A bit of our history…

What a rainy year it has been!  Just when we think spring is ready to bust open, it seems another blast of winter comes storming through, and another week of water gushes from the sky.  I think we can safely say that the drought is over here on the West Coast!  We thankfully enjoy the “sun breaks” and singular days of warmth and sunshine.  The kids were thrilled to finally have the opportunity (with willing adults) to try their hands at fishing in the pond once again!  Our oldest helper won the prize, catching four large mouth bass.

IMG_4484[1]

Grandpa and his helper, tilling the garden under in preparation for this year’s crops.

Other news on the farm: Mr. Hubbard has officially retired!  … At least from one job.  He has quickly filled the void with plenty of other work around the farm, including building this beautiful new pergola for the grapes to climb on, and a new raised bed for the strawberries.  One of our constant challenges is to find a place to plant all of the fruits and veggies we aspire to harvest.  It’s because of this that many of your average garden plants have found their way into our flower beds as well.  Some veggies are downright pretty anyhow, right?

IMG_4515[1]

Our new grape pergola

IMG_4512[1]

A new bed for strawberries

Mr. Hubbard has been reluctant to fill his retirement with an old profession, knowing that his former life as a dairy farmer was anything but restful and relaxing.  A dairy farmer’s life is the very definition of commitment and dedication… twice a day, 365 days a year, regardless of weddings, church, or social ‘obligations.’  At the same time, this extra bit of time has provided just the opportunity to introduce the grand kids to a way of life that we believe teaches responsibility and work ethic.  And so it has occurred that after 20 years, our little farm is now home once again to one singular little Holstein calf, whom we have named Clarabell.  She has been the center of so much excitement and joy as the kids fight over who gets to feed her, and spend much of their free time doting on her and building her already social personality.

IMG_4537[1]

Meet our newest addition: Clarabell!  The kids were excited to bottle feed her.  Fourth generation farmers-in-training

We are now in the works of building our fourth generation on this farm.  Bill and Jo Hubbard first bought the farm in the early 1950’s, and Bill worked multiple jobs while also building his own dairy herd, just to pay for the place we now call home.  As their kids moved through college and into their own careers, Bill and Jo decided they were ready to sell the cows, at which time their youngest son stepped in to take over the herd and farm responsibilities.  He and his wife eventually named the dairy “Billanjo Dairy,” and continued building the dairy into a successful, small, raw milk dairy farm.  As a family, we milked the cows, bottled the milk, delivered it to the stores, and even made cheese which we marketed at local farmers markets under the label, “Easteagle Cheese,” due to our location East of Eagle Point.  It was a busy and demanding life, but good.

IMG_4590[1]

We like to believe that a wheel of cheese is like a bottle of wine, improving with age. This is one of our few remaining wheels of cheese.

However, raw milk was an outgoing ‘fad’ at that time, and began to incur ridicule and censure from a society phobic of bacteria.  In an effort to sterilize the world we live in, Oregon regulations on raw milk began to increase and tighten, tighten and increase.  We fought to meet the new regulations, making our raw milk cleaner than any pasteurized product on the shelf today.  Then, after an e-coli breakout at a Washington Jack-in-the-Box, Center for Disease Control (CDC), local news stations, and even the Dairy Farmers of Oregon began to advise the general populace to avoid drinking raw milk as a precaution to avoid illness, in spite of the strict regulations and testing undergone to ensure cleanliness and purity of our product.  Customers and stores carrying our milk began to fall away, influenced not by their experience, but by the media and popular fear.  Legislation was introduced, and passed, to outlaw raw milk in the state of Oregon.  Our dairy was grandfathered in and allowed to continue until pure economics took their toll.  In 1996, our dairy was one of the last three to close in the state of Oregon, bringing a dramatic change of course for our family life.

IMG_4592[1]

One of the new additional state regulation required that we change our labels to include a warning that our product could potentially carry “disease producing organisms.”

Twenty years later, we’ve traveled the globe and worked lots of other jobs.  Most of the ‘kids’ are now married with their own kids.  Raw milk now sells at approximately $12 a gallon from private parties (we sold ours for $2/gallon when we closed in 1996, as we competed with mainstream milk prices).  These days, the pendulum has swung the other direction, and the public has begun to repulse antibiotics, and in turn embrace probiotics and all things raw!  (We clearly remember the difficulty of trying to educate people that not all bacteria are bad, and some are even necessary for cheese making and gut health.)  As fate would have it, we Hubbards have nearly all come back to settle close to the family farm, which has been leased for the past twenty years to a beef rancher.  We hold fondly our memories and experiences from the farm (most of them, that is), and still share an affinity for little black and white Holstein calves.  That being said, don’t be too surprised when you come by the farm and see a couple of them running around again!  We do not have any current plans to re-open the family dairy, so to speak, but we have high hopes for our newest farm member!

The garden report:  Things are growing, in spite of the cold and rain this year!  We have begun to sell chard, broccoli, and walnuts in our garden shed along with farm fresh eggs.  The other things are in the ground and growing: cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, garlic, onions, beets, kale, cauliflower, berries, melons… All things summer and delicious!

Also, beware of the puncture vine, which are popping out all over the valley, thanks to the recent rains.  Check out our previous post on that (Blackberries & Puncture Vine) so you can identify and remove them from your own property before they permanently invade your lawns and driveways!

summer-2014-031.jpg

Puncture vine has a distinct leaf pattern, and these ‘cute’ little yellow flowers… which lead to very distinct nasty thorns.

Advertisements

The Colder Months

Life gets busy around the holidays.  We probably all experience that craziness – whether it’s writing Christmas letters to all your loved ones, or reading the dozens that come in.  We didn’t bother sending out a farm update or “Christmas letter” as a result.  So what have we been doing all these months?

Well, the fall brought piles of leaves in from the city, so we began again on mulching for future gardens.  Our warm fall had us picking broccoli, beets, and even zucchini well past our regular summer months!  You may have noticed that we kept the garden shed open this year, even into these winter months.  (We only have eggs to offer out there now).

If you’re local and reading this, no doubt you were covered with a nice thick layer of snow this winter as well!  Winter 2016-17 025

We’ve been told this is the most snow we’ve had since 1917, and it will no doubt reserve a spot in the memories of the “young’uns” here on the farm!  It had us older ‘kids’ reminiscing about that “one year” when we had inches of snow, sledded around the driveway behind dad’s motorcycle, and had a massive snowball fight with the neighbor kids!  So, we made new memories this year by hooking up the sled to our four wheeler, and scraping trails across every field of perfectly draped snow!  The kids had a blast!

I’m not quite sure the cows enjoyed it quite as much.  Here is a shot that Mr. Hubbard took early one morning, while feeding hay to the cows who were still encrusted with frost.

Winter 2016-17 089

We know spring is just around the corner now.  Those same cows are busy having their babies.  The days have lengthened enough that the chickens have resumed their laying (did you know they need a certain amount of daylight to keep them laying?), and the first of the flowers have erupted into blossom outside our doors!

We hope you’re enjoying the promise of warmer (and Lord willing, drier) weather!  Mr. Hubbard has remained hard at work, and has already started his garden this year.  The seedlings have germinated indoors.  He’s also pruned all the fruit trees, in hopes of another bumper crop.  Meanwhile, we look forward to our first harvest of the spring, which will likely be the asparagus.  🙂  Wishing you sunny spring days!

Summer Fun

IMG_4389[1]

These sunflowers are popular with the blackbirds, and as stem flowers for the table.

It has been an odd year, but it’s finally summertime!  Just when we thought it would be hot, we had another cool week and had to break out the jackets and rain boots.  Can you believe that it snowed on Mount McLaughlin in JULY?!?  We had estimated that corn would arrive by mid July, but these various spurts of cool weather, although a pleasant hiatus from summer, continued to delay the harvest.  As Mr. Hubbard declared last year, “It All Depends On The Weather (DOTW)!”

Well finally, after unusually cool temps, we’re facing a week of triple digit forecasts, and with it, this is our first week of having corn available in the garden shed!  Just like that, summer hit a couple weeks ago when the cantaloupe and tomatoes began to ripen, and all of a sudden, the garden shed is burgeoning with all sorts of summer produce!

IMG_4399[1]

You know it’s summer when… there is corn and melons for sale in the garden shed!!

Josephine, now nine, is providing us with tasty cherry tomatoes again this year.  They’re a golden variety, which we prefer to the reds.  We actually planted a couple of red cherry tomatoes next to them, but the golden win out, hands down!  Jo has been saving her money that she earns from cherry tomatoes.  Thank you for being a part of helping our kids learn how to work, to appreciate how money is earned, and to save!

IMG_4398[1]

We are just about in full swing out at the garden shed. Swing by and take a look at the options. Cucumber orders are in full swing as well. Don’t wait to make your pickles!

 You may notice, however, the limited amount of tomatoes available…  Tomatoes are sensitive plants.  They have to be watered from underneath in order to avoid getting sick from having water on their leaves.  They also need consistent water, and healthy soil composition in order to avoid getting blossom end rot.  Once they set their crop, they need a  ton of support to keep from falling over and breaking their vines!  This year, we planted several sauce tomatoes, heirlooms, and slicing tomatoes.  However, they appear to have suffered from some of that cool weather and summer rain we enjoyed, and many have become sick.  And once they become sick, they are extremely contagious to the plants around them.  As a result, we are limited for now in what we can offer you.  Thankfully, the cherry tomatoes are keeping pace with us thus far.

IMG_4395[1]

Some of the tomatoes starting to ripen up… they’re on their way!

IMG_4396[1]

This is what sick tomatoes look like.  😦  Thankfully, this is not the WHOLE garden.  We’re still hoping for a harvest here in August, but it may be less than last years.


We’ve been planting these funny looking cucumbers (Armenian cucumbers) for a few years now, with varying success.  But this year, they are happy campers, producing more than we’ve ever had before!   Armenian cucumbers are actually a type of melon (also called “snake melons,” because of their length), and are prized for their crisp tenderness, soft seeds, and no need to peel skin.  Also, they’re known as “burp-less” cucumbers.  If you ever find yourself sensitive to cucumbers, try these instead.  They taste great, and are easier to digest!

IMG_4385[1]

Our young zucchini… taking a lesson from the Armenian cucumbers.

IMG_4377[1]

We were blown away to see these purple grapes appear in early spring! I guess you could say we use the power of suggestion with a lot of our crops… LOL (just so you know… they’re fake!)


This is actually a zucchini plant… with an unusually large Armenian cucumber next to it… just think of it as the power of suggestion, and social learning as we train our zucchini plants to produce!  😉  Actually, we have plenty of zucchini plants already in production, and several younger ones to take their place when they get worn out.  With so much zucchini and a few new diets in the household, we’ve been experimenting with a few more ways to cook zucchini this year, including using a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles!  For years, we’ve been making zucchini lasagna, subbing long slices of zucchini in place of traditional noodles, and diet or not, we’ve LOVED it!
We’ve also been experimenting a bit with our other melons.  This year, we tried growing watermelons, in addition to two types of cantaloupe.  We have our opinion of which type is best, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.  The Ambrosia (our usual variety) has softer flesh than the Cruzer, which is crisp no matter how ripe it is!  In case you want to try the different types, you can tell the difference by the netting.  The Cruzers have a dense net on them, while the Ambrosias are much smoother.

IMG_4376[1]

Here’s an example of the smoother ambrosia melon.

 

IMG_4375[1]

And this is an example of the heavier net on the cruzer melons.

Other news on the farm: If you grew ever up on the farm, you probably experienced the fun of finding feral kittens, born in the hay stack, or just running around the barn yard.  We have many fond memories of catching them and taming them to be our own!  In fact, we Hubbards are probably all biased to believe that our cats from the farm are by far the best personalitied cats we’ve ever encountered.  It’s sad to think that so many kids these days find more enjoyment chasing fantasy creatures via their smartphone, and never get to actually cuddle the creature they “caught”.  So, I brought a couple of kids from the local homeless shelter (where I work) with me to experience some good, wholesome country life – cell phones aside.  At a friend’s farm, we donned long sleeves and leather gloves and set about to discovering the feral critters that had moved in.  it didn’t take us too long, and we came away with three little kittens that even the 17 year old boys couldn’t resist!  After a day of cuddling at the shelter, I brought them home, tamed them, and they are ready for new homes.  (Please let us know if you’d like one, and spread the word!)

IMG_4364[1]

Fun on the farm with kittens.  Perhaps this is why the kittens are ready to leave!

 

IMG_4369[1]

Beyond the garden:  We got a new guitar!  Here is our apprentice, studiously taking lessons from Grandpa Hubbard on how to play it.

IMG_4392[1]

The apples are almost ready!  We didn’t thin them very well this year, which is usually necessary to get the biggest, best apples possible.

IMG_4394[1]

Our plum tree is loaded this year, to the point of needing some extra support to keep the branches from breaking!  Here is a close up of those plums…  Should be a good year!

 

IMG_4381[1]

We don’t sell our figs in the garden shed, but we have enjoyed a bumper crop this year!  So delicious and sweet!!

IMG_4374[1]

We have some heads of cabbage just about ready to come out of the garden.

IMG_4373[1]

Another experiment this year: cauliflower.  It’s done well, and we’ve enjoyed it!

Bless the Beasts and the Children: for the birds… and other creatures

In this later part of spring, the birds have already built their nests and are hatching out their young ones.  It’s rather entertaining, watching the cat sneak up on a robin, only to be driven away by two who are fiercely defending their young.  It does become rather annoying however, when the blackbirds insistently bomb you on the way to the mailbox, or during any other endeavor that takes you outside of your door…  It’s these annoying, non-melodic birds that we resent at this time of the year.  Our little boys have caught on, and now carry their plastic rifles around the farm, looking for birds to shoot!  Meanwhile, their mom has been shooting pictures of another bird who has brought his little lady back to the area this spring.  These bright and beautiful orioles love the red hot pokers (flower), which makes for a striking view from our window!DSCN0533b

There are a few things on this farm that we prefer to NOT be for the birds!  Things like our raspberries, strawberries, and chard.  If you have cherries in your yard, no doubt you are fighting the birds as well!  We’ve gone to putting netting over all three of those things, in addition to fencing around much of our gardens, both to keep the chickens out, the deer out, and sometimes even the “little dears” (the helpers that don’t know when they’re standing on top of a baby corn plant).

Other birds in the news – our rooster, which we suspect was dropped here at the farm by a well meaning city dweller, has since met his demise.  He was a pretty fellow, but as he grew, along with his size, he also developed quite the little man syndrome.  And I don’t just mean that he thought he was all sorts of tough stuff, but he really went after our little boys!  We thought this was an excellent opportunity to train the boys in self-defense and assertiveness and teach that rooster a lesson, so they thus ran around the farm with big sticks for awhile.  But they still came running (stick in hand), screaming, and crying, daunted by the multiple attacks they’d endured already.  Thus, our pretty rooster was shown with finality who was really the big man around here; he met la madame guillotine (French around here for “boot”).  The farm now rests in greater peace, as the children no longer run screaming and his ceaseless crow has … well, ceased!  The hens he left behind continue to lay their eggs in all sorts of inordinate places.  When we note that egg production has dropped substantially, we know to look elsewhere.
Besides birds, we’ve had a few other creepy crawly things emerging on the farm!  With the irrigation water back in the ditches, the boys excitedly take their daily trek out to the “big ditch” to check out the water, and look for crawdads!  We haven’t found any big enough to eat yet, and are still working on building the boys’ courage to pick up the crawdads on their own.  The boys are growing quickly, and learning more and more how to help grandpa on the farm.  I’m not sure there is a quicker way to round up all of the grand kids than to start up the four wheeler!  Pretty soon, they’re bailing out of the house, yelling “Bapa!!!  WAIT!!!”  Of course, they’re all pretty excited to learn how to drive the four wheeler too!  The older of the two boys has gotten to be a real help, driving the four wheeler with the pipe trailer through the field as we load/unload the pipes.  The younger one is learning how to run the rototiller with grandpa.
farm pics 2016 017farm pics 2016 019

After rototilling the squash just yesterday, we found another great creepy crawly – a great big bull snake, about 4 feet long!  These beauties can be easily mistaken for rattlesnakes, but we hope you can restrain your rash outburst of fear long enough to realize the difference, and leave their head attached to the body.  The  most obvious difference:  these guys don’t have rattles!

We actually like these snakes around for pest control!  Our more contemplative boy was skeptical of touching that slithery thing, but our little impulsive one has no fear … of much of anything!  We are thankful for these little boys (the older girl is anxiously anticipating the end of school), and the entertainment they bring.  The farm is great fun, but it’s so much more when experienced through the eyes of a 3/5/9 year old!

Here is what is happening in the garden:  With this crazy hot weather we’ve had this week, the squash has been growing like crazy, the tomatoes setting on the vine, and the corn popping up quick!  While the adage says “knee high by the fourth of July,” our corn made it there by the fourth of June this year.  Mr. Hubbard attests that he saw the first of the tassles already emerging on the first planting of corn.  We have opened the doors of the garden shed, but as of yet, have not been selling much more than rhubarb, walnuts, and eggs.  But keep your eyes out; it will soon be more!  Yesterday, we picked this beautiful bounty of beets!  I enjoyed eating some of the green tops for breakfast, and will no doubt have some more beet variations before the day is done.  We also picked the very first of our zucchini and yellow squash (sunburst/pattypan) this week.  We’re not quite ready to share it, but soon!  The garlic are turning the corner, and will be harvested soon; and the onions won’t be far behind.  The broccoli is going to town also!  So keep your eyes open; we expect that the Garden Shed produce will be much diversified over the course of the next couple of weeks!
farm pics 2016 028

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

farm pics 2016 030

chopped beet greens to stirfry for breakfast

P.S.  I realize that some of you got stuck when I mentioned snakes, and probably  haven’t been able to move on from that thought yet.  If those slithery reptile bodies running right through our garden have you on the edge of your seat, skin crawling, and feeling every little tingle, let me put your mind at ease!  Can you imagine what other creepy crawlies we find in the garden?  Or maybe ‘fuzzy wuzzies’?  How about kittens!!  These cuties were found under a tomato bush.  We’re not sure if this was another dump by some city folks, hoping their kitties could have a better life on the farm; or by a mother who forgot where she placed her kittens (tell me you haven’t been there!).  Either way, they fell into some adoring hands, and did not stay at the farm too long.  And thankfully, they did not have to meet the same demise as the rooster!  Before the day was out, we were able to adopt out these cuddlies to some friends.  But isn’t it fun what animals we run into on the farm?!  The dogs found a skunk the other night too! …)  😉farm pics 2016 012farm pics 2016 013
P.S.S.  I’ve been delayed in posting this, and not surprisingly, the garden has grown!  The onions and garlic are out of the ground and curing.  The first of the zucchini and cucumbers are selling in the garden shed, alongside some beautiful flowers and occasional broccoli.  We are ready to roll!!  Meanwhile, the chickens are getting more creative at hiding their eggs, so we’re a little short on those (that and the skunks are finding them before we are!).  We hope to see you out at the farm soon! 🙂

It’s getting hot!

Things are moving fast on the farm!

farm pics 2016 017

Spring on the farm

Already, most of our vegetables have made it into the ground, and are up and sprouted!  It sounds simple, but if you’re here in Southern Oregon, no doubt you have also experienced the back and forth spring weather.  For a bit there in April, we were hitting the eighties before plunging back down to frosty temperatures at night!  Thankfully, we were able to spare most of our plants, although it sure had us scrambling to find extra tarps and clothes to protect  their tender leaves and budding fruit.  The temperatures are taking a turn back for the heat again this week!

farm pics 2016 107

Corn is up! The general rule is “knee high by the 4th of July.” So get ready, but don’t expect to eat any till late July at the earliest.

The irrigation is back as well, and the combination of them both makes for great fun for some little boys!  Part of what makes our farm life so entertaining is the presence of these boys, who get to explore and experience all that we grew up with as well.  Recently, they’ve been turned on to the idea of having great “ventures” (adventures).  Sometimes, this means they go “rock climbing” back on the hill.  This and tree climbing is probably what got me (April) started on some of my own rock climbing adventures as an adult.  One of their ‘ventures’ took them worm hunting, and later fishing with Grandma up at the pond!

farm pics 2016 079

The famous “rocks” on the farm. We love to climb these! And whether it is real or imagined (we can’t remember the difference anyhow), we have all sorts of Indian lore about the history of these rocks.

farm pics 2016 025

Grandma took the kids out for a grand “venture” (a.k.a. “adventure”) to go fishing at the pond. What a beautiful day!

farm pics 2016 045

An excited little boy caught a fish!

farm pics 2016 049

What a great farm girl!

We love seeing the kids love the farm as much as we do!  Some things about the farm are really hard to share with you via type font or pictures.  Like the smells, for one – the locust trees just finished their blooming.  Extinguished blossoms now lay in drifts across the driveway.  Locust blossoms, to me, are one of the first definite smells of summer.  That subtly sweet perfumed air, mixed in with the warm undertones of hot dirt and drying cow manure.  Add in notes of the sharper, but still sweet smell of fresh cut grass, wet dirt after the fields and lawns have just been sprinkled, and the smell of hay drying in the fields – this is what sunshine smells like!  The beauty of it is catching each of the smells in layered waves as they drift in on the still cool breezes of late spring.  The smell of locusts are replaced by roses, laurels, and more hay now.

farm pics 2016 111

A sweet (late) spring day

To round out the picture for you, you’ll have to imagine the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze in all of it’s different tones – the locusts, the maples, and the pines.  The orioles have come back, and join the robins, blackbirds, and hummingbirds in their songs.  The water is now gurgling through the irrigation ditches again.  And somewhere not too far away, a chicken brashly declares the arrival of her latest accomplishment: “Look, look, look: AN EGG!  Look, look, look, AN EGG!”  (We’re pretty sure this is what they’re saying when they cluck so much!  If you say it aloud at your computer screen, I’m sure you’ll get a similar effect, and really bring home the sounds of the farm! …Not to mention some added entertainment for the others who hear you.)

farm pics 2016 082

Hot days + irrigation water = pure bliss for some little boys! We love farm life!

With all this warm weather, and the first hints of summer, it’s amazing how the switch is suddenly flipped in people’s minds.  Not just towards camping and boating, but immediately, thoughts of gardens and fresh veggies fill their minds like sugar plums supposedly do at Christmas time!  We suppose this is why plant sales take off about now – the frosts are past, and for those who haven’t thought about their gardens till the heat came, they get to buy their starts from those who have been preparing for awhile now (like the high school ag. classes).  We appreciate the sales as well, as it helps us to replace whatever starts have died from frost, deer, or insects already.  We are told that many customers are already keeping their eyes on our signs, but please understand that it takes a few months for those baby plant starts to become productive!  At this early point in the season, the asparagus and chard are nearing their end, and the broccoli is just getting started.  We have opened our garden shed with the meager offerings of spring: some chard (quickly gone), broccoli, English walnuts (harvested last fall), and rhubarb and eggs by request.  We are experimenting with some collard greens this year too. We Northerners aren’t quite sure what to do with it yet, but YouTube is a pretty great teacher for such things!

farm pics 2016 101

This little guy is a GREAT helper! Of course, sometimes he thinks he’s helping more than he actually is (i.e. ‘weeding’ the onions by pulling them out). But someday, he’ll catch on to those finer points and be a great farmer. Here he is cutting chard for the Garden Shed.

farm pics 2016 095

Our broccoli puts out a fine first head… but it is taking awhile to sprout some new florets after the grand initial harvest.

farm pics 2016 066

Cherry tomatoes will be the first delicious taste of its kind this summer.

Some of the other things on the farm – the raspberries are just starting to produce a few berries, and our strawberries are struggling along as well.  It has not been a very strong year for either so far.  We’ve planted cabbage and cauliflower (another new experiment), beans, peppers, eggplant, melons, cucumbers, and all sorts of squash.  We also bought and planted a couple more apple trees this year.  Our plum tree is loaded, and thankfully made it through the recent frosts, and so far, has been out of reach of the deer!  Our rooster has joined the rest of the brood, and has been terrorizing the boys… but the chickens are happy, and laying quite a few eggs!  We have plenty of extras to sell, and they are truely “free-range” and “cage free”!  Two other weeds are blooming here – one we love, and one we hate:  Blackberries, and puncture vine!  Summer is almost here!  we hope you all enjoy these beautiful spring days!

farm pics 2016 114

Ew, yuck!! Just a reminder to keep your eyes out for puncture vine. It’s starting to bloom now. Please, PLEASE spray it, kill it, and do whatever you can to dispose of it BEFORE it sets its nasty little seeds! To learn more about this noxious invasive weeds, please refer back to our previous post – https://hubbardsgardenshed.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/blackberries-puncture-vine/

Spring Is Sprung!

spring 2016 083

It’s that time already!  The gardens are being tilled under and the next crops planted!

 

We made a good run of it last year, making it all the way to November before the garden was finally tilled under, into the ground!  Now if you think that means it’s time to take a breather and kick up our feet for awhile, you’re mistaken!  In November, we began receiving loads of leaves from the city which we released from their bags and added to the compost pile.  Thank you for your contributions to our soil!  With the addition of some lovely cow manure (we can say that, on the farm!), and the hard work of a gazillion worms, our pile has been breaking down in preparation for rejuvenating our garden soil.  Not to mention, it has been all sorts of fun for the young boys to climb on and ‘work’ on with their dump trucks!

Winter 2015-16 061

Mr. Hubbard started our garden during the cold winter months… indoors of course!  Here are your tomatoes! 🙂

Although it seemed we had just finished with the garden, we were just beginning the next.  By January, Mr. Hubbard was already paging his way through seed catalogs, and placing his orders.  Meanwhile, us girls spent many hours  cuddled up to the wood stove, cracking a fraction of the abundant walnut harvest we had this year!  By February, the garlic was well on it’s way in the garden, and the we began to plant the onions.  In addition to the alums, the first of the other garden seeds were already in the soil… just not outside.  Mr. Hubbard carefully planted tiny little seeds to sprout indoors before being potted up into larger pony packs, and larger pots…  Can you believe how much our garden has grown already?

spring 2016 106

Here is our garden in it’s beginning stages! Basil, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and of course some pretty flowers. 🙂

Another task during those cool winter months has been pruning back the fruit trees and vines.  The little ones love to ‘assist’ Grandpa in this job… it’s a wonder he gets to hold the clippers or have access to the ladder at all!  I also got to try my hand at learning and practicing the different ways of pruning plum trees versus apple trees.

spring 2016 101

We love everything apple in the fall… but we also LOVE the pretty pink blossoms in the spring!

A youth recently mourned within my earshot of the brutality of cutting off limbs and branches from perfectly happy fruit trees…  If you happen to be susceptible to this mindset, let me put your mind at ease by pruning any misinformed neural branches:  Pruning is necessary to keep a tree healthy, and to encourage larger fruit.  It requires cutting dead and diseased wood out so that the disease does not spread; and, cutting excess branches that may not be strong enough to hold the fruit or that may prevent sunlight from getting to the center.  It also helps to limit the number of fruit to be invested in so that the fruit we pick is larger, and worth the effort!

spring 2016 102

These beautiful blossoms will be our plums come fall.

We won’t reap the benefits from our fruit trees and vines for several more months, but meanwhile, can you believe that we’ve already been harvesting a few things from our garden?!Lettuce was the first of them.

spring 2016 091

Our iris are blooming beautifully in front of a fully loaded fig tree! Fig trees only bear fruit on second year wood, so require a different strategy for pruning.

Mr. Hubbard has them potted up against a south facing wall in order to soak up the heat and crank up the early production!  He also got the chard planted early, so that we’ve been able to harvest some of that also.The asparagus comes up on its own year after year, and it was just in time to satiate that early spring craving for something green and extra tasty!  The rhubarb is growing heartily, and will be ready in no time!  The strawberries have yet to flower, but is anyone else thinking of strawberry rhubarb pie yet?

We’ve had one other unexpected garden harvest – Eggs!  I suspect that there were a few of you recently out hunting eggs in your own lawns and gardens as we all celebrated new life through our Savior.  One of the fun things about having our own chickens is that the Easter egg hunt never really ends!  Our renegade chickens rarely lay in the boxes provided for them.  Instead, we are constantly hunting for, or tripping on new clutches of eggs… under the rototiller, in the hay trough, or in the garden cart!  We do have some extra eggs for sale, if you’d like, and they are definitely “cage free” and “free range”!

2015 148

Those tricky chickens! They’ve done it again, and managed to lay a whole clutch of eggs outside of our awareness!

2015 145

Our perpetual Easter egg hunt paid off!

The work never really stops on the farm – it just changes with the weather and season.  Now that spring has made it’s glorious entrance, we’ve been pruning back bushes, and rototilling some of the gardens to plant.  Things are sprouting and blooming beautifully!  We hope you are all able to enjoy it as well!

spring 2016 104

This pretty rooster must have been making too much noise in town for some folks wanting to sleep in. He was dumped at our place, and has now made his home here.  Let us know if you’d like a rooster!

 

Winter 2015-16 059

Winter 2015-16 057

The same sunrise, burning up our sky.

Tom-A-toes? Tom-ah-toes?… What’s the difference anyhow?

IMG_3900[1]

We have enjoyed these past cooler days, and downright chilly mornings! Some people ask if they can get corn stalks from us in October. We’ve already chucked them into the field for the cows, but if you’d like to salvage a few, they’re probably not too far gone… YET.

 

 

IMG_3897[1]

Besides tomatoes, we have some of these available in the garden shed too: peppers (in 3 varieties), garlic, onions, broccoli, chard, zucchini, sunburst squash, cucumbers (in 3 varieties), melons, spaghetti squash, green beans, and fresh cut flowers

IMG_3899[1]

Look at these beauties! They fairly scream “Fall!” The dahlias are starting to bloom too, which is a sure sign of fall!

We found a great basket at a yard sale – the small kind that you find at any supermarket when you don’t want an entire cart. These are great for picking into, and surprisingly hard to find for sale! Well, we put it to good use this morning and picked somewhere close to 100 pounds of tomatoes, probably more! So now, as I write this, the aroma of Italy is wafting through our house as fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, rosemary, and jalapenos (all fresh from our garden) meld together into culinary bliss! As for the other 140 pounds of tomatoes, well, they’re still out in the garden shed waiting for a loving home, so come on by and claim them!

A customer recently asked me if we had tomatoes… Oh my, do we have tomatoes. He had no idea what he was looking for really, but had been sent by his wife to get something red and round, known as ‘tomatoes.’ “Well,” I explained, “we have slicing, sauce, or heirloom tomatoes” (I was assuming that his wife had not sent him to get cherry tomatoes, and hence had left that one out).
“What’s the difference?” He asked. He is not the first to ask this, so with our abundance of tomatoes on hand, I thought we should take a moment to explain what exactly is the difference between all of those you see on the shelf, and what you might be able to concoct from each of them:

  • Slicing tomatoes – These are your standard, ‘I just want a sandwich’ tomatoes. They’re juicy, and taste good. They’re also great to serve sliced (we like them with mayonnaise or cottage cheese on them).  We must note that these are hybrid tomatoes, NOT GMO.  Hybrid simply means that they have been bred for a certain trait, such as predictable size, disease resistance, color, etc.  GMO means that the actual genetic code has been changed in the DNA in order to include attributes taken from another species.  None of our products are GMO, nor have they been in the past.
IMG_3895[1]

The ‘regular’ tomatoes.

    • Heirloom tomatoes – These are your fancy tomatoes, fullest in flavor, called ‘heirloom’ because they are of a variety that has been handed down for generations. They are your truest tomato out there, not hybrid, (crossed for any special features, such as size, good looks, disease resistance, ability to be shipped, perfect skin, etc…). Heirlooms have made a big comeback in recent years. My guess for this is because people are becoming much more leery of what is being done to their food, and wanting to go back to the ‘good ol’ days’ when food was still good for you; no genetically modified organisms, no pesticides or herbicides, and no crazy other unknown factors. The mindset behind this might be summed up by “Just quit messing with our food!” So, the heirloom tomatoes have not been ‘messed with.’ Another reason they’ve made the comeback is because of their unbeatable flavor.  Because they haven’t been crossed and specially bred, they retain their fantastic flavor, which is probably why these specific breeds have been passed down through the generations in the first place (thus the name ‘heirloom’). On the downside, they don’t hold as long or as well, and often come in funny shapes or colors. Then again, the colors and shapes can be a lot of fun too!
      We have a few different kinds of heirloom tomatoes this year: momotaros, chocolates, and brandywine.

        • The momotaros are a pretty pink color, and a firmer tomato with great flavor! They are a Japanese tomato, and are very sweet.  They aren’t typically quite as big as the other tomatoes.
      IMG_3894[1]

      Momotaros, or ‘pinks’ are decidedly pink in color. But don’t mistake that to mean they aren’t ripe or tasty!

        • Cherokee Chocolates are (naturally) a darker color, and have some stripes to them. They are a very juicy tomato, and often grow very large, and in some funny shapes. They also have really great flavor.
      IMG_3892[1]

      Cherokee Chocolates – These darker, and a bit stripey tomatoes are in the center.

        • Brandywines look most similar to a regular tomato, but might still have some green stripes on the shoulders.  There are about 7 different types of brandywines.  We chose this particular variety because it has less wrinkles.

      IMG_3893[1]

      They look pretty average, but they don’t taste average! We choose these brandywine tomatoes because they are smoother skinned.

    • Sauce tomatoes – These tomatoes are oblong, with a pointed end.  They are not nearly as juicy as the other tomatoes, which lends them to making thicker sauces, and to lasting a bit longer than your other tomatoes.  We love to use these tomatoes to make marinara and salsa .  We also like to dry them, and feel like ours turn out every bit as good (and better) than those fancy ‘sun dried tomatoes’ you buy in the jars.
IMG_3896[1]

Roma paste tomatoes, or ‘sauce’ tomatoes. These are a bit lower priced than the others. Please note that each type of tomato is priced differently.

    • Canning tomatoes – These are mostly slicing tomatoes, but may include some heirlooms as well.  Pretty much, the canning tomatoes are the catch-all for the tomatoes that are either small, split while they were growing, or are just not pretty or normal for whatever reason!  They still taste great, and are (obviously) great for canning!  We definitely appreciate having our own canned tomatoes to throw into some spaghetti sauce or Kashmiri lamb – those great winter time crock pot recipes!  Another point that sets these tomatoes apart from the rest is the price.  These we sell at half the price as regular slicing tomatoes, for only $.50/lb, but they must go by the box!
    • Cherry tomatoes – We actually have golden cherry tomatoes instead of the cherry red ones.  The color may not be as bright, but we love these ones for their flavor as well.  They are great as a snack all on their own, or in salads.  Our little farm-girl-in training is responsible for picking these this year, and all of the proceeds are being stowed away into her ‘college fund.’  🙂  She is always thrilled to sell you some!

IMG_3891[1]

Jo’s cherry tomatoes (aka – college fund).

“So,” you may ask, “What do you do with all of these tomatoes?”  Here’s just a flash of what WE have been doing:

IMG_3887[1]

Salsa, in the making! It was delicious. We’re lucky we didn’t eat it all before it got canned. We added a dash of liquid smoke to it this time, which gave it a chipotle flavor.

IMG_3889[1]

We made salsa today with more of the sauce tomatoes. Our recipe included onions, bell peppers, jalepenos, garlic, cilantro, lime, salt & pepper (and tomatoes, of course!). We didn’t grow the cilantro or limes, but the rest of it, we did! 🙂

IMG_3881[1]

Our favorite marinara recipe, made with sauce tomatoes, basil, garlic, rosemary, and jalepenos, all fresh from our garden! (just not the salt and pepper)

IMG_3884[1]

Our marinara, blended, cooked down, and ready to process.