Farmer Hannah Gets Crackin’ on Black Walnuts

The Holistic Orchard, now available at Lehman's in Kidron or, shows you how to plant an edible landscape, with a philosophy similar to Mark Shephard's.

The Holistic Orchard, now available at Lehman’s in Kidron or, shows you how to plant an edible landscape, with a philosophy similar to Mark Shephard’s.

Last spring, I read Mark Shepard’s book, in which he outlines a revolutionary way of farming that endeavors to be permanent and to build up rather than deplete the land.  The basis of this restoration agriculture is to use perennials, planted in polyculture, as the main plant life on the land—so that rather than tilling the soil every year, or multiple times a year, the farmer can let residue and organic matter and microbiotic life build up in the soil.  To see Mark Shepard’s vision through, we’d have to radically transform our diet, from one based on corn and soy to one based on chestnuts, hazelnuts, other nuts, fruit, and products from grazing animals.

I’m a vegetable farmer, and I rent land year-to-year, which means that I can’t really sensibly invest in tree plantings.  However, when I moved into the house where I currently live, I was excited and happy to see large amounts of black walnut trees. Continue reading

“I LOVE My Steam Juicer!”

Great Grapes Storey Books pamphlet

Learn how to grow your own tasty grapes! In stock now at or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

As the days speed into winter and fall’s mildness is becoming a memory here in the Upper Midwest, many of us are frantically trying to get everything “put by” for winter. I’ve become quite close to my steam juicer.

We here at Ash Lane Farm have a lovely vine of concord grapes and two heritage apple trees that I try to get into juice every year.

I am allergic to bees so I have to depend on the kindness of my husband, Norm, to take time from his busy life to pick the grapes and the apples.  But once they come inside, they are mine to do as I wish.

We like apple butter, apple sauce and grape jelly, and unsweetened gape and apple juices.  Plus, I make a wonderful apple brandy to give as gifts each year as well as have some for us. We also got elderberries from my sister to make into syrups for colds and coughs. Continue reading

Apples Everywhere: Cider, Slices, Sauce & Juice

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at now.

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at now.

We live in one of the most apple-rich areas of the country. The back roads are lined with abandoned apple trees and the state forests often have old orchards where apples are free for the picking. Bruce and I put in a small orchard 8 years ago and our own trees have begun to bear fruit too, so it seemed only sensible to add an apple press to our wish list of tools and equipment. But alas, the price seemed beyond us for a sturdy one that included an apple crusher as well as a heavy duty press.

Eventually, we teamed up with three other families and bought a press to share. It has turned out to be a wonderful experience for all concerned. Because we have the sheltering summer kitchen with electricity and running water, the cider press is there year-round, ready to go. Continue reading

Book Review: Apples, Apples Everywhere

In stock now--order for apple harvest season now!

In stock at or Lehman’s in Kidron now–order for apple harvest season now!

It’s the best apple harvest in years, so we hear. And that’s welcome news after last year’s spring freeze, which really hurt Ohio apple growers.

So, since apples are coming in by the bushel, what should you do? You should take advice from the experts–and that includes Hillcrest Orchard in Walnut Creek, Bauman Orchards in Rittman. These two local orchards and orchards across the country contributed their best recipes for apple dishes to Lee Jackson’s Apples, Apples Everywhere: Favorite Recipes from America’s Orchards. Continue reading

Fall Foraging Yields Tasty, Juicy Results

Our Harvest Apron makes it easy to pick fall fruit! In stock now at or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Our Harvest Apron makes it easy to pick fall fruit! In stock now at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Fall in New England has a multitude of treasures available nowhere else. The air is clear and the sky a cerulean blue. The first hints of orange, red and yellow show on the maple leaves and a faint smell of apple and wood smoke remind of the season to come. It’s the season of foraging. The woods are full of mushrooms. Hunting for Chanterelles, Chicken of the Woods, fall Oysters and Black Trumpets is more fun than panning for gold and you’re far more likely to be successful. The nuts are dropping but beating the squirrels to them is no easy feat.

My favorite foraging trips involve grapes. Fox grapes are easy to spot. The deep purple globes stand out amidst the large green leaves. They tend to grow in accessible spots too. Along stone walls is a likely location. The stored up heat helps the grapes ripen, I suppose. Continue reading

Figs Are Rich and Tasty Fall Fruit Experience

Tucked among the rich green leaves are tasty figs!

Tucked among the rich green leaves are tasty figs!

On a dewy morning in early spring some while back, we purchased a small fig tree in a gallon pot at our farmer’s market.

That tree is now soaring over seven feet tall and rewards us with an abundance of sweet chewy figs. The more we pick them the more the tree produces.

Figs continue ripening from early fall to a hard frost. Here in North Carolina that can be the beginning of October.  Our tree has gone through early light frost with only the outer figs being damaged, the fruit in the center toward the trunk were fine.

Continue reading

My Kitchen Is Alive!

My countertop fermenation farm:

My countertop fermenation farm: sour pickles, red cabbage kraut, kefir, the pizza dough and apple cider.

There’s something to be said for a quick and easy meal, that can make a hurried, hungry person happy in a matter of minutes.  A fried egg, for example, or a peanut butter sandwich, or a handful of cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine. 

But there’s something very different and just as beautiful to be said for foods that take a long time to create. Fermentation is a hobby of mine, I have to say—I get more excited about creating vast quantities of sauerkraut than consuming it, as delicious as it may be.

When, the other night, I looked at my counter and saw a total of 5 different cultured foods fermenting away (fyi: sour pickles, red cabbage kraut, kefir, sourdough pizza dough, and apple cider), I decided I had to write about it. Continue reading

Pumpkin Surprise At Barefoot Farm

We'll wait and see how well this little guy does!

We’ll wait and see how well this little guy does!

It’s been a tough year at Barefoot Farm for all things in the squash family. But things are starting to look up. Who knew gardening could be this much fun?

Apparently, when I added some compost in the herb garden this summer, I included a pumpkin seed. I discovered this one tiny pumpkin, hiding in the herbs. It’s small and, as I have no way of knowing what the variety is or whether it’s the result of random fertilization, I don’t know what to expect as far as edibility goes. It looks good and I’m assuming the best so now I need to decide what to do with it. Continue reading

Pumpkins Are A Frugal Food

The best pumpkin bread recipe is on page 55. Cookbook available now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio, or

The best pumpkin bread recipe is on page 55. Cookbook available now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or

Pumpkins say “autumn” louder than just about anything you can think of, with the possible exception of corn shocks (how many of you shock corn any more?). Something about a pumpkin excites the imagination of just about everyone. You’re surely into growing the biggest pumpkin, or you have plans for pumpkin bread, or you love to decorate your yard and home with them.

Almost everyone who doesn’t grow their own has to buy at least one – and often, several. They’re cheap enough to indulge in and many think they’re cheap enough to waste by throwing them out or letting them rot when the fun is over. Please don’t do that… you can buy just one or two and you’re stocked up with the makings of many good foods, with recipes ranging from snacks to soups, from bread to custard and more. Continue reading

Save Seeds, Plan Ahead: How B. Girard Does Garden 2014

Tasty fall harvest!

Tasty fall harvest!

Our seed order has been placed and major braggathon on the frugal me. This is the end of the fourth year of gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big already for year five!

And by go big I don’t mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don’t, and don’t intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate. Continue reading