Sweet Corn!

July 31, 2018

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One of life’s four great pleasures, according to Garrison Keillor, our sweet corn is ready.  And it is good!

We tried a new variety this year, an augmented supersweet, and the corn is not only undeniably sweet, but large.  The ears pictured above are 22 and 20 rows around.  Hu-u-u-ge!

Next Saturday will be the last chance you have to try some, as we will be sold out after that.


I Hate Butterflies

July 16, 2018

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Yes, I hate butterflies.  I used to think I liked butterflies.  In fact, like many of you, I read about the plight of the pollinators, and I took action, creating beneficial habitat.

I also educated myself, reading many books by The Xerces Society, a group which works for the benefit of invertebrates.

And now, perhaps because of creating better habitat, but more likely because of educating myself, I’m seeing butterflies everywhere.

I thought that would make me happy.  But working in the fields, mowing hay, raking hay, baling hay, my mood darkened.  It took me awhile to check in with myself and figure out why. 

I’m working hard in the summer sun, sweat pooling in my butt crack, and butterflies are aimlessly flitting, floating, and fluttering.  

They lack discipline.  They lack direction.  Do you have any idea how long I had to wait by this Milkweed to get a good photo?

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Occasionally, I’ll catch two of them having sex, mid-flight.  Its not enough that they can fly and I can’t.  They add insult to my injury by fornicating, joining the meter high club.

Sidenote:  As I write this, a bee is in a death struggle with a spider outside my window.  The bee is losing and I’m glad, as I don’t like bees either.  

Bees however, I respect.  They work hard for a living.  Flying straight to flowers, doing their thing, then flying directly back to their hive.  No aimless meandering for bees.

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Butterflies practice casual sex, then lay their eggs and completely forget about their offspring.  They do absolutely zero when it comes to raising their offspring.

The eggs hatch and the caterpillars spend their adolescence eating and pooping.  They live on their food.  How charmed of a life is that?

And then, as a reward for all this gluttony, they form a chrysalis, take the mother of all teenage naps, and wake up as a butterfly.  It this fair, God?

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I reserve my worst vitriol for the Monarch Butterfly.  The Monarch Butterfly winters in Mexico.  Yes, you read that right.  The Monarch winters in Mexico.

For the longest time, scientists couldn’t figure out where the Monarch goes in winter.  Hint:  Check out a sleepy little Mexican village in the mountains, with just the right climate to spend the winter.  

It’s not enough for the Monarch to enjoy the heat and humidity of a midwestern summer, they also get to enjoy their winters, while I’m stuck here on this farm, paying the bills, feeding the stock, and chopping wood to stay warm.

Butterflies are the ultimate hedonists.  Is it any wonder they’re struggling?  

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Curious?

June 11, 2018

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Welcome visitors!  Welcome especially to the people I’ve met at the Dane County Farmer’s Market.  Thank you for your interest.

I’ve often been asked, “Why, Curiousfarmer?”  I don’t remember how I came up with the name ten years ago for what I thought would be an agriculture blog, but it seems to fit.

Obviously I’m a farmer, and curious in my own odd way, but who isn’t, right?  

The way I think of “Curious”, is the way I approach life.  With an open mind, observing, seeking to understand.  At least that’s what I’m striving for on my best days.

And “Curious”, is a natural way to live life.  Think about how we start life as infants.  Babies are almost exclusively curious.  Observing, seeking to understand, communicating their needs, and then growing and processing while they sleep.

The way we farm gives us ample opportunity to observe and be curious.  Often, I realize I’m in the middle of a unique experience I may never experience again.  

My Father, who is in his 70s, was discing his fields this spring and he observed for the first time in his life, a Snowy Owl.  I’ve never seen one.

The Snowy Owl was resting in the disced field as it migrated north.  Eventually it flew off, but the experience sure made his day of discing more interesting.

 

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The above photo shows a weedy area where round bales of hay had been stored.  My friend Jeremy asked if he could have a little area to expand his tomato production as he has a small yard in Madison.  Jeremy is also a curious guy, and is always up to something.

He planted and staked 16 tomato plants, using hay as mulch.  He has named the project, “No Fuss Tomatoes”.  

Some of the tomato plants he grafted a top onto a stronger root.  Like I said, Jeremy is a curious guy.  I’m hoping he documents his “No Fuss” tomato experience and shares with us on this blog.

I set up a rain gauge near the tomatoes and was surprised to see this gelatinous substance on top of the soil.  What is it?  I had never seen anything like it.

I’ve figured out what it is, but if any of you would like to guess, especially those of you in the Madison area, I’ll give a free pork product of your choice to the first correct guess.  Pick it up at market.  Sorry, long distance readers.

I would like you to like and guess on our facebook page as Daniele is managing that social media.  Send Daniele a message with your guess.  Good luck!

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Spring? Green!

June 3, 2018

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Spring is the shortest season in Wisconsin.  I should be used to it by now, but the transition from winter to summer, startles and amazes me every year.

The first outdoor market of the season, April 14th, was so cold, I wore insulated bib overalls which I only used once all winter because they are so warm.  Memorial Day weekend,  only 6 weeks later, was in the 90s F with high humidity.

Plant growth explodes.  April 20th was the last snowstorm of the season, falling on little green growth.  Now, on June 1st, forage is waist high.  One more paddock to graze and the cattle will have been over everything once.  I’ve been moving them every 5 days.

It feels like I’m behind on everything, with too much forage.  But if you don’t have too much forage on June 1st, you will definitely have too little on August 1st when the weather turns dry.

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The top photo is of my Phoebe girl, a twin I helped get started in life.  She always comes over to get a scratch from me.

The next two photos are of two year old steers, who will be butchered this summer.  The background shows yearlings and fall calves.  And green, beautiful, beautiful green.

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Spring 2018: Farm Update

May 1, 2018

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Braden finished his movable chicken pens and I helped him move his broiler chickens out to pasture.  We have had the coldest April on record, so there isn’t much pasture, but the chickens seem happy in their new home.

Braden put his own spin on a Salatin style, movable chicken pen.  I hope to post with more detail in the future.  The pens are moved daily to fresh pasture.  The pen is keeping the predators away from the chickens, and the chickens are really thriving.  He is still planning on having freshly frozen chickens for the May 26th market.

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I helped Daniel rototill the garden and she has started moving her indoor started vegetables outdoors, and also started direct seeding some of her crops.

I rototilled the sweet corn plot and plan to plant next week if the soil continues to warm. We should have delicious sweet corn around the first of August.

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Winter/Spring farrowing has gone well, and I have lots of healthy feeder pigs.  My fall-calving herd has wintered well on our home-raised hay, and are chomping at the bit to get on fresh pasture.

Cattle aren’t particularly smart, but they are masters at body language.  They know exactly what it means when they see me repairing electric fence.  I’m sure they are salivating as much as when Pavlov’s dogs hear a bell.

 


Jeremy’s Ham and Bean Soup

April 19, 2018

This is a guest post from longtime customer and friend, Jeremy.  Jeremy is a professional landscaper, and amateur chef.  I asked him to share his ham and bean soup recipe.  Thank you, Jeremy!

We will have plenty of ham available this Saturday at market.

 

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Ham and White Bean Soup
Nothing says home cooking like a good ham and bean soup. Ham, as with bacon, elevates practically anything it’s with into tasty territory. It’s versatile and works in many different ways; with pasta, casseroles, stuffed in cordon bleu, baked with vegetables, as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And boy, ham is wonderful, especially from my farmer who raises happy, healthy, acorn fed hogs. I give him money and the occasional garden vegetables. I get his meat and eggs. I’m lucky to have him as a friend.

Ingredients:
2 Cups Dry White beans; Cannellini, Lima, or other
1.5-2 lbs Smoked Ham or Smoked Pork Hock, bone in preferable, fat trimmed and diced
2 small Onions, coarsely chopped
1 Celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2-3 small Carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
Bouquet Garni: 1 Bay Leaf, 2-3 Thyme sprigs, and 2-3 Parsley sprigs, tied with kitchen string (or dried herb equivalent; about ½ teaspoon each with a dried bay leaf.)
½ Cup White Wine
2 Cups Stock, Pork or Chicken
2-3 Cups Water
White pepper, Salt to taste

Instructions: 

1. Sort and rinse beans. Soak overnight in cold water. Or if pressed for time, in a separate pot bring beans and water to a boil and then simmer for an hour or so while prepping above ingredients.

2. Trim excess fat off of ham, dice into small cubes and fry in soup pot. Stir and cook until fat is rendered and you are left with fried ham cracklings. Drain cracklings on paper towel and reserve.

3. Fry vegetables in rendered fat. Stir occasionally until onions and celery become translucent.

4. Add wine to vegetables to de-glaze pot. Boil off alcohol for a minute or two and add whole ham. Drain beans and add to pot with herb bouquet, pinch of pepper, salt, and stock. Add just enough water to submerge beans, vegetables and ham. Bring to a boil, cover and then simmer for 3-4 hours or until the beans are tender and the ham begins to fall apart.

5. Turn off heat, remove ham with bone, herb bouquet, and about half of the beans. Pull ham apart into pieces and strips reserving the beans and ham. Blend slightly cooled soup with immersion blender until creamy and smooth. Place reserved herbs, beans and ham bone back into pot and reheat, season with more salt and pepper if needed. The ham bone and herbs continue to add flavor as it reheats.

6. Serve soup, topped with pulled ham and cracklings

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2018 Dane County Farmer’s Market

April 14, 2018

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Thank you to all who ventured out on a very cold, wet, windy Saturday for the start of the 2018 Dane County Farmer’s Market!  Despite the weather, it was a great day reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones.  We are looking forward to a new season.

Thank you to my buddy Jake, for assisting me at our stand and photo credit.  And thank you to Sarah Elliot, DCFM market manager, for all her help as we start our new venture as Curiousfarmer, bringing you the same great beef and pork some of you have grown to love.  Braden and Daniele have started their enterprises and are excited to bring you pastured poultry and vegetables starting about Memorial Day weekend also.

We plan to be at every market this season.  We will try to set up near the same spot we are in today.   We enjoy our neighbors at the DCFM.  If any of you want to make sure we have something saved for you, email me with a preorder and we can be sure you will get it.

Thanks again!

Matthew Walter

oakgrovelane@yahoo.com