Monday, February 25, 2013
This past week was a pretty busy one on our farm.
It started out with a round of soil tests. Each year, we (Phillip) test our soils to help us plan for the year. Soil testing allows us to see exactly what nutrients are left in the ground from the previous year. It also gives us a clear picture of our pH levels.
Why would we want to know that much detail about our farmland? By knowing exactly what is in the soil, we know how much fertilizer and lime to apply. We always strive to put the correct amount of extra nutrients in our land; the amount that a growing crop will need to thrive, but not too much as it will be wasted if the plant can't take up the nutrients. The cost of spreading fertilizer and lime can really add up, and we definitely don't want our money to go to waste.
This year, Phillip again sampled our soils using a method called grid sampling. He used GPS technology to take samples throughout our fields in the exact same spots as last year - 65 samples total over 100 acres.
He is able to use that grid sampling technology to create a map of our fields and a "prescription" for the year's fertilizer and lime applications. We are using software that allows us to pull that prescription from or computer, put it on an SD card, and give it to the family farmers who come in to spread our lime and apply our fertilizer.
The applicators we use have the ability to apply whatever we need on a variable basis, based on our prescription map. "Variable application" means that not only are we getting exactly the nutrients we need, but we're getting them exactly where we need them. It helps us to limit the amount of chemicals we need to put on our ground and ensure that we are helping our crops reach their full potential.
This time of year is also crammed full of ag education. As an Extension Agent, Phillip spends many nights teaching or moderating classes for other farmers in the area. This week, it was classes on crop pests and irrigation.
I also had some educational opportunities in the past week. Friday I headed to Baltimore for our annual CommonGround conference. We are a group of women who actively farm and are giving consumers a place to ask questions about how their food is grown, direct from the farmers who grow it. On Saturday we attended the B'More Healthy Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center to talk one on one with attendees about their food.
I think we had some great conversations at the Expo. People asked questions about organic food, genetic engineering, local food, and my favorite, "How did those chickens get such big breasts?"
We were also invited to share some information via a cooking demo with a Fox 45 reporter. Hopefully no one noticed how nervous I was! Jennifer Cross, another CommonGround volunteer, was on stage with me and we fielded some questions about farming and food while we made smoothies.
The coming week looks like it's going to be a busy one too. Farm families are busy year-round, not just during planting and harvest seasons.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
1. I’ll be at Delaware Ag Week tomorrow giving a presentation on getting started with blogging. I feel like I’m still getting started, so hopefully I’ll learn something too!
2. I’m also gearing up for the regional Women in Agriculture Conference. Just opened registration! I’ve attended this program six times (I think) and it’s always been an eye-opener. I’ll be a speaker at this one, too, talking about why I use social media and why you should, too. The conference is held at Dover Downs, and is an awesome price at just $45 for two days worth of info. (Just the meals at Dover Downs would probably cost that much, so it’s practically free!).
3. Thursday is my birthday. My son told me I thinks I’m going to be 17, which coincidentally, is how high he can count. Not sure if I should be flattered by the number, or annoyed that he assigned me the highest possible number he knows. (Other than “nineteen-thirty”, which I have repeatedly told him is not an actual number.)
4. I am actually older than 17. In case you were wondering.
5. We just got back from our first family trip to Disney World, which really is the happiest place on earth. I would go again tomorrow. My husband wants to go again in 20 years.
6. We are still in the midst of getting our irrigation installed. The system is there, and it’s running, but we have to cross quite a few ditches with our system. Which means we have to build some bridges. P + I will be hard at work building bridges over the next month.
7. I could hardly type that last sentence without laughing. There is NO WAY that I will be involved in the bridge-building process. This is best for everyone. Trust me. My construction skills start and end at hanging curtain rods.
8. The whole irrigation process has forced me to add a few titles to the typical farmer’s job description. In addition to gardener, accountant, chemist, nutrient specialist, equipment operator, and mechanic, I have now included construction manager, electrician, and architect.
9. When this time of year rolls around, I just want to make soup all year long. Anyone have a really good recipe for soup they’d like to share?
10. We received our 2012 Census of Agriculture in the mail last week. Wow, this thing is detailed! It’s important to fill it out though, because the Census is one way we as farmers (and you as consumers) get a better picture of agriculture as a whole in this country.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The farm, located on the upper eastern hore do Maryland, also puts great effort into conservation practices, such as no-till and limited-tillage techniques. They use soil testing and precision agriculture (GPS) to monitor and precisely apply necessary nutrients to their crops. And, surprising to many people who have a certain picture of "sustainable" in their minds, they use genetically enhanced seeds for their grain crops.
I was excited to see that this large, well-respected farm was attempting to redefine "sustainable." Or perhaps I should say they are bringing it back to its traditional definition.
The dictionary defines sustainable as "able to be maintained at a certain rate or level."
USDA defines sustainable AGRICULTURE a little more specifically as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long term:
- Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
- Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
- Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
- Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
- Non-GE or non -GMO
- Small farms
Friday, November 30, 2012
And while I am perfectly happy to grab a container of Mott’s and throw it in my lunchbox, nothing can truly compare to the deliciousness of homemade applesauce.
Here’s the main problem with homemade applesauce, though: the stirring. Most recipes call for you to SLOWLY cook the apples on the stovetop, stirring frequently to make sure nothing burns.
Right. Like I have the time (or, let’s be honest, the patience) for that.
Luckily, a few years ago, a friend introduced me to the wonders of crock-pot applesauce.
O. M. G. So easy, so good.
The most difficult part is peeling and coring the apples. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made applesauce for three different meals, and peeled, cored, and chunked 35 apples. My poor little cramping fingers were very displeased.
Which is why I’m asking for one of these bad boys for Christmas:
Here’s hoping that fancy-schmancy apple peeler is under my tree come Christmas morning. Hopefully Santa reads the blog!
So, long story short, here’s the recipe for fabulous homemade applesauce:
Homemade Crock-Pot Applesauce
8-10 apples (any kind will do – I prefer a combo of a few different varieties – try Honeycrisp, MacIntosh, and Galas for a good blend)
1/4 cup of water
Cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar/sweetener to taste
Peel, core, and rough chop your apples. Half-way through, wish desperately for a fancy apple peeler.
Throw all the apples in your Crock-Pot. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup water.
Cook on LOW for at least 8 hours. I normally cook mine overnight.
Mash apples in the Crock-Pot with a potato masher. They should mash pretty easily.
Add vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar/sweetener to taste. Most of the time I leave out the sugar, but that’s totally up to you!
Enjoy! My favorite way to eat it is hot, right out of the Crock-Pot. Perfect for breakfast. Also super yummy cold, and keeps nicely in the fridge for about a week.