Sprouted onions from the latest cull, on May 21st. While these can still be used, I find the flavor changes significantly once they have sprouted, so they normally are enjoyed by the sheep instead.

Back in late October 2019, I reported on the grow out of 7 different onions; 6 yellow storage onions (5 open pollinated and one hybrid as a control) and one red storage onion, in this post.

I kept the 10 largest onions from each variety (except the red), and put them into storage in my garage pantry, where the temperature never gets down to freezing, but is otherwise unregulated. In short, typical of most home storage. The room tends to be 10-20 degrees warmer than the outside temp in the winter, and cooler than outside but warmer than the house in the summer.

The red variety, Rossa Di Milano, was a disappointment from the get go. I had poor germination, only harvested a few, and many of those were doubles, which generally don’t store well. The six I kept were sprouting by March.

This is what the yellow storage onion counts looked like. These are unsprouted onions left from the 10 I started with, in March, April and May.

MarchAprilMay
New York Early10103
Clear Dawn993
Yellow of Parma 863
Cortland Yellow Storage10104
Dakota Tears Yellow Storage865
Newburg Yellow Storage10106

Cortland was the hybrid, bred for long storage ability. So that acted as the control. Clearly Dakota Tears and Newburg were the winners for storage, most lasting into May, with Newburg the clear winner. Remember, the info on Newburg was “originally selected from a European commercial hybrid storage onion, it was reselected under and for organic production. The tightly wrapped, copper- skinned, spherical bulbs are known for their excellent storage life, crisp texture, and medium hot rich flavor. Newburg has out-yielded hybrids when trialed under organic conditions, making it a great replacement for the classic hybrid, Copra.””

In addition, Newburg had the highest brix (sugar) content and the best yields from my trials as well. So wow. Let’s hear it for Newburg. Given that it was harvested by September 1st, that is almost 9 months of storage. I’ll be letting the 6 I have left sprout and will grow them out for seed next year.

I found a few more open pollinated varieties to try out this year, including Southport White Globe and Southport Red Globe from Reimer seeds and a Sweet Spanish from Baker Creek (which is supposed to store well, so not a “summer sweet” onion like the Walla Walla’s, as far as I can tell. So the onion experiments continue.

© 2020 Miles Away Farm, where we’re miles away from being done experimenting with onions, and have some very cool bean varieties planted this year as well!

I don’t remember when I first started eating spanakopita, a Greek “spinach pie” traditionally made in individual phyllo wrapped triangles. It took me years to learn to really enjoy eating greens, so I would have avoided it in my twenties, but I’m sure I had it in a Greek restaurant at some point and thought, this is actually pretty tasty.

But all of that pastry brushing of butter onto phyllo dough, the amount of butter involved, and individually wrapping each “pie” kept me from making them at home for a very long time. And then I found this recipe in Eating Well magazine (December 2008). They had an option for making one large tart rather than individual tartlets, and I thought, that’s probably worth a try.

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Rhubarb is an interesting plant. A perennial in the family Polygonaceae (buckwheat family) that dies back to the ground in winter, it can often be found growing on old homestead sites, when the homestead itself is long gone. Grown for its tart stems, which can vary from all green to a deep red, its large leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid (also found in much lower quantities in spinach) and anthrone glycosides, which can be toxic. Though you’d have to eat many pounds of the leaves in one sitting to actually poison yourself. My sheep love the leaves and have done damage to more than one fence to reach my plants.

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Sourdough crackers, salami from our trip to Seattle in early march, a bit of leftover quince jam from last fall, and homemade farmer cheese.

I’ve written several blog posts (here and here) about my adventures in sourdough. But then, as I’ve aged, I’ve found that I have a lot less aches and pains when I don’t eat gluten. So I’ve become one of THOSE people, who mostly doesn’t eat wheat. And because of that, I’ve mostly stopped baking (though I do really like this paleo pizza crust and I occasionally make this gluten free bread).

And then coronavirus hit. And in a nostalgic mix of “baking = comfort” and “OMG stores are sold out of flour and yeast” panic, I bought a 50 lb bag of Smalls Family Farm unbleached all purpose flour from Andy’s. I figured I could always bake for the neighbors. This also necessitated me scrubbing out and bleaching several 6 gallon plastic buckets that originally contained coconut oil for soapmaking, but had been repurposed to hold grain for sheep or other random farm uses.

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I’ve been a subscriber to the Nutrition Action Healthletter for years and years. This recipe originally appeared there, as a quick healthy easy weeknight dinner. They called it “Chicken and White Bean Cassoulet”, but since the bulk of the recipe is cabbage, not an ingredient one would find in any traditional French Cassoulet, I renamed it.

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It’s funny. On some level, I’ve been preparing for this current situation for more than 20 years. And I’m finding that, not surprisingly, its one thing to be intellectually prepared for people hoarding toilet paper. It’s another to weather the emotional fall out when people around you are frightened and you can’t even give them a hug.

Other than the persistent feeling of angst, watching small businesses (many of which are also friends) suffer, a fear of running out of chocolate, and the hypochondria of “is that a tickle in my throat” (news flash, so far its not), we’re fine. Heck, there’s still hot and cold running water and electricity to surf the internet. We’re MORE than fine. And we’re doing our best to facilitate old fashioned neighbor to neighbor communication and assistance. Reaching out to those near us. Working with a local church and sign maker to put up a bulletin board for actual physical notes from neighbors in need.

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When I was making breakfast this morning, I got onto my blog to look up this recipe, and realized it wasn’t there. I can’t believe I’ve never posted this! It’s easy, filling, healthy, inexpensive, and utilizes pantry staples. PLUS it can be eaten for dinner OR breakfast. What’s not to love? This recipe is adapted from the original in Eating Well Magazine, March 1998.

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Heads up. This is a LONG post. And if you are just here for cute animal pictures and recipes and aren’t interested in farming as a business, a pretty boring one. But this stuff IS important. If you make it through to the end, thanks for reading!

It’s funny how things just chug along in life, and then the collective unconsciousness bubbles up and you start hearing similar ideas from multiple directions.

Last year, I went to the Balancing Profitability and Access in Local Food Systems conference in Boise. During one of the talks, this graphic appeared on the screen.

It hit a chord with me, I photographed it from the Power Point screen, and tracked it down later. A friend with a masters in marketing taught me years ago that consumers choose to purchase for one of three reasons; price, quality or status. Competing with big box store prices is simply a race to the bottom (and how we ended up with things like Confined Animal Feeding Operations – CAFO’s – a disaster for the animals, the environment and our health). But just marketing to the tip of that preference pyramid isn’t enough either.

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Onion harvest from way back in 2011.

Every year, I do my best to grow enough onions for our own use that I don’t have to buy onions at the store. This is kind of a silly point of pride, as store bought onions are inexpensive and even when conventionally grown have a low residual pesticide residue. But there’s just something about having a storage pantry full of onions I grew myself that makes me feel rich in a way that buying from the store can’t provide. So I try to store 100 storage onions in the fall. (Figuring a rough average of two a week for 52 weeks, when in reality some weeks are higher and some lower depending on what else is in season and whether or not its stew season).

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Jennifer Kleffner

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