Category Archive: Gardening

Happy Independence Day

1840 Farm FlagI grew up celebrating Independence Day with sparklers and barbecue. We lived in Kansas and didn’t really need the guise of a holiday as an excuse to eat barbecue. Fourth of July parades and celebrations seemed to be as ubiquitous as sunshine on a summer day during those years.

There were opportunities for fun everywhere I looked. Children ran through neighboring yards while flags flapped on front porches. As darkness enveloped the neighborhood, fireflies were caught in jars and held just long enough to marvel at their luminescence before releasing them back into the humid, warm air. Those Independence Day celebrations were filled with family, food and the pride we felt in being Americans.

These days, I celebrate the Fourth of July with my family in New England. Our geography has changed along with the way I view this holiday and commemorate its meaning. Living in a farmhouse that has seen so much of our nation’s history has strengthened my connection to this day.Isis Candy Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes at 1840 Farm

In my opinion, every chicken keeper celebrates their freedom each time they collect an egg from their coop just as every gardener celebrates with each tomato they harvest fresh from the vine. Choosing to raise your own food rather than simply purchase it at the local grocery store is an epic decision. Every meal that consists of fresh food personally raised, harvested and tended is a celebration of an independent spirit and the determination to hold our food supply close at hand.

I don’t take my freedom to make this choice for granted. Instead, I celebrate the opportunity we have been given to live on our farm and learn the real value of the food that graces our dinner plates. Generations ago, Americans learned that lesson by working on their own farms. They had firsthand knowledge of the amazing effort required to raise a baby chick to the day it laid its first egg or tend a crop and bring it to harvest.

Chickens are an integral part of our nation’s long history. When our nation celebrated the first “Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America” in 1777, it was more notable to be an American who didn’t keep chickens. Chickens were easily accessible to the colonists and critically important to their daily survival. They were equally important to our Founding Fathers and the settlers who came before them.

BerthaChickens arrived in the New World after long voyages to Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth Rock in 1620. Those chickens helped travelers endure long journeys at sea and set down roots in their new communities in the New World. In those settlements, a chicken was a prized possession and held the promise of the incredible ability to produce food for your family.

In the early 1800s, chickens were a common sight on large plantations, estates and even the yards of modest homes. They were likely to be seen strutting through the streets of the early cities and towns looking for food. In those days, chicken was rarely seen on the dinner plate of average citizens.

Chickens were instead kept for their egg-laying capabilities. An egg-laying hen could supply a family with many meals compared to the single meal a chicken dressed for service on the dinner table provided. The lacking nutritional quality of the bird’s diet was also a contributing factor. Instead of carefully formulated, complete chicken feeds, chickens were fed diets consisting almost entirely of kitchen scraps. While today’s chicks can mature to table weight in as little as 8 weeks, back in the Colonist’s day it could take as long as six months.

At that time in our nation’s history, chickens were kept by Americans of all classes and backgrounds. Slaves were often allowed to keep a few hens at their quarters to supplement their diets or to trade or sell the resulting eggs. Poor families kept hens loose in their backyards to help dispose of kitchen waste and to assist in turning manure piles. Only the wealthy could afford to house their birds in decorative coops within the confines of their manicured gardens and lawns.

Care of the family flock fell mostly to the women in the early days of our country. It was lighter work than tending to the larger livestock and a chore easily managed by a woman and her children. Even the youngest child could gather fresh eggs and bring them into the farmhouse kitchen.

George Washington kept Dominique chickens along with other heritage breeds of livestock at his estate, Mount Vernon. By all accounts, he was captivated by animal husbandry. In fact, he longed to leave both the military and the presidency to return to his beloved farm. Washington carefully selected the breeds of livestock kept on his estate and endeavored to make use of every single product and byproduct of their life cycle.Necessaries at Mount Vernon

Most notably, he aimed to incorporate their manure as rich fertilizer in the cultivation of his gardens and crops. In fact, he didn’t only collect fertilizer from his farm animals. He also constructed and located his “necessaries” within the aesthetic design of the grounds at Mount Vernon. Years ago, when I visited, I noticed these impressive, elevated structures with brick foundations and even photographed them. Only after reading Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners did I learn that they were in fact the outhouses purposely located in the ornamental gardens at Mount Vernon.

Our second president, John Adams’ relationship with chickens was slightly different. Like Washington, he saw himself as a farmer. He returned to Peacefield in Quincy, Mass., after losing a bitter election to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. While he hadn’t left political life willingly, he consoled himself with the work of his farm and lived there happily until his death in 1826.

His wife, Abigail, so loved her chickens and ducks that she tended to their daily needs herself. In fact, she remarked to Thomas Jefferson after living in France and England as a diplomat’s wife that, “I seldom meet with characters so inoffensive as my hens and chickens.” She much preferred the company of her hens to that of the dignitaries in St. James’ Court.

MonticelloA discussion of our nation’s history of farming would be incomplete without mention of Thomas Jefferson. He loved agriculture and believed that its advancement should be our primary national endeavor. His affection for gardening and farming included an affinity for chickens. While living in the President’s House, Jefferson exchanged letters with his granddaughter Ellen regarding a pair of bantams he had sent her. It was his hope that she would have the opportunity to experience the joy of chicken raising.

By the time Jefferson left the President’s House to return home to his famed gardens at Monticello, America had been celebrating its Independence Day for more than three decades. The landscape of the country was expanding, as was its agricultural knowledge. Agricultural fairs began to gain popularity and provided an opportunity for farmers to learn about new techniques, show their prized poultry and livestock, and spend time with other members of their local farming communities.

1840 Farm has stood for more than 170 Independence Day celebrations. This year, we’ll mark the occasion by spending the day together at our farm. The flag will wave from its perch on the front porch as our day begins in the quiet of the barn and garden. There will be homemade food to enjoy for family dinner as dusk approaches.

We’ll attend our town’s fireworks display and then return home to put the farm to bed for the evening. In the end, it will be a celebration filled with family, food and the immense pride we feel in being independent American farmers. Somehow, I think it’s exactly what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2015/07/independenceday/

Repurposed Gardening – Seed Starting Containers and Feed Bag Weed Barrier

I love to find a new purpose for materials that would otherwise be discarded.  I enjoy the challenge of re-imagining the use of items found in our recycling bin or stored in the old hay loft of our barn.  I also much prefer using materials that I already have on hand instead of buying something brand new.

A few of my favorite repurposed materials are put to use here in our gardens at 1840 Farm each growing season.  We have found them to be incredibly effective and cost saving.  I hope that you will enjoy using these no cost, repurposed materials in your garden this year.

Dairy Carton Seed Starting Containers

 Recycled Seed Starting Containers at 1840 FarmWe give our garden a head start by planting seeds indoors long before the weather outside would permit us to plant directly in the garden beds.  Here in New England, our growing season is painfully short, averaging about 120 days from start to finish.  In order to have a successful harvest, we need to give our heirlooms a good start inside the farmhouse.

In the spring, we plant our seeds down in the old root cellar of the farmhouse.  With enough light and attention, they grow well and ensure that we will be able to harvest our beloved heirloom tomatoes before the first frost occurs in fall.  Because we grow our plants from seed, we are able to purchase a diverse variety of heirlooms.  For less than the price of one healthy seedling from a nursery, we can purchase a packet of heirloom seeds to grow at least 20 seedlings.  We also love having the ability to seek out extremely rare and interesting varieties that are not available at our local garden center.

We use many of our seed starting supplies year after year.  No matter how many trays and containers we have, we always seem to need more.  We discovered last year that we had the perfect containers for our tiniest seeds right in our recycling bin.

We like to broadcast plant the tiny lettuce, herb, and onion seeds and then divide them by hand as they are added to the garden.  We find that this saves time by allowing us to tend to the young plants for several weeks without needing to thin them or move them to larger and larger containers.  The resulting plants are strong and healthy with well developed root systems.

We discovered that paper dairy cartons made ideal containers for these seeds.  By removing the top surface of the empty cartons, we create fantastic seed starting containers for these crops. The money we save by using these containers easily covers the cost of the seeds we plant in them.

Simply rinse out the used paper container before removing one side of the carton with a sharp knife or scissors.  Fill the container two-thirds full with your favorite seed starting mix.  Scatter the tiny seeds over the top of the mix before covering the seeds with more seed starting mix.  Label the container and tend as you would any newly planted seeds.  After moving the healthy plants to your garden, the container can be added to your recycling bin.

Creating Repurposed Seed Starting Containers at 1840 Farm  Recycled Dairy Carton Seed Starting Containers at 1840 Farm

Paper Feed Bag Weed Barrier

I love to spend a summer day working in the garden.  We plant close to 100 heirloom tomato plants each year along with cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and countless other crops.  With so many plants, there is always something that needs to be done.  I enjoy the work, knowing that my efforts will produce delicious, fresh food for our family table..

One garden job that I could do without is weeding.  I know that weeding is necessary, but I want to spend as little time as possible pulling weeds.  Weeding our raised beds helps our plants to have all of the soil’s nutrients instead of sharing them with the weeds that will happily take over.  Yet I find weeding to be my least favorite chore in the garden.  I love sharing the weeds with our hens as a fresh treat, but I can find plenty of fresh treats for them from the garden without spending hours pulling weeds.  I also find the prospect of spending a large portion of my gardening budget on weed barrier to be rather unpleasant.

Luckily, we have a steady supply of weed barrier materials thanks to our chickens and goats.  Our animal feed is packaged in paper bags that make a fabulous weed barrier.  I stockpile them all winter long in the barn for this purpose.  When planting time finally arrives, I can transform each large bag into a flat piece of paper weed barrier with a few snips of my garden shears.  Using landscaping staples, I secure each piece to the soil, covering all but the perimeter of the beds where I will plant onions, herbs, and zinnias to attract beneficial pollinators.

Using my shears, I cut holes exactly where I want to plant,  I then tuck the plants into the soil warm soil.  When we mow our untreated grass, I collect the clippings and add them on top of the paper surface. With very little effort and little to no expense, I have added an effective weed barrier to our garden and made use of materials that we have on hand.

The paper and grass mulch help our garden beds to retain moisture while minimizing weed growth.  Over the course of the growing season, both the grass and paper begin to decompose.  When we clear the beds in the fall, we simply remove the staples, reserving them for the next season, and add the paper bags to our recycling bin.

We also use this paper feed bag mulch for our garden paths.  We cover the paper bags in the paths with untreated wood chips and have a weed free path all summer long.

Empty Feed Bags at 1840 Farm  Empty Garden Bed at 1840 Farm

Feed Bag Mulch at 1840 Farm  PlantinginBagMulch

I’ll be sharing a few other tricks for using repurposed materials in the garden in the coming weeks.  Until then, you can take a photo tour of  the gardens here at 1840 Farm.  I’d love to hear about your strategies to use repurposed or recycled materials in your garden.  I’m always looking for new, great ideas to use in ours.

Repurposed Gardening at 1840 Farm

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2015/04/repurposed-gardening/

Refrigerator Dilly Beans

Refrigerator Dilly Beans at 1840 FarmFor the past several years, I have been making refrigerator dill pickles using the cucumbers we harvest fresh from our garden. Making those simple, fresh pickles is a great way of pickling cucumbers without needing to spend hours standing over the canning pot.  In minutes, I can prepare several mason jars full of cucumber pickles that will be enjoyed by the whole family.

I do make several batches of pickles each summer that are canned for long term pantry storage. With luck and little planning, those water bath processed jars of pickles last us well into the winter. They’re delicious and we enjoy every last bite. Yet, there’s something altogether wonderful about a pickle that can be made in minutes, kept cold in the refrigerator, and eaten fresh during the season when heirloom vegetables are so plentiful in our garden.

Once I mastered the refrigerator cucumber pickles, I started experimenting with other fresh garden produce. These dilly beans are now just as beloved at 1840 Farm as the cucumber variety. Because these quick pickled green beans will be consumed within days instead of months, the vegetables require no cooking and stay crisp and brightly colored.

Much like the cucumber pickles we look forward to each summer, these dilly beans are quick and easy to put together. Simply prepare the brining liquid as you prep the fresh green beans. Once the beans have been trimmed to remove the ends and sized to fit in the mason jars, simply fill the jars with the brine. Within hours, the beans will be infused with the flavor of dill and vinegar. By the next day, they will be dilly bean perfection.

I keep several wide mouth canning jars full of refrigerator dilly beans in our refrigerator.  As one jar is emptied, I simply prep enough fresh green beans to refill the jar, add the beans to the brining liquid, and return the jar to the refrigerator I use plastic canning lids and write the day that the fresh beans were added using a dry erase marker.  That way, I always know which jar been brined thSeedsOfTheMonthClube longest and can serve those dilly beans first.

I find myself making more refrigerator dilly beans and refrigerator dill pickles almost every other day during the summer. They are both irresistibly fresh and vibrant in color and flavor. We can’t seem to get enough of them.  Rest assured, I will be planting more cucumbers and green beans in our garden next summer!

If you’re interested in expanding your garden, visit our sponsor and join the Seeds of the Month Club.  Every month, you’ll receive non-GMO seeds to add to your garden just like we do.  Better yet, you can save 25% off the price of a membership by clicking on the “join now” button.

 

 

1840 Farm Refrigerator Dilly Beans
makes two wide mouth pint jars

Because these dilly beans are refrigerated instead of prepared for long term storage, the recipe can be adjusted to your preference.  If you prefer a sweeter dilly bean, more sugar can be added.  If you like your pickled beans with more zing, reduce the sugar to intensify the flavor of the vinegar.  If you like a little heat, a small dried pepper could be placed in each jar before adding the trimmed green beans. I reuse the brining liquid several times during the course of a few weeks before making a fresh batch and starting the process all over again.

12 ounces white vinegar
4 ½ Tablespoons pickling salt
3/4 cup (144 grams) sugar
12 whole black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 bunch fresh dill
fresh green beans, washed and drained

Prepare the brining liquid by combining the white vinegar, salt, and sugar in a saucepan.  Simmer gently over medium heat until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.  Remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Gather two pint sized glass jars with lids.  I prefer to use wide mouth jars as they are easier to fill, but any clean jar will do.  To each jar, add 6 whole peppercorns, 2 clove of peeled and quartered garlic, and 1 generous handful of dill.

Trim the ends from the green beans before placing vertically in the prepared jars. Trim longer beans as necessary to fit in the jar. Continue to add trimmed beans until the jar is full.

Once the brining liquid has cooled to room temperature, pour approximately half of the liquid into each jar.  Cover and swirl slightly to disperse the spices.

Refrigerate the beans until ready to use.  These dilly beans must be refrigerated.  They are not intended for long term pantry storage.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/07/refrigerator-dilly-beans/

Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club

SeedsOfTheMonthClubI am proud to introduce you to 1840 Farm’s newest sponsor:  Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club.  The Seeds of the Month Club offers a unique opportunity to receive a collection of open pollinated, heirloom, non-GMO seed varieties delivered to your mailbox each month.  Their club offers seasoned and novice gardeners alike a wonderful opportunity to add new heirloom, non-GMO varieties to their gardens.

It’s no secret that I love to garden.  There’s something so fulfilling about planting a tiny seed and tending it for months until it produces a harvest to be served at our family table.  We grow our entire garden from seed and I can’t seem to say no to a new interesting variety when planning our garden each spring.  Throughout the season, I walk through the gardens contemplating how I might be able to squeeze in one more row of lettuce or carrots.  I am forever looking at a small bit of grassy yard space and visualizing how I can convince my family that we should construct a raised bed to plant more heirloom tomatoes next year.

Along with my continual garden planning, I seek out companies that offer non-GMO seeds.  I like to spend my gardening dollars on seeds that help to ensure the diversity that I so love to grow in our gardens here at 1840 Farm.  I like to support the companies that feel as I do, that more diversity in our seed choices and resulting food supply is good for everyone whether they choose to plant a garden or frequent their local farmer’s market.

For that reason, I encourage you to click on the “Join Now” button here on our page to learn more about the Seeds of the Month Club.  By using this link, you will receive a 25% discount on your membership.  As a member, you will receive non-GMO seeds hand selected for your growing zone.  The first shipment of seeds will consist of eight packets and will be followed by four seed packets each month throughout the length of your membership.  The producers of the seeds offered by the Seeds of the Month Club have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.so you can be confident that the seeds you receive will be non-GMO varieties.

My first month’s collection of seeds are in the mail, on their way to our mailbox here at 1840 Farm.  I can’t wait to plant them in our heirloom garden and share my experience growing these varieties with you throughout the growing season.  I’ll be sharing photo updates on our Facebook page, Instagram, and in our Garden Tour Photo Gallery right here on our blog.  I hope that you’ll join me in becoming a member of the Seeds of the Month Club and share in the fun with me.

You can learn more about Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club by visiting them on Facebook,  I am proud to welcome  Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club to our wonderful community of 1840 Farm sponsors and grateful that they are offering such a generous discount to the members of The 1840 Farm Community.  Here’s hoping that we all have a wonderful gardening season this year!

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/07/mike-the-gardeners-seeds-of-the-month-club/

Strawberry Jam with Natural Pectin

 Strawberry Jam at 1840 FarmStrawberry Jam with Natural Pectin
yields approximately 4 half pints

Most strawberry jam recipes call for adding pectin in order to properly gel the jam. Strawberries have very little pectin, so a source of pectin must be added. I StrawberriesJamWMprefer to use the natural pectin in an apple rather than add commercially produced powdered pectin. I find that an apple adds plenty of pectin along with a touch of tangy flavor that offers a nice counterpoint to the sweet earthiness of the fresh strawberries.

The grated apple softens as the jam cooks, releasing its pectin and becoming nearly unrecognizable in the finished jam. The apple peel should be removed before canning the finished jam. At our house, the apple peel coated in rich strawberry jam is a delicacy. It’s like the best fruit leather on earth and is happily devoured by the whole family!

1 ½ pounds strawberries, washed, stemmed, and cut into small pieces
2 cups (384 grams) granulated sugar
1 medium apple, prepared as directed below
Juice of ½ lemon (approximately 2 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Place several plates or large spoons in the freezer for use in gel test. If you are planning to can the jam, ready your canning pot, jars, lids, rings, and canning equipment. I like to use 4 or 8 ounce canning jars when processing this jam.

StrawberriesAppleWMUsing a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the apple in long strips. Core and quarter the apple. Use a grater to grate the apple quarters. Add the grated apple and apple peel to a large non-reactive pot with the strawberries and sugar. Stir gently to combine and place the pot on a burner over medium heat.

Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil for 15 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent the sugars from burning. Using a slotted spoon, remove the strawberry pieces from the pot and transfer to a medium bowl. Removing the strawberries will help them to maintain a firmer texture in the final jam.

Continue to boil the liquid in the pot for another 15 minutes. Return the reserved berries to the pot and add the lemon juice. Stir to combine and continue to boil gently for another 15 minutes or until the mixture passes the gel test when allowed to cool on the chilled plates or spoons set aside in the freezer.

While the gel test may sound like a daunting scientific experiment, it is actually a simple, visual method for determining if your jam has reached the ideal consistency. This test will allow you to measure the finished consistency of your jam. If the mixture is too loose, it can be boiled further to allow a bit more of the liquid to evaporate. If the mixture has boiled too long and is slightly too thick, a small bit of liquid can be added to loosen the mixture before canning.

Performing the gel test involves placing a bit of the hot jam on a plate or large spoon that has been StrawberryGelTestWMchilled in the freezer. When the mixture has been allowed to cool, the consistency can be accurately gauged. When cool, the jam should form a cohesive mixture, forming a wrinkle as it moves when pressed with your finger. If you run a finger through the small puddle of jam, it should split apart and then return to a cohesive puddle moments later.

Once the mixture has passed the gel test, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the apple peel and stir in the vanilla.  Ladle hot jam into sterilized 4 or 8 ounce jars leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles from the side of the jar.  Using a clean cloth, remove any residue from the rim of the jar.  Place a lid on the jar and tighten with band.  Gently lower the filled jar into the boiling water canner.  Repeat until all jars have been added to the pot.  Place lid on canning pot.  Return water to a boil.

Once the water has returned to a boil, process half-pint jars of jam for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove the lid from pot.  Allow the jars to rest in the water for at least five minutes.  Carefully remove jars to a towel lined baking sheet.  Allow jars to cool up to 24 hours before checking the seals and labeling the jars for storage. A properly sealed jar of strawberry jam can be stored and used for up to one year.



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Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/06/strawberry-jam/

French Harlequin Heirloom Marigold

The 1840 Farm Pollinators GardenFrench Marigolds have a centuries old secret:  they aren’t really French.  It is believed that they made their way to France in the 1500s.  An illustration of a striped French Marigold appeared as early as a 1791 edition of Curtis’ Botanical Magazine.  This marigold was described as being yellow with red striped petals.

Centuries later, we still refer to some varieties as “French”.  Perhaps this is a nod to the gardeners of France who worked diligently to cross their most beautiful specimens in a quest to better the blooms.  Or, it could simply be due to the fact that all things French were thought to be beautiful and of the highest quality at the time that the marigold first came to America.

American gardeners in that era were eager to  attempt to replicate the beautiful gardens in France.  Travelers took garden tours, carefully noting both the species and methods used to create France’s most notable gardens.  One of those travelers was  the man who would become our young nation’s third President:  Thomas Jefferson.

The French Marigold was a common sight in Colonial gardens, bringing beauty and utility to the garden plot.  In 1808, Jefferson wrote in his garden journal about having two varieties of marigold in his gardens at Monticello in Virginia.  It is believed that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties that he had growing on the grounds at Monticello.  He often referred to the French variety as the “lesser African marigold” as it was thought to have made its way to France via Africa.

Jefferson enjoyed marigolds so much that he sent them to his granddaughter Anne.  Anne happily wrote to him, reporting that the two varieties of marigold seeds he had given them were still flourishing.  It is thought that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties he had sent her.

Marigolds were long thought to be poisonous due to their pungent aroma.  Gardeners believed that any flower with a strong, unpleasant scent was sure to be poisonous.  Centuries later, we can still use their scent and pest deterring qualities to our advantage in the tomato patch.

Marigolds make excellent companions for tomato plants.  Their pungent aroma is thought to help deter harmful nematodes who love to decimate the tomato patch.  They also bring beauty to the tomato garden by filling the space beneath the towering vines.

Their beneficial properties can be taken advantage of long after the growing season has ended.  Allow spent marigold plants to dry in the garden at the end of your growing season.  Before the first frost, break the dried marigold plant into small pieces and turn them under the top layer of the soil.  Doing so will discourage nematodes from overwintering in your garden’s soil, giving next year’s plants a head start on overcoming these garden pests.

Tennis Ball Heirloom Lettuce is one of the four varieties included in our The Pollinators Garden Heirloom Seed Collection available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/05/french-harlequin-heirloom-marigold/

The Easy Keepers Garden Heirloom Seed Collection

We have been growing heirlooms here at 1840 Farm since 2006.  Every summer, we embark on a challenge that lasts through the entire growing season:  we try to grow heirloom tomatoes from seed.  For added fun, we add in a geography component to the challenge.

Here in New England, we have a painfully short 90 day growing season.  In the case of tomatoes, peppers, and other warm weather loving crops, that short 90 day window can be a race against time.  Once we have finally arrived at the last frost date and can introduce those plants into the garden, the race is on.

Maybe that never-ending battle with the calendar is why I love the heirloom varieties that are so much easier to grow.  They are more tolerant of our cool evenings and short growing season.  These varieties don’t need to be started weeks earlier inside the farmhouse.  Instead, they can be directly sown into the garden soil while temperatures are still much cooler thank our beloved tomatoes will tolerate.

The 1840 Farm Heirloom Easy Keepers Collection includes heirloom varieties that are perfectly suited for the beginning or casual gardener. Each of the varieties can be directly sown into a small garden plot or in containers. They are also among our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four historic heirloom varieties:

+ Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
+ Dwarf Siberian Kale
+ French Breakfast Radish
+ Tennis Ball Lettuce

The 1840 Farm Heirloom Easy Keepers Collections available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

This year, 1840 Farm offers five heirloom seed collections for purchase. The 1840 Farm Favorites Garden includes six of our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens here at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four varieties that are perfect for the beginning gardener and can be sown directly into a small garden plot or containers. The Pollinators Garden features six flowering plants that will help to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden. Our Three Sisters Garden includes four packets of seed that allow you to enjoy delicious produce and an American history lesson as you put into practice one of the oldest forms of companion planting.   The Tomato Lover’s Garden features six of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties.

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/04/the-easy-keepers-garden-heirloom-seed-collection/

Tennis Ball Heirloom Lettuce

Tennis Ball Lettuce was found in the United States as early as the eighteenth century.  It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson.  He grew it in the famed garden at Monticello beginning in 1809.  When describing Tennis Ball, he wrote, “it does not require so much care and attention” as other varieties of lettuce.

Tennis Ball Lettuce is a Butterhead variety of lettuce.  It is considered to be the origin of today’s Boston lettuces.  Heads of Tennis Ball Lettuce grow in tightly formed rosettes.  The leaves are light green in color and have a soft, smooth texture.

Lettuces can be succession planted to be enjoyed throughout the growing season.  They prefer the cooler conditions of spring and fall to summer’s heat.  When sowing in the summer, consider planting lettuce in the shade of larger, established plants.  They can be grown as companions with dill, mint, chives, beets, cucumber, and beans.  Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that can be grown successfully with dill.

In Thomas Jefferson’s day, the leaves of Tennis Ball Lettuce were preserved by pickling them in a salt brine solution.  Doing so allowed the leaves to be stored and enjoyed during the long winter when fresh greens were unavailable.  The leaves were then served as an accompaniment to the main course during a meal.

Here at 1840 Farm, we don’t feel the need to pickle these tender greens.  Instead, we enjoy them dressed lightly and served as a main course or side dish.  They pair wonderfully with roasted potatoes.

Tennis Ball Lettuce is listed on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.  The Ark of Taste lists 200 foods that are in danger of becoming extinct.  Here’s hoping that we’ll all be able to enjoy delicious Tennis Ball Lettuce from our gardens for many generations to come.

We plant Tennis Ball Lettuce every year in our heirloom garden.  We’ve even included Tennis Ball Heirloom Lettuce in our 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection.  Tennis Ball Lettuce was included in our Easy Keepers Garden Heirloom Seed Collection this year.  You can learn more about all of our seed collections by visiting The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.

The Easy Keepers Heirloom Seed Collection

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/04/tennis-ball-heirloom-lettuce/

French Breakfast Heirloom Radish

Here at 1840 Farm, we eagerly await radish season each spring.  Radishes are the first vegetable crop harvested from our garden and announce the happy arrival of the growing season.  They also enable us to enjoy eating a spring menu favorite:  sliced radish tartine.

French Breakfast Heirloom Radishes are always among the radishes planted in the 1840 Farm garden.  They are beautiful and delicious.  They have a crisp exterior and are full of earthy flavor.

The French Breakfast appeared in French markets in the late 1870s.  This variety is more cylindrical in shape than others.  It exhibits its trademark coloring, with rosy pinkish red shoulders that fade to almost pure white at its tip.

Radish greens can be used as spicy salad greens or added to the compost heap.  If you are lucky enough to keep chickens  or ducks, serve the greens as a fresh treat.  Our hens come running when they see us in the radish beds, knowing that a delicious treat will be soon to follow.

Long before our beloved tomatoes are ripe or the raspberries are ready for picking, we can count on our heirloom radishes to be at their best.  In a matter of minutes, we can select a few radishes and make delicious tartines.   Taking that first bite seems like a delicious way to celebrate the arrival of another growing season.

The French Breakfast Heirloom Radish is one of the four varieties included in our Easy Keepers Heirloom Seed Collection available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/04/french-breakfast-heirloom-radish-2/

Dwarf Siberian Heirloom Kale

Each year, it seems that a particular food takes center stage.  Suddenly, it appears in the food sections of popular magazines, on the menus of my favorite restaurants, and in the cookbook section of our local bookstore.  For the past year or so, that food has been kale.  Everywhere I look, there seems to be kale prepared in one form or another.  Every time I taste it, I am left wondering why kale ever fell out of favor on our dinner plates here in America.

Kale is beautiful, delicious, and packs a powerful boost of nutrition in every leaf.  Researches boast that they have identified more than 45 individual flavonoids in kale.  Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and believed to be both anti-inflammatory and a powerful antioxidant.  Kale contains Vitamin K, Vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, and calcium.

Dwarf Siberian Kale hails from Russia, so it prefers cooler temperatures, making it ideal for cultivating as an early season and late season crop in the garden.  Here in New England, kale tolerates our cooler evenings without any need for added protection.  In warmer parts of the country, kale is an excellent crop for fall and early winter growing.

This variety matures quickly, reaching its first harvest in a mere 50 days.  The mature plants reach approximately 14 inches in height and feature large, softly ruffled leaves that are a beautiful dark green color.  The inner leaves can be harvested throughout the season until damaging cold weather arrives, allowing the main plant to continue thriving and producing delicious leaves.

When our kale is ready for harvest, we add it to stir fry dishes and pastas.  We also enjoy it served lightly sautéed in sesame oil with red pepper flakes, a drizzle of soy sauce, and a light sprinkling of cheese.  When colder weather arrives, we find ourselves adding chopped kale to soups and chili with delicious results.  Given its delicious flavor, versatility on the plate, and nutritional benefits, it’s easy to see why kale has become so popular.

As I was preparing this post, I came to a powerful realization:  I didn’t have a single photo of kale growing in our heirloom garden.  Instead, I had a full collection of kale being featured on our dinner plates.  Perhaps that fact is the biggest testament to the delicious flavor of kale that I could share.  This year, I intend to enjoy kale while it grows in the garden and when it is served at our family table.  Who knows, I might even remember to take a picture of its beautiful leaves while it is still in the garden!

Dwarf Siberian Heirloom Kale is one of the four varieties included in our Easy Keepers Heirloom Seed Collection available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/04/dwarf-siberian-heirloom-kale/

Black Seeded Simpson Heirloom Lettuce

Black Seeded Simpson Heirloom Lettuce is a staple in our 1840 Farm garden every year.  I first tasted Black Seeded Simpson four years ago when I reached down on a sunny day to pull a fresh leaf from the lettuce bed.  One bite of a crunchy, ruffled leaf was all it took to make it one of my favorite tastes of summer.  Since then, I have come to appreciate its beauty as much as its flavor.

The color of this lettuce is stunning.  Its large, deeply textured leaves are a brilliant bright green color with just enough of an undertone of yellow to stand out among the other lettuces we grow.  Each leaf is large and reaches upright towards the sun.

Black Seeded Simpson is quick to mature, making it one of the first fresh harvests from our raised bed garden each year.  Throughout the season, it resists bolting unlike many other lettuces that we have tried.  This variety consistently thrives during the heat and drought of the summer.

Black Seeded Simpson is a loose leaf variety of lettuce.  Instead of growing in tight heads, it produces individual, loose, leaves attached to a central stalk.  This growing habit allows leaves to be harvested throughout the growing season without disturbing the plant.  This method of harvest when paired with succession planting will ensure a steady crop of delicious greens all summer long.  It’s no wonder that gardeners have been growing Black Seeded Simpson in their salad gardens for over 150 years!

Black Seeded Simpson Heirloom Lettuce is one of the four varieties included in our Easy Keepers Heirloom Seed Collection available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/04/black-seeded-simpson-heirloom-lettuce/

The Three Sisters Garden Heirloom Seed Collection

Throughout the year, we produce as much food for our family table as possible here at 1840 Farm.  We span the calendar year from spring’s maple syrup to summer’s garden produce to fall and winter’s fresh eggs from the coop and milk from our dairy goat herd.  Each season and crop has a purpose.

Each year, the beans, corn, and squash grown in our garden will be featured on our Thanksgiving table.  These three crops can be grown in a variety of ways in the garden, but I like to use an interplanting technique that may be as old as Thanksgiving itself.   Planting a Three Sisters Garden will provide delicious produce for our November celebration and allow us to participate in an American history lesson right outside our farmhouse door.

The Three Sisters Garden may very well be the first instance of the companion planting technique that gardeners still use today.  There is a wonderful old legend about the Three Sisters Garden that involves a Native American woman who had three daughters who struggled to peacefully coexist.

The legend tells the tale of her brilliant method for showing her daughters the value of diversity and peaceful coexistence.  She planted the three crops of corn, beans, and squash together to show her daughters that together, they could support each other yet retain their own individuality.  As members of the group, they were stronger than they could possibly be as individuals.

While some historians disagree regarding the historical accuracy of the story, the legend of the and its gardening technique have endured through the centuries.   In fact, artwork of a woman tending a Three Sisters Garden appears on the reverse side of the Sacajawea US Dollar coin that was released in 2009.  Now you can help to preserve the legend with The 1840 Farm Three Sisters Garden Heirloom Collection.

Last year, we offered a collection of three heirloom varieties used by the Wampanoag Tribe to our customers in our Three Sisters Garden Collection.  This year, our The Sisters Garden Collection features four historic heirloom varieties.  We have paired the original three heirlooms with a sunflower that was named for the Hidatsa Tribes that also famously planted corn, maize, and squash as companions in their gardens.  The 2014 Three Sisters Garden Collection includes four historic heirloom varieties:

Hidatsa Sunflower
Long Island Cheese Squash
Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn
Sunset Runner Bean

To plant a Three Sisters Garden, prepare a mound of garden soil approximately 48 inches wide.  Amending the soil with compost will help to improve the productivity of each of the crops during the growing season.  After the danger of frost has passed, plant the corn in the mound, making a circle about 24 inches in diameter.   Plant four to six seeds in each inch deep hole.   Space the corn plantings about 8 inches apart along the perimeter of the circle.

Once the corn has grown to between 4-6 inches tall, plant the bean seeds.  Evenly space the beans around the base of each corn stalk.  Seven to ten days after planting the beans, plant the squash seeds.  Plant 2-3 squash seeds in each of three or four holes inside the circle of corn and beans.

Planting corn, bean, and squash together is a sustainable method of companion planting, allowing each plant to help contribute to the success of the other varieties.  The towering corn stalks serve as a trellis for the climbing beans, allowing them to be grown without the need for a supplemental support system.  As the beans grow, they help to enrich the soil.  Their roots produce nitrogen which feeds the corn and squash plants throughout the growing season.

In the Three Sisters Garden, the large leaves of the squash plant shelter the soil, suppressing weed growth and discouraging pests from damaging the trio of crops.  The prickly vines of the squash plant deter pests from the garden and help to protect the developing crops.  The flowery blooms of the bean and squash plants help to attract pollinators to the garden, increasing the productivity of the entire garden.

The sunflowers can be planted along with the other three varieties in the Three Sisters Garden.  Their bright blooms will help to attract pollinators to your garden. When spent, the large flower heads can be harvested for their delicious seeds or shared with your flock as a nutritious treat.

I look forward to showcasing produce directly from the garden at 1840 Farm on this year’s Thanksgiving table.  Beans, corn, and squash will join spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and fresh herbs in our favorite holiday dishes.  Enjoying this homegrown produce on our family table will make our holiday celebration even more memorable.

The Three Sisters Garden Collection is available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

This year, 1840 Farm offers five heirloom seed collections for purchase. The 1840 Farm Favorites Garden includes six of our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens here at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four varieties that are perfect for the beginning gardener and can be sown directly into a small garden plot or containers. The Pollinators Garden features six flowering plants that will help to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden. Our Three Sisters Garden includes four packets of seed that allow you to enjoy delicious produce and an American history lesson as you put into practice one of the oldest forms of companion planting.   The Tomato Lover’s Garden features six of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties.

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2014/03/the-three-sisters-garden-heirloom-seed-collection-2/

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