CSA Menu: “Chieftain” Potatoes Celery or Spinach “Honey Bear” Squash Salad Turnips (not in Mini Shares) Carrots Arugula or Fresh Thyme (not in Mini Shares) Baby Lettuces Yellow Onions (not in Mini Shares) Swiss Chard, Garlic, and Tomato (Large Shares Only)
A quick blog this week, just to say “Welcome!” to squash and greens season, and a few reminders!
Pumpkin Patch and U-Cut Flowers:
The CSA-only Pumpkin Patch has been popular! To be clear, this is a simple pumpkin patch; we are putting on no airs here. Just fresh air, birds, and worms, and pumpkins laying next to the vines that grew them. Now it’s muddy, it’s dirty, and it’s real! CSA members can come down Saturdays 10-5 or Tuesdays 2-dusk. Limit of four pumpkins of any size per family. Mostly there are little ones remaining, in orange or white, but there are a few big ones too.
The cut-flower garden is still pumping out blooms! The Zinnias and Verbena are exploding, and there is also some Love-Lies Bleeding and Bachelors Buttons, Cosmos and Marigolds. Come and get them while they last! Once we get a hard frost they’ll be gone until next June.
And an announcement/reminder:
2021 CSA enrollment is live, and current CSA members can save 10% by enrolling before October 17. I’ve broken the season into three sections for 2022, and enrollment for Spring is limited to 75 shares. Winter is limited to 100 shares. I’m actually increasing the Main Season (Summer) to 200 this year, so if you aren’t able to pay for the full year yet, but value the early and late seasons, make sure to grab those shares while they’re still available! As of tonight, there are just 15 Spring Shares left for 2021! Monday October 18, I’ll open up enrollment to the public, and the early payment discount will expire.
There is no paper enrollment form this year, as I’ve moved all of that paperwork to my new Barn2Door site, which will simplify my record keeping and email groups for next year. Click on this link to go to the “store”. You don’t need to pay with a credit card, you can mail a check or pay cash in person as well, but you do need to enroll online for my sanity. 🙂
OH! One more thing… the Trading Box!:
If you pick up at the farm, you should have noticed the new Trading Box. This is something we offered years ago, and it fell by the wayside. But when Sonja suggested we do it again, Emily and I were on board. Here’s how it works: We put a random assortment of produce in the box, in addition to the CSA offerings. If you don’t want (or can’t eat) one of the items offered, you take it and put it in the trading box, and exchange it for something else. It’s that easy. The important part is the TRADING. It’s not a box of extra things, you have to trade. We hope you take advantage of it!
CSA Menu: “Red Gold” or “Yukon Gem” Potatoes Celery or the last of the Zucchini Napa Cabbage or Kale or Basil Assorted Melons “Ostergruss Rossa” Radishes (not in Mini Shares) Shelling Beans or Green Beans (not in Mini Shares) Spinach Garlic Carrots, Sweet Pepper, and Tomato (Large Shares Only)
Fall has finally arrived. Not just astronomically, for the Autumnal Equinox was last Wednesday, but also in our weather changes. It’s in the changing angle of light, the cooler temperatures, and the soaking rains that finally bring the end to irrigation routines. Planting is finished for the year, and all of the leafy crops are happy and thriving. It’s a huge relief after this ultra-dry summer.
I do have a few updates:
First, a reminder that Seattle CSA deliveries switch to Wednesday mornings starting this week. I have classes on Tuesdays now, so I’ve changed my routine around. Same drop sites, and the same delivery times, but on Wednesdays starting the 29th. Second: The CSA-only Pumpkin Patch opens this Saturday! Bring your family down on Saturday or Sunday, 10-3, or on Tuesday after 2:00. I’ve counted them and I believe there are enough pumpkins for each family to take a total of 4. Big, small, or some of each. So follow the vultures to the patch and hang out with the Scarecrew!
And an announcement/reminder:
2021 CSA enrollment is live, and current CSA members can save 10% by enrolling before October 15. I’ve broken the season into three sections for 2022, and enrollment for Spring is limited to 75 shares. Winter is limited to 100 shares. I’m actually increasing the Main Season (Summer) to 200 this year, so if you aren’t able to pay for the full year yet, but value the early and late seasons, make sure to grab those shares while they’re still available!
There is no paper enrollment form this year, as I’ve moved all of that paperwork to my new Barn2Door site, which will simplify my record keeping and email groups for next year. Click on this link to go to the “store”. You don’t need to pay with a credit card, you can mail a check or pay cash in person as well, but you do need to enroll online.
CSA Menu: “Red Gold” Potatoes Zucchini or Pattypans (not in Mini Shares) Assorted Cucumbers Garlic Assorted Lettuces (not in Mini Shares) Basil Eggplant (Large Shares only) Galia Melon (Large Shares only)
We are half-way through the 2021 CSA season. The last time I wrote a post here was in May. Week 2. That was a very long time ago. I’ve been posting photos and lists of CSA contents every week on Instagram and Facebook, but I know that not everyone goes there, and for that, I apologize.
I am extremely grateful to have Emily here this year. She has learned quickly, and loves the farm. She’s building up her endurance for long farm days, and hopefully she will be back next year. I had hoped to hire one other person this summer, so that we could lighten our collective load, but I still have not found anyone, and the most intense part of the season is nearly over. Thankfully!
This week we finish all of the planting for the rest of the year! Today the last of the transplanted greens were planted, and all of the rest of the spinach, arugula, and other tender greens will get sown. As the hot crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are ripening, the remaining greenhouse are being cleaned up for winter greens like chard, Napa cabbage, fennel, and more spinach.
The Sunflowers are in full-bloom, so I hope that you will all come down and walk among them and be happy. There is no charge for CSA members. The cut flower garden is in its prime, too, so I encourage everyone to come grab a pair of snips from the CSA shed and cut an armload of blooms to take home. The pumpkin patch is coming along nicely, and in just five weeks or so, that will be open for CSA members only as well.
Seattle Deliveries will Change beginning the Week of September 20! I start school at Green River Community College September 20. After doing prerequisite classes last year, I’m finally in the Natural Resources program, where I’ll be pursuing a degree in Parks Management/Forestry. I’ll have classes Tuesdays, so I’ll be doing deliveries Wednesday mornings through the end of the year beginning September 22. Dropsites and times remain the same. On-Farm pickups will continue to be on Tuesdays.
UPCOMING CHANGES IN 2022:
Now that the farm workload is starting to wind down, and days are short enough to have some thinking and planning time in the evenings, I’m starting to think about how to change next year. It’s clear that I can’t count on finding workers, and I definitely need to lighten our work load somewhat so we aren’t so overwhelmed and exhausted all summer. Also, the FarmStand was generating a fair profit last year while everything was closed, but this year business has been very slow; most shoppers have been CSA members adding on little extras when they pick up their share.
Challenge 1: Spring was the most challenging time for us, because we were working on harvesting spring crops for everyone, while hustling to plant everything for the rest of the year.
Solution: I will be breaking up the season into three smaller ones: still harvesting 35 weeks, April-December, but separating into a large Main Season, and smaller Spring and Winter seasons. While we will continue with the larger CSA model of 150 families in the Main Season (mid-June through Thanksgiving), I will be limiting the number of Spring and Winter shares to 75. Spring will run early April through mid-June and Winter will run from late November through the end of the year. So if you are one of those die-hard CSA members who chomps at the bit for farm-fresh, unusual produce in April, you’ll want to sign up early. The CSA enrollment form goes live this weekend.
Challenge 2: The FarmStand is unprofitable in its current state. This summer, the FarmStand has barely broken-even, and often a fair amount of product that I buy from other farms is wasted. I am more than happy to make product available for CSA members! That makes me happy! But what doesn’t make sense is setting up a big spread for people to come shop, and paying someone to cashier. Also, Tuesday CSA members, as well as Seattle CSA families, are left out of this model. (I don’t like that part!)
Solution: I want to purchase a large glass-fronted refrigerator, maybe two. I can put small amounts of product inside daily, and offer self-serve/honor system sales every day. Product won’t be wasted on hot days or slow days, and I can keep it stocked daily. If I put the refrigerators inside a shed, I can lock them up at night instead of needing to haul everything back to the walk-in cooler at night, and I can also stock honey, jams, and other value-added products.
Also, I have signed up for online ordering services with Barn2Door.com. They are still helping me set everything up, but by next week, I hope to have online CSA enrollment, as well as add-on ordering of specialty and bulk items available for ALL CSA members, including Seattle families. I hope to have my site live by this weekend.
Challenge 3: The farm needs to generate income in the summer to cover payroll and the water bill when CSA income runs out.
Solution: Emily and I have been discussing how to incorporate a for-profit cut flower garden and pumpkin patch, in addition to the CSA-only free versions. I am asked every fall if we have a small pumpkin patch by local families; not everyone wants a giant pumpkin extravaganza. Also, there are no u-pick cut flower gardens in this area, although they exist in other places. We’d like to give it a try, because so many people have found joy in the flower garden this summer! One more idea is to start hosting campers here, to enjoy the oasis of birding, picking food and flowers, and encounters with wildlife. I’m hoping to crowdfund conversion of the old butcher shed into a community bath house to make that possible, so keep an eye out.
So, those are the big changes we’re planning for next year. I most likely will not return to farmers markets full time, but I may pop in again in August, like this year. It’s just too exhausting with everything happening at the farm. I’m truly loving the community aspect of our new, big CSA model, and I’d really like to draw more people directly to the farm.
Please feel free to tell me your thoughts and feelings about these changes. You are part of the WTF community, and we do all of this for you!
CSA Menu: Cauliflower Green Shallots (use like a Spring Onion or Green Onion) Radishes Salad Mustard (use raw or lightly cooked) Spinach Chervil (delicate, licorice-flavored herb. Use fresh.)
Spring means that days are long, like the to-do lists. We are busy planting, cultivating, and even irrigating already. The early greenhouse crops of Arugula, Spinach, and Radishes are nearly finished and we’ll be cleaning them out to prepare for the Tomatoes and Cucumbers going in the ground next week. The early Peas are blooming heavily now, and setting pods. Sadly, the rabbits managed to sneak around all the security measures and took out a lot of the Sugarsnaps, but the Shelling Peas are loaded.
Outside, the Favas and Peas are looking good and strong, and they’re in a highly-visible location for rabbit control. Luigi has been a star bunny hunter, sniffing out and digging up nests, and Emily and I both prowl the farm early and late in the day with our air rifles. We’re doing our best to back up the Red-Tailed Hawks and Barn Owls in their efforts to control our non-native Eastern Cottontails.
The first outdoor plantings of greens, including Spinach, Lettuces, Pea Shoots (and a lot more!) are coming along and should be ready in another two weeks. This week we are busy getting the first Summer Squash, Kale, Chard, and Cabbages planted. Corn will go in the ground this week (don’t worry, those of you who are corn-sensitive, it’s far away from other crops), as well as another round of u-pick items. I’m hopeful and fairly confident that the u-pick garden will be ready mid-June to welcome you.
Week 3 will be a little odd, as we are in that uncomfortable bridge between early and late spring. There will be lots of Cauliflower. Prepare yourselves. Radishes, Green Garlic, Green Shallots, and hopefully something leafy. Week 4 will usher in more variety, so hang in there.
Other exciting news at the farm:
I opened the FarmStand last Saturday, quietly. I don’t have much to offer just yet from the farm, and other farms don’t have much different than what I have. I was able to procure a few varieties of apples from Collins Orchards. The FarmStand will be much more exciting once we get to June, and the strawberries and peas, and other delicacies of summer start to arrive.
AND I need a favor:
I am in desperate need of a cargo van. My old market van is dead, and my Toyota Highlander isn’t able to do all of the farm jobs that I need done. I’ve been renting a van for picking up fertilizer and equipment, but I can’t keep renting now that I’m doing CSA deliveries as well. But I’m in a pickle! I need to sell my Toyota (my only car) to cover the downpayment, but I need to drive the Toyota until I get the van. I need a very short-term loan, or multiple small loans, just until I can get my car sold. The blue-book value is $10,000, and I’m looking for $8,000. If anyone can spare $1,000 for just a couple months, I will happily repay ASAP (as soon as my car sells) with the addition of 15# of my grass-fed ground beef from this winter’s harvest. You will also receive my undying gratitude. Please email me if you can help!
It’s so exciting to start a fresh, new year! This week is just a little preview of the true CSA season that will start in a few weeks. When I do farm walks, I do a visual inventory of what might be harvestable for all 150 families in the upcoming week. I’ve been watching and evaluating the last few weeks, and when I could finally identify five harvestable items, I made the decision to do a Bonus harvest. Five seems like a reasonable number to expect that people will want to come and pick up; the minimum number of items, I think, to justify a trip to the farm or pick up location. And since I’m no longer going to a farmers’ market, the CSA gets everything.
All of the items that are ready now have been in the ground since last fall. I did the last plantings in September of 2020, and they’ve been chilling and/or growing since then. I’ve listed the items in your share above, and included clickable links to the things you may need help learning how to prepare.
Other exciting news at the farm:
You may have followed the planting of the farm’s acre of native habitat. Emily and I planted all the trees several weeks ago when they were ready to pick up. 300+ native conifer and deciduous trees, and flowering and fruiting shrubs. (Actually, she did most of the planting, and I did the fence removal and marking of flags). In the years to come, they will provide habitat and home for the wild birds and mammals that already call Whistling Train Farm home, and I’m hopeful that it will attract even more species as it matures. You may or may not know that the farm is an Audubon Hot Spot, and we’ve begun to attract a flock of active birders.
In response to interest from aspiring and experienced birders, we will soon be setting up a Birder Station, with birding maps, a weekly Bird List (species seen on the farm and where to likely find them), tips for identification, a sign-in station, and (as suggested by birders) a birdseed fund donation jar. Everyone who visits the farm is welcome to participate, and I’m really excited to share my urban wildlife oasis with anyone who is interested.
The propagation house is filling up with seedlings, and the other greenhouses have all been planted with early crops: Peas, Carrots, Salad Turnips, Radishes, Spinach, Arugula, Cilantro, and Chervil. Already I’ve planned the next successions of crops that will follow those early things… like the first Snap Beans and Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Peppers. This week looks dry, after today, and I’m hoping to get the first outdoor crops planted, including Fava Beans, the first outdoor peas, beets and turnips, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, and so many more.
I’m very excited about the new, improved CSA U-Pick Garden! It’s going to be bigger and better than ever before, with tidy beds of many herbs and flowers that should last from early June and into October. Bush peas and beans will go in as soon as we can get the ground ready, and the Pumpkin Patch will be right next door to the flowers so you can watch them grow. I’m also excited about repeating the glorious Sunflower Patch, and planting two varieties to extend the glory for several more weeks.
I’m really pleased to have been forced into this new CSA-Only farm model, and to have a better idea what to expect as the season gets going. Unlike the chaos of last spring, where every week was a different experiment in marketing and producing food, this year feels much more stable and satisfying already. The FarmStand will open May 1, with seasonal fruits and vegetables from very local farms. And if you haven’t pre-ordered your garden plant start kids, be sure to do it soon. Pick up will happen the weekend of April 17. In just three weeks you can have a full garden of the same varieties that I’m growing here on the farm, and you can choose from vegetables, companion flowers, or culinary herbs. Click here to pre-order from the online FarmStand.
I hope you are looking forward to this season as much as I am. It’s going to be a great one!
For us, the most important thing about this business is getting to know you—our customers and our community. We are not a big farm, we are a family farm. We operate this farm, the farm feeds you, and you support our family. Thank you.