Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mega Chocolate & Almond Biscotti Recipe

Biscotti is an Italian word for cookie. This is an unusual cookie in that it is dried until crispy. If you like chocolate, and who doesn't, this is a great recipe.


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of coca powder
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add all ingredients except eggs and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl whisk egges and vanilla and add it to the dry mixture. Stir everything until the dough comes together.

Cut the dough into two pieces and use flour to keep dough from sticking. Form dough into two strips about 2 inches in diameter, on baking sheet with parchment paper. Place about 4 inches apart.

Bake for 35 minutes and cool for 15 minutes.

Cut each strip into 3/4 inch slices. Place strips cut side down on the parchment lined baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature to 280 degrees and return to oven for 25 more minutes. Flip strips and put in oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

You can add a drizzle of white chocolate tot he biscotti by melting 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Let the chocolate harden before serving.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ravioli and Winter Vegetables

I don't know about you, but I like about any kind of ravioli. Jenna and I made spinach and rigotta ravioli pasta last night for supper after we all got back from Christmas shopping. It was very good. I'm going to put the recipe in the blog, but realize that the ravioli filling can take lots of forms and many of the winter storage vegetable work well for ravioli.



3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 eggs


1 pound fresh spinach
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound ricotta
1 egg
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch black pepper


1/4 pound butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped sage


Dough is formed by making an indentation in the floor on a tabletop or bowl.  Add the eggs to the center of the flour indentation. Incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. Knead the flour and eggs together to form dough and continue to knead until the dough is thoroughly worked together, this should take 4 to 5 minutes. Reserve the dough until ready to assemble.

Cook the spinach until tender. Remove the spinach from the boiling water and cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Put into a colander and squeeze out the water from the spinach. Chop the spinach coarsely and combine spinach, ricotta, egg, heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Season with nutmeg, remaining salt, and black pepper.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in in a skillet. Simmer the nutmeg, saga and butter for 1 minute. Reserve until the raviolis are cooked.

Assemble the raviolis, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece to form a thin layer (about 1/8 inch).  Place 1 spoonful of filling onto a sheet of dough 1/2 inch from the edge. Continue to place spoonfuls of filling along the dough 1-inch apart. Put another strip of dough on top of the strip with the filling on it. Pinch the edges of each ravioli with the tines of a fork.  Use a knife  to cut out the raviolis. Set aside each ravioli on a cookie sheet dusted with flour. Avoid stacking so they don't stick together.

Add raviolis  to boiling water. When they are fully cooked, they will float, this takes about 2-3 minutes to finish cooking. Serve each portion with sage butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of grated parsmesan cheese.

Other fillings for ravioli are:
  • carrots
  • kale
  • cheese
  • winter squash: butternut, acorn, delicate, jester (are all good types)

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Oasis - A fertile or green spot in a desert or wasteland, typically made that way by the presence of a water table at the surface. I also like the definition of a place of peace, safety, or happiness in the midst of trouble or difficulty. (From Wikipedia)

Our farm is an Oasis in every sense of the word.

Our farm is an organic, chemical free and GMO free zone in the midst of a desert of chemical agriculture. We grow clean, well mineralized, fresh, and flavorful vegetables. We use large amounts of compost in our fertility program. We rebuild soils at 100x the rate of natural processes. We sequester carbon and have achieved a positive carbon foot print. We build biological life in our soils. We grow healthy and happy plants. We listen to what our weeds tell us about our soils and take action to counter imbalances.

Our farm is a place of peace and safety. We come home from our activities of the day and can walk through the pastoral gardens or woods. There are birds and wildlife in abundance. There are no dangerous machines, smelly confinements, mega monocultures or promiscuous pollen GMO's).

We feed our minds and bodies. We read good books. We listen to the great teachers and thinkers of our times. We use solitude to think. We find wisdom in the past as well as the future. We use technology appropriately to enhance our farming. We do physical work (my gym membership is a compost shovel and my tread mill is looking for mushrooms on a wooded hillside glen). We grow much of what we eat. We seek to retain the knowledge of food preservation from our past.

Oasis - an organic farm in a wasteland of chemical agriculture, made that way because of a family who is passionate about the food they grow and the people they serve. A place of peace and safety for a legacy of family, wisdom and community. (From Brian)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Signs of the Thyme

Have you ever noticed the many signs around us, especially around the typical farm. Our farm doesn't have any of the typical signs but I got to thinking about what our version of these many signs would say.
  • Instead of signs that say "Keep Out" we say "Come Observe".
  • Instead of "Trespassers will be Prosecuted", we hope "Visitors will be Impressed".
  • Instead of "No Admittance", we say "Admit All Who Seek To Learn".
  • Instead of "No Hunting", we want you to "Hunt for Truth".
  • Instead of "Dead End",  we see "Unlimited Opportunities"
  • Instead of "Wrong Way", we want people to find the "Better Way"
  • Instead of "No Soliciting", we encourage people to "Seek Wisdom"
  • Instead of "Danger Biohazard", we have "Safety, Healthy Soil"
  • Instead of "Skull and Cross Bones", we want "Smiling & Healthy People"
  • Instead of "Deer Crossing", we want "Bare Foot Crossing" Our children's favorite.
  • Instead of "Pavement Ends", we want to encourage people to take the "Road Less Traveled"
  • Instead of "Rough Road", we see a "Firm Foundation"

Friday, December 27, 2013


Is it just me or does it seem like you can just about do the opposite of the common wisdom in the culture and prosper.

Opposite - a truth that is totally the reverse of the common wisdom.

Here are some opposites:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are Givers More Likely to Succeed at Farming

Adam Grant in his revolutionary book, "Give and Take" about pro-social motivation — the desire to help others, independent of easily foreseeable payback.  Says there are three "interaction styles" in the business environment. These interaction styles are the giver, the matcher and the taker.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Farmer Explains a Hymn

Brian Petersen, wrote this hymn during a Worship class in February, 2013

From the Story of Joseph

I didn't set out to use this story for my class assignment, I wanted to do Lyrics about how Israel moved from slavery in Egypt to a free and generous people in the wilderness. However I got stuck on the story of Joseph. I had often thought there were many parallels between the life of Christ and the things God did through Joseph. That is what my hymn is about, the foreshadowing of a savior. There is so much going on here, that I decided to also add a commentary to explain line by line, so the richness of the story and the parallels to Christ are understood. See the second page for this. I have no idea how you would put music to this, but it does sound poetical. I might have switched forms for the last paragraph, but those were the words in my mind. What does it mean when the poem is 16 short lines and the explanation is three pages? I guess there is more going on here than meets the eye. Check it out. Here is the poem again.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Farmer Writes a Hymn

Hymn by Brian Petersen - From the Story of Joseph

This is a hymn (a poem really, since there is no music) I wrote during a class on worship at Cross Roads College here in Rochester. Lisa and I took this class together during January-February 2013 as a date night activity. See my previous post for explanation of the class. I commend classes like this to you.

I wrote the poem in a day or two, but it took weeks to understand it. There are parallels here between the story of Joesph and Jesus that I had never seen before and didn't even understand until I had really contemplated the words and gained insight from studying the story of Joseph more deeply. See my next post for the analysis.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Can a Farmer Write a Hymn?

I recently had the most amazing experience. Lisa and I took a class on the “Theology and Philosophy of Worship”.. It was an evening class that met for 5 weeks.

One of our assignments was to write a hymn. This was going to be impossible because I have little musical ability. Thankfully that was not required.  My hymn was about the parallels between the life of Joseph (in the Old Testament) as a foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus.  Andrea, my daughter, a music education and composition major said, “very cool, dad”. For a non-musical Dad that says it all.

So here is my hymn (a poem really, since there are no notes).

A diadem of colors, white, Israel's favorite son
Foresees majestic future, bright, from the Holy One.
Wicked jealous brothers, bent, no vision only cost
Betray the young redeemer, sent, a son of Israel lost
A sojourn in a country, far, of stripes and victories won
A faithful broken servant's, star, keeps listening as a son
Two men in dungeon dreary, three, have messages divine
For one the bread is broken, tree, one partakes the wine.
A holy humble servant, best, suffering but meek
A vision during kingly, rest, interpretations seek
A whisper from creator, of mystery, earthly kings
Lifts up a slave, of history, a world salvation brings
Israel's King triumphant, fight, His wisdom bless and save
Narrow path for lasting life, of light, from birth to grave
Brothers restored, Israel unite, to the Son of favor
The Father saved, The Spirit's might, through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Market menu for December 21, 2013

We will have the following items at the market for Saturday, December 21, 2013. We are at the fair ground for winter market this week.  (New items are in Bold Print)

Salsa - Brandywine, Cherry Tomatoe, Roasted Roma, Hot'n'Sweet, Jalapeno Jelly (yum)
Brussels Sprouts
Winter Squash - We have a 1 week supply remaining
     Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata, Orange Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Orange Kuri, Kubotcha
Pie Pumpkins - New England Pie, Winter Luxury
Red Onions
Garlic (We ran out of garlic last week, but shallots are a good substitute, see "shallot week posts")
Sweet Spanish Onions
Chipolini Onions
Dried egg plant
Cipotle Smoked Peppers
Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lisa's Soap

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life and Energy In Agriculture - A Divine Blueprint

Life & Energy in Agriculture, by Arden B. Anderson

A Summary

This is a book report of sorts. I quote Dr. Anderson frequently but condense and summarize significantly from the original text. This book a gem on the role of energy on soil health and produce quality. The original is a quick read and very engaging if you want to learn about the path less taken in agriculture.

Divine Blueprint

The environment we live in has a purpose and place for everything. It is only when man disrupts this balance and circumvents natural laws is chaos created. The natural system will triumph in the end whether man cooperates with or plunders nature. Man does have the ability to help the environment regenerate and the environment God has established will more than take care of man if we just allow it to do so.

There are distinct markers in the environment corresponding to levels of fertility, health and vitality, of the soil. Let's explore these starting with insects.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Life and Energy In Agriculture - Agricultural Industry

Life & Energy in Agriculture, by Arden B. Anderson

A Summary

This is a book report of sorts. I quote Dr. Anderson frequently but condense and summarize significantly from the original text. This book a gem on the role of energy on soil health and produce quality. The original is a quick read and very engaging if you want to learn about the path less taken in agriculture.

The Agricultural Industry

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life and Energy in Agriculture - Progressive Biological Life

Life & Energy in Agriculture, by Arden B. Anderson

A Summary

This is a book report of sorts. I quote Dr. Anderson frequently but condense and summarize significantly from the original text. This book a gem on the role of energy on soil health and produce quality. The original is a quick read and very engaging if you want to learn about the path less taken in agriculture.

Progressive Biological Life

Soil is alive. Living soil is healthy and healthful. Electromagnetic charge is the manifestation of the life force in the soil. Freeing the flow of the magnetic field in the soil is basic to any fertility program. Soil building is the basis of food-building, which is the basis of human health. Minerals are vital to human metabolism and health, you can't assimilate minerals that aren't in the soil in which the food is grown. Dr. Charles Northern was able to double and redouble the mineral content of fruits and vegetables, increase the mineral levels of milk and eggs, and improve the shelf life of all food simply by remineralizing the soil. He says, “It is simple to cure sick soil than sick people”.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Life and Energy in Agriculture - Introduction

Life & Energy in Agriculture, by Arden B. Anderson

A Summary

This is a book report of sorts. I quote Dr. Anderson frequently but condense and summarize significantly from the original text. This book a gem on the role of energy on soil health and produce quality. The original is a quick read and very engaging if you want to learn about the path less taken in agriculture.


The food is deficient because the soil is deficient. Agricultural practices in the last 100 years do not work as evidenced by polluted streams, rivers, aquifers, lakes, soils, foods, animals and people. We have lost approximately ½ our top soil in 100 years. Some of the most deadly chemicals are invented to support chemical agriculture. Agriculture is the second largest consumer of energy. Health in America is declining and this directly parallels the decline in agriculture.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Epiphany

An epiphany is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the word is used to describe a breakthrough or discovery. Typically this applies to an enlightened realization which allows a problem or situation to be understood from new and deeper perspective.

Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences and generally follow a process of significant contemplation about a problem. Often an epiphany is triggered by a new key piece of information, but typically requires a depth of prior knowledge to allow the leap to understanding.

The Holistic Management process discussed on this blog a few weeks ago was a good example of an epiphany. Ten of thousands of African grazing animals were killed in a mistaken attempt to rest and heal the land. When it was determined that the exact opposite was needed.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

From Our Larder to Your Pantry

In our last post we learned about the role of the larder on the farm. Today technology has largely replaced the larder for most American homes. We have refrigerators, freezers, pressure canning and dehydrators.

However if you want to eat local and seasonal your local farmer still may represent a large portion of your family larder. We have several hundred families that purchase a large portion of their produce from us.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Larder

Did you know that larders were a common feature of large homes before the refrigerator came into wide spread use. The essential features of a larder are as follows:
  • as cool as possible
  • close to the kitchen
  • exclude insects and rodents
  • easy to clean
  • shelving and containers adapted to the food to be stored
  • good air circulation
In North America larders were typically on the north side of the house, where they received the least amount of sun.

Farm families only 50 years ago were intimately familiar with the larder (ask your grand parents). The larder is the precursor to the modern day pantry, which is making a comeback in modern architecture.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The human body has approximately 100 trillion bacteria in our intestines. This is a number 10 times greater than the total number of human cells in the body. We are vastly out numbered by our intestinal flora. The metabolic activities of these bacteria are similar to that of an organ to process our food. It is interesting to note that these gut bacteria have a combined total of 100 times as many genes as there are in the human genome. Somewhere between 200 to 1000 different species live in the intestine.This is an extremely beneficial symbiotic relationship. These bacteria ferment unused energy, train the immune system, prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, produce vitamins and provide a host to store fats. This baterial culture is call the human microbiome. I submit the host to this genetically enriched culture is a bateriavore (look it up, this is actually a word).

It is important to understand these special bateria as we consider our food system. The human microbiome has typically dined on whole, natural and traditional foods. The processed and manufactured foods of our current generation are foreign to our microbiome and frankly the other microbes in our world as well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Stop With Organic

The Federal Organic Standards have encouraged agriculture in some positive directions. At a minimum it gets the chemicals and GMOs out of the system and that is a very positive step in the right direction.

But why do we want to stop with just the minimum requirement?

On our farm we have gone beyond organic.

What does this mean?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Breath of Heaven

Sunday afternoon, we attended "Hope of the World" an incredible concert by Honors Choirs of SE Minnesota. The concert was excellent and all the choirs did exceptionally well.

For me, the keynote was the song Breath of Heaven, made popular by Amy Grant. I have heard Amy sing this song many times with passion and as good as she is, Amy didn't hold a candle to this choir of middle school singers. It was not technical perfection or musical elegance (though these were superb) that made the performance great, but it was an emotional connection between the singers and the hearts of the audience that made the song so powerful.

Nick Johnson, director of the Chorale Choir, asked the singers what strong emotions they had experienced through this song. The emotions elicited by the song and expressed by the singers were very strong. This emotional connection during their performance was reflected in the faces of the singers, and though I could not observe it through my tears, I think the audience as well.

Abby Wilson sang the first verse as a solo and transported our  minds back to Bethlehem and Mary's prayer. It is a song about the fears and burdens of carrying God's son. Abby sang an amazing, beautiful solo that gripped our hearts and minds.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Graft in the Garden

This post is not about corruption on the farm, it is about grafting heirloom tomatoes. I've been interested in this for a number of years. I was thinking this may be our next weird thing for 2014.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shallots Caramelized with Maple Syrup

Caramelized shallots with maple syrup go extremely well with chicken breast, on fish, or on a simple hamburger.

Here is the recipe.

Shallot, Delicata Squash and Pear Soup

This slightly sweet soup is wonderful when served with a swirl of greek yogert and maple syrup. Great when served with with a fresh salad and Alaska wild caught salmon. Yum!

Here is the recipe.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shallot & Carrot Cake

This is a great carrot cake recipe from the Penzey Spices catalog. The shallot add a subtle sweet flavor.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp Penzeys cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups finely grated candy carrots (about a pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 pound shallots
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 oz light cream cheese, softened\
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round pans and set aside.
  • Saute shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter and cool to room temperature
  • In a large bowl , sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Add the oil and stir until blended.  Add the eggs, carrots, shallots, and walnuts and mix well. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you use a 9x13 pan, bake for 60 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream chees butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar gradually, and beat until thoroughly blended.  Fold in the pecans. Spread over the cooled cake.
Serves: 12-15

Shallots in a Quick Greek Pasta Salad

A healthy salad seasoned with shallots that will spice up your taste buds. You can add optional rib eye steak or chicken breast to make it a meal. When I made this I used what I had on hand and added red bell peppers and fresh tomatoes at the very end so they didn't get mushy.


  • 8 onces whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound shopped shallots (Petersens)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes diced (Petersens)
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (Petersens)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper (Petersens)
  • 1 teaspoon basil pesto (I made extra and froze some from this summer)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or sun flower seeds
  • Optional: Rib Eye Steak or Free Range Chicken Breast
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Drain and toss with olive oil, keep warm.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute shallots and garlic. Stir in soy sauce, and cook a few seconds longer.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, spinach, basil, feta cheese, and pine nuts. Toss with pasta in a large bowl and serve.
  • Add optional rib eye steak or free range chicken breast.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Market Menu for Saturday, December 7, 2013

We will have the following items at the market for Saturday, December 7, 2013. We are at the fair ground for winter market this week.  (New items are in Bold Print)

Salsa - Brandywine, Cherry Tomatoe, Roasted Roma, Hot'n'Sweet, Jalapeno Jelly (yum)
Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkins - Decorating, Cinderella
Winter Squash - We have a 1 or 2 week supply remaining
     Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata, Orange Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Orange Kuri, Kubotcha
Pie Pumpkins - New England Pie, Winter Luxury
Red Onions
Garlic (We ran out of garlic last week, but shallots are a good substitute, see "shallot week posts")
Sweet Spanish Onions
Chipolini Onions
Kale - Regular
Dried egg plant
Cipotle Smoked Peppers
Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lisa's Soap

Shallot, Carrot, and Parmesan Fritters

Shallot, carrot and parmesan fritters are a delightful start to any meal. They are smaller more bite sized, but remind me a lot of apple fritters, with a deliciously different flavor. The extra egg and tablespoon of baking powder make a very light fritter. Shallots and carrots are in good supply at our farmers market booth year around.

  • 1/4 - 1/2 lb shallots, diced
  • 1 cup grated carrots, use our candy carrots for a sweeter fritter
  • 1 1/2 cup flour, this does not have to be a wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 large free range eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, fresh ground
  • coconut oil for frying
  • Saute shallots with butter over medium heat until golden and sweet, that should take about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, then cool to room temperature. Combine dry ingredients and wisk in the egg and milk and mix until smooth. Stir in the shallot mixture, cheese and pepper. Adjust flour to a thick consistency.
  • Heat oil to 350F. Scoop the batter in tablespoon quantities into the hot oil and cook until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Drain to paper towels and keep warm while you cook the remiaing batter. Season and serve.
Optional Dipping Sauces:
  • Combine 1/4 cup of raspberry jam with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil. Mix together.
  • Combine 1/4 cup of jalapeno jam with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Mix together.
  • Combine 1/4 cup poblano relish, 1/4 cup raspberry jam and Greek yogurt.  Mix together. This was my favorite and what I used when I made fritters.
  • The fritters would also be great with a sugar glaze or powdered sugar.

What is a Shallot and How to Select a Good One?

Welcome to shallot week. This week on the blog we will describe shallots and their uses.

Shallots are a member of the allium family. The allium family contains some very popular root crops like onions, garlic and leeks. Shallots are often seen as a small mild onion, but they are really their own species.

They are started early in the spring from shallots saved from the previous year.

Shallot History

They originate in the mediterranean area. Botanically they are named Allium ascalonicum, this name comes from the city of Ascalon in Palestine, where they originated. Historians think the De Soto brought shallots to the new world during is exploration of the Louisiana territories. The shallot is popular in French cooking.

How to Select Shallots.

Shallots have golden brown scales that cover the light purple layers of firm crunchy flesh. Select shallots that are firm, large, and heavy for their size. Avoid shallots that are sprouting as they are  more bitter.

How to Store Shallots

Shallots keep extremely well and we often sell the last of our shallots almost a year after they are harvested. Many of the shallots have two lobes surrounded by a common wrap of scales. These are often large and easy to peel and use. They are the preferred selection in the fall and winter. The single lobe shallots keep longer however and though smaller are the ones that we save to plant in the spring.

What Do Shallots Taste Like

Shallots have less of a sulfer and bitter taste than onions. They have a onion taste with a hint of garlic. As cooked, they are sweeter and have a great flavor.

When to Use Shallots

Because they are milder, shallots are often used when they are going to be used raw. Shallots are also great with vegetables that are mild in themselves and can benefit from the seasoning effect of an allium but might be too strong if garlic is used. When cooked slowly shallots have a melt in your mouth sweetness. Because of this sweetness shallots are the darling of chefs and gourmet cooks at home.

Remember to remove the papery scales from the outside of the shallot before cooking.

We will have shallots and onions from fall to spring this year,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Benchmarking, Beyond the Theory

In the last post on benchmarking, we found that benchmarking is the process of seeking out those best practices that will lead to the superior performance on the farm. We also learned the Benchmarking method includes the following steps:
  1. Know your operation. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your farm
  2. Know your competitors and industry leaders.
  3. Choose to incorporate the best.
  4. Gain superiority by using best practices.
But how do you benchmark? 

Let me make some suggestions.

The Japanese sent droves of teams to the US to look for best practices in US industries. Farmers can do the same thing, investigate the best farms in your industry and area. Don't be shy they will usually be happy to spend some time with you. Especially if they aren't in your market area. Polyface Farm home of Joel Salatin hosts large tour groups each summer and you can get the whole story on their operation. But I think the real gems are the unpublished backroads of the farms around you. I would start at the local farmers market with a farm that is doing a great job and ask if you can pay them a visit. 

Look across other industries for best practices. Processing and manufacturing industries have often developed technologies that are useful on the farm. Medicine can also be a treasure trove of ideas. GPS technology started in the military and is now used pervasively in agriculture to map soil types, fertility and yields. 

Read, read and read some more. I have found ideas in diverse areas such as ancient history (fertile dark soils that sequester carbon in Central America formed by mixing biochar and compost from thousands of years ago), sea biology (minerals from kelp and algae from the sea), hydrology (water use), engineering (many technologies), military (GPS), optics (refractometers), the list is endless. Read other peoples blogs.

Organics seminars, classes and trade shows such as MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services) are great ways to benchmark with peers and get a great deal of information and a very short period of time. This is the largest organic trade show in the nation and it is about an hour from where we live.

Use your experience, your training, the best practices you have found, to create your own manifest destiny and other farmers will want to benchmark with your farm. 

Don't rush it, It sometimes takes years of digging, learning and searching to connect the dots in agriculture. An observation one year may only be clear years later when you read the next book or take that next class. 

Sounds like fun to me.

Benchmarking on the Farm

Benchmarking is the process of seeking out those best practices that will lead to the superior performance on the farm. The Japanese term dantotsu means seeking to be the "best of the best". Benchmarking is a positive, proactive, structured process which leads to changing approaches and competitive advantages.

"We have always done it that way" is simply not sufficient and extrapolation from the past may lead to poor future results. New practices and methods have to be uncovered and the best of these have to be combined to provide a competitive advantage. The practice of widely searching for new ideas for methods, practices and processes not limited to farming is called benchmarking.

The basic steps to benchmarking are:

  1. Know your operation. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your farm
  2. Know your competitors and industry leaders.
  3. Choose to incorporate the best.
  4. Gain superiority by using best practices.
For more information see: Benchmarking by Robert C. Camp

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holistic Mnagement - What is it You Really Want

Holistic Management, A New Framework for Decision Making, by Alan Savory

A Book Summary

In this summary of Holistic Management I quote freely from Alan Savory's book but summarize the main points. Kind of a Cliff Notes version. Don't be put off by the focus on grazing and agriculture. This is great stuff for managing your family or business.

Forming a Holistic Goal: What is it You Really Want?

Start with a statement of purpose that reflects in a very few words what you were formed to do.

A quality of life statement expresses how you want your life to be in the whole you have defined based on what you value the most. It expresses the reason you are doing what you are doing, what you are about, and what you want to become. It includes your short term needs and long term mission. Things like economic well being, relationships, challenge, growth, purpose and contribution.

Forms of production are the things you will have to produce some of which will be products derived from your resource base, others will be derived solely from the creativity and skills of the decision makers. Each of the needs in the quality of life statement will have to be met by some form of production. You must ensure that what is produced meets your stated purpose.

Future resource base must describe how it must be many years from now to sustain what you have to produce to create the quality of life you want. This 100 to 500 years from now. Consider the people, how we must be far into the future. The land, arising from almost every transaction there is an effect on the land that is experienced months or years later that is far removed fro the original transaction. Create a statement you can test decisions against. Typically this includes how fundamental processes work in any environment such as, water cycle, mineral cycle, community dynamics, and energy flow. You may also want to describe the community you want to live in or work in and the services available to your community.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holistic Management - What Are You Managing

Holistic Management, A New Framework for Decision Making, by Alan Savory

A Book Summary

In this summary of Holistic Management I quote freely from Alan Savory's book but summarize the main points. Kind of a Cliff Notes version. Don't be put off by the focus on grazing and agriculture. This is great stuff for managing your family or business.

Defining the Whole: What Are You Managing?

The holistic goal is the driving force in Holistic Management and will guide every significant decision you make. Before you can begin, you first have to define the whole your management encompasses. A minimum whole at which point Holistic Management becomes impossible would include the people involved in management, the resources they have available and the money on hand.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holistic Management - Predator Prey and Timing

Holistic Management, A New Framework for Decision Making, by Alan Savory

A Book Summary

In this summary of Holistic Management I quote freely from Alan Savory's book but summarize the main points. Kind of a Cliff Notes version. Don't be put off by the focus on grazing and agriculture. This is great stuff for managing your family or business.

The Predator Prey Connection

The third key insight is that in brittle environments, relatively high numbers of large, herding animals, concentrated and moving as they naturally do in the presence of pack-hunting predators, are vital to maintain the health of the lands we thought they destroyed. Acceptance of this insight will help to reverse damage humankind has inflicted on the more brittle environments. Overgrazing is not in fact a function of animal numbers.

Timing is Everything

The identification of the brittleness scale and the role of herding animals and their predators in maintaining the health of brittle environments has shown why these environments were prone to desertification. This is the fourth key insight.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holistic Management - The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Holistic Management, A New Framework for Decision Making, by Alan Savory

A Book Summary

In this summary of Holistic Management I quote freely from Alan Savory's book but summarize the main points. Kind of a Cliff Notes version. Don't be put off by the focus on grazing and agriculture. This is great stuff for managing your family or business.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

No whole, be it a family, a business, a community, or a nation, can be managed without looking inward to the lesser wholes that combine to form it, and outward to the greater wholes of which it is a member. As a society we have had good success managing mechanical systems that can be viewed in isolation. We have had ever increasing problems with large environments and systems that are non-mechanical. Frequently, advice that appears sound from a specialists point of view (such as an engineer or economist) proves unsound holistically in a particular situation. A new generation must be trained to think holistically for themselves and then weigh and select expertise that really fits the case. Only the whole is the reality.

Viewing Environments in a Whole New Way

The second insight overturns the belief that all environments respond in the same way to the same influences. They don't. Specifically the old belief that all land should be rested or left undisturbed in order to reverse deterioration has proven wrong. Rest only works in a nonbrittle environment, rest in a brittle environment damages it.

This second insight raises the question of how grazing animals might provide the disturbance necessary to the health of a brittle environment, without overgrazing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holistic Management - The Power of Paradigms

Holistic Management, A New Framework for Decision Making, by Alan Savory

A Book Summary

In this summary of Holistic Management I quote freely from Alan Savory's book but summarize the main points. Kind of a Cliff Notes version. Don't be put off by the focus on grazing and agriculture. This is great stuff for managing your family or business.

The Power of Paradigms

A 100 years ago we would not have had the knowledge or tools to make good decisions on land management in brittle environments, we now have four key insights that can influence our decisions, they are:

  1. A holistic perspective is essential in management. If we base management decisions on any other perspective, we are likely to experience results different from those we desire because only the whole is reality.
  2. Environments can be classified as nonbrittle to very brittle according to how well humidity is distributed through out the year and how quickly vegetation breaks down. Resting land restores nonbrittle environments, but damages the land in very brittle environments.
  3. In brittle environments, relatively high numbers of large, herding animals, concentrated and moving as they naturally do in the presence of pack-hunting predators, are vital to maintaining the health of lands we thought they destroyed.
  4. In any environment, overgrazing and damage from trampling bear little relationship to the numbers of animals, but rather to the amount of time plants and soils are exposed to the animals.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Holistic Management

Holistic comes from a Greek word meaning whole, entire and total. Holistic management in agriculture is a system thinking approach to managing resources that was originally developed by Allan Savory for reversing desertification. Savory concluded that the spread of deserts, the loss of wildlife, and the human impoverishment that always resulted were related to the reduction of the natural herds of large grazers and even more, the change in the behavior of the remaining herds. Livestock could be substituted to provide ecosystem modification like nutrient cycling when mimicking the wild grasses and grazers.

Managers found that while rotational grazing systems can work for diverse management purposes, scientific experiments had demonstrated that they do not necessarily work for specific ecological purposes. An adaptive management plan was needed for the integration of the experiental with the experimental,  as well as the social with biophysical, to provide a more comprehensive framework for the management of rangeland systems. None of these sources of knowledge could be understood except in the context of the whole. Holistic management was developed to meet this need.

While developed as a tool for range land use and restoring desertified land, the holistic management system can be applied to other areas with multiple complex socioeconomic and environmental factors.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Farming Lessons From Noah the Patriarch

A story to contemplate on this Thanksgiving weekend. We are spending some time with family and I will resume posts next week.

I believe that men are happiest when they are pursuing a big awesome vision and behind that vision is a life changing purpose.

In Genesis 6:14-16 God told the patriarch Noah that he was to build an ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 40 feet deep. That was one big boat! God gave him 120 years to finish the task.

Just for fun let us see what can we learn from how Noah might have proceeded. I'm reading between the lines here a little because scripture doesn't give us all the details, but it might have been something like this:

  1. Noah had three sons. He worked with and trained them. He gave them age appropriate tasks to do and then followed up to guide their progress.
  2. Noah rewarded his boys for their work and worked with them to save, spend and give.
  3. Noah guided his sons in their relationships and choice of wives.
  4. Noah was going to need lumber so he might have planted a few thousand acres of cypress trees. He had 100 years for the trees to mature
  5. Noah was going to need large amounts of hay and grain. So he learned to grow these as well.
  6. Noah learned to preserve his harvest as he would need to have enough stored up for a year in the ark and most of a season until crops could be grown again. He likely canned a years supply of salsa.
  7. Noah had learned to save for a "rainy day" and was able to hire some skilled craftsmen for certain areas of construction where he was not an expert.
  8. Noah worked closely with these skilled craftsman and was soon able to go to the Mesopotamian version of  "Home Depot" and get the tools he needed.
  9. Noah was widely read and studied up on things like timber construction techniques and veterinary science (the zoo and exotic animal version).
  10. Noah also had one of the best grape vine collections on the planet, since it was ultimately the only grape vine collection on the planet.
Like Noah my vision has been to work with my family teach them life skills that will serve and protect them as they look to the future. My work and the farm have been my big awesome tasks. Not quite as big or awesome as Noah's. But awesome nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Pointer

One of the first posts I wrote when we started this blog was one on how to make a pumpkin pie and how to cook a pie pumpkin.

This post also has about 20 different pie variations.

Check out the December 29, 2012 post.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hockey Stick Effect in Learning

I didn't play hockey as a child so I don't know a lot about the sport. This post is not about hockey but learning, let me explain. The hockey stick effect was initially a term used by climatologist Jerry Mahlman to describe the "disputed" rapid rise in the temperature record of the past 1000 years after a period of relative stablility. The period of relative stability is the handle of the hockey stick and the rapid rise is the blade of the hockey stick. The hockey stick effect could also describe the rapid rise in the national debt under the last two presidential administrations and the rapid rise in the price of corn over the last 5 years.

I wanted to use this hockey stick concept to think about the learning needed to be successful in farming. I have found that the learning curve while substantial is typically uniform for the first few years as skills are learned, varieties are explored and markets are expanded. Then if seems that multiple factors align and the farm revenue often multiplies rapidly is a short period of years. In my experience, the knee of the curve seems to be around 8 to 10 years.

This hockey stick concept also seems to be the pattern followed in the learning development of our children. The children go through a grammar stage learning the rules of phonics, spelling, mathematics and science. They then learn logic in middle-school and understand the cause and effect in different fields of knowledge when their capacity for abstract thought begins to mature. This is followed by a rhetoric stage that builds on the knowledge of the first two. I have really appreciated the ability of our high school students to write and speak with originality in clear and forceful analysis. As a father I have enjoyed reading papers and hearing the speeches from our children. The conversation around the supper table also takes on greater coherence and intensity. So we progressed along a gradual path of learning and then experience an explosion of topics, in-depth discussion and synthesis of ideas as our children prepare to enter the adult world. This is a very cool process to watch unfold.

Whether farm or home the hockey stick prevails.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence may sound like one of those oxymorons like "deafening silence", "random order", or "virtual reality". But it is actually a key concept in leadership theory. Many successful leaders have a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient), excellent experience and wisdom. IQ and personality are relatively fixed and won't change significantly. But EQ is flexible and can be developed throughout our lives.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and the ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships, according to Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves, in TalentSmart.

The research shows that in roles of moderate to high complexity, people with high IQ outperform those with average IQ just 20% of the time. People with average IQ outperform those with high IQ 70% of the time. So IQ and technical expertise are enablers, but not sufficient to make a star performer. So what is the missing ingredient?

The research shows that 1/3 of superior performance is accounted for by IQ while 2/3 is a function of EQ. A second study found that high EQ leaders exceeded performance targets by 15% on average, while low EQ leaders underperformed by about the same amount.

The conclusion is that IQ will get you hired. But it is EQ that sets us apart and will get you promoted.

For the same reason that the ambivert can excell at sales, the person with high EQ has the people skills to excell in leadership.

Learning to hone these skills can benefit the farmer in marketing, leading in his field, and persuading others to follow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our Customers Are the Best

Our customers are the best; we see them week in and week out during the growing season. They are the most dedicated and friendly group that a farm family could ever wish for. Some times I am working to restock the tables with my back turned and I hear a friendly voice and I know exactly who that smiling face will be.

Just this last week I had a mom bring her daughter and fiance around to introduce me, I felt very honored when they didn't see me working the tables and took the time to look in back where I was bagging up some carrots.

The dedication is never more evident than when it rains all Saturday morning long and we still have 400-500 customers stop by and do their shopping. You know they really want to be there when they are willing to shop with an umbrella in one hand.

I really like to watch the parents that are being intentional about teaching their children to buy
produce. Often these same parents are helping their children learn food preparation as well. Once in a while we run into a youngster who isn't quite sure they will like what mom or dad is buying and my teenagers often step in to promote a sweet leaf of spinach or a scrumptious carrot.

I also like to encourage the young men (boys) to help mom carry their produce. It gives me some rapor with them and encourages a little chivalry, which isn't dead (only sleeping) in our society. This may be one of the few male influences these children have, so I'd like it to be a good one. Reed our 15 year old son can also help with this.

Our customers are also very honest and patient with us. If we mess up on the change we ask their forgiveness and fix it. If we give them back to much, they retun the difference. Pretty cool. We also take checks and I have had only one time in 17 years that we didn't get paid.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Market Menu for November 23

We will have the following items at the market for Saturday, November 23, 2013. We are at the fair ground for winter market this week.

Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkins - Decorating, Cinderella
Winter Squash - Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata, Orange Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Orange Kuri, Kubotcha
Pie Pumpkins - New England Pie, Winter Luxury
Red Onions
Sweet Spanish Onions
Chipolini Onions
Kale - Regular
Fresh Cut Herbs - Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme
Cipotle Smoked Peppers
Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Salsa - Roasted Roma, Heirloom, Cherry Tomato
Lisa's Soap

Brussels Sprout Slaw

One of the challenges in the late fall and early winter is to come up with creative salad options that use seasonal vegetables. The slaw recipe uses Brussels sprouts, carrots, red onions and apples. All are readily available in November and December in Minnesota.


1 Quart Brussels Sprouts finely chopped
1 Large carrot, grated
1 Small Red Onion, finely sliced
1 Apple, cored and sliced into slivers
1 cup pecans
A sprinkle of  cayenne or chiptole pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon coarse brown or Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to Taste


Use one tablespoon of the maple syrup to mix with the pecans. When well mixed sprinkle with a little of your favorite pepper. Set the oven to 200F and toast for 10 minutes. The pecans will stick to the cookie sheet, so you will have to scrape lose.

Mix 3 tablespoons maple syrup, the mustard, salt, pepper. Wisk with the olive oil.

Toss with the Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion and apple. Let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors.

The slaw can be used as a salad or as a garnish on a sandwich.

You may not have this available but I also added a large tablespoon of poblano relish to the dressing. This provided a little zip without being too spicy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Farmers Blend Order and Chaos

To be chaordic is to harmoniously blend characteristics of both order and chaos in a pattern dominated by neither.

The definition of chaordic sounds like cryptic double speak to this farmer. So beside expanding our vocabulary of obscure words what does this mean?

The idea is to be flexible by embracing change while still maintaining enough order and continuity that your farm is successful.

Joel Salatin, that sage of farm wisdom, says that you can be a Buddhist or a nudist, but you can't be both a Buddhist and a nudist at the same time. Significant change is good, in fact farmers can be a change agent in their communities and in society at large. But too much change will cause you to loose those you are trying to lead and influence.

Here are some examples. Making the transition from conventional to organic production is good. But I have seen farmers who have not studied the requirements sufficiently and therefore were not well prepared. Or maybe they got the idea they they wanted to grow blueberries and their soil was not the right type. Or they wanted to grow 5 acres of raspberries without developing their markets and were not able to sell all the crop. Or they want to grow organic pigs or chickens without having a good source for the very expensive grain required. The list can go on.

Chaordic farmers have the following characteristics:

  • They study and understand the traditional approach to their chosen crops. They mine this knowledge for the best principles and practices.
  • They notice new trends or create them. 
  • They are a catalyst for change in their chosen farming area. They are change agents.
  • They create the conditions of innovation.
  • They facilitate the availability of new knowledge to other farmers and stake holders
  • They balance advocacy of new ideas with investigation of their own ideas.
  • They turn emergent ideas into best practices and teach others to use them
  • The focus on today while implementing innovations that shape the future
  • They create positive disruption and perturb the system
  • They are persistent and patient, if something doesn't work the first time they find a better way
  • They refuse to lose.
There is much wisdom in this list and much opportunity to innovate at the fringes of most agricultural fields. We have found the local farmers market to be a great laboratory for marketing ideas and new product development. We watch for trends, we listen to our most innovative customers, which are often chefs or other innovative eaters.

Occasionally, we lead the trend, because our customers and our competition have caused us to think in this direction. For example, I have been looking for a cost effective source of baby kale seed so I could provide traditional kale to our customers way ahead of the time in the season when regular kale was available. I found some last spring and had a great crop in process. This kale sold way better than I had thought it would and I later found out that kale was a major focus of the Gourmet cooking magazines for the spring season. That definitely helped, but having delicious baby kale was the lynch pin. Was this just dumb luck or had we anticipated a trend. I'll let you be the judge.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Ambivert Advantage

Have you ever been to a car dealership and had to deal with a very aggressive sales personality. Those types of sales people are extroverts. Or have you ever been to a party and seen the person (likely a farmer or engineer) who is quiet and contemplative, who stands to the side enjoying listening to the conversation but not initiating much, they are typically an introvert. The terms introvert and extrovert were first popularized by the psychologist Carl Jung.

So which personality type makes the most sales. A research program led by Adam Grant from the Wharton School of Business found that both personality types sold  approximately the same. Yes the introverts sold about as much as the extroverts. I would not have expected that result. We all know by virtue of our culturally biased beliefs, that the extroverts sell more right? Well apparently, mostly not, based on the latest business research.

Here is the real break through insight in Adam Grant's research, the ambiverts, people who fall somewhere between extrovert and introvert tend to be the best sales people by a very significant margin of 30%. Extroverts have a cost to their approach, and often exhibit "too much of a good thing". The "ambivert advantage" comes from being assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade the prospective buyer and close, but also listen carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited.

So those of us that are in the middle can be very good persuaders and selling is a part of life. If you are married you have been a great sales person. You work daily to persuade your children. Many of us persuade at work for new initiatives and the value of our contributions. For sure, we are engaged in persuasion at the farmers market.

In the past when a farmer lived in small communities with people who they grew up with they did not need a strong emphasis on persuasion. Everyone knew each other, what they could do and who they were. This is not true today. The farmer who wants to market to his neighbors in the city must persuade or sell the value of his or her products. Selling is a skill that farmers can cultivate and be really good at. The latest business research says this is true, we just have step into the light and learn some new skills.

Winter time on the farm is a time to plan, to think and to learn. The sales potential of the ambivert farmer is something to think about and plan to implement in your next selling season. If farming is not your occupation you can also apply this in your career.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Farming in a VUCA World

VUCA is a term coined by our armed forces and is an acronym that stands for.
  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous
The weather alone this last year was extremely VUCA. A record snowfall in May and 50 tornadoes in November, for example

So how does a farmer and the families he serves deal with the elements of uncertainty and complexity?

Here are some ideas.
  • Diversify - don't put all your eggs in the same basket. We grow 50 different crops and 150 different varieties. If weather or disease is unfavorable the other crops will take up the slack. For example, this last spring we had a very poor garlic crop. When that became evident, I used the well composted rows to plant carrots, beets and a couple more rows of onions. 
  • Eliminate Debt - Getting out of debt and having 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund can smooth out a lot of financial uncertainty. Can you imagine how much more profitable your farm can be if you have no debt payments
  • Save for the Future - Financial advisers recommend 15% of annual income.
  • Grow and shop locally. Short lines of transportation mean no disruptions. Local dollars spent stay in the local economy and are multiplied may times.
  • Learn to adapt to change:  new tools, better versions of old tools, new ideas, reemergence of sound old ideas. New learning techniques like on-line learning.
  • Respect for the environment and stewardship of our resources, soils, energy and recycling.

Monday, November 18, 2013

May I Be Excused My Brain is Full

Garry Larson in his insightful Far Side cartoon has a picture of a student in a classroom saying, "Please may I be excused as my brain is full."  As a farmer in a fast changing world, I often feel this way. The increased complexity of today's farm environment means that effective and timely learning is essential to support successful farm businesses.

Dr. Lila Davachi and Tobias Kiefer, with Booz & Company have studied the adult learning environment and their findings have led to the acronym AGES, which stands for:
  • Attention
  • Generation
  • Emotion
  • Spacing
Let's talk about the implications of their research on learning for farmers and other training environments.


People pride themselves on their ability to multi-task. Dr. Amy Arnsten at Yale has studied the impact on divided attention and concluded that multi-tasking minimises the effectiveness for the current task and also diminishes ability for other tasks. So multi-tasking can lead to the "my brain is full" mental bottleneck. Being able to focus is one of the keys to learning. Excellent vehicles for focused learning are reading books, listening to on-line content and seminars in areas of interest.


Farms are a great laboratory for trial of new ideas and learning. We pick some new and sometimes "weird ideas" to try every season. These new ideas help to consolidate our learning process and generate our own unique ideas from the original base of learned material. This is the idea of generation. If the learning moves from head knowledge to practice and then to specific application in our unique situation. Then generation has taken place. This is my personal favorite of the AGES framework. (As you probably guessed, the weird ideas are my own interpretation.)


Emotional links to learning will support a strong memory of the subject material. Dr, Evian Gordon talks about the brain organizing principle as "minimizing threat and maximizing reward", in that order. Maximum learning occurs when associations are positive and negative associations are minimized. So strong emotion can effect the learning process. The more positive the emotion the more likely learning will be retained.


The research also shows that timing and spacing between learning events enhances learning. The brain takes time to hard-wire the the new knowledge. So a weekly seminar to learn a farm topic would more strongly reinforce the subject material than a weekend seminar in which all the information is shared at once. The research shows that the best way to ensure long-term encoding and retrieval was to have breaks between learning sessions and then to test recall at the start of the next learning session. The effort involved in recall at the later time increased the retention of learning. Testing was key to the retention.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Cure for All Diseases

Compost tea is one of the broadest defenses against most plant diseases. When the tea is sprayed on the foliage, harmful organisms are neutralized and places where harmful organisms can attack are protected by a film of friendly organisms.

You make "tea" by immersing aerobic cured compost in a burlap or cloth bag in a 5 gallon pail of water. Let it sit for an hour or so to soak good. Then remove the bag and squeeze out the water. What is left is a rich brown color. Sprinkle the liquid on tomato, pepper, or eggplants. Actually works great on any type of plant.

Tea is a great mid-season pick-me-up and booster for any type of plants. It is the universal elixir to keep plants happy.

You can get cured compost from the waste to energy site in Rochester for $0.50 a 5 gallon pail or $25 per ton in bulk.

If you want to read more about compost tea, see work by Elan Engram on "The Soil Food Web" and Steve Diver from ATTRA.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Market Menu for November 16, 2013

We will have the following items at the market for Saturday, November 16, 2013. We are at the fair ground for winter market this week.  (New items are in Bold Print)

Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkins - Decorating, Cinderella
Winter Squash - Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata, Orange Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Orange Kuri, Kubotcha
Pie Pumpkins - New England Pie, Winter Luxury
Yellow Watermelon
Watermelon - 6 varieties, Amazing (We are bringning 30 melons this week.)
Red Onions
Sweet Spanish Onions
Chipolini Onions
Kale - Regular
Baby Cilantro
Fresh Cut Herbs - Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Cilantro, Thyme
Cipotle Smoked Peppers
Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lisa's Soap

10 Ideas for Personal and Family Success

I was thinking about elements for success for a family and a farm. Here are my top 10.
  1. Have a strong faith.
  2. Mary the right person. Someone with similar values and faith
  3. Make your family a top priority.
  4. Handle money well. Spend less than you make, stay out of debt and save for the future.
  5. Be generous and give. To church, to the poor and to your family.
  6. Work at something you enjoy. Farming is a great career.
  7. Under promise and over deliver to your customers.
  8. Be persistent in reaching your farming goals.
  9. Be honest and loyal.
  10. Be innovative and open to change in your farm.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

10 Favorite Vegetables at Our House

If you have a lot of something you are wealthy. We are rich beyond measure with vegetables this year. Share the wealth baby!

  1. Candy Carrots
  2. Heirloom Tomatoes
  3. Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  4. Jalapeno and sweet Peppers
  5. Cherry Tomatoes
  6. Watermelon
  7. Cantaloupe
  8. Sweet Corn
  9. Garlic and Shallots
  10. Baby Potatoes
Do I have to stop with 10?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Pick Great Brussels Sprouts

This time of year one of the last plants standing is brussels sprouts. They are very frost hardy and get sweeter with first frosts. So how to pick the best ones.

The sprout enlargement typically starts at the base of the plant. So the largest and firmest sprouts start at the base of the plant (unless you have a dry year and then the largest sprouts may be at the top). We clip the top of the stalk about September 1 so the sprouts will enlarge uniformly. Triva aside how to pick the best ones.

Look for the firmest and medium size.

Yellowing of the leaves may indicate that the sprouts are old and have been picked several weeks previous. When the leaves are out of the sunlight they can yellow.

One of the restaurants that buys from us uses the sprouts for making a slaw and I don't think the firmness of the sprouts makes much difference for that use. Sprout slaw is quite good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Pick Excellent Fall Broccoli

Broccoli does well in the cold weather each fall. We harvest some main heads but it is mostly the side shoots. Firm and small beads work the best for cold weather.

I like the variety called Marathon for fall. It is very cold hardy and robust.

I've sometimes pick broccoli for Thanksgiving with ice in the heads. But even broccoli will sucumb to temps below the low 20's. If you are heading into such weather. Cut your heads and shoots and put them in the refrigerator. They will keep 3 weeks or more and you won't have to worry about those little green worms.

Monday, November 11, 2013

But Dad...No One Else Has to Do This!

My children haven't always liked the discipline of having to do farm work and get up early (4:30 AM) on Saturday mornings to go to the Farmer's Market:
  • They often observe that NO ONE ELSE had to do the things they had to do. (This was true. But none of their friends had the level of experience they had and none of them made the amount of money they were making either. You can't sleep until noon and watch TV all summer and pile up money for college at the same time.)
  • They would say that EVERYONE ELSE got to do fun stuff when ever they wanted to and sometimes fun stuff had to take second priority for them. (This was not as true as they thought. Many other children were not able to do what ever they wanted when they wanted. I submit that our children were probably more involved in attending school, church and skill building events than most. We ran into situations frequently where their friends had to attend a family event or were on restriction and couldn't participate in something fun. I've never "grounded" one of our children for a rule infraction. I guess we keep them busy enough that they don't have time to get in trouble. They also have done well at their choice of friends.)
  • However, because they LIVED LIKE NO ONE ELSE growing up 
  • They now have discipline, experience, knowledge, life skills and savings for their futures like NO ONE ELSE. So sometimes it is very good to be like NO ONE ELSE.
The point was not to make them farmers, though they are very good at that. But to teach them skills and values that are transferable to any future endeavor. So my children can make choices and seek opportunities where ever God would lead them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Pick Great Seed Garlic

Mid October to mid November is time to plant garlic here in Rochester, Minnesota. But how to pick the right garlic to plant. One of the best ways to pick a variety that does well in your location is to ask a local grower or gardener about varieties that work well in your area. I like two varieties here, Music and German White. Now we have selected a variety, how do you know which bulbs to pick.

An the answer is, you pick the ones with the biggest cloves. If the variety you have chosen has small cloves then save the small ones to eat and plant the biggest. Music has cloves as big as your thumb and those are the babies you want.  The bigger ones have more energy and make a larger more robust plant.

A good organic fertilizer will get you off to a good start and make for an excellent launch in the spring.

The cloves need about two weeks to root and get locked into the soil before freeze up.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to Select a Great Watermelon

How to pick a great watermelon. Due to the longer growing season and late frost this year we have had 100's of watermelon late in the season. We have sold about 150 melons over the last two weeks of the end of October and early November.

Needless to say I have some experience on the subject of, "picking a great watermelon".

One of the first indications of a ripe melon in the field is the turning of the tendril brown closest to the melon.

A second indication is the turning of the spot that touches the ground a creamy color instead of white. The dark green varieties like black diamond get an almost yellow spot.

A third measure is a deep resonant thump of the melon along with being heavy for its size.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Pick a Great Squash

There are many types of squash, so how do know if one is fully mature.

I resist using the term ripe here as it is more of a curing process than a ripening. Most of the darker squash like acorn or kubotcha develop an orange splash where the squash touches the ground. So what if the squash is suspended and doesn't touch the ground. Well the squash still matures but doesn't have the orange splash. It is typically a dark green or grey (if it is lighter green then it is probably not mature).

Even some of the lighter squash get this orange color. For example, Delicata, Carnival and Jester. The effect is more subtle with just the stripes exhibiting the color change. The orange color comes from the blanching of the ground contact point a little like the the changing of the color of the leaves on a tree. The orange color is always there on a ripe squash but you can't see it until the green is blanched by lack of contact with light.

Other squash like orange kubotcha or orange hubbard probably get the orange splash but since they are already orange it isn't prominent.

Spaghetti squash don't get the orange splash at all but mature to a beautiful golden yellow. There is one variety they turns a deep orange and has a more orange flesh.

Butternut also do not get the orange splash but look for the darker classic butternut brown color. This does vary from variety to variety a bit. There are some new varieties with a more compact vine and fruit that I like a lot. The Waltham Butternuts get so large that they can be a bit much for a small family. Butternuts make a great pie if you find you have more than needed for a meal.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to Select a Great Leek

I have watched countless customers select leeks over the years and they often don't select the ones with the most usable leek. I watched one customer last week carefully pick the leeks with the best leaves and pass by leeks where we had removed most of the leaves (to get it to fit in the tub we transport them in). The leeks that were passed over had nearly 3X the usable leek and would store as long or longer than the "pretty" ones. Okay so how do you pick a great leek?

First a lesson in leek anatomy. The usable part of the leek is from the roots to the leaves. The longer the shank (this region from the roots to the leaves) is, the more usable leek there is. Diameter is good too. There is no advantage to a smaller leek diameter in terms of tenderness.

Do leeks need to be buried to blanch the shanks.  Well you can if you like but I have not found there to be much difference.

So if this is the case, why are all the leeks in the stores short and stubby. I'll let you ponder this a moment before I give you the reason............... OK, time's up. It is because these short stubby dwarf leeks fit on the shelf! How is that for a value proposition.

The leeks we grow are tall stately, have great flavor, and offer 3x the value of the typical store bought leek. We also grow the leeks in a highly mineralized soil with excellent compost. So you get flavor, nutrition and great value all in one.

See my post on potato leek soup and leek fritters for some serving ideas.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Tillage

Fall tillage is one of the best ways to be kind to your soil. If you can incorporate crop residue in the fall the break down process will begin and by spring the soil will be ready for the next crop. I like to leave as much residue on top of the soil as possible while creating as much contact with the soil as possible. It is the contact with the soil microrganisms that causes the break down.

Fall tillage also gives the soil the ability to recover from a minor amount of compaction through multiple freeze and thaw cycles. This restores the soil tilth and crumb structure. The heavier the soil the more beneficial the freeze and thaw action.

That is why the farmers of old did their plowing in the fall, the only problem with plowing is the residue is turned under and a plow pan maybe created. Also bare soil can be affected by wind errosion.

The rototillers leave some residue on the surface and mix the soil well. I like that better. It is OK to go not till as well. The tiller can make a great seed bed once things settle down in the spring.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Potato Leek Soup - Potage Parmentier

Leeks are great this time of year and are hardy even with the deep cold. We will leave them in the field until freeze up so we can get maximum storage. 

Lets talk about what we can do with these beauties. Potato leek soup comes to mind.  Here is a classic recipe.


1 pound of potatoes (I like Carola or Yukon Gold)
3 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 cups vegetable stock (or light chicken stock)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creme faiche
1/3 cup minced chives


In a stock pot, saute leek and potato until softened and browned slightly, about 10 minutes
Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes
Blend until smooth using an immersion blender
Add the cream and season to taste with salt and add lemon juice
Ladle into a bowl and garnish with a spoon of creme fraiche and minced chives

Monday, November 4, 2013

Double Digging

Double digging your garden beds will pay dividends for decades. Double digging means going 24 to 36 inches deep with a potato fork or other flat tined fork. You incorporate compost and fertilizer as you dig. In my opinion this is the Cadillac of gardening approaches.

You can find the complete method in John Jeavens, "How to Grow More Vegetables". If you don't want to purchase a copy (which is highly recommended) the library has several.  When I was gardening on a much smaller scale I double dug all our beds. I would do 8-10 of the 100 square foot beds a year until I eventually had dug about a 10,000 square feet or about 1/4 of an acre.

I made my own digging board and a broad fork about two feet wide for bed maintenance. I still have the fork that was cut and welded by hand. My brother then painted it a metallic grey with some left over base coat and clear coat automotive paint. We should have done pin stripes.

I took several seminars from John Jeavens and found his approach quite thoughtful. I have binders full of his class notes. We used to correspond a little and he occasionally referred folks in this area to me for help getting started.

When ultra-blond Reed was three I sent a picture to John Jeavens of Reed stretching on tip toes to pick a cherry tomato with an absolutely crystal clear blue sky in the back ground. He put it in their news letter that month. It was a great picture.

I wrote an article for John's new letter that I'll put in a future blog.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brian's Corn Bread and Poblano Recipe

I was hungry for some corn bread Sunday night so I made up this recipe from things I had on hand. I had been making some poblano relish and jelly earlier in the day so I finely chopped about a cup of poblano peppers to put into it. I had dried some sweet corn kernels this summer and made the corn meal by processing it in a coffee grinder I use for flax. I only needed a cup so could do several hand fulls this way. I also had some sweet corn fresh frozen from this summer and I added some grated carrots for good measure. I also used some farm fresh eggs we got from a neighbor. The whole mixture went into a cast iron skillet that I bought used and reconditioned last year. So here is my improvised recipe.


Coconut Oil or Butter to Grease the Pan
1 cup corn meal (I used sweet corn kernels, but you can use any corn)
1 cup organic flour (can be wheat, rice, etc.)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup poblano or jalapeno peppers diced finely
1 cup shredded carrots (adds moisture and color and flavor)
1 cups fresh frozen corn kernels
8 ounces Greek yogurt or sour cream (I had yogurt so I used that)
1/2 cup milk, a little more if the batter seems dry
3 large beaten eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter


Heat oven to 400F. Preheat skillet for 10 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Mix everything together thoroughly.

Add coconut oil to the pan and make sure you get the side oily.

Add batter to the pan and distribute evenly.

Bake approximately 30 minutes. Check every 5 minutes after 25 minutes as ovens and pans vary somewhat.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I really liked the way this turned out, just the right amount of sweet and hot (not very hot, but a little for flavor).

Serving suggestions:

Honey or Maple Syrup
You can add cheddar cheese instead of carrots.
Bacon would also be a good addition. I had some but didn't take time to make it.
The finished corn "bread" reminds me of a fococia. I'm going to try to use the cooled "loaf" as a sandwich bread.
This would go well with a savory chili or corn chowder.
I think pork and beans would also go well.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

WInter Market Starts Today

Winter market starts this week, Saturday from 9:00 to 12:00. It will be at the fair ground in building 41 next to Graham Arena. Watch for the signs.

Hope to see you there!

How to plant Garlic

Planting garlic in Rochester, Minnesota should occur between October 15 to November 15. That is approximate, and the real goal is two weeks before freeze up.

I like to put down a strip of compost about three inches thick and 12 inches wide to make a slight raised bed. We then plant one row of garlic down the middle of the compost strip and space the garlic about 4 inches apart. Don't forget to fertilize liberally underneath the compost before planting. The feritilizer has to last 9 months so I use a good organic fertilizer 8-4-5. 

The cloves will root before freeze up and the roots lock them into the soil, so the frost doesn't heave them out of the ground.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Market menu for November 2, 2013

We will have the following items at the market for Saturday, November 2, 2013. This is our first week of winter market at the fair grounds.  (New items are in Bold Print)

All greens are from new beds and are amazing! (Thanks for picking, Jenna!)

Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkins - Decorating, Cinderella
Winter Squash - Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata, Orange Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Orange Kuri, Kubotcha
Pie Pumpkins - New England Pie, Winter Luxury
Yellow Watermelon
Watermelon - 6 varieties, Amazing (We are bringning 60 melons this week.)
Eggplant 4 bushels this week
Hot Peppers - Jalapeno, Poblano, Serrano, Ancho & Habernaro
Red Onions
Sweet Spanish Onions
Chipolini Onions
Baby Spring Mix - Lettuce, Beet Greens, Kale (new lettuce bed this week)
Baby Red Russian Kale
Baby Kale - Regular
Baby Cilantro
Sweet Ruby - a fine frilly mustard green, new bed this week
Fresh Cut Herbs - Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Cilantro, Thyme, Dill
Dandelion Greens
Cipotle Smoked Peppers
Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lisa's Soap

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brussels Sprouts

We have an excellent supply of brussels sprouts this year. Because of the very late frost this year we had green beans about three weeks longer than normal. I don't even start harvesting brussels sprouts until frost. The sprouts take the place of green beans in our market display.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Savage Mini Market

We joined our good friends Laur and Nick Wiesensel Sunday afternoon for a fall festival at Cal's Market in Savage, Minnesota, on the south side of the Twin Cities. The market featured lots of crafts, grass fed beef from Paul Weins, Alaska Salmon and Petersen's (yes us) vegetables. It was an eclectic group.

We enjoyed some great weather and had a real good turn out.

We met some new friends and renewed old acquaintances.

It was a busy day but we made it home safe and sound.

Thanks to Laur for organizing the day and bringing us all together. Thanks to Nick for documenting the day with 100's of photographs.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sweeter with Frost - Kale

Kale is one of the most frost hardy of the greens and highly nutritious. It protects it's cells from deep cold by increasing the solids content in the cells. One of the solids being sugar. Mature kale has a heavy leaf that holds up well under repeat freeze and thaw cycles. It wilts after a heavy frost and then recovers during the thaw the next day.

Kale has gained popularity over the past several years as a gourmet green as well as a highly nutritious health promoting and cancer preventing food. I was not aware at the time, but I have been looking for a seed source for baby kale. I finally found a source this year and was taking baby kale to market this spring way ahead of when the full sized kale would be available.

In parallel the cooking magazines were promoting kale as the next hot food item for raw and cooked dishes. Largely due to these promotions kale was highly prized as a farmers market purchase. Some weeks we sold more baby kale than spring mix.

I was wondering if this baby kale would hold up under frost like the full sized plants and so far it has been hanging in there.

Kale also has few pests. The little green worms that love cabbage and broccoli pretty much leave kale alone.

We will see how it goes next season. If kale is a flash in the pan designer green or if it has the staying power of some of the other common greens.