Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Down on the Farm--Part Two: The Garden

Mother-in-law and Father-in-law have great gardening skills. The first thing I want to do whenever we go to their farm in Wisconsin is get a tour of their garden to see all the things they are growing. While there, I picked some onions, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, and berries. Almost all the veggies we ate for the whole week were fresh from their garden. Father-in-law's sister also has an amazing garden. She makes the best salsa from it. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Some day, I hope to have a garden like theirs, but that will take some time, especially considering we are confined to our organic patio. Obviously as a first-year gardener, it will also take a lot more experience. Here are some pictures of the garden on the Wisconsin farm.

Here you can see onions, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, pole beans, bush beans, peas, and more!

These are their tomatoes and a few peppers. The tomatoes had a rough start but have recovered and are doing well. Mother-in-law and Father-in-law got a variety pack of heirloom tomato seeds. Can't wait to see what kinds they get!

Here's the middle section of their garden, showing the onions and beets again. On the left, you can see their spent asparagus, then all their potatoes. They have a variety of potatoes, including blue potatoes. I had never seen these tomatoes before. They had purple skin and purple insides! Some of their potatoes had seeds/fruit growing from where the flowers were. Have you ever thought of potatoes having seeds? Have you ever tried planting the seeds?

The best part about the farm is the peacefulness. There are beautiful views of all the hilltops in the area. When I wake up in the morning, I am so happy. I look out the windows and say, "Good morning, World!" The view is so great that it seems the lands respond, "Good morning, Mariwood!" Here's what I look out to see in the morning.

We had a special treat this visit. Some of the wandering cats have found food and lodging at the farm. One had kittens, which were about six weeks old when we got there. They were lots of fun. A special blog hello to Runt, the most funnest little orange guy in the front! Next week, they should be in their new home as a family on a nearby apple orchard. I hope they have a great time exploring and mousing. I miss playing with Runt so much!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Down on the Farm--Part 1: The Dairy Farm

Husband and I were on "vacation" last week. We went to visit his parents/family down on the farm in Wisconsin. Although his parents don't farm the land themselves, they rent it out to their neighbors, who run an Organic Valley dairy farm. Somewhere on the website is a picture of one of the farming family members, but I won't tell you where. His picture actually hangs at our local organic market. Whenever I see it, I feel like I know someone famous. Maybe you can tell, I'm in love with this Organic Valley farm family and always enjoy my visits there.

I try to make it a point to observe the things they are doing on the dairy farm to learn more about the work and lifestyle. Last week, the big project was mowing, raking, baling, and storing hay. You can learn more about this process at Wikipedia. I got to see each step in the process and even had my first tractor ride! I've always wanted to ride on a tractor. How I wish I had a picture! I'm worried they secretly think I am a dork for wanting to follow them around all the time. I also got to see the milking process and the calves being fed. The babies are so cute; a couple were less than a week old!

I think this farm is so admirable because the father has gone to take an executive type job at the Organic Valley headquarters in Wisconsin. He travels around lecturing and recruiting farmers to organic farming and Organic Valley. His two sons now run the farm. The oldest, who has the main responsibility, is only about 25--younger than I! He is really inspirational to me because I often feel like a kid that can't handle the responsibilities of adulthood. And here he is, running an entire farm! The younger son is in school for Agricultural Engineering and spends his spare time developing his biodiesel projects. These guys are so cool!

Do you love family farms? Do you buy Organic Valley? Do you ever wonder which organic dairy products are best? Do you ever wonder how organic your brand is, or how nice it is to their cows? Go to the Organic Dairy Report Card.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tomato Emergency Update

No need to worry. Everything seems to be under control, and the emergency has passed. After Gina's inquiry, I realized that I had left people hanging and perhaps wondering if our sad little broken branch had taken a turn for the worse. I was planning on using wilting leaves as my cue for certain death, but I realized the broken branch is only flowers and fruit--no leaves! How can I know that whether the poor branch is healing? Will the attached tomatoes start to shrivel? I have no idea. Any suggestions?

A few days ago, we added some half-toothpick splints after deciding that the suggested pencil splits would be too big for a branch that's only about 3 mm wide. Yes, I'm an American who just used the metric system, but I'm also a scientist who can't think of what fraction of an inch that would be--a 16th, an 8th? When we unwrapped the tape, the broken part seemed to be a bit stronger and better attached, but still a little broken. We hope it is on the mend and that the splint suggestion works. As you can see, things look pretty good a week after the break, or at least no worse. Maybe some of the smaller tomato buds have grown a little. The picture is from July 4th and also shows one of our ripening fruits. I'll update you on how those turned out in the next post.