Thursday, January 13, 2011

CSA Week 14

Greetings from Colvin Family Farm! Farmer Steve just informed me that we are now past the halfway point of our CSA 2010. Farmer Steve said, “We’re winding on down now…” we’re still working too hard right now to see the finish line, but we see a bit of the coming season in the Black Walnut leaves that shower down when a storm is brewing. We’re promoting our fall CSA for folks that want to see up close what it is like to be part of a CSA. You all are our best advertisement. I challenge you to encourage a friend to join!  We NEED your help.
   Many people write us asking about our family and farm so I decided to write this From the Farmer’s Wife as if I was writing a daily journal. Life is not perfect for any family, so please don’t think we are! We are constantly learning and growing.  (I need to apologize for the way this turned out before you even begin to read it. At times I was typing with my eyes closed at 11:30 at night…if it is kind of jumbled and disjointed at times. Please forgive me.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 
5:30 A.M. Farmer Steve gets up and starts his day. He had been up earlier praying, but slipped back into bed for a little rest. This is the time of day he can study God’s Word, pray, and seek God’s wisdom for our day. He also prepares our family Bible time during this quiet time.

Meet your Farmer:  Steve wasn’t a full time farmer until June of 2009 when his job of 34 years as a time study analyst/efficiency engineer with the La-Z-Boy Cooperation was eliminated. He immediately joined Adam and Caleb farming and the vision for a family farm was finally a reality. Steve also loves woodworking, reading, playing the guitar, and writing poetry and prose (ha ha!)

6:00 A.M. The Farmer’s Wife awakes (that’s me J), slips ANOTHER load of laundry in the washer, tidies up and heads to the porch with a cup of peach tea Farmer Steve made me. J  The morning sky is a brilliant tribute to our Almighty God. This is the time of day I can meet alone with God…He is there waiting for me each morning! I am copying the book of Mark right now and learning to praise God through a study of the Psalms.

Meet your Farmer’s Wife: It was hard to describe Steve’s interests because his interests are whatever strengthens the family… it is the same with me. My hobby for about 27 years has been laundry, and I collect hand-me-downs now instead of heart shaped trinkets and rainbows….thankfully I like to read, as I preview almost all books the children read. (I’m glad I now have young men who can help me preview books; it is good to have their help and discernment.) When I have a free moment, I like to snuggle with my girls, sip tea, and read aloud to them. I love walks in the woods, making entries in my nature journal, playing the flute, and learning the ways of homemakers from past generations who, “used it up, wore it out, made it do, or did without.”

7:00 A.M. From the porch I hear the chiming of the clock signaling the household it’s time to get up. Older children usually have their personal Bible time before this and are ready to clean their rooms (at least theoretically) and get to their morning jobs. In theory jobs are to be completed before breakfast.
     Sometimes it takes more than the clock to signal the children that it’s time to get up…especially this summer when the workday may end late in the evening. So each morning when I come in from the porch I fill the hopper of my wheat mill with wheat to grind for our days baking of bread—I make five loaves while I make breakfast. (Some of you who were our first shareholders got a sampling of my fresh miniature loaves in your spring shares. I hope to one day sell my bread and other baked goods at the markets, but we must be inspected first. )
       For breakfast I cooked up 18 eggs, 1/3 pound ground sausage, 16 potatoes grated into hash browns, a loaf of our homemade bread for toast, several tomatoes sliced up, 1 gallon of milk, and coffee for the men. We have freshly made strawberry jam that was made yesterday to test on our toast. (We made over 100 jars of jam this week.) Our family likes a bit of sweet on their toast or biscuits each morning. We also had raw honey, peach jam, and apple butter today….all homemade goodness. Noah (11 for a few more weeks) is working in the kitchen before breakfast. He unloads the dishwasher and dishrack, sets the table for breakfast and finds a “nook and cranny” to do (all those miscellaneous jobs that need doing like wiping out the microwave or refrigerator, neatening shelves, etc.) He is a big blessing! He even helps me with the cooking if I run into a snag.

Meet Noah: Noah (11) isn’t naturally inclined to choose kitchen work…he’d rather be out in the woods or fishing (he’s a natural), or just riding his bike. He is allllll boy. He’ll be in the 5th grade this year.
Meet Faith Anne:  Faith Anne (9) is my right hand gal most of the day. She is learning to cook, sew, garden, and so much more. She loves all the above plus reading and writing in her journal. She sings in the youth choir and adult choir with the rest of our family at church. She will be in the 4th grade this fall.

8:00 A.M. The antique ship’s bell is rung for breakfast. Children and men come from the four corners of the house and farm. Today Farmer Steve and a few boys were planting green onions and weeding the Brussels sprouts when the breakfast bell rung. It’s really one of  the best time of day to get fieldwork done.
    Steve’s Grandpa used to come and watch their family eat….he didn’t eat with them, he just like to watch the food disappear. Steve’s Momma now likes to watch us eat…it’s amazing how fast food disappears when a hungry family sits around our 12’ long farm table. The strawberry jam was given great reviews…the jar is empty!
     After the food is gone we visit for a few minutes, reviewing our day. This usually melds right into our family Bible time. Little Charity Rose (2) gets my focused attention during this time as she is being taught to sit still with her hands folded. I keep one hand cupped in front of us and she puts her little folded hands in mine…what an awesome job God has given me as a mother!

Meet Charity Rose: Charity Rose is our “baby” at 29 months old. We had patiently waited for another girl and had her name picked out. Each time we had a boy we simply put the name Charity Rose in the back of our minds again for some possible future child. God has a sense of humor and sent Charity Rose into her father’s outstretched arms on Valentines Day of 2008. Our little rose petal is an adorable bundle of smiles, songs, and a singular affection for the color pink! She has to sleep on the pink squares on her homemade quilt. Dolly Rose her baby doll has a pink dress. She dons pink boots every time she goes outside that are 2 sizes too big for her…but that matters not because they are PINK!  Charity Rose is the sunshine of our lives….and all the boys vie for her attention.

9:30 A.M. We clean up the kitchen together as a family, so everyone attends to their assigned area. One person clears the table, wipes down the chairs and table, and neatens the hutch and corner cabinet. Another is on rinsing the dishes while another is on loading the dishwasher, still another is another sweeping, while another spot mops, etc. In about 20 minutes we have the place shining. The big guys check the web site and mail during this time also. We ALL ENJOY THE OCCASIONAL LETTERS FROM OUR SHAREHOLDERS.  A few of you are real good encouragers! Thank you

Meet Adam: Many of you already know Adam from your pickups at Market Square, but he is so important to our family and farm, I’ll introduce you personally. He graduated from our home school in 2008. He worked here on the farm and spent the summer rebuilding our tractor with his Dad, Uncle, and Caleb. He and Caleb began a large “garden” in the spring of 2009 thinking it would finance start-up costs for a mail order herb business. When Steve’s job was eliminated, Adam selflessly put all ideas for his own business aside and began making the farm more profitable with his Dad. Adam designed our web site on a dial up connection that often would lose its connection and lose everything he’d spent hours working on. He is interested in building a better site and possibly doing it for other farmers. He plays the guitar for the youth choir at church and also is the computer/sound system man at church. He is very busy there. He loves to read, work with plants, and one day hopes to get more training in natural healing. He will turn 20 in September. 

Meet Caleb: Caleb is our new 18-year-old. He is the diligent “silent” partner in the farm. He spent most of the winter doing most of the research for vegetable verities that we grew this year. He worked the orders out, sometimes several times. Caleb sings solos at church in the youth choir and holds Charity Rose for me while we sing in the adult choir. (I play the flute.) Both boys have dreams of owning their own farms, and then we’ll be known as Colvin Family FarmS. )

10:00 A.M. Everyone heads back outside. New beds were marked out with long lines of tomato twine. The rest of the onions were planted (that is 7,500 of them).  Adam sorted garlic in the little greenhouse. (He is on light duty as he has strained his back.) Faith Anne and I winnowed oats that were cut earlier in the week and tried to clean them…BY HAND. It is a painfully slow job, especially when Charity Rose (2) dumped the bowl of clean oat groats back into the tub to be cleaned! We cheered each other up with thoughts of how nice a place we had to work in. The breeze was blowing across the field where the men worked, and rustling the leaves of the trees overhead. We really had it made! Charity (2) and Levi (4) played nicely nearby. Caleb did a bit of bush hogging (rough mowing with the tractor) and parked it in the shade of the trees near us. It soon drew Levi and Charity….”Charity, you sit on the tiller, and I’ll drive us to downtown Knoxville.” Levi said. Off he “drove” with his little sister sitting on the back of the tractor. She piped up, “To market to market…” She doesn’t know the whole rhyme yet, but she loves the children’s rhyme, “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggetty jig.”  We hear her saying this every Saturday morning when the men are gone “to market, to market”.

Meet Levi: Levi is 4 for a few more weeks. He is full of life, and on the brink of being a big boy. At the end of his day when his pockets are unloaded you’ll find special rocks, a bit of crayon left over from his coloring a special card for a family member, a length of rope, wire, nuts and bolts from the shop, and so much more. I may even find a frog mid-day!  Thankfully he still likes to cuddle and snuggle. He is our little man and we thank God for him.

 1 P.M.  My eyes are strained from picking out oat hulls from the small dish in front of me. Using our present method of cleaning, you dish up about 1/8 of a cup of unclean oat groats and pick out any left over chaff and hulls that still contain a berry and dump it into the finish bowl (the one that got dumped by the baby). By this time several of the boys had informed me of the time, and inspected my bowl. I got the hint. It was time to make lunch.
     The house was sure dark after the brightness of the day as I cut up two loaves of fresh bread, made chicken salad from chicken left over from Sunday’s dinner, cut up fruit and all that goes into a lunch for our family. We eat 3 meals a day together and lunchtime is our favorite…not so much for the food, but for the mid-day fellowship and read aloud time. We usually eat a bit late as this is the hottest time of the day. It’s best not to be working outside in the early afternoon. The greenhouse soars to well above 100 degrees on hot days. The boys all come in dripping wet and ready to eat, DRINK, and listen to our story. We are reading Anne of Green Gables right now and loving it. Steve and Adam (19) are our readers, and they act out the funny scenes. It’s hilarious! 
   After a few chapters, the afternoon is discussed and we break up to work again. I take the little ones (Faith Anne 9, Luke 7, Levi 4, Charity 2) for a nap/quiet time in our room. They camp on the floor with pallets and one gets to snuggle with me while I do paper work (write this, plan our school year, or review books for the children to read). As I type this, most of them are awake from their naps and  now have a book to read. The bigger boys are back in the kitchen rolling oats into oatmeal as a storm is approaching. I just gave the alert to the fact that there are clothes on the clothesline…We are all praying for rain again. As the boys walk through the field their feet are kicking up dust clouds. We are going to have to begin watering again soon if this storm passes by as many have in the past few days.
     Farmer Steve left to go to Dayton to pick up a pallet of Organic Sphagnum Peat Moss we found for 1/3 of the regular price. God is good to provide all we need. This will be mixed with mushroom compost and coarse grade vermiculite for the “perfect soil” in our raised beds. Steve has two assistants with him, Noah (11) whom you have met and Titus who is about to turn 14 next week.

Meet Titus: Titus is a unique individual whose bent is not towards farming long term. (I may be mistaken.) He like our oldest son in the military is a technical person with a bent towards computers. He doesn’t get much time on it though as when he does, something always goes amiss with the family computer. One day he’ll have his own computer and he’ll be able to fiddle to his heart’s content. Titus plays the dulcimer and sings in the choirs at church. He loves to read, take pictures, and find easier (mechanical) ways to get jobs done. He is a people person like many of my children, and folks find him quite outgoing. He’ll be in 8th grade this year.
4:00 Well, quiet time is over and we’re off to do our afternoon chores! There are only 4 loads of laundry to fold today! Then supper must be fixed. I am making chicken squash fajitas for a quick supper before church. You’ll find the recipe to this quick, nutritious meal in week 11 of The Farmer’s Wife. We have found that by making our own Taco Seasoning Mix we save a lot of money. We like Mexican food! I usually make a quadruple batch of this and put it into a quart jar to use quickly. I use it on the Squash Fajitas, tacos, burritos, or any Mexican meal.
Taco Seasoning Mix
¼ c. instant minced onions (or onion powder)
3 T. chili powder
2 T. ground cumin
2 T. salt
1 T. crushed hot red pepper flakes
1 T. instant minced garlic (or garlic powder)
1 T. cornstarch
2 t. oregano, crushed well

   Combine and mix all ingredients. Pour into a jar or Tupperware container that is well sealed.
   To use: Brown 1 pound ground beef in a skillet; drain off excess fat: sprinkle mixture over meat (They say the mixture seasons six pounds of meat. I just sprinkle it on to taste.) Add ½ cup water and 1-T. catsup or tomato sauce. Simmer and stir uncovered, for 10 minutes or until water has evaporated.

     Well, since yesterday was Wednesday, and we had prayer meeting at church, I’m going to meld Thursday evening into this journal. We got a little rain last night… or it might have been heavy dew. BUT this morning we had a beautiful rainbow in the west (very unusual) and a very light shower. It was enough to encourage us all, but we still will be hauling water tonight and watering. The chicken house has been moved to a new grassy spot, onions have been weeded, and 5 large bins of tomatoes brought home to make compost. There are a lot of little jobs on a farm that come together to make your share satisfying each week. So, we live a more simple life than most, taking delight in the important little things.  

July29, 2010 
3:00 P.M. Farmer Steve and Adam head to the Crossville virtual market.  We really like the way this market works. Folks buy online between Sunday night and Tuesday evening. We are notified as to what has sold. On Thursday morning we pick only what has been ordered for delivery Thursday afternoon. We simply drop the vegetables off, receive a check, and leave. This gives us time for errands in the city. Farmer Steve often takes a child or two or even me J to spend a special evening with him. Our most pleasurable times are when we take a picnic and head to Cumberland State Park, hike around the lake and eat while sitting on a rock overlooking the stillness of the lake.  Today Adam is going as Steve’s partner, as he has an appointment with our chiropractor to see if he is able to help him. Please pray he will soon be strong again!

3:45 P.M. IT’S RAINING!!!!! The boys are out at the lake pumping water into our 250-gallon tank. The Lord can do more in 15 minutes of a steady rain than we can do in several hours by hand. Praise His name!

3:50 P.M. The sun is back out, but the field is glistening. “Every good and perfect gift (of any size) is from above.”

4:00 P.M. The dishwasher (I never had one until my mother-in –law bought this one for us and the boys “rise up and call her blessed”  [Proverbs 31] often) is filled with jars that are now sterilized for canning. We have friends that own Wooden’s Apple Barn here on the mountain that called this morning.  They are graciously giving us their culls for making compost and animal feed this year. J What other folks think is trash, we LOVE. We have gotten apples and tomatoes from them in the past and it sure has been a blessing!. Since we started to sell, I never have enough tomatoes to can. We appreciate what the Lord sends our way, even if it is not organically grown. I just make sure to wash them well, and thank the Lord for His generous OPEN hand. We have some of these tomatoes for the shareholders to get this week IF you want them. If you’d like to can tomatoes, and don’t mind the fact they are grown “traditionally”, then talk to the boys at the market. It may be possible to get you what you need. (Tomatoes have been our weak crop this year as we have had a terrible time getting our seedlings to grow in what the industry calls organic starting media. It is TERRIBLE. We finally bit the bullet and bought soil from our seed source in Maine. The shipping was horrendous, but the seedlings are THRIVING in it!. If the Lord holds off on the first frost, we’ll all enjoy some good Certified Naturally grown tomatoes in the fall. But better yet, we know what will work next year! ) All that to say we’re going to sort and wash tomatoes tonight for canning on Saturday. We usually can several hundred quarts of tomatoes, keeping one year ahead in case of drought or crop failure. 
     Our children love to can! It is amazing how much they can get done in a short period of time! On Monday we topped 16 flats (that’s 128 qts) of strawberries in less than an hour! I was challenged to keep up with them as I crushed them for making jam. They delighted in refilling my huge bowl just as I “thought” I was getting ahead of them. Well, we’ll have fun tonight. More latter…

Meet Isaac- Isaac is 16 and a Jr. in high school this year. He is growing up by leaps and bounds! Isaac plays the mandolin in church with the preacher’s son who plays banjo and guitar. He would like to build one, so he can have one of his own one day. He has the plans enlarged and has tried cutting one out! He is also interested in making twig furniture and has made several planter baskets and chairs. He is a whiz (at least compared to me) on the computer and sells seeds online. He, like his brothers, enjoys G. A. Henty’s historical fiction novels and teasing me. (I am loved!) He is a SUPER help on the farm and will one day make a great marketer.

4:30 P.M. Faith Anne (9), Luke (7), and Levi (4) are my helpers around the bins of tomatoes. We’re sorting through the “good, the bad, and the ugly”. Since most of the tomatoes are not red ripe yet, we’re sorting 3 bushels to wash and can on Saturday when the men are gone “to market, to market, to buy a fat pig” as Charity would say.
     I rallied the troops with an encouraging speech to how THEY were my biggest help today. They put the boxes of tomatoes on a dolly and wheeled them up the hill to the packing shed. I put bus tubs of water out for each to wash their box of tomatoes in. We are all a bit wet now as the hose is spraying widely…since it’s hot, we don’t mind too much.
   While the little ones wash tomatoes, I picked up the packing shed. There are so many “tools” needed for farming…from boxes, to string, to sprayers that it is amazing how quickly our packing shed gets disorganized. After setting things straight I sweep out the cooler. Our refrigerator has gone out, so there are tubs of cheese, milk and condiments
crowding it.  It will be a challenge to work in there on Friday with all the vegetables that are also accumulating in there each day.  When I emerge the boys (Caleb, Isaac, Titus, and Noah) have come in from the field. Half are digging potatoes, and the others are pulling carrots. Caleb sets to giving them a quick rinse while I arrange the tables for weighing and packing. With Faith Anne (9) and Luke’s (7) help, we got 30 one pound packages of carrots bagged up.
   The walk-in cooler is filled with squash, onions, garlic, potatoes, kale, and many more vegetables that are picked on and off during the week. While looking through my recipes I was reminded of a new recipe that I made last year. I’ll share it with you now. One recommendation, do not skip the blanching of the squash, it tastes much better when blanched.

Summer Squash Salad

2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
2 tomatoes
1 small onion, chipped
½ c. olive or canola oil
2 T. vinegar or lemon juice
¼ t. salt
¼ t. basil
1/8 t. pepper

   Cut squash into thin slices. Blanch one minute (if desired). Cool quickly and pat dry. Slice or chop tomatoes. Mix squash, tomatoes, and onions in a bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients. Pour over salad just before serving.
Variation: Combine vegetables and serve with a favorite dressing.

Meet Luke: Luke is 7 and in the second grade. He is very inquisitive. He takes most of his toys apart to find out how they work. This can be frustrating, but I know one day he’ll be a genius mechanically if we don’t despair. He is a nimble young man and is actively teaching Levi (4) how to climb trees…one never really knows with Luke.
      By this time we are all about to give out. I’ve decided that everyone needs a special evening. So, I announced that we will watch a Walton’s movie and have unhealthy chicken nuggets and tator tots…and fresh corn on the cob. I know…but occasionally we digress nutritionally. 
     When we bought our farm in the fall of 1999, there were several OLD apple trees hiding in the thicket above the house. They made their presence known in the spring of 2000 when they burst into bloom. We’ve been working through the years to remove the brambles from that area and regain the trees. We do not spray them, so there are bug spots on them…but they have a good OLD FASHIONED wholesomeness to them. These trees are not hybrids that produce perfectly shaped “cookie cutter apples”, but they produce small, misshapen apples that are like our forefathers ate. They make great applesauce, pies, or “fried” pies. So enjoy!  One way the men of my family like apples is in a crisp. Apple crisp is very easy and quick to make. Here is my recipe:

Apple Crisp

4 cups sliced pared tart apples (about 4 medium)
2/3 to ¾ cup brown sugar, packed (I’ve also used raw honey)
½ cup all purpose flour (I use my whole wheat)
½ cup oatmeal (try using the oats in your share!)
¾ t. nutmeg
1/3 c. butter, softened

   Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease square pan, 8 X 8 X 2”. Place apple slices in pan. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle over apples.
   Bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm and if desired, with light cream or ice cream.

I usually don’t make applesauce from these apples, as I don’t like adding any sweetener to my applesauce. (My favorite kind for sauce is Yellow Delicious, as you don’t have to add any sweetener to it!)  My children use these trees for snacks, and I make an occasional dessert from them. But if you’d like to try though, here is a recipe that is healthy.


   Wash apples. Cut into quarters, removing the cores. Put your apples into a saucepan and add a small amount of water to the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until the apples are very tender. Stir often and add water if it evaporates. Mash with a potato masher, or put through a food mill to remove peels.
   Stir in a small amount of raw honey or pure maple syrup, sweetening to taste. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

  Well, it’s now Friday evening and most of the field work and packing is done. The guys are filling the share boxes and the little ones are counting the minutes to “THE DEADLINE”. Farmer Steve has decided that IF we get our work done by 5:30, we’ll all go for a dip in the lake, which is about a mile back in the woods. Excitement reigns as little ones run in to put on their swimming overalls (cut off at the calf) and swim dresses. How fun! I’ve got to get a picnic packed quickly and finish this up.

Meet the Oldest: At our oldest daughter’s recent wedding, when the family picture was being taken we realized we do not have only two “categories” of children, but three! We call a child a “little” until they reach a maturity that can be relied on (usually around 12). Then there are the “olders” that have more responsibility coupled with more freedoms. Then there are the “oldest”….these are the children that have left home for careers, school and the military.
Matthew is 26 and is a Tech Sergeant in the Air Force. He is leaving the states the first week of October for his 5th tour of duty in the middle east. He will be stationed in Qatar where the Air Force does their surveillance of the middle east. His job is Aerospace control and warning systems. He owns several Internet businesses and serves the Lord through the Navigators ministry.
Missy is 24 and is now happily married to Fabrice. She works and lives near Chattanooga, TN.
Hannah Grace is 23 and lives in Knoxville where she is a chef and senior at UTK , majoring in English Education.
Hope is married to a missionary/evangelist Bryan Biggs. She is growing her first garden alone this year and is finding it can be enjoyable on a small scale.

    I know there aren’t many new recipes in this letter, but I hope you got to know us a little better. We are looking forward to our fall shareholders day on the farm when we can meet the rest of you that didn’t come out in the spring. We try hard to keep in touch with you and give you a sense of belonging to our farm. You are very important to us! I would LOVE to hear from you also. Please drop us a note on the web site or at

Abundant Blessings,

Your Farmer’s Wife,

Val Colvin

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
James 5:7-8 (KJV) 7