sunflower fall 2011
My daughter, who turned 2 this week, fell in love with an 8 by 10 piece of purple felt I bought for a craft project. She has been busy using it as a doll blanket, folding it like a napkin, and generally keeping it close. I didn’t plan it that way but I think she likes it more than any of her birthday and Hanukkah gifts combined and it cost 32 cents.
As farmers, Hanukkah coincides with the arrival of stacks of beautiful seed catalogs. And now that we have celebrated the eighth night, it is time to turn our attention to seed shopping and planning the next farm season. Searching through the seed catalogs, we are always looking for something like the purple felt–a new vegetable or flower variety that will surprise us and exceed all expectations.
There is always the hope that a certain seed variety will be this coming season’s most valuable player, producing abundantly while ignoring pests and humid weather. Over the years we have found a few of these, like sungold tomatoes, okra, zinnias, and sunflowers which consistently thrive on our farm. But just like expensive toys, there are always varieties that fail to impress and are quickly tossed aside and forgotten.
So in the coming weeks, we will search for the seed equivalent of the 32 cent square of purple felt, an unexpected seed variety which will help make the 2012 farm season successful. I hope we find it.
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Kveller.com offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children–including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies…and advice from Mayim Bialik.
I think there are nearly as many ways to cook eggs as there are people and many of us have lots of memories tied up with how parents and grandparents cooked eggs for us.
I remember my grandmother cooking scrambled eggs flat and round like a record. They were her son’s favorite eggs when he was small. When her son was young, he had trouble pronouncing his R’s so she always called them “weccud eggs” remembering the way he pronounced ”record eggs” years earlier.
My mother in law makes her mother’s version of scrambled eggs, with lots of milk and lots of stirring over low heat while cooking. They come out fluffy and light. My sister has perfected her children’s favorite “cheesy eggs” which are scrambled with grated cheddar and sometimes hidden vegetables. My mother makes pretty amazing scrambled egg sandwiches especially in the summer with fresh sliced tomato and mayonnaise.
I don’t have a signature egg dish for my children yet. I am a little haphazard – sometimes scrambling, with or without milk or cheese, sometimes lower heat and patience, sometimes a race to get it on the plate immediately. I have tried “weccud eggs” but I don’t seem to be able to get them as wide and flat as I remember my grandmother’s. When I get around to it, I want to learn poaching the way my father remembers the cook doing at his favorite and long since closed diner (no poacher, just a large pot of boiling water with a little vinegar and a slotted spoon) and those middle eastern style baked eggs on pita.
We used to keep hens on our farm and I did learn one secret to hard boiling fresh eggs. Fresh eggs are much better than older store bought eggs, but when you hard boil them the peel sticks to the egg white and the shell comes off in hundreds of tiny pieces. Here is the trick: steam them in a double boiler for a full 20 minutes. Then if you remember, get them into cold water to stop the cooking and cool them faster. The peel slides right off, just like store bought (old) eggs even if you skip the cooling step.
So, my precious few blog readers, do you have a signature egg dish? One you might even be remembered by (or want to be)? Or any tricks of the trade, egg memories of your own? Leave a comment, I would love to know.
The first day of May is cold and rainy in Maryland and the sky has a stormy look that gives me the creeps after our week of dramatic weather. While the storms turned out to be non-events by the time they reached Maryland, we still found ourselves under a tornado warning for about 45 minutes on Wednesday evening and a watch that continued much longer.
During the warning, we gathered in the interior room of our house listening to the radio and preparing to pile into the closet if we heard the sound of an approaching train. I busied myself emptying out a closet and making a little nest of jackets to sit on and wondering if I should leave our little shelter to grab bike helmets for the children.
Thankfully our tornado watch ended without incident, but the stories from Alabama and surrounding states are heart wrenching. I find myself listening more intently to the stories of parents who acted as physical shields for children. Could I have managed that? We feel lucky to have been spared and hope May is a quiet month for tornadoes.
very first strawberries
Despite the stormy skies, Spring is advancing on the farm. The peas have reached knee high already, the potatoes are sprouting and the first cut flowers are blooming. We will bring a few bouquets to a friends non-royal May Day wedding today.
And this morning during breakfast my husband brought in the very first strawberries, which were gone in moments but I did manage to snap this picture first. You can almost taste the vitamin C in fresh picked strawberries and these were perfect. I hope the rest of the crop is strong and that we are spared extreme weather as we move out of pre-season into the main farm season.
When I wrote, Eulogy to a Greenhouse in February I promised to add updates as we built our new greenhouse. In the past few weeks, we have made some progress and the new structure is taking shape.
We now have all of the side bars in place and more than half of the top bars. The side pieces actually went in very easily thanks to the awesome High and Heavy Hitter made by (I love the company name)Wheatheart that we were able to rent from our local extension office. If you like machines you can click on this link to see a video of it in action. We were able to pull it behind our tractor and basically knock all of the side pieces into the ground with a giant hammer almost as easily as sinking birthday candles into a cake. That part went so much faster and was way more fun than the rubber mallet method we used last time.
The center pieces still need to be lifted up and held in place by exhausted arms while being attached. We had a former CSA member come out to help last weekend, and along with my husband they managed to get more than half of the top bars in place. This weekend we are relying on some neighborhood high school students to come help with the last bars.
We are hoping we will finish the top bars and possibly be able to pull on the plastic this weekend. Pulling on the plastic is a lot like raising a very big sail on a boat. It takes several people pulling ropes attached to one side of the plastic while someone else runs around with a pole to release any bits that are stuck. Unlike a sail boat, we need to wait for a windless day to pull on the cover, so hopefully the weather will cooperate. It can be a dramatic moment when the cover is suddenly pulled into place, giving the hoophouse walls, a roof and an instant sense of place.
our sweet hoophouse in its glory days
The weather is starting to warm up and it is time for hibernating farmers to wake up from a winter slumber and get back to work. Yesterday, we kicked off the season by taking down the remainder of our collapsed greenhouse (technically it was a hoophouse because it was covered in soft plastic).
We used the greenhouse for 5 years on our farm. It provided warmth for early and late tomatoes and strawberries and sheltered giant rosemary and lavender plants in the winter. Over the years, we harvested thousands of pounds of full sized tomatoes and hundreds cases of our favorite sungolds from that greenhouse. It protected so many plants from early frosts, late frosts, and disease and fungus that hit nearby fields.
what was left of our once lovely hoophouse
A little less than 14 months ago, our greenhouse collapsed under the weight of snow and ice during a giant blizzard. This Washington Post story will bring back memories of of the storm for those in the area.
During the storm, we could not knock the snow off our greenhouse because we were miles away. I was pregnant and a week past my due date so we weathered the storm in a hotel room next to the hospital. When we returned home with a healthy baby it seemed a tiny price to pay. But it was still a tough loss.
It was a busy year and it took a while to decide if we should try to use the remaining pieces to rebuild, or just tear them down and start fresh. But the damage was pretty severe (it turns out snow can really bend and warp heavyweight steel pipes). So we finally decided to go with the fresh start. In a few weeks, we hope to build a new greehhouse, and the earliest crops will start going in the ground but right now the field is a blank slate.
newly cleared field