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CSA Spring Break—Week 4

Purple radishes and lettuce mix are nearly ready. Just one more week!

COMING SOON: Pea Shoots, Radishes, Salad Turnips, Rhubarb Lettuce Mix, Dill, Cilantro, Chervil, Beet Greens, Spinach!

Two warm, sunny days are all it takes to make the brassicas bloom, bringing an end to Rapini and Broccolini Season. See you next year!

First, the bad news:
I’ve decided to skip this week’s CSA harvest. 

The first warm week of spring is always a challenge, as the overwintered crops like kale, raab, and chard all go to flower. And the newly planted crops are not quite big enough for harvest. I’ve been stewing about this since last week’s harvest, evaluating all the new things. The radishes are still tiny, the salad greens are harvestable, but if I pick them now, we’ll only have them for two weeks. After a week of sun, they’ll be twice as big and I can harvest for 3-4 weeks, when the outside planting will be ready. The turnip and beet greens are luscious, but the same situation. If we wait one more week we’ll have twice as much. Plant growth is exponential when the weather is warm and sunny, and all of these first plantings are in greenhouses, making them extra quick.

These beet greens are so close! One more week and they’ll be in our bellies!

The good news: By taking a break this week, we’ll have three extra days of sun for planting out new crops! 

Remember last year, we didn’t get anything planted until May. Not only do we already have crops in the ground, but we are going to be putting in even more this week. Hopefully all of 10,000 onion plants, artichokes, lettuces, cabbages, spinach, turnips, carrots, peas, herbs, and a big round of u-pick flower babies.

By next week, these turnips will be big enough to eat, and we’ll need to harvest half as many to satisfy everyone.

So, to clarify: No CSA Pickup or Delivery between 4/21 and 4/24. Regular CSA pickup will resume 4/28, 4/29, and 5/1. Egg shares will be doubled next week to make up for absence this week.
 

The greenhouse peas are taking off! I had to tie them up today to keep the aisles open for picking. We should be feasting on peas in 3-4 weeks!

In just one day “off” of harvesting, we got so much done! Since a chance of rain was forecast before the coming week of dry, warm weather, we hustled to get a bunch of things planted.

So many things planted ahead of the gentle rain. Greens, roots, and peas outside. A month ahead of last year!

Sugar Snap Peas, Pea Shoots, Carrots, Turnips, Radishes, Arugula, Stir-Fry Mix, Lettuce Mix, Cilantro, Dill, and Spinach. And the massive onion planting continues.

We got a good start on the U-Pick garden: Bachelor’s Buttons, Rocky Mountain Garland, Corn Cockle, Calendula, Shirley Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Gladiola bulbs. Also 8 rows of Sugar Snap Peas. Dahlias going in today.

We also got caught up on U-Pick Garden planting. The Tulips and Daffodils may be finished, but there will be so much in 4-6 weeks!

THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING! It’s going to be worth the wait!
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CSA Week 5—Spring Break is Over!

Fresh, spring crops! Green Garlic, Purple Radishes, Lettuce Mix, Rhubarb, Sorrel, and Thyme.

WEEK 5 MENU:

• Lettuce Mix
• Purple Radishes
• Rhubarb
Green Garlic or Shallots
• Fresh Thyme or Sorrel

• No U-Pick right now…around the end of May there will be more flowers

COMING SOON: Pea Shoots, Dill, Cilantro, Chervil, Beet Greens, Mustard Mix, PEAS, and Carrots!

What an incredible week! Taking a break from harvesting last week was an incredible idea. It gave us time to get a lot of new things planted, and all of the old things cultivated.

These dry days have been perfect for getting our big onion crop in the ground. Did you know that onions have a timer? Up here above the 45th parallel, we have to get our onion plants as big as possible by the Summer Solstice, June 21, because bullying onions have a timer: As soon as the days start getting shorter, they start to bulb. So the bigger the plant, the bigger the bulb!

Two-thirds of the 2018 onion crop is planted and doing well. That’s about 9,000 onions so far. All that’s left are the winter storage onions and leeks. I am determined not to repeat the Onion Disaster of 2017.

Cultivation, in the farmer sense, means cleaning up weeds, but it’s also a disturbance of the soil. Aerating the surface allows oxygen and water to enter between the soil particles easily, and that results in quicker, healthier growth. Roots grow faster, which means the plants absorb more nutrients, faster. This wheel hoe is my tool of choice: on the left are the cultivated rows, and on the right are those that need cultivating. It’s also good upper body exercise.

The first outside planting of Snap Peas, Pea Shoots, Carrots, Radishes, and Turnips. Plus a second outside planting of Arugula, Spinach, Mustard Mix, Cilantro, and Dill. Next week we’ll be able to plant out the first Lettuces, Napa Cabbages, Kohlrabi, Green Onions, and the Artichokes.

Extra weeding, watering, and heat this week pumped the greenhouse peas into flowering. It’s hard to say which will win the race, Sugar Snaps or Shelling Peas. But I’m not picky! I’ll eat them both!

Though the temps were in the 80’s last week, let’s not forget that last year at this time we were still waiting for the rain to stop and had NOTHING planted outside yet. 2018 is going to be incredible!

The 2018 Season Begins!

Swiss Chard, Kale Mix, Broccoli Raab, Green Shallots, and Sorrel or Parsley or Salad Mustard. Plus U-Pick Daffodils and Tulips

WEEK 2 MENU:

Swiss Chard
Kale Mix
Broccoli Raab
• Green Shallots
Sorrel, Parsley, and Salad Mustard

• U-Pick Daffodils and Tulips

COMING SOON: Pea Shoots, Radishes, Lettuce Mix, Dill, Cilantro, Chervil, Beet Greens!

Week 1 went so chaotically fast that I forgot about blogging, so here’s week 2 already. Spring has sprung, and we’ve got plenty of leaves. Last year, we started out strong with overwintered crops, but we weren’t able to get ground worked or new crops planted until May, so we had a gap of a few weeks where we didn’t have anything to harvest. I’m hoping that we’ll avoid that situation this year.

Rainbow Chard is the Skittles of vegetables.

There was a brief window in April when the ground dried enough to work and get some quick crops in. Pea shoots, fava beans, beets, spinach, radishes… and they all came up! The greenhouses are popping with big plantings of early carrots and sugar snap peas, herbs, and greens. Next week looks a little repetitive, but by week 4 we’ll have salad greens and radishes, dill and cilantro, beet greens and baby turnips.

My greenhouse pest control front man is on-duty.

In the mean time, the swiss chard and parsley I planted in the greenhouse last fall came back in amazing form, and the kale, rapini, and sorrel are abundant, and garlic and onions are close to ready as tender, young greens.

Make sure you stop and pick the flowers! U-Pick flowers are available during CSA hours: Saturdays after Noon, and Tuesdays after 2:00.

I haven’t been able to get the earliest flower transplants in the ground yet, but there are tulips and daffodils available for you to take home. If you don’t pick them they are wasted, so please pick the flowers!

Please don’t be dismayed that there are only 5 or 6 different items right now. There is so much to come, and it’s early!

 

Pining and Planning for Spring

We may get snow in February, but the Purple Deadnettle is determined to stay blooming, just in case the bumblebees emerge and need feeding.

COMING SOON: An exciting, new, amazing season!

Two weeks ago it snowed and it was frozen for days on end. Our greenhouses aren’t heated, so we couldn’t even plant inside them because the ground was frozen.

We’re in a freezing spell—February is always the coldest month—but the Willow hedgerow is blooming. Pussy Willows are flowers, and their pollen is the first thing to feed hungry honeybees. They don’t really need nectar in early spring, they need protein-rich pollen to feed their babies, and Willows are the perfect source.

But March is a fickle month, and all you have to do is wait a day and spring starts to happen!

The first Purple Broccoli sprouts are coming. We started these last July, and put the plants in the ground in August. That’s 8 months of growing time. Can’t wait for the CSA to start in just a few more weeks!

I gauge the start of our harvest season, for both CSA and market, by the timing of the rapini and broccolini crops. Sprouting broccoli is already starting, but the kale, turnips, and cabbages are just not quite there. But they are getting ready.

I planted sugar snap and shelling peas in mid February, on top of a heat bed in the greenhouse. I’ll be planting them in the ground this weekend, and we’ll be eating them mid-May through June!

But what to do in the waiting time? Well, I have taken to going away to sunny places. Della and I travelled to New Mexico and visited the monuments and national parks. A week of bright sun. Next week I’m taking both kids to the Utah parks and Grand Canyon. Then it will be time to really focus on farming.

It’s finally not freezing, and the days are getting longer, so I’ve started planting greenhouses. This one is full of carrots! Another contains rows of radishes, arugula, salad greens, cilantro, dill, and chervil. Yet another will be full of baby turnips, beets, and more greens. These are the crops that we’ll be harvesting in late April and May.

In the winter weeks at home, though, we clean up and I plant. Here are the peas I started in February, on a heat mat. They’re ready to be planted in the ground this weekend. And the other greenhouses are full of carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and salad greens. I can’t wait!

It looks like we’ll have a glorious weekend to get a spot of June greens planted, and the fava beans. Plus, we hope to get the potato ground prepped. The onion plants have arrived and they’ll be getting planted soon as well. Already, this year is shaping up better than last year. Because last spring, it didn’t stop raining until May. And we didn’t get anything planted outside until almost June.

Keep an eye on your email inboxes, because CSA startup information will come to you right after March 21! It’s the final countdown! I’m aiming for March 31 as the CSA start date, and first West Seattle Market date of April 1.

With the feed mill down the street, we always have a rodent problem here. Rats, mice, and voles. I have to set traps for mice and rats in the greenhouse, and right now they’re liking the peas, so that’s the bait I use. Later I’ll change to basil and cabbage seed. Our little terrier mix, Mario is an amazing ratter, and Cosmo gets paid a bounty for shooting them with his air rifle.

The End of 2017

At long last, on December 28, we signed the papers on the farm. We are now farm owners, renters no more.

COMING SOON: An exciting, new, amazing season!

The final CSA pickup was two weeks ago, and I have been remiss in getting a timely final blog post finished. I did take on a seasonal job with UPS, and that kept me pretty busy for about 10 hours a day… and it also got me back in physical shape. But here I am, on New Years’ Eve, getting it done!

The final CSA pickup of 2017! Savoy Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kale or Chard, Onions, Garlic, Delicata Squash, Two kinds of Potatoes, Candy Carrots, Sweet Beets, and Radicchio.

This has not been my favorite farming year. But once you start, you have to finish, and I believe we finished strong. I tend to remember the negatives: Replacing all the greenhouse plastic skins because we had to cut them after 6″ of heavy snowfall; The weeks of waiting to plant in the spring because it would not stop raining, then the missed weeks of harvest because we hadn’t been able to plant on time. And then the near-stroke injury I suffered in May that made it impossible and life-threatening for me to do any physical work…until October!

35 degrees and foggy, winter harvest day.

But it’s important to remember the good as well: How I successfully downsized the farm business, and ended up making nearly the same profit. How we had two truly amazing teenagers working for us all summer to help get my work done. How we ended up making it to the end of our 40 week season with plenty of food. And, with the help and support of our incredible community, we raised $80,000 and WE BOUGHT THE FARM!

White Christmas means work here! The forecast said rain was coming after the snow, so all the snow had to come off the greenhouses, lest they collapse under the weight.

Now we start making loan payments, and property tax payments, and doing many improvement projects that we haven’t wanted to invest in without a secure future. We’ll be building a barn, building a new farm stand, and burying our irrigation lines. Improving drainage around our structures, improving access to spaces we want you to be able to see, and encouraging you to explore our farm more. We feel that our farm belongs to all of you who ask us to feed you, and you should see it all. We’ll be announcing the date for our Farm Purchase Party sometime this spring, so keep your calendars handy!

Savoy Cabbages are wrinkly, and more cold-hardy than their smooth brethren.

NOTE: We still have 40 CSA spaces to fill, and it would be reassuring to know who is planning on joining us for a spectacular 2018. If you haven’t enrolled yet, please do so soon. Even a deposit will help with our winter and spring farm expenses, and there is no extra charge for making payments, as long as your CSA share is paid in full by March 1. Here’s the form link in case you need it. 2018 Farm Flyer. Let me know if you’d like an invoice to pay by credit card.

Thank you so much, and we wish you all the best in 2018.

Shelley, Mike, Della, and Cosmo

CSA Week 35

Thanksgiving treats, including sweet potatoes that we grew right here!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Spaghetti Squash
• German Butterball Potatoes
• Carrots
• Beets
• Sweet Potatoes
• Celery
• Sauté Greens
• Parsley or Arugula

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

COMING SOON: Escarole, Gold Nugget Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Savoy Cabbages

It’s taken a few weeks to get all the garlic and shallots planted for 2018, but at last that project is finished! The spring onions are growing roots and tops and coming along nicely. We have to cover up the planted garlic and shallots after planting because a gang of crows has come twice and pulled all of the bulbs out of the planting holes. So, really, I’ve planted twice. Our amazing soil is too sticky to plant when it’s raining, so it’s been a bit of a challenge to get the job finished.

Savoy Cabbage is a wrinkly, winter treat. The heads are lightweight but the leaves are thick and meaty. Not ideal for sauerkraut, but delicious in a soup or sliced into steaks and roasted, OR used for cabbage rolls.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. It’s great to be alive, and two near-death scares is really enough for me now. I’m thankful to have my health back and begin a new farm year in tip top shape. We’re so incredibly grateful for the help of our community in raising the money for our down payment. In a matter of weeks we will be farm owners, and that is an incredible feeling after renting for almost two decades.

We are especially thankful for all of you. For supporting us for twenty years and allowing us the privilege of fulfilling our dreams while nourishing your families. We look forward to decades more to come. We will be planting more perennial crops, investing in infrastructure like a barn and permanent water lines, building a new farmstand, and two more greenhouses. Not all at once, of course, but in the near future.

The Spring Onions are coming along, and the garlic and shallots for 2018 are all planted and tucked in with covers to keep out the crows.

NOTE: We still have 40 CSA spaces to fill, and it would be reassuring to know who is planning on joining us for a spectacular 2018. If you haven’t enrolled yet, please do so soon. Even a deposit will help with our winter and spring farm expenses, and there is no extra charge for making payments, as long as your CSA share is paid in full by March 1. Here’s the form link in case you need it. 2018 Farm Flyer

Thank you so much, and have a lovely Thanksgiving with your families.

Shelley, Mike, Della, and Cosmo

CSA Week 31

Cauliflower or Cabbage, Delicata Squash, Carrots, German Butterball Potatoes, Beets or Bok Choy, Chard or Kale, and lots of Garlic.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Cauliflower or Cabbage (we were short of both)
• “German Butterball” Potatoes
• Carrots
• Swiss Chard or Kale
• Beets or Bok Choy
• Delicata Squash
• Lots of Garlic
Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Napa Cabbage, Turnips, Endive

After a year of Total Onion Failure, I’m setting up for a Season of Onion Abundance in 2018. I ordered about 6,000 onion transplants that we’ll (hopefully) be able to start harvesting in April, just as we’re getting ready to plant the main crop of onions for the rest of 2018. Torpedo and Walla Walla.

I think I’ve already explained the Great Onion Disaster of 2017. After many years of onion abundance, this year was the opposite. But I’ve taken measures to make sure that doesn’t happen again in 2018. We’ve made beds for next year’s onions next to the garlic that is going in the ground now, so that we’ll be ready to plant as soon as the transplants arrive in March. We won’t have to wait for the ground to dry out. AND, I’ve just planted about 6,000 sweet onions that will be ready to harvest starting in April. I’ve just finished planting them, and they’ll hang out and grow all winter. The Garlic for 2018 is half-planted and the Shallots will go in next week. My goal is to get them all settled before Thanksgiving.

Cauliflower is my favorite vegetable. And Fall Cauliflower is the queen of them all. Frost-sweetened, fewer bugs, and all deliciousness. Raw or roasted, in soup, stir-fry, even steamed.

The Onion Disaster is just one of the strange, climate-related changes that happened this year. Generally we plant all the fall and winter crops by August 1, so that they’ll have plenty of time to mature before the Great Darkness comes in November. We got everything planted by the middle of July and thought we were ahead of the game, but many things, like our beets, cabbages, and celery are still small. Another farmer who complained that his fruit wasn’t as sweet as it should be by now speculates that it was a result of the blocked sunlight by all the forest fire smoke. I’m taking that stance as well. We lost a few weeks of sun with the smoky haze. And as a result, we have small plants. Our winter brassicas are later than expected, and that would tie in to the same theory. But at least the cauliflowers are ready before the first hard freeze, and they’re delicious!

Glowing colors of Rainbow Swiss Chard stems. They are the best part of the chard.

A decade ago, we could grow Swiss Chard out in the field and we could harvest all winter, and then it would regrow in the spring. But the last four or five years it has been killed by winter freeze right around Thanksgiving, and then they don’t resprout in the spring. So when I was doing crop planning last winter, I planned to plant our big chard crop inside a greenhouse. The result is spectacular! (Of course, the chickens that we kept in there all winter didn’t hurt.) The leaves are dark, and huge, and beautiful and the stems are so vibrant!

AND HERE’S MY PLUG FOR CSA PAYMENTS!

I’m a bit more needy for everyone to pay for their CSA early this year because a number of our CSA Farmily have paid for theirs through our GoFundMe campaign. I am incredibly grateful for everyone’s help in reaching our downpayment goal, but that shorted us a bit in our farm expense fund. In just a few weeks it will be time to start buying supplies and seeds for 2018’s farm season, and we’ll also need to pay our family bills, PLUS a mortgage. So, please, if you are able, send in your CSA payments as soon as you can! There’s no extra charge for breaking it up into payments, either, if you can’t swing the whole thing at once. Here’s the link to the enrollment form.

And if you’d prefer to sign up for monthly Mystery Boxes, here’s the form for that! 2018 Mystery Boxes

Have an amazing fall week!