Weekly recipe roundup

 

David’s Spaghetti Squash at Tea & Cookies (Remember that our Small Wonder spaghetti squash serve 1-2 people – we suggest using one squash and halving the rest of the ingredients, or using two and keeping the other ingredients as written.)

Brazilian Collard Greens at Gourmet

Leeks Vinaigrette at Orangette

Frog Bottom Gumbo at Frog Bottom Farm

Shaved Turnip Salad with Arugula and Prosciutto from Melissa Clark at The New York Times

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Our Weekly Recipe Roundup is a quick weekly list of recipes featuring produce we’re growing right now. We hope it helps! We’d love to know what’s happening in your kitchens this week too.

A no-cook recipe roundup (summer-in-Virginia edition)

Posted by Lisa on August 17, 2012
Frog Bottom Farm recommends, recipes, summer / 2 Comments

Last week at market I brainstormed with one of our CSA members about some no-cook ways to use up her vegetables – her kitchen is being renovated and she doesn’t have access to her stove or oven for more than a month! I joked that she’d chosen a good time of year for the renovation, since the bulk of summer vegetables can be eaten raw and taste wonderful with minimal fuss.

Even if you’ve got a stove these days, it’s probably not roasts and long braises you’re after in the middle of August! Some nights all we need is a bowl of tomatoes, a knife, and a shaker of salt. Maybe a couple melons for dessert. Other nights we’re a little more ambitious — but only a little. Read on for some ideas.

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Frog Bottom Farm No-Cook Recipes

And Some No-Cook Recipes from Elsewhere

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Nope, not pregnant again! This was from summer 2009.

Other ideas? What essentials are we forgetting? Any great no-cook discoveries in your kitchen this year?

It’s good to be busy.

Posted by Lisa on August 03, 2012
Frog Bottom Farm recommends, summer, the crew, the family, the farm / 2 Comments

Vegetables love the sun and so it’s no coincidence that during the year’s hottest weeks, we really begin to feel the heat as well. It’s good to be busy.

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Lately, we are …

spending lots of time taking water to the chickens and pigs :: eating as many tomatoes as possible (we love them on sandwiches with homemade mayo, slow-roasted and tossed into a frittata, braised with the summer’s first okra, in ratatouille, and eaten out of hand while our ALMOST! THREE! year old digs and digs and digs) :: washing eggs (more and more every week) :: eating outside almost every night (and putting our bug spray to work!) :: happily banging elbows around our ever-messy kitchen island on the nights when the mosquitoes are just too fierce :: honing our pie skills with peaches from our family tree and dreaming of a small orchard for the farm :: hoping it’s not too late to order this year’s batch of Cornish Rocks :: basking in the ease of several weeks now with no poison ivy rash :: absorbed in a new read :: feeling humbled, challenged, and reassured as we learn that even the children of farmers are particular and strong-willed eaters as they stretch and grow :: delighting in all the noises the pigs make, and in how fast they can move :: smiling as our market tables grow more bountiful each week :: watching the pollinators all around us and wishing we’d planted more sunflowers :: bookmarking lots of recipes :: digging just a little deeper in our knowledge of the wild edibles and medicinals on our farm, like purslane and chicory and plantain and chickweed and burdock, and feeling quite in awe of all we have yet to learn :: hoping hard for a bountiful crop of storage vegetables :: picking, washing, sorting, loading, delivering :: sleeping hard :: feeling grateful

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We would love to hear some of the things filling your midsummer days. Leave a note in the comments if you like!

(Turns out we did a similar photo-heavy post around this time last year. Have a look!)

We ♥ homemade mayo (a lot).

Posted by Lisa on July 12, 2012
eggs, recipes, summer, tomatoes / 1 Comment

It’s tomato time, people! We’ve been wolfing down tomato sandwiches over this last week like there’s no tomorrow. It’s really the only proper thing to do. To get everyone in the spirit, we’re reposting Ali’s recipe for homemade mayo. We haven’t bought the store stuff in years.  Give it a try!

Y’all, homemade mayonnaise is so easy, so cheap, and so delicious, you’re going to kick yourself for never having tried it before.

But don’t do that!  Just try making some.  We think you might never go back to store-bought.

This (plus a blender and about five minutes) is all you need:

mustard, canola oil, olive oil, lemons, salt, eggs

Convinced yet?

It’s good on everything.  Is there a more perfect midsummer lunch than a tomato sandwich on a couple slices of multigrain with some basil leaves and a few smears of fresh mayo?  You can add a fried egg or a couple slices of cheese but that’s gilding the lily.

And of course it’s fantastic on summer barbecue salads of all ilk: potato, egg, chicken, tuna.  Last week we made a potato salad with Yukon Gold potatoes, minced scallions, minced parsley, finely chopped sweet pepper, salt, pepper, and homemade mayo.

Quite often we smear it on half a hard-boiled egg for a mid-morning snack, or (ahem) even just sneak a fingerful from the jar.  Arlo loves it too!

Ali is the resident mayo maker around here.  He stresses that it’s a very forgiving recipe!  This is how he does it:

Whir together in the blender or food processor for a few seconds two eggs, some dried or jarred mustard, the juice of a lemon or a roughly equivalent amount of vinegar, and a bit of salt. Then, while still blending, add about 1 1/2 cups oil (usually equal parts extra virgin olive oil and a mild oil like canola) in a slow stream, and process until it reaches a consistency you like.  Add a bit more oil if it doesn’t seem thick enough.  You can also stir in more lemon juice, mustard, salt, or pepper at the end to taste.  Refrigerate and use within a week.

A few notes:

This recipe halves easily.

The eggs and oil emulsify best when the eggs are at room temperature.

We love adding flavor to the mayo: a bit of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce is our favorite, and fresh herbs or flavored vinegars are also very good.  Add garlic and it becomes aioli!  We add any extras with everything else in the beginning, before adding the oil.

If you’re so inclined, you can also make mayonnaise with a whisk and some elbow grease!  This will get you started.

You’ve seen the disclaimers on restaurant menus about raw and undercooked eggs and dairy, so here’s ours: raw eggs carry a small risk of salmonella contamination, so read up on the issue and decide whether you feel comfortable using them.  We do.  We use very fresh eggs from our own chickens and recommend that you seek out eggs from healthy pastured birds if at all possible — we sell them at market and also offer egg shares, if you’d like to use our eggs too.  Here are instructions for pasteurizing eggs at home should you want to do that.  Be sure to refrigerate your mayo immediately.

Fridge pickles

Posted by Lisa on July 04, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, preserving, putting food by, recipes, summer / 4 Comments

We’ve mentioned these pickles here before, but boy howdy, have we got some cucumbers for you this week. Wait until you see your CSA share. Wait until you see the market tables. If you love to pickle – or if you’ve been meaning to learn – now is the time!

We’ll share some other great approaches to pickling here soon, but we think these fridge pickles are a great way to begin. Maybe you’ve been curious about making your own pickles for a long time but feel a little intimidated. Or maybe you’re a seasoned pickler, staring at this week’s share, looking at the thermometer, thinking there is no way in heck you’re going to be doing any canning this week. Either way: hie thee to your kitchen! These are very fast, very easy, and very delicious.

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Fridge Pickles
adapted from dlyn

Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, we can’t stop reaching for these. Pour a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days … and voila! Pickles! They aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months in there — if they last that long. Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts.

For the brine:
2 quarts water
1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (kosher salt is also fine, but may result in cloudier pickle brine)

For the pickles:
Cucumbers, enough to fit snugly into your jars, washed well and sliced into spears
Garlic, 1-2 cloves per pint jar or 2-3 cloves per quart jar, smashed and peeled
Herbs (dill is classic; we also love thyme), 1-2 sprigs per pint jar or 2-4 sprigs per quart jar, rinsed well

Clean your jars thoroughly with soap and water. They do not need to be sterilized.

Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to be sure the salt dissolves completely. While the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a smashed garlic clove or two in the bottom of each jar. Add the sprigs of your chosen herb.

Fill the jar the rest of the way with cucumber spears. Really cram them in there — otherwise some spears will float above the brine when you add it, and this can lead to premature spoilage.

Add another smashed garlic clove to each jar — wedge it down between some cucumber spears so it won’t float when you add the brine.

Pour the simmering brine over the vegetables, being sure they are completely submerged. If your brine isn’t simmering, bring it back to a simmer before pouring it over the vegetables.

Put a lid on each jar.

Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (less time when the weather is very hot, more when it’s cold) and then, if you can stand it, put them in the fridge for an additional 1-2 weeks.

We usually break into the first jar right away but give the rest of the jars the additional slow fridge fermentation before eating them.

 

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Squash (or zucchini) fritters!

Posted by Lisa on July 03, 2012
eggs, garlic, onions, recipes, squash, summer, zucchini / 2 Comments

As we ate these outside at the picnic table last night, in a spell of blessed cool after a quick little thunderstorm, I realized it was the fifth time we’d eaten them in under two weeks. I think that means they’re a winner. I think that means y’all need the recipe.

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There’s a very small amount of grating and chopping involved, but really these fritters could not be easier. You grate a summer squash or two – I’ve learned that yellow squash, zephyr, and pattypan work best for our family and for a certain particular two-year old right now, but zucchini fritters are particularly pretty. You squeeze the excess water out of the squash with a dishtowel or paper towels – this is the one picky step, but it only takes a minute, and having tried skipping this step, I think it’s worth doing. You chop an onion – mince it, if you’re living with the same two-year old. Then you mix it all up with some flour, some cornmeal, an egg, some cheese, some salt and pepper, and you shape them into patties, and then you pop them in the oven while you set the table.  Easy peasy!

A word on picky eaters: we have one. It’s been humbling. I thought because we have fields and countertops and a fridge and two freezers all full of delicious vegetables, that he’d take to them right away. And in his first six months of exploring solid foods, he did. But then he started having strong opinions, opinions like: white and brown foods like milk, yogurt, butter, bread, cheese, crackers, pasta, oatmeal, and eggs are really quite sufficient when it comes to one’s diet. And you know what? I want him to have opinions. I want him to be able to disagree with me. I want him to figure out what he loves and what he doesn’t love. I think he needs my guidance, but I also think he needs my patience and my trust … trust that he’ll survive toddlerhood just fine, trust that he is doing what most two-year olds since the dawn of two-year olds have done, trust that he is developing just as he should.

When I was pregnant I proclaimed I’d never “hide” vegetables in food, but I’m coming to realize it’s more complicated than that. In addition to all the independent toddler stuff going on, I think little people have a very acute sense of taste and texture. I think maybe we need to take it easy on them sometimes. And if that means choosing yellow squash over zucchini sometimes, or mincing the onions instead of chopping them – well, I can do that.

I’ll add that our son loves to help me make these. “Mama, I want to grate!” he says, and so he does, with some help. “Dad, I can break the egg,” he offers, and so he does, and pretty well at that! “Let me squoosh it up, Mama!” he demands, and so he does.

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And so we make fritters. Sometimes he eats them. Sometimes he just licks the ketchup off his plate. “Like a dog!” he says.

You should make them too.

Baked Squash (or Zucchini) Fritters with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
adapted just a bit from The Yellow House

Kid-friendly! Quick! And easy too to make gluten-free – the flour in this recipe just serves as a binder, so replace it with your favorite gluten-free flour and you should be good to go. One friend replaces the flour with masa harina – that sounds really good to us! Also, while parmesan is particularly tasty in these, feel free to use another kind of cheese. We used mozzarella the first time we made these because that’s what was in the fridge, and they were still very good.

These are great with ketchup (our son’s favorite), a fried egg (my favorite), tzatziki, or the quick garlicky yogurt sauce below.

2 cups grated summer squash or zucchini, pressed between layers of a clean dishtowel or paper towels to absorb some of the water
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour – see note above)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, toss the squash and onion with the flour, cornmeal, and cheese. Add the beaten egg and some salt and pepper, and mix until everything comes together. Use your hands if you like; it’s fun! It should have the consistency of meatloaf.

Using your hands, gently form the mixture into small balls (about 3 tablespoons of mixture for each fritter). Place them on the baking sheet and use your hand to flatten them into small patties about a half-inch thick.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. (If making the yogurt sauce below, make it now – this will give the flavors time to meld a bit.) Then broil for 2-3 minutes longer. The fritters should be a lovely golden color. Good warm or at room temperature. Serve with ketchup, fried eggs, tzatziki, or the garlicky yogurt sauce below.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste, and add more salt if you think it needs it. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.

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How to be cool as a cucumber

Posted by Lisa on July 02, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, farmers markets, Frog Bottom Farm recommends, recipes, the farm, Vegetables A-Z / Comments Off on How to be cool as a cucumber

The heat these days has us thinking of summers past, and of the ways we dream up to feel a little cooler. This year, as every year, we are grateful for the creeks on the farm,  for family-friendly local businesses with air conditioning, and for neighbors with pools. And thank goodness so many of the vegetables growing right now taste so good with little to no preparation! It’s nature’s remarkable gift.

To help y’all stay cool, and to celebrate the beginning of our cucumber season, we’re reposting a piece we wrote almost three years ago. Read on to learn about our four varieties and to get some recipe ideas — cucumber salad, pickles, even a cocktail!

Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is to embrace it.

We’re talking trips to the river, dinner outside at the picnic table, burgers and squash and corn on the grill, peach juice dripping down your arms, sweet tea and margaritas, the ice cream truck, ceiling fans, sprinklers, naps. And cucumbers!

Here at Frog Bottom we grow four kinds, enough to help you stay cool for a few weeks at least. We often sample the different varieties at market. If you’re a member of our CSA, be sure to try all the varieties before the season is through. The strange bumpy ones (see below) are our favorite.

About Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes summer squash, zucchini, watermelons, muskmelons, gourds, winter squash and pumpkins. Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated by humans for at least three thousand years, and possibly much, much longer – carbon dating places some seeds found near the Burma/Thailand border as being from 7750 BC! It’s said that the ancient Romans soaked their cucumber seeds in honeyed wine before planting them, in an effort to combat their fabled bitterness. In the Book of Numbers, the Israelites complain during their long exodus from Egypt: “Remember how in Egypt we had fish for the asking, cucumbers and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone.”

Cucumbers spread slowly to Northern Europe, where the climate was not particularly suited to growing them, but they were readily adopted by native North American Indians when seeds were first brought by the Spanish conquistadors. Throughout the 1500s European trappers, hunters, and traders bartered with North American tribes for their fresh vegetables and fruits, including cucumbers. Letters from people who visited colonial New England in the 1600s praised the cucumbers and other kitchen garden vegetables there as being bigger and better than what could be grown in England at the same time.

One thing is certain: throughout all these millennia of cultivation, the bitterness has been almost entirely bred out of cucumbers. At Frog Bottom, we’re very careful to pick them while they’re still young – crisp and sweet. Their high water content and mild taste are what make them so refreshing on these hot, sticky summer days.

We grow four varieties here at the farm.

Here’s a pickler:

It’s called a pickler because it’s the perfect length for a canning jar, but this is a great all-around pickle for salads as well. In the bins at market and at CSA pick-ups, you can distinguish the picklers by their short, plump shape and their slightly bumpy skin.

This one, just slightly longer and smoother than the pickler and with slightly tapered ends, is our American slicer:

It’s another versatile cucumber, great on salads and sandwiches or just eaten out of hand.

This is a European burpless:

It’s very long and fairly thin, with smooth skin on the outside and almost no seeds inside. Very tasty!

Our favorite is the Asian cucumber:

It’s the ugly duckling of the bunch, with its wrinkled bumpy skin and funny shape, but what it lacks in classic beauty it more than makes up for with its crisp, sweet flavor. Try one!

Storing Cucumbers

We don’t wax our cucumbers – which means you don’t need to peel them! It also means they won’t keep as long as some store-bought varieties. Stick them in the crisper drawer of your fridge as soon as possible after buying them. Leave them there for up to a week but use them as soon as you can.

Preparing Cucumbers

We’ve chosen non-bitter varieties and we pick them young. So at our house, we never salt the cucumbers and rarely peel or seed them. It seems a waste of time and flavor when there are so many good things to do with them! We love them as a snack right out in the field while we’re picking. And of course they’re wonderful sliced or diced and added to salads and sandwiches. But we like them so much – and we’ve had such a bumper crop these last two weeks – that we love to dress them up a bit too.  Here are some of our old favorites, and a couple new approaches.

Ali’s Cucumber Salad

We make some variation on this salad two or three times a week during cucumber season. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients and quantities. It’s wonderful with wedges of fresh tomato and corn sliced right off the cob, both available at farmers markets now!

Several cucumbers (2 Asian or European, 3 American, or 4 picklers), chopped or sliced
3-4 scallions (minced) or half an onion (coarsely diced)
Handful basil leaves, chopped or torn
Handful feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of half a lemon or a few glugs of your favorite vinegar
A few glugs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chow down!

Serves two with leftovers. Easily doubled.

Fridge Pickles

If, like me, you have been meaning to make your own pickles for what seems like a decade now, I am here to tell you: Get up from your computer this very instant and go to your kitchen! It takes about nine minutes! You make a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt. Then you pour that over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days, and voila! Pickles! I made them for the first time just last week, using this recipe from Donalyn Ketchum, and they are, in a word, perfect. Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, I can’t stop reaching for them. These pickles aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months there, but I doubt they’ll last that long! Also, you can use just about any herb. I meant to use dill but saw, as the brine was coming to a boil, that my dill had gone slimy. So I used fresh thyme instead. Yum!

Gordon’s Cup

If your work day has been relentless and nobody likes what you made for dinner and the A/C is broken, here’s what you need to do: make yourself a Gordon’s Cup. Cucumbers, lime, simple syrup, gin, and a pinch of salt: really, how can you go wrong? You’ll have to plan ahead just a little bit, to make and then cool the simple syrup, but that’s very easy. Make some now and it’ll last you through many of these drinks! Oh, and don’t skip the salt. Just a tiny pinch is really delicious. This recipe from Molly Wizenberg has everything you need to know.

Sautéed Cucumbers

The truth is, we haven’t tried this yet. I’m really eager to know if any of y’all have! Larousse Gastronomique includes several variations. Mark Bittman, author of the accessible, encouraging, and comprehensive How to Cook Everything, and writer of the weekly The Minimalist column in The New York Times, notes that a cucumber is “a vegetable that is rarely cooked but ought to be – at least occasionally.” He suggests a simple sauté of butter, onions, and cucumbers, finished with cream or yogurt and a handful of chopped dill. It’s next on our list; has anyone tried this?

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And you? What are y’all doing with cucumbers this summer? At market and at CSA pick-ups, people have told us about cucumber soup and tzatziki. We’d love it if you’d post those recipes – and everything else you’re making with cucumbers – right here in the comments section.

Tomato teaser

Posted by Lisa on June 12, 2012
summer, tomatoes / 1 Comment

The other night I left our little guy loading the market trucks with his dad and our crew and headed to our northernmost field with a spring in my step. It was time for dinner, and what’s more, it was time for TOMATOES.

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I’m sorry to taunt y’all like this. For lots of folks, tomatoes are IT – the thing you wait for through three agonizing seasons, the reason you joined a CSA, the summertime siren song that wakes you from your sweet Saturday morning slumber and gets you out the door and to market. Local tomatoes really are that good … but you can’t have any, not just yet.

But soon! We decided to gamble this spring by planting a small early generation of tomatoes and covering the young seedlings with floating row cover. This row cover can protect the plants from light frosts but certainly not a hard freeze. And hard freezes are not uncommon, even in late spring. But you probably recall that spring 2012 was unusually warm. Our plants survived! And now the rows are filled with hard green fruits — so much promise! And the mighty little cherry tomatoes are just beginning to ripen.

What you see above are Sunsugars. They’re incredible. They are also very, very vigorous and prolific. We were pretty set in our “No way are we growing and picking cherry tomatoes! We’ll be picking them until the middle of the night! We won’t have time to irrigate, or to pick squash, or to squoosh potato beetles, or to plant the rest of the tomatoes, or to deliver the CSA shares, or…” ways – until we tasted these. And then it just didn’t seem right not to share them.

Since they’ve just started producing, there aren’t enough for the CSA or market quite yet. But it won’t be long now.

What about you? What vegetable or season in the farm year do you most look forward to?

Gearing up

Posted by Lisa on April 03, 2012
chickens, CSA, farmers markets, greenhouse, pigs, spring, the crew / 2 Comments

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Ribbit. Happy spring, y'all.

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That’s right! Around here it is all cool misty mornings (the fear of frost still not quite past) and warm sunny days (with plenty of spring-rain-just-when-we’re-ready-to-transplant-all-that-kale) and nights full of frogsong; a riot of redbuds and wisteria and dogwood and viburnum in the woods and a greenhouse filling just as rapidly with tomato, parsley, basil, oregano, sage, kale, broccoli, leek, scallion, eggplant, sweet pepper, beet, and chard seedlings; new building projects; and one young rooster trying to make sense of it all.

We are all in spring scramble mode, trying to get everything in place before our new piglets arrive next week, before our new laying hens arrive later in the month, and especially before our market season begins this week and our CSA season begins in late May!

A pig update

Posted by Lisa on October 21, 2011
pigs, the farm / 3 Comments

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If you are in our CSA, chat with us at market, or follow us on Facebook, you know that we raised pigs for the first time this year.  We’ve been growing vegetables for six years now, after first working for other farmers for several years, and vegetables are what we know best.  But over the last couple years we’ve started to give a lot of thought to what makes a farm truly sustainable: How do we take gentle and considerate care of our land, our soil, the pollinators, our water supply, and our own health so that none will be depleted? How can we be sure our business survives? How do we get done what needs to get done on the farm every day and continue to thrive as a family?

These are questions we ask ourselves over and over again, and they were at the very fore when we decided to raise pigs (and also our large flock of pastured laying hens) this year. Historically, most farms had both crops and livestock – not only for the full diet that could provide for farming families but because, carefully managed, this is a system that can improve soil fertility while weakening weed and insect pest pressure and minimizing waste. We feel we have a lot to learn from traditional approaches to farming.

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We bought a litter of ten piglets back in June from a local homesteader.  All summer long and into the fall they’ve ranged on about two acres of pasture and woods, with plenty of space to forage and lots of shade.

Having these pigs has been a real joy for us.  They are easy and interesting, and they love to eat spoiled melons and other leftover or unsalable produce.  Some of their land is quite bottomy – slow to dry out and difficult to plant in vegetables, but perfect for these mud lovers.  Their pasture also includes a small field we farmed for two seasons and they’ve rooted that up completely.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping to see a lot less yellow nutsedge – by far our worst weed problem here – next year.  The pigs also eat a grain ration made of conventional corn, oats, and soybeans, to which we we add an organic kelp-based mineral supplement made by Fertrell as well as extra calcium.

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The pigs have thrived in their four months here on the farm – they are big, shiny, and active. As long as sales go well we’ll continue to raise pigs next season and beyond.

We’ll be sending four pigs to Matkins Meats in North Carolina next week and the rest in late November. We hope that those of you who eat pork will strongly consider buying yours from us.

We’re taking pre-orders through this weekend and you can pay on delivery at your regular CSA location or market; this is your best bet if you want specific cuts.  We’ll also have cuts available for sale at market.  See our price list here.

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