This past weekend, I hosted the first (of many?) work parties on the farm. There are some projects that really benefit from an assembly line, and inoculating mushroom logs is definitely one of them. So when it came time to tackle this year’s round of 100 shiitake logs, I thought I better come up with some kind of crew to make the whole thing go a lot faster. I didn’t exactly think it would be pulling teeth, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were totally up for putting in a full day of work. I mentioned it to a few people at MOSES, and the response was overwhelming. In fact, I was waffling a bit on starting the mushrooms at all this year, daunted but the prospect of first finding and cutting the logs and then going through the whole inoculation process, not to mention ordering the spawn and investing in the necessary tools. It was the excitement of the free labor force that pushed me to actually go through with my plans - and thank goodness! The whole thing went off without a hitch, and with a great crew! Besides me, Aunt Mary, and Uncle Paul, we had 10 other people rotate through the assembly line throughout the day! Nobody else had ever done mushroom logs before, so we started out at a pretty deliberate pace, but everyone got the hang of it before too long, and after lunch we were fairly flying! The mix of MOSES conference friends/acquaintences and new neighbors made for interesting conversation, and the weather and the food both cooperated for a lovely day! Everybody left with a log or two of their own, and every single one of them can’t wait to come back and help with the next big project! I was very glad to hear it, but I don’t know if they quite know what they’re signing up for!!
We’ve had quite the week of Indian summer this week, enough to finally start ripening outdoor tomatoes and peppers at a reasonable rate. Looking down at the bins of tomatoes we harvested from our outdoor plants, I couldn’t help but feel that we’ve benefitted from some borrowed time. There was a real chance a few weeks ago of a pretty solid frost, so I’m feeling especially grateful for these last two batched of canned sauce. We spent the week mostly harvesting, not only for the CSA boxes but for this weekend’s Harvest Festival. Green Lake loves tourists, and nothing attracts a bunch of tourists like two days full of farm fresh produce, arts and crafts/craps, a parade, a classic car show, and fried cheese curds. Fortunately/unfortunately, our stand full of fresh organic vegetables was situated immediately next to the very popular fried cheese curd stand. We were downwind on Saturday, but fortunately the wind favored us on Sunday, and we didn’t go home smelling like used cooking oil for a second time. We had a few big hits this weekend. Fortuitously, our shiitake logs chose this weekend to send forth the first flush of fruits this fall. We harvested the first of our Brussels sprouts, which we sell right on the stalk. We also brought some really giant kohlrabi, which was eye-catching and conversation-starting at the very least. We sold out of Brussels sprouts three times (I ran back to the farm to harvest more on Sunday morning), and we still had requests all afternoon that we couldn’t fill. All three of these conversation-starters resulted in lots of educational conversations, which resulted in notably fewer sales. Smiling and explaining is part of any market, but the sheer volume of people passing by raised the educational component exponentially. It turns out that people who only stop in the farmers market section to buy cheese curds usually don’t know what a kohlrabi is, that Brussels sprouts grow on stalks, or that you can grow mushrooms. I don’t mind explaining things, but I do wish that more people would feel a little pull to buy something after taking up my time to learn something. The two-day-long market was also a good opportunity to see what really moved product that doesn’t necessarily sell itself. A few observations: little signs labeling bags prevents people from having to feel stupid asking what a beet is, people are less likely to pick out mushrooms from a giant basket than to pick up a quart or a pint of them, and that the old trope location location location really rings true on a market table.
Finally, some very exciting news on the Future Farm front, in which my uncle Paul has used a sweet new tractor implement to open up the first few small fields. They’re far away from the farmhouse, down at the end of an old horse pasture, so they’ll be for growing crops that are not favored but he omnipresent grazing deer, like onions, garlic, winter squash, dried beans, and eventually even potatoes. They’re a hundred feet long and 5-6 beds wide. We laid out the terraces last weekend, and he send me this picture taken from the road after he finished tilling the three parcels for the first time:
Thinking about: variety, salesmanship, farm dogs
Eating: bacon kale quiche, homemade spaghetti bolognese, tiny testing tastes of canned sauces
Reading: David James Duncan's The Brothers K, Ron Macher’s Making Your Small Farm Profitable, Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest
Another exciting and productive week here on the farm. Once again, we worked around the weather to keep filling up our fields for the season. We planted our onions, shallots, and scallions, which is a big crop for us. We kept planting lots of greens, like chard, cabbage, and lettuce. During those times we couldn’t be out in the fields, whether they were actively being drenched or were too wet to plant, we continued the seeding process indoors. There’s something almost meditative about hearing rain fall outside while you’re planting seeds that will result in delicious vegetables weeks, or even months, from now.
The many new arrivals of last week are as cute as ever, or maybe even cuter. The newest two litters of pigs are making their first few forays into the pasture, and they are tiny but very sturdy. As I mentioned last week, we stumbled into a bit of an unorthodox situation in regards to lots and lots of day-old chicks. Well, it was a gamble after all. These were not a mixed “barnyard mix” as advertised, but instead a discount mix consisting of all male chicks from heritage laying breeds. That means our new laying flock is a few more months off than we thought, but that we’ll have a freezer full of birds nonetheless. I also helped in the first check of our two new honeybee colonies. We were able to find the queens in colonies, and we’ll be checking back in periodically to make sure they’re going strong.
Thinking about: storage solutions, sprouts, timely hoeing
Eating: lots of asparagus!, fresh-harvested shitakes, lentil soup with duck stock, shitakes, and fresh ginger
Reading: Temple Grandin’s Humane Livestock Handling, Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, John Seymour’s Guide to Self-Sufficiency