Saturday, July 30, 2011

Road Trip - The Lake Champlain Islands and Shelburne Farms

As most of you know, we went on a mini-road trip to Burlington, Vermont not too long ago. Here are some photos we took on our journey to the islands of Lake Champlain and the famous Shelburne Farms estate in the town of Shelburne. Athough we were only able to spend one night in Northern Vermont, we're looking forward to returning this Fall, hopefully when the weather is cooler and the foliage is at it's peak.

Shelburne Farms
is a magical place and a "must" destination for all visitors to the area. There's even an inn on the property where guests can stay while they spend a few days exploring the 1500 acre estate. For our day trip, we were only able to visit the 'Farm Barn' complex, which provides many activities geared toward young children and houses the farm's cheesemaking facility. We're planning on exploring many of the farm's other sites, including the 7-acre market garden, when we return in a couple of months.

Anyway, here are few pictures of our trip:

The surrounding mountains, as seen from a bridge to the Lake Champlain islands.

The Lake Champlain islands remind me of Long Island, New York in many ways. I was surprised to find so many farms on this seemingly narrow stretch of land. Driving up Route 2, you see farms and hay fields dotted across the island landscape.

A dairy farm on the island of North Hero.

The next day, we were off to explore the grounds of Shelburne Farms.

We came across this rather interesting display of hand-carved wood.



The estate's open pastures stretch as far as the eye can see.

We eventually found our way to the Farm Barn, home to many of Shelburne Farms' educational programs including a private elementary school.

We entered through the side of the facility and came across this rather interesting children's garden.



The architectural features of this huge facility is stunning to say the least.

We then made our way to the animal stalls where the children's program was being held that morning.

The first animal we met was Bella, who was a gentle cutie pie. Shelburne farms makes all of their cheese from Brown Swiss cows.

These kids didn't seem very excited to see us.

The chicken parade - We learned a bit about chickens and watched as they were let out of their coop for the day. We were also allowed to pick them up (or at least try to) and hold them. Afterwards Jonathan and the rest of the kids went into the coop to look for eggs.

Later that morning, it came time to get up close and personal with Bella.

She didn't seem too excited about getting milked, that is until they brought her some haylage to munch on.

The children each got a chance to milk her. Jonathan must be a natural because he was able to get a good steam from Bella on the first try. Marc and I on the other hand struggled a little bit.

An antique tractor in the children's playroom.

We then made our way to farm's cheesemaking facility.

We were able to sample some of the farm's delicious cheddar cheese and then watched as they cut the morning's batch of curds.

Then it was Jonathan's turn. You can see me in the background chatting it up with one of the friendly cheesemakers. Of course I had to purchase a cheesemaking kit before we left.

Soon it came time to say goodbye to Shelburne farms and all of their beautiful cows.

We hitched a ride on a wagon back to the farm's welcome center where we purchased some amazing cheddar cheese to take home. We were really disappointed that we didn't get a chance to see more of the farm that morning (which was bloody hot by the way) but are looking forward to coming back in late September for a longer stay.

Today's Tidbit - On Permaculture

The other day I came across an interesting article in the New York Times about the permaculture movement. I might just have to pick up Bill Mollison's "Introduction to Permaculture." I wonder if the guiding principle are similar to those found in Masanobu Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution."

The Permaculture Movement Grows from Underground - New York Times, July 27, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today's Tidbit - Health Coverage for Farmers

Four Corners of Health Insurance - "My Son Needs It" from Everynone on Vimeo.

I've always wondered what farmers did for health insurance and whether there was a trade organization out there made up of small farms that band together in order to negotiate for more affordable coverage. Based on this video, I guess the answer is no.

It's sad that something like not being able to afford personal health insurance coverage can prevent you from pursuing your dreams and following in your dad's footsteps. I can relate somewhat to what these farmers are facing through my own personal experience. When Marc and I opened up a law practice together a few years ago, finding affordable health coverage for our small business was difficult to say the least and the plan we ultimately went with offered minimal coverage, despite the hefty premium we paid each month.

I'm sure many more young people would venture into the farming field if this was not an issue. Hopefully it won't be forever.

Gold Medal Tomato

I picked this Gold Medal tomato earlier this week in the middle of a rain storm and it has since been slowly ripening on the kitchen table. Seed Savers Exchange regards it as their "finest bi-colored tomato". It's a stunner for sure. (Yet another reason to grow heirlooms.)

I'm looking forward to slicing this baby up. Judging from the size, it should serve as a meal unto itself.

Pickles, Pineapple and Fried Rice?

So what do you when it's 10 PM, your husband and son are away for the night and you have the whole house to yourself? Well if you're me, you bake a pineapple upside down cake, binge on leftover Chinese food and can a dozen jars of pickles. You could say that I know how to have a good time. Either that or I have a big L on my forehead.

This was my first attempt at canning pickles. I have to admit, it was actually pretty fun and not too labor intensive. If I was a rapper, I'd call myself 'Pickle Daddy Diddy'.

Ok, I'm getting a little delirious. Off to bed!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today's Tidbit - What on Earth is This???

When I pulled up my bolted Red Sails lettuce, I noticed these little thingys growing in the bed. Initially, I thought it might have been some weird larva. My guess now is that it's some sort of tiny mushroom. Does anyone know what they are?

Melon-Loving Mice

That's it. I'm growing all of my melons on trellises next year. It's so infuriating having to compost these destroyed Athena cantaloupes. I don't know what I was thinking growing them on the ground again this year, especially since I had issues with mice eating my watermelons last year. Never again.

The only thing I could think of to do to protect the remaining melons was to elevate them. I don't know if this will help but I can' think of another solution.

On the bright side, I had a couple of fruit set on my Sunshine watermelon vines. (And yes, I am elevating this baby too.) I was beginning to worry as my Blacktail Mountain watermelons began setting fruit weeks ago. This baby is growing like crazy unlike my Blacktails, which are stalling at the moment. I think I'll side-dress them with some more compost and organic fertilizer to see if that will them fatten them up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today's Tidbit - The Distant Mountains

I've been meaning to post pictures and details of our recent trip to Northern Vermont, which in my opinion is one of the loveliest places in New England. Hopefully I'll get to it this evening after the gardening chores have been dealt with. In any case, here is a picture of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains (I think) as seen from the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington. Sorry for the overall quality of the photo, which was taken from my cellphone. (I'd stupidly left the camera in the car.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Other Summer Beans

I thought I'd do a quick post on some of the other beans I have growing in the garden at the moment.
The Tongue of Fire shell beans are coming along nicely. While it is considered a bush bean variety, the vines are very aggressive and will climb to three feet tall if allowed to. I might erect a short trellis for them next year as the vines are a tangled mess at the moment.

This is my first time growing shell beans. I wonder how much of a harvest we'll get from this one bed.

I'd almost forgotten about my long beans. They were transplanted out in early May and for the longest time appeared to be doing nothing. It was only a few days ago that I noticed the vines were beginning to climb their trellis and produce flowers. To me, the pods resemble shoe laces as they are produced in pairs. If you've never tried long beans, I would highly recommend them. They have a lot of crunch to them and a wonderful flavor in my opinion.

Finally, my early sown green soybeans (stripped of their leaves at one point by Mr. Groundhog) have rebounded and are setting their pods. My 2nd and 3rd sowings are just starting to flower now. If I can keep the field mice and chipmunks at bay, we might just get a good harvest this year.

2011 Garlic Harvest

I finally pulled my garlic this past weekend. The weather was perfect for it - hot and dry. I grew three hardneck varieties this year and over 60 cloves. Despite the initial spotty check, I am VERY pleased with the final results. Most of the bulbs were just as big, if not bigger, than the ones we harvested last year. And thankfully there doesn't appear to be any signs of disease.

I find growing garlic to be very satisfying, partly because saving seed (or should I have 'clove') couldn't be any easier. Unlike other veggies, you don't have to wait for the garlic plants to wither and die completely before you have a stock for next year's crop. Most the the cloves planted in November came from last summer's harvest. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this process on for many years to come.

'Bogatyr' - This is a new variety I'm trying this year. I was unsure as to how it would perform since one of the two bulbs I received from Seed Savors Exchange was less than half the size of the other. Interestingly, all of the bulbs pulled were of a good size.

'Pskem River' - This is my second year growing this garlic. Out of the three varieties I have, Pskem River is undoubtedly the prettiest in form and color. I had spotty results growing it last year as less then half of the 9 or so cloves I planted went on to produce useful bulbs. I saved what I had to grow this year and thankfully, the results were worth the sacrifice.

'German Extra Hardy' - What it lacks in an interesting name, it more than make up for in reliability. This garlic accounts for about half of my crop this year and I'm very satisfied by how it has performed thus far.

I'm thinking of adding two more garlic varieties to my collection. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Monday, July 25, 2011


The garden received some much needed water today. At times torrential, this particular storm represented the first significant rainfall we'd had in weeks. We also got a reprieve from the recent heat and humidity with temperatures reaching only into the high 70's today.

While most of the veggies will greatly benefit from this storm, I did brave the rain to pick a few tomatoes that looked close to being ripe. The last thing I want is for these tasty orbs to split due to the sudden change in moisture.

On a sad note, one of my Titan sunflowers started to bloom a few days ago, only to snap and fall to the ground during the storm today. I'll have to stake the remaining three to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer's Bounty - Picks of the Week

We hand another bountiful harvest this week. The Hungarian Wax peppers are producing abundantly at the moment. I'll have to set aside a night this week to pickle and can them.

Tomato season has officially begun. (Hurray!) The near triple digit temperatures of the past few days have really helped to produce our first vine-ripened beauties. Not surprisingly, our first ripe slicing tomatoes of the year were Cherokee Purple and Amish Paste.

Our cucumber harvest was a bit out of control this week. The Tasty Jades are producing like mad. We picked at least two dozen - much more than we can consume as a family. What we didn't give away, I'll have to pickle this week.

We also picked about a dozen zucchinis this week as well.

I love Napoli carrots. They are the perfect size for kids to munch on and are reliably sweet.

The first wild blackberries were very sweet this year. I picked a small bowl-full today and Jonathan gobbled them all up before they made it into the house.

It's nice being able to pick more than one or two artichokes at a time. Our plants are producing well this year.

The chipmunks left me these two tiny ripe Seascape strawberries to pick. It's my own fault really. I still haven't covered the bed with bird netting yet.

The string beans are beginning to roll in as well. I can't wait to cook these up.

A bouquet of cilantro, (pathetic) red onions and beets. I think it would be fun to open a store that sold organic vegetable bouquets and arrangements instead of flowers. I'm surprised no one has done it yet.