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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I grew out a few new varieties of tomatoes this year. Four new cherries, a black, a white (really a pale yellow), esterina (yellow) and skakura (red). All were an attempt to find cherry tomatoes that didn’t split on the vine, after picking, and in the display box at market (looking at you Sungold – love you, but dang…). I also ended up with an accidental cherry when growing out some saved seed from a German Pink. I always put my German Pink’s near my cherry tomatoes, and it was clearly a cross with sungold. Kind of a fun slightly larger very round bright orange cherry. And I threw in a Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato from a plant sale, because I was swayed by its amazing looks. Turns out its not much on flavor in our growing environment. Tough skin, not terribly sweet, and the plant struggled to keep up all season while EVERY other tomato plant I had did just fine. So definitely a dud for me.

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A VISIT TO MY HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STOMPING GROUNDS PROVOKES A BIT OF REFLECTION, AND NOSTALGIA.

Every year during market season, we plan two breaks. The first about two months in, where we get caught up on farm projects and do an overnight stay somewhere close by, and another 4 months in, when we are deeply weary from the non-stop work that’s been happening since March and take a full week off, leaving the farm and going AWAY. Work/Life balance baby.

This year, inspired by a trip my friend Amy from Frog Hollow Farm did last year, we decided to attend the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa California. Imagine the vegetable display exhibits at the county fair, but multiplied by about a thousand. It’s vegetable nirvana for plant nerds. Unfortunately, shortly after booking the flight, my husband had a work leadership retreat scheduled for the same week, and couldn’t make the trip. So I did this one solo.

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Pickled Wenk’s Yellow hot (left), pickled pepperoncini (right)

As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, this is a household that loves all things peppers. From growing our own paprika and cayenne to roasting green chilies for use all winter, to making our own hot sauce, to freezing chopped ripe bell peppers that we use all year, we can’t get enough of these wonderful members of the nightshade family. Read the rest of this entry »

A while back, I joined a “Market Gardening Success Group” on Facebook. I’ve been listening to a lot of farming podcasts of late (Bootstrap Farmer Radio, No-Till Farmer Podcast, Farmer to Farmer, Thriving Farmer Podcast, The No-Till Market Garden Podcast), and thought it would be nice to have a place to discuss the business of farming and ask questions. And occasionally, a real gem DOES come through that is well worth knowing (like this hidden publication from the USDA. The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stock).

But for better or worse, this group takes all comers, and while, yes, everyone has to start somewhere, the hubris of people starting a business of selling vegetables when they can’t tell you what growing zone they are living in, or name a warm season vs a cool season vegetable, or anything about the type of soil they are growing in caught me a little off guard. SO many fundamentally beginning gardening questions. Not beginning MARKET gardening questions, but truly questions from people who are growing a tomato for the first time in their lives ever. And then wanting to sell it. Sigh. Read the rest of this entry »

I have an intern. A Whitman College intern. I have tried for several years to get this program to work for me without success, but this year, we finally managed to get all of the right pieces in place, and I HAVE AN INTERN. Squeeeee.

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Nick is very fond of Charlie. Charlie is very fond of Nick. Charlie may just decide to go home with Nick in September. Here we’re planting onions, one of Nick’s first on-farm tasks in mid May.

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National Heirloom Expo Squash Mountain – Baker Creek Seeds photo credit.

Most small farmers (though the USDA defines small farms as earning less than $250,000 a year, and classifies 91% of all US farms as small farms) get into farming because they want to sell direct to the end consumer. Growing products for farmers markets, providing CSA boxes (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture) and stocking a farm stand is all about developing a personal relationship between the farmer and their local customer. About telling your own farm story. We small farmers, in general, have wholeheartedly rejected the large scale commodity model of farming that accounts for 85% of the value of crops grown in the United States. In many cases, we don’t come from a history of farming on a large scale. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steps of the supreme court.

My husband, as part of a year long leadership course with his job, had a trip to Washington DC scheduled in mid April. I hadn’t been to DC since I was in the 8th grade, and markets haven’t started yet. We were in between babies (lambs, turkeys, rabbits) being born and mostly out of the frost worries, so I decided to go with him (we got a farm sitter – yes, its hard to go out of town when you own a farm, lol). Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_20190320_171952891_HDRwatermarkI didn’t grow up with Tamale Pie, a mixture of ground beef, tomatoes and chili powder topped with a boxed corn bread batter and baked. In fact, it wasn’t until we were staying with my mother-in-law some 20 years ago that it came to my attention. I was doing a lot of the cooking while we were staying there, between college graduation and wherever the next job took us. My mother-in-law requested it.

An internet search turned up lots of recipes, which I refined into my own, and it’s become an occasional weeknight staple ever since. Inexpensive, tasty, and a good way to use up homestead staples like canned tomatoes and frozen corn and bell peppers, it can really hit the spot during those long winter months where a little extra comfort can go a long way to helping you believe that spring will eventually come again.

Tamale Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Weeknight comfort food

Filling

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1-2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef, pork, turkey or chicken
  • 1 small can (4 oz) diced green chilies (or frozen)
  • 1 14 oz can corn (or frozen)
  • 1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes (or one pint home canned)
  • 1 15.5 oz can beans of choice – optional
  • 1 small can sliced olives – optional
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Topping

  • 1 package 8.5 oz Jiffy corn muffin mix, made to package directions, or from scratch corn bread recipe of your choice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large oven proof skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and saute onions, peppers, ground meat and garlic, cooking to break up clumps, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add in spices and saute until bloomed and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in tomatoes, corn, green chilies and beans/olives, if using, and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare corn bread mixture.

Top meat mixture with cheddar cheese. Spread cornbread batter over cooked meat/vegetable mixture and spread evenly.

Place skillet in oven and bake until cornbread mixture is cooked through in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.

(If you don’t have a heat proof skillet, pour meat mixture into a casserole dish, top with cheese and cornbread batter, and bake, uncovered.

© 2019 Miles Away Farm, where February was brutal and we’re about 2 weeks behind in terms of the spring warm up, but the daffodils are finally blooming, the lambs are bouncing around the pasture, and spring is FINALLY here!

 

So how about this snow right!?

After getting away with a crazy warm winter, in which we were starting to get bud swell on the fruit trees in late January, this happened.

Temp Miles Away Farm Jan/Feb 2019

Yeah, that’s right. Even though the official low on the Airport Walla Walla weather station said 11,  we had a low of -2 on our on property weather station (AcuRite 5 in 1) on February 7th. (We’re officially zone 7a, which is a minimum average temp of 0 to 5.) As low as I’ve seen it get here. And probably a sign that my almond trees, fig trees and persimmon trees are toast, or at least killed back to the ground. The snow insulated the ground, but not the above ground parts. If you roll the dice, eventually it comes up snake eyes. Nice to have an on site confirmation of what we’ve always known, which is that our property tends to run 5 to 10 degrees colder than in town. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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