Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gigantic Tomates, Hungry Tilapia and a Kooky Cow

I am dealing with  tomatoes, bushels and bushels of tomatoes.  (These are a few of the huge, gorgeous Gold Medal heritage tomatoes, with an ordinary teaspoon for scale.)  Right now I am about halfway through seven half-bushel boxes of tomatoes Cadence left in the kitchen after packing up Wednesday's CSA boxes. So far, I have made a 2-gallon pot of pizza sauce and froze it in quart packages, and roasted many pans of tomatoes, froze them in large yogurt tubs, then vacuum packed them for the deep freeze.

This time of year when the kitchen is piled high with ripe fruits it is a challenge to keep ahead of the fruit flies. My strategy is to process every  tomato that has a crack or blemish immediately and empty the compost bucket every hour or two. So far I am successfully keeping the fruit flies at bay.
We are having a disappointing cucumber crop, thanks to some varmint that is eating them all - but our neighbor Frank is the local Cucumber King.  He offered to let me pick his pickle patch, and I gathered a large shopping bag full. I have been making fermented kosher dill pickles and sweet refrigerator pickles with them. Tomorrow I  want to make some baby dills.
This is our first big apple harvest from the Zestar tree!  It may be the only harvest we ever get because the  tree was pretty badly damaged by rabbits last winter, but you never surprised us with all these scrumptious apples so it seems to have a strong survivor instinct.
The pasture is looking pretty sparse, so today I  moved the fence so the cows could graze the healthy grass growing between the barn and greenhouse.  There were several empty tubs and compost bins stacked alongside the barn. When Rog came home from work tonight he came in laughing because when he drove up  LaFonda had her head inside a big  spherical compost bin and was tossing it around with her horns (in fun, he thought.)

When I went out to film the fish, I caught LaFonda playing with the compost bin again.

What a nutty cow!
The evening feeding of the fish in the aquaponics system:

Here is a more peaceful clip with the aeration pump turned off:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

End of Summer CSA Boxes

Since I have not had a chance to  post for a couple weeks, I decided to write a bunch of short catch-up stories rather than one interminable post. Today is CSA day, so Cadence came down from the cities last night to harvest and pack the boxes this morning.  I went out to take a few photos of this process, and caught a few turkeys relaxing on the bench.  They are such fun characters, although I prefer they not sit on the lawn furniture.
Cadence  pulled the last of the tatsoi.
She finally got to harvest the Golden Bantam sweet corn - sweet corn is really late around here this year.
Every squash blossom has its honeybee. (That's my new motto.)
Cadence picked 6.5 bushels of tomatoes this morning! (and that's after I picked a bushel last night.)  We mostly grew Cherokee Purple, Gold Medal and Federle this year, and they have been huge, abundant and delicious.
Packing the boxes...
Stacking the boxes...
Today's boxes have sweet corn, tomatoes, tatsoi, cucumbers, and either broccoli, cabbage or  one of these spectacular rosa bianca eggplants.

Wordless Wednesday: Hazy, Hot, Humid

Monday, August 12, 2013

Foggy Farm Morning, Fair Prairie Eve

We awoke early to a foggy sunrise this morning.
 Morning sun burning the fog off the lawn.

Hazy  flower garden.
Huge Lafonda this morning, but no calf today. For some reason (or maybe for no reason) she had draped her horns in  hay. 
Tonight after supper we went for  a walk through our  woods and prairie along the south side of the farm.
Amazing stands of purple coneflowers!  Acres of  echinacea.

What a treasure this prairie is!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Who the Heck Has been Eating all the Cucumbers??

These are the cucumber vines growing in the  high tunnel greenhouse, taller than you can reach. They are loaded with blossoms, with lots of happy bees visiting and pollinating, and  dozens of  tiny cukes starting. We have been anticipating an overabundance of cucumbers. When a neighbor generously offered us cucumbers from his overflowing garden, we  turned him down, showing him our promise of cucumbers.  He was duly impressed.
But when I went to harvest cukes for  the CSA boxes yesterday, searching  carefully through the leaves for the hidden treasures,  these were the only cucumbers I found!!  Hollowed out  shells of cucumbers, not even any baby cukes.

Judging from the texture of the tiny bites, I  am guessing mice have to be the culprits. Who would think they could climb so high on the vines and wreak such total devastation?!  I am setting traps tomorrow morning - hope they like peanut butter better than cucumbers.
Any advice out there?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bee & Butterfly Garden

 It was a very busy and productive weekend with pretty much perfect summer weather.  Rog and I baked for the Farmers Market and sold out every crumb by 11 a.m. (including a few fruit tarts that were too fragile and had broken - we weren't going to sell them but people pleaded for them!) And yesterday a great group of  folks showed up to  hear some of the Nodding Wild Onions perform -- and some even joined in singing onstage at the end. But for me, the best accomplishment of the weekend was getting the  weedy, overgrown, embarrassing Bee & Butterfly Garden presentable.
We weeded at least eight piled-high wheel-barrow loads of weeds and grass from the garden and  along the fence!  I discovered flowers in there so obscured by overgrowth I didn't even know they were blooming.  We added 15 bags of mulch. And still need a few more.
The  south side now. When the sun shines, the fragrance that wafts up from the alyssum, roses and heliotrope is intoxicating!
The north side now.
The center circle. The green is a carpet of mostly plantain and creeping charlie. Tackling that will be next year's  improvement project.
This balancing rabbit that swings around in the breeze was one of my garden purchases at the Gold Rush antique fair last Mother's Day. 
This little sculpture was my other Gold Rush extravagance.
As we worked, I was delighted to  note that there were lots of bees and  even a few butterflies enjoying the garden! 
The catmint was absolutely humming with bees!  This garden is conveniently located about 20 feet from two of my hives.
A goldfinch on a sunflower.  Hummingbirds also zipped by as I weeded.
Turns out that cats also like this garden --Poet sleeping under a shrub.

Ever since we moved to this farm I have been dreaming of a garden view out our dining room window. I didn't realize it would also enhance the view from the kitchen window--this is now what I see while washing dishes. It is still a work in progress, but this little garden is making me very happy.