Sprouts for Breakfast ?!

Actually, all of these ideas can be eaten/drank at any meal of the day.  Mostly I want to highlight some ways to use sprouts and shoots beyond the most familiar salad and sandwich options.  Breakfast is a time when most of us don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing a meal.  Often when we defer to a quick option it ends up being in the white and brown categories- cereal, toast, yogurt.  Green stuff is kind of a rarity in many breakfast meals.  Here are a few fairly simple and quick ideas for breakfast meals with the bonus color, nutrition and flavor from the addition of sprouts and shoots.

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Smoothies

An infinite combination of good tasting and healthy things can be thrown in a blender together and called a smoothie.  We like to throw in some sprouts as well- and it’s hard to even tell they are there.  Sunflower shoots and clover sprouts are our favorites for smoothies because they have mild unassuming flavors and textures that blend in well.  The pictured smoothie is made with sunflower shoots, frozen black raspberries and blueberries, a banana, kefir, and a little maple syrup.  Many kinds of fruit and dairy, juice or coconut milk can be substituted.

IMG_0316Miso Bowl

To be quite honest the bowl pictured is much more involved than I usually whip up for breakfast (this was a dinner shot) but a simpler version is great for the morning.  Boil some water then add a dollop of miso paste to dissolve.  Throw in some kimchi, perhaps a soft boiled egg, and top with pea shoots and bean sprouts.  If you want to get fancy add some noodles, pork belly slices, and other veggies or mushrooms for a full on ramen bowl.

IMG_0381Shoots On Eggs, Any Style

A handful of shoots on top of your morning eggs makes a world of difference in your eating experience.  Here, radish shoots adorn some fried eggs and toast, making a pale meal colorful and zestier.  Any of our shoots could adorn your scrambled eggs, be thrown in an omelet, or top something a little fancier like eggs benedict.

Have fun and try something new for breakfast!

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My how things have changed

This time of year is good for dreaming.  I know you are supposed to set goals for the new year in January, but you have to do some dreaming and researching first.  I’d like to offer the big list of all the projects we are going to tackle in 2016, but I’m still enjoying the dreaming stage where possibilities are endless and the realities of labor and finances take a back seat.  Soon enough all of those plans will come into form.  Every year when I begin to look at the goals set previously it is easy to get discouraged by all the things that seem to reappear unfinished year after year.  The truth of the matter is that some things just take time, and usually more time than you anticipated.  What gives me encouragement is looking at all the changes that have happened at Peace of Earth Farm in our 6 years here.  Sometimes it takes looking at dramatic before and after pictures to remember all that was accomplished cart by cart, shovel by shovel, seed by seed.  So- here is what we have been doing in a series of pictures.  Though there are many hours of planning, seeding, sheet mulching, weeding, driving, feeding animals, … that can’t be seen in these pictures- what can be evidenced is lots of tree clearing, garden building, animal moving, and soil improving.

Peace of Earth Farm a few months before we purchased it, September 2009

Peace of Earth Farm a few months before we purchased it, September 2009

Peace of Earth Farm September 2015

Peace of Earth Farm September 2015

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Protecting Trees and Bushes with Bone Salve

The main threats to our woody perennials in the winter time are deer nibbles on the tips of branches and voles girdling the bark at the base of trees and shrubs.  For almost all of our young fruit trees we protect the base of the trunk with either hardware cloth or window screen guards.  However, guards can only protect so much of a trunk and heavy snow pack sometimes makes the level of vole travel above the gaurd.  Also, multi-branched shrubs such as blueberries can’t really be wrapped with gaurds, leaving them vulnerable to hungry sharp toothed rodents.  We are trying another approach to deter browsers above and below: bone salve.  This stinky goo made from the fire roasted marrow of bones is an old time Austrian practice brought to the attention of gardeners recently by permaculturist Sepp Holzer.  He claims that a tree painted with bone salve will deter browsers for up to 10 years without repeated application!  That is a strong claim.  I’ll be happy if it works for 1 year and becomes an annual ritual.  We made some bone salve in 2014, but didn’t get around to applying it until there was already some deer browsing and too much snow on the ground to get it painted on the tree bases where it was really needed.  It did seem to stop deer browsing, but it was a challenge to tell for sure where tips had already been nipped.  So this year we have made a fresh batch, and have it fully applied to branch tips and trunks and we’ll see if damage is decreased or stopped over the winter.  We invited the NEK VT Permauclture Group over for the bone salve making process, and several other participants will be trying out the bone salve on their own properties as well.  Here is the basic process of making bone salve:

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Dig a hole in a fire safe spot and sink in a heavy pot (you will need 2 matching pots for this, we have 2 dutch ovens for this pupose only as they get stinky)- put a little water in the bottom, about 1/2 cup

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Fill the other pot with fresh bones, preferrably bones with lots of marrow (these are beef leg bones).  Cover the pot with hardware cloth, then flip it over on top of the pot in the ground, so the bones are suspended in the upper pot

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Seal the the area where the 2 pots join with clay.  We used some kaolin clay mixed with water because it is what we had on hand, but probably any kind of clay will do as long as it is sticky enough to stay on 

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Push soil around the juncture of the 2 pots

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Build a fire on top

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We tried to have a fire burning for several hours, so when this original tepee burned down we did add some more wood.  Sepp Holzer cautions not to build too huge of a fire and to be careful adding wood, not to knock the pots because there is hot fat under pressure inside that could possibly explode.  After the fire died down we threw soil over the mound and let it rest over night.

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In the morning the pots were excavated and charred bones taken off the top, stinky goo collected in the bottom pot

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The yield was around a little less than a quart of bone salve smelling like charred grill/ bottom of a dirty trash can

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Bone salve jarred up for distribution.  Add oil, around 1:1 to thin out (any vegetable based oil will do, we usually have some rancid herbal oils around that get used for things like this)

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Using an old paint brush we painted all the trees and bushes, except raspberries.  We focused mostly on the trunk of trees then just dabbed a bit at the tips of branches.

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Painting the bases and dabbing the tips of blueberry bushes.

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We’ll let you know how the experiment goes come spring!

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Putting the Gardens to Bed, Fed and Covered

 

100_9903This fall has been exceptionally mild in Vermont, giving us more time than usual to finish all the details of putting the gardens to bed.  This is our third season of soil testing with Logan Labs doing a saturated paste test which analyzes the balance of a variety of macro and micro nutrients in our soil.  We’ve been adding mineral amendments every fall trying to correct the deficiencies in our soil and have been seeing improvements in our soil tests as well as plant health.  We like to amend in the fall with the solid minerals that we need such as humates, gypsum, greensand, granite dust, sea salt, and trace minerals (zinc, copper, molybdenum, cobalt, manganese, and selenium), giving the soil life some time to digest and incorporate these nutrients as crop residues are breaking down.  During the growing season we support crops with foliar sprays that also contain these nutrients to make up for any leaching and provide quick access to growing plants.  On top of the minerals we’d like to put a layer of compost, but this fall we had a hard time finding a high quality and affordable source- so we’ll make up for this missing layer in the spring.  We generally leave any remaining crop residue in place to give back to the soil it came from, chopped with a machete if needed.  Then everything is covered with as much mulch as we can access, afford and have time to gather.  Mostly that means a layer of hay, but for the beds closest to the house we also covered beds with a nice layer of forest leaves from the class 4 non-travelled road just beyond our neighborhood.  It feels good to know that soil is fed and covered for the winter, protected from excess rain or wind.  There is a cacophony of life carrying on just below the surface.

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Dragging tarp loads of leaves from the “road” to the gardens, note that we cover all leaves with a thin layer of hay on top to keep them from blowing away when they get dry in the spring

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Mulched beds 

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The laying hens have entered their winter hoop housing.  They work in any remaining crop residue and weeds, then we’ll be throwing in hay, sprouts and food scraps every week to make a nice layer of compost for them to scratch through.

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Willow spends a lot of time in this position.  She is an avid rodent hunter and she assumes there is something under all hay even if we just put it down!

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The terraces also get mulched, and also layers of pea shoot mats after harvest.  A whole winter’s worth of tray remnants adds up to a nice layer of additional soil in the spring.

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Generating More Farm Grown Animal Feed

 

100_9712Pigs, chickens and ducks are all fairly grain intensive animals to raise.  Unlike cows, sheep and goats, they are not able to survive on grass alone, though they can derive a portion of their diet from the pasture.  We do focus on poultry varieties that are better at grazing and gleaning insects.  We have hopes of switching to raising a variety of pigs such as the American Guinea Hog in the future because they are excellent at deriving most of their feed from forage alone.  Growing enough grain to feed our animals on our land base and at our scale of production is not practical at all.  However, we have experimented with a few crops and sources of food that help supplement the grain and improve diet diversity without taking up too much precious garden space.

Mangel Beets– We seeded some of these giant beets alon100_9705g the edges of beds in spots where they would not compete.  Pigs love them, I imagine meat birds would peck away at them too.   We’ve found they do need
garden space to be successful, when we have tossed seed in bare spots after pigs have turned the soil they never seem to amount to much.  We’d like to do larger plantings in the future.  The upper leaves can be picked repeatedly before the root is pulled as well.

 

Sunflowers and other choppables– This spring when our swales were dug it created a lot of exposed soil that we quickly covered with a wide variety of seed, some perennials like clovers and grasses that we hope will hold the soil in the long run, and other annuals like sunflowers, radishes, sorghum 100_9713sudan grass, lentils, and peas that grow quickly and create another yield.  We also stuck in some extra winter squash transplants, but they were not able to compete with the cacophony that erupted.  The sunflowers, radishes, and sorgum sudan did great though.  We have been pulling off the mature sunflower heads which are devoured by pig, chicken, duck and wild birds all.  The sorgum sudan we have chopped and thrown to the pigs which they relish just like corn stalks (which they also get).  Even though we will be planting the swales with trees in the spring, I’m sure there will be plenty of self seeded radish and sunflower for years to come.

 

Amaranth– We experimented with growing some rows of amaranth in a garden bed that would become over run with squash vines, figuring that their tall skinny stature would complement the ground cover.  We picked the leaves and sold bunches as a cooking green early in the season, then let the plants mature to make seed heads.  Once the seed heads we100_9664re mature and squash harvested, we cut whole plants and threw them on a tarp, shaking out some of the mature seed, which is a teeny tiny grain.  I’m guessing we only got 50% or less of the seed out.  We’ll save this to grow again in the future and may sprout some to feed to the chickens.  The rest of the plants were thrown to the chickens and pigs.  The chickens made a good show of pecking at the seed heads and leaves, but I’m not sure how much of the tiny seed they actually found.  There will be amaranth self seeding in the chicken yard forever I am certain.  The pigs skeletonized the stalks- mostly focusing on the leaves.  This crop doesn’t seem worth growing for grain alone, but with the yield of a marketable leaf and some animal feed its value increases.

100_9701Apples- What an amazing year for apples!  The pigs especially enjoyed many apple drops and mash from cider making. In this picture we fenced them around an old apple tree and shook it twice a day.  We never dared to fence them around the tree before for fear that they would do too much damage, but so far it does not appear that the roots were unearthed.  Also in the picture is a pig with a milk slopped head.  The milk is a treat that does not come from our farm, but we trade vegetables for it from friends.

Chickens, Compost, and Sprouts– This year we tried something new with our laying hens, since we are only raising a dozen at the moment.  Instead of rotating them on pasture, we kept them in one spot and were sure to bring them plenty of fresh veggie scraps, weeds and sprouts to eat.  Our sprouting operation generates some waste from the cleaning process, credits that come back from stores, and the stubble that is left in trays after harvesting shoots.  We made a compost holder from pallets and always added the food scraps/sprouts in that spot.  The chickens were getting fed, scratching and breaking down anything left into smaller pieces, and adding their manures.  We also added their bedding, hay, and other plant debris in layers to fill out the pile.  Once the pallet pile was full it was taken apart and reassembled nearby.  The old pile got scratched apart by the chickens as they found mycelium and little bugs growing in it until it was a fairly fine compost that can now be spread around nearby trees and bushes.

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Slugs and Bugs– While we certainly are not trying to propagate slugs, they are ever present, especially in wet years.  They are a favorite of the ducks and all we have to do is station them in areas where slug control is needed.  Here they are working the area around shiitake logs, but they spend most of their time rotating the perimeters of gardens, and now as crops are finishing they get more free reign over garden clean up.100_8637

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Garlic and Tomato Test Results, Open Farm Day, and a Few Things We Learned About Tomatoes This Year

aPoE IMG_2157Several weeks have now passed since our Open Farm Day event.  Before it is too late, I wanted to at least report the results of the day’s taste tests of garlic and tomatoes and share some photos.  Though I doubt the results are statistically accurate with such a small pool of samples- it is fun to see what happens from year to year.

Tomato taste test results 2015:

1.Aunt Ruby’s German Green (a ripe green tomato won!  It also had high marks in 2014.  This is great to see- as green tomatoes are still hard to sell, most people don’t imagine they will be so sweet and tasty)

2.  Rose de Berne

3. Honey Drop (cherry)- these were grown from seed we saved last year.  The original seed purchased from Hudson Valley Seed Library primarily produced sweet round orange cherries.  This year the plants have a wide variety of colors, sizes and shapes, but are still tasty.

4. Pork Chop- a white/yellow stripey tomato

5. Gypsy

6. Blueberry cherry (starts out blue/black and turns dusky pink when ripe, supposed to have very high anthocyanins)

7.  Paul Robeson (this is one of our favorites and personally I think the particular tomato sampled was overripe and not a good representative)

Garlic Taste Test Results 2015:

Average results for taste and heat ratings-

1.  German Extra Hardy

2.  Phillips

3. Romanian Red

4.  Loco Red (this won for the hottest with a perfect 10 awarded to it- actually someone gave it a 15 but I didn’t average that in)

5.  German Porcelain

6. Elmer’s Topset

Here’s a little snapshot of the day- thanks to Lisa Robinson for all of the pictures except the cherry tomatoes in hand

What we’ve learned about growing tomatoes this year:

We contracted late blight very early in the season this year and thought it was going to be devastating.  It did wipe out the paste tomatoes in our small greenhouse pretty rapidly.  Things were looking bad so we pulled the plants in order to limit spread to our other greenhouse with more tomatoes.  The first greenhouse to get hit is the one where we house our chickens over winter and so has a much higher nitrogen fertility (we are thinking this may have made the plants too lush and more susceptible to infection).

After we pulled the tomatoes from the first greenhouse we decided to kick our foliar feeding regiment into high gear.  We regularly spray a mix of micronutrients and minerals on all of our plants, but had been lucky to do it every two weeks.  After the blight we aimed for once a week and also started to drench the tomatoes (apply the liquid to the root zone).  It is now 6 weeks after the initial late blight infection and we are still yielding tomatoes!  There has been blight present on the leaves, stems and some fruits of all varieties in the larger greenhouse, but it has not taken hold into the destruction usually expected from the disease.  We really feel that fighting disease with access to good nutrition has helped.

Also, for two years now we have been experimenting with a wide planting spacing, no pruning, and trellising with a basket weave technique.  We think next year we are going back to pruning all suckers and clipping individual plants with one or two side branches to vertical strings.  We felt the unpruned nature led to late ripening.  The main drawback to the basket weave was that all the bottom fruits sagged low and we had so much damage from rodents eating them!  The rodents are another issue- but we can at least try to keep the tomatoes out of their reach.

Thanks to all who came out to our Open Farm Day.  If you missed it but would like to visit, we are having another event September 24 from 5:30-7:30 pm with a tour, cider pressing and dinner by Green Mountain Farm to School’s Lunchbox featuring our produce.  Hope to see you there!

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Open Farm Day and Garlic Tasting!

100_6691Open Farm Day and Tasting Event 2015

August 30,1-4pm (Guided tour at 2)

It’s that time of year again.  If you are a garlic fan, it’s time to come and taste 6 varieties of garlic back to back.  Even if you are not a garlic fan you should come check out the farm, hear about our crazy farming philosophies, and say hello to the pigs and poultry.  We may also have tomatoes, pesto and jellies to sample, but the tomatoes are taking a back seat this year.  We have had a visit from late blight in our greenhouses and while the tomatoes are still hanging in there, they are in shorter supply.  We’ll have garlic and other veggies as well as frozen chickens available for purchase.

We hope to see you on Sunday!

43 West Griggs Rd

Albany, VT 05820

802-755-6336

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