March 17, 2018
"Spring!" says the Robin to the Witch Hazel
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Winter is holding on with icy fingers that sneak down my shirt collar. I shake it off determined to focus on signs that reassure me that spring will indeed arrive soon.
The cheerful racket of birds in the early morning grabs my attention first. The sound fills me with joy and relief, the way the first rays of morning sun dispel anxious worries during a sleepless night. I figure these birds have some private intelligence informing them that now is the time to make ready for warm and abundant days ahead, and this encourages me.
The sun has changed too. If I can find a sheltered spot out of the chilly wind, the renewed strength of the solar rays force me to take off a layer or even two, which I immediately regret as soon as I step out of the shelter. The nursery is fairly bursting with warmth when the sun is out and thousands of baby plants insist that the season’s change must be near. Do you remember last year? I think March and April switched places, so after an early start in March, cold winds and frosty nights damaged fruit trees and tender seedlings alike. I am hoping that paying the Chilly Piper now will pay off with a balmy, perfect April. No matter what, I am heartened to think that soon I can stop purchasing my vegetables at the grocery store and go back to “shopping” in my own back yard.
And finally the blooming Witch Hazel heralds the end of winter with it’s blazes of yellow prayer-flag blossoms. The sight makes me so happy I could kiss them. So take heart my vegetable loving friends! Soon you will have the freshest and tastiest greens back on your plate, reviving your palate and strengthening your health.
March 7, 2018
Action Steps that Support Local Farms
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Do you value local food and want to support your local farm? Here are some simple action steps you can take to make a difference.
1. Join a CSA
- we are hoping you choose ours! www.redearthfarm.org
The CSA model offers an essential security to small farms since your early commitment allows the farmer to plant knowing his product will be consumed.
2. Recruit ONE new member for our CSA. Put your thinking cap on. Eating more vegetables is a simple and effective way to support one's health. Do you know someone who has never tried a CSA? Tell them about your experience! Break down the expense - show them that CSA can be more cost effective than shopping at the standard grocery store.
3. Post flyers
, or postcards at local businesses where potential CSA customers visit. Only 1% of the population uses a CSA, which means quite a few people have never experienced the wonder of a just-picked box of produce delivered to them. Email us if you would like us to send you postcards or flyers, or both.
4. Leave a rave review
on Google or Yelp - your honest reviews help potential customers choose our farm. To leave the Google review open Google Maps
, search Red Earth Farm, Kempton PA and click the stars and leave a comment.
5. Email us your testimonial. Let us use your words of praise to help others know that we are the real deal.
6. Send us a "Selfie Video" of you raving about your favorite aspect of the CSA - use your smart phone and make a short clip: if you do we will send an extra goodie in your first CSA box of the summer season!
7. Like our Facebook page
, follow us on Instagram,
share our posts or even better: make your own veggie loving post, or even a live video on Facebook, opening your first CSA box. It really helps!
We know we say it all the time: YOU are our best advertising! Your efforts to spread the word really make a difference. Take a step today. Thank you for your ongoing support.
February 18, 2018
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Once again the view over the farm makes me think of Narnia during the Snow Queen's reign.
Last night I took Mara's new sled and zipped down the steepest hill to the nursery. The snow fell so thick I had to close my eyes and surrender to the thrill of gravity and a slick slope. At the bottom, the nursery gleamed like a beacon through the storm, lit by the grow lights that give our light-dependent seeds a jump start. I couldn't help but wonder if an overhead reconnaissance survey might be drawn to the lit greenhouse, raising questions about what exactly we grow here. I suppose ten thousand onions might be a boring answer to the follow-up investigation, but to us the new green shoots emerging from their planting trays thrill us. Thyme, mint, rosemary, lavender, pansies and other slow growing herbs and flowers have also made their appearance.
When fantasy trips to distant tropical islands remain out of reach, spending time in the nursery on a sunny February day puts a dent in the winter blues. The air is warm, humid and reviving to our parched skin and nasal passages. Potting soil under the finger nails is a happy thing and the time we spend in there as a family, all four of us working with a peaceful rhythm will likely be something the Farmer and I miss when we are empty-nesters.
The forecast tells us that this snow will be short-lived on the ground, with temperatures nearing, or exceeding 70 this week. That means the nursery will brighten up like a green onion lawn before the first of March. The anticipation of spring, and the hint of it in the February air, fragrant with the scent of thawing earth never fails to quicken the heart of the Farmer and get him moving out and about, itching to warm up the tractor and plough. Soon we will have information about our Spring Share available so that you can take advantage of the most delicate early greens and sweet roots of the entire season.
Spring is my favorite; always has been and always will be.
February 7, 2018
Scandinavian Apple Cake
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Even though it’s been a super “green” week in Philadelphia (we are proud of those Eagles!) the farm is still white. Kids are home from school today and the Farmer’s Wife is inspired to bake while the Farmer sleds with the little one in the sleety snow. We have an amazing hill for sledding and I can watch the two of them zooming down the fields while I write.
Winter is a wonderful time to re-connect with baking. Secrets-be-told, one of our favorite dates is to cuddle on the couch and watch the Great British Baking Show
. We love the vicarious adventure into the English countryside and the glimpse of these rookie bakers, their character and their delectable creations. Afterward the Farmer elbows me with a subtle hint, “Hey, why don’t you make that?”
This morning, in my baking-ful mood, I decided to return to my ancestral roots and pulled out my rarely used Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum
. This cookbook is full of authentic Norwegian and Scandinavian treasures, that sometimes call for unusual ingredients (partly why I rarely use it) such as eel, lingonberries, pork trotters and offal (which might really be as bad as it sounds).
I have been thinking ahead to our summer Farm to Table gourmet feast, and I am thinking a Scandinavian theme might be fun. Something like Baby Beet Salad with Fresh Smoked Cheese, Creamed Wild Mushrooms on Toast, Slow-roast Chicken with Tarragon and Peas, finishing with Cardamom Ice Cream. Sound good? We have a terrific time at our VIP dinners, relaxing and laughing with customers-become-friends, and always, always enjoying fantastic local food.
Many years ago when I was 16, I travelled to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Jönköping, a small town not too far from Stockholm. I fell in love with their habit of afternoon tea with piles of pastries, cakes and whipped cream. Thinking of this, I flipped the pages to the back of the cookbook to find something sweet. An apple sponge cake caught my eye, simply called “A Very Good Apple Cake.” The following recipe is my adaptation of the original, which makes three cakes, instead of the one that I made. I used a lot less sugar and still found it quite sweet, so adjust according to your tastes.
A Very Good Apple Cake, adapted from The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum
3-4 large apples, cored and sliced, but not peeled
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup rapadura sugar (or use regular white sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (gluten-free if preferred)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp star anise
1/3 cup dark brown sugar - I used muscovado which has a strong molasses flavor
Extra cardamom and star anise for sprinkling.
Heavy cream, optional.
Heat oven to 325 or 350. Grease a deep 8 inch cake pan, or bundt pan.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating each one thoroughly into batter.
Add flour, baking powder, salt and spices and mix gently, just until blended.
Spread into bottom of pan and pile the apple slices on top - you should have way more apples than you think would work.
Sprinkle top with brown sugar and spices.
Bake 45-60 minutes, until center tests done with a skewer.
Serve with heavy cream if feeling decadent.
January 28, 2018
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
It’s not easy for me to make the transition from eating fresh greens picked from my backyard (the farm, that is) to shopping at a grocery store and buying salad ingredients. To make matters more challenging, I’m not a big fan of store bought salad dressings.
Earlier this week, feeling the "winter-veggie-blues" (or greens in this case), I ventured out. I picked through the piles of vegetables in the produce section with a fussy, disgruntled air and finally selected a giant plastic box of baby kale and another giant plastic box of spring mix. To spruce things up I grabbed a pomegranate, fennel bulb and some grapefruit.
The result was a simple salad, made of a mix of baby kale and spring mixes, thinly sliced fennel, pomegranate seeds and sectioned grapefruit. My happiness was made all the more glorious by the easiest homemade salad dressing I have ever created: the juice of the sectioned grapefruit halves, salt and pepper. I’m telling you, this salad vanished off my dinner table ALMOST as quickly as our farm spring salads do (NOTHING beats a Red Earth Farm spring salad).
So while you are impatiently waiting for our CSA Season
to begin, take heart and remember it's okay to keeping eating greens!
Pomegranate Grapefruit Baby Kale Salad
Equal parts baby kale and spring mix (depends on how much you like salad)
Seeds from 1/2 to 1 whole pomegranate
1 grapefruit, sectioned, juice reserved aside
1/2 large bulb fennel sliced super thin
Salt and pepper.
Assemble greens, pomegranate, grapefruit and fennel. Toss with reserved grapefruit juice. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Devour.
January 21, 2018
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
I recently flipped my wig for orchids.
This is not exactly a suitable crop for a Pennsylvania farmer, but they have nonetheless captured my heart. I have a sunny bathroom to thank for my new addiction. This past summer I placed two orchid plants that had long since bloomed on a towel rack over my clawfoot tub. Other than the Christmas cactus, they are my only houseplants and I liked the bit of green they added to the decor. The littlest orchid arrived several years ago in bloom, but never even showed a hint of repeating the show.
Something about the combination of the indirect light and the gentle humidity from the tub (no shower in this room) and perhaps the temperature appeals to my Phalaenopsis friends and to my utter delight they are full of buds and blooms.
I tell the Farmer that some people actually grow these as cut flowers and how profitable they could be if the Farmer’s Wife had lots of practice growing them…he just rolls his eyes. The Farmer’s Wife wants to grow figs, ginger and turmeric too…enough of these boring old carrots and kale!
To fully indulge the fantasy I am headed to Longwood Gardens
today to check out the Orchid Extravaganza
. What better place to go on a Sunday in January that has the ever so slightest hint of Spring? And I can write it off as research, right?
January 14, 2018
Getting Kids Outside
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Every now and then the Farmer and I wax philosophic. Sometimes we talk about the future of the farm, or we discuss politics, our parents, the neurosis of our dog and of course the weather. But more often than not we talk about our kids. This morning as the rays of the sun began to reach through the trees, crossing the meadow to land on our pillows we cuddled, avoiding the inevitable bone-chilling shock of getting out of bed.
Even though the temperature this morning was ten degrees, the cloudless sky still begs for us to spend time outdoors. That’s when we started to talk about our kids. And how hard it is to get them outside, even though we live on 90 acres. Well, that’s not entirely true, our 7 year old leaps outside any chance she gets, but she doesn’t have a smartphone or access to any device whatsoever including a TV, except at bedtime.
The teen boy is another story. In fact, ever since he started reading, his outdoor leisure time dwindled dramatically. Adding a smartphone to his life a year ago seemed to make the indoors more appealing, even though he has no social media apps, no web browsing and no gaming on his phone. Spotify, texting and email still possesses his attention at the expense of the cultivation of creativity that comes when a youthful imagination has only nature as it’s medium, or maybe paper, pencil and paint.
In the middle of this conversation, when my own smartphone delivered an article on the subject of smartphones and kids to my inbox, I couldn’t but help acknowledge the irony of the phone in my hand, at an early hour, delivering a message agreeing with our discussion that smartphones are owning our attention spans, for better and for worse.
Almost 75% of teens, age 13-18 have access to smartphones, according to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center.
Average time spent staring at their screens? 9 hours per day, not counting school hours or homework. Yikes! Can you imagine how proficient these kids would be at a musical instrument if they spent half that time practicing each day?
The average number of times they unlock their phones is 95/day. How much time is spent per year in the simple act of unlocking our phones?
Tech companies are investing big bucks in the effort to lure kids (and adults of course) into spending more time in front of screens glued to their favorite apps. Stock prices rise as our kids get more and more invested, and possibly addicted to their screens.
Of course their are many benefits to the mobile phone, that may or may not outweigh the drawbacks. More time and data is needed to accurately assess the value vs damage of the smartphone on the education of our children.
No matter what, phones are here to stay. It is up to parents to help their children find balance, and to be brave about saying no. Perhaps the simplest answer is to take our children outside, as a family, to go into the woods, or work in a garden, go skiing, throw ball, raise pigs or hike a mountain. Nature strengthens the will, relieves the spirit and feeds the soul. Engaging with our kids in the outdoors, with all phones left in the house might push a giant reset button for the entire family and provide a much-needed break from the attention grabbing ghouls of the internet. I'm grateful that our farm provides such easy access to nature.
Connect to nature and join a CSA
grown by a local farm.
January 6, 2018
Eat More Vegetables!
By Charis Lindrooth
Photo by chiara conti on Unsplash
With the holiday feasting and gastro-extravagance behind us our minds turn to New Year’s resolutions. Diminishing the midline tops many lists, with ideas of elliptical workouts and newfangled diets.
Perhaps, one simple adage could be remembered for those seeking trimmer, healthier bodies. “Eat your vegetables!” We repeat it all the time to our kids, but do we follow up ourselves? I’m guessing there is room for improvement for most of us and implementing a few of the following strategies may help make this goal a reality in 2018.
- Eat less meat. Maybe introduce one vegetarian supper a week. For meat-lovers, this can be challenging - especially if you are trying to satisfy a teenage boy. The goal here is to increase vegetable consumption, not bread, noodle and cheese consumption. Look for vegetables that have a hearty, meaty flavor such as eggplant, mushrooms, winter squash. A side of mashed local potatoes can please almost any teenage palate. Try a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, for example.
- Prep your veggies in advance. When you bring your CSA box (or grocery bags if it's winter and your local farm is frozen solid) take a moment right away to slice and dice and neatly package them so they are ready in an instant for any dish in the upcoming week. It's true that you lose some nourishment and vitality with advanced produce prep, but if you tend to get over busy and stressed during the week, cooking might feel a lot more appealing if some of the hard work is already done.
- Make food at home. Now that you have a stash of vegetables waiting patiently in your refrigerator, stop procrastinating. Fix them into something great! Soups, stews, crockpot, frittatas or quiches, homemade pizza, chili....brainstorm a list with your kids and get them invested in the menu.
- Cook with your kids. If you can stand to let your kids help you in the kitchen (I admit this one is really hard for me) they will take ownership of the meal and eat their veggies proudly. Okay, that's my theory. Let me know if it works!
- Join a CSA! You knew this was coming of course! Your CSA box arrives every week. Set a goal to finish your box before the next one arrives. One of our members lost 25 lbs the first year he joined our CSA - just by eating more vegetables.
What tips do you employ to consume more vegetables? Any ideas for kid-friendly recipes?