Well we seem to have a constant topic of conversation lately here on the farm . . . . when will we ever get our hay all done? Mother Nature just does not seem to want to give us several days in a row of rain free days. We cut one day to sit and dry on the field. The next day we rake into rows, and then finally we can bale. Unfortunately, we have not had those consistent days. But on the positive side (yes, we always need to look on the positive side), the gardens have been growing nicely. We actually had our first cucumbers which for us, is a little early so we were excited. Our family menus have been consisting of pasta side dishes with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and basil; Pizza with wilted swiss chard, basil, tomatoes, peppers, and sheep milk mozzarella from our friends up in Bayfield (Happy Hollow); Hamburgers with pesto and a fried egg; Brined pork chops with a side salad. Well you get the idea and maybe I made your stomach growl a little bit. While we grow a lot of veggies, we grow mainly for fresh, farm to table meals. We don’t grow enough for our customers to come and necessarily freeze/can for those cold winter months but more to enjoy several delicious meals . . . to experience the vegetable straight from the garden to your plate. For us, that is what the whole farming experience is about. The spontaneity of cooking fresh with what is available.
We have also started jam making season. I love creating somewhat unusual jams like strawberry margarita, carrot cake, caramel apple, huckleberry, basil. It is definitely fun and since I personally don’t like eating jam on toast, I like to come up with inventive ways to enjoy it. For instance, I like taking ginger ale and adding a couple spoons of jam for a refreshing summer drink or adding ice cream and making it a float. Of course, you can always bake cookies and add jam or a filling in cakes. Some of my jellies such as the basil jelly goes into a barbecue sauce for tasty sweet/tangy lamb meatballs. Or over cream cheese with crackers. The options are endless so no need to just settle for peanut butter and jelly or morning toast with jam. This year, we are excited as we have a source for some new berries such as gooseberries and elderberries. Summer is such a wonderful time to allow my creativity with foods to come to life. You never know what might come out of the kitchen.
Back to our gardens, our newly built greenhouse is proving to be a very worthwhile endeavor. Most of what we build or do here has had a former life. Several years ago we bought a used hoop barn with a roof made out of an old billboard tarp. If you stand inside and look up, you will see a wonderful and colorful advertisement for a recreational beverage. Kind of fun and resourceful. We used this building for many things over the years . . . raising chickens, storing hay, raising lambs, etc. None of it seemed to be a perfect fit so we decided to take half of it down and that is what our current greenhouse is now made of. We removed the tall sidewalls, reinforced the hoops, and then covered with our greenhouse plastic. Put a few garden boxes inside and voila, greenhouse. The storm/tornado that went through a few months ago, knocked out the remaining portion of the hoop house so we are going to take off the billboard cover and work on adding a second greenhouse. Not everything on this farm remains as its original intent. In fact, my joke with my husband when he comes up with an idea is “how long will that stay as is?”
Now let’s talk a little bit about our favorite greeter here on the farm . . . Sugar. She loves summer and meeting new people who will throw a stick or frisbee her way. She could do this for hours upon hours upon hours. Well since she is such an active participant, we like to trim her up every year to take some of the beautiful fur off but to keep her a little cooler. This is not her most favorite thing. I repeat, not her favorite activity. Between brushing, snipping, and shaving, the yard looked like a snowfall of white fur had happened just at Maple Hill Farm. Fur everywhere! We could have knitted several sweaters! While we never claim to be groomers, she does look much lighter and cooler so if you visit, make sure to tell her how good she looks and don’t mention that her human family should never be allowed to have a set of clippers!
Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.