The Charm Farm CSA

the latest beet

Category: Meandering Happenings

I’d love to chew the fat with you, but…

The sun is going down and rain is in the forecast. Nothing like that second wind of energy to get me from the post-lunch drowsiness through evening milking, and on this particular night, typing out some farm updates for you all. Impending rain is usually the catalyst that helps me get through these ever-longer days. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. Therefore, it’ll be an extra early day working on the high tunnel. Speaking of which, it now has plastic on it. Certainly not a solo job, so my most appreciative thanks goes out to Gabriel(my superhero carpenter), Andy and Tim for getting the structure covered and looking like a greenhouse. Some other progress on the farm since I last wrote is that there are now 7000 little strawberry plants in the ground and off to a good start, thanks to Greta and Gabriel. First go using the water wheel transplanter- a most mysterious piece of equipment until you see it work. Might be my new favorite tool on the farm as it changed some incredibly back-breaking work into a genuine pleasure, albeit active work, and all the workings of it are mechanical and simple to use and repair. It embodies the basics of a well-designed tool.

The angus cows are starting to drop calves, just as grass is really becoming abundant. This grass milk is higher in vitamins and fat content. It is the same with Jersey milk. You might notice a more yelllow color this week. It’s delicious and especially nutritious. The same beta carotene that makes the egg yolks so golden. Ok, so this is where I fell asleep while typing. You may have noticed that the aforementioned forecast doesn’t quite bode with these couple days of sunshine. I think that calls for a new paragraph.

It’s been a meat cutting last couple of days. Beef and pork with some sausage making in the very near future. Members might just see some green stuff this week at distribution. Speaking of which, I’m pretty darn excited that this is week one of fifty-two for the no-longer-solely-winter CSA (catchy, huh?). I am looking forward to everything that is the inaugural season of the CSA. Motivation is ever present when you know where and to whom all the fruits of your labor are going- such a luxury in a career.

Some new members will be coming on board this month. I’d really appreciate it if some of the vets chat about/demonstrate the procedure for the buffet-style distribution, as it is a somewhat paradoxical concept for a market. Some other pertinent member news is that there will be a farm wide tour for members(current and potential) during the month of May. I was leaning towards a Saturday afternoon. What do you all think?

The Urgency of Spring

Having bided their time as those persistent daggers stabbing their way through last fall’s leaf litter, the daffodils have officially arrived. Those by the red gate, anyway. I don’t seem to see the flower as I once did. Now it is a small, yellow megaphone, flanked by some overly exclamatory petals, shouting, “Hey! Look at me! You best get plowing, tilling, mulching, planting, assauging the IRS, etc.” So I do.

I am not writing to diminish the beauty of the first flowers of spring, but rather to give a spring forecast for the farm. This rather unexpected bout of hot, yes, genuinely hot, weather has dried the ground out well beyond the moisture content I need to get the plow going. This week, the ground for vegetables, potatoes, wheat and strawberries will be plowed (6.5 acres total), and if the weather holds and the tractor goes, I’ll turn under about thirteen acres for corn. What will become the cornfield has been the winter pasture for feeding cattle, so there is plenty of organic matter, but the field hasn’t been plowed for ten or twelve years so it’ll be a little slow going. Once the plowed ground sits for a week or two, depending on residue from last year’s crop, I’ll go through with a soil finisher to break up the ankle-breaking clods of dirt into a fine seedbed ready for planting. Once I move the pigs down to their summer pasture, I can prepare the ground for oats underseeded to alfalfa (I harvest the oats by the time the alfalfa is just getting established and growing). Soybeans and barley will finish out the field crops. May 10th is generally our frost-free date here, but I am guessing that that may be a bit late this year. I’ll get some veggies out early and if need be, I can cover them with Remay for frost protection. Somewhat more subtlely than the daffodils, I’ve got about six thousand onions hankering to get in the ground.

The high tunnel is coming along. I’ll let folks know on Wednesday when plastic is going up- a job that many hands makes light work of. We need a day with no wind, even a small gust could send the folks holding down the corners airborne. I didn’t report the latest baby on the farm. Casper, a little bull calf, was born to Cheyenne on the first. Cheyenne hasn’t been picking up on the milking routine, which means she won’t go to the barn herself so I have to carry Casper in and then she’ll follow. She’s too darn big and stubborn for me to lead her in by herself. She’ll come around though. On Thursday, we’ll have two hundred more babies on the farm- little chicks arrive. One day old and at the post office, pretty impressive.

As the sun stays up longer, so do I. Thank goodness we got that coffee last week. Keep spreading the good word to folks who like eating as we prepare for the kickoff of the annual share in May. Some details are up in the Whole Diet CSA tab.

Walking to the barn at night, the flashlight is more to send the nightcrawlers slurping back into the earth than it is to show me that well worn path. Most of them escape death by boot, but I’m sure a few among the thousands perish in my footsteps. Always a good sign to see so many on the farm, those little fertility factories. Also noteworthy were the bats last night and the first toad of spring exploring the dairy barn tonight. On a completely unrelated note (I am not Johnny Verbeck), let me know if you have any charcuterie/sausage requests for May.

Thinking of Charcuterie

When folks ask me what I do in my spare time, I used to explain to them that that was the block of time devoted to raising produce.  But seeing that vegetable farming is becoming a hefty chunk of my day’s activities, I decided I needed to fill the recently vacated hobby realm with an activity I do more like a hobby: not frequently, but completely immersive when the occasion does arise. Think of the fly fisherman. This is how I have been approaching the art of cured meat. Foodstuffs to be fermented all respond similarly to the basic principles of inoculation, temperature and humidity control, and time duration, yet there is an infinite number of variations that will result in dramatically different products. It takes at least a few trial runs to find a particularly delicious creation, despite what the Boston Lager label says. This refinement process is the landscape I am currently trudging through. I don’t exactly run a delicatessen here on the farm, but if I did, I wouldn’t be ashamed to stock my fresh sausages and corned beef. Admittedly, I would do a few more batches of bacon and salume before they found their way to the meat counter.

Despite writing this on a Tuesday on the tail end of March, it feels much more like the first week of February, as I watch the snow acccumulate in the corners of the windows. Dani and Butte, the two young ladies who ensure that our dairy fridge is stocked each week, were a little slower to leave the barn after milking tonight. Having gotten a taste of some of the first spring growth of the pastures, they are understandably frustrated with this perpetual winter. This is a big week for the litter of piglets- they get weaned! And for the unlucky chaps (only two out of twelve), they have to go through a small surgery to graduate from boar to barrow. I’ve been framing up the endwalls on the high tunnel weather permitting. This is one of the last structural additions. Hopefully the tomato and pepper seedlings will get off my back and into the tunnel soon.

One of the more interesting aspects of the CSA for me is its evolution as a living, breathing manifestation of all facets of the farm. We’re certainly weilding tools and walking upright, but we haven’t built any Pyramids, not yet, anyway.