Lisa Foal Sitting

The summer is flying by! We are grateful for the rain last night – it will save us another round of irrigation. The hot weather is bringing on our heat loving crops like eggplant, tomatoes and sweet corn. Unfortunately, the raccoons have been making a mess in the corn patch, despite the electric fence barrier. Ken put up our heavy duty fencer last night and we hope that will discourage them! We harvested our garlic this week and it is hanging up to cure. Yesterday Ken took off our early planted oats – the horses will be happy about that throughout the year. Our two foals Eli and Wendell are doing well. Their mothers went back to work this week so that we could have two teams of three horses working to plow the 2012 garden area. Lisa was employed foal sitting in a little improvised outdoor stall – the ‘playpen’ – near the field so the mothers could nurse the foals without having to come all the way up to the barn. It would take a full time photographer to keep up with all the photographs we could take every day. Let alone getting it together to share them with everyone! We’re a small farm, but a busy one that feeds many.

I have been very pleased with the cucumbers that we have been harvesting from our hoop houses. We moved the slicing cucumber plants into the hoop houses this year because so many years the slicing cucumbers that we planted outside died off early from Downy Mildew. The hoophouses protect the plants from infection and keeps the plants bearing longer. Last year we tried a few varieties and chose “Tasty Green” as the one that did the best under our conditions.
Lisa and Grahame Riding up from the Field

We continue to appreciate the efforts of our apprentices. Ryan Brennen has finished his sojourn here at Orchard Hill and Tara Smedbol will be joining us later this week for the remainder of the season. We have just had a visit from Ava Richardson, who was an apprentice here in 2003. She was visiting with her husband from Japan. Ava has been working in Japan teaching for the past three years and is hoping to return to Canada with her husband and take up farming again. We received a letter this week from Anna McFaul, who was an apprentice here in 2008 and 2009. Anna is travelling for a year and is in New Zealand enjoying all the fruit that they grow there. We regularly receive emails from past apprentices who are fondly remembering their time here, a high number of whom are now farming themselves. It’s curious to have so many fledglings fly out of our ‘nest’ here on the farm. When we see them years later, I want to know if they’re eating properly, looking healthy, found a good mate…we have a vibrant family of past apprentices.

Three Generations in the Kitchen

Our daughter, Ellen, is visiting from Portland, Oregon until the end of August and we are extremely happy to have her home for a longer visit than usual. Her husband will be joining her for a week on Saturday. They are thinking of possibly moving to Ontario next year. Ellen has been busy in the kitchen doing preserving and helping to feed the crowd that gathers around our table for meals. It’s also great to have her experienced hand in the field…she and I started the CSA on our farm in 1997 to help fund her university education!

Cream together:

1/4 c. shortening of choice

1/2 cup oil

1 3/4 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 c. buttermilk or sour milk (or yogurt or sour cream with 1 tsp vinegar added)

Add all at once:

2 1/2 c. flour

1/4 c/ cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

Mix in:

2 c. grated zucchini (or any summer squash)

1/2 c. chocolate chips

Bake in a greased and floured bundt pan or 9 x 13″ greased pan at 325 degrees F. for 45 minutes.


Ryan with Wendell and Gwen

Gwen had her Suffolk Punch foal ready to greet us on Tuesday morning! A beautiful stud colt with a white diamond on his forehead. Ryan will be leaving our farm this week and was hoping the foal would be born before he departed.  Ryan is off to start medical school and has enjoyed being part of our farm team getting in on the ground level of good health which begins with healthy food produced in a sustainable manor.  We wish him well and although we will miss him we are sure that he will be an excellent doctor.

Andy with Wendell and Gwen

The heat and dry weather have been a challenge and we are irrigating the main garden for the second time this week.  It is interesting how things balance out. Ken says that the average rain fall over the year remains fairly constant so that when we have a very wet spring we are likely to have a dry spell in the summer to balance it out…We hope it doesn’t last too long, but are glad that we have the ability to irrigate the garden.

We have new Tamworth pigs to help jump start the composting of the horse manure. They also enjoy the extra produce on CSA pick up days.

Tamworth Composting Pigs

Getting Combine Ready for Wheat Harvest

Mules at Horse Progress Days

Ken and Andy took a bit of a holiday and went to Horse Progress Days in Pennsylvania at the beginning of the month. The Mules caught their eye. Many of the Amish use mules further south because they do better in the heat.  However  Ken isn’t ready to switch to mule power yet!  Gena’s Suffolk foal has been named “Eli” and he continues to grow well.

It always seems like the garden is really producing when we have our first zucchini and broccoli and they have started. We have said good-bye to the peas and strawberries and the string beans are about to begin.

Working Share CSA members cleaning onions. Jaden, Tea and Sheena

Our working shares continue to give us a boost with the garden harvest and washing of vegetables.  It’s a great way to get to know new members and renew our connection with old members. Children benefit from being part of the work that goes into the produce they take home each week and it helps them realize where the food they eat really originates! We believe it adds to the richness of their CSA experience.

We have lots of Swiss Chard that we will be putting in our CSA “Extras” each week.  In the winter I visited our daughter, Ellen, in Portland, Oregon. She was graduating from a Chef’s Studio course taught by Robert Reynolds. Robert gave me a book he wrote inspired by recipes of his French friend and mentor, Josephine Araldo.  From a Breton Garden by Josephine Araldo and Robert Reynolds has lots of recipes for vegetables that Josephine’s grandmother used and we grow. I thought that it would be good to share some of the recipes with the CSA and I am finally getting around to it! (We must be caught up in the garden!) They use both parts of the chard like it is two different vegetables. My mother did the same thing when I was growing up.


Swiss Chard and cream is a combination that allows for limitless possibilities; the cream could be replaced by walnuts, quatre epies, or whole grains of mustard. The vegetable can always accompany a roast duck and sauteed potatoes, and a wine such as Cahors or Madiran.


2 bunches Swiss Chard

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion

1/2 cup bechamel (white sauce made with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon flour cooked together over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes and then 1/2 cup milk added and stirred until it is thick, cook over very low heat for several minutes).

1/3 cup grated cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup cream

Salt, freshly ground pepper, and nutmeg


Prepare the chard by removing the center stalks. Reserve for another use. Blanch the green in boiling salted water until limp. The cooking time depends on the tenderness of the greens. If they are young plants, cook only a minute or two; if they are older and more fibrous, they may require more time to blanch. When they are done, remove to a colander and flush them under cold water to stop their cooking.  Remove to a cutting board and chop coursely. In a dry skillet, dry saute until the leaves render their water, set aside.

In the same skillet, melt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter and saute the onion for a minute or two. Add the chard, which should be well drained. Stir in the bechamel and cheese; toss well to coat with the sauce.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Combine the egg and cream and stir into the chard mixture. Once the egg is added, do not cook. It can be warmed, but if subjected to too much heat, the eggs will hard cook.  Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

Note: The recipe calls for both bechamel and an egg and cream liaison. One or the other can be used alone, or both can be replaced by heavy cream reduced until it coats a spoon.

An alternative to cream or bechamel is a flavorful oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil,hazelnut oil, or colza oil.


This gratin goes well with a roast of pork accompanied by sauteed apples and a white wine from Savoie, an Apremont or a Crepy.

INGREDIENTS                                            Serves 4 to 6

1 or 2 bunches Swiss chard with ribs

1 cup white sauce ( see recipe below)

1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

4 tablespoons melted butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the Swiss chard stems from the greens and save the greens for another use. Remove the tough outer fiber of the stalks by slipping a knife under the cut end of the stalk and peeling it away. Cut the stalks into 1/2 -inch pieces on the diagonal. Blanch the stalks in boiling salted water until done, about 4 to 6 minutes. Darin in a non-aluminum colander and flush in cold water. The vegetable water from cooking can be saved and used for a flovorful stack.

In a bowl, season the chard stalks with salt and pepper, and then mix with the white sauce; set in an oven-proof casserole.  Sprinkle the surface with cheese.  Dribble the melted butter over the top and brown the gratin in a preheated oven.  The gratin can also be place under the broiler provided the mixture has been warmed before being put into the gratin dish.



3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup hot milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and then the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer (over a very low heat) 20 minutes; reserve and keep warm.