The Best and The Worst (Part 2)

No one starts a farm, or runs a farm to become rich. You don’t do it for the free time or the flexible schedule. Mostly people farm because they love it. Here is a list of things I love about farming, about my farm, and the life I am building here. 

1.Bringing my dogs to work

I love my dogs. I have two, but that number can fluctuate depending on whether I also have either of my parent’s dogs. I love that they don’t have to stay home alone, so I don’t have to worry about them destroying anything when I’m gone. But really, I just love seeing them all day. I also love when others bring their dogs with them!

2. Feeding People 

I do not have a strong need to feed myself or others. I eat to keep moving mostly. I am not a foodie and will never be one. This is great because I am easy to feed. But it has led to an unexpected joy in farming. The single best compliment someone can give me is “Your strawberries/tomatoes/watermelon/okra is the best I have ever had.” While farming I have learned the joy of introducing people to really good fruits and veggies. Since I am not a foodie, and care very minimally about the food I eat, I didn’t think I would find this so rewarding. But I do, I really really do. When parents come out and say, “my kids love your green bean or cucumbers, or squash” I know I have done something good. This form of feeding people is one I can totally get behind. 

3. Getting to show people where food comes from

I grew up growing things. Not always useful things, but growing things nonetheless. So I have always known that fruit and veggies come from plants. Until I started farming, I had no idea that most people didn’t know this. One of my favorite things to do here on the farm is show people (kids in particular because they are so enthusiastic about everything) how seeds become plants and plants grow food. I think plants are some of the coolest things out there. What else harnesses sunlight to make such amazing things like strawberries and watermelon and okra! 

4. Drive a tractor

This one is perhaps a little silly. But I love driving my tractor. I love it. I had never even sat on a tractor before I bought one.

5. Work outside

I love working outside. I have never had a desk job. The closest I ever got was driving a bus. Which I think we can all agree is not anything like having a desk job. So while I don’t know for a fact that I would hate having a desk job, I am pretty sure I would be miserable. I don’t sit still well.* I love being outside. I need to be outside for a portion of every day or I start to lose my mind. 

6. I can grow what I want

I get to see all the cool varieties of fruit and veggies out there. Purple carrots, purple tomatoes, orange watermelon, red okra, white strawberries. There are so many beautiful and delicious fruits and veggies that you never see in stores. While there is some pressure to grow what sells, often what sells is what you can’t find in the stores. So it works out. I get to grow the best tasting produce you will ever have, and it is all beautiful and unique. 

7. Something to learn everyday

This job is challenging. I love that. I have learned about small engines. I have learned about wells, and pumps. I have learned about soil, and wind. I am learning how to build, how to take what I see in my head and bring it into the real world. What I have learned through the farm is priceless. If the farm had to close today, all the lessons I take with me will have guaranteed it wasn’t a failure. Because so much of what I have learned applies to all of life. How to handle conflict well. How to take criticism without taking it personally, how to set a goal, how to break down the steps to that goal, how to work hard when you don’t want to, how to take a break and walk away from everything, how to worry but not be crippled by it.  

8. I can take a siesta in the summer

Because I work for myself, I don’t have to work through the hot part of the summer because I make my own hours. I can take the afternoon off and not melt in the Texas heat. Most days, I take a nap during the hottest part of the day. This means that I can get up early, but am still able to socialize in the evening without being super tired**. 

9. No commute

I hate sitting in traffic. It’s the worst. I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about eating before I leave. I can work for a few hours and come back when I’m hungry. If anything needs to be done, it’s my backyard. I don’t have to worry about making it in time or missing a delivery or something. So very convenient – just walk out the back door to get to the farm and just walk back to go home. 

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*I can sit and read for long periods of time, otherwise I’m not sitting and being still

** or sunburnt. You should see my literal farmer’s tan.

The Best and The Worst (Part 1)

Like every job out there, the farm has great and not so great things about it. I happen to think the good outweighs the bad. If you want to judge for yourself, here is a list of seven hard things about the farm, and the next blog will be seven good things. I don’t call them bad because they aren’t bad. They are hard things, difficult things, complicated things. But not bad, or the worst. They are the not so fun parts of farming. 

Hard Things

  1. Putting on frost cloths

This is by far the most miserable job here on the farm. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it that often. The row covers or frost cloths are essentially giant sheets (30 feet by 600 feet) that are put over the strawberries and sometimes tomatoes and peppers to protect the sensitive flowers and fruit from a freeze. The covers are heavy and will catch the slightest breeze. No one likes putting them out, or taking them back off. It is hard work and always coupled with the worry that you are going to lose part of your crop.

  1. Pulling rows

This I think is more of a personal problem. It is important that rows be pulled straight and tight. I can pull the row tight but straight, OH boy that is a different matter altogether. I have the attention span of a toddler.* Staying focused for the length of the field is nearly impossible, and the moment your attention wanders so does your row. This becomes problematic when it comes time to lay plastic mulch. Part of laying plastic mulch is scraping dirt from between the rows and using it to hold the mulch down. If the rows are too close or wander then you end up ripping up the mulch from one row while trying to put mulch down in the next row. This is obviously a problem. A problem that starts with pulling rows.

  1. The weeding

The act of weeding itself is not so bad. Pulling up weeds, I find to be quite cathartic. However, what makes this one of the hard things about farming is the relentlessness of it. This is a never ever ever ending task. Just when you think you have got the weeds under control you turn around and find they have taken over the other half of the farm while you blinked. While you can look back and see what you have accomplished in the past hour or half day it is always with a sense of dread, knowing not only will all your work be undone in a few days, but there is that other field, row, crop that you haven’t gotten to yet. This can be very discouraging, the weeding you did today, you will have to do again next week and next month and next year.  

  1. The whole month of August

This is my least favorite thing about the farm. Seriously. August is just gross and hot. I have to say two of my brothers have birthdays in August so I can’t say I hate the month. But working during August is hard. I also feel compelled to add that September is no picnic either. But August is just discouraging. It has been hot, it currently is hot, and it will keep being hot. Except for my brothers I could skip the whole month. 

  1. The dirt everywhere

Do not start a farm unless you are willing to accept the dirt life. It does not matter if you have a mud room, or sweep everyday, or have a roomba. The floors will always have dirt on them. ALWAYS. The dirt will also somehow end up in your couch, your bathtub, your bed, your clean clothing, and kitchen sink. It will probably clog all your drains, and your clothing will need a full rinse cycle before the wash cycle. After a particularly long day the dirt will be in your hair, eyes, ears, between your toes, and of course, under your nails. Personally, I have long stopped caring about dirt. I didn’t care very much before I started this*, but the two drops of concern I felt have long since evaporated. 

  1. Never go anywhere

Unlike many, many things farms cannot be left to themselves. Plants and animals require care everyday of the year. Even on my “off” days, I work a couple hours. I always do. I couldn’t leave this farm if I wanted to.** If you have dreams of traveling, or visiting family in other states, or going to conventions*** banish them if you start a farm. I do miss it some, but not nearly like I thought I would. There is so much on the farm to keep me busy and interested that I do not feel like I am missing out on anything. 

  1. More work than time

Last and most important, the work never ever stops on a farm. Ever. Even when you are “caught up” you still have to think of the next seasons, and the tools that need fixing or replacing or are going to need fixing or replacing. One of the hardest things about farming (or running a business of any kind I am told) is that you never stop working. You have to be able to work sun up to sun down then get on a computer or go into town, or work in the shop. This can be crushing if you do not know how to leave it when you are done. When you go to bed at night you have to leave what is undone, undone. You cannot carry all the things you need to do with you all the time. If you do, you will get nothing done. The amount of work a farm generates is endless in the most literal sense. For every weed you pull there are 1,000 seeds waiting to become weeds in your fields. For every crop you grow successfully, there is the next season and the same crop next year. Farming will drain you dry if you let it. You will pour yourself into the soil and have nothing to show for it in two months. You have to love it, and be a little crazy, and know when you are done for the day. ****

There are many, many, many very hard things about farming. You don’t become a farmer because it is easy or simple or comfortable. Farming will challenge you in ways you cannot predict. I have had days where I am convinced I made a mistake, days where I get nothing done. I do not want to ever tell someone that farming is easy or that anyone could so it, or for the faint of heart. Farming is for the strong, the brave, the clever person. While it may have it’s awful moments it more than makes up for it in the rewards it offers those that fight for it. 

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*Which is probably one of the things that made me suited to start a farm.
**It’s like Stockholm syndrome because you can’t go anywhere, so you tell yourself you do not want to go anywhere and eventually it becomes true. 

***other than conventions about what you grow on your farm.

**** I could talk about this for a while so I will do a separate blog post about what this looks like for me and my farm.

Tulips (and Daffodils) as far as the eye can see…ish

Tulip season has come to a close here on the farm.  What a season it has been*. We planted twice as many tulips this year and branched out from the traditional french tulips to parrot types and doubles. We also added daffodils. I think my favorite of the year has been the pale pink and cream Delnashaugh daffodil. I love the delicate look, and sweet smell. To me they just look like spring!

Tulips and daffodils are particularly easy to grow as cut flowers. In Texas, tulips are annuals, and while daffodils can naturalize and become perennials, I grow them like annuals. This means every year I order new tulip and daffodil bulbs. The bulbs come prechilled, and I plant them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I water them, but I do not fertilize them. Because I am not trying to preserve the bulbs from year to year I do not worry about the plant using up all the energy stored in the bulb without replacing it. This makes them so so so easy to grow. I also have not had any major pest or disease issues. I know that both tulips and daffodils have pests and diseases, but they haven’t found my patch yet. After popping them in the ground in December I water them a couple times (if it doesn’t rain) and let them do their thing while I obsessively worry about my strawberries. 

The flowers also form part of our soil borne disease management program. Because they are an entirely different type of plant from strawberries and our summer crops, they do not host the same diseases. This helps break the life cycle of those diseases. A single season of a different crop is not enough to completely rid the soil of diseases that host on strawberries or tomatoes; it helps keep it under control. This is part of an overall plan that keeps the farm sustainable and organic. 

Now the fun part of growing flowers, besides the fact that they are beautiful. Like Christmas trees, flowers bring out the stories, and the memories. I enjoy hearing how picking flowers remind a customer of their grandmother’s garden, or the garden they left behind when they moved to Texas. Being able to provide the perfect flowers for a bridal tea, or to take to a grandmother in a nursing home because she will love them is why I grow flowers. Don’t get me wrong I personally love flowers and always pick some for my house but ultimately it is what they mean to other people, the happiness they give that encourages me to grow them every year.** 

Hope you enjoyed the flowers as much as I did! 

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*Even though the season shares time with Covid-19, we are not talking about that. I am not a doctor or an authority so I will not be sharing advice or talking about it in any way except to say I hope you and your families are all safe and healthy. 

**I know this makes me sound like some noble sacrificing type. If I could not make a living off of growing and selling flowers, fruits, and vegetables, I would be doing something else. I do need to eat, and feed the dog, and pay the bills. I am just very blessed that I am able to make a living doing something that I find so fulfilling. 

*** You will never get rich farming, You can a have a wonderful comfortable life, but rich you will not be,

The North America Strawberry Growers annual conference

Howdy Y’all!

As you know in November, I went to a conference in North Carolina. I go to this conference every year, and I love it. For the first time this January, I attended the North America Strawberry Growers annual conference. It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a chance for strawberry growers all over North America to get together and talk about strawberry growing. The conference is held in January every year, but the location moves all over North America. 

This year it was held in San Antonio, which is a very cool town all on its own. Add to that a 100 or so growers of strawberries from all over the place, and it was a blast. Since this was my first time attending, I didn’t know any of the other growers. But like all the other farmers I have run into, they were friendly and welcoming. 

I met growers from Arizona*, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, Alaska, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, and Arkansas. Every conversation was captivating.** I wish the conference was a week long instead of just a weekend. I want to hear more about growing strawberries in 5 feet of snow, or how even though the season is short in Alaska it works because the days are so long. All of it was fascinating, 

Because the conference was held in San Antonio and my farm is only several hours away, I was invited to talk about my farm for 20 minutes or so. Since I can talk about my farm endlessly this was not hard. I had a blast and apparently my talk was engaging! I received my first ever compliment on my public speaking skills.*** 

Like many conferences there are talks that you find more relevant than others. One presentation was about the best cultivars of strawberries to grow in greenhouses. While very interesting, not particularly relevant for me. More relevant was the lecture on crop rotation. I am not going to go into detail here about crop rotation because I am going to do a whole post on it. 

However, the most exciting of all was the presentation by Tric Robotics. This is the future of farming. And I Can Not Wait! I have seen and read lots of potential New Things that are going to Change The Future of Farming. But this I believe will actually make a difference. So there is super cool research out there about how UV-C light radiation kills fungal infections in fruit plants without mutating the plant. The problem of course is how do you get UV-C light radiating out into the middle of a six acre field (or one acre as the case is on my farm). It is one thing to take a dozen plants and stick them in a chamber in a lab and expose them to this light. It is another thing entirely to make this a practical application in the field. This is where Tric Robotics comes in. They are a start up of mostly college students who are working on making a programmable robot that drives through strawberry fields exposing each plant to the needed amount of UV-C light. THIS IS SO EXCITING!!! It is a low impact, totally organic good for the soil, good for the farmer, good for the consumer way of treating fungal disease which are some of the most difficult to treat, often requiring the heavy use of chemicals. I love it! I have signed up to be a test site, but sadly that is at least a year a way, most likely more. I am seriously so so so looking forward to this.

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

P.S. We have tulips and daffodils right now with strawberries coming at the end of March! Check out our Facebook, Instagram, and website for hours and prices!

*the only farmer growing strawberries in Arizona as far as I can tell.

**This is probably only true if you farm strawberries. 

***This is particularly hilarious as I completely blew off my public speaking class in college since I figured I would be working with plants all of my life and had no intention of talking about them.

Never too late for Christmas Spirit

Howdy All!

I am once again behind on the blog schedule. I was supposed to get this out for the first of the year, but as you can see that did not happen. It may be past Christmas season, but I hope you’ll enjoy this nonetheless, and read what’s coming up this spring!

This Christmas season was the first time Storm Farm sold Christmas trees. Like many projects I start on the farm, I underestimated the amount of time it would take. It all happened kind of quickly. One minute, we were sad we weren’t going to be able to find any trees, and then, bam! 500 trees were on their way. It was overwhelming and daunting, but I knew that is was something I really wanted to do. With the help of friends, family, and lots and lots of communication, we had them set up and ready to go. Not to say there weren’t mishaps along the way, like shipping, finding someone to truck them here, and then how do you go about unloading 500 Christmas trees? Even after we opened, there was so much I didn’t know, questions I couldn’t answer. For example: I had a pretty steep learning curve on types of christmas trees and will have a much better selection next year.* On the plus side, I have become an expert in tying trees to the top of cars. Through it all, we made it happen, and it was so worth it. I am so grateful to live in a wonderful community that helped make all of this happen. So while now I know a little bit more, hopefully next year will be even better!

I have to add: selling Christmas trees is a lot of fun! SO MUCH FUN! For those of you who don’t know: I love Christmas, especially the stories and traditions**. This created such a unique opportunity to be a part of your Christmas. I loved getting to help people celebrate Christmas and finding the perfect tree for them. While looking at trees, many people share personal Christmas traditions. Learning all the ways people spend time with family and friends is very special. Everyone’s Christmas looks a little bit different, and I felt very special to be included in them. I am looking forward to doing it again next year. I hope those of you who came out this year will come again next year. 

Aside: Howdy, Madelynn here, I just want to thank everyone that came out and made this so wonderful. My sister didn’t know what to expect, but the love, joy, and support she encountered was amazing. So thank you for it all, seeing a smile on her face and listening to her stories was gift in of itself. 

So, what’s next? When I wasn’t selling Christmas trees*** I was preparing the center field than planting it full of tulips. Yes, your read that right a Field of Tulips! We have planted 42,000 tulips, and we can’t wait for them to bloom. This is the second year Storm Farms has grown tulips for Pick Your Own Tulips. They were a hit last year, and we have added new colors this year. Because of you, I can’t wait to see an entire field in bloom! How often to get to see something like that? Let alone, be the one to prepare the earth, plant them, and watch the colors emerge?! I’m excited. Can you tell? Now I must say, my favorite are the double tulips. They look like peonies. We will open in the beginning of March, so you can pick your favorite! Feel free to come out and take pictures, bring your family, your pets! This is a place for the community. 

So until then,

Farmer Jo

*Did you know that most christmas tree farms (the farms that grow the trees not the one who sell them) sell out off christmas trees by March? Yeah I didn’t know that either. 

**There is a collection of books called “Christmas in My Heart”. Each book has many stories, some true, some not. I have read almost all of them..many more than once. 

***or drinking my body weight in hot chocolate, because we had free hot chocolate while you look for the perfect tree.

Southeast Strawberry Growers Expo 2019

About a month ago, I went to the Southeast Strawberries Growers Expo. It is hosted by the North Carolina Strawberry Growers Association. This is my fourth year going. I am the only person/grower/farmer from Texas, so everyone just calls me ‘Texas’. I love it. I first started going when the McNitt Brothers (who I buy my plugs from) suggested I go my first year growing strawberries in 2016. I was (and still am) clearly out of my depth when it comes to knowing what I am doing*. They suggested the expo was a great place to learn more. I probably wouldn’t have gone except my dad said it sounded like a good idea.** So I went. IT WAS AMAZING! Seriously, I learned so much, so many vital basic facts and practices for growing strawberries that I still haven’t put them all in to practise here on my farm. On top of being a fountain of knowledge, every single person I met was amazingly wonderful and genuinely welcoming. They didn’t care that I asked simple and obvious questions, they just answered them with their far superior knowledge. Most of the attendees are indeed from the southeast (N. Carolina primary, with a good number from S. Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee. Kentucky and Florida). Also, many have been farming longer than I have been alive. Literally. Almost all grew up in farming families and started growing strawberries to diversify from tobacco. 

One of my favorite parts of the expo is the first day. On the first day. we all load up into a bus and go tour 3 or 4 local farms. Actual farms that are doing what I am trying to do. I always see something that I can use or would love to set up on my own farm. The chance to stand in another farmer’s field and ask, “What is this?” “Why do you have this?” “What is this for?” “Why did you set it up this way?” is invaluable. It is also encouraging to hear how they are still learning the best way to farm their own land; to know that even though I am still so new, I am not impossibly behind. 

The following two days are your typical breakout sessions, lunch, talks and so on. It would be the most boring parts if you did not farm, and you did not farm strawberries. But as someone who thinks plants are super cool and additionally grows several acres of strawberries, I wish I could go to all the sessions. This year I learned that as the night time temperature goes up the more hours of sunlight strawberries need to produce flowers and fruit. So while they do struggle in the heat of Texas summers, if we had the same heat and longer days we could have strawberries through the summer. So interesting! This year I finally knew enough to sit in the varieties session and actually understand what they are saying about the strengths and weaknesses of each type of strawberry. I have sat in on this session every year and always walked away confused. I never knew that I had been planting my Chandler too early, which is what caused them to grow small berries instead of large. 

I have been back every year since. Every year the people are somehow friendlier, and more amazing. For the most part, they know each other and the expo has a feeling of a family reunion where everyone is welcome. Every year, I have brought a family member with me, someone who has been helping with the farm that could also learn a lot. First year was my dad, second my mom, last year my dad, this year everyone started asking me where my mom was. It was fun to say that my little sister was actually coming and then getting to introduce her around and bring more of my family into the expo family. I cannot speak highly enough of everyone at the expo. I can honestly say I would not have made it this far without the Southeast Strawberry Growers Expo. 

A short list of things I have learned at the expo include:

1. Cover strawberries to protect from below freezing temperatures

2. The importance of crown planting depth (I wrote a blog about it)

3. The impact of the number of crowns grown in the fall

4. The newest and best sustainable practices

5. How to identify important bacterial and fungal diseases 

6. How to safely store tools and equipment so they lasts more than one season

7. Dealing with wildlife eating my plants***

8. How to network

9. When to stress about weeds and when to let them go

10. The best ways to use the internet to advertise the farm

The is just a short list of things that come to my mind quickly to give you a basic idea.  

I could go on and on and on about the expo and what I have learned and why it is all so very fascinating. The best thing I can say though is: if you are thinking of marketing or getting into the ‘pick your own strawberries’ business, you should definitely check out this conference. I can’t imagine knowing enough so that I can’t learn something I actually need to know here.

Here is a link to the website of the association that runs the conference every year.

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*despite the fact that farmers in my area look to me to answer all their strawberry growing questions. 

** I often do things I would not otherwise do if my dad didn’t encourage me. Like farm. 

***Did you know that deer have basically no depth perception?

Favorite Fall Recipes

So one of the things we sell here at the farm that not many people know what to do with is squash and pumpkins. I can hear y’all protesting this accusation from here. But trust me when I say: there is a huge difference in pumpkins and squash used for decorating, and those used for cooking. There is also a difference in pumpkins and squash from a can and a fresh pumpkin or squash, although I am sure that does not come as a surprise. Maybe I’ll just talk about the different cultivars of pumpkin and list a recipe for each one. 

So after I started gathering my recipes I realized that all of them called for pumpkin puree. Since I am talking about using fresh pumpkin not canned pumpkin I thought I would include a simple set of instructions on how to make your own pumpkin puree

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Rinse and pat dry the pumpkin. Cut the squash from stem to end, but don’t try to cut through the stem (it’s too tough). When you’ve cut through the pumpkin, just pull each half apart. You can do this in two parts. Cut one side from the stem down to the bottom of the pumpkin. Remove the knife, rotate the pumpkin to the opposite side then do the same. When there is a slit down both halves of the pumpkin, put down the knife and pull the halves apart. They should separate at the stem. Scoop out the seeds and most of the stringy bits, then place cut-side-down onto the baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkin can easily be pierced with a knife in several places and the flesh is pulling away from the skin, 45 to 60 minutes.
Cool until you can safely handle the halves then scoop out the soft flesh into a food processor — depending on how large the pumpkin is, you may need to do this in two batches. Process until very smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. A 4 to 6 pound pumpkin should make 5 to 6 cups of pumpkin puree. 

Of all the cooking pumpkin varieties my favorite is Cinderella.

These are a flat, almost smashed looking pumpkin. They do not carve well at all, although they do stack nicely. The best thing about them is the way they taste. It is not a stringy pumpkin, and it does not have a bunch of seeds. The flesh is on the sweet side, and creamy. An easy way to cook Cinderella pumpkins is to slice them like cantaloupe, scoop out the seeds and bake them in the oven.* However the best way to cook this pumpkin is by turning it into soup. Since this is already a creamy pumpkin, and dairy and I are not friends, I skip the dairy and it still tastes amazing. Here is the recipe for pumpkin soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Large Yellow Onions Sliced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 3 ¾ Cups Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 2 Cups Water

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook stirring occasionally until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to the onions and stir constantly for one minute.
  4. Add 1/4 Cup of the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the remaining chicken broth, water, and pumpkin puree and stir to combine.
  6. Turn heat to low and simmer the soup for 20 minutes.
  7. Turn the stove off and use a handheld immersion blender to puree the soup.  Alternately, use a regular blender and puree the soup in 2-3 batches.
  8. Stir the heavy cream into the soup, serve immediately with warm bread if desired.

Galeux d’Eysines is a french heirloom variety. It is often called peanut pumpkin because the warty growths on the rind look like peanuts. 

Don’t let the funky look of this pumpkin keep you from cooking with it. The peanut pumpkin is a very sweet pumpkin which makes them perfect for a sweet treat like these pumpkin pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

My final pumpkin recipe is more of a side dish than a main** dish. Any of the cooking pumpkins can be used in this recipe. My favorite is a Long Island Cheese pumpkin.

 This is another heirloom variety.*** One of the great things about the Long Island Cheese pumpkin is that it can keep for a long time. So you can buy it but not have to use it right away. This pumpkin has a rich earthy flavor similar to yams, or sweet potatoes. Here is a recipe for pumpkin and brussel sprouts.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pie pumpkin (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, Brussels sprouts and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; drizzle over vegetables and toss to coat.
  • 2. Transfer to a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Roast 35-40 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Sprinkle with parsley.

*This is actually the easy way to cook all pumpkins.

**Do pancakes count as a main dish?

***I have read it got its name because it looks like a wheel of cheese, having never seen a wheel of cheese I cannot confirm this.

Hope you enjoy these as we welcome the cooler weather, wonderful holidays, and time with the family!

Farmer Jo

My Top 3 Summer Veggie Recipes

As the summer is in full swing (at least for farmers), I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes for the veggies growing on the farm. Summer is a vegetable season, unlike spring which is totally a fruit season. I am growing a bunch of different veggies, partially so I have a variety to eat and partially to appeal to a wider customer base. With so many different veggies over the past summers, I have learned how to cook each one in at least one meal I like. Some I have several recipes that I like. Here are three of my favorite but no-standard recipes. Once fall comes around I will do a post about all the amazing ways to eat winter squash. 

I am going to start with eggplant. Eggplant has a bad rap, and I was one of those people who believed that eggplant would always be mushy and gross. However, I had a coworker from my previous job, and he swore up and down that he could make eggplant that everyone could eat. So I bought him a couple eggplants, and he brought an amazing dish to lunch the next day. I begged him to teach me the recipe, but when he tried, it went something like “take an eggplant, slice it thin, but not too thin, heat the pan (it took a long time to figure out he meant a cast iron pan), add just enough olive oil to the pan, and add onions, garlic, spices, ‘until it smells warm.’ and fry it all up.” 

As you can see, this isn’t really a recipe that can be followed. I have, instead, found a recipe online that I can follow and comes out very similar to what he brought that day. 

https://www.keyingredient.com/recipes/1517171/eggplant-with-garlic-and-vinegar-fried/

Secondly, this summer is the first summer I have grown banana peppers. I had only ever had them pickled, and when I finally ate unpickled regular banana peppers, I found it to be sweet but rather bland. I much prefer mixed color sweet peppers. This year I went ahead and grew a flat of banana peppers plants (about 20). I figured worse comes to worst I could try my hand at  pickling them.* Turns out, I should have planted more. Banana peppers are also known Romanian peppers and Hungarian peppers. Unknown to me, they are staples of both countries. I found this out when I sold 10 pounds of banana peppers to a wonderful lady from Romania.** She and her mom come every weekend and buy a minimum of 20 peppers. After a month or so of this, I finally asked what they make with them. I got another un-followable recipe on the best use for banana peppers. Luckily, instead of trying to find a recipe online that sounds like what they told me, which would have been very difficult as I didn’t understand half the recipe, they sent me two links that they said were the real thing. http://www.cookingglory.com/recipes/meat-lovers/pork/stuffed-peppers-romanian-style/

https://www.thebossykitchen.com/stuffed-peppers-ardei-umpluti/

The second recipe uses bell peppers, but she clearly talks about banana peppers being the preferred pepper, although she doesn’t call them that, she just describes them. 

Third on my summer veggie recipe list is tomatillos. I don’t know how many people are familiar with tomatillos, they are also sometimes called “ground cherries”. However, there are several other foods called “ground cherries”, so I always call them tomatillos. Those of you who are familiar with tomatillos are probably most aware of them in sauces, particularly salsa verde. There is so much more that can be done with tomatillos than simple, if very good, salsa. I am going to introduce you to a yummy, spicy version of chicken soup. This is not your normal chicken soup, which is good because I do not like standard chicken soup, especially the noodles.*** There are no noodles or rice or potatoes in this recipe. It is just a lovely, green spicy soup. I hope some of you come to love it as much as I do. 

http://kitchenconfidante.com/roasted-tomatillo-chicken-soup-recipe

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*Ha! Who am I kidding I don’t have time to figure out pickling. As much as I wish I did I am already swamped everyday.  

**When she saw that I had what I call banana peppers she called her mom and said lots of excited sounding things in Romanian before she bought 10 pounds. ***They are slimy and very very gross.

Life off The Farm

I thought I would take a short break from talking about the farm today. Instead, I thought I would tell y’all a little of what my life off the farm looks like. Although when I do get off the farm, it’s not very far. Farming is a pretty all consuming thing, which invades almost every aspect of my life. See my blog posts so far.

Anyway when I am not farming (or reading about farming, or watching youtube videos about farming, or talking to other farmers), I like to read mostly fantasy and science fiction. Robin McKinely is my favorite author. I just finished reading My Side Of The Mountain. Yes, this is a children’s book, but I had never read it before. It is probably a good thing I didn’t read it as a child as I would have taken it as a life plan and tried to run away to live on my own. I did read the Hatchet as a kid and thought it sound amazing. My family has a family book club. Each year three members of the family get to pick out a book for the whole family to read. We started this before any of the kids (my siblings and me) were married, so we have modified the rule so that when a married couple’s year they get a combined 500 pages. So if they want to pick two separate books, or parts of two separate, or one larger book they can. This year’s books are A Time Of Gifts, Carry on Mr. Bowdich, Why We Sleep, and States and Capitals United We Stand. I have not started any of these, which does not bode well for my getting all of them read this year. So reading. I love to read, and do a fair amount of it in my free time.

I also ride my horse. I know I mentioned them earlier. I could do a whole blog post about horses, about my horse, about why I love horses, and so on. As a child, before I learned how the world worked, I wanted to grow up and be a horse. That should tell you all you need to know about how long and deep the obsession over horses runs in my blood. If I could make a living doing something (anything) with horses I would. But that is even harder than making a living farming. I am very fortunate that my horse is only a mile and a half from where I live, in my parent’s backyard. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. They have 5 acres with one fenced off for the horse. The neighborhood they live in connects to the neighborhood I live in so I ride from their house to mine sometime. There is also a creek running through the middle of the city that has park and wide floodplain that I can ride on. While not the same as riding at a state or national park it is also better than being stuck in an arena all the time. Neither my horse nor I would like riding in endless circles.  Related to this is another non-farm thing I do. I refurbish old horse trailers. I am currently working on an original Hartman. This one I am planning on keeping for myself, normally I resell them. I do one a year, since I only work on them half an hour or an hour a day. It takes a long time but is very rewarding.

Despite my love of reading and horses, what I most do in my non-farm time is hang out with my family. I am one of seven children (second child, first girl), and most of us live together or very close by. I have two nephews, and they come to the farm (the mulch pile is their favorite part). So my family is big and getting bigger every year as people get married and have kids. I love my family and I love hang out with my sisters, and brothers, my mom and dad. We talk about everything* and play cooperative board games, we watch Chinese dramas and West Wing, and documentaries.

Sometimes my family gets a little claustrophobic and I get out and go see other people. I have several best friends.  All I have known for more than half my life. They keep me grounded and sane when the farm and the family are driving me up the wall. They are definitely the kind of friends that you call at 2 a.m. or fly across the country for. They are also the kind of friends that help me bury a body, or bail me out of jail. Best of all they are friends I can rest with. We can be together and be silent. In fact, most of my blogs are written at my friends house while she works from home and I blog/plan my week/watch Netflix.

Until next time,

Farmer Jo

*No, really, we talk about everything from current politics, to the best way to sneak into a library and organize the books by color of the binding