We Dig Vegetables
Week 1, 2013
Welcome to the Summer Share deliveries of 2013. We are excited about our 8th year running our little Small Family CSA Farm. We enter this growing season with fresh enthusiasm for life and all things that grow and live. Still, even after "all these years" it is exciting for me to watch all the little hopeful carrot seeds push away the hard clay soil, through the wet mud or dry crust and spread their limbs toward the sun. The little baby beets and dill and cilantro and parsnips. They all stand like soldiers in long straight rows, so proud and perky and perfect looking. It's enough to make you move in your seat just thinking about it.
For those of you who don't know us, we're the Small Family Farmers. Adam and Jillian and our 19 month old daughter, Ayla, steward this land. We bought the farm in the Spring of 2007 with 60 faithful CSA members who had so trustingly invested in our farm. What we lacked in knowlege or equipment, we made up for in our optimism and extremely hard-working character. I had half a dozen years experience working as a farm hand on various organic farms in the country and my husband, Adam, had been fostering a long-time dream to become a farmer. Adam was also armed with an impressive memory that I insist plays a key role in our success today. Together we were young, dreamy-eyed and boiling over with passion and dreams to change the world...or at least one small part of it.
My mother, Momma Jane, also played a key role in us getting onto our feet. She moved on the farm with us and started mowing lawn, canning tomatoes, doing load after load of our dirty farm jeans, and has been cooking up some of the most amazing, gourmet, home-cooked meals a young farm family could ever imagine. She has been a loyal hand to the farm and is always, I mean always, there when we need her. As of lately, it has been more in terms of babysitting duty so we can get our tractorwork done. Now we call her Gramma Jane, instead of Momma Jane, or Bakka. Conveniently enough, she now lives 400 feet away in her own home that she is almost finished building. We love that we get to keep her so close.
The years just keep passing by and occasionally we stop to notice our growth and improvement. We see that our ridgetop, clay soil has taken a darker shade of brown and now crumbles with lively ease. We see our shed fill up with the needed equipment to run our farm in an effecient way. We see the fruit trees we planted several years ago now with fruit hanging from their limbs. We see increased yields in crops that we had previously found difficult to grow. We see our daughter running around who is a real, live, visual of the passing of time. We see returning CSA members from year to year, a small handful of who have been with us since our first year starting out.
We are armed with a spectacular and truly impressive community of supporters. Spiritually, we are rich and thankful for everything we have. However, we are not insulated from nature herself. Truly, we are raw and exposed to her whim. The gamble of farming is real and humbling. No matter how much knowlege or community support we have, we cannot stop a hail storm. But we can survive it. We come together under this beautiful, colorful CSA umbrella and we learn more about sharing. We learn more about sharing the bounty of the food that is grown here and the inherent risk in growing it. So thank you for your support of or Small Family Farm in all the ways you give it!
Sooo... What's in the Box???
Asparagus- So fresh! Picked Tuesday morning. This is one item that we do buy from a neighboring organic farmer for the boxes to help fill out these earlier boxes. Asparagus prefers to stand in a little water, or stand on a moist towlette to continue "drinking" to keep it crisp and moist.
Radish X 2- Radishes love the cooler, more moist weather! Hot and dry weather will turn radishes spicy and tough. These radishes are crunch, crispy and mild in their spicyness. The greens are also wonderful for cooking. Use them in salads, stir-fry or in any dish that calls for 'cooking greens'.
Overwintered Shallots- These are in the onion family, found in the small paper bag. Shallots have fantastic storage ability. Keep them in the refrigerator to keep them from wanting to sprout. Shallots are commonly used in sauces, dressings and marrinades to add a mild oinon flavor. Or just have fun with them and use them however you fancy!
Pac Choi- Please understand that pac choi is very difficult to grow in the Spring time due to insect damage. We covered these with Remay (or floating row cover) to keep the bugs off them, but asian vegetables are hard to grow in the spring time when the insect pressure is strong. But they still taste the same even with a few holes in them. This is organic pac choi in the Springtime in Wisconsin!
Lettuce- The heads were a touch on the small side this week. The cooler weather was making them grow a bit slower. Exceptional flavor and tenderness in these early spring greens! We are also able to grow some fancy buttercrunch varieties and oakleaf varieits we have never tried before. You may have recieved a red or green leaf lettuce. We also shipped some romaine lettuce.
Basil Plant- These little guys can be potted in your favorite organic potting soil mix in a pot in the house near a sunny window or somewhere in the yard with good fertility that gets good sunlight. Basil loves sun and warmth! Pick fresh basil leaves for any dish all summer long. Pinch off any seed heads if you see the plant wanting to make seed.
Arugula-The first time we've ever had spring Arugula! Covered under row cover, they were able to grow protected from the flea beetles. Still a few holes, but a nice, distinctive, mild arugula flavor.
Spinach- A modest first picking of Spinach, but there will be more to come! There is enough here to do something with for sure. Oh, how all winter long I missed the taste of fresh, Spring spinach. Now it's here!
Week 20, 2013
The final Summer Share delivery is bittersweet. We are secretly very excited about our winter’s rest that lay within a foreseeable future, but also realize that we’re a bit like a fish out of water in the winter monthes. We have been working so hard this summer and have watched our hard work pay off. I imagine it is something like sending a child off to college. It was so long and hard raising the children, that when they’re finally gone, emotions of excitement and sorrow mix to form a parent that isn’t quite sure what do with themselves.
I think I know what I’m going to do with myself this winter. While I wish I could behave more like a bear and tank up on squash and potatoes and roots, and just sleep the winter away, the To-Do list is much longer than that. Our 2-year usually won’t let me sleep much longer than 10 hours at a time anyways on our best night. The winter is for recovery, recuperation and restructuring. We will examine our machinery, our infrastructure, and our systems and make improvements. I’m really hoping that there will be some time in there to do more yoga as well. I think there might be a few parts that need to get put back in place.
On this final week of deliveries, I feel thankful for our little farm. I am thankful for the people who have chosen to invest in it with their good voices, their checkbooks, their labor hours, and their hearts. We’ve become an extremely transparent farm with carloads of people who come through here on a weekly basis to bring their children, their parent and their spouses. And these are just the local families. I feel so lucky to be part of this farm that brings all of these loving people together.
I believe that a farm is supposed to be more than a place where our food comes from. It is supposed to be a place to go, or maybe just a place to come to. Farms send food to peoples houses, but they should also give the people a sense of spiritual nourishment. When you know that the people who handle your food handle it with love and speak words of kindness while they do it, something feels very wholesome about that food beyond just the physical mass of it. We want to know that it wasn’t sprayed with chemicals, but it feels even better to know that people who live and work on the farm are happy to be a part of it and want to come back to it.
As the farmer, I am equally as thankful for this farm as I am for you. I love working hard, and I am thankful that there are people out there like you who still believe in the Small Family Farm, that still prepare meals at home from scratch, and wish to preserve a sense of community around their food. It is entirely because of you and what you believe in that this farm exists. And year after year I am eternally grateful for your support! The youthful, spirited and wildly energized girl inside me is very excited for many more years to come. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Sooo, What's in the Box?
Brussels Sprouts- We left all of the cleaning work up to you. We've been taking care of them since they were just wee little seedlings in April, now it's your turn! Peel away any dark layers and cut an X into the bottom side so they cook evenly all the way through.
Savoy Cabbage- Savoy means crinkly, or wavy leaf. This cabbage is wonderfully tender and has a lot of texture and body. It is great for raw cabbage salads.
Pie Pumpkin- These pumpkins can be made into pumpkin pie. Bake them like you would any other squash. They will keep on your counter top for at least a couple months.
Sweet Potatoes- This is our first successful year growing sweet potatoes! This is the first time we have ever put them in a CSA box, we're very excited about this! Immediately after sweet potatoes have been harvested they need to be cured in a warm, 80 degree environment for at least 3 days. We've been keeping our greenhouse fires stoked hot since last Friday afternoon, in hopes to have them for our final CSA box. Here is a nice 2.5 lbs per member. We baked a few up and found them to be quite sweet. Still a little room for improvement in future years of growing them.
Celeriac Root- Yes, another celeriac root. We agree that once you learn how to use celeriac root, you fall in love with it. Don't judge a book by it's cover. Peel these guys and dice them up and toss them in your soup or stew. They're wonderful! They will keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for monthes. Enjoy!
Beets- A few more beets before they beat it for the year;)
Garlic- One more bulb of garlic to keep your immunity up.
Spinach- Another nice giving of spinach to finish out the year with some tender greens.
Cauliflower or Broccoli- We had some pretty giant heads of cauliflower this fall. We also had some very nice heads of broccoli. You may have received one or the other. Get these guys right into the fridge to keep them good for as long as possible.
Leeks- A leek or two (depending on their size), for your fall cooking. Leeks are such a nice flavor this time of year, and very unique to fall. We started the leeks from seed in February this year. It's been a long haul for the modest leek.
Beauty Heart Radish- These are the pink-ish/green-ish root veggie in the box. Their greens are edible and a bit spicy like mustard. The beauty heart radish is also an amazing keeper and will keep for most of the winter with their tops removed.
Sweet Peppers- At least 5 more sweet peppers for everyone this week. We had these left over from last week. You may have received yellow, orange or red sweet peppers.
Week 19, 2013
I am learning to do my work joyfully. It’s an easier time of year to enjoy ourselves throughout the day with a warm sun on our cheeks and a cool breeze in the air. The end is near and the finish feels good. There have been many days work on the farm that have felt more like a stressful chore than a fulfilling vocation. Maybe we’re cresting some kind of proverbial curb where we now have the tools, the experience and the knowledge that better equips us to survive the day.
The seasons become less surprising as the years go on. We now know why the broccoli bolts, the lettuce wilts and the parsnips don’t germinate. We see the signs. We know what we’re looking for because we’ve seen it before. We take the hit with a little more grace when the rain doesn’t fall. We know what happens when things get planted too late, planted too early, or planted too often. We know how to time it so that we have broccoli for the week 19 box. I guess that what I’m really saying is that finally, after about 9 years, we think we know what we’re doing out here.
It feels good to know how to do one thing well. In a world with endless distractions, paths to take, and opportunities available, it feels good in some ways to have chosen one thing and to have stuck to it. The world can seem so vast and huge and interconnected that it can be easy to wonder if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I maintain my groundedness by keeping my head bowed above the carrot bed and my hands submerged in the soil, believing that if I just stay here on this little farm in Wisconsin, the world will feel less chaotic, less abrasive, and less confusing somehow. It works for me.
Thankfully, we don’t know everything there is to know just yet about growing every vegetable. What fun would there be left then? If there was nothing left to learn, no more challenges to keep our lives textured and eventful. How lucky we are to be out here working cheerfully towards the humble objective to grow our own food.
The real key is to work merrily. Even when it’s hot or cold or early or late. To work with a smile and a positive attitude even when the harvest is heavy, you’re getting hungry and the work is long. Any parent can relate. It’s like trying to talk your two year old out of tears after they’ve just fallen down. It’s okay! You’re just fine! You’re alright! The given is that life is hard, the challenge is how we deal with it.
Sooo, What's in the Box???
Acorn Winter Squash- These are the big bluish/greenish things at the bottom of the box shaped like an acorn. Acorns are one of the most popular of all winter squash. They are amung the easier, heavier producing, and earlier maturing of the winter squash to grow. We love them all ways.
Brussels Sprouts- Did you ever know that brussels grew on a stalk like this? We left all the cleaning work to you. We would never have had time to clean them all up for you sprout by sprout. Snap them off the stalk, peel back any unsightly layers and gently cut and X into the bottom side before cooking. This will allow their centers to cook a little quicker. Overcooked brussels are no fun! If brussels are cooked just right, they are still a little firm, bright green, yet soft and sweet. They can be prepared in a way that turns a brussels sprouts hater into a lover!
Carrots- Another pound of carrots for your everyday use. Keep these guys in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep them krisp for monthes.
Rutabaga- These are the giant, cream colored roots with purple shoulders. If you're not a rutabaga lover I recommend boiling and mashing rutabaga with potatoes and making your favorite mashed potato dish with them-you'll love it, even if it's the only way you'll eat it. Rutabaga is very nice simply steamed with butter and salt on it. In this season of root vegetabels, consider making a roasted root vegetable dish. If you plan to keep your rutabaga for a little while, keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve its moisture.
White Onion- A simple white onion for your everyday use.
Tomato Bags- Still an amazing giving of tomatoes for this late in the season. Because we still have not had a frost, we're gleaning what we can from the tomato patch. The unripe tomatoes can sit on your counter until they're ripe. We notice a slight decrease in quality in the tomatoes this late in the season as well. The ones that are left on the plants this late are usually the last of the goods.
Yukon Gold Potatoes or Red Norland Potatoes- A 2lb bag of spuds for adding to your soups, rutabaga mash or roasted root veggie dishes. Yum!
Diakon Radish- Diakons are great shaved into salads, chunked in to a kim-chi, or chopped into an asian cabbage salad as well. Daikons hold their crisp texture even when cooked. Their flavor is very mild and quite nice. If you plan to hold onto your daikon, they will keep for monthes in storage. Snap your tops off your radish and store the radish in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Broccoli or Cauliflower or Romanesco- You may have received one of the three. A very nice fall harvest here! The romanescos can be used like cauliflower. Store any one of these items in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep them firm. Will keep for a few days.
Collards- Another bunch of cooking greens to keep your digestion functioning smoothly, your blood clean and your heart pumping strong. Eat your greens y'all!
Parsnips- These are the white roots loose in the box. We dug these on Monday morning when the ground was still very wet from all the rain last week. We were cutting a bunch of them with our digger. Keep these in a plastic bag in the fridge if you don't think you'll use them soon, they will keep for a month or two.
Sweet Pepper Mix- A nice mix of red, yellow and orange peppers still that we can thank the late frost for. Still no frost on this ridge killing off our sweet peppers. Likely still a small giving of sweet peppers in the week 20 box as well!
Week 2, 2013
We find ourselves in another wet week on the farm with more rain in the forecast. We’re a little more hopeful this week because warmer temperatures will remain steady throughout the week providing our plants with the warm, humid and moist weather they will thrive in. We’re getting a little behind on our tractor work because it has been so difficult getting the tractors into the fields when it is so muddy. We have been pushing our limits a little this Spring and have been doing tractor work in soil conditions that are much more moist than what we would normally prefer. We have even resorted to planting some of our winter squash by hand, which we have not done in several years.
We are feeling nearly caught up on planting so far. We have all of our warm-weather loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini and melons planted and growing strong. We were even able to get the last of our sweet corn transplanted last week as it was beginning to rain on us while we were finishing the job. So far we have just been thankful for no erosion or damaging storms. Plenty of rain and moisture (and a little more than we need) are leaving us with muddy and mucky field conditions. The workers leave the fields with boots full of mud, mud on their faces from scratching their noses or wiping their brows, and the knees of their pants caked in mud. I suppose that if we stay too clean, we aren’t having enough fun out there.
The weeds are fighting a good battle this year. With so much rain, we are noticing that the weeds are growing a little faster as well. The fields still look pretty sharp, but this week we plan to do a lot of weeding!
It can be difficult for me to go back in time to one of the first times I began eating food fresh out of a garden, any garden really. I have a hard time recalling one of the first times I purchased local or seasonal food from a Farmer’s Market or Co-op. But something that I have forgotten is what that food looks like to a new pair of eyes.
I wanted to say that the produce you will receive from our farm this summer may look different from the produce you are accustomed to buying at the grocery store. We will grow new varieties of many of these vegetables that you have never seen before. Also, now with so much rain and moisture, even as we do our best to wash all of the vegetables thoroughly, there may be more soil splashed on the leaves of the produce than what you are used to seeing. We are trying our best to get everything very clean, but with so much rain splashing soil into the heads of the lettuce and onto the leaves of the arugula and spinach, you may have to do a little extra washing in the kitchen this week.
I have certainly noticed that the rain and cooler weather makes for very succulent, tender and juicy vegetables! The heat and dry weather can make the crops more pungent and sharp in flavor and can cause the leaves to become tougher. We will see a little of this in our summer successions of lettuce. I challenge you to embrace this CSA experience for all that it is. Surely these vegetables will encourage you to grow in your culinary experience and also in your personal expectations of what fresh produce should look and taste like. Rock on!
Sooo, What's in the Box???
Asparagus- The final giving of the most amazing Spring vegetable ever. Asparagus loves to be stored standing in a little water in the fridge. Or you could wrap a moist paper towel around the ends of it to keep it fresh if you won't use it right away. Asparagus likes to drink a little to stay fresh.
Overwintered Shallots- The final giving of these overwintered shallots as well. These little guys have been in storage in our root cellar since last September. Use them up soon, or store them in your refrigerator in a cool and dark place to keep them from sprouting. Shallots are great in sauces and dressings, or just use them like you would an onion.
Cherry Bell Radish- These are the red, round radishes. You can cut the tops off the radishes and float them in a small amount of water in the fridge to keep them fresh, or for snacking. Save the greens for one of your favorite greens cooking dishes.
French Breakfast Radish- These are the radishes with the white bottoms and the red tops or shoulders. Use the greens in salads or for cooking!
Pac Choi- The final giving of our Spring Pac Choi. The leaves are a little holey again, but this is the nature of organic Pac Choi in the Spring time. We will attempt to grow it again in the fall when the flea beetle pressure has gone away.
Spinach- A modest giving of fresh spinach, but young, tender leaves none the less. This is another Spring gem! Use Spinach fresh in salads or use it in cooking or on top of home-made pizza.
Swiss Chard- This is the colorful leafy green bunch with the stems that look like rhubarb. Swiss Chard is in the same family as spinach and can be used in cooking much the same way as spinach. The stems are edible as well. We will be giving swiss chard many times this summer, so I encourage you to make friends with cooking greens. Many families find that receiving cooking greens each week is a wonderful part of belonging to a CSA farm. Try some of our recipes that we share with you.
Lettuce Heads- We shipped a wide variety of lettuce this week. Some folks received a crunchy green romaine, some received the classic red leaf lettuce, and some received a red or green buttercrunch lettuce. All of the lettuce varieties this week are so tender and wonderful. Remember that you may have to do a bit extra washing, leaf by leaf, of your lettuce this week because a little more soil may have splashed onto the leaves.
Thyme Plant- This is the same thyme that you would use as an herb in your cooking. This is a perennial plant (meaning it will come back year after year) if you have a sunny place to plant it outside and can give it a permanent home. Or, you could put it in a pot with plenty of your favorite organic soil mix to feed it and grow it in the house. The paper pot we shipped the plants in are biodegradable. You can just plant your little plant right into the soil-pot and all! Thyme needs plenty of sunlight and water to grow.
Arugula- Thisi is the bunch of greens with a red rubber band around it. Arugual is a unique flavor of a green. It is wonderful when mixed in with salad greens to make a salad, or it is great wilted and served on top of hot pizza, with hot potatoes and sausage, or with a hot sweet and sour dressing. Arugula is a favorite for many! Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.