Friday, April 14, 2017

The Farmer's Table

Shitake mushrooms from a small recent flush sauteed with bamboo shoots from our neighbor's bamboo patch.

Poke greens are one of our favorite spring greens.

Young goat roasted with spring onions, butter and garlic, asparagus, fried grit cakes and lettuce salad.

Farmer's breakfast of Red May wheat pancakes, butter, honey, milk and blueberries (from the freezer).

What's happening on the farm

   Someone asked how we were dealing with this wacky spring weather.  It seems like spring in North Carolina is wacky every year, which, of course, means every spring is a different kind of wacky.  Knowing this, we try to be prepared, having blankets and fabric at the ready for cold snaps, irrigation ready for dry spells, and lots of back-up transplants and seed ready for replanting.  The bigger preparation, though, is probably mental and this we're still learning, to be patient and hopeful.  20 degree March nights followed by a couple weeks of continuous big rain storms isn't ideal, but things are actually looking pretty good.  This year is looking very promising for some of the tree/vine crops that April freezes have really limited or completely wiped out in recent years: pawpaws, hardy kiwis, mulberries, sour cherries, chestnuts...  The cattle are enjoying the lush green pastures, and the milk bucket is so full and heavy that we have to take a break to rest on the way back from the barn to the house.  All in all the weather this spring has been very favorable for the bees.  The wheat and oats are growing thick and lush.  It's a busy time of year as we push forward with getting the last of the spring crops out while starting on the first of the summer crops.  We're hoping to get the first of the field corn seeded this week.  And as always, the weeds are growing well, too, so we're tractor cultivating and putting our hoes to good use.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Farm Update

February teased us with an early spring and we probably put out a few things too early, of which some succumbed to last week's deep chill (some potatoes and onions).  But fortunately, we mostly held off spring planting until this past week, seeding and transplanting, and yesterday's rain watered it all in nicely.  Now that the soil is moist, we have more plants to set out.  It's always encouraging to transform bare garden beds to neat green rows.  Just a few days ago, the first of our setting hens hatched a clutch of the duck eggs we had put under her.  Eric has started grafting fruit trees.  The cows are happy to be eating some new spring grass.  Our bee numbers are down -- too much rain during the main nectar flows last year which was hard on the bees -- but the bees we have had plenty of good flying weather already this year and are off to a strong start.  Swarm season has already started, and the main honey flow will probably begin in less than a month.  And yesterday we had a wonderful afternoon visit to our gardening friends in Rutherford County.  We came back inspired and with more new plants to add to the farm.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

New arrival

Gusty the new calf is doing well.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our New Facebook Page

If you are on Facebook we wanted to let you know we have started a farm Facebook page.  We'll be keeping this blog up regularly with photos and writing.  The Facebook page will mainly be for pictures.  We hope it helps you stay connected with the farm.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cover girl

Looking through old catalogs, we came across Nora's cover girl edition of Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.  While Eric was working there, he had a similar picture we had taken as his computer screen saver.  His boss thought that would make a nice catalog cover.  Our little beekeeper became famous at two years old!

Monday, February 13, 2017

What we've been up to

Replacing broken glass in the window panes to make this a little greenhouse

Bamboo bin to put food scraps in for worm compost

Some of the worms at work composting food scraps

Bin made of bamboo to contain leaves while they rot down for part of our future potting mix

Some of the fruit and nut tree scion wood ready for grafting onto our trees and other people's
  Lately our focus has been on infrastructure projects.  We are thankful to have many outbuildings, but each of these takes regular upkeep.  This winter we further shored up an old log building and are getting ready to put new metal roofing on the lean-to part of it.  The next step, which we hope to accomplish next winter, is to modify the east side of the building so that we can back our pull-type combine into it for storage.  Currently the only place we have to store our combine is in our main barn, but the combine is so big and takes up so much space we can't even walk a cow around it, and it's a hassle to have to move the combine every time we want to shovel manure or get hay in and out of the barn.  We're also in the process of repairing broken window panes on the small rock building we've been using for a tool shed.  It's all rock except for three windows which take up most of the south side.  It was previously called a potato house, which must mean that it was used for curing sweet potatoes in the fall.  Our new plans are to use it as a small greenhouse.  We've also been building some new useful structures with bamboo, a bin to hold and compost leaves and a bin to put food scrapes for worms to compost.  We've been weeding in the garlic, strawberry and spinach patches.  It doesn't seem quite fair that weeding is a winter chore as well!  Eric has started collecting scion wood from our fruit and nut trees, in large part to trade with other fruit growers for scion wood to graft onto our trees.  We're particularly excited about Asian persimmons after a small crop this past fall.  We have lots of little lettuce, cabbage and greens plants started in flats.  It will soon be planting time in the fields.  We've started working up ground with the tractor to plant spring oats, which we might even get sowed tomorrow

Sweet potato tasting

Pumpkins in the attic

   Hattie has been reading through Little House in the Big Woods this winter and in the first chapter young Laura Ingalls describes her log cabin home: “The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter.  The pantry and the shed and the cellar were full, and so was the attic.” She goes on to talk about playing in the attic: “The large, round, colored pumpkins made beautiful chairs and tables.” Nearly 150 years later, we've got a pile of pumpkins in our attic, too (though we haven't been letting the kids play on them!).  These are the heirloom pie pumpkins we've been growing and enjoying the last 3 years. They've been keeping well and are tasting as sweet as ever. Here are some ways we've been enjoying them lately.

Roasted pumpkins ready for the pulp to be scooped out.  The juice in the jar is pumpkin juice which is a delicious treat.

Roasted pumpkin cubes - I was planning to roast some peeled butternut slices for dinner the other day when I remembered there was part of a pumpkin left over in the fridge. So I peeled and cut this into one inch cubes and added this to the tray with the butternut. I tossed everything with melted butter and salt and baked at 400 degrees until everything was well cooked. The butternut squash was really good, but at the end of the meal, it was the pumpkin cubes that were all gone! 

Roasted butternut on the left, roasted pumpkin on the right

Pumpkin butter – Simply, pumpkin butter is sweetened spiced pumpkin pulp that has been thickened. It is delicious as a spread on toasted bread or pancakes, mixed into yogurt, or put on top of a bowl of oatmeal. We roast a pumpkin in the oven until tender then we scoop the pulp into a colander to drain overnight. (Don't forget to drink the juice, it's a real treat!) The next day we put the pulp in a pot and use a stick (immersion) blender to turn it smooth. Then we add honey and pumpkin spices to taste and then carefully cook the pulp until it is thicker. It stores about a week in the fridge or freezes pretty well.

Sauteed grated pumpkin
Sauteed grated pumpkin - This worked out quite well as a quick side dish. Grate raw pumpkin then saute in a frying pan with a generous amount of butter until soft.

Pumpkin pie – makes 2 pies
3 cups pumpkin pulp
9 oz (¾ cup) honey
2 ¾ cups whole milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 eggs
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¼ tsp. Allspice
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
¾ tsp. salt
Use immersion blender to mix all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into unbaked crust. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.

Pumpkin muffins
Pumpkin muffins – makes about 24 muffins
3 cup whole wheat flour
6 oz (½ cup) honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten

Put all ingredients in bowl and mix just enough to blend. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 min.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What we've been eating

Oyster mushrooms in December!

Our favorite salad - dried figs, goat cheese,  and lightly toasted pecans.
We've been supplementing our diet of mostly preserved foods with some fresh finds: wild harvested oyster mushrooms and lettuce from the garden.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


We're taking sign-ups for the 2017 Vegetable CSA now.  A CSA is the next best thing to growing your own food, so if you'd like to eat the kind of food you'd grow for yourself but you aren't in a position to do so, consider joining our CSA!  Lewisville and Winston-Salem pick-up locations available.  Alternatively, weekly CSA pick-ups can be made at the farm after 2pm on Tuesdays.  CSA shares can also be picked up at the Saturday morning Statesville farmers market.  In addition to our basic Vegetable CSA, we also offer what we call the Full Farm CSA, which is a 12-month plan (for which we normally take new members in October/November) that in addition to vegtables, includes a choice of supplemental shares of other products of our farm (flour from grains we grow, dry beans/peas, fruit, eggs, honey, and several other "component shares," plus first dibs on freezer shares of beef, all grown by us on our farm.)  If you're interested in our CSA, please make plans to come visit, and we'll show you around, tell you more about the CSA, and answer any questions you have!

   2017 will be our 13th year offering CSA shares.  A CSA is a partnership with a local farm that provides you a weekly share of produce items and helps make it possible for us to grow a radically homegrown alternative to supermarket-style food/agriculture defined by big corporations, chemicals, genetically modified crops... (For more information about how we farm see what we wrote here and other things on our blog.)  The Vegetable CSA plan consists of 22 weekly shares each with a value of $22 spread out over an approximately 6 month season (from, depending on the weather, roughly the first week of May and continuing through around the last week of October, minus possibly a week sometime during the year that we'll need to take a bye week on our end, leaving at least 3 bye weeks for you.)  The cost of the Vegetable CSA including drop-off to either the Lewisville or Winston-Salem drop-off point is $510 (or $484 for members picking up at the farm.)  We're also offering half season shares at $265 for 11 weekly shares (covering the first 12 weeks of the season with one bye week and renewable for the second half) for first-time members to try out the CSA without making a full-season commitment.  A standard share contains a full assortment of several dozen different seasonal fresh vegetables (tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, lettuce, okra...), shitake mushrooms, and other garden and specialty field crops (like peanuts, strawberries...), all from open-pollinated seed and grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. In addition to the regular produce items, you can also request things that we wouldn't automatically include as part of your share (plants, honey, soap, candles...anything we offer in our weekly e-mail that will fit in the $22 share.)

  We'll send out an e-mail every Saturday with a list of most of the items we expect to harvest for the coming pick-up day.  Most weeks you'll have the option of e-mailing us requests for customizing your share.  If you're considering joining the CSA, we'll discuss those logistics in more detail when you come for a farm visit.  If you have any requests for customizing your share or if you want to take a bye week, you'll need to e-mail us before noon on Monday.  If you don't e-mail us the default plan will be to send a share (including a full assortment of vegetables, mushrooms, other garden and specialty field crops (like peanuts, popcorn...), etc., whatever we think is at its best each week with maximum variety from week to week) for you to pick up at your normal pick-up location, so you don't necessarily need to e-mail us each week.  (Typically only half of our members e-mail us on any given week.)  What we have to offer changes a lot over the course of the season. Some weeks offer a lot of options for differences between shares; other weeks shares will inevitably all be very similar.  A lot of crops are only in season for a few weeks, so that guarantees a lot of changing variety no matter whether you e-mail us requests for customizing your share or not.  If we expect to have more demand for an item than we'll be able to accommodate, we'll typically not list that item and instead include it in the shares of members who didn't make special requests or whose requests left us room to include those things.  If we're not able to meet requests we'll substitute other items, so that in any case you should receive a full $22 share.  Whether you normally e-mail us requests or not, please tell us what you especially enjoy, and feel free to call or e-mail us anytime you have questions about how to use something in your share.

  Our CSA season should run at least 25 weeks, so you should have at least 3 bye weeks. If you're out of town or want to skip getting a share one week for any other reason, just let us know that you're taking a bye week by the order deadline, 12pm Monday.  If you don't use all your bye weeks, then you'll reach your 22nd (and last pre-paid) share before the end of the season, at which point you'll have the option of paying $22 for each of the remaining weeks to continue receiving CSA shares.

   If you have any questions or want to make plans to come visit call (704-546-5074) or e-mail us.  If you think you're ready to sign up, we ask for a $100 deposit to hold your spot.  Before you receive your first share we also require a visit to the farm. You're welcome to make plans to visit either before or after signing up for the CSA (or if you're not interested in our CSA at all.) This gives you a chance to better understand what our farm is all about, what your partnership with us is about, and what it means for what you'll be receiving in your CSA shares. It also helps us better explain the logistics of our system to first time CSA members and to answer any questions you have.

   The other option we've offered for the last 3 years is the Full Farm CSA plan.  The most basic component of the Full Farm CSA plan is the vegetable share.  In other words, the Full Farm CSA plan is the Vegetable CSA plan plus other things in addition.  We've broken those additions down into ten or twelve categories of farm items, each with a minimum amount that we consider a "share" of that item or group of items.  In order to simplify the number of customers we deal with and in order to achieve a deeper level of cooperation with those customers we're setting the minimum price of the Full Farm CSA plan at $1100 for the year.  To reach $1100 you would need to select most of the shares but we've left a little bit of room at the margins for customization.  The concept of the Full Farm CSA is that we grow and provide as many food groups as possible, including things that wouldn't be practical or economical to sell to the general public, and our CSA members make a comprehensive commitment to our farm in return, making significant changes to their food habits for the sake of eating from our way of farming.  The idea is that we grow first for them, and their food choices begin with us.  That frees us from catering to less informed customers and allows us to farm in the way we believe best, and it enables those that share our beliefs to obtain and to eat food grown in ways that largely wouldn't be available otherwise.  Basically it means you eat more like you would eat if you were growing all your own food, and that's how we farm.  If you're interested in a more comprehensive CSA plan that includes things like the grains that we're able to grow (as flour, cornmeal...), bulk quantities of produce items to preserve for the off-season, dry beans/peas, etc. contact us for more details.