Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beef Carnitas


Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds beef (round steak, stew meat, or Swiss steak) trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces 1 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large unpeeled orange wedge


1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.
2. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add beef; sauté 5 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides.
3. Stir in broth, sugar, salt, and pepper; nestle orange section into beef mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender.
4. Remove and discard orange. Continue simmering, uncovered, 8 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently.

Italian Sausage Risotto

*~*~*~This is one of our family's favorites!!!*~*~*~*
Serves 4-6


1 lb Italian pork sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
1 T butter
1 ¼ C Arborio rice
½ C good red wine
3 C hot chicken broth
1 T grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to serve)
salt & pepper to taste


1. Skin the sausages and pinch small sections into a large frying pan. Fry gently until lightly crusty. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

2. In the frying pan melt the butter, add the onion and cook over moderate heat until it softens. Add the rice and toss until well coated in butter, stirring constantly.

3. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the sausage and stir through.

4. Add the chicken broth and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low , cover, and cook 15-20 minutes until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan, add salt & pepper to taste and serve.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Delivering Food after THE FLOOD

The first three weeks of August had been rainy. But the damp and wet that had been inconvenient in the garden (delayed fall seedings and rampant weeds in beds too muddy to cultivate), became devastating when we recieved 6.5 inches of rain in about 8 hours overnight on the 23rd/24th.

We'd gone to bed exhausted that night as Thursday had been a long day with chicken projects. Friday promised to be even busier, as we had to harvest for 50 veggie boxes and two markets. As we slept, it rained and rained and rained. When we woke up and went out to survey the garden, we found that fully a third of the garden was under water. Three hundred of our heirloom tomato plants were under 18 inches of water, three quarters of an acre of potatoes were underwater and 400 two week old chicks just put out to pasture had drowned.

When Beth came in from looking at the field that morning, she thought our season was over, surely we wouldn't have a harvest today or any time soon. Jody said "Let's go take a look and see what's left out there. As we waded throught the beds, it was pretty devastating; however, it wasn't a 100 percent loss. In fact there would be a harvest today - there had to be as potatoes floating in the water would be a total loss, if they weren't taken out immediately.

With the help of Ben and Joe (occasional farm staff at Cedar Valley), we proceeded to pull potatoes from the watery muck of vines, mulch, and many thousands of earthworms. We'd definitely have potatoes for the shares this week and enough to hold for next week. Actually, we proceeded to harvest a very generous amount (there was more to salvage than we'd thought) of veggies for our share member's boxes. The next few weeks were a challenge to fill shares as potatoes and tomatoes are a late summer staple. We, also, lost basil, onions, green beans, turnips and two big beds of rutabagas that were planned for fall boxes.

Fortunately, we were able to buy some vegetables in from another CSA farm to help round out our boxes. As soon, as the ground was dry we started seeding fast growing crops (salad mix, radishes, spinach, turnips) that would help us fill boxes later in the season. Four weeks after the flood, we took one week off from CSA deliveries to let the beds we'd been harvesting rest and the newly planted beds to grow. Our members were very understanding. Because we had begunn our season a week late (cold wet spring) and much of our fall seeding was delayed, we decided to add a week on to our share deliviveries. Despite the devasting flood of August 2007, our members recieved 23 out of the 24 weeks of vegetables we'd initially promised in the spring.

It was a trying season, but we were very proud of the value we delivered to our members.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Peas on Earth

I have picked a lot of peas in the past two days; consequently, I’ve had a lot of time in the hot sun to think. In keeping with my nascent yoga practice, I was trying to be fully present in what I was doing. So, I had a lot of time, in the sun, thinking about picking peas. I learned some lessons about picking peas that might even be relevant to other things. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. (Remember, I was in the hot sun.)

Sometimes the thickest tangle conceals the most rewards. The trick is to
be willing to pull apart the vines to see the fruit.

Make time to
put up the trellis. Having your supports in place before you need them
makes the job much easier later on.

Use as many of your senses as
possible. Sight, touch and even hearing help to find the pod that is

Take time to reward yourself. A few pea pods, fresh
off the vine help to remind me that a difficult job is

It’s always helpful to look at things from a different
angle. No matter how thorough I think I’ve been, when I look at the same plant
from a different place I’m almost always rewarded with a few more pods.

A corollary to the rule above: Someone else will always see
peas you missed. It never hurts to get a second opinion.

Know when to say when. Walking back through the row, there are always peas that were missed. It’s important to know when to call a seemingly endless job done enough for today!


Because farming is an annual endeavor, each year we have the opportunity to review what we’ve done and make improvements to our business model. Since Jody and I both thrive on change this is a great fit for us. The flip side of this however, is that we tend to want to do, and change, and add too much. There are so many great ideas and so many directions we want to take our business it’s like a huge buffet, and we’re tempted to take a taste of everything. We’ve learned though, I hope, not to put more on our plates than we can handle. When we start talking about all the wonderful opportunities, we have to remind ourselves what our goals really are.
Our objectives are twofold; sustainability and wealth.
Sustainable means something that can continue to grow and thrive. It doesn’t increase at the cost of depleting something else. Because sustainable is part of our business’ name -Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm- we are often asked about it. This past summer Jody came up with a great, succinct way to explain what sustainable means to our business. It means that our farm is a complete system. With the exception of seed, and some raw material for compost, we don’t add outside inputs. Chemical fertilizers and pest control aren’t used. Sustainable also means that we sell food at its true cost; it isn’t deflated by government subsidies or inflated by middlemen. Related to that, it means that we wish to make a living wage off our products. We work hard on the farm and should be able to support our family with that work. Finally, sustainable means leaving this land to our children in better condition than when we began.
Wealth is the other objective for which we strive. That word also requires a bit of definition. My favorite definition of wealth comes from that unequaled source of wisdom: the email signature line. A good friend has this statement under her email signature, “True wealth is a network of mutually beneficial, interconnected relationships.” I love that definition of wealth because it is sustainable. Our wealth doesn’t increase at the cost of someone else’s. It isn’t a zero sum game. This kind of wealth has little to do with money. That has its place too, but it is part of sustainability. We enjoy this kind of wealth regularly on our farm. We have many volunteers who come every week, work hard, share a meal, take home a box of vegetables and thank us for the opportunity. They think that they are getting the better end of the deal and so do we. We work in cooperation with other small organic farms to the benefit of both. We continue to build this kind of wealth throughout our community.
These are the goals that we try to keep in mind as we choose from the buffet of opportunities. This is the foundation we try to build on in our family and our business.