quite named all of them yet but she will not doubt find clever monikers for each and every one!

We have started a very limited venture into the vermicomposting realm. We ordered three pounds of the little fellas from a worm farm in Tallahassee and they arrived in a surprisingly small box. Jon had constructed an ambitiously large bin for housing them, and after preparing bedding from torn wet newspaper we released them into their new home. Their food is our decomposing food waste, and a little more than a day into our worm farming experiment they seem to be enjoying their vittles. They quickly moved down from the newspaper bedding and wrapped themselves in the rotting kale stems, egg shells and other culinary delights that make up our kitchen compost. (Yum!) We ordered two varieties, the classic red wigglers and the sleek skinny european night crawlers. They seem to coexist peacefully despite their differences. We are not sure what scale this will take on for us yet, but we would love to harvest pounds and pounds of their lovely nitrogen rich castings. For right now we will just hope to keep them alive through the weekend! (a slightly washed out picture of them settling in to their new digs is below)

This week we will be venturing to both Riverside Arts Market and the Green Market at Jarboe Park. Our harvest will include some bags of salad mix, mizuna, bunches of red russian and dino kale, tender baby arugula, locally grown lemons, cilantro and dill. We will also bring some herb plants and our first strawberry plants of the year! We have beautiful healthy strawberry plants that are in one gallon pots. They are easy to grow (we will include a little ‘instructional sheet’) and make lovely gifts. If you do decide to make a gift out of it, then you should pick up a lovely hand made farm card photographed and crafted by Kristin.

Please know that both markets are rain or shine and that veggies don’t wait for better weather!

Thanks for your support of local food!

Brian, Kristin, Jon and Olivia