MEET A COX FARMER!

IMG_9299You all recognize us at the Fall Festival by our “fashionable” red smocks and our smiles, but you probably don’t really get to know the employee behind the smock. Just like our customers, Cox Farmers have interesting talents, tastes and lives… some of us are downright fascinating!

Today I sat down with “Farmer Rick” Sickmen for a little Q&A. If you’ve been to the Fall Festival during the week, you’ve probably seen him at The Milking Show with his partner, Janet, or on the weekends when he often rocks the main stage with “The Rick Sickmen Band”.

Q: You wear many hats at Cox Farms. How would you describe your job?

A: Well, that depends on the day. There’s Farmer Rick, the entertainer that does The Milking Show during the Fall Festival, there’s Rick the musician that plays and sings with the band and I’m also a mechanic, a gardener/landscaper and cow lover.

Q: How many years have you worked at Cox Farms?

A: This year will be my sixth Fall Festival.

Q: Married with children?

A: I’ve been married for 37 years, 4 kids, 7 grandkids.

Q: What do you like to do on your day off?

A: Work in my yard and think. I also like to write stories and music.

rick sQ: How long have you been making music?

A: I’ve had bands as long as I can remember.  When I was 9 I played my guitar at recess to impress the girls. I played “Johnny B. Goode” on WDON, a radio station in Woodbridge, Virginia when I was 10 years old. I had to stand on a box to reach the mic.

Q: Any hidden talents?

A: Cooking. Especially Italian and seafood.

Q: Favorite movie and song?

A: “Good Fellas” is my favorite movie. Song – “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the Fall Festival?

A: Singing and playing with the kids.

Q: What is it about cows that you love so much?

A: I think of them as big puppy dogs. I’ll never forget the time when one of them jumped right through the opening in the back of the stage at The Milking Show and onto a small roof outside of it, then jumped right back through.  Big puppy dog.

Thanks, Rick!  We look forward to seeing you at the 2015 Fall Festival!  Only 30 more days!

 

 

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato Sauce!

IMG_6792Imagine the possiblities…Tomatoes are in abundance right now and we need to savor them at their peak flavor.  As late summer and early fall turn into winter, fresh, ripe, locally grown tomatoes are something that we will all dream about until the next summer.  That’s a sad state of affairs, unless you learn how to make those tomatoes to comfort you throughout the winter.  One sure fire way is to make homemade tomato sauce.  It’s not as intimadating as it sounds.  What a delight to know that you have homemade tomato sauce in your freezer in the middle of those cold months!

It’s not difficult to make tomato sauce but you’ll have to commit to a few hours of your time for the cause.  Most recipes will call for Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, but any meaty tomato will work and your sauce will be just as delish!

Here’s a Tomato Sauce recipe for you to try and the timing could not be better – our tomatoes are now available for $29 a box!  Come grab a box at the Corner Market, the possibilities are endless!  We are open daily until 7 daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Pie

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When I got married it was like the North meeting the South, me being the North.  My southern sister-in-law introduced me to Tomato Pie (pronounced Toe-mate-ah Pah).  It was and still is the most decadent thing I have ever eaten and summertime is the only time to make it.  It combines the seasonal tastes of ripe tomatoes and vidalia onions with bacon, mayonaise and cheese. The orginial recipe is easy, and the prep work can be done ahead of time.  It’s hard to keep the pie crust from getting mushy, but those who dive into it don’t seem to mind.

TOMATO PIE

1 deep dish pie crust

4 large ripe tomatoes, slice with skin off

1 large vidalia one, sliced

1 pound of precooked bacon, crumbled

2 cups of mayo

2 cups of grated cheddar cheese

salt and pepper

Precook the pie crust for 10 mins at 375 degrees.  Once it has cooled, start the layering process:  The tomato slices, the onions, then the crumbled bacon.  Mix the mayo and shredded cheese together in a bowl and mound it onto the top of the pie. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 35-45 minutes and enjoy!

There is a somewhat healthier version of Tomato Pie from the Washington Post that I highly recommend. I found it a few years ago and it is equally as delicious but no longer a “heart attack in a pie crust”! Just remember that peak tomato time is short, so enjoy them as much as you can and in as many ways as you can!

Now is the time to get ripe tomatoes from the Corner Market.  If you have a tomato recipe that you love, please share it with us!

 

 

Which Tomato Variety Fits Your Personality?

Have you ever taken a Personality Test? It’s insightful and fun! Personality typing is useful in hiring, relationships, and even… gardening? Once you know your four-letter type, we can take it to a whole new level: tomatoes. Here are some common personality types and correlating tomato varieties. Of course, you may find that opposites attract, so don’t be surprised if your tomato personality isn’t the one you most enjoy. Remember, there are no good or bad personalities, so hopefully we can appreciate our differences; summer would be a very boring season if all tomatoes were the same!

ISTP: You are practical and action-oriented. You like immediate application and short-term results. Red Cherry Large are your go-to tomato.

large_red_cherry_tomato

ESTJ: You’re a fan of order, tradition and practicality. A Big Beef or Beefmaster is your type of tomato. You probably lean toward a traditional tomato that produces big results and being the take charge type of person that you are, you don’t need much help to harvest these big beauties.

beefmaster

ENTJ: This type tends to be thick skinned, loyal and visionaries. You’re a paste/plum tomato kind of person. You can see the sauce in your future. You’ll make it, freeze it and in mid-January enjoy it over a warm bowl of pasta with the family!

plum tomatoes

ESTP: Practical and fun-loving, you have the skills to care for your tomato plant but you want it be a little “out there”. A stripey Green Zebra will do the trick.

green zebra

ISTJ: Your motto is “just do it”! You like things tidy, organized and structured. No tomato is better for you than a sweet, contained patio tomato. Just put it in a pot and let it do it’s thing.

buchanans tomato_patio

ESFP: “YOLO” is your hashtag. Spontaneous and easily bored, you will try anything. If something doesn’t work (or grow), you are practical enough to understand why it didn’t and if you can’t fix it, you will move on. Bring on the Japanese Black Trifele or Cherokee Purple or Lemon Boy. You have no shortage of optimism.

japanese-black-trifele-tomatoes

lemon-boy-tomato

So, how’d we do? If your type isn’t listed, what do you propose for your tomato variety match?

 

 

 

8 Boredom Busters for Summer Fun at the Corner Market

School's outSo, school’s been out for over a week, and you’re officially out of ideas. The kids are bored, and as the parent, you find yourself counting down the days until school starts again. The Fall Festival doesn’t kick off for another 81 days, so you can’t wear them out on our giant slides, but our retail market does offer some low-key fun when you need a change of scenery. Here’s how to entertain the kiddos for a couple hours with a (mostly free) visit to the Corner Market:

  1. Feed the goats: For $1, you can purchase a cup of goat food to feed the “kids” through the fence, or you can try your luck with clover for free. Remember to say hello to Chewie the llama and check out his new haircut!IMG_4669
  2. Play on the train and boat! These wooden play structures are always a big hit our younger visitors.
  3. Rock the porch swing: Hidden in the shade around the side of our market barn, you’ll find an old porch swing… the perfect place to relax after all that playing!
  4. Have a picnic! You’re welcome to bring snacks or a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables around the market.
  5. *Insiders Only* Pick flowers! While they last, you can cut your own flowers from our flower beds and create your own beautiful arrangement. Just stop by the cashier to pick up the scissors, and we’ll show you the way! (Pricing for Pick-Your-Own bouquets is the same as our cut-flower arrangements.)

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6. Find the cat: “Black & White” is our tuxedo cat-in-residence at the Corner Market. She spends most of her day lounging around in the shade. You can get some practice searching with our weekly Facebook #findcatfriday photo

B&W on train

7. Cool off: Take a refreshing walk through the cool mist near the barn.

8. Shuck it: Pick up some fresh Virginia sweet corn on your way out, and then get the kids to help shuck it before dinner!

The Corner Market is open from 10-7 during the week and 9-7 Saturday and Sunday. For more info on Summer at the Corner Market, visit our website.

 

PLANTS THAT PULL DOUBLE DUTY

Remember when plants had one job, like to sit there and look pretty? We want our gardens to sustain and nourish our bodies, soothe our souls, attract butterflies and hummingbirds, feed birds, repel mosquitos and deer, all while looking great. Here are some multi-tasking plants that are up to the challenge:

IMG_5399Marigold – The good old marigold…that hardy, traditional and multi-functional annual.  Attracting butterflies while repelling insects and attracting birds.  Who could ask for more?

yellow hibiscus

Hibiscus – This tropical beauty attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Plus, if your vacation becomes a staycation, you can marvel at the beautiful blooms and feel as though you got away from it all!

lavender_plants_r620x349Lavender – The fragance is delightful and unique.  It’s deer and rabbit resistant, attracts bees and butterflies, too.  If that’s not enough, lavender is low maintenance, drought resistant and so much more!  Check out this recipe for Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

bee balmBee Balm  This perennial is not only a looker when in bloom but has so many other talents.  It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.  Also called wild bergamont, the leaves are used in tea and it is said to provide bee sting relief. It’s also known for other medicinal purposes.

lantana

Lantana – The deer may shy way from this annual but the butterflies won’t and it’s drought resistant.  Looks great in hanging baskets, combo pots or as an edge in a garden.  The vibrant little blooms will provide color all season long.

For all these multi-tasking plants and more, come see us at the Corner Market.  We’re open daily until 7.

BASIL WINS BY A NOSE!

We asked and you have let your opinions be known.  When we inquired on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “If you could only plant one herb, which one would you choose?”, it resulted in basil being the clear cut winner! We decided to put together a few of our favorite basil recipes – there’s something for everyone on the list – from soup to nuts, or in the case of basil, from smoothie to the grill.  Enjoy!

Blueberry-Basil-Smoothie1

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

Homemade-Pesto-7

7 Ingredients to Pesto

 Caprese-6133

Tomato Mozzarella Caprese Skewers

Basil-Chive-Cucumber-Corn-Salad

Basil Chive Cucumber & Corn Salad

20-Minute-Cherry-Tomato-and-Basil-Angel-Hair-10_edited-1

20 Minute Cherry Tomato and Basil Pasta

Lemon-Basil-Grilled-Pork-Chops-Bitz-Giggles-682x1024

Lemon Basil Grilled Pork Chops

Have a recipe that you want to share? For more basil recipes and other scrumptious summertime meals visit our Summer is Delicious! board on Pinterest!

 

DIY CONTAINER COMBOS!

combo potWith all of our pottery at the Corner Market now 50% off, it’s the perfect time to try your hand at creating your own combo pot!  

Our experts at Cox Farms design our popular “combo pots” with both form and function in mind. Of course, they must feature a stunning mix of plants, striking contrasts of color, height and texture. But combos also must include plants that will “get along” together in close quarters for the rest of the growing season. Growth habit is a key factor, since particularly aggressive plants may overpower or hide other plants in the combination. Also, pay close attention to the sun exposure needs of the component plants: consider the space where the planter will live, and be sure the plants used in your combination planter will thrive in that environment.

 

Getting Started…

CONTAINER COMBO

If you plant your own combo, start at the beginning: the pot. The container you use matters. Size is important; keep in mind that your plants will grow, so you want to allow room rather than cramming in the plants too tightly… if you envision a mix of many different plants, you’ll need a large container (and a LOT of soil).

In terms of aesthetics, you can choose a striking, attractive pot that sets the tone for your container garden, or you can choose something subtle that will blend in and make the plants the stars of the show. Or maybe, it doesn’t have to be a pot at all.  It could be a basket, a wheel barrow, a galvanized steel bucket…just think outside the pot! Whatever you choice, make sure the container has adequate drainage holes in the bottom. Many people like to put a layer of something (sand, gravel, pebbles, broken pottery shards, etc.) at the bottom of the pot; studies have shown that this practice does not improve the drainage, but some recommend it to prevent soil from clogging the drain hole.

Next crucial decision: dirt. Be sure to choose a high-quality potting soil. We make our own mix for our planters, and while you can certainly attempt this yourself, there are several commercially-available mixes that produce great results. MiracleGro potting mixes feature a (conventional or organic) time-release fertilizer mixed into the soil, which provides slow and steady fertilizer to your planter for the first few months of the season. MiracleGro’s Moisture Control mix includes a component that absorbs water and releases it into the soil as needed, stabilizing the soil environment and giving your plants a protective buffer from over- and under-watering. These “enhanced” potting mixes are not necessary, but they can certainly give your planters a boost, especially if you’re a gardener prone to neglect.

Combo 101: Thriller, Filler, Spiller

When planning your own combinations, you can’t go wrong following the simple “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” recipe. (See photo above.) You can read in detail about this method here, but here’s the recipe: first, choose a dazzling “thriller” to be the center of attention, then a “filler” or two to fill out the pot, complementing the thriller and adding texture, mass, and color to your planter, and finally round out your combination with a “spiller” to hang over the side of the pot.

Of course, if you prefer combo pot anarchy, throw our rules out the window and follow your heart!

For more combination planter idea, check out our Container Combos board on Pinterest! 

GOT A MOM PLAN YET?

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You know who likes flowers? Yo Mama! Stumped about what to get your #1 or #2 Mom? We’ve got the perfect gift for every mother in your life, no matter your budget. Here are five ways to secure your spot as mom’s favorite for another year:

  1. Flowering Perennials: Cut flowers are great for a few days but they die. Plants are living things that will continue to bring Mom joy long after Mother’s Day. Even better, perennials come back year after year, so she’ll be reminded of her doting children again and again.
  2. Hanging Baskets: Our famous hanging baskets make the perfect gift to bring color to even the trickiest spots. Pick up a fancy glazed pot to drop the hanging basket into for especially stunning gift presentation.IMG_4379
  3. Container Gardens: Moms are busy people, and our no-fuss container gardens provide instant landscaping beauty. Available for sun and shade, in countless color combinations and a range of sizes, you’re sure to find Mom’s perfect pot. Not sure what will work?  Our Cox Farmers at the Corner Market will help you find the solution.IMG_4700
  4. Local Honey: Because your mom is super sweet! Take mom from busy worker bee to Queen Bee with this sweet treat.  We also have jams, fresh eggs and salad dressings!
  5. IMG_4277 Cox Farms Gift Cards: Let Mom choose exactly what she wants!  Need more ideas?  We’ve got them!  Visit the Corner Market at Cox Farms and we will help you find something special for Mother’s Day!  In addition, your little ones are invited to join us this Saturday from 11-1 to make a free gift for mom!  For hours, directions and more, visit our website.

 

 

IF YOU PREP IT, THEY WILL GROW!

Daffadoil/JonquilAh…spring!  It’s so nice to finally see you again!  The return of the daffodils and crocuses is a sure sign of warmer days to come, but they are also a reminder that it’s time for rejuvenating, renovating and preparing the garden.  It’s not as much fun as planting herbs, veggies and beautiful annuals, but it will bring great rewards!  Keep in mind that our average LSF (last spring frost) date for Northern Virginia is April 23 and although our days are slowly getting warmer, our nights are still quite chilly. That means you have a few weeks to do the grunt work before safely planting the fun stuff!

Here’s the list:

  1. Pruning  Maintenance pruning is essential for shurbs and trees.  It prevents disease and promotes new growth.  More: Pruning Tips
  2. Weeding – Pull them or kill them but get rid of them ASAP, before they flower and spread their seeds!
  3. Mulching – Spread it to retain moisture, provide stability through extreme temperatures (both hot and cold), and prevent weeds.  Mulch should be 2-3 inches thick.
  4. Cutting- Give all your ornamental grasses and groundcover, such as liriope, a nice haircut for spring.  Don’t be shy- if you haven’t already, cut it all the way back, even if there is already some new growth.

Once you have done the mundane, tedious work, you can reward yourself with safely planting some cold weather crops. Lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli and cabbage can be planted now. Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and parsley are safe bets in the herb category, but please hold off on the basil!  If you are itching for some color in your yard or containers but prefer to avoid the default pansies, many other annuals, including bacopa, nemesia and gerbera daisies, are fine with cool nights but will not be happy in frost. Stick to containers so you can bring them into the garage if needed, or at least be prepared to cover them.

In the perennial category, hosta can be propagated and/or planted. Dianthus and phlox are also safe to go in the ground.

PhloxThe Corner Market will open at 10 AM on April 16th for your spring gardening needs and we can’t wait to see you! http://www.coxfarms.com/corner-market/spring.aspx