Salt Fork Farms in this months Radish

In June we had the opportunity to spend the day with Mary Blackwood of the Radish. Here is the resulting article and one of the only photos of me pregnant! We know a few things are not 100% correct, I am not the accountant (thank goodness!), but otherwise it’s right on!



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New babies at Salt Fork Farms

This week at the market Eric and J will have the Speakeasy up and running. We are looking for ways to expand service, as we have had to turn away a number of people the last few Saturdays. Hopefully in the future we will add another grill and another hand. We are sad that Caitlin, our trusty second hand in the Speakeasy will be moving on in the next month. But stay posted for news on another exciting addition to the Salt Fork Family, Salt Fork Kitchen, in the next few weeks.

Produce wise, Eric will have garlic, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash, carrots, scallions, a few cherry tomatoes, herbs, escarole, frisee, raspberries, and basil

In other news, the Menzel family welcomed Charles Franklin, or Charlie, on Monday July 15. Charlie has been a joy so far!


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Desert Gardening, salsa recipe included!

This week at the market, Eric will have: potatoes, onions, garlic, chard, lettuce, kale, collards, Asian greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnips, raspberries, frisee (bitter frilly green), escarole, cucumbers, zucchini, eggs, chicken and the Speakeasy will be up and running!

My brother and his family live in Las Vegas. Over the last 4-5 years they have torn all the grass out on their land, and have put in raised garden beds. Over the first couple of years, my brother would call Eric and have short discussion about building the beds, what to plant, etc. The last two years the conversations have become longer and more intense. They would talk about building green houses, germination and row cover. Finally this year my brother shared this video with us, showing their operation in action. It’s pretty impressive for a “backyard garden,” in the desert. I love hearing about what big harvest they have coming in, currently they are processing tomatoes, and A LOT of them. They have been making and canning salsa like crazy. Here’s a short video they put together earlier this year.

This made me think I should have Eric share with you his salsa recipe. Salt Fork Farms Salsa:

One quart tomatoes

3 guajillo peppers (or Nuevo Mexico)

2 chipotle peppers

3 cloves garlic

1 t Salt

1/2 t Pepper

2 T Olive oil

Add 1 cup of water to peppers and garlic in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower to simmer and cover for 10 minutes.  Add this mixture to tomatoes in blender.  Pulse until well blended.  Add salt, pepper and oil.  Boom.  If desired, you can add lime and or cilantro.

Have a great weekend, everyone. We look forward to sharing any baby news with you anytime!


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It Takes a Village

The time between rains is getting longer and longer, and Eric has actually found himself watering the last few days. The irrigation system is up and running after taking the winter and spring off. It’s not uncommon to see the sprinklers running out in the back fields. This means Eric and the crew have had time to replant a number of seeds that were washed away. The strawberry beds are producing fruit like crazy, and they are the kind of strawberries that are red and juicy all the way throughout. Milo and I find ourselves sitting at the kitchen table eating off the top of the buckets as Renee and Matt bring them into the house.IMG_3743[2] 

This week at the market, the Speakeasy will be up and running. We have been providing chairs along the west side of Ralston Creek, but feel free to bring your own as well. We will also have lettuce, greens, scapes, choi, radishes, cilantro, strawberries, spinach, eggs and chicken.

 With all this yummy food around, Eric and I have been very fortunate that, for the most part, Milo is a great eater. From the beginning, when I told Eric I haven’t liked something, he has responded, “most people don’t like something because they didn’t like how it was prepared or the quality was poor.” As time has gone on, I have found myself eating things I thought I had previously hated. Now, saying that, there are just somethings people don’t like. And this brings me to today’s topic-It Takes a Village: Making it Through the Day with a Toddler.

Eric has always prepared Milo’s food. We have also explained to Milo that what was in front of him was his only option, he wouldn’t get anything else, and would go hungry if he made the choice not to eat. One of the other things we have implemented is “no thank you bites”. I’m not sure which blog or parenting site we read this on, but it involves having your child take so many bites before they can say “no thank you.” We try to implement 5 bites. We have found that by the time Milo gets to 5 bites (no matter how big or small), he has decided it’s not so bad and will eat most of whatever the item is. We also make sure that at least one of us, usually both, are sitting down with him and can patiently out wait him. We feel really fortunate to have such a good eater. We have a number of friends who really struggle to get their kids to eat. I’m not saying this to toot our own horn, I’m saying this to lead into the fact that there always seems to be a trade-off.

Originally when I was thinking about this post I was just going to write about how we have succeeded in getting Milo to eat. I was talking with a friend about food struggles. As we talked and she shared her food frustrations, I told her about Milo’s change in sleep patterns and how it was getting a bit overwhelming. Milo has taken to waking up 2-3 times a night and asking to be rocked back to sleep or coming into our room and sleeping with us. My friend responsded was, “Just tell him he has to sleep in his own bed.” I wanted to tell this person, “Why don’t you just tell your kid to eat his food?” As I gathered my thoughts, I instead replied, “I wish it was that easy.”

It just seems as one thing goes well, something else becomes a struggle, and it seems to morph as Milo ages.  I am grateful that eating has (knock on wood) not been too big of a struggle for us. The best thing I have learned so far, well best things, 1. Always be motivated to speak and act out of  love (a totally different topic and not todays point, but maybe the most important) and 2. we haven’t had to walk in each others shoes. Every parent and toddler relationship has their own struggles. All we can do is be supportive and help each other get through the day.

What have been your successes? What was the key to success?



June 15th Market

Good afternoon, all!

Yes, I’m a bit late on getting the post up. Sorry about that. Things have been a bit crazy around our house. No, the baby has not arrived yet, we are 4 weeks out. Milo does ask every day if today is the day the baby will come out.

We have found this to be another interesting year, as far as the weather goes. This time last year we were scrambling to get an irrigation system into the ground to avoid spending hours watering the fields by hand. This year we have spent hours wondering if the rain would back off enough to dry out the fields. We are so grateful that the rain and high winds missed us last night.

Eric is a bit frustrated about the replanting of seeds that will have to happen this week. We saw some kale, collards, beets and carrots washed away. We are excited to have peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and zuchinni all in. We have been able to pick an incredible amount of strawberries this week.

This Saturday we will also have Caitlin joining J in the Speakeasy kitchen. Caitlin has been a faithful friend to us at Salt Fork Farms. We recognize that Eric and J are not able to manage cooking and sales by themselves. Caitlin will help J and Eric will be available for sales.

At the market this week we will have lettuce, choi, radishes, turnips, greens and strawberries. We are starting to see the scapes come in, and kohlrabi, cilantro and raab will be here before we know it.  I’ll try to get out and take a few photos tonight. The gardens really do look amazing.

On a different note, and not to take you away from the market, our neighbor Jeanne will be hosting an auction at her property on Saturday, starting at 10am. Stop by the market for an early breakfast, and swing on out to look at some antique wood working tools!


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Never a dull moment… (yogurt recipe this week!!)

Good morning! Eric and I are going to make an effort to get posts out on Wednesdays. I know, it’s Thursday morning. Once again, grand procolmations, I’m okay with +/- 12 hours.

This week at the Saturday Iowa City Farmers’ Market, Eric will have head lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, spinach, choi, radishes, eggs, chicken and chicken feet. The Speakeasy will be up and running.

Hopeful possibilities for next week:: Strawberries!!!

This past weekend, Eric let me know that he needed to get the cooler up and ready for rewiring. Since Sunday’s tend to be a bit more relaxed around here, this seemed like a perfect family activity. Well, it wasn’t really a family activity. Eric did all the lifting and moving. Milo helped lock the cooler in place and I held up and balanced panels. Eric, Matt, Renee and Alex got the top up and secured on Monday. They also got the motor and some plumbing installed. Next, we will have the barn rewired. A cooler may seem strange to some of you, but really it’s the only way to keep produce ready for you all, without getting up at 1-2 am on a Saturday to harvest. We used to do just this.

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This week, we also wanted to share with you all how Eric makes our yogurt. When Eric and I first started dating, I kept a food journal. This was one fo the first things he taught me to make. Let me back up. I had/have very little food knowledge coming into this relationship. I found it helpful to write down the things he taught me to make and start to learn basic concepts, and keep a diary of our courtship-through food. The following recipe is right from Eric. As you will note, he lets you know that raw Jersey milk makes for the best yogurt, in our opinion. We are fortunate enough to have our own cow, so this is readily available to us. We know that is not the case for the normal person. Whole milk will also work. But before I post the recipe, do you make yogurt? How do you do it?

The best way to make yogurt…..

1. Raw materials. Start with an amount of raw, fresh, pastured Jersey milk.  This is actually not necessary for making yogurt, but it makes all the difference.  The amount of milk will be the same as the amount of yogurt you make.  We make 1-4 gallons at a time.
2. Equipment. Put milk in a non-reactive/non-corrosive pot (stainless steel or enamel coated) — all pots, utensils, thermometers, etc., need to be non-corrosive or the fermented milk product will spoil.
3. Heating. Place this pot inside a bigger pot (bigger pot doesn’t need to be non-reactive) and fill bigger pot with water up to the level of the milk in the smaller pot, creating a ‘double boiler’.
4. Measuring. Use two thermometers: one for the milk and one for the water.  Heat the double boiler until the milk is at 110 degrees F.  I find that if you heat the water to 120 and the milk to about 100, they converge at 110 after the stove is turned off.
5. Culture.  At this point you can add a freeze-dried culture, which will give you consistent results every time, or you can use an amount of yogurt.  I like to use a freeze-dried culture for a ‘first’ batch and then pull remaining yogurt from that batch for subsequent batches.  Usually I can make 4-5 batches before I need to start over again.  Use 1/16 teaspoon of freeze-dried culture for every gallon of milk, or 1 cup yogurt for every gallon of milk.  For freeze-dried, you will let the culture absorb the milk before stirring.  For the yogurt (if cold), you may have to heat the milk up a bit after adding and stirring to get back to 110.
6. Incubate. The yogurt should incubate at this temperature for at least 8 hours.  I have gone 12-16 hours for a stronger flavor and thicker consistency.  Cover milk pot with a lid and the whole double boiler with a towel or two to keep the temperature.
7. Chill and/or strain.  Once the yogurt has set up, you can simply refrigerate and you have traditional yogurt, or you can strain it through a cheese cloth for up to 12 hours to get ‘greek-style’ yogurt.  Keep straining yogurt in fridge to keep freshness.  If you strain for up to 24 hours you will have labneh or yogurt cheese.  Simply add 1% salt of the final weight.
8. Enjoy!

Have a great week, and be sure to stop by on Saturday!


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Why I fell in love with Eric, seriously. Herb dressing recipe included.

This week at the market, Eric will have rhubarb, arugula, mixed greens, 3 types of radishes, 3 types of head lettuce, chicken feet, chicken and eggs! Ralston Creekside Speakeasy will be up and running. We will be changing the set up of our stall. If you want to bring a chair and sit with us under the ramp, feel free!

I’ve recently had a few people ask me if I’m being serious about something I’ve said, or something I’ve posted on Facebook. To both of these, I have to answer yes. I’m not that good at sarcasm and my sister, Bene`, long ago instilled a “no complaining or criticizing” on Facebook policy. Thus, the title of the post is, in all honesty, serious.

Eric and I have had mutual friends for over 20 year. I’m not sure how 20 years have gone by so fast, but yes, 20 years. We’ve known each other socially for about 18 years. In all honesty, I was not the biggest Eric Menzel fan. When our friends tried to sneakingly set us  up in 2007, I was not interested. I told them, “I remember Menzel. I think I’ll pass.” Well, after many attempts, they finally got us at the same table. As we talked, Eric was using language I did not remember him using years ago. He talked about how he envisioned community and how he wanted to surround himself with a supportive community of active participants who knowingly left more than they took. That may look different at different times, and he recognized that he would likely never be wealthy in money, but there were so many other things he would be rich in.

This type of conversation was something I had not heard from anyone in a long time. I often heard the church talk of community, but seeing it in action was another thing. In visiting Eric over the next few weeks and months into early 2008, it was impressive to see this mind set in action. Thus an unexpected love affair began.

In continuing with the idea of community, Eric often has people ask him how he made something, for a recipe, or how to butcher a bird. We often hear others say, “why do you want people to know how you make things? Aren’t you afraid they will think they won’t need you anymore?” To which he replies, “Why wouldn’t I want them to be successful, provide for themselves and see us as a reliable part of their community?”

This leads us into this weeks recipe. Our regular customers, Ron and Dana Robinson (click on both their names-they both provide pretty awesome services in this area), asked how Eric makes the herb dressing that the Ralston Creekside Speakeasy serves up each week. In the spirit of community and helping one another grow, here you go:

In a blender put

1 1/2 c herbs (we have been using oregano and lemon balm)

1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sugar (optional, but recommended)

1/4 c. red vinegar

1 + c of veggie oil to taste (sunflower oil is what we use-its also the most healthy, not hydrogenated, all-purpose oil –it’s from flower seeds not cereal grains)

Now, here’s a trick. If the dressing seems stiff, like a mayonnaise before it has the right taste (i.e., too acidic) drizzle in cold water. This will loosen the dressing. You can then proceed adding the necessary amount of oil to cut the acidity just right.

I hope you all venture out and try to make some dressing. We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Hopeful possibilities for next week: Choi and spinach!

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