Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunrich Sunflowers

Everyone that knows us knows we LOVE to grow sunflowers!  They have become our signature crop at every market we've attended and we've worked really hard to maintain a steady supply of sunflowers throughout the summer.  Hopefully this year will be no exception.\



With the first big market right around the corner for us (next weekend) I'm happy to see the sunflowers appear to be right on track.  A few are open already, a few are thinking about it and a few are holding off.  Inconsistency in growth though that started with our early season crops appears as if it will be the story for more of the season.  

In the past few years we have grown a variety of sunflower varieties.  Most chosen because I wasn't sure what direction I really wanted to go with sunflowers, there are so many varieties out there.  It seems that the two main series of sunflowers grown for cut flower sales are the ProCut series and the Sunrich series.  Both are pollenless (a plus when selling to restaurants and customers that don't want to continually clean up after their flower bouquets) and both are single stem varieties.  While we grow a few multi-stem varieties to go in bouquets, the majority of the sunflowers we sell are large single stem varieties that hold their own.

Last year we did a mixture of ProCut and Sunrich sunflowers-unfortunately my record-keeping wasn't good enough and when they went into the field, we didn't know which was which.  This year I was determined to keep that from happening.  I made a decision to only go with the Sunrich series despite a slightly longer time to bloom and slightly higher cost because they are supposed to have a 5-6 inch head versus a 3-4 inch head on the ProCut series.

The first planting we expect to take to market is a mixture of the Sunrich Gold and the Sunrich Lemon.  Being from the same series of sunflowers, I expect quite a bit of similarity, differing mostly in color.  To my surprise, these two sets of sunflowers could not have acted more different.  We sowed three hundred seeds of each variety on the same day in the same conditions.  In three days we started seeing the Golds, it took five days to see any Lemons.  The final germination rate on the Golds was 95%, on the Lemons it was closer to 80%.  When it was time to transplant the Golds, the Lemons weren't quite ready so we gave them an extra five days in the greenhouse.  We did plant them in the same bed as the Golds though, two rows of each with twelve inch spacing.  They received all of the same growing conditions from that point on.  Same water, same temps, same fertilizer.  This is what they look like today.


The tall, thick-stemmed plants on the left that have not started to open are the Sunrich Gold, the significantly shorter, open flower on the right is the Sunrich Lemon.  And it looks this way on down the row.  


The real kicker for me though is this...the Lemons are going to branch!



So while these flowers will still be of use to us in bouquets, they won't be giving me the bang that I wanted for the first market of the season at Hillcrest.  While I don't understand what exactly caused this series to branch, given the same growing conditions, I really don't understand why these two varieties grew so differently.   

More proof that no matter how much effort I put in to gardening on paper in the off-season, Mother Nature will always throw me a curve ball.  

April Flowers





Saturday, April 28, 2012

Trip to Iowa

Last week the Monster and I made a super fast trip to Iowa and I'm just getting around to posting a few pictures from it.  We didn't do anything out of the ordinary, just hung out with my parents at their house.  Luckily the weather was good for most of the visit because the Monster definitely requires some wide open space.









Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Little Critters

My morning started with this....

The keeper of the chickens?


My old "Goofy" bird.


My blind white bird, "Sis".


Peepers that moved into the big coop last weekend.


A few "clucks" from me and they come running.




My partners patiently waiting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Office

This was the view from my office at 6:15 this morning as I was filling orders for the midweek markets.







Monday, April 23, 2012

Thorns in My Side

I spent most of today planting eggplant and taking care of odds and ends around the farm.  There are so many good things happening in the garden right now I almost feel like I shouldn't dwell on the negative.  Especially this early in the season...I know there will be plenty of time to complain about pests and problems as the season goes on.  But to say everything out there is smelling like roses wouldn't be a very accurate description at any point in the season.  

So, right now, two thorns in my side.  


Cutworms.  I've spent way too much time already this season replacing the seedlings they are taking down.  They have absolutely hit in our tomatoes and squash and the only thing that keeps them from completely devastating us is that I so over-planted these seedlings in the greenhouse.  Daily I make the rounds and pop new seedlings from the greenhouse into the holes the cutworms have made in the rows.  Early this spring I mentioned that we made cutworm collars out of toilet paper rolls for our broccoli and I think that really helped.  Unfortunately at the time we planted tomatoes we were out of collars.  We tried a second home remedy of placing toothpicks on either side of the stem as we planted (you can see them in this  picture).  I have a LOT of proof that toothpicks do not deter cutworms.  Luckily, we were just given a garbage bag full of toilet paper rolls.  

The second thorn in my side...


Pigweed.  The first one I've seen this year.  I haven't spent a single second dealing with this devil weed yet this year but the thought of the hours that I will spend dealing with it put a black mark on an otherwise beautiful day.  On a brighter note, I haven't seen blister beetles yet.  And everything in the garden does smell like honeysuckle right now.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Napa Cabbage Recipes

After a little bit of research we've learned a little bit about all the good qualities associated with this vegetable we are flooded with right now.  Also known as Chinese cabbage, it is in so many Asian recipes that if you've eaten much Asian food, you've probably eaten Napa cabbage.  It's a pretty vegetable with sort of an elongated head, not the compact ball we associate most cabbage with.  It looks very similar to boc choi and I've seen several references to it being somewhere in between cabbage and boc choi with a milder flavor than both.

Since we've been eating the fire out of this cabbage for the last few nights, I thought I'd share a few links that I'm pulling recipes off of for our customers that feel like trying something new but don't know what to do with it.

The best article I've found with easy recipes that I'm working our way through is "8 Things to do with Napa Cabbage".  We started super easy with braised napa cabbage and cabbage stir-fry.  I'm working my way up to kimchi.  Not only will it require me getting a little out of my comfort zone in the kitchen, it will require a trip to the grocery store.  I could get a little stuck just on the braised cabbage though which was pretty easy and with only the addition of ginger made it seem like III knew a little bit about Asian cooking.

For those about to place their weekly online order or those close to a grocery store or with a well-stocked pantry, I'd recommend going straight to the Food Network site and checking out a few of their 208 recipes for Napa Cabbage.  For that matter, CLG customers, check out the Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe and pick up a pork shoulder roast from one of your local meat farmers like Falling Sky Farm or Freckle Face Farm.

I personally would like to try the Sweet Napa Cabbage with Pasta, but it would require me breaking one of my own rules.  We try really hard to only eat seasonal vegetables and I don't even hit the veggie aisle at the store.  We work entirely out of the garden or the freezer.  I just don't know any time in Arkansas when I'll have eggplant and cabbage ready to harvest at the same time.  Hmmm.  Maybe braised cabbage again tonight?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lettuce

I've never been a big fan of lettuce-growing it or eating it.  Lately though I've seen some of the prettiest lettuces growing at my neighbors' farms, and a little bit of pretty lettuce growing around here.


It really makes me wonder why anyone buys that old iceberg lettuce from the grocery store when they could take take home something this pretty.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Napa Cabbage

Monster Milan and I made a "quick trip" to Iowa to visit my parents this week.  It was a last minute adventure based on the fact that we didn't have much to harvest and take to market last Saturday combined with two weeks of beautiful weather that let us get ahead in our planting schedule.  While we were gone the farm got a much needed rain and things around here grew.

One of the biggest transformations in the four days that I was gone happened in a row of Napa cabbage that just took off.


As III and I stood looking at it last night we found ourselves asking a question that has been all too familiar over the last few years..."How do we know when it's ready to harvest?"  III mentioned that it might be nice if I had an idea about how to harvest before I decided to plant new vegetables.  I figure the best way to learn is to jump in with both feet.  And with thirty cabbages under my belt this morning I think I've got it under control.  

Now, the bigger question....what do I do with it in the kitchen?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Soft Shelled Egg


We don't get soft-shelled eggs very often-I've only seen a handful in the seven years we've had laying hens.  I find them fascinating though.  The bluish egg in the back is a perfectly normal egg, the dark one in front has no hard shell, just a thick membrane holding it together.  It didn't take much to pop it when I handed it to one of the dogs.  It's hard to believe that a chicken can even lay that egg without popping it.  I don't know many people that spend much time contemplating eggs and laying hens but I think they are truly remarkable and taken for granted.  I also think the world might be a better place if everyone had a few laying hens in their backyard.  

Berry Monster

We've created a strawberry monster!



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter

We spent Easter Sunday with III's parents.  Monster Milan got to participate in a slightly different egg hunt than he's used to and hang out with Gobi and Poppa.





This child is so lucky to have two sets of grandparents that adore him.


And a little lesson on herbs from Gobi.  Hopefully he'll bring some of that home with him and teach me a thing or two.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Level of Country

When we opened up the clover/rye covered sunflower fields to the horses we didn't bother to run new fence down the west side of the driveway.  We just threw a cattle panel up at the end that leads to highway and another panel up at the end that leads to the garden and the house.  In doing so, I feel we've reached a new level of country.