Monday, August 8, 2011

Roots CSA garden pics

These are some pics from the local Roots CSA where I farm. As you can see, we have lots of lettuce to provide to our shareholders and then some.

 We have lots of cucumber plants as well. I lost count but we have some cool varieties such as Dragon's Egg, Lemon, Hmong, Diva, Straight Eight, and yes, we have lots of pickling cukes.

The 100+ tomato plants are now a jungle but doing very well...Each year I  tell myself I will get them all staked before they get out of control....oh well...maybe next year.

I never realized how good Swiss Chard is if you know how to prepare it...I am a huge fan now!

This is one of our basil smells fabulous!

The asian greens are one green I never really paid much attention to until now. I had some seed from the previous farmer's supply and decided to give them a try. I am impressed. Of course you can stir-fry them but they are most excellent lightly blended with lettuce greens, some finely sliced radish, and a tad bit of Arugula. The blend also makes a fantastic filler for wraps. I like to add a little ranch dressing and some pulled chicken.

Every Friday is harvest day! Check out the beautiful beets harvested last week.  The lovely ladies in the last two pics are Korrine and Kara..the garden gals : )

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bent knees ... Both ways

I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago at a picnic, and he asked me how in the world I wound up in the place I am at today... he was referring to my BBQ ventures and the success I have been enjoying .

Most of my friends know me as a  former hard rock miner, a journalist or a government affairs specialist. Not many people knew my hobby and passion for grilling and BBQ -- let alone my passion for brewing beer. A little more than a year ago that changed when my brother Bobby asked me to share some BBQ secrets on a blog he wanted to start... until then, I pretty much kept that stuff to myself. Sure, I blogged about it occasionally over the past few tears, but it was nothing really.

Well, as some of you know, Bobby and I took it to the next level and decided to enter into a season of competitive BBQing, and then that led to a crazy winter of cooking for friends and friends of friends, which then led to me securing some equipment, commercial kitchen space, a catering and vending license and insurance in an effort to make a little money at this thing ... and now that has become a little uncomfortable because now I have an investment to maintain -- or, if you like -- this animal to tame ... but, however you choose to look at it... it's both exciting and terrifying.

So, I answered my friend with an explanation of how I was feeling about everything and the best way to explain it was to refer to the forward of one of my favorite books: "Illusions" by Richard Bach. (I think I told my friend the passage was in "One" another great Richard Bach book, but I was drinking beer... which is an allowable foul because it was a picnic and I was cooking for fun, but anyway)... the forward starts out with Bach explaining how he felt like the book illusions came through the wall like animal grabbing him by the throat and refusing to let go until he put the words to paper.

My new business is doing that to me...

Bach goes on with hand written notes -- presumably an outline for chapters the book -- that detail a process of giving in and letting go to the forces of *whatever* and riding the current with grace and ease to wherever it takes you. In this outline process Bach creates a character who masters the process of letting go and becomes the Messiah who tries desperately to explain to his followers the simplicity of the process ...  the Messiah speaking to crowd uses the analogy of life in a river...

To make a long story short: the life at the bottom of a river clings to rocks for survival. It's a tough life yet survival instinct will hold you back if you give it all the power you can muster, but eventually all creatures loosen their grip to the rocks and get swept away in the current -- some at the beginning of life and some at the end.

At first it looks painful as the creatures are swept downstream banging violently against the rocks, but they are soon pulled into the current and away from all that and then it's just a matter of riding it out and taking on each new thing as it comes your way... (well that's what I took away from that forward years ago.... I was going to re-read the passage tonight, but one of my kids probably has my copy, and amazon only let me read so far without buying a new copy).

So what does this have to do with Bent knees?

I can count the times I have ridden a horse on one hand, but every time I did, the horse always tried to get the best of me... one time my uncle Larry put me up on a pregnant horse who wasn't too happy about giving me a ride, when I got on her she took off across the pasture like a scalded ape. I was bouncing so bad I was terrified... then I heard my uncle cry out "Bend your knees to absorb the shock" and I managed to do just that. My whole ride changed at that moment... I was in heaven and gliding across a pasture at lightning speed...

Well, that was until I realized that mare had bloated her stomach when we tightened the saddle, then she relaxed at full gallop, the saddle slid down and I fell off that horse and rolled for about 50 yards... as that accident played itself out I went from Bent knees for shock to Bent knees in prayer...

That's kind of where I am at right now... full gallop, full prayer and knees fully Bent... BOTH ways ;-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Community Root's growing update.

June has been a busy month at the Community Roots CSA. We started out by planting pumpkins with several first grade classes from Dalton Elementary School. The kids started their pumpkin seeds in their classroom and later transported the seedlings to the CSA. Albeit, many of the poor transplants did not survive the short trek to the garden but that was anticipated so we had extra seedlings on hand to cover for any pumpkin casualties. For the most part, the kids were excited to get out and play in the dirt but I could tell for some it was a foreign experience. One child found a worm while digging a hole for their seedling and thought it was "gross" when I picked it up and offered it to him to hold. Another child was thoroughly into the whole farming experience. He said he was going home to tell his mom that he wanted to be a farmer when he grows up...that totally made my day!

Then there was the annual Community Roots yard sale fundraiser which was a huge success. Thanks to all who supported our cause!

In other exciting news, yet another gracious community landowner in Dalton has agreed to let us use their property to grow even more vegetables. As many of you know,  there is a waiting list of 50 families who want to become shareholders at Community Roots and while we are not adding shares this year it certainly opens the door for future expansion. This year will be a trial run to see how successful we are (and it's been a challenging growing season to boot!). Currently, we are only growing several varieties of squash and potatoes on the new land but it certainly opens up  a lot of growing space for a diverse range of crops at the main CSA location. Below is a pic of volunteer Linda Michael and CSA crew member, Kara Carleton hard at work planting potatoes at our new space. With the new land, there was much to be accomplished as far as fencing and irrigation lines. Thanks to all the volunteers who spent countless hours helping make that happen. You are greatly appreciated!

Now some info and photos of what's growing...As you all know, the weather thus far has been a bit challenging for everyone. Nevertheless, we are anticipating a great season of wonderful veggies. To date (and I am estimating on my last formal count) we have over 100 tomato plants (several varieties, which include Roma, Amish Paste, Sungold, Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Nyagous, Stupice, Siberian, Oregon Spring, Riesentribe Grape, Red Cherry, Yellow Pear, Trophy, Granadero, Beefsteak and Sweetpea Currant.) Next we transplanted peppers. Bell varieties include Orange Sun, Chocolate, Purple, Apple and Karma. For those that like hot peppers we have Serrano, Jalapeno, Thai, Cayenne, Georgia Flame and Red Habanero. (all great for spicing up your pickled vegetables). Other transplants include broccoli, cauliflower, red and green cabbage, celery, basil, lettuce, eggplant and cukes. Directly sown seed includes carrots, beets, kohlrabi, radish, lettuce, sugar peas, spinach, several bush bean varieties, onions, parsnips, kale, arugula, basil, corn, asian greens, swiss chard and many different herbs. I'm probably forgetting a few, but you get the idea....diversity is good!  As the weather warms up (and I'm sure it will) watch for weekly photo updates to see more of what's growing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

He thinks my rototiller's sexy

Today, Jeff and I spent the day preparing the family garden for our planting day. It was going to be my first lesson in using the "big" rototiller. My dad thought I should have the guys do all the tilling.... but if you know me then you will know that when I set my mind to doing something there is no stopping me...So, Jeff patiently explained the gears and taught me all the ins and outs of operating the beast. I had a procedure down in no time and actually thought it was quite fun. Every once in a while, Jeff would stop raking to watch how I was doing and give me a grin and a thumbs up. When he would give me "the look" I had to laugh to myself because I could only think of that country song called "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."

Many of you already know that Jeff and I were high school sweethearts. We both graduated from Coeur d' Alene High School in 1983...Initially, Jeff was forced to quit school to keep his full-time kitchen job at "The Other Place" so he was in his senior year and I was a junior. He later came back to CHS during my senior year to get his diploma and that's when we first met. From the beginning I could tell we were meant to be together. He was definitely trouble..but that's what appealed to me...that and his big teddy bear heart.  : )

We were actually just friends first....and we skipped many a class together to go to Denny's (for nasty, watered-down coffee and french fries smothered in tarter sauce.) Although, my mom kept insisting "that boy has a thing for you". Turns out that mom was right because shortly after graduation, our friendship quickly turned into a serious relationship and we were married on May 25th 1985. Within 2 years we were proud parents of two beautiful little girls, Brittany and Tylah, and a few years later we were blessed with our baby boy, Dustin. On our ten year anniversary, Meghan Sue, our fourth child was born. This May 25th will be her Sweet Sixteen birthday and our 26th Anniversary.

26 years seems like a long time but it sure flew by fast...I am extremely blessed to have a wonderful husband and awesome's really all the little things we do to support one another that has really made our relationship strong. It's the simple things like him helping me in the garden or me helping him with a big barbecue gig. Our love is strong because we support each other in all our endeavors. Plus, after all these years, he still thinks my rototiller is sexy!  : )

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bent's BBQ is Born

Well, it's not a sure thing yet, but I am working on deal to serve the best BBQ you've ever eaten on Saturday nights at a new brewery in Wallace, Idaho starting in June. So, it's about time I get licensed and insured to make this thing happen. I got my business registered today and I will be permitted and insured by sometime next week ...

As some of you know, the Bent family started a competitive BBQ team last year called Rub 'em Raw BBQ, and the whole BBQ thing unexpectedly took off like a wildfire. We started out winning grand champion at our first professional competition, while cooking the traditional four meats: beef brisket, pork butt, pork ribs and chicken. From there we won at least one category at every event we competed in last year.

This year is looking pretty good too, as I just won grand champion at Tim's Rib King competition on April 30th, where I placed first in spare ribs, second in pork belly and third in ribeye steak. the rest of the people cooking under our canopy won as well. Steve Everett tied for second place ribeye, and Denise Durflinger, a first time competitor mentored by Rub em Raw, took first place ribeye, and second place spare ribs. That is all three of us cutting up our steak entries in the picture above. (note: with the exception of a tie score for second, we swept the steak category using the Rub 'em Raw BBQ steak method, and we nearly swept the ribs category).  Below are pictures of the rib turn in and the pork belly turn in.
Above is myself, Denise and her husband slicing ribs for turn-in

This is my pork belly, and Steve is in the left of the frame slicing his

Anyway, back to the brewery in Wallace... It's called North Idaho Mountain Brewing Company... They are in the process of building a brewing pub, but they have no kitchen at the moment, so of course my rustic BBQ skills will come in handy up there...

I am talking with the owners about providing food service for them on Saturdays and possibly Sunday lunch at least through the summer months and we'll see how things go from there. I am in the process of developing a menu and a formal proposal now and I will post the latest as it progresses here... Rub 'em Raw is a great competition name, but I decided to tame my food service name to Bent's BBQ...

Oh, and you can be sure I'll be watching that commercial brewery process ... I can always amend the name to Bent's BBQ and Brew House later...

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Community Roots CSA - Garden in the making.

As I mentioned some time ago, I am extremely excited about being the new lead farmer at our local Community Roots CSA in Dalton Gardens. The following links explain both the history of our local CSA and what a CSA is all about : How Community Roots got started. , What is a CSA?

The Roots team, (or garden gals, as we call ourselves) is made up of Korrine Kreilkamp, Kara Carleton and myself. Korrine, with the help of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, founded the Community Roots program back in 2007. Kara, is our Outreach and Education Coordinator and I am the farmer. For the past couple of months we (along with several volunteers) have been busy behind the scenes preparing the garden, building and repairing fences, starting seeds and brainstorming new ideas for the 2011 garden season. We were lucky enough to share some growing space with Shared Harvest at the Jewitt greenhouse this season. The Root's seedlings grown in the greenhouse will be available for sale at the Kootenai County Farmer's  Market sometime in May. I will keep you posted on those dates.
Follow this link for more pics and info on sowing seeds at the Jewitt greenhouse from the Kootenai Environmental Alliance blog:  Seed starting at the Jewitt greenhouse

Garden clean up day!
Flying the coop! We are sad that there won't be chickens at the CSA this year (however, they may be back next year) but there will be...drum roll please......


Thanks to our local honeybee expert, Evert Wilson, who will be placing and maintaining our hive at the CSA.

Thanks to my dad and my son for helping me build the bee fence! I can grow plants but I must admit I am constructively challenged. 

And no, the bees don't really need a is meant to keep people out...for their own safety of Evert says, bees are bees and yes they sting!
The bee fence is complete!
Thanks to Dustin for helping me rototill before the bees arrive.... Evert says the bees like their peace and quiet...I will take his word on that.
While it may not look like much now, in a few months this place will be be full of beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Before and After

It's amazing that in just a couple of weeks the tiny seedlings grew so much. Here's a few before and after pics.


And the greenhouse

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sweet Seedlings.

As we head into  April I decided I should probably take a seedling inventory and decide what other seeds need to be sown. So far, this is what we have and it doesn't include seeds sown and not yet germinated...that's another post : )


87 Gypsy Broccoli
75 Blue Wind Broccolli
75 Marathon Broccoli
36 Orange Bell
25 Apple Peppers
25 Sweet Chocolate Bell
19 Orange Sun Bell
14 Karma peppers
33 Cayenne peppers
10 Jalapeno peppers
40 pepperoncini peppers
51 Early Girl tomatoes
48 Cherokee Purple tomatoes
40 Nyagous tomatoes
53 Trophy tomatoes
10 Persimmon tomatoes
18 Granadero
19 Lavender
19 Parsley
51 Nasturtium
18 Oregano
18 Thyme
24 Purple Bell

Grow room:

30 Grape Riesentribe tomatoes
30 Sungold tomatoes
42 Early Girl tomatoes
24 Beefsteak
30 Red Siberian tomatoes
102 Amish Paste tomatoes
24 Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes
72 Sweet Pea Currant tomatoes
210 combination of red and green cabbage
144 Snowball Self Blanching Cauliflower
72 Belstar Broccoli
60 Waltham Broccoli
48 Jalapeno peppers
24 Georgia Flame peppers
15 Quadrato peppers
37 Thai hot peppers
30 Ancho
42 Serrano
20 Apple Sweet peppers
36 Habanero peppers
36 Lemon hot peppers
50 Pandora Striped Rose Eggplant
80 some cilantro
Lemon Balm
Sweet green and red basil
Miniature green basil

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's growing on?

Here's a few pics from The Beer Garden grow room. The basil, thyme and oregano are growing well in the beer mugs. We have harvested them many times since starting the seed back in December. The celery (in the last pic near the back) takes the longest to grow. It's recommended that you start celery seed indoors 12 weeks before your last frost date. I started these in February again and they seem to be growing slow but steady. The Nasturtiums are growing like weeds. I had to transplant them after just a couple of weeks. Last week we sowed 511 pepper seeds and countless other herbs that I can't even remember at the moment. Now we are on to the tomatoes. In all, there will be 600+ tomato plants if I can find room for them all in the greenhouse. My goal is to get most of the plants moved into the greenhouse by March 20th. Last year we started up on March 4th but the propane proved to be too expensive when the temps dropped for several weeks. Having the grow room with more lights this year should really help increase production though. If you've been following the blog, you know we definitely need increased production this year. Now, let's just pray for nice warm weather.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Growing and Snowing.

Two weeks ago I took the pups on a walk at Black Bay Park. It was a beautiful sunshiny day and spring was definitely in the air. I was thinking wow,  Punxsutawney Phil finally got it right!  An early spring was sure to arrive. I even spotted a  few blooming buttercups which only reinforced my notion. However, it turns out Phil couldn't have been more wrong. Yep, Old Man Winter made another appearance this past week and if the snow alone wasn't bad enough the temperatures fell down to the single digits. Mother nature is definitely messing with my emotions lately. So, to survive the whole snow ordeal I bought another grow light and started some more seed. (Take that Old Man Winter) The lights are actually a great investment since I will be starting most of the seed indoors and we're trying to hold off on firing up the greenhouse for as long as possible.

Last week I started onion and celery seed and this week I'm starting borage, nasturtiums, and peppers.  The second seeding of thyme and echinacea recently sprouted and the basil, thyme, marjoram, cilantro, oregano and sage (started in December) have been harvested at least 6 times now. Today I repotted the lavender and celery and next I will repot the rest of the herbs to make room for more seed trays. This may require more grow lights : ) So, while spring may not exactly be in "the air" at the moment it's definitely spring-like in my grow room.

Happy growing!

"No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn. April is a promise that May is bound to keep. And we know it."...Hal Borland