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.