Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Burning Peppers

Almost THREE crates of Sweet Italian Marconi Peppers loaded in the smoker and ready to go.   The last several weeks of sunny days combined with our row covers provided a large harvest of ripe peppers.  Since our smoked pepper inventory was low , it's time to NOT burn the peppers.

 This was the result of my last attempt. Lesson learned is don't start peppers in the middle of the night, you may forget to turn the burner down to low and wake to this wasted effort.    

Samson (my 100lb yellow goat retriever) wont even eat these, but he does like the #3's I toss down for him.

Samson has no issues eating his veggies, peppers, beans and especially loves our "Tennis Ball Cantaloupe"

The smoker is packed with peppers as can be seen in the video.

This Smoke Hollow Smoker has been reliable so far.  
Let's hope the operator can make the same claim with this batch.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Burning Turkey

This thanksgiving I have been challenged with having a lot to accomplish in a short time frame so instead of boiling my turkey in oil to cook it, I decided to use the new smoker for the job.   This post is not about me actually burning the Turkey, most folks who know me know that I have smoked meat all my life and just CALL it 'burning meat' , not actually meaning that it gets burnt.  Starting with a pasture raised turkey from Freckle Face Farm and some Creole Butter marinade I shoot the bird up with the entire jar.

I have used this marinade for years and it's one of the easiest ways to add buttery flavor with a slight Cajun twist to your bird AND keep from having dry meat.  The breasts, legs and thighs got generous injections.

Samson looks on with wishful thoughts of dropped turkey in his head I am sure.

This year my new propane smoker and a half bag of Hickory smoking chips provided the 'burning' needed.
The first hour of smoking was at 275 to seal the outside of the bird. Then I lowered the heat to around 200 and kept the bird in there for another 4 and half hours.

Purty ain't it? 

 After carving the dark and white meat.

The bones along with some Tatsoi, Carrots, Celery, Onions and spices go into a stock pot.
Nothing goes to waste with this fine bird.
 I am taking these bones to the farm to feed my soil.

After freezer bagging most of it, this smaller pot is headed to the fridge.

  Soup, salads and sandwiches will feed me this next week fer sure.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Neutralimeing Bamm Bamm

Armed with my soil report from the extension service today's mission was to add lime to Bamm Bamm with the goal of achieving a PH of 7.0 or "Neutral" by spring.  It seems figuring the right amount of inputs to use for Organic farming is always a challenge.  The soil report recommends amounts using agriculture lime and synthetic fertilizers and I have to convert those to organic inputs for fertility and lime based on the ease of using pelletized lime and the spreader buggy that is offered by Oakley Fertilizer of Beebe.  After doing the reductions needed to convert AG lime to pelletized I headed to Beebe to pick up the buggy and lime.
They weighed my Trailblazer and the buggy empty first.

Then added 1200 pounds of pelletized lime to the buggy.

OK so I kind of like truck scales that can weigh thousands and thousands of pounds (TONS!).

It seems nothing is ever without a bump in the road when it comes to farming and today's bump was my tractor hitch pin being a bit small for the buggy.  Luckily there was a store close by that had a larger pin.
After a 40 minute SLOW ride to the farm, it only took about 30 minutes to spread the lime around Bamm Bamm.   Another slow ride back to Beebe and the mission was complete.

Back at the farm, the trout I started in the smoker were done and lunch was ready.
Another example of CSA money at work, it paid for the lime and contributed a bit to yesterdays fishing trip!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fishing with Rocky & Evan

A few weeks ago my brother Jules and his family stopped by The Bernice Gardens Farmers Market.  He brought his daughter Roxanna and his grandson Evan with him.  I mentioned to Evan that we should go fishing when this market ends in a few weeks and today we did.  Before farming I would spend many many days on  the Little Red River catching rainbow and brown trout.  When your fishing, your not anything but a fisherman and the break from the world has always been a welcomed reprieve.  Like many fishing trips it started out with a few challenges, the motors tilt device needed a relay switch, the boat needed a new plug and the motor did not want to start.  After dealing with these opportunities, we headed upstream and got our lines wet.  First to hook one was Evan and I think his mom was more excited than he.

Today mother nature did us right, the sun was out and the fish were biting.
We worked on how to tie a lure and how to dislodge moss or leaves the
 crank baits would inevitably bring in by spanking them against the water. Evan caught the first several  fish and instantly became the expert. When Rocky caught a leaf,  "You have to spank it mom" cried Evan and this fisherman busted out laughing.  That was ALMOST the title of this post.  

Rocky started catching fish and there were no skunks on this boat today.

But the day belonged to Evan who caught the most fish.

With plenty of fish in the well and the sun starting to set, we called it a trip.

There are few things I love more than fishing. 
 But to be sure, helping get this young man and his mom hooked on it is one of them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cold Quiet Morning

This quiet cold morning at the farm finds me procrastinating until it warms a bit.  With my crew off today and my wing dog at home,  I like having the farm to myself.  

 A check in on Wilma finds my winter tomatoes well, I spend winter mornings here with a hot cup of coffee.  This morning while I wait for it to warm, reading a bit of Melville is occupying my time.

This John Deer Model H spreader is going to get a workout in the near future spreading several tons of poultry litter on Bamm Bamm.

My snow peas, brocolini, and lettuce don't mind the cold, but the peppers need row covers.

Good bye Okra and Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans.  While I had record production from my Okra, I planted the beans a bit late this year and did not get the yield that I hoped for.   Oh well , every day farming is an opportunity to learn.   Time to read about a man obsessed with a whale until it warms up.  Might take all morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Small Farming Futures Look Healthy

Despite how you feel about this last weeks political results, it looks like one obstacle to starting a small farm is going to be gone soon.  As a small farmer and businessman one of the greatest risks I take each day is relying on the individual health insurance market to protect me from the costs of getting sick.  Today I am covered if I get sick the first time, but am subject to cancellation the second time.   In a few years the risk of NOT having health insurance because I may have got sick in the past will be mitigated because access to coverage will be guaranteed.  Having paid into the system all my life, I think this is a good thing.

Why is this good news for small farms?
Well because there are many of you who may read this and not like working in a cube, or working for the man, or not making a difference with your work and would be farming but for risk of loosing your health insurance benefits   That is changing and I hope that it will bring more people to sustainable agriculture.

While our area Organic farms have grown in numbers since I started my first season in 2009, 3 to 6 and maybe 7 by spring, we still have a great area of opportunity to capture any significant share of the local food market.   We NEED more Organic growers.  Entrepreneurs like Pat Thompson (below) are starting out Organically faster then any conventional farms are considering converting.
Pat is taking the leap this winter and hopes to be at the spring markets. 

The first three years were a challenge for our farm but this year a corner has been turned.  This year is ending well and North Pulaski Farms LLC will turn a profit for the first time ever.  All be it not much more than we used to pay our Help Desk personal when I was leading a software team, it's still a profit.  With the addition of Bamm Bamm, next year looks very promising and my personal goal of earning a living close to what my average customer earns is within reach.  

What this means is that it's possible to leave the cube, cash out of the stock market , invest in sustainable agriculture, make a difference and money at the same time.  It's doing what you would love to do AND earning a good living doing it.  So if your reading this and your heart is saying work the dirt, listen to it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Making a Path

Using a tractor to clear a path through brush and trees is not work, its letting a kid into a candy store. This morning I was the kid.  

It started with me getting to know the panoramic feature of my Galaxy S3 better and getting a photo of Fred from my favorite view, the south west corner whith the rising sun. 

 Long vines growing up the tree had to be pulled as well as a few small trees had to be cleared. 
Once through the I paused to play with the camera again.

With the path clear I could take a photo of Fred & Bamm Bamm.

This is my favorite, its the view standing on the corner of my irrigation backbone looking towards Bamm Bamm.  Having water so close to this field makes farming it possible.  Bamm Bamm will allow the farm to diversify growing systems subsequently reducing risk AND enables growing more in Fred what works well in tunnels and move things like cucumbers, squash and beans to a field.  So I can double down THIS winter on leafy's without having to make room early in the spring for other crops AND double down next spring on crops suited for field production.   Add an acre of organic sweet corn to the rotation and next year should be another record year!