Monday, November 18, 2013

Coming Soon: Canning Demo at EcoHouse (Salsa Sneak Preview....)

Howdy Howdy!

So following up on our inspiration from Black Eyed Susan's, a few of us have been thinking of experimenting with more canning and preservation! Ultimately we will be running a demonstration or perhaps a small-group workshop in the kitchen at Sprague. Andrew Brown was kind enough to lend his hot-water canner for this first round of experiments  - - making our own salsa! I had never even made my own salsa before, and had never canned anything, so this was a leap into the unknown (ok maybe not that dramatic....)

But! There certainly quite a lot of little details to remember while the canning process is unfolding....and I was lucky to have some more experienced canning friends come over to the farm on Friday night to lend a hand (all of them members of UConn's Soil and Water Conservation Society - be sure to check them out!)

Anyway, the final product was DELICIOUS and we ended up with 3 quart jars! They all succesfully "popped" following their hot water bath, which means that they will all successfully keep in the pantry until they are opened! It is hard to imagine this first experiment going any better. I look forward to a little more practice and research.... and then bringing what I've learned to EcoHouse!

Yay. Happy Salsa :)


Saturday, November 16, 2013


Hey Guys - come join the EcoHouse showing of "Forks Over Knives" this Thursday (the 21st) at 7 in the EcoHouse Lounge.

Forks Over Knives is a documentary looking at the effects of diet on our health. The two featured dietitians promote a plant-based diet as a means of controlling cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Come learn about the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet in honor of No-Meat November!

Check out the trailer:

Despite the apparent success of the dietary approach, some critics say eating this way is extreme.
Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.: Now, with the western diet, this guarantees there's going to be what, a half a million people in this country this year who will have to have the front half of their body divided, their heart exposed, then veins will be taken from their leg and sewn on their heart. Some people would call that extreme.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Meat the Problem

Hey all,

Shout out to all of you EcoHousers who came out to our veggie event. The vegetarian bacon seemed to be a huge hit!

Here's the video narrated by Paul McCartney (this time with some sound to it!)
Enjoy my favorite Beatle!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jamming with Black Eyed Susan

     This Sunday a few of the farmers were treated to a FREE jam-making workshop by Susan Wilkerson of Columbia. Seven of us made the short drive to Susan's beautiful country home, where she and her husband maintain a large vegetable garden, chickens, and Susan's home-making/crafts studio known as Black Eyed Susan's (I know - so cute). Susan is a champion of all things home-made and her delightfully decorated house is filled with knitting projects, baked goods, and crafts that she has made - including lots of jams and jellies! With berries from Susan's own garden, we chatted with our hostess as she demonstrated the proper process of canning using a boiling pot of water. I personally found the workshop very inspirational - it showed me how easy it is to make jam! You don't even necessarily need to purchase a canner (although that would be ideal) - a large pot will do as long as it is heavy-bottomed and has a wire rack set inside so that the glass jars do not contact the pot. The water-boiling method can be used to can anything that has high enough acid (such as tomatoes and fruits) or anything that is made with vinegar (such as pickled vegetables). I believe that preserving food is just as important as learning to grow it, and I hope that in the near future the farm will be able to purchase its own canning equipment, including a pressure-canner which would allow us to preserve meats, seafood, and vegetables (without vinegar). This would help to make our education as farmers more well-founded and complete, and would allow us to host workshops for the UConn community as well! Susan was very keen on the idea.
     I have already contacted Susan about the possibility of a knitting workshop on another Sunday in November, or possibly December! You should see the beautiful things she has made. Susan's Aunt taught her how to knit when she was 10, she has been doing it for 60 years and still loves it! More to come on this, although definitely let me know if you are interested in attending!

Jam On!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

No-Meat November

To start the month, EcoHouse is kicking off No-Meat November, a month long vegetarian challenge that hopes to raise awareness for sustainable lifestyles while also highlighting the humanitarianism, environmental, and heath benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet.

Here’s 6 reasons to go vegetarian and take back our planet!

1. Lower your carbon footprint. CO2 produced from livestock, slaughterhouses, packaging and transportation is one of the biggest contributors to our carbon emissions. One year of eating meat has the same CO2 emissions as driving a car for an entire year!

2. Reduce methane and nitrous oxide production. Cows and sheep produce 37% of methane. Methane and nitrous oxide are two of the largest contributes for global warming. Keep our planet cool by going meat free!

3. Water conservation. Water estimations to produce one kilo of wheat is between 1,000 to 2,000 liters whereas one kilo of beef is between 13,000 to 100,000 liters!

4. Reduce water pollution. Hormones, antibiotics and animal waste used in factory farms find their ways into our rivers, streams, and oceans. Farmed animals have 130 times more waste than the entire human population!

5. Topsoil/tropical rainforest and endangered species conservation. Much of our land – 30%! – is used for farming animals. Farming can cause soil erosion, desertification and deforestation. This deforestation ruins land for native animals, and results in long term harm of the natural wildlife.

6. Reduce chemical usage. Growth hormones, antibiotics and other harmful chemicals are used in large qualities for meat production. These harmful chemicals have long-term negative effect on the health of our environment.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A day at the farm

At four weeks into the school semester I think it’s safe to say I’m beginning to adjust to life at Spring Valley Farm. Really, living here is no different from living any other place on or off campus. 

As in most places, mornings start with the autumn sun rising lazily over the horizon. 

On a good day I check the chicken coop for eggs and pick fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden. 

I lay a skillet on the stove and fry myself up an omelet accompanied with freshly baked bread, and a hot cup of tea. 

And if there are no early morning classes to worry about I sit out on the hill, next to our house, and sip at my tea while the gentle buzzing of bees in our apiary warms my ears. 

Like I said, no different from any other place off or on campus. 

And every Friday, on our volunteer days, students from campus get to experience a day at the farm for themselves. During these volunteer days, students assist in all manners of task from harvesting green peas to uprooting potatoes.

For new visitors to the farm we usually offer a tour. We take students, volunteers and visitors around our acre of land and give them a look at what we have growing that season. We also take them around a smaller plot of land by the farm's upper house and our newly emerging edible forest garden. 

After showing our guest around we usually allow them to try a hand at some farm work if interested.

 Last week students got to take part in pulling out the smaller plot I mentioned (next to the upper house), harvesting it for spaghetti gourds, green peas, and corn, and then preparing it to be replanted with cover crop.

Whatever task we take on for that day we always make a fun time of doing it. So if you haven't been down to the farm and want to see what's up, volunteer days take place on Friday from 4-6 and transportation leaves from Sprague parking lot to bring you there.

Swing by! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Borage anyone?

Something very exciting happened the other day- the borage came out! (and I am it's number 1 fan)

Borago officinalis or "Starflower" is an herb that can be use in a few different ways. Traditionally cultivated for medicinal or culinary uses, it now is used for make oilseed as well. Here at SVF we plan on harvesting it for Chuck and Augies (...and ourselves) as a beautiful, edible, flavorful (cucumber like taste) garnish. Indulging in the flowers was so new to me! It's like flower-candy.

Getting my first taste on camera:

An older flower:

Younger flowers appear pinker, like this one. 

Always something new at the farm to make you appreciate the small things... 

Try planting it at home for a guaranteed, "oooooh ahhhhh!"

Farm Makeover: Hoophouse Edition

So... check this out. We trellised our tomatoes a couple weeks back. Pretty innovative, cool technique if you ask me. What we did was take some heavy duty string, tied it from post to post of the ceiling in the hoop house, and then took twine from that, and hung it down from the ceiling and posted it down into the ground. The tomatoes now have a friend to hug as they grow nice and tall!

Some pictures will totally help you visualize it way better than my vague description:

Here is a technical pic or two to give you an idea of how we constructed it. 

Check out them knots! That's some fine craftsmanship.

At the ground, just secured the twine into the ground

Tie those knots, girl!
This is me showing off my handiwork, and below is Tyler shying away from my lens. We made a pretty good tomato-trellis squad.

We (or me atleast) was super pumped up about the new looks of the hoop haus... 
(don't laugh!)

The only thing that wasn't too happy about the whole occurrence was this guy... 
We miiiiight of stepped on him once or twice.

But, I'll have you know this tomato has grown into a big fluffy thriving tomato, so fear not. 

Still so much to catch you up on in regards to the farm, so keep visiting our site! Summer is a busy time in the world of ag. Gotta keep you up to date! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Harvest Days

I figured that including some background and pictures would be nice to include to show everyone what a morning harvesting looks like. So, this summer season Tyler, Sienna, and I (Molly) pick our veggies every Sunday and Wednesday, for our deliveries on the following day. Mondays we visit the folks at Chuck and Augie's Restaurant (You should check it out...some pretty delicious food located right in the middle of UConn's campus!) and on Thursdays we are part of the "Farm Fresh Market" hosted by dining services each and every week from 11:30-2:00 pm on Fairfield Way. We typically start picking at 6am, and it is always an exciting time to see our labors turn into the final bagged product, washed and ready to go. Check it out...

Here's Kale the Caterpillar, our new pet

Our scale and harvest log that we use to do our thang

Sienna just washing and spinning some leafy greens in our monster spinner

  Just a sidenote on our to-do list white board... :)

Some gorgeous kale flowers we picked the other morning. Tastes juuuust like broccoli and looks so very pretty!

Kale inside the sink, ready to be washed. 

Hey there little guy! Final home for Kale the caterpillar... maybe we'll keep him around for just a bit

More pictures of bigger and more plentiful harvests later in the season soon to come. For now, enjoy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just Another Rainy Day

Here at the farm things have been pretty grey and dreary the past week. We have been doing rainy weather activities, which are not nearly as fun as being outside in the sunshine. After working in the hoop house, we found this peaking out from beyond the hill that encases us here in Spring Valley. Instead of a pot of gold at the end, there were our 11 bee hives! Enjoy this pic, and hopefully it sends over a smile from us here at SVF! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Planting Begins

It's that time... planting! So, we have been putting all sorts of deliciousness down in our plots the past few weeks. Recently just finished harvesting our lettuce, and recently planted some tomatoes and cucumbers. We put in a few different varieties of beans, squashes, beets, corn, onions, and lots of flowers to add a bit of color to the already beautiful landscape we live in. Just about to do some more planting right about now! In a few weeks we'll have much more to harvest and until then we will just have to wait patiently until all of our little seedlings decide to pop up.

For now, check out a few pics showing the things the three new farmers (Tyler, Sienna, and Molly) here have been up to...

Harvesting Rainbow pretty!

Julia showing us the proper way to pick our spinach.

Beautiful, bountiful rows of spinach 

Adding some life to our labels with bright colors and funky designs 

Um, so how do we get this rock out of the hoop house guys?

This rock ain't got nothin on us. 

Sienna got a little bit of dirt on her from that feat...

Monday, June 3, 2013

SVF Makes a Trip to Beltane

Last Tuesday some of us farmers went down to Lebanon CT to visit Beltane Farm, to check out what they do and see exactly where and how the farmstead cheese they make comes to be! We saw a variety of Oberhasli, La Mancha, and Saanen goats and was given a tour of their land by the owner and a few interns. 
We got to pet them, hold them, watch them play, watch them chew our hands/shirts/hair, and also got to try their milk, yogurt, and a variety of cheeses. It was a wonderful way to spend the morning, and really informative. Now our fridge is filled with delicious goat milk products, and hopefully another visit will be in order soon! 
For more information, check out their website:

Even Tyler has a soft spot for the little babies.

Siena put a sleepy spell on this one.


Julia has a little furry friend!

Just a few goats doin' their goat thang.

VIP access!

       Just a curious lil goat checking out what kind of camera I have by giving my lens a nice big lick!

                                                     Molly, Queen of the Goats.