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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas from EatWell Natural Farm!!!

Remember when NBC4's Veronica Johnson came out to the farm to film a piece for the news? Well, it aired and you can see it here!

These past two weeks have seen a crazy range of weather. At the beginning we had lows in the teens and a few inches of snow. Now at the end we are tying the record high of 72. 

Flora didn't mind the snow

Farm frosted over

We had a thin layer of ice around the edge of the pond

We even had a light dusting of snow .

Snowy Parsley

Here's something new I'm trying. I covered a few crops with a couple inches of leaves to help insulate them from the cold. I learned about this from a workshop at the Mother Earth News Fair. It seems to work really well. So far I have tried it on the spinach and carrots. I harvested a few pounds of Spinach this week which was easy enough. I was able to quickly brush the leaves away, harvest and brush the leaves back over. The biggest drawback was that the spinach was dirtier than normal and took longer to wash.

Bed of Spinach covered in leaves

Eating Well

And that Spinach? Here's where it ended up. The Pig created this Risotto Fritter with Meat Ball and Sunny Side Up Duck Egg served with wilted Spinach. If you've never tried Duck Eggs, do yourself a favor. They are incredible and I'm sure perfectly complimented by my amazing spinach. :0)


I started building the Greenhouse this week. Shipments came in from Johnny's Select Seed and Nolt's Produce Supplies with the pipe bender, hardware and poly. My superstar volunteer Gayle and I made a trip to Lowes to pick up the rest. The structure is made of 1 3/8" Chain Link Fence Top Rail that is bent into bows and covered with a double layer of Poly. 

2x8x8 for the baseboards and 1 3/8" Fence Top Rail for the bows

This fan will inflate the area between the two layers of Poly

This is the Pipe Bender which I mounted to our wash table. I ordered it form Johnny's and it is designed to help you build 12' wide bows out of two pieces of 10' tubing. Our table wasn't quite sturdy enough so we had to lash it to the barn and then one of us would push against the table while the other bent the pipe.

Here's Gayle bending one pipe 

We switched off until we got them all bent

Each bent pipe is half a bow

Next we bolted the pipe together

First we drilled
Then bolted with hex bolts and nyloc nuts

All hardware and sharps get covered with tape so as not to tear the polly
All the bows complete

So we also got a larger diameter pipe that will be the ground posts. We had to cut them in half which we used this awesome pipe cutter for.
Pipe Cutter with two clean cuts

The next step for the greenhouse is to level out the ground where we are going to build it and build a small retaining wall just up the hill from it. We have a neighbor handyman who is going to take care of this while I'm on vacation for the next two weeks. Hopefully when I get back I will be able to put it together in one day. 


The Ramp seeds arrived so Gayle and I planted them right before this unseasonal warm snap. I am hoping that the few warm days are enough to break the dormancy of the seed and that they germinate this spring. If it's not then they won't germinate until Spring 2015. That would be a bummer because after they germinate it will take another 3 years before they set seed and we can start harvesting. 

Ramp Seeds! 1 oz
To plant the Ramps you pick a wooded spot, rake away the leaves, scatter them on the soil, push them into the soil and recover the area with leaves. Thats it. 

Puddy made sure no deer snuck up on us
Future Ramp Patch!

Puddy Time

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

EatWell Natural Farm Week 38

The weather was pretty mild last week with quite a lot of rain towards the end. Wednesday was warm enough to get a decent harvest in for a delivery on Thursday. 


This week I harvested the last of the Radicchio, Red Sails Lettuce and Romaine. I also got some Kale and Broccoli along with a few Turnips and Carrots. 

Leonardo Radicchio, some of them just never form heads
and make these pretty flowers instead. 

Production and Delivery

Broccoli, Romaine and Carrots to Grillfish

One delivery this week. There wasn't much to go around but the carrots look great!

Cultivation and Maintenance

The Italian Softneck Garlic has sprouted and it looks like all of the cloves I planted are coming up at a good pace. It is the quickest of the varieties that I planted. The others are taking a bit longer. 

So there isn't any planting going on right now, just lots of planning. With the data from last year, input from the chefs and lots of research I am plotting out what to plant, when and where next year.

One of the more exciting crops I will start is Ramps. I ordered the seeds from Ramp Farm Specialties and they should arrive soon. Ramps are a wild leek so the idea is to plant the seeds and let them go native. It could take 6-18 months for them to germinate (for the seeds to wake up and start growing). After that it takes 3-5 years before they will produce seed. That means I can not harvest any until then. At that point I can harvest 30% every spring and each year they should re-seed themselves and the stand should grow larger and larger. They love moist shady areas so I am going start them down in the woods by the ponds.

First Seed Catalogue to arrive in the mail!

Planting by the moon? Worth a try. 

Plotting out the new field

Eating Well

Asparagus Salad at Grillfish featuring house made Herbed Mayo
which was made with EatWell Farm Herbs.

Cookie dough, Dad had it all prepped before I even arrived. 
I made a quick trip home this weekend to enjoy a family tradition. I spent two days baking Christmas Cookies with my Dad. We had a great time making Gingerbread Cookies, Anise Sugar Cookies, Peppermint Pinwheels, Peppermint Wands, Chocolate Orange Cookies and Gingersnaps. Lets not forget the sausage rolls which my Dad even makes a veggie version of just for me. Thanks Dad!

A sample platter of the holiday cheer. :)

Puddy Time

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from the Farm!

Happy Thanksgiving!

2" of rain- Frozen

Not a whole lot of picture worthy work got done this week. For one thing, it was stupid cold with lows in the low 20s and highs in the 30s a few days. I have heard half a dozen anecdotes about how November normally isn't this cold. Perhaps it is setting up to be a harsh winter? I did manage to harvest and deliver a bit of food but production has slowed way down.

Frozen soil around some carrots

The format of the blog will be a bit looser these next few months. Each post will be more focused on one topic, whatever I happen to be immersed in at the time. I will be building a Green House soon so that will surely get an entry. You can also look forward to regular recipe posts from the EatWell DC Chefs. To kick that off I'm sharing a recipe that I made for Thanksgiving. I heard about it on NPR's All Things Considered. Here is the Story. And here is the recipe which was a hit on my Thanksgiving Table.

Carrot Mash with Orange and Mint

2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt1 oz. 
(2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
2 Tbs. heavy cream
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest; more as needed
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste

                  Put the carrots in a 4-quart saucepan with enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and cook at a gentle boil until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
                  Drain well in a colander, letting the steam rise for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the butter, cream, oil, mint, orange zest, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a dash of hot sauce in the saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted.
                  For a rustic texture, return the carrots to the pan and mash with a potato masher to the consistency you like.
                  For a smooth texture (shown), purée the carrots in a food processor until smooth and then add them to the pan, stirring well to combine.
                  Season to taste with more orange zest, salt, or hot sauce before serving.
                  (I actually forgot to put in the hot sauce at all and went a little heavy on the orange zest. It was spectacular but there is room to play with these flavors)

                  Tomato and Eggplant in November!

                  And as an example of what you can do with a Hoop House, here are some summer veggies I bought from Accokeek Eco Farm that were harvested in November from inside their Hoop House. 

                  And here's what I did with them: 

                  Puddy Time

                  Wednesday, November 27, 2013

                  EatWell Natural Farm Week 36

                  Fall Colors!!!! The sky could not be any bluer! Also, that's a US Army Blimp.... weird. 


                  In the harvest bins this week: Lacinato Kale, Hakurei Turnips, Scarlett Queen Turnips, Red Sails Lettuce, Romaine, Mustard Greens, Arugula, Spinach, Radicchio, and Watermelon Radishes.
                  Baby Lacinato Kale

                  Bunching and washing Turnips

                  Production and Distribution

                  One pretty decent delivery this week of lots of greens and some roots. 
                  Delivery to Logan Tavern: Chard, Arugula, Red Sails Lettuce, Spinach
                  and Baby Ginger from Accokeek

                  Cultivation and Maintenance


                  This week we prepped the Asparagus patch for winter. First step was a thorough weeding. We have kept up with the weeds pretty well so this didn't take too long. Next we spread some composted manure to feed the crowns and covered it all with mulch. The mulch will help to keep the temperature stable, hold in moisture, smother weeds and will break down adding more organic matter to the soil. We will keep an eye on the weeds but shouldn't have to do much else until the spring when the Asparagus breaks its dormancy giving the gift of the always anticipated Asparagus harvest. 

                  Rows weeded and compost added

                  Gayle spreading Mulch

                  New Gravel walkway and fresh mulch

                  Here's another look at the Perennial Herb Garden. Next year I hope to get this space filled out with more perennial herbs. In particular, more varieties of Thyme, Oregano and some Nepitella. Do you have any favorite perennial herbs I should consider adding? 

                  Another winter upkeep project was to trellis the cane berries. I added T-Posts and strung some 3/4" coated wire rope across the top. Then I loosely tied the canes up to get them off the ground and at an easier harvest height for the spring. Next step was to weed and mulch. 

                  Blackberries trellised, still need to be weeded and mulched. 

                  T-Post and Wire Rope

                  Eating Well

                  I am spending some time with each of the Chefs hatching schemes and making plans to get more produce to the restaurants next year. This week Chef Milanes at Grillfish made me a vegetarian twist on the Shrimp and Grits special, Portobello and Grits. It was delicious. He also prepared a side dish of my Watermelon Radishes cooked in butter and water. They came out really rich and meaty. I had never thought to prepare them that way but they were pretty awesome. 
                  Shrimp and Grits, Veggie Style

                  A rich take on Watermelon Radishes

                  Puddy Time

                  You've got something on your nose...

                  Basking Hounds... the weather really was this beautiful


                  They may have been watching too much
                  Walking Dead