CSA2015 -Week 3, Brought to You by the Letter ‘P’

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When you buy seeds, almost all are labeled with a number of days till you can expect to harvest.  This is helpful in planning a succession of crops throughout the growing season.  What is doesn’t always take into consideration is the difference in weather.  Sometimes the weather speeds things up, sometimes it slows it down.  Sometimes crops planted 2 weeks apart still are ready for harvest the same time as seeds may sit in the soil due to insufficient moisture or get a slow start due to cold temperature.

Such is the cases with peas.  While they were planned to be more spread out(15 days according to the packet and planting date) they were all ready the same time.  So this week the share had Swiss Giant Snow Peas.  These flat, edible pod peas are best sauteed or stir fried.  The Cascadia peas are a marvelous shelling pea with nice long pods and the short podded, fat, Sugarsnap peas are great anyway you try them – raw, stir fried, steamed, chopped on a salad.  This is one of the best pea crops ever for me so expect them again.

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Also included are lettuce, garlic scapes, Napa cabbage, onions, beets, dill, spinach and little bin of strawberries.

As we look to week 4 I think I am going to get after some potatoes, Finish off some spinach for a while and maybe there will be some sort of berry in production.  We will see.

Enjoy the Fantastic Weather!

CSA2015 Week Two – Garlic Beginings with Scapes

As the weeks progress, each day the field is monitoredCSA2015 Week2.  Some crops are watched for adequate water, others like peas and tomatoes sometime need help trellising, potatoes are watched for those pesky potato bugs, and still others in anticipation of when a new crop will be ready, this week Garlic Scapes and Beets will find their way into the CSA box!

Garlic Scapes are the immature flowers of hard neck garlics.  The scapes can be used however garlic is used as it has the same great flavor. They don’t keep as long as garlic so it is best to refrigerate and use them up as quickly as possible.  If you don’t have a need for them, an easy way to preserve it so whip up a batch of Garlic Scape Pesto. Perfect on pasta, bread, and sandwiches.  I like to mix some in goat cheese or cream cheese for a great dip as well.  Garlic Scape season is short, as the by the garlic scape4th of July, they are often overly mature and become fibrous so enjoy them while you got ’em!

Hanging out in the box with the scapes are leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, more head lettuce, green onions, Swiss chard,  rhubarb, bok choy, some beautiful dill weed, AND the first of the beets.  Today’s mix contain the ever sweet Golden Beets and beautifully stripped Chioggia Beets.  There are only a few as I had to scrounge to find enough sizable ones but they are a great hint of what is to come.  This time of year the tops are also exquisitely tasty.  They can be juiced, steamed, creamed or cooked up in this tasty rendition.    There will be plenty of beets spaced through out the season including red ones, striped ones, golden ones, and cylindrical ones.  This small taste is just tease of what is yet to come.

This weekend I get the great excitement to get to Iowa for a little camping trip.  While Iowa is not always at the top of everybody’s list of great places to go, it does mean I get to make a stop at Seed Saver Exchange.  Seed Savers is a nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving rare vegetable and plant varieties and also makes many available to the public, many of which find their way to my garden.  No better way to preserve these treasures than to get people eating them. Hopefully I can document the place and share it with you in the future and NOT come home with a pile of seed packets.

Let the Greens Begin!

The CSA Begins this week with the much anticipated box of greens: Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, Bok Choy, Pea Tendrils, Onions, Radishes,  Cilantro and a little bit of goat cheese. CSA2015 Week1 The spring has been very generous to us and the plants with favorable weather and timely rains.  This had lead to the garden looking beautifully.  The last of the cucumber transplants have been planted as well as the later crops of beans, beets, and carrots.

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All of the bagged greens have been washed and should be ready to go in your favorite salad, wilted or used in this easy gem of a salad: Spinach, Arugula, Cranberry and Walnut Salad. If not used right away, keep them in the bag with the paper towel in the refrigerator, although it is best to use them quickly to get the most nutrients out of them.   The pea shoots are a new trial this year. After hearing my sister rave about how great they were when she had them on vacation I thought I would try them out. This variety is called Maestro and is specifically grown for the insane volume of tendrils it produces.  The shoots can be sauteed, used in salads, as a sandwich garnish or try out this flavorful rendition, of Pea Shoots Sauteed in Garlic and Ginger.

The favorable conditions also allowed for the transplanting of 80 apple trees to their permanent spots. Some of these are well known current varieties like HoneyCrisp and Haralson while others are some more obscure Antique Apples like Water Mellon and Pound Sweet.  It will be a few years till these varieties become available, but my older established apples have a nice collection of fruit set, probably due impart to the beehives we are keeping on the property.

Other than that, the chickens are growing well outdoors and the goats are enjoying our first cutting of hay that was bailed today.

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Next week should bring more of the same but also look for a few new things… for sure I saw some garlic scapes popping out, either mustard greens or  tatsoi will be ready to harvest and the sugar snap peas are flowering, we will see if they get here in time.

On to Another Season

The snow has melted and given way to green grass, spring rains and new life bounds at the farm.  The first seeds and plants have been planted, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys have begun hatching, and the fruit trees are teasing us with plump buds.  Even after the winter that felt like it drug on forever, nature surprises us with its amazing resiliency.  The birds survived exceptionally well all winter, the garlic sprouted the best in years and we have a healthy crop of new goats on the ground.

New this year we will be offering a few geese for the old tradition of Christmas Goose.  These American Buff Geese are the gentle giants around the farm, protecting the rest of the birds yet being exceptionally docile to humans.  The hatching is going well and were excited to watch them grow this summer.

CSA shares and pastured poultry reservations are currently taking place. There are many great new varieties of vegetables in the works and the shares might have a few more fruits tucked in them than in years past. We are expanding the number of shares this year, so if your interested, please contact us.

Like every farming year, it is always exciting to start anew each year. Optimism is high that this year will a great year for growing, eating and all around enjoying.

 

CSA Week 5: Transition Time

We’re finally in the transition time.  Just as we enter those Dog Days of summer we also get to enjoy the transition into the more summer filled flavors of beets, beans, raspberries and tomatoes rather than greens and radishes.  We also transition from the early season chores of planting, tilling, weeding and replanting to the summer chores of watering, more weeding, trellising, pest management, harvesting with just minimal planting.

mulched tomatoAs plants grow, weeding becomes less of an issue as the the summer is typically drier and hotter, which doesn’t encourage or help weed germination. Crops also grow and shade out the ground which prevents germination.  During this time we also have mulch laid down and some cover crops are starting to fill out.  Most of the preventive weed maintenance comes from mulching the walk ways between tomatoes, peppers and potatoes with grass hay or bean straw.  The mulch maintains soil moisture, temperature and prevents germination of weed seeds (which is only true if the mulch is free of seeds!)  It is also helpful by adding organic matter to the soil and keeps my feet a little less muddy after rains or watering.  Walkways are planted with live cover crops such as white and sweet clover. These do much of the same job as the dried material but also help by adding nitrogen to the soil and help by sending roots down that help improve soil texture and bring up nutrients from deeper in the soil.  Clovers also flower and help attract pollinators throughout the growing season.  White clover is planted in the rows of brassicas (cabbages, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli) and is a low growing mat of green.  Sweet clover is used between the rows of squash and pumpkins.  It is a bit taller, but the squash don’t mind much and actually seem to set more fruit in the somewhat taller cover of the crops.  In the fall or spring, both clovers are easily killed when the field is plowed.  In the end, the cover crops prevented erosion, water loss, and weed growth all while adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Much of the cover crop inspiration came through reading Eliot Coleman’s book,The New Organic Grower.  In the book Coleman does an excellent job discussing planting and growing techniques after years of experience as a market farmer.  The book is great for those who garden for hobby or for those wanting to take it to the next level.

CSA week 5 2013

This weeks share holds just the start of our summer crop transition.  Inside you will find lettuce, onions as well as our last week of napa cabbage and garlic scapes.  There is also a bit of dill weed and a sprig of basil.  While the basil is not enough for a big batch of pesto, I thought I would start slowly distributing it out.  If your not going to use it, it could be easily dried in a dehydrator or hung in a dry place out of direct light.

New this week come pak choy.  The small bundle is great stir fried.  Pak choy is similar to the larger bok choy and can be used wherever bok choy is called for.  Nutritionally speaking, pak choy is not as nutrient dense as many other leafy vegetables but is high in vitamins A, C and K.

Also something different is the small bag of sugar snap and snow peas.There was not quite enough for just one or the other as there was a little issue with plant loss early in the year.  Either can be eaten, pod and all, raw or cooked.  

Finally we added beets to the share this week.  There is a mix of varieties.  The large goldish orange beets are called Touchstone gold. At the farmers market these are commonly praised as one of the best tasting beets.  A little less earthy flavor makes them more palatable to those who are not total beet fans, but they still have a great sweetness that everybody likes.  Your bunch also contains the common Detroit Dark red.  There are a few dark red beets with dark red leaves, these are an old variety called Bulls Blood.  Finally the bright red beets with green tops are called Chioggia. This size of beets is great peeled and boiled but even better oven roasted.  Just toss with olive oil and sea salt and roast till tender.    At this stage of the game, the beets tops are also very good to eat.  They can be cooked like spinach, steamed with pasta like you would swiss chard or just juice them. 

I hope you enjoy the new boxes.  I went with them because they can be reused many times, tough, have a bit of an insulating factor, and can be washed easily.  They do have holes that can allow them to leak water out, but this also helps with ventilation and should prevent them from getting to stinky.  I have enough for a couple weeks, but returning them weekly would be helpful.  As for next week, raspberries should be ready (I have snacked on a few but not enough to pick). Also zucchini should be ready and I am going to go hunting for potatoes.

Have a great week!

Larry

 

Some Like it Hot

Welcome to our first blog posting of the 2013 season.  Its has been a crazy first 4 weeks of the season, but on the bright side, the contents of the baskets have not changed much so this posting will work great for all of them.  There has been a bounty of cool season crops: Lettuce, Radishes, Onions, Endive, Rhubarb, Dill, Broccoli, and other various greens.  The cool wet spring was wonderful for most of them, as long as they didn’t flood out. Verona Savoy Cabbage 2013We were particularly lucky as we were able to dodge the major flooding, hail and wind that many other growers had to contend with.  The only losses were some early planted green beans, spinach and a few spotty tomatoes plants that got a little too wet right after planting.

The last two weeks have seen a shift in our weather pattern to lots of sun an heat.  This all couldn’t come soon enough to get our heat loving plants to grow.  This includes the peppers, squash, green beans, melons, and beloved tomatoes. But with the heat, it does mean we will probably see the amount of greens diminishing (I am sure some of you are thankful for that).

In terms of other happenings on the farm, the poultry flock is growing by size and number nearly every day.  More free ranged muscovy ducks and renegade chickens have been coming off of nests with little ones and the broiler chickens have made it to a size where we started butchering this week.  If your interested in chickens, there are few that will be available yet.  The next processing day is Monday, July 8.  Contact me if you have any questions.

While the goats are done kidding, they are still milking well.  Some of the milk has been used for feeding kids and our household use.  We have also started making those wonderful fresh chevre and fromage blanc goat cheeses.  What is left over has been used to fatten up the 8 feeder pigs that have been growing like weeds.

ankel high sweet corn july 3 2013waist high july 3 2013Hay has been baled much to the enjoyment of the goats and cattle and it looks like the corn made it to Knee High by the 4th of July(waist high actually). Some sweet corn is only ankle high, but that will be good for a later crop.  Now just pray for timely rains and good warmth to let this growing season catch up.

Basket #4 Contents:

basket week 4 2013

Napa Cabbage – This year has been one of the best for producing Napa Cabbage.  This is the second, but probably last week to enjoy it.  It works fine as a cabbage substitute but I prefer it used in a basic fresh salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.  Theold Daytons Potluck Cook Book has a wonderful recipe submitted by Carole Busch.  Of course you can omitt the chicken or use other ramen flavors. It goes as follows:

Dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • flavor packet from 2 packages chicken-flavored ramen noodles

Salad:

  • 1 pound cabbage, shredded
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Noodles from 2 ramen noodle packs
  • 5 tablespoons sesame seed
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken.

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients.  Cover: refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.  Just before serving, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl; add dressing. Mix well.

Also in the basket is a bag of mixed lettuce (green and red leaves), onions, rhubarb, cilantro, mint (mojitos anyone?), garlic scapes, french breakfast radishes, and spicy Italian salad mix (all green and mostly frilly leaves). The full share folks also received our fist zucchini and kale as well.

After getting radished for 4 weeks, you may be out of ideas for them.  My sister found this great radish salad that uses radishes and the cilantro.  If radish flavor is just too much, then substitute some 50% of the radishes for jicama.

garlic scapeGarlic scapes are the flower buds of a hardneck garlic plant.  Each clove planted in the previous fall produces one scape.  Many remove scapes because they feel it will encourage increased size of the growing garlic bulb; I remove them because they make a great garlic substitute with out sacrificing the whole bulb right away.  To learn more about garlic scapes, check out the Plum Creek Garlic posting on scapes. If your really interested in garlic, you should consider going to the Minnesota Garlic Festival.

The spicy Italian salad mix is comprised of bib lettuce, arugula, chicory and mostly frisee endive.  It has a little punch when eaten so is best to have wilted or braised.

A sneak peek into next weeks box: same old stuff + baby beets, pak choi, and possibly sugar snap peas and raspberries.

I hope this week treats you well and you find a great way to celebrate the 4th of July and this wonderful weather.

Larry

CSA 2013

Last year at this time, the rows of lettuce, spinach and radishes had already emerged from the soil.  This year, I can finally see the soil after the last snow melted away just a few days ago.  The slow spring of 2013 makes me wonder if the whole year will be on the cool side, or if we will just  jump right in to summer all of a sudden.  Either way, it will come, and either way, we have been putting in to motion the plans and planting for our 2013 CSA.  The thing about farming and gardening is that each year is exciting and each year one is filled with hope.  Hope that the weather and season goes well.  Hope that the new varieties are pleasing.  Hope that all of our usual intentions, like weeding or transplanting on time, become reality.  I don’t think many hobbies/professions are so often rooted in as much hope as this one. Nor do i think as many give a person a second chance to try again.    

The year 2013 has a few new things in store for us at the farm.  After perusing for hours over the webpages and catalogs of our favorite seed suppliers like Baker Creek, Italian Seed and Tool, Seed Savers, Burpee, and FedCo, were adding 20 new varieties of tomatoes, 12 pepper varieties, 12 squash and much more. Were excited to try some new varieties of tomatoes like San Marzano Gigante and Indian Stripes from Sandhill Preservation Center.  Were growing some Purple Viking Potatoes this year after a trial last year.  We also picked up some new beans called Cut Short or Greasy Beans.  These beans are heirlooms from the Appalachian region.  While they may be different and take some getting used too, I am excited to get the seed in the ground in the ground.  Were also working to go heavy on our production of common favorites like spinach, colored bell peppers, red tomatoes, sugar snap peas and golden beets.  We also will be retiring the quaint wooden baskets and begin using a more clean, convenient and larger corrugated plastic tote. Finally we are making space to add a few more patrons to our CSA this year. 

Some more long term projects for the year are expanding our fruit and perennial crop area with more raspberries, asparagus, plums and historic apple varieties like Ashmeads Kernal, Pound Sweet and Arkansas Black.  

 If you are interested in finding out more about the CSA or signing up, feel free to contact us.  Just be aware, it is planting/hatching/kidding/grafting season and were not always right near the phone.  We will try to get back to you as quickly as possible.

 

Thanks

Larry