Eating Seasonally


We are  gearing up for the 2014 season—our spring season has started, and our summer season starts in 7 weeks—june 17!

You can find CSA information at the links below:

2014 SUMMER CSA FLYER and 2014 CSA APPLICATION

Spring Week 4—Waiting for Sun

Early Beet Greens from the greenhouse. A splash of red to perk up spring salads or a light sauté.

Early Beet Greens from the greenhouse. A splash of red to perk up spring salads or a light sauté.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Baby Lettuce Mix
• Baby Turnip Greens with Tiny Turnips
• More Baby Turnips
• Baby Leeks
• Beet Greens

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Pea Shoots, Arugula, Spinach, Carrots, and much more.

They're getting bigger! They will never be the purple, hard, winter turnips. These Japanese babies are always sweet and tender.

They’re getting bigger! They will never be the purple, hard, winter turnips. These Japanese babies are always sweet and tender.

Spring is greens season, and we’re stretching a bit this week. Last week was amazing—after a week of warmth, everything responded with rapid growth, but lately it’s been cold and very wet, so growth has slowed again. That results in less to harvest. But the turnips are coming along very well, and there are LOTS, so enjoy them. I will be working on a page dedicated to the tender morsels, but in the mean time just use them raw like radishes, including the tender leaves, or gently sauté or steam them.

Good news on the honeybee front: David, our bee mentor has been checking on our hives, luckily (since I don’t know what I’m doing) and even though we lost one colony just a month ago, the other is going like gangbusters and was already preparing to swarm. He got in there and stacked up boxes, moved frames around and cut out swarm cells. He believes that this colony is so strong, that if we can keep them from swarming they could make 100 pounds of honey this year. I can’t even imagine, so I just do what he says and try to keep up. 100# is about 8 gallons. That’s a lot of sweetness.

Teo has been hard at work transplanting onions. These are Red Torpedo variety, a semi-sweet Italian heirloom. We're guessing about 18,000 plants went into these beds. And there are still Walla Walla and storage onions to do.

Teo has been hard at work transplanting onions. These are Red Torpedo variety, a semi-sweet Italian heirloom. We’re guessing about 18,000 plants went into these beds. And there are still Walla Walla and storage onions to do.

Our intern for the year arrived last week! She is Sarah, and you will see her at all of our farmers markets, as well as helping with CSA duties. Be sure and say hi. She’s very friendly and a hard worker. We’re really excited to have her with us!

We’ve decided to let one of our cows go—not sweet Beauty or Juniper, but another who I had hoped to train to milk but just doesn’t have the right attitude. After putting up with kicking for two weeks, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The others have all been so easy, and we have two little heifers to train for next year. GOOD NEWS! We will have ground beef in just a few weeks! Let us know if you’re interested. It’s grass-fed, well-treated, lean, and delicious. We will be selling it in units of 10 one-pound packages, as in the past, for $65. 

Things seems to be growing slowly in the cold rain lately, but I force myself to remember that this time last year we were only  just planting our first batch of peas. We should have Sugar Snaps and Shelling Peas a month earlier, if all goes well.

Things seems to be growing slowly in the cold rain lately, but I force myself to remember that this time last year we were only just planting our first batch of peas. We should have Sugar Snaps and Shelling Peas a month earlier, if all goes well.

And today I struggle with keeping optimistic and cheerful. The greenhouse is FULL of little plants waiting to go outside into the ground (lettuces, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, green onions, fennel) and we have not been able to get it ready before another rainstorm hits. We also have crops that need to be seeded directly into the soil, like carrots, arugula, and spinach. Last week, we discovered the tractor needed a new carburetor, so we missed that window and now we wait for the next window. At least there are signs of spring, and we will get there. It’s going to be an amazing summer because we are at least a full month early on everything planted so far, and the summer season starts in just seven weeks! Summer waits for no-one!

Spring Crossover

We planted in late February, aiming for harvest in the first half of our Spring CSA. We made it! Weeded today, so you can eat it tomorrow. No more grocery store salad!

We planted in late February, aiming for harvest in the first half of our Spring CSA. We made it! Weeded today, so you can eat it tomorrow. No more grocery store salad!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Baby Lettuce Mix
• Asparagus (just a few spears—it’s our first harvest year)
• Baby Turnip Greens with Tiny Turnips
• Baby Leeks
• Carrots
• Sorrel
• Chervil

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Pea Shoots, Beet Greens, Parsley, Arugula, and much more.

We time the start date of our Spring CSA season to coincide with the availability of overwintered crops—those that we planted the year before, and survived the winter to be harvested as the weather warms up in spring. You’ve seen what comprises that group: Garlic, Onions, Cooking Greens, and Rapini of various types.

But we start planting very early in spring, so that we have other crops to harvest as those overwintered crops peter out or start flowering and are no longer tasty. This year we started planting in February, in all of our hoop houses. Salad greens, beet greens, spinach, turnips, and carrots this year. AND, we’ve already got the next installations ready in flats, waiting for those crops to be used up so we can replant! It’s such an exciting time of year, and so nice when the “plan” works out.

We weeded these last week and watered, and with the warm temperatures inside the hoop house they are ready to start picking! They'll be bigger as the weeks go by, but they are pretty succulent and sweet now. Use the leaves and all in salad, or lightly steam or sauté them. Very tasty!

We weeded these last week and watered, and with the warm temperatures inside the hoop house they are ready to start picking! They’ll be bigger as the weeks go by, but they are pretty succulent and sweet now. Use the leaves and all in salad, or lightly steam or sauté them. Very tasty!

We found a patch of carrots that survived the winter, and they have not yet started bolting to seed, so there are no cores yet. They aren’t as tasty as tender new baby carrots, or freeze-sweetened winter carrots, but they are fresh and available. We also decided to harvest the last of the baby leeks from last fall, planted a bit too late so they won’t get large, but we want to use them before they also start flowering.

A few odds and ends: Chervil is a delicate, anise-flavored herb. It’s tasty in/on eggs, fish, poultry, or added to salad. Sorrel is lemony and bright, be sure and check the sorrel recipe page.

April is for Eggs, and we have lots! Egg-laying productivity is directly related to day length, so as the days increase the laying hen's pituitary gland says "it's time to make babies!" Unfortunately, as the day length decreases toward the end of summer, so will the eggs disappear, so get them while they're here!

April is for Eggs, and we have lots! Egg-laying productivity is directly related to day length, so as the days increase the laying hen’s pituitary gland says “it’s time to make babies!” Unfortunately, as the day length decreases toward the end of summer, so will the eggs disappear, so get them while they’re here!

And we are leaving eggs out of the CSA package this week because we know not everyone wants that many eggs. If you DO want eggs, we have more than plenty, so be sure and pick some up. $7 per dozen, or two for $12.

Spring Means Ducklings!

One of the delights of spring is the sour surprise of Sorrel!

One of the delights of spring is the sour surprise of Sorrel!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Rapini
• Kale Broccolini
• Green Garlic
• Miners’ Lettuce (use fresh, in place of lettuce)
Sorrel
• Fresh Eggs

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Salad Greens, Japanese Turnips, Pea Shoots, Baby Leeks, Parsely, Chervil, and much more!

IMG_4482We are really excited about the upcoming week! Check out the weather forecast–sun, sun, and more dry weather. Perfect for planting out the hundreds of thousands of onion, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce transplants. It’s going to be great, and exhausting, but it will mean lots to eat for lots of folks!

This week we are introducing Sorrel to our spring repertoire. It’s tangy and juicy, and sure to add some spunk to your dining pleasure this week. Check out the Sorrel page for hints.

Delicious Green Garlic and Rapini to put on my pizza!

Delicious Green Garlic and Rapini to put on my pizza!

We’re also serving up more Green Garlic and Rapini, and there are lots of recipes on their respective pages if you need them. We’re also picking the Broccolini from our overwintered Kale plants. These are like rapini, but they are sweet, with no bitterness. Our kids really prefer them to traditional rapini. Last week, we had pizza night, so I threw together a bunch of chopped green garlic, chopped Rapini and sprinkled them on top of a pizza crust doused with the good bottle of olive oil. I found a jar of Porcini salt, and sprinkled some of that on top and then added enough shredded mozzarella to hold it all together. It was delicious–salty, bitter, sweet, and garlicky. I highly recommend it, but the kids couldn’t stand it.

We picked up a little handful of ducklings at the feed store. I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting a slug patrol for the asparagus patch since last year, since the only real pest problem we’ve had with the asparagus are the tiny little slugs that like to nibble on the spears as they emerge from the winter soil. Slugs don’t go for much in the way of plants, but they LOVE slugs and snails.

We have hired a Special Patrol, to hunt slugs in our asparagus/rhubarb patch. That fuzzy cuteness belies the voracious hunter that he/she will become.

We have hired a Special Patrol, to hunt slugs in our asparagus/rhubarb patch. That fuzzy cuteness belies the voracious hunter that he/she will become.

As we got them settled, I was filled with memories of my youth. (Fade in dream sequence here) I had some amazing pet experiences, but by far, my favorite was the day that a friend of my parents brought me a duckling. I was 11 or 12, and all of the other nest-mates had been killed by a dog or something, and this one was alone and needed a home. It was a Khaki Campbell, a good egg breed of duck, that looks somewhat like a Mallard when full-grown. I didn’t care–it was adorable, and it was MINE!

That little duck was pampered, and I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I slept with it. If you’ve been around birds much, you know they have no control of their…um…facilities. So, I slept with towels laid all over everything, and little ducky slept in my hair, on my pillow. This spoiled little duck bonded with me to the extent that she (I don’t actually know if it was a he or she, but I felt it was a she) followed me everywhere. She followed me to the dinner table and sat by me while I ate, but that was sad, so it didn’t take long for her to be in my lap while I ate. That required a towel as well, as she grabbed food off of my plate and plastered it all over my lap. Ducks are very messy eaters.

She followed me around outside, inside. I stopped to pick her up for stairs, of course. And boy, did she learn to come running when the bathtub faucet ran. I did draw the line at baths, because what is the first thing that ducks do when they get in water? Not something I wanted to bathe in. But she LOVED the bathtub, happy quacking, laughing, flapping ducky.

It was a remarkable Summer of Duck. I loved that little bird, but when I had to go to school in the fall, I couldn’t let her roam around the house all day, so she had to live with the chickens. One of the great betrayals of my youth was the look on her face when I put her in the chicken run and walked to the bus stop. I feel the daggers still, and that is when I learned the lesson of never having just one of anything that belonged in a group.

This time, we have four lovely little ducklings. They still bond with their primary caregiver, whether it be human, dog, or duck. It’s adorable and they are very fun, in their container on the front porch, where they are sure to get plenty of attention.

Finally Spring!

This was one of our dinners last week—rapini sautéed with garlic and scrambled eggs. Both in great abundance in March.

This was one of our dinners last week—rapini sautéed with garlic and scrambled eggs. Both in great abundance in March.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Rapini
• Spring Onions
Green Garlic
• Miners’ Lettuce (use fresh, in place of lettuce)
• Fresh Eggs

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Kale, Pea Shoots, Green Garlic, Baby Leeks, Parsely, Chervil, and much more!

It may be April Fools’ Day, but our Spring Season starts this week! It’s supposed to have been the wettest March in history, and yet we’ve still been able to get several plantings done outside. I’ve been pushier than in the past—call it old age, or call it spring fever. But we’ve got our first planting of peas and favas in the ground at least a month earlier than last year, as well as a decent planting of greens. The greenhouses are all planted: carrots, turnips, salad mix, beet greens, spinach, and herbs. And we’ve got our transplant greenhouse full o’ flats. It’s a good feeling.

The first week of Spring is often a tricky one, because we have an abundance of a couple things and many other things are not quite ready. So we balance the need to harvest those first few crops with the justification to have everyone come all the way to the farm to pick up their allotment. The rapini needs to be harvested, the eggs need to be used because we are over-run with them at the moment. (12 dozen a day and no market have a way of making them pile up!) Sadly, other things that we had hoped would be ready are not quite yet—but they will be soon, and by the time the outdoor crops have finished, the indoor greens and roots will be ready. Fear not! You will be full of greens soon enough!

Just because we’ve been able to work up a bit of ground and plant doesn’t mean it’s not muddy around here. We may be tired of slogging around in rubber boots, but the animals are sick of being ankle deep in mud, but our pasture areas are still too short to let them out without destroying them, so it’s better to keep them in the “sacrifice” area. They will be so pleased to be free when the time comes! The chickens are the only critters we are able to move around, because it’s easier to put up a temporary fence, and they aren’t as hard on the ground—we can put them where old crops used to be for a quick fertility boost. This is even handier with mobile henhouses.

What do you do with a leaky trailer? You turn it into a hen house! Fixtures removed, cupboards converted to nest boxes, and plenty of roost space. Room for 160 hens, and it's easy to move around the farm.

What do you do with a leaky trailer? You turn it into a hen house! Fixtures removed, cupboards converted to nest boxes, and plenty of roost space. Room for 160 hens, and it’s easy to move around the farm.

 

Calf-Ventures

For several weeks, I’ve had a project with a looming deadline. Calf Weaning Day. Our three cows all had their calves last summer, about three weeks apart. But the time comes when the calves are nearly as big as their moms, and they are nursing so much that moms lose weight, and in the winter that’s not a good proposition. Besides, we need milk too. (Ideally, this training begins when the calves are less than 100 pounds, but they were all born in the summer when there is no time for calf school.)

First day, attached to a post. The rope on the ground is a temporary drag rope—I only use this for a few days, until she lets me catch her halter. At first I need a handle because she runs away from me. The wood walls are just to keep her from getting her hoofs caught in the fence during the initial tantrums.

First day, attached to a post. The rope on the ground is a temporary drag rope—I only use this for a few days, until she lets me catch her halter. At first I need a handle because she runs away from me. The wood walls are just to keep her from getting her hoofs caught in the fence during the initial tantrums.

Leading up to Weaning Day, however, is halter-and-lead-training, or Calf School. The calves all get dressed in a halter, and learn how to politely walk with a human. This begins with being tied to a stout post or handle on a wall—there is always a tantrum involved, when the calf first figures out that they are attached to said post. A calf tantrum involves a lot of gymnastics and at some point they look like they are dying or having a seizure. They’re not, it’s an act. But, it’s a lot easier on the human trainer’s arms if they do this tantrumming on something immovable. I like to hang out for a while, peacefully talking about whatever is on my mind while they do the tantrum. Sometimes I walk away and come back, like a toddler time-out. But they’re not being punished, it’s a lesson. A half-hour is usually enough at first, and then they are given back to their mom, so they learn that it’s all ok. Eventually I let them eat while they are tied and they figure out it’s really not so horrible and doesn’t last forever. Then, I can start leading them in a small enclosed space.

It's pretty interesting when your buddy gets new clothes. In this case, Matilda got a pretty pink halter and Hemi the steer is checking it out.

It’s pretty interesting when your buddy gets new clothes. In this case, Matilda got a pretty pink halter and Hemi the steer is checking it out.

Weaning Day was supposed to be last week, but then it got SO cold, I just couldn’t do it. I mean, weaning is traumatic enough—why make it worse with below freezing temperatures? It felt a lot warmer today, and it’s supposed to be above freezing tomorrow, so I moved everyone around—calves in the new pasture, moms in the barnyard, near the milking room. Better while the ground is still frozen—once  it starts defrosting, the mud will thaw and it will be hard for both of us to gain traction in the slippery road.

All was well, the bellowing began, but that’s normal and continues for a few days. There’s really not much you can do, they have to grieve a bit. (Important to realize here, that these calves are 6-7 months old, and more than old enough to leave their moms.) However, as the snow started to fall, somehow the calves broke out of their fence. Luckily the front gate was closed, so they couldn’t wander into the road. We learned that lesson many years ago. Keep it closed, just in case.

It didn’t take long to realize that it was just too slippery in the snow to try and catch-up and walk those not-fully-trained calves back to their pasture, so they ended up in the paddock with the donkeys, who were very freaked-out and not pleased. The bottom line is that the naughty calves are out in the snow because they broke out of their pen, and the moms get the barn because they need to be milked. The donkeys are back in their shed because they didn’t do anything wrong either.

Sometimes we just need to make these decisions. Tomorrow we will work toward getting everyone back where they belong, but for tonight, the weaning will probably be easier on all involved (even if they are out in the snow) because they can sniff each other through the fence. There’s still bellowing and mooing involved, but not from one side of the farm to the other. I’m not sleeping with my window open tonight though.

And tomorrow, we will have sweet Dexter milk from Beauty.

Winter Break 2014

I was so excited to see that the Tatsoi survived the freezing weather, but disappointed that they are all bolting already. They know spring is on the way and they want to be FIRST to bloom. See the little flower bud in the center?

I was so excited to see that the Tatsoi survived the freezing weather, but disappointed that they are all bolting already. They know spring is on the way and they want to be FIRST to bloom. See the little flower bud in the center?

Winter has returned. It’s been below freezing for two days now, and we’re hauling water to the critters again. We’ve taken down bean poles from last year, the garlic is growing, and my winter food stores are waning. We’ve been ordering seeds, making plans, and getting things done when we can.

Because Spring will be inching closer more rapidly after this cold snap, this is a good time to toss out a reminder for our early payment deadline. February 15 is just 10 days from now, so if you want to save a bit, get your application form in ASAP. Paying in February helps us immensely because we are figuring out how to pay for everything that we will need for the next few months—labor, fertilizer, tractor parts, irrigation parts, row cover material, seed, and a new tomato greenhouse. Help us by signing up for our CSA in February!

Garlic loves freezing weather, but these little shoots are excited that spring is coming!

Garlic loves freezing weather, but these little shoots are excited that spring is coming!

The first seed orders arrived, and I delivered the special things that need an extra-early start to our friend, Gina, at Auburn Mountainview High School. She runs the horticulture program there, and she utilizes their heated greenhouse to teach the kids in her classes vital skills in seed starting, plant growing, and marketing. And, her kids start a few things for us. Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Artichokes, early Basil, Thyme, Parsley, and Snapdragons for the u-pick garden. See, we don’t have a heated greenhouse, and having Gina’s kids do these crops for us gives us a leg up of 4-6 weeks. And they come to the farm much healthier in April than they would be if we started them under grow lights.

Last year's beans, ravaged by winter.

Last year’s beans, ravaged by winter.

I was ready to start our early, hardier crops—kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, onions, cabbage, etc.—and I’m glad I didn’t yet, or we would have likely lost them this week in the deep chill this week. So, I’m glad the seeds are still sitting safely on the dining room table, and I will gladly start them next week. We will also be starting early carrots, turnips, and spinach for the Spring CSA—and we’re shooting for harvest in late April/early May.

Penny, Pete, and Cosmo.

Penny, Pete, and Cosmo.

This morning when I woke up, I looked out at the wintry white landscape, and thought to myself how glad I was that we have no baby animals right now. No fuzzy little chicks, huddling in a brooder and freezing, no baby pigs trying to keep warm and getting squished under their mom, and no cows calving in the middle of a frozen field. We do have a couple of new additions, however. Pete and Penny. They are just for companionship and entertainment, and they are very friendly, so be sure and say hi to them. They’re very sweet.

The hens are gearing up for spring, and we’re eating a dozen eggs a day and wondering how to keep up. If you want eggs, now is the time to load up. If you’ve got an egg punch card from last year, stop at the farm stand and pick some up from the fridge. If you don’t have a punch card, you can leave payment in the tin—Limited Time Winter Egg Special is $6 per dozen, or 2 dozen for $10.

Breaking ground in early spring (or winter) is a happy sight. The bright green overwintered weeds and cover crop lying next to dark brown, rich earth.

Breaking ground in early spring (or winter) is a happy sight. The bright green overwintered weeds and cover crop lying next to dark brown, rich earth.

Winter Week 8 and 9—Done for the Year

We had hoped that the sprouts would get a little bigger on the stalks, but we were late planting by a few weeks. Still, better than none at all.

We had hoped that the sprouts would get a little bigger on the stalks, but we were late planting by a few weeks. Still, better than none at all.

THIS WEEK’S and NEXT WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Potatoes—several choices, but they’re all tasty
• Lots of Candy Carrots
• “Purple Dragon” Carrots
• Rainbow Beets
• Winter Squash
• “Melissa” Savoy Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts
• Collard Greens
• Fresh Thyme

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

We’re finished for this winter. You’ll get a voucher for the last winter week good towards a 2014 CSA share, or for purchasing our produce at farmers markets.

We made lanterns out of ice, lit with a candle, to celebrate our new farming year. Happy New Year!

We made lanterns out of ice, lit with a candle, to celebrate our new farming year. Happy New Year!

We celebrated the Winter Solstice by playing with a globe and making ice lanterns. Then we had cocoa and lit the lanterns in the darkest part of night on December 21st. Farming New Year’s Eve. I woke up on the morning of the 22nd ready to start the new season, Mike decorated our booth at both farmers’ markets and we won the Solstice Decorating Contest on Sunday. What a great way to begin the new year!

We’ve decided to call the year finished now, with a double load of everything we have left in the field still worth picking. We have plenty of carrots, mostly, but the greens and beets were hit hard by freezing. Although there are lots of crops left alive in the field, most are not worth picking, aside from cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. The potatoes and squashes are still saved from earlier harvest but are running out, so we’re distributing what are left of those as well. We believe we can serve you all better with a credit for the remaining one week, so that will come in an email next week.

You can eat the fluffy tops of the Brussels sprout stalk, too. Tasty and sweet, just like kale or collards.

You can eat the fluffy tops of the Brussels sprout stalk, too. Tasty and sweet, just like kale or collards.

As we usually do at the crux of a new season, we are full of ideas. New things to try, things to improve, hopes for the new year. At the top of my list this year is another big greenhouse, with doors for all the greenhouses instead of flapping plastic sheets. I know I want to improve the u-pick area for CSA members, and somehow we need to improve our pick-up area so it doesn’t get so crowded. I’m working on the new CSA flyers, so look for those in your mail and email, as well as your credit voucher for the missing winter week.

Now that the holidays are past, we are trying to find our homeschool rhythm again. It’s so hard to find that tempo after almost a month of going with the flow. It will come again, and so will the rhythm of farming. Refining the planting schedule, repairing machines that broke, trying new varieties. And then, the beginning of actual planting—only a few weeks away.

We hope you have a peaceful winter, and we hope to see you again in the spring and summer for another bountiful harvest. Thank you for being there with us through the last amazing year.

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