The farm that converted me to a CSA

Right now you’re thinking either, “Ooh! CSA!” or “CS…what?”

It’s Community Supported Agriculture. And I love it. What it means is that The Yankee and I essentially bought into a local farm, and in exchange we get a box of food every week. I wanted to do a CSA for years but I couldn’t hide from the truth of our eating habits: we’re too picky. Kale? Kohlrabi? What? I have lovely friends in Nashville who get all these lovely veggies every week and love it and say that opening the box every week is practically Christmas. They come up with beautiful menus and use every bit of their boxes (I’m especially looking at you, Erin and Kira).

And then I found Avalon Acres. And they had me at hello. Well, not so much “hello” but at “meat and eggs package.” Now you’re speaking my language!

Now all the eggs in my house are from local, free-range egg laying hens.  The chicken we eat was raised in a pasture without antibiotics, chemicals or preservatives. The heirloom pork is free range and amazingly tasty. Our beef is Piedmontese, which has the highest amount of good fats, and much lower bad fats and calories. It’s so tasty and so lean! When I brown up a pound of ground beef I almost never have any grease to drain off at all, but the flavor is incredible. And, like the rest of the meat, there are no hormones, artificial chemicals or preservatives. Check out this page for lots of great information.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I love this program. And because it’s not too late for you to join the spring and summer program! After that there’s even a fall and winter program with lots of yummy winter goods including homemade bread that is out of this world. If you’re not eating from here you’re missing out. Click here and check things out — pick a package, build your own package, pick and choose what sounds good. And let me know what you choose! I love hearing how creative people get with their shares from the farm.

Cornstarch: your friend in the garden

Just like last year, I planted a bunch o’ tomatoes in the garden in the back yard. Unlike last year, my tomatoes this year came under attack (ATTACK I say!) by bugs. First it was worms (tomato worms? Hornworms? I don’t know. Icky worms). Then came the stinkbugs. All my tomatoes were being eaten and rotting before they even started to ripen and I hadn’t gotten a single tomato for me to eat.

I wanted to evict the bugs, for sure, but I didn’t want to do it with a bunch of chemicals — sort of defeats a large part of the purpose of growing them in the back yard, you know?

Enter: cornstarch. Seriously! Now my garden looks like this:

I use a powdered sugar shaker full of cornstarch to cover the leaves, the tomatoes, and the ground around them. The plants look ridiculous, sure, but guess what? The tomatoes are MINE again!

I’m not sure exactly why this works, honestly — I don’t know if it kills off the bugs or if it just keeps them away; as long as I’m the only one eating the tomatoes, I’m good. It even deters Vinny the squirrel a bit which is an unexpected bonus. A quick wash in the kitchen sink removes all the cornstarch and I’m good to go. Tomato sandwiches for everyone! 🙂

Saving a cast iron skillet

Remember when I wrote a cautionary tale about cast iron? Allow me to review:

Rust is not your friend.

I know. This is shocking news to you all.

I’m happy to report that picture up there is all the same pan. A bit of an improvement, yes?

The folks at Lodge told me that I should have this pan sandblasted. Being stubborn determined, however, I went at it with some sandpaper and did the best I could. It was not great, and the pan went back to live at the bottom of my pantry while I sulked about it thought of another plan.

Then last week we took a road trip to “Chagganooga” (so sayeth Kiddo) and I obviously could not resist swinging through South Pittsburg on the way back up to Nashville. At the Lodge factory store they had this little rust eraser thing sitting on the counter for a couple bucks — worth a shot, right?

Y’all. It’s a miracle! The rust just fell from the skillet and the pan without even that much elbow grease involved. A MIRACLE I TELL YOU.

So the next step was to re-season it in the oven, then put it to work. The perfect first job?

Bacon, of course.

This one will need a lot of use to start to start getting dark like my generations-old skillets, of course, but we’re certainly off to a better start now.

Garden update!

Remember this post?

This:

Turned into this:

Pretty awesome, huh? And this is after I pulled a few things, too — like the green beans, which were taken over by ants. Grr. But I did get a bunch of them blanched and frozen first.

In my little 8×4′ garden I grew:

  • Brandywine tomatoes x2
  • Early girl tomatoes
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Green beans
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Pretty impressive for such a little space, huh?  And the majority of it was grown from seeds, so I spent very little on the actual plants, and ate ridiculously good food all summer long. I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening book! This is good stuff. And easy. This was my first garden beyond tomatoes, so imagine what I could do if I actually knew what I was doing!

You see that I had to add chicken wire. We have a plentiful bunny population around here, and they were enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit too much. Unfortunately chicken wire is merely a ladder to this guy — I have named him Vinny:

Some of Vinny’s handiwork:

I thought this one was particularly lovely. I watched him carry my tomato up to the top of my 6′ fence. He munched a while, then left, leaving the tomato there. To taunt me. Apparently came back and got it later. I am currently accepting applications for squirrel hit men. Don’t tell Vinny.

I did get hit with some tomato blight this month, but it wasn’t awful. I had to pull one Brandywine and cut back the giant Roma, but nothing tragic.

How did everyone else do? What did you grow? What did you eat?