Wednesday, November 1, 2017


  We're excited to be growing a new crop on the farm: chayotes.  This vegetable of Mexican origin can be eaten raw or cooked.  It is very similar in use to yellow summer squash, though it should be steamed to soften before adding to stir-fries.  Chayotes grow on aggressive vines, so a strong trellis is needed.  We had one growing along a grape trellis and another we had grow up an apricot tree.  Chayotes are one of just a few perennial vegetables, meaning it will come back next year if the roots are well mulched through winter.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Planting for next year

We're almost at the end of the season but it's time to start planting again, for next year.  Today we seeded our onion seed into a cold frame.  They'll grow here this winter protected with glass.  Then come March we'll set out the little onion plants.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Homegrown pasta

Cooking from scratch means pasta is a special treat not an everyday food. The dough is a mix of eggs and our bread wheat.  We role the dough through the pasta roller and cut into fettuccine. We boil the noodles for a few minutes then top with a sauce of tomato, ground beef, onion, garlic, basil, and shitake mushrooms. Nothing like a plate full of homegrown food!


CSA share today

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Homegrown tortillas just got easier

Hominy, hominy ground in a corona mill, tortilla in the new press, fried tortillas
Sometimes, a new tool can make all the difference.  We recently bought a cast iron tortilla press.   After the first tortilla, Melissa was convinced we should have gotten one years ago.  The tortilla was a beautiful perfect circle and the right thickness.  But most important, the press was really quick and even the younger kids could help with great results.  While we enjoy cooking our heirloom white corn into hominy fairly often, making tortillas was more for special occasions.  The press has made it possible for homemade tortillas to be more of a staple for us, including frying tortilla chips after the day old extras.  (The press was just $20 at Compare Foods in Statesville.)

Today's share

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

CSA share

Leeks, shitake mushrooms, green beans, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, banana and bell peppers

Thursday, September 7, 2017


  The story of dicamba (an herbicide used together with crops that have been genetically modified for resistance to the herbicide) has been in the news for a while now, but more and more evidence seems to be filling in the story, and the following article seems to do a good job of bringing it together pretty succinctly.  We recommend you read it.’s-devastating-them/ar-AAqX7aN?li=BBnb7Kz

A point the article touches on in passing that we'd like to focus on is how the early steps away from local food sovereignty may not be so bad, at least as far as science is able to clearly demonstrate at the time those choices are made, but even in the early stages science can point to the fact that the bio-tech and chemical solutions are only going to be temporary solutions, and nevertheless we can also know ahead of time that accepting those temporary solutions means burning bridges to more traditional ways of farming.  For example, suppose some bio-tech trait coupled with a chemical herbicide offers the possibility of labor-savings that would allow farmers to grow two or three or four times as many acres as before: what happens after, in order to make way for the greater profitability and efficiency of the new way of farming, all those family farms that have sold out or gone broke or have ceased to be worth passing on to the next generation... what happens when the high tech solution quits working?  Our agriculture will then have become dependent on finding and accepting a new generation of chemical and bio-tech solutions; those relatively smaller family farms that could have dealt with the problems without the same kind of chemical dependency but that gave way to "greater efficiency" will likely be gone for good; and all those smaller farms will likely require generations to reestablish.  We will have then created for ourselves an emergency (an emergency we should have foreseen) where the only minimally disruptive remaining solution will be to accept chemicals and bio-technology with already known adverse side effects we never would have accepted to start with.  And this is almost exactly what seems to be unfolding with dicamba right now. 
  So what can farmers and the consumers that support them do now?  Do we keep heading further down the same path, setting ourselves up for having to face even worse choices in the near future?  That's surely the direction mainstream agriculture is going to go, but our hope is that stories like that of dicamba will be a wake up call to many in our community (and elsewhere), that more people will recognize the overlooked costs of conventional agriculture, that they'll open their eyes to see how many bridges have already been burned, that they'll see the short-sightedness of choosing the short-term cost savings and conveniences of conventional food, and that they'll invest themselves in building alternatives that offer a thorough-going alternative to the series of foreseeable emergencies and gradual impoverishment that conventional agriculture represents.  Or to put that more simply: we hope you will increase your resolve to find the most thoroughly homegrown alternatives to the kind of food sold in supermarkets, not just tasty and colorful but calorie- and acreage-marginal things like vegetables (although that's often the best and easiest place to start), but also crops (like the soybeans in this story) grown for "vegetable oil" and feed for animals to produce the animal products you consume (and their substitutes like butter from grass-fed cows and other grass-fed dairy and meat.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CSA Share

Field peas, butternut squash, roselle, edamame, beans, snacking peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes

Thursday, August 24, 2017


  We've had more apples from our trees this year than ever before, still not all we'd like for ourselves but a substantial quantity and enough to start thinking about what we'll do in the future when we do have sellable quantities and whether we should continue planting trees even though we probably have a very generous number of trees for our own use already.  We grow our apples (and all our fruit) without any purchased fungicides or insecticides (or any other pesticides), which is very different from both conventional fruit growers and certified organic orchardists.  We've written before about our reasons for not wanting to grow apples like certified organic growers do, which you can see here.  Of all the realistic options for how to have apples, the apples we're eating now are exactly what we want, but every option comes with trade-offs.  Some trade-offs aren't very apparent to consumers, but as both growers and consumers we see a pretty full picture, and that leads us not to want to use and rely on purchased pesticides.  (The closest we come to using any pesticides at all on our fruit is to set out a bucket of rejected blackberries or blueberries steeped in very hot water to attract and drown June bugs.)  With some other fruits, like strawberries or blueberries or watermelons, and with most vegetables, we're able to sell fruit more or less as perfect as conventionally grown fruit, requiring only that we cull harder with some crops -- we keep strawberries with bad spots for ourselves and carve those out, for example -- but almost every apple we eat has noticeable imperfections, at least cosmetic imperfections (like sooty blotch on the skin) and very often imperfections that might require or at least benefit from carving out bad spots, too.  Given the costs and risks and dependencies associated with the other options, completely no-spray is the option that clearly makes the most sense to us, but we wonder to what degree it could make sense to our customers, even our Full Farm CSA members.  Apples like ours have various and inconsistent imperfections, take more time to process, and don't keep as long (without pre-processing into sauce or cider, into the freezer, etc.), and if you didn't really care about where your food came from or what was involved in growing it you probably wouldn't ever choose apples like ours, but these are leading concerns for us.  Obviously a lot of customers don't share our food and farming values, but surely some more or less would, especially if they knew everything about their food that we know about ours.  We want to do everything we can to enable our customers to get to know us well enough that if they do generally share our values, they can trust us to provide them with the same kind of food we choose for ourselves and to trust that that's best, even when it's not superficially obvious.  In the meantime, we're continuing to cautiously expand our apple (and other similar fruit) plantings, hoping to be able to offer apples to our Full Farm CSA members soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017


  That's a grandiose question, but implicit in the big question is whether farms like ours are frivolously inefficient or whether they're a model worth supporting because of their better care of people, communities, and ecosystems.
  Certainly big, industrialized farms free up/displace lots of workers. Lots of small, family farms would require lots of farmers and that means fewer people doing other jobs. A shift to small family farms might come about in part by farmers replacing workers in pesticide manufacturing plants or global food transport workers or food marketing specialists or treadmill salesmen, but that would only be a part of the shift; small farms can really only become mainstream in America to the extent that mainstream Americans become farmers again.
  Relearning how to farm well (especially growing more than just the most profitable niche products) would take a lot of time even if the whole world were convicted of the value of small family farms overnight, and, of course, small family farms aren't compatible with the kind of consolidation of land ownership that we have now, but what if the workers were willing and able and could buy back their ancestors' family farms? How much food could such farms even produce? To try to answer that question, we first have to confront the reality of synthetic fertilizers. In the case of garden crops, which take up very little land, there are reasonable alternatives to synthetic fertilizers, particularly in the presence of all the organic waste materials that our current economy generates. On the other hand, the yields of the crops that take up a lot of land -- the crops that ultimately really feed the world (and lead to the organic wastes that make it seem so easy to organically fertilize calorie- and acreage-marginal crops like vegetables) -- depend much more heavily on synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers allow for supplying practically unlimited nutrients to crops, at least so long as the fossil fuels and other mined nutrient sources required to synthesize the fertilizers are plentiful. (Of course, we're ignoring, meanwhile, all the ways in which industrialized agriculture relies on non-renewable and unsustainable inputs, the permanent damage that industrialized agriculture is doing to the productive capacity of the earth, and all the different sorts of risks that come with industrialized agriculture.) Growing crops organically means the only nutrients available to the crop are what can be recycled (through manures, kitchen scraps, animal bones, mulches, etc.) When it comes to the crops that produce the calories that feed people, crops like corn and wheat and oats and forages for livestock, synthetic fertilizers make a huge difference, perhaps doubling potential yields per acre or even more.
  Does that mean small, organic, family farms could only produce half or less of the food of big, industrialized farms (and would be at least twice as expensive)? Some of big ag's proponents might suggest that, but for one thing that ignores the great efficiency with which small, diversified farms can make use of land, land that is too sloping, too varied, or divided into plots too small to suit big machines and extensive management. Even vacant lots in large cities have proven fertile ground for small, organic farms and gardens. Our own farm was long ago abandoned by mainstream agriculture as too marginal; yet to us it offers overwhelming potential production. The biggest difference may be that small farms are so much more flexible in terms of how they can convert sunlight into food. For example, instead of growing (and devoting land solely to) genetically modified, herbicide-resistant soybeans for chicken feed, free range chickens on small farms can scavenge the worms and grubs they need for protein, along with much of their energy needs, all from land devoted primarily to other uses. Hogs, similarly, are wonderful at utilizing what would otherwise be waste: crop residues from the field, acorns and beechnuts from forests, leftover whey from cheesemaking, etc. Goats can potentially thrive year round on nothing but invasive exotic plants and other unwanted weeds and forages that would otherwise just be mowed or sprayed with herbicides. In contrast, industrialized agriculture devotes a majority of America's most productive cropland strictly to growing animal feed (and fuel ethanol.) How uneconomical!
  Here's a good perspective on the actual, real-world inefficiency of modern industrialized agriculture:
Some might argue that how inefficiently the products of industrialized agriculture are used and how much waste goes along with industrialized agriculture are separate issues from the question of industrial agriculture's productivity, but we believe these issues are deeply and inseparably interconnected.  The history of the world's worst famines provides exceedingly strong evidence that precisely these kinds of issues that we see with our current industrialized agriculture are the worst causes of famine: over-reliance on monocropping systems (e.g. 1.5 million dead in the Irish potato famine, 7 million dead in the Bengal famine of 1943 when a fungus infected the rice crop), forfeiting local economic sovereignty (especially food sovereignty) to outside power centers and the exploitation and political corruption that those centralized systems foster (e.g. 2.5-3 million dead in the North Korean famine of the 1990s, 5 million dead in the Russian famine of 1921, 10 million dead in the Soviet famine of 1932-3, 15-43 million dead in the Great Chinese Famine between 1959 and 1961), and replacing crops for local consumption with non-food and export crops, which has a lot of overlap with forfeiting local food sovereignty and exploitation by non-local power centers (e.g. , 2 million dead in the Vietnamese famine of 1945 when Vietnam was heavily focused on rubber production, 10 million dead in the Bengal famine of 1770 when Bengali agriculture focused especially on indigo and opium production.)
  Even if a predominantly industrialized agriculture can currently feed much of the world (with an emphasis on the wealthiest and least food-insecure parts of the world), one must ask whether current practices can be sustained. What will industrialized agriculture do without cheap and abundant fossil fuels for its machines and for synthesizing its fertilizers? What will industrialized agriculture do when the weeds and insects and disease organisms develop resistance to the current array of synthetic poisons? Of course, the only answer is blind faith in the prospect of newer and higher-tech poisons and machines, meanwhile assuming that the pollution and side effects of yesterdays poisons will prove negligible.
  As for us, we maintain hope in a different kind of agriculture, a culture of small, local-organic, family farms.  There's lots more we'd like to say on this topic if we had time.  For a look at what it would mean to eat almost entirely from a small, local-organic, family farm, see this post on our blog.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

After a rough week dealing with Eric's sprained ankle, this reminder of the rewards of the farm life:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Farmers' Table

Everything we ate last night — and this is pretty normal for us — we grew ourselves on our organic farm or wild harvested in our neighborhood, including even what the animals ate that provided the dairy and meat and eggs. We’re having tortillas made from grinding homemade hominy made from a local heirloom corn we’ve been stewarding (saving seed, etc.) for about 13 years, with a mix of different varieties of dried peas (similar to black-eyed peas), with canned pork (from a hog which we primarily fed surplus dairy from our cows, acorns, and pumpkins), with goat cheese (from goats raised year-round entirely from our farm/without any purchased feed and made with homemade/home-processed rennet and home-cultured cultures), with cilantro and onions fresh from the garden, roasted red peppers from the freezer (from last year’s garden), with fresh Swiss chard on the side, with all-grass-fed milk from our Jersey cow to drink, and for dessert, angel food cake made with a 200+ year old variety of heirloom wheat and eggs from our chickens (which we’re currently feeding the smaller kernels of wheat that our seed cleaner separates out, together with everything they can scavenge on free range) and honey from our bees, with fresh strawberries on the side.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Salad Season

There's no doubt, the lettuce patch is the prettiest part of the spring garden.  With leaves of greens and reds, shiny and matte, smooth and frilled, firm and delicate, it's all a feast for the eyes.  But a plate piled high with fresh salad greens is even more beautiful.  We can't seem to enjoy enough salad these days.  It's peak lettuce season so we hope you'll indulge with us in this seasonal treat.  These are our favorite dressings.

  Our Basic Salad Dressing Recipe
1 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Wilted Lettuce Salad
  Finely chop bacon and fry with green onions.  Add honey and vinegar.  Bring to a simmer then pour hot over lettuce.  Yum!!  Eric said he could become a vegetarian if he could eat salads like this (like we made yesterday) all the time

Thursday, May 4, 2017

CSA Share

Strawberries, potatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, green garlic, sugar snap peas

CSA Share

Beets, spinach, lettuces, snow peas, green garlic, cabbage, radishes, sweet potato

CSA Share

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sweet potato bed

Bedding the sweet potatoes with 20 different varities this year

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.