Wow. These last few months just FLEW by. I did my last farmers market of the season on October 29th. I did my first market of the season on April 30th. We got rained out of four. (Because all of my soap and jam labels are paper, rainy markets and I don’t mix. Even though I’m under a tent, its almost impossible to keep everything dry.) We took one additional Saturday off. So I did a total of 47 market days, in four different locations, this year. My sales were up about 40%, so the move into the Pendleton and Richland markets was a good one, even though the first year at a new market is always about building your brand and customer base with the locals. I attribute a large part of the increase to my being able to offer jams throughout the year. Jams were about 27% of my sales this year. Mostly, I am thrilled to be finished. I’ve been pretty darned brain dead these last few weeks.
Three of those four rain-outs were in October. Our summers here are normally pretty darned dry (we’re arid, in general, with an average annual rainfall of 21 inches, the majority of which falls in the winter months). We usually get one good rain in late August/early September. Just enough to split all the ripe tomatoes that haven’t been picked. Ha. But not this year. September had about 1/3 of an inch. August was .08 inch total. July was about 2/3 of an inch. So about an inch short of normal for those three months. And then October hit. October’s normal average is 1.7 inches. We’ve got 4 inches this year. I know for folks who live in rainy areas, this seems like nothing. But for us, it feels very weird. Though I’m glad everything is getting a good drink as it goes dormant for the winter.
We had our first hard frost on October 11th. Just enough to take out any uncovered tomatoes or peppers. We picked all the tomatoes that had even a hint of color on them, along with ripe peppers, threw a cover on some of the peppers, and called it good enough. Because we didn’t get really hot hot for any length of time this summer, my tomatoes were a bit slower coming on than they had been in previous years. So there were quite a few green ones that were sacrificed to the frost god. But we still sold a lot, and made Tomato Jam, and canned tomatoes and four batches of Salsa for our own use. We called it a win.
The sheep are my clean up crew. Every year, after I’ve harvested what I can from the garden, we let the sheep graze in that area until about the first of January. This gives them a change in diet, extends our grazing season before we have to start feeding hay, cleans up the majority of the garden waste without a compost pile, and leaves manure on the ground that is given 4 months or so to compost in place before it is tilled in and new crops planted in the spring. Works great for everyone involved. This year that date was October 23rd.
It’s always great fun to let them in. The area is quite a bit larger than the actual garden, so there is always green grass that is long and lush, and we watch them run from garden plant to garden plant, like kids in a candy store. I always wonder what they do when they try out the left over habaneros, but I’ve yet to witness it. Nothing like seeing a sheep with a huge green tomato in her mouth, biting down and juice squirting everywhere. Within a few days, we’re down to stripped twigs.
Our sheep are able to breed year round, if conditions are right. We normally pull the rams off in early May, and put the flock back together in early October, so that we have babies only once a year, in March. This year we didn’t get the flock separated until quite a bit later, and then one of our rams literally battered down a wooden post with his head to get to the girls in September. So we’ll have babies starting in February next year. But…we also are having babies now! Michael went out on the morning of the 23rd to find twin newborns. A couple of days later, we had another single. Several other ewes look pretty pregnant. So, here’s hoping for 1) more females born – we tend to have about 75% rams when they are all born in March and 2) a mild November, so any babies born have an easy time of it. Still stinkin cute as heck, as always.
We also sold off 10 ewes a week or so ago, so our flock is down to 21 (14 females, 7 males). We’ll butcher 5 rams in the spring, for customers who have been interested in the meat and have been patiently waiting as we worked through our parasite issues this spring (see my July 11th post). Fewer mouths to feed going into winter is a good thing (though we’ll see how that all works out with the new babies). We didn’t get the grape pomace (the leftovers after the crush) like we planned, as the ram was in with the ewes a month early, and we figure the diet shift needed to take place before they were bred. Oh well, best laid plans. Next year.
I DID manage to get the garlic planted, even a bit earlier than I normally do, this year (in between rain storms). And because Welcome Table Farm was selling a few brassica starts in late July that I picked up (because I NEVER get around to doing fall starts in July, which is when you need to start them), I even have a bit of a fall garden planted, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots and turnips. Not sure if the cauliflower is going to make it in time, or what I’m going to do with six large heads of cabbage (maybe this Sausage with Apple and Quick Sauerkraut recipe, every week, lol), or if we will even eat the turnips. But I’m calling it a success never the less. Was completely gobsmacked at how well the carrots germinated, in late JULY for heaven sakes. I threw them in the ground and didn’t even change the every-third-day drip watering regime. And they came up like gang busters! We’ve fenced out the middle section of the garden to keep these vegetables safe from sheep. Lets hear it for electric fence, and lots of other goodies to distract them!
I’m prepping for a couple of holiday markets, one in November, and one in December (details on my “where to find me” tab above). And I’ll be attending the Women in Sustainable Agriculture conference in Portland at the end of the month. But I’m also unwinding a bit, which for me means finally being able to get to things like making bacon out of the pork belly that’s been in my freezer since I bought a half pig last January. Or making my annual batch of pumpkin granola (note, the pumpkin adds a lot of moisture. In my experience, you either need to increase the cooking time or decrease the other wet ingredients a bit). Or brewing up batches of chai concentrate. Or kombucha, which I’ve recently gotten into. Who knows. I might even start exercising again (I got into a really great routine last winter/spring where I was doing pilates and swimming three times a week – but then June happened, and well….).
As I roasted the last of the mild green chilis this year, I remembered that we still had a nice pork shoulder roast in the freezer from our pig back in January. So I decided to make green chili. I once, some 20+ years ago, had a spectacular bowl of green chili. The maker was a chef, and I was too new to cooking and green chili stew in general, to ask how he made it. I’ve been trying to make something similar, literally for years, with no luck. I’ve researched “authentic” recipes. And I’ve never made a batch that was anywhere near that bowl. So this time, I chucked all recipes to the wind, because it didn’t seem to matter, and just winged it. And ended up with the best batch of green chili stew I’ve ever made.
Green Chili Stew a la Miles Away Farm
- 1 pork shoulder roast
- 1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb of roasted green chilies (1 lb before cleaning, but after roasting)
- Handful of fresh sweet and hot peppers of various sorts. I think I used one jalapeno, one poblano, one sweet Italian pepper, and a few miscellaneous crosses.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bunch of leeks, green part removed, chopped (2 if large. Just add a second onion if you don’t have leeks)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp oregano (Mexican if you can find it)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 shot tequila
- 1 12 oz bottle of dark beer
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp corn meal
- 2 tbsp water
- Salt and pepper
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season roast generously all over with salt. Brown on each side for about 5 minutes (approx 20 minutes in all). Add more oil if needed, but most likely the roast will release some fat and you won’t need it.
Remove roast from pan and add in onions and fresh peppers, turning heat down to medium. Add a bit more oil if the pan looks dry. Add another generous pinch of salt. Saute until wilted, slightly browned, and the pan is partially deglazed from the onions releasing their liquids. Add garlic and additional spices and stir until you can smell them, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the shot of tequila, scraping up all the browned bits. Add the cleaned/peeled/chopped roasted peppers, the bottle of beer and the chicken stock. Stir until everything is warmed through and bubbly.
Place roast back into dutch oven, nestling it down into the onion/pepper liquid. Cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.
Remove roast and let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred meat into bite sized pieces. Mix corn meal and water in a small bowl until you have a slurry. Just before you return meat to the pot, reheat the chili/onion liquid and stir in the cornmeal to thicken. Return the pork to the pot, heat through, and serve with homemade cornbread.
Seriously swoon worthy. No pictures. We were too busy eating.
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