Located at the base of Buckhorn Mountain at 6700' elevation, Buckhorn Gardens is a small, organic vegetable farm 13mi. south of Montrose, Colorado. Our farm is an active part of a 12,000 acre ranch; however, we only manage 3 acres with intensive vegetable gardening.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We got the plastic on the greenhouse last week, and the 74 tomato plants inside are looking happy! Last Thursday morning was remarkably devoid of wind, so we took a little break from harvesting to get the plastic cover over the high tunnel. On such a calm day, it only took five of us to get the plastic up and well secured over the frame. After Jon and Evan finished up the doors and sides, we were ready to transplant tomatoes. The beds had already been dug by the crop mob, so all we had to do was amend the soil, lay down drip, and put down red plastic over the beds. The red plastic helps tomatoes grow by reflecting far-red light up into the plants, which triggers the release of a natural growth protein in the plant. We lay down sheets of red plastic over the beds, cut holes where we want to plant the tomatoes, and drop in the tomato starts. Next up in the new greenhouse: peppers!

Harvest day went incredibly smoothly this week, thanks in large part to our great volunteers! Christel, Lisa, Rachel, and Sarah all came out to help pick, wash, weigh, and bag greens. With the weather getting warmer, it's all the more important to get the greens picked and clean early in the day, so they can go in the cooler before the heat really hits. With all these extra hands to help we had a nice easy harvest and got to take our time enjoying lunch with friends.

Another big timesaver during harvesting is our new washstand. We'd previously been washing greens inside the dome, in a low, two-basin sink. The new washstand is outside and has two three-basin sinks. No more bending low to wash pounds and pounds of salad mix! We also bought a second salad spinner, so now with twice the sink space (and our wonderful volunteers!) we can almost double our greens-processing throughput.

This week in the CSA we are adding in a few bags of collard greens to choose from, and we'll have some fresh basil and cilantro available as herb selections. We've also got quite a lot of carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips, and leeks! Evan, our resident chef, came up with an interpretation of green goddess salad dressing featuring herbs and leeks from the farm. It got raves at a recent potluck, so here's the recipe, with items available from Buckhorn in bold.

Green Goddess Dressing (version 2.evan)

2 c. Extra virgin olive oil
4 oz.
Oregano, de-stemmed
2 oz.
2 oz.
Basil, de-stemmed
4 ea.
Egg yolks
1/4 c. Vinegar (I like apple
cider vinegar, but any will do)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste (approx. 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice and zest of half an
3 ea. Leek tops (the green part), blanched
Sugar to

Gently warm the oil until slightly hot to the touch but certainly not hot enough to burn. Pour over half the herbs, and infuse for as long as possible (preferrably overnight but at least for a few hours). Strain. In a blender, combine egg yolks, salt, pepper, vinegar, citrus juice, and citrus zest. Blend on high for a few seconds. While blending, slowly pour in about half the oil in a thin stream. Add the leek tops and remaining herbs. Continue blending in the remainder of the oil. If at any point the dressing becomes too thick to blend, thin or "loosen" it with a small amount of liquid (vinegar, lemon juice, water, etc. - a tablespoon at a time) with the blender running, and continue adding the oil. Taste the finished product, which will be very thick, and adjust the seasonings as you like. You might find a little sugar useful here. Since salad dressings tend to used in relatively small amounts, they are generally very strongly flavored and seasoned. I enjoy Green Goddess because it derives its potency from fresh aromatics rather than an overabundance of vinegar.

About blanching: To blanche a green vegetable, bring very salty water (approximately 1/2 - 1 cup salt per gallon of water) to a full, rolling boil that you can't stir down. Plunge the leek greens into the water for 15 to 30 seconds, until the green becomes very vivid. If cooking something other than leeks, simply leave it in the water until it attains a texture that you enjoy, almost never any more than two minutes. Strain out the greens; plunge them immediately into ice water, and chill them well. The leeks have now been blanched. If I were condemned to perform one and only one task in the kitchen for eternity, it would probably be blanching green vegetables in a huge pot. Nowhere else in the kitchen is proper technique so readily and noticeably apparent.

Buon appetito!

Rest in Peace Raja

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We got a lot of planting done this week! Potatoes were the big project. Several weeks ago, we chitted all our seed potatoes, which is a method of sprouting the eyes by exposing the potatoes to a moderate amount of light and warmth (we used the shady side of the grow dome). Once the potatoes had some good growth going, we sliced them into pieces with each piece having one or two sprouted eyes. After letting the cut edge of the slices dry up for a day or so (this helps prevent disease in the potato plant), we were finally able to plant. Eight rows of potatoes went in -- we had so many potato pieces to plant that we ran out of space for the fingerling varieties! Breigh is deciding where to fit in the fingerling potatoes and we will plant those later this week. Here are some of the varieties we did manage to get in the ground:

Yellow Finn: These pear-shaped potatoes have yellow skin and moist, firm yellow flesh. They are a great storage potato so we planted a lot of them!

German Butterball: Also a good storage crop, these potatoes have deep yellow flesh with an almost flaky texture and buttery flavor.

Red Pontiac: Also known as Dakota Chief, this potato has deep red skin and white waxy flesh.

Sangre: Developed in Colorado, this red-skinned potato is excellent for boiling and baking.

Irish Cobbler: This is an early-maturing variety with smooth, cream-colored skin and white flesh.

All Blue: This gorgeous purple and white streaked potato keeps its color when cooked and is high in anti-oxidants.

In addition to all the potatoes, we also transplanted kohlrabi and scallions, and seeded beets, carrots, turnips, radish, lettuce, and arugula in the beds outside. Next up will be planting lots of bell peppers, hot peppers and tomatoes in the new beds prepped by the crop mob! These beds are inside what will be our third high tunnel, and before they get planted we have to get the plastic over the greenhouse frame. We're planning to do this on Saturday, weather permitting -- please let us know if you'd like to come and help! The more hands we have the better, especially if the wind picks up at all.

This week's CSA share will have all the choices available last week, plus the first few bunches of beets and carrots. We will have more of these delicious root crops in the coming weeks, so don't despair if you aren't able to get a bunch with this week's share -- we'll soon have plenty to go around!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A big thank you to the 20 or so people who came out to the first Western Slope Crop Mob on Saturday! The group together dug and weeded 1750 linear feet of beds, and laid down weed barrier in the walkways between them. These beds are now ready to be planted with veggies for the coming year!

In addition to hard work and good spirits, the group shared a feast of chili and Jon's amazing kombucha. The crop mob brought together a range of folks from the community, including CSA members, non-members, and fellow farmers alike. Thanks to our friends at Tomten Farm and Circle A Garden for joining in -- we love the cooperative spirit between the farms in this area. Circle A Garden will be hosting the next crop mob on Sunday, May 16. Directions to their farm can be found on their website. Hope to see you there!

Breigh and I were unable to be at the crop mob as we were working at the Montrose Farmers' Market on Saturday. We bring fresh vegetables and herbs to market, and lots of starts so you can grow your own as well. Right now we have an incredible variety of tomato, pepper, eggplant and herb starts, as well as lots of basil and strawberries. Soon we will also be offering window boxes planted with a mix of herbs for a quick and easy herb garden. We're at Oxbow Crossing every Saturday morning; drop by and check out the market! This week Jinelle will be manning the Buckhorn booth; it is her last week here as an intern so be sure to wish her luck. She and her dog Sheba are off to Iowa to do prairie restoration for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Jinelle has been a presence at Buckhorn since the beginning and we will all miss her.

Spring is the busiest part of the season, and the loss of our greenhouse coupled with the unseasonably cold nights have set back some of our crops and frost-damaged others. With Jinelle's departure and lots of catch-up to do, we are in need of a new intern! Please let us know if you think you or someone you know would be a good fit for our farm. In the meantime, every Friday and Saturday are workdays at Buckhorn! Please come by anytime between 10 and 4 to help us with weeding and planting for the upcoming season. Don't forget, all CSA members need to come out this season -- one six-hour day for a partial share, two for a full share. We're looking forward to working with you!

The CSA share this week includes everything we've offered in the previous two weeks, plus some head lettuces, broccoli sprouts, and delicious hakurei turnips. These sweet and juicy turnips are great raw or cooked, and the greens are highly nutritious with lots of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. As a choice in the herb category, we are also offering bags of nasturtium flowers and leaves. Nasturtiums are also high in vitamin C, and lend a great flavor and gentle spice to foods -- including Arugula Pesto! See recipe below; bolded ingredients are ones you can pick up in your CSA share or at the Montrose market.

Arugula Pesto

2 cups arugula leaves
2 cups nasturtium flowers and/or leaves
1 cup nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, or whatever mix you like!)
3 to 5 stalks green garlic (or garlic cloves)
1.5 cups olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
handful of grated parmesan or other cheese (optional)

Blend and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I didn't knock wood after writing last week's blog post -- the 65 mph winds last week did eventually get the best of our high tunnel, Polaris. After holding strong most of the day, the tracking that holds on the plastic sheeting finally tore away from the greenhouse frame. Once the tracking came loose, the wind caught the 100-foot plastic sheet like a sail and pulled it up and away. Breigh, John, Darren, Jinelle, and friends Eric and Eliza managed to catch and hold the sheet to prevent it blowing away entirely. That's no small feat with only six people in high winds! Unfortunately, the plastic was torn by the wind so it can no longer be used to cover the greenhouse. We are reusing the plastic by cutting it into strips for the mini-tunnels that will cover individual beds. This method of protecting the plants was proven effective the night we lost the cover off Polaris -- the low that night was 19 degrees, but with those beds covered in their mini-tunnels of Reemay and plastic, we didn't lose any of those crops.

Despite the mishaps of last week, we are progressing with our planting schedule and getting things in the ground outside. This week we've transplanted hundreds of broccoli, cabbage, kale, and chard starts, and they are looking good outside despite the cold weather.

We've been fortunate this harvest day to have some great helpers: Kassie, a farm friend and former intern, and her mother Dee have been visiting this week and helping us get all the greens harvested, washed, and packaged. The CSA share this week will be similar to last week, with plenty of salad mix, asian greens, and root crops. Check out our recipe for Sweet and Gooey Parsnips for a quick and delicious way to prepare this great vegetable. This week we are also offering radishes and mustard greens as choices in your CSA share.

The baby birds are getting big! The geese and ducks are growing particularly fast. They are now living inside the meat bird pens, where their tractors are shifted every few days so they have access to fresh grass. Hopefully we will be able to let the ducks and geese wander loose before too long!

Our first farmers' market of the year is this Saturday in Montrose. The Montrose Farmers Market has a new location this year and we are hoping to see a great turnout in the new place. The market is held from 8:30 am - 1:00 pm at Oxbow Crossing. Please come out and support your local farms -- and then, drop by the farm to join the crop mob!