29. June 2008 23:24
There has been a ton of stuff going on this summer related to our research into farming and trying to learn new things. I'm getting behind on blogging about it, so here are a few highlights.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited our friends James and Esther our in Boulder Colorado. They work as one of the "live on the farm" couples for Haystack Mountain goat dairy. Haystack Mountain is a pretty well established cheese producer, having products in Whole Foods and other national stores. They make all of their fresh cheese at their main cheese factory and they buy much of the goat milk for that from various sources. James and Esther work on the farm where the artisan cheeses are made from goat milk produced right there on the farm. These include raw milk cheeses that are aged anywhere from 2 - 6 months or more. We got to help out with a fairly large cheese make on Memorial Day, Kristin and I were up to our shoulders in the curds and whey for awhile. We helped out with making the Red Cloud and Queso de Mano. You can see all the cheeses here.
We also got to visit a restaurant we've seen featured in some cooking magazines called The Kitchen. They are one of the most eco-friendly restaurants in the country, reusing or recycle almost 100% of their various types of garbage and sourcing about 80% of their food locally. They have a community night where you sit around a long table and eat family-style with about 60 strangers for only $35/person. It's pretty amazing and we got to meet some cool folks. We also visited the Boulder farmer's market, which has some pretty amazing people producing some cool food.
At home, we had the opportunity this year to dig up the backyard of our friends and neighbors Keith and Joni and create a small garden. While it could use more sun for best results, we finally have a small plot of ground to grow some veggies and herbs. We prepped the ground, some of which was under an old sidewalk that we had to break up, using a deep bed concept. We put some composted cow manure and mushroom soil, along with some blood meal and organic fertilizer in the soil as we prepared it. It seems to be working pretty well for the most part. We also added a bunch of our worm compost a week or so ago and noticed a big growth spurt in a lot of the plants, particularly the tomatoes and squashes. We also have several varieties of peppers, several types of basil, a lettuce mix, a mesclun mix, beets, chard, oregano, rosemary, thyme, leeks, beans, sunflowers and some other flowers to attract beneficial insects. I'm probably missing a few things. All in all, quite a nice mix for a small urban garden. So far the only thing we've harvested is some salad greens. We got a bit of a late start and also started a lot from seed, so we're still waiting for some things to really get started. This is mainly an experimental year, so we are learning a lot about how much sun things need, starting plants inside, fertilizer needs and so on.
We are also participating in a CSA this year with Scotch Hill Farms. We picked them partly because they also do goats and grow a number of herbs as well. It's been a bit of a rough start to the season with all the rain (they are just south of Madison), but we've been getting some good stuff and eating a lot more vegetables which is always good. They drop off at the Southport Green Market which is just south of us. They are a fairly new market and still a bit sparse to be honest, but it's great they are trying to do something in that community. A few weeks ago I got to meet Bob and Jenny from Harvest Moon Farms, another couple who are professionals from Chicago who just started farming a few years ago. So they are kind of a few years ahead of where we might like to be. They grow a lot of organic vegetables, including 15 kinds of garlic and plan to start doing pastured beef soon. They also represent a number of other farmers in the Madison area, so their stand at Southport has items from other farms like cheese, maple syrup, whole organic chickens and so on. We are planning to go up to visit them and help out on our way to a college reunion weekend with a bunch of Kristin's Wheaton friends in July. That should be a wonderful trip as we'll get to visit a couple farms and see a bunch of our favorite people.