Eating Seasonally

Summer is here!

Find us at The University District farmers market on Saturdays, 9-2, the west seattle farmers market on sundays, 10-2, and the columbia city farmers market on wednesdays 3-7.

If you are interested in joining us for our 2015 Fall CSA season, click here for our 2015 CSA APPLICATION. We still have space for you!

We are in the midst of our summer season, and our fall season starts september 1!

Summer Week 8: What’s Happening.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• New Potatoes
• Sweet Onions
• Summer Squash and Zucchini
• Beets or Kale or Swiss Chard
• Fennel
• Radicchio or Kohlrabi
• Basil, or Thyme, or Parsley
• Garlic

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

COMING SOON: Broccoli, Green Beans, Tomatoes, Lettuce

This is the first year in a great, long while that we have had ripe tomatoes before August. We'll be picking next week!

This is the first year in a great, long while that we have had ripe tomatoes before August. We’ll be picking next week!

We have survived to see the end of July. It’s been difficult. Never have we experienced the lack of moisture that we have had this summer. Think back to a typical year in the northwest: It rains almost every day in April. It rains two out of three days in May, and it rains one out of three days in June. And THEN July comes and it gets hot and dry.

Now think back to this spring. (Cue twinkly, flashback music…) It rained in March. It rained a little in April. And then the rain stopped. The temperature went up in May, and the rain disappeared. No rain in May. No rain in June. A week of 100° days in July.

It was great at first. We got early plantings in. “Oh, better turn on the irrigation already!” Chuckle, chuckle. But then it went on…and by the time those 100° temperatures happened, we were getting worried. Crops that we usually seed in the ground, like dill, cilantro, spinach, and carrots…they weren’t germinating. Just how much water would it take to cool the soil and keep them moist long enough to sprout? Well, longer than we anticipated, because we lost them. So when the temperature cooled last week we tried again and were reasonably successful with some. About 50% success. We’ll keep trying, and eventually it will work out.

 

The Broccoli we picked earlier was our "just-in-case" planting, and it was half the size of a planned crop. Our main-season crop is just about ready to harvest. Nice, big crowns on happy plants. And Cauliflower and Cabbage are coming along as well.

The Broccoli we picked earlier was our “just-in-case” planting, and it was half the size of a planned crop. Our main-season crop is just about ready to harvest. Nice, big crowns on happy plants. And Cauliflower and Cabbage are coming along as well.

Our timing has also been thrown off. Early plantings are great for everyone. Until we run out of space because we’ve filled it all up too early. Now we’re rushing to get the fall and winter crops planted, and making rash decisions about what isn’t worth keeping so we can squeeze in just a little bit more. After all the forecast is for a warm, dry winter. We could be picking outside crops until the end of the year. Again. But when the day length is too short to make things grow, we need to make sure everything is full size by the end of October. That takes a lot of space. And we’re still picking summer crops. This is a challenge.

What are we doing for water? Well, we have city water from Kent. No, there are no bulk rate discounts. They consider us a business, and businesses pay business rates. I’m expecting the August bill to be quite high. I’m guessing $4,000. That was our highest one several years ago, maybe it will be higher. We’ve had to use a lot of water, and that’s with taking advantage of frugal measures. Luckily Carpinito Brothers (who owns the property surrounding us) has let us tap into their well, and that has helped us get the larger crops of potatoes, squash, and beans up and running. It’s very high in  iron, however, so we can’t use it on leafy greens or cauliflower or broccoli because it turns everything orange. Still, it’s a huge help until we get our own well. And as long as the water table holds water. After seeing how California has squandered its’ groundwater, even having a well is not a forever solution without frugality and conservation.

Artichokes? Really? For August? If only there were enough for everyone. The plants are so, so short. They shouldn't be doing this until September.

Artichokes? Really? For August? If only there were enough for everyone. The plants are so, so short. They shouldn’t be doing this until September.

What about those chickens? They kept up their egg production for a while…until it got to 100°. Then, the week of hot weather made them drop production to half. It takes a lot of water to maintain your health AND make an egg. And then, they went into early molt, dropping all their feathers. And you can’t make many eggs while your body is making feathers. Both operations take a lot of protein. So, not many eggs right now. We’ve had to skip this week of CSA egg distribution so we can catch up for next week. We may be able to alternate weeks for a little while and hopefully their production will come back up.

The up-side is that we received a grant from NRCS that will enable us to build two more big greenhouses. That gives us a bit more work to provide to Teo and Samuel, so we can keep them both employed all winter. It will also enable us to get even more crops started super-early next spring, for even more April and May bounty.

Humungous bean crop coming on. Look for tender, skinny beans next week!

Humungous bean crop coming on. Look for tender, skinny beans next week!

And what about the U-Pick Garden? It’s been a struggle, because it’s the last spot on the irrigation list. The peas came and went in just two weeks. And that was with water and shade. The cherry tomatoes are doing great, and we’ll be weeding and trellising them next week. I planted green beans this week, and they should do well. There are snapdragons starting to bloom, and a few of the spring blooms remain. I just put in zinnias, asters, and sunflowers, so September is looking really great for CSA U-Pick. Thanks for your patience, and for understanding our struggles this year!

Summer Week 5: Dry.

The bounty is ramping up!

The bounty is ramping up!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Carrots
• Torpedo Onions
Pattypan Squash
Pickling Cucumbers—but they’re not just for pickling!
• “Midnight Ruffles” Lettuce
• Green Romaine Lettuce
• Beets, Kale, or Swiss Chard
• Basil or Cilantro

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

COMING SOON: New Potatoes, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Tomatoes

At this point, the first week of July, the word “dry” is an understatement. In a typical year, whatever that means, we would have had our last rain for the season probably last week. Maybe even this week. Aside from one glorious dumping rain several weeks ago, we have had virtually no rain since April. That makes things veeeery dry.

We use black plastic mulch and drip-irrigation tape to suppress weeds and conserve water. Very important in a drought season like this year.

We use black plastic mulch and drip-irrigation tape to suppress weeds and conserve water. Very important in a drought season like this year. But this basil is sure happy!

Most of our crops are shallow-rooted—lettuce, broccoli, herbs all have root systems that don’t go more than 6-12″ deep. That means that their little roots dry out quickly. These 90° days speed up evaporation from irrigating and dew, and increase transpiration from the plant leaves. The plants metabolize and grow very quickly with the heat and long day length, provided there is enough water to keep them making new cells, and growing.

The tomatoes are going like gangbusters! All pruned and nowhere to go but up! Loaded with green fruits too, and it's only the first week of July!

The tomatoes are going like gangbusters! All pruned and nowhere to go but up! Loaded with green fruits too, and it’s only the first week of July!

What that means is that we have water running somewhere 24 hours a day. We use Kent city water for leafy crops because the well water is high in iron and discolors the plants. But city water is expensive, and slow. Well water is cheaper and abundant, but we can only use it on crops whose surfaces aren’t eaten—potatoes, carrots, winter squash, etc.

I am actually concerned about what our August water bill will look like. In the past it’s been as much as $4,000.

There are things we can do to conserve water. We use plastic mulch—it looks like black plastic sheeting on the ground. This holds moisture in the soil, and it also suppresses weeds. We can run drip-irrigation-tape under the plastic to make it even more efficient. But not all crops enjoy being planted in plastic. We found that brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) don’t like the extra heat baking their shallow roots. Lettuce is also too hot in plastic. But it works great for summer squash, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. We use misting sprinklers, but only at night, so the tiny droplets don’t evaporate.

Make sure and get in the u-pick garden to get peas while they're still there. The hot, dry weather is drying them up, even though I planted them in the coolest part of the farm.

Make sure and get in the u-pick garden to get peas while they’re still there. The hot, dry weather is drying them up, even though I planted them in the coolest part of the farm.

But some things are just not doing well. The spinach hasn’t germinated. We’re trying again, but it just won’t happen above a certain temperature. Lettuce won’t either, but with shade-cloth on the greenhouse, and in the shade of the tree most varieties are germinating. But it’s tough.

You can find the U-Pick Garden next to the cow barn. More flowers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and beans to come!

You can find the U-Pick Garden next to the cow barn. More flowers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and beans to come!

Remember, the joy of having lots of crops extra early—and most things have been a month early for us—means that many crops are going to suffer. But this is the beauty of a diversified farm system. Our brochure says some crops will excel, and some crops will fail. It’s a built-in safety feature. There have been years where the broccoli, peas, and lettuce went on forever and there were no squashes, tomatoes, or beans.

That said, the pickling cucumbers surprised me! Usually not ready to start picking until at least the end of July, I found boxes and boxes of them! They are only called “pickling cucumbers” because of their stereotypical shape, so don’t be afraid to slice them up in your salad or just bite into one. They’re delicious fresh. Here are a few quick pickle recipes though, in case you’re inspired. Pickle Recipes

Summer Week 3: Sweating and Sweltering

I'm not usually a raw kale person, but our kale is SOOO tender right now, and I'm needing a break from lettuce, so I found this deliciousness. Recipe below. I admit, I scarfed down half of the batch.

I’m not usually a raw kale person, but our kale is SOOO tender right now, and I’m needing a break from lettuce, so I found this deliciousness. Recipe below. I admit, I scarfed down half of the batch. (I didn’t have radishes, or time to make granola, and it was still delicious.)

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Torpedo Onions
• Fresh Garlic
• Salad Kale or Swiss Chard
• Green Romaine Lettuce
• “Mayan Jaguar” or “Midnight Ruffles” Lettuce
• Zucchini or Fava Beans
• Snow Peas

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

COMING SOON: Broccoli, Summer Squash, New Potatoes, Carrots

 

Broccoli crowns coming to the CSA next week! This is the extra-early, take-a-chance, gamble crop that usually never works out.

Broccoli crowns coming to the CSA next week! This is the extra-early, take-a-chance, gamble crop that usually never works out.

I don’t have a lot to talk about, or the time to it, so this is a short post. Here’s the gist of what’s going on right now:

1. It’s hot and dry. Like California. Everything is a month early, and so is the departure of rain, which means we’re working really hard at keeping water moving around the farm to keep things alive and growing, and start new crops constantly.

2. While we’re working much harder than normal to keep existing summer crops alive, we’re also working very hard to stay on track with our fall and winter planting. New crops need even more water consistently than established crops.

3. The U-Pick garden will be ready next week. Peas, flowers, and a few strawberries will be available starting Tuesday.

4. We hope you’re enjoying everything so far!

The main planting of Sugar Snap Peas destined for CSA customers has gone rapidly downhill with all the extreme heat. We picked the first few for market, and then the rest either dried up or got sunburned after we watered them to keep them alive. There are lots in the cool shade of the CSA-only u-pick garden, and you can start picking them next week.

The main planting of Sugar Snap Peas destined for CSA customers has gone rapidly downhill with all the extreme heat. We picked the first few for market, and then the rest either dried up or got sunburned after we watered them to keep them alive. There are lots in the cool shade of the CSA-only u-pick garden, and you can start picking them next week.

 

Strawberry Kale Salad with Nutty Granola Croutons

Serves: 2
INGREDIENTS
Kale salad
  • 8 ounces Tuscan kale or regular curly kale (one medium bunch)
  • ½ pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 4 to 5 medium radishes, sliced thin and roughly chopped
  • 2 ounces chilled goat cheese (or about ⅓ cup cup goat cheese crumbles)
Lemon honey mustard dressing
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Nutty granola “croutons”
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup raw shelled pistachios (or walnuts or pecans)
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg white, beaten (optional, see note for vegans)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. To make the granola: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, toss the oats, pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the beaten egg white, oil, and honey or agave nectar until well blended. Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring halfway, until golden, about 16-19 minutes. Let the granola cool on the baking sheet.
  2. To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and honey until emulsified. Season with a dash of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. To prepare the kale: Use a chef’s knife to remove the tough ribs from the kale, then discard the ribs (or feed them to your dog!). Chop the kale leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the chopped kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  4. To assemble the salad: Drizzle in the salad dressing (you might not need all of it) and toss well, until all of the kale is lightly coated in dressing. Add the sliced strawberries and chopped radishes, then use a fork to crumble the goat cheese over the salad. Toss again, then sprinkle with a couple handfuls of granola. For best flavor, let the salad rest for 15 minutes before serving (this gives the dressing time to soak into the kale).

Summer Week 1: Is This July?

First Week of Summer CSA.  (Lovely photo courtesy Shawna at Sweet River Photography)

First Week of Summer CSA.
(Lovely photo courtesy Shawna at Sweet River Photography)

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Green Onions
• Garlic Scapes
Beet Greens with Little Beets or Pea Shoots
• Green Bibb Lettuce
• Red Romaine Lettuce
• Spinach
• Choice of Herbs
• Snow Peas (Large Shares only this week)

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

COMING SOON: Kale, Radishes, Salad Turnips, Peas, Carrots, Zucchini

Garlic Scapes are extra early this year...and there are enough this week for CSA members! Click on the menu link for cooking hints!

Garlic Scapes are extra early this year…and there are enough this week for CSA members! Click on the menu link for cooking hints!

As the 80°-plus temperatures and lack of rain persist, we are feeling like July. That first week of July, when the weather suddenly changes from cool and wet to scorching and dusty overnight.

Our days are gloriously, and exhaustingly, long and full. Up at 5:00 to get greenhouse work done before the temperature soars inside, followed by weeding, planting, or harvesting, and then more greenhouse work and dinner at 10:00. That is our new routine. Which would be even better if we hadn’t been thrust into it. It’s to ease into a new routine.

Remember the line, “Some achieve summer, while others have summer thrust upon them?” Well, that’s the idea. I’ve been listening to Shakespeare plays while I work.

Thanksgiving turkeys have arrived and are doing well so far. Green heads mean Big Brown Turkeys, and no green means Regular Brown Turkeys.

Thanksgiving turkeys have arrived and are doing well so far. Green heads mean Big Brown Turkeys, and no green means Regular Brown Turkeys.

I usually listen to audiobooks, and Shakespeare seems to be the theme this summer. Partly because I’m interested, (and BBC has a number of dramatized productions featuring actors like David Tennant and Helena Bonham Carter), and partly because I’m planning on studying his work with the kids in our homeschool next year. (Hopefully with a fall field-trip to Ashland!)

Anyway, sorry the farm is such a mess. The mower was broken when we had time to mow and clean up, and alas, now that the mower is fixed, we can’t spare the time to mow and clean up. We’ll get there.

Instant Summer Squash patch, as Teo helps me set out transplants. Just a couple weeks until we've got squash!

Instant Summer Squash patch, as Teo helps me set out transplants. Just a couple weeks until we’ve got squash!

We welcome you to the first week of our Summer, 2015 CSA, and we hope you enjoy it. There will be much more food to come, and it will gradually increase as the weeks go by. Please feel free to email if you have any problems or concerns, or in case you’d like to give positive feedback. We love to hear from you!

 

Spring Week 8: Spring….Whooosh!

Because. Carrots.

Because. Carrots.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Green Shallots (filling the gap between Spring Onions and the first Scallions)
• Baby Carrots
Beet Greens with Little Beets
• Salad Mix
• Spinach
• Pea Shoots (Running out of pea shoot ideas? Check out the Pea Shoot and Green Garlic Pesto on the Pea Shoots page, at the link)

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

COMING SOON: Lettuces, Dill, Scallions, Radishes

The first of the Garlic Scapes to appear! Two weeks until we start picking! Early, just like everything else.

The first of the Garlic Scapes to appear! Two weeks until we start picking! Early, just like everything else.

This season is speeding along! We have heard so much about California’s drought, and Eastern Washington will soon be thirsting for the limited water availability. We still have access to water, both from wells and from the city, if necessary. And we have been irrigating already. Crazy how dry the soil is. It’s still wet several inches below the surface, but by the time the surface is prepped for planting, it’s nearly dust on top, where the seeds or transplants go. That means they need to be watered right away so they’ll sprout and grow. Rain has been unusually unpredictable this spring, with our 70° average in May. So strange. So wonderful, as well, for the early plantings and early harvest, but still…so strange.

Chickens love bolting escarole as much as grass, so a quick rotation stop before we get ready to plant something else in this spot. Their job is to clean and fertilize, and turn whatever is left into eggs.

Chickens love bolting escarole as much as grass, so a quick rotation stop before we get ready to plant something else in this spot. Their job is to clean and fertilize, and turn whatever is left into eggs.

With the warm temperatures come pests. We’ve had to till-under our recent planting of arugula and salad mustard due to Flea Beetles. Usually we don’t run into problems with them until June, but there they are. We may try one more planting for summer, but otherwise, no arugula until fall. The Beetles thrive in hot, dry conditions, so we won’t plant until the night-time temperatures drop.

We got the first planting of cucumbers going in the greenhouse.

We got the first planting of cucumbers going in the greenhouse.

We’re pushing crops through our greenhouses, right on schedule. The first of our Cucumbers went into the ground, with their trellises waiting for them to clamber up. The tomatoes are in their cozy plastic beds where the early radishes and turnips were, and basil is where the first rows of carrots came out—we are speeding along.

Yesterday, this lady popped out of the bushes with her brood of 7 ducklings. Looks like they resemble their black and white dad!

Yesterday, this lady popped out of the bushes with her brood of 7 ducklings. Looks like they resemble their black and white dad!

We love the little surprises of spring: Hens with chicks, and Ducks with ducklings! Stop and visit them, but don’t mess with mom—she’s very protective.

Oh! Our Summer Season starts in just THREE WEEKS! If you’re interested in joining us for a bountiful summer of amazing food, let us know right away! We still have some space available.  Click Here for our CSA application.

Spring Week 5: So Much to Do!

Lovely greens this week...and CARROTS!

Lovely greens this week…and CARROTS!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Spring Onions (tubular leaves)
• Green Garlic (flat leaves)
• Baby Carrots
Purple Radishes (don’t forget to use the greens in salad or sautéed!)
• Salad Mix
• Baby Turnips with Greens (eat your greens!)
• Cilantro OR Pea Shoots

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

COMING SOON: Lettuces, Arugula, Spinach, Baby Beets

Spring is passing so quickly now, I don’t even have time to write anything. Still everything seems to be a month early: The greenhouses are pumping out produce, the bees are packing up honey, and we are planting nearly every day. It IS only April. Usually April is the wet month, where we gaze longingly out windows, waiting for the ground to dry enough to work. Waiting to go out and plant ANYTHING.

I don't know that we've ever turned on the sprinklers in April before. Beautiful weather means transplanting, and that means water.

I don’t know that we’ve ever turned on the sprinklers in April before. Beautiful weather means transplanting, and that means water.

But not THIS year! This is the year that we get to be California. With the early planting, and the early harvesting. And likely, we will get the hot, everlasting summer as well. At least until the sudden freeze comes in October. Or maybe it will wait again until November, like last year? Who can say. All we can do is try to be prepared, and squeeze as much summer out of as many months as possible.

First planting of brassicas ready to load into the transplanting machine! These Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbages should be ready to harvest mid-June.

First planting of brassicas ready to load into the transplanting machine! These Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbages should be ready to harvest mid-June.

The potatoes will be planted tomorrow. The onions are nearly done being planted. The first crops of lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, and MORE are already planted OUTSIDE! We are working on getting the second plantings out. Really, this is unheard-of. But we will continue to roll with it. Because that’s just what we do.

So, enjoy! And you can look forward to the day in June when we open the U-Pick CSA garden, where we are currently planting Dahlias and Strawberries. Where the Shelling and Sugar Snap Peas are coming up next to Poppies and Bachelor’s Buttons.

Make sure and say hello to hard-working Teo!

Make sure and say hello to hard-working Teo!

When you visit, keep an eye out for the Osprey family that have returned to nest above the train-yard next door. The Swallows have returned, and the Barn Owls are raising a family of noisy chicks in the silo across the street. The mama Coyote has returned for her early morning hunts of stray chickens to feed her pups, wherever they may be hiding. And there are hens hiding in the bushes with clutches of eggs. So much life all around us!

A Farmer Rant

I don’t rant often. I keep it to myself, or complain to a select few farmer friends. Mostly I try to keep things positive. It’s better for me, and it’s better for everyone else.

But as I was just finishing my last chipper blog post about chaos and spring, Mike was out doing evening chores. He calls, and says, “We’ve got an emergency here!” Never a good thing.

I grab my coat and boots and run out there, and much of the smoke has already dissipated. But it’s still smoky. There are a bunch of little dead chickens in the brooder, and the shavings on the floor are smoldering with a few coals. Of course, it’s amazing that it’s not in flames. It’s amazing that any of them are alive at all, considering that the first time I got a whiff of smoke from INSIDE our house was several hours earlier. I checked the dryer vent, I checked the space heaters. I looked at all the neighbors’ houses who usually have smoky fires in their fireplaces. Nothing. I wrote it off.

Those poor little three-week-chicks. Some were dead. Many were nearly dead. Most were wheezing and coughing and sneezing. Smoke inhalation is nasty, and even more so for birds. They have more delicate lungs than mammals do. You’ve heard about “the canary in the coal mine”. More delicate. More sensitive. And they are babies.

So, we get air flow going. We shovel out the smoldering shavings. We stop new smoke from forming. And then we pull out the dead bodies. 26 out of 100. We know there will be more in the morning. It may take several days for them to stop dying. And there’s just no way to give all those little chickens emergency oxygen therapy to help them.

And after we are done cussing at ourselves, and blaming, and cleaning up. Then we wonder why we do this. We wonder why, and we wonder if we should start more. And then we come in the house to make dinner, because life goes on.

And during dinner, we complain about the people who complain about egg prices. We gripe about how many chicks your ordinary egg-buyer could keep alive. How many would they be able to keep safe from cold snaps. From wind storms. From that first hot day in July that threatens to overwhelm everything. When young birds die from heat stroke. From predators.

Just how many eggs would your ordinary egg-buyer get from their attempt at chicken-raising. How many years would they perservere, and keep trying, and trying to get enough eggs to reach that magical “profitability” number? And then they complain about the price of eggs. Some are genuinely shocked into standing open-mouthed when an egg-farmer says “$9″. In January, when those chickens aren’t laying very many eggs, but they are still eating $20-$30 of feed every day. When they are not paying for their keep.

The average egg-shopper doesn’t realize that all of this goes on, 6 months before the first egg is laid. $7 per dozen doesn’t make a profit. Even $8 per dozen doesn’t pay a farmer a living wage. Really, at $9 per dozen, not really either.

Of course, I realize that most of our loyal customers are not in this group that we complain about. But I see it every weekend at the farmers markets. That shocked look. And the ones who actually verbalize their shock. It makes me ill, and it’s hard to not retort. Really hard to turn the other cheek. Hard not to accidentally throw a bunch of wet kale in their direction.

Because they really have no idea at all.