We are so excited to be part of Madison Wool’s first Food and Fiber field trip! October 13 we will host a group of fiber lovers – knitters and/or spinners – for a post-prandial gathering down in the barn with wheels spinning and knitting needles clicking away for the afternoon! Prior to arriving at the farm all will gather at S & P Oyster in Mystic for lunch. They’ll then arrive at the farm to walk off the calories and explore the pastures and visit the sheep! We hope to have a little hay ride down to the barn with all of their fiber processing equipment, and plenty of gorgeous freshly sheared fall fleeces will be available for purchase. Thanks so much to Dayna at MadWool for organizing the event!
A bumper crop of sweet potatoes this year to make up for our measly harvest of white potatoes!
Late this past May the UPS truck pulled up as evening was approaching. Roy and the kids were setting up portable fencing in the front yard for the rams and I was mowing. I saw the driver hand a box with holes in the sides to my son and knew what it must be!
Sweet potato slips!
Sweet potatoes are planted from “slips”, which are rooted little plants that are started in the warm soil down south and quickly shipped to us here late in May. This year we paid extra for quick shipping, and I was determined to get them in the ground as soon as possible after they arrived on our doorstep so as to minimize loss of these precious baby plants.
As I was mowing on the day of their arrival, I motioned to Roy to look at the box and over the noisy motor of the lawn tractor I mouthed the words “Sweet potatoes!” He smiled and nodded not knowing what else was going on in my head. He had intended to move the sheep and call it a night, happy that we had accomplished this little chore after his full day of work at the office. But bustling around in my head was, “We have JUST enough time, if we all pull together, to get these in the ground tonight!” Adding to my haste in accomplishing this task was the fact that rain was coming, and I knew a muddy garden would seriously impede our getting out there to make the mounds for planting in the next day or two.
How was I going to convince Roy and the rest of the family of my crazy intentions, though?
I turned off the mower and made my plea. I must say that I’m glad to be the daughter of an attorney, because hanging out with my dad when I was younger has taught me a bit about winning arguments. I made my case – presented the evidence – represented the evidence in a more desperate fashion – and eventually won!
Everyone whipped into action, and we planted the last of the 200 slips as raindrops were falling. It was a seriously good feeling – and luckily there was still enough daylight left to get cleaned up and back to the house before the downpour and darkness fell upon us.
I was a bit worried over the next couple of days. The heavy rain eroded our mounds a bit and we did end up losing a lot of plants, but enough survived (at least half of them) that we got more pounds of sweet potatoes than ever!
We picked them late Saturday (I won’t go into the details of yet another of my impulsive schemes to, at the last minute, encourage everyone at the end of that day to chip in and harvest, but it again succeeded!)
Here they are, drying out before we store them for curing.
This year’s harvest included one potato that weighed in at 3.4 pounds!
And now the waiting game. Sweet potatoes freshly harvested are NOT sweet. It takes over a month for those sugars to cure in the spud to the point that they are enjoyable.
Curing ideally takes place in a humid location. When we moved to this home we laughed when we saw the jacuzzi in our bathroom. When will we EVER have time for that?
But where is one of the most humid places in our house? The bathroom.
And so that lovely jacuzzi has become the best storage area for our sweet potatoes. From late September until November there are NO jacuzzi baths taken in our bathroom
(even if we DID have the time!), and long steamy showers are encouraged…
Nestled in under the burlap, half filling the tub, lie 252 pounds of lovely Beauregard sweet potatoes, curing to sweet, lovely goodness!
Potatoes were NOT the bumper crop that they had been in the past at Morning Star Meadows!
In full disclosure we have to admit that we pretty much broke even in the white potato department.
We planted about 50 pounds of seed potatoes in the spring. The bag cost us about $25, up $8 from previous years! I was ok with that because potatoes in the stores seemed to take a leap in price as well. Our yield being so great from these potatoes in the past, I was convinced that we’d make out in the end.
But the weather did not cooperate in the spring and early summer.
Yesterday we harvested about 80 pounds of Kennebec potatoes.
If you do the math – we spent 50 cents a pound on the seed potatoes, invested hours of manual labor, and now potatoes in the store can be bought on sale for about 40 cents a pound effortlessly. We only increased our amount of potatoes from 50 to 80 pounds.
Will we stop growing potatoes?
Are we crazy to keep growing potatoes – even at the risk of a complete loss?
It all comes down to why we do what we do.
Firstly, if we’ve learned anything from seasoned farmers, it’s that you can’t win all the time. A crop loss of potatoes one year might be offset by a bumper crop of tomatoes! It’s kind of like playing the stock market – diversify your investments and invest for the long term. Last year we had a tremendous yield of potatoes that more than offset this year’s loss.
And as for “why we do what we do” – our farm is not a “preppers paradise” or anything like that. We grow as much of our food as we can so that we have safe, fresh, healthy food. What we can’t grow we try to obtain from local farmers where possible – especially our meats. We sometimes break even – sometimes have losses – but overall this adventure for our family is about lifestyle. We want to get everyone’s hands dirty. We want our children to know how to grow their food. We want them to know where their food comes from. We want to be occupied with wholesome activities, new learning experiences, fresh air, and productivity – vs. continuous indoor sources of passive entertainment with which so much of the world occupies themselves.
So, we keep planting potatoes…and we grow with them…
Well, it’s that time of year again – tomatoes all over our kitchen counters and window ledges in various stages of ripeness!
Plum tomatoes, San Marzano’s, beefsteaks, Pink Brandywine, Early girls and Big Boys! All yummy deliciousness!
But man can only eat so many tomato sandwiches!
We’ve had to get creative and yet stay practical with how we use and preserve them!
We’re making salsas and bruschetta, fresh sauce, roasted tomato sauce, cooked marinara, and tomato soup! But one of our most recent new things to try, since we have had our best tomato year EVER, is homemade ketchup!
You need a huge amount of tomatoes to make a little bit of ketchup! Cooking them down with the infused vinegar makes the flavor rich and amazing!
This stuff is soooo good, you can eat it off a spoon! And to truly test it, we had hot dogs last night – what an improvement over the store-bought stuff! It definitely won the kids’ approval, too!
12 pounds of tomatoes, and various spices and vinegar and onions made a relatively small amount of ketchup – but it’s so flavorful, that a little goes a long way!
Two jars are in the freezer, and one in the fridge is being quickly consumed!
So while we’re all inside, missing this beautiful weather because we’re homeschooling and processing our garden’s bounty of vegetables, I went outside to pick some herbs and found that at least Blue had the right idea of how to enjoy the day! He didn’t even look a bit guilty when I caught him on the loveseat on the porch!
The ewes and lambs have quickly learned the process of coming up to their home pasture for the night – with a little help from our “sheep dogs!” They can’t help themselves, though, from grabbing a few mouthfuls of alfalfa on the way up!