Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Friday, August 29, 2014

When Life gives you overgrown cukes, make Mustard Pickles

Just a few of the variety of veges we had a market this week:  purple beans, yellow wax, green beans,lettuce, chard, greens, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, Anaheim and sweet banana peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash
NOTE:  all veges are grown by us using organic methods!

I turned my head for just a moment and this is what happened to my pickling cucumbers.  They are to mature for regular pickles, but they make  delicious  MUSTARD PICKLES.  There are many great recipes for mustard  pickles on line. I will probably have plenty of these overgrown cukes the next few weeks at market. 
Thanks to all those who come out to support the Farmer's Market
remember Thursdays 3:30-6:30
on the North side of the old city park in Roosevelt

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'll have 2

Years ago, long, long, before St. George decided to do a Farmer's Market our farm hauled produce down to a little Farmer's Market nestled among the beautiful art galleries in Kayenta.  As the corn season approached and we took down dozens of ears of corn to be sold, I was surprised by my first customer of the day's purchase.  "I'll take 2," she said.  I began to bag up the corn and after putting about half a dozen ears of corn in a sack, she hesitantly said, "I only want 2 ears."  Well, this ole farm gal was quite a taken back. "You only want 2 ears?", I thought to myself.  Not 2 dozen?  How can you only eat 2 ears of corn in the following week before I will be back again with another load? Grinning sheepishly, I unloaded her bag and handed over the 2 ears of corn.  She was not the only one who just wanted 2 ears that day. I  had to laugh and think to myself,  "Well, I'll take 2 ears also,......
 2 for breakfast, 2 for lunch, and 2 for supper!" 
I love CORN, how about you?

Sometimes, not often, we can get a good crop of  early corn at the farm.
If we plant the first of June, the spring frosts end around the 25th of June.
 A frost can knock the corn down, but it will recover and begin growing again.
  If it freezes ( July 4th, which it usually does, and again in mid August)
 the stalks at least make good fodder for the animals. 

 I try every year, but usually to no avail so......
Most of the time I just buy my corn from my uncle!
Winter squash is always under planted amongst the corn.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Have you ever made a cake from scratch?  It tastes delicious, much better than the cake mixes purchased in the store and really doesn't take much more time to make.  We always made cakes from scratch when I was growing up, in fact, I did not know that there was even such a thing as "cake mixes" in a box.

True Story.........  When I was in college, I was asked to coordinate several girls in my church ward to make cakes for a big dinner we were having, and I was asked to get them the supplies to do so.  I hesitantly commented that it would be rather difficult for me to measure out all the ingredients, (flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, etc.) bag them up individually and get them delivered to the girls.  The committee just looked at me funny and said, " just go buy some cake mixes".  "You can buy a cake mix?" I replied.  They had to inform this ole country hick that you could actually go to the grocery store, purchase a cake mix in a box, and that all you had to do was add eggs, water and a little oil to the mix and bake it.  "WOW, are you serious?"  I was truly amazed by the concept.  Well, I went off to the store and purchased 7 or 8 boxes of cake mixes ( I discovered they even came in different kinds and flavors) and delivered them to the girls.  At the dinner I tried a piece of that cake made from a mix out of the box and let me tell you,  I think the box it came in probably had more flavor!

I always look forward to the middle of the summer when the carrots are big enough to grate for a cake.  Here is my recipes for the best carrot cake you'll ever taste!

FarmHer Jill's Famous Carrot Cake

1/2 c. vegetable oil
 3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 16 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts 
4 c. grated carrots, just picked from the garden
3 c. flour
1 c. raisins
1 c. coconut

cream together eggs, oil and sugar

add drained pineapple, salt, soda, cinnamon and vanilla
mix and add
flour and carrots

fold in nuts, raisins, and coconut

pour into a greased 9x13 pan
bake 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes
do not over-bake!
when a knife inserted comes out clean the cake is done.

before frosting


1 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1/2 square of butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
 powdered sugar

In mixer, mix together butter and cream cheese, slowly add powdered sugar to desired consistency.  Frost cake adding coconut and chopped walnuts over top if desired.
These also make yummy cupcakes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Block Planting/Intensive Gardening

I generally plant in long 4 foot wide intensely planted rows, leaving a 1 foot path in between the rows. This width allows me to reach from both sides of the row to weed and harvest the vegetables.   Suggestions of vegetables to plant this way are:  radishes, carrots, beets, bush beans, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and lettuce.  Here are a few examples of intensive or block planting.

In this 4 wide raised row/block, I planted cabbage on the north side, lettuce down the middle and winter radishes on the south.  The lettuce will be cut 4 or 5 times as the other plants grow.

Here is what the row/block looks like now. 
The lettuce has been harvested many times and will now be pulled
 and laid on the row, as a mulch, between the radishes and cabbage.

Peppers are planted in a 2,1,2  pattern. Or if your rows are wider plant in a 3,2,3 pattern.  This method works great for single crops of broccoli, cauliflower, eggplants, etc,  I have also found this method helps promote better pollination.

I have been harvesting 20-30 peppers PER plant every week the past several weeks.

The intensive bed method is watered by hand spraying or overhead sprinklers. 
Water early morning to prevent water loss through evaporation, this also allows the plant leaves to dry out preventing mold and mildew problems.

carrots, beets, lettuce, radishes spinach, etc. do well planted
 about 1 foot apart in raised 4 foot rows

All the above pictures are from my garden in Roosevelt

At the Farm I plant in larger blocks, usually 4 or 5 rows of vegetables
early spring planting

This small 40' by 80' area of one of the gardens is divided into several raised 6 foot wide by 20-30 feet long blocks.  I have planted a mixture of plants.  Early maturing spinach, greens and radishes followed by  (when it's warm enough to plant) warm season crops interspersed in the blocks in a 4,3,4 pattern.  As the spinach, greens etc. mature they help keep weeds at bay and also shade the ground conserving moisture.  They will be cut several times.  When the hot summer weather comes, the cool season greens and radishes are pulled out leaving plenty of room for the long season crops to mature.

block planting of  (left) cilantro (middle) red sails lettuce (right) mesclum mixed greens
further to the right (not pictured) are separate blocks of each beet;  golden, red, chioggia,, and bulls blood

 There are still many crops that do best with regular row cropping and watering.  I prefer to water tomatoes, squash, potatoes, corn, cucumbers,etc. in rows.  If you are lucky enough  to have irrigation water row cropping is very beneficial.  The plants won't need watering as often and they develop a strong, deep root system which brings more nutrients up from the soil into your food.  I use the same principal however as the intensive gardening.  For instance; in a row that has tomatoes, the tomatoes are planted 3 feet apart at the top of the row with the roots near the bottom of the row and the stalk laid underground about 6-8 inches.  In between the plants, head lettuce or carrots are planted up about the middle of the row.  Radishes are planted close to the bottom of the row (will be harvested quickly) and basil is planted high in between the tomato plants.  The tomatoes will be staked  leaving plenty of room for the crops underneath to grow.  I have found that summer squash and beets or chard planted this way do very well also.  What has your experiences been with intensive gardening?  Please share your info in the comment section.

A photograph taken 15 years ago

This section of the garden is a mixture of row cropping and block planting.  On the right are tomatoes in rows, cucumbers grown in large black pipes for additional warmth and then staked.  At the back in the middle the old crops have been tilled under making way for blocks of fall greens and radishes.  The plants on the left are all grown in the intensive block plantings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The first plant in my garden to break it's long winter nap is the perennial bunching onion.  This year with our  very unusual mild winter, it began growing in mid-march.  This onion has a small, mild tasting bulbs and sweet stalks , it is delicious in fresh salads,  minced into egg salad sandwiches or any other dish needing a mild oniony flavor.    During the heat of the summer the tops die back and the bulbs spend their time underground waiting for cooler weather.  As the days become cooler new shoots appear and the bulbs begin multiplying.  Harvest until a hard winter frosts kills the tops. 

 I usually divide the onions in the early spring.  Simply dig up, separate into bunches of 6-10 and replant.  Add composted manure. If transplanting in the late summer or fall, add a layer of straw to keep them cozy over the winter.  
I will have starts of bunching onion a little later in the season at Market.

For market this week I will have:

Carrots, baby, Nantes,
Chard, ruby red, ford hook
Cucumbers, Boston pickling, slicing, Armenian
peppers, Anaheim, sweet banana, bell
 lettuce ,red leaf, bib, mesclum
onions, red, sweet Spanish
string beans, green, yellow wax, purple
summer squash


Monday, August 11, 2014

String Beans and Bacon

This is one of our favorite fresh from the garden meals.

Gather your ingredients fresh from the garden.

1 pound of bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
a bowl full of fresh picked string beans
4 or 5 tomatoes cut into about 1 inch squares
add other vegetables fresh from the garden if desired
(peppers, squash, carrots, etc.)

Bring a large sauce pan of water to boil.  Add trimmed and snapped beans and cook until beans are semi-cooked about 5 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile fry bacon in a cast iron skillet.  When bacon is done do not drain off all the grease (leave at least 2-4 tbs. of grease).  Add semi cooked beans and stir to coat beans.  Let cook another 2 minutes.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook down until tomatoes are tender.
(about 2 more minutes)

sorry, I do not have a picture of the dish,
 it tasted sooooo goooood it disappeared before I could take a picture.

Please be sure to cast your vote in the poll on the right hand column.  Your input will help me decide if I should continue with this blog.  THANKS!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Red Oak Lettuce

the leaves will turn a darker red around the edges as it matures.

If I had to choose which of the more than 50 varieties of lettuce or greens I grow for market as my all time favorite, I would have to say it is RED OAK LEAF LETTUCE.

This cut and come again lettuce will grow and produce through my entire (short) growing season.  I cover it with shade cloth when the days begin to get hot and keep it fairly moist.  Mulch heavily to obtain moisture.  I usually get 5 cuttings (every other week) before the plants need to be tilled under and replanted with a fall crop of radishes or broccoli.

This lettuce doesn't get bitter like many of the other varieties of lettuce.  I leave several plants un-cut that will mature and produce seed for next years crop.  The red oak leaf seed is quite hard to find in garden centers or nursery catalogs.  I would suggest if you find a source, order several packets of seed and then start saving your own seed.  If you find a salad mix that contains Red Oak, just allow the Red Oak to go to seed. To save seed, simply allow a couple of plants to mature (choose the ones that are the slowest to bolt).  Late in the fall when the seeds are dry harvest and store in a paper bag until all the moisture is gone from the seed.  I put the seeds in a small airtight jar and store in a cool, dry, dark place. 

the seeds of Red Oak lettuce have a red/purple hue to them

Gather on a dry day late in the morning.  Pick flower/seed heads and rub chaff off between your hands.  Gently drop the seeds into a paper bag,.  Holding the seeds up several inches from the opening  will allow most of the chaff to be blown away from the seeds.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We ALL need a little thinning

I don't know if you are like me, but thinning is about the hardest thing I have to do in this life.  No, I am not talking about working off the 10-15 pounds that seem to creep up on me every winter since I turned the big FIVE-0.  However, by the time the big hand-driven, rear tined tiller has drug me around the 5 acre vegetable patch, I have wrestled goats and sheered sheep, walked up and down the 1/4 mile lane to the farm about 7,642 times.....  the thinning job gets done.
No, I am talking about planting seeds, spending days on end tied to the farm so I can keep the seeds moist by continual watering, keeping a constant watch, hoping that the seed will sprout........and then after several weeks of non-stop, vigilant work, I grab them by their little leaves and yank them out by their roots!  
I know, I know, it just doesn't make any sense.  Why go to all that trouble and then just pluck them from the earth to lie in the sun and die a scorching death?
(they are however a tasty addition to a fresh garden salad)

Well, just as for us, thinning is good for your vegetable crop.  It will ensure that a vegetable will grow to it's full potential, reduce the slimy fungus that grows on the plants if they are to crowded, and    almost guarantee a successful harvest.

Here are a few ways I thin my plants:

Carrots, take such a long time to germinate and then send out such tiny little leaves, I really hate to thin them, but this is a method I have found most successful.  When the carrots are about 1 inch tall,  simply use a garden rake with the curved solid tines and rake cross-wise down the row.  Repeat if necessary.  Apply composted manure and mulch with grass clippings.....carrots like moisture....but not wet feet.  I usually plant them in the sandiest part of the garden which changes every year according to how  the W-I-N-D  blows .

Beets, are a little more complicated.  Each beet seed will actually send out 2 or 3 little beets.  I have found that planting the seeds about 1 inch apart, cutting the tops several times during the season as greens, and then as the roots begin to develop I begin thinning them to eat and sell as baby beets when they are about an inch in diameter.  Harvest every other beet which allows room for the other beets to grow and mature to full size.  Thin again if needed in the late summer.

Radishes and Turnips,  mix these seeds together and plant at the same time.  The radishes will mature and be harvested long before the turnips, thus leaving plenty of room for the turnips to  mature.  Planting radishes with carrots is also a good method to use.  This method is especially helpful because the radish leaves help shade the soil keeping it moist for the carrot seeds to sprout.

Cucumbers and squash,  I direct seed these plants (3-5 seeds per hill) in the early spring. When the true leaves appear, using a pair of scissors snip off all but the 3 healthiest plants. 
Actually I plant over 1200 squash plants a year so I usually just plant and ignore them, but I allow plenty of room between plants, at least 4 feet between summer varieties and 6-8 feet between winter.

the smaller varieties of winter squash can be grown on a trellis

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lizards can't swim

How do I know that?  Well, we took a down trip to the farm and spent a couple of days.  The area is in a terrible drought at the moment, we have had very little rain proceeded by an unusually warm, dry winter. The pasture is dried up and the dust is constantly swirling.  The mustard weed that covers the pasture in early spring with a blanket of yellow flowers didn't even break ground.  The nutrient rich, high in protein, kosher is only about 2 inches tall, stunted, struggling to survive.  The large Russian Thistle weed that completes it's yearly cycle as Hugh tumble weeds stacked 10 feet high in the yard will not be blocking the pathways this year........that at least is good news!

In a typical spring usually thousands of tumble weeds are blown into the yard

I cleaned out the weedy debris from the neglected fish pond and filled it with water.  As the water splashed over the rocks surrounding the pond several very thirsty lizards came out of the shady crevices to lap the water off the rocks.  One lizard simply ran to the edge of a rock and preforming a graceful SWAN lizard dive, it dove right into the pond!  I grabbed a shovel and fished him out and explained to him that lizards can't swim.  Not his species anyway.

 As I continued watering the half dead trees and shrubs around the dead lawns, the lizards came in droves to drink the water before it was soaked up by the thirsty earth.   Several lizards, scorpions, and even a few baby birds met their demise in my fish pond over the next few days.  The summer monsoon  season will soon be upon us.  Hopefully, it will revive the pastures ,refresh the lizards, and settle the dust.
GREAT news, according to people living at the mobile home on the farm, we have had almost a week of rain.  Good news for me and the lizards, now they can just splash in the puddles and will not need to learn how to swim.