Ms Robin's Garden

  (Caneyville, Kentucky)
Happenings on the Hilltop
[ Member listing ]

Farmer or Gardener?

When I'm talking to people about our CSA, I catch myself sometimes saying we are farmers. I think that is because other people's perception of us, is that we are "farmers". Yes, we own a farm, albeit a very small farm of 15 acres and we do grow food. We have on occasion had a couple of goats, several chickens and a few rabbits. So, are we farmers?  I don't think so, at least we don't feel like one. We don't have the big farm equipment to plow, grow and harvest acres and acres of food. We don't lay out our planting rows in long, narrow straight lines.
I think of us more as gardeners....of a very large garden...but gardeners, none the less. After tilling or plowing the first time to start a new garden space, we don't till again. We use tools like a hoe and cultivator, just like you would use for a small garden at home. Our rows are 3' wide and 20" long and are permanent. As long as we don't step on them, the soil stays nice and loose for years. We don't use chemical fertilizers, but we do rotate crops each year to replenish the nutrients in the soil. I mentioned in the last post, that we grow field peas for eating, as well as for enriching the soil. Peas and Beans leave nitrogen in the soil, which replaces what other crops might have depleted. Instead of using chemical pesticides, we use row covers in the early season and interplant Marigolds, Nasturtiums and Petunias for the latter season. We, also, don't use chemical weed killers, because using a mulch on the rows works just as well. If any weeds do make it through the mulch, they are pulled by hand. We "make" enriched soil for our garden by composting and adding that to our rows. When it gets a little too cold for the plants, we lovingly tuck them under a cover of plastic. If the heat is taking a toll on them then we bring out the shade cloth. We do all this because we love to watch everything grow from a tiny seed to a full size plant that produces food. Our produce is raised naturally, and as such, may not always be in perfect form, but the taste will definitely make up for it.
This is not to say that farmers don't get the same enjoyment of watching things grow, but it just isn't possible for a farmer to tend to his crops in the same manner. In order for a farmer to grow enough and then to sell his crops for a decent price, the produce needs to be picture perfect. I'm not sure that can be accomplished without the use of chemicals of some sort.
The bottom line....we don't want to be categorized as farmers. We are gardeners!

Beans, Peas & Peppers

We'll have several peppers available this summer. The sweet peppers include the following bells: California Wonder (green, turns to red), Big Red, Chardonnay (yellow), Purple Beauty, Orange Sun, Diamond (pale yellowish-green), Gator Belle (green) and Quadrato D'Asti Giallo (yellow). The two other sweet peppers are Pimento (the same red pimento used in stuffed olives and pimento cheese) and Cherveno Chushka (a Bulgarian Heirloom, traditionally used for roasting). The hot peppers include Jalapeno, Cayenne, Hungarian Hot Yellow Wax (turns to red at maturity) and an Anaheim pepper Big Jim (perfect to use for Chile Rellenos). We might add a few more peppers, if we run across anything interesting. I'm thinking we probably need a couple of salad peppers. 
We have a few bean varieties now, but again, I may add a couple of more. We have 2 string beans: Contender Green Beans (stringless pod) and Yellow Wax Beans. The shell beans include: Henderson's Lima beans (aka butter beans), Speckled Calico Lima Beans and Cranberry Beans (slightly nutty flavor). Although these shelling beans are pretty tasty, we'll probably only include them 3 or 4 times over the summer and you will need to shell them. It's easy to do, but we just won't have time to shell enough beans for our entire membership. Kids enjoy doing it... at least the first time or two.
As with the shelling beans, peas are quite time consuming to shell. For that reason, we will only be growing Pinkeye Field Peas (similar to Blackeyed Peas, but tastier) and Sugar Snap Peas (with the edible pods). If you aren't interested in the Pinkeyes, no problem, as we are growing them not only to eat, but also to enrich the soil. The Sugar Snap Peas are wonderful in many dishes, or sauteed as a side dish. They are used in a lot of oriental dishes.
These are the peppers, beans and peas we'll definitely be planting, but as I said, we may add a few more, if I hear of anything that I think would be a welcome addition. Anticipated planting dates in the garden are April 1st for the peas and April 15th for the beans. I started the bell peppers two weeks ago and those seedlings are doing great. I'll start the rest of the sweet peppers and the hot peppers tomorrow.

A touch of spring

The forecast for the next few days sounds wonderful! We've been 10-20* cooler than normal for this time of year, so everything outside is a little slow getting going this spring. But that's okay, as it will slow down the spring buds, with less chance of being damaged by late frosts.
I got all of the herbs started that we'll be adding to the perennial garden. All of the seed trays and seedlings are still in the house and will be for another week or two, since it's too cold to move things to the greenhouse at this time. The tomatoes are doing awesome!
A neighbor farmer stopped by yesterday to discuss where we needed additional space plowed. Hopefully, he can do that Monday, if we don't get any rain before then. This would be a good time to explain our growing methods. We use 30" x 20' wide rows. Vegetable families have different nutritional needs, so this allows us to add the required organic amendments specifically for each crop to ensure that the plants are healthy, which in turn makes for better flavor. Having each wide row designated for one crop makes it easier for us to quickly cover the whole row for cold sensitive vegetables on those nights when the temperature dips. We also plant intensively and use organic mulch, which cuts down on weed growth and retains moisture at the plants roots. The mulch breaks down over the summer and at the end of the season will be mixed in with the soil below. This improves the soil and eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.
I recently discovered personal size melons, that I think will be a nice addition throughout the summer. They come in much sooner than full size melons and are the right size for a couple of servings. The cantaloupes are Minnesota Midget and one from France, Petit Gris de Rennes. The watermelons are Golden Midget and Red Pony. The Golden Midget is an heirloom that grows as green, but the skin turns yellow when ripe. The inside is still red, though. Personally, I love melons, just not everyday. If everyone like these, we'll keep them in our lineup for future years. We'll also have larger melons for later in the season.
Next time, I'll tell you about the beans and peppers.


I have to confess, I haven't really used much in the way of fresh herbs in the past. I did add some fresh Rosemary to a Pot Roast one time and it was amazing. Al likes to experiment when he cooks, so he uses a lot of different dried herbs. However, when I did bring in fresh herbs from the garden, he would try them. Now that we're growing fresh herbs, I'm sure we'll be using them a lot more! We'll include a couple of small bunches each week with your weekly share, and let you know how to use them.
We have transitioned the original garden to a perennial garden. It will be so much easier to have everything that comes back on it's own each spring to be enclosed in the same garden. This is the permanent home for our asparagus and strawberries. We also have Sweet Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, Tarragon, Chives, Rosemary, and Lemon Balm in this garden that we planted last summer. I'm starting seed trays today of Lavender, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Curled and Plain Parsley, Cilantro, additional Chives, Dill, Genovese Basil (Italian), Chamomile, Summer Savory, Winter Savory and Old English Thyme. Don't know how to use them all yet, but we'll learn together! By the way, what isn't used fresh, can easily be dried for future use.
Along the front of the perennial garden are wide beds full of Gladiolas, Iris and Peonies. These are wonderful as cut flowers and will be included in a bouquet with your weekly shares, as available. If you don't have one already, you might be on the lookout for a taller, sturdy vase for them with a 3"- 4" opening. Thrift stores generally have them under $1. I've also used a tall jar sitting down in a wine bottle cooler or a pretty pitcher, or a half gallon jar with a wide ribbon tied in a bow around the neck too, and that's really pretty.

First vegetable seedings

I want to remind everyone that because we are a small CSA, we can offer a much more personal service to our members than most CSA's can. You all are our customers, but we are your "farmer". Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Since we've been picking up seeds here and there to add to the seeds I collected and saved from the garden last year, I figured I better go through all of the seeds and make sure we had everything we needed. We're going to have a great selection of fresh food this summer! We have 40 different vegetables, with over 83 varieties. Thanks to some dear friends who have sent some Heirloom seeds, we also have 39 different tomatoes, 12 different peppers and 7 different beans. We'll probably only grow about 20 different tomatoes this year. I thought a potluck cookout with tomato tasting would be a good mid-summer get together.
Now for the update...I'll be posting at least once a week, as I start or plant seeds through the spring, listing the individual varieties. This is just the beginning. We have 72 tomato plants started. These include Cherry Tomatoes, Yellow Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Akers West Virginia, Arkansas Traveler, Early Girl, Boxcar Willie and Big Beef. I'm pretty sure we'll have Cherry Tomatoes when we start delivering mid-May. Artichokes just sprouted (remember we haven't grown these before, so this is really exciting to me), Green Goliath Broccoli, Catskill Brussels Sprouts, Early Golden Ace Cabbage, Snowball Cauliflower, Golden Self-blanching Celery, Garlic (variety unknown, but these are from my garden last year), Early White Vienna Kolrabi, American Flag Leeks, California Wonder Bell Peppers (red, yellow and green), Jalapeno. Kennebec Potatoes (large white), Red Pontiac Potatoes (small red), Yukon Gold Potatoes (medium yellow) and Bright Lights Swiss Chard (do you want to know it's related to spinach?). Most of these won't be ready till June or later, but they need to be started early. 
The biggest complaint of a CSA is that the first few weeks are little more than lettuce and greens. We don't want our members to ever feel like that. By juggling starting dates, using the greenhouse, plus frost protection in the gardens, we feel we can have a really nice selection even in the first few weeks of the season. No guarantees, but we're shooting to have a good lettuce mix, green onions, radishes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, carrots, swiss chard, sugar snap peas (edible pods), asparagus and strawberries in the early weeks. And of course the greens, like spinach, kale, etc. If it looks like there might be an abundance of produce for any week's share, I'll let you know what can easily be frozen to use at a later date. Also, don't be concerned about getting a lot of vegetables that you don't like or don't want to sample. We won't add but maybe one uncommon item each week.
Until next time....


New link in the food chain

Extra! Extra! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA for short) offers a new link in the food chain.
The CSA concept is relatively new. Originating in Europe in the 1960's, the CSA made it's first known appearance in the US in the mid 1980's. By 1990, there were only about 60 nationwide. According to the U of KY Extension Service, there were 1,150 in 2005, with 15 of those in Kentucky. As of February, 2010, we now have 1,300 across the US and 20 right here in Kentucky.
Following the contamination scares in recent years of fresh produce, more and more people are opting to purchase their fruits and vegetables from local farmers. This gives the consumers the opportunity to get to know the farmers and they can visit the farms to see for themselves first hand where and how their food is grown. Small farmers are leaning more toward organic and naturally grown practices to insure the quality and safety of our food.
How does a CSA work? In a nutshell, consumers pay a fee in advance for a share of the farmer's crops. Through the growing season, the members receive a bag or box full of freshly harvested produce each week, generally delivered to a central location for the members to pick up. Currently, most CSAs in this area have an average 20 week season. The contents will change each week based on what is seasonally available for harvest. The members are also sharing in the risk of crop failures. However, most CSA farmers using numerous tried and true methods, to lessen the risks to some extent. Farmer's benefit from having a ready market of confirmed customers and knowing how much they need to plant. They can concentrate more on farming and less on marketing.
Buying your food locally is not only good for you, but good for the community, as well!

Welcome to 2010 Ms Robin's Garden

It's early March and the weather is still cold some days and most nights, but we are getting started on the 2010 season. We are really excited about the new additions to our line-up of fresh produce. Follow our progress as we prepare for our 2010 CSA. In these early weeks, we'll keep you informed of how things are going and the varieties we'll be planting. As we start delivery of your weekly shares, we'll share some quick and easy recipes and serving ideas.

I'll post several entries today that I have recently wrote up, and in the next few weeks, I'll be posting several more. Once we are in full swing with harvesting and delivering, I'll post only about once a week. 

We are so excited that you chose to join us! We look forward to sharing a bountiful season with you. You can reach us directly by clicking on the [email us] button on our listing page. Feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns or requests.


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