Double Oak Farm

  (Columbus, Indiana)
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Winter Squash and Sweet Potatoes

 So how do you get through the winter eating local foods? I suppose it depends on where you live. For some winter means cool weather gardens and citrus harvests. Here in my snow covered world it is a different story. I mentioned before that the deer finished off all my kale before Christmas. I was hoping it would last a little longer. Fencing is at the top of my to do list this spring.


For years families got through the winter by depending on storage vegetables. Potatoes, root vegetables, and winter squash were dependable staples. I loved the Little House series and remember vividly the descriptions of the attic full of squash, pumpkins, onions and more. I’ve never made a true effort to store fresh food for the winter so this year was a grand experiment. I brought home several varieties of squash, potatoes, apples, onions and more. I was partially spurred on by questions from our customers. Exactly how long would a butternut squash keep? I really didn’t know beyond what I had read.

I’m happy to say that nearly 6 months after harvest I still have plenty of food. Some has fared better than others. The apples stored in refrigerator are still good, but a little soft. The apples in the garage are only good for sauce at this point. We ran out of onions last week, but they were just beginning to sprout anyway. The potatoes were beginning to taste a little off, but I think that they were getting too much light where they were stored. What is left I will keep for seed. I still have sweet potatoes that are holding up well. The butternut and other small squash are just beginning to show signs of wrinkling, but are still tasty. One or two that were blemished succumbed to mold months ago. The large Hubbard squash, Queensland Blue pumpkins, striped cushaws and pumpkins are holding out well. Now that we have cleared out some of the food from the freezer I will cook them up and store them so that we can have pumpkin pie and squash muffins all summer long. The extras go to the chickens. The devour about a pumpkin a week and it keeps them happy and healthy when they can’t find any grass or greens to eat. You should see the size of the eggs.

We had the pleasure of eating supper with some dear friends who are also part of our family of growers. Norma Jean served a wonderful Amish meal as always. We had noodles, salads, BBQ turkey sandwiches, the most delicious sweet potatoes, and of course 6 different desserts. I’ve included the sweet potatoe recipe below along with a variation I’ve tried.

 Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thin slices. Heat a large skillet and coat with a small amount of oil. Fry the potatoes over medium high heat until slightly soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a handful of sugar and continue to cook until brown and crisp on the edges.

Variations I’ve tried include adding onions and frying this together with the  potatoes. Add the salt and pepper and the 1-2 teaspoons of curry powder. Throw in a handful of fresh or defrosted frozen peas and a handful of spinach and cook until just wilted. It makes a great lunch by itself or with a bowl of soup.

 
 

Baby It's Cold Outside

 It is cold and snowy outside today. The pond is frozen over. The ice is  over 6 inches thick and with low’s below zero predicted that won’t be changing soon. The deer just ate the last of the kale I was saving in the garden. So where in the middle of winter do you find fresh local food to eat? We’ll that answer is actually easy…. if you planned ahead.

Tonight for dinner we had local pasture raised chicken, local sweet potatoes, local acorn squash, and local pears. Over 90% of our meal was raised with in 100 miles of our home.

We have two small chest freezers. One contains meats and poultry and the other fruit and veggies. Freezing is an easy way to save the bounty of summer for winter enjoyment. This fall our garage became an impromptu root cellar. It holds apples, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and several varieties of winter squash that are keeping much better than I expected.  The basement holds jars of home canned jams, jellies, pickles, fruits and sauces.

Yes, at the time it was a lot of work. But because we care about our food it was a joy. We want to know where our food comes from. We want to know how our food was prepared. We want food that is local and minimally processed. And so the whole family helped to cut fruit and peel veggies and fill jars and freezer bags.  Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, children, they all helped. We are better for the work and better for the good food to eat. It was and is good for us.

And now we reap the benefits. It’s cold outside and I don’t have to go to the grocery store. When I do go there is certainly less I will buy. We are eating great tasting local food in the middle of winter and it is wonderful!

 

 
 

Growing, Cleaning and Waiting

Just a few days now until we open the market. Things are progressing SLOWLY! If only I could get things accomplished by sheer force of will we would be ready to go tomorrow. The list is long, but we continue to chip away at it. Eventually it will all be done, I just don’t know if that will be before or after we open.

I had the pleasure of visiting some of our growers last Friday(I didn’t get pictures because it was raining and lightening). It has been so hard to plant this year because of all the rain. If you aren’t able to plant on the day or two that the ground is dry enough it might be a week before you get another chance. Norma Jean’s brothers, sisters and parents all came over last week and planted her large front garden in one evening. I was able to see it when I picked up my tomatoe, eggplant and pepper plants from her green house. I also picked up flower and herb plants to plant and sell at the shop.

Maddie’s garden is gorgeous. She has lettuce, spinach, onions and rhubarb all ready to go. Her peas are looking great and her beans are off to a good start.The day it was finally dry enough and warm enough to plant beans was the day before Maddie’s family hosted their church service. Instead of cleaning and preparing for the 25 plus families that would be there the next day, she was out planting beans. She said the basement was not clean, but she was glad to have the beans in the ground.

Pete has plenty of asparagus for us. I’ll pick it up on Tuesday. The strawberries were barely pink on Friday. A few sunny days would be welcome.

Last Wednesday Miriam and Magdalena had a grand adventure of their own. They voluteered to help clean the shop. One Healy family brought them up in the morning and the other took them home at night. The painted, washed windows and produce tables and in general were incredibly helpful. I have learned how much the Amish like sweets so I took them to Dags for lunch. They loved the orange pineapple ice cream and have told everyone back home about how wonderful it is. In their words it is the best ice cream they have ever had.

The rest of my time has been spent waiting. I’m waiting to have my front bay door fixed. I waiting to know if I will have refrigerators by opening day. I’m waiting for sunny weather so the strawberries will ripen. I’m waiting for the next “official” person to walk through the door with some new requirement ( meaning I write a check, they hand me a piece of paper saying I can sell produce and since they can revoke that piece of paper and keep my money I’ll try not to make to many references to the mafia or socialism). I’m waiting to make some money and not just spend, spend, spend. I’m waiting for the fun of meeting and greeting customers and eating wonderful food and all the fun of being at the shop.

I think I may need to take up Norma Jean’s idea and have a planting party. I have many plants to get into to garden and very little time. Watch for your invitation! Pray for good weather and I’ll see you at the shop!!!

Lori

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The Memory Garden

Moving is never easy. Put aside all the hassle and stress and expense and you still have the most traumatic part - leaving behind beloved friends and family. When we arrived here in Indiana I desperately missed my friends that were left behind. I took solace in one of my favorite pastimes, planting.

I immediately went to work on the weed filled planters around the front porch. I chose plants that reminded me of all the loved ones I missed so much. I planted columbine, the state flower of our previous home. I put in stargazers to remind me of Michellyn and Doug. This lily grew abundantly in their front yard and was a reminder of their wedding. The peonies are for Kevin and Tracy, two dear friends who's yard is a mass of peonies each May. The irises are for my grandfather. Many are actually saved from his garden. Sedum is for Kathy and all the hard work at the preschool. We planted sedum to welcome the children back each fall. Siberian irises remind me of my childhood church. They surrounded the olive trees where we used to play. I could go on and on.

Now is my favorite time of year. I can steal a few moments on the front porch swing and watch the bees feast on the nectar. I can see what is blooming and take time to remember loved ones and places. I know that no matter how much time and space is between us, that each spring this garden will bring me instantly back to those I hold dear.

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This Grand Adventure

“May you live an interesting life” is said to be a translation of both a Chinese curse and blessing. I first heard it several years ago and it has stuck with me all this time. I looked it up today and wikipedia casts serious doubts about its authenticity. The fact that I first heard it on an episode of Magnum PI in the 80’s really doesn’t add to its validity as an actual Chinese proverb. Its doubtful origins however do not change the interesting questions that it raises. Is interesting good? Would it be better to live in peaceful predictability? Personally I must not mind trouble and excitement because I always seem to choose the interesting path.

This past year has been full of excitement. It has truly been a grand adventure. There has been a lot of joy and a lot of stress. These last few days as we try to finish everything necessary to open a produce store are like one big adrenalin rush. Every time I check something off the list I have two new things to add. Will we ever be done?

The planting is going well, but the rain has us behind schedule. That’s the thing about growing and really life in general. It’s never really your time or your schedule.  It’s all in God’s time. You can plan all you want, but you can’t make the weather, or the phone company, or the city government work on your schedule. You just have to take things as they come and make the best of every situation.

We had one chaotic adventure to Chicago this week to pick up our produce display tables. We are trying to reuse and repurpose items whenever we can and we found a great place that promised to have all the equipment we need at great prices. DJ and I ended up digging through piles of junk in the pouring rain amid sharp protruding metal and broken glass. We were led up and down warehouse staircases in total darkness and we waded through puddles inches deep while indoors. We only found a few items that we needed that were in good condition. DJ was completely and thoroughly soaked by the time he was done loading in the rain and the six inches of standing water in the parking lot. We laughed a lot and we are happy with our new tables.

We will make a big push this week to get all the painting, cleaning and set up done at the store. We also will be planting 3000 melon plants and dozens of other veggies. The strawberries are coming along nicely and if we get some sun they will be ripe for the grand opening. The lettuce and onions look beautiful. The radishes are up and growing. The blackberries are getting ready to blossom. It is sunny and beautiful out today and I’m ready to get to work.

This Wednesday I will be speaking at the Sierra Club meeting at the Bartholomew County Public Library. If you want to know more about what we are doing and why be sure to stop by. Tim is working on a power point and it looks great.

Be sure to drop by next week. We open May 13th and we will have our Grand Opening celebration on May 15th-16th. It will be a grand start to the new phase of our Grand Adventure.

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Grand Opening!

Mark your calendars, we have a date! The store will open on Wednesday, May 13th with grand opening specials scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 15th and 16th.

By then we should have some produce ready and we will also have a selection of flowers, vegetable plants, hanging baskets and eggs.

The wet weather has put us behind on our planting schedule and we are scrambling to catch up. Rod and DJ were up late last night getting the first of the sweet corn planted and they spent today planting heirloom tomatoes and getting the beds ready for the watermelon and cantaloupe.

I spent today spreading mulch, tilling and preparing vegetable beds and planting carrots and radishes. I'll transplant lettuce, bok choy, fennel, dill, kale, and swiss chard tomorrow.

I spent a wonderful but exhausting day yesterday down in Daviess County. I visited the Graber farm and enjoyed their hospitality for my noon meal. I was also able to pick up my daughters sweet pea plants from their green house. We will get those transplanted on Monday. I also saw Rod and DJ long enough to finalize some business documents.

Eventually we will get everything at the store ready to go. We are still painting and cleaning and it seems like it will never end. That along with a million other little details have us all running ragged.

The excitement of the store opening, the CSA starting and farmers market season keeps us going. We can't wait to visit with you all this summer.

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Our Plate is Full!

Our poor blog has been suffering from serious neglect, but the gardens have not. Spring is finally here and there is plenty of work to go around.

The first round of weeding has been done as well as final pruning and trellising. The garden has been plowed and tilled. Many thanks are due to our neighbor, Bob, for helping out with the tractor.  Early plants are in the ground including a nice bed of onions.

I was able to visit my tomatoes and peppers in Norma Jean’s greenhouse. They look very nice. The pictures are from two weeks ago. I’ve also started several cool weather veggies out on the patio. They can come in at night if it gets too cold. The first batch of lettuce, swiss chard, fennel and bok choy are all off to a good start and I’l be planting more today. The little garden by the barn is thriving. Our garlic, planted last fall, is off to a great start.

 

We got word from the zoning department. We can now legally occupy our building. I’ve been working hard on the details: utilities, equiptment, employees, etc. If only I could get the various city and county departments that still have to approve various things to call me back or answer an email. I would make life much simpler.

Today we are going to mulch the fruit trees, blackberries, blueberries and if there is time, the perennial beds.

Add to all this the day to day items of taking care of a family and house and you can see that our plates are certainly full. We are looking forward to this summer when those plates will be full of good things to eat straight from our garden.

 

 
 

Spring Break News from Our Kids

E & E Tilling

Finally got to the pictures! Lori

Our kids have been anxious for a chance to contribute to the blog. Here is the first of what I am sure will be many posts.

I forgot to pack the cord for my camera. I’ll have to add pictures after I get home.

Lori M

Happy spring everyone! I find it strange that on the first day of spring it is colder then it has been all week. I guess mother nature does not look at the calendar! All around us you can see spring popping up. The deer are out. Of course this not the best of news for garden growers.

We have had a very very fun week with the Moses family here and a lot of the talk has been about the prouduce stand this summer.I think we all get more excited with each passing day at least I know I do!

Tonight we go to Dinky’s, an Amish auction, where you can find everything except the people you came with. I know some of us kids will be looking for quail and rabbits, but other then that its just fun being there.

Other then that we have been waiting for seeds all week and I hope they arrive soon so we can plant!

Happy planting!
E Healy

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Spring at the Healy’s

It has been a busy week as we prepare to welcome the official start of Spring. We are spending Spring break at the Healy’s farm and we are having a great time.

During the past two days we have spent time riding the ATV and we have had lessons in marksmanship and crocheting. The girls are working on washcloths to sell at the store. We have all taken turns on the tractor preparing the gardens for planting. Later today we will be visiting some Amish friends and shopping at our favorite Amish stores. I predict homemade cinnamon rolls in the near future.

I can’t wait to see my new tomatoe and pepper plants in the Graber’s greenhouse. I’ll be taking pictures and posting them soon. And as much fun as I’m having here, I can’t wait to get home and do more planting. I’ll try to write another update later this week, or maybe I’ll give that job to some of the kids. They are anxious to contribute to the blog.

Enjoy your Spring!

Lori M

 
 

Love Songs and Lady Bug Tea

This past week brought a chorus of love songs from the spring peepers. It is a magical night every spring when they first start singing. I could have...  [Read More]
 
 

Tomatoes and Peppers

Our weekend trip was a flurry of activity and a big success. We had a lovely time visiting our friends. Friday night we met the Healy’s for dinner and worked on some more details for our growing season. Saturday morning brought seed catalogs and discussions of which flowers to grow. Before lunch we squeezed in a trip to the CPA. We needed to tie up the loose ends in the formation of our LLC. Who ever thought we’d be a corporation? As much as I dislike all the “business” details, they are necessary to running a thriving farm “business”. We spent the early afternoon meeting with a couple of Amish families who want to grow with us. I am happy to report that they are working on organic certification and care very much about preserving the soil on their farm for future generations.

After some quick farewells to the Healy’s we headed over to the Grabers’ for supper. We had a haystack supper followed by the most incredible selection of desserts. I must say that the Amish are definitely talented when it comes to dessert. I think there were six to choose from and each was more delicious than the next. My favorite was the homemade ice cream with preserved strawberries.

 

Before supper we had a chance to see the now completed greenhouse. It is quite a set up and I must admit I was a bit jealous. They have several flats of tomatoes and peppers already started and I will have them start all of my seeds this week. It’s time to start the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I plan to have plenty of extra plants to sell at the shop in May.

 In The Greenhouse

I did not get many pictures. It was snowing and wet most of Saturday. I did get a few pictures in the greenhouse. I love to see all those little plants getting their start on life. It reminds me that spring is just a few weeks away.

 

 
 

What A Day!

So much has happened in one short day! We finally have a location for our store. I signed the lease today. We have a lot of work to do to get it ready to open in May, but it is a great location and a great building. It used to be a service station and it has great big glass bay doors that will open to provide an open air market during the day. At night we can close it up to secure the store. It is light and airy and will be a wonderful market. It’s located in downtown Columbus at the corner of 8th and Washington. We plan to open in May as soon as we have produce to sell. Hopefully this cold weather will be over soon and we won’t have any late freezes.

The second part of this exciting day is that we are going to be featured in the local paper “The Republic”. The story will come out in March. It is a real blessing to have the news coverage and the advertising will be priceless.

I was going to update the website tonight with the new store information, but the web host site is unavailable. I won’t get a chance to make the changes until next week so this has caused a little frustration. But, I guess it will wait.

So why a store in town? There are two very good reasons. First our farm is on a steep hill. We carve out niches in which to plant, but there is no way we could set up a store. Negotiating the steep driveway is hard enough for one car, for multiple customers it would be impossible. Second, we want to bring our great products to our customers. So many more people will be able to access our store by having it close to home, work and public transportation.

Tomorrow we will visit the Healy families. We have to finalize a few partnership legalities. We also get to visit our Amish friends. The Graber’s greenhouse should be up by now and I plan to take plenty of pictures to post on the website so check back soon!

Lori M

 

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I Can Smell Spring in the Air!

So what does Spring smell like? Maybe not what you would expect. Around here long before the spring peepers make their first chirp, before the robins return, before the outdoors begins to smell of thawing earth there are two sure signs that spring is on it's way. 

Sign number one: the first flies have appeared. There are just one or two in the warmer buildings, but they are back and probably here to stay. 

Sign number two: the smell of skunk. I thought I smelled it yesterday, but thought maybe it was just wishful thinking. Today it could not be mistaken. The skunks have come out of hibernation.

Such a distinct and pungent smell, but one that is welcome because the robins and the spring peepers will not be far off now.

It's a bright sunny day and I'm going out to the gardens and orchard to see how things look now that the snow is gone. I don't think the deer have done much damage this year and I haven't seen many rabbits either. I'll let you know what I find.

Hope your day is a glorious as mine!

Lori


 
 

Can You Can Can?

 Pickles and Relishes

The other day I took all my delicious kumquat preserves down to the basement. I always have the most satisfied feeling when I look at all the jars lined up on the shelves. It's a secure feeling. It's an awareness of all the good things that God provides for us. I feel that we are prepared for any trouble that might come our way, as if a few dozen jars of pickles, sauerkraut and marmalade would see us through a nuclear winter or an epic flood.

Back in the world of reality I know that my canning is a hobby. Something I do for fun and bragging rights. My grandmother canned for survival. She put up hundreds of jars of fruit and vegetables every year. She raised a family during the Great Depression and raising your own food gave you a great advantage.

 Fruit, Jelly and Applesauce

Just as my grandfather taught me to love gardening, my grandmother taught me joy of homemade bread and the incredible flavor of homemade pickles, peaches and jam.

It's a lost art in today's world, though one I hope is making a comeback. Canning sounds so intimidating. It conjures up images of  expensive special equipment, and worse, botulism. In reality it just is not that difficult. In fact it is actually quite easy and if you follow the rules, quite safe. Anything you can't can, you can freeze. It is also the perfect way to enjoy that fresh local produce all year long. I will be enjoying those yummy winter kumquats well into the summer. I can open a jar of peaches today and they taste just like summer. You can get that image of store peaches out of your head, because these don't even compare. On a taste scale of 1-10 they are a 100.

If you grow your food or buy in bulk you can save money, but it's also a great way to feed your family the best food around. There is no extra food coloring, chemicals, preservatives or additives.  If you know how if was grown you can avoid any pesticide or chemical fertilizer residue too.

Jams and Preserves 

And finally you can make your own custom creations. You can adjust the heat in your salsa or the garlic in your pickles to your own standard of perfection.

So I hope I've tempted you to extend your harvest this summer. With a little time and effort you can enjoy God's bounty all year long. And of course we are willing to supply you with all the great produce you need to accomplish your task.

Lori M - Double Oak Farm

Oh can you do the Can Can?
If you can then I can
I can Can Can if you Can Can
Can you Can Can - Lyrics by Richard Perlmutter

 Peppers, Salsa and Tomatoes

 

 
 

Kumquats in a Snowy World

This week our great big box of kumquats arrived from Local Harvest. It was a box of sunshine delivered to a snowy world.  [Read More]
 
 
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