Saturday, June 29, 2013

making hay

Polly, Lady, Connie and George (l-r) get ready to bale hay. 
Hello everyone (this is Scott, what's up)

Of late I have been confused as to whether Northland is in a temperate rain forest or actually in upstate NY, but not so long ago there was a sufficiently dry stretch and we were able to get our first cutting of hay in, about 5 acres. Having only experience in vegetables, making hay is an entirely new experience for me and of course made more complex and interesting because of the horses. 
For the uninitiated (me, like three weeks ago), making hay starts with cutting grass. We use two McCormick Deering No. 9 mowing machines for this purpose, and with two teamsters each working a team we're able to cut about 2 acres an hour. We then ted the hay for two consecutive days after cutting; basically the tedder fluffs up the hay so that all parts of the hay get sufficiently dry. Hay that is baled and stored when too wet can spontaneously combust, causing barn fires, and that's why we ted. I've been reading that in drier parts of this great big country people haven't heard of tedders because they are unnecessary. Big ol' footnote below  if you're interested in the why on spontaneous bale combustion. 
After the hay is deemed to be sufficiently dry (but one can't just let it sit forever- Donn and Maryrose have explained it as a race between nutrient loss and having hay that's dry enough) then comes raking into windrows so that the baler can pick up all the hay, and then baling. 

Donn on the forecart driving the baler over windrows of raked hay.
Maryrose stacking bales on the wagon. A bit of a balancing act as this whole thing is  moving, and  occasionally over uneven ground.

The whole setup.

Donn and Maryrose got about 200 bales in on one day (about 2.5 acres' worth) and then encountered problems with the part of the baler that ties knots on each bale the next day, eventually having to call the Baler Man ("When In A Jam Call The Baler Man") to fix it. In the meantime, it was supposed to rain that night so we called our neighbor Carl to finish what we were unable to bale. He had a setup pretty similar to this one which had me wondering how I could work a bale thrower with horses the rest of the day. Simply because a bale catapult is just really cool. Anyhow check out the rest of the photos below, it was a beautiful day for it. As soon as it stops raining for long enough we'll do the whole process again several times over- bales are how we keep horses and ewes fed during the winter months when there is no grazing, and thus we need a lot of them (somewhere around 3000 each season). 

Two full wagons, each holding about 80 bales.
The empty hay mow awaiting bales. We will put around 2000 in this barn. 

What causes hay fires?
From the Virginia Cooperative Extension
Freshly cut forage is not dead; respiration (the burning of plant sugars to produce energy) continues in plant cells and a small amount of heat is released in the bale. Many producers refer to this elevation in bale temperature as "sweating" or "going through a heat." In hay that is baled at the proper moisture concentration, plant cell respiration has slowed dramatically and will eventually cease.
The heat generated by plant cell respiration in hay bales is normal and generally of little consequence. However, if bale moisture levels are too high (greater than 20 percent), the heat and moisture will provide a suitable environment for the growth and multiplication of mesophilic (warm temperature) bacteria that are present on forage crops. The respiration of mesophilic bacteria releases additional heat in the bale and interior bale temperatures can reach 130° to 140°F. At this temperature range, most mesophilic bacteria die and interior bale temperatures start to decline.
This cycle of heating and cooling may occur several times during the weeks after baling as the microbial population increases and decreases. However, the maximum temperature decreases during each subsequent cycle. The interior bale temperature will eventually stabilize near the ambient temperature. Hay that has sustained these heat cycles has lost much of its quality as a feeding source, but is unlikely to catch fire.
Baled hay becomes a potential fire hazard when the interior bale temperature does not cool after the first heating cycle. This occurs when the respiratory heat created by the mesophilic bacteria provides an environment favorable for the growth and multiplication of thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria. The thermophilic organisms multiply and the heat produced by their respiration can raise the interior bale temperature to 170°F before microbial activity ceases.
The thermophilic bacteria and their respiration heat convert the hay to a form similar to a carbon sponge with microscopic pores. This damaged material combines readily with oxygen at high temperatures and can self ignite in the presence of oxygen.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CSA News Week 3

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Two Spruce Farm 

CSA Pick Up: Week Three


Pick Up Site 1: Cobblestone Valley Farm
 6609 New York State Bicycle Route 11, Homer • Friday 4-6pm
Pick Up Site 2: Northland Sheep Dairy
 3501 Hoxie Gorge Freetown Rd, Marathon 
• Thursday 4-6pm
This week beets, bok choy, carrots, cilantro, culinary bay, dill, garlic scapes, head lettuce, kale, peas, salad mix, scallions, and swiss chard are available to you!

We're going to try something a little different this week. I created a form for you to tell me your vegetable preferences of the week. Just click the link, fill in your name, and select your veggies. As usual, if you'd rather just have me pack your share for you, no need to fill it in. 

This past week on the farm has marked the beginning of hay making season (blog post on that coming soon). At Northland, we mow, ted, rake, and bale using the equines. The only fossil fuel input is gas for one of our forecarts which runs our baler. 

In vegetable land, tomatoes are beginning to set fruit and have been trellised for the first time, carrots and beets are growing growing growing, and I've cleared out the hoophouse to make room for yet more tomato plants. Everything's looking healthy--not too wet, not too dry. 

This week's recipe is a simple one--baked kale chips. They're a delicious way to cook kale and, as this recipe points out, they're also great ground up and sprinkled on popcorn. They're also a great way to introduce kids to kale.

Hope you're enjoying the veggies and the sunshine!  

baked kale chips

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale 
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CSA News Week Two

Two Spruce Farm 

CSA Pick Up: Week Two


Pick Up Site 1: Cobblestone Valley Farm
 6609 New York State Bicycle Route 11, Homer • Friday 4-6pm
Pick Up Site 2: Northland Sheep Dairy
 3501 Hoxie Gorge Freetown Rd, Marathon 
• Thursday 4-6pm

Welcome to week 2 of the Two Spruce Farm CSA! Veggies available this week are spinach, scallions, bok choy, kholrabi, swiss chard, rhubarb, rosemary, dill, cilantro, culinary bay, kale, and garlic scapes.

Garlic is one of my favorite crops to grow, and to eat. Unlike most of the quick annuals we're growing in the field here, it is planted as one of the last things we do each fall, and it is the first greenery that greets us each spring. One of the earliest spring tasks is uncovering the garlic, which is typically buried in straw mulch for the winter. The garlic bulbs themselves won't be ready until at least July but the scapes are a perfect sign of the coming summer harvest. You can roast them until they're crisp, mince and cook with them as you would bulb garlic, turn them into a unique pesto, or you can simply saute them in butter or olive oil.

This week's recipe was shared with me by one of our CSA members--take a gander at this Pak Choi Parcel recipe from in vegetables we trust. You could also cook this in a covered baking dish if you'd rather not use baking parchment.

Photo (and recipe!) credit: Avery McGuire

If anyone's interested in meat or cheese from the Northland Sheep Dairy, they're also available to you on a limited basis. We have most standard cuts of 100% grass-fed lamb and some mutton available. Cheeses are available on a limited basis as well. We also offer yarn and sheep skins. Please email me if you're interested and I can give you more details.

As you may have seen from our facebook and blog, we spent our time this past winter logging with horses. We now have firewood for sale from the farm. It's cut, stacked, but not split and is all hardwood--oak, maple, and ash. $50/pickup load, email or call me if interested.

Is anyone interested in a fresh, local, organic apple CSA this autumn? Cobblestone Valley is planning to host a pickup at their farm and they would like to find enough customers to enable them to use their refrigerator truck to pick them up. The CSA is offered by Hemlock Grove Farm in Ithaca. More information is available on their website. Please let me know if you're interested!

One final item is to remind you to please return your CSA box each week from here on out. I hope you enjoy this week's share! Thank you!


Pak Choi Parcel --

2 small pak choi, sliced length ways down the centre
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp tamari/ soy sauce
1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp agave
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
pinch of chili flakes
Preheat the oven to 190c/ 370f, roll out some baking parchment and lay the pak choi in the center  cut the parchment so it is long enough to fold over the pak choi on both sides, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour evenly over the pak choi. Now fold over the tops and the bottoms, tie the package up with string and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until tender. Serve with baked tofu or stir fried veggies and sprinkled with linseed/ sesame seeds.


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CSA News Week One

Two Spruce Farm 

CSA News Week One


Pick Up Site 1: Northland Sheep Dairy
 3501 Hoxie Gorge Freetown Rd, Marathon 
• Thursday 4-6pm
Pick Up Site 2: Cobblestone Valley Farm
2023 Preble Road, Preble
• Friday 4-6pm

Thank you for joining me this season for year one of the Two Spruce Farm CSA; I couldn’t be more excited to be growing for you!

First, some logistics for the first CSA pickup, which is this week! The Northland pickup is on Thursday from 4-6 pm. Look for a yellow mailbox that says Northland Sheep Dairy. The Cobblestone Valley pickup is on Friday also from 4-6 at the farm store.

Two Spruce Farm began two years ago as the project of Lynn and Justin, who were apprenticing for Donn and Maryrose, the owners of the Northland Sheep Dairy. This year, I am adding a small CSA to the farm, which previously only sold at the Homer Farmer’s Market.

If you’re not familiar with the Dairy, it is a horse, donkey, and mule powered farm whose main product is artisanal sheep’s milk cheese. Maryrose sells cheese, meat, yarn, and sheep skins at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market every summer Saturday. This year, I’ll be learning to drive the horses and helping Donn and Maryrose with work on the farm. I’ll also be growing vegetables for you using equines instead of engines.

I should also say that without Donn and Maryrose’s support and inspiration, Two Spruce wouldn’t have come about at all. So if you see them on the farm or around town, please thank them for supporting young, beginning farmers and making it possible for you to get your veggies locally!

Since you signed up for the CSA, the staff of Two Spruce has changed; Scott has decided to pursue farming elsewhere. We’re sad to see him go but wish him well—wherever he lands next, they’ll be lucky to have him.

Your first share will include spinach, collards, kohlrabi, kale, radishes, rosemary, culinary bay, scallions, bok choy, and swiss chard. As the season progresses, there will be more variety and choice in your shares. This week, you can double up on spinach or radishes in place of another item, just send me an email 24 hours before your pickup. Please let me know if you have any other preferences—I’m happy to custom pack your share for you. Take a look at the New York Times spinach and scallion pancake recipe for some breakfast inspiration!

One final item is that there are still shares available for the 2013 season. Please do encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to join us this year.

Don’t hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions. I look forward to meeting you and growing for you this season!

See you soon,


Recipe of the week:

Spinach, Scallion, Brown Rice, and Sesame Pancakes from the NYT

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons (30 grams) toasted sesame seeds or black sesame seeds
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) cooked brown rice
1 bunch scallions, sliced
6 ounces spinach leaves (baby spinach or stemmed bunch spinach)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled feta

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and turmeric. Stir in the sesame seeds.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the buttermilk, milk and canola oil. Quickly whisk in the flour mixture and fold in the brown rice and scallions.
3. Steam the spinach over 1 inch of boiling water for 2 minutes, or just until wilted. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water and chop. Stir into the pancake batter, along with the feta.
4. Heat a griddle or a large skillet, either nonstick or seasoned cast iron, over medium-high heat. Brush with butter or oil. Use a 1/4-cup ladle or cup measure to drop 3 to 4 tablespoons of batter per pancake onto your heated pan or griddle. Cook until they are brown on the edges and bubbles break through, 3 to 4 minutes, then carefully slide a spatula underneath and flip them over. Cook on the other side until pancakes are nicely browned. Serve hot.
Yield: 16 pancakes
Advance preparation: The pancakes can be frozen for a few months and keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Reheat in a low oven or in a microwave.
Nutritional information per pancake: 120 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 28 milligrams cholesterol; 15 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 286 milligrams sodium; 5 grams protein


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