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!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Infused Vodka

Fruit infused vodkas are growing in popularity. They're fun and easy to make and almost too easy to drink. Last fall I made my first attempt at infused vodka with cranberries, which we thought was delicious. This summer the currants have been so plentiful that we experimented with currant infused vodka. In the photo above, the glass on the left contains red currant infused vodka; the glass on the right has black currant infused vodka.

You don't need to be a farmer to try this project. Begin with two cups of fruit in a medium sauce pan. I added a half cup of sugar to my tart currants and cranberries. Cook over low heat until the skins just begin to pop. Pour the fruit mixture into a large jar. Add four cups of cheap vodka. Wait for two weeks, then strain and serve.

If I wanted to make raspberry, strawberry or peach infused vodka, I would stir only a few tablespoons of sugar into the fruit and let it rest for 15 minutes (without cooking) before adding the vodka.

My Jewish friends tell me this is known as vishnyak or vishniak in Yiddish culture. We enjoy our vishnyak over ice or just neat in small cordial glasses. Be careful---it's not kool-aid.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Harvesting Garlic

Earlier this week I began harvesting garlic. I carefully removed it from the soil and spread it on the drying table in the sun to cure for a week or two. A tarp is handy for cover at night and during potential rainstorms.

Look closely at the photo above. On the left is the regular garlic clove, but on the right you see little bulblets about five inches up the stalk. These little bulbs were growing above ground. None of my usual gardening resources gave me any clue about this, so I did what we all do these days---I googled it. Occasionally a very cold winter will cause garlic to grow above ground. This is evidently some sort of defense mechanism. I will use both the underground and above ground cloves. After all, I've already harvested the garlic scapes earlier this summer. Scapes are seedpods that grow at the end of the leaves and sap energy from the main bulb. I use them in cooking as if they were chives or scallions. They are delicious and quite expensive at the market.

There are three kinds of garlic: softneck garlic, which grows many smaller cloves in one head; hardneck garlic, which grows fewer large cloves; and elephant garlic, which is very big cloves. Softneck garlic is the kind that is usually sold in the grocery store, but hardneck garlic is commonly available at the farmers markets. At Red Bucket Farm we grow Inchelium Red softneck and Eric's German White hardneck.

My hardneck garlic is still in the ground (see photo) and needs to be harvested. No time to blog! Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chicken Predators

Yesterday I agreed to a telephone interview with a student journalist writing for The Badger Herald. I was told that the article was about urban chickens and urban farms, but I quickly learned there was an ulterior motive. It seems the writer's mother knows urban hen keepers who are complaining about foxes. These folks have contacted the Department of Natural Resources and expect some sort of action regarding foxes in the city.

Red Bucket Farm is situated immediately adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary, part of the city parks department. Our section of the park is dense trees, brambles, and a few hiking paths. We have all kinds of predators---foxes, coyotes, hawks and a pair of great horned owls. We rely on these predators to keep the rabbit, squirrel and chipmunk population in check. Without their help, I'd have to start trapping the little critters to save my crops.

We researched our chicken coop for months before building it in 2010. Since safety was our primary concern, we covered the entire coop with half-inch hardware cloth. The hardware cloth covers the walls, windows, and ceiling; it's also sandwiched between two layers of flooring. We attached it with screws and fender washers. All doors and windows are secured with locks. It may seem extreme, but we've never lost a hen to any predator.

Remember that chickens sleep from dusk to dawn, and darkness causes them to go into "torpor," a kind of stupor or unconsciousness in which the heart rate is lowered. They can't make any effort to defend themselves. This is why chickens roost in a high place at night.

So let's be clear: protecting the urban flock from predators is a farmer's responsibility. Anyone who staples chicken wire to a wooden frame and calls it a coop is asking for trouble. Our hens provide us with fresh eggs, manure for fertilizing, and hours of entertainment. We owe it to them to care for them properly.