As we transition from our wet fall into the first of winter this month, we’ve already been treated to our first flakes of snow and a few potent windstorms (a tree even came down on our creamery during the most recent one!) as the days get shorter and shorter while also seeming to get busier and busier during the merry holiday season. And though we people are busy meeting up with loved ones and friends and hurrying about, it is ironically quite quiet around the farm.
Blissfully unaware of the hustle and bustle occurring just beyond the gates of Bella Luna, the goats, donkey, and chickens go about their daily routine of eating, ruminating, and sleeping. A hush has fallen around the hives in the apiary as the bees are now in their winter clusters, huddling around the queen to keep everyone warm and fed. The last of the leaves have fallen, and the bounty of the summer and fall has been stored away—the apples and pears have been harvested and the tomatoes have been canned to enjoy throughout the upcoming winter.
We have been busy putting the ornamental flower gardens to bed and also adding heavy straw mulch to the vegetable plots, which will remain fallow over the winter to protect the soil and keep weeds at bay. In other areas of the vegetable garden, we planted cover crops which will be tilled in during the spring to help add nutrients to the soil. The hardier crops—the kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, and parsnips—are holding up well despite the recent cold snap. These vegetables thrive in our temperate climate, their flavors actually improving with the colder temperatures of fall and winter.
If you are still searching for a holiday gift, look no further than the farm: Give the gift of a subscription to Farm & Larder’s weekly delivery service, or a gift basket. In addition to our classic Nonna Pat’s Sunday Supper basket—which includes Italian provisions such as hand-crafted pasta, dipping oil and our own marinara sauce—we can also customize a box for you, carefully-curated with our housemade jams and other farm products; just drop us an email!
As we turn the corner into late-fall with the arrival of November, the farm is awash in color —from the beautiful fall leaves fluttering to the ground in bright scarlet and yellow hues from our collection of Gingko, chestnut, oak and maple trees, to the crisp and colorful apples, pears and grapes finishing up their growing season. The birds are busy feasting on the dark purple Evergreen huckleberries in the garden, as well as the bright orange rose hips, and we are busy harvesting the last of the bright red tomatoes from the hoophouse.
As this first week of November brought with it a huge dip in temperatures and even some early snow, we are catching up on some indoor chores in and around the barn to prep for the upcoming winter, also ducking into the creamery to check on our current batch of cheese, which is ripening and aging in the cave. We are also taking advantage of the wet days by finishing putting up the last of those harvested tomatoes—this fall, we have preserved over 900 pounds of juicy, ripe tomatoes in big batches of our Nonna Pat’s marinara sauce. The orchard apples are also making their way into apple sauces and apple butters, and we are also setting aside spiced pears and beets and making grape preserves.
And as much as we don’t mind the rain or snow, our beloved gaggle of goats couldn’t disagree more, as they despise getting wet! On wet days then, you’ll find our very tame and social goats hanging out in their barn, and now that they have all day to dream it up, they seem to be up to even more mischief than usual. They are a curious bunch, keeping their eyes on both what we are up to and all the goings on at the farm.
One special note: There will be no F&L box the week of Thanksgiving (November 23rd). Your delivery will pick back up again on Thursday, November 30th—have a happy turkey day!
While the days can still be sunny and warm as we start the month of October, the cooler nights and misty mornings tell us it is truly now fall.
Here at Bella Luna, the leaves are just beginning to turn brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange, and the local wildlife are beginning to stash provisions: Squirrels are busy darting to and fro, carrying off acorns, walnuts and chestnuts—some as big as their heads—to bury for food during the winter months. The blue jays are also busy squabbling with one another, battling the squirrels for acorns and hazelnuts.
The apple harvest has officially begun—the sweet, aromatic Macoun and crunchy, mildly-tart Liberty are the first to ripen in our orchard. We admit to snatching a few, fragrant and crunchy, right off the tree while walking past to do chores at the barn or in the garden. Soon, we will press and enjoy our first batch of fresh cider, and start cooking up homemade batches of applesauce and apple butter in the farm kitchen.
In addition to days spent tending our clients’ gardens for our landscape design firm Parterre, at home we are pulling the last of the juicy San Marzano and Roma tomatoes out of the hoophouse, which are destined for more batches of our Nonna Pat’s tomato sauce, and then planting kale, chard, and garlic to overwinter for early spring harvest. These hardy crops always renew our excitement for fall—foraging for mushrooms in the woods, or enjoying the distinct flavors of autumn over a cozy supper.
We hope you are well and also enjoying this most lovely start to October!
Fall is in the air! Here at Bella Luna Luna Farms we are enjoying the best that September has to offer with crisp mornings, cool evenings and abundantly sunny days:
As the summery weather lingers, we continue to enjoy seeing the blue jays flitting about and the abundant florals in bloom, as well as the everyday ritual of plucking fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash from the gardens. This sunny season has kept us busy with weddings and special events hosted here at the farm, and then out and about working on our clients’ gardens for our landscape design firm, Parterre.
But, even as we are no hurry to say goodbye to summer, it is always a balm to look ahead to the cornucopia of the fall harvest: Soon we will see the apples and pears, squash and pumpkins, hardy kales and cabbages, that take us into the next season each year. The early apples will be the first ready with the crisp, tart Honeycrisp and Akane varieties; next up come the Asian pears, along with Italian plums and the last of the grapes. In the gardens, the kale, cabbage and broccoli seedlings are going into the ground to overwinter, right as the fresh garlic and storage onions like our favorite flat Italian Cipollinis are coming out of it. Cover crops have been sown in the fallow field to plow under in the spring and help enrich the soil.
The kitchen continues to bustle with pickling, preserving and canning as we put away the summer bounty. September is always busy spent crafting big batches of Nonna Pat’s tomato sauce to carry us through the winter months. We are also putting our favorite Mathilde cucumbers to delicious use this fall in small-batches of our signature French-style cornichons. Made using a traditional recipe (which we’ve shared with you below!), each jar is packed with a Grapehouse grape leaf during pickling to keep these snacking pickles crunchy and crisp.
From our family to yours, happy September!
These crisp pickles are incredibly fresh-tasting thanks to the addition of pearl onions, peppercorns and even a fresh grapevine leaf.
Makes about 4 pints of pickles
2 pounds garden-fresh Mathilde or other cornichon-style cucumbers
3 tablespoons pure coarse sea salt or kosher salt
12 fresh pearl onions, peeled
1 quart of white wine vinegar
Fresh tarragon sprigs
Fresh grapevine leaves
1. Gently wash and rub the spines off the cucumbers. (They should only be 1-2 inches long.) Place cucumbers in a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain for about 4 hours, then rinse and drain.
2. Sterilize a potful of pint or half-pint jars and their lids by placing them upside down in a pot of water, covering and boiling for 10 minutes. (Add a splash of vinegar is your water is hard.)
3. Bring the vinegar to vigorous simmer or low boil in a medium stockpot.
4. Without touching the inside of the jars, remove each jar from the water with a pair of tongs and flip it over on a clean work surface. Place ½-1 teaspoons peppercorns, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and a large sprig of tarragon in each jar. Add a fresh washed grape leaf if available. Add 2-3 pearl onions and cucumbers to within ¾-inch of the top of the jar. Cover with hot vinegar.
5. Wipe the rim of each jar and screw on the lid tightly, removing the lids from the water with the tongs. Wipe off any excessive moisture from the outside of the jars, then store in a cool, dark place for at least one month before eating.