Saturday, April 2, 2016

Carolina Gold: Our Adventurous Experimentation with Growing Rice in Southeastern North Carolina





Mature Rice Plant

When we started farming together a couple years back, Matt and I joked continuously about growing rice because of all the rain we were getting and how wet and saturated the ground was in our area.  After losing some crops, getting tractors and trucks stuck, and finding different areas on our land that were low lying areas, we decided to go for it.  The history of Carolina Gold goes all the way back to plantation days, my dad told us about it and said that it grew wild in our area.  So we went searching for it and didn't really know what to look for since neither of us had ever seen rice grow.  We ended up driving down to Orton Plantation in Brunswick County, where we discovered that the original owner of the plantation grew the rice and the plantation is currently under new ownership, with the intent to restore it to its original style.



Our acre of Carolina Gold


So what is Carolina Gold? The rice is a variety which has a long history that dates back to plantation days in the Southeastern area of the country.  Anson Mills, a mill down in South Carolina known for its Carolina Gold has some pretty informative facts about the rice and you can click here if you would like to read more about the history and properties of this delicious grain. Matt actually acquired our certified organic seed from Mr. Roberts.  Matt called Mr. Roberts on the phone and he would not sell us the seed but that he was a seedsman and he would send us some Carolina Gold Rice Seed to plant.
Carolina Gold Rice Seed from Anson Mills


 In 2014 Matt and I visited a farmer east of Asheville that was growing organic Carolina Gold and milling it to sell at markets around the area.  We saw how he made his patties and talked with him about irrigation and flooding those fields, as well as how to harvest the rice. 

Planting rice seed in trays
So we went home and got some seed to plant, waited until the spring and Matt started to make some patties in the field.  He had been researching the SRI method quite rigorously all winter long. SRI stands for System of Rice Intensification.  You can click here for some links to see how other countries use this method to plant their rice.  Basically you plant individual seedlings once the true leaves are visible (2 leaves to be exact) and it has to be planted exactly 10 inches apart for however many rows you are cultivating, preferably in a square. Our patties didn't work out quite as planned, so Matt bedded up some rows with the tractor to make an acre for the rice.  Meanwhile I planted the seeds in the greenhouse.  Once they were germinated, it was time to thin so we could use each plug per hole in the field.  Experimenting with other trays, where we just layered the seed in a tray with no plugs seemed to be more effective with time and ease to plant.
We experimented with different size trays



Matt's brother came down to help out just in time this season.  We just found out we were expecting another child and while still working the local markets for our vegetables we needed help planting all that rice.  From sunup to sundown, about a week it took to get that acre planted. By hand.  Every ten inches.  Once the seedlings were in, we really didn't have to do much.  We may have watered once or twice; remember the reason we decided to grow was because of the amount of rain we get anyway.  It worked great.  Upon harvesting the rice in August, Matt invested in a hand sai or sickle.  It took him 3 days sunup to sundown to reap all that rice with the help of Matt's friend Ben as well as Bella and Luke. It was hot and the mosquitoes were treacherous to say the least.  He was alone on that venture, I felt bad for him out there but no way was I going to endure that pregnant with a 2 year old!  Thanks for providing for the family honey!  We rented a UHAUL, loaded up the rice, and drove to the mountains where we revisited our friend who so generously offered to let us use his harvesting
equipment.


First harvest of rice! Hard to believe one blade of grass produced this bunch of grain!





Lucas working hard!
Bella loving her jo





Uhaul full of rice. 

Next the rice needed to be threshed, cleaned and dried. You can see from the pictures we obviously need to invest in some equipment, but this was a great experience yielding a little over 200 lbs our first year. It is delicious to say the least.  We eat it almost every night, whether it's draped with stir fry, curries, or simply as a side dish.  The rice seems to have a fragrance of floral undertones while cooking it and all I do is add a bouillon cube and let it cook down.  Honestly, we went out to eat the other night (which we rarely do) and my dish was served with some kind of rice. I just couldn't eat it, I am so spoiled with the flavor of our rice and I can't even justify using anything else with my dishes until it runs out. But by then hopefully the next crop will be ready for harvest.
Processing the rice 





Drying the rice took at least 10-12 hours


We plan to double our planting this season and focus on selling to restaurants, maybe some local markets and grocers.  If you would like any other information or how to get your hands on any of our Carolina Gold, feel free to email us at healingearthfarmer@gmail.com

We store it in 5 gallons with bay leaves to keep bugs out



Carolina Gold Rice, Hartinger Style

Delicious!!!




Friday, November 13, 2015

Barefoot and Pregnant in the Kitchen.... Not to Mention Certified Organic!

Our Halloween weekend 2015




Hi all!  I have been wanting to write for some time now to catch up and let everyone know how and what we are doing.  As you can see from the title of this blog, we are expecting in January sometime which has really changed the dynamics of our family as well as our work.  We found out the first of June and as luck had it for me during the first trimester it was wonderfully hot down here in North Cackalacky.  We continued with the markets for a few weeks and had planned our annual vacation time around August because it is soooo hot here during that time.  Because of the heat, we actually stopped markets earlier than expected since all the veggies weren't fairing well through those temperatures and the deer had a heyday with what was left.  So we packed up the family and went to the mountains!
Just couldn't climb anymore.....good place to rest though.



When I lived on the beach everyone always asked me where I went to get away, seeing as how I already lived in a popular destination for vacation, and I said the mountains of course!  We love visiting other farmer's markets in different towns we stop through, just to see how other farmers fare, as well as what is offered during the times we aren't growing anything since the climate is different. This year we met a very nice couple from Boone at Against the Grain Farm, grabbed some of their corn flour which was unbelievable and greens to eat for the weekend.  They invited us out to see their farm and family and we had a great visit. Here is a link to their farm, feel free to check it out here .  They even let us take some of their water home in our 5 gallon :) We usually take it in case we find some great mountain water to drink.


Our staple item for the fall. We are still eating these potatoes!

We came home to find it monsoon season again here in Rocky Point and the deer had eaten about 500 lbs of tomatoes I was expected to can when we got home.  Ate them right down to the stem. Depressing.  Unable to get in the field to plant anything, much less get the tractor to run through all the water we had, our fall crops are null and void this year.  On a lighter note however, we had two nice Shiitake flushes which i got to dehydrate and eat to my heart's desire.  We had potatoes that have lasted through November and our Garlic we have been able to sell at the local Co-op.  And just when you think you are going to run out of something to eat all winter, here comes our Rice!

Carolina Gold Rice


Before I go any further, I will post another blog specifically on our adventure in growing rice here in North Carolina.  I cannot forget to share with you that we are officially a Certified Organic Farm!!! It feels good but also nothing really changes for us since we don't believe in spraying poison on our food and eating it.  We really just have a nice piece of paper that says we are Certified :)
We have learned a lot about the industry by going through this process.  Personally, I have come a long way with education and watched the food industry manipulate its way to our tables and our bodies.  Every day I learn something knew and it can be very frustrating to find out something you have been eating all this time is toxic, poisonous, causes cancer, autism or just plain nasty.  I am not perfect but I will continue to try to reach a level that I can try to control.  Growing our own food is ultimate for me, preserving that food has been a wonderful blessing and learning experience that everyone should know how to do.  Finding out that even organic food can be tainted with a certain level of pesticides and chemicals allowable by these officials was very disheartening.  Our ethics extend beyond that and knowing there is a better way to feed our families keeps us going.

This tag can mean a lot of things.  Know your Farmer, Know your Food.


I'm not trying to deter people from supporting organic food but please know where your food is coming from.  It's more important to reach out and find your local farmers and ask questions. Find out their practices, visit the farm, make the connection, and you make the call.  You will find that some of these small farmers are just trying to make it and raise their families.  Join CSA's, shop local farmers markets, start a garden (if you don't have space, grow in pots) educate yourselves.  There is a lot of information out there and misinformation, but that is where community comes in.  Create groups and discussions because it is important to raise awareness.

I have to apologize to anyone out there in cyberspace that has been checking in to see what we have been up to.  Baby on the way and toddler have kept me quite the busy momma!  Stay tuned I will work on our Carolina Gold Rice Blog soon and have lots of cool and exciting information to share about that.  Take care and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones!
The Hartingers


Monday, May 25, 2015

The Great American Garlic eSCAPE







It's almost June and our garlic that we planted back in November is almost ready to harvest.  We planted our first crop of Music Garlic last year and this will be our second year.  We planted a couple more rows this time and to our surprise yesterday we discovered Garlic Scapes!!! If you aren't familiar with what a garlic scape is, let me tell you that you are in for a treat :)  First of all there are different varieties of garlic and that includes the differentiation of being a hard neck variety versus a soft neck variety, not to mention every other Allium family member out there that is delicious with everything.

Hard neck varieties of garlic have more flavor and have fewer cloves but are easier to peel, whereas soft neck varieties such as Elephant Garlic can grow in warmer climates and tend to have more cloves.  If you would like to learn a little more about garlic and some things to do with scapes in particular click here.

So what is a garlic scape?  The variety that we planted, which is called Music Garlic is a hard neck variety so it produces a scape that grows up the center of the plant and when cut properly has a mild garlic flavor that can be used simply as green onions or scallions.  The recipes out there for garlic scapes are many, and I will share a few at the end of this blog, however I wanted to talk about the importance of cutting at the proper time.  Most Alliums will produce a flower but the garlic scape is picked before it flowers and it has more of a 'seed pod' as opposed to an elephant garlic that has a nice fluffy flower that is more for decoration.  The scape can be used in any recipe calling for garlic.



It's also important to cut the scape before flowering because all the energy the plant needs to produce a garlic bulb goes downward instead of upward to produce a flower.  Also I notice a huge difference in texture when you cut it.  If cut early enough it is more tender and versatile to cook with.

Did you know that there is are garlic festivals all across the country? Well there are and if you are a lover of garlic as we are, I'm sure you will find these delicious treats as fascinating as we do :) Here is the ever popular garlic scape pesto recipe which I included in this week's CSA box:

Garlic Scape Pesto

You will need:
A bunch of garlic scales (or two depending on how much you want to make)
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Parmesan Cheese
Sea Salt

Chop the scapes and simply mix all the ingredients in a food processor until combined to your preferred consistency. Add more oil if necessary. Sea salt to taste



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our First CSA...It's What Food Should Taste Like.

CSA boxes filled with Spring Veggies including the most delicious Mikola Butterhead Lettuce


What a big day for our farm and family! Last Wednesday we harvested a variety of vegetables for our members including some turnips, radishes, a couple salad heads, kale, and some asian greens to start. We are filling these boxes for ten weeks and we are so excited to share all this delicious food!  I am including a newsletter each week as well to keep everyone up to date with what is going on on the farm.  And there is always something going on on the farm!

I promise we didn't put this radish in the box.  These are what we use instead of sticks for Diogee to fetch.

Father and Daughter harvesting for first CSA

Rainbow Chard

Look at those colors! Too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Matt filling CSA boxes

We couldn't even close the boxes there were so many veggies in there!


Matt has been dreaming of this day for so long I had to take pictures for our memory books.  He has worked so hard and we both have been through so much just to get here and now that we are semi-settled into our house it's time to farm.  Starting from scratch is so hard but I believe it's the way it was supposed to be for us.  It makes us appreciate all the little things most people take for granted.  Like just waking up and going to check the plants in the greenhouse instead of driving back and forth each day.  Or waking up in the middle of the night to make sure the deer aren't feasting on our crops.  I think what will be the best thing is for our CSA members to see our work in constant progress with the hopes that they will be a physical part of the farm as well.  This way they can see their work and support of this farm grow!




We also survived the first tropical storm of the season last weekend which just so happened to be Mother's Day weekend and it rained non stop for two whole days.  We went to check on the field which by the way had quite a bit of water but the plants are just as healthy and hearty.  We came across a painted turtle which I had never seen before, on the way out to the vegetables.  The biodiversity on this farm is so wide, I'm so blessed to meet all these creatures for the first time with Juniper.  I didn't get to grow up with these animals and plants, and I am so glad I can show our daughter this way of life.
Thanks for reading our blog and feel free to drop us a line or two if you have any questions!
Cheers,
Steph and Matt

Friday, April 10, 2015

Plantains in the Garlic

Music Garlic: Should be ready to harvest come June/July




No, not the plantains you eat that look like bananas.  Plantain.  It's a great medicinal friend when you get stung, bit or just have the itches.  :)  So I was reading an herbal book the other night and came across the fact that beside most poisonous plants or plants that can harm you, typically resides the remedy.  How wondrous, and the more I thought about it, makes sense to me!  Especially when your 2 year old finds out about ant hills on the farm.  Well that happened last weekend and as I was rushing inside to remedy her with homeopathics,  I forgot to utilize what Nature gives us all around.  We have tons of wide leaf plantains all down the easement road which was the first herb I taught Bella about.  I guess when you are in the moment..... Next time however I will doubtlessly use our gifts from the land.  Oh yea she also discovered Bumble Bees haha.

Ah.... the Plantain.  Such a proliferating 'weed'.





Anyway I was pulling weeds today in the garlic rows,  I kept coming across all this plantain among two other common weeds.  I hated to pull it, but really there is an overabundance of it so I didn't feel so bad.  So I couldn't help but keep thinking about that book and realizing that beside the problem resides the remedy.  Next to all these anthills there is always plantain available.  Well, you ask, how do you use plantain to help bites and itches?  It's easy peasy, just chew up the leaves and spit them all out including the juices onto the bite.  You can dress with gauze if it's on hand but it really takes the sting right out! I had the fortunate experience a few summers back to try this out first hand.  I'll never forget that plant again! So simple yet so overlooked.  Seriously once you see what this plant looks like, you'll see it everywhere.  Words of advice however..... Please make sure while picking this plant and considering putting it in your mouth make sure it is far enough off any roadside and in an area that is not sprayed with yuck yuck.  Here on the farm, we just don't understand why you would poison your food or herbs and then eat them! Now that doesn't make any sense.  Happy herbal hunting everyone! Enjoy the Spring!

Once you recognize herbs commonly mistaken for 'weeds' you will see them everywhere!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

From the Winter Doldrums to Spring Fever

Ahhh spring is finally in the air! The birds are singing and........... the dog is barking.  Juniper and I saw a bunny rabbit the other day hop across the path while we were walking out to the field and I just knew these winter storms have to be coming to an end.

Bella, Juniper and Luke with the "Winter Blues"



Bella, Juniper and I during the only snow here in NC 2015


Well, our CSA signups have officially kicked off and our plants are vibrant and waiting to be transplanted.  Everything looks great and I guess I should introduce some of our produce this spring.  We have a variety of Salad Heads such as Romaine Lettuces, Bibb Lettuces, and some Red Leaf Lettuces. Also there are several heirloom varieties of Cabbages, Broccolis, Asian Greens, Rainbow Chard and Onions.  Yesterday we finished planting our tomato sprouts and pepper sprouts are also coming up!  Oh and I can't forget the Kale, three different varieties to be exact.




Boy it's been a long winter, I'm so excited to get some fresh greens in my body.  We have officially exhausted our canned tomatoes and peppers that I worked so diligently on last summer.  Not bad for March, however we do plan to double, maybe triple that this year! Our goal is to eventually say 'If we don't grow it, we don't eat it!'  Except for fruits and some staple items obviously.  Buying produce at the store is really difficult for us. We are not purests by any means but we do try to practice what we preach. We believe you are what you eat and eating good food that is good for you keeps you healthy, happy and strong all the days long! Just look at Juniper's belly! She is still a vegan baby except for mama's milk haha. 



I am officially the market manager this year woohoo!!!!! Matt has promoted me and also given me the new job of maintaining the greenhouse. " Ha! I say, with a 20 month old?" So we bought a sand turtle and with a little help from big sister and brother we can work this farm like a family ought to! We are super excited to start our first CSA this season and we plan to give our customers the best of what we've got! We will also be giving ourselves a box each week to ensure not only quality but quantity is of value to everyone that is involved. That means we will be eating exactly what you (our members) will be eating each week with the exception of our staple items and condiments which I will share in weekly recipes to share ideas with our produce.

15 Varieties of Tomatoes.... Yummy

We plant each tomato plant individually in these trays to grow strong and healthy


 I hope everyone that reads this is ready for spring, wherever you are in the world. I wish I would have got a picture of that bunny rabbit because it was picture perfect for Easter but Juniper and I will have to keep that picture in our heads for years to come:)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Community Supported Agriculture.... What a CSA Means on our Farm






Well we made it through the holidays and the new year has quickly shown us that there is no time to waste! Rebuilding the greenhouse and getting Certified Organic is officially under way. Working out the plans for our CSA this year is also our most valued agenda because we feel it will be the most important thing to bring our community together and start the shift towards a more healthy and happy life.
 
 

Matt is working on rebuilding the greenhouse which really shouldn't take too long (*fingers crossed*) while I am organizing as much as I can inside to get ready for filing, newsletters and any other 'admin work' that I can do. Don't get me wrong I am about to embark on a new life with toddler in tow.  I hope to have Juniper set up in the greenhouse to help me work while planting and germinating seedlings for our upcoming season.  We are preparing this year for a 30 member CSA and one or two markets.  We are both very excited for this year on the farm and all the things that are happening.

I decided to write another blog about Community Supported Agriculture for a couple of reasons.  My first blog was from the standpoint of the customer side of things that supported a local organic farm, which you can view here on my personal blog The Conscious Kitchen.  Although I have not written in a while on that page I still recommend taking a look to see one way a CSA works.  Now as the years have gone by (and I have gone and gotten myself my own farmer, hehe) Matt and I have been reading and learning about different models of CSAs all across the country.  In a traditional model, the farmer receives payment up front to be able to purchase seeds and supplies for the farming season and  for a certain amount of time (usually weeks) during that growing season the families come out to the farm and pick up their boxes. In each box contains seasonal fruit, vegetables  and / or herbs that had been picked that day.  It really doesn't get any fresher than that folks.
 
 


CSAs have since evolved to drop off points and Internet orders where the customer can place an order for whatever he/she wants the next day.  Matt and I on the other hand, believe that farms build community and with that idea comes the desire to have families come out to the farm and be a part of the farm, whether it is through volunteering or picking up fresh produce that was picked that day.  We certainly understand how busy people's lives are these days and that driving to the farm to pick up vegetables every week could feel taxing but we honestly believe becoming part of the farm and supporting your local farmer can change communities and bring people together. Not to mention you're eating some of the most nutritious and delicious food on the planet.  I can promise you one thing:  you will have a very hard time shopping for produce at the grocery store after eating food that is as fresh as this.

We have decided to start small since this is our first year for a CSA and limit membership to 30 families.  We also wanted to have the pick ups each week for 10 weeks. Some seasons in other parts of the country run all year long and if things go well we are looking forward to a possible fall CSA which would be another 10 weeks.
If by chance you go to sign up and membership is full, don't worry we will still be working downtown river market this year on Saturdays.  There will be more details about market as information comes in.  The total cost for our Spring 2015 CSA membership is $222 for 10 weeks.  That equals out to $22 a week and our deadline for sign up will be April 1, 2015.  If you have any other questions please feel free to email us at healingearthfarmer@gmail.com  We look forward to this awesome new year and are very excited to share our food with you!


Thank you,
The Hartingers