November 22nd, 2013

Hello all!

The cold days and the lack of sunlight makes things grow slower but there is never a lack of things to do at the farm. We are still in deconstruction and cleanup mode. This week Natalie and I tackled the perennial area, where we keep asparagus, rhubarb, okra, some fruits and tuber roses. We cut and hauled out all of the woody brush, weeded and mulched the plants. Besides Sugar Creek giving me (hopefully) my last round of poison oak it has been a pretty stark transformation and quite a rewarding job.

Besides preparing for winter I suspect all small farms have been worried about the FDAs new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). If you haven’t heard about it, this policy is aimed at cutting back food borne illnesses. Recent out breaks the past couple of years, in melons and sprouts have caused people to be concerned, according to the CDC 48 million people in the United States will suffer from a food borne illness each year. Although this law has some good purposed regulations it also has the power to hurt small local farms where these food borne illnesses are not coming from. Here are just a few of many issues about the purposed law:

  • The use of manure and compost. Manure is natural compost many small farms use in order to return nutrients back into the soil. Here at Sugar Creek we follow organic guidelines on the use of raw manure. If manure is added we wait 120 days to harvest if the crop is a root vegetable or has any contact with the soil, or we wait 90 days to harvest if the crop is a leafy vegetable or above soil contact. The FDA wants to make it nine months between applying manure to harvest. This regulation will make it virtually impossible to put down manure on a field and expect to harvest anything from that spot in the same year. In turn many farmers would stop using manure and switch to a synthetic, costly soil amendment.

  • Irrigation and Agricultural water. Water is an essential use for a farm. I am likely to be doing something with water at the farm at any time, whether it is irrigation, washing or cleaning.  While I agree that the water should be safe, the new law would be costly for farmers.

 While I am pro-food safety many purposed regulations of the FSMA have the potential to really put extra burden on small farmers and discourage new farmers. If you are interested I suggest to check out this website for more information and details,

Hope to see everyone at market this weekend,

Ann and the Sugar Creek Crew

 Sweet Potato Pie by Edna Edwards

·      2 c mashed cooked sweet potatoes
·      1 c sugar
·      ½ tsp salt
·      1 c milk
·      2 eggs
·      ½ c butter, melted
·      1 tsp vanilla
·      1 tsp lemon extract
·      Unbaked pastry for 9” pie

Mix all the ingredients together, blending thoroughly. Turn into 9 inch pastry – lined pie pan and bake in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Autumn Napa Cabbage Salad

Serving Size: 4 to 6


•    1 pound sweet potato, unpeeled, sliced into strips/matchsticks
•    ½ pound carrots, unpeeled, sliced into strips/matchsticks
•    2 tablespoon coconut oil
•    Pinches of sea salt
•    4 cups ribboned Napa cabbage
•    1 cup sliced onion
•    ¼ cup toasted pecan pieces
•    ¼ cup fresh parsley
•    1 small (one-ounce) fresh pepper, seeded and diced
•    for the dressing
•    ¼ cup olive oil
•    1 teaspoon Greek yogurt
•    Juice of one lime and half a lemon (about ¼ cup)
•    2 teaspoons honey
•    2 teaspoons warm water, plus more as desired
•    squirt of siracha
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375F and melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in an 8 X 8 glass baking dish. Toss sweet potato strips with the oil and a pinch of sea salt in that dish; place dish in oven for 30 minutes. Repeat process in another dish with the carrot strips.

While the sweet potatoes and carrots roast, combine cabbage, onion, pecans, parsley, and pepper in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, make the dressing by combining olive oil, Greek yogurt, lemon and lime juices, honey, warm water, and siracha, whisking well. Taste the mixture and adjust to your liking --- add more water to thin it oil, more honey to sweeten, more siracha for a greater kick, etc.

When sweet potatoes and carrots are roasted, add them to the cabbage bowl. Drizzle dressing on top; keep adding until the salad is coated to your liking; you likely won't need all the dressing. Salt and pepper to taste.

November 15th, 2013

And all of a sudden, winter is here!  We received our first good frost 3 weeks ago and this week we had a good hard freeze with low temps that hit 23 on Wednesday, and Thursday morning.  One of the many reasons I like North Carolina is that our seasons change and each one has its own unique weather signature.  In the summer I love those thunderstorms that pop out of nowhere and dump 2 inches of rain in an hour.  In the fall and winter what I love most is when a cold, artic, high pressure system rolls in.  That is what happened on Tuesday.  There is an old saying to describe the weather on days like Tuesday and it is:  "The hawk is out!"

To correctly use this phrase it means the wind is blowing hard and the temps are dropping fast because a cold front is coming.  Once it's cold and the wind has died down then this term really doesn't apply.  Winter weather in North America is dominated by the movement of cold, dry air masses that form just east of the Canadian Rockies.  As these cold air masses grow in size, they eventually start to get pushed by the jet stream.  As the cold high pressure system tumbles south a great deal of wind is created at the "front" of the air mass.  Since cold air sinks, hawks and other migratory birds fly up high to escape the cold, turbulent, dense air.  So it is very common to see hawks flying very high as the Canadian cold front approaches as it gets windy and the temps begin to plummet. 

Here at the farm, the evening freezes have taken their toll.  The leaves are almost off the trees and most of the grasses have turned brown.  We've planted some cover crops and now we are beginning the process of "putting the farm to sleep" for the winter.  We're still harvesting plenty of your fall and winter favorites and while the farm share program technically ends next week (Saturday before Thanksgiving) we plan to attend a few markets into December. 

Today I am going to recycle a couple of recipes that we posted from earlier in the year.  These are personal favorites:

Kale Chips

Olive Oil

Pull stems from Kale and arrange on a baking sheet in a single (or so) layer, toss with a little olive oil and salt, and bake at 375° for 10 minutes or 15 minutes, giving the cookie sheet a shake or two if you remember, until the edges get crispy.

Sauteed Chard with Garlic and Red Pepper

2 tbsp  olive oil
2 stalks green garlic (white part finely chopped)
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 lg bunch chard cut into small pieces
Juice of 1/2 lemon or a few teaspoons red wine vinegar

Heat the oil with the garlic and pepper flakes in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to color. Add the chard and toss to coat it with the oil. Add 1/4 cup water (carefully) and cook until it's absorbed and the greens are heated through. Season with salt and a little lemon juice or vinegar.

November 8th, 2013

Sunchokes and luffa?  You know it’s getting colder outside.  Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, and topinambour are all names for a ginger- looking root.  Over 7 feet tall, these flowers brighten up our perennial area for a solid month in the early fall.  The sunchoke has a mild, sweet and nutty.  Quoting From Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook “Surprisingly, sun chokes are free of any starch, and have instead a polysaccharide called inulin that’s  digested slowly and lowers blood sugar, making it a highly recommended food choice for diabetics.”  It turns out there’s a sweetener on the market based on the Jerusalem artichoke!
The other new thing to add the list is the luffa sponges.  Not creatures of the sea, but presented in the shape of a sponge, these luffa sponges are a wonderful ecological way to exfoliate your skin in the shower or clean your dishes. 


Third try is a charm.  Each year, we’ve started the luffa earlier and earlier in the spring to get it to complete its long growing cycle to dry down so that we can collect the fibrous fruit.  The timing coupled with a change in seed have allowed us to finally present you with this sponge!  This vining affair needs some solid support, the vines will create a wall or a carpet if needed. 

Once the greens have established, contrasting little yellow flowers erupt along the trellising.  Then the bees come and visit regularly until the frost.  Cucumbers start to appear – the young ones are edible – popular in China and India.  We wait for them to get several feet long, and they get very heavy with the water weight.  Thus the solid structure -- we didn’t trellis them in time this year and they decided the high tinsel strength electric deer fence would do.  They pulled down the top several strands of wire, grounding the wire and inviting for the deer to step right over.  Surprisingly, the deer did not take the bait, sparing the neighboring sweet potatoes.  I think they were concerned about getting their hooves tangled up in the vines, I get tripped up in every venture between the fence and luffa rows.      

When the luffa gets to its desired size, it starts to dry down and turn brown.  You can hear the seeds rattle inside when they are ready.  Peel the outside and ta da – a sponge awaits.  We remove as many seeds possible and soak them in a mild bleach solution to remove the stains.  Both the Dixie Classic Farmer's Market and the Old Salem Cobblestone Market have some excellent homemade goat soaps available, a good combination with your new luffa!

Have a great weekend,
Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew

Sunchokes au Gratin from Harmony Valley Farm via Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook
·        -  2 pounds sun chokes
·         - Salt and pepper to taste
·         - ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
·         - 2 T butter, in pieces
S    Scrub or peel Jerusalem artichokes.  Steam or boil until just tender.  Slice thinly and lay out in a casserole dish.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover with cheese and dot with butter.  Bake at 375 degrees 7-10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and browned.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Mustard Greens Pancakes from Ariane
·         - 1 small onion, diced
·         - Large handful of mustard greens, coarsely chopped
·         - 1 T olive oil
·         - 2 eggs
·         - 2 c milk
·         - 1 c flour
·         - ¼ tsp salt
·         - 1 T melted butter

Put olive oil in a hot skillet, add onions.  When onions are translucent, add the greens and cook until wilted and add another 2 minutes.  Set aside.
Mix eggs, milk, flour and salt together.  Let sit ½ hour.  Add melted butter.  Mix the greens in and make thin pancakes, like crepes.  Good with lignonberry sauce (like cranberry), or bacon. 

Stir–Fried Bok Choy with Cashew Sauce from Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook
·       -   ½ c raw cashews
·        -  ¼ cup white wine vinegar
·         - ¼ cup sugar
·         - ¼ cup soy sauce
·         - 1 T minced ginger
·         - Pinch of red pepper flakes
·         - 1 ½ pounds bok choy
·         - ¼ cup peanut oil

Toast cashews in a dry skillet, tossing frequently, until lightly brown and fragrant.  Combine cashews, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes, and 2-4 T water in a blender or food processor; puree until smooth.  Set aside.  Wash bok choy stems and leaves well, making sure to rinse away dirt in the ribs.  Separate the bok choy leaves from the stalks.  Cut stalks into 1/2” pieces and roughly chop the leaves.  Het peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add bok choy stems and cook, stirring often, until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the leaves and cook until they wilt and turn bright green, another minute or so.  Remove to a platter and cover with cashew sauce, or serve sauce on the side. 

October 31st, 2013

The Red Sox won the World Series and it’s time to plant garlic for next year. Garlic is one of the few vegetables that will be planted in the fall and harvested in the early summer. We have saved a few pounds of different varieties and will break them into singular cloves in order to plant them out. Once in the ground we will mulch the area really well giving the clove a little more insulation and weed suppression for the months ahead. Not long after planting, usually a couple months, the first sprouts come out of the ground and grow until spring. Then most of the energy will go into producing a bulb, which we will harvest and then repeat the cycle all over again. I am looking forward to putting the garlic in the ground, I feel like all we have been doing lately is cleanup and maintenance. It will be fun putting a plant into the ground again and begin growing for next season.

A fun note about garlic: at the market in Clemmons I was shown a Martha Stewart video where she shakes a blub of garlic in a bowl and in about 30 seconds the garlic is in cloves and most astonishing peeled. At first I was very suspicious but one of our customers tried Martha’s method and it and it works! Martha is amazing. Check out the video!

Have a great weekend,
Ann and the Sugar Creek Crew

The Best Sauteed Bok Choy via:

1 head bok choy, sliced, both white and green parts
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/2 tablespoon grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup chicken broth
crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse and drain bok choy and set aside.
Sauté onion and ginger in olive oil and sesame oil until onion is tender.
Add remaining ingredients and sauté for about 8 minutes.

Sauteed Radishes via:

1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 to 2 bunches radishes (about 1 pound with tops), trimmed and each cut into quarters or halves if small
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, melt margarine over medium-high heat. Add radishes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook 14 to 15 minutes or until radishes are fork-tender and lightly browned.
2. Remove skillet from heat; toss radishes with dill and transfer to warm serving bowl.

October 25th 2013

For over a week, this Friday/Saturday has been on our mind.  From looking at the long term forecast tonight was supposed the be our first frost as it showed low temps right around freezing.  This past Monday morning was not a concern because the low was in the mid 40's so you can imagine my surprise Monday morning when I was feeding/watering the turkeys and I felt a strong chill in the air and noticed ice crystals on the grass!  Fortunately, mother nature was kind and it was a very, very light frost that served only as a warning and didn't hurt any crops except two tender trays of microgreens.  Natalie and Ann worked Monday to put out row cover to protect the tender crops.  Row cover is a very light fabric that we place over the crops.  The row cover generally traps in a little of the earth's heat and keeps the veggies under the row cover about 3-4 degrees warmer.  Row cover also serves as a physical barrier so that ice doesn't form on the plants.

3 beds of row cover
Oops, missed a squash

It's a good thing that the row cover went out because Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings brought the first killing frost and tonight we are expecting a good freeze with temps in the upper 20's.  Fortunately, Sugar Creek Farm grows more than just tender summer veggies.  We also have a great crop of fall veggies coming out of the ground right now.  From carrots to kale and collards we've have plenty more to offer for the rest of the year.  Pictured below are couple of pictures of what the fall will have to offer!

Jeff and the Sugar Creek crew

no frost problems here!!

A light frost on a head of cabbage!

Grilled Hearts of Romaine from food network


2 hearts romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the grill or a grill pan.

Cut each heart of romaine in half lengthwise, leaving the end intact so each half holds together. Cut the tops of the lettuce, if necessary. Brush with olive oil and grill over medium heat until the lettuce chars and wilts slightly, about 6 minutes, turning a few times. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Black Radish Sandwich


1 black radish


Wash the radish and cut it up into slices.  Toss the slices with a little bit of salt and let sit in a bowl for 30 minutes to extract water from the radish.  You will periodically need to pour the water out of the bowl.  At the end of 30 minutes, the radish will not be crisp but instead it will have a softer texture.  Butter one piece of bread and load it up with radish slices.  The radish sandwich has actually has a savory meaty taste and feel to it!

October 18th, 2013

  • I’d like to talk more about radishes today – we've got a lot to choose from this week:

    - pink beauty radish
    - French breakfast radishes
    - black radish
    - watermelon radish
    - rat tail’s radish

     rat tail's radish from Real Veggies Farm Blog

    'Tis the season!  This is the first year of our growing the last two on that list.  The watermelon radish is crispy with mild and sweet flavor, excellent for salad, garnish and cooking in Asian dishes.  Rat tail’s radish is the pod of the radish.  Usually, radishes to go seed or bolt when it gets really warm.  This particular radish is geared towards early flower and pod production – lucky for us.  I first learned of them a couple of years ago at the market – thank you Mosers.  It is an heirloom  from Thailand.  The pods are mildly radish flavored – great raw in salads, as snacks or good addition to stir fries. 

    The black radish we grew this year is a round variety from Spain.  This is generally a very strong radish.  My favorite thing to do with these is to follow my grandmother’s advice:  grate/thinly slice the radish, sprinkle with salt, mix well and let it sit for at least 15 minutes or so – then rinse and add a vinaigrette dressing.  Great side.  When cooked, their flavor is similar to rutabaga. They are used in soups, stews, and omelettes and with tofu.

    The French Breakfast radish has been around for a while – at least since 1875 when listed  by seedsman JHH Gregory of Marblehead MA.  This was not long after the USDA was founded (1862). Prior to the USDA, the Department of treasury encouraged military personnel and ambassadors working abroad to collect seeds.  When the USDA was born, 1/3 of its budget went towards dispensing seeds, I believe they even paid folks to travel and bring back seeds according to an exhibit in DC I saw a few years ago: What's Cooking Uncle Sam: The Government's Effect on the American Diet.  If it ever comes this way, I highly recommend it seeing the exhibit!  The distribution program ended in 1924 – opening the market to private business.  

    Enjoy your radishes and your weekend,
    Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew

    Sweet Pickled Onion Watermelon Radish Salad from Kathy at Healthy. Happy. Life.
    makes 4 cups

    1 large watermelon radish, sliced into thin rounds
    1 small white onion, sliced into thin rounds
    1/3 cup orange juice
    2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    1/2 tsp pepper (fresh ground)
    2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    splash of rice wine vinegar (optional - adds an extra layer of tart-sweetness)

    1. Slice your onion and radish. Place in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl - toss well.
    3. Place in fridge to chill overnight.
    4. Serve! 

  • Winter Squash Pot Pie with Swiss Chard and Chickpeas from Vegetarian times 
  • serves 12
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (1 qt.)
  • 1 delicata or ½ red kuri squash, unpeeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into ½-inch-thick crescents (2 cups)
  • 1 lb. Yukon gold or fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 12-oz. bunch red Swiss chard, stems sliced, leaves coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen organic corn kernels
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
  • 1 cup plain almond milk, rice milk, or soymilk
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (½ 17.3-oz. pkg.), such as Pepperidge Farms, thawed
1. Bring broth, 4 cups water, squash, potatoes, Swiss chard stems, thyme, and salt to a boil in stockpot. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard leaves and corn, and cook 3 minutes more. Drain vegetables, and reserve broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make 7 cups liquid. Transfer vegetables to large bowl, and stir in chickpeas.
2. Wipe out stockpot, add oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions, and sauté 7 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Sprinkle with flour and garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add reserved 7 cups broth liquid, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until sauce thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in almond milk. Stir sauce into vegetable mixture, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cool. (If making ahead, transfer filling to bowl, cover, and refrigerate up to 2 days.)
3. To assemble pot pie: Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour filling into deep 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
4. Gently roll out puff pastry sheet to size of baking dish on lightly floured work surface. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and chill 30 minutes.
5. Place chilled puff pastry sheet over filling on top of baking dish, and press around edges to seal. Use tip of sharp paring knife to score 4 rows of diagonal incisions into puff pastry (without cutting completely through), alternating directions with each row.
6. Bake 30 minutes, or until top crust is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

October 10th, 2013

These past few at Sugar Creek Farm have been blur. Everyday I feel like trellises disappear and things are magically planted in their place. Deconstruction of summer happened fast this year and now we are full force into our fall season.

I really love the fall, due to the vast amount of delicious greens and the cooler weather but also because the farm agenda changes drastically. For the most part everything is planted for the rest of the year. We will either pull up a crop for market or the crop will be overwintered and will be harvested in the early spring. This makes my life easier, no longer are we worried about seeding trays and transplanting every other day. Instead we focus on the maintenance, deconstruction and overall getting the farm ready for the winter.

The only part of the week that has seems to keep consistent is the sweet potato harvest. Every Monday Natalie and I will cut a row of sweet potato greens off, and haul them off to the birds for a snack. Then we run the potato plow through and the sweet potatoes get brought up. We cure the sweet potatoes in our greenhouse. Sweet potatoes need to cure in a hot and humid environment with good air circulation in order for their starches to turn into sugars. This year we primarily grew a variety called Covington and they are delicious. Jeff came today to show us that he has made a few sweet potato pies in honor of our farm day event and I can’t wait for Saturday to dig into some pies!

Have a great weekend,
Ann and the Sugar Creek Crew

Sweet Potato Latkes with Ginger and Sesame via:

Makes 14 - 2 1/2 inch latkes

2 medium sized, orange fleshed sweet potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), scrubbed
4 green onions (including the white parts), finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated ginger (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Canola oil for frying

Using a box grater, grate the potatoes (I leave the peels on) into a large mixing bowl. Add the green onions, grated ginger, sesame seeds, flour and salt. Lightly toss with your fingers to mix. Pour in the eggs and use a wooden spoon to stir together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a large frying pan, pour about 1/2 inch oil in and heat over medium-high heat. With a large tablespoon, gently place scoops of the potato mixture in the hot oil (the patties should measure about 2 1/2 inches across). Do not crowd the pan. Let the latkes cook for a few minutes until nicely browned before trying to flip (if you try to flip too soon, they will tear and stick to the bottom). When the edge of the latke lifts easily, gently flip it over (be careful for splatters). Fry on the other side until golden brown and crispy.

Remove the latkes to the lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat the latke frying until potato mixture is used up. Adjust the heat as needed (may have to lower a bit if the oil gets too hot and edges start to burn a bit) and add additional oil as needed. Let the latkes drain, and then move them to a platter to serve.

If you are making the latkes ahead of time, store them on paper towels at room temperature and then rewarm on a baking sheet before serving.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes via:

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (including tender stems)
1 teaspoon of lime zest or lemon zest
2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 Prepare your grill for hot, direct heat. While the grill is heating up, peel the sweet potatoes and slice lengthwise, or on a diagonal, into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Coat the sweet potato slices with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt.
2 Combine all of the dressing ingredients into a small bowl.
3 Once the grill is hot, lay the sweet potato pieces down onto the grill grates. Cover the grill and cook until each side gets some grill marks, between 3-6 minutes for each side, depending on how hot your grill is.
4 Toss the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the dressing and serve hot.

October 4th, 2013

We are hopeful that this newsletter will make it to you on time. Last Thursday we lost our internet connection at the farm and we felt sure it would be restored by Friday morning. After a visit by the nice folks at Yadtel they determined that the underground fiber optic cable had been cut. Further troubleshooting revealed that the broken cable was somewhere along the driveway. In a typical residence, driveways are maybe a hundred feet or so. Well at Sugar Creek, the driveway is over 1/2 mile long!! The Yadtel folks didn't find any disturbed soil but they ultimately found an area of soft soil where a groundhog lives. It turns out groundhogs like a tasty snack of fiber optic cable! Yadtel had to dig up the chewed cable, repair it, and then bury it in a way less friendly to a groundhog. Fortunately, our internet was restored late Friday afternoon!

On Tuesday, I was at home preparing some tax info and the internet connection went out again. When it didn't come back in a few minutes, I had a feeling of déjà vu. My gut feeling turned out to be correct and we got to see our friends at Yadtel again on Tuesday. After repairing the connection for a second time, we were back in business. Efforts are currently underway to relocate the groundhog away from Sugar Creek.

Another strange group of pests have also started showing up in very large numbers: stink bugs. The brown marmorated stink bug first arrived in the United States in 1995. It is believed these initial bugs were onboard a shipping container that arrived in Pennsylvania. In less than 20 years they have made their way to 36 states and have become a severe nuisance in the Mid-Atlantic region including North Carolina. For some odd reason, their population has exploded this fall. In the afternoons, they concentrate by the thousands on the side of my house and also the barn. Every time you walk through a door at least 2 or 3 enter the house. Fortunately, the stink bugs are not an agricultural problem to our fall crops. So if I had to choose the lesser of two evils, I guess I would prefer a large infestation on the outside of my house compared to an infestation that wipes out the fall crops. Besides, if you close your eyes and open your nose, the brown marmorated stink bug smells a bit like cilantro!

Enjoy your produce,
Jeff and the Sugar Creek Crew

Sauteed Okra from NY Times


1 pound fresh, unblemished small okra
2 tablespoons olive oil
Red-pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1) Trim the stems off the ends of the okra, taking care not to cut into the interior of the pods.
2) Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat and allow it to heat until almost smoking. Add the okra and red-pepper flakes to taste. Sauté until the pods have softened slightly, but are still crisp and brightly colored, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Garlic Sweet Potatoe Mash from Skinny Taste


    2 lbs (4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
    1 tbsp butter
    3 cloves garlic, crushed
    1/2 cup 1% milk
    2 tbsp light sour cream
    salt and fresh cracked ground pepper, to taste


1) In a large pot boil sweet potatoes in salted water until tender, drain in a colander.
2) Meanwhile, melt butter and sauté garlic until lightly golden. Return potatoes to the pan, add milk and sour cream; mash until smooth and creamy. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

September 27th, 2013 + a few days

Radishes are harbingers of fall.  6 days after the fall equinox, we’re pulled up the first pink beauties!  The long sleeves are on more often than not and the task of cleaning the harvest bins has moved later in the day.  We have started to dig up a row of sweet potatoes every Monday, they cure for a week in the greenhouse and then move to the bushel baskets for market.   

We continue to plant fall crops – kohlrabis, green onions, fennel, radishes and turnips and are beginning to prepare beds for 2014.  

Last Friday before (and during) the downpour Ann seeded some of the fall cover crops: austrian winter peas, crimson clover, and cereal rye.   
In an undisturbed prairie or forest, organic material is constantly growing, dying, breaking down in the soil and cycling back through again and again.  In farming, we disrupt that cycle by taking a sizable portion of the crop away, each time we plant a cash crop, taking those nutrients out of the cycle.  Thus the need to fertilize.  One of the best, and easiest ways to do that is by cover cropping.  We grow a large amount of plant material to reincorporate into the soil.  

Cover crops have numerous benefits.  They keep the nutrients near the top of the soil, ready for the next crops' use.  They anchor the topsoil, avoiding erosion.  It provides a feast for pollinators in the spring when the crimson clover and austrian winter peas flower.  It crowds out weeds.
We grow the rye to take in any residual nitrogen in the soil.  The rye releases allelopathic chemicals that prohibit the growth of certain annual, broad leafed weed seedlings such as lambsquarter and pigweed.   We grow crimson clover because it is a legume - it fixes high levels of nitrogen from the air into a form edible to the plants.  It will take off in the spring and also produce a habitat for beneficial insects.  We grow the austrian winter peas also because it is a legume and it grows very well and produces a lot of biomass.  We can also harvest the pea tips in the spring - which are delicious in salads or great in stir fries.

Have a great day,
Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew

Garlic Joi Choi from
Yield: Serves 3 to 4

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola is good) or peanut oil, for stir-frying
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound bok choy, stalks cut diagonally and leaves cut across in 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces
Pinch of red pepper flakes, chili paste or chili powder (optional)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste (I used less than 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
Asian Sesame oil, to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
Freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste

Heat wok and add oil. When oil is ready, add garlic and chili paste, chili powder or red pepper flakes if using and stir-fry briefly, for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is aromatic. Add the bok choy, adding the stalks first, and then the leaves. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, and salt, and stir-fry on high heat for 1 minute.

Add the water or chicken broth, cover the wok and simmer for about 2 - 3 minutes, until the leaves are dark green and the stalks are tender but not too soft.

sweet potato pie!  from  

1 (1 pound) sweet potato
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.

September 20th, 2013

This summer I have seen more butterflies fluttering around than any other year in my memory. Just as I had been wondering what was going on with the butterfly population I saw an email from Debbie Roos (a cooperative extension agent in Chatham county) all about the year of the butterfly. Butterflies are all around the farm this year, but the most abundant species I noticed had to be the eastern swallowtail. The males are yellow with black “tiger” stripes on their wings; females can be either black or yellow. The eastern swallowtail population ranges from across all the 100 North Carolina counties and since they have become so abundant they are now our official state butterfly. Swallowtail caterpillars feed on many trees but here at the farm they are all over our parsley. They are notorious to herbs and many people might have seen this guy around their garden. When they reach adult stage the swallowtail enjoys nectar from many weeds and flowers, making them a great pollinator for us! 

So what is the reasoning for the seemingly abundant population? According to Dr. Harry LeGrand, the author of Butterflies of North Carolina, is that most butterfly species did not hatch in usual time due to the cooler and wetter weather we experienced at the beginning of the summer season. While these larva didn’t hatch the swallowtail larvae were not as affected. Other factors such as parasites, predators and diseases could have also played a role in butterfly populations. Wetter weather can cause an increase in parasitic fungi, viruses and bacteria, and we have had a lot of rain this year.

While the swallowtail is out in numbers this year there are over 175 species of butterfly in North Carolina. So while the swallowtail was very noticeable this year we don’t know what next year will bring. Keep eyes open for other species and enjoy the beauty that is the butterfly.

Have a great weekend,

Ann and the Sugar Creek Crew

Spicy Bok Choy Slaw via:

1 head bok choy, finely shredded
1 cucumber, seeded and finely shredded
3 carrots, peeled and finely shredded
5 hot cherry peppers, seeded and finely

5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup coarse-grain brown mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/8 teaspoon roasted ground ginger
freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1. Place the shredded bok choy, cucumber, carrots, and cherry peppers into a large salad bowl. Place the jalapeno peppers into the work bowl of a food processor, then pour in the apple cider vinegar, brown mustard, soy sauce, and agave syrup. Pulse several times, then process for a few seconds to combine. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss. Refrigerate from 1 hour to overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with roasted ginger and black pepper; toss again to serve.

Zucchini-Cannellini Toss via:

2 lbs. zucchini, cut into 2 1/2" strips
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbs. dry white wine
2 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans drained
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
2 tbs. chopped fresh oregano
3 cups hot cooked couscous, cooked without salt or fat
1/4 cup (1 oz.) finely shredded fresh parmesan cheese

Saute zucchini in 1 tbs. olive oil for 4 minutes
Add garlic and saute 1 minute
Add wine and cook 2 minutes
Add beans and cook 4 minutes or until thoroughly heated
Remove from heat
Stir in basil and oregano
Serve over couscous and sprinkle with cheese

September 13th 2013

We farmers are always complaining about the weather.  Remember a few weeks back when everyone was talking about too much rain?  Well now it's been 11 days since our last bit of precipitation and we've been using more and more irrigation.  However, on Tuesday morning we were given an unpleasant surprise:  the well at the farm stopped working!!  Can you believe the luck?  We are in the middle of one of the wettest years in recent memory and when it finally starts to get really dry, we lose our water supply.  Natalie and Ann rose to the challenge and used a 300 gallon water tank sitting on a pickup truck and filled it up at my house and then used the force of gravity to irritate the thirstiest crops.  This kept the plants from wilting in the short term and finally today the well folks pulled the pump motor and replaced it. 

The water for the farm comes from a well that was drilled in 2008.  The hole goes down 500 feet and yields 8 gallons of water per minute.  8 gpm is not a huge yield for an agricultural well but we use micro-irrigation ( i.e. drip tape) and this well serves our farm just fine.  Near the bottom of our well is a submersible pump and motor which is actually suspended from the top of the well with a pipe.  So earlier today, when the well folks determined the motor was bad, they literally had to pull up several hundred feet of pipe out of the ground until they could reach the motor.  After replacing the motor and a few other parts they slowly dropped the motor and pipe back down.  Now everything is back to normal but we have been running the new motor non-stop since the well guys left.  Now the next thing I need to do is find a rabbit's foot and give it a good rub!!

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR SATURDAY, OCT 12 from 2-5pm.  On that day, we will be having our Open-Farm event for all our customers.  At this event, we will be giving tours of the farm, enjoying snacks and beverages, and playing old time music on the front porch.  Please join us as we would love to show you around.  After all, we need to show off the well!!

Enjoy your weekend,
Jeff and the Sugar Creek Crew

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet via Monique of - and for nice photos on how to dissect said squash and the process,  click here

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 25 mins

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced, peeled butternut squash (from about a 2-lb. squash)
salt and pepper, to season
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 yellow corn tortillas, cut into thick strips
1-15 ounce can red enchilada sauce
1 cup reduced-fat colby jack or mexican cheese (or whatever you prefer), divided
cilantro and low-fat sour cream, for serving

1) Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large oven-proof skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add cubed squash, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is slightly tender, 8 to 10 minutes. You want the squash to be fork tender, but not so tender that it starts to fall apart and become mush.

2) Next add the black beans, corn tortilla pieces, and can of enchilada sauce and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle in 1/2 cup of cheese. Stir again and simmer for a few minutes. Turn on your oven broiler to high. Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup of cheese over the top of the enchilada mixture and place in oven under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts and tortilla edges become a tiny golden brown. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Feel free to add in cilantro. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, or hot sauce! Enjoy!

3) Serving size: 1/6th of recipe Calories: 252 Fat: 6.4g Saturated fat: 2g Carbohydrates: 38.5g Sugar: 4.1g Fiber: 7.5g Protein: 12.8g

September 6th 2013

How to win a war against an army… The fall armyworm is what we are up against. We are feeding an extremely hungry army, larger than I've seen in the past and they are not picky about what they put in their mouths.



These pests made their way into the Savannah Morning News last Wednesday, wreaking havoc on folks’ Bermuda grass. Fall armyworms are a pest of Bermuda grass, zoysia, millets, corn, hay, and fall vegetables. Here at Sugar Creek, we have a lovely patch of Bermuda grass just for them, but they have opted for green onions, kohlrabi (top picture), cucumber plants, leaf lettuce mix, swiss chard (bottom picture), and pretty much every other plant we have put out this fall. They have a distinguishing inverted Y on their foreheads.

Our method for dealing with them;

Step 1: Encourage beneficial insects.

Front lateral view of a spined soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris (Say).
One of their predators are the spined soldier bug which is associated with alfalfa, apples, asparagus, beans, celery, cotton, crucifers, cucurbits, eggplant, potatoes, onions, soybeans, sweet corn and tomatoes. I've seen some of the beneficials' work in the newly planted zucchini. A few worms had been dealt with before I got to them with our following step..

Step 2: Search, Find, Squish.
We can tell what size worm we're looking for based on the size of the damage, they range from pinhead size to 2 inches long and as thick as my pinkie finger.

Step 3: Diatamacous Earth (look back to post on May 9) so they get cut up.

Step 4: Bacillus thuringiensis,
This naturally occurring bacteria forms a crystal protein toxic to many species of insects, not people, nor Jeff's dog (who has put away a whole bag of Dipel with no visible repercussions). Here's a visual of how Bt works from UC San Diego:


Step 5: Search, Find and Squish
Sound familiar? The Bt is great for protecting our bigger plants - like the kale, collards, and chois, but this wet weather has brought armyworm out early, deterring some of the beneficial insects -- the young plants can't hold their own as easily. One bite, and they are done for.

Step 6: Plant, a lot.
There may be a few holes in the larger/older leaves of your upcoming greens, know that those plants have been through a lot. The more stressed the plants, the more anti oxidants in the vegetables -- in the end, your bodies have an army to thank.

Flat Rice Noodles with Beef and Sweet Potato Greens from

About 1/2 a pound of sirloin steak, cut into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces
1 t freshly grated ginger
2 T soy sauce, divided
2 T oyster sauce, divided1 t garlic powder
16 oz package of fresh flat rice noodles
1 bunch sweet potato greens, stems removed and cut into 1/2″ strips
Pinch of sugar

To start, marinate the steak, ginger, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T oyster sauce, and garlic powder together in a dish. You can start this ahead of time, or just marinate it while you prepare the greens and noodles.

You can find fresh flat rice noodles at the Asian grocery store. Ours carries them in the produce section. They’re sold in brick type form, 16 or 32 oz, usually uncut but there are some pre-cut noodles available. To prepare them, microwave them in the unopened package for 30 seconds to a minute or until it starts to feel soft and pliable but not completely mushy and cooked. Open the package, remove the brick, and slice the noodles into half inch strips. Then you’ll have to unravel the strips – they contain several layers of noodle. If you just sort of hold them up and shake them, they’ll start to unravel. If they don’t, or if they’re still really hard, microwave them a little longer. Set the unraveled noodles aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet until it is searing hot. Add the meat along with any marinade that remains. Cook, stirring very frequently, until the meat is not quite done, still a little pink. Add the noodles, greens, remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce, and pinch of sugar. Continue stirring until the noodles soften, the greens wilt, and the meat cooks completely. If your noodles are a little dry, add more soy and oyster sauce.