L'Ecuyer Gardens

  (Morrowville, Kansas)
A Day in the Life
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The Sweetest Rain!!

It has been a very busy week and as I prepare for tomorrow at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Lincoln, Nebraska to say I am a motivated seller is an understatement.  The colors and textures are changing a little this week.  I have A LOT of tomatoes and cucumbers. 

New offerings will include two items I am especially proud of:  The first is my edamame soy beans and the second is my little finger eggplant…  I have had a few each week but this week I am finally starting to get some volume. I will also have 1 honey dew melon and sadly I think it will be the only one I have this season. I will also have an entire rainbow of tomatoes.  You really owe it to yourself to try our Great White Beefsteak or maybe a Nebraska Wedding Tomato. There is also my Black Krim, my orange Moon Glow, and my pink Raspberry Lyeanna and a few Japanese Black Trieffle.  The cherry tomatoes are still going strong, but I see the end of the road ahead… at the most I will have three more weeks.  Other items will include large and small black beauty eggplant, green bell peppers, dulche peppers, jalapeno peppers, chili peppers, okra, Tabouli kits, mint, parsley, sweet corn and a few cantaloupes.  I will also have red and yellow onions and I am down to about 10 pounds of potatoes.  I almost forgot the cucumbers, and a few assorted summer squash and eggs.   I had someone stop by last Sunday looking for cucumbers to pickle.  If you are still looking, please visit me tomorrow. 

I am trying something new this week.  I will bring with me a recipe card for a one-skillet dish my family enjoys that goes from fresh to Yum in about 30 minutes.  It is called Cowboy Stir-fry.   It is one that is great as a vegetarian dish.  It also jumps to life with about any meat option.  It will feature many of the items I will have for sale.  If I have time I will put together a second dish we like a lot that has more of an Italian flair.  I have lots of 30 minute meal options so when you visit me me ask and I will offer how this busy mom finds time to cook fresh and please the hungry natives at my house! :)  

The water ban was put into effect and since God has given us 4 inches of rain.  If you ever wonder who you should put your faith in … government or God… I have unmistakable evidence to support the later.  We are a long way from the drought being over but we will take what has been given and say THANK YOU.   

I still have some big decisions to make regarding my fall and winter gardens and we are also setting up our game plan for 2013.  We need to make some big changes for next yearand we hope we will learn what you would like to have available. In order for my business to ever get to a point that it provides income for my family it has to have MORE customers so we are pretty willing to consider your needs as we make our decisions.

I have some huge news...  The week of August 14, my produce will be featured on the menu of one of the most upscale restaurants in all of Lincoln.  I will share more about this in the near future.  The Lincoln Journal Star has also talked about my produce in one of their feature stories covering the Lincoln farmers markets.  Both have made that decision based upon my quality, my selection and my price… despite what has been an extremely difficult growing year.  The North Central Kansas Regional Planning Commission featured me in their newsletter this summer and I have heard from several of my customers that I provided them with their BEST tomato plants AND that I sell the BEST tomatoes at OCFM. I have had visitors to my farm from Salina, Colby and Missouri because they have been told I am a MUST visit farm.  I am thrilled, honored, PROUD, and GREATEFUL but in order for my business to survive I need YOU!  

Livie is now riding her bike without training wheels.  She actually removed them herself.  My Autie has decided she wants to learn how to tie her shoes.  She is not yet 4, but she does not want to be outdone by her sister.  We also spent the week getting Livie’s immunization records up to date for kindergarten and getting some of the necessary doctor visits out of the way. 

Next week we have a few fun days planned.  We have back to school shopping and a trip to the Lincoln Zoo and the Lincoln Children’s Museum scheduled.  Because we are making the back to school scramble we WILL NOT DELIVER THIS week and the following week Livie starts Kindergarten.  I have decided that week will be devoted to my girls and getting our house ready for back to school.  We will be available for on-farm sales by appointment.  You will also find us covering our Sunday market at Old Cheney.   I hope everyone can understand the Mom in me needs to invest in my girls as this summer draws to a close. 

My thoughts of gratitude for the week are focused on the sweet rain and the cooler temperatures.  We will be headed to church in a few hours and I will generously offer my prayers of gratitude.  I am grateful for my farmer hubby who to date is my best handy man, and best customer.  I am also grateful for my two giggly girls who stole what few strawberries I had to pick and put them in their PLAY refrigerator.  I am also grateful that I was able to find the amusement offered by the discovery of the mess created.  Finally I am grateful for my loyal customers who visit or order from me each week.  I have two gentlemen whose tomatoes will be waiting for them tomorrow morning because I know they will be there first thing!  GRATITUDE.  J

v
 
 

Monday

Sunday morning Autie woke up at 2:30 a.m. (as I was hoping to finally go to bed) with a fever and throwing up.  With Tom in the midst of wheat harvest I was unable to make it to the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE.  Normally Tom would have the girls spend the day with him in the combine and playing in the fields, but that was not going to work for Autie.  I hate missing my markets, but Autie needed me.  She barely ate anything until 4:00 a.m. this morning when she woke up demanding breakfast.  L So you can imagine I have not had very much sleep the past two days.  On the plus side, for those who live nearby, I have a lot of produce available on farm at really good prices, so stop by. 

Autie is feeling better, but her germs were passed to me.  I can only hope to rebound as quickly as she did. Despite feeling under the weather I did manage to get a few things done today. 

I cleaned up some of my seed trays and added the dead plant material to my current compost pile.  The pile is really growing which is good. We are learning as we go about compost, but are finding the effort to be worthwhile.  We are fairly remote and buying compost is expensive, especially when you factor in transportation.  When you really think about it, there is no need for us to go off farm.  We just need to learn what we need to know.  Who knows in time we may get to the point we have compost for sale.  Building up organic matter is important for produce farms... especially if you are trying to use organic growing practices.  Organic matter provides nutrients; helps retain moisture within the soil, and can also help minimize weeding.  

I checked on my tomatoes and my Orange Parchute and red fig tomatoes are starting to ripen like crazy.  That is GREAT news.  Usually once cherry tomatoes start they fruit like gang busters.  I also expect to have a few red beefsteaks by the weekend.  I see some others that are also starting to ripen as well.  Bring them on.  I also checked on some other things and my green beans have flowers and tiny bean pods on and I will have beans within the next week to 10 days.  The zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers have also kicked into gear.  The sweet corn is tasseling and now it is just a matter of time.  My chili peppers and bell peppers are still growing and I hope to have some by the weekend.  It may or may not happen. 

I also finished my online store and made my updates for the first part of the week.  Now you can go to http://lecuyergardens.locallygrown.net/ and place your order.  This will make it a lot easier to keep up on availability and help my customers track what they have spent.  In time I will have the ability to accept debit and credit cards and will always willingly collect at the time of delivery.  My online store will work for my mid-week deliveries and for my farm market customers.  A few customers have already placed their weekly order and there is still time for both my Wednesday and Thursday deliveries.  Some items ship very well and now my attention is focusing on how that could work for those who live outside the area. 

Tonight the girls had a slumber party with their Grandma Betty and I am working on paper work and laundry. I also need to clean my kitchen.  I made a batch of tabouli using our hard red winter wheat and yum!  Bulgur wheat is good, but our wheat adds a nutty flavor and since it is our wheat I am a little biased.  I need to check the rules to see if this is something I am able to bring already prepared.  It is good and on a hot day fills you up without the heavy feeling.  The flavor improves the longer it sets in the fridge.  If you make a batch and are not totally impressed you may be astounded to learn what the tiniest amount of salt can do to balance the flavors.  It does not need very much.  I future batches I will add the salt to the water as I cook the wheat berries.

In the morning I hope to feel well enough to go pick wild raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  I also need to plant a few more things.  I hope plant the first of my fall squash this week.  Livie has t-ball s Wednesday and Friday and Grandma Carol is planning to come out here to see her game Friday night.  We hope to be able to take her out for supper afterwards.  She is driving more than two hours just to see a t-ball game!!!!  My girls will be thrilled. 

Tom expects to be finished with wheat harvest by Thursday and I can tell he is ready.  Normally wheat harvest is followed by a frenzied period where he plants either soybeans or milo in the wheat fields.  We have fields we planted a few weeks ago when we were expecting rain that has not come up.   We have not received the rain needed.  If it is not going to rain there really is no point.  This is all part of farming, but… we need it to rain.

My thoughts of gratitude focus on finding a few ways to work smarter and not harder.  I am hopeful the online store will make ordering easier for you.  I also hope it will make it easier to keep track of each individual order.  Technology can be frustrating but it is a good thing.v
 
 

The Preparation continues

It is approximately midnight and in seven hours I will be on my way to the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE.  In tow is a lot of hard work and if I don’t day some great produce. 

The girls and I spent the last two days picking wild berries and so the items I am most proud of include gooseberries, wild raspberries and choke cherries.  I will also have the very last of this year’s sour cherries, the first of this year’s blackberries and some mulberries.  This may not sound like a lot, but believe me it felt like a lot.  Yesterday I took the girls down my sand road for the first time.  Tom not sure it was a good idea allowed me to have the pick up for the morning and demanded I take along our dogs Fatty and Reba and my cell phone power cord.  Everyone except Fatty enjoyed the field trip and the girls loved the sand road so much they are demanding we go back but with shovels and buckets next time. 

Livie is taking this all in.  I am so pleased with my gooseberries and wild raspberries and she has cooed and clucked over all of them.  As a sign of support she decided the sand in the road was “wild” sand.  As she put it, “it’s so much softer than our sand.”  She is right it is very soft.  Spotting a locust tree she immediately announced we have also found Meer cat food and we had to pick some.  I am not up on my Meer cats but I am not as convinced as she is that this is proof of their presence in North Central Kansas.  Tom is doing his best to hold his tongue on the fact that the locust trees are an unwelcomed addition to our farm. 

For the entire outing, Autumn was still tormented by the bird that sounds like a kitten crying, but was more accepting that yellow kitty was not in the weeds.  While on our field trip today everyone had to stop and allow the box turtle to safely cross the road.  It was in a hurry but you know how turtles are.  Tonight Autie is not feeling very well and I hope a good night’s rest will help. 

It is days like today when my girls and I are able to share something we all love… exploring the untamed, that fills me with intense joy.   I am blessed to have girls who not only indulge my passion, but who also seem to enjoy it.  They busy themselves with their own searches and as a result have developed some of the wildest imaginations you will ever find.  I cannot help but wonder… Will they remember days like these when it is their turn to be the Mommy?   What will be their special times be like?  Will they call me to tell me about it?  While out we talked a lot about babies and each girl wanted to hear their story of what life was like for them when the lived in my tummy.  We also faced some tough questions about the birds and the bees.  Yes girls the order is high school, college, job/ business, MARRIAGE then babies.  We practiced this part together OUT LOUD. 

I know I have talked a lot about wild fruit lately, but the produce is also starting to kick in.   I will bring the first of my summer squash and cucumbers, mint and parsley, potatoes, peas, kale, broccoli, collard greens, some tomatoes, bags of hard red winter wheat berries and more tabouli kits.  This week’s kit will not use bulgur, but the hard red winter wheat.  I will also have a few onions and radishes and of course eggs.  I almost forgot the rhubarb and wheat bouquets.   I do not have a lot of anyone thing, but hopefully enough different things to make everything work. 

Tom has been busy cutting wheat and it is a disappointing crop.  It is not yielding.  He is especially quiet  when he comes home and I am trying to keep things on an even keel in the name of moral support.  It is not enough that the wheat crop is doing poorly but we are to the point with our corn and beans that a good rain just will not be enough.  We are also not putting up as much hay as we should for this winter and that will prve to be a problem.    We have never had a year where we were looking at crop failure for EVERYTHING.  The only reason I have a garden to harvest from is because we have the well at our home and at some point we may have to choose my garden or the livestock.  We will choose the livestock. 

This is part of farming, but knowing that does little to reduce the stress level in my home at the moment.  We continue to pray for rain and we would love for you to pray on our behalf.  We are hardly the only farmers in need of it.  Praying for rain would be a meaningful and powerful show of support for thousands of farmers between Colorado and Indiana.  We all need rain.  This is your food we are raising and our livelihood all rolled into one interdependent ball of twine.  We ALL need rain. 

My statement of gratitude focuses on two giggly, red-headed little girls with brown eyes and beautiful smiles.  What would I do without you?  It has been a GREAT couple of days. 

 
 

The Birds, Bees and Hazards of Wild Fruit

This morning started with a visit to the pea patch.  The current rows are nearly finished.  I sold most of what was picked today already and will hopefully have some for Sunday.  I have two more rows that are just starting to flower and if everything works out, I will have peas for another three weeks. 

Afterwards I decided to go on the hunt for some new mulberry hot spots.  I need a lot of mulberries for tomorrow and it was unlikely my normal route would yield enough.  One of the very best parts of picking wild fruit are the unexpected surprises you will find.  It is still way too early for most of my finds, but this year’s weather is anything but normal.  I first found choke cherries.  I spent most of my life believing they were poisonous.  They are just really sour.  I use them to make pancake syrup and YUM!  The next find was a new mile long stretch of mulberries mixed in with a black berry bramble and an assortment of red and black raspberries.  SCORE!!  It gets better.  Since I moved to Kansas I have been in search of gooseberries.  I have seen evidence of their existence but could never find their window of ripeness.  Today, I hit the window perfectly.  For three years I have promised my grandpa I would make him a batch of mulberry/ gooseberry jam.  This year is the year.  He turned 90 in May so hopefully this will be the perfect late birthday gift.  I hope everyone understands why those berries are not for sale.   

While out I found one more treasure, wild cherries. I also found a few wild black berries.  Tom may be able to cut wheat tomorrow after all.  ;) I noticed the sand plums are out in full force and I found evidence of what may be wild grapes for later this summer.  Wild grapes are almost unheard of anymore so I am particularly interested in seeing if I have truly found Big Foot.  The past few years we have had late May freezes and a lot of the fruit has not materialized.  There is a lot of wild fruit this year.  My jelly making and pie baking customers will be so happy.   

Picking wild fruit is not for sissies.  It can be grueling, even dangerous at times, but I love it.  I wear my wounds with pride.  Things like wild cherries, mulberries and chokecherries offer hazards such as unhappy blue jays and bees protecting what they believe to be theirs.  Bees are a double-edged sword.  I need bees to pollenate my produce, but I am slightly allergic.  With bees the best defense is to walk away for a bit and then come back.  I also avoid wearing colors that are common to flowers and I do not wear perfumes or scented deodorant.  I always ask myself three questions when dealing with bees: 1.) how badly do I want the fruit; 2.) how persistent is the bee; and 3.) do I actually have my cell phone with me.  My dtermination is determined by the answers to those questions. 

Blackberries are thorny and usually in the wild will be along a steep embankments.  I fell today coming down one bank.  I was alone on a road nobody goes down.  Don’t worry I did not land on the fruit.  Gooseberries are more than thorny.  If you were to rake your arm across a gooseberry thorn you would likely walk away with a serious injury.  Black raspberries are a whole other matter…snakes.  I hate snakes but I have found the high pitched scream as you run in the opposite direction technique to work about as well as anything. 

The final hazards lie within the actual roads.  The best fruit can always be found on the worst roads and I am the insane woman traveling down these roads, usually in our sedan.  We are way over due for rain and I was on a SAND road.  Tom has received that call many times over the years.  He is to the point he just expects it.  At one point today my tire sank so deeply into the sand I was about to call.  God found favor on me and I decided after that to find a new road. 

The final rule to always remember ... even the most remote roads will turn into well travel highways at the worst possible moments.  Parking cars on the wrong side of a blind hill is danger waiting to happen.  I have also noticed when Mother Nature calls and I decide I can no longer wait, somebody will come by…Every time. 

This afternoon was spent picking a few tomatoes and what are likely the last of my sour cherries.  I also watered a few things.  While I fixed supper the girls discovered that my blueberry bushes are fruiting.  They looked like gerbils.  These bushes were planted last fall and I will not have any fruit to sell until next summer, but the blue berries are coming. 

When I am alone I pursue some of the more difficult areas and save the easy picks for when my girls are with me.  Tonight Autie went with me while Livie hung out with Tom.  I learn a lot about my girls in moments like these.  We brought our Minnie Mouse scooter with us and yes got it out every time we stopped.  There is a bird that when it sings it sounds remarkably like a kitten crying.  We have had very bad luck with our kittens this year and the yellow kitten has vanished.  We have prayed for yellow kitty's safe return the past few nights.  Autie swore that bird was yellow kitty and she was going to walk through neck high weeds to save it.  I am torn in moments like these.  Tom and I both know that kitten will never come home because it died.  The girls cried so hard when the first two past we could not bring ourselves admit it.  I still don’t know how I manage to coax Autie out of the weeds, but finally we moved on to a new set of trees. 

Autie is so looking forward to mulberry cereal in the morning.  She worked hard and has earned a few berries.  The most boring of cheerios magically take on a new life with a few mulberries.  I love that kid.  We pulled into the driveway at bedtime and Livie was climbing out of the combine.  Everyone will be crabby in the morning. 

Most of the fruit picked today will delivered to my drop customers and to People’s in Manhattan, KS tomorrow.  I will hang around tomorrow night to sell a little more, plus some romaine lettuce, collard greens, fresh herbs, hanging baskets and bedding plants.  I hope you will stop by.  If you live in Nebraska, it is not too late to add yourself to my delivery list.  My prices are very reasonable and my quality is outstanding.  If you are thinking about it, go ahead and give us a try. 

 
 
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