Hope Springs Eternal!

Where did the summer go???? I know it is not yet autumn, but since the calendar already shows early September, it seems as if summer has just suddenly disappeared! Yes, things are still humming along here at the farm but our activities have been a little different from other years due in part to our record weather conditions from June, July and August during which we endured more than 24″ of rain! One telling statistic for our bees this summer was that they were only able to fly 20 out of 70 days this spring and summer season. Ouch! Here is a snap of our local weatherman who showed some of the telling rainfall damage in inches.

IMG_8739 (1) Many of you who are local and know us are aware that we had no real volume from our crops this summer (other than our berries) and ended up plowing under almost everything after futile attempts to get the fields underway during this unbelievably wet spring and summer. What a humbling experience it has been. It’s a good thing we didn’t start the CSA this year because we would have had to refund everyone’s money! Funny, but we saw some small, backyard gardeners with better results than we had here which indicates that not all was lost for everyone!

Still, we have kept busy despite the failed crops and damage to the orchard trees. We learned a valuable lesson: when mother nature smiles on you, take advantage of it and store away all the fruits of your labor while you can in preparation for less fruitful days!

So we capitalized on the blueberries which were not as crippled by the rain as other plants were this year. A harvest of over 161 pounds made blueberries our top ranking crop this year (good for the blueberry stats but very sad for all else in comparison!) and they are filling both the freezer and the pantry. I made over 80 jars of BB jam this year and will try selling that as well as strawberry jam at the local festival in Kirkwood next weekend. I’m torn about selling these since it barely makes any financial sense after buying the jars, sugar, labels, etc. and slaving over the crops. I hope someone thinks these cute jars of pure sweetness are worth some $! Here are some of the blueberry and strawberry jars, getting their labels! IMG_8541 The honey crop was not much different…it was a very small harvest on a whole compared to other years even tho the Seven Oaks Farm hives did relatively well. These are some of the jars, awaiting their new 2015 labels; they will be precious gifts this year. IMG_8580Do you remember the volunteer tomato plants that were pictured in the last blog? They actually did pretty well and produced a good amount of cherry tomatoes for us. Although they did not even begin to provide the volume that the larger varieties did in the past to make our lovely tomato/pasta/ketchup sauces, they did provide wonderful mouthfuls of fresh bites (almost like candy!) as well as the basis for one of our favorite summer pizzas.

Here is The Tale of Two Pizzas as the Wards and Sauerhoffs have come to think of them. The Ward’s favorite uses our tomato sauce in a more traditional base (I think of it as ‘winter’) and our favorite is more of a white pizza with roasted cherries providing the “sauce” (which I think of as a ‘summer’ pizza pie).  Both start out with my simple crust which makes enough dough for one large pie but is easy to double. I let it rise, covered but unattended, for several hours and roll it out onto my large pizza pans. Here are two pans of dough side by side…tabula rasa, if you will.

IMG_8506Then one can choose the base to use. Traditional (winter) uses a thickened tomato sauce which I make by slowly simmering down a jar of my tomato sauce, pictured below on the left. The other, (summer) on the right, uses a good quality olive oil. Below are both pies, side by side with some fresh chopped garlic on the oil crust.

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IMG_8510Next, they both receive some additional toppings. The winter gets mozzarella cheese whereas the summer gets some good quality, freshly grated Parmesan, minced garlic and roasted cherry tomatoes.

IMG_8512To the winter pie I add sauteed mushrooms and onions while the summer pie gets just a bit of leftover, cooked bacon.IMG_8514Then the winter pie gets a generous topping of pepperoni (Jason’s favorite) and the summer pie gets more cheese and fresh green pepper from the farm as well as a sprinkle of spices.

IMG_8516They both go into the very hot ovens and pop out ready to devour as you can see we did before photos!

IMG_8518Coulter likes to come to pizza night with Nana and Gramps too…and cheers us on with great enthusiasm!

IMG_0068He is branching out with his food intake now and is happily eating cereal and will soon be on to the fruits and vegetables. Now that school has started for his mom, we get to see him often and marvel at how quickly he is growing and developing!

IMG_8762Since as we are now in the midst of planting the fall crops, we think of Coulter every step of the way as we plant the spinaches, lettuces, cabbages, onions, broccoli, kale, carrots, Brussels sprouts, Swiss Chard and more. Up next, peas and leeks. We are fortunate to have a reprieve from the rain right now and a bit of Indian Summer to get enough heat to make these seeds sprout with our daily watering. We hope to get good photos of these crops as the seeds are germinating now.

Unfortunately, we are battling Mother Nature’s other creatures. While weeding in the front landscape beds I stumbled upon these wee baby bunnies in their nest not long ago and didn’t have the heart to put an end to their innocence even tho they will soon be nibbling on my lettuces! I look forward to sharing all these precious and fleeting bits of life at the farm with Coulter some day soon!IMG_8505 (1)Mother Nature is evident in so many other mysterious ways…she seems to have a prickly side these days as some of my favorite flora pics show. Here is a tree on one of my walks. I need to find out what is going on here! A seed pod or a pestilence like a boil?

IMG_8475It resembles this plant which buds, flowers and produces this nice thistle.

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Mother Nature also showed her stormy side with the effects of lightening on a tree not far from Kate and Jason’s house.

IMG_8612With some additional time on my hands this summer I managed spend several days in San Diego to receive my pin and diploma for my Master of Hand Knitting program from TKGA. I was pleased to be able to attend this knitting conference and continue to knit away in my spare time, teaching as well when asked, most recently a class on Color Theory in the Chicago area. Don’t get me started on color theory…..!!!!!

But…there is nothing as rewarding as being able to help out with Coulter as he is growing like a weed and will soon be running around with endless energy! He is the apple of our eye and we can’t wait to see him chase around the farm in the days to come!

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