Where Did Summer Go This Year?

tat soi

New tat soi loves this weather!

It seems we ask that question every year – where did the summer go?  But this year, for some reason, summer has been even busier, passing more quickly than usual.  It’s also been a very satisfying and fun summer – that’s what counts!

I can’t believe I last posted in June. The family descended on the farm at the end of June, and we had various members here until early August.  What great family time!  Since then it’s been quiet, but we miss the extra farm hands (and mouths!)   So here’s what happening these days on the farm:

  • We continue to vend at both the Saturday and Wednesday farmers’ markets in Columbia City.  Thank you to our regular customers and to many new folks! Glad you like Old Loon Farm!
  • Our sorghum plots are growing well – so tall and the plants are heading out already. We expect that harvest will be earlier than planned – originally early October.  Chuck and I still plan to make a visit to a sorghum farmer in KY to see how sorghum’s done there.  Our local sorghum celebration event is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, October 12 and 13, at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center near Wolf Lake.  Plan to join us for pressing and evaporation, learning about sorghum and sorghum syrup, and tasting fresh sorghum!
  • We didn’t plant potatoes this year, and I miss having those delicious tubers!  Next year, maybe we’ll rotate them into this year’s sorghum plot.
  • We’re raising 30 meat chickens – red ranger breed – and should have these birds ready for sale (frozen) on the farm after September 15.  Per pound price to be determined after processing.
  • After adding new drainage tile to our hayfields, we’ve chisel plowed and disked the soil, will be fertilizing and seeding new hay next month.
  • We are also reworking the entrance to the farm after the county replaced a major drainage tile last winter.  Working with The Watershed Foundation, we’re engineering the area for improved water flow and storm water retention to keep erosion and nutrients out of Loon Lake, which lies just across the road from our entryway.
  • As always during this time of the year, we’re canning and preserving the vegetables from our garden and fruits from our small orchard, as well as planting for fall harvest.  New lettuce, tat soi, and other greens crops are coming up alongside the tomatoes, peppers, okra, squash and other summer crops.  Tomatoes are winding down very quickly this year. We are hurrying to can, dry and freeze as much as we are able.
  • We harvested HONEY in mid-July and mid-August.  As ever, it’s delicious and also limited.  The July harvest was very small, we think due to the heavy rainfall in the spring and early summer.  August harvest was better, and honey is available at our farm store and at the farmers markets, as long as it lasts.  Several hives are not as strong as we’d like them to be; we will see how they fare through the remainder of the summer and into the fall.  Beekeeping has been a challenge for everyone around this area for the past several years!

We’ll be back with more news soon!

 

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Summer’s in Full Swing at the Farm

Mid-June already and once again, we’re asking where the time is going this year!   The gardens are in, the Farmers Market is up and running in town, and our on-farm market days are underway each Tuesday and Thursday.  Lots of new faces are appearing around Loon Lake and they’re showing up at the farm as well, looking for breads, vegetables and other treats.

This year’s asparagus crop was a good one, and it is continuing into June, even with the hot weather and lack of rain we’ve had the past week.  Chuck planted another 1,200 crowns so asparagus will continue to be a big crop for us.  Our small hoop houses produced some beautiful, sweet strawberries and some gorgeous red beets and arugula.  And of course lettuce and other salad greens, including kale, chard, radicchio, and spinach are producing as well.  Onions and radishes are looking good, and other crops that we direct-seeded into the garden are growing well.  Beans, cabbage and edamame are (unfortunately) feeding some neighborhood rabbits so those are under some stress! And we’ve pruned and stayed ahead of the weeds in the berry patch this year, so those are looking spectacular.  Our sour cherry tree is loaded – and the birds are well aware of it.  I’m seeing blue jays and cardinals feasting on the not-quite-ripe cherries and wondering if we will get any harvest there at all!

We’ve been doing a big bread business, with our stand-by 9-grain and braided whole wheat loaves, and some new offerings: Russian rye, peasant loaf, and an einkorn olive and rosemary boule – that are becoming very popular.

Another new endeavor this year that we’d like to report on: Old Loon Farm, in partnership with Wise Farms LLC, Larry Palmer Farm, and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, received a SARE grant from the USDA to research the economic viability of small-farm sorghum syrup production in northern Indiana.  It’s a two-year project that includes planting, tending, harvesting, processing and marketing sorghum syrup. Sorghum syrup is much more popular in the South than up here in the northern states. With the exception of some Amish farming areas, most folks haven’t tasted, or even heard of sorghum syrup, sometimes incorrectly called sorghum molasses.  Our last year’s product was smooth and delicious, a great addition to pumpkin pies, cookies and – beer!  So this year we are hoping to move to a bigger, and more standardized production, and document our effort to share with other northern producers.

We’ll update the sorghum grant news as the summer progresses.  But you can mark your calendars now to save the date for our local Sorghum harvest festival, which will be held Thursday and Friday, October 12 and 13, at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, in Wolf Lake, Indiana, just a short drive up the road from our farm.

Meanwhile, June is the month of weddings, and we have two in the family coming up the next two weekends, followed by our own family gathering here at the farm. So while the farm store will be open during the week, we will be absent from the Saturday Market for the next 3 weeks in downtown Columbia City.

Enjoy the summer!

 

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We’re Open!

On April 25 we finally were able to open our farm stand/store for the season, and it’s been going well! Thanks to all our neighbors and friends who have been visiting us on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

DSCN1869It took some serious remodeling our of space over the winter, but we now have a dedicated sales area and more room for baking and packaging our products.  We find it’s more efficient for prepping for the Saturday farmers market in Columbia City too.

Speaking of the Market, it opened for the season in downtown Columbia City last Saturday, May 6.  We sold out of most of our products.  It’s been a long and eventful winter, but worth all the effort, as the Market has now incorporated as a community based not-for-profit corporation!  Find out more on the Whitley County Farmers Market FaceBook page.  And visit us Saturdays downtown!

Back on the Farm, here’s what’s IN STORE for you:  Currently our Tuesday/Thursday market, open 10 am to 6 pm, features fresh asparagus, salad greens, fresh eggs, assorted baked goods, and home crafted jams and jellies.  We’ve already sold out of our creamed honey and will have to wait for June until we can harvest new honey.  Chuck and his partners are out working in the apiary today – prepping for new queens that will arrive tomorrow.

Out in the garden, we are just now beginning to till and direct seed crops.  Warm weather prior to Easter tricked everyone into thinking summer, and then of course Mother Nature announced it was still spring in northern Indiana.  We had lots of cold, rainy days, and a serious frost/freeze a few nights ago.  We lost some nice tomato plants overnight, even though they were in the closed hoop house!  But at least according to weather reports, the cold and frost is behind us now, so we are anxious to get out into the garden and get planting!

Blue eyed Mary

Despite the cold, the Spring blooming season was gorgeous!  Chuck has set out at least 1,000 new asparagus crowns, so we should have plenty in the years to come!  The berries and fruit trees are looking good and were flush with blossoms, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for an excellent fruit season. And the morel mushroom harvest wasn’t too bad either!

wildflowerAs always, enjoy your time in the great out of doors!  Take a walk in the woods and greet all those beautiful wild flowers. They fade fast!

 

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It’s Spring! On the Calendar, at Least!

Now that we’re on Daylight Savings Time and the days are warming up a bit, it seems that working takes up a lot more of our daily lives!  No more sleeping in!  Welcome, sunshine, birdsong and warmer weather!

Although many of our neighbors have been busy starting seedlings in their homes and greenhouses for the last couple of months, we’re just getting started with that here on Old Loon Farm.  Part of the reason is that we are still elbow-deep in remodeling the farm kitchen.  The other part is that we try to rein in our enthusiasm and start our plants in March and April rather than January or February.  We’ve experienced too many seasons of leggy  plants that are ready for transplanting long before the garden and weather are ready for them.  That can mean a lot of long hours down the drain, so we hold back a bit. We won’t have the earliest vegetables, but hopefully we’ll have some of the best!

Chuck has been diligently working in the farm kitchen and store, installing new lights and outlets, counter tops, sinks, dishwasher, and completing other construction tasks.  Our brother Gary Hierholzer, from Celina, Ohio, built our beautiful hickory cabinets to our specs and delivered them last week.  We feel like we’ve gained a whole lot of work space, and now have a dedicated area for sales as well.

Construction always takes longer than anticipated, so our store opening scheduled for March is being pushed back a bit.  Once we get rolling, though, we plan to be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for on-farm sales. Beginning May 6 we will be at the Farmers Market in downtown Columbia City every Saturday morning 8:00 – 12:30.

Meanwhile, we have fresh eggs and hearty granola on hand, some honey and jams.  We’re here most days, but email ahead if you want to be sure: oldloonfarm@gmail.com. We’ll be adding breads and fresh baked goods to the lineup once we’re on a regular schedule.  Hope to see you soon!

Posted in What's IN STORE for you!

Limited and Elegant

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard over the years in farming is this: “Don’t ever apologize for being small.”

We think about that every year as we review our previous seasons and draft our farm plans for the upcoming year, and I’ve been thinking about that advice recently quite a bit.  As we get excited about our work and our opportunities, it’s easy to start to thinking big and bigger.  But curbing our enthusiasm is not all bad; one can get greedy and before long, have an operation that’s way out of control.  Small is beautiful on this farm!

What does small mean?

It means hard work but it also means quality control.

It means limited production and elegant food – tasty varieties grown with care and harvested at the peak of flavor and nutrition.

It means an end to “mediocre and plenty of it,”  Instead you get seasonal anticipation, delicious foods, and appreciation of each bite.

It means learning to preserve our bounty at the height of flavor and nutrition, and then experiencing it again in the middle of winter — summer comfort in the cold and dark season.

It means better quality of life for the farmer and producer; thoughtful rest during the by-season, and rejuvenation of spirit.

So we will continue to stay small, producing the best products we can,  enjoying what we do and sharing it with you!

Spring is just around the corner.  Thanks for supporting Old Loon Farm!

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Welcome to 2017 – A New Season!

gathering eggsIt’s been a while since we updated our site, but after a very slow and complicated 2016, we’re ready to start anew for 2017.  Last year was filled with family events – death of our parents, a new grandchild, a big family reunion, and even some health issues.  So we stepped back a bit from our farm work and took the days as they were presented to us. But it’s a new year now, and we’re full of energy and ideas.

Kitchen Update:  We are remodeling our farm kitchen so that our farm store has a dedicated sales area, with new refrigerator for fresh produce and eggs, a freezer for frozen meats, and new shelves for baked goods, jams and other items.  We have a larger production area now too!

Scheduled Weekly Hours: Starting in March, we plan to have our farm store open two days per week.  Beginning in mid-May, we will be selling on Saturday mornings from the Whitley County Farmers Market in downtown Columbia City.

A Second Hoop House:   This winter we’ve finally framed another hoop house to further extend our growing season and offer fresh salad greens earlier in the spring.

Extra Help: We’re looking forward to having some extra company with us this summer.  Lots of grandkids will be visiting and helping out on the farm.  They are especially good at loving the animals, gathering eggs, digging potatoes and picking (eating) berries.  And maybe painting the little red barn.  We love our little migrant helpers!

So keep watching for our blog updates – we’ll let you know what’s IN STORE at Old Loon Farm each week.

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Fall is Here Again

It’s been a rather busy summer here at the farm, and I’ve neglected our website!  Travel to California, lots of company, and lots of gardening during the long, warm summer kept me very busy.  We were joined by one new family member, baby Eleanor, on July 22!

Fall crept up on us this year, with temperatures high in the 80’s belying the fact that it was  mid-September.  And now we are already into October, watching the leaves just beginning to change.  Night time temperatures are dropping, good for germinating lettuces and spinach!

Early this wour-cane-sorghumeek we processed our sweet sorghum crop.  Chuck has worked hard all summer planting, cultivating and then harvesting his plot – our experimental first time with this crop. On Monday we took more than 600 pounds of cane over to the Merry Lea Environmental Center Sustainable Farm and worked with farm director Jon Zirkle, local farmers Larry Palmer, Tom Wise and others to press out the cane juice and boil it down into syrup.  After evaporating juice at Merry Lea, we brought the almost-finished product home to our farm kitchen to finish and bottlbottled-sorghum-syrupe.  Sweet sorghum syrup is different from molasses, which is pressed from sugar cane.  Sorghum is a thick, amber-colored syrup with a mild, nutty flavor, reminiscent of toasting grains.  I can’t wait to try it in rye bread and ginger cookies!figs-2016

Our fig tree experiment begun last summer, is still alive.  The trees emerged from hibernation in mid-May, but took a long time to leaf out and bear fruit.  We’ve been able to harvest some fruit, and there are lots of green figs on the branches now. Hopefully they’ll be able to mature before the cold temperatures arrive. As always, they’re delicious!

As the summer garden winds down, we have Fall lettuce and arugula growing well, some new kale emerging, and are about to harvest sweet potatoes. Our delicious honey is sold out.  Tomatoes are nearly finished, as are the peppers and eggplant.  Okra will be breathing its last next week as the temperatures fall. We are beginning to prepare the garlic beds for fall planting this week.   And we’ll be starting to re-cover our hoop houses and plant for indoor winter crops soon – salad greens, carrots, beets and radishes.

We have just two more weeks of Saturday morning Whitley County Farmers’ Market in Columbia City, and then we’ll be hosting on-farm sales throughout the winter.  This week we will feature pumpkins, green tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet sorghum syrup, and fall salad mix, along with our usual baked goods.  Hope you all can come visit the market this week!

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