Behind the Scenes with Raub-Rae Farm in Brown City – Part 1
In May I visited my family’s Organic Centennial farm in Brown City for a little play before working the Indoor Gardening expo in Novi, MI. The farm has been in my mother’s family for over 100 years and organic I think for the last 45 years. Grandpa saw the effects of conventional pesticides on his friends and neighbors and decided he would do things differently.
This farm has taught me about the work that goes into producing our food, what organic truly means, and has fostered my enjoyment and appreciation of good, fresh food.
Planting Lettuce as it Snows in May
On Sunday morning I woke up to snow falling. Just a reminder Mother Nature, it’s MAY! My Uncle John said this is why he never plants anything sensitive like soy beans until the end of the month. There is always the chance of cold temperatures here until June. Things are not much different in New England where we often say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”
The original plan was to get me in the garden helping to lay some drip irrigation lines, but Aunt Yvonne and I decided to stay warm in the greenhouse. She transplanted tomato seedlings while I harvested spinach that was going to seed. With all the new space I just made I got started with transplanting some different types of lettuce. Before I could get very far with my perfectly spaced butter lettuce, my cousin brought 3 of this children over to the house. Eager to please as these sweet little boys are, I quickly gave up on my plans for perfection and let them help me dig the holes, plant, and water. We got quite a bit accomplished and only stepped on a couple plants.
Check out this mix of Mesclun and spicy lettuce. I love all the different colors and textures.
Extra Large Dandelions & Feeding Pigs
On Monday, Grandma wanted to make sure I had enough work to do, so she suggested I weed her flower garden beds. Off to work I went, with my weeding tool and some knee pads. The sun was out and warming my back, but the wind was busy dancing with the long grass, tree branches, and wind chimes, keeping the air cool and energized.
These flower beds along the house are often neglected since there is always plenty of other work around the farm. Luckily they are full of perennials and bulbs so there is always something flowering. Soon she’ll have someone plant some red geraniums for her to fill in the spaces and add that pop of color. The Tulips have just finished blooming, but up next are the Columbine and Lily of the Valley. There is also Sweet Pea, Roses, Chives, Hydrangea, Poppies and a slew of others I don’t even know. The dandelions thought that they could play in the garden too, but Grandma had other plans.
I’ve never seen dandelions this big! This one, I was particularly proud of pulling since I really got the root!
As I’m attacking the dandelions, grass, and other weeds, I thought of the day before Grandpa telling me how his father used to pull up the dandelions in early spring, just before the flowers opened, so his mother could add bacon grease to the leaves and they would have wilted dandelion salad. I thought of trying a little piece (It’s organic after all!) but instead I gathered everything up and fed the weeds to the pigs. One of them even went to town on some Thistle I had pulled out! They also got our kitchen scraps and were fun to watch as they rooted around in everything.
Every time I’m at the farm, we have something with Rhubarb. My Grandparents really love the stuff! Usually it’s Strawberry Rhubarb pie or cobbler, but this time they were all about Rhubarb Sauce. So I got a little lesson on Rhubarb from my Aunt Yvonne.…
They grow with thick stocks and huge leaves and come back every year. To harvest, grab the base of the stock and then forcefully pull and twist. With a sharp knife, lop off the leaf. We left the leaves behind on the ground around the plant to help cover up the weeds and mulch back in at the end of the season.
A few of them were going to seed, so I was told to pull them out so the plant will get back to focusing on the stocks instead of the flower. I’ve never seen a Rhubarb flower before. It has a little bit of a Cauliflower, Broccoli thing going on and is quite interesting!
Now it’s time for Sauce! First step is to peel the outer layer off. You’ll end up with a pile of pink and green curls! It’s quite pretty. Here they are in the bucket ready to feed to the pigs.
Next step is to chop them up and fill up a large pot. Add 1/3 of a cup of sugar and a cup of water. You can always add more sugar to balance out the tartness. Bring to boil, then turn down low for 10-15 minutes until it’s soft. My Grandparents eat this stuff by itself, but you can add it to ice cream, cake, toast, or anything else that needs a little pizazz!