Gosh I am pondering some fun topics these days. There is nothing more wonderful than calm, contemplative time with my hand tools in the garden to mentally tackle the concepts of sustainability. My latest thoughts circle around maintenance. The center of my musings are on plant maintenance. There are so many farms out there, so many fine farms out there, that plant into plastic. Long, long rows of black plastic mulch that you lie on the earth. It is multi purpose, can increase soil temperatures in the spring to jump start those heat loving summer crops, but weed suppression is plastic’s main selling point. Once your transplants are large enough, you prepare the soil, lay irrigation line, roll out the plastic, set your plants and boom, bang, no weeding, no hand cultivation, no maintenance.

Around here, we spend a whole heck of a lot of time tending the plants once they are planted. We use long handled  cultivating tools, hoes, hand tools, and as much hay or straw mulch as we can get our hands on. Weed pressure can be intense and it is no wonder lots of folks use all kinds of tools (herbicides being the baddest of them, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet of single use plastic seems somewhat unsustainable as well?). Maintenance is no easy feat in the vegetable operation.

My mind then meanders to the family, likely a child or two has interrupted my quiet time in the garden and I immediately think of maintenance of the family. Pregnancy and childbirth is one thing, but raising kids now that takes a whole lot out of you. Granted, I was blessed with easy pregnancies and birthing experiences, I don’t want to diminish those who have more trials in birthing. I do think we can all agree though, those 40 weeks come and go pretty quickly and then you have the day in, day out, year in, year out, job of maintenance. Raising those babies, wow. For me, right now, that means negotiating the needs of a teenager and a 4 year old with a pre teen daughter nestled in there, now that is some kind of work.

Enough pondering, it has been a fabulous week on the farm, some rain, some cool weather, you know we love that. We were able to plant (really?) the last of the tomatoes this week, staked and caged, we have over 500 this year. We took advantage some misty mornings to cultivate and mulch our first planting of cucumbers. We wrangled into order whole wave of parsley, celeriac, lettuce, swiss chard, basil and kale. Right now, in the lovely last of Friday’s daylight, the farm looks pretty darn good. Paul and William are out cutting flowers, the first burst of zinnias and sunflowers offer such summer beauty. Sasha is on the tractor (what???) raking our farm’s own hay. Madeline is bunching a few more carrots, and I am just about to leave this computer to join her. Enjoy the week ahead folks, and know we are lovingly maintaining these fields with your plates in our minds!

week five in your basket:



garlic scapes



Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto we have never, ever had both basil and scapes

In the same week, we all must celebrate this and make this pesto. Don’t you think?

10 to 12 large garlic scapes, with the bulb removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup (lightly packed) clean and dry basil leaves

1/2 cup pine nuts, pecans or walnuts

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Add garlic scapes, basil and salt to the large bowl of a food processor. Start processing, adding oil slowly.  Once a smooth paste has been achieved, add parmesan and process until completely mixed in.

Stop processing and add all of the nuts. Pulse processor until nuts are roughly chopped and fully mixed in.

Recipe concept  Lettuce Wraps

This is something we rarely do here, but when we do, ooh la la. Delicious. Pick your filling, pick your sauce,use the lettuce leaf as a wrapper, perfectly adaptable to any palate and a fun spring meal.

Protein fillings: taco meat, grilled chicken breast, sauteed tofu, seared beef, quinoa, black beans

Condiments:  shredded carrot, roughly chopped herbs, rice, rice noodles,

Sauces: ANY Asian dipping sauce, lemon vinaigrette..the list goes on and on, get creative with your favorite flavors and wrap it in a lettuce leaf.

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We got it, we got the rain, two gray, drizzly days of it. Yes, golly, we needed it bad. As we sipped our second cup of coffee ( a treat we reserve for a rainy day in summer only!) we realized it had been 6 weeks with no precipitation. That is a long stretch in spring. All these greens are really rain lovers. In summer it hurts less, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant, they all like it kind of dry, but lettuce. Not so. Anyway, we had a good soaking and there was much, much jubilation here in the hollow. We used the rainy days to turn around the high tunnel beds. You can officially bid swiss chard a farewell for a while (until the summer plantings kick in later in the season). We ripped them out and set in their stead sweet peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and ginger. The space looks totally different with young transplants and fresh tastes on the horizon. Transition on the farm is so satisfying, and it was most definitely a week of change.
I want to elaborate on a topic I introduced last week. We have a lovely new collaboration in the works with a young local family. They come for one farm work day on Thursday and on Friday’s harvest day. Thursday has thus become a big work day where, with the extra hands, we try and get the huge tasks done. Example, cultivate potatoes (thousands of feet of them), stake and cage tomatoes (hundreds), you get the picture. In return they get all the vegetables they desire, fresh milk from our milk cow Addie, and a split of the proceeds from a new market day in Bowling Green. They represent us there and are experimenting with their own farm products. It feels super visionary and quite exciting: we have nothing but the highest hopes for the future together. In the meantime we continue to work hard, dine on fresh greens, and hope for a season of cooperative weather. We will welcome June next week and the truth is, summer is only just beginning. Eegads. Have a wonderful week and enjoy these garlic scapes again, I know my family can not get enough of them.

week four in your basket:
green onions
garlic scapes
tat soi

Garlic Scape Carbonara everyone loved this last year, so here is a repeat appearance
1/2 lb campanella pasta, or shape of your choosing
4 slices bacon (about 3 1/4 ounces), chopped
1/4 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 inch coins
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Set a pot of water to boiling on the stove and cook the campanella pasta (or desired shape). While it’s cooking, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and add the garlic scapes. Cook until soft (2-3 minutes). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. (Drain both the bacon and the garlic scapes on a paper towel). Whisk together the eggs, salt and red pepper flakes. When the pasta is done, quickly remove it from the stove and set a different burner to low heat. Drain the pasta and add it back to the pot, on the burner set to low. Stir in the garlic scapes and bacon. Add the egg mixture and stir feverishly for 3-4 minutes until sauce is thick and creamy. Don’t let it overcook or it will be gloppy. Sprinkle the Romano cheese in, a little at a time, and stir to combine. Don’t add it all at once or it won’t mix throughout the pasta as well (since it will clump). Serve immediately.

Daphne’s Garlic Scape Dressing from daphnesdandelions
1 oz garlic scapes
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c white wine vinegar (I use balsamic)
T heaping with honey
T dijon mustard
1/4 t salt
Throw it all in a food processor and puree until smooth. If I want something thicker for a dip, I’ll add 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of mayo.
Note: we also make a garlic scape dressing that uses more scapes, apple cider vinegar instead of white wine. It is delicious, so I encourage you to be creative with this awesome use of the scapes. On top of this week’s lettuce. Delicious.

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It has been such a lovely week here, we feel super energized. We didn’t get a whole lot of rain, which admittedly is quite a bummer, but we got the cool, crisp aftermath of the storm system that moved through. It offered such relief from the heat (to both humans and plants) that we didn’t complain too badly about the actual lack of precipitation. We entered the week comfortable, enthused from a great market day, and alone.
Paul and I have taken a leap of faith this season, perhaps best described as a metal health tonic. For years and years we have hosted short and long term apprentices here in the hollow. Many, in fact most, of those guests have had an overall positive impact on the farm and our family. In recent years we have had a series of less positive experiences. Nothing truly bad, just aggravating, irritating stuff that grew to be a heavy emotional burden. It was clear to us we needed to take a step away. This year we don’t have a crew. We are going it semi solo. GASP.
Lest any of you freak out, let me say right now, we are so happy.
We are not actually alone. We are collaborating with a young local family who come to the farm twice a week. We have a second year apprentice returning in June for the season and we have our super hard working selves. Both Paul and I are thriving without the extra emotional demands that come with hosting. It is proving to be such a great opportunity to reflect on our mentoring. We needed to step back and re envision our system. I know we will continue to host and educate here, it is one of the pillars of Hill and Hollow Farm, but it is a great relief to take time off and imagine a sustainable emotional future for ourselves. So far, so good.
Now, today as the light shifts into the late afternoon golden glory, the harvest is complete, a salad of buttercrunch lettuce topped with feta cheese awaits. I baked some fresh bread which will be adorned with garlic scape pesto rounding out the perfect late spring meal. The house is quiet right now, my tasks complete and it feels so right. I know chaos looms. I know amidst these moments lie times of great distress, for that is life. Now, just right now, it is all so good. I wish the very same for each of you. A calm, healthy long weekend. Stay safe. Eat well.

Browned Butter Pasta with Tatsoi an all time favorite, lots of variations out there
The original recipe on Apetite for china

1 pound pasta shells
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 cups tatsoi leaves, lightly packed
1/2 cup fresh sage, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta as directed on the package. Drain and return to pot. When pasta almost done, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir the butter in the pan as it foams. When butter begins to brown, add it to the pasta, turn the heat to medium, and mix to coat with butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tatsoi and sage and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Toss with parmesan and serve immediately.
Garlic Scape Pesto
1 c. chopped garlic scapes
½ cup olive oil
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place garlic scapes and oil in food processor and blend until pretty smooth. add nuts and salt and blend until a thick paste forms. Add cheese and pulse until blended. Serve with pasta, on bread, crackers. Remember friends, this is a once a season treat, enjoy every morsel! Freeze if you have extra, but you probably won’t!

Week three in your basket:
tat soi
swiss chard
pac choi
garlic scapes

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