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  • Cliff McConville

Fall farm festival, a wormy situation, farm stroll and tours galore

FARM HAPPENINGS

We've had a lot going on the past two weeks, some events planned and some unplanned. On the planned side, we welcomed almost 500 visitors to the farm this past Sunday for the McHenry County Farm Stroll. Running two hay wagon tours at the same time for almost seven hours we got most of the visitors out to our pastures to see the animals and learn about regenerative farming. The organizers have already asked us to participate again next year so we will probably add a walking tour of our historic dairy barn to next year's farm stroll as well.


Then on Tuesday this week we hosted State Representatives Chris Bos and Marty McLaughlin on a farm tour, along with staff from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Illinois Environmental Council. We talked about regenerative grazing, carbon sequestration, raw milk, nutrient cycling, cover crops, and cottage food regulations. Both representatives understand the benefits of regenerative agriculture and local food systems, hopefully we will get more support in Springfield next year.


FALL ARMY WORM ATTACK

Two weeks ago I had never heard of fall army worms. Then a nearby farmer who has been making hay for us at our Brunner Farm mentioned that fall army worms had wiped out an entire 150 acre pasture in less than 10 days, eating every bit of grass and forage that he was getting ready to cut for hay. He sent me a picture of the dead fields they left behind and some information about fall army worms, a pest in the southern US but never before a problem in the upper midwest.


Late Sunday afternoon we drove up to our Wisconsin farm to move the beef herd and noticed a big dead spot of grass right behind the barns, about an acre that had been lush green grass just a few days before. Worried, we looked closer and could see thousands of the very same army worms crawling around in the grass chomping on our pastures waiting to be grazed by the beef herd. At first we panicked, thinking about what would happen if they ate through our entire 240 acres of grazing land. As organic farmers we have very few options for pesticides. However, we know that birds like to eat worms and so Sunday evening we moved all of Anna's ducks (about 100) over to the area where the worms were really active. They went crazy for the worms.


The next day we borrowed a mobile chicken coop with about 200 hens from our neighbors at Grassway Organics and brought them over to work on the other side of the field. And Monday afternoon we moved the beef herd in front of the army worm area to eat down the pastures and deprive them of additional feed.


We are happy to report the combined effort of the ducks, hens, and beeves seem to have drastically slowed down the march of the army worms. In fact the infested area has not grown at all and we can't find too many of the worms left. However we will continue to check the fields daily as we move the ducks and hens around the infested area to clean up any remaining worms.


FALL FESTIVAL AT THE FARM

With no chickens to drop off or pickup the past two weeks I was finally able to spend some time planning our fall festival at the farm. We are trying to put together a fun, kid-friendly event with good food mixed in with a little farm life education. We have a date selected - Saturday, October 16th from 2 - 6 PM.


Fun events will include hay wagon tours of the farm, volleyball, bags, badminton, pumpkin picking, and the round hay bale obstacle course. And maybe a few other fun things we haven't thought of yet.


Food will be provided by the La Adelita Taco Truck. They will be coming out from Chicago to serve up their famous street tacos - Carne Asada, Beef Birria, Chicken Tinga, Al Pastor and Mojo Mushrooms. Made with our own grass fed beef and pasture-raised pork and chicken. Side dishes will include elotes, chips and salsa, roasted tomato rice, refried black beans, and guacamole. All you can eat including soft drinks and water will be provided. To purchase a ticket to the Fall Festival please visit the Online Store on our website.


FARM STORE UPDATE

We dropped off about 600 pounds of ground pastured-raised pork at Hometown Sausage Kitchen a few weeks ago and finally picked up the finished sausages last week. For now we have a good supply of fresh and smoked Kielbasa, regular and jalapeno cheddar brats, and maple-ginger breakfast links. Plus a lot of ground pork in the store.

  • This week Karolina is harvesting the last of her heirloom slicing tomatoes, green peppers, Jalapeno peppers, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and pie pumpkins from her organic gardens here at the farm.

  • Fresh local and organic fruits and vegetablels from other nearby farms include Bosc and Bartlett pears, Gala and Honeycrisp apples, red beets, spaghetti squash, white and yellow onions, and red and russet potatoes.

  • Yummy blueberry ice cream from Joe's Blues.

  • Honey with the honeycomb inside Willy's Honey.

  • Wild caught Alaskan salmon filets and salmon roe (caviar)

Plus a big selection of All Grass Farms t-shirts made with organic cotton!


RECIPE OF THE WEEK - PUMPKIN SOUP

This recipe comes from an old Polish Cookbook that Anna's mom has in her kitchen. We had to translate from Polish so the directions might be a little clunky.


- 1 small to medium pie pumpkin

- 4 medium onions

- 3 tbsp. lemon juice or red wine vinegar

- 3 cups beef broth

- 1 cup heavy cream (or raw milk)

- 3 tablespoons flour

- salt and pepper to taste

- few slices of sourdough bread for toast

Peel the pumpkin and remove the seed. Cut the pumpkin flesh into 1 inch cubes. Peel the onion and finely chop. Combine the pumpkin and onion in a tall pot, add broth, lemon juice/vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on low for 30 minutes. Pour soup through a strainer and use wooden spoon to mash and push the chunks through the strainer. Then slowly add flour to the heavy cream and mix in with the soup and bring back to a boil before serving.


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Have a wonderful weekend, looking forward to cooler weather next week and hopefully some rain. Don't forget we offer a free hay wagon farm tour every Saturday at 2 PM through Thanksgiving, no reservations needed. Also please bring us your recycled paper and plastic bags and egg cartons so we can keep them out of the landfills and oceans.


To Your Health,


Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team

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