Markham Farm

Sustainable, innovative and delicious!

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Welcome to Markham Farm

Upcoming Speech: North Country Sustainability Center

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I will next be speaking on April 15th at 2pm at the North Country Sustainability Center in Ashburnham, MA. The North Country Sustainability Center is really an amazing project, and I commend it to your consideration both for your support/participation (if you are nearby) or perhaps as a model for community-driven cooperative enterprise. You can find their website here: http://


Pressure Canning vs. Pressure Cooking

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Pressure canning and pressure cooking both use increased pressure to change the boiling point of water. Under higher pressures, the temperature at which water boils increases, thereby allowing the contents under pressure to cook at a higher temperature.

This much, at least, pressure canning and pressure cooking have in common. But beyond this, there are important differences.

The purpose of pressure cooking is to save time and energy. Using the higher temperatures and pressures, my Fagor pressure cooker will allow me to cook a batch of beans in 45 minutes that would otherwise require all day to cook. Beef stew cooks up in less than half an hour.

Because of the higher temperatures, when the cooking time is completed, most pressure cooker manufacturers instruct you to artificially lower the pressure quickly, either by releasing steam through a valve or by placing the cooker under cold running water. This reduces the risk of running dry and scorching or overcooking.

The purpose of pressure canning is to kill botulism spoors while producing a proper seal for glass jars containing liquid. Any other purpose, such as cooking the contents, is incidental. But since the contents are immersed in liquid in the jars, there is no danger of running dry.

The headspace allowed in the jars while pressure canning will vary from 1/2" to 1" depending on how long the jars are processed. The head space allows for expansion of the contents, forcing out excess air, and then establishing a solid vacuum seal. Too much headspace could allow food to oxidize, whereas too little headspace will result in some of the food being forced out of the jar during processing, which could prevent a good seal.

When the processing time is finished, the jar and the environment surrounding it are at the same pressure and temperature. If, however, the pressure in the canner is suddenly reduced while that in the jars stays the same ... either the contents will be forced out of the jars through the seals or the jars may actually break.

So when the canning time is up, heat should be removed and the canner allowed to reach zero pressure without relieving any of the pressure. This could take as long as half an hour or forty five minutes, but is necessary to produce the desired result of an excellent seal.


Upcoming Speech: Ingalls Memorial Library

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I will be speaking at the Ingalls Memorial Library on Tuesday, January 24th at 7pm. Toadstool Books will provide books for you to purchase, or bring your own copy for me to sign! After the speech, I'll be answering your questions about mini-farming and self-sufficiency.


Upcoming Speech: New Hampshire Liberty Forum

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I will be speaking on mini-farming and why self-sufficiency and re-localized agriculture are prerequisites of freedom at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum on Saturday, February 25, 2012. This is a ticketed event, and you need a ticket to attend.


Slow Updates, but More Books Coming!

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I know ... I know ... I haven't been putting much up here. But I have a good excuse!  Really!

I have three more books coming out next year, and have been busy writing them. Two are done and will be out in the spring, and the last (in progress) will be out in the fall.

After I get this last of the three completed, I'll have more breathing room and will be able to update the site more often.

Meanwhile, I DO answer inquiries I get via the contact page!  Whether you are curious about Sweet Potatoes or how to best handle manure, just get in touch and I'll answer.


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If you could buy only one type of seedling from us, what would it be?

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Deal with Reality, or Reality will Deal with YOU.


If you have collected a large amount of chicken manure from the chicken coop over the winter, please make sure it is composted rather than placed on beds directly. Thermophilic composting as described in our book destroys pathogens; but raw chicken manure can contain both salmonella and e. coli. Even for crops that don't directly touch the ground, splash-up from raindrops can infect food. And, of course, low-growing crops like lettuce or spinach are a particular danger. Non-composted manure is what cause the recent wave of illnesses from spinach.