Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Official! SSF home to Vashon's tastiest toms

Is that a thing of beauty or what???

Well, I thought so - and pictures may be worth a 1000 words, but they still can't convey the unbelievable succulence that is the mighty Sungold.  These tomatoes, apparently taking to our hot site and crowded jungle-like conditions with a vengeance, amaze me every morning I go out to harvest.  Our plants are nearly 7 feet high and sprouting new tomato candy every time I turn around.  I decided they had to be at least among the best on the island - how could anything taste any better than this?

So, this morning, we carted 2 lbs of tomato gold up to the Great Vashon Tomato Taste Off - and won!

You're looking at the Best Cherry Tomato on the island.  YUM!

(and, yes, we still have some on the vine, so come on by!)

SSF Featured on 2009 Harvest Celebration Farm Tour

Just a heads-up for those in the area that our farm will be among 26 others in King County and 6 others on Vashon to be featured on the annual King County Harvest Celebration Tour.  This September 26th event spotlights local organic and sustainable farms and gives urbanites a chance to meet area farmers and check out the local foodshed.  And it's just this side of Disneyland for young kids.

More as the event draws near, but suffice to say, we're launching with a bang!  We have an accomplished international chef lined up to demonstrate delectable ways to incorporate SSF bounty into your meal plans, a couple of local cider pros pressing Vashon apples on our very own cider press, sheep shearing by Mark and Michael (a game urban soul if ever there was one), and soothing acoustic music in the grove to end the day.  (yes, Mark has a busy day - that's what comes from being multi-talented)

The county-wide event runs from 10AM - 4:30 and is free to the public.  What better way to enjoy the last crisp days of Autumn?  See you there!

For more information:  Visit King County's Harvest Tour website to get details on the tour.  Washington State Ferries has schedule information - please note that the Fall schedule will be in effect.  And, you can always email me at with questions about our part in the whole shebang or leads on good B & Bs, etc.  

Baby chicks - the good, the bad, the ugly

It's the end of August, so that means one thing for sure:  there are baby chicks scurrying around under a heat lamp 'round our place.  They arrived yesterday.  This year, we've taken the leap to 50.  50 chicks in our mud room in our 1500 SF house.  50 day-old chicks don't take up much space...but wait a week.  There's a world of size between 1 day old chicks and 7 day old chicks.  Needless to say, we get them out as soon as we can.

50 chicks arrive from Murray McMurray Hatchery in a 3' X 3' box.  It's weird, to be sure, but that's how it's done.  The post office calls about 6:15, a cacophony of your and others' fowl drowning out most of what they say, but the general instruction to come get your flippin' birds is well understood.

The good:  There really can't be anything cuter than a day old chick, except maybe a bunch of day old chicks.  And to watch them develop those first few days is nothing short of beholding a miracle.  You could swear pin feathers pop out each time you blink.  Over the course of just days, and even hours, little yellow fluffballs transform into dainty feathered birds of all colors and sizes.  They also make great teaching tools, the perfect vehicle for engaging young kids in the cycle of life.

The bad:  Anything one day old, much less one day old that's traveled by cargo plane from Iowa to Puget Sound, is pushing the envelope of survivability.  At its basic, this practice is fundamentally inhumane, and many Vashon farmers are turning to incubators and even ye olde fashioned laying hens for the next generations of babies.  We'll probably follow suit.  Creating an hospitable environment for 50 day-olds is tricky business.  Regardless of what the books or friends say, getting the heat lamp just right, making sure the chicks are free from drafts, ensuring that the water isn't gunky and that the cats don't investigate - all this takes effort, care, and focus.  A lot of life comes to a screeching halt while we get the new additions through their first few days.

The ugly:  The stakes are high.  Not everyone makes it.  The flip side of nothing cuter than a baby chick is that few things are more heartbreaking than burying a chick that doesn't survive the first day.  So far, 24 hours into it, we've lost 4.  The hatchery always throws in a few extra, so the economics work out, but the heartbreak is real and the deaths spotlight the unnaturalness of this system.

As cute and fuzzy as they are, I'm always relieved when the last of the yellow fluff falls away and shimmering little feathers cover our new girls; it means we've turned a corner and the frail babies of Day 1 have been replaced by Stop Sign Farm's next generation of fine young ladies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall is in the air

It was dark when I emerged from my 2nd viewing of Julie & Julia tonight (too good to wait to share it w/Mark - had to go back with him in tow.  Wait, is blogging about Julie & Julia just too ironic?).  9:30 seems a respectable time for darkness, but oh such a world away from just a month ago!

Dry leaves swirled up in my headlights and crunched under my tires as I cut through the darkness on my way home.

I harvested about 20 lbs of potatoes today and maybe 5 lbs of tomatoes.  Even our pumpkins are beginning to look like, well, pumpkins.  

It's been a great summer, but it's still only August!  Still, the chill in the night air is unmistakable - we have hot days ahead, no doubt, but fall is on its way...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why we live here, #487

Living in a small community can sometimes feel suffocating, like when you can't behave badly anywhere - cut someone off at the intersection, act rude at a party, dislike someone's child - without severe and immediate consequences.  

I grew up in a small town - and vowed never to live in one.  But, then, I discovered that not all small towns are created equal.  No place is Oz - even Oz isn't Oz, but I can't help but think that my island comes as close as is realistic to hope for.

This morning was an honest-to-goodness typical example:

Myra, caring and dedicated pharmacist and part-owner of what must be one of the homiest pharmacies left in America by day, is a fiber art aficionado of staggering talents.  She spins, she knits, she evangelizes all things yarn.  To say she has been encouraging of our family's humble bid to navigate our own sheep's fleece would be an understatement of enormous proportions.  

We stopped into the pharmacy (or, as we think of it on Vashon, The Pharmacy) mid-week to pick up meds and Dylan lingered to ask her if she could recommend some way for him to refresh his memory on the knitting he'd learned at lunch club last year.

The result?  This photo.  Taken this morning in our living room.  Our beloved pharmacist spending her Sunday donating her time and her New Zealand yarn and critiquing Dylan's cast ons.  

I am nothing short of blessed to live here.

Thanks, Myra.

Report from the Second Annual Vashon Winery Folk Festival

Mark and his singing partner Robyn Landis played a wonderful, harmony-filled set of mostly original tunes at last night's local folk festival.  What a great event!  An afternoon and evening of acoustic music, resting on blankets in an ancient apple orchard, a bottle of Ron's latest white resting on our picnic duffle.  

People bring their dogs (of course, this is Vashon!), kids play hide and seek through the trees, the littlest ones dancing in front of the stage, youth keeping fear completely at bay.  Friends chat lazily as one musical act clears the stage for the next and the musicians become audience.  Straight from the farmers market, Paul Yotomoshi brought his mouthwatering pot stickers, coconut curry rice and other delectables too fragrant to resist.

A perfect evening.

Congratulations, Mark and Robyn - another great gig!

You can check out a sampling of Mark's music here, Robyn's music here, and Ron's wines here.

Thanks to Wally for organizing the music!

Congratulations, Ron - can't wait til next year!

Thanks to Dylan for the great photos!

Fried Green Tomato Quiche

I had an old friend request my favorite Fall quiche recipe on Facebook, but as a total newbie, I managed to write the whole thing and immediately lose it into the internets, so let's give this another try closer to my comfort zone.

This delectable, once-a-year treat comes courtesy of the lovely Molly Katzen and my pal Jennifer who gave me Molly's Sunlight Cafe Cookbook some years back.  It's so good, I purposefully pick many of my toms early!

The perfect Sunday breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Fried Green Tomato Quiche

Preheat oven to 375.

Use 2-3 slicing tomatoes for this.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices and don't use the ends.  Spread out over a cutting board or other work surface.  Brush both sides with olive oil.

Pour about 1/3 - 1/2 C polenta and about 1/4 tsp salt onto a dinner plate. 

Place a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat and pour in a generous 2 TBS olive oil.

When the oil is hot, dredge the tomatoes in the polenta, pressing down to ensure coverage.  Gently place the slices in the oil and cook, flipping once, until the polenta begins to brown.  Remove to a wire rack to keep the tomatoes crisp.

Now, using a roll-out pastry crust or your favorite homemade recipe, line a pie pan with unbaked crust.

Sprinkle 1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese over the crust.

Cut the fried green tomatoes in half and layer over the cheese, overlapping them.

Whisk together 3 farm fresh eggs and 1 C whole or 2% milk (don't use anything leaner) with a healthy pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dash or cayenne or tabasco sauce.

Pour the milk mixture gently over the tomatoes and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Allow the quiche to rest for 10 minutes then serve.  YUM!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's fresh now at SSF

August is high harvest time in the Pacific Northwest and we at SSF are no exception. If you're in the area and are partial to the following produce and products, stop on by the stand and indulge in fresh food from the farm!

If you live elsewhere in the upper left corner of the USA, consider this post an appetite-whetting reminder of what could very well lurk around the corner at your local farm or farmers market.

Fresh and available right now at SSF:

Fingerling potatoes - the creamiest, yummiest potatoes on earth. No kidding. The less you do to them, the better they taste.

Assorted sweet tomatoes - from the garden candy Sungolds to sauce toms, we package them in delicious 1 lb units for snacking, slicing, and canning.

Dark, green vibrant Italian parsley - not your grocer's variety! Excellent for chopping fresh now and the best variety for over-winter drying.

Zucchini - of course! And, a boutique but definitely NOT petite variety of squash known as the Blue Hubbard. Huge and ugly, these beauties weigh in at 12-15 lbs or more and are best opened by dropping them! Brilliant orange flesh bakes up beautifully into pies and soups. Butternuts are coming soon...

And, from our hands to yours - fresh baked artisan breads every M-W-F, Mark's famous hummus - a favorite of our neighbors and our most requested item - assorted color truly free range eggs, and extra-virgin Italian olive oil infused with knock-your-socks-off chile or heavenly herbes des provence and then aged. Nirvana with, well, fresh artisan bread. ;-)

Enjoy the season's luscious offerings - here or in your own backyard.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Green company of the year

About a year ago, someone unknown with a bottomless sense of humor subscribed me to Forbes Magazine.  The reasons that this is incredibly ironic are many and go way back.  But, I must say, that each month the cover, on its direct route to the recycle bin, provides my family with much mirth.

We also enjoy the periodic Special Advertising Sections on how to choose which personal aircraft best suits your needs.  Because, really, who doesn't need help determining which Gulfstream is the right for them?

But, today is too good not to share.  

Really?  Wow.

Steve, I'm thinkin' it might be time to hang it up and just enjoy the dividend checks.

Not the solar and wind pioneers?  Not the urban gardeners?  No bone to the many, many companies developing ways to use our existing infrastructure to deliver renewable energy in a cost-effective way?  Exxonmobile as Green Company of the Year...


This is the same Exxonmobile that spent nearly 20 years fighting the Valdez lawsuit until it finally settled for about 1/10th the amount the Feds originally directed it to pay...right?  That Exxon?  Just checking.


The irony just never ends.

This even tops the cover, a few months back, of why women managers are on the rise - complete with all-pink type and the cover "exec" holding instruments normally reserved for housecleaning.

What ceiling?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More joy in the garden and on the table

I have to take a minute to blather on once again about the simple but surreal satisfaction that comes from walking a few steps out the door and selecting items for dinner.  It is so basic and yet so powerful, this growing of food to eat and share.

After an afternoon of leveling her majesty - I'm leaning towards "Rita", reminiscent of an elegant and big-boned beauty from the 40s and 50s like our big and bold lady here - I ventured into the caged jungle (AKA the garden).  In a few minutes, I had a basket full of 3 varieties of tomatoes (if you're looking for garden candy, you cannot get better than the tiny sungolds - bright orange bursts of pure ecstasy you absolutely have to pop into your mouth while clomping around in your work boots) and 2 crisp cucumbers.  

On my way back into the house, I twisted off 3 branches of oregano from my happy potted plant.  A few chops with the knife, some crumbles of the feta lovingly wrapped for me at Big John's PFI, a dash of the very best olive oil on the planet, purveyed by a neighbor with ties to a little farm in Italy, matched by a dash of red wine vinegar, and we've got salad to take to some friends' house.  

Fun to hook it up with bread I made earlier today and hummus Mark concocted yesterday.  A bottle of the Syrah we pressed 3 years ago, and it's starting to feel like we might actually be closing in on this feeding ourselves and our friends gig.  No trips to the supermarket required.

High summer salad - grow most of it yourself or purchase the ingredients from your local farmer

1 lb perfectly ripe tomatoes of varying sizes and types, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-4 cucumbers, depending upon size (about 1 lb)
1-2 TBS fresh oregano, chopped
1-2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 C crumbled feta cheese

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a glass bowl and mix gently so as not to bruise the tomatoes. Sprinkle the oregano over the mixture, then pour on the olive oil and then vinegar.  Crumble the feta on top and mix everything gently once more.  Serve immediately or chill for up to 30 minutes.

Enjoy with something crisp, like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a light red, such as a Pinot Noir or Syrah. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome her Majesty!

Well, it was touch and go, but we had the amazing Herb hauling Her Majesty up from Oregon.  

She's going to need a lot of work - and a name, c'mon people, you're letting me down! - but wow will this be fun.

Isn't she grand????

How fun will this be???  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spartanific adventure begins

Behold the newest member of the SSF family, just 48 hours, hopefully, from landing on our little island.  A 1953 Spartan Spartanette Imperial.

Spartan travel trailers were manufactured by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty's Spartan Aircraft Company after World War II.  Having succeeded in developing a line of luxury personal aircraft for oil company executives, Getty turned his attention to the road, figuring the need for post-war housing would create a ready and lucrative market for fully-equipped trailer homes. 

Spartan produced several lines, constructed of aircraft quality materials and design, and topping out around $6000 and, eventually, 50 feet!  Because they were so expensive, they were manufactured for just over a decade and only a handful exist today.

Our gutted Spartanette Imperial measures 39 feet, 10 inches from nose to tail, and possesses virtually no pesky and annoying insides.  She is a blank slate, ready for her next reincarnation as guest room, music studio, intern quarters....?  You can be sure SSF will keep you updated with photos as the project evolves.

For fascinating history and other info on these beauties, check out this Spartan enthusiast's website.

Now to name her.  Ideas?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is the good life killing me?

Nothing messes with your plans quite so much as a quick rush to the hospital.  

Back home after a scare with chest pains and the attention of a veritable army of angels in white, blue, and torquoise lab coats, I have survived my one and only (save for the birth of my son) experience ever in a hospital.  It's very, very, good to be home.  The good staff at Virginia Mason hospital were nothing short of spectacular, but I hope they won't take it personally when I say I could go a long, long time before ever stepping foot in there as a patient again.

Perhaps the heat combined with my asthma and my ER-discovered hyper-tension to create severe pains in my chest along with shortness of breath and some other red flags.  We were scheduled to go camping in Mt. Rainier National Park with our dear sheep-shearing friends and as I drove along doing errands on Thursday, rubbing my chest, I had to finally admit that journeying deep into the wilderness while experiencing the classic signs of heart attack was probably too reckless even for the health-stoic likes of me.  I tend toward the "ignore it and it will probably go away" strategy of pain and illness management, but even I am not quite that irresponsible. I called the nurse and he all but dialed 911 for me.

So began a near-24 hour adventure, including the rather unexpected twist of being actually admitted into the hospital for an overnight stay.  Nothing like being hooked up to a heart monitor and sharing a nighttime check-up schedule with a roomie involving something or other every hour or so to really induce a good night's sleep.  

Luckily, I had something to look forward to:  an 8:30AM treadmill stress test!  Rip those wires off, change hospital gowns and run like hell!  Yahoo.  In all fairness, again, the heart institute folks were amazing - professional, funny, sensitive, and caring.  What more could you ask for?  They put my mind at ease and sent me back to my room to await discharge orders.

The good news - the ticker is just fine.  In fact my fitness scored on the high side.  A new routine to bring the blood pressure down and I should be A-OK.  Trying to keep it a little on the low key side for the next few days, however.