I can’t help but smile as I think about how winter is gone and spring has come. Living here at The Farm at Long Lane, I’ve realized an even greater appreciation for the end of winter. I know that each season has its special contributions to a well-rounded year with variety, but I’m happy to say toodle-loo to winter because it can be pretty tough out here.
This year brings special excitement as I re-evaluate our objectives and re-focus some of the energy here on the farm. For the past couple years, it’s been amazing to develop the market-sized kitchen garden where we’ve provided a weekly supply of fresh heirloom veggies to our Friends of the Farm customers. It’s been an opportunity to learn and be challenged, testing techniques and skills that belong to another time. But, change is in the air and a bit of a shift is in order as the farm continues to develop.
The Farm at Long Lane, under the historic name The Christian Kupke Farmstead, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places this past December. It was a big accomplishment that correlates well with the farm’s interest in historic preservation here on the property. After two seasons of focusing on our market garden, we're re-directing the farm focus to more long-term plans for the property. The goal is to invest more time and energy in the refurbishment and restoration of the property and landscape. This is in line with the overall aim of making the property available and desirable for various functions. With the recent drought and its critical impact on water usage and conservation, now seems like the right time to make this shift.
So the watchword for this season, and those to come, is investment. And those investments basically boil down to resources and energy directed toward the big ideas, but usually done in baby steps. I hope that our investments in water conservation and soil fertility will help us yield stronger plants that survive disease, pests, and drought better. There’s definitely more to come on those plans. And, I hope that the farm’s investments in refurbishment of structures will preserve the historic buildings for future and improve the visual appeal of the farm.
The kitchen garden remains dear to me; what great lessons I have learned there. Hopefully the learning curve will continue as these experimental garden plots are kept going. I’ll still be planting a garden of heirlooms, but the farm will rely on rain water instead of the well for most irrigation. The ideas continue to percolate and I expect that time will reveal how sensible they are!
As time goes on, I'll be happy to share the ups and downs that we encounter! Thanks for taking time to check in with The Farm at Long Lane. I hope this spring brings you the promise of something new and interesting to do!
Enjoy the Seasons!
The Farm at Long Lane, llc
We’re excited to announce that The Farm at Long Lane was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 19, 2012 under its historical name, The Christian Kupke Farmstead. To learn more about our National Register listing, click here!
Winter is barely here and we’ve already survived a blizzard! Perhaps you, too, have been impacted by this past week’s frosty weather. We hope that you and your loved ones are safe and warm this holiday season. As for us, the farm cats are sunning themselves to keep warm and the chickens are cozy in their coop – they really hate the wind. And, we’re looking forward to breaking out the snowshoes to get a better look at some of these huge drifts around The Farm at Long Lane.
Whatever weather you find yourself in, we do wish you the happiest of holidays and a peaceful start to 2013!
Time races on. Autumn around here means taking stock of projects. There are those “best not left over winter.” And there are projects needing to be done to merely survive winter itself. A couple of winters on the farm have taught us some important lessons and we regard autumn as a great gift of time to align priorities and roll up our sleeves to address tasks on “the list.”
Thanksgiving comes this week and it will be a welcome break and relaxed time with family and friends. At church this past week our pastor referred to gratitude as something that we need to practice in order to develop. I thought that she made an interesting observation. This time of year does stir the contemplative juices, spurring the occasional reflective downtime. And so, I’ve made a short list of what I’m thankful for right now.
I am thankful for . . .
- The elegant family of white-tailed deer that live in our woods, invoking stillness and awe when we cross paths
- Good health for our family
- Our neighbors who continually show us the ropes and share the local flavor
- You, our supporters and friends, who nurture our evolving farm endeavors by taking an interest in The Farm at Long Lane – many thanks!
- Seasons that change and rain – glorious rain – that eventually falls
In a year full of ups and downs, what are you thankful for? We’re so glad that you checked in with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from The Farm at Long Lane!
The holiday season officially begins later this week and we are poring our holiday menus, taking into account everyone’s preferences and favorites. For me, homemade cranberry sauce is an essential and relatively easy part of our holiday meals. That being said, many of the sauces that I have made over the years have been “close-but-not-quite” in terms of what I had hoped for. Perhaps you, too, have suffered silently through cranberry sauces that are too orange-zesty, or too tangy, or too sweet, or too spicy, or even too boozy. At any rate, last year I made the following recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Holiday Fruits and it struck just the right chord in terms of sweetness, tanginess, and flavor. I’m sure that this is my favorite version to date.
Here at The Farm at Long Lane, we definitely support eating locally and seasonally within one’s own foodshed whenever possible. For that reason we do have to point out that we don’t grow cranberries, pineapple, or orange - all key ingredients in this recipe. However, all of these ingredients are certainly seasonal and represent traditional ingredients that grace our tables during the holidays. I do hope that you will try this slightly different sauce – enjoy!
Cranberry Sauce with Holiday Fruits
1 ½ cup oranges, supreme with juice and cut into small pieces* (about 3 medium)
1 cup apple cider
4 cups fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces
24 oz. cranberries
1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar (I use cane)**
½ cup lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
6 whole cloves
Combine all ingredients in a large heavy-bottom pot. Over medium heat, bring mixture to boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. Allow mixture to cool, then store in airtight containers. This sauce freezes well.
*Supreming an orange is to peel it and then cut out the individual segments, free from any membrane or pith. It’s important to use supremed rather than sectioned oranges here because that tough membrane would be fibrous and unappealing if left on the segments. If you google “supreme orange,” there are lots of great tutorials – it’s a pretty straightforward knife skill.
** Depending upon your personal tastes, the sugar in this recipe can be increased or decreased. I’d say that this version is moderate on the sweetness scale - the sweetness of the pineapple and oranges really is balanced with the tartness of the berries. But you may think otherwise!
I’ve re-emerged to post this blog after quite some time without sharing about the farm. I feel guilty about that and can assure you that I’ve considered many possible posts over these summer months, but I couldn’t bear to write about the weather. How boring! But yet, the weather provided our biggest challenge and loomed as THE topic of each day. I could never figure out how to avoid my blog posts devolving into commiseration over the abysmal heat and the really grave drought that seemed to get worse and worse. All in all, the summer had more successes than failures in terms of the garden and our produce harvests. It’s true, our summer season was hot beyond belief for what seemed like months on end. And, the moisture situation really started to cause us alarm in the latter half of July when it became apparent that it really wasn’t going to rain anytime soon.
Summer was a challenge: get out early to finish work before noon or face great physical discomfort, water every day, and water in the evening so as to foil the sun and give the soil a few hours to absorb the moisture. Oh yes, and pray for rain. Despite the obstacles, things went pretty much as planned through the start of August. Thanks to that plentiful and frequent irrigation, we were able to keep things green while our farming neighbors were starting to really worry about their non-irrigated corn and soybean crops. Thanks to the early heat, the spring lettuce was a bit bitter and bolted almost immediately. Oh well, the heat was great for the tomatoes and peppers. The early arugula, radishes, and peas did really well as did the later kale, kohlrabi, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, okra, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. I had horrible luck this go-round with beets, chard, and potatoes. The pole beans would have been fine in late August if we had continued our generous watering habit but, by that time, concerns over our well water supply ended that practice. So, green beans were sacrificed for the peace of mind that came from knowing that we could probably continue to flush the toilets, take showers, and run the washing machine, among other things, as the drought droned on.
The wildflower plots were incredibly difficult to get started. Back in spring we had a couple downpours that literally washed seeds away followed by dry periods. So, I hand-watered those 24 plots twice daily, trying to coax those bitty seeds to germinate. By mid-summer we were rewarded by some really beautiful stands of wildflowers (with a healthy amount of weeds) and we hope that many of these seeds will drop to soil and re-seed for next year. Along a similar vein, the six new beds of mixed sunflowers were the easiest plants that I have ever grown. They like sun, they like heat, and they didn’t seem to need a lot of moisture. I hate to exaggerate, but some of those flowers were well over 12’ tall with flower heads 15-18” around! I may embellish a bit, but not too much.
The wildflowers and sunflowers encouraged an assortment of birds to find a home in the garden. It was nice to have their cheerful company and activity as they flew amongst the grasses and blossoms. Our unbelievable problem last year with cucumber beetles and squash bugs was not re-lived. I’d like to think our work encouraging a more diverse ecosystem had a part in that. Reality is that it may have had more to do with the weather. Either way, we were able to manage those pests along with flea beetles, cabbage worms and white cabbage moths, and a few fascinating gray blister beetles. The wedding veil covers did the job, though the wind really beat them up over the season. Along with fending off insect pests, these veiled plots gave protection from marauding deer that stumbled into the chard bed from time to time.
So, the summer season is over. Garden clean-up has started and we’re contemplating seed orders and improvements for next year. I do believe that it’s important to appreciate each season for all that it offers. I am thankful for a remarkably productive growing season despite the odds. And, I now look forward to autumn beginning later this week . . . we are so ready for it.
Enjoy the seasons!
I was recently contacted by "Living the Country Life" radio program, the largest rural radio network in the nation. “Living the Country Life” is based in Des Moines, Iowa at Meredith Corporation, which also produces publications like Successful Farming and Better Homes & Gardens. The radio program airs twice daily on over 300 stations in 38 states. Anyway, I was contacted to be interviewed for a segment called "Country View," that features things that people do with the land they live on.
The interest in our property and our experience living here was in light of the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862. This past May marked this significant milestone. There's a lot of Nebraska history preserved here at this old farmstead, so The Farm at Long Lane was a great match for this radio segment. Check out the “Living the Country Life” website and our story with audio interview!
Jason was busy pruning trees over the Memorial Day weekend and we made many trips to the "burn pile" with assorted limbs and branches. I got involved because I asked his help on pruning back a large, old Viburnum bush that bloomed spectacularly earlier in the spring. Anyway, I was making my last trip to the burn pile when I saw the most amazing sight. I nearly missed it, but I did a double take and saw two of what are the largest moths in North America - Cecropia Moths.
The pair were perched on what looked like tall grass blades, but it could have been an old twig. They were mating and the largest of the two had a wingspan of 6-7". They were magnificent - I have never seen anything like them before. A great site that talks about these striking moths is from the University of Kentucky.
The next morning, both moths were gone. I am going to be on the look-out for caterpillars this summer, now that I know what to look for. What a late-spring treat it was to see such an intriguing insect!
We’ve had the most amazing week here at the farm! No sooner had I breathed relief on getting all of those tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants into the ground than did I receive a call from Kathryn Cates Moore of the Lincoln Journal Star. She asked to do an interview about organic gardening for feature for the Sunday, May 20th issue of the paper. It was so great to have her out to chat and walk among my wee garden plants. It was such a thrill. I’m grateful to Kathryn for the opportunity to talk about The Farm at Long Lane, llc.
Photographer Eric Gregory did a beautiful job visually representing the garden. Looking at his photography, it is nice to see a fresh perspective on what I gaze at every day. For me, it was just so crazy to be photographed doing the all-too-familiar - and really unglamorous - tasks that keep the garden moving forward through the season. As the saying begins, “If I had a dime for every weed I’ve pulled this afternoon . . .”
Please check out the Lincoln Journal Star’s article "Here's what's growing on The Farm at Long Lane."
Well, this week definitely gave us some wind in our sails, or shall I say compost on our plots. And the season has only just begun! If you haven’t done so already, please join our Mailing List to receive news from the farm and our latest blog postings. We are also on Facebook – please Like us!