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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pulling it in

Here they are - at least the beginning of them...the yellow icebox melons, to be sold this weekend. What with the underground hoses and the flooding of the fiields from the pond, the first melons were just splitting - yikes! you'd pick one up and KAPOW! Yeah, too much water is also not a good thing. But that has calmed down, as the drought goes on and on. The ones in the cart, I believe, are yellow ones. I'm not sure, because Will picked them and he knows which ones are on which rows. The cut one here, is actually one of the orange ones. I thought that orange was going to be orange, but not exactly. Actually, just a much deeper yellow. Very sweet, very good, especially when very, very cold.

This is what the purple hull peas looked like in the garden yesterday evening. Someone called and wanted a bushel, so I went out to pick, but I noticed that the beans were 'done'. There would be no more from these plants. And when the hoses were moved and this row was flooded, many of the beans would be down in the water, and would certainly rot. So I figured I'd just pull up the plants and load them into the cart and dump them on the patio instead. And spend the evening, into the night, pulling beans off of plants. It just had to be done. But the ground is so dry. I pulled some, or, rather, yanked them, but it was tough for me, and I had not brought gloves out to the garden. So Will came over to yank and I hauled. Six or so trips later, the mound on the patio was really, really huge, but the row was pulled. I took one look at that pile of plants and went straight to the telephone. A friend came over to help, and we sat there for a long, long time, pulling beans and laughing and talking, while Will made us a veggie pizza. This morning I have this:a big pile of purple hull peas on a sheet on the floor. Part is already sold, and that's a good thing, because once they air-dry on the floor for a day,l they go into the fridge, and they'll only last so long. Beans are fickle. 'Process me Now!' they demand. One problem of a vary large garden is the volume of certain things. Like beans. When they come in, they all come in at once. Other things are kinder , have more longevity. Eggplants and peppers and okra will go on and on, all summer into the Fall, and when you plant the fall garden, sometimes you just have to mow them down and till them up. You wouldn't think you'd get sick of any lovely vegetable, but it's like anything else. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. One year, we actually had to mow down the lettuce in February. It just wouldn't die! And so, in one of our last big pushes to 'move the produce', we'll be open this weekend. Let's hope nobody wants a garden tour at noon!!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Life and Times of the Horticulture Bean Row

Some people seem to get pretty excited about Horticulture beans. And some people say...'horticulture beans?" I personally try to keep an open mind about them. The beans. They're not something I grew up with. I probably never saw them and certainly never ate them as a child. But as I was eating a bowl of horticulture beans last night and ruminating about them, I realized that, really, they're just white beans - only bigger. And maybe with a different texture...creamier. But maybe, like fresh red beans, you don't really get to know a bean until you've eaten it right out of the garden, freshly shelled and not yet processed; cooked that very same day. Horticulture beans seem to 'make' first of all the beans in the garden. If we're lazy, we don't get to them in time. This year, we were right on top of it.

The minute they started to get pink and white, most of them anyway, we alerted folks that they were 'in' and pulled the plants on Saturday.

We sat out under a tree and pulled all the beans off the plants. This is what was left:
Now in baskets, we'll sell some,
but we'll make sure to shell, blanch and freeze, and dry some.Will's not crazy about my drying beans, but the ones (and there are always some) that are already dried on the plant or in the process of drying out we put aside, saving only the freshest ones for sale. So I take those and just finish off what they were doing anyway. Will says dried beans are a 'dime a dozen' and he's right, but organic dried beans are not. And OUR organic dried beans are certainly not! There are plenty enough to do both.
The only picture I don't have is the one of the wasted bean row; Will did a lot of tilling yesterday evening, but I don't think he got to that row: It's a sad sight, the raggedy torn-up place where a beautiful row once stood. But, as soon as it is tilled it takes on a new character. A beginning rather than an end.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

We of Little Faith...

It rains - some. Then we think we're out of the woods in the drought sense. Then it doesn't rain. Then we think 'we're going to have to start watering again'. Wow. Look at poor Houston. We want rain, but we don't want 10 inches in four hours! Will and I were on the phone today...'you just can't get it right with the rain' we said. Well. That's a large part of gardening, isnt it? Too much, too little. But...this afternoon late I went into the yard to water the 4 o'clocks and fill one of the bird baths. And I heard thunder. And I looked up. And a storm was forming almost right over our place.

So I sat on the patio and felt the drafts of cold air being pulled down from far above. Saw the clouds building, but wasn't really convinced anything would come of it.

We had a fabulous storm.
What a great frog night this will be.
Listen to the rain and cook some okra and tomatoes...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dinner at the House Restaurant

If You Come Over Here, There Will Be Cooking and There Will Be Eating

That's a given. And there's been a whole lotta cooking and eating with friends and family this week. Last night, with our daughter and her husband and the baby and my sister. My sister had come over to help pick (thats how you get some corn to take home). She didn't plan to stay. But then the cooking started, and what can you do? She stayed. The menu:

Sweet Sweet Sweet Corn
Small Yellow Potatoes Roasted with Olive Oil and Rosemary

Tomato Tort with Fresh Basil
(recipe below)
Fried Okra
(it's Louisiana and you have to fry something)
Will's Blueberry Pie

Tomato Tort
what you will need:
pie crust
fresh roma tomatoes
fresh basil
Parmesan cheese
Mozarella cheese
olive oil

Brown the pie crust in the oven. If you have an old Chambers stove, like we do, don't set the temperature very high, or the crust will shrink and warp and get totally weird. Slice roma tomatoes about 1/2" thick. It's up to you how many you use, but generally, the more the merrier. Wash and dry the basil, and pull all the leaves off the stems. Layer the tort any way you please. Best not to put the tomatoes next to the crust, because that will only make the crust gooey, and we don't want that! We start with cheese (either one) but my sister was pulling for basil first. However you do it (cheese, tomatoes, basil, other cheese, etc.), do it twice. Make two layers. Sprinkle olive oil on the tomatoes each time you layer them. Run it through the oven quickly if all you want to do is warm up the tomatoes and melt the mozarella. Really bake it (25 minutes or so) if you want everything really hot and melted
together (that's what we do).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And now...

This may be it...that morning when you go into the garden and think, "I do believe we're at the top of the hill."
The garden is dense, thick with life. The plants are strong and full of fruit, full of flowers.

A brief photo montage, June 15th.



limas and zinnias

green onions


tassling corn



purple hull peas

Monday, June 12, 2006

Extreme Measures for Extreme Times

Remember that rain we had? The one that was going to result in 'Weeds Gone Wild"? Well...
1.5 inches seemed like a lot and gave us hope. But there's been no rain since then, and that poor pitiful 1.5 inches is about all we've had since March.

Time to get out the big guns.

Will set up the pump, ran the hoses through the yard, and proceeded to pump the pond into the garden...

(Actually, he flooded the newly planted pecan trees first)

After the garden, he began to move the hose to the fencelines and then the yard.

I thought the birds were all over it because they wanted water too, but Will came inside and said that the birds were dancing around in the water because crickets and various other little critters were floating everywhere - a smorgasboard!

Water in the pond is now lowered to a pitiful state, but rain will come one day and the pond will eventually the meantime, the garden has been given a new lease on life.

Any of you who are weather fanatics (like we are), already know that Tropical Storm Alberto is headed for Florida this morning. We sure could have used that rain. You would also know that we are having a mind-blowing heat wave. 99 degrees when we drove to Baton Rouge at 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. It was probably that hot yesterday, and as far as we can tell there is no relief in sight.

The only relief I'm hoping for is having the air-conditioning repaired (again).

We seem to be subjects of some kind of 'bad compresser' voodoo this year.

Here is what a stick of butter looks like after sitting on the counter all day in this heat.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Night Blooming Cereus

This is the flower of the night blooming Cereus...I know it looks like it's part of this fern, but in fact the leaves of the plant come out of the pot and hang way, way down. The blooms are nearer the ground, at the lower ends of the broad leaves.
This is the very plant my mother had in her greenhouse when we were small children. She would sneak into or rooms at night and leave one bloom in each room (they smell so good.
These days, I come out early in the morning and see them before they close.
We keep the pot in the greenhouse in the winter, and in the spring we move it into a crepe myrtle tree. Yes, it's hard to get this pot lowered into the tree, and even harder to get it out in the fall!

Night Blooming Cereus are easily propagated from a leaf and, at least in my experience, this plant will be around for the rest of your life if you can keep it from freezing...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Our Seinfeld Tomato Sauce...

No Sauce For You!
Perkins Family Exclusive Private Label Organic Tomato Sauce with Sweet Basil
This is the sauce we put up every season, carefully labeling it so that we don't accidently sell it!
I use only the ripe roma tomatoes. You don't have to cut around the core or cut off the just quater them and toss them in the pot after cooking down onions and peppers and garlic in olive oil. My new trick this year is one I really should have thought of earlier; cooling down the whole works and running it through the blender. What you get is something that looks an awful lot like really good tomato soup - and you can make it into tomato soup by adding half and half and more spices.
But it's perfect for high-end tomato sauce.
I'd like to put up more, but every time you go through this, it seems like it's going to be a breeze, and it ends up being more work than you remembered!'s time for pickles! No rest for the gardener this time of year.
It is so terribly dry and hot (again). Will is off to the plumbing supply place. It is finally time to flood the garden from the pond. That will do the trick. Maybe we'll get some rain and maybe we won't. We will also flood the yard and the pecan trees for good measure. Then we can porch-sit and not worry about whether or not we get a good rain in the near future.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pissin' Off the Bees

I know, I know...the beans need picking (or, rather, pickin').
I got enough purple beans the other evening to have with dinner, checking the severity of the situation...emergency or 'it can wait a couple of days'.
One side of the row is no problem. It's just a matter of stooping between two bean rows.
But when you pick beans, you have to go down both sides of the row, because there's no way to reach all the beans otherwise; and the other side of THIS row butts up against very, very tall sunflowers. Doesn't matter what time of the day it is, the bees are quite busy with the sunflowers. The bees won't bother you - I mean, they won't chase you or anything. But they do not like to be disturbed! They are very serious in their activities. So, going down (only part of) the other side of the row was awkward. I kept backing up against the sunflowers and there was much loud buzzing!

I think I'll wait till Friday. Some students and parents are coming over to pick, and I'll find somebody short enough and skinny enough to go down in there and get those purple beans!

At least limas have the decency to stick the beans right up the air where you can see them!

A long time ago we lived on a farm in Washington Parish-very rural is an understatement. Around there, every vegetable-picking enterprise had a particular tag. You 'gather' 'pull' corn. You'd sound like a moron if you didn't use the lingo. You 'can' tomatoes...and I never understood that one, because you're not putting them in cans, you're putting them in jars. Someone explain this, please!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sunday Night Carrots

Will pulled all the carrots up probably three weeks ago - maybe longer. And they've been in bags in the outside fridge, waiting for this day ever since. Carrots are forgiving that way. They keep.
He had this vision. Every now and then we go to Ninfa's (a Mexican restaurant), mainly because they have these fabulous ribs. But on every table is a little jar of carrots, pickled with jalepenos and not much else. But he really likes those carrots, and we were waiting until we had carrot-excess so he could pull off this little project.
Like any other pickled product, you really have to wait a couple of weeks before whatever it is soaks up the spices etc. and is ready to try...I don't know if we'll wait that long. And we haven't decided what to name these, so it's not label time yet. We like to get creative with the labeling, because that's part of the fun. They're kind of beautiful though, aren't they?
This would never have been accomplished had my sister not shown up to help with 'whatever it is we need help with today'. And she brought extra shoes and thought we'd be out in the field picking yesterday evening. But Will knows an opportunity when he sees one, and not many people are willing to help with a canning project. Very labor-intensive and it always drags on a little longer than you really have the energy for. She was glad not to be picking and he was glad to have an extra set of hands. She brought a really cool new-fangled vegetable peeler (and her own knives).
We took time out for crab cakes and sliced tomatoes.
It's always fun to set out the jars and, as you are going about your business (usually cleaning up because canning can be messy), you hear the jars sealing, one by one. 'Pop....pop...' that's the sound of the lids being sucked down onto the glass.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What is it about Herbs?

I suppose people start to grow herbs for a whole slew of different reasons. Most often, it's probably because they like to cook with herbs, or would like to learn to.
Although we are passionate and hard-working gardeners, and Will is a world-class cook, we hadn't really thought much about growing herbs until we moved to this particular piece of property. But it had nothing to do with cooking, in the beginning. It had to do with hair...or shampoo, rather. That was the impetus.
I became disgusted with the effect of commercial products on my hair, particularly as I became older and my hair became older also. (you women out there know what I mean) I read all of the ingredients on my shampoo bottle, many of which I could not pronounce, and wondered what women used to wash their hair with before there were bottles of all this chemical %*# on the shelf. So I started reading. It was pretty basic, actually. Unadulterated castille soap (which is made from olive oil) and various herbs to enhance this or that hair color, or to give it shine or whatnot. Hmmmmm.
And so my passion for herbs began. And of course it didn't stop with making shampoo. But, here we are seven years or so later, and I have discovered the wonderful world of growing all manner of herbs, not just for making 'beauty products' but for a multitude of purposes not the least of which is cooking. (but I digress). In the beginning I grew rosemary (for dark hair), marigolds (for the petals, for blond hair), parsley (for shine).
When I realized how easy herbs were to grow, and what odd surprises they would offer from one season to the next, I kind of went crazy. Now I have 18 permanent herb beds in the 'big garden', and seperate beds for commercial peppermint and rosemary; fencelines for tarragon,'s impossible to stop!
I'm reminiscing this evening because of a comment to one of the posts...a man in Canada who is doing pots of herbs....what a great adventure...but be careful. This is how it begins! There is no turning back! One small but important piece of advice - invest in a decent herb dryer. You'll not regret it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pay no attention To This Picture

Here we are, a cute little cart of tomatoes all stacked in buckets ready to be driven to the house.

It does look nice, but it's not what it seems. And it makes me laugh to see this picture I took just a few hours ago.

There was much stooping and sweating and swatting of squash bugs that fly at you from the plants. They still startle me as I rustle each tomato plant, although I already know they are there!
I don't know exactly how much these buckets weigh when they're full of tomatoes, but it's almost more than I can pick up and swing two more feet in front of me in the row, clunking it down, standing up and stretching, bending over another plant.

I kept gazing over the garden looking for Will, hoping he was finished picking cucumbers ...they're just as heavy, and prickly besides. He came to the rescue and we filled all the buckets we brought out to the field (there were more than those in the cart), so we just kind of said...'oh well, we'll finish tomorrow'.
...I'm deleriously happy to have the tomatoes. This weekend looks like a sauce-making weekend to be sure, and I've been jealously watching tomatoes go out the door to the Health Food store, or to regular customers. I kept saying..."ok, the next ones are for US, ok?" It's time again for our Perkins Family Private Label 'No Sauce For You!' Tomato Sauce.
That's the stuff that stays on the shelf. Since we're not going to the Farmer's Market this year, there's no need to make it to sell...which is fine. It's impossible to charge a decent price that reflects the work involved, and we wouldn't want to charge an arm and a leg.

We hung out our little signs and people have been drifting by and that's been nice. It seems like everyone knows we're here and we can be more relaxed about selling...even if we don't have the market tent up, we can just stroll over to the house when we see a car drive in, and pull out the scale and some bags and the veggies out of the outside fridge, and have a nice conversation with someone we haven't seen since last season.

This is last year's tent, and it looks like when the corn and the watermelons come in, the tent is going back up...

About Our CSA

We are entering the sixth season of our CSA (Community Support Agriculture). What began as an experiment for the creative marketing of our produce has developed into a fulfilling experience for us and our members, one that we so look forward to each year. What you will find below is an explanation of how we operate the CSA, the cost, length of season, expected commitment, etc. We ask that you read it carefully before responding. We have dedicated members that stay on year after year, but for a number of folks, it is challenging to come out every Saturday for nine weeks running and to have time to participate. For those who love the quality of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers – and who like the experience of planting, harvesting, and interacting with others who have the same likes, it is a very rewarding experience. Please read on…

What is Community Supported Agriculture? (CSA)

Community supported agriculture is a movement that got its start in this country in the mid-1980’s, driven by a desire by neighborhood groups to re-connect with local growers and producers. The CSA movement is enjoying increasing popularity and availability with each passing year. The goal of CSA is to involve the vegetable-eating-public more intimately with “their” farm. Why do I use “their” in that description? Because in CSA, members buy a share of the farm which, in effect, provides them an ownership stake in the vegetables produced. In that respect, the farmer and consumer become partners. There are many benefits from this relationship to the farmer and consumer alike. For the farmer, it provides a guarantee of sales so he can plant to supply his contract. It also minimizes the time required to market the produce, freeing him up for what he does best, which is…farm. For the consumer, it guarantees a steady supply of farm fresh produce for a fixed price, encouraging healthy eating, and promoting a sense of participation and community around the farm that has been long lost in the age of industrial agriculture. For both the farmer and consumer, it promotes a bond based on trust and mutual interest. For those interested in information on CSA and farms that have set up these systems, the web has worlds of information available with a simple word search.

Why did Port Hudson Organics decided to become Port Hudson CSA?

For most of you who have spent any time visiting our farm and talking with us, you are aware that Thais and I both work full time, maintaining our little farm, bee hives, yard, and other farm-related activities in our “spare” time. This means that virtually every waking hour that we are not at work you would find us in the field or manning the produce tent (or carport). As we expanded our farm-related enterprises to areas such as biodiesel, berries and bee hives, the farm demands finally exceeded our available time. So in 2009, in order to continue our farm sustainability effort and reduce our time commitment (primarily the time spent selling), we tried a concept that is becoming increasingly popular across the country in the “Eat fresh, Eat local” movement, that is, the CSA farm. In the spring of 2009, we enrolled (what ended up to be) 25 CSA member families, and were blown-away by the success of the venture. Member enthusiasm, assistance, and clear appreciation for the unsurpassed quality of our produce resulted in an excellent experience for everyone involved. Since then, we have expanded our enrollment to approximately 40 member families, which is a comfortable carrying capacity of our one acre garden. At this point in our lives, with regular jobs and other commitments, we have no plans to expand further.

What kind of vegetables are grown and how are they distributed?

We grow a wide variety of Spring and Summer vegetables (generally about 20 different varieties). At any time during the season, you can expect around 12-15 different offerings, and 6-8 culinary herbs. We also grow cut flowers, usually zinnias and sunflowers. Each week members will receive a selection list by email. Members then make 7 selections of vegetables and 2 selections of herbs from the list. Members can check off their first and second preferences and we will make every effort to supply the members with their selected items. In cases where we are short on a particular item, say, yellow squash, we will substitute another available vegetable (for example, zucchini) from member’s second choice selection if at all possible. Members are free to make notes on their list if there is a particular vegetable they do not want (for example, zucchini) and we will try to honor their request. The amounts (pounds or numbers) of vegetables or herbs per selection were based on an approximation of equal value based on the prices we have charged for these items in the past. And as last year’s members know, the amounts of produce on the list are the minimum amount you will receive. Often, when there is a surplus beyond what has been selected, we will throw in some “lagniappe”. Members should note that there are a couple of exceptions on the selection list: a bouquet of flowers, when available, counts as two selections from the herb list; similarly, watermelon, when available, counts as two selections from the vegetable list. Each week, a basket with all of your produce and herbs will be made up with your list attached. Blank lists will be available for you to fill out for the following week, as the mix of produce and herbs change with the weather.

Can I select more than one of a particular item?

Yes, if you want 6 pounds of tomatoes one week, you can simply put the number “3” next to the selection “2 lbs. tomatoes” on your sheet and pick four other vegetable selections to make a total of seven selections. If we have enough tomatoes to satisfy your request, we will provide that amount. If we are short, we will attempt to at least provide you with one selection of tomatoes and make up the rest of your basket with other choices. We will let members know each week which vegetables we expect to have in abundance. For example, due to space considerations, we have limited plantings of corn and each planting is generally available for only one Saturday, so we will be encouraging members to select as much corn as they can from the list on the weeks that corn becomes available (we try to send out weekly emails on the state of the farm). Of course, members will also be given preference for the purchase of additional vegetables if, for example, you want to freeze a bushel of corn when it comes in and there is surplus available.

How will the CSA Baskets be distributed?

Members choose to come to the farm either Friday evening or Saturday morning each week during the season. Once you arrive, you can choose from a variety of garden activities in progress and lend a hand. This can range from planting and/or picking vegetables; washing, weighing, and bundling produce; cutting and arranging flowers; cutting and separating herbs to order; helping to pack baskets with weekly selections; sitting under a tree with other members and stripping beans off of plants. Occasionally there is a bigger project at hand, such as erecting the cucumber fence or helping to mulch rows with hay. There will be weeks when you are not able to help due to your schedule, but we find that most of our members help out almost every week. The process takes about an hour, and when you leave you bring your weekly basket with you. Many find this outdoor activity in the garden a respite from their work week in an office!

Members are asked to pick up their CSA baskets each Saturday by 10:00 AM. This is probably the biggest commitment you will make as part of the CSA. We understand that it may be difficult to come every Saturday for 9 weeks, but there are a couple of strategies you can employ to make this easier. (1) you can buddy-up with one or more members in your area and go on alternate Saturdays, each delivering or holding the other’s basket for pick up at their house; (2) you can send a family member or close friend; or (3) you can come Friday afternoon to help with the harvest and bring your basket home with you then (we had a lot of members take this option, as we do a lot of harvesting on Friday in advance of the Saturday bedlam).

What if you have a crop failure or natural disaster?

A CSA is a partnership between the farmer and the consumer, and within this partnership is an understanding of shared risk. That said, we do not expect members to bear the full cost of a catastrophic failure, nor have we ever experienced a completely failed season. Should the worst happen, members will be reimbursed a portion of their investment and we will do all in our power to make it right with members through a combination of refunds and discounts on following seasons.

What time commitment is asked as part of the CSA?

CSAs, by definition, include member support. Each week, literally hundreds of pounds of produce must be harvested, hundreds of bunches of herbs must be clipped and tied, and dozens of flower bouquets must be picked. Without member support, this is logistically impossible for part time farmers. Hence, we ask members to commit to help in some fashion (picking, sorting, filling orders, etc) according to their abilities every other weekend or so (we are not rigid on this). We have found that members enjoy becoming involved in the process. Learning about how food is grown and harvested is an uplifting and educational experience. After all, that is why we do it. And it is an integral part of CSA farms across the country. We are assuming that you found us because you appreciate this connection, and we hope that you can find the small amount of time to required to experience that connection.

What is the cost?

Cost of the CSA membership is $350. This covers 9 weeks of farm fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers of your choice. This comes out to about $38 per week, probably more than you would pay at the grocery store for conventionally-grown produce, but less than you would pay for organic produce at Whole Foods. The quality of the produce, however, cannot be approached by any supermarket, and the experience is priceless. Also, membership in the CSA includes a pint of our farm honey when it becomes available.

In Summary

So that about covers it. If you want to experience first hand the pleasures of seeing, smelling, picking and eating truly wholesome food, please respond quickly to this email. We would appreciate some information on you and your family, and why you want to join the CSA. We will let you know within a few days, and will ask for payment at that time. We ask that you understand that we have about twice as many families on the waiting list as we have openings. However, if you do not make in into the CSA this year, we will give you first shot at joining next year if you are still interested.

Thank you so much for your interest in our little farm. We hope to see you this spring.

Will & Thais Perkins

Port Hudson Organics CSA