We Dig Vegetables
Week 20, 2012
A completed season. It sounds so golden, so sweet, so much like a fresh-baked apple pie. Baseball has a season. Birds have a season. A well-seasoned cast iron pan feels oiled and comfortably used, the kind you would grab to fry your eggs in the morning. The beauty of the farming season is partly in the anticipation of the first spring asparagus sprigs and succulent spinach leaves. We revell in the glut and sheer weight of the peak season when you have to shake your head at the bags of tomatoes and get creative on how to use them all up. We love the height of it, the peak, the bounty, the plenty. It somehow makes us feel secure and safe and wealthy to have so much food. And then, when you first come home and discover that where you usually park your car is covered in leaves, for they have begun to fall. At night when it's no longer comfortable to keep your windows open when you sleep and you're eating more at dinner time and the hard squashes and heavy roots are filling up your crisper-there is a sense that the season will soon be ending. Slowly, but surely indeed, the ground will soon be frozen solid.
I'm not sure about you, but somehow it feels intuitive or instinctual to be thankful this time of year. Maybe this is why our ancestors celebrated Thanksgiving at the end of a season. I feel blessed and gifted to have jars and freezer bags and bins in the root cellar full of the best food that money can buy. We worked hard for it, but there is still a certain amount of pause or reverence or respect that is due to the elements that made it all possible. We thank the microbes, the earthworms, the soil, the sun and well...okay, the rain too for making it all happen. You could thank your god that manifests itself in the form of these things. Any how, there are forces beyond my grumbling and impatient tummy that I owe gratitude. This weekend, when it rained all weekend long, from behind the windowpane of our living room, I looked out upon the garden and stood quietly to watch the earth drink. If there is nothing left to be thankful for, there is always the rain in the midst of a drought. I wish there was a way to say "thank you".
As essential as the rain is to our farm, so are you. We are equally as thankful for you as we are for the seeds that we plant and the sun that rises each morning. We are thankful for your membership in our farm, sure, but we're also thankful for your conciousness about the importance of eating healthy food. If it wasn't for you getting excited about sauteed beet greens in quiche and braised brussel sprouts and home-made shepard's pie, there may not be the support needed to keep small family farms like ours preserving diversity and staying afloat. We're thankful for your bravery in trying new vegetables and recipes, for trusting and believing in us back in March when you wrote the check out and for keeping your flavors and dollars local. And we are so, so sooo thankful for a winter season. A time when the energy of the farm moves downward and inward. We're thankful for hope for a better season comin' up next year.
Sooo, What's in the Box????
Well, lemmie tell ya, it's a BIG ONE!
Brussel Sprouts- These are the long, funky looking stalks with the round balls attached to it. There is a lot of time in snapping those little guys off of the stalks and cleaning them up. We left the hard part for you. We did the dirty work of seeding, transplanting, weeding, watering and harvesting them for you this summer. Such a nice treat!
Red, Green or Savoy Cabbage- We went through our cabbage patch and harvested all of the biggest heads from all three of these varieties. It's a bit of the luck of the draw this week. The cabbage in the fall is always so beautiful and perfect with minimal damage from bugs.
Butternut Squash- The grand finale on the squash. We saved the best for last, folks! Butternuts seem to be everyones's favorite squash. Just ask farmer Adam what his favorite is. The texture is so smooth and it has such a nice bright orange (makes great baby food!).
Red Beets- The beets this week had nice greens on them still except for minimal frost damage on a few of the leaves. These leaves would be great ones to save and cook with! See our great Quiche with Beet Greens Recipe below. Use beet greens like you would use swiss chard in your cooking.
White or Purple Kohlrabi- Beautiful edible leaves on the kohlrabi as well. We got lucky that Adam watered our fall brassicas for us. These crunchy kohlrabis are no exception!
Celeriac Root- These are the really ugly, brainy looking roots in your box. Don't judge a book by it's cover here! These are a gnarly looking root, but if you peel off the outer layer, the inside is white and dense like a potato and can be boiled and mashed with potatoes to make a celeriac mashed potato recipe. Celerac is also wonderful diced up and tossed into a soup to add a potato consistency but a nice celery flavor. The greens on the celeriac can be used like celery for flavoring in a soup or stock or salad.
Parsnip- These white roots aren't as big and bulky as what you see in the grocery store. We actually tried planting parsnips 3 times this year. The seeds take two weeks just to germinate and we had very little rain during that time period. The roots are a little smaller than what we have grown in the past, but they are parsnips none the less! A nice addition to a roasted root vegetable recipe or a home made shepards pie!
Leeks- A leek or two for everyone. Use leeks in your cooking like you would use an onion. Everypart of the leek is edible. Usually the white part on the stalk of the leek is the most desirable part for cooking.
Pepper Mix- Still some more slicing peppers that we've been storing in our root cellar since the frosts first started hitting a couple weeks ago.
Broccoli or Cauliflower- We harvested some gorgeous heads of broccoli and cauliflower this week and we are so pleased to share them with you! They matured right on time for the final week of CSA harvest. Remember that the greens on the broccoli plants are edible. I have read that the stalks and leaves of the broccoli plant are actually more nutritious than the flower itself. Peel your stems and eat them as well and cook with your broccoli greens! Hooray Greens!
Curly Green Kale- Speaking of greens. It has been awhile since we have given kale. We thought we would go out with a bang and give you a nice big ol bunch. Kale keeps nicely as well if you don't get to eating it this week since there is so much else to eat up! Curly Green kale is great for making Kale Chips.
Cilantro- We almost decided not to send you cilantro this week, but since cilantro seems to be a favorite, we went out there and salvaged what we had left. It was looking a little small, but we thought it was worth the harvest. (Cilantro does not like to be wet, so we usually do not wash cilantro after we harvest it. The centers of the bunches will sometimes rot out from too much moisture in the bunch. But it was so muddy this week from all of the rain we had to wash it. I would advise you to use it up promptly).
Lettuce- A red or green leaf head lettuce this week. So nice to still have fresh greens! We will miss the dearly in a month or so.
2012-2013 Winter Crossing
Never before has the passing of one season been so markedly magnificent as the summer of 2012. Despite severe drought, record high temperatures and the added challenge of re-learning how to manage our time and energy so that we could share every last drop of it with our new daughter, we grew as a farm and a family. Last summer we achieved our membership goal sooner than ever before, we had thriving community involvement with the tremendously successful Worker Share program, and we filled our CSA boxes to the brim week after week with heavier, more colorful, and even higher quality produce than we ever had before. Things are looking good on the Small Family Farm and CSA!
A winter’s rest does a farmer’s body good. It’s a time to recharge the battery. It becomes apparent as to how important the winter break is not only for our bodies, but also for our minds. We use the winter to dream and plan and scheme. We use the winter for building new infrastructure, to give a little TLC to our equipment that we work so hard in the summer months, and for repairing all of the tools and equipment that keep us in business. We just recently finished submitting all of our seed orders and we are now in the midst of doing some repairs on our greenhouse chimney, as we are about to get the greenhouse fires started in just a few weeks time.
Even though freezing rain is falling from the sky today, the blue birds will be singing tomorrow. Spring seems to emerge all too quickly here at the Small Family Farm. We will soon be seeding the first of our onions and celery in the greenhouse and it will not be long before we’re watching for signs that the soil is dry enough for tilling. I am continuously amazed at how quickly the seasons pass. Now is a great time to be thinking about renewing your membership in the Small Family Farm CSA program as we enter our 8th season running our CSA program.
As the CSA program has always been the primary market for the produce the Small Family Farm grows, we will continue to exclusively raise vegetables for our CSA members. The CSA is and always has been our first priority amounting to 95% of what makes up our business. You are our bread and butter and we will continue to keep stuffing those CSA boxes as full as we ever have and more. Please Renew Your Membership Now and continue to grow with us as we become even more skilled as farmers and eat with us while we continue to improve the quality of our produce as we learn more each year.
Week 19, 2012
A blessed 3/10th of an inch of rain fell on our drought-laden farm on Tuesday. When I woke in the dark of the morning before sunrise and was stiring around the house, I saw rain on the window pane. It felt like salvation, like a reprieve from doing something hard for a very long time. It felt a little like a holiday or a snow day or a special sort of a day that makes you want to celebrate and make cookies. But it was, in fact, a harvest day where we had to slip into our slickers and rain coats and head out to harvest lettuce in the rain. It has been more than three weeks since our last 2/10th of an inch of rain has fallen on this farm. The rain this morning was joyous and soft and welcome.
In the peak of the season when the days feel as long as marathons and the heat is as heavy as a wool blanket the season feels like it could go on forever. It's hard to imagine the death of a season. My mind, still after several years of farming now, has a hard time envisioning the expiry of a field of food. There is something very timeless and fulfilling about being surrounded by so much food. It is difficult to grasp as the days become so much shorter now that soon the ground will freeze, the birds and bugs will be silent and the only smells of the coutryside will be woodsmoke and fresh air and the only colors will be white and brown for when the snow is melted.
This winter when you're eating your frozen tomatoes from the farm, your dried parsley, and eating up the last of your storage potatoes, know that your farmers will toasting their toes by the fireplace. We'll be reflecting on what we did well and what we need to improve on. We'll be dreaming up irrigation systems, post-harvest handling procedures, and more effecient ways to grow our labor-intensive favorites. We'll be re-charging our batteries while improving our game. We'll be re-defining just why we're crazy enough to get up after a restful winter and do it all over again next Spring.
Sooo, What's in the box???
Brussel Sprouts- Yep, at the bottom of your box, those are brussel sprouts still on their stalks. We just hack down the whole thing and leave it to you to snap them off and clean them up. Most people don't even know that this is how they look when they grow. I'll have you know, this is just our second year shipping brussel sprouts through our CSA program. They're heavy-feeders and difficult to grow. We're very happy to have them to share with you. Please do not take for granted the special-ness of this crop.
Carrots- More of our fabulously sweet and delicious carrots with their tops on. The greens are edible and can be used like parsley. You could also use them in a stock for soup to boil out their nutrition.
Russet Potatoes- These golden beauties are a delicacy. They are low-yielding potatoes with a texture like whipped cream and skin as smooth as a baby's bottom. They should keep in your pantry for a good month or so in a cool and dark environment.
Peppers- Can you believe that we still have peppers? We've been keeping them in the root cellar and are shelling them out for these last couple weeks now. Enjoy the fresh, crispy texture while we still have it. It won't be long until we're left with just root veggies for local items.
White Onion- So wonderful caramelized.
Asian Tempest Garlic- Watch out, it's spicy!
Leek- At least one leek for everyone. Use a leek like you would use an onion and enjoy their unique onion-y flavor. Potato-leek soup, anyone?
Pie Pumpkin- We chose these small pie pumpkins becuase we didn't think anything bigger would fit in the box.
Broccoli/Cauliflower/Red Onion- We harvested some gorgeous broccoli and cauliflower this week. Stunning. We were short by almost 90 to give everyone one broc/cauliflower, so we subbed in an extra red onion. It sounds like an unfair substitute, but we do this sort of thing once in a while and we hope it works out in the shuffle. We see more beautiful broccoli and cauliflower coming up for next week.
Radish- Some folks may have received bunches of cherry bell radishes and some folks received the french breakfast radish that is longer in shape with white tips.
Dill Weed- What a fun flavor that we have missed. If you don't think you can use it all fresh, consider dehydrating the rest for use in the winter.
Spinach- Tender spinach for your italian cooking, eggs, green salads and more. What a nice flavor in the fall. Spinach will keep for about a week in the fridge. Use it up!
Lettuce- A mix of red or green leaf lettuce this week. We feel lucky to still have it considering the numerous frosts we've had. We're hoping for light frosts again this week so we still have for Week 20.
Week 18, 2012
I have fallen into a place of routine. I'm not sure if it's my age, my stage in life, or my zodiac sign or enniagram, but I value the stability of a day and a home and a farm that runs smooth with the essence of constancy, sustainability and predictability. Well oil, well maintained, and well loved, a farm will run smooth. I feel really old saying this. It makes me feel like an old woman in a rocking chair. But I DO! Perhaps it is because I know the opposite so well. I spent some years of my life wandering, traveling, moving and without home or commonplace or community. There was a time when I was more like a tumbleweed blowing across the plains of a dry desert than I was like a rooted treeling on reforested land. Once upon a time I was in search for a place to call a home, an identity, a compassionate partner and a loving and supportive community. I went on a long journey and in many ways that journey ended when we bought this farm.
I was ready though. I was beginning to crave a scene that didn't change. I was looking for people who knew my face and name. I was passionate and highly self-motivated. I was inspired by the things I had learned and the things I now knew that I was capable of doing. I had had several years experince working on farms on different places on the globe and midwest. I had seen fisherman and townspeople in Panama who had scarcely left their island their entire lives. I saw the wisdom they held and longed to know a place so well. I was widely idealistic, naieve and dreamy. Despite my families wishes for me to come home, settle down and take root, I was much too enchanted with seeing the world and my eyes were blind the value of a home. Fortunately for us all, if I had not been that way, I would not be here today on this farm. The traveling got old, I began to feel lonely in my quest to find myself and started to discover that my spirit was at rest once nestled in the hills of the Driftless area in a garden or an orchard somehwere amidst.
Falling in love with a man who was a little older but a lot more mature than I helped the matters a bit. He is a heavily grounded person of habitat, ritual, and routine. I saw how comfortable he was in his own skin and how freely he was able to love. I saw his steady and even manner that helped balance my wild and spontanious nature and we struck a spark. We were both ready for a transplant and were looking for a place as grand as a farm to settle down and a place that could contain our spirits combined. I knew then, when we "bought the farm" that we were setting down some deep roots. Now our home is strong and stable and sturdy. Our farm is growing along with our community and our roots grow deeper still here. While I am continually trying to improve myself and in seek for knowledge, I am no longer searching for my home. And now the ebb and flow of a harvest season feels as familiar as the dawn and dusk of a day, and I love it still.
Sooo, What's in the Box????
Hard Squash- We shiped sort of an either/or squash this week because we did not have enough buttercups and kuri for everyone. We even supplemented with some butternut and acorn squash at the end when we ran out of buttercups and kuri. Squash will keep at a dry room temp for at least a month or more. Cut lengthwise, scoop the seeds out and then face flat down onto a pan with some water at the bottom (so it doesn't fry hard to the pan) and bake for an hour at 350 or until soft to the touch.
Cabbage- Again, we did a little mix and matching. We had two varieties of cabbage that were ready, so we went through and harvested the bigger heads from both varieties. The regular green cabbage was one variety and the savoy cabbage (crinkly leaved) is the other variety. The savoy cabbage has a little more texture to it.
Beets- We really wanted to send beet greens with the beets this week even though they didn't look super wonderful. There was a chioggi beet mixed in every beet bunch. The chioggias are usually a pink beet with white bulls-eye circles on the inside. The chioggias are an heirloom variety so their growing patterns can be a little inconsistent. The nice thing about the pink beets is that they don't bleed as much as the red beets. Still a fun looking bunch of beets for all this week!
Sweet Peppers- The peppers might look a little different this week. We are sending a few more green peppers this week. We had to go out and pick all of the remaining peppers off of the plants since the frost killed their leaf-cover. The fruits were then exposed entirely to the sun leaving them vulnerable to sun scalding. We went in and did a "clear cut" We're storing the peppers in the root cellar and will be giving them the next couple weeks as well.
Hot Peppers- Still a Jalapeno and a Hungarian Hot wax for everyone again. I've been learning so many fun things to do with hot peppers this fall. Have you considered dehydrating them and then blending them into a hot pepper powder? How about dicing them and then freezing them so they're ready for sprinkling into your winter cooking dishes? This woman in our community makes her own homemade Sriracha sauce.
White Onions- Essentials.
Kohlrabi- Even more mixing and matching this week. Some folks may have received a white kohlrabi and some may have received a purple kohlrabi. Maybe you remember Kohlrabi from the spring boxes. Doesn't that seem like so long ago? Peel and enjoy the inside of the kohlraibi cut up raw, grate into a slaw or stir fry with your other favorite veggies.
Eggplants- We decided to go in and clean up the eggplant plants. Consider this a bonus item since we weren't really even planning on giving it. I promise you this, no more eggplant for the rest of the season. I promise, it's really over! My cousin who is also a CSA member of ours says that she cooks her eggplant and purees it into her lasagna/ricotta mixture and her family can't tell the difference. She says that pureeing her eggplant into a dish is a great way to stretch the dish and hide it for those who say they 'don't like eggplant'.
Spinach- A generous half pound of spinach for everyone. So tender and succulent. My mouth is watering for spinach! I love spinach with eggs and pizza.
Arugula- Yes, this is the unusual item that is bunched in your box. Enjoy Arugula raw mixed into salads, braised on a sandwich, or pureed into a creamy green Saag over rice. Don't let this nutritious green go to waste! It is excellent served with bacon!
Cilantro- A small bunch of cilantro for everyone, the week after tomatoes end. We really tried having it sooner, but since it stopped raining a few months ago, it's been hard to get things to grow.
Lettuce- Either a curly green leaf, a green romaine or a curly red leaf head of lettuce for everyone. We're hoping that the hard freeze on Friday and Saturday night doesn't damage our remaining lettuce crop for the last couple boxes.
Week 17, 2012
A heavy frost settled over the farm on Saturday and Sunday night. The frost brings determined closure to some crops on the farm that can no longer survive with lows in the 30's. We loose some of our warm weather favorites like basil and tomatoes, but our beloved fall spinach, kale, carrots and broccoli only become sweeter with the frosts that turn some of the plants starches into sugars. We have been preparing for the risk of frost for the last few weeks by getting our winter squash out of the fields and picking the pepper and tomato plants more liberally. We did cover our pepper plants before the frost to protect the fruits from having the frost land on them. The leaves on the peppers were still damaged, but the fruits still look okay-although now they are susceptible to sun scalding with none of their leaves for protection from the unrelenting sun rays.
The drought continues on the farm. It has been almost three weeks since the farm has seen more than 1/10th inch of rain. We still have not received more than an inch of rain since June. Adam contines to run the irrigation lines all around the farm irrigating our fall fennel, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce and carrots. If not for his efforts, we definately would not be packing boxes that look as nice as they do today. Still an incredible season for lack of rain. We have never experienced anything like this. We are slightly worried about what the future holds for rain on our farm and the country at large. Soon, though, the season will be over and we will have a winter's reprieve for recovery and planning for next year.
The Sand hill cranes are flying south overhead sounding like ancient dinosaur birds. They tell us that winter is coming and it's too cold up north for sticking around any longer. The Maple trees on our ridge are bright orange and yellow and red making for a spectacular 'Fall Colors'. The boxelder bugs are having their conventions all over the side of our outbuildings. And the days are so much shorter now that we rise before the sun in the morning and eat dinner after the sun has set in the evenings. The crunch of the leaves underneath our muck boots as we walk to the fields is like music to a tired farmer's ears. The end is near!
Sooo, What's in the Box???
Spaghetti Squash- This is the large, round, football-shaped squash in your box. It's hard to miss! Your squash will keep at a dry and cool room temperature for at least a couple months. Spaghetti squash can be cooked and eaten like spaghetti in place of noodles, you can eat it just cooked with butter and salt or you can make a fried hash-brown type dish with it.
Red Norland Potatoes- Another nice giving of red potatoes. These babies will keep just fine at room temperature in a cool, dark and dry location. Warm potato soup, anyone?!?!
Scarlet Nantes Carrots- These carrots are not only gorgeous, but they are delicious. These are probably the best carrots we've grown all season. Only beautiful looking and tasty carrots coming up ahead! Use the green tops for cooking like any other cooking greens. Top the carrots and store in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve moisture.
Kohlrabi- A return of the crunchy kohlrabi. Also known as a ground apple. Peel your kohlrabi and enjoy the crunchy inside with sour cream dip or in a stir fry. Don't forget that their greens are edible!
Fennel- Our favorite licorice-flavored bulb. Fennel is the in same family as carrots, celery, dill and parsley. The licorice flavor becomes very mild after cooking. Use the frawns for garnish, finely chopped on top of fish or in a stock or soup.
Sweet Peppers- A nice medley of red, yellow and orange peppers. Two to three sweet peppers per member this week. The pepper plants did get frosted on, so pepper givings will become less after this week.
Onion- Another day. Another onion.
Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers and Jalapeno Peppers- Another couple hot peppers for your hot pepper delight. Remember that hot peppers freeze very nicely. You can cut them up, freeze them on sheets and then store them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer.
Garlic- To keep your immunity strong during this cold season. Store garlic in cool, dark and dry location if you think you won't eat it in the near future. The variety name is Asian Tempest for this garlic.
Tomatoes- Because of the frost we picked the tomatoes very liberally to reduce the amount of tomatoes that would be lost and damaged from the frost. Stick your green tomatoes in a brown paper sack with another ripening tomato. The Ethelyn gas will help the tomatoes ripen quicker. This may have been the final tomato giving week because the frost has put an end to all of our fun. In case there are any tomatoes that don't turn color for you, there is a very yummy Thai Green Tomato soup recipe below!
Cherry Tomatoes- Also the final Cherry Tomato giving week. We had an amazing run of cherry tomatoes this summer, though. A labor of love. If not for their sweet, juicy goodness, it would not have bee worth so many hours spent picking cherry tomatoes.
Broccoli or Eggplant- We really wanted to have a nice broccoli for everyone this week, but it just didn't work out that way. We're sorry for those who did not get one. We have two more successions of broccoli coming up soon to feed us these next couple weeks.
Lacinato Kale- A modest bunch of lacinato kale so you have some cooking greens in your kitchen.
Lettuce- Either a red or green leaf lettuce or a romaine for everyone this week. The lettuce heads are beautiful, tender and crunchy fall lettuce heads. A very nice crop of lettuce, indeed. Be sure to store in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve moisture.