Boulder Belt Eco-Farm

  (Eaton, Ohio)
We Sell the Best, Compost the Rest
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Boulder Belt Farm Share Initiative vol 3 issue 3




We had a visit this past weekend from a friend of mine from high school who got a Ph.D in Botany and than decided he would rather farm and now has a CSA in Wisconsin. His visit gave us much to think about. He runs his farm very differently than we do. He has over 60 acres, 300 members and he has over 5 tractors. Oh yeah, and he is in a CSA Mecca-Minneapolis which is about 20 years ahead of us as far as local foods issues and markets are concerned. Yeah, SW Ohio is a really bad place to establish a CSA and of all places in SW Ohio, Preble county has the to be worst place within SW Ohio to do anything concerning Organic agriculture and especially a CSA. But things are changing around here and it is much easier to make a living doing what we do in this area than it was 17 years ago.

His visit got us to thinking about many things. Like how different CSAs are, no two are alike. For example my friend's CSA up north employs a lot of interns and uses a lot of machinery. We have in the past and will in the future take on an intern or two but not the 15+ people he has. Of course he grows on 18 acres and we grow on 4.5 acres so he does indeed need more people and I believe the teaching aspect that many CSA has is more important to him than it is to us (he was going to be a college professor when he grew up before farming derailed that idea) and so he is willing to work with newbies than we are. he is also a lot more into machines than we do. He spent a lot of our limited time together going on about his various tractors, tillers and attachments. All those machines means he uses a lot more gasoline than we do. We used around 30 gallons of gasoline last year to till, plow and mow our estate. Had we had a tractor, we would have used 5x as much (and if we has a fleet of tractors we would have even more). The van we use to get food to the Oxford Market used 300 gallons of gasoline just to go to Oxford (about 32 miles round trip) and back about 35 times plus a few trips over to the Filbruns (17 miles round trip) for straw and other soil building items (we plan to replace the van with something newer and with better milage in the next few months-if you know of a cargo van that is less than 10 years old for sale let us know we are looking). And this is one of the reasons we don't do delivery-we cannot afford it with the vehicle we have to use. It uses a lot of gas and is getting less reliable as it gets older and if we don't replace it it will get really expensive as major parts start to fail. It would be wonderful if we could replace this van with an electric van but, if they even make them, I am sure they would be way out of our price range (but we can dream). But the point I am making here is, as a farm we use very little gasoline and this will stead us well in the coming months and years as gas likely will go up to $6 a gallon and that is a point where farmers who depend on gas powered machines to do the work will see a huge cut to their bottom lines if they cannot raise their prices. Us, we won't suffer nearly as much as the machine scale farms because we use far more human power than gas power to get things done around here.

Okay lets talk about rain. We are getting way too much if you haven't noticed. Our main growing area is very, very well drained but even it is going under water because until the Ohio river starts to discharge it's load of water, there simply is no place for all this water to go. So far we have not noticed any damage but there is sure to be some crops that rots and dies due to too much water. Freshly seeded beds will be the first to go (but fortunately are the easiest to remedy-just replant the seeds when conditions are better). Other than harvesting and putting down compost and sulfur on beds, we have not been doing much farming due to the weather and we are beginning to get behind. The weeds are growing well and soon will be a problem. I have been trying to finger weed a spring mix bed (where one pulls tiny weeds from between densely planted lettuce plants-takes hours to do but is important to the quality of the salad mix). But it has been so wet that it is nearly impossible to do the job. Yesterday I was able to get about 10 feet of row done on one bed (and there are several other beds of baby greens plus hundreds of other beds waiting for a hoe). Eugene tried to plant onion seedlings but he said it was too wet to do the job (the clay mud gums up one's hands so quickly so that you spend a lot more time wiping the mud off than doing work) So he decided to mow the grass around the pond and while doing so found we have lawn morels (see the Boulder Belt Blog or my Facebook page for photos). I had hoped we would have enough to include some in your shares but our lawn did not yield nearly that well. I will say, go out and look for some morels. This is the best season for them in many many years. I remember as a kid living in the Mile Square of Oxford we had 15 morels come up in the back yard near a pine tree. That has not happened since, that I know of. And I do know it has been at least 8 years since we have found any (or eaten any). For some photos of my mushroom harvest take a gander here

Pick up is after 4 pm today.

We reuse and recycle and that means we will take any CLEAN plastic or paper you do not want. Plus we want back all of our packaging from rubber bands to bags (unless you have a use for these things, than keep them but if all you are gonna do is land fill them than bring them back to the farm)

Thanks for supplying bags for your shares. I believe at this point all but one member has supplied bags, Yay!

While I know the weather is less than conducive for this, please feel free to walk about the farm, go fishing, help us in the fields. in other words make use of this resource you have access to. Very few people ever get to visit a working farm and here you have free access to one. If nothing else, the bird watching has been great the past few days as we have several types of herons visiting our pond (I suppose for the frogs) as well as red winged black birds, finches, jays, several kinds of woodpeckers (including red headed and piliated)


Spring Veggie Curry

1 leek sliced
Many spears of asparagus cut into 2" pieces
2 cups snow or sugar snap peas, string and cut in half
1 cup broccoli florets
1 medium onion, chopped
2+TBL fresh parsley chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup garlic chives, chopped (this is for garnish)
1 TBL fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1+ cloves of garlic, smashed or minced
1 cup coconut cream/milk (you can buy this pre-made or you can make it from unsweetened coconut flakes by soaking the flakes in hot water for a while and than putting in a blender than straining off the flakes leaving you with a coconutty liquid. The pre-made stuff is better but this is a cheap substitute that works well enough)
1 T curry powder (or more or less, to taste)
1 TBL olive oil (or other fat)
Salt to taste
Basmati rice (I love brown basmati but white will certainly do)

Start the rice than in a hot pan (over medium heat) put in the fat than the leek and onion and let cook about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the other vegetables (except the garlic chives and parsley) and cook another couple of minutes stirring occasionally to prevent burning/sticking. Than add the coconut cream and curry powder and bring to a simmer stirring constantly. Turn down heat to medium low and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add the parsley about ten minutes into this and continue cooking. Serve over rice and this is even better if you have a decent chutney and yogurt raita (but plain yogurt works well too). If you have morels, they would be spectacular in this dish.

What's in This Weeks' Share
Asparagus- At this point in time it looks like you will get about 1/2 pound. But we still have to harvest more before this afternoon so the amount might just double
Lettuce- You should get 3 to 4 heads of a mix of red and green lettuces (The green is called Salad bowl, I have no idea what the red is called but it is spectacular)
Leeks- You get one leek
Garlic- You get 4+ corms of garlic. This is on its' last legs as it is almost a year old but there are still good cloves in most corms.
Kale- At least 1/2 pound of mixed kale
Radish- A small bunch of D'Avignon radishes
Parsley-a bag of fresh parsley
Tarragon- A small bag of French Tarragon
Chives-A nice bunch of oniony chives
Garlic Chives-A bunch of garlic chives (flat leafed)


Boulder Belt Farm Share Initiative vol 2 issue 1 (week 1)



Good morning,

It's the first day of the 2010 Boulder Belt Farm Share Initiative-Woo Hoo! This is the first in a weekly series of newsletter that only FSI member get, i.e. this is different than the quasi-weekly missive I send out year round to the hundreds of Boulder Belt Fans on my list.

As you know if you read the email that had the 2010 Farm Share Initiative Regulations and Musings for 2010 that pick up is every Wednesday after 4pm and any shares not picked up by 6:30am Saturday mornings will be taken to Oxford and donated to the Oxford First Choice Food Pantry. If you need to do a Saturday Pick-Up you must tell me in advance (like the week before you are scheduled to pick up, a simple email will do the trick).

Your shares will be in bags with your name on it. Last year I requested that members supply their own reusable bags and I am doing so again this season. I did think about buying a hundred or so (they are very cheap) but thought that all of us have a plethora of reusable tote bags around the house that we do not use so why should I waste more resources buying more bags when the members can supply such. So, if in the next week or so, you could bring 2 to 4  reusable shopping bags that would be wonderful. Otherwise, I will put your food into plastic shopping bags. Please take only the bag(s) with your name on it (plus the other members' bags, if you are picking up for other people). This is important as some times people will order extra stuff and I simply put that extra food into that person's share. And on occasion I may omit an item from a share at the member's request

The shares, unless otherwise noted, will be in the store fridge to your right as you come in the front door. Today they will be on the shelving near the fridge (unless I fire the fridge up than, in that case, they will be in the cool environment)

Okay one of the purposes of this news letter is to let you all know what is going on on the farm. I will continue to do this but if you are on Face Book and not already a Fan of Boulder Belt Eco-Farm sign up today. I am using the Boulder belt Fan page to be as they say these days, transparent about the farm. In other words, I am posting, usually several times a day what we are doing on the farm here is the link to the Fan page I also have a blog that is usually about the farm (and is getting an increasing number of videos of the farm posted to it) though I will talk politics of food as well there

But lessee, what's going on at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm? Lots of things. Mid spring means being very busy. We are getting beds to get ready to plant (and on the blog is a series of very short videos that show you just what we do to get a bed ready for seedlings), planting beds with both direct seeding and transplanting seedlings. We are still starting lots and lots of seedlings (we probably start 3000 of them annually, maybe more) to be transplanted into the garden over the next 6 to 8 weeks. Plus we are harvesting asparagus daily and with the start of the FSI and soon the Oxford Uptown farmers market will be weekly and we will have the farm store open 3 or 4 days a week we will be harvesting other things like lettuce, arugula, kale, etc., several times a week. And than there is maintenance-hoeing and other kinds of weeding (like hand pulling or digging the damned things out) puppy training (we have a rather large and growing 5 month old bitch pup, Betty, we rescued in late January) so that she will one day become a stellar market garden dog. Her training is coming along well so far. She is at least a year ahead of Nate, the other dog we have. It took him about 3 years to figure out what we meant with terms like "out of the garden". but it is possible that we will have a crop failure due to Betty's antics like trying to bury a bone in a flat of seedlings (fortunately they were flowers for our own enjoyment and not a commercial crop) but since we do not have eyes in the backs of our heads nor the ability to do farm work and closely monitor the puppy she gets opportunities to do mischief and right now she is in a bone burying phase and we have found her bones in some rather bad places (freshly tilled beds are favorite). All that said the market garden is big at close to 4 acres and there is no way she can do much damage other than destroying a bed or two (but likely all she would do is damage small parts of many beds which gets us mad at her but as far as the crop goes minimal loss). Now why do we have Betty as she has the potential to do a great deal of crop damage? Because her job that Nate (that's right we are using a dog to train another dog) is training her to do run the deer and kill rabbits and mice, all of which can and will do far more damage to the market garden than a hyper playful pup. Without the dogs doing this night time job we would likely lose around 75% of the crop to deer, bunnies and mice. But with the dogs we lose no more than 10% to the wild life. We found this out when we moved from the old farm to this farm in 2005. At the old farm we left a lot of crops in the field (we had planted them in June and July, before we knew we were buying an farm and moving in October). When the dogs were still around the crops were not touched but within 3 days of the dogs leaving that farm we noticed the deer had moved in and were happily eating the beets and strawberry plants, among other things and in one night destroyed about 50% of what we had left.

This farm has a much much higher deer population-we believe the herd is around 300 head-and yet we rarely lose anything to them because ever since we have been here we have had at least 2 dogs working all night to keep them away. It's that or investing around $50K in deer fencing around the perimeter of the farm. I'll take dogs over fencing every time.

Oh yeah, we encourage you to take advantage of the farm. feel free to walk around the farm. To get access to the farm walk between the barn and the store and there are two gates. the one to your right will open and allow you onto the farm. We have a pond that is stocked and fun to fish (and you can keep what you catch), we have about 2 miles of trails running all over the farm. We have a lot of beauty out here. use it if you wish.

 I would like to schedule a on farm pot luck and farm tour either the end of this month or sometime in May. I am thinking on a Sunday afternoon/evening. But I need input as to when this will work for everyone. Let me know sooner than later. Potlucks are BYOB, though we usually have some homemade wine and beer on hand. Plus you will need to bring a dish that can feed 6 to 8 and things to eat with (flatware, plat, cup). let me know sooner than later when you would like to do this.

EZ Salad dressing
Salad dressing is one of the easiest things to make and there is absolutely no reason to go out and buy over priced, full of crap that you do not want in your body, salad dressing when you can make your own. I will endeavor during salad season to give out several different dressings. Here is what I have been using for several months

1/4 cup vinegar-I like to mix balsamic and rice vinegar
1/2 TSP salt
1/4 cup honey, more or less (usually more than less)
1 clove raw garlic either put through a garlic press (use two cloves if using a press as you lose so much) or grated on a micro-planer-if you don own one of these you can either go to a hardware store and pay about $8 for one or go to a cooking store (I know Jungle Jim;s has these in stock) and pay almost double for exactly the same thing. I am a huge advocate of the micro plane for cooking.
1 cup good olive oil.

In a small canning jar or salad dressing carafe  mix together the honey, salt and vinegars. Cover the jar and shake well to mix everything together (takes a good minute as the honey will not want to mix easily) when everything is uniform than add the oil and shake again. let this sit for at least an hour before using. this will last about 2 weeks sitting on the kitchen counter, it does not need to be refrigerated and if you do the oil will congeal making it necessary to warm it up so you can use it and not get big olive oil globs.

For variations on this you could add a 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary or perhaps the same amt each of dried basil and oregano. Or maybe finely chop some chives and put them in the mix. The amounts I am using for the dried herbs are only a guideline and, in fact, when I make dressing I never measure anything other than the salt so with the herbs do this to taste but know that 1/2 tsp is a good amount to start.

What's In the Share
Leeks-you get 2 leeks this week
Lettuce-you will get 5 heads of various heirloom lettuces. These will be from a bed of lettuce that was planted last year and over wintered in a hoop house.
Spinach-you get a bag that should be around 1/2 pound (but maybe less, I won't know until I bag the stuff later today
Chives-a big bunch of oniony chives to use raw on salads, potatoes, soups, dip, etc..
Asparagus-I did not think there would any of this for the first couple of week of the FSI but last week it started coming up. Still I figured that there would only be enough for 1/2 pound per share. I was wrong, you get a whole pound this week.
Potatoes-a 2 pound bag of French Fingerling taters. These are red on the outside with a golden flesh. very good for roasting, frying, in salads but not the best for mashed taters
Parsnips-These look like a white carrot but are much sweeter. These are great roasted, covered, for 30 minutes in a 350F oven. if you have not had a parsnip before this may become one of your favorite foods.
Garlic-we are at the end of the 2009 garlic (the 2010 garlic will not be harvested until early July) so you are getting what seems like an awful lot of garlic, it is not as at least half of the cloves will be unusable.
Dried Rosemary-a jar of dried rosemary-this is wonderful on potatoes and poultry
Spring Mix-a mix of baby arugula, tat soi, red mustard, mizuna and many different kinds of lettuce. Wash and eat.


Boulder Belt Farm Share Initiative, Week 4

It's been a busy week here at the farm. I have been starting hundreds of seeds-Asian greens (something called tong ho and a bok choy), celery that was completely unplanned but Eugene found a packet with a lot of seeds so I planted several hundred. parsley that should have been started about 3 weeks ago. And 5 kinds of lettuce for late May/early June harvest. Some time this coming week I will start about 1000 tomato seeds (I plan on starting around 20 different kinds). While I have been doing all that Eugene has been mowing, tilling, direct planting seeds for things like spring mix and I believe some spinach got planted as well but I do not have high hopes for it if it does not cool down a lot and start raining. You may like temps in the high 80's in April but this is very hard on the cool weather crops. lettuce gets bitter in the heat and the spinach wants to bolt to seed, among other things.

 Because of the heat I harvested most of the spinach on Saturday morning as it was either gonna bolt to seed or die of heat and lack of water. Either way it would mean the end of that crop and no more in your shares. So I decided to harvest early so you guys can get one last week of spinach.

Okay, we have also been doing a lot of transplanting. We finished off the leeks, put in about 100 lettuce plants and another 150 of broccoli, kale and cabbage. This we did in about 3 hours. If all we had to do was simply pop seedlings into the soil 3 hours would be a leisurely pace for us, but on Boulder Belt Farm most seedlings get the following treatment. A bed is raked smooth, seedlings are put in the soil. Than they are each given a drink of water spiked with freeze dried kelp and fish (smells like the seas shore) from a watering can. Than 7 wire hoops are put in place along with 14 heavy rocks per bed (and the rocks always seem to be in another part of the market garden so there is usually a good amount of toting) and finally a row cover is stretched over the whole thing and weighted down with the rocks. The row cover protects the seedlings from wind and hail as well as from insects and keeps the moisture in the soil and leaves. Things love growing under row cover.

This week we got 6 yards of compost from up north in Union City, OH. We had ordered the compost in Feb and were told we would have it the 3rd week of March and got it Friday evening. It would have been nice to have had the compost a month ago better a month late than never. This has added to our repertoire of chores. Big pile of compost must go on all 225 beds and that has been happening too.

And on top of all this, the asparagus and strawberries are coming in and need to be harvested at least once a day. Asparagus will be plentiful this week. Tuesday folks will get a double dose of it as they got none last week. No one will get any strawberries in their share before May. While they are beginning to ripen there is no where near enough to fill 11 shares this week.

If you are paying by the month you can leave a check (or cash with an explanation of who left the money) on the counter at the store to pay for the month on May. Oh yeah, please do not toss out the jars the apple sauce came in. If you are not going to use them (I know some of you are canners) I will take them back (lids and rings too) as I go through a lot of jars in a year and I don't want to see them recycled or (ugh) land-filled. One last important note. I have just changed ISP's (and DSL after 19 or so years with dial-up) and have a new email address- Please update your address books. I will have the old email for another month or so but after that if you use it to try to contact me your email will be sent off into a void



Asparagus and Leek Salad

4 spears of asparagus

1 leek

1/2 bag of spring mic

several radishes

1/4 of the chives (or more or less depending on your taste)

Cut the asparagus into 1" pieces. Cut the leafy green part and the root off of the leek than cut length-wise (as opposed to cutting it into rounds) and cut the leek into quarters, you will end up with a lot of julienned pieces. Put the leeks and asparagus into a saute pan that is on medium heat and has a dollop of butter or olive oil melted and hot. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Remove from heat and let these cool a bit, say 5 minutes While the veggies are cooking wash and spin dry the spring mix and wash and slice the radishes. Put the greens into a salad bowl, top with the radishes and right before you are ready to serve add the cook and still warm veggies. Top with a nice vinaigrette or other favorite dressing (ranch is really good on this)

Here's what's in the shares this week (kind of a small share this week but soon there will a myriad of produce coming out of the garden. We are at the point where late winter/early spring stuff is ending and mid spring/early summer stuff is just coming in)

Green Asparagus- We also have purple which is better but we are not getting much yet but should later in May for everyone to get some

Lettuce-like last week a bag of mixed lettuces

Spring Mix

Leeks-believe it or not this is about it for the leeks. We might have them one more week after this week Chives-a nice bunch of fresh chives

Radishes-Tuesday gets D'avignon and Thursday will get easter egg which are round radishes in pink, red, white and purple

Cilantro-this is really good in Macaroni and cheese

Spinach-I believe this will be the last week for spinach until fall or next spring. We never have much luck with mid spring planted spinach.

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