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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 14 2014

Sarah West

The bean harvest is now in full gear, and it will be the year of bean. Chicories and other winter greens are growing at a good pace. We will take a few hours off to stand about at Hillsdale Farmers Market. Hope you all come and keep us company.

No beans until next week, they still need cleaning and another few days to dry completely, but we will have good food otherwise.

Here is what we will have:
Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will again have a good supply of the Astianas. Our fashionable new lugs arrived which will make it easier to haul your tomatoes from the market. Oh yes, Striped Germans will be on this week's menu.
Tomatillos - purple
Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn.
Fenugreek
Plums: German and Croatian prunes, mirabelle and golden gages.
Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken. The latter make very good raisins.
Preserves and, as usual, some other odds and ends.

Michael Abelman and his son Aaron stopped by Ayers Creek for a few days in late July 2004 as part of his Fields of Plenty project. Rereading the profile a decade later, it is striking how much things have changed, though fundamentally we are the same farm. The profile celebrated the summer here, but we already had one winter market season under our belt. That spring we learned that the combination of spring break, Easter and Passover can kill a market. Lowest gross we have ever had; when vendors leave their cash box unattended there is not much to say for the day. Also learned that we should grow horseradish. Somehow, black radish does not have the same allure as a bitter herb for the seder, much as we tried laud its many virtues. Our first planting of Roy's Calais flint corn was in the ground, and we were planning our orchard and vineyard.

After leaving Gaston, Michael visited Jennifer Greene's Windborne Farm in Scott Valley. There he fell in love with her old Allis Chalmers All Crop. It is a small combine pulled by a farm tractor. A combine gets its name because it combines the formerly separate tasks of cutting, threshing, and winnowing seed crops, including legumes and grains.

A couple months later he located a pair for sale in Canby, one apparently almost running and a decrepit example for parts. We went to see them with him, and it was clear the rose's bloom was withering as he paced around the two dusty, rusty hunks of machinery with their frayed belts, broken reel bats and rotting tires. We shared his reservations, even as he clung to the memory of Jennifer's machine and all it could do. The challenge of transporting the machines to Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island and repairing them dislodged the yearning.

Apparently, the pathos of the bedraggled machines and their potential gnawed at us. Not sure what exactly happened to dislodge us from our rational frame of mind, but we purchased them. The machine is boxy with most of its drives on the outside. Like Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, it is meant to be repaired on the fly with materials at hand. Not sleek or elegant, just enough of it to carry out the task well. Perhaps the idea opening up the list of crops we grow had some influence.

Other farmers with big machines speak admiringly of the All Crop, with its mixture of flexibility, simplicity and economy. Encouraging the endeavor, not emulating it, mind you. They take their old combines to the Banks demolition derby, not the shop. They are quite comfortable in their modern air-conditioned cabs with stereo and computer controls. In less than an hour, they can harvest more grain than the All Crop can in a day. However, their machines take a full day to clean between crops, and the All Crop is clean and greased in less than an hour.

Drawn to the machine, we forgot the first rule of purchasing equipment; turn over the engine to make sure it is operable. Apparently, someone tried to start the engine by using a lot of starter fluid (ether) which cleaned all the oil off the cylinder walls and the engine corroded solid. Neither Marvel Mystery Oil nor grease pumped into the cylinder would dislodge the corroded pistons. Perhaps we would have purchased it anyway, but it threw a disappointing money wrench into the works. The All Crop took a backseat to other projects until our daughter married Jonathan Hunt. In March 2008, he visited and helped strip down the machine. Later he found us an old driveshaft to replace the engine. Relentlessly, he peeled away the excuses for delaying and pushed us to get it running.

Restoring farm equipment as a show piece is very different from a functional restoration. We want the machine to operate for thousands of more hours reliably, so pulleys, shafts and bearings need cleaning and, if necessary, replaced. Rubber and wood parts likewise. Tom Yasnowski specializes in locating or replicating obsolete Allis Chalmers parts, supplying us with the belts and rubber parts that had disintegrated over the decades. The cylinder and concave chamber where the threshing of the seeds takes place needed a complete overhaul. Yasnowski supplied replacement rubber-faced bars for the cylinder and Dave Naumann at Ernst Hardware in St. Paul helped us locate a shop where the cylinder was balanced. It spins at high speed and balanced with modern equipment it runs as smooth as silk. Being an old piece of machinery, we deemed it acceptable to keep the bullet holes that appear when machines are unattended for a while in rural America.

We replaced upwards of 100 corroded bolts holding together the 10-foot long straw rack, and saturated the dry wood with linseed oil. The adjustable cleaning shoe is where the seed is separated from the chaff, the winnowing task. It had corroded in place making adjustments impossible, requiring several days of careful cleaning and lubrication, and a layer of linseed oil on the wooden parts.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon took his place on the bagger's platform where the seeds drop into sacks. We put in a couple of hours figuring out the fine points of combining chickpeas. As we tried to communicate over the roar of the tractor, the rattling of grain conveying chains, and the thrashing cylinder, I might have well have been communicating with a wookiee. It was great to see the patina of a working machine return, that fragrant, short-lived gloss from the resins of the plants. Some of you may have picked up on the fragrance in the barley, and it will be present in the chickpeas as well. There was a Queen Ann's Lace growing in the field, giving the grain a hint of wild carrot aroma. Thanks, Jon.

Carol

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 7 2014

Sarah West


Looks like fair weather for Sunday's Hillsdale farmers' Market. The bell rings at 10:00 AM.

Here is what we will have:

Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will have a good supply of the Astianas.

Tomatillos - purple

Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn. If you want to make hominy from the Amish Butter for a pozole verde, we will have pickling lime available.

Fenugreek: this fragrant green (methi) is used for aloo methi and Persian green stews.

Plums: mirabelle and golden gages.

Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken and Jupiter. An incredible range of flavors.

Preserves, and probably some other odds and ends.
___________________________________________________________

"Ecce Edwardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Christophorum Robinum descendens."

And so begins the story of Winnie-the-Pooh in the tongue of Virgil and Ovid, as translated by Alexander Lenard (E.P. Dutton 1960). As hard as it is to imagine anything but a living, vital language telling the tale of a stuffed bear, the faithful were challenged when Vatican II recommended delivering the Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin just five years after publication of Winnie Ille Pu. With Latin on the verge of dying, solace was found in the fact that new plant species were still described in Latin. That final bastion of life for the ancient language is now under siege, with some taxonomists proposing the use of English for botanical descriptions.

The language of the Mass must deal with love and hate, suffering and bliss, betrayal and redemption. Consequently its Latin is heavily salted with words derived from Greek, a language that handles those subjects well. Latin is the language of laws and strategy. In that respect, it is a fine language for the sciences. Botanical Latin is descriptive and of the present tense. Little need to worry about verbs anyway as the specimen is dry and taped to a herbarium sheet. Nonetheless, the naming of organisms can get a bit litigious. In a form of scientific primogeniture, the person who first publishes an account correctly describing and naming a plant prevails, no matter how wonderful, familiar, pertinent or worthy subsequent names are. So there is a breed of scientists who make it life's work to shake up the existing order.

Such is the case of the tomatillo. The great French scientist, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamark published a description of the plant, naming it Physalis pennsylvanica. His Portuguese contemporary, Félix de Avelar Brotero gave it the name Physalis ixocarpa at approximately the same time. Both names have been used over time, but Brotero was a nose too late in the opinion of the modern publications department. So this lovely fruit, essential to Central American cooking and largely ignored in the Northeastern United States, is named after a state where it has no substantive connection. With such a fancy name, your would think the Chevalier would have been a bit more creative. An essential part of Mexican cooking is stuck with the name of the cheesesteak's home.

Brotero's epithet, ixocarpa, on the other hand, is an intriguing fusion of Greek and Latin. Most cookbook authors and gardeners dully repeat that it means "sticky fruit" without further inquiry. In Latin, carpa means fruit, that's true. The ixo is a bit more of a puzzle. In neither Latin nor Greek, does it correspond to the word "sticky." In fact, the letter x is not a Roman letter per se; it is a number. In our alphabet, it can represent one of two Greek letters, xi or chi. Brotero's x works both ways.

Using the Greek character xi, it is the prefix to a complex of words referring to birdlime. This sticky substance was rendered from the bark of holly or the berries of mistletoe, and smeared on the branch of trees where birds roosted. They were then captured by the likes of Mozart's bird catcher, Papageno, and sold for food or ornament. The name comes obliquely to sticky, but arrives well.

If we treat it as the character chi instead, the word is a prefix to a complex of words referring to fish, notably dried fish skin, or a basket for carrying fish or trapping fish. The husk is certainly reminiscent of dried fish skin, and when the soft tissue of the husk and fruit rot away, leaving just the vascular tissue, it forms a basket containing the seeds that look just like so many fish in a carrying basket or fish tap. The wind blows these little baskets around the farm and, as they roll about, the seeds drop out bit by bit.

The husk develops from the base of the sepals. When the flower is pollinated, the yellow petals fall off and a special growth tissue, or meristem, at the base of the sepals starts to grow. It keeps pace with the developing fruit inside until just before ripening. The ripe fruit tears through the husk, at which point it is ripe. Zenón refers to it as taking its shirt off, and that is when they are best harvested. If they fall to the ground, they are deemed ripe as well. As he puts it, the fruit is essentially sharp-flavored, but it should have a distinct sweetness along side the acidity.

Having tried the Brand X tomatillos and being fundamentally New Englanders, we were leery of the fruit initially. With staff's expert guidance, we now feel comfortable with tomatillos. For sauces, we use tomatillos both raw and cooked. They are a basic ingredient in a pozole verde, and we roast them with other vegetables. Staff have a strong preference for the purple types which are more flavorful. That's helped assuage our leeriness as well. They also taught us to keep the fruits in a dry place, where they will last in good shape until March. In fact, purple fruits that last until March are the two primary selection criteria for seed production.

Both born in 1744, Lamarck and Brotero contributed a great deal to science. Lamarck is worth a special note because he was one of the earliest scientists to question the immutability of species, and suggest that organisms could change over time, a process later called evolution. His proposed mechanism was mocked and ultimately dismissed in favor of Darwin's theory of natural selection. As we understand the evolutionary process better, Lamarck's ideas have gained greater respect. Nonetheless he will still have the albatross of naming a great Mexican fruit after the America's cheesesteak capitol hanging around his neck.

We will see you all Sunday,

Carol and Anthony Boutard


Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 24 2014

Sarah West

When the bell chimes Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, you will find the following botanical bounty at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market:

Berries: Astiana tomatoes, tomatillos, table grapes -- It was fun to watch Greg Higgins and his staff try to fit "A gAstiana tomatoesrape with no name" on the written menu. The alternative was what Jack calls them: Anthony grapes. The former held sway. Remember, grapes are wonderful in savory dishes, as well as in the fruit bowl.

Compound Fruits: the very last of the Chester Blackberries for 2014. The farewell round of this now very delicate fruit.

Drupes: green gages, Seneca prunes and la mirabelle.

Bulbs: onions & garlics

Grains: popcorn, frikeh and cornmeal

Legumes: favas

Pepos: cucumbers & summer squash

Thursday, All Crop #67208 had her first outing in decades. With the large wooden straw rack swaying side-to-side, her gait has a touch of the rumba in it. She filled bags of hulless barley effortlessly, and we should have some cleaned and at the market within a week or so. The challenge of having her ready for Will and Jon's visit was met, and Will can tell you all about this amalgam of canvas, wood and steel at the market next week.

Sotweed, Spuds and Tomatoes

Harvesting tomatoes leaves your hands and arms covered with plant resin that has a fragrance instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up around a pipe smoker, that of fine burley tobacco. Tomatoes and tobacco, also called sotweed, are both in the nightshade family, along with potatoes, tomatillos and peppers.

The Sotweed Factor, John Barth's novel set largely on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, refers to a traveling agent, a factor, who purchased tobacco from farmers. Like Barth, Carol's father, Peter Black, had a deep affection for the Eastern Shore, both for its history, landscape and nature, as well as its natural affinity for scoundrels. His country hams, smoked and dried for seven years or more, sliced as thin as paper and served on beaten biscuits, are missed as the holidays roll around, along with Thelma Johnson's persimmon pudding and, earlier in the year, the soft shell crabs. The blue crab is of its own kind and should never be compared to its sweeter West Coast cousin.

One evening, as we enjoyed the cool breeze that came down Plain Dealing Creek and through the well-placed house surrounded by old pecan trees, we talked about another of Barth's novels when Peter digressed, explaining to us the second meaning of the "sotweed factor." Tobacco is an extractive plant, feeding heavily on the land and required a seven-year rotation between crops. Thus a tobacco grower seeking to harvest an acre of tobacco a year needed seven acres total, a factor of seven. With care, other cash crops could be grown in the rotation, but building the soil for the next crop of tobacco was paramount. The farmer could grow on a shorter rotation, but the leaf lost its aromatic quality and flavor and was considered worthless. The human factor would decline to purchase it.

Closely related to tobacco, potatoes and tomatoes share this trait. One year, we foolishly followed a crop of tomatoes with potatoes and they were the worse spuds we ever pulled out of the ground, absolutely flavorless and unfit for our discerning customers. Diagnosing the failure, we recalled Peter's discussion about the sotweed factor, and now we make sure we keep seven years between crops in the nightshade family. Other crop plants show a similar propensity, though not as aggressive. Processors require three years between crops of sweet corn for the same reason; shorter interval result in less flavorful corn.

As a general matter, it is a good idea to separate similar crops by several years. We also heed the Biblical instruction to leave the land fallow every seven years, though we are not strictly observant when it come to the exact frequency. The fact is, land needs an occasional rest. Until the middle of 20th century, a fallow year was included as a matter of course in crop plans. Not only does the soil rest, allowing it to refresh its mineral availability, the fallow also creates a break in pest and disease cycles. We had an email exchange with youngish organic farmer who was growing several crops of greens each year with good success for about five years, and suddenly she started having disease problems. We recommended a fallow year. Conventional growers can address those disease and insect problems with chemicals, but the flavor and quality of the fruits and vegetables still declines with intense crop cycles.

The other day, with our spuds not yet ready to harvest, we cooked up some fine looking Brand X certified organic potatoes and they were as bland as bland as can be, reminding us of the nasty crop we erased with a plow many years ago. Organic growers cannot produce a good crop, even if they avoid disease and pest problems, if they insist on throttling down on the rotation and never leaving the land to rest. True, variety selection and the cultivator's competence are important as well, but they are for naught if the need for rotation is ignored. And on the seventh year, the land shall rest.

We will see you all Sunday,
Carol and Anthony Boutard

The Fat Of The Land - Kitchen Dispatch: Tomatoes

Sarah West

Tomatoes are the darlings of the main-season garden—their aromatic foliage smells fervently of summer, and it is from that radiant tangle our favorite fruits emerge in colors and combinations seemly without limit. In truth, tomato plants grow like weeds, flopping and out of control. While we struggle to hold them to their trellising, they take their time setting green fruits that hang for what always feels too long before the first hints of ripening appear. Slowly, with a storyteller’s patience, they become our imaginings—a mythology months in the making that we pluck, relishing its smooth realness all the way to the kitchen.

What a show they put on, grandly occupying vast stretches of small gardens from May to October, only to offer relatively minor bounty (especially with the larger heirloom varieties) compared to a succession of root and salad crops. Some years I must forgo tomatoes in my tiny backyard garden for the sake of rotation. But the tomato summers are always my favorite, and it is always worth their theatrics for this meal: a just-picked tomato carried in the gardener’s hand; zesty foliage and fruit’s rich perfume mingling.

Summer is ripe when tomatoes line the kitchen counter, spoils of market or garden awaiting transformation. Few countertop residents cause as much anxiety—truly vine-ripened tomatoes arrive already plump and soft, needing action. We know how to slice and dress them with basil and oil, slabs of fresh mozzarella. We know they make effortless sandwiches (now is the time for BLT’s), salads, and pizza toppings. We know they are perfect unadorned save a bright pinch of salt.

When we have done all that and the curiosity wants to stretch further, find new territory, tomatoes not only await, they demand our ingenuity. And what is more versatile than these sweet and savory globes? Melting or meaty, sour or satiny, their flavor easily concentrates or thins, and resonates with nearly anything the garden can throw at it. Like an agile partner, they know the tunes, they have the moves; we simply need to turn on the music.

Tomatoes respond well to slow heat, their moisture reduces, sugars develop, without wiping out all of the fresh fruit’s complexity. Slow roasted tomatoes are delicious simply atop a slice of fresh bread, but hold their own among heartier dishes like braised lentils, grilled meats, eggs, or buttery tarts. Paste, plum, seedless, or ox-heart type tomatoes are best for cooking—their dense flesh and few seeds means they contain less watery juices that would dilute their cooked flavor.

To roast tomatoes, pick an afternoon where you have tasks around the house and set your oven to its lowest temperature. Drizzle halved or quartered tomatoes (depending on their size; thick slabs also work for larger tomatoes) generously with olive oil. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer, cut side up, and sprinkle with salt; a small amount of sugar adds surprising fullness, and seasonings like thyme, oregano, or black pepper add depth. Stick them in the oven and forget about them until the smell becomes irresistible. Take a peak. Roast them until they are shriveled, softened, their color deepened, anywhere from 2-4 hours. Store covered in oil in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Tomato sauce can be a daylong project, or an impromptu supper, depending on your resolve. Home-preserved tomato sauce is a great treat in winter, and a long project in the heat of summer. If you do choose to go that route, consider saving the skins you've so painstakingly removed and dry them, as Amanda Hesser suggests in her book, The Cook and The Gardener, in the oven (again on its lowest setting) until they become dehydrated but pliable. Chop and use as a punchy garnish, or save in a sealed jar to add to the stockpot down the line.

Never completely savory or sweet, cooked tomatoes always end up a combination of the two. Tomato jam, an unctuous preserve for scones, tarts, or even sandwiches, displays this quality well. Made with sugar, like any jam, it is luxuriously sweet; underneath is a base strikingly green, hearkening back to the florescent scent of the garden’s tomato brambles.

Fresh tomatoes are perhaps the sweetest form of all, especially those selected for this quality: cherry, pear, grape, and zebra-striped varieties make for syrupy mouthfuls without any embellishment. Or, Deborah Madison offers this simple preparation in her book, Vegetable Literacy, using cream to play up the fruit’s natural sugar:

Warm four tablespoons of heavy cream on low heat with a clove of smashed garlic and a fresh basil leaf until it comes to a boil. Set aside to steep while you peel a selection (about ½ pound) of fresh sweet tomatoes by dropping them for ten seconds in boiling water to loosen their skins. Place them directly in ice-cold water to stop them from cooking and slip off their skins. Slice and add tomatoes to the cream and bring to a bubble for 2-3 minutes. Season with pepper and salt (she recommends smoked salt) and serve covered in breadcrumbs or over a slice of toast.

Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 15 2013

Sarah West


Each summer has its own character and pace. After a few years where summer languished long after its official end, this year summer reminds us of James Dean, running fast and furiously to an early end. Fruit ripening is truncated, a matter of missing it if you blink. Already, we are starting to bring in the first flint corn and dry beans, preparing the ground where the garlic and wheat will be planted. In past years we have irrigated into October; next week, a month earlier than normal, we will dismantle the smaller pump and move it out of the floodplain.

This has been a particularly good month for the tomatoes as the night-time temperatures have been unseasonably mild. Tomatoes fare better with warm nights, and with chilly nights held at bay the quality is high. We will have another good harvest of Astianas for tomorrow. Once again, we will have the scale and boxes available, or you can bring your own boxes and fill them, either way for the great price of $1.75/LB.

The grapes include the celibate Canadice, and the fecund Price and New York Muscat. The latter is best characterized as an adult grape, to be savored one by one. It is a hybrid between a muscat and an American grape. It has a good measure of the muscat complexity. The skin is a tad thick, but that means we can grow it organically without it succumbing to mildew.

We will also have our stone ground flint corn, chickpeas, preserves, onions, beets, tomatillos and some fenugreek. The plums are nearly at their end, but we will have some golden transparent gages and damsons. And yes, Damacus is in Syria and Oregon, not Lebanon. The saber rattling earlier this month, now muted, left us unable to think straight.

We will see you all tomorrow,

Anthony and Carol

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 8 2013

Sarah West

Mirabelle de NancyTomorrow, as we wend our way Bald Peak, for the first time in two months we will not be immersed in the fragrance of caneberries. Instead, the van will be redolent with late summer mix of onions, plums, grapes, tomatoes and the earthiness of beets ready to be purchased at the Hillsdale Market when the bell rings at 10:00 AM.


People often ask us where they can buy seeds for the our Astiana tomatoes. The fact is, you are buying seeds when you buy the fruits at the market. That is how we started with the tomato, just 15 seeds from a tomato purchased in the market of Asti, a town in the Piedmont of Italy. It is a representative of a cooking tomato landrace from the Po River Valley. The fruits are large, green-shouldered, pear-shaped and often pleated. A landrace is a population of fruits, vegetables or livestock that is shaped by the environment and culture of the region to which it belongs. Representative of the race will vary from village to village, but they have similar qualities. These tomatoes are selected for the quality of their flavor and texture after their encounter with the stove.

We never use the word heirloom in reference to the varieties we grow. We dislike the term, and the last time it was used in this newsletter was to explain our dislike of the word best applied to fragile, inanimate objects handed down generation-to-generation. Beautiful Corn (link) was written without using the word at all. Heirlooms are defined as named varieties that have been around for 25 years. Seeds are living plants, reshaped by their cultivators year-after-year, and landrace is the better term. It recognizes the living organisms are constantly changing and adapting to new environments and cultures, this applies to their cultivators as well. The fact is, we have reshaped that tomato we purchased in Asti seven years ago, but we have carefully kept its fine cooking qualities foremost in our efforts.

Approximately 80% of the legumes, vegetables and grains we bring to market are grow from seeds we produce on the farm. Another 10% are grown from Wild Garden Seeds (http://www.wildgardenseed.com/) in Philomath, about 60 miles south of Gaston. Producing our own seed allows us to draw out traits valuable for successful production in the Willamette Valley.

This month the Organic Seed Alliance (www.seedalliance.org) will hold organic seed production workshops for farmers at Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home on the 17th and at Ayers Creek on the 19th. Veteran seed producer John Navazio will lead the workshops. He is both practitioner and theoretician, an important source of information and inspiration to those of us who grow our own seed. Linda Colwell will prepare a lunch for the participants that will include the fruits, vegetables and grains we grow at the farm, underscoring the link between the seeds and food. It will be a fun day for all and we expect to learn a lot from Navazio.
Adopting the name Astiana for our tomato, we honor the long tradition of naming varieties after the location of their origin. This week, we will bring to the market a delightful, spicy grape called Canadice. It is a celibate variety from New York State research station in Geneva, New York. Until recently, they named all their varieties after places in New York; Candice is one of the Finger Lakes in western New York. Other varieties that we grow from that program with a New York tag include the grapes Interlaken, Sheridan and Steuben, and the plums Seneca and Stanley. Sadly, they have abandoned this tradition and now names are developed through "consumer testing." Two recent releases are called SnapDragon and RubyFrost. Perils of callow thinking.

This week, we will have an abundance of plums, including Prune d'Ente, Prune d'Agen, Fellenberg (a.k.a Italian), Brooks, Damsons and Mirabelle de Nancy, all bearing the name of their origin. Damson is an English corruption of Damascene; that is, from Damascus – Lebanon, not Oregon. In addition to the grape Canadice, we will have the incomparable Price, named after a real person, another naming convention that meets our approval. Expect onions, garlic, shallots, cornmeal (doubling down on the tradition as it is named after Roy Fair of Calais Vermont), popcorn, chickpeas and preserves, as well. Oh yes, tomatillos and maybe cucumbers.

We will continue to offer the Astianas at $1.75/LB when 20# or more are purchased. We will have some boxes at the market, or bring a milk crate or wine box of your own. We will have a self-service scale on hand. Of course, if you want to purchase them as heirlooms, we will be obligated to charge the going rate for such special tomatoes, $3.50 or more if we recall correctly. Heck, they are certified organic, so maybe more . . .

See you all tomorrow,

Carol & Anthony
Gatson, Oregon

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 1 2013

Sarah West

This weekend marks the sartorial end of summer, and we have had this feeling for a couple of weeks that autumn is close at her shoulder. It is almost as if the fruit is racing to beat the changing weather. As if to underscore this point, we sent our goodbye Chester note to the produce managers and stopped delivering the blackberries on Thursday because the fruit is too fragile to sit in a store display.

This is the earliest end to the Chester season in the 12 years we have been selling fresh market fruit, and the first time that it has fallen in August. We will have some at the market tomorrow, but treat them with care as they are very thin skinned. Just as autumn leaves change color when the chlorophyll disappears, as the acids and pectins fade from the fruit different flavors come to the fore, and you might discern a hint of resin in the fruit. It is there in the fragrance as well.

Just as the swallows have departed the farm, the frikeh is gone, too. If time permits, we will grind some corn and start hauling in preserves again. We will have a lot of Astiana tomatoes for those who want to start putting some up for winter. Tomatillos, beets, onions, potatoes will join the cucumbers, garlic and shallots in the mix. The stone fruit will be represented by Prune d'Agen and Mirabelles. The pulses are the chickpeas.

The grape of the moment is Price. We regard it as the Chester of the grapes. This berry came out of the breeding program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The grape has a complex and obscure lineage, perhaps with a bit scuppernong or some other muscadine among its genes given its southern ancestry. The grape is named after Harvey Lee Price who was the Dean of Agriculture at the institute from 1908 to 1945. The flavor is complex and the delicate crunchy seeds have a delicious spicy flavor, so don't hesitate to chew them. As those who attended the ramble know, it is also a first class juice grape. Like Chester, Price is of its own kind, there is no confusing it with other grapes.

We will also have some seedless grapes on hand as well, including Jupiter and Interlaken. Along with Price and the plums, good fruit for the kids to take to school, or to nibble on as they ponder their first homework lessons. And let's hope summer keeps autumn at bay for a while longer.

Our best,

The Boutards
Ayers Creek Farm
Gaston, Oregon

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 16 2012 Market

Sarah West


Sunday, 9:59 AM, we will be standing in the midst of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market waiting the 10:00 AM chime.

Earlier this week, we sent out our "Dear Produce Manager" letters informing them that the Chesters are no longer fit eat. Yes, we can pick some reasonable facsimiles, nice black berries, but they have lost their essential character. Fortunately, we have bunch of really good stuff coming to market.

Tomatoes: We will have a generous supply of own sauce tomato, Astiana, at this market and probably the next two as well. Earlier this week, a frost fell on the lower parts of the farm, reminding us that October is getting closer, but the upper bench was spared. We will have some boxes on hand that you all can fill with tomatoes, or you can bring your own box. It will be ideal processing weather for the ideal sauce tomato. If you have room in your freezer, Astiana also freezes beautifully because it is much drier than most tomatoes. In the middle of winter, that bit of fresh tomato makes the saag or stew brighter.

Dry pulses and grains: chick peas, zolfini, and naked barley. We have given up trying to keep our barley varieties separated. It is now a mix of Arabian Blue, Dolma and the black Jet type, and some other long forgotten types. Two-row and six-row all mixed up. Sometimes it is important to keep varieties separate as in the beans and corn, but other crops, such as barley, we have decided are better as a mixture.

Fresh shell beans: flageolet, cranberry and johnson (aka soldier)

Table Grapes: Mostly green types such as Interlaken.

Plums: prune d'Agen, Pozegaca, Fellenberg (Italian), prune d'Ente, Royale de Vilvoorde, Reine Claude violetta, damsons

All four of the prunes dry well. Pozegaca is the prune used to make the Balkan eau de vie Slivovitz and the plum paste Slatko. It has a pleasant astringency and the same distinct fragrance as the eau de vie. Probably the widest selection of plums found anywhere in the United States, so revel in our plummy obsession.

Preserves
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Gathering of Dusty Feet

When the market manager's designated representative swings the bell on Sunday, it is a gesture steeped in history. Markets are regulated places of exchange. The antecedent to the market structure, a big and heavy club in order to whack somebody over the head and exact their goods, was woefully inefficient. The lump on the head approach of unfettered exchange requires double the number of transactions, and headaches all around. People of a libertarian bent rant about the need for "free markets," but that is an oxymoron. From the earliest times, the right to conduct a market or a fair was granted by the reigning monarch to an individual or institution by means of a charter. A critical component of the charter was granting of safe passage to and from the market or fair by the monarch. Without that guarantee from the government, there would be a paucity of vendors and buyers.

Markets must also have rules of trade. When Adam Smith was contemplating his "invisible hand" in the late 18th century, he recognized three conditions necessary for an efficient market. The first is the requirement that buyers and sellers have free will, no coercion, no big clubs. Second, the market is composed of atomized buyers and sellers, in other words everyone is operating at the same scale and no entity can dominate or monopolize the market. Third is the notion of perfect information. These are sweeping conditions impossible to fully meet. Ideally, rules and regulations nudge the market closer to meeting them. For example, standard weights and measures are there to help the market advance towards the third condition, consequently we must use an inspected and licensed scale to conduct trade at Hillsdale. A standardized opening time signified by the market bell is another gesture at meeting the third. In times past, the weight of a loaf of bread was also standardized, giving rise to the extra loaf in a "bakers dozen" to avoid the stiff penalties for coming up short.

As soon as rules and regulations supplant the big wooden club, the need for a means of a club-less resolution of disputes arises. Probably from the time of first organized markets an organic and rational system of justice arose, ultimately giving rise to merchant law. In England during the time of the Saxons, market charters granted the right to "sac and soc and tol" and "infangthef." This meant the owner of the market could investigate (sac) and adjudicate (soc) claims, and exact goods and money (tol) to satisfy a claim found legitimate. The right of infangthef allows the owner of the market to purse and apprehend miscreants within the market or fair boundaries.

With the Norman conquest, these rights evolved into the Court of the Piepoudres. The name "piepoudres," in its various spellings, is derived from the French/Latin words for "dusty feet," a reference to the long distances traveled by the merchants as they walked between markets and fairs. The merchants may have travelled from France, Spain, the Low Countries or Ireland, as well as other parts of England. They were a transient population, and needed to move on as soon as the market ended. Consequently, these courts displayed a streak of practicality. The investigation and trial had to be completed within a fixed time, typically a day, or in the case of seafaring merchants, three tides. The proceedings relied on evidence rather than testimony regarding characters of the plaintive and defendant. The tribunals included merchants and customers. When an alien was before the court, an alien was also seated as a member of the tribunal. We have in these courts the inkling of a jury of peers. The Courts were administered by the market itself, a separate and limited jurisdiction distinct from the town or borough in which they were located.

Over time, a body of merchant law developed and the need for a separate court within markets and fairs faded. The very last of these courts was seated in middle of the 19th century. Though, in the United States, the modern tradition of small claims courts shares the spirit of the dusty foot courts – expedience and practicality. If you are interested reading more, Charles Gross discussed the court in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (1906), vol. 20: 231-249 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1883654). It includes the proceedings from the mid 15th century case of Thomas Smith vs. the contumacious Cristina van Bondelyng.

Fortunately, the Hillsdale Court of Piepoudres sits very infrequently, and if all goes well this Sunday and there no infractions of the rules, we can hasten home and enjoy a tasty plum cake (Zwetschenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen) with a mix of the prunes we picked for market. This recipe is adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 11th Edition. As New Englanders, Fannie Farmer is where you go for basic recipes.

Plum Cake

Butter a 9" x 9" pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream
1/4 cup butter
Beat in
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
Sift together
1 &1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add to the first mixture alternately with
1/2 cup milk
Cut plums in half and place cut side up close together in even rows over batter. The plum flesh should float slightly above the batter.
Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons melted butter
and then sprinkle with turbino sugar, especially over the plums.

Bake about 20 minutes or so until the batter is cooked. Cut into squares.

The original recipe suggests placing the plums in the batter cut side down, and adding cinnamon to the sugar. Wouldn't look as pretty, and who needs cinnamon when you have a good plum.

Style Manual for Market Farm Newsletters (3rd Edition) satisfied, that's it.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm