Monday, August 24, 2015

Updates From the Studio

Things in the studio have been just as busy as things on the farm these days. We set up our weekly farmers market booth with both my artwork and our vegetables, and I try to rotate my inventory and keep things unique each week.

This summer I stumbled upon a broken cedar fence that pretty much changed the direction of everything that comes out of my studio. I have always loved recycling wood to use as a canvas for my paintings, but up until I found the fence I have never pieced them together the way I now do. Now to make my art I find the best pick of the fencing finding the boards with the most knots and grains and brace them together on the back to create a rustic, worn "canvas". What like most about using this pieced together technique is sanding the piece after I finish painting it to reveal the wood through my brightly colored art. I think it is a fun contrast between colors and texture...two of my favorite things to work with.

I'm not sure how it started but after I pieced together my first canvas I decided to paint a rainbow trout on it. I am a nature lover by heart but this was my first time painting a fish. After I painted one I couldn't get enough and began to paint more varieties of fish followed by different varieties of wild life. Since then my studio and the walls of our market booth have been covered in fish, deer, fox and other critters. The responses from our customers have been wonderful. We live on an area full of lakes and lake houses, and my artwork has found many homes here. The rustic look fits perfectly with lake living.

After the positive feedback from the market I updated my online store as well with a few pieces. I want to create a variety different than what is available at the markets to reach a broader audience and keep Crooked Coop Farm fresh.

Aside from selling the pieces I have been getting an overwhelming response for me to show my artwork at different venues, markets and shops. Currently I am looking into a few possible show places and will update as soon as possible.

I have been working on making a living as an artist since I graduated college 8 years ago with a bachelor's degree in fine art; it has been a slow process with many ups and many downs, tons of hard work and a bit of luck. Finally the dream has begun to fall into place and it is giving me a reliable income while I work from home to take care of my 3 kiddos. Not an easy road but it has been one worth the journey.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chunky Cucumber and Dill Salad with Heirloom Tomato

Yesterday I shared a yummy soup recipe using tomatoes from the garden, and today I have a delicious recipe that Chris came up with using the same heirloom tomatoes with cucumbers.  Using all garden fresh ingredients he came up with this tangy chunky cucumber salad that is perfect to share at end of summer get to gethers.

Ingredients used:

1 cup vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dill
5 cups chopped cucumber
1 large heirloom tomato diced
1 small red onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
salt pepper to taste

Combine vinegar,  sour cream, sugar and dill in a bowl mix well being sure that the sour cream is no longer lumpy. Add  cucumber, tomato, onion, garlic, salt and pepper mix well and chill at least 2 hours before serving. 

This recipe like our others is a guideline not a blueprint, and any substitutions are encouraged. Please share with us any changes you made!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Southwestern Tomato Soup from the Garden

As I mentioned in my last post our tomatoes are beginning to ripen. This is great news for us because this means we will have one more item to bring at the market, but this will also mean we will be up to our ears in tomatoes in no time! With the later in mind I figured today would be a great day to start experimenting with new tomato recipes.

The result... Southwestern Tomato Soup...yum yum.

The ingredients include:

5 medium tomatoes seeded and skinned
1 stalk celery diced
1/2 medium red onion diced
1/2 bell pepper diced...I used a purple one
1 Aurora pepper diced... this adds the kick if you don't like spice skip this ingredient
1.5 cups chicken stock 
1 can tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
3 tsp fresh cilantro

Add all ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil cover and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.  Let everything cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a food processor to blend in batches. It took me about 3 batches to complete the job. After it is blended thoroughly return it to the pot and heat it through.

This can be served with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro to balance the heat of the aurora pepper.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Updates From the Homestead


Things have really been coming together around the farm these days, it seems that all of the hard work, ups and downs, failures and start overs have been worth the effort. As of these past two weeks Chris and I have reached our goal of bringing together the art and farm aspects of Crooked Coop Farm, and we are currently a weekly feature at the Oconomowoc Farmer's market in Oconomowoc WI. This is our current booth set up showcasing my rustic wood paintings and our first harvest from the market garden. This will be a process that changes as we figure things out along the way, but we are both very pleased with the beginning success of the molding of our dreams.
Chris has been cooking his entire life, from childhood to teenage jobs working fast food to a chef for fine dining restaurant. He has always dreamed of having his own garden to supply the ingredients for his recipes while also reaching toward a goal of self sufficient living. With the garden in full swing he is getting closer to the dream every day.
My dream has been to make a living working as an artist since I was a kid, I would sign up for art camps and classes trough the summer, and every club and class I was able to through the school year. After high school I continued on through college to receive classic training resulting in a Bachelors of Fine Arts sub majoring in Painting and Drawing while also receiving a minor in Art History. It has taken many years and many failures but finally the income I bring to the house is through my artwork now. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.
Now that we have our farm and booth at the market is exciting to watch the paths we have both created meet to create a successful business for our family. We are off to a slow start and have a lot of trials along the way that could have easily swayed us to give up and move on, but we know this is the path are meant to pursue and the future holds a spot for Crooked Coop Farm.

The garden has really taught us a thing or two about what it means to be an organic farmer... the weeds... oh my the weeds. There is no rest when you have a garden that needs attention, and we have learned this the hard way more than once. We definitely underestimated the amount of attention that needs to be given to the garden just for weeding. Our weeds became overgrown and took over every plant we had within a short amount of time. We thought he effort between us would solve the problem but quickly learned that the effort needed to be multiplied. It took about a week and about 30 hours of weeding to get our garden looking as great as it does now. I now know that at least one of us need to give the garden about 3 hours of weeding and harvesting attention each day 7 days a week. A bonus to that amount of work is that is doubles as our cardio and exercise so we are really getting in great shape now.
This is our first harvest for market this year all certified organic. The large green squash  on top is an Anna Swartz Hubbard that Chris decided to grow because the squash and I both share a name :) below it we have purple potted pole beans that will turn green when they are cooked. We have white acorn squash called the Thelma Sanders that has the most delicious sweet flavor that I swear is better than candy. We also brought along two types of potatoes, the Desire red potato and the French fingerling... we sold out of almost everything!

Here are both of the potatoes drying in the sun after they were freshly washed.

When you buy produce from us this is where your food comes from. We were able to get some of our fall crops planted once the weeds were clear. This week we planted beets, kale and a variety of lettuce that will be ready for market before the season is over.

Our next market will be this Saturday and this week we will be introducing new products to our table, the yellow Kellogg breakfast tomato and the Black Seaman tomato, both organic and both delicious. Until now we have never grown these colors of tomato so it will be exciting to see the feedback we receive at the market.

The last to update our homestead is our new fuzzy critters 5 Muscovy ducklings. We already have 3 but they are so nice to raise we wanted to get a couple more so they joined the broader coop with a few hens we are raising to increase our egg production.
Our summer has been productive and quite the hard work after the struggles we went through this past spring. It is wonderful to see the dream develop and exciting to see what the future has for our farm.


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