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I will never forget…

How would you finish that sentence? I will never forget the first time I met my spouse? I will never forget the day my child was born, went to college or got married. I will never forget the stranger (or at least someone I didn’t know) who pushed our car out of the snow.
 
Some “I will never forget moments” are sad, heart-breaking, and filled with grief.  It might be the news of cancer or a heart attack. Every family has buried someone dear: a friend, a spouse, a family member, a child.  
 
For some, their “I will never forget” memory is when a soldier, an officer, or pastor/priest knocks on their door to say what they already knew in their heart. It is that “I will never forget” memory that we are remembering this week. America is memorializing that ultimate sacrifice for freedom that has left an unfilled void in our families, communities, and country. I have never experienced that “knock” on the door, but for those of you who have, my heart goes out to you.  
 
The Bible reminds us that there is no greater love than to lay your life down for another. Those who have died serving others have demonstrated this love. May we never forget and may we honor those who have never come home to their loved ones and may we show compassion to those who have had to stand in the whirlwind of that loss.
 
America has been, is being, and will be shaped by our collective “I will never forget” memories.
 
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Tomatoes

I have been getting used to using our new greenhouses. (In actuality, they are giant cold frames.) I have noticed that the crops closest to the door are smaller and, well, not quite as happy as the other ones in the back.  I keep the door open all the time, so I am pretty sure the initial breeze is making the difference. I will try and keep the door partially open and see if the tomatoes like it better. The plants are setting fruit and I just finished suckering (pruning) them.  
 
Suckers are the branches that sprout in the crotch of the main stem and a branch, if you don’t take those suckers off they will cause the plant to produce a lot of little tomatoes. Remember that a plant’s sole purpose is to reproduce or make seed, it is not concerned with the size of the fruit, but just making seed. So as a farmer, I try to manage the plants’ desire to produce seed by controlling how much fruit it produces, which forces the plant to put more energy into fewer fruits. Suckering makes the tomatoes larger since they are getting more attention from the plant. And just when the plant thinks they have produced enough seed, I pick the fruit and put in your box of good☺. By pruning to limit tomato production and timely harvesting, I am able to work with the tomatoes’ desire to make more seed and keep producing more fruit over a longer harvest.
 
In the other greenhouse, I am growing sugar snap peas, but don’t ask me why I am doing that though. On a whim, I planted some extra seed from my field plantings. Now I need to get busy trellising them before Jack, in Jack and the Bean Stalk, switches to climbing pea vines.
 
We still have a long ways to go before any tomatoes or peas will be ready, but when they are, they will be coming your way!
 
Growing good food,
 
 

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Okey Dokey Artichoke-y! It's time for some Baked Stuffed Artichokes

 

INGREDIENTS:
5 large, full-size artichokes
1 lemon, halved
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
1 onion, minced
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups dried bread crumbs (I grabbed 4 slices of sandwich bread and turned it into bread crumbs in the food processor)
1 cup grated good parmesan
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1⁄3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
 
PREPARATION:
First, you need to prep and cook the artichokes. Cut off the bottom stem so that the artichoke can sit flat. This sort of hurts for us to do, since the stem is so good, too. But for this purpose, you need them to lay flat. Then with a super-sharp knife, and a sharp mind, cut off the top ¾ of an inch or so. This way you can easily stuff with the stuffing. Rub the cut artichoke with the lemon, or don't it'll turn brown when you cook it anyway.
 
You can steam or boil them in seasoned water. That takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your artichokes. Just pull off a leaf from the middle and if it comes off easily, it's done.
 
While the artichokes cook, make the stuffing. Add a little olive oil to a pan and cook the onions until soft and then add the garlic until it smells great, just 30 seconds more. Add the cooked alliums to a bowl with the bread crumbs, ¾ cup of grated parmesan, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Taste it. 
 
Let the artichokes cool and drain a bit upside down. Then with a spoon, scoop out the center leaves and hairy choke. You don't want to eat that part. Rather than removing it come meal time, clean it up now. Just pay attention not to scoop out the heart, just the choke. You'll be able to tell once you get going.
 
So, you should have five hollowed out artichokes that are fully cooked and have just the bigger leaves attached.
 
Stuff the leaves and the centers of the artichokes with the stuffing and stick it under the broiler to heat back up and toast a bit in the oven, just a few minutes. Then before serving, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.
 
You can make it a meal by frying an egg and served on the side but I think it'd be even better cracked into the artichoke before getting stuffed and broiled. Enjoy!
 
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Farming has Begun in Earnest

We are especially busy this spring. Normally we have our usual spring farm work, getting the ground ready for vegetables, and that usually takes most of our time. This year, however, we have added replanting one of our pastures to the list of spring work, which essentially doubles the amount of land we have to work. We are getting it done, but we only have so much equipment and it has to be spread around and used in different areas.

 
I decided to replant the pasture and rejuvenate it about four weeks ago. I was hoping to get a jump on replanting in early April and have the grass available in mid-June for the beef cows to graze. With all the rain, that plan hasn’t worked out very well. Now I am hoping to plant this week for grass to graze in late July. Farming is like that—you make your best choice and move on.  
And we are moving on. The season doesn’t wait and there is lots of work to do every day, week, month and season. All I know for sure is that now is the time to plant and planting we are.
 
 
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Breaking out the Hammock

 

I just couldn’t resist. The weather was gorgeous, the day lazy and it was begging to happen. I try to keep Sundays as a day of rest, and for the most part I have been successful. Even with this nice weather, I still try to make Sundays a family day. Really, every day is a family day, but the other six are a mix of ballet, soccer, track, school and work. Yet somehow and some way we get through every day, so Sundays we rest and play to get ready for the upcoming week.

Naturally, I went into the barn and found the hammock and practiced resting in it J. I wasn’t overly successful, because my kiddos (and they know who they are) kept asking for a turn every 5 minutes and when you have as many kiddos as I do, every 5 minutes takes a half an hour to cycle through the requests. I was determined, but they were more determined and outnumbered me. Eventually, I found myself sharing the hammock or being swung in it and, to their glee, almost out of it! Of course, it was a lot of fun and served as a distraction so Joelle could enjoy her time in the sun (a “bonus” mother’s day gift). That hammock is a magnet for laughter, memories and fun, which are the best gifts a parent can ask for, save the “sea” sickness, of course.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Farming and family life are uniquely intertwined. Of course we all have to eat ☺, but the imagery, the metaphors the seasons of life are likened to farming. How precious is the seed of life that only a mom gets the privilege to understand? Seeds travel a similar journey from planting, to growing beneath the soil, to emergence. As a farmer, I am always waiting for the day the seeds appear, yes there are tell-tale signs, but oh the excitement when the seeds emerge.
 
As a father, I have been through that same season with my wife many times and every time it is exciting—the anticipation of waiting for your new precious little one to come. And they do come and they do grow up. 
 
We guide these little plants through thorns and thistles, stress and droughts, warm weather and gentle showers, always believing, hoping and eager for their future to unfold like May blooms on the lilac tree. All the while knowing that there will bumps in the road, but we continue to believe and hope and pray often with unbending devotion and unfailing love. 
 
For all you mothers, thank you for your sacrifice, your service and your love. Our community, our nation and our world is a better place because you have chosen motherhood.
 
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Hang On To Your Hats, It's Time To Farm!

Hang on to your hat, because these next few weeks are going to be a class 5 kayak ride!  We were behind a few weeks ago, but now we are getting nervous.  If the weather doesn’t break soon so that the rain lets up, I won’t be harvesting anything until August.  At least we have snuck in (mudded in) a few plants in between rain storms. Our first plantings of peas are up and our second plantings are just emerging. The strawberries and raspberries are sending out new leaves every day and those two nice weekends we had gave the bees enough warmth to get out and work in the orchard.   Now,it is a waiting game to see if (and how much of) the fruit will set. 

After last year’s horrible spring, I decided to diversify and plant some more perrienels , like raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears, plums as well as herbs.  Even the beef help to mitigate springs like these. Every season has its ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. By diversifying we are able to cover expenses and even out the waves of life or seasons.  Looking forward to calm waters ahead.