Planting Season

The outdoor planting season has begun with all its craziness. The frequent rain has made it difficult to get the planting done but we planted spinach, onions, leeks and barley two weeks ago and radishes last week. Prairie with Jesse 106

First, Pam tilled the garden before planting. Prairie with Jesse 107

Onions after being planted. Prairie with Jesse 109

Bundles of leeks waiting to be planted. Prairie with Jesse 114

Isaiah poking the onions into the dirt. Canoeing, Planting Trees 133

In addition to planting in the gardens, Isaiah has been adding to his orchard, planting apple trees. Canoeing, Planting Trees 144

Pruning Apple Trees

IMG_0731It is necessary to prune apple trees to open them up for air circulation and to promote better fruit growth. Japanese and Europeans aren’t afraid to prune rigorously. However, Americans are slowly catching on to the idea. Proper pruning conserves a tree’s strength for a longer, healthier life. A tree’s appearance is enhanced by pruning. Some people believe pruning is contrary to nature. That is not the case. Nature has its own ways of pruning such as snow, ice, and high winds, getting rid of dead or surplus limbs. There are many reasons to prune. Pruning removes broken branches or any suffering from injury, disease, or insects. It instructs a tree to grow into a good shape, strong enough to hold up its load of fruit. It removes crossed limbs; if limbs rub against each other it can cause wounds that can allow disease to infect the tree. Pruning also helps to keep the tree a manageable size. It also opens up the tree allowing more sunlight to reach the inner branches. An open tree promotes fruit growth by allowing fruit to ripen evenly in the interior. It decreases the amount of bearing surface of the tree, which makes for larger fruit. Also, the tree will be more likely to bear fruit every year. Pruning also removes any extra tops that can form bad crotches that may split when the tree is laden with fruit. Lastly, pruning renews bearing wood. Most of the bearing surface can be completely renewed every few years by removing a few of the older limbs, which will be replaced by new and healthy limbs.

IMG_0735It is fun asking Pam about the history of this orchard. She gets a twinkle in her eye when she remembers her dad and grandpa. The orchard was originally planted by her grandpa in the mid 1940’s. Our orchard includes one of the original Fireside apple trees from the University of Minnesota planted in our orchard before the U of M named it. We also have an unnamed variety which was just given a number, Minnesota 972; this variety was never made available to the public. We happen to have these apples because we had relatives working in the horticulture department at the U of M. We also have a Beacon tree that was planted in the 1950’s. We have a Honey gold that was planted six years before Honey gold was made available to the public. They will be replaced with heirloom varieties. We have other small orchards started in a couple of places on the farm. They include plums, pears and cherries, in addition to apples.

Pruning the apple trees is usually a family event in March, Aleesha and her kids come to help us. This year, I, Bethany, started pruning the big fireside tree by myself. I only had an hour to work on it so I didn’t get very far on that tree. I was enjoying being in the tree; it was great that I could climb a tree as part of my work. The next day my hands ached from gripping the pruners. However, I got back into the tree to keep going. Jonathan came out to help me; he also wanted an excuse to climb a tree for work. As always when we get together to work, we joked around and laughed a lot. I told Jonathan that all that tree climbing as kids came in handy; we’re quite good at climbing trees. We had a blast. We finished the one fireside tree that morning, then in the afternoon I pruned the Minnesota , zestar and started in on the honey gold. Aleesha came to help me finish pruning. Her girls played nearby. Again, there was a lot of silliness as Aleesha and I worked on the trees together; she said to a tree, “Sorry, but you’re dying anyway,” which had us laughing. We managed to finish the rest of the trees in just a couple of hours. Pam pruned all the young fruit trees planted here and there on the farm.

The Last Few Weeks On the Farm

Other than routine things there hasn’t been much happening on the farm to share, but here’s what’s been filling up our days the last few weeks!
McCarthy Walks 107

Picking spinach for many hours every week; in December and through the middle of January it was only two hours every week, then three, four and last week seven hours! With the heat and sun it’s been growing like crazy!McCarthy Walks 114 It has been a challenge to keep enough moisture in the ground for the plants this winter, we’ve been watering each greenhouse about once every week. It is a tedious, two person job in the winter. McCarthy Walks 116 On cold days, with temperatures around twenty degrees but sunny, it is awesome to step in the greenhouse and shed layers. And it’s especially fantastic to work barefoot! Pant legs rolled up and a tank top, when it’s only twenty degrees outside, wind howling, and it’s at least eighty degrees inside and I’m toasting! McCarthy Walks 117This past month we have been working on pulling stuff out to make room for planting new stuff. Pam has done a lot of planting the past couple of weeks. And what’s left in the greenhouse is finally looking awesome, so there should be more greens available at the next markets!

Ice Storm

Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 463

An ice storm, like many things, is both very beautiful and very dangerous. Last week’s ice storm made walking outside perilous on our farm. The driveway was an ice rink. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 474 The day after the storm, I walked around the yard to photograph the beauty of the ice. The apple orchard glistened with ice. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 496 The tall plants around our house were bent over with the load of ice; they almost looked to be plastered to the snow. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 503 The temperature was warm, melting the ice. The sound of falling ice off the trees was like heavy rain; I almost expected to be soaked. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 509 -1 The wire fences were lined with tiny icicles. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 523 Some of the trees in the yard lost branches. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 546 The fallen ice of the trees sparkled in the sunlight, two days later. Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 551 Cian was the only one on the farm that enjoyed everything being covered in ice. He enjoyed playing on it. (The cows were not happy at all.) Fence. Halfmoon, Ice 576Two days after the storm, the trees  shimmered in the sunlight. Beauty attempting to mask the possible danger of ice.

Honey!

canoeing-and-fire-003On June 3rd, my brother in-law, Jason and I checked on my bees. We noted that the two survivor hives from last year already had lots of honey. Jason said I should harvest it soon, by doing so they’d be encouraged to make more honey. We didn’t have the time to harvest the honey that day, nor were we prepared to do so.  On June 10, around 11:45 am, mom and I went to the bee yard to harvest the honey – with a cart with a box that had a bottom and lid for the frames of honey, empty frames to replace the ones we were taking, smoker and fuel, brush, and hive tool. (The hives shouldn’t be opened more than once a week.) I parked the van some distance away.

honey-and-canoeing-071Although there were two supers on the first hive, we only pulled about one super worth off because some frames weren’t completely drawn out. It was very exciting to finally be harvesting honey! We took even less off the other hive (though again it had two supers on), only about six or seven frames, not quite a super full. The bees buzzed around us but didn’t seem too angry; there weren’t really any threatening us, though the bees in the second one were buzzing around us more.) honey-and-canoeing-070Using the hive tool to separate the frames, then pry them loose and lift one end up to get a hold of it, then prying up the other end, I pulled the frames  filled with honey out one by one. Then I shook the bees off the best I could; Mom brushed the remaining bees off and then opened the box for me to put the frame into it. Once we were done and had the hives closed back up, I pulled the heavy cart to the van. I lifted the boxes into the van and drove them across the yard to the cheese shop. About five or seven frames at a time, I uncapped the honey comb, letting the honey drip out of the comb, through a hardware clothe to strain it, into a collecting container. They sat dripping for many days. The uncapping was very slow – maybe someday I’ll be better at it after I get used to doing it.

honey-and-canoeing-079On July 6th, Mom and I collected honey again – this time it was reversed which hive produced more honey. We got a little over two supers full of honey. I put the frames we’d pulled out in June and dripped back into the hives to replace some of the ones we took out. Again the bees weren’t too upset with us. It was fun and exciting to finally be able to harvest honey! And it was really fun to watch the container fill with honey! I got an extractor for my birthday – it was so fun to spin the honey frames and watch the honey fly out! Then I poured it from the extractor over the hardware clothe (to strain it) into the collecting container. I filled two quart jars for our use. Mom and I poured the honey from the container into a five-gallon pail and once the one pail was filled, we filled a third of a second pail! It was so thrilling to see all of that honey!

canoeing-and-fire-099On September 8th, Mom and I went to harvest honey again – only this time we had to take the supers off completely so the bees could focus on filling the deeps for winter. So frame by frame, came out and we emptied the supers and  put the frames in another box. Once a super was empty, I pulled it off the hive and then closed up the hive. The first hive we did was extremely calm. The second one was less than pleased that we were stealing its honey (we were also getting later in the afternoon) – we both got stung a few times. Actually, I’m not sure exactly how many times I got stung in the one finger – but at least three times. So it took longer to do that hive. There were only a couple of frames to pull from the new hives. And one hive had died (they were very docile and hadn’t been doing well in July). We collected two frames shy of four supers full! (We sorted out the empty frames from the full ones on the spot.) Once extracted, I continued filling the pail of honey and filled another one too – and there is still a gallon or so left! So I finally have enough honey, for our own use between now and June, plus some to sell!honey-and-canoeing-093

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

lettuce-077You try to go to farmer’s market every week but sometimes you can’t make it or you arrive near the close of market. There’s about an hour left at market once you finally arrive, you browse the different vendors especially your favorites, you wanted spinach or perhaps lettuce, what’s left on the tables doesn’t look great and the vendors you prefer to buy from are all out. You were hoping to make pie this weekend; you were having company over and wanted to make a salad. Your schedule won’t allow you to get to market sooner. If only there was a way to guarantee you’ll be able to purchase fresh carrots from your favorite vendor.

ducks-and-more-144Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new model of farming and food distribution. A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA’s focus is usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, sometimes dairy products and meat. The term CSA is mostly used in the USA, but a variety of similar production and economic sub-systems are in use worldwide.

ducks-and-more-145At Prairie Hollow Farm, we offer various options so you can choose the items that suit your eating tastes. CSA is an innovative approach to the relationship between farmers and those who enjoy good food. With a preseason payment, members purchase a “share” of our season’s harvest. Each week during the summer and every other week in the winter, members receive a box of the best and freshest produce available from our farm. (Our CSA customers get first choice, sometimes in the winter we won’t have enough greens for markets but just enough for our CSA customers; it’s the perfect way to ensure you’ll get the best!) When you sign up, you become our customer for a six month growing season, either summer or winter, providing us with an annual, loyal customer base. In return, we dedicate ourselves to providing you with a varied and nutritious supply of fresh vegetables. You can eat your way through over eighty sweet and flavorful gourmet and heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits. You will get to try new veggies that you might never try otherwise. Discover how diverse and interesting your meals can become.

Bread 036Your share is designed to provide for a household of two adults and two children, although this varies with family eating habits. Many CSA members have found themselves eating more healthy vegetables with less fuss from the children because of the freshness, cleanliness, and flavor of their produce compared to that available in local markets. And because we take pride in the quality of our vegetables, it is simple to go from the box to the table.

Farm 5 039A CSA share is an excellent investment in the health of your family and your community, giving you a voice for positive change and great food on your table. With a mutual commitment to great food and sustainable farming, together we can engage the simple but incredibly important work of good farming and feeding our families well.

At Prairie Hollow Farm a CSA share can be more than just vegetables. We also offer bread, cheese, and egg and beef shares. (Around Christmas, we’ll offer honey as an add on.) Also, some fruit will come with the vegetable share. We also offer an option for those of you who grow some of your own veggies or are only looking for particular items.  Our market share allows you to choose items from a list emailed to you weekly.  You choose the items you want and we will put your order together and bill you.

honey-and-canoeing-019With either option, you can choose to pick up your box at the farmer’s market, at one of our drop sites or, if you live near the farm, you can pick up your box at the farm on Thursdays. For information on prices and drop sites, visit our website or email us at info@prairiehollow.com .

Monterey Jack

farm-8-003Monterey Jack is a perfect cheese for all seasons! Great on salads in the summer time to add a little extra flavor and color. It is an excellent cheese for the turn of seasons, when there is a chill in the air and a cold breeze blowing, and the only way to warm up is to eat something hot. Monterey Jack melts well, a grilled cheese sandwich made with our whole wheat oatmeal bread and a flavored Monterey Jack hits the spot. Since Monterey Jack is mild and creamy, it makes a superb cheese for families and with all the flavors everyone can find a favorite! Our flavored jacks will add zest to your culinary creations and variety to your snacks and appetizers. We have black pepper, dill, garden herb, hot pepper, onion and chive, pepperoni, and rosemary garlic. During the holiday season we also make caraway Monterey Jack. (We sometimes make a taco flavor too.)

farm-6-003The subtle taste of dill adds a wonderful flavor to sandwiches and veggies.  Cut in strips or small wedges and add to a veggie tray or dice and toss in a crisp lettuce or spinach salad. Coarsely ground black pepper lends a little bite to this versatile cheese.  Good in almost any sandwich, it adds a special flavor treat to tuna and roast beef.  Cut in cubes to add to a raw vegetable salad. Garden herb is seasoned with a special blend of herbs; this cheese is especially delightful in chicken or veggie sandwiches.  For a quick appetizer, top a cracker with a slice of cheese and a crunchy vegetable or a black olive.  Also serves as a wonderful garnish for sliced tomatoes.

frost-109Not too hot, but enough to warm up your mouth, this blend of peppers, including habanero, provides more heat than bite to our hot pepper Monterey jack.  Hot pepper is excellent in burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas; also good as a snack cheese or to “warm up” a sandwich. Toasted onions and chives make the onion chive flavor a favorite among our customers, who say it is the best cheese to ever grace a turkey sandwich.  It makes a great addition to any sandwich and wonderful companion to lettuce and spinach salads.  Try it with potatoes:  tuck it into a baked potato before serving, layer it in potato casseroles or melt it on mashed potatoes.

frost-112Generous portions of chopped pepperoni blended into the pepperoni variety make it a hit.  Good in sandwiches and salads.  For a special treat, butter slices of French bread, sprinkle with garlic powder and top with cheese.  Broil until lightly browned.  Taco Monterey Jack is seasoned with cumin, onions and peppers making it a spicy cheese that is good in Mexican dishes.

Pam’s uncle Vern, who was a cheesemaker for the Elgin creamery, always made caraway Monterey Jack for the holidays since caraway aids digestion.  His philosophy was that everyone should eat caraway Monterey Jack along with the rich foods of holidays to help digestion. We are carrying on that tradition.

No matter what you are in the mood for there should be a flavor to please your palate.

Toka Plums

Mostly Birds 121In the spring, the Toka plum tree is laced with pretty, tiny white flowers. The strong, nearly overly sweet smell of the blossoms in bloom filled the yard, successfully attracting a host of bees to pollinate it. The fragrance so delicious it filled us with longing for the juicy, delectable fruit it would produce later. Not only was the smell of the tree mouthwatering, but the sight of it in full bloom was a feast for the eyes. The beauty of the tree was incredible; it is the first fruit tree in our orchard to bloom, bringing back life to the farmyard. Observing many honeybees pollinating, helping the tree to set good fruit and also benefiting the colony with lots of nectar, filled Pam and Bethany with excitement. The mutual services being exchanged at the plum tree was a delight. Soon the pretty flowers gave way to small green leaves and a time of waiting. Waiting to see all those pretty little blossoms transformed into scrumptious fruit. Suddenly, in the month of August, those many fruits are visible among the leaves; huge clusters dangle from the tree. The last few weeks, the not yet ripe fruit has been tantalizing. Finally, after all the time waiting, the plums are ready to be enjoyed!

Mostly Birds 122Plums are a very old fruit; it was one of the first to be domesticated by humans. Remains of plums have been found in Neolithic age archeological sites. The most abundant three cultivars are found only around human settlements, not in the wild. One of the three cultivars has been traced to Eastern Europe. The other two originated in Asia.

Fox Snake 044Of the many varieties of plums, at Prairie Hollow Farm, we have chosen to grow the Toka hybrid plum. This variety was first introduced in 1911. Our choice was made based on its incredible flavor. Its distinctive flavor is sweet and meaty.  The fruit, called a berry, is a deep, dark reddish-purple color and covered in a faint white bloom. The flesh is yellow and juicy, encompassing the stone-like pit. There has been a Toka plum tree on this farm since Pam’s grandpa moved here. Pam has kept growing Toka plums over other varieties for their superior flavor. Three years ago, Isaiah planted additional plum trees so there will plenty in the future.

Fox Snake 049These small fruits are a delicious, healthy, low calorie snack for all ages. There are only 46 calories per 100 grams. This fruit isn’t just appealing for its low calories but also because it is full of nutrients. Plums contain numerous health promoting minerals and vitamins. Dietary fiber in plums helps regulate the functioning of the digestive system. Plums have a high antioxidant level, which aid in fighting against damaging free radicals. They are a moderate source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the body’s immune system, developing resistance against disease agents, it also aids in countering inflammation and free radicals. They also contain poly phenolic antioxidants that fight against free radicals and cancer agents. Phytonutrients in plums were found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer without having a negative impact on normal cell growth. Plums also contain beta carotene and vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for good eye sight and is needed for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Eating fruits rich in vitamin A has been shown to protect against oral and lung cancers. Plums are also an excellent source of iron, potassium, fluoride. Potassium is an essential component of body fluid and cells that aids in controlling blood pressure and heart rate. Iron is needed for forming red blood cells. Plums also contain some B-complex vitamins that help the body metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Plums are a healthy and beneficial food for many of the body’s functions. Stop by at the Farmers’ Market to purchase your plums!

Gouda

Gouda is a mild cheese perfect for kids. Pam’s grandchildren eat it like candy and often ask for more. Aleesha (Pam’s daughter) said they would take as much Gouda as we would like to give them. When Pam cut into our very first batch of Gouda, she brought some to the house for everyone to try.  Aleesha and her kids were here. Pam sliced some and all the little hands were out to try a piece, and Aleesha tried some as well. They all enjoyed it, from the oldest child of twelve to the second youngest that wasn’t yet two.  We added Gouda three years ago, after people had been asking us to make it for a couple of years. Gouda has been one of our most popular cheeses.

Beets and Buckwheat 039Gouda is the most famous Dutch cheese. Gouda is a town in South Holland province of the western part of the Netherlands. Cheese has been sold for centuries in the town of Gouda and there is even a cheese festival in that town. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk. Gouda cheese was created in the sixth century and was first exported to England in the thirteenth century, where it was a big hit. Gouda is one the best known cheeses in the world.

Beets and Buckwheat 040Gouda has a smooth and supple texture. As a young cheese, it’s mild and delicate. As it ages, it becomes nutty. The flavor is both tangy and sweet. Recently, we made a batch of Gouda with dark roasted hazelnuts layered in each wheel.  The hazelnuts are from Norm Erickson, a hazelnut grower in Lake City, MN.

Beets and Buckwheat 041Gouda is so delicious it can be enjoyed by itself! Serving it with crackers would make an excellent after school or bed-time snack for kids, and for you! (Did you know that eating a piece of cheese before going to bed helps you sleep better? It also stimulates your metabolism so you burn more calories while you are sleeping.) Gouda goes well with potatoes rather than pasta. It is good served with almost any fruit. We like it with apples and grapes. Pair it with good bread, like our whole wheat oatmeal or cranberry walnut bread. Gouda is great with beer, light red wines and fruity white wines.