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Mid summer July 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 1:58 pm

The last couple weeks have been hot, hot, and hot.  Rain has eluded us for over a month now.  Although we’ve had a few scattered showers, not one has measured more than two tenths of an inch in the gauge.  Amidst the mid-summer heat, a couple changes have happened in the garden.  Our early season salad mix and spinach sputtered to a halt while the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes began hanging a healthy fruit set.  The sungolds were the first to ripen on July 11.  Eggplant (Swallow) were close behind and we took a small harvest to market last week.  More to come this week.  We also began harvesting padrones – an excellent frying pepper – and continue to watch the other varieties size up before turning color.  Kohlrabi finished last week – couple observations: kolibri (a beautiful purple variety) sized up evenly , held better in the ground and was less prone to splitting than the early white variety, Vienna.  The purple also sells much better with its vibrant color on the table.  The beets have halted growth in this heat and the greens are starting t look a bit tattered.  We’ll harvest the remainder of the row this week and sow another round for fall harvest.  Cukes are sizing up, beans are happy and squash plentiful.  Here are a couple recent pics.

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Food carts – Trailer Park’d July 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 1:13 am

A quick shout out to our neighbors at the Allen Street Farmer’s Market, Trailer Park’d.  They’ve been serving up some great eats from their finely retrofit trailer made mobile kitchen.  A must try if you’re in the neighborhood.  They source a variety of local farmers and have been using our arugula and ramps in dishes the last couple weeks.  Keep the good food cookin’


Tomato Trellis June 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 10:09 pm

The time to trellis is well upon us.  ‘Maters were sown indoors around mid-march and transplanted outside May 21.  They were potted-up one time after sowing to 3″ containers.  A lil’ extra work but it makes for hearty plants going in the ground.  And now, 5 weeks later, they’re growin’ wild and setting fruit.  We put up our trellis system a week or so ago and, so far so good.  Last year we had run jute twine between t-posts and weaved the tomatoes between the twine.  The twine broke often and the plants grew to be difficult to manage and pick from.  A number of storms blew the whole woven mess down.  So this year we looked for a new idea.  We found the following website to be an great overview of many different trellising systems.

We chose to modify the conduit and vertical string method.  For 120 row feet, we used 24 lengths of 1/2″ conduit that was sold as 10′ lengths ($2.18/10′).  A 10′ length was driven vertically into the ground (about 2′) at 6′ spacing.  We bent the top 1′ of each bed-end vertical 90 degrees so that conduit lengths could be connected and run horizontal about 8′ off the ground.  We couldn’t find any cheap conduit t-connectors so we used 1/2″ PVC t-connectors ($.25/connector).  They’re larger than the 1/2″ conduit so we slid them a foot or so down the horizontal and used conduit connectors to connect the horizontals ($2.40 for a bag of 5).  The PVC connector sits snugly on top of the vertical after the pounding it took with the sledge.  After all the conduit was up, we hung twine from above each tomato.  After experimenting with different ways to secure the twine to the tomato, we found that no knot is needed if the string is wound around the plant enough.  We used one piece of twine as two lines for each tomato and we expect we’ll need to add a few more as the plant grows.  In total, for two 60′ beds, it cost us about $70.  Not bad when t-posts are $5 a pop and the conduit can be later used for low-tunnel supports.  It only took the two of us a couple hours to get up all the conduit.  The pruning and twining take a bit of attention but it’s a great meditation on a cool morning.  Also of note, our pruning approach was much heavier handed and we hope this also adds to the ease of taking care of the plants as well as their resilience to any diseases – air flow wards off blight.  I suppose it’ll all come down to how tasty the ‘maters are – we’ll let you know.  Sungolds are all startin’ to think about turning color, bets are in for the first ripe.  Maybe this first part of July.

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Pedal power June 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 9:25 pm

Alright, Slow Lane Farm made it to market by bicycle.  Everything – EZ Up, folding table, cooler, two wax boxes and another rubbermaid bin – fit on the bike trailer and we pedaled the handful of blocks to market.  It was enjoyable.  We will probably need to buy another bike trailer to accommodate the increasing harvest.  The modified Wikes cargo trailer we have is excellent for hauling a load and we’ll probably get another of their DIY kits.  The 1″ tubing is sturdy, light, and easy to add on flooring and sides.  Check out their website:

This week we had a few new cuttings to add to the market list.  The first cutting of the arugula was beautiful and sold quickly.  We also took a few bunches of kale and some baby spinach that were popular.  We harvested another 5lbs of spicy salad mix, a dozen bunches of radishes, and a few bundles of mixed herbs.  Many folks returned to buy more ramps and it’s a good thing we dug a few more because they were in hot demand.  We also handed out the following ramp recipes:

Wild Leek Linguine

About 20 ramps chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 pound linguine

2 teaspoons red chili flakes

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste

Bring a large pot of salty water to boil and begin cooking the pasta.

Clean the ramps, removing the translucent husk over the bulb (if necessary).

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan until just smoking, then pull the pan off the flame, toss in the ramp bulbs, and toss well until the pan calms some. Return to heat and sear until blistered, brown, and soft. Add the garlic to the pan, tossing until toasted and nutty, then add the al dente linguine and chili flakes to the pan. Grate Pecorino over the top. Finish with a little olive oil, if desired.

Potato and Ramp Soup

4 to 6 slices bacon

4 cups chopped ramps (including green)

4 to 5 cups diced red potatoes

3 tablespoons flour

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, fry bacon until crispy; set bacon aside. Add ramps and potatoes to the skillet; fry on medium-low heat until ramps are tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until flour is absorbed. Stir in chicken broth; simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 to 6.

White Cheese Pizza with Ramps

For the Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

For the Topping

10 ramps or medium scallions

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1 cup coarsely grated fresh mozzarella cheese (4 ounces); see Note

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flour together with the yeast, salt and sugar. Pour in the water and stir well with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Transfer the pizza dough to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let stand in a warm place until the pizza dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Set a pizza stone on the bottom or on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 500° for at least 30 minutes.

Make the topping: Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Blanch the ramps until they are bright green but still al dente, about 1 minute. Drain, pat dry and cut into 1-inch lengths.

Punch down the pizza dough and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on the grated mozzarella in an even layer. Scatter the blanched ramps over the mozzarella and season lightly with salt and pepper. Top the pizza with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Slide the pizza from the peel onto the hot stone. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the pizza crust is browned and crisp on the bottom. Transfer the pizza to a work surface, cut into wedges and serve right away.


Three sisters June 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 6:27 pm

At our second garden space (Magnolia) we planted a combination of corn, beans and squash.  These are the ‘three sisters’ that the Iroguois planted together.  The corn grows tall and serves as a pole for the beans to grow up.  The beans in turn capture (fix) some Nitrogen from the air for the heavy feeding corn.  The squash sprawls out across the ground and keeps the weeds at bay (and maybe some the critters , too).  See the following for a more complete understanding of the native philosophy behind the companion planting:

The garden is 36′ x 36′ and we were able to make 11 rows of 8 hills.  After the overall space was tilled, we added a half wheel barrow to each hill spot, gave it a good forking and then sowed four corn seeds, in a cross pattern, at every other hill.  Two or three squash plants were planted in the alternating hills.  After the corn germinated and was a couple inches tall, we planted four pole bean seeds in a square pattern around the corn pattern.  No water at this garden so we planted right before a rain and will rely on mulch, subsequent rains, and a bit of luck to get all the plants established.  Cross your fingers.

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Market day

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 6:13 pm

Alright, we made it to market.  The table was a little on the lean side but we had enough to strike the interest of browsers.  The night before we braved the mosquito infested woods to dig ramps (wild leeks).  We had to wear long pants, rain jackets (with hoods cinched over our faces) and tall boots to minimize skin exposure for the pesky ‘squiters.  Even in the late afternoon the heat was stifling and we could only take a short stint before we had to surrender to the car.  But the sales were well worth the effort and we will forage again next week.  People were curious about trying the ramps and we sold out quickly.  Although we added edible flowers to an already beautiful salad mix, it was slow moving and difficult to keep from wilting in the heat.  It eventually did sell as did all the radishes.  We also took some tomato plants that didn’t find a home in our garden and have now found homes elsewhere.  We bunched a mix of herbs – basil, mint, and parsley – but found few takers.  Molly made a lemonade mix that was a big hit.  The night before she steeped peonie and lavender flowers in water and then mixed with mint, fresh lemon and agave syrup.  It was delicious on such a hot day.  The garden is really coming along and we’re looking forward to a bigger harvest next week.

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Soil love June 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — slowlanefarm @ 6:22 pm

We’ve been giving a good deal of attention to the soil.  The test results returned by MSU gave an understanding of what we’re starting with.  Both sights have a pH of around 7.8 and are slightly deficient in phosphorous.  Organic matter is about 2.6%.  Being the compost enthusiasts we are, our approach to building healthy soil is based on black gold – compost.  For each 3’x60′ bed we amended with 5 wheel barrow loads of compost.  This was worked in with the digging fork before planting.  In total, we spread 8 yards of compost at the Mifflin garden site.  There is another 6 yards at the Magnolia site.  Hopefully this will provide the needed nutrients for the intensive planting as well as begin to lower pH and add organic matter.  No question about it, building soil takes time.  We were pleased to find heavy metal results of no concern.  Although trace amounts of lead resulted in the test, the 140 micrograms per kilogram are at level that many researchers consider “lead free.”  And apparently, veggies are not strong accumulators of heavy metals in the soil so it doesn’t pass fully through the food chain.  A mouth full of soil is much more likely to do damage, and leave a bad taste in your mouth.  Don’t eat soil.

We’ve also been using a broadfork to loosen the heavy clay.  Made by Bully Tools, it is very similar to Johnny’s but at a fraction of the cost – $85 compared to $200.  Maybe a bit heavier than the Johnny’s fork but that might help it find its way deeper into the soil.  The tines are sturdy, but have bent on a few rocks.  I guess it’s better to bend than to break altogether.  It’s not as effective as the digging fork in the heavy clay, but it does make quick work of ground that has already been turned.  Continuing on the tool notes, a big shout out to the serrated hand sickle.  We’ve found this to be a supreme quack grass killer.  Thanks Rebecca.  The serrated teeth grab onto those long rhizomes and the quack comes out screaming.  Makes a big difference to be using a good tool for the job.