Thursday, December 29, 2011

Then and now




Just for fun, the same locations in August and then in December. The top two were taken from a different angle, but you get the idea! As much as I love winter, looking at these pictures makes me long for summer. Those borders bursting with flowers make my wintertime attempts at bouquets (rosemary, rose hips, and winter berry sprigs) seem feeble indeed!

Friday, December 16, 2011

From the kitchen

It may be cold and grey outside, but the kitchen is warm and sweet smelling!
Apple Blackberry pie, sliced up and ready for market.
Peppermint Ball cookies
Brandied dried fruit tart, also headed for market
And, farm children making gingerbread cookies for neighbors!
This time of year, baking for the market is a real pleasure! The certified kitchen is a quarter of a mile from our house, and this afternoon was so foggy I could not see the building from the house. While the farmer was busily baking treats for the Salem Public market tomorrow, the farm children and I were busy baking goodies of our own. Gingerbread, Russian tea cakes, peppermint balls, and hazelnut toffee. It was so pleasant to spend the afternoon in the kitchen with a candle lit and the lights shining out warmly against the fog of the afternoon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

some winter time occupations

 Even though winter is our down time, there is still quite a lot of activity around the farm. There are blueberry bushes to be pruned, equipment to be maintained, and paper work to catch up on. One of the more pleasurable of the winter time tasks is sampling the farmer's experimental baking. Since we have a booth selling baked goods at the Salem Indoor Market every Saturday, as well as doing custom baking for Christmas and other occasions, the farmer stays quite busy in the kitchen. Today's experiments were a white chocolate cranberry tart (with almonds in the crust) and a chocolate tart topped with candied walnuts. Pictured above is the cranberry tart. It was so, so delicious! Fresh cranberries, spices, and orange juice make a wonderful topping, especially good paired with the creaminess of the white chocolate.
 As good as the cranberry tart was, the chocolate tart was, dare I say, even better! The chocolate flavor was so intense, and the sweet crunch of the walnuts provided a wonderful contrast. Paired with a cup of hot, strong coffee, it was the perfect mid-afternoon snack!
My only complaint is that with baked goods this delicious coming my way so often, those pesky twenty pounds I need to loose are going to be so much harder to shed! I went for an after dinner walk this evening, which was great, but ever since watching a scary movie at Halloween, I spook myself out very easily. I usually only walk for ten minutes or so before imagining footsteps behind me and running back to the house.

Monday, December 5, 2011

garden in winter

This morning I braved the cold, frosty weather to take a few pictures in the garden. I typically, in winter, mourn the passing of the summer garden. I see it from my kitchen window, brown branches laden with rain silhouetted against an iron gray sky. I don't often venture out and try to find beauty in this shell of a garden. This year, I have been making a point to see the loveliness that inhabits the garden, even in winter time. The frost on leaves, turning then into diamond dusted jewels. The bare branches, their lovely forms usually obscured by leaves. Fallen leaves, in wonderful golden shades, carpet the walkway. In spite of the beauty to be found, the farm kitty and I are happy to return to the warmth of the house! One of the farm girls wraps the cat in a blanket and sits with him by the fire. I can hear his contented purr as I make myself a mug of hot tea, and then join kitty and farm children for a happy hour spent around the fire with a good book!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The off season

 As much as I love summer and the farm season, the off season has it own particular charms. Not having a garden full of flowers forces me to notice the beautiful leaves, berries, and dried flowers available.
 The sunsets are often brilliant, especially when the sun is breaking through after a rain shower.
I also love the contrast of dark sky and light on the bushes lit by late afternoon sun.
 We have lots of time for napping, even if the nap place of choice is not very comfortable.
And, everyone loves the long winter evenings spent by the wood stove with a good book. I usually have a stack of books and knitting projects waiting for these evenings, as summer is just too busy for long spells of either reading or knitting. Summer will be here again before we know it, so we are truly savoring the slower pace of the off season.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

another season has come and gone

The flowers in the garden are mostly gone, killed in an early freeze.

The remnants of a really good pumpkin display

Farm kids going out to harvest pie pumpkins in the morning fog.

The boss, supervising the dismantling of the hay fort.
Another season on the farm has come and gone. It was a good one, and we are grateful for the good harvest we had. In spite of the crazy business and the sheer exhaustion of the summer, I love what we do. Especially the winter of hibernation and rest!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Almost done!

It is hard to believe that the farm year is almost over. In just one week, we will close until next June. It has been a good year. The blueberries, raspberries, and kotata blackberries did really well this year, with bushes loaded with jewel like fruit. The strawberries, pears, plums, and Asian pears were not good, but we accept that every year will have it's crops that do not do so well. Pumpkins grew pretty well, but we didn't get many large ones. The pie pumpkins did really well, so I need to get busy and freeze some for use during the winter. I also have lots and lots of the apples we grew that need to be sauced and canned. So, even though the farm works is drawing to a close, there is still more than enough work to keep me busy all winter long!

Even though I enjoy the winter, I do miss the customers and the hustle and bustle of the store. By the time June rolls around, I am more than ready to be up and running again! This year, we will be selling baked goods at the Salem Indoor Market, on 12th and Rural Street. This is such a great little market, with fresh honey, freshly roasted coffee, crafts, hazelnuts, and winter produce. Graham and Robert run the booth, and they always bring home lots of good food which they trade baked goods for. The coffee is especially good, strong and fresh.

During the winter, this blog will switch from pictures of beautiful ripe fruit and children cavorting in golden sunshine to pictures of grey skies, plants lying dormant, and rain sodden ground. Children will be bundled up against the cold, and our times outside will consist of brisk walks with faces down turned to avoid the wind. However, there will still be plenty of activity on this little farm, as we repair equipment, catch up on paperwork, take a business class or two, and pore over seed catalogs, dreaming of warm earth and green growing things.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On being a farmer boy!

 Being a farmer boy is a full time job! There are rocks to dig up and throw. This is a very big job!
 And, then there are the mud puddles. I have to stomp in each one to make sure my boots don't leak.
 I also have to keep track of all the frogs on the farm. I thought this one should live inside, but my mom didn't see things my way.
With all of this work for me to do, it is no wonder I am exhausted! I am so tired that I will literally fall asleep anywhere. Well, my dad is waiting for me to ride on the tractor with him. There is always work to be done, always someone who needs me. There is never a dull moment around here!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall on the farm

The garden is still lovely, although the colors are fading and no new flowers are blooming. I saw a hummingbird this afternoon, probably the last one until spring. This afternoon as I took my walk through the garden, I missed the humming of the bees in the background. 
 The potato crop was a success, and I should have quite a few to get us through the winter. These are the Yukon Golds, not pictured are the Cranberries, French Fingerlings, and Russian Bananas. We also planted russets, but their plants have not died back all the way yet, and I don't think they are ready to dig.
 Apples for sale at the store! Most of these were grown right on our farm, and this is the first year we have had a good crop of them. I have several boxes of apples waiting for me, as soon as I get a chance I will be turning them in to apple sauce.
 Winter squash! The butternut are my favorite for making in to squash fries, but the bright orange Uchikuri are delicious as well. I usually roast them with butter, and then in the last 15 minutes of cooking I top them with a mixture of browned butter, breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan cheese. So, so delicious!
Pumpkins are now ripe, and although it is not a great crop, we are glad they ripened in time for the pumpkin patch to open! Last year, it was the second week of October before they were ready. My son is our harvesting pie pumpkins right now, and I am hoping to actually can some this year. I love pumpkin goodies, especially pumpkin hazelnut bread! I am making myself hungry now, but it is time to finish my coffee and get back to kitchen clean up! Happy Fall!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

summer evening walk

Blueberries are an excellent dessert!
Quince fruit. Love the little stars on them. These will be ready to harvest in late September.
The still lake. No farm kids splashing around tonight!
Estelle and Stuart removing garden debris. Stuart is just able to push the wheelbarrow, and so proud of himself!
I love the way the silo is framed by the flowers!
The last few weeks have been a delightful whirlwind of parties, visits from friends and family, lesson planning, and the usual farm work. Even though it has been a fun few weeks, I have missed my long, rambling evening walks. Now that things have slowed down a bit, I am enjoying these walks once again. I start by wandering in to the blueberry fields, picking a few handfuls for dessert. Then I walk down the row of plum, quince, and apple trees. The plums are gone, and the apples and quince are not quite ready, so i content myself with some blackberries and cherry tomatoes. Next stop is the lake, and I planned on going for a row but my canoe has drifted over in to the marshy area and I can not get to it! However, the reflection of the trees on the water is beautiful, so I happily take pictures and enjoy the peaceful moment. A little reprieve from the business of life! Next stop is the strawberry field, where our ever bearing strawberries are crowding the plants with ripe berries. I eat a few, and then wander up to the potato rows. The plants have not died yet, so I know the potatoes are not ready to dig, but I push back the dirt around a plant of two and look at the lovely little potatoes I will soon be enjoying! Can't wait! I walk back to the garden, dodging the sprinklers in the blueberry field as I go. A little shower would feel nice, but I don't want to ruin my new camera! Spend a few minutes watching the hummingbirds, and then go inside to work on lesson plans. My evening walks are always the perfect restorative, and I always feel more peaceful and calm upon my return!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Gooseberries look so beautiful, hanging on the bush like little jewels

However, the bushes are covered with large, hard thorns, making the berries so hard to pick!

The results of an hours worth of picking
Today, a customer called and wanted fifteen pounds of gooseberries. I told her I could get them, no problem. What I didn't realize is that gooseberry bushes are covered with very sharp, large thorns. My arms and hands are covered with little scratches, and my poor fingers are sore from being pricked. I should have put on gloves and a long sleeve shirt, but was in a hurry to just get the job done! After picking for an hour, I had seven pounds worth of gooseberries. My customers were satisfied with that amount, and I was happy to be done picking! When the couple came to get their berries, the man told me that he grew thornless gooseberries once, but because there were no thorns, the deer ate his entire crop! So, the thorns may have made picking brutal, but they do serve a purpose, and I am grateful the deer left our bushes alone!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

off of the farm!

Silver Falls State Park

One of the falls

sunflowers along the road

poppies (grown for seed) bathed in evening gold.
I know it is important to try to love where you live. To find the good, and learn contentment right where you are. Honestly, sometimes that is hard. In the middle of February, for example, when the cold, windy rain is pelting down and showing no signs of stopping. Ever. Or, in July when you have a garden party planned and it rains a steady drizzle all morning. In April, when the rest of the country is experiencing lovely blue skies and warmer weather, we are still wrapped up in our blanket of gray, carrying drippy umbrellas and dodging giant puddles.However, most of the time it is easy to love the Willamette Valley. Summertime is usually lovely in the valley, and this summer has been exceptional. Sunny, warm but not hot, crystal clear skies, and a nice cool breeze  every evening. Usually by this time of the year, the grass along the roads is starting to look brown and dusty. This year, everything is still a sparkly emerald green. This is the kind of summer that gives you hope during the dark days of winter, and makes enduring the months of rain totally worthwhile!