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Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter months for produce growers...

Produce growers provide fresh produce throughout the spring, summer, and fall months, but what goes on in the winter months?

The farmers markets may be over for the season, but produce growers still continue to work hard during the off season. Some farms continue to grow greens and other cold season crops in high tunnels throughout the winter. Others end their season around at the beginning of freezing temperatures. For example, our local market ends usually the beginning of October, but our fall CSA continues until mid-November. We then take the winter months "off" until our market and CSA start again. 

When the end of the season is near, our customers generally ask us, what were are going to do this winter or our time "off." As much as we love the busy production and market season, we welcome the end of the season as well. Life slows down just a little. It gives us time to prepare for the next season. So what do produce growers do in the winter months?

-Place the seed order for the upcoming year
-Maintenance on equipment
-The new season's planting schedule
-Maintenance or modifications to greenhouse structures
-Promote their CSA program and accept members
-Start seeds indoors for transplants

These are just a few of the things that goes on during the winter months for produce growers. Then there are the other projects or vacations that they haven't been able to get to during the busy growing season, like giving their kitchen a much needed face lift like we are doing here. More details on that later. 

I'm looking forward to sharing with you more about CSA programs and produce growing. Even on a smaller scale as we are, it is a very busy and fun adventure. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homemade Noodles

Homemade Noodles

My Grandma has been making homemade noodles as long as I can remember. Her chicken and noodles are one of my favorite dishes she makes, especially on holidays. I always remember on the days she made batches of noodles, sneaking a few to snack on as they were drying. I still do that now.

A few years ago, I asked my Grandma to teach me how to make her noodles. Learning some of my favorite family recipes is something I've been working on achieving.
So this homemade noodle recipe is one that was from my Grandpa's mother, or my Grandma's mother in law.  She said that my Great Grandma had originally made her noodles using only the egg yokes and then she would use the egg whites to make up an angel food cake at the same time as noodle making. She had learned it and tweaked it some for her liking (hence the 4 whole eggs). Once I learned how to make them, I usually make up several batches a few times a year. They are pretty easy to do and since everything is already out and a mess is made, I always make up several, usually 4 or 5, batches at a time, whatever space is available for drying the noodles.

So here is how to make my Grandma's homemade noodles, who gladly said I could share on my blog :)

Homemade Noodles

4 whole eggs - beat until well mixed

add in
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
and a pinch of salt
and beat again

2 cups of flour and mix well
work together with hands.

Roll out on flour board until thin.

Let sit dry for about 2 hours.

You'll want to cut the noodles when they are still somewhat moist that way the noodles do not break while cutting from being completely dry. I suggest cutting each noodle batch into 2 inch strips, then stack some of the strips on top of each other and cut the noodles off for the size of your liking, maybe 3/8" to 1/2". Spread your noodles out on wax paper to continue to dry for another hour or two. I have packaged the noodles completely dry or still slightly moist. Package into freezer bags and place in the freezer.

It is so nice to spend half a day and make up a few batches a few times a year and pretty cost effective too. The noodles are great to take out for your favorite dishes. A few of my favorites are chicken and noodles and beef stroganoff.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas in the Country Gift Reveal

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Today, I'm going to share with you something fun I participated in this holiday season. I love participating in gift exchanges, so when I saw that one was organized by COUNTRYLINKedDiaries From the Dirt RoadThis Unchanted Rhoade, and The Ranchwife Chronicles, I was excited to sign up and participate. The exchange is called Christmas in the Country for ag and country bloggers. I thought it would be fun to come in touch with some new blogs to follow and read from across the country.

After signing up to participate, the lovely ladies from the above blogs paired everyone up with a "secret Santa" which remained anonymous until they received their package. We were given the person's likes/dislikes, the link to their blog, and links to other social media they use. This is what we used to put together our gift to send. Homemade goodies and gifts as well as locally made items were encouraged.

So the day came when there was a package at my door. I had ordered several things online for Christmas gifts, so there were several packages during the season, but seeing this package was so exciting! My gift came from Rachel over at Texas Ranch Mama, who I have enjoying following her busy ranch life in Texas! I received this Case IH burlap pillow that Rachel made, a mason jar soap dispenser that she made, coffee, and Ghirardelli chocolates! We are Case IH family so the pillow is perfect and has found a great spot on my antique bench in the living room. The mason jar soap dispenser also is perfect for my style and sits nicely by my kitchen sink with hand soap. The coffee is from one of Rachel's local coffee shops in Texas and who doesn't love Ghirardelli chocolates! (the photo is minus a few that I ate before the photo :) ). Love everything in my Christmas in the Country gift package! Thank you Rachel!

It was equally as fun to send a package! Check out Kirby's blog 15009 Farmhouse to see what I sent her. I have enjoyed following her blog and IG and watching her farmhouse come together, its going to be beautiful!

This was so fun to participate in and I look forward to it again in 2015!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Why choose a CSA?

A little Q&A today:
Why choose a CSA?

First let me introduce CSA or Community Supported Agriculture. It is a partnership between you and the local farmer. A CSA supports sustainable farming and provides healthy food for your family. Each CSA farm has their own program designed specifically for their farm production, but generally CSA members pay up front, or many have payment plans, providing the farm with working capital during the season of preparation and planning. In return the CSA members will receive a box of fresh, locally grown produce each week based on their farms program. The CSA members share some of the risks of farming as well. For example, they may receive more of one product and less of another depending on the weather and other factors on the farm.

With the beginning of the new year, also brings CSA signups for the majority of produce farms that offer a CSA program. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, farms provide fresh produce to members during the growing season. We are often asked about our CSA program, so I thought I would start with the benefits of being part of a CSA.

So why choose a CSA?

- You will receive the freshest produce. We pick our produce for the CSA the night before and/or the day of delivery. With a CSA, the members are receiving produce that is picked ripe and fresh. At grocery store chains produce may sit on the shelf maybe up to a week before it is purchased or thrown out. Also, when stores have to purchase produce to be shipped to them, it is often picked before it is ripe, resulting in loss of some nutritional value. When buying from the farmer, you are leaving out the middle man, which is providing fresher produce for you.

One of our summer CSA shares
-You are buying local. You are supporting your farmer and keeping profits within your community helping your overall local economy. We can build up our local economy by supporting local farmers, artisans, creators, and businesses that meet our family's needs. CSA programs have a pick up option, typically at the farmers market, a delivery option, or both.

-Eat healthy. When you are eating the produce that comes in your CSA share, you're providing yourself with high quality, nutrient filled food. Not only is it healthy to eat your vegetables, but also having a wide variety that comes in your CSA shares, is a great contributor to overall health.

One of our fall CSA boxes

-Experiment with new foods. Kohlrabi, fennel, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, eggplant. You may get some vegetables that you haven't heard of or haven't tried before in your weekly box, but that is part of the fun of a CSA. How many times do you eat the same thing over and over. With a CSA, you get what is in season, and with that, you can work with, try new recipes, and eat foods you've never tried before or wouldn't think about using. Make smoothies by adding kale, spinach, or carrots. Change up your omelet by adding a different mix of vegetables each time. Add any of the vegetables to casseroles, salads, every meal. Eat them raw or cooked. So many possibilities.
You might check out these cookbooks to help with cooking farm fresh vegetables.

-Knowing where your food comes from. If you aren't able to grow your own garden or grow enough to meet your family's needs, joining a CSA is the next best thing. When joining a CSA, you know the produce is in good hands from seed to harvest to delivery to you. This also allows you to connect with the farmer, know who the produce is coming from, and learn and see how it is grown.

Picking sweet corn for our CSA shares and farmers market

-Save money. A CSA membership can cost anywhere from $350-$600 for a 15-20 week membership, depending on the farm and their CSA program offered, you end up only spending roughly $20-$30 on vegetables weekly. Since the produce comes directly from the farm, providing fresher produce that last longer, resulting in less waste. Some CSAs also offer meat, bread, egg, and fruit shares that you can choose as part of your CSA. Some may include select fruits as part of their CSA. Some farms may also offer half and full size shares based off of how much your family needs.

-Preserve and store food. By joining a CSA, some weeks, you may receive excess green beans, tomatoes, or pickles, for example, that you know you won't eat before they go bad. By preserving the excess produce when it is in abundance is a great way to enjoy them after the season is over. Canning and/or freezing is also a great way to save money but still enjoy the produce you received from your CSA and all the benefits above.

A productive tomato juice canning day for me.
What better way to start the new year than to join a CSA for all the above benefits! Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA by you.

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