Vintage Quest Acres

  (Madisonville, Tennessee)
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buzzing and blooming

Yesterday was a beautiful day on the farm.  We had had a couple of days of rain previous and I had noticed we had very few flowers on our plants. I was starting to panic, wondering if we had done something wrong, and the plants weren't happy. But yesterday the sun came out and the flowers opened. The squash and cucumber plants were full of lovely yellow flowers - hundreds of them.  It was gorgeous.

Yet even more beautiful were the bees and other pollinators.  I saw sweat bees, bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies.  When you really start thinking about what they are doing, it is amazing.  I watched as a big bumblebee did a dance around the center of the male flower.  It wiggled its way out of the flower and buzzed its way to another flower, this time a female flower.  So innocently it impregnated the female flower.  Simple yet so complicated.  All the energy that goes into making that squash by so many living things, yet my contribution is miniscule.  I planted the seed. We have watered on occasion, but this plant would have survived without it. 

I did not grow that squash or any other plant on our farm.  I watched it grow.  I am not a participant in this process, I am only an observer.  To know when to let go and let God is a lesson that I need to remember as a farmer. 

I am learning to trust that the flowers will open and the bees will find the flowers when the time is right. 

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Using our blog for communication

We are going to try out the blog format for communication.  It seems it would be a good way to get recipes out and allow for searches, etc.  Our internet provider tends to cut us off if we try to upload too much on our website and we are reduced to worse than dial-up for 24 hours as a punishment.  (We have 20MB/hour as a limit - really low when updating a website with pictures.)

 We are also on Facebook under Vintage Quest Acres.  We welcome you as a fan.  We are fairly new to all this, as our life outside tends to keep us busy.  However we prefer internet as our primary means of communication so it makes sense to embrace these "new" technologies in our farm.  


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Week 3

 I have to admit, I missed sharing our farm abundance with you, although it did give me a chance to cook rather than harvest!  We are happy to report that the two week break was just what the farm needed.  What had been planted in April after the rains is now catching up with the Mesclun and radishes and we are getting delightful culinary surprises.  I ate my first ever Eight Ball Squash and made a delicious Italian type dish out of it.    We have a patch of soon-to-be-ready wild blackberries which we have gotten a handful or two out of…

 

We are seeing flowers on the cukes, and melons.  I keep looking for that bud of a fruit under the leaves. We hope our bees are doing their jobs!  Everyday we see something else growing stronger and bigger.  Even the pathetic corn is surprising us.  Our neighbors gifted us with some rare heirloom plants (when I say rare, I mean only grown on our street!)  These are plants that have been around here for 50+ years, and are so hardy they require Round Up to kill.  While we may not get enough to distribute, we plan to save seed for next year.  They gave us a handful of unique sweet potatoes plants that we can’t wait to eat. 

 

I wanted to take a moment to share my philosophy about tastes in food.  Remember back in elementary when you learned the 4 basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, & bitter.  Our culture tends to eat mostly sweet and salty.    In certain cultures, having a balance of tastes is considered essential to good health.  If you overdo one, you will be out of balance and most likely have health issues.  This week, the boxes contain some bitter foods.  When I eat too many fats, I actually crave Swedish Bitters (an herbal mixture of bitter herbs).  I use it when I feel nauseated, have a migraine coming on, or any time I am feeling run down.  Last week, I experimented with the plentiful crop of radishes that were on the bitter side and came up with an interesting way of eating them that did not involve salad.   I ate the equivalent of 3 bunches of radishes on my own in one day!  I really felt that my body was enjoying the bitterness of my radish creation.  Can’t say I could get my kids or Farmer Z to eat it, but I truthfully did not want to share!  I urge you to take the time to consider when the last time you ate a bitter food on purpose was and to explore ways you can add that bitter taste more often to your diet.

 

In the box this week:

Mesclun:  Two days ago it was looking great but we know this heat is a challenge for it.  We will do the best we can to make it happy (watering it , picking it in the early morning, cooling it in water quickly, and refrigerating it) but it may not last very long.  Highly recommend you eat it sooner than later.  It may also be bitterer than the first 2 deliveries due to the heat.  You may want to soak it in cool water to perk it up before eating.

Radish:  This batch will probably be more on the bitter side as well because of the heat and size of the radishes.  One way to reduce the bitterness is to salt the radishes and let them sit for 30 minutes.  Then rinse them.  I find that slicing the radishes before doing this helps.  Check out the attached recipe for Sweet and Sour Radishes.

Calendula Flower:  The petals on this flower are edible.  If you are allergic to ragweed, you may want to pass on eating them. [I am allergic to ragweed and had no problems but every person is different.] Just take off the petals and add some color to your salad (He loves me, he loves me not…)The heat was affecting them too, so they may not last long in a vase before they lose their petals. For more info check out http://www.grandmas-wisdom.com/edible-flower-calendula.html

Beans: A smattering of different varieties – yellow wax, purple teepee, and jumbo green bean.  This is the beginning of the bean season and our first crop was severely damaged by beetles, however they still managed to kick out a couple of beans per plant.  I am not joking when I say that the beans were longer than the entire plant!  It just amazes us that they produced anything at all.  Since there are so few this week, we just cut them up and add them to soups or stir-fries.

Squash:  It is so much fun to watch the squash grow and know that I don’t have to cook all of it!  This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to summer squash.  Most of you will receive either a round zucchini-looking squash called an Eight Ball or a yellow crookneck.  These have not been washed, because they keep longer when they are “dirty”.  They were harvested from Friday to Sunday so using them within the week would be a good idea. 

Basil:  We are doing a maintenance picking this week, rather than a harvest.  Basically we picked the tops of hundreds of basil plants and you are getting a portion of the tops.  Picking the tops off will encourage the plants to get bushier.  This is Genovese basil, which is the type that we make pesto from.  Not enough this week to make pesto, but it is great in salad, or on a cracker with cheese.  Basil does not store long once it has been picked.  BTW, anyone have a source of bulk parmesan?  I would love to get hold of a 5 lb bag . 

Eggs:  These are not going to be a permanent edition to the boxes, but we will sporadically include them when our fridge gets full.  Egg production has gone down the last month from 70 eggs/day to 50  so we won’t have enough to do eggs for everyone every week plus some of you don’t eat that many eggs.  If you are interested in getting a guaranteed supply of eggs, we offer 8 week shares for $30/dozen. 

Sprouts:  These are red clover sprouts.  Add them to salad, sandwiches, etc.

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Eggs coming out our ears

Last summer when we moved onto the farm, we ordered many chickens. 100+ of them. My daughter had always wanted to raise chickens and we got them on her birthday. She was so happy, and she lovingly took care of them from their early beginnings and through the winter. She figured out when they would lay eggs and in joyful anticipation expected a bumper crop around Christmas. When the eggs didn't come, we tried changing their feed, adding lights, checking for mites, etc. But still no eggs. And then the days got warmer and the sunlight got stronger and longer. Lo and behold, nature's plan could not be forced by all the tricks. Our chickens insisted on waiting until spring to start laying! Now we have a bunch of eggs, up to 5 dozen a day. Earlier this week, we started moving the "laying" hens over to the summer pen. Funny thing is that after we moved those that we thought were laying (we plan to "cull" those who are not), the leftover ones laid more eggs than the "laying" hens. In the next couple of days, we will move more hens over after we spend some time watching them lay eggs. (We have to see it to believe it.) During this process, my son got pecked by a rooster. He mistakenly thought that he could tell off a rooster for being aggressive. He got too close and so the rooster pecked him VERY close to his eye. That rooster will soon be on the dinner table. He is the brother of the mean rooster I spoke of in "And So Goes the Mean Rooster."
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Let the planting begin

The weather out here has been gorgeous.  Two days ago we hit 90F. Our farm is typically a good 10 degrees warmer than the predicted high when the sun is out.  We have a south facing hill, which just heats up as soon as the sun hits it. 

We have begun planting those things that can take some cool weather.  As much as we would like for winter to be done, we know that we have not seen the last of the cold weather.  We expect more frosts, we even know that snow is possible still. 

The chickens have noticed the nice weather and are laying eggs - finally!  We have too many roosters - they are testing their voices and some sound just awful.  One rooster's crow sounds like a child's cry.  That is annoying! My kids are getting quite the nature lesson as all the roosters are working on making fertlie eggs.  Poor hens! 

Yesterday we found a rooster in the middle of the pen, in a very odd position.  My daughter gave it some food, and then a hen attacked it.  The poor rooster had no feathers on the back of his neck.  He had become the laughing stock of the flock.  He couldn't move anymore either, so he must have gotten into a fight and lost.  We separated him from the rest of the flock and we are giving him some time to heal.  He is a Cuckoo Maran, which is a rare breed that lays dark chocolate brown eggs.  He is one of 5 roosters of his type that we have.  We definitely have to get rid of some of the roosters, but our freezer is full of  beef, deer and turkey meat right now. 

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And so goes the mean rooster

Months ago, we had bought some chickens from a fellow homesteader. She said she had too many so we acquired her surplus. Among this surplus were two Americana Roosters. Teenage roosters. We already had a rooster, a gentleman white rooster. He had a teenager period too, that ended abruptly when the chick from his favorite hen was taken by a hawk. Ever since that day he has been an attentive rooster, doing his job of protecting his flock.

One of the roosters we were told had a mean streak. He frequently attacked the little girl at his first home. But our kids are older/wiser and we figured they could handle him. What we did not figure on was the complete out of control teenager energy we would have to deal with. The two new roosters ganged up and would terrorize our white rooster and all the hens. The hens were upset, the white rooster no longer had the control of the flock and these two teenagers were having too much fun at the expense of others.

Our solution was to separate them. It was soon apparent that the one rooster was the dominant one and mean. We thought that eventually he would calm down but he did not. We banned him to the outside of the pen, while the white rooster and the other teenager settled their differences and ruled over the hens with fairness.

Mean Rooster (as he was so named) became aggressive to anyone walking on the outside of the pen. He attacked people from behind, and I started carrying a stick whenever I had to pass by. I often told him that he would be the reason I would start eating meat again - I would gladly give up my 20+ years of vegetarianism to eat him. I wondered why we kept him. My husband said that he was there to protect the other chickens - he would be the one a predator would eat first.

Instead, he created a mystery. He did end up dead, no doubt killed by a bored dog. We found piles of feathers where he must have given fight and flight. Eventually the path led to Mean Roosters body. A week before we had adopted a new dog, an Australian Shepard, who is supposed to protect the chickens. He did sound a warning bark that night and we didn't respond properly. Or did our new dog kill Mean Rooster? Why didn't our dogs chase off whichever dog came on their property?

Yesterday though there was relief on my part as I walked by the chicken pen. I didn't have to watch my back or pick up a stick, or wonder if I was going to have to kill Mean Rooster that day.

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And the winds howl

A beautiful day is upon us in E. Tennessee.  The sun is out, the temps should reach 60 degrees, and with that comes the wind.  Wind is not something we were able to predict as being a major factor on our farm.  We do plan to harvest the wind at some point, by putting up a windmill. Not high on the priority list this year.  

The wind is making me anxious today.  Months ago, we watched our greenhouse get shredded by the wind.  The soft plastic layer that we were getting ready to cover in a hard plastic just couldn't handle the 40+ mph winds.  I can't help but wonder if we have other things that are not ready for the wind.

 Today my hubby and son are bonding with an ax.  My son bought the ax with his own gift certificate for Home Depot.  I am not so sure of the wisdom of giving a 7 yr old his own ax, but we have given him strict rules on use.  Today he is using it to cut off branches of fallen trees - perfect use of his abundant energy.  He will learn a useful and helpful skill to the farm today.  I can't help to think that if more boys were given the opportunity to do physical learning as young kids, if they would be better behaved in the long run.

 I think it is time for me to soak up some sunshine.


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