Friday, July 30, 2010
El Morro beef, potatoes, lettuce, onions, and lettuce from BDCK
So, this afternoon as the cumulus clouds built later than normal and All Things Considered drifted through the house (that's 4-6 pm around here) I grilled up a burger; a really 'green' burger. The meat came from the quarter of beef I bought from Charlie Mallory's El Morro Valley Ranch last fall, and the veggies came from my garden. It could have been made entirely from local ingredients, but I took some short cuts.
The first 'love apples' of the season; container grown
The cheese was from Tillamook (could be local goat cheese), and the bun was from 3rd street (Glen's Bakery makes infinitely better jalapeno topped buns, not displayed in the counters but just ask for one; $0.50 each). The red onion, black seeded simpson lettuce, cherry tomatoes (first of the season), and red potatoes were from my canyon. The latter being a 'wild' planting of potato. I don't remember ever planting potatoes in the bed in which this plant grew, but I must of. Expecting nothing much of potato harvest from beneath the un-tended or hilled-up plant, I pulled the 3' diameter lone bush mixed in with the carrots and shallots. To my utter astonishment, 2 lbs. of huge red potatoes came up with the stalk.
"How 'bout them apples?" is all that came to mind
Some perspective; above and below ground
They're coming: ripe tomatoes @ the farmers' market in a week (maybe 2 weeks)
2, 40' rows of tomatoes; celebrities left, romas right, covers off
I finally finished the first round of pruning the tomatoes and tying them up to the strands of bailing wire I strung horizontally over each row. It took more than several hours to support each and every heavy bearing branch with sisal twine, but it was finally done. What i'm to do is recreate a vertical trellis with bailing wire that will support 60+ plants in a more fiscally economical fashion than providing a cage to each individual plant (although, tomato cages are extremely cheap, so is soil, at the end of season clearance sales at our biggest of big-box stores in Gallup right now). The only caveat is that you have to track down each fruit bearing stem and tie a neat little sling around each one. Though time consuming, it's a great opportunity to commune with each plant, which in a normal size garden wouldn't be a problem, but with the market-size plots i'm dealing with takes most of a work day. I've also hung the Agribon19 row cover fabric over all the tomatoes to aid germination and speed the ripening of the fruit. The tomato harvest should be heavy this year, and I've already heard that I'll probably have to have a limit on how much each customer can buy at the market; when it rains, it pours.
That half-pound carrot I pulled up during the YCC tour of my garden was turned into a heart warming soup during one of these mid-afternoon downpours we've been having of late. The ingredients were: 1 huge carrot, chicken stock, peeled and chopped ginger, shallots, garlic, cumin, salt and scallion greens.
I used a mandolin slicer to break down the carrot, then simmered the bunch (minus the garlic and scallion greens, until the very end) for an hour or so. I used one of those 'blender-on-a-stick' devices to puree it's own pot.
I used a mandolin slicer to break down the carrot, then simmered the bunch (minus the garlic and scallion greens, until the very end) for an hour or so. I used one of those 'blender-on-a-stick' devices to puree it's own pot.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
This morning Ella, Tom, and Amy of the Work in Beauty CSA finally succumbed to my anti-scheduling nature and we all coordinated for a long planned tour of my garden. Tom and Ella also work for Gallup's renowned NM Youth Conservation Corps, better known as YCC -- whose employed more than 350 of Gallup's youth over the years building trails,and growing food, probably more things to [woot, woot Karl Lohman]! Being the middle of the work week , Tom and Ella used the opportunity to give a dozen or so of the the YCC gardening crew a tour of my gardens.
Black Diamond Canyon Kitchen's street-side facade
As any good elementary teacher knows, you never talk for more than 5 minutes in-a-row while teaching 8 year-olds, so a rambling hour-plus tour of the garden with like-minded adults and teens left me feeling like I'd being talking for hours. Ha. and I probably had.
Me, talking up broccoli in my Grandpas cut down hip-boots under the shade of a well pruned elm
We covered a range of topics during our walk ranging from soils, nutrients, and watering to plant life cycles, genetics, and marketing, Crop protection, planning, and successional planting were common themes throughout our discussions.
Starting with the carrots, shallots, and sandy soil am
endments, I pulled a half-pound carrot demonstrating the difference in root size between a carrot that goes to seed early with a large showy white flower versus one that resists bolting and grows a large harvestable carrot. Danvers variety in this case.
Three dudes in red and hats; tomatoes and peppers too
We moved on to the 15+ year old apple, pear, and apricot trees planted by the Washburns' years ago. Plagued by borer beetles and my reluctance to use a systemic pesticides they're struggling in the clay soils. Late frosts killed any chance of fruit this year.
Then we looked at the remnants of the snow peas and shelling peas planted next to the warming stone wall, followed by the recently pruned and tied covered rows of tomatoes. Bolting lettuce and spinach in the waterlogged original 8x4 garden was next. We then checked out the water logged maturing onions and radishes I'm about to harvest seed from.
The half-pound start to pureed carrot ginger soup
In the backyard was the fortified chickens, flooded peaches, commitment of perennials, cabbage and friends, lodged corn, pumpkins, neon potato beetle eggs, beat up beet greens, dirty cucumbers, and monster kochia weeds. 2 fox dogs, alert foxes, and no rabbits. P.S. Water timers and shiitake mushroom oak logs soaking in rainwater.
So the 'farm' in the title of this post comes from the inspiration I got from the NM senior WIC farmers' market checks that I accepted last week, addressed to, 'New Mexico Authorized Farmer.' That last word. Ha.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Celebrities: left-side trimmed, right-side dense and wanting
I think that since people have only 4 irreplaceable appendages we have a hard time with the concept of culling anything in the garden full of limbs, especially otherwise healthy branches of some tomato plant we've nurtured since it was wee little one. Who wants their left index finger cut off for the greater good of the others?
But, that's just what tomatoes need: Branches cut; nutrients concentrate in the remaining tissue; fruit swells, then ripens; harvest; we smile.
This season I planted my tomatoes much closer together than recommended, 18" vs. 30", and I'm gambling that heavy pruning of the lateral stems and extra suckers (fruit bearing branch growing diagonally between the vertical stem and horizontal branch), and purposeful staking will produce a consistent and heavy crop of the celebrity and husky red cherry tomatoes. In all I have a 105' of tomato rows planted this year. I took nearly 5 hours to prune and tie the tomato branches to the four strands of horizontal galvanized wire above each row. Most of my tomatoes are also under the protective cover of agribon-19 synthetic row covers. This keeps them warmer day and night, and helps lessen the negative effects of wind and rain on the self-pollinating yellow flowers.
Pruning really is one of the more nuanced skills in the garden. As a relative amateur, I really liked this recent LA Times article on pruning tomatoes; it's among many other great local food/farmers' market articles on the LA Times website. They also have the best Science/Environment bureau reporting of any newspaper in country, in my opinon.
Over the past two weekends the Gallup Independent sent their reporter, Leslie Wood-Klopfer, and photographer, Adron Gardner to the Gallup Farmers' Market. They published a pretty neat and representative story on the farmers' market on page 2 of the Monday, July 26th edition. Short-handed and covering every story in town, the photographer got a sweet picture of me having a good time selling the last little bit of the 2nd week's harvest. They also mentioned this blog after a couple quotes from yours truly.
Since the Gallup Independent doesn't offer any option for reading the full-text of articles on-line (let us please subscribe, online!!), i'll post the full-text of the article in this same post in several days for those of my loyal readers who live out of town. In the article Ms. Wood-Klopfer covered everything from the Work in Beauty CSA to customer reactions, including some choice quotes from the true local gardening sage, Sid Gillson. The only clarification needed: my 'family' misquoted in the article, consists only of me... and two dogs; 'still working on the rest of it:)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The Gallup Farmers' Market really seemed to kick into gear this week. Several more vendors were set-up (7 booths in total) selling a variety of produce, home-made crafts and beautiful clothes, and sustainable living/recycling information. But, the biggest change was the lively groups of elderly people with their $4 WIC Farmers Market checks in hand, right when the market opened! The Gallup Independent also had their reporter and photographer preparing a story about the market. I was without a camera this week at the market.
The senior WIC program; NM is far more progressive than we're given credit for!
As with each week yet this season, I sold 80% of the produce I brought in the first 20 minutes. I love the fact that most of my crop goes to appreciative people who will surely let little go to waste, but discussions with other growers and feedback from customers will prompt me to raise my prices a little in the coming weeks. Though I've said it before, I'll reiterate I don't do this for the money (the therapeutic value of growing food is priceless), it's really nice to have such a fun time trading a dozen produce-filled baskets (a full Subaru wagon worth) for spending money the rest of the week ($72 this week:)
The candy-cane stripped Chioggia Beet- an italian heirloom- 1 of 4 beet varieties i've had for sale
The Saturday morning harvest began again this week at 7:30 and I made it to the market around 8:45 (the second to last grower to arrive, I was stuck with the less desirable sunny spot at the south end of the alley). I would've arrived significantly later, as the growing size of the harvest is taking longer and longer to bring in, if it weren't for the self-less volunteer help of my friend, Jessi- now an expert at rinsing onions, shallots, and beets. Not to mention an infinitely better retail sales manager than myself. Thank you!!!
So, in all I brought 16 different varieties of herbs and produce to the market, including pickling cucumbers and medium yellow dutch shallots for the first time this season. The former selling instantly in 6, $1 bunches of 7-8 small cucs. The latter in bunches of 5 for a dollar. Also for sale was a large head of cabbage ($3), white onions (10/$1), garlic ($1), rosemary, mint, sage ($1/bunch), collard greens, yellow beets, chioggia beets, cylindria beets (2-3/$1), bulls blood beets, cocozelle zucchini (striped italian heirloom), pepo zucs (round and great for stuffing), and male zucchini flowers (4/$1).
One of the best things about this week's market was hearing of how customers had prepared my produce from previous weeks. Here are some of the more memorable (i'll write them down in the future) recipes I heard:
Strawberry, watermelon salad topped with my mint
Zucchini flowers stuffed with braised mutton and rice
Zucchini flowers stuffed with crumbled goat cheese, battered, and fried like a chile relleno
Zucchini squash (large) stuffed with its chopped self, onions, cheese, and bread crumbs
Chioggia beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar
Mint leaves frozen individually in ice-cubes for a pretty aperitif garnish
The Gallup Farmers' Market runs each Saturday morning from 8:30-10:30 in the downtown walkway between Aztec and Coal street. The market manager is Carole Palmer and vendor booths are $5/day.
1550 gallons + 2 35-gallon barrels of rainwater; more falling in the yard
So, suddenly the thing we need the most, rain, has now become the problem. Flooding monsoon thunderstorms swept into Gallup this week. Torrents of rain and scary lightning left substantial amounts of soil and rock in Gallup's streets, the Puerco River flowing, waterlogged gardens, and at least 8" of mud in my peach tree filled gabion dam in my hillside arroyo.
Popcorn flattened by the storm
The downpours also turned my canyon's paved road on the city's north side virtually into a floatable southwest waterway as cascading water lapped over the tops of the curbs and high against the sides of houses in the turn at the canyon's mouth. The soaking rains and strong winds also knocked down most of my popcorn crop as the ponding water turned my clay filled soil, which lacks the structure of adequate organic content, to mud soup.
My hand-dug flood control canal, sweet corn, and 3 rows of potatoes
I'll turn off the automated drip-irrigation off for the next week or more, and wait for the saturated soil to dry enough before tilling the seed bed for fall crops of broccoli, radishes, lettuce, carrots, and spinach. I'll also keep the potato drip lines turned off even longer, as they're prone to developing potato blight when too wet (eg. cause of Irish potato famine).
Gallup's Rio Puerco flowing
However frustrating, the damage to the garden and around Gallup was minimal and definitely insignificant when compared to the devastating effect of storms spawned by the same tropical moisture system that brought deadly raging ash filled floods to Flagstaff's communities below the burned slopes of the recent Schultz forest fire. God bless that burned mountain.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Despite 2000 gallons of rainwater harvesting capacity (around 9K gallons annually), my garden still grows predominantly from 'fossil water,' mined deep below Gallup by our city's wells; it's something I'm not comfortable with. I'll post a full description of my extensive automated drip irrigation system and an expose of exactly how much city water I use growing food soon. I first posted about my water issues here in 2009.
Which water source will connect to this drip hose in my garden?
I recently spent some time at the source of what could be our future water supply: the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The water and snowmelt flowing out of this vast mountain range would be carried south from the San Juan river drainage to Gallup and the surrounding parts of Dine via a pipeline. The rhetoric on all sides of this issue is necessarily alarmist, and I have many mixed feelings about the need and effects of the Navajo-Gallup San Juan pipeline. The history of the multi-multi million dollar project is summarized well here. Anyway, here's a brief photo tour of my trip to the headwaters of the San Juan River in the Weminuche Wilderness, specifically the Highland Mary Lakes region; one of our most 'local' alpine lake trout fisheries.
The Highland Mary Lakes
Imitating the trout's local food: (in focus) a size 16 Adams and friends, all tied by me.
The only one of 4 dozen non-native and stunted brook trout I caught that was kept for dinner. What's more beautiful: my new Sage 3 weight, the 'elephant head' flowers, or the fish?
A native cutthroat- caught and released by Stefan
My onions, garlic, thyme, and the little brookie
Trip mates between lakes @ 12,400'- that's me on the left.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Navajo Popcorn TasselI planted this heirloom variety of native corn on April 10th. It emerged on May 7th. Hopi pintos joined the small popcorn kernels driven into each divet formed by the corn planting stick. Read about the planting by clicking here. Both varieties of seed came from the non-profit seed bank, Native Seeds: SEARCH. Staccato.
Can you see the three different leaves of the sisters?
The corn and beans emerged at the same time, but the former seemed to grow better in the newly manure-amended soil. Last week the tassels began to emerge on the corn that has grown 3-5' tall. That's taller than the expected height of the generally shorter (popcorn) family of Zea mays. The Navajo hubbard squash was transplanted really late, in mid-summer, and may or may not produce a crop. The tall corn shades the sensitive beans, who in turn fix nitrogen from the air benefitting the corn. The squash also loves the bean's nitrogen and in exchange, their broad leaves smother weeds that would otherwise smother the beans, but wouldn't hurt the corn; All for one, one for all.
The 7/17/10 harvest
I'm no farmer. I was reminded of that realization Saturday morning, when once again, I was sleeping my soundest when I should have been up and about in the cool dawn air picking spinach or something of the sort. Instead, it was 7:30 when I finally dragged myself from the covers; 1 hour to harvest and get to the market that opens at 8:30.
Me harvesting (out of frame), Rio scanning for fox/rabbit
Harvesting the produce that wilts the least first, I started with a wheel barrow load of 140 immature white onions (10/$1) topped with the a couple dozen mixed beets (striped Chiogga and classic bulls blood), some already 4" around. The onions went quickly into a water bath to loosen the dirt from the roots and the beets got a cursory rinse.
Citrusy lobed leaves of the nutritious weed Purslane amongst the cucumbers
Next, I grabbed the pruning shears and a large basket for the zucchini and male squash blossoms. Since I'm only harvesting the fast-growing zucs once a week, several of the cute little baby fruit from Tuesday had already grown into foot-long monsters! Yet most were in the preferred 6-9" range. Combining the striped cocozelle with the round pale green pepo zucs, I brought a 20 lb. basket to the market. The edible male flowers I cut (4/$1) buzzed with bees long after I filled a small basket with the 6" golden trumpets.
Rosemary, sage, mint, and spearmint filled the next small basket. 8 am. Yellow dutch shallots growing in too shady of a bed were pulled next (most of my shallots are elsewhere and triple the size; harvest starts next week) and rinsed. The green leaves imitating a luxurious scallion.
The last three baskets were filled with collard greens, the last of frilly lettuce heads, and the native 'weed' purslane. The latter being a relatively novel addition to salads with a citrusy crunch.
First cabbage head to be harvested
Finally, fearing the cabbage worms may leave me with nothing but swiss cheese like cabbage if I waited too long, I cut the 2" wide stem of a green cabbage and carried the whole plant to my harvest staging area. It measured nearly 4' across with a nice 10" head (I think I got $3 for it). Filling the entire Subaru with baskets of food I was out the door at 8:25! Even without taking up the generous offer of a harvest assistant yet-- a 55 minute harvest! I forgot the garlic at home though.(
Work in Beauty CSA's nice handwriting (and produce)
The market was again full of the early customers when I arrived at 8:45. In addition to the regular Work in Beauty CSA distribution table and myself, this was the first week of the season for market-regulars, Serendipity Farm from Vanderwagon.
Serendipity Farm's early-season table
Most customers from last year would remember farmer Pete Douglass's produce and amazing woodcrafts; real wood toys from only $10!!! Pete also had flyers/maps inviting people to visit their farm in Vanderwagon; what a great chance for kids to see where/how food is grown and beat the Saturday morning rush for their fresh produce. I'll visit him and his wife soon and post a story. Handmade native jewelry was also for sale that morning.
Bull's Blood beets and their greens
Market manager Carole Palmer was out of town and many regulars attended the bee workshop in Ramah, so the morning felt a little less busy than the previous week. Though the number of customers was up from the first week, and with a larger harvest, I made $65 selling out of everything but the purslane by 10:30.
... STILL watching the hills; the best fox dog ever!
The fee to sell crafts or produce is $5/day or $15/season, and as summer crops ripen, more and more backyard growers will come out each weekend. Hopefully, the number of customers will also grow each week. Contrast the low prices at our farmer's market with the squabbles and insane fees the LA Times described at southern California farmers' markets in this article.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Ha, fruitless potato beetle fornication; they're dead
Today I finally 'hilled-up' the fingerling potatoes planted in late May. Potatoes grow new tubers off of lateral shoots coming off of the stem growing from the seed potato, and burying the lower portions of the green foliage is a requisite for a good potato harvest. Or so I've read. It provides more stem/branch intersections from which to grow new potatoes sheltered from the bitter alkaloid forming effects of sunlight.
Dark mounds of top-soil prior to tilling and hilling
I planted these potatoes late, and I'm probably hilling them up a little late too. Spending more time with the spuds, I also noticed and killed a half-dozen potato beetles. They make a loud crunch between two rocks and lay these day-glow orange eggs on the bottom of leaves. They squish rather than crunch.
Cultivating between rows of buried 'taters
I planted these potatoes in rows that were a little too raised above the surrounding soil. I've had to add a cheap sandy top-soil mix, tilled with the native clay soil, to the inter spaces between the rows in order to have enough soil to pull up and over the lower portion of the growing stems. The new tiller with a 17" wide tiller box fits perfectly between the rows and makes easy work of the compacted clay.
So, occasionally we're all reminded of how some people in life have it a hell of a lot harder than we do. I know that's the concept at play when I've lost tillers, turkeys, and wet Carharts to the sometimes sticky, yet needy hands of my neighborhood. I now lock-up the tiller and raise only chickens. The carharts still hang in the sun longer than they should twice a week.
Is this your boot?
This time I returned home from a few days at the cabin to find an up-turned and trampled 5-gallon container tomato plant. Next to it lay a cell phone charger and a pair of steel-toed boots.? Not knowing the extend of visit, the dogs and a sharp hand-tool preceded me into the house. Nothing. Sweet. Later on, Ricardo from next door politely told me of a stumbling drunk trying to sleep under my motion-sensor lights the previous night that he called the P.C. on. They left his boots behind, and the tomato will be fine.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Salt, trout, brown sugar, and water
Ya, so I don't know if these things go together in the culinary world, but it's smoked trout and pea season in my world. The former coming from McGaffey Lake and the latter from my neglected row of peas. This year the trout seem harder than usual to coax into the little blue kayak, most hitting on pheasant tail nymphs as opposed to my tried-and-true sparkly wooly bugger. All home-tied.
Sans skin after smoking, alternating fat and flesh
With the help of a couple generous strangers at the lake and a couple days catch, I finally had a half-dozen foot-long trout ready for the electric smoker at our Cabin 34. After 5 hours of wet brine (salt and brown sugar) and 5 more hours of intermittent alder smoke at 140 degrees, the trout were transformed into late-night lox.
The pea-soup was the first I'd made from fresh peas, and despite two people with two open computers at the cabin, the recipe was entirely off the top of our heads; free of on-line help. I sauted garlic in butter, added chicken stock, cubed potatoes, and the bowl of shucked peas. Water plus moderate heat for 5 hours, covered, and we had fresh and tasty pea soup. Perfect on a stormy monsoon afternoon.
The only thing better than the fishing at McGaffey is the mountain biking trails; IMBA TrailCrew visits Cabin 34
Saturday, July 10, 2010
My baby Italian cocozelle with flowers on the way to the market
The Ramah Farmer's Market started several weeks ago, and Gallup's Farmers' Market began this past Saturday, July 10th. The market in Ramah is the larger of the two with 1-2 dozen craft and produce vendors, and very active group of volunteers. It's easy to keep up with the numerous events and resources in the Ramah area by reading their bi-monthly newsletter, The Ramah Farmers' Beet. At the height of the harvest season in August, the RFM attracts 350+ visitors/day. My favorite items from there are Windy Ridge goat cheese (look for the lovely Jesse Lee Grey sitting on the south side of the horseshoe with two nondescript coolers behind her table) and the Nolo bait (organic grasshopper-cide) for only $3/pound!!! It runs from 10-1 pm, next to Backwoods Pizza on Ramah's west-end. I'll take pictures next time I head south.
The early shoppers equally splitting up the carrot harvest
In comparison, Gallup's Farmers' Market is no slouch. Sure, it's not as big yet, but each year it is growing and last year's market days had an impressive variety of produce, baked goods, crafts, and information booths. This year's season started on July 10 and will continue through September, I think. A nice addition to the market this year is the Work in Beauty, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) booth where they'll be distributing CSA shares and selling extra produce.
Cynthia of The Coffee House bought half of that day's garlic
After sleeping fitfully all night in anticipation of the first market day, I awoke around 7 ready to start harvesting, only to see that it was raining. On my list of items to harvest where radishes, large green onions, carrots, purslane, spinach, collard greens, baby zuchinni, male squash flowers, mint, rosemary, and the garlic was already pulled.
Top to bottom: Baby finger, Danvers, Scarlet Nantes
The onions, carrots, and radishes took some time to wash and tie into bundles and so I left home at 8:45 without any purslane, spinach or collard greens in tow:( [Blog editing note: I just saw a Lance Armstrong RadioShack ad that said it's not cool for guys over 30 to use emoticons. WTF, and when did he get so awesome?]
Carole Palmer (market manger) and the sold-out table of Sunrise School for Ecological Living, Fort Defiance, AZ
I'm not sure whether the market officially opens at 8:30 or 9, but when I arrived there was already 2 booths set up and already sold out of their onions. Within 10 minutes I had sold all the garlic and carrots. Get there early! Though, Mrs. Butler generally shows up later (usually 10 ish) with a huge variety of produce (this week she had eggs, turnips, cole-crop starts, and woven baskets benefiting the market). Paul and Mary-loo of the Sunrise School had radishes, greens, pepper transplants, and onions grown by students at their school in Arizona.
The CSA crew in a rare moment of chilling
Here are the prices I settled on: garlic ($1/head); onions (10/$1); carrots in a bunch(5/$1); mixed radishes (10/$1); mint ($1/bunch); baby zucchini and squash flowers (4/$1). By 10:20, I had sold everything and made the most rewarding $45 ever! Of course, it's not about the money; best of all I met many great new people and old friends in that shady walkway downtown. In theme, the best over-head saying of the day was, "I don't spell 'profit' with an f."
The Butlers stand
In all, the first market day of year in Gallup went well. The quantity and variety of produce available will expand greatly over the next month as warm season vegetables come into season. Carole Palmer mentioned the WIC food assistance program will be up and running in a few weeks attracting many low-income and elderly customers to the market. And hopefully some of the usual growers and vendors from the Vanderwagon area will return to the Gallup Farmers' Market, opting for Ramah this week. I'll have a steady supply of onions, shallots, and garlic at my stand each week, in addition to the rotating menagerie of warm season crops coming into season.