Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall shearing is always bittersweet. Bitter because it means the departure of a good portion of the Spring lambs to the butcher.
Sweet because it never fails to bring the farm together for a few hours....for a happy chaotic union of paws, horns, beaks, and fleece.

"The mountain sheep are sweeter, but the valley sheep are fatter. We therefore deemed it meeter to carry off the latter."
-Thomas Peacock-

The day was made lovely by a misty drizzle. It was Jane Austen weather. The kind of weather that swells the heart, crinkles the nose in delightful ways, and gives even the dullest soul thoughts of writing a novel in one's slippers. The kind of day that makes you hang around the kitchen and rebell at the thought of tromping out in the gray dampness....but once you do, you soften into a gentle sort of happiness.
The cats were laying about in the lotiony fleeces...
the curious laying ladies came about...grabbing up grain for themselves....
the sheep would playfully nose them...distracted by the stress of a smaller enclosure and the buzzing of the electric shears.

Melba loves the camera.
To look at her, is to understand the essence of a warm and dear (and slightly pudding-y) Grandma.
But once shorn, she is (in the words of farmer Shane) a veritable SPRING CHICKEN, galumphing about as if she was not but a little lamb...ready for a first mating.
8 years ago I found a small note tucked into my College mailbox...I unfolded my curious and mysterious little epistle and found scrawled these words by St. Exupery from The Little Prince:

"If someone wants a sheep, then that means he exists."

and I must confess a romantic attachment to them ever since. There is nothing you want to lunge for a grab and cuddle more than a sheep when it has been newly shorn.

chocolate, fresh from her hair cutting appt.

Monday, September 20, 2010

THAT BIG GREEN ROPE OF VEGGIE IN YOUR BOX THIS WEEK IS MALABAR SPINACH prized by gourmet chefs...even the stems are edible. Slice it up and let the feasts begin!!

The last of the seasons Harvests are under way. The eggplant is surprising us with a final push of fruiting, the lettuces have been plucked from their dusty beds...the final round of radishes was stunning...and the celery, is a veritable sea. We have been canning apple cider, baking bread, slaughtering chickens, and Fall shearing.

Keats' ODE TO AUTUMN is perfect these days...
read it ALOUD to a loved one...or to the clouds as you walk fully sweatered on a woodland path...or in a thunderous trumpeting voice that causes the surrounding cubicles to quake! Thank you to Mim for sending it to us!

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Little Flower Farm Bread Shares

We will be offering 30 Artisan Bread Shares this Winter.

$156.00 for 12 weeks (beginning in November) of bread delivered to local drop sites.

Each week you will receive one loaf of the bread of the week and a share in the weekly sweet (9 cookies, or 2 mini sweet breads, or 8 bars).

Goat Cheese can also be ordered weekly as supplies allow.
french bread
oatmeal bread
white mountain bread
chocolate morning bread
whole wheat bread
7 grain bead
farmhouse rye
dinner rolls
cuban bread
garlic herb bread

email for a Little Flower Farm Bread Share application:

Support the Farm this Winter!

In what may have been our Waterloo, we transplanted some asian greens to a newly constructed hoophouse in the hopes that they would sprint to the finish and smile up at members in their last boxes.

We have been composting chicken and rabbit manure in these beds for a year now, and the resulting soil is pure fertile sponge. An Organic grower's dream bed.

Yet it cannot be denied that this sudden transplanting push felt somewhat...untimely. After the exhileration any gardener feels at seeing tilled soil, ready and waiting for seed and growing green things...we hit a wall of fatigue that signaled the nearing end of the growing season, the change in weather...and the end of mass plantings.

And then, Sunday, in what can only be compared to tragic soap opera drama, the chickens breached our temporary fencing, and began to play "scratch and sniff" in our newly planted beds.

One of the difficulties in veggie farming is the emotional toll that sweet little tranplants can take on the human heart. One feels an almost motherly attraction toward them...and all the anxieties and smiles and tears that can pour from a parent's heart towards his or her little ones, can also be wrenched from the farmer's towards these green growing things. By Fall, the veggie farmer MUST stop the is too much twanging on the heart strings!

(Or so our thoughts ran as we stood stupefied, gazing at our poor little ripped up transplants, gasping and groaning for soil and water.)

Not so nice thoughts about chickens also ran through our heads....perhaps it is the coming of Fall and the impending Winter...but I have been imagining quite a lot of slowly rotating spits lately....
But as Nature so often and so gently and so slyly does, She won us over again with the discovery of a mother hen and her newly hatched chicks out in the field.

She had gone off and raised a fine little troop all by herself without our knowledge....and you should see how tall she stands when she is leading her little ones around, or protecting them from passers by....she scratches around in the dirt for them, and teaches them to poke their little beaks around for breakfast.....imagine! No heat lamps or chick starter ration! Just good Old (wise) Mother Nature at her best! We are continually awed and inspired by the things that happen on this farm...that we have nothing to do with!

Beatrice had another litter of kittens.

When we first moved here, the yard was a maze of mole hills. Outdoor cats with claws have definately cleared up that problem!

Beatrice brings her little ones freshly caught moles and voles and mice several times a day...preparing them for careers as world class mousers!

The pastures are showing fantastic signs of recovery due to just one season of grazing. It is amazing how livestock can even the playing field and cut out the competition for some of the lusher grasses.

The rabbits are all sold, and destined for stews, pies, and bistro dishes.

The last of the lettuces will go out in this week's CSA deliveries. I will miss those butterheads. We will experiment with some Season extension this Fall...
Plans to put in a perennial flower border to the west of the Vegetable field are in the making. We need more pollinators!

Last of the Zinnias

The broilers will be ready in a week or so. They have generously fertilized a nice chunk of next year's veggie acreage.
Integrated animal systems on CSA farms are simply dreams come true for both farmer and animal. Thank you to all of our members who have supported these projects during our 2010 season.

The Scythe Chronicles

We are preparing the fields for Fall sown cover crops, and for next year's sheep and goat pastures.The scythe is our tried and true trusty tool for the job. It is a favorite job at our favorite time of year. The slow and steady rhythm of the scythe makes for contemplative work...the air is starting to cool, and the sound of the blade "scithing" through the grass is rustic poetry.
Farmer Shane believes the first thing to be done when endeavoring to scythe a field is to find yourself a pair of good ol' "Scything Socks". Old timers believed that a sturdy pair of socks not only secured your legs from the whipping grasses and grain heads, but also put the fear of God into the field.* Farmer Shane endorses "Ring of Fire" Scything socks...guaranteed to quake any grass.
We use a European Scythe, with the straighter snath. It is much easier on the back. The blade does all the work, and the tip of the blade must be scrupulously maintained with a wet stone every twenty cuts or so. All the effort is in the swing of your torso-not your arms. (It's good practice for aspiring tennis players)

The windrow is the fallen grass left behind as the scyther progresses through the field.

Next year we plan to scythe the cover crop as we prepare successive beds to transplant our CSA veggies in, and then use the fallen crop as mulch.

In days past, whole teams of men used to scythe fields of grain for Fall harvest. They would work in a line, 4 or 5 abreast, and steadily cut the grain. Apparently large amounts of "the juice of the barley" were consumed on such days...and a good scytheing man was measured by how straight his windrows matter the quantity imbibed. Gives a whole new twist to "the straight and narrow".

*l.f.f. tall tale

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Comfort me with Apples"
-Song of Solomon
September has already stolen up behind us and given us a kiss of cool weather and a nice soaking storm.
We are testing out loaf upon loaf of bread in our kitchen, getting ready for our Winter bread share. A glass of apple cider, a hearth with a toasty fire, and a loaf of french bread with butter swalloped all over it- that is our idea of a happy evening.
white mountain bread
We have been working on:
*chocolate morning bread (a soft mini loaf of buttery goodness filled with a surprise dollap of chocolate)
*french bread with a killer crunchy crust
* "White Mountain Bread" to make your kids and spouses worship you
* Country Bread (a large boule with lovely slashes in the top, to tear apart while hiking through the park and enjoying the Fall foliage)
The pigs got out this morning.
(Don't you just love the thrill that comes with reading those words??)
We found them amongst the fallen tomatoes.
They saw Shane coming out for the morning chores and trundled after him as if to say :"Oh! Dude! Good to see you! We were lost! Show us the trough if you please!"
(Pork uses adolescent slang. Bean would never utter "Dude, man" or anything of that sort. She's more the English Rose sort.)
Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples and Cider Cream Sauce
*3 Tbsp unsalted butter
* 1 large shallot, minced
*1/2 C apple cider
*1/2 C cider vinegar
*1/2 tsp finely chopped sage
*1 and 1/4 C chicken stock
*2/3 C heavy cream
*6 pork loin chops
*1/2 tsp salt
*1/4 tsp pepper
*3 Apples, peeled, cored, and cut each into 8 wedges
*2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over moderately low heat.
Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. (5 min.)
Add apple cider, vinegar, and sage, bring to a boil, and boil until reduced to about 1/2 C (8 min.)
Add 1 C stock and boil till reduced to about 3/4 C (12 min.)
Add cream and boil until reduced to about 1 C (8 minutes)
Meanwhile pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet over moderately high heat till foam subsides. Add chops in 2 batches and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, 6-8 minutes per batch. Transfer chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Pour off fat from skillet. Add remaining tbsp butter then add the apples and cook, turning occaisionally, until golden and just tender, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and gently toss with brown sugar.
Add remaining 1/4 C sotck and deglaze pan by boiling over high heat stirring and scraping up brown bits for 1 minute. Stir this liquid into the sauce. Transfer apples to the platter with the pork and pour sauce on top.

apples from Charlie and Whistling Well Farm