Mistakes and the Unexpected

It has really picked up speed on the farm the last couple weeks.  New structures have gone up, baby chicks have arrived, thousands of plants have been put in the ground, and even more seeds.  At least half of the beds are now filled, and the plants (and the weeds) have been thriving in this warm and rainy weather.   With all that is changing, there have been plenty of opportunities to learn…and completely mess up.  Same thing right?


The caterpillar tunnels took about a day and a half to put up, including all the trellises we built inside. They are temporary hoophouses 6 ft tall, 10 ft wide, and 100 ft. long. We are trellising tomatoes under them along with other heat loving plants such as peppers, eggplant, and basil. Cucumbers will be growing in the spaces between the tunnels to capture some of that trapped heat as well.


Some healthy looking eggplants growing happily under the toasty caterpillar tunnels.

I have heard that learning how to deal with failure and the unexpected is a very necessary skill to farming.  There are so many variables that go into farming, all of which are somewhat unpredictable and, the sum of them, completely overwhelming.

But even keeping track of the variables within my control has turned out to be a lot to take in.  Luckily the Tuckey’s have been gracious about my mistakes and forgetfulness and I have been reminded that every “fail” is an opportunity to learn and improve.

If everything had went to plan I wouldn’t know how much moisture is too much for seedlings when it is still getting chilly at night, I wouldn’t have guessed that a medium sized rock placed on a fabric plant collar (pest prevention measure) is not heavy enough to battle against the wind gusts of spring, and I would never have had the exciting experience of wrangling a runaway caterpillar tunnel.  Okay I might have been a little sarcastic about that last one.


Me, carefully watering the seedlings in the greenhouse

But honestly, I have noticed a wonderful pattern with each mistake and conflict (more on working with my spouse later…)- something good comes out the other side of it: securely anchored tunnels, more conscious watering and ventilation, better organization and planning, more attentive seeding, better posture, quicker forgiveness, earlier bed time, and more questions.

It is not easy to view mistakes and unpredictable happenings this way- but it does make the emotional side of failure more tolerable.  It also helps to take time to appreciate what went right!  The chicks are happy and healthy, the transplanted head lettuce is beautiful, the cabbage responded well to its foliar spray of seaweed and fish oil, the lettuce mix is coming up great, and I remembered to close the gate!  All is good.


The chicks in their brooding pen. 25 chickens and 5 turkeys. The turkeys are my favorite, they are so cute, playful and curious. This one has been teaching the others how to perch on top of the water.


Head lettuce growing next to a couple rows of strawberries. I love the different colors and textured leaves in neat little rows.

A lot is to be learned on the farm yet and this is a lesson I am sure I will continue to work on. I’ve heard it said that the only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability- in other words; it’s not all going to go as planned.  I may feel the safest and most confident about something when it is predictable and within my control, but there is no wonder in that- no miracles, no beauty, and definitely no perfection.  That is the amazing thing about nurturing a living thing, you only have a small role in its life- the rest happens with faith in something greater.


Tim and Victor the Cat next to the giant rhubarb-just waiting to be harvested for the CSA!

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The Greenhouse

At first I somewhat disliked the greenhouse, its grungy plastic, its crowded interior, and how tedious and high maintenance it is to work with (taking the sides down when it gets too warm and putting up a “tent” inside when the nights are too cold). But I have been spending most of my time in there lately since the nice weather has allowed us to move all of the seedlings out from under the cozy basement grow lights. While doing various spring time tasks such as seeding, thinning, and potting up, I have learned to delight in it, the medium sized plastic plant tent.


An inside view of the greenhouse. Its full-sun shelves are filling up so fast we have started putting seedlings on top of crates on the ground.

The micro-climate it provides is perfect for the plants and for humans working on chilly spring days.  It blocks harsh cold winds but lets in the warm sun as if there were no barrier at all.  It is beautiful in the morning with all the condensation on the plastic that it starts dripping down onto the plants (and on your head) like rain.  I like when I am working in the warm humidity surrounded by baby plants and a cool breeze comes through and brushes my back and goes through the tops of the little seedlings’ leaves.  I can hear the calming sounds of the near-by pond and the spring peepers signal when evening is on it’s way.

And I love nurturing the seedlings.  It is exciting to see something, that you tediously dropped as tiny seeds into hundreds of little pockets of soil, show signs of life in the form of little pale sprouts. They bend as they push against the soil then stretch up towards the sun with fresh little leaves that they will soon loose like baby teeth.  IMG_20160429_082016

The first time I “potted up”; taking seedlings out of trays that they had outgrown and putting them into bigger cells with more soil, it felt so weird to be handling such a small and delicate life form.  But it didn’t take long to see the results; some celeriac I potted up perked up and grew what seemed like half an inch overnight!



Potted-up celeriac

The greenhouse has been filling up fast, but soon the cold hardy varieties, such as broccoli, will be hardened off on a table outside under mesh covered hoops. The mesh will give them some protection from wind but will expose them to many more outdoor elements (temperature change, wind, less frequent watering) than the greenhouse does.  The purpose of hardening off is to ease the plants’ transition from the warm and stable greenhouse environment to the harsher environment outdoors.  And about a week after, they will be well trained to go out into the field!


Hardening-off table with mesh cover

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Today was the first spring-feeling day since Tim and I (Kelly) moved to EverGood Farm as interns.   It was sunny, warm, and beautiful; with the only hint of snow lingering in little piles in the shadows of the greenhouse.  With spring weather, comes a lot of excitement.  Life outdoors starts to wake up, bloom, and buzz.   As I uncovered the rhubarb from its winter nap in the straw, so much activity was unveiled.  Worms slurped back into their holes, centipedes and millipedes scurried for cover, and the slug just sat there.

I might be alone in thinking all this creepy crawly action is beautiful but I know that everyone would appreciate the crinkled green leaves on rosy pink stems poking through the soil.  It’s a sure sign that summer is near!  Rhubarb was always the first thing we harvested out of my parents’ garden.  And, as far as I know, no one even particularly likes it, but when it’s ready to harvest, we are excited to eat it!

My family has plenty of traditional recipes for rhubarb- all strategies to use up this tart, very prolific stem.  Something magical happens when you combine it with strawberries for jam.  My grandpa makes a famous rhubarb pudding that is excellent on top of vanilla ice cream.  And no one can deny a piece of rhubarb tart with its irresistible crumbly top.  Some of my first memories in the garden are of my dad picking stems of rhubarb, cutting them with his garden knife into manageable length sticks, and giving my sister and me a small bowl of sugar to dip them in, or just eating them raw like stringy candy.

As I uncovered these up-and-coming rhubarb plants, I got warm and fuzzy feelings thinking about these memories.  That is just one of the reasons why I absolutely love growing food.  It is not just a quick-fix, take-it-off-the-shelf, just-add-water experience.  You are a witness and nurturer to a plant’s (or animal’s) whole life process; you become a part of it as you anticipate the day you get to harvest it and it becomes a part of you. The experience can’t help but produce feelings of joy, wonder, pride, and generosity.  And those memories of harvest are what inspire a next year’s garden.  The whole process is the best motivator for eating lots of good wholesome food, having family dinners, and sharing food and recipes. It is crazy how such a tart and stringy vegetable, that no one really even particularly likes, can inspire you to cook something from scratch, explore the outdoors, spend time with your family, and maybe even start a garden.  So when you see rhubarb in your CSA box/garden, eat it with joy, because more sunshine and memories are coming your way.


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It’s Garlic Time!

Happy garlic season! Many weeks have passed since scapes and green garlic, and we are so excited for garlic to be back in our lives!

Garlic cured

Last year, we unfortunately lost most of our garlic crop in the curing process due to the unfavorable (wet and cool) summer we had. This year we decided to drastically revamp our harvesting and curing process, and we are glad to report that it has payed off! We harvested on a dry sunny day, and used a broad fork to loosen the bulbs from the soil before pulling them out to prevent bruising. We then cured them in our garage, which we heated to 90 degrees. It sure got warm and garlicky smelling in there!

We harvested around 2000 garlic bulbs, so you can expect lots of tasty garlic varieties in your boxes and at market this year! Here’s a quick overview of some of the types we’re growing:

Here are all 2000+ heads drying in the garage.

Here are all 2000+ heads drying in the garage.

German White– Generally has 4 to 5 easy-to-peel cloves. Eaten raw, German White garlic is a bit zingy, but it has a nice gentle flavor when cooked or roasted

Music– A medium-hot garlic that can be stored for up to a year!

German Red– Strong full-bodied flavor with 8-10 cloves/bulb. Stores well.

Chesnok Red– With gorgeous purple stripes and a mild flavor, this garlic is great for cooking.

Italian Red-Fairly mild-rich complex flavor, which is great raw or cooked.  Large cloves 4-6/bulb

Georgian Crystal-This garlic is mild when eaten raw, and smooth and creamy roasted.  It is an excellent keeper with 4-6 cloves/bulb.

Georgian Fire– This mildly hot hardneck garlic has a strong raw taste with a hotness that is pleasant.  Great for salsa and salads.  4-6 cloves per bulb.

Siberian Garlic-This garlic has a medium to strong flavor, and is an excellent producer in cold climates.  It has one of the highest amounts of Allicin of all the garlic varieties making in perfect for salsas and using raw.  5-7 cloves per bulb.  Excellent flavor

Spanish Roja-This gourmet hardneck has a classic rich garlic flavor.  The cloves have a beautiful brownish red color.  Keeps 4-6 months.  Easy to peel.  8-12 cloves/bulb.

Lorz Italian-hot and spicy
This heirloom artichoke type soft-neck garlic was brought from Italy around 1850.  It has a  robust, hot/spicy flavor.  Great for roasting.  Easy to peel.  Excellent keeper.

A great way to enjoy specialty garlic is roasted

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Veggie of the month: Peas!

Greetings folks.  We’ve been so busy here that the blog has been neglected.  I’ve finally had some time to get a veggie of the month post in…enjoy!

Peas as tall and as far as the eye can see.

Peas as tall and as far as the eye can see.

Veggie of the month: Peas!

Here at the farm, we are about to start harvesting bucketloads (literally!) of peas! They are both a CSA and Market favorite. Because the peas did very well for us last year, we decided to do two plantings of them this year in order to extend the otherwise short harvest. Our trellising system is about 8 feet high, so we looking forward to some very tall pea plants!

There are three main types of peas: shelling peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. All three are delicious, but at EverGood, we stick to growing sugar snaps. Peas are an excellent source of A, C, K and B vitamins, and are also high in iron, potassium, and phosphorus. These little guys pack a nutritional punch!

Peas are one of my favorite things to harvest because they are wonderful eaten right off the vine! They are also great raw in salads and cooked. Here are some delicious looking recipes with peas:

A simple quinoa salad

Roasted with sesame


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Spring Progress

Happy Memorial Day Folks!  We hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend.  We were lucky enough to have friends visiting and even got out on a pontoon boat Saturday afternoon.  It was nice to take a break from the farm and enjoy such a beautiful day.

Allison has been here two weeks and it’s been great to have her back on the farm.  We are finally getting some of our bigger spring tasks finished like our huge onion planting, the tomato greenhouse prepped and planted, the beds manured and shaped, and more!  This week we will be working on our caterpillar tunnels which will house tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and flowers.  We imagine these will take a little time to figure out how to build, but will be so valuable with our variable weather.

Greenhouse tomatoes

Greenhouse tomatoes-planted and staked

Last week we attended all of our markets. Brendan had a great time in Minocqua and loved seeing all of our customers again.  Allison attended critterfest which is the “kick off” for the Hodag Farmers Market.  Next week the Hodag Farmers Market will be officially starting and we will be there every Saturday through the growing season.  We sold a ton of our transplants this week!  Tomatoes and Basil are the popular ones so we encourage folks to buy them this week so you aren’t disappointed.

tomatoes!    Beautiful Basil

Finally in other news we are taking the leap and raising 25 broiler chickens for ourselves this summer and they arrive this week.  We are excited to learn something new and become even more self sufficient on our little farm.  If all goes well we may sell them someday!

Building the chicken tractor

Happy Spring!

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Veggie of the month…Radish

Radishes are usually a spring-time treat, but we are lucky enough to be able to grow them the entire season here at EverGood.  We grow two varieties: french breakfast, and the traditional round red.  We’ve tried growing some of the neat longer day varieties like watermelon radish, but we have too many insects that want to eat them and they come out looking pretty sad and full of holes.

Red Beauties

Radishes at the market sell so quickly.  Sometimes we joke it’s our best selling vegetable!  Our CSA boxes usually get them for the first 3 or so weeks, which makes some people really happy and others not as happy, as folks seem to either love or hate radishes.  We always try to harvest them before they get too spicy though.

Radishes are made up of 90% water, so they are a good vegetable to keep you hydrated.  They also have about as much potassium as a banana and half the ascorbic acid of an orange. They are also a good source of folate, magnesium, and vitamin C.  Their greens are also very high in nutrients (similar to dark leafy greens).  You can always toss them in a salad, soup, or sauté them.

Radish Stack

To keep radishes fresh after purchasing, immediately separate the root from the greens (this holds true for all root crops).  Store the roots unwashed in a baggie, and treat the greens just like you would kale.  The roots will keep for a few weeks this way and the greens about a week.

My favorite way to eat radishes is just sliced up in a salad, or I love the long french breakfast radishes dipped in hummus.  If you are feeling creative, here are some different uses for radishes.

Radish Top Soup

This looks like a good quinoa salad

roasted radishes

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