Kopp's Crops is a family-run business specializing in maple syrup, honey and fresh vegetables. We are located 45 miles north of Minneapolis in Bradford Township on our 65 acre farm.

*Now Selling at the Cambridge-Isanti Farmers Market!*

Local Orders: For pickup in Isanti, Cambridge, Brooklyn Park or Arden Hills, please email koppscrops@gmail.com or call 763-772-7057 to place your order and arrange payment & pickup. Available products are listed in the shopping cart below.

Outside the Twin Cities: Please use the online shopping cart below. USPS shipping charges will be calculated at checkout.



For questions, please email us at koppscrops@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/koppscrops


Monday, September 10, 2012

Sauerkraut Season

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times… it was sauerkraut season. 
Sauerkraut is among the most unpleasant canning tasks we have.  It is definitely the stinkiest.  In a nutshell:  we take an inherently unpleasant-smelling vegetable and let it ferment in our garage for three weeks.  We start by shredding the cabbage with an old-school, antique three-blade kraut cutter into a 10-gallon crock.  After the crock is completely full of shredded cabbage, we pack it down with a wooden ram until the top is covered with cabbage juice.  Then we sprinkle in a handful of salt – a quarter cup or so.  Then we fill the crock to the top again, tamp it until it’s under cabbage-water, salt it.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat until the crock is full.  Then we set it aside to ferment for three weeks.  Yes, that’s twenty-one days of stinkiness in our garage.  Hey, at least we’re smart enough not to try to do it in the house!  Over the fermentation period, the sugar in the cabbage turns to lactic acid, giving the sauerkraut its sauer-ness.  Normally we’d actually let it sit there for four weeks, but this summer’s heat sped up the fermentation process.
The most important part of sauerkraut success (aside from making sure we have enough salt – mmmmm… salt…) is making sure no kraut is exposed to the air.  Air + sauerkraut = a stinky, moldy mess.  Ick.  We’ve found that the best way to keep the air out is to cover the cabbage with a white kitchen trash bag full of water (double- or triple-bagged to avoid leakage).  The water not only makes sure that the plastic is sealed into all the cabbage/crockery crevices to keep out the drafts, but it also puts some weight on the kraut to keep it submerged in the cabbage water for more even fermentation.
Sauerkraut is preservation method agnostic – frozen or canned, it tastes about the same to us.  Since canned foods usually last longer than frozen ones, we decided to can the first 36 pints. But after those four batches, we were a little “sauered” on the canning, so we froze the rest, and we’ll just plan on using it first.  Now that we have all these pretty jars of kraut, Jason’s looking forward to deer season to get some venison sausage to go with them!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Doing the Can-Can

Sorry, folks… we know it’s been a long time since we posted.  But right now everything in the garden is going gangbusters, and we’re working night and day to get it all picked and sold, frozen, canned, dried or given away.  Nothing hurts a farmer’s soul worse than perfectly good vegetables going to waste.  So this month, we’ve been doing the can-can.  Can we can it all?  Yes, we can.  And can.  And can.  Our houseguests last week (Michelle’s parents) even got conned into canning with us! 

We started off our canning marathon with green beans.  We grow stringless varieties called Bush Lake Blue and Slenderette so we don’t actually have to “string” them.  We just break off the tough stem end and break them into inch-long pieces so they fit in the jars better.  Green beans are a low-acid vegetable, so they have to be pressure-canned in a canner that can process jars under 10 lbs of pressure, to make sure all botulism spores are killed (it takes 240 degree heat to kill them, not just the 212 degrees of normal boiling water).  We hot-pack our beans, meaning we heat the beans before they go into the jars, then fill them to 1” below the rim with boiling water.  A teaspoon of salt, a lid with the seal softened in hot water, and a canning ring screwed on “finger tight” to keep the lid in place during processing, and we’re ready to carefully place the jars in the canner.  After ten minutes of off-gassing the steam inside the canner, we can put a weight on the canner to start bringing it up to pressure.  The beans’ twenty-five minute timer starts when the dial shows we’ve gotten to 10 lbs of pressure.

You could say we’re going in ascending order of messiness, because yesterday we tackled sweet corn. Naturally, the kernels have to be cut off the cob before they can be put in the jar, and it’s not a neat process. (Note to selves: next time, sweep up errant corn kernels from the floor before picking up the 22-month-old from daycare. “Yummy! Corn!” She was too fast to stop.) We also pressure-can the corn, but we “cold-pack”the jars with raw kernels before adding our boiling water. It increases the processing time, but we think it gives us crispier kernels when we open the jars in winter.

 

Finally, today was tomato juice day.  A motorized juicer made short work of a table full of tomatoes – way faster than our old hand-cranked food mill.  Tomatoes have higher acid, and since acid kills the spores that produce the botulism toxin, we can safely hot water bath our juice by submerging the jars in a huge pot of boiling water for 40 minutes.  It’s a lot faster than pressure-canning because we don’t have to wait for all the pressure to release before taking out the jars and starting the next batch.   But over the decades, tomato varieties have been bred to a lower level of acidity, so we add some lemon juice to each jar just to be safe; there’s no reason to take chances!

It has been said that there is no sweeter summer sound than the laughter of children, the waves of the ocean, the chirp of crickets or <insert your favorite summer sound here>.  For us, it’s that little metallic “tink!” that a jar makes when its lid seals completely, as if to say “You can relax now – it worked!”

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Busy Bees in the Garden


We have lots of busy bees in the garden these days (and we don’t just mean our daughters)!  We really mean the bees – our honeybees.  Without them, we wouldn’t have much of a harvest.  You could call them our garden superheroes, born with the power of pollination! 

Almost any plant where the fruit or the seeds are eaten (instead of the leaves or the root) relies on pollination to get the food production ball rolling.  Some vegetables, like tomatoes, beans and peas self-pollinate with a minimum of outside intervention.  They have male and female parts inside the same flower, so the pollen gets where it needs to go within a single bloom.  Corn is pollinated by the wind carrying pollen from the tassels on top down to the silk on an ear of corn.  

Zucchini Blossoms
But vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini and other squash can’t pollinate without insects, often bees.  These vines have separate male and female flowers on each plant, and rely on insects to transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female ones.  Without ample bees or other insects to do this important job, it’s up to the gardener to hand-pollinate the plants, using a cotton swab to transfer the pollen between blooms.  Frankly, we can think of a lot of things we’d rather be doing than gender-typing blossoms and Q-tipping pollen.  Weeding, getting eaten alive by deer flies, root canal…   

Nationwide, there’s an emerging pollination crisis because the honeybee population has been declining.  Some enterprising folks have built good businesses trucking hives of bees from one commercial crop producer to another through the growing season.  The bees pollinate a few fields before packing up and heading off to the next stop, like a honeybee midway carnival.  Maybe that’s what we’ll do when we retire.  If you see an RV pulling a trailer full of beehives in a few years, give a wave – it could be the Kopp’s Crops Honeybee Carnival Caravan!   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mid-Season Maintenance


We’re smack in the middle of the garden season now!  We’ve gotten past the “salad days” when we eat salad just about every day because lettuce, spinach and radishes are the only harvestable vegetables.  Now we have enough variety that we can eat out of the garden every night for supper, without having the same vegetable two days in a row.  But we haven’t yet started the canning and freezing frenzy that occurs when the garden is at is fullest production.  ‘Tis the season of mid-season maintenance.  There’s the weeding, of course.  And more weeding.  And whining about weeding.  But wait, there’s more!

Cocooning The Cauliflower:  As soon as a head of cauliflower starts to form (about 1-2” in diameter), we gather the outer leaves and tie them together above the head, creating a little cauliflower cocoon.  We do this because when the sun hits the developing cauliflower, it starts turning purple or green or some other color we don’t care to see on our cauliflower.  Using the leaves to shade the delicate florets keeps them nice and pasty white, like Michelle’s legs in March.

Thinning the Beets:  Beets are grown from compound seeds, which means that those Grape-Nuts-cereal-looking seeds that we plant are actually a conglomeration of up to 6 individual beet seeds.  If all those mini-seeds actually germinate, the baby beets are duking it out for room to grow.  We end up having to sacrifice a certain percentage of the plants, plucking them from the row to make sure the remaining ones have ample space.  Then throughout the summer, we strategically pick beets from thicker clumps first, to keep thinning the rows as the beets get bigger and need more room to spread out.  We thin carrots and onions this way, too – we intentionally plant them thickly because as we pick and eat young tender onions & carrots, it naturally allows nearby plants to spread out and reach their “full potential.” 

Staking and Suckering The Tomatoes:  We staked the tomatoes a while ago, using baling twine to tie them to metal stakes so they grow tall & straight and the sun can get to all the tomatoes.  Now we periodically “sucker” them.  Suckers are tiny branches that start growing in the crotch of two larger branches of the tomato plant.  If we let the suckers continue to develop, they take valuable tomato-growing energy away from the rest of the plant.  So we say, “I’m gonna get you, Sucka!” and pinch them off.  We saw our first red tomato today, so it must be working!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cambridge Farmers Market Update

Saturday July7th   we'll be at the Cambridge Farmer's Market from 8-11am or until sold out. This week we'll have the following available. 

2nd Crop Leaf Lettuce...........................$2.00/Bunch
Beet Tops...............................................$2.00/Bunch
Swiss Chard...........................................$2.00/Bunch
2nd Crop Spinach...................................$2.00/Bunch
Kale.......................................................$1.50/Bunch
Red Potatoes..........................................$3.00/Quart
Snow Peas.............................................$3.50/Quart
Beets.....................................................$2.00/Bunch
Small Head Cabbage............................$1.00/Head
Zucchini................................................$0.50/Each (6-12” long)
Dill........................................................$0.25/stem
Basil / Thyme / Mint /
Oregano / Rosemary.............................$0.50/stem

**For those who can't make it or want the ultimate in freshness, contact us about on the farm pickup or call us to place an order to be picked up in Cambridge on Saturday.**

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The War of the Weeds


What’s so wrong with weeds, anyway?  Aside from the fact that they end up making the garden look shaggier and more unkempt than a final-round contestant on Survivor, that is.  Mainly, we execute them for crimes against healthy plant nutrition - for stealing the nutrients our cultivated crops need.

To keep weeds from growing in the first place, we planted a lot of our widely-spaced plants like tomatoes and cabbage on plastic.  We rolled out four-foot wide IRT plastic rolls of plastic, then cut holes ever foot or two to plant the baby plants.  In addition to keeping weeds from growing (lack of sunlight will do that to you), the plastic has the added benefit of keeping the soil more moist.  Of course, now the south end of our garden looks a bit like a giant Hefty bag, but hey – you can’t argue with success.

For the close-together plants that we grow in rows from seed (like beets, carrots, and the various greens and lettuces we’ve been harvesting over the past few weeks), plastic isn’t really an option.  Our drip-tape irrigation system certainly helps – because we’re only watering a couple of inches on either side of the row, weeds further out than that tend to lack the water to thrive.    

But despite all the preventative measures, somehow the weed party always gets started eventually.  And there’s just no substitute for good old fashioned weed pulling.  We try to do a little every couple of days to stay ahead of it, but life is life after all, and sometimes it just gets away from us.  So we have days like today, when we spent a couple hours bending over row after row of small plants, pulling weeds with both hands until we filled the wheelbarrow!  Tomorrow we’ll bring out the grand-daddy of all weed whackers, the rototiller, to take care of the weeds in between the rows.   Tonight’s much-needed soaking rain means it will be easier to disturb the roots of the weeds and bring them to the surface where they can dry out and die.  Weeds, you’ve met your match.  Until next week, anyway.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Absentee Farmer’s Market


We’ve filed this this under “learning by doing” and “obvious in hindsight”:  our last couple of weeks at the farmer’s market have taught us that lettuce, spinach and kale do not hold up well in the heat of an asphalt parking lot on a Saturday morning.  They crisp up nicely again after a nice spritz of water and some time hanging out in the fridge, but they just look so droopy and sad after sitting in the heat.  And it’s going to be 90 degrees on Saturday!  So we’ve decided to take a couple of weeks off from the farmer’s market, until we have a larger variety of vegetables and a better plan for keeping them perky in the heat.


But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your Kopp’s Crops vegetables!  Check out the sidebar on the right for a “Fresh Garden Basket” you can pick up at the farm for $10 (limited delivery available – just ask if we’re going to be in your area).  A la carte veggie purchases are also available – just email us for pricing.  And yes, we’re in the chicken business now – reserve a bird (or five) now!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Littlest Livestock


We took a little after-dinner walk as a family last night, and discovered that we look at flowers differently now that we raise bees.  We used to just look for pretty flowers along the road.  Now we look for flowers that will make tasty and plentiful sources of nectar for our littlest livestock.  But all the nectar-rich flowers in the world don’t mean anything if we don’t have a bunch of worker bees out there collecting.  So the past month or so, we’ve been repopulating our hives - our "Littlest Livestock."  We’d sacrificed six of our colonies last fall so that the other four had enough food to make it through the winter.  It almost worked - three colonies survived.  And thanks to the mild winter, we didn’t have to give them any supplementary sugar water like we did last year – their stores of honey saw them through. 
Our new queens, in their little "Bee Kennels"
This spring, we bought four “bee packages” to start building back the six empty hives – each package contained three pounds of bees, mostly worker bees (they’re the ones with the little hardhats) & nurse bees (wearing comfortable shoes, of course), with one queen and a couple of drones thrown in to get the party started.  We had been hoping to split the three colonies that survived the winter to populate three additional hives and save on bee replacement costs, but they were weak with poor queens.  So we decided to replace all 3 queens.  We brought in younger, more productive queens who would lay more eggs to build the colonies back faster.  Thank goodness the queens can’t sue us for age discrimination!  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This Week at the Cambridge Farmer's Market


It’s time for our farmer’s market debut!  This Saturday, May 26, we’ll be at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market from 8am-noon, selling radishes, leaf lettuce, spinach and Russian kale.  Hope to see you there!  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cutting Out the Chemicals

We’ve always tried to limit our use of chemicals on the crops of Kopp’s Crops.  After all, one of the great joys of raising a garden is being able to eat vegetables right off the plant, still warm from the sun.  And our girls do much of the in-garden munching!  But in the past we’ve used a little chemical fertilizer, and when all natural pest-control methods failed on our cabbage, we resorted to a quick shot of pesticide.  We’ve called it being “practically organic” – organic when it was practical.    
But this year, we’re committed to raising our crops using only organic practices.  Our biggest challenge in going chemical-free is getting enough nitrogen into the soil to provide a healthy growing environment for our plants.  Isanti County has extremely sandy soil, so even with a few loads of nutrient-rich black dirt, three years’ worth of chicken manure applications, and this year’s double-dose of alpaca dung, we knew we needed more nitrogen.  So we fed the garden some nitrogen-rich meals.  Three meals, to be exact.  Soybean meal is essentially just ground-up soybeans in pelleted form for easy application, and contains a healthy 7% nitrogen with a bonus 2% phosphorus.  We first we broadcast-spread the soybean meal and some alfalfa meal ( alfalfa-based pellets that contain 2% nitrogen & 2% potassium)  over the entire garden for a nice all-over nutrient base.  Corn gluten meal is the heartiest nitrogen meal (10%!), but it inhibits seed germination (which is, incidentally, why it works so nicely to rid your lawn of crabgrass), so we can only use it to “side dress” our crops, applying it directly to rows of transplanted or partially-grown plants.  Hopefully these three meals will give our garden the balanced nutrition our plants need to grow "big & strong!"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

2012 "Limited Edition" Syrup for Sale!

You could call it “Reserve,” “Small Batch” or “Limited Edition.” We just call it a bummer of a season (Cue the trumpet blats:  wah, wah, waaaah).  Due to the maple sap-zapping side effects of our unusually warm winter this year, our total maple syrup output this year was approximately 85% lower than last year.  But the small amount of Kopp’s Crops 2012 Pure Maple Syrup that we did manage to eke out is now for sale!  For our Facebook friends & blog followers outside the Twin Cities, please order online from the sidebar at right.  For local pickup or delivery, email us at koppscrops@gmail.com to reserve your bottle now!  Each 8 oz. bottle of Grade A Medium Amber is $7.00 (plus shipping outside the Twin Cities) – first come first served while supplies last!  Can’t you just taste the pancakes now?  J

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Season Ends, Another Begins

As the maple syrup season dries up, the next season begins:  we’re gearing up to garden.  Friday we hauled in three loads of alpaca manure from our friends at Foggy Bottom Farms, just up the road.  Saturday found us running circles around the garden with the tractor, using the blade in the back to spread nutrient-rich fertilizer evenly around the whole garden, sort of like an alpaca poop Zamboni.  Normally, we’d let the manure mellow on the ground and compost for a few weeks, until we were sure we’d seen the last of the snow & freezing temperatures.  But having missed out on the bulk of the maple syrup season this year, we are taking no chances with the garden.  So today we put the main irrigation line in place and hooked up our first twelve rows of drip tape.  Then today, March 18, we started planting the garden.  Did we mention that it’s March 18 in Minnesota, and we’re planting?  But it was also 80 degrees today, so we decided to be optimistic and plant most of our cold-weather, early-season crops:  two rows of spinach, two of radishes, two of leaf lettuce and one of iceberg lettuce. 
We’re also experimenting with two rows of onion seeds this year, since the frost is out of the ground so early.  Normally we buy small onion plants which have been grown from seed in a greenhouse.  We could also buy onion “sets,” which are small onion bulbs that were produced last growing season; sets are cheaper, but the onions don’t grow as big.  Onions respond to the change in daylight and completely stop growing when the days start getting shorter.  So plants give us a jump on the short onion growing season.  We’ve already ordered ours for the year, so if our little seed experiment doesn’t work, we won’t be crying about it.  At least not until we dice up our first pungent fully-grown onion! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We're Boiling, But Just Barely

Today was the first maple syrup boil of our maple syrup season.  And likely the last.  At least it was a vigorous, rolling boil!  Murphy’s Law of Agriculture, Kopp Corollary:  “In the first year that your operation has a waiting list of maple syrup customers, the weather will take a turn for the wacky and dry up production. Literally and nearly completely.”

It’s not the dry winter that has thwarted our season.  If anything, the lack of moisture this winter should have resulted in sap with less liquid and a higher concentration of sugar, making it faster to boil.  No, it was the temperature that did us in.  When the days are above freezing, the sap rises up the trunk of the tree.  Freezing nights drive it back down to the roots.  Like it’s riding a little temperature-controlled sap elevator.  But if the nights aren’t cool enough, the sap stays up in the branches, and the “run” is over until next season.  Please note the weather report in Minnesota for the upcoming week:  highs in the sixties & seventies, lows well above freezing.  Bye, bye sap…have fun in the tree tops!  There's a small chance that the snow cover and shade deeper in the woods is keeping temperatures low enough to delay the sap run.  We might eke out a few more gallons.  But we’re not holding our breath.
Of course, this doesn’t explain why we’ve only collected a paltry 30 gallons of sap (that is, less than a gallon of syrup) in the past week, when the forecast should have been perfect for vertical sap travel.  Our hypothesis is that the syrup actually started moving during the unseasonably warm week we had in February, and stayed up in the branches.  And to think, we came this close to tapping our trees that week.  But ultimately we decided that February was too early to tap.  Now, does anybody know where we can pick up a meteorological crystal ball for next syrup season? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bye, Bye Bacteria

The syrup season is underway, but only after a great deal of careful preparation.  After the sugar shack construction, our next chore was to banish the bacteria from our equipment.  Now, before you let loose with an “ewwww… gross,” let’s be clear.  Our maple sap boils at 212 degrees for a minimum of 5 hours, and then the syrup finishes at 219 degrees.  So any bacteria that sneak into the sap are long gone by the time we bottle up our liquid gold. 
Besides, the bacteria we’re fighting isn’t harmful to people.  However, it is hungry. Ravenously hungry.  The bacteria eat up some of the precious sugar in the sap, and there’s a surprisingly low level of sugar in maple sap to begin with.  It doesn’t even taste sweet, straight out of the tree.  Which is why the normal ratio of sap to syrup is 40 to 1: forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  But a batch that’s fallen victim to hungry, sugar-slurping bacteria will take even more sap to create the same amount of syrup.  So it behooves us to be diligent in the cleanliness of our equipment.  We boiled all our aluminum taps for several minutes on the kitchen stove, a technique perfected over the past few years of sanitizing new baby bottles & pacifiers.  Then our buckets all got a bath in bleach to ensure squeaky-cleanness… all one hundred of them.  Wash.  Rinse. Rinse again.  Third rinse is a charm.  Repeat ninety-nine times.  Collapse.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tap, Tap, Tap… The Sound of the Start of the Syrup Season

Tap, tap, tap… the sound of impatiently drumming fingers on the table as we wait for the right time to tap the trees.  Tap too early, and the tap holes might close up before the peak of the sap run.  Tap too late, and the season is over before it even gets started.
Tap, tap, tap… the sound of a test run of the new boiling stove setup.  You can’t really call it a “dry” run, but maybe a “sugar free” one.  We fired up the stove to make sure the flame was efficient and that the stove would boil hot enough.  Then we loaded water into the sap storage tank to test the flow into the boiling pan.  Tap, tssss, tap, tssss… the sizzle of water hitting a hot boiling pan.  But when we lowered the hood onto the pan to check for a snug fit, we discovered that one corner of the stove had sunk a little.  Tap, tap, tap…wedging a wooden shim under the northeast corner of the stove, to once again make it nice & level so the sap boils evenly.
Tap, tap, tap… yesterday’s sound of taps being hammered into the south (sunny) side of 100 trees in the Kopp’s Crops woods.  Well, technically it started with a “whirrrrr”, as we drilled inch-and-a-half-deep holes into the tree trunks before tapping the taps in place with a hammer. 
Tap, tap tap… the sound of the first drops of sap dropping in the bucket.  The buckets on the southeast side of the woods get the most sun, so two days into the season the sap is rat-tat-tatting at a pretty fast clip already.  Deeper in the woods, it’s more of a tap… wait for it… wait for it… tap!
Tap, tap, tap…the sound of impatiently drumming fingers on the table as we eagerly await the first boil of the season!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

(Sugar) Shackin' Up

The mild winter this year put the kibosh on our planned cross-country ski trail through the woods.  But the lack of snow has extended the outdoor construction season across the entire state, and Kopp’s Crops has jumped on the bandwagon.  One of our biggest worries every season has been the threat of a rainy spring.  Barrels of sap don’t wait for a dry day, and it’s difficult to make any progress when raindrops fill up the boiling pan faster than it evaporates.  So over Christmas break, with ground still snowless and temperatures early-spring mild, we decided to set ourselves up for all-weather boiling.  We started building the Sugar Shack. 
The Sugar Shack is twelve feet square with a three foot overhang (aka front porch) to keep a stack of wood handy & dry.  We set it back about 200 feet into the woods - just far enough to make for a picturesque blog photo.  But don’t be fooled.  The quaint, old-fashioned exterior hides an engineering marvel inside.  Simply building walls & a roof around our boiling stove would create more problems than it solves.  Unless one of the problems we’re trying to solve is “where can we find a good maple syrup sauna?”  So we got a steam hood made to create a vacuum to catch the evaporating water and carry the steam outside through the stack.  Notice that little door on the side of the steam hood in the photo?  Just like the little door on the Tin Man’s chest in “The Wizard of Oz,” it provides access to the heart of the operation – the fragrant boiling syrup.  It lets us easily check on the sap to see how the boiling is going, and making sure we’re not letting it boil down far enough to scorch.
The Sugar Shack’s secondary purpose is to help our sap to boil faster so we don’t have to spend every waking moment of March keeping the fire fed.  With the shack itself protecting the stove from the wind, a new lining of firebrick on the inside of the stove, and a forced air draft to push air through the burning wood to create a hotter, faster fire, we expect to spend a lot less time by the boiling stove, and a lot more time inside eating pancakes & fresh maple syrup with our girls.  Oh, and speaking of the girls, the Sugar Shack serves a third important purpose.  In a household where he’s outnumbered 3 to 1 by women, the Sugar Shack is as close to a “Man Cave” as Jason is going to get! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Year, New Dreams

This is a dangerous time of year here at Kopp’s Crops – the time of dreaming, not doing.  The time of year when we’ve forgotten how tired we were of bees, trees, and veggies to freeze by the end of last summer, and we start thinking about expanding our operation.  When “what’s another 50 tapped trees?” and “I mean, is it really any more work to keep 20 hives instead of 10?” become part of the daily conversation.  Everything seems possible, and the reality of the work involved is far enough in the future that it seems manageable.  It’s seed catalog season.
Now that the Christmas catalogs and sales flyers have cleared out, the seed catalogs are weighing down the letter carriers’ pouches and filling the Kopp family mailbox.  The Jung’s catalog is our favorite – it’s like the seed version of the Neiman-Marcus catalog; page after page of stunning photographs that make us want to buy, buy, buy!  But just like the Neiman-Marcus one, Jung’s tends to be the catalog that we wish from, not what we buy from.  Last season, we bought many of our seeds in bulk – by the pound, not the teeny little envelope.  The cost per seed is significantly less, and we can store the extra seeds for several years.  As long as we keep the seeds cool & dry, the germination rate only decreases 2-3% each year.
Before we place any orders for the year, we need to get a handle on what our current seed stock looks like, so last week we pulled the leftovers from last season out of the cellar and took inventory.  After portioning out this season’s seed needs, we vacuum-sealed our 2013+ seeds to keep out moisture and keep the seeds from rotting.  Looks like we’ll be set on lettuce, carrots, beets and green onions for the next few years!  How many beets can you ougrow with a pound of beet seeds?  Let’s just say that we expect to be eating beets grown from these seeds at our daughters’ graduations!