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CSA Week 29 — Fog. And The Story of Celery.

Fall is definitely here! Cabbages, Potatoes, Spaghetti Squash, Garlic, Stir-fry Greens (baby kale and pea shoots), Celery or Green Peppers, and Tomatoes or Eggplants.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Cabbages
• Potatoes
• Spaghetti Squash
• Stir-Fry/Smoothie Greens
• Garlic
• Celery or Green Bell Peppers
• Tomatoes or Eggplant

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

COMING SOON: All the Squashes, Baby Bok Choy, Kale

The nights are chilly, the leaves are changing and dropping, and the skies are blue once the fog burns off: Fall is here! Hard squashes, cooking greens, and soup vegetables have arrived, even as the last gasp of summer hangs on in the form of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. And Celery is abundant, but more about that in a paragraph or two.

This week I’m digging “Strawberry Paw” potatoes. They’re beautifully red on the outside, and snowy white on the inside, and they were very productive this year. I have no idea why they bear this name.

Now is the time to start cleaning up the fields, planting cover crops to nurture and protect the soil, and plant all the garlic and shallots for next year. This week the lack of rain means that the soil is nice and dry for ground preparation, and the first few frosty nights have killed back the squash plants so the squashes can be cut and put away.

Some of you know that I took a five-day vacation last week, and it was incredible. I traced the Oregon Trail all the way to Wyoming, camped in Grand Teton National Park and saw wildlife,  including Grizzly Bears and Moose, and experienced the first snow on the Teton Mountains, then followed the Lewis and Clark Trail all the way home. It was glorious and cold.

So many green peppers. There’s a lot of greenhouse magic this year, and the peppers are loaded with fruits, but they’re only just now starting to ripen to red. I’ve been helping them focus on the biggest, oldest ones by picking several green peppers off each plant. It’s unlikely that they’ll all ripen anyway, given how late it is and the nights are pretty chilly now.

Here’s a funny story: Last year, it seemed like everyone wanted celery beginning in September. They wanted it for soup, for seasoning, for everything. I didn’t have much. So I decided, in my planting plan, to grow a LOT of celery. I’d start making it available in September, and have it until November or whenever the ground froze. And thus, I have A LOT. I spent a lot of money watering it, and I spent a lot of money on a weeding crew to weed it. Twice. And, surprise. Nobody seems to be interested in celery this year.

So, rather than curse the world for not wanting my celery, I’m going to write up a page on all the things one can do with celery. I’ll post the link shortly. Celery is delicious and nutritious, and it’s a huge investment in farm space-time, labor, and water. I love the smell and the flavor, and the vitality it gives me.

It is a member of the Umbelliferae family, with its many aromatic cousins the carrots, fennel, parsley, cilantro, dill, angelica, and lovage. Native to the middle-east, it thrives on alkaline soil with lots of water and nice, dry air. Sounds like the desert to me. It has a shallow root system, which means it needs regular watering, and it grows slowly, which  means regular weeding and cultivation. It can handle a bit of frost, but will shrivel to nothing once the temperature drops below freezing. Celery is a great source of folate, potassium, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and several B vitamins.

While it is an aromatic vegetable, and one of the trifecta of mirepoix, it’s also pretty tasty on its own, roasted, or sauteed with mixed vegetables. It’s

Celery takes eight months to reach harvestable size, as does its brethren, Celeriac.

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CSA Week 25—Soup Weather

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Potatoes
• Leeks
• Carrots
• Celery or Lettuce
• Garlic
• Napa Cabbage or Sweet Corn or Cherry Tomatoes
• Arugula or Persian Cucumbers

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

COMING SOON: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Broccoli

Once the planting is finished for the year, it’s possible to take a bit of time for a vacation. Cosmo and I had planned on going to Glacier National Park, but were forced to make a Plan B several weeks ago because of the forest fires. So we decided to go to Great Basin National Park instead. We discovered the beauty of the Nevada Desert, the wonder of the Great Basin area, and the history of the Pony Express. We had a great time exploring and camping, and following in Mark Twain’s footsteps.

The Broccoli crowns are about the size of a 50¢ piece now, and they’ll be ready for you in just another week or two!

Naturally, it rained while we were gone, as September is wont to do, and we came back to lush greens and happy brassicas. The Brussels Sprouts will need to be topped soon, and the broccoli and cauliflower plants are starting to build crowns.  Broccoli will be ready for you soon, and cauliflower in a few more weeks.

Lots of tender mustards for salads this fall! Looking luscious!

Sadly, lettuce season is past, but the tender greens like Baby Bok Choi are coming along nicely, and I’m getting them cultivated and cleaned up in this nice, little dry spell we’re having. The kale and chard are coming along, and the last greenhouse planting is going in tomorrow. All of the peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are ripening up beautifully and should be ready by the weekend, and a fresh crop of Persian Cucumbers is producing like gangbusters.

Last week, Cosmo and I had a road trip/camping adventure through central Nevada. We explored Great Basin National Park, and discovered the Pony Express. We had a fantastic time on our mini vacation.

I sent an email to all current CSA members regarding my new CSA downsize and payment schedule. Please note that priority enrollment for current CSA members ends October 1, and I will open enrollment to the public. I’m cutting my CSA membership by 25%, down to 75 families, so be sure and get a deposit in if you want to participate in 2019! All CSA shares need to be paid in full by December 31, 2018.

Enjoy the fall days and cooler nights. I know we are!

CSA Week 24—Fall is on the Way

Sweet Corn, Persian Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Napa Cabbage, Green Beans, Lettuce, Beets, Stir-Fry Greens, Red Onions!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Snap Beans or Napa Cabbage
• Big Red Lettuce
• Tomatoes
• Cucumbers
• Beets
• Red Onions
• Sweet Corn
• Stir-Fry Greens Mix

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

COMING SOON: Peppers, Broccoli, Celery, Leeks

A late summer sunset, with no wildfire smoke.

Late Summer is the toughest farm season. I apologize for not being in better contact. Once the real heat begins outside, we are obsessed with irrigation. Water lines are moved every three hours, around the clock. Not only are we working to keep all of our summer crops alive and growing, but we are in a frenzy to sow and establish all of the fall and winter crops as well. Sometimes we have to make choices about what survives and what to let go because there just isn’t enough water for everything.

Checking on the peppers and eggplants, and taming the yard-long beans on the right.

But now we are in September, and everything is planted for the year. (Well, I have one more greenhouse to sow in greens next week, but it’s not quite ready yet.) If you’ve been around the CSA block before, you may be aware that all of the winter crops need to reach full-size before mid-October. Not because of cold temperatures, but because our shortening day length doesn’t provide enough sun for photosynthesizing and plant growth. Many crops will hold in the ground all winter, but they won’t actually do any growing after October.

There’s a bit of cultivating to do on fall plantings, but essentially we are caught up. Next week we begin farm cleanup and repairs. Della is working and going to school, and Cosmo and I are heading out on a road trip through the Nevada desert. All CSA pickups proceed as usual on Tuesday.

Winter squashes are setting and ripening. Here a Table Queen acorn squash cozies up to an Eastern Rise squash.

This year has been a thrilling one, as first-year farm owners after so many years of renting. It’s also been challenging, as all farm years are. I’ve decided to reduce the size of the CSA next year. I ended up with 100 families this year and it was a struggle to make sure there was enough from week to week. In 2019, I’ll be cutting down to 70 families. Also, I will be adamant about receiving payments and commitments before the end of 2018. I’m a horrible record keeper, and I really need to have all the records taken care of before the fresh year begins. Look for an enrollment email in the next two weeks.

As I made the choice to stop watering the u-pick garden, and had to allocate time to food crops. I always struggle with how to make it a priority, giving it the time and attention that it needs to succeed. It really needs weekly care, plus a week of daily care here and there. It needs a person to commit to it. The only way I can do this is to hire someone, and so I’m going to try making it for-profit, with an on-farm roadside stand next summer. CSA customers will continue to u-pick for free, as a part of their subscribership, but non-CSA families will be charged to cut flowers and buy vegetables. This will also make it possible to bring in organic fruit from other farms, since Tonnemakers is no longer offering their CSA for us.

I welcome your thoughts about these changes. And I hope you enjoy the cooler, wetter return to fall!

CSA Week 19. Finally, a fresh blog post.

Fennel, Cucumbers, Green Beans, New Potatoes, Garlic, Basil, and Summer Squashes

WEEK 19 MENU:

• Fennel
• Garlic or Sweet Onions
• Basil
• Green Beans
• “Red Norland” New Potatoes
• Zucchini and/or Summer Squash
• Cucumbers

• The U-Pick Garden is suffering from drought and lack of weeding. There are some flowers, but you’ll need to work for them. 

COMING SOON: Lettuce, Romano Beans, Stir-Fry Greens, Tomatoes

I’m not gonna lie. This weather has made me a wreck. I’m working at not complaining; summer’s heat is how we appreciate winter’s wetness. But we’re struggling over here to keep up with all the work and watering.

Long evenings pruning tomatoes at 90+° mean that I get to see the moon rise.

The heart of the issue is that we are currently farming four seasons of crops. Summer crops aren’t the only thing going right now. We’re also planting for fall (think greens, squashes, onions, peppers, and tomatoes), Winter (leeks, brussels sprouts, roots), AND Spring (overwintered broccoli, onions, etc.). That means the farm is fully being worked and cultivated. We need to be aware of all the things, and all their needs. And watering 24/7 is very difficult on city water, not to mention expensive.

Bumblebees love beans.

And so, as the days pass, I’ve had to make choices about what gets to live and what gets sacrificed to the water gods. What gets weeded and what gets sacrificed to the weed gods, aka “rototiller”. What can be replanted in time, and taken care of, and what needs every single day that remains until October, when plant growth will stop.

Early morning water moving. These beans need to be drip-taped, but there was no time that day and they needed water or they’d die.

If climate extremes are here to stay, I’ll have to make different choices about what to grow in the hot months. Leafy crops are definitely suffering. I just don’t have the water for things that need sprinklers. Drip tape crops can be watered so much more efficiently, and cover much more ground at one time with no loss to evaporation or weeds.

Romano Beans are loving the heat. They’re trellised, so as long as they get watered every 2-3 days they’ll be tender and productive.

Unhappy crops right now: lettuce, kale, chard, arugula. Basically anything grown for its leaves.

Happy crops: cucumbers, squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers. The herbs are happy because I’ve been pouring on water.

Onions have dried up and are done with water. They just need to be harvested. Carrots and beets are happy on maintenance levels, but there won’t be any to harvest for a few more weeks.

Nearly done with the first, major tomato pruning. Won’t be long now.

Sadly, the UPick garden was sacrificed to the water gods. I simply couldn’t give up water needed for food crops. There are zinnias and sunflowers in there, and hopefully with the cooler weather they can be encouraged to flourish. The beans I planted germinated very poorly, and I can’t justify replanting the seed this late in the season. It’s very discouraging, and it makes me quite sad that I haven’t been able to follow through on that promise.

With all that said, I am very optimistic about the fall and winter. There are plenty of brassica crops settling in, even though Cosmo has had to do rabbit patrol nightly to keep the bunnies from mowing the whole planting down. The onions fared very well, and it will be good to have them harvested and tucked away for later. The squashes are starting to bloom and set, and the leeks and celery are looking mahvelous. Carrots and Beets are going in the ground this week, as soon as the hot weather breaks and we can water often enough to keep them moist through germination. In two weeks all the winter greens will get planted as well. After the first cultivation, at the end of August, the big hump will be crested and days will be noticeably shorter.

Until this year I didn’t realize that Hummingbirds love bean blossoms! There have been several that fly in and out of the bean greenhouse, whether I’m in there or not. And now, they are frequenting the pole bean rows outside. We have several Anna’s Hummingbirds that overwinter and nest here, and as a result, the whole families are chilling in the beans, sitting on the wire and chattering.

So, my apologies for being sparse with communication lately. But there’s a big update!

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!

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!