Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Harvest Time

It's the time of year when fruits and veggies mature as fast (or faster) than we can bring them in and process them. It's a good problem to have, because it means the urban farm is increasingly productive and we'll have plenty of organic food to eat all winter. 

Pole beans are growing like crazy. We pick a bucket of beans every day, blanch and flash freeze.

The tomatoes continue to arrive at an impressive rate. This is a fruit with plenty of options. I've roasted, pureed and frozen some of it, and canned simple tomato sauce. Soon I'll make pizza sauce, barbecue sauce and salsa, canning it for stable shelf storage because my freezer is getting quite full.

Our little peach tree has hit its stride. We've harvested more than sixty pounds of fruit from one tree, virtually without blemish. I've frozen peach slices for future pies; canned peaches in spiced honey syrup; canned more peaches in rum sauce; and canned even more peaches in a simple honey syrup. When I'm too exhausted to care, I just cut them into a freezer container, sprinkle it with a teaspoon of sugar, and put it in the freezer. We're approaching the end of the peach crop. Whew!

So if I seem like I haven't written, called or blogged lately, now you know why!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Enormous Tomatoes

The Amish Paste tomatoes are outdoing themselves this year. In the photo above, the tennis ball is shown for size comparison. These tomatoes are the size of softballs and weigh between 8 and 14 ounces. If I knew the secret to growing huge tomatoes I would share it, but I have no idea what's gotten into these plants.

We have only ten tomato plants---six Amish Paste, two Sungold Hybrid cherry tomatoes, and two Jaune Flamme (a medium-sized heirloom). We find that ten plants gives us the pleasure to eat warm fruit from the vine and still have plenty to preserve for winter use. I haven't purchased commercial tomato products in the last year or two.

This year all the tomato plants are producing very well, but the Amish paste plants are falling over from the weight of the fruit in spite of rigorous staking. I pick the fruit slightly green and give them a day or two on the drying table to fully ripen in the sunshine. Meanwhile, I'd better get ready to roast, can and freeze. This enthusiastic harvest is a good problem!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Drying & Storing Onions


We harvested our Copra onions a week or so ago. This type of onion was hybridized to store well over the course of the winter, often for several months. Conventional gardening wisdom recommends leaving the onions on the surface of the soil to dry, but at Red Bucket Farm it never fails to rain immediately after harvesting. We didn't think that it was smart to cure the onions on a damp garden bed, so we built a drying table. It's a simple wood frame built of 2x4 lumber with 1/4 inch hardware cloth as the floor of the table. This is useful for drying onions, potatoes, squash and hops. When the weather threatens to rain, we hoop the table with old fencing and cover it with a tarp. 

After a week of drying in the sun (and sometimes hiding from rain), we cut off the dried green tops of the onions and store them in boxes in our pantry refrigerator. Growing conditions must have been favorable this year, because we yielded a full fifty pounds of onions. Sometimes gardening can be very frustrating, but I'll admit to feeling pretty satisfied with this harvest. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hops Harvest

Harvesting hops is my favorite garden "chore." We sit on the patio drinking iced coffee and listening to good music while picking hops off the bine. It's relaxing and smells fabulous!

We grow three kinds of hops here at Red Bucket Farm---Cascade, Willamette and Nugget. Hops bines (not vines) twist around a taut twine on our 12' tall hops towers. This morning our resident brewer climbed the orchard ladder and cut down the twines and bines.

We harvested 12 ounces of Cascade hops and 2 ounces of Willamette. (The Nugget hops aren't quite ready for harvesting.) Although it doesn't seem like very much, the Cascade hops filled one bucket to the brim. It's more than enough for a batch of pale ale, which is in the works as I write this. We'll store a few ounces of the Cascade hops in the fridge for a week to serve as the "finishing" hops for the India pale ale. Any remaining hops will be dried and frozen for future use.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ruby's First Eggs

Ruby has just begun laying her first eggs! She is a hybrid known sometimes as Red Star, Comet, or Golden Buff. The females are veritable egg machines, laying well in hot and cold weather. Our former Red Star was Rosie, who laid more than 600 eggs. That's quite an act to follow, but Ruby has begun laying at 16 weeks of age, precisely the same age that Rosie was when she began laying. So far, Ruby's eggs are undersized---slightly smaller than a golf ball---but we expect they will soon be larger.

It's comical to watch the spring chicks arrive at maturity. Last week the young pullets were all in the hen house watching one of the older hens lay an egg in the nest box. They were quiet and respectful. I wondered if there was some kind of tutorial experience happening in there.

Ruby's eggs are a welcome addition to the kitchen. We harvested our older hens a few weeks ago and egg production has been down. The other spring chicks will begin laying in the next few weeks.