Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Tomato Sale!

Wow!  The tomatoes are really doing their thing right now!  We have more tomatoes than even our great restaurants can use up.  More than I can turn into tomato sauce, paste and catsup.

San Marzano tomatoes 2017

So this week our delicious San Marzano tomatoes (yes, these are grown in Athens, TX – not Italy) are available for just $1/lb.   You’ll know we don’t grow in bulk and don’t sell wholesale, so this price is one we’ve never offered.    We have 100 lbs to turn in the next three days.    If you need some, send me a note at gopherknoll@gmail.com.

I thank you.  My kitchen thanks you.  My husband, who would love to reclaim the kitchen table for dinner, thanks you.

 

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In Like a Lamb?

This time of year I replay all the words of wisdom spoken by the farmers on whose shoulders we stand.   And they are words of caution.

ready-for-freezes

Prepped for a freeze in 2015

“If March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion.”

“Beware the Easter freeze. ” The average last freeze date is just that – an average.  Half of last freezes came earlier and half later.  Our last freeze date here in East Texas is March 15.  But the older farmers will always tell you that you aren’t really safe until Easter – this year a full month later, on April 16.

That Easter freeze warning has proven prophetic the last couple of years.

But we’ve been SO warm this spring.  The blueberries are in bloom, peach trees are budding.  We have one apple tree that is already setting fruit.  A spring check in the bee hive shows that they have been gearing up for several weeks already and are moving into full swing.

Plant the tomatoes this early?  Beans?  What if we get that late freeze?  On the other hand, what if we don’t plant and this early warm-up IS our spring this year.  Will we miss the perfect cool weather starts?  What’s a farmer to do?!?

I can tell you what we are busy doing here at Gopher Knoll.   We are in full spring-planting mode.   We’ve set out all the traditional early spring starts – onions and potatoes, carrots and lettuces, sugar snap peas and cool-weather greens like swiss chard and kale.   Most of these will not be seriously hurt by a light freeze.  Our new trees and berries and even the little fig trees are already planted.

We’ve already planted the first round of purple pod beans and summer squash –  protected under a good floating row cover.   They’ve so far survived lows of 29 deg., safe under that row cover.

This week, we’ll set out the first of our tomatoes and finish all the cool-weather transplants like spinach, radicchio and celery that are waiting in the greenhouse.  They go under row cover as well, just to be safe.   Parsley and the more cold tolerant herbs will also go out into the ground – under row cover as necessary.

And if that late freeze does threaten, we’ll tent the blueberries, cover anything else that needs it, put a big feed bucket over the little fig trees and feed the bees.     If worst comes to worst – we’ll replant anything that doesn’t make it.

That’s farming for you.   Best of luck to everyone out there who is struggling with the same decisions.    Peace and good weather to you all.

It was a very good year!

My apologies for leaving you all without updates for so long.   It’s been a busy year, filled with new learning and new decisions about direction for the garden.  I love having things to learn every day!  But sometimes the learning curve leaves me feeling like I’m climbing an endlessly tall mountain with no expectation of ever reaching the top.  You know what I mean?

Anyway – lots of new is in the offing this year and it’s time to share it with you all!

Our trial run of forming a three-farm, cooperative CSA program was very successful!  Thanks to working with two remarkable farmers (okay, one farmer and one farmher) who have lots of energy and lots of vision, we are ready to expand this year and make this program easier and more accessible to a larger part of our community.

3-farms-3

May I introduce, left to right, myself (Barbara), Jennifer Chandler of Chandler Family Farm in Mabank and Bobby Bever of Highway 19 Produce and Berries, in Athens.  Aren’t we the motley crew?!

This new co-op is called Deep Roots CSA,  because we all have deep roots in this community and a heart to serve it well.   You’ll find the newest information officially at the CSA website, which we are frantically working to update, as we speak:  http://www.deeprootscsa.net.    A little patience is still required here, since it isn’t quite ready yet.  I’ll let you know as soon as it is live.   But here are the highlights of the changes we are making:

  • More choice in size and price of a membership to include a personal size share
  • Reduced prices – as little as $16/week for a personal size share
  • Expanded offerings – you’ll have greater variety in each share  and also
  • Add-ons of fresh, pastured eggs, fresh herbs and eventually pastured meats and honey to be delivered with your share each week, if you choose
  • A newly developed website offering more information about each veggie, how to store it and use it (patience, please.  We’re working really hard to bring this to you, and I’ll let you know when it goes live.)
  • Easier to access lists of great, fresh recipes to tempt the palate
  • A weekly on-line newsletter to keep you up-to-date on the farms and the harvest
  • Sign-up online and pay with a credit card, if you prefer.  Low tech sign-ups are still available, too.  Just give us a call and we’ll work it out with you.
  • Expanded access – we will fill as many as 100 shares this year!!

Spring CSA will start March 27 and we hope to offer sign-ups as early as this coming week.   Excitement doesn’t begin to describe the feeling!

The Gopher Knoll website will be changing, too.   Rather than focusing on the CSA, this will become an even better way to communicate with gardening friends who might like to follow along with what is happening in the Gopher Knoll garden.  What problems (gophers!!) we are facing this week and how we are handling them, what chores need to be done, which seeds we are planting and where we stand on the learning curve for the week.

This year is seeing the expansion of our fruit and herb gardens with new blackberries and fruit trees (figs, pomegranate and cherry added to the orchard), and an expanded apiary for the honey bees.

There will be lots to learn.  Lots to share.  We’re hoping you’ll share your ideas, too.

Hope you stay tuned!

Fall Garden – Fall CSA

We hope you’ve had a great summer!  Ours has been pretty busy, but we’ve found time for family and fun, too.

lower garden 2

Lower garden at Gopher Knoll – getting ready for fall

We had just enough summer to remind us that we live in Texas, before a cool front found its way south and brought a break in the triple digit temperatures and very welcome rain.  Extra welcome, because summer heat and sanity not withstanding, fall / winter gardens have to be started in August.

To our everlasting amazement and gratitude, some garden-loving friends have come out and helped keep the work on schedule.   Many thanks to Sara, Faith and Maeajea and her sweet friend who have come to help plant and pick and pull, even when the days have been hot.  You’ll never know how much your willing hands have worked to keep us encouraged!

With all that help, the fall garden is shaping up to be pretty remarkable!  Fall plantings of squash and melons are already setting  fruit.  Okra, peppers and eggplant are still in summer production and should be with us for some time to come.  Black-eyed peas, Red Ripper peas and sweet potatoes are just hitting their stride.   Butter peas are blooming.

The first plantings of green beans are in the ground, along with fall potatoes, green onions and carrots.  Late cucumbers are just starting up the trellis.  The first lettuce mix, fresh kale and  Japanese spinach are sprouting  under the shade cloth along with salad turnips and rutabaga.  Beets and Sugar Ann sweet peas are next to plant.

greenhouse starts

Seedlings are in the greenhouse for so many more!  And that’s just at Gopher Knoll!

We’ll be partnering this fall with Chandler Family Farm and Highway 19 North Produce to offer an expanded fall CSA through our Deep Roots CSA cooperative.    Working together, we hope to offer a wonderful variety of fresh produce to our community  almost year-round.

The fall CSA will kick off October 4 and run for 12 weeks – ending just before Christmas!  Your holiday meals will have never been healthier or tasted better than when you serve truly fresh, organically grown, local produce!

If you already know you’d like to join, feel free to sign up through Gopher Knoll – click HERE  or through  Deep Roots CSA –  click HERE.   Either one will put your name on the list and you’ll receive an email with all the details.

Not sure how a CSA works?  We’ll be hosting a meet-up in September so you’ll have a chance to meet the farmers and ask questions directly.  Stay tuned for details.  We’ll let you know time and place as soon as we can.

We’ll look forward to the visit!

 

Tomato time

Our tastebuds have waited impatiently for the tomatoes to get ripe and this spring we have a bumper crop!

cherokee

You may have enjoyed them the past couple of weeks at Railway Cafe and The Cherry Laurel.   If so, this is your chance to take some home.

We’ll be at Athens Farmer’s Market tomorrow morning (that’s Saturday, June 25) with a huge supply of heirlooms including slicers, cherry tomatoes and those great San Marzano sauce tomatoes.

We’ll also have jalapenos, anaheim peppers, garlic and onions so you can go home and create beautiful salsa or sauce, if that’s your style.

We’ll bring some pretty Flavorburst bell peppers, a sweet Hungarian pepper and a real treat from Macedonia – the Ajvarski roasting pepper.

The long purple Fengyuan eggplant and some Listada d’Gandia (beautiful white w/purple streaks) are perfect for grilling or a quick ratatouille.  We’ll even supply a recipe or two.

We’ll bring red (mountain rose), white (yukon gold) and blue (purple majesty) potatoes so you can make a patriotic potato salad for the 4th and fresh onions and garlic, too.

Dragon Tongue beans and Red Noodle beans, kohlrabi and bulb fennel round out the offerings for the day.

This is likely our only visit to the market this summer and the best chance you’ll find for picking up some of those heirloom tomatoes at the peak of season.   Hope we see you there!

Summer is here!

All of a sudden.

When it comes, the cool season vegetables call it quits and the heat-loving summer veggies take center stage.     Here’s a look through the garden as it stands right now.

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Onions, garlic, shallots and potatoes are being harvested and cured for longer storage.

Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, fall carrots and parsnips, radicchio and escarole, winter squash and black eyed peas are still being planted.    Gardens just keep on keepin’ on.

We’ll have lots of these at the Junebug Festival at The Forge in Ben Wheeler on Saturday.  Come see us!   Ask about the fall season CSA.     We’ll be looking for you!

First CSA week!

This week was the first CSA delivery for BOTH of the local CSA’s.   Is it confusing enough for you?  Sure made Tuesday interesting at the Gopher Knoll garden.

Week 1 May 3 2016

We grow for our own Gopher Knoll CSA, providing weekly shares to our subscribers that are grown entirely in our own heirloom garden.  Each week, the box contains somewhere between 8 and 12 different vegetables.   Some varieties are familiar and others are heirlooms from around the world.   All are grown with no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and with much attention to soil health.   We take a lot of pleasure in producing great food that is both unique and delicious.

We try to rotate the veggies included in our box every week so our customers have a lot of variety – but always try to include something from each group:  leafy greens, root vegetables and fruiting vegetables, along with berries and melons in season.  And we often include fresh herbs, as well.

Yes, it really is all grown in our own garden here in Athens.

It’s a LOT of work – and a LOT of fun!

We also grow extra of some veggies to contribute to a second local CSA startup called Deep Roots CSA.   This is a cooperative effort of three different local farms (Gopher Knoll, Chandler Family Farm and Hwy. 19 Produce and Berries)  with offerings more generally familiar to East Texas traditions.  Check that one out at  http://www.deeprootscsa.net.

On top of that, you’ll find our seasonal produce at Railway Cafe in Athens  and The Forge in Ben Wheeler, where chefs Justin Boswell and Sara Briscoe are outstanding supporters of local farmers, and in the fabulous juices and treats provided by Balance Juicery in Mabank.  I think I speak for all our local market gardeners when I say we are super grateful for their encouragement (not to mention the outstanding dishes they create with it all!)

And a final shout-out to all of you who attend the local Farmer’s Markets, sign up for CSAs, and look for truly locally grown produce in the grocery stores.   When you vote with your dollars, you are actually creating our local food network.   It could never happen without you!

Thank you!