Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slowing Down

Today I picked tomatoes in the greenhouse. Picking tomatoes is the one garden chore I allow myself to do on Sunday. While I was picking tomatoes, about 50# of them, my mother dropped in. We have some of our best talks in the greenhouse or while we are gardening. We both marveled at the tomato production, the size of the cucumbers and the abundance of the basil. We also both agreed that it is definitely fall. It's not the leaves turning color, the shorter daylight hours or the fact that the peas are about gone that has clued us into the fact that fall has arrived. It is that we are slowing down. In the spring and throughout the summer we both have boundless energy! There are just not enough hours in the day to do all we want to do in the gardens and greenhouses so we will work late into the nights and yet every morning we are both wide awake and ready to go by 5:30. No one in my household understands this, so I literally sneak out to the greenhouse, flower beds or gardens and start working, or is it playing? I know it is fall when I can sleep until 6:00 or 6:30 and not jump out of bed with enthusiasm. I also find it easy to quit at 5:30 in the evenings and not go back outside after dinner. This tells me it is fall. My mother, who is 76, is just like me. We say we have a gardening illness which hits in the spring and leaves us in the fall. It's a good thing fall has come because I think if we kept up the summer pace any longer we would do ourselves some serious damage. It is a good thing we don't live in a place where we could garden year round!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Missing Rachel, Fair, Giant Cabbages, Fall & Eat Alaska Grown

I've sort of been in mourning mode this last week. Rachel left a week ago Sunday night. She is the baby of our family of seven children and she is our caboose. She is five years younger than the next youngest child so she has been my sole buddy for a long time! She has been a fabulous daughter and a terrific partner! Gardening without her will be very different!

Fortunately for me, the garden keeps growing whether Rachel is here or not and the weeds seem to know that my best weeder is gone! Those pesky weeds have sprung up everywhere just like they know that Rachel is not here just waiting to pull them out by their roots and pitch them in the compost pile. I guess I'll have to do that now. There were other things that were solely Rachel's territory that I have had to do this week. She was the potato, zucchini, and broccoli harvester. Today I discovered that I don't like digging potatoes or picking the broccoli florets! I definitely have to work harder and faster now that Rachel is gone, but hey, it is keeping me busy!

Another thing keeping me busy is getting ready for the State Fair! I love the Fair! Every year when I see the rides going up I eget as excited as any kid! I love the animals in the barn, the crops exhibits, the quilts, the flower exhibits, the fabulous flower gardens and hanging baskets adorning the Fair grounds, the entertainment, the smells, the foods! I love the Fair so much that a year ago I became a member of the Fair Board! Every year for the past 23 years my kids have entered their livestock in the 4-H livestock shows and sold their market projects at the 4-H Market Livestock Auction. We have had so many different animals that I can't remember them all. We started with a couple of milk goats, added pigs, then sheep, calves, steers, milk cows, aplacas, pygmy goats, geese and even a couple of rabbits and chickens here and there! As the kids grew up and left home the livestock numbers has dwindled, but Rachel retained her share. This year one of Rachel's projects has been raising Chili. Chili is a big beautiful red 1200# Tarentaise steer. 4-H allows youth to finish their livestock projects their senior year even if they will be gone to college during the Fair. Rachel has managed to get a mileage ticket to come home for the auction weekend, September 5th, but it falls to me to take the steer into the Fair. Rachel has done a great job training him, so I'm not too worried (why worry about leading a 1200 lb animal of pure muscle by a half inch rope halter?) Tomorrow is the day I have to load him into the trailer and take him to the Fairgrounds. If I don't write for awhile (or ever again) you'll know something bad happened.

One of my favorite things at the Fair is the giant cabbage contest. Rachel has entered it for the last three years. This year I have been growing a cabbage. I am hoping that my cabbage will be bigger than any of hers has been. I think her record was 50 lbs and sixth place. I think I have a big one, but then again, it has been a good cabbage year so everyone will have big ones. I'll update you on how I do. The contest is September 4th. When Rachel reads this she will try to take the credit for planting my cabbage, but I am the one who faithfully watered it and what's more, I will be the one who has to figure out how to load the monster and get it to the Fair, so I will claim the glory if there is any to be had.

When the Fair starts I know that Fall is here. There are other signs that tell me it is inevitable. The last of my dahlias just barely opened, and that is a sign that it will soon frost. I rarely get to enjoy the last dahlia for more than a few days. Also, my rocket snap dragons are finally blooming. I planted them as a border for my lawn. That was a mistake because they have taken so long to bloom. Next year I am looking for something that blooms a whole lot earlier! The sweet peas are forcing out their last blooms! I will miss them when they are gone, they have been so lovely this year! It is more than time to cut down the dephiniums. Their empty spires really mar the beauty of the flower beds, but I rarely get to that chore until it is time to clean up the all the flower debris in after the frost takes everything.

One last thing. I just got an email from the Division of Ag announcing that this week is 'Eat Alaska Grown Week'. The challenge is to eat as much Alaska Grown food as you can. Isn't this fun! Of course, we find it quite easy to have all our own produce and we bought pork and beef from local producers last fall and still have plenty in our freezer along with halibut and salmon. I admit that I usually buy eggs at the store, but this week I am buying eggs from my neighbors. It is great to have our local Matanuska Creamery milk and ice cream. I have a limited amount of local honey for a sweetener, but my dilema is the grains. Wheat used to be grown and milled in Alaska, but that was years and years ago. Some farmers in Delta are experimenting with wheat this year, but not in time for this week. I guess I'll eat potatoes this week instead of breads. I am having fun planning this week's menu but it has been nice to discover that we don't have to change too many things to eat local. Isn't Alaska a great place to live and eat?!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Surprises, Announcement, and a Farewell

My mom always talks about the surprises we find in the garden, and she's right. Whether it's overgrown pickling cucumbers, giant cabbages that got HUGE before we even noticed, lettuce that has gone rotten in the middle (I hate this kind of surprise!), or potatoes of different varieties than we thought they'd be, I am in constant surprise at our garden. I'm usually not surprised in the barn however. Every day we have one steer, one alpaca, one goat, three barn cats and six sheep. When I came from home camping the other day though, I was very suprised to find these guys:

So, my question for you is...anyone want a free kitten? :)

As many of you may have heard, the Oberg and Kenley family have been awarded the "Farm Family of the Year." We are very pleased, but I have to tell you that when we found out, my mom and I both started laughing. The reason is this: although my family is and has been very involved in agriculture, through excessive gardening, 4-H and FFA, we do not consider ourselves, and should not be considered, real farmers. My dad is a very successful engineer and he is the breadwinner for our family. My mom and I just love to play in the dirt. But we're very humbled and grateful for the award. If you'd like to read the Anchorage Daily News article, the link is posted under "In the News" on the right. ----->

Well everyone, this is my last post as a co-owner of this business, from Alaska anyways. My flight to Salt Lake City flies out tonight at 11:00 pm, and I start classes on the 18th. I will really miss Alaska while I'm gone, and I will miss all of you. This business started to help my sister and I earn money for college, and without all the great customers I've had, present and past, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to afford this next great adventure. Thank you all. You mean so much to me. Adios!

Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

After they served this delicious (and Kenley family favorite) beverage at the "Meet Your Farmers" farm tour, a comment was posted on the ADN Talk Dirt Blog requesting the recipe, and we're more than happy to share it with you.

It's very simple. Make a gallon of lemonade, strong. You can make it fresh, but we are lazy and usually use CountryTime mix. Then add 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups of rhubarb juice, and 1 cup of fresh strawberry juice. Garnish with chunks of rhubarb and lemon slices. It's a perfect refreshment after a hot day. I guess we're pretty well out of those, but it's good any day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thieves and Leavers

The Wednesday market was really fun. It was a bit nostalgic for me, because although I love hands-on agriculture, I also really enjoy working with customers, and it was my last Wednesday market! I will miss seeing you all, but I'm excited to start school at Utah State University and study my dream major: Ag Communications.

We had some very exciting produce for sale: corn and artichokes! They certainly sold quickly. Be warned: if you want artichokes, we only have a few, so you'll have to get them really early. And, even if you do come early, make sure to pay for your produce, bag it, and not let it go! On Wednesday we had two artichokes that a customer picked out get bought by someone else before anyone realized what happened! Luckily, she was good-humored about it. So am I. I thought it was hilarious, and worth taking a time out from much needed packing to blog about it.

We also had a few people pay for, and then accidentally leave at the stand, some prize tomatoes and potatoes! Don't do that to makes me sad just thinking about what you're missing.

Perhaps the most exciting event was take down. As my cousin Sara and I stacked our tubs, a gust of wind caught the tent just right and our tent flew up and OVER our car- then rolled several times in the parking lot behind! We were very lucky it didn't break, and we hurried to take the other tent down.
Last but not least, Kenley's Alaskan Vegetables and Flowers is featured in this month's issue of "My Business Magazine," the magazine for the National Federation of Independent Business. All the National Young Entrepeneur Award Winners are featured as well, and my friend Jay Schechtman, the Young Entrepeneur of the Year from Florida, is on the cover. It's got great pictures in print, but if you can't get it, you can read the article here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I've Been Doing

I apologize for my long blogging absense. Two weeks ago I attended a church camp in Anchorage, and so was gone for the Farm Tour and all the fun stuff that went on then. Last week, well I guess I was just too busy to get on here and blog. From now on, actually I'm preparing to leave for college, so my posts might be few and far between. Just so you still appreciate me, I'll do something for you that Mom can't, and that's use technology. :) Mom and I have been snapping pictures around our place and at the markets. Hope you enjoy them.

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