Farm, Journal, Update

“Like drilling through an asteroid”

Chiseled off a chunk of ground

Chiseled off a chunk of ground

I tried pulling plastic last week. And when I say “tried” I mean I felt like I was trying to drill a hole through an asteroid with Bruce Willis. We are 3″ below the average rainfall for the month of October. Ordinarily I would use the electric tractor from the student farm to lift the edges of the plastic, which saves a lot of labor on your back. Once the edges are exposed then you simply pull the plastic and drip down the length of the bed. Being that the ground was a concrete block, the tiny motor on the electric tractor burned out trying dig through the ground. OK, shovel time!!! I was at the north end of the bed ready to throw my entire body weight on the top of the shovel to get it in the ground and just as I leapt from the ground, smashing into the 1″ diameter of the head of the shovel, it ricocheted of the top of the ground and soon I was laying flat on my back. Yes, digging was not going to be an option. I regrouped, looking around to make sure no one saw me then tried again. The shovel didn’t even make it one inch into the ground. I ended up asking a farmer to come help me with a shovel implement. This was the hardest time I have ever had during clean up. I am hoping when the farmers go to chisel the field there isn’t a bunch of garbage buried beneath the earth’s crust!

Parsnips

Parsnips

IMG_1495The only thing left in the field after harvesting the last bed of parsnips, broccoli and kale. After waiting what seemed like FOR-EV-R for the parsnips to be ready, I finally dug them out yesterday. I was disappointed with how they turned out. I had high hopes for these because they are one of my favorite vegetables. Unfortunately, they turned out similar to the carrots in that they were quite spindly. This could not have been caused by weeds because the bed was completely weed free. By the time they were in the ground everything slowed down including weed growth (one of my favorite times of the year) :). I’ve thought about this and I’m pretty sure that because they were grown in cells their root systems became twisted before they could be planted in the field. That plus slow to non existent germination I am not sure that I will try this crop again.

Tractors!!!

Tractors!!!

I mowed down the broccoli patch yesterday after harvesting almost 40 lbs of beautifully sour smelling florets. (Sour in a good cabbagey way). Every time I am on a tractor with a bucket I can’t help but sing “I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero til’ the end of the night. He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”. Anyway, luckily there are no other tractors in sight so I don’t also have to fight the urge to play chicken. I got off on a Footloose tangent…… back to broccoli… I mowed down the beds which made it easier to pull up the landscape fabric. The date has been set to go back into the kitchen and next week will be my final farm blog post. I might try to hijack the blog back to show you the other side of the the spectrum. What happens when the food is harvested and goes into the kitchen?

Beautiful Broccoli

Beautiful Broccoli

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Farm, Hendrick House, Journal

The First Frost of the Year!

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This pretty much sums up the weather the last week. It has been freeeeeeeezing in the mornings and warming up in the afternoons to the mid 70s. By the time the day is finished there is a pile of clothes laying in the passenger seat of my car from all the layers I had to strip off.

My one nasturtium flower of the year murdered by the freeze

My one nasturtium flower of the year murdered by the freeze

bye bye peppers :(

bye bye peppers ­čśŽ

We had our first frost over the weekend. I was petrified to look at the farm afterwards because I still have lettuce, kale, chard, herbs, broccoli, green onion, green beans and peppers in the ground. As I slowly pulled up to the plot to survey the damage I saw the death and destruction. It totaled the peppers and green beans. The peppers were almost finished but I was really hoping to get another harvest of the beans this week. Mother nature put a kibosh on that. Thankfully the rest of the crops were untouched and I had a great harvest of romaine yesterday. I am hoping to get the rest out of the ground by the end of the week.

I got all the tomatoes unclipped and pulled from the plastic (over 2,000 plants). Yowza, my back hurt! I am really looking forward to the day someone develops biodegradable tomato clips. I am going to remember the tedious removal next year so that I am careful to only put clips on where they are ABSOLUTELY needed. The trellising came down yesterday and it now looks like a sad barren brown spot ready for winter. I will be pulling plastic and drip on the rest of the tomato bed, peppers and green beans, which will be the rest of the plastic on the farm. I have been slowly breaking down the farm as I go so this is pretty huge that this will be one whole 1/2 acre finished. Its all downhill from here!

No more tomatoes :(

No more tomatoes ­čśŽ

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Farm, Hendrick House

Farm to Table Dinner

Fall

My friend Dale’s fall Maple

People keep asking me if the farm is over. My answer is NO NO NO NO NO! ….. and then I show them the picture below which was this morning’s delivery. I still have an acre of produce in the ground people! This is the downward slide but definitely not the end!!!

HH farm delivery this morning 10/13/2015

HH farm delivery this morning 10/13/2015

We had our first HH farm to table dinner at Kappa Delta sorority last Wednesday. It accomplished all the goals we anticipated. It was amazing exposure and marketing for the farm, it solidified relationships between the clients and the chef (Andy Mullins) and it showed the range of product that can be offered with Hendrick House food service. On a personal note, I love being able to harvest product that morning and cooking with it in the afternoon. The smells and flavors are completely consuming. There is so much more care that is taken with product when you have a stake in it are the one who picked the variety, planted it, cared for it, fed it, watered it and harvested it. The chefs can say the same thing and take ownership in the fact that they ultimately decide what is grown. If even a portion of that feeling ( the appreciation for food grown less than a mile away with complete control of flavors) can be conveyed to the clients through their chefs then to me this farm project can be deemed successful.

Farm to table Dinner Kappa Delta

Farm to table Dinner Kappa Delta

The air of excitement throughout the house was magnetic, from the kitchen to the dining room. I was even able to get members of AKL fraternity to come and help serve, which created double exposure for all of the positive attributes associated with this event, listed above.

Table Center pieces

Table Center pieces

The tables were dressed in white linens with crisp white linen napkins. The table decorations were all from the farm, cut flowers donated by the U of I Student Sustainable Farm and blue corn with husks donated from the U of I from my good friend Jeremy Shafer. We poured sparkling grape juice in place of champagne and had carafes of ice water placed at each table.

1st course Soup!

Spring Onions before they were turned into soup

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Spring Onion Vicyssoise

The first course was a vichyssoise made from the beautiful spring onions from the farm. It was paired with apples given to me by my friend Rick Weinzierl which were turned into apple cream and apple crisps by Andy. We also used fresh horseradish given to me by my friends Bill and Dale who work with the U of I Aboretum.

Red Beets before they were salt roasted

Red Beets before they were salt roasted

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The second course was a spinach salad made with┬ábeautiful big red beets (from the farm) and Prairie Fruits Farm ch├Ęvre.

HH farm kale before it was cooked

HH farm kale before it was cooked

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We served pork tenderloin for the entree with HH farm kale and HH green bean braise.

Apple and white cheddar Turnovers

Apple and white cheddar Turnovers

Equipment Mistake

Equipment Mistake

The dessert was apple and white cheddar turnovers and caramel. The apples came from Rick and the cream that went in to┬áthe caramel sauce was from Kilgus Farmstead (up near Fairbury, Illinois). I do have to add that it is very important when coming up with a menu to think about the equipment that will be available to you when cooking and executing the dinner. I didn’t realize Andy didn’t have a fryer in his kitchen so it was pretty comical attempting to fry over 100 turnovers in my little fry daddy.

I have to give a special thanks to Andy Mullins for partnering with me for the day and lending me his kitchen helping to market the farm. Thank you also to the girls of Kappa Delta for letting us do this dinner for you and also for taking pictures. Big thanks to the boys at AKL for always supporting me and the farm and showing up to be wonderful, diligent servers. I definitely look forward to doing more of these events in the future!

Success!

Success!

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Choppin’ Broccoli

Sweet Sarah

Sweet Sarah

As the season winds down we bid a fond farewell to Sarah, my assistant for the summer. It is so hard to find good help, people who are willing to show up for the job and work hard. It is even harder to find good people willing to put in intense manual labor in all types of weather. Sarah is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! She will be sorely missed as she heads back into the kitchen this week. Thank you for all of your hard work this summer!

Broccoli

Broccoli

IMG_1383The broccoli is finally ready. It only took about 68 days :). I had my first big harvest from it today getting almost 200 lbs off of two 180ft beds. It was a relatively easy crop to grow, only having to treat it for cabbage looper with bt once a week. I harvested the main heads on 80 % of the broccoli and I am going to leave it in the ground as long as possible to see if I get any off shoots that can be harvested.

Sarah's green bean harvest

Sarah’s green bean harvest

The fall crops are in full swing and I am going to harvest the last of our green beans this week. That will make three rounds off of these plants. They are starting to look a little stressed from being manipulated and handled during harvest which will affect the quality of the beans. Since the amount of sunlight in a day is getting shorter I will not have time to plant another crop.

HH farm Jalape├▒os

HH farm Jalape├▒os

We have been having some really cold evenings but in true Illinois fashion it is supposed to be up in the 80s this week. I think this is just a fluke and will not last. It is a nice little surprise for my warm weather plants still in the field. I am hoping this will help me be able to have a couple more nice harvests off my peppers. My hot peppers (jalape├▒os, habaneros) are doing famously. Above is a beautiful picture from the director of Armory House of Chef Liz’s use of our jalape├▒o peppers.

****I am excited to announce that we are having a┬áfarm to table event at Kappa Delta this coming Wednesday where Andy Mullins and myself will be presenting a fantastic spread containing HH farm ingredients. Please stay tuned for pictures on ┬á ┬á ┬á ┬á next week’s blog!!****

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