November Twenty-First

Soooo.....What's in the Box???

1 Butternut Squash-  All Squash varieties will keep best at room temperature.  They prefer a warmer or dry area.  If they start to develop spots of any kind, you’ll know it’s time to eat them up.  They don’t like to be kept in refrigerators and they look very festive sitting on your countertop.  Butternuts are the classic, creamy orange squash that everyone loves and many recipes call for.SFF Oct2017 468

2 Pie Pumpkin-  Keeps best at room temp.  One very cute looking pie pumpkin with just enough flesh to make a home-made pumpkin pie.

2 Sweet Dumpling Squash-  Keeps best at room temperature.  They have a flesh similar to color, texture and flavor as a delicate.  Usually a very sweet squash, but they can vary.

5 # Carrots-  A nice bag of carrots for you to snack on, add to your fall soups or cook in any way you can dream up.  We thought the carrots this fall were very sweet and crispy!

5# Potatoes-  Many of the potatoes were the Yukon gold variety which is a very creamy potato that is very nice for mashed potatoes.  But some members may have received russets which are a more textured potato that hold together very nice in a soup or stew or for baking.

1# Garlic-  Garlic will keep best in the refrigerator.  You can keep a bulb or two on your counter at a time, but truly they will keep best in the cold and dry of your refrigerator.  They will dry out and possibly sprout if left on your counter.

1 # Leeks-  Leeks are in the onion family and can be used in soups much like an onion.  Potato leek soup is the most common recipe.  Leeks can be used all the way up the stem to where they turn into the dark green leaves.  The dark green leaves are edible, but a little more tough (toss them in your stock).SFF Oct2017 337

1# Parsnips-  Parsnips are actually really wonderful!  If you’re new to cooking with this long white taproot, don’t feel discouraged!  They are similar to a carrot in flavor, but can sometimes be even sweeter.  They keep teriffically well in a plastic bag in the fridge.  And if your only experience with them is the paraffin wax coated roots from the grocery store, we beg you to try the difference!  Check out the cheezy, but helpful video we found online on how to caramelize them with carrots. 

3# Sweet Potatoes-  This year our sweet potatoes weren’t quite as last year.  Due to when the slips arrived in the mail, we planted them later than usual and they didn’t size up as nicely this year.  So some of your sweet potatoes are a little smaller than what we have given in the past.  But the small ones are just as good!  No need to peel your sweet potatoes!  Did you know the skins are healthy to eat and perfectly edible?  Yes!  We like to make home-made sweet potato oven fries.  Toss them (cut into sticks with skin and all) with coconut oil and bake them into fries.  Yum!

3# Onions-  A nice mix of red and yellow onions for storage.  Onions also prefer a refrigerator for long term storage, but if you cook with a lot of onions, they’ll be fine on your counter for up to a month without sprouting.

3# Beets-  Beets keep terrifically well in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.  But these guys are so sweet, I know they won’t last long at your house!  Boil or roast them and discover your favorite beet recipes.

1 Brussels Sprouts Stalk-  Brussels are truly a unique fall gem that can only be enjoyed this time of year.  They’re a bit of pain to snap off of the stalk, peel back and prepare, but they’re so worth it!  Have you had roasted Brussels Sprouts?  Try it!  

How do you imagine your farmers in the wintertime? Do you imagine us with our heads stuck inside seed catalogs mulling over varieties? Do you imagine us walking our frozen fields with a cup of coffee? Do you imagine us curled up in bed, sleeping in and feeling a little guilty about it? Do you imagine us fixing tractors and sweeping the greenhouse floor again and again? All of the above is true, but there’s a lot more to kicking off a new season than simply waiting for it to roll around.

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(C'mon Sunshine!)

We have finished the seed orders, the soil mix has been delivered, and repairs and maintenance around the farm are continual. But there are some really grueling, tedious jobs that happen in the winter months that you might have never dreamed that we do. We have every bed of the farm laid out on a spreadsheet with the row-feet of each bed and field mapped out. We plan, bed by bed, what will get planted where and when-months in advance. We need to make sure we have enough bed space and row feet to grow enough fennel, for example, for 300 CSA boxes two weeks in a row. We even have some really juicy greenhouse excel spreadsheets that lay out our seeded crops as far as when we will seed them, how many trays we will seed on what day, and what size blocks to seed into. Oh, and taxes, don’t forget those! We just got our taxes done and that is one of the most exciting parts of our job!

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(This is our soil mix that we use to start the seedlings in just a couple short weeks!)

February is the final month of our ‘off season’ with the first of our greenhouse seeding beginning the first week of March. We are now doing some marketing work such as distributing fliers, scheduling Lunch and Learns, updating the website and trying to learn more about social media and marketing work in general. We’re better farmers and family folks than we are at selling stuff-but it’s part of the game we’re playin’. We are even beginning to line up some of our labor and employee help for the 2018 growing season, hoping that many of the terrific helpers we had last season will want to join us for another trip around the sun while playing in the dirt.

We entered the winter with 5-6000 lbs of carrots and 3000 lbs of parsnips. We also had extra celeriac root, rutabaga and a few onions, garlic and miscellaneous items that we have been selling to a handful of local food coops and restaurants. The very impressive Viroqua Food Coop in our tiny little town of Viroqua is our biggest and most consistent buyer with substantial weekly orders. If you’re ever passing through Viroqua, you’ll have to check out our very awesome Coop that is in the middle of a huge construction project where they are doubling in size!

I did find some time to bring a bin of apples up from the root cellar, cut them into rings and dehydrate them with the girls. Since most of the summer months means all work and no play, we’re finding more time for the kids. Ayla, 6, is learning to knit and cross-stitch and fold origami paper into beautiful shapes. Aliza, 3, loves playing with her dolls, building little structures for them, and copying almost everything her older sister does. And our two month-old, Arlo, is a dream baby, sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches at night, smiling and cooing when he’s awake and providing entertainment for us all and justification for staying indoors and spending more time as a family.

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March Twenty-Nineth

The farm comes alive again slowly, quietly, almost secretly. The hive hums when the sun shines.   The greenhouse doors fling open to release the excess heat. The chickens lay eggs again and the children think that since it is officially Spring, they can dare to walk outside without coats or hats. The seeds are germinating in the plastic hoop structure that smells of earth and wood smoke and feels moist and invigorating.

We are nearly one month in to the start of a new season. Plans to begin field work form and the machines are greased and ready to go. The farm help is lined up and the CSA memberships are steadily coming in. The winds blow strong and make the willow tree dance. We are longing for fresh, tender, green food again and the promise that it is not far away feels reassuring.

The farm wife, as I am calling myself these days, feels especially cooped up from keeping three small children warm, healthy and entertained. I do everything I can to care for needs of the people and the farm in the role I am currently playing. I look out the window and watch Adam go to work most days wishing I could follow. But I also feel grateful to get to work from home and get to spend so much time with my children. I remind myself that this is an era of our lives that will one day feel like it didn’t last long enough, but at present feels slow and binding on a late March day.

I raise a three month old and watch him try to kick himself over onto his tummy. I watch my 6 year old learn to count money and read books and add numbers. Our farm house feels a little like a kindergarten when you walk in, but smells like a restaurant. I watch my 3 year old copy everything her big sister does. I watch the robins return and the maple sap drip. I suggest and insist on projects that Adam and hired help can work on. My involvement with the farm feels like it is at a mosey-posey pace with a baby on my back and a toddler tagging along. I support Adam in every way possible to keep him well fed, rested and focused on farm work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8DXkkBB04A

Again I need to remind myself that this is just a stage and one day our children will help seed in the greenhouse. They will one day help make dinner and fold laundry and shake rugs out and bring wood in. One day I will want nothing more than to have them fit cozily on my lap again and to read them a picture book. My body will ache from working on the farm and I’ll wish for a slower pace of life.

Meanwhile the earth tilts toward the sun and warms our landscape. The mornings on the farm are no longer quite. The sounds of those noisy birds are back and hungry animals hustle all around. The lawns looks almost green in places. We seed lettuce this week in the greenhouse which is just four weeks until transplant in the fields. The greenhouse tables are getting full and we are beginning to need to shuffle flats around to make room for all of the seedings coming up. I share the girlish excitement with our little ones for the dawning of a new season. I feel excited for the workers to come back and breathe community into our little farm. I feel optimistic and I whistle and sing as I walk around the farm with the children doing chores and keeping home. Spring time has a way of making you feel young again.

Farmer Adam came home with a brand spankin’ new disc today (a primary tillage piece of equipment) that will make our field prepping work smooth and even a little fun! We’re just a few short weeks away from seeding and transplanting out into the big wide open spaces. Birds fill the trees and the sonic spaces. Soon the sounds of diesel engines and people’s voices will fill our farm. And before long, as a result of this glorious community effort and will, there will be eclectic and bounteous boxes of vegetables harvested from the earth here. We look forward to sharing this season with you!

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June Seventh

A new season dawns, fresh and new like a sunrise.   Bright.  Promising.  Energizing.  I am just as excited for this season as I was for our very first CSA delivery season in 2006.  Nope, that’s not true.  I have more excitement, more confidence, more help and less stress!DSC 0153

Our 12th season is off to a fantastic start.  All of the crops are going into the ground on schedule.  The rains have been timely (except for right about now we are already praying for rain), and there has been very little severe weather to threaten damaging our tender Spring crops. 

Tender is another word to describe a new season.  Everything is new and young and succulent.  The snap peas are just beginning to wrap their first tendrils around the trellising.  The winter squash, melon and cucurbit plants are all still under their baby blankets of remay to protect them from the harsh winds, sun and bugs.  And the Spring Lettuce is so tender and buttery that it pales my impression of all other lettuce for the rest of the year.  Tender as well in that there are still baby birds in their nests that haven’t flown yet.  Our skin is still white-ish from a winter’s thick cover and prone to burning.  Even the soil is tender and freshly tilled, vulnerable to erosion from wind or rain. 

A new season is tender and new, but it is somehow also wild and free and un-predictable.  A new season feels even a bit scary (says the farmer who has lived through floods and droughts).  It feels like a shot out of a cannon.  It feels like an explosion of potential and possibility. 

A season is old and knowing as well in that even though it is new and fresh, it knows just what to do.  The plants and animals behave in the ancient ways they always have and always will behave.  The trees bud without que.  The birds return and nest without instruction.  The pepper seed germinates and grows into the variety we expect it to.  How lovely this reliability and predictability amidst the uncertainty of when it will rain next and will the crops produce well this year? 

Lovely is the CSA model.  This well-organized and beautiful relationship between farmers and eaters.  A reliable, secure and safe way to know where your food is coming from, the transparency behind who and how it is grown, and also the open invitation to know as much as you wish about your food and farm.  I feel thankful for you, the person who wishes to eat fresh, local, organic produce and wishes to know their farmer.  I feel thankful for your reliable, continued support that will last throughout the entire 2017 season.  You can count on the same from us! 

Soooo....What's in the Box???

Pac Choi-  This is an asian vegetable that is wonderful in stir fry or also made into an asian slaw.  The stalks are crisp and tender and the leaves are just as edible and flavorful!  Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  

Pannise Oakleaf Lettuce-  A gorgeous oakleaf Spring lettuce.  These fun and fancy oakleaf varieties really only grow well in this area in the Spring when it's not too hot.  We love how tender and green this lettuce is!  Make a beautiful salad with this!  Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  Although I'm sure you won't need to think about storing this lettuce long!  

Asparagus-  Asparagus is the only crop that we actually buy each year.  We have an amish friend with a very large patch of certified organic Asparagus.  This was all picked fresh on Tuesday morning and packed out by his daughters.  He says it hasn't been a very good aspargus year since it has been cooler.  This is more of a straight run with a mix of #1 and #2 quality.  Our amish farmer, Elmer, says this is the best he could offer us this year.  In past years we have gotten beautiful #1 looking asparagus from him, but this year hasn't been his best year.  Asparagus coming again next week!

Spinach-  A quarter pound of perfect, baby spinach.  I know this will go quickly at home as well!  

Rhubarb-  A half pound of rhubarb per member.  The rhubarb plants on our farm are only a few years old, so we are still getting a big mix of smaller and larger stalks.  No matter the color (red or green) or size (large or small),  they are all perfectly edible and would make a wonderful cobbler!  Will keep best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  oakleaf

Shallots-  Slightly less than a half pound bag of overwintered shallots.  Overwintered means that these puppies were grown last summer on this farm, cured, cleaned and put into storage for the winter and they're stil holding up fabulously.  Since they have been in cold storage for so long they will want to sprout if left out on your countertop.  We recommend keeping them in your fridge until you plan to use them.  Use them up quick more yummy veggies coming soon!  

Pea Shoots-  Did you know you could eat these?  Yes, it's true!  These are only a little bigger than what we might have liked them to be so their stalks might be a bit chewey.  But the leaves and tendrils have all the flavors of Spring and Snap Peas that we know and love!  Keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  You can snap the leaves off and toss them in a salad.  You can mix them in a pesto or stir fry or do whatever you wish with them!  

Arugula-  Very small bunches of Arugula.  We thought we would get in there and harvest this Arugula while it was very young and tender and not so spicy or turn bitter from the heat.  Arugula really only grows well in the cool-ness of the Spring and Fall when it won't bolt or be too spicy.  Enjoy the tenderness of this unique item!  I'm thinking of making a bacon/arugula pizza!  

Swiss Chard-  The Swiss Chard was looking so beautiful we had to harvest this for you!  Swiss Chard is in the same family as spinach, so use the greens in a fritatta, green smoothie, stir-fry or however else you might use spinach.  DSC 0169

Cherry Bell Radishes-  Perfect cherry bell radishes.  Not too spicy.  Not too big.  Not woody at all.  Some are a bit on the small side (but that's better than being too big), and the flavor is perfect!  

Herb Packs-  These cute little packs are for you to transplant out into a little space in your yard or in little pots near your kitchen.  We believe in cooking with fresh herbs, so we provided you here with little plants so you can always snag a sprig of fresh thyme or oregano or parslely now and then throughout the season for cooking with fresh herbs!  Transplant into the ground or a pot with plenty of fresh, fertile, organic soil mix and allow to grow in a full-sun space.  

Next Week's Best Guess:  Pac Choie, Lettuce, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Shannots, pea shoots, arugula, kale cherry bell radishes, herb packs.  

Recipes:

Sesame Ginger Pac Choi Salad

Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Swiss Chard Fritatta

 

June Fourteenth

One of the beautiful things about belonging to a CSA farm is the opportunity to know your farmer.  A different experience than what we get at a store.  We know our store-owners (sometimes).  We know our neighborhoods that we shop in.  We might even know the friendly cashiers or the produce buyers if we’re really regulars somewhere.  But knowing the farmer or better still, the faces of the actual people who work in the fields and touch the food is a whole new level.  A more intimate level that may make you feel excited to explore or may make you feel uncomfortable. 

I encourage you to look a little closer this summer.  Read the newsletters, check out the pictures, come to the farm events, imprint in your mind the look of the place where the food is grown.  Create an image with a collage of faces and land-marks and stories that becomes your farm.  For this summer or for every summer, you will have a comforting little family farm in a warm place in your chest set high up on top of a ridge in southwest Wisconsin where your food comes from.DSC 0166 1

A brief history about Adam and I.  We started our little CSA with 23 members in 2006.  We were full of energy, excitement and ideas and 100% committed to the idea of running a CSA farm.  We had very little infrastructure, help or money.  But we persevered, survived and grew!  Each year our little CSA grew from 23 to 60 to 90 to 100 to 150 to 200 CSA members and so on.   We’re at a cozy little 275 this year that keeps our farm feeling sustainable.  This would be our 12th growing season.  We are now married with two children and living our dream.  For help we have a fantastic crew of 31 Worker Shares, 4 employees, and my very helpful and involved mother who lives next door in her own home and on her own 5 acres.  There’s nothing like a grandma nearby!

Running a farm is damn hard work though.  It’s almost a phenomenon that Adam and I found each other at the times of our lives that we did and that our marriage happily thrives, even through the stress of running a farm like this.  My impression is that very few people are interested in working this hard for the living we earn or living this remotely.  But us, we feel a little like we’ve got something secret and special in our pockets.  Like we’ve just unwrapped the chocolate bar with the golden wrapper.  I dunno.  Maybe the joke is on us.  But it’s working!  That’s good! 

The farm has grown to where we have the infrastructure and the help we need to get the work done.  We have a stronger CSA member base (that’s you!) and we have some years of experience now to genuinely help us in our decision making processes.  We have room for growth in our work/life balance.  I know farmers who never-ever get better at this.  They go to their graves wishing they hadn’t worked so much and had spent more time with their families.  But I’m determined to solve this little problem.  It’s only been 12 years.  Give us another 12 and I think we’ll get there! 

Come to the farm this Saturday!  We are having our Spring Strawberry Picking Event with a tractor-pull ride farm tour and potluck towards the end.  Bring the kids, your parents, Frisbees, sun hats, a dish to pass and bucket to fill with strawberries!  We are selling the you-pick strawberries for $3/lb.  But pick as many as you like-enough to make Dad a fresh strawberry cream pie for Father’s Day on Sunday! DSC 0158

Strawberry Picking from 2:00-3:30pm

Farm Tour from 4:00-5:00pm

Pot-Luck Dinner from 5:00-6:00pm

Sooo....What's in the Box???

Curly Green Kale-  A very young and tender bunch of curly green kale.  This was the first picking from this patch and the leaves are very succulent!  Is Kale new to you?  This a frequent item in CSA boxes throughout the summer.  We typically offer a cooking green each week.  Watch for fun, delicious and easy recipe ideas for your cooking greens each week, and PLEASE send me your tried and true and I would love to share them with everyone!  Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  

Arugula-  The arugula grew up a bit from last week.  The bunches are a little bigger than they were last week.  Lots of positive feedback on the arugula!  It grows well in the Spring and Fall, but does not tolerate summer heat very well so you may not see it again until late summer CSA boxes.  Great on pizza, mixed into salads, tossed with pasta or however you like it to get it into your belly!  Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve moisture.  

Panise Green Oakleaf Lettuce-  A tender and very buttery Spring Oakleaf lettuce.  This lettuce was grown in a greenhouse to ensure an early harvest for the first couple CSA boxes.  Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve moisture.  

Pac Choi-  This unique asia vegetable has the most juicy, watery stems/stalks!  It is very lovely and mild!  An asian green that makes a great asain salad or stir-fry.  

Asparagus-  Asparagus is the only crop that we actually buy each year.  We have an amish friend with a very large patch of certified organic Asparagus.  This was all picked fresh on Tuesday morning and packed out by his daughters.  He says it hasn't been a very good aspargus year since it has been cooler.  This is more of a straight run with a mix of #1 and #2 quality.  Our amish farmer, Elmer, says this is the best he could offer us this year.  In past years we have gotten beautiful #1 looking asparagus from him, but this year hasn't been his best year.  The final Asparagus giving.  

Spinach-  A very nice half pound bag of spinach for everyone this week!  Still very tender and wonderful though.  We put some on pizza, some in salad, and some in our eggs.  Eat is everyway!

Rhubarb-  The final giving of Rhubarb for this year.  Our rhubarb plants are still very young.  We're not sure why, but some of them have very thin stalks and we get a very wide range in sizes at harvest.  Since we just give it in the Spring, we clean most of the stalks off of the plants for just a few givings, and they have the rest of the year to regenerate their roots.  Although some of them are skinney stalks, they are still very edible in recipes!DSC 0166

Cherry Bell Radish-  A teeny bit spicier this week than last.  The greens on the radishes are perfectly edible and delectible.  Toss the greens in with your salad, wilt them into a stir fry or toss them with rice.  Lots of creative ways to incorporate more greens into your diet!  

Overwintered Shallots-  Slightly less than a half pound bag of overwintered shallots.  Overwintered means that these puppies were grown last summer on this farm, cured, cleaned and put into storage for the winter and they're stil holding up fabulously.  Since they have been in cold storage for so long they will want to sprout if left out on your countertop.  We recommend keeping them in your fridge until you plan to use them.  Use them up quick-more yummy veggies coming soon!  

Pea Shoots-  Did you know you could eat these?  Yes, it's true!  These are only a little bigger than what we might have liked them to be so their stalks might be a bit chewey.  But the leaves and tendrils have all the flavors of Spring and Snap Peas that we know and love!  Keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  You can snap the leaves off and toss them in a salad.  You can mix them in a pesto or stir fry or do whatever you wish with them!  

Herb Pack-  These cute little packs are for you to transplant out into a little space in your yard or in little pots near your kitchen.  We believe in cooking with fresh herbs, so we provided you here with little plants so you can always snag a sprig of fresh thyme or oregano or parslely or basil now and then throughout the season for cooking with fresh herbs!  Transplant into the ground or a pot with plenty of fresh, fertile, organic soil mix and allow to grow in a full-sun space.  Be sure there is plenty of water at transplant!

Next Week's Best Guess:

Salad turnips, lettuce x 2, cilantro, strawberry quarts, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, collards, maybe zucchini and summer squash, maybe broccoli, maybe spinach

Recipes

Chocolate Rhubarb Cake

Cream Cheese Radish Dip

Ricotta, Lemon and Arugula Quiche

Pac Choi Stir Fry