Friday, December 11, 2015

The Pleasure Of Carrots


One might expect that once the calendar turns to December, farmers might expect to catch a little down time. However, in 2015 the salubrious weather has extended the work season and we're still working to properly put the gardens and fields to bed for the winter.
Soil tests, garden clean up, equipment cleaning and stowing and food storage/preservation crowd out other activities (except for deer hunting, of course) like blogging.
Our grandchildren were here for a quick visit before Thanksgiving and they enjoyed helping us harvest the last of the carrot crop. These carrots grew on the edge of a raised bed in the high tunnel as a companion to climbing tomatoes.
Carrots are one of my favorite crops because they keep so well. It's not unusual for us to be finishing the previous year's carrots just as the early planting is ready. Year-round nutrition and good taste - what more can you ask?
If you have an interest in purchasing carrots, I have a limited quantity available for sale. Please call the farm at 274-8004 to make arrangements. Also, we have some wonderful winter squash for sale as well. And remember - all our vegetables are USDA Certified Organic.

Harvesting carrots was like a treasure hunt
on Grandma and Grandpa's Farm!
No worries about pesticide residue here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Staff Of Life

Our wheat field was very small when measured against the standards of agribusiness - or even small scale farms. The wheat (a variety of hard red spring wheat named 'Glenn' and acquired from Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, N.Y.) was sown originally as a cover crop but as it ripened in the field, Arthur began to turn over in his mind ways to harvest our certified organic grain.


Our friend Jerry Houwer offered the use of an old Allis-Chalmers All Crop Harvester, Model 66, circa 1950s that was stored in his barn. And so one September afternoon, Arthur drove up Fishing Creek pulling the hulking orange apparatus.
Days were spent just getting it into shape - with the expertise of Bryan Morley and our neighbor Roy Thompson who just couldn't resist stopping by when he saw the vintage machine parked in the driveway. Roy brought firsthand knowledge, harkening back to the days he'd spent helping Don Stearns and Shorty Pepperman with their oat harvests on long-ago Crandall Hill summer afternoons. He even pointed Arthur in the right direction to find a pulley on a old combine on the Thompson farm.
Farmer Art with Farmer Roy and the Allis-Chalmers Combine

On harvest day, Roy Thompson was joined by his son Rob (who took these photos) and even Jerry Houwer stopped by to watch.

video

From the very beginning, this grain project brought together many folks who share a heritage on our Potter County hilltop. Mike Snyder (who grew up just down the road from here) graciously transported the seed from Penn Yan to us on one of his trips to lend a hand to his son, John (proprietor of Olga's Cafe and Gallery in Coudersport).

This Crandall Hill heritage also includes this John Deere combine that rumbled along in these fields back in the 1950s.
Walter Metzger on the tractor with either Arthur Matteson or
Arthur Metzger Sr. on the JD Combine.
Perhaps the photographer Wanda Gooch Metzger can tell us


Wondering what we're going to do with the organic wheat we harvested? I'll show you in the next blog post - somewhat reminiscent of the Little Red Hen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Certified Organic by Pennsylvania Certified Organic

Friday marked our last day at the Potter County Farmers' Market. It was a cold, damp day and all the vendors huddled around the courthouse square shivered and struggled with making change as the winds threatened to blow away our hard-earned dollars!
Preparation for this final Farmers' Market included the adding of this label to our business cards and produce bags. You could say it was a labor of love ...
And then there's the sign (laminated at the very last minute by our friend Andy Kulp at KOS).

So ... do you think we're a little bit proud of this accomplishment?


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

USDA Organic Certification In Sight!

Arthur and I spent the afternoon on Friday with the inspector from Pennsylvania Certified Organic. He sat down at our dining room table, opened his laptop and began a painstaking review of our organic systems plan. We had prepared for his visit by pulling out binders, receipts and notes, gathering seeds, fertilizer and other inputs and anything else we thought he might need. Then together we toured the fields, gardens, orchards, high tunnel and barns.

He will submit his report to PCO early this week and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll have the certificate in hand by month's end.
Here's the description of Organic Agriculture from the USDA Website:


What is Organic Agriculture?

Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use.
Organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors follow a defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber. Congress described general organic principles in the Organic Foods Production Act, and the USDA defines specific organic standards. These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.
Organic farms and processors:
  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food


We'll see you at the Potter County Farmers' Market on Friday,  offering for sale our vegetables grown organically right here in our own community. This week we will have peppers of all temperatures and colors; winter squash including acorn, butternut, buttercup, Red Kuri, delicata; leafy head lettuce; fresh herbs; string beans; carrots; beets ... and whatever else is still growing. And be sure to ask us about Organic Certification!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Summer's End

Sweetie Cherry Tomatoes
If you read the sidebar on this blog, you'll see that we were selected to participate in the Path To Organic program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The program was designed to assist farmers in transitioning to certified organic production.
On Friday, an inspector from Pennsylvania Certified Organic will be coming to Crandall Hill for a site visit. He has reviewed our Organic Systems Plan and will sit down with us to go over details and then tour our farm.
We're excited about taking this step in the process and have been working hard to have everything ready for this visit.
And since we won't be at the Farmers' Market Friday, let me update you on our late-summer garden.
Hungarian Hot Wax

Ancho Poblano Peppers

Grandpa Admire's Lettuce
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Cauliflower On A Dewy Morning




Ring Of Fire Cayenne Peppers
Golden California Wonder Sweet Pepper




Mid-Summer Tomato Crop

Ready To Become Roasted Tomato Sauce


It's Edamame Time

Every year about this time, the edible-podded soybeans are ready. For the uninitiated, they're known as edamame and you can find them on the menu at the Chinese restaurant in Coudersport and the Japanese restaurant in Olean. They're available in the freezer cases at Wegmann's, TOPS and Genesee Natural Foods - either shelled or still in their fuzzy pods.
And, for a limited time, they're available fresh from the vines at Metzger Heritage Farm.
We're not going to be at the Farmers' Market on Friday ... I'll tell you more in another post ... so if you want some, please get in touch as soon as possible. Telephone is best at 274-8004 (814 area code). Our email is metzgerfarm@grmail.com.
If you've never tried edamame, here's a recipe I have adapated from one that appeared in Bon Appetit magazine.

Blistered Edamame
Sizzling in the cast iron frying pan
1/2 pound fresh edamame
1 Tb. olive oil
2 dried chiles (I dry my own each year. Pictured is one half of a Ring of Fire cayenne and one half of a Maya Red habenero.)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed (leave peel on)
Zest from half a lime
Lime wedges
Kosher salt
Wash edamame and steam gently over boiling water for a couple minutes until the pods turn bright green. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan (I prefer cast iron) over high heat and add olive oil to coat pan. Drop edamame from the steamer basket into the hot skillet, add chiles and garlic cloves. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5-7 minutes until pods are golden and blistered. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with lime zest and Kosher salt to taste. Serve with lime wedges. To eat, hold the pods with your fingers and put in your mouth, slide the tender little morsels out between your teeth and discard the shells. Sometimes the little fuzzies on the pods tickle your lips!
If you like things spicy, add a few hot pepper flakes too!

Here they are, ready to enjoy!



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thinking About Heritage


HERITAGE

Property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance.
• Valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions,
unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been
passed down from previous generations
 
Standing in the back Dawn Thompson Matteson holding Arthur Metzger,
Arthur Matteson, Thelma Matteson Metzger, J. Walter Metzger
A faded photograph stored in a box in the barn caught my attention this morning as I was searching for something else. And now, instead of continuing my search, I've carried the photo inside to study details captured on that 1924 late summer day. We've dated the photo from the age of the little boy in the arms of his grandma. He's Arthur Metzger Sr., named for his grandfather standing next to him. Neither Arthur Jr. nor I can positively identify the stern folks seated in front but perhaps others from our family will.
And so on this August day well into the 21st Century, I'm thinking about the past and the future as I must follow the same path to the garden that those folks did and  pick beans for tomorrow's Farmers' Market.
 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Catching Up With Cukes!

I know we've been crazy busy but I was shocked when I logged in here today to discover how long it's been since I've written anything on my blog. I love reading other blogs and understand that it's a common story. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more are immediate and require less thought.
But, that being said, I made these refrigerator pickles this morning utilizing some of my burgeoning harvest of cucumbers and would like to share the recipe and process. It's a great way to make just a quart of pickles with no need to haul out the canner. They are ready after 24 hours but I have found that they really need at least a week to best develop the flavor.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
(Makes 1 quart)
Fill a quart jar with whole pickling cucumbers or sliced cucumbers. Don't be afraid to pack it full.
Add 4 garlic cloves (peeled), 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, a pinch of hot pepper flakes (more if you like heat), 1 Tb. coriander seeds and a generous handful of fresh dill sprigs. (Later in the season you can use the seed heads instead).
In a non-reactive saucepan combine 1/2 cup + 1 Tb. distilled white vinegar, 1 1/2 Tb. Kosher or pickling salt, 1 Tb. sugar. Heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and add 1 cup cold water. Pour over cucumbers in the jar. It should cover all the cukes.
Cover and place the jar in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop. The pickles should keep for at least a month - but in my experience, they won't last that long.

We're not taking our produce to the Potter County Farmers' Market thus far this summer. However, we do have some vegetables available now and more will be ready in coming weeks. If you have interest, call (274-8004) or email (metzgerfarm@gmail.com) and we'll talk about how we can connect.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Season Planning

April 22, 2015 - Earth Day
Tomato plants in greenhouse and snow on the ground
Farming - even on the small scale that we're practicing - requires a great deal of the folks who call themselves farmers. Beginning long before the end of the growing season, you are determining which of your crops are successful and which are not. It's not a black and white process, for you need to take into consideration many factors - some of which you can control and so many more that you cannot.
Since we began farming, we've planned to participate in the Potter County Farmers' Market on a weekly basis. Our plantings were geared for that market and we chose varieties that would have appeal for potential customers.
Using the lessons learned from several years of direct marketing on the square in downtown Coudersport every Friday afternoon, we've decided to limit our participation in the market this year. Our attention is being directed to our orchard and to growing gourmet organic potatoes. Our inspection for Organic Certification through Pennsylvania Certified Organic will also happen this summer in addition to several large infrastructure improvements to our farm.

Last of the tomato seedlings for 2015
 But if you've become accustomed to the high quality organic vegetables that we have offered for sale at the Potter County Farmers' Market each week, consider making arrangements with us for pickup or delivery. As a matter of fact, I have two high tunnel beds of leafy head lettuce that's two to three weeks from first harvest. Lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard is coming along well too.

For 2015, I have staggered planting of tomato
seedlings to all for High Tunnerl harvest
from July - October
In addition, the greenhouse is filling up with plant starts - heirloom tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant to name a few. All of these delicious organic vegetables will be offered for sale to individual and wholesale customers. We're developing an email and text message system to let folks know when produce is available. If you're interested, please send an email to metzgerfarm@gmail.com or send a text to 814-335-6561. In addition to the contact information, please give me your name as well. Let's begin a conversation!
My next post on this blog will include a timetable of when you can expect various crops. With some advance planning and notice, I can provide quantities of vegetables suitable for canning or freezing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Beginnings

The weather rollercoaster we've experienced in northcentral Pennsylvania this year is forecast to continue this week with temperatures in the 50s tomorrow followed by several days in the 20s.
The good news from my perspective is that some of the snow and ice has melted and the mud left in its place has frozen again.

A view from my front porch
As many of you know, Arthur had bilateral knee replacement surgery last month and he's been working hard at the business of recovering by doing his exercises and following the orders of his caregivers.

On Friday he made his way carefully to the cellar where the potatoes are stored and helped me figure out his system as we filled two orders, including a delivery to Costa's ShurSave Food Shop in Coudersport. Those of you who have missed the colorful assortment of organic potatoes can now find them again.

We're also supplying our organic potatoes to the Genesee Environmental Center for their Sunday breakfasts. In fact, we need to put together another shipment for later this week. The Crittenden also uses our potatoes regularly.

At the same time we're finishing up with the 2014 season, we've been working toward the future. This quiet time has allowed us to devote blocks of time to work on our Organic Systems Plan and put together plans for the 2015 growing season.

The seed orders have been placed and many have arrived. I'm excited about growing some new tomato varieties as well as some different peppers. I have yet to find a sweet bell pepper that fits our growing season though some of the old-fashioned Italian varieties have done well in the high tunnel and taste superb.

There are some new apple trees stored in the cellar waiting for the snow to melt in the orchard. I've spent some time in the high tunnel getting ready for the coming year. Temperatures in there have been measured at 85+ degrees on sunny afternoons while the snow is piled high against the sides. The overwintered spinach had a drink of water last week and has begun to come to life again.

I continue to be intrigued at four season growing, especially after attending a workshop offered by Clara Coleman at the PASA conference this year. Many of the seeds I ordered are on the list of cold-hardy crop varieties she recommended.

I couldn't resist starting a few plants (200+) even though the water in the greenhouse is frozen and the project had to be moved inside the house. I took this picture yesterday but today there are a few lettuce seedlings poking through the Organic Mechanics seed starting mixture! They'll have to go under the grow lights in the next couple of days.

If you're driving by here, you may notice this silhouette in the window watching over my seedlings. This particular statue was a gift from Kathryn Schaub Thompson, a neighbor and friend. It's known as a Kokopelli.

While there are many legends about Kokopelli and his origins in the desert southwest, I like the one that tells how he went from village to village to bring the change from winter to spring, melting the snow and bringing rain for a productive harvest. It is also said that he carried sacks of seeds and songs for his flute in the hunch on his back.

Kathryn (and husband Bill) moved from our neighborhood years ago and finished their days in Coudersport but maintained close ties to Crandall Hill. I don't know if Kathryn knew the fertility legends when she presented this to Arthur. She wanted him to have it based on Kokopelli's joyful song and dance but I think she'd smile to think we're still enjoying it.







Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ahead Of The Culinary Curve?

March 2015 edition
This month's Martha Stewart Living magazine features a cover photo that could have been styled with vegetables grown on Metzger Heritage Farm.
The yellow, red and purple carrots paired with stems from Rainbow Swiss Chard make a beautiful picture.

Metzger Heritage Farm Colorful Carrots
Metzger Heritage Farm Bright Lights Chard

In 2014, we scoured the seed catalogs to find varieties of vegetables that would thrive in our region and would provide our customers (and our family) with high quality, organic, locally-grown produce that tastes amazing.
Are you looking for an opportunity to be able to source the kinds of vegetables you see in cooking magazines or on the Food Network? Look no further than Metzger Heritage Farm.
We've decided to change our business model for 2015 and are planning to allow our customers to pre-order their organic vegetables. With this plan, we are not going to be regularly participating in the Farmers' Market. Watch this space for more information about how you can pre-order your vegetables for pick-up at the farm or arrange for delivery.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Local Bounty

I made a trip to the freezer this morning and once again realized how very blessed we are to have such wonderful food in such abundance.
How wonderful to open the door on the big chest freezer to find such delights - locally grown pork, beef and lamb, venison, oven roasted tomato sauce, sweet corn, edamame, zucchini, sweet peas, rhubarb, blueberries, string beans, shell beans, applesauce, apple cider. Then there are the storage crops - potatoes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, onions, shallots, winter squash. Add the dried beans, dehydrated tomatoes and peppers, canned salsa, tomatoes, beans ... you get the picture? This is truly a picture of eating locally – even in the dead of winter in northcentral Pennsylvania.
Here's the soup of the day - bird egg beans, butternut squash, shallots, tomatoes, and dried sage – all from our farm along with Wooleylot Farm garlic. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and a bit of grated Parmesan, we enjoyed a nutritious and delicious lunch.

Waiting for a simmer to develop
Squash and Bird Egg Bean Soup
In a splash of olive oil, gently saute chopped shallots for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, some freshly-ground pepper and then add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Stir for a minute or so to release the flavor. Add a peeled and chopped butternut squash (other varieties of winter squash would work well too), some crushed dried sage, a pint jar of tomatoes and a pouch of frozen bird egg beans. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash pieces and beans are cooked through. Remove some of the vegetables and some of the liquid and puree with a stick blender. Return to the pot, bring back to a simmer and stir in a handful of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and a little more grated Parmesan.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Midwinter Musings


There's a little more time for reflection in the winter when you live and work on a farm. This reflection takes me in many directions but lately to two old cigar boxes that house Metzger family photos. These faded old photographs, captured by my mother-in-law in the 1940s and 1950s, have a multi-layered story to tell.


The scenes are familiar and yet not so familiar – the old farm house, the new house taking shape across the road, the barn. There are tractors and trucks and wagons. Some of the faces I never knew and some I recognize though time, worry and smiles had carved new angles by the time I came into their lives.  It's a parade of cows, horses, chickens, dogs, cats and even a tame deer. Men and women at work - in the kitchen, in the garden, in the fields, in the barn. The crops - peas, potatoes, cauliflower, hay, green beans. There are birthday celebrations, picnics, holiday dinners, mud pies. The children go off to school, dress up in costumes, play in the snow. The little blue spruce tree in the front of the house that is so often a place to pose in Easter dresses and birthday hats now towers way above the roof tops.

That chubby-cheeked little boy I see in those pictures grew up with a deep attachment to this place on the planet.  Circumstances took him away from this spot and yet brought him back when he needed it most.

We've added our own heritage to this old family farm. Has it really been 38 years that we've lived at this address? Our old memories are recorded on trays of 35mm slides and contact prints from black and white film and shoe boxes of photos in the attic.

Our children surprised us at Christmas with a handcrafted sign that will be planted here on the farm come spring. They collaborated with the artist on the design that reflects the heritage we all share. Perhaps our grandchildren will help dig the post holes and pose with us for a photo that their children will find on a old thumb drive one day.


(More of the photos from the old days can be found on the "Our Farming Heritage" page on this blog. I add photos there as time allows.)



Friday, January 9, 2015

On This Cold, Windy Day


Here's an alternate heat source for these cold wintry days. As seen on my Facebook page this morning:
Steven J Heimel My sister and brother in law in Pennsylvania grow various peppers in their high tunnel and dry them, flake them, put them in a milk carton and use sparingly on food. I liked it so much they put some in a jar for me and it's been a welcome sprinkle here and there. Such a common thing, like you see in pizza shops, but like garlic salt so much better in some indefinable way when it is homemade.

Pepper assortment makes the best hot pepper flakes!
For a couple of years now, we've been dehydrating an assortment of hot peppers and then chopping them up in a food processor and storing them. Brother Steve and wife Johanna were recipients of them when they visited from Alaska last fall.
The beauty of these peppers is that you never know just how much heat you're sprinkling on your food. I've learned that, for my tastes, a little sprinkle goes a long way. Arthur, on the other hand, is much more heavy handed.
While we cannot sell processed foods, if you'd like to give them a try, I've been known to share!
Great heat source on these good