Gearing Up for the First Week of 2019

It’s not too late to enroll in the CSA! 40 weeks of deliciousness, starting in early April! There are still a few open spots.
Click here to download the enrollment form.

If a weekly pickup is too much, try a Mystery Box subscription. Eight monthly boxes of produce, with a touch of unusualness.
Click here to download the enrollment form.

After the freezing and snowing of January and February, what a gift it was to have sunny, warm weather in March. So many things are planted!

It’s been a warm and sunny week—the temperature topped out at 85° on Tuesday! While it was a shock, it dried out the wet ground nicely and I was able to get a bunch of things planted. Based on the early springs of the last two years, I had planned on starting the CSA and Farmers Market Season the weekend of March 28. However, the endless freezing nights and snowy days created delays in growth of overwintered crops, as well as early sowings outside.

First crop of beets have popped up.

I started planting in soil, inside the hoop houses in February. But it was so cold (some nights were 17°) that it took quite a long time for them to germinate. Now that we’ve had some warmth, all of the crops I planted inside have sprouted. It’s a relief to see the seedlings in their rows: Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Arugula, Mustard, Chervil, Cilantro, Dill, Miners Lettuce, and Spinach. Up in the heated greenhouse at Auburn Mountainview High School, the Basil, Parsley, Thyme, Green Onions, Leeks, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, and Artichokes are all clipping along nicely.

The earliest carrots come from planting in a greenhouse in February. They’re up!

I’ve checked again on the overwintered crops (things that were planted last fall, and hardy enough to handle the winter, and be ready for spring harvest) like Spring Onions, Green Garlic, and Kale have done ok, but the Purple Sprouting Broccoli was severely damaged by temperatures as low as 12° on some of those January Snowpocalypse nights, and the wild rabbits helped themselves to a number of the plants that were visible above the snow. I would have hoped for more, but spring is a bit of a gamble.

I put up trellis in one of the greenhouses for the early peas. Fingers crossed now for peas in May. I started plants back in early February, and in another week or two I’ll plant the main crop outside.

I’m now planning on starting up the week of April 14, possibly April 7, if the weather stays warm. It all depends on when those early plantings are big enough to harvest. The CSA will still comprise 40 weeks, but I may have to finish up in January or February, like I did this year. I think that was a nice surprise after the holidays anyway.

Green Onions, Parsley, and Basil are all growing well.

Please pay attention to your email and/or the farm Facebook page. I’ll continue to post updates as they’re needed. It’s going to be a fantastic season. I can’t wait!

As soon as the weather warms, the pussy willows bloom. Those furry grey buds are actually flowers, and their pollen is important baby bee food.

 

 

 

CSA PostSeason

It’s not too late to enroll in the CSA! 40 weeks of deliciousness, starting in early April! There are still a few open spots.
Click here to download the enrollment form.

If a weekly pickup is too much, try a Mystery Box subscription. Eight monthly boxes of produce, with a touch of unusualness.
Click here to download the enrollment form.

THE FINAL WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Variety of Squashes
• “German Butterball” Potatoes
• “Norkotah Russet” Potatoes
• Leeks
• Savoy Cabbage
• Purple Brussels Sprouts
• Kale Flower Sprouts

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

This is what was available in Late January: Savoy Cabbages, Leeks, Brussels Sprouts (in purple and green), Kale Flower Sprouts, Potatoes, Parsnips, Squash, and Daikon.

Due to the severe cold snap we had in early December, we weren’t able to finish out the CSA season as planned. Instead, I opted to let a few things size up for another month, and harvest in January. As a result, we had some tasty treats in the dearth of winter!

After that final week’s harvest in January, I went to Nevada for some desert exploration. This is what I returned to! Snowpocalypse and mayhem at the airport! Luckily Regina had cleared off two of the big houses herself Friday night, and we got the rest taken care of on Sunday before the rain came. Rain on top of snow is very heavy, and can crush the frames. This happened to all of our hoop houses several years ago, so I don’t take the snow threat lightly.

After the first foot of snow, we were threatened by rain. That’s a recipe for crushed greenhouses, so we hustled to remove all the snow. All were saved, but the mountains between the greenhouses have still not completely melted, almost a week later.

Seeds are arriving almost daily, and major planting starts next week! The first early peas are popping up in the greenhouse, thanks to some bottom heat, and I’m hoping to get some early greens and carrots seeded next week. I had hoped to start last week, but even inside the tunnels the temperature was barely above freezing. Why waste seed, and how would I irrigate with frozen water lines?

I planted these babies two weeks ago. Covered them with a cage to keep the rodents from digging them up, placed the flats on a heated sand table to keep them above the chill, and added a cloth cover to help moderate the temperature inside the greenhouse. That was before we knew Snowpocalypse was coming. Somehow, through the days of snow, and the temperatures in the teens, they managed to mostly germinate. A few lost out to mold, but most are popping up today, and I am thankful. Early greenhouse peas for all of the eaters! Look for them sometime in May!

There are just six weeks or so until the CSA and Farmers Market Season starts up here. Soon, we’ll all be eating Rapini and Sprouting Broccoli, Spring Onions and Green Garlic, and munching on the first Radishes, Pea Shoots, Miners’ Lettuce, Dill, and Cilantro. There are also a few experiments in the works. Fingers crossed!

Happy 2019!! It’s going to be a great season!

 

CSA Week 39

It’s an earthy week for vegetables: Daikon, Kohlrabi, Potatoes, Beets, Leeks, Squashes, Kale.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Variety of Squashes
• “German Butterball” or “Elba” Potatoes
• Carrots
• Parsnips
• Leeks
• Baby Daikon
• Celery or Celeriac
Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

So many cabbages, growing so slowly in these short, dark days. They should size up over winter and be ready to harvest in late January.

My season has come to an end; it’s always bittersweet. In one sense, it’s a relief to have a break after harvesting for (almost) 40 weeks. After planting, tending, and worrying over all of the year’s crops since January, a rest is due. But it’s also sad to have it all come to an end.

The purple brussels sprouts are looking great, but they’re a bit small yet. Late January for them, too.

In early December, the farm was hit by a serious cold snap. Other farms to the north and south of here experienced temperatures in the 20’s, but for some reason, that week, the temperature here dropped to 16°. Many plants can handle 25°, and some can handle 20°, but not many leafy crops can drop below 20° and have much left to eat.

The garlic has all sprouted and is growing lots of roots and a little top to feed those roots.

And so the arugula, Swiss chard, and chicories were lost. The celery is edible but has intermittent brown stems in each bundle. All that remains is kale, and not much of that. Of course, the squash was already harvested and stored away, as were the onions and garlic. The root crops are all still fine underground, and they will be fine down to about 10°.

Exciting, though, is that I’m planning a 40th week box somewhere after the middle of January. I’m hoping that in the next 3-4 weeks, the kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages, and possibly the parsley, will grow enough to make harvestable size. There are potatoes, carrots, and squash in storage, and the leeks will hold perfectly in the field. So keep an eye on your email, and I’ll post an alert on facebook as well.

This is the patch of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, looking amazing for winter growth! Planted in August, these should be producing their lovely purple spears in March! That’s a loooong growing season.

The Brussels sprouts and savoy cabbages are all still alive and well, but very small, because they didn’t get enough water in August. Thus, my plan for the final, remaining week of CSA is to harvest one last round toward the end of January. There will still be potatoes, a little squash, leeks, and carrots, PLUS Brussels sprouts and cabbages. I will be in touch toward the middle of January with an update.

Solstice has passed, and as always, it was a most welcome day. Gone are the shrinking days, and our days will gradually lengthen again to photosynthesizing power. By the end of January, I’ll be planting again. Starting up the growing cycle once again.

I want to use this space to thank all of you—all CSA families—for a fantastic season of food. Many improvements are planned for next year, and I’m excited that many of you will be returning to experience those changes. March will be here before we know it, and so will all of those spring treats: Rapini, Green Garlic, Spring Onions, and fresh Herbs. I hope you all have a lovely, peaceful holiday season and a cozy winter. See you in the Spring!

A lovely sunset view of Mt. Rainier from behind the greenhouse row.

CSA Week 31—Frosty Nights

Fall Food: Potatoes, Spaghetti Squash, Onions, Carrots, Kale or Celery, Tomatoes or Beets, Garlic, Cilantro or Parsley

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Potatoes
• Spaghetti Squash
• Beets or Tomatoes
• Kale or Celery
• Onions
• Carrots
• Parsley or Cilantro

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

COMING SOON: Cauliflower, Pie Pumpkin, Watermelon Radishes

SPECIAL NOTE: CSA enrollment for 2019 is nearly full. There are four spaces remaining, so let me know ASAP if you want one of them. I am serious about capping CSA at 80 families next year. Payments are due by December 31. 

Frosty nights mean sweeter kale.

It’s difficult to express the heartache I felt when I discovered in August that sparrows had raided the propagation house and eaten all the tender leaves of the kale and broccoli plants meant to feed everyone all winter and next spring. I’m a great lover of songbirds, but I felt utterly betrayed, and at a loss; for what would we do about kale? It’s a winter staple! I took a chance and seeded a new patch outside immediately. It was a “Hail Mary” effort, or in this case, a Kale Mary, for kale takes 60 days to mature, and at that point there were only 50 or so days until the October daylength makes plant growth negligible. But, perseverance and faith paid off, and the kale patch is quite lovely. And tasty, too, now that we’ve had a few frosty nights. The cold turns some of the starch molecules in the leaves into sugars that act as antifreeze.

Crop diversity as is important as ecological diversity. Here’s an example from the field: I planted my usual white variety, Bishop, and the green cauliflower that is a few weeks later to mature. For whatever reason, the white variety became infested with aphids, and then came down with this black mold. The green is beautiful and perfect. Sadly, there haven’t been enough white crowns to give to CSA, but the green is looking good for Thanksgiving week.

I’ve received a lot of questions about Celery vs. Celeriac (Celery Root)! Here’s a photo: celeriac on the left, celery on the right. The two are cousins. Originally one plant in the Mediterranean/Middle East, it was encouraged to form either a large root or juicy stalks and leaves. Now, thanks to about 2,000 years of plant selection by breeders, we have two distinct vegetables. Fun fact: Homer included celeriac in The Odyssey, but it was then called “selinon”.

Celeriac on the left, Celery on the right. Fat root or fat stems?

The potatoes are really nice this year, and prolific. My new fertilizer program, boosting phosphorous, magnesium, and trace minerals, is really starting to pay dividends. Nutrient-rich soil grows nutrient-dense food.

The rains have started, and frosty nights are happening whenever the skies are clear. This is a nice, dry week, so it looks like I’ll be able to get all the garlic and shallots planted in the next day or two. Then, all that’s left is to get cover crops sown to protect and nourish the soil all winter.

I usually plant two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. The hardneck types have bigger, easier-to-peel cloves and a punchier flavor, but don’t keep as long. The soft neck varieties are easier to braid, and keep longer, even into the spring. Hardneck varieties need a longer cold period before bulbing, so I always plant them first, just in case the heavy rains come and delay planting. The beds I planted two weeks ago are already popping up out of their plastic mulch.

 

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.

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!