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We have made it safely to Virginia after a treacherous trip northward with a 26-footer U-Haul towing a 16-foot trailer with our tractor in tow, followed by myself in a V-8 pickup with my truck in tow- a cat in the front seat and three dogs spread amongst our vehicles.  We are so thankful to have made it here without a glitch (never mind having to unload and reload the U-Haul the day before…but that’s another story:).

The Caravan

We arrived to a snow storm and ended up with over a foot of snow the next day.  The U-Haul had to be towed into the driveway- the 34hp Kubota is a work horse!  We were snowed in for a few days, but the property could not have looked more beautiful with huge snowflakes falling and the pure snow untouched.  The dogs were loving it and what a treat to explore the forest, pond, fields and barn while stomping through a substance I had hardly seen in ten years.

The old farmhouse has been home to a number of young bachelors over the years and has needed some serious TLC.  Hunger prompted me to clean and unpack the kitchen- an all day endeavor.  The bathroom and porch came next.  Thankfully, a few of the rooms had already been cleaned prior to my arrival.  The house is huge! a secret bathroom, two staircases, and a tiny storage cellar under the stairs.  Quite a step up from the single-wide.

Chopping firewood, stacking and building and tending the fire takes up more time than one may realize.  The wood stove provides the heat for the house, as well as a few space heaters, so we mostly stay in the same few rooms.  Every morning we see our breath in the kitchen, which is doubling as the root cellar for now.  I think the refrigerator might be warmer than its surroundings.  Much of our focus is on keeping warm and showers have been scarce.  Ah, country living!  I love it…

The Homestead

The chickens have found a nice home in the barn.  We shored up one of the stalls to protect them from any critters coming out of the woods.  They have plenty of space to peck around, but not much light right now, so eggs production has dwindled.  As soon as the snow melts, we will let them out into the run connected to the stall.  We have plans to add at least 100 more hens to our flock and have found a local hatchery that raises them using natural feed (no GMOs!) and produces healthy, heritage breed birds.  We are hoping to add some ducks and possibly guinea hens to our farmstead.  Hopefully a few heritage piglets, mushrooms, honey and a milking goat, along with all of our vegetables are in the works.  We are staying very busy!

Next week, we are building the greenhouse to start our brassicas in the following week.  Photos to come…

The Barn

The Pond

Post and Courier Article

Well we certainly don’t do do this for any sort of recognition, but it is nice when someone does take the time to recognize our efforts.  We do believe that if we work hard and do things  as best as we know how, good things  follow suite. “It’s the law of reciprocity” says Wendell Berry.  This simple notion that you get out of life only what you put into it.  There is a direct correlation between effort and reward.

So with that being said, I’d like to link an article that was written a few days ago in the Post and Courier by one of our CSA members.  It was a pleasant surprise to wake to these humbling words.  Thanks to everyone who makes this possible.

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2009/nov/17/csas-great-way-to-get-veggies/

Pumpkins are simply a type of Winter Squash and most can be used interchangeably.  This Fall, we grew Acorn, Delicata, Baby Hubbard, Marina di Chioggia, White Pumpkin and Above Ground Sweet Potato.   Most are heirlooms, and we are practicing our seed saving with the White Pumpkin and Sweet Potato.  The Sweet Potato is especially rare and the seed catalogue notes that if folks don’t start growing this particular variety, they will go the way of the dinosaurs- extinct!  Which also means people need to eat them too. 

Any of these squash can be used for fresh pumpkin pie or soup.  The Acorn, Delicata, Marina di Chioggia and Hubbard are better for baking and leaving in chunks to eat as the flesh is not as watery as the pumpkins. 

Click the link below for a very detailed pumpkin pie recipe from fresh pumpkins:

http://www.pickyourown.org/pumpkinpie.php

Fore more delicious seasonal squash recipes, www.epicurious.com has a diverse selection when searcing for Winter Squash.  Many of the recipes use fennel and other ingredients currently found in the CSA boxes.  Butternut Squash can be used interchangeably with the other harder squashes.  The harder squashes also have flesh similar to sweet potato. 

If you are not quite in the mood for squash yet, as long as the skin is blemish-free, these fruits should keep for 1-2 months in a cool dry space in your house.  Sometimes it takes a karate chop with a knife to get these squash started for cutting, so be very careful! 

Happy Fall and Thanksgiving (which is every day anyways!)

A wonderful, simple recipe from our dear friend Mary.  These are great hot or cold.  They are great with toasted almonds slivers or sesame seeds too.

Szechwan Green Beans – Molly Katzen
Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Once the beans are trimmed, all you need is a large hot pan, and the rest is one big, quick sizzling action!

These will keep for up to a week in a tightly covered container (or a zip-style plastic bag) in the refrigerator.

 2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 pound whole green beans, trimmed
Salt
5-10 crushed garlic cloves
Red pepper flakes

  1. Place a large, deep skillet or wok over medium heat. After about two minutes, add the oil, and swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Turn the heat to high, and wait another 30 seconds or so, then add the green beans and a big pinch of salt.
  3. Cook over high heat , shaking the pan and/or using tongs to turn and move the beans so they cook quickly and evenly.
  4. After about 3 minutes, take a taste test and see if the beans are done to your liking. They should be relatively crunchy, but you get to decide. If you like them cooked a little more, keep going another 2 minutes or so.
  5. Sprinkle in the garlic and some red pepper flakes, and cook for just a minute longer. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Well, magical probably not, but they are darned good for your body and your taste buds.   At the recommendation of a jolly man at the market today, I cooked my Swiss Chard this evening and added nutritional yeast at the end to make Creamed Greens. Oh man, I just entered  a whole new world.  I imagine this recipe would work with all cooking greens.  Here is the recipe I made up, but absolutely tweak it to your taste.

1lb Swiss Chard, Beet Tops, Turnip Greens, Kale, Collards, etc.  washed and torn into bite sized pieces.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek/ or bunch of scallions chopped

1/2 tsp lemon pepper (optional)

1/2 tsp porcini mushroom powder (optional)

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2tbsp water

Heat large pan to low/medium, add olive oil, heat, then add spices and leek/scallions.  Cook for a few minutes, until scallions begin to wilt.  Add swiss chard, soy sauce, water and cover for 5 minutes to steam.  Remove lid and continue to cook until wilted.  Add nutritional yeast, mix, add cornstarch, mix and let sauce thicken.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Yum.

Rita’s Roots and Thackeray Farms are back in the swing of things- we made it through the heat waves of the Summer and mustard ourselves up for a planting repeat of the Spring.  The growing season in our area is truly one of a kind (correct me if I’m wrong and hopefully I can learn from that area!) in which we are capable of having two complete seasons with a hot break in the middle.  We can actually grow right through the Winter, which is why we run the CSA until the end of January.  How amazing to have local, fresh food throughout a time when most are hunkered down in their frosty homes with only store bought produce from California to get them through (or whatever they put up from their CSAs :).

The boxes each week will contain a decent amount of greens.  Get creative and don’t be afraid to eat them all raw, use them as wraps, in wraps, as salad greens, braised, quiched, omletted, chopped finely in a sautee, stir-fried, steamed, on pizza, or even fed to the pet rabbit!  If you can’t get them down fresh, I strongly encourage you to take the 30 minutes out of the week to pop them into freezer bags.   It is the best way to make the most out of your farm share.  We strive for diversity in the boxes, but sometimes the weather and Mother Nature- with her entourage of insects- happen, and what we planned does not work out.

Making a living from small-scale organic agriculture is no easy feat.  The farmers I know are some of the most brilliant, hard-headed, determined folks I have ever come in contact with.  They persevere through rain storms, crop failures, hail, floods, blights, worker shortages, broken machinery and so on, somehow making it to the next season, seeing it as a challenge to do better next time.  If you question the challenges of spending “days in the sun picking veggies at the farm,” join us on a rainy one like today!  We don’t get volunteers when there are clouds.

Most importantly, thank you all for placing your faith in us to provide you and your families with sustenance.  We are working to do our best, and would like any and all feedback from you about our program.  Happy and healthy eating to all, and fill us in on your cooking suggestions for the vegetables too.

Best and Bless!

Rita’s Roots and Thackeray Farms present:

2009-2010 Fall and Winter CSA

A Great Way to Support Local Sustainable Agriculture

What is CSA?  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is a program designed to help preserve and support small farms, while bringing the community the bounty of each season’s harvest.  It can be a great way to receive healthy, sustainable food at a value to the customer.  Our customers purchase a “share” in the farm at the beginning of each season (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter), and receive a ¾ bushel portion of the harvest each week for the duration of the CSA.  With the purchase of the CSA share, the customer also accepts the risks associated with farming- hurricane, wind, water, pest, and disease destruction. Should a natural disaster occur, that could mean no harvest (and no refund!)  We will strive to provide each shareholder with vegetables aplenty.  We want you to come back year after year!

Rita’s Roots and Thackeray Farms formed a partnership in the Fall of 2008, forged between a landless organic farmer, and an experienced conventional flower farmer. Rita’s  Roots works  intricately with Thackeray  Farms to heal the soils and design a sustainable organic farming system for the benefit of the consumers, the Earth and all of the creatures living and working on the farm.  Even the flowers are grown using organic amendments!

What to expect for the Fall/Winter session:  The ¾ bushel box each week will contain 8-12 different kinds of vegetables, fruits or herbs, enough for a family of two to four.  The crops planned for Fall 2009 include Radish, Arugula, Onions, Lettuce, Spring mix, Broccoli Raab, Kale, Turnips, Carrots, Beets, Spinach, Swiss Chard,  Red Mustard, Broccoli, Red and Green Cabbage, Cauliflower, Bush Beans, Edamame, Snow and Snap Peas,  Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Okra, Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Sweet Corn, Winter Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Collards, Tat Soi, Bok Choy, Grapefruit and fresh Herbs such as Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, and Dill.

Each week will include a farm update listing the contents of your box as well as cooking and preservation suggestions.  We have a blog which permanently lists many of our recipes, too.  We are also offering a 6 week flower share running from October 11-November 21 in which you receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our farm each week.

Dates, Costs, etc:  The CSA will begin the week of October  11th and run through the last week in January for a total of 15 weeks.  We will be taking the latter part of Thanksgiving week off and the whole week between Christmas and New Years.  The cost is $375 for the season, which also covers the costs for packaging, fuel and administration, to be paid in full before the start of the CSA.  The flower share is an additional $60.  Please mail your checks and the sign up form to reserve your spot early.   Registration is open to current members and wait-listers as of July 16 and will be opened to the public on August 15, 2009.

Totals:                                Vegetable share: $375

Vegetable share picked up at Thackeray Farms: $350

Vegetable and Flower Share: $435

Vegetable and Flower Share picked up at Thackeray Farms: $410

How it works:

As the customer it is your responsibility to select a pick up location you can make it to every week to pick up your share of vegetables.  We are unable to make special arrangements or change pick up locations for travel, forgetting, etc.  We recommend having a friend pick up your share if you are unable to make it.  Any shares remaining after the pick- up time will be donated.   You must pick up at the same location each week– we pick each share to order!  It is our responsibility to grow the produce to the best of our ability and deliver it to your location on time each week.

Fall 2009 Pick up Location Options:

>Tuesday afternoon from 3pm-8pm “Bring Your Own Bag” to Edisto Ave. in Riverland Terrace on James Island to select your produce from large bins.  The produce in this location will not come in a box , so bring your own reusable bags to cart it home in.

>Wednesday from 12pm-7pm at Ted’s Butcherblock on East Bay St.  in downtown Charleston

>Thursday in Mt Pleasant from 4pm-7pm, with an emergency rollover to Friday morning until 12pm at the Sprout next to Eco-Fitness.

>Friday at Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island from 10am-5pm.  We are offering a special discount to those who come to the farm to pick up their boxes- $25 off!  Thackeray Farms is a 10 minute drive from the intersection of Maybank and Main/Bohicket Roads on Johns Island.

Please print out the small form and sign below to agree to the terms of the CSA and mail your checks to Rita’s Roots P.O. Box 12568 Charleston, SC 29422.  The first 150 checks and forms received will fill up the CSA.  If you need to work out a payment plan or have any questions feel free to contact Rita or Riad at vegitup@yahoo.com.

NAME:

ADDRESS:

PHONE NUMBER:

E-MAIL ADDRESS (one that is checked regularly and any additional addresses to receive weekly CSA updates):

PICKUP LOCATION:  James Island                     Ted’s Butcherblock

Sprout                                 Thackeray Farms

FLOWER SHARE:         YES       NO

I have read and understand the above information about the risks and rewards entailed in participating in a CSA program.  I also understand that it is my responsibility to pick up my produce each week at my specified pick up location.

X______________________________________________ Date_________________