Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Steph Larsen's Posts

Comments

Jam-packed

Conserving while preserving: Energy and food storage

In a pickle: Canning all these jars used a lot of energy, but storing them doesn’t.Photos: Steph LarsenThis year's harvest has been a good one, and I've been doing my best to preserve as much of it as I can to enjoy over the winter. To do this, I rely heavily on my new 22-quart pressure canner, our small freezer, and a food dehydrator. In anticipation of the whole lamb that will soon join the frozen green beans, peppers and cherries, we've ordered another, bigger freezer that we'll rotate in and out of use. All of these food preservation methods …

Read more: Food

Comments

Can't keep'em down on the farm

Life, uncontained: Fighting with weeds, squash — and GMOs

Security gourds: These squash have somehow ended up hanging out with the tomatoes, 15 feet from where I planted them. Photo: Steph Larsen Living things have a habit of not doing what you expect them to. It's the nature of life, to adapt as best you can to the circumstances presented. But sometimes plants and animals can go places you aren't intending, and the consequences can be minor ... or catastrophic. Take my garden, for example. This spring, I armed myself with a new notebook full of empty graph paper and the best intentions to record everything from weather conditions …

Read more: Food

Comments

Pets or meat

One sick chicken

My Buff Orpington in happier, healthier days.Photos: Steph Larsen With a few exceptions, the animals on my farm are not pets. My sheep and chickens have jobs to do -- eating grass and bugs, making eggs and meat and babies. If they don't do their job, they don't stay on my farm. That isn't to say that I don't treat them well or care what happens to them. In stark contrast to the images we see of factory farms like Jack DeCoster's, where dead animals rot on the floor (not to mention are routinely deprived of body parts including beak …

Read more: Food

Comments

Yolks on me

Searching for eggs in all the right places

Eggsasperating: I have several breeds of chicken, and they all like to lay outside the coop.Photos: Steph Larsen One can hardly use the word "egg" these days without thinking "recall." Much has been said about the hidden costs of a food system that gets such a huge number of eggs from a few farms run by "habitual offender" Jack DeCoster. I have an entirely different egg problem though. I can't find them all. It's like Easter in September on my farm. When I was younger, I always wondered about the origins of an Easter egg hunt. What was the point …

Read more: Food

Comments

Suck you

Help! I have vampires on the farm

Battle dress: The netting is hot and a little scratchy, and I could hear the mosquitoes swarming around my head. But they couldn't get in!There's a clan of blood-sucking vampires that calls my farm home. Unlike most, this clan is entirely female, and they like to hunt in the evening after the sun goes down. There aren't any coffins for them to sleep in, though they enjoy hanging out in the shade of leafy vegetables in the garden. I'm talking, of course, about mosquitoes. This summer's substantial rain has led to an exploding population of them, and it's made an …

Read more: Food

Comments

Grape nuts

Midwestern wine makers have it tough — but neighbors can make it tougher

Harvesting grapes at Big Cottonwood winery in Nebraska. (Steph Larsen photos) When you think of wine, you probably picture French or Italian bottles, or perhaps rolling California hills covered with Pinot Noir grapes. I think of Iowa. Believe it or not, Iowa and eastern Nebraska have a long tradition of growing grapes and making wine. Iowa's wine-making history dates back to the late 19th century. In 1900, the state produced over 3,500 tons of grapes, some of which went into making 76,000 gallons of wine. At its peak in 1929, Iowa produced 7,500 tons of grapes. Three events in rapid …

Read more: Food

Comments

Fairgone conclusions

The county fair: Less country every year, even in Nebraska

You spin me right round: The attractions of Cleveland County Fair in Shelby, N.C.Photo courtesy ForeverSouls via Flickr Around the end of July, I start getting hungry for funnel cake and sno-cones. When the tomatoes turn red and the corn is so tall I can't even reach the top by jumping, I get a hankering for the tilt-a-whirl. It must be county fair season in the Midwest! What do you think of when you think of fairs? For me, a song comes to mind that my grandfather used to sing to me, about a girl who was waiting for her …

Read more: Food

Comments

Storming in

The time it always rained

Photo: 50%ChanceofRain via Flickr The rain gauge in our garden.Photo: Steph LarsenBefore there were meteorologists, radar, or the National Weather Service, farmers were the predictors of weather. It makes sense too, because the success or failure of their livelihoods depends heavily on if and when it rains. Records of rainfall in Lyons, Neb., where I live, date back to 1895. The average monthly rainfall for August is 3.36 inches. So far this month, we've had 6.1 inches at my farm, and there are thunderstorms predicted for every day of the next week. My neighbor told me he's measured 31 inches …

Read more: Food

Comments

Hub grub

Online food co-ops like Nebraska's create innovative virtual farmers markets

Some of these lambs are all grown up and ready to become chops. Photo: Steph LarsenRight now, I'm facing a problem shared by scores of farmers -- beginning and experienced -- across the country. I have four lambs that have been raised entirely on grass, and I know there are customers eager to buy them. I just don't know who they are. The irony of selling directly to consumers is that while farmers gain the largest share of the food dollar this way, it also forces them to be marketers -- something they may not have the skills, let alone …

Comments

Yootzful glow

Whistle while you work

  How does my garden grow? Quite well, but with lots of weeds to pull!(Steph Larsen) Living in a place where I can grow things makes me want to burst out in song. And I'm not alone -- there's a long and storied tradition in many cultures of making music while we work. Long before I wanted to grow things, I played music. By the time I was six, my mother traded my piano banging for actual piano lessons, and for the next 13 years playing music and singing was a central focus of my life. My head is so …

Read more: Food