Eating Seasonally

We are gearing up for our 2015 Season, and it’s going to amazing!

If you are interested in joining us for our 2015 CSA season, click here for our
2015 CSA Application,
and here if you want to see the flyer that describes our program.
2015 CSA Flyer

Getting Ready for 2015

Bookkeeping Break. Pretty pictures and dreams, seed books and schemes.

Bookkeeping Break. Pretty pictures and dreams, seed books and schemes.

January is the time to do a lot of desk-work. Not my favorite, but necessary. Last year I started homeschooling the kids, so now winter is prime unschooling season. We all learn a lot and do cool stuff, cramming as much cool stuff in as we can before busy spring planting season comes around again.

You know we’ve had farm interns for the last two years, and they’ve been great. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and I hope for them as well. But this year will be different. This year, the kids will be learning how to farm. I haven’t entirely figured out how it’s going to go yet, but they will be my interns. I will encourage them to help plan, plant, harvest, and interact with customers. I hope to have them help with the CSA, which is one of the reasons we will be downsizing our CSA slightly this year, from about 150 families (2014) to about 100-ish families. I also hope to take each of them to farmers markets with me, so they can learn some customer service hustle. If you’ve had tweenagers, you can imagine how daunting that idea is, but I hope to make the best of it. Those are skills that can’t be taught in school, they only come from experience. And they are life skills. Customer service, hustle, and knowing how to grow food. Definitely life skills. Throw in a little creativity, science, and math, and you’ve got it made.

I am hopeful that this will be a year of growth. We are planning on hiring two employees to help Teo with general farm work, of which there is more than plenty. I will also need someone to help me at the busy markets. And I am in search of volunteer(s) to help us with the U-Pick garden, so it will be amazing again.

This is also the year, finally, that we will be buying our farm. Actually, our farm and the neighbor’s farm, together. Now, I have only a vague idea of the mechanics of the deal, but I am confident that it will happen. It may require creative funding, I’m pretty sure it will involve a crowd-funding scheme like Kickstarter, but it will mean land security, and that will be a huge relief after renting for 15 years.

I have updated our website and put together the new versions of CSA materials. They are finally done! You can find the 2015 Farm Flyer here: 2015 CSA Farm Flyer, and the 2015 CSA application here: 2015 CSA Application. I have checked with Tonnemakers, and we will be hosting their fruit CSA again but they don’t quite have their materials ready yet, so keep an eye on your in-box.

I will be raising fryers and turkeys again this year, and I have already ordered the chicks and poults. In March I will send the application for poultry, and for egg subscriptions. The rampantly spreading bird flu is making me nervous to commit to poultry products, so I just want a bit more time to make sure that our birds will be safe before we take your money.

We start planting the first week of February, and the beginning of the spring season is just 8 weeks from there. Spring really is just around the corner!

Winter Week 9: I Dreamed of Rapini

We usually put in a big planting of all the different kales in early fall. We harvest the leaves through the winter, but the sweetest reward comes in the spring, when we have lots of these delicious broccolini to pick.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Lots of  Winter Squash
• Topless “Nelson” Carrots
• Topless “Yellowstone” Carrots
• Several Varieties of Potatoes
• Cabbages
• Leeks
• Kohlrabi

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

COMING SOON: SPRING

Last night, I dreamed of Rapini.

I went to bed on the cusp of our third freezing spell of the winter. But in my dream it was sunny, bright, and warm. That spring kind of warm where a chill lingers in the shadows, but in the sunny spots your body wants to melt because it feels so good. There were fat robins singing and hopping. And hints of green everywhere. The trees were budding, the weeds were sprouting, and the brassicas were…shooting.

The rows of cabbage plants that looked so miserable and dissolved all winter from being repeatedly frozen and rained-on were renewed. From their slimy hearts emerged fat, green, juicy flower stalks. They acted just as designed, so that they could come back to life and reproduce when conditions favored pollination and seed-setting.

I inhaled the sweet, buzzing, springtime air and the beautiful, fat, green, juicy stems were calling to me—as they do. Like Alice’s little pill—”EAT ME”. They whispered, “Pick me and take me home to your frying pan. To your pizza crust. Take me!” So I did! Because on the farm, the farmers get the first harvest.

I was there, alone, with the mumbling plants.

I pinched off their juicy stems. I heard them snap, I felt the sprinkly spray of sap. I tasted the end of the sweet stems of Cabbage Rapini. And then the dogs were barking and I woke up.

Sigh….

Spring WILL be here. We are so looking forward to a productive season. We have an abundance of crops that will overwinter for a solid spring harvest. So many brassicas—cabbages, brussels sprouts, kales. Onions and garlic that were left behind. Turnips.  All of those crops whose tops died back with frost will return with the warming days and increasing day lengths of spring. Even though they seem dead now, the will be resurrected with abundance. It’s just a few short months away.

And here, I am going to put our commitment in writing—on the internet, where it will live and grow, and become reality. This will be the year we buy our farm. Not only our current farm property, which we have leased for 15 years, but also the property next door. T&M Berries, where we have leased several acres for two years now, and where I got my farming start. We have big plans, and we have every intention of making them real.

2015 is going to be a very special year, and we have all of you to thank for it. We wish you all a quiet, productive winter, building strong roots with which to push up those growing shoots in spring and set seed for new projects and big dreams!

April Fools' Day, and the ladybugs are out, looking for nectar to feed on until they mate and lay eggs. The arugula is blooming.

Winter Week 6: The Choices We Make

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THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• “Delicata” Winter Squash
• Topless “Nelson” Carrots
• Topless “Yellowstone” Carrots
• “German Butterball” Potatoes
• Cabbage
• Leeks
• Garlic

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

COMING SOON: Brussels Sprouts, Horseradish

The first freeze did a lot of damage. The second freeze was worse. Now we are left with lots of the super hardy crops outside: carrots, cabbage, and leeks, and lots of squashes, onions, and garlic inside.

After a careful evaluation, we have decided that we don’t have enough product to do it all. We have enough to complete our Winter CSA, and not much more. This is where the choices come into play—continue going to farmers markets and give the CSA folks a credit toward next year, or complete our CSA obligation and stop going to markets.

So, we have decided to abandon the markets for this weekend. We WILL attend the Solstice weekend markets because, well, they’re fun. And, it seems like a good plan to go out with a bang. That will be our last for the year. If you pick up your CSA at either University District or West Seattle market, you have received an email with the CSA pickup information. Please let me know if you don’t get it.

We are so thankful to those faithful, loyal CSA families who have already paid for 2015’s harvest. Just last week I was driving the market van and lost the alternator—yes, the bracket broke and the alternator fell out on the freeway. Since the repair involves taking the front end of the van apart, we decided to replace the aging suspension in the van as well. And we were able to make that choice based on the income we received from YOU. Thank you!


One of the great things about the Seattle Farmers Markets that we attend are the many programs that allow us to help the needy. Food banks pick up food at the end of the market day, and distribute it to their clients. We have the EBT and Fresh Bucks programs to help lower-income families buy fresh, healthy farm produce. But we also have the opportunity to talk with the everyday needy folks. Those that need to talk to someone about their farming childhoods, or their situation, or their medical treatments and cures attributable to fresh, organic food.

For years at the West Seattle market, I have had a regular observer. I don’t know if she’s homeless, or if she’s frugal. If she’s in need of help, or just interested in the scene. I had never spoken to her in all of our years at that market. But last weekend, she visited my tent at closing time. Usually, by the end of a market, we are all anxious to pack up and get home. Market days are long—longer than the 4 hours we are open, so generally we make sales while we take signs down, but after 5 or 10 minutes, the grace period ends.

This old woman came at about 15 minutes after closing. I was irritated and continued packing up and chatting with other vendors. But she was so thoughtful, gently picking up the tiniest squashes and eying them like treasure. First a Sweet Dumpling, then a Honey Bear. But she settled on a Gold Nugget—the smallest one in the basket. She fondled it lovingly, and then gently put it back in the basket, and then she started to walk away.

But I was feeling outgoing, so I asked her if she wanted one of the squashes. She turned around and looked at me, wistfully. “Really?”

I said, “Sure. You should take it. It looks like it will make you happy.” She got a tear in her eye, and then she started to tell me her story. She said she grew up in Kent. In O’Brien, actually, and did I know where that was? I’ve spent a fair amount of time perusing old maps and photos of the Kent area, so luckily I could say yes. It’s south of Orillia, but not as far as Langston’s Landing. It was where Cruz-Johnson Farm used to be, and where Albert Drisow used to grow radishes and green onions. And it’s where O’Brien Nursery used to be. All of these agriculture ventures pushed out by the sprawling housing of the likes of Paragon, and the industrial development started by Boeing. I told her that we are in Thomas, between Kent proper and Auburn.

“Oh, I remember Thomas.”

 

Winter Week 5: Arctic Blast, Episode 2

At least for Episode 2 of Arctic Blast we got some snow! Snow before freezing is actually better, because it insulates the crops better and keeps them moist. That dry cold is a killer. There are radicchios under this snow, covered with frost blanket.

At least for Episode 2 of Arctic Blast we got some snow! Snow before freezing is actually better, because it insulates the crops and keeps them moist. That dry cold is a killer. There are radicchios under this snow, covered with frost blanket.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• “Jester” Winter Squash
• Topless “Nelson” Carrots
• Topless “Yellowstone” Carrots
• Topless Beets
• “Desiree” Potatoes
• Cabbage or Radicchio
• Leeks or Onions
• Kohlrabi
• Garlic

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

COMING SOON: Brussels Sprouts

Another cold spell is not our favorite weather. But at least this time we got some snow! Not only is it prettier, but it insulates the crops with moisture so they don’t freeze-dry. It’s still been in the 17°-19° range every morning, so that means breaking ice on the animals’ water tanks and removing the ice before refilling with buckets, because all the water lines are frozen. Interestingly, all of the animals tend to drink more water when it is very cold.

Brrrr. The rogue chickens are looking for handouts—21°, It's a winter wonderland!

Brrrr. The rogue chickens are looking for handouts—21°, It’s a winter wonderland!

What about the vegetables, you ask? Well, we have the same survivors that we did after the last freezing spell! Lots of carrots, beets, leeks, cabbages and radicchio. And of course, all of the squash and onions in storage. In case there is any doubt, we expect to fulfill the last few weeks of our Winter Season, even if it does get a bit repetitive. At least we still have produce, and it’s going to keep getting sweeter and sweeter with the cold snaps!

The cows and donkeys enjoyed a romp in the first snow of the year, which was pretty entertaining. And the turkey that escaped T-Day harvest stayed out of the way. At least he didn’t end up in a pan.

We had twin turkeys for Thanksgiving, since they finished up smaller than expected.

We had twin turkeys for Thanksgiving, since they finished up smaller than expected.

Our hummingbirds have become year-round residents, after a decade of leaving feeders out. Now I’m committed to keeping the feeders thawed all winter so they don’t starve. It’s worth it to keep their jeweled little bodies buzzing around in the summer.

It took me a decade to get hummingbirds to stay year-round, and now I'm committed. Even if it means bringing the feeders in at night and taking them out every morning. We've got at least 5 pairs that fight over four feeders all winter.

It took me a decade to get hummingbirds to stay year-round, and now I’m committed. Even if it means bringing the feeders in at night and taking them out every morning. We’ve got at least 5 pairs that fight over four feeders all winter.

It always surprises me to have people emailing about next year when it’s only December, so I’ve updated our CSA application form. If you are interested in joining us again next year (and we hope you are!) there’s a link here 2015 CSA App.

Winter Week 3 & 4—Damage Assessment

Savoy (wrinkly-leafed) spinach is much more winter-hardy than flat-leafed spinach.

Savoy (wrinkly-leafed) spinach is much more winter-hardy than flat-leafed spinach.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Sugar Pie Pumpkin
• Topless Carrots
• Topless Beets
• Cabbage or Brussels Sprouts Tops
• Leeks
• Romanesco Cauliflower
• Garlic
• “Viking Purple” Potatoes

NEXT WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Squash
• Topless Carrots
• Topless Turnips
• Cabbage
• Onions
• “Yukon Gold” Potatoes
• “D’Anjou” Pears from Cliffside Orchards
• Fresh Thyme

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

COMING SOON: Kohlrabi, Brussels Sprouts

First, we need to explain our Winter Holiday CSA Schedule:
The Tuesdays (November 18 and 25) are regular pickup days. Saturday/Sunday (November 22/23) are a two-week pickup, in which both weeks’ worth of produce will be picked up on one day. There is no CSA pickup the weekend of November November 29/30. This allows Teo to take Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday off to be with his family and relax. We will be at the markets Saturday and Sunday, but with a limited amount of produce.

 

So, to be clear, Regular pickup on Tuesdays, no pickup the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Frozen wind has a way of drying out plants that are supposed to be winter-hardy. Even the poor kale plants will need time and water to recover.

Frozen wind has a way of drying out plants that are supposed to be winter-hardy. Even the poor kale plants will need time and water to recover.

When we first heard about the “Polar Vortex” two weeks ago, we started watching weather reports religiously. I watched on the TV at the gym, I downloaded two more weather apps to my phone (for a total of FOUR) and checked them all every couple hours, comparing the predictions.

NONE of them hinted at what we got.

Our Swiss Chard plants survived the week of freezing temperatures, but the leaves are cooked. Hopefully, they will grow new leaves after the weather warms.

Our Swiss Chard plants survived the week of freezing temperatures, but the leaves are cooked. Hopefully, they will grow new leaves after the weather warms.

The average was that it was going to be very windy, and that we would be spared from the coldest arctic air, probably not dropping below 28° or so. Monday morning, we rose, ready to prevent nature from destroying all of our crops that had been flourishing in the extended Indian Summer/prolonged Fall warmth. We rolled out frost blankets on our remaining cauliflower patch of several thousand plants, covered the just-ready Radicchio planting, and the gamble of a fall Fennel crop. They would make it as long as it didn’t drop below 25°. That was our estimation. All of the winter squash, curing in the greenhouse got boxed up and put into the walk-in cooler.

We harvested the remaining cauliflower that wouldn’t make it. Harvested a few crops for CSA and markets. Things we were sure wouldn’t make it. And Monday night the wind DID roll in as predicted, gusting and making a mess for people everywhere through Tuesday. We survived the wind and the bit of chill.

We had hoped the Endive and Escarole would survive the cold, so we would keep enjoying winter salads, but the outside leaves are freeze-burned, even though the center leaves are just fine.

We had hoped the Endive and Escarole would survive the cold, so we would keep enjoying winter salads, but the outside leaves are freeze-burned, even though the center leaves are just fine.

We checked the temperature every night and every morning, and every time we walked past the little computery box receiver. We were feeling pretty confident Thursday, but it didn’t stop. Friday morning it was 17°. Saturday morning it was 19°. All my produce froze as I unloaded it at the U District market. Sunday warmed up a bit. Monday afternoon I checked for damage, and it was pretty sad.

Kale is durable, chard not quite so much. Even though all the plants survived, the leaves were frozen and desiccated by the two days of freezing wind. They will need water and time to pop back to life.

Although Romanesco Cauliflower has a flavor somewhere leaning toward broccoli, it grows like a cauliflower plant with a central head wrapped in leaves.

Although Romanesco Cauliflower has a flavor somewhere leaning toward broccoli, it grows like a cauliflower plant with a central head wrapped in leaves.

The good news is that we still have lots of food. Amazingly, the Romanesco Cauliflower survived with it’s frost blanket. We have lots of squash, onions, garlic, leeks, cabbages, roots, and radicchio. Of those things, the only leafy survivors are cabbages and radicchio—we all need to learn what to do with them for the next five weeks of our CSA. I’ll be updating the Cabbage page with more recipes, and I may just make a NEW page for Radicchio.

Winter Week 2—Polar Vortex, Episode 1

Broccoli, rescued from the icy grip of the Vortex, and into your CSA this week. Hopefully it will survive for another flush of sprouts.

Broccoli, rescued from the icy grip of the Vortex, and into your CSA this week. Hopefully it will survive for another flush of sprouts.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
“Jester” Squash
• Topless Carrots
• Broccoli Sprouts
Cabbage
• Beets or Fennel
• Kale, Mustard Greens, Chard, or Turnips, or Endive/Escarole
• Onions
• “Yukon Gold” Potatoes

LARGE SHARES: (also available in the Trading Box)
• Artichokes or Zucchini (really the end, this time)
• Radicchio
• Leeks

TRADING/SHARING BOX:
• All of the above and more

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

COMING SOON: Kohlrabi, Pie Pumpkins, Savoy Cabbage, Escarole, Romanesco Cauliflower

Goodnight, Cauliflower. Preparing for the Arctic Blast by covering the nearly-ready cauliflower patch with frost blanket anchored by sandbags. Hopefully it does the trick. There are nearly 2,000 heads of Romanesco, Purple, and White cauliflower, nearly ready to harvest. They just need another week or two. Brussels Sprouts on the right, Cabbages on the left. Mount Rainier in the background.

Goodnight, Cauliflower. Preparing for the Arctic Blast by covering the nearly-ready cauliflower patch with frost blanket anchored by sandbags. Hopefully it does the trick. There are nearly 2,000 heads of Romanesco, Purple, and White cauliflower, nearly ready to harvest. They just need another week or two. Brussels Sprouts on the right, Cabbages on the left. Mount Rainier in the background.

At Farmers’ Markets this weekend, all the vendor talk was about the POLAR VORTEX, fueled by the Asian SuperCyclone. Luckily, it’s now looking like it will funnel through the East side of the state, and the Cascades will protect us. This time.

It’s a good thing, too, because not only has this fall season been amazingly beautiful and generous, but we have so much more to come! A full patch of various cauliflowers, another flush or broccoli, kohlrabi, radicchios, fennel, and tons of cabbages. All of these more tender crops will complement the winter hardy crops nicely.

Winter is prime time for cabbage. We have several types coming up—especially the very cold-tolerant Savoy Cabbages. Wrinkly and tender, they are delicious and versatile. Check out our new Cabbage Page for ideas.

What the cold really means is that everything is about to become EVEN SWEETER AND MORE DELICIOUS! That’s right: Temperatures below 32° turn those starches in the plants into natural antifreeze—SUGAR! Kale, Collars, Chard, Spinach, Carrots, Cabbage—they will all be even more delicious in another week! I can’t wait. I haven’t had kale once this fall, because I’ve been waiting for that temperature drop. At last!

We are in need of a Handyman to complete a few projects around the farm. Our butcher shed needs electricity and a door, the washing shed needs lights, and I would really like to have sliding doors on the greenhouses. If you are interested or know someone, please pass them along. We can trade for food (including meat) or a combination of cash and food.

Winter Week 1—Falling into Our Winter Season

Our Fall Brassica field is looking amazing—and it's November! Cabbages of many kinds, Broccoli, Cauliflower—White, Purple, and Romanesco—all are coming to you in this wonderful Winter Season!

Our Fall Brassica field is looking amazing—and it’s November! Cabbages of many kinds, Broccoli, Cauliflower—White, Purple, and Romanesco—all are coming to you in this wonderful Winter Season!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
“Ambercup” Squash
• Topless Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Brussels Sprout Tops
Curly Endive
• Spinach
• Beets of many colors
• Kale. Mustard Greens or Chard
• Leeks
• Garlic
• Curly Parsley

LARGE SHARES: (also available in the Trading Box)
• Mustard Greens
• Fennel

TRADING/SHARING BOX:
• All of the above and more

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

COMING SOON: Kohlrabi, Pie Pumpkins, Savoy Cabbage, Escarole

Curly Endive is slightly bitter, but it's delicious in salad with fruit and cheese, or any other salty/savory combination. Those curly leaves hold lots of dressing!

Curly Endive is slightly bitter, but it’s delicious in salad with fruit and cheese, or any other salty/savory combination. Those curly leaves hold lots of dressing!

Our Winter Season has begun, and what a glorious one it promises to be! We still have not had a frost or any freezing weather, so we have a lot of crops that we don’t usually enjoy in November.

The Turkeys finally got moved out to pasture! They really don't like being in a building, they like being ON things, so there's no point in building them a shelter. The donkeys are a little perplexed with them.

The Turkeys finally got moved out to pasture! They really don’t like being in a building, they like being ON things, so there’s no point in building them a shelter. The donkeys are a little perplexed with them.

If you had been to the farm in the last two weeks, you know what a mess all that rain made in the chicken yards. The chickens have now been moved to drier ground behind our house. The turkeys are enjoying their move to the Donkey Pen.

In November, we decapitate the Brussels Sprouts plants so they will put all their energy into growing the nuggets in their leaf joints. Right now they are the size of a fingernail, but in a few weeks they will be walnut-sized.

In November, we decapitate the Brussels Sprouts plants so they will put all their energy into growing the nuggets in their leaf joints. Right now they are the size of a fingernail, but in a few weeks they will be walnut-sized.

We are in need of a Handyman to complete a few projects around the farm. Our butcher shed needs electricity and a door, the washing shed needs lights, and I would really like to have sliding doors on the greenhouses. If you are interested or know someone, please pass them along. We can trade for food (including meat) or a combination of cash and food.