Eating Seasonally

Spring 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 Summer CSA season, click here for our 2015 CSA Application. We still have space for you!

Summer starts June 9!

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.

Spring Week 3: Staying Flexible

Torpedo Onions that didn't get harvested last year, are the beginning of Spring Bounty.

Torpedo Onions that didn’t get harvested last year, are the beginning of Spring Bounty.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Spring Onions
• Turnip Rapini
• Pea Shoots
• Cilantro
• Kale
• Cilantro or Thyme

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

COMING SOON: Radishes, Lettuces, Arugula, Spinach, Carrots

I'm so glad I did extra searching for a bright red variety of Rhubarb! They don't taste much different from the green stalks, but they're sure prettier!

I’m so glad I did extra searching for a bright red variety of Rhubarb! They don’t taste much different from the green stalks, but they’re sure prettier!

It goes without saying that Spring is a big season of change on the farm. What you don’t know is that this post has been hanging in my browser for several weeks, and I have changed the title three times—Spring Week 1, Spring Week 2, and finally Spring Week 3. And I’m finally getting it done.

There is the change in weather, from too darned wet and cold to do anything, or even think about doing any farming. And suddenly it becomes, OMG, it’s been dry for a couple days, we should try planting something! And then, we could try planting more! Or @*%& It’s raining again, I guess we’ll wait some more.

After Easter, my kids were begging for healthy food, "like greens". So, I mixed up the last bunch of broccolini, the last bunch of curly kale, and a small bundle of asparagus. With garlic and olive oil. Hits the spot!

After Easter, my kids were begging for healthy food, “like greens”. So, I mixed up the last bunch of broccolini, the last bunch of curly kale, and a small bundle of asparagus. With garlic and olive oil. Hits the spot!

In our house, there is also a change of lifestyle—from full-time school to on-again, off-again farming. It’s a grey area of chaos. Where the schedule that I make suddenly can be thrown out the window, and I end up stressing out because nothing is getting done. The kids actually enjoy this, because it inevitably leads to extra screen time. Which results in a massive yo-yo effect of me backpedaling and throwing in extra chores, and more chaos, and more school, and more sun—oh no let’s plant more stuff!

So, yes. Spring is chaos here. On many levels.

Like my desk. This is why it is so important that you send in those silly pieces of paper called “application” for CSA and eggs, and poultry. Because on a chaotic day, I may not enter you into the computer before I do the deposit. Please send your silly paperwork. Just so that I can make sense and order on the rainy days, when I tidy up all the papers that I find under the seed receipts, and seed catalogs, and sticky notes, and lesson plans, and books, and dog toys.

The first asparagus of 2015—I sautéed them hot in a skillet with butter. So sweet and tasty!

The first asparagus of 2015—I sautéed them hot in a skillet with butter. So sweet and tasty!

I’m happy to report that we have a new employee. Jesus. He’s new to farm work, but is eager and hardworking, and chipper. And he and Teo get along well. They have been planting onions—and there are many. 40,000 plants or so. So far 4 beds of 17 have been planted. It’s a major job, but one that will pay off beautifully from June through September, and even next spring. Because those onions you are eating right now were actually planted this time last year!

Every year we dedicate a little more greenhouse space to early carrots. This year they get a WHOLE 30' wide tunnel to themselves. Lots of carrots coming in May!

Every year we dedicate a little more greenhouse space to early carrots. This year they get a WHOLE 30′ wide tunnel to themselves. Lots of carrots coming in May!

Speaking of planting—we got the greenhouses going super early! We are already picking cilantro, and this week we are harvesting the first of the Japanese turnips that were planted in early March. Hopefully next week we’ll have salad greens and radishes, and in a few weeks’ we’ll have the first of the early carrots! NEWS FLASH: We applied again for a hoophouse grant from the NRCS, which means we’ll be able to install two more big greenhouses in the fall. Thank you, USDA, for helping the little guys!

 

“Sprinter”—Our New Northwest Season

Cosmo, the Chick-Whisperer. 100 baby laying hens.

Cosmo, the Chick-Whisperer. 100 baby laying hens.

What a crazy-warm winter-spring we’re having! I don’t even know what to call it—maybe Sprinter is a good word to describe the sunny, 70° March days? It also describes our work ethic right now: between soggy days, we sprint out to get a bit of ground worked up, and get something planted.

Our asparagus is green, but the emerging tips are always purple.

Our asparagus is green, but the emerging tips are always purple.

Spring means Rhubarb!

Spring means Rhubarb!

We’ve been pretty successful so far. Spinach, Arugula, Mizuna, Beet Greens are all growing nicely and should be ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks—way ahead of our normal schedule. Cilantro, Chervil, Turnips, Radishes, Salad Mix, and Carrots are all planted, weeded, and growing in the greenhouses, and we’ll be picking and eating all of those things by May.

Torpedo Onions that didn't get harvested last year, are the beginning of Spring Bounty.

Torpedo Onions that didn’t get harvested last year, are the beginning of Spring Bounty.

Mint beds are freshly weeded and growing fast.

Mint beds are freshly weeded and growing fast.

It’s been a bumper year for pests—specifically, rats. So many big ones! We planted peas in a greenhouse to try and get juicy pods early (like, May) but the blasted rats dug them up and ate them! We spent two weeks trapping, discovered one of our dogs (Mario) is a born ratter, and Cosmo collected a $1 bounty per critter for every one dead. Still, there were more. I replanted and have enough for an experiment, but not as I’d hoped. Alas, we’ll have to wait for outside peas after all. We’ll try again NEXT year.

I think this is a Calfie—Teo is getting friendly with Cosmo's new heifer, Garnet.

I think this is a Calfie—Teo is getting friendly with Cosmo’s new heifer, Garnet.

Teo is really excited to start picking again. Winter is a dull, if restive, time of year. But he likes it when the farm is producing—it gives us all energy. Between cleaning up and weeding, he’s found time to sneak in a little time with Cosmo’s new calf, Garnet. I think we should call these photos “calfies”.

Cosmo and his  3-month old heifer, Garnet. He wants a milk cow that he can raise from a baby. Yes, he'll be 13 when he finally gets to milk her. That's a lifetime.

Cosmo and his 3-month old heifer, Garnet. He wants a milk cow that he can raise from a baby. Yes, he’ll be 13 when he finally gets to milk her. That’s a lifetime.

Other good news this week: We were lucky enough to receive a $6,000 hoop house grant from NRCS! We believe we can squeeze that into two more large greenhouses, which means even MORE deliciousness next spring!

40,000 onion plants have arrived, and are waiting here for their beds to be made so they can be planted.

40,000 onion plants have arrived, and are waiting here for their beds to be made so they can be planted.

We’ve got the farm stand cleaned and a new floor put in—rest assured, the skunk who made it home in January is no longer inhabiting the building, but it IS staying nearby. (I love skunks, so we will not be hunting or destroying this one, but that does not mean it was welcome in the farm stand!) We believe it’s now living under one of the shipping containers—remember, it takes a lot of warnings before they actually spray, so just don’t surprise it or make it mad and you’ll be fine.)

We start our Spring CSA season this week—and we are already at capacity for this limited season. We also start farmers markets Easter weekend—University District on Saturday (9-2) and West Seattle on Sunday (10-2). Columbia City opening day is May 9. At the beginning of the Spring Season we count on any crops that overwintered, and this year we have LOTS of Spring Onions! We’ll also have Rapini, Broccolini, a bit of Kale, Sorrel, Mint, and Cilantro. Chervil and Pea Shoots will be coming along soon…

This is how we do crop rotation planning.

This is how we do crop rotation planning.

AND, we are creeping along with our plan to purchase our farm property and the one next door. Baby steps, and waiting in between. But we’ll get there!

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.