Tuesday, February 28

Monday, February 27

Daily Farm Photo: 2/27/06

First Day Outside For Martha's Baby Boy

Sunday, February 26

Lowly Turnips Are Tip Top in the Garden: How to Grow Turnips from Seed & What To Do with Them

Baby Golden Globe turnips in my winter garden.

That patch of ground you carefully tend may still be frozen solid right now, but avid gardeners know that this is the most influential gardening time of the year. And for obsessed gardeners like me, it can also be the most expensive. It’s time to order seeds.

Starting plants from seed (be they edible or decorative) opens up an endless world of propagating possibilities to gardeners. Hundreds of companies offer thousands of varieties of seeds from around the world, all for an extremely reasonable couple of dollars a packet. This means, in theory, that you can fill your garden with a much more interesting assortment of plants that is offered at the local nursery for a lot less money. In theory.

The bargain price of seeds is almost a disadvantage—they’re too good of a deal. It is impossible to only order a few packets. Curled up inside a warm and cozy house on a snowy afternoon, surrounded by piles of seed catalogs full of enticing descriptions, it's easy to believe that you will somehow find the space and time to grow all those exotic offerings.

It's also easy to pass by some of the classic mainstays of the kitchen garden, like turnips.

Many people do not eat turnips, nor do they grow them or ever even think about them. These people are missing out, for I have discovered that turnips, a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, are not only one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but that with very little effort (and no outlay of cash beyond the initial cost of the seeds, currently $1.35 for 600 from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) they will also reward you with bounty throughout the year. Here’s how.

Several years ago I thickly sowed hundreds of plain old Purple Top White Globe turnip seeds in mid summer, when the optimum soil temperature for germination of 80° was no problem.

The productive Purple Top turnip was a popular market variety in the U.S. back in the 1800s, and it has since become the standard American turnip. Other interesting heirloom turnips that are still available today include Golden Globe, White Egg, Ideal Purple Top Milan, Snowball, Bianca Piatta, Navet des Vertus Marteau, and Amber Globe.

Within a few weeks, I had tender, nutrient-packed greens to toss into salads. Turnip greens are, in fact, one of The World’s Healthiest Foods. Turnip bulbs are a good source of vitamin C and have two to three grams of fiber per serving. They also contain the potent phytochemical sulforaphane, which has been shown to protect against cancer, especially breast cancer.

At this point I mulched around the plants with grass clippings to discourage weeds, which was the only work ever required. A few weeks later I picked darling baby turnips that I peeled, simmered in water until soft, and then mashed by hand. Seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper and a lump of butter, they were delicious. This tasty early harvest also helped to thin out the remaining plants, allowing them more space to grow.

As the days progressed, the larger greens were steamed and then sautéed with olive oil and garlic; try stirring in some chopped bacon for a little Southern flavor. The bulbs were peeled, cut into chunks, and tossed into soups and stews (try them in place of, or in addition to, potatoes in any recipe) or simmered and mashed as described above with potatoes.

The turnips will need to cook about 10 minutes longer than the potatoes. You may never be able to eat plain mashed potatoes again after tasting these.

There are numerous other ways to enjoy turnips. You can slice raw baby turnips and toss them into salads as you would radishes. Or you can thinly slice and stir-fry medium size turnips, with or without some of the chopped greens. You can even grate raw small turnips and mix them into your favorite slaw.

When freezing temperatures arrived, I began covering my turnip patch with plastic tarps, and later with tarps and old blankets. I continued to harvest turnips throughout the winter, sometimes digging under a foot of snow to reach them. The greens turned to slimy mush, but the bulbs were just fine.

Alternately, you can simply harvest all of your turnips just before the ground freezes (which is when they are sweetest) and store them at 32°F for up to 6 months. But my method is more fun—and more rewarding.

By early spring I hadn’t even harvested the entire crop. As the temperature rose, I uncovered what was left, and within days I was thrilled to see tiny green shoots sprouting up from the—by then not-so-tasty-looking—bulbs. Once again I had tender, nutritious greens, which were extremely welcome so early in the season.

And it doesn’t even end there. Instead of pulling up the plants, I let them grow, and by late spring I was rewarded with enough turnip seeds for another crop, plus extras I could have sown right then if I hadn’t been so tired of turnips.

Golden Globe turnip greens are a delightful sight in February.

Late last September I sowed a few rows of Golden Globe turnip seeds in my raised bed garden, and while they had a slow start, our winter has been so mild this year that the plants (greens and all) are thriving, as you can see by these photos.

They've survived snow, ice, and even a -3°F morning covered with nothing more than a bed sheet and an old quilt. I place metal hoops and wire tomato cages around the plants so the covers don’t touch the leaves.

I’ll probably never be able to stop ordering too many packets of all those alluring gourmet vegetable seeds each winter, but I always make sure to set aside some space in the garden every year for turnips. Perhaps you should, too.

For more information on starting seeds, please see the comments section of this post.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Located right here in Missouri, I have been happily ordering "non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented" seeds from this rapidly growing, family owned company for several years. They offer an amazing variety of seeds from around the world.

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Another longtime favorite of mine, this small company in Maine offers top quality, untreated seeds (plus things like shallots, seed potatoes, strawberry plants, and asparagus roots) at very reasonable prices. Many seed packets are under a dollar, and they also have a tempting selection of reasonably priced garden tools, kitchen gadgets, and books.

High Mowing Organic Seeds

I just discovered this company yesterday (my catalog is on its way!), and they appear to be right up my garden row. This independent, family-owned business in Vermont offers over 250 varieties of organic seeds (many of which they raise themselves). Click here to read more about them. And click here to learn why you should seriously consider buying organically grown seeds. If you have any experience with this company, I would love to hear about it.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the year round foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Daily Farm Photo: 2/26/06

Start Small, Think Big

Weekend Dog Blogging #23

Click here to see the bonus photo Bear didn't want me to share.

Attention Dog Lovers! It's time for Weekend Dog Blogging #23!
To see fun dog photos and discover yummy new food blogs, head over to
Sweetnicks on Sunday night for the complete roundup. Wishing for more woofers? Check out the weekly Carnival Of The Dogs at Mickey's Musings. And at The Friday Ark you'll find dozens of links to every kind of critter imaginable.

Saturday, February 25

Weekend Cat Blogging #38: Purrfectly Content

New Cat Hanging Out Of The Snowy Cat Cabin

Attention Cat Lovers! This Is Weekend Cat Blogging #38!
See fun feline photos & discover yummy new food blogs. Visit my pal Clare & her
crazy cat Kiri at Eat Stuff in Australia for all the links to this week's kitties. We'd love to have you join us. Just leave your permalink in a comment at Eat Stuff.

For even more pussycat pics, be sure to catch the traveling
Carnival Of The Cats each Sunday night. And the weekly Friday Ark features everything from dogs & ducks to cats & caterpillars.

Daily Farm Photo: 2/25/06

Anyone Recognize Those Ears?

Friday, February 24

Daily Farm Photo: 2/24/06

Falling To Pieces. . .

But Not Completely

Thursday, February 23

Chickens On Snow: Step By Step Photos

(Not A Recipe)

Daily Farm Photo: 2/23/06

Martha & Her Baby Girl

Wednesday, February 22

Daily Farm Photo 2/22/06: Snow Love

Cold Heart

Tuesday, February 21

It's A Boy! It's A Girl! It's A Boy!

It's A Crazy Day On The Farm!

Just before dawn, my beloved (and wiped out) Doll Face had this sweet baby boy out in the 10 degree cold. Here they are snuggled up under the heat lamp in their bonding pen (hence the odd lighting in the photos).

I Love You, Mama

Meanwhile. . . You all remember
Martha, don't you?

Well, this picture was taken this morning, and she would like you all to know that it's not fat (or fluff). . .

It's Twins!

I've been watching her for weeks, even bundling up and clomping down to the barn around 2am for the past ten nights to check on everyone--but especially her. This afternoon I had to make a mad dash to town (I haven't left the farm in a week), and I was sure Martha would choose that time to go into labor.
I ignored half my To Do List and was gone barely over two hours. I sped down the driveway, screeched to a halt in front of the barnyard, and saw Martha cleaning up a lamb that was just a few minutes old. By the time I had zipped up to the house, changed my clothes, and scampered back down to the barn, the second lamb was on its way out. All three are now happily snuggled up in their bonding pen next door to Doll Face and her baby.

I think that's just about enough excitement for the day. Of course, I'll be heading back down to the barn in a few hours, and Mary and Frederica were looking awfully close. . .

Daily Farm Photo 2/21/06:
Note To Self Re Snowstorm Preparation

Think Tarp

Monday, February 20

Recipe: Easy Spinach Soup Made with Fresh Spinach

This tasty, healthy, non-dairy soup is packed with fresh spinach and cooks up in about 40 minutes.

To me, fresh baby spinach is about as good as it gets in the vegetable department, and I could happily eat spinach salad five times a week. So you might assume that I devote a large portion of my kitchen garden to growing spinach each year. How I wish.

Spinach is fairly easy to grow from seed, but the plants prefer a long, cool growing season, not the wildly fluctuating temperatures we have in Missouri each spring and fall.

The other problem with growing spinach is that you need to plant a lot of it. Those 'bunches' of fresh spinach for sale at the market? They're not one single clump like a head of lettuce. Each one is actually about 50 little spinach plants made up of just a few leaves apiece and bundled together with a twisty tie.

Now start doing the math.

Even if I could get a decent spinach crop to grow, I'd need about two acres of plants to feed my habit, not to mention hundreds of hours to tend and harvest them. Store bought spinach is suddenly a steal.

Unfortunately, conventionally grown spinach is always near the top of the Environmental Working Group's Most Contaminated Produce ListThankfully fresh organic spinach is readily available. So I expend my energies in the garden growing Swiss chard (heat tolerant! cold tolerant! easy to grow from seed!) and treat myself to purchased organic spinach, which I buy by the pound and usually turn into enormous salads.

For many years, a version of the spinach soup in Margaret Fox's Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook (I love this book) was regularly featured at my dinner table. I made it with a box of frozen spinach (as does Margaret) and plain old canned chicken broth (she made her own stock), topped it off with a dollop of sour cream, and enjoyed every bowlful. Then I moved to a farm way out in the country, turned into sort of a food snob (but in a good way), and stopped making that soup. It's been years since I've even bought a can of chicken broth.

But the other night, two soon-to-be-outdated bags of organic spinach and a large bowl of rich, homemade chicken stock called out to me from behind the refrigerator door. It was 20°F outside, and there is only so much spinach salad even I can eat.

Naturally I turned back to my beloved Cafe Beaujolais recipe for guidance, but what I ended up with was like no spinach soup I'd ever had. I won't embarrass myself by admitting just how much of it I consumed in one sitting. Okay, one sitting and one standing over the pot in the kitchen. (Have you ever looked at how much of something has been eaten, known you were the only one who could possibly have eaten it, and yet started glancing frantically around the room for someone—anyone—to blame for some of its disappearance?)

Once again, top quality ingredients shine through in the simplest of preparations. And while the gist of Margaret's recipe remains the same, I've changed pretty much everything about it except the basic instructions.

A few chopped radishes as garnish add color, flavor, and a pleasant crunch.

Farmgirl Susan's Super Spinach Soup
Makes about 8 cups — adapted from Cafe Beaujolais

**Click here to print this recipe**

So what's so super about this spinach soup? It's super fast and easy to make, super delicious, and super good for you. It's rich and satisfying and yet contains no milk or cream. The secret to its thickness is a little uncooked white rice tossed in. If you're following Alejandro Junger's Clean program, use 3/4 cup cooked brown rice instead. Note that the texture of your soup won't be quite as smooth.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. I recently discovered Lundberg Farms organic white long grain rice and love it. Their brown rices are really good too.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow or white onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 to 2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
6 cups (48 ounces) organic chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup uncooked organic white rice
(or 3/4 cup cooked organic brown rice, see note above)
12 ounces fresh organic baby spinach
(about 8 cups packed)
1 teaspoon salt (you may need less if your chicken stock is salty)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Optional garnishes:
Sour cream of creme fraiche
A few finely chopped spinach leaves
Chive blossoms
Chopped radishes

1. Heat the olive oil in a 4 quart pot, add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until translucent and just starting to turn golden at the edges, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 to 2 more minutes.

2. Add the chicken stock, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, turn down the heat, and simmer, with the lid cracked, stirring every so often, for 20 minutes. (If you're using cooked brown rice, don't add it until step 3.)

3. Stir in the spinach, salt, and pepper and simmer another 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully puree the soup using a counter top blender or immersion hand blender.

4. Season to taste and serve hot, garnished if desired. Like most soups, this one tastes even better when reheated the next day.

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes, including several more scrumptious soups, in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the carefully blended foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there's always homemade soup in the freezer.

Daily Farm Photo: 2/20/06

Snow Dance

Sunday, February 19

Weekend Dog Blogging: Cool Canine

Winter spring.

And just steps from the source (Robin swears it's better than Evian).

© FarmgirlFare.com, the cold paws foodie farm blog where sometimes ice cubes would be overkill.

Daily Farm Photo: 2/19/06

Same Scene, New View: This Was Yesterday

This Was November 20, 2005

This Was October 19, 2005

This Was October 12, 2005

And This Was September 22, 2005

For more Same Scene, New View photos, click
here and here.

Saturday, February 18

Friday, February 17

Daily Farm Photo: 2/17/06

Up For The Winter Look

Thursday, February 16

Daily Farm Photo: 2/16/06

Poultry In Motion

Wednesday, February 15

Daily Farm Photo: 2/15/06

Take A Favorite Photo, Add New Camera & Splash Of Sunshine. . .

Then try to decide which one you like best.
Hmmmm. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14

February 14th, 5:00pm: Looking For Love

O Val-en-tine!

Yo! Valentine!


Daily Farm Photo: 2/14/06

Happy Valentine's Day To You

Monday, February 13

Daily Farm Photo 2/13/06: Wooly, Wooly

Big Chip Suffolk sheep - FarmgirlFare.com
Big Chip doesn't like lambing season (fewer hugs)

© FarmgirlFare.com

Sunday, February 12

Weekend Dog Blogging #21

Lucky Buddy Bear Entertains The Newest Member Of The Flock

Attention Dog Lovers! It's time for Weekend Dog Blogging #21!
To see more fun dog photos and discover yummy new food blogs, head over to
Sweetnicks on Sunday night for the complete roundup. Can't get enough canine candids? Check out the weekly Carnival Of The Dogs at Mickey's Musings. And at The Friday Ark you'll find dozens of links to every kind of critter imaginable.

Starving for something more filling than fur? Don't miss the always delicious (& highly informative) Sunday night
Weekend Herb Blogging roundup at Kalyn's Kitchen. (All plants welcome.)

Daily Farm Photo: 2/12/06

It's A Girl!

At approximately 4:30pm on Saturday February 11th, ten year old Clare gave birth to our first lamb of 2006. She is a happy, healthy, darling, (and huge!) girl. Both mother and baby are doing fine and resting comfortably in their bonding pen.

Clare is from my very first crop of lambs. She was born back in 1996 along with Doll Face, Mary, Skinny Chip, and Big Chip. Congratulations also go to big sister And Posh (click here to learn how she came by that interesting name) and to my pal Alisha, who now shares her birthday with a sheep.

So what will her name be? I have no idea. We are up to "C" in our alphabet ewe lamb naming plan, but this baby girl can have a name that starts with absolutely any letter. Why? Because this is what I donated to the Menu For Hope back in December: honorary ownership of the first ewe lamb born in 2006. So that means lucky winner
Jennifer New and her family are in charge of naming their little woolly prize. Congratulations to Jennifer! (who was emailed first peek photos last evening). We can't wait to find out what you decide to name your new lamb.