Friday, August 30, 2013

Farmer John Answers - Part 1

Hey it's Farmer John and I am here to  answer a few questions that were presented in a previous blog entry. But first, let me thank all of you for being faithful readers of the blog and supporters or our farming endeavor.

This will be the first of a two part series. Mostly today I am answering general farm-life questions. As a rookie farmer I can't guarantee any of the answers to technical questions are correct.  But of course I will tell you what I do know and make up the rest....

How much of your day is spent outside?
-A. Alesandrini

About half of my day is spent outside. This has been somewhat surprising to me. When envisioning my future life as a farmer I thought it would be filled sunup to sundown with laboring in the fields, which is what I was excited about. But alas, there are bills to pay, customer orders, phone calls, and frequent trips to the hardware store to find the parts for what I have managed to break on that particular day.

Farmer John, from your new perspective as a full time farmer, would you support an effort to repeal the 13th amendment?

Most certainly not P.S. I know I have the reputation of immediately putting all friends, family, neighbors, solicitors, etc to work the moment they have crossed the bridge onto the farm. But, I am convinced that this is not any form of slavery. While I might pay meager wages (or no wages) I know that the workers' compensation is more than satisfactory. They get wonderful meals, good company, learning opportunities, lively conversation, free vegetables, and great exercise.  It would be hard to put a price-tag on these benefits.

Farmer John, what's your favorite part of farming? Your least favorite?
-Karen Schiller

I'll list a couple of favorites and and a couple of hardships. The best part of running an organic farm is the food. I feel Mollie and I eat like Royalty. I also really enjoy being around the farm animals, especially when they are on the correct side of the fence. There is nothing more relaxing than being in a barn at the end of a long day listening to the cattle chewing contently on sweet smelling hay.

On the flip side I really hate when machinery breaks down. When you're using the farm equipment that your 73-year-old father used when he was a teenager, there is a whole lot of breaking down. The hardest  part, hands down, is dealing with the death/slaughter of my livestock. Intellectually I feel strongly that pasture-raised meats benefit small farms and consumers. But emotionally it is never easy to kill something you have spent  time caring for.

Farmer John - Have you found anything of value in your kitchen garden? As kids, we found a lot of marbles. I've seen the picture where the now garden was once a barn.
-Sister Susi

I think you are correct about the building being on the location of our current kitchen garden. Though I heard that it was a small cabin left from the days when this was the county poor farm. We still do often find marbles in the garden when plowing in the spring. There must have been a hundred of them rise to the surface over the years. I am sure that it was some child's prize stash of marbles a century  ago. We often also find rusty unrecognizable tools and machine parts. In the new garden this year I have found quite a collection of broken hay rake teeth.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Broccoli Pasta

As requested, here's my attempt at the Broccoli Pasta recipe:
This recipe comes from Stefano, my former roommate. Stefano is Sardinian, but we met in northern Minnesota - go figure. He didn't have this recipe written down, and neither do I, so bear with me. 

Also, this has taken years of my trial and error to get it close to Stefano's version. In order for you to avoid some of that trial and error I think the key is to think and act like an Italian. That means use the freshest ingredients you can get and use a lot more salt and olive oil than you normally would. 

You'll need:
Broccoli - a couple heads - it's well worth the effort to get them from your garden, farmers market, or CSA. 
Onion - chopped
Garlic- 2 or 3 cloves (or more) chopped
Olive oil - don't skimp!
Salt- for the water and then to taste with broccoli mix
Pasta - I like spaghetti or linguine, Farmer John likes penne or bow-tie - it's up to you

Get a big pot of water heating and add salt (at least a few tablespoons) while it's heating chop the broccoli. It can be big pieces since you'll chop it up again after it's cooked. Once the water is boiling add the broccoli.

While the broccoli cooks chop an onion and garlic. Saute in a fair amount of olive oil until the onion is translucent. 

The broccoli should be done by now, and here is the key - don't drain the water! Scoop out the broccoli with a slotted spoon. I usually scoop it onto a plate, and chop it up a bit more. Then add it to the onions and garlic. Continue to  cook broccoli and onion mixture on med-low. 

Meanwhile, return broccoli-water to a boil and cook the pasta. When pasta is done, drain and return to the pot. Add a scoop of the broccoli mix to the pasta and stir. Plate the pasta and add another scoop of broccoli mix. Some grated Parmesan isn't necessary, but it doesn't hurt either. 

Enjoy with a salad or bruschetta and a glass of something yummy. It also helps to think about warm beaches and the Mediterranean sea - or, in my case, cold Minnesota nights shared with fantastic friends. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

5 Farm Dinners in August

Hands down the best part of living on a farm is the food. During the growing season we just go outside and pick what we want to eat - then combine with a item from the pantry or freezer - and there's dinner.
Here's what we've been eating:
My two favorite recipes from a former roommate - all the way from Sardinia. Brushetta and broccoli pasta...and a gin and tonic...not from Sardinia.
Farmer John has discovered a FANTASTIC pizza dough recipe. It takes two days, but it is worth it! On the left is the first use of our sausage along with broccoli and tomato sauce. On the right pesto, tomato, mozzarella and basil.
 Sweet corn and mashed potatoes. So easy, so delicious!
Farmer John used local wheat for this no-knead bread. Then he combined fresh sausage with the tomatoes that didn't fit in the canner-load for pasta sauce.
Finally, Farmer John and Patrick enjoyed some stereotypical man-time with beers while grilling these pork shoulder steaks. They were amazing! The Berkshire pork was juicy and full of flavor, we made the right breed choice for sure. We really are enjoying the pork and hope our customers are too!

P.S.- Thanks for the questions for Farmer John. He'll be posting answers soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ask Farmer John

Sorry about the two weeks of blog-silence. There may be a correlation between that and my first two weeks back at work.

Which is not to say that the farm has been quiet. Farmer John has been busy as ever!

Farmer John has agreed to help with a new theme on the blog. He is going to answer some questions. So, this is your chance to ask him what you've been wondering about the farm.

What's growing in the garden?

How does the tractor work?

Which cow is his favorite?

Feel free to ask away in the comments (anonymously is fine) or email me mtoppe{at}gmail{dot}com. He'll answer them or, much like teaching, make up an answer with confidence.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet the Calves

I'm pretty sure there haven't been enough cute calf photos recently. Here ya go! 
These are the two youngest calves. On the left is Gordon - don't let the name fool you, it's a girl. She was born a little bit early and we were worried at first. Now she is doing just fine. 

On the right is Tuesday. He was born while we were on vacation and Farm Hand Becky was taking care of the farm. She did a wonderful job of keeping an eye on this little guy and his mom. He had some issues with flies during the first week of life. Highland calves are prone to a problem called "fly-strike" and it is just as gross and creepy as it sounds. But, no worries, he has completely recovered and the only signs of the fly-strike are a couple bald patches on his side. 

Gordon is only a week older than Tuesday. Don't they look like they could be twins? 
The third oldest is "Walleye" - named by Farm Hand Becky. This calf is very skittish and shy. I wonder if has anything to do with all the attention she got on her birthday? 
 Finally, our oldest calf is nameless, but she's healthy and growing fast.
 We're hoping to have one (or two) more calves soon. It's a joy to see the herd grow!
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