Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We are not usually “impulse buyers.” But sometimes you have to be impulsive in order to get what you want. We try to keep an eye on the local papers for auction announcements just in case there might be something there that we could put to use on the farm. We are not seasoned auction-buyers, though. The only things we’ve bought in the past at auction are our refrigerated truck, our large hoophouse and some raingear. But when I looked through the auction section of the paper last week I spotted a listing for an Allis Chalmers G at an auction this past weekend. This is not a tractor we were planning to buy. But, then again, I’m not sure you can really plan to buy one of these. They are pretty rare and you’ve just got act on it when one comes up for sale.
Being a small organic vegetable farm, we don’t mind hand weeding. It’s somewhat inevitable. But by this time of year, things are always getting completely out of control. So many different beds are in desperate need of weeding, its tempting to just give up on all of them. So, we know that this is one part of our operation that needs some rethinking and improvement.
The Allis Chalmers G is pretty funky-looking. It is strictly a cultivating tractor and only has a 10-12 horsepower engine. They were manufactured in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, just before herbicides began to make them “obsolete.” But they have still been useful to many over the years because about half of the 30,000 made are still in use.
We ended up “winning” the G at the auction for the price of $1700 (only $200 above our the $1500 we said was our limit!). It needs some work (it came with no cultivators, nor the levers to operate them), but we hope it will help us keep out the weeds on most of our unmulched crops.
We are always leery about taking on new equipment since neither of us are mechanically inclined. But we think the pros will greatly outweigh the cons of owning this machine.

Vegetables available this week:
Pretty much the same as the last few weeks except that we have a few cantaloupes (if you're early you might get one).
Leeks next week and probably more cantaloupes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

you must take squash!

these patty pans just won't stop!

Harold and Linda hard at work!

Rainbow cherry tomatoes

A busy week at muddy fingers farm. We are still managing to keep the late blight away from our tomatoes and our late season potatoes, so that is good news! We are using several management strategies currently to keep the late blight contained to where we first spotted it. we are also having some help from several things that are just dumb luck. First the weather has been less conducive to blight. We have been having warm days and warmer nights and it has been drier. Secondly, the early and midseason potatoes are planted separately from the other vulnerable things, and they are physically separated by a windbreak.

We are also actively taking steps to contain the late blight that we do have. First of all, when we discovered the disease very early in the outbreak in our early and mid season potatoes, we pulled the infected plants and any near them, that was about four 100 foot beds. Those pulled plants are under a piece of plastic, cooking in the sun to kill any spores that were on them. Then we noticed that the rows below the first 4 had also become infected, so we took the brush hog through and mowed those plants to the ground to stop more spores from forming and spreading to other plants both here and on our neighbors land (another 8 beds, I think).

Thirdly, we are spraying copper hydroxide which is what is recommended for organic growers to prevent the late blight. This treatment if preventative only, so the leaves must be sprayed with a coat of it before the spores land on them, meaning after rain and every week or so they must be sprayed again. According to the Umass extension website, oral toxicity of copper is low (lower than aspirin or caffeine), but washing tomatoes is still recommended before consuming. We are washing our tomatoes and potatoes before we give them out. But this is a general reminder that it is always a good idea to wash all produce before you eat it. We are extremely careful about hand washing and hygiene, but unfortunately, not every person who picks up produce before you is as conscientious.

When mowing the potatoes last week, it was sad to know that we were cutting their growing season short, but we know that they were mostly sized up already and we may be able to save our tomato crop as well as the storage potatoes that have not yet sized up. So, it was a hard decision that we felt was the only way we really could go. As I was mowing the plants, two things came to me. The first was the smell of the late blight. I had read that the extremely fast decomposition of the plant material caused by late blight infection can cause an intense smell. I accidently hit the corner of the plastic covering the pulled up plants from the first few beds, and the only two words that can describe the smell are GAG REFLEX! Wow! The poor irish! As the boats left the island after the famine, the smell of rotting potatoes must have followed them miles out to see, the last memory of their homeland must certainly have been the awful odor of rotting potato plants.

I haven’t mowed anything taller than a lawn in a while and I had forgotten the way the barn swallows swoop excitedly around the tractor as it scares insects up for them to eat. The little nestlings in our barn and carport were well fed the night, and it made me smile to see the birds swoop and dive snatching up insects. I felt like part of the flock as they soared at eye level dipping down and grabbing their prey. Even if we were mowing growing plants, life does go on!

On the bad news front, this will most likely be the last week for cucumbers as the downy mildew has finished them up. Get them while you can (see the recipe below for cucumber soup!) In reference to the title, the squash are doing great, please, please take them and eat them and LOTS! in case you need inspiration, see several recipes below.

In the news that could have been worse department. We have been pulling onions this week and they managed to size up pretty well before they got downy mildew. We even pulled one that weighed in at 2 and a quarter pounds before it was peeled and cleaned!

We had a nice time at the star gazing sleep out, but who knew so many people go on vacation in august! There were lots of people who expressed interest in coming, but in the end it was a small group of us who slept out and a bigger group who enjoyed the dessert potluck. We haven’t scheduled or planned September’s event yet, but keep your eyes out, we are talking about having a perogie making day!

Things you may see this week:
last of the cukes
cherry tomatoes
lettuce mix

try this delicious heirloom tomato salad recipe from the Edible Finger Lakes magazine!
3 lbs heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 garlic clove grated (or minced and mashed with salt)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
2 stems of oregano leaves
1/2 tsp coarse salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

put tomato wedges in a bowl and whisk together the other ingredients, then toss it over the tomatoes. this recipe is great tossed with feta or goat cheese!

"Quick Zucchini julienne" from "more house specialties"
heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet
saute one medium onion, thinly sliced
add 1 lb (4 cups) of matchstick sized zucchini until lightly browned and crisply done
stir in 1 T sesame seds and 1 T soy sauce, add salt and pepper if desired.

Zucchini-potato pancakes:
2 medium zucchini, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large potato peeled and shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 small onion, grated
2 T. cornmeal
2 T flour
3/4 t salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
oil for frying

sourcream if desired for serving.

Drain zucchini, pressing out as much liquid as possible, mix with potato and onion. stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt and egg until well mixed.

lightly grease griddle or skillet. cook using 2 T for each pancake, pressing down to flatten, 3-4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Serve with sour cream.

this recipe from our friends, kara and ryan, sounds so good, can't wait to try it!

MMMMmmm... even non-beet-lovers enjoy this snack.

4 beets, scrubbed -- do not peel
1 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using the slicing blade of your food processor, a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice beets as thinly as possible. Toss with olive oil and salt. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast 30 minutes to 1 hour, turning halfway through, until crisp. Check often to make sure they don't burn. Let cool and enjoy!

on the same note, try roasted green beans! large beans are especially good for this recipe!
toss beans with olive oil. bake at 450 for 20-22 minutes, turning after 10. salt the beans and serve, they are like green bean french fries, really great!

last chance for this recipe, i guess:
cucummber soup:
place 2 peeled cucumbers, one shallot(or small onion), 1 tsp dill, and 1 tsp. parsley in the food processor and puree. Add 1/4 cup yogurt and 1-3 tsp. cider vinegar. season with salt and pepper to taste.

hope the week is super! liz and matthew

Monday, August 10, 2009

2nd week of August

What a day!
Powerful thunderstorms succeeded a sweltering, thick-aired morning. (So this is what summer feels like?)
A couple hours of heavy rain and thunder and lightning surrounding us sent us inside for a couple of damp breaks from harvesting. At least no hail!

Liz mowed the rest of our late blight infected potatoes today. Unfortunately that was this morning right before the thunderstorms struck. We hope the infection doesn't wash down into the soil to infect the tubers.
The infection is evident by the brown splotches on the potato leaves in the pictures. As you can see its not too bad, yet. Maybe we have a less virulent strain.

this is the big picture of that spot.

a little friend got washed out in the storms, seen here taking a break with liz.

You are all invited to join us this Saturday night for a campout to watch the Perseid meteors. We'll have a campfire and some treats to eat and breakfast in the morning (homemade granola and blue berries). Feel free to sleep out overnight or just join us for a few hours Saturday night. We'll be starting at 8 Pm with a dessert potluck, bring your favorite and try some one else's favorite while you are at it! Bring a tent or don't last year just about everyone slept out without the tent as the stars are so spectacular that way. The moon will be quite dark, so it should be a great night! Come on out!

Vegetables you're likely to see this week:
*edamame soybeans

Edamame Soybeans are served in Japan and China both as a vegetable in meals and as a snack food. Edamame soybeans are easy to prepare. Just remove them from the stems and place in salted, boiling water for about ten minutes. They are delicious and nutty as well as being extremely nutritious, with all of the much celebrated health benefits of soy beans. Edamame is traditionally drained and salted with coarse salt then removed from the pods as they are enjoyed at the table or bar, just slip them out of their shells and pop them in your mouth. (When boiled, the beans easily slip out their shells.) To skip adding the salt, you can boil them in salted water instead or just forgo the salt all together.

grilled tomatillo salsa
you need: fresh tomatillos
garlic cloves, unpeeled 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
onion, coarsely chopped lemon or lime juice
Hot Pepper 2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat broiler.
Broil chiles, garlic, and tomatillos on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Peel garlic and tomatillos pull off tops of chiles. Purée all ingredients in a blender. • Salsa can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Makes about 3 cups.

hope to see you this weekend, have a great week!
matthew (and liz)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

first week of august

an exquisite white faced hornets nest

a birds nest on our truck's undercarriage

a truck full of garlic

This week has been intense. There is not really much of another way to describe it. Its been a double whammy with the arrival of both of the dreaded, unstoppable diseases that we wrote about last week. First of all, we were the first in the state! Unfortunately, it is at having downy mildew. We reported our suspected case to the extension agent and as she was already scheduled to be here for some other thing, so she looked at it and concurred that it did indeed look like downy mildew, the first reported case in the state if the look at the spores through the microscope validates it.

the phone has been ringing with new cases of late blight on tomatoes and potatoes. In the last week alone, we have heard of 8 farms that have it, not just locally but all over the place. When I sat down to write this hours ago, i was ready to say that our scouting has not turned up any yet, but as i sat down to write this, matthew came in and asked me to look at something in the field with him- and there it was, late blight. We have spotted it early and have some possible hope for control- depending on the weather.

we had already decided earlier in the week to begin a biological herbicide spraying regime and the copper and a new larger sprayer is en route at this writing. Matthew will spend some time tomorrow pulling the infected potato plants which he will then destroy (either by burning or smothering with plastic for later disposal) and we will begin spraying with copper hydroxide. This is a preventative measure to keep the infection from spreading. Again it may or may not succeed depending on the weather and other factors, we may lose all our tomatoes and all of our potatoes in a worst case scenario. We hope to avoid that worst case.

If you have tomato or potato plants, check them often, at least twice a week for brownish spots with a water soaked appearance around the outside. If you do get late blight as a kindness to your neighbors and to farmers, pull diseased plants and dispose of them in a sealed bag in the trash or by burying, smothering under plastic, or burning. The spores thrive in cool, wet weather and are air born.

In addition to these two awful diseases, we pulled our german white garlic and found that our harvest is about half of last years since some rotted in low spots over the winter. and we have downy mildew on our onions which will kill the leaves and will make the lose a little of their potential size. Like i said, its been a rough week.

here's hoping next week is a better one.
liz and matthew

things you may see this week:
cherry tomatoes
lettuce (mix)
beet greens
husk cherries