Around 1850 Great-Great-Great Uncle Andrew Davison built a barn along the banks of Thread Creek. Many generations later the barn still stands. After our first workshop last fall there is more work to do, new siding, leveling the foundation and saving the lean-to on the East end. This May 10th, from 10am-2 pm, Thread Creek Farm is hosting a barn workshop put on by the Michigan Barn Preservation Network. Participants will learn the names and functions of the parts of this hand hewn mortise and tenon style barn, analyze problems and continue hands on repairs. Thread Creek Farm will be providing lunch to all the workshop participants and we hope you will join us. The cost is $10 for MBPN members, and $40 (includes a one year MBPN membership) for non-members. Please RSVP to Emma Blinkenberg @ (810) 694-4335 by May 8th, space is limited, please reserve your spot today.
Straw is the only thing that we sell that we don’t grown ourselves. We’d have to have the whole farm in wheat every year to keep up with the demand! At any rate the farmer that we get our straw from is in the middle of harvesting his summer crops and won’t be able to bring us a load of straw until later this year. We’ll hang the “Straw” sign up at the end of the road as soon as we have more. If you are thinking of planting grass right now because your grass is dead and brown, please consider waiting until the fall. Grass seed germinates best during cool damp weather which typically occurs in the fall or spring here in Michigan. Seeding in the heat of the summer will be an exercise in frustration and likely raise your water bill quite a bit too!
Around 1850 Great-Great-Great Uncle Andrew Davison built a barn along the banks of Thread Creek. Many generations later the barn still stands, though it’s in increasingly poor repair. Thread Creek Farm is starting to rehab this lovely old barn. This September 7th Thread Creek Farm is hosting a barn workshop put on by the Michigan Barn Preservation Network. Participants will learn the names and functions of the parts of this hand hewn mortise and tenon style barn, analyze problems, prioritize repairs and begin some hands on repairs. Thread Creek Farm will be providing lunch to all the workshop participants and we hope you will join us. The cost is $10 for MBPN members, and $40 (includes a one year MBPN membership) for non-members. Please RSVP to Emma Blinkenberg @ (810) 694-4335 or firstname.lastname@example.org by September 5th, space is limited, please reserve your spot today.
For our CSA members and farmer’s market customers, here is Emma’s recipe for kale and beans. It was created many years ago when she and Brandon were farmer’s market customers rather than vendors. Feel free to add or subtract spice and as herbs as your family likes. Any kind of pork would probably be good as well, but served over hot basmati rice this is a stand alone meatless dish in our staunchly red meat eating family.
1 can great northern beans, rinsed (you can als start with dry beans, but it will add time to the prep time..)
1 can stewed tomatoes and their juice (if our own aren’t available we like Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted)
3-4 shallots peeled and finely diced (or one small onion)
a few cloves garlic diced
6-8 fresh kale leaves, veined and cut into thin strips
1-2 sprigs fresh sage, leaves removed from stems and diced
1 T cumin (we REALLY love cumin, you may want a bit less)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet heat cumin till fragrant then add a small amount of olive oil, shallots, garlic and sage, saute until shallots and garlic are tender. Add rinsed beans and tomatoes with their juice, heat until bubbly and hot. Stir in diced kale and season with S&P. Serve over hot basmati rice.
Here’s a quick post for our fabulous CSA members and farmer’s market customers who are now in possession of a peculiar looking vegetable. Purslane is a member of the Portulaca family of plants which also includes the common bedding plant moss rose (as far as I know it’s not edible) and came to the United State with our European ancestors. Although most people stateside know it as an aggravating garden weed it is not only highly edible, but also very nutritious. It boasts high levels of vitamins A&C as well as potassium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. As a heat loving succulent it steps up it’s production just about the time that more common greens like lettuce and spinach are giving up the ghost. It can be used just like other greens in a fresh salad, added to an omelet, steamed with a little salt or mixed into any cold salad. Below is a recipe for a potato salad that Emma created for Brandon right after they were married. She grew up on solid Midwestern fare heavy on the dairy and mayonnaise, born in California he prefers much lighter fare. He also dislikes raw onions and celery, so you won’t find either of those in this recipe. This salad lends it’s self to seasonal additions and subtractions, so feel free to experiment, bacon is a lovely addition any time of year.
Bran’s Favorite Potato Salad
1# waxy potatoes (about 6 medium or 12 small) cut up and boiled skin on, STILL WARM
1-2 shallots finely diced(can substitute onions (if you like them))
1 bunch purslane, wash dried and chopped (or radishes, kohlrabi, etc, depending on season)
2-3 T chopped fresh herbs washed, dried and diced(what ever is in season, we like dill, parsley and more chives best, but rosemary, tarragon, basil, mint and thyme are also likely candidates, depending on what’s on hand and what you are serving with your salad)
a few strips cooked crumbled bacon, best added just before serving so they stay crispy
Dressing (if you like a really moist salad you may want to double):
3T white wine vinegar (can use other vinegars, i.e. balsamic, cider, rice depending on your choice of herbs)
1/2 T whole grain mustard
3T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place warm potatoes in large bowl, sprinkle purslane (or whatever other veggies to want to add in) over the top. In a smaller separate bowl place diced herbs, mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper, mix well. Slowly drizzle oil into herb and vinegar mixture, a whisk works best . When well emulsified pour dressing over potato mixture, add capers and mix well. Refrigerate for at least and hour or two before serving, overnight is better. The potatoes being warm is key because they soak up the dressing better that way!
It seems like a strange thing to write a blog post about, but manure is pretty important to us. The cows, goats, chickens and turkeys spend all night in the barn or coop and that adds up to a lot of manure in pretty short order. Every morning after the cows and goats go outdoors we add a fresh layer of straw to their pens. The straw absorbs the wet parts of the manure and helps to bind the solids. The combination of dry straw and wet manure starts to compost while it’s in the barn. The heat from the composting action helps to keep the animals warm (remember there is a fresh layer of straw between the animals and the composting manure). After a few weeks the layers of manure and straw get to be quite thick, so on a warm (think above freezing) day we go in and clean out the animals’ pens. For the chickens this process happens once a week, rain or shine. They are in a smaller area and chicken manure has a LOT of ammonia in it. If it isn’t cleaned out frequently the birds can get sick and the moisture can rot the wooden floor out.
Once we get all this manure out of the animals’ living quarters we have to put it somewhere. The old fashioned answer was to make a big pile right out side the barn and spread it on the fields in the late winter/early spring. Manure is a wonderful soil builder, adding organic matter, living bacteria and of course lots of nitrogen to help grow healthy crops. However there were several problems with the old fashioned manure pile, most obviously, by the end of the winter there is a huge stinky pile right in the middle of the barn yard. There is another less obvious but more serious problem with the old fashioned manure pile and that is potential groundwater contamination. When that huge amount of nitrogen rich manure sits out in the elements all winter the nitrogen leaches out into the soil surrounding the pile. Since the soil in the barn yard isn’t growing a crop that needs all that extra nitrogen it is at risk for leaching into our groundwater supply where it can have serious environmental and human health consequences. To mitigate the possibility of groundwater contamination and avoid wasting the precious nutrients in the manure we make our manure piles on ground that will be growing crops the following season. The manure is stacked in smaller piles which we turn frequently and the piles are not in the same place year after year. We are fortunate enough to have a tractor with a bucket so that after we hand shovel the manure out of the barn we can use mechanical muscle to do the rest of the work. Here are some photos of Mike turning the manure pile. He is moving manure from the outer edges back into the middle to keep the pile actively composting.
This is a question we get asked a lot. The answer is mostly the same kinds of things they do in the summer, except the cows and goats are eating dried grass and forbs, known as hay, instead of grazing in the pastures. Forbs are any of the broad leaved plants that grow out in the pasture that aren’t grass. If you saw them in your lawn you’d call them “weeds”, but their nutrients and minerals mixed with those in the grass help to get the animals thru the long winter in good health. The cows and goats also get a small portion (less than one pound per animal per day) of grain to help round out their winter rations. Here’s our little steer checking out the camera, the two heifers were too busy eating their hay to look up.
Here are the goat girls eating lichens off of one our our historic sugar maple trees. We have to watch them closely because once they finish the lichens they are likely to start in on the tree’s bark. What they’re after is the tender, nutritious inner bark known as the cambium. Unfortunately when the cambium is eaten the tree can’t transport nutrients and water from it’s roots up to it’s canopy, effectively killing the tree. This can get a good thing for places where we’d like to get rid of weedy or invasive trees, but in the case of the sugar maples we most definitely do not want them to be girdled. The goat girls were moved to their winter pasture right after this picture was taken, the only trees there are trees we’d like them to girdle.
The chickens and the two lonely turkeys still get their regular ration of feed, a mix of grains and minerals ground by a local farmer. In the summer they eat grass, insects, seeds and other tasty tidbits out of their pasture, but in the winter the have to make do with extra vegetables from our kitchen. Here’s a picture of their weekly coop clean out, they are watching the goings on from the bucket of the tractor. They get very excited at the prospect of having a fresh bale of straw to scratch around in and the can’t wait to get back into the coop and check it out.
All of our animals are breeds that are adapted to living outdoors year round. The shorter days of fall tell the animals to grow a thicker coat of fur,to molt and grow fresh new feathers and to turn some of their food resources into fat to help them make it thru the winter outdoors in good health. Fresh clean outdoor air is very healthy for the animals (and us humans too!) so except for days that are “fit for neither man nor beast”all the animals go outdoors daily. At the end of the day they all come back into the barn or coop and are locked up securely warm, dry and safe for the night.
We’ve had a steady stream of inquiries, so we are posting here to confirm; Thread Creek Farm will offering it’s first summer (June-October) vegetable CSA this year. We’ll be posting the registration forms here and on the farm face book page by Monday. If you have questions before then just ask, we’ve got the details nailed down, we’re just getting the form typed up. Hope everyone is staying warm!
Here in Michigan we caught the tail end of a really nasty winter storm Thursday night and Friday morning. We only had about six inches of snow here, but it was the most snow we’ve had since the high tunnel was built. We were a little concerned because it was the first real snow the tunnel had seen, but we had no reason to worry, the snow had mostly slid of the steep gothic peak of the tunnel by the time chores were done Friday morning. These picture were taken between 10 and 11am. The snow just slid right off. Many thanks to Lucky and the crew from Keeler Glasgow who designed and built our tunnel.