Oct 29, 2013

"Mighty Joe Banks" 
and his 
"Beautiful Assistant"

 (Get some cookies and a drink...this is a LONG post)

Joe Banks from Cornwall, England and Sara Rivera-Olsson from Göteburg, Sweden

When we are into October on the farm there are  three"W's" that always cause concern.
They are:

         1.  WEATHER  

During the day the temperature will generally hover around zero but at night it is almost always in the minus department. 

Hauling a load of bottled saft to the root cellar.
Nainy and Sara with the last of the beets!

The good news about that  is that we must have lower temperatures in order  to get the root cellar down below 5 degrees.  
That way no mold can grow in there.
In late Autumn we are emptying the last of the root vegetables out of the garden.  
These are the ones that only need to be bagged, braided, or crated such as  potatoes, onions,  carrots, parsnips, beets that are not going to be pickled,  etc. 

On the day we harvested the potatoes it was cold but clear and the "bumper crop" continued as we filled bag after bag.  

Double the normal amount of potatoes!
Parsnips and Carrots in their crates.
The parsnips were beautiful and bountiful as were the carrots - this picture shows only a small fraction of the total yield.

and I say "bountiful" remembering Joe pulling armfuls of them out of the ground. 

Dubbed by the kids, "The Conglomerate Carrot".
Ruby beets destined for the Borscht pot.

and then there were the onions...

We decided to try a new plan and set up the onion drying racks in the small animal barn since it wasn't time yet to bring the heifers and calves in for the winter. You can see the racks on the left side of this picture - there were five layers and we had three different varieties of onions -  white, yellow and red.  The plan was to dry them all on the racks and then braid them down and hang them in the tank room (which wasn't finished yet and consequently had no tanks taking up the space) to see if it would be the right environment for them.

Sara braided the reds,

When they had all dried we chose a rainy day - perfect for the indoor work - got the twine that would be woven in to stabilize each bunch, moved in a work table, and started in:

Joe worked on the whites.

I attacked the yellows,

We had tried so many different places on the farm in the past and couldn't seem to hit the ideal location for the onions.  The root cellar was too damp, other places were either too cold or too warm or too light.

As we finished each bunch we hung them from the metal gates all over the barn until we could transport them to a hanging bar in the tank room.

This was Joe and Sara at the end of day #1 and they were still smiling!
It took us two full days and another evening,  but in the end we got all of them braided and ready to hang.
We ended up with a total of just under 
300 lbs. of onions 
for the year!

Oct 18, 2013

"Garden Knome"*

*We've all seen them. 

Elf-like statuettes. 
Constructed of material that can be out in all kinds of weather, 
and still look cute. 
Seemingly indestructible.
Able to evoke a smile wherever they appear.

That is the perfect description of the above wwoofer, 
Giovanna G.

When everyone else had gone home and the harvest was at our doors, 
we got a request from this diminutive, 
second year medical student from Germany, 
asking if she could come to the farm for a month and "maybe longer".

We had no idea what was coming, 
and we really didn't know that much about her, 
but we felt it was right to say, 
(A very good decision on our part.)

She hadn't been with us even one day when she said, 
"Do you have any ironing? I love to iron".

(Excuse me?)
I led her to the ironing basket at the speed of light.

But that was only the beginning......

The garden that Nathan and the gang had weeded so beautifully turned out to be the most prolific in decades.  
We weren't sure if it was because we had tried something new the previous Autumn and dunged it before the winter came so that the manure had the entire cold season to be in the ground, 
or if it was just a great year for gardens.

We didn't know why, 
but we did know that we had garden produce 
coming out our ears!

                                                                              We had multiple rows of fresh herbs,  sweet green pea vines covered with blooms,  trellised bean plants (both green and yellow varieties) with white flowers  all over them, letting us know that there was quite a bean crop coming, (something that is almost unheard of in our part of Sweden), 

cauliflower, broccoli,  and cabbages, all huge, and all seemingly 
more than enough 
to feed Mainland China.

Dill plants that waved in the wind, beets, kale, spinach, onions, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and swiss chard.  
And that was not to mention the multitudes of  berries from the fields and forests that were picked and needed to be cleaned 
and turned into fruit jams, jellies and syrups.
(We're talking blueberries, wild raspberries, lingon, strawberries,  and 31 plants of rhubarb!)

Giovanna cleaning and sorting the fresh blueberries at the kitchen table.

Need I go on?

Even the red sunflowers we had tried for the first time in our short 
but light- drenched growing season, 
(24 hour a day sunlight for week after week)
grew as high as the eaves of the pump house. 

It just never quit.

We harvested and processed, and shelled, and scrubbed, and trimmed, and sliced, and pickled, and boiled, and bottled, 
and chopped,

... and sorted, and blanched, and mixed, and packaged, and vacuum-sealed, and...
the two  us just kept going together
 until it was all done!
(We watched every Jane Austen video we owned 
while we shelled all the peas...)

It was such a demanding time, but before we knew it we had a beautiful root cellar totally full, brimming freezers, and a 
great friendship!

We worked inside the house...
cleaning, baking breads and cakes,
An oven full of farm bread
Tosca Tårta

and making treats for the men.
Lemon Bliss Cake in an antique mold from 1702

Fluff-top Chocolate Cupcakes

Steamy Kalops - Swedish comfort food
And when the Autumn days began to turn cold, we filled an eight liter cast iron casserole with Kalops, a traditional Swedish dish of meat chunks, carrots, onions and bay leaves, swimming in a rich "kryddpeppar" gravy. 
We knew we would turn around and be into the slaughtering and butchering when there would be no time to cook, so we packaged up the leftovers and put them away in the freezer.

She and Pappa worked together making cheeses in the dairy.

      She brought in the cows from the field in the brisk mornings and cool evenings all by herself,  and we worked together doing milking and mucking in the barn.

We needed her German attention to exactness and detail when we had to move the  heavy cheese-waxing machine into a small space in the tank room.

After that exercise, she asked Pappa for a special favor:

...and she DID!
She had always wanted to drive a tractor
Pappa gave her the tutorial, showing her the gears and the various pedals.  We wondered if she could even reach them!

It was such a glorious Autumn that year, 
with unprecedented beauty in the changing colors .
There had been so much happiness as Pappa, Gustav, Giovanna and I  spent each day side by side on the farm.

The night we took her to the bus to head home to Germany and back to medical school was an emotional experience for all of us.
  She held on to Pappa's hand for just a moment and then boarded the bus and was gone.  

At the breakfast table the next morning no one was saying much. 
Then Pappa got up quietly from his seat, 
walked to the bottom of the stairs that led to where she had slept
and called out: 

 Come Back! 
We Miss you!"

...and just as we said at the start of this post...
the thought of her and the mere mention of her name 

had the power to evoke a smile
 in all of us!