News of Seasonal Produce Offerings, Auctions, Events, Agritourism and Farmers in Casey County, Kentucky ~ and the Old Order Mennonite & Amish Communities ~ located in the scenic Knobs Region and agricultural heart of Kentucky.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Spotted at Lavern's Produce

I found out over the weekend that July 24-30 was Farmer's Market Week in Kentucky. Well, here's the good news: we're now on the last day of July and the fresh, local produce just keeps on coming in and will do until the first frost (often not until mid-October). The next few weeks may just be peak time for all of your favorite vegetables. 

Some gardeners are now starting to plan (and perhaps even to plant) their fall gardens: cole crops or lettuces and other greens that prefer cooler days. The nice thing about Kentucky gardening, we're learning, is that you can really have three gardens here: spring, summer and fall.

So to celebrate the beginning of August tomorrow––yes, summer is passing us by, but not the produce yet––here are some photos of what we found at Lavern's Produce before the weekend. Lavern's farmstand is at the corner of SR 910 at the beginning of South Fork Creek Road, just a few miles from Highway 127. 

On Friday, Lavern's had local tomatoes, melons, sweet corn, a variety of peppers, cucumbers, and peaches. He also buys most of his local produce at the Casey County Consignment Auctions and imports what he can't get locally (like most of his peaches).

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

So these peaches were from Georgia––but they looked so nice on the shelf!
[They are delicious, too. Local peaches are only available for a very short time here.]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Farm Attic: Part 2 on Chicken Farming

Cover art is often a selling point of older magazines
but I also like farm-related magazines for their content.
Yesterday I received a magazine I had ordered––mainly for the cover, but also for the content. The Farmer's Wife eventually merged with The Farm Journal but for several decades it was its own magazine. It was specifically 'A Magazine for Farm Women' with fictional stories, recipes, columns and useful advice for home and farm. You can still find these magazines, on occasion, in good condition (eBay, for one) and I got this one for less than I'd pay for a new magazine. I want to frame the cover, above, and keep the contents (or frame the magazine and photocopy inside first).

So in browsing the contents I was pleased and delighted to find––especially after yesterday's first installment of 'Farm Attic,' with the photo of Mammy Wells with her chickens, c. 1924––a column in this July 1926 issue of The Farmer's Wife called 'The Farm Woman's Poultry Business.' Here is an excerpt:
Who is interested in raising or breeding poultry? First the farmer's wife, for she knows the value of the fresh egg, the spring fry, the Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas goose. Her family must be supplied with the very best. Next comes the housewife with the backyard flock. Then the teacher, the banker, the preacher, the club boys and girls, and lastly the men and women who make their entire living from the rightly named 'commercial flock'––they keep no birds that can not pay their way. Sentiment is eliminated... Some day we may have an over-production but when that time comes if each individual in the United States eats three and one-half chickens a year, the entire supply will be wiped out.

Of all agricultural products in the United States, in 1923 only four (dairy products, corn, cotton and hogs) were of greater value than poultry [which is listed as a value of $1,050,000,000 dollars in 1926!]...We have never known the time when there wasn't some sort of poultry in the barnyard or the back yard and because it is so common most of us have taken it for granted and do not know its history or its economic value.

~ From the column, 'The Farm Woman's Poultry Business,' conducted by Clara M. Sutter, The Farmer's Wife, July 1926, pp. 366-367.  
Written on the back of this photo: 'Brooder house and Grandma Bannie's
chickens across the drive near the corner of road.' c. 1940

Here is a related photo from the history of our own farm. We're just over the Casey County line in Pulaski County, a mile or so as the crow flies from Mintonville, and we can see Green River Knob from our own knob (so we can at least see Casey County). The house on the left still exists and was updated in the 1990s by the former owner. It is now our farm cottage. And, among other things, we keep chickens, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Farm Attic: Mammy and Her Chickens

This photo shows Elizabeth (Lizzie) Sweeney Wells, c. 1924, with her flock of chickens. Lizzie was the grandmother of Joberta Wells, who submitted this photograph. Joberta lives on her grandmother's farm, just outside of Yosemite, and in recent years recreated the classic three-gabled farmhouse from the foundation up.

Farm women were often photographed with their chickens and it is one of the most common scenes depicted in old farm photographs. Women tended the flocks on small amounts of land around the farmhouse or yard and gathered the eggs. Their 'egg money' was a valuable asset to farm income and their flock would have been a source of personal pride. Tending chickens was also an area where younger children could assist, including feeding and egg-gathering.

In an excellent paper on The Contemporary Farm Woman: 1860 to the Present, published by the Central New York Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. [Isn't the Internet amazing?] Stephanie Fisher writes:
"Women could exercise complete control over the production and income of their chickens. However, women often chose to spend the money to assist the farm or farm home. During hard economic times, the egg money, known as ‘pin-money,’ often saved the farm when their husband’s commodities failed to provide income...Women’s participation in chicken farming and the production of eggs continued until around the 1940s."
[World War II changed society and farming practices, after which factory-farming became more prevalent. However, in many rural areas, such as Casey County and throughout much of Kentucky, sustenance farming continued, much as it does today with household gardens, chickens and other livestock to support the family.]
Do you have a farm story or photographs to share in our 'Farm Attic'? We'd love to see them here and if you'd like to write something about Casey County farm history, stories or traditions, we are happy to publish it.

NOTE: For two excellent first-hand period accounts of life with chickens, read Betty MacDonald's classic The Egg and I, written in 1945 and made into a movie (that launched the popular Ma and Pa Kettle films) or Mildred Armstrong's recent best-selling account of Midwestern farm life in the 1930s, Little Heathens–Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression

Thanks to Joberta Wells for her contribution to this entry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whatta Melon!

For more on Mennonite grown watermelons in Casey County, click here.

Melon season has arrived in south-central Kentucky and here are some great recipes for beating the heat with melons: Watermelon recipes. Did you know that watermelon is also high in arginine? I didn't either, or know that was important, until I read this. Yes, watermelon can actually boost your metabolism!

A friend of mine shared this recipe with me last summer. It's like a Watermelon-Lime Aqua Fresca and is absolutely refreshing. I'm sure you could even substitute cantaloupe or any other melon of your choosing.

  • 3 cups diced watermelon (preferably cold)
  • 2 Tbsps. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (optional or you can add other sweetener)
  • 1 cup crushed ice (or a few cubes thrown into blender)
  • 1/2 cup water (also optional)
Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses, over ice if desired, and garnish with a fresh mint sprig or lime wedge. Makes a blender full and serves four.

You can also chunk up watermelon in fruit salad, serve it with greens and feta cheese (very delicious) or just enjoy it fresh from the melon. One day I want to make watermelon sorbet, but a cooler in the blender is so much easier. In this heat we're actually considering a watermelon and BLT diet. I'll let you know how it goes!

We will have local melons for a few months now––enjoy them while they're here: sweet, sweet summer on the vine.

The watermelon harvest at the Melvin Hurst farm in Casey County.

In the words of Mark Twain (from his Autobiography):
I know how a prize watermelon looks when it is sunning its fat rotundity among pumpkin vines and “simblins”; I know how to tell when it is ripe without “plugging” it; I know how inviting it looks when it is cooling itself in a tub of water under the bed, waiting; I know how it looks when it lies on the table in the sheltered great floor space between house and kitchen, and the children gathered for the sacrifice and their mouths watering; I know the crackling sound it makes when the carving knife enters its end, and I can see the split fly along in front if the blade as the knife cleaves its way to the other end; I can see its halves fall apart and display the rich red meat and the black seeds, and the heart standing up, a luxury fit for the elect; I know how a boy looks behind a yard-long slice of that melon, and I know how he feels; for I have been there. I know the taste of the watermelon which has been honestly come by, and I know the taste of the watermelon which has been acquired by art. Both taste good, but the experienced know which tastes best.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Easy Taco Salad

This is an easy, all-in-one meal salad and perfect for hot days because you can cook the meat ahead and serve it at room temperature or cold from the fridge––or hot from the pan, if you like (I like that option because it emulates nachos when you sprinkle cheese on the meat).

Casey County candy onions are sweet and don't make you cry––
the heart-shaped "Indiana Red" tomato just can't be beat for flavor and meatiness.

I used our own beef, that we had processed in Crab Orchard (there is also at least one butcher in Casey County and I will list them), canned salsa that I made last year (with Casey County tomatoes, peppers, onions and other goodies: I will post a recipe this summer), fresh Casey County candy onions and tomatoes (the variety "Indiana Red," which is particularly meaty and flavorful), and other ingredients from the store (I also get my taco seasoning in bulk at Sunny Valley Country Store on South Fork Creek).

You can add whatever else you like into it, too: chopped cucumbers or peppers, olives, black beans, sweet corn kernels, and thinly sliced jalapeno peppers are some suggestions. If you can get it, the addition of fresh cilantro adds a light lemony buoyancy to the salad and is very refreshing––parsley is a good substitute. [You can find cilantro––and usually two kinds of fresh parsley––in most grocery store produce sections. I have to remember to grow some next summer!]

Our family enjoys this and it makes a light but filling meal. This recipe could easily serve 6 large portions or 8-10 smaller ones. If you like a lot of beef, or want a bit extra for burritos or tacos the next day, cook 3 pounds of meat (and add an additional packet of taco seasoning).

Easy Taco Salad 

• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 1 package taco seasoning
   (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
• 3 heads of romaine lettuce
• 1 large tomato, chopped
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 to 2 cups shredded cheese
• 1 pint jar salsa
• 1 cup sour cream
• other dressing of your choice (some like Ranch)
• 1 big bag of nacho chips

Brown the chopped onion in a bit of olive oil or other fat and add ground beef. Add fresh ground pepper liberally. When meat is almost browned add taco seasoning, 1 cup water, and simmer for ten minutes. [I also like to add about 1 cup of salsa at this point.] While beef mixture is simmering or just before serving, chop up lettuce and tomato and other vegetable additions. Toss altogether.

With remaining cup of salsa, mix in about 1 cup of sour cream (or use a small bowl). Stir well and refrigerate unless serving soon. This will be the dressing. [You can also use other dressings.] Serve tossed salad on a plate, with meat mixture on top. Sprinkle cheese to taste and add dressing of choice. Don't forget the nacho chips! (On the side or on the bottom of the lettuce.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Incredible" Casey County Corn!

It's here: we had corn-on-the-cob for dinner tonight. This variety is "Incredible" and it was. Perfect rolled in butter and lightly sprinkled with salt. There really isn't anything else to say––or a need for anything else on the menu tonight. Perfect for a hot summer night, followed by a hearty slice of Casey County watermelon.

Life can just be so delightful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Country Cobb Salad

We like salads of different kinds but they can be a pain to make (all of that chopping––I know, it's something I need to get over). In restaurants we often order Cobb salad. Traditionally it is a concoction of several kinds of lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, egg, bacon and avocado, sprinkled with blue cheese and dressing. Here is an interesting website, The Kitchen Project, that has a great deal of information on food history, including the origins of Cobb Salad, along with a recipe for dressing, too. It is essentially a chopped salad and you can substitute anything you like for the meat and veggies.

It made a very easy supper for us tonight and I am proud to say that half of the ingredients were raised right here on our farm: eggs, bacon, tomatoes and cucumbers. You could also use green or colored peppers, steak, shrimp, beets, green beans, broccoli, you name it! Wherever you are and whatever your produce options, it's a fun salad to eat and to make and at this time of year you can really rely on what you have in the garden or locally. My recipe makes four servings.

Country Cobb Salad

• 1 package romaine lettuce, chopped
   (or combination of other lettuces)
• 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
• 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
• 2-4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
• 2-4 medium pickle cucumbers, chopped
• 2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
• 8-10 slices of bacon, chopped
• 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese or roquefort
• dressing of your choice, drizzled lightly
• cracked pepper

[Note: I omitted avocado because I didn't have one here and wanted to use what I had on hand]

Chop each ingredient one at a time and arrange on plates, starting with the lettuce on the bottom layer. Arrange remaining ingredients as you like on top of the lettuce or toss altogether in large bowl. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Drizzle dressing of choice over salad and finish with fresh cracked pepper. It is especially good if the bacon is still warm.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Snapshots of Local Produce

Here's what we found yesterday, July 15, in the South Fork Creek area (at South Fork Produce, in fact). The photos say it all:

fresh-picked, affordable, local.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Field to Fork Festival

There's a lot going on this weekend. For starters, I'm supposed to sing and dance at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill on Saturday (but my new, cooler costume isn't ready) and Steve Earle will be highlighting the Master Musician's Festival in Somerset that evening.

This afternoon I just found out about the Field to Fork Festival up in Paint Lick, near Berea. Organized by farmer Deborah Messenger of Halcomb's Knob Farm, the festival will feature eight workshops on green and sustainable farming practices and will include many vendors showcasing their agricultural products. [Our favorite Amish butcher, Joe Yoder of J&V Slaughterhouse will be there, as will many others.]

Workshops are as diverse as beekeeping, cheesemaking, mead making, selling beef for small markets, raising lamb or chickens, various methods of growing plants and preventing pests, herbs and many other topics.

I will not be able to attend the festival this year, but certainly next. I just learned about it and wanted to pass along the information here.

The festival will be held, rain or shine, from 9am-6pm at Halcomb's Knob Farm in Garrard County. Preregistration for $35 has closed but participants may be admitted at the gate on Saturday, with possible limited access to workshops, for $50. Check their website for more information.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

There's A New Store in Town

What's not to love about a good discount foods store? Dented cans and a few outdated items never stop most people from saving a lot, especially in this economy. What makes a discount foods store local? Well, several things, even if I am stretching things a bit. Casey County Discount Foods opened on July 1st and is owned and operated by Alta Martin Tucker and her family out on 910. Here's what makes it local and GROW Casey County blog-worthy:

• It is locally owned, not a chain store;
• It is designed with the local community in mind;
• It is located near other shops and produce markets in and around the South Fork Creek area, which this blog actively promotes; and,

• Alta is selling her very own, locally-made goat's milk soap at the store (from Creekside Farm).

What we got for fifty bucks––many items are hidden behind. You could stretch your money even further if focused on staples instead of hard-to-find items like almond oil or Amy's Mushroom Soup (my favorite casserole add-in). But even that was 99 cents a can!

We went on the first day the store opened––July 1st––and have been back a few times since. On my first stop, I spent about $50. I was delighted to find some Indian condiments (and ready-to-mix rice/curry sauce packages––two of which I made for dinner that night with some chicken thighs and local veggies), some favorite English cookies which are hard to find in this country ("Hobnobs"––and normally about $5 a pack), and even some ready-made Luisianne bottled iced tea (which is as close to homemade as you can find). Also there are many baking products, canned goods, cereals, jams and jellies and all sorts of organic products and staple items. Alta said she was thrilled with the first few loads that she got in, especially with the organic and gluten-free items. There is also an extensive amount of Mexican foods, more than you would find in most grocery stores.

The store is neat and clean and the staff is friendly and helpful. Eventually they might offer more local items and locally-made baked goods. You can also shop on Sundays (they are closed Saturdays) or on your way home from work as they are open until 7:00pm. When you think about it, in combination with all of the produce places in the area, and Sunny Valley Country Store a few miles away––and some stores in Liberty, you almost don't need to shop any where else. With gas prices the way they are and the cost of groceries it makes so much economic sense to minimize big box-store shopping whenever possible.

Casey County Discount Foods is open Sunday-Friday from 9:00am-7:00pm [Closed Saturdays]. They are located at 1764 Hwy 910, about 1/4 mile past Dutchman Metal and South Fork Creek Road.