Parsnips, a Mid-Winter Break

It’s that time again! 🙂

Sunny Hill Farm Blog

        Right now in Upstate New York we are enjoying what is know as the January Thaw, a fairly predictable period of time in Winter (anywhere from early January to late February) when temperatures rise above normal for a few days, allowing some of the snow to melt off, a few of the insects to come buzzing about again, and perhaps even a bear or two wanders out of hibernation and stretches its legs.  Invariably it may bring gardeners out-of-doors, to stroll and smell the beds put to sleep for the season, likely even find a tool or two that was consumed by weeds back in September.  Bulbs of garlic and tulips that have heaved out of the ground are poked back in, and perennial beds that were neglected are hastily mulched, fingers crossed in hopes that they will again be forgiving and grow on in the Spring, despite our…

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10 Things Your Non-Farm Friends Just Don’t Understand

The Buckeye Milkmaid

All of my friends come from different walks of life, but for my friends who didn’t come from a farm they sometimes have a hard time understanding the farm lifestyle. Here’s a list of things I think some people can relate to.

1. You don’t have set work hours 

When your non-farm friends wanna hang out it’s hard for them to realize you don’t work from 9-5.  They might think you’re making up excuses when you tell them “we can’t hang out till it rains” or “sorry I was late, I had to help deliver a calf” Or if one takes you on a date to the movies and you fall asleep half way through the show, they think it’s because you’re not interested in them, when in reality its because you’ve been up since 4am and you’re tired (looks like you won’t be getting a second date with that…

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Little Bit of Green Article

A nice article about indoor seed starting in which I was cited:
Indoor Planting for Spring Gardening

Sausage and Potato Soup

This is the epitome of a seasonal dish, and a real “pantry-buster”.  A traditional homestead would have veggies in the root cellar such as potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, etc. and cured and smoked meats such as ham and sausage.  So this dish is easy to put together.  Even if you don’t have some or all of the items, because they are seasonal, they are generally less expensive at the grocery.

wpid-img_20150204_094255815.jpgThe ingredients for this dish are simple, adjust amounts for how large a batch you’d like to make. Use potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and your favorite sausage. Peas and/or corn are good additions, as well. Use whatever you have. You may notice by now potatoes, garlic, etc., are looking a bit wilty. This is a sign it is time to use them up! These veggies are fine to use as long as they retain their fresh normal smell. Cut open your potatoes to be sure there are no spots in the middle.  Peel all the vegetables and cut into fairly uniform sized pieces.


I like to cook this soup in stages. First, I like to cook the sausages, uncut. “Fry” them in the pot with just a touch of oil. This lets them develop their flavor to the fullest, the skins sealing in all the juices.  Once the sausage is sizzling and weeping, add the cut veggies and gently pour in just enough water to cover.  Or you can use any stock you may have saved.


Cover and gently simmer the soup for at least an hour, until the vegetables sink, indicating they are fully cooked.  At this point, pull the sausages and slice them into bite-sized pieces. Return them to the pot, add a couple cups more liquid and return to simmer.


Now you can decide if you want to make this soup creamy or brothy.  Either way, it’s time to add the rue.  Rue is the secret to thickening sauces and soups without lumps.  Rue is simply a paste formed from a mixture of lot liquid and flour.  Pull about a cup of HOT liquid from the soup into a smaller bowl or measuring cup. Stir in about 1/4 c flour, more depending on how big your batch of soup is.  Thoroughly combine the liquid and flour to form a thick paste. Then re-introduce the rue to the soup, stirring constantly until the rue disappears into the soup.  To reach full thickening potential, the soup must now be brought to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  It need only boil shortly to activate the rue.  Then let it back off and reduce to simmer. The soup should now fill about half your pot and be about twice as thick as you expect the finished product.  If it is not thick enough, repeat the process of pulling liquid and combining with flour, measuring by Tablespoons, until the desired thickness is reached.

From here, if a creamy soup is desired, it is time to add milk, cream or a mixture of the two.  If a brothy soup is desired, add more water or stock, filling the pot.  Simmer another hour, stirring occasionally, to marry all the flavors, and then the soup is ready to serve.

Follow these guidelines and be inspired by whatever you have in your pantry or root cellar to create a wonderful soup or stew to ward off the Winter chill.

To learn more about the energy-free tradition of root cellaring, I recommend this book, Root Cellaring by Nancy and Mike Bubel.


Strawberry Bread

If you freeze your own strawberries, by now you may be looking for new ways to enjoy them, a departure from the ubiquitous waffles or ice cream.

One recipe I really enjoy making is Strawberry Bread. I was given this delicious quick bread recipe from my local Broome County Cornell Cooperative Extension

I was given the recipe proportioned to make 1 loaf, but I have doubled it because with 4 teens I always make 2 loaves. And, honestly, even if you have a smaller family, since you turned on the oven you are better off baking two loaves. You can freeze one for later or give as a gift! 🙂

Make this recipe with fresh berries in Summer, or thaw your frozen berries, then puree.


Strawberry Bread.                  Makes 2 loaves

2/3 c. Butter, or butter/shortening combo

1 1/2 c. Sugar

4 eggs

4 c. Flour

2 tsp.  Baking Powder

2 tsp.  Baking Soda

1 tsp. Vanilla

2 c. Strawberries, pureed

Lightly grease 2 9×5″ loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Add flour, powder, and soda, mix thoroughly.  Stir in strawberry puree.  Pour batter into loaf pans, bake 50-60 mins it until center is done. Chill 15 mins before turning out. May be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen.

Enjoy! 🙂

Emeril’s Garlic Soup with Eggs


It’s very exciting to harvest and store your own garlic. Over the years at farmers markets I have given many a customer advice and guidance on how to grow a little crop for themselves. I love hearing the happy success stories.  But at this time of year, garlic left to store as whole cloves will begin to shrivel and dry out. Oh, no!
  I have a friend who throws a garlic party first weekend in February every year. At first, I thought it a strange time of year to celebrate garlic, when the harvest happened back in July. But now, I get it:  Rather than let the remaining stash wither away, break it out and use it up!
One of my favorite garlic recipes (one I discovered at one of the said garlic parties) is Emeril Lagasse’s Garlic Soup with Eggs.  This delicious dish combines a smooth garlic puree with whole eggs poached right in the soup, resulting in a hearty, satisfying meal. Garlic and eggs may seem like an unusual combination, but this is so delicious.This soup can also be frozen prior to adding the eggs, to use up your garlic before it’s expired. Simply thaw, then reheat the soup and poach in the eggs.
  If you have your own chickens (or shop at a Winter farmers market), you’ve likely noticed eggs come into season again in January, so this is a great seasonal recipe to utilize what you have. Give it a try!

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Perfect Christmas



Who would have thought we’d be missing snow after last Winter? But alas, it is Christmas Eve and raining pretty steady. I tell the kids, if it were just a bit colder, it would be snow…
But I don’t mind. Christmas is in the heart, not contingent on any “just right” setting. Snow is nice, perfect decorations are fun to look at, a beautifully set table a joy to behold, but none if it necessary. We forget, our Holiday traditions are an amalgamation of countless Christmases past, not something that happened at any one place at any one time!
So relax: If you don’t get all the lights up this year, or the figgy pudding goes flat, or you never did quite get all 7 varieties of cookies baked, it’s ok. Something to aim for next year. Who wants a Holiday celebration to be identical every year?
Keep the focus on family, on Love, and Hope. Laugh at yourself, and enjoy others. Take pictures of the mishaps, as well as the “perfect” moments. You may find, in the coming years, that you enjoy those memories more, memories filed with laughter rather than stress.
If you find yourself thinking you “can’t wait for it to be over,” then you are living someone else’s Holiday. Take back ahold of it and make it yours. What do you want to be doing? Do it. Better to feel the Spirit and have fun!
Love and Blessings to all, and many Hopes for the New Year! 🙂

Brainy Food

In the later end of Summer, on of my favorite vegetables comes ready for harvest: Romanesco Cauliflower.  This unusual brassica typically takes 80 or more days to mature.  I always start them inside under lights and transplant them out in mid- to late-May.


The plants are large and generally need about four square feet to grow.  Unlike traditional white cauliflower, Romanesco does not need to be blanched by tying the leaves together to cover the budding center.  Just plant and grow until you’ve got a good-sized head exposed, harvest and eat!


The beautiful chartreuse color and whorled pattern of this cauliflower make it an interesting and eye-appealing addition to any dish.  Enjoy it raw, battered in a tempura, stir-fried, even grilled.  My favorite way to prepare it is to simply slice and sear in a grill pan, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Serve plain, with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.



The interesting whorled growth pattern is actually ran example of the Fibonacci sequence.  So perhaps, just perhaps, enjoying this nutty, sweet vegetable might improve one’s math skills.  Let me know what you think. 🙂

In the Weeds

Reposting since it’s that time again. First round of planting just done, and we are having a few days of really good rain: Not too much at once, and often during the night. The transplants are getting rooted in and seeds will be sprouting with the up-coming Full Moon. Now the watch-and-wait game begins: As soon as the soil dries enough I must get on there with the cultivator to keep ahead of the weeds! Great weed-control info in this post.

Sunny Hill Farm Blog

It has been dry.  We were finally relieved with some pleasant rain showers yesterday afternoon.  Besides the obvious need to water the pants, I am excited because the rain will soften the soil slightly, so I can get out on them with the tractor to cultivate.  I have to be vigilant about when soil conditions are optimal to do so, too dry and the soil will turn to powder and blow away.  Too wet, and the weight of the tractor will compact and deteriorate the soil.

When growing organically, weed control  is a challenge.  I rely largely in mechanical cultivation, dragging blades through the soil to disturb weed seedlings.

Tractor with cultivator set up to weed around two rows Tractor with cultivator set up to weed around two rows

With this method, timing is essential.  Weeds are opportunistic and vigorous growers.  The younger the weed seedling, the better your chances of actually killing it. Especially if it you have dry…

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