Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beans, beans, beans

This year was the first year we ever grew dry beans. They were very easy to grow, the work came after they were dry.

First they have to be harvested from the garden. Migrant Farm Hand Becky and I picked a bucket of them to test out the process. Then when my parents were here they picked the rest.

After they are picked, beans have to come out of the shells. This can be done by hand, but it's much easier and quicker to do large batches at a time. Patrick the "Tajik Goat Herding Farm Hand" took up the challenge. He loaded a batch into a feed sack and then stomped on them. Once the shells are cracked the beans come out. 

The next step is getting rid of the shells and chaff. Most of the shells can be picked out by the handful. Then we pour the beans out of the feed sack and into a bucket. This was done in front of a fan. In the process of pouring the fan would blow away the dirt and chaff and the beans would go into the bucket. After passing the beans back and forth in front of the fan a few times, we had a clean bowl of beans. 

As you can see our three varieties of beans are mixed. We grew kidney, pinto, and black beans. So the next step was sorting those beans by variety. We really didn't find a quick way of doing this besides        feeding our helpers some wine and dinner and asking them to do it.

 Finally the beans were sorted into Mason jars and we put them all in the freezer. Freezing them ensures that all the little bugs that may be in them are dead. (I should note that this photo is only part of the harvest.)

We'll be ready for lots of soups and chili this winter. What are your favorite ways to use beans?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Since You've Been Gone

Since you've been gone:

We've cried, we have cried so hard sometimes.
We've laughed, we have laughed so hard sometimes.

We have told so many stories.
We've listened to old stories, and learned new ones.

We've planted a tree for you - it's a Magnolia, and it's next to the cabin.
We've grown big beautiful pumpkins.
We've cut all the wood for the winter.

We've watched the Pirates make it to the playoffs.
We've attended a Steelers and Mountaineers game, but aren't ready to watch your Blue Eagles.

We've shared meals at your kitchen table, and lots of dessert.
We have fully embraced "comfort food".

We've passed red Jettas on the road, but it wasn't you.
We've tried to fix the driveway at the farm, but don't know how.
We've thought about the barn project, but it seems too hard on our own.

Your little boy turned 30.
Your little boy inherited your bid number at Captina Creek.

We've canned tomatoes from the auction.
We've played with Nate and Will and Mikey.
We've gathered as a family and celebrated Brittany and Michael's wedding.
We have thought of you and missed you everyday.

Your John Boy and Mollie Bell

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkins galore!

Pumpkins are my favorite fall crop. Last year we finally had a successful pumpkin harvest, which made me happy to the point of tears. This year the harvest was even better. 

We grew four different varieties- Cinderella (deep orange), Jarrahdale (blue), traditional Jack-O-Lantern, and an Amish pie pumpkin. Farmer John planted them under black plastic mulch, which may have contributed to the bountiful harvest.

We also grew some little gourds and Butternut squash. Both did very well. We sold a lot of the gourds at market, and Farmer John's Mom cooks some tasty squash. 

This little guy wanted to haggle over pumpkin prices. Farmer John gave him a good deal, and the kid walked his bike home with a bagged pumpkin hanging off the handlebar. 


Of all the parts of growing pumpkins, the harvest is my favorite. However, my second favorite will come soon - eating them!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Farmer John Answers - Part 2

Here is the second of our two part series on Farmer John answers.  Again, 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....

Of all the stuff you grow, how much do you eat/preserve yourself, how much do you sell, and how much goes to the chickens/pigs/compost?
A. Alesandrini

I would say the majority of crops we grow we sell at Farmers Market. We've grown the gardens large enough now that I can't imagine the two of us making a dent on the produce supply. However, we do preserve a fair amount of food and some crops are only for us. We only grow dry beans for ourselves because they are so time consuming to shell. I have recently learned to pressure-can so I can put up more of our low acid vegetables. The chickens and pigs usually only get the produce that is too blemished, old, or funky for us.

Should fresh tomatoes be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for best flavor?
Uncle Tom

I can't stand tomatoes that have been refrigerated. They get all mushy and aren't worth eating. If you want to preserve them a little longer than they last at room temperature find a cool dark place such as a cellar or basement. This will keep them longer without making them mushy. In fact, green tomatoes picked before frost will continue to ripen in a basement or cellar, although they won't be quite as tasty because the sugars won't fully develop.

How often do you have to recruit help to get things done?
A. Alesandrini

I had lots of help this summer/fall with our market garden. I felt very fortunate to have so many friends and family willing to pitch in to pick beans, dig potatoes, bale hay, and split firewood. They would show up and help without me ever asking. I do know however, as I continue to grow the farm I will have to get better at asking for help and maybe hire a few willing high school laborers to help with some of the farm work. It will eventually be to much work for just Mollie and I to do on our own.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Goodbye Farmer Pap

Farmer John's Dad, Nelson, passed away in September. 

Nelson, or as I sometimes called him on the blog "Farmer Pap", was the driving force of the farm. He was born and raised here. He cared for the farm after his father passed away. He helped John and I purchase the farm after we moved back to West Virginia. He cleared brush for the pastures. He drove the tractor during hay season. He gave us the cattle as a wedding present. He plowed the gardens. And he was fiercely proud of the work we were doing and our plans for the farm. 

It has been hard to start moving forward again. However, it's been made easier because we are surrounded by memories of him. The farm is brimming with them. Everyday, with every farm project, we will think of him and remember his love for us and this farm. 

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