Lurching into High Season

This is always a gear-changing time of the produce season.  We’re really done with the early season stuff, but the high season crops like tomatoes, melons, and sweet corn haven’t come in yet.  That’s why this week’s produce box is a bit tough to fill.  I found myself scrounging around for the last of the broccoli and when I went out to pull in the Japanese eggplant, I only found 10 on the plants…bummer.

Still, it’s also an good housecleaning moment on the farm.  I’m going to take out the flail mower this weekend and mow all those areas where the early crops grew.  The stawberry patch looks like a small jungle and the spinach area is a solid mass of pigweed…things are ugly and need to go.  They also allow us the room to squeeze in some fall crops like fall cabbage and broccoli.  Also another set of greens and spinach and a big area for fall carrots (I’ve been talking about planting this for the last 2 weeks, but, like raising the debt ceiling, I NEED to get it done) 🙂

In the box:
Sweet Onions
Grenoble Green beans
Fresh basil
Red Potatoes
Red Kale or Swiss Chard

Garden Explosion

Wow…the weather over the last couple of weeks has been crazy.  I remember saying to myself about three weeks ago, “Hey, things are looking pretty good and the weeds are pretty much under control.”  But that was before we hit this stretch of heat, rain, and evening temperatures in the 80’s.  This cocktail of elements made for a garden explosion where small weeds turned into small trees and produce popped up over night.

This sounds like I good thing.  I would agree it’s great for those heat-loving plants like melons, tomatoes, and corn.  However, it does throw off the plan for the season.  I’ve had the second planting of beans I put in three weeks after the first catch up and start putting on beans at the same time.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  We had our second planting of lettuce go from beautiful to all bitter and bolting over the course of three days.  Lastly, I’m used to spacing out pickings of zucchini and cucumbers every 3-4 days, but when I tried this last week, little zucchini turned into baseball bats in about 36 hours.  Yikes.

Still lots to do.  We’re trying to get the tomato trellis up, get fall cole crops, carrots, and other greens planted, all the while rescuing plants that currently buried under 2 foot-high pigweed or lamb’s quarters.  Overwhelming, yes, but a situation we’ve found ourselves in the past.  We always seem to pull out of it.

In the box:
Fennel: The bulb with the frilly frawns on top which smells like licorice.
Dill: Exhibit one of a crop which got overwhelmed by the fast growing weeds.  It isn’t as pretty as it should be, but it should work.  I planned it to be delivered with the first potatoes.
Flat-leaf parsley
Norland Potatoes: I like this fresh potatoes, which you can tell are fresh by their tender skins which rubs off easily.
Cabbage: Mostly standard green Stonehead, but some of you received Alcosa, a wrinkly Savoy cabbage variety.
Green Onions
Fresh Garlic: Uncured garlic which is a bit stronger than cured garlic, but also with a fresh, bright flavor.  Use as you would any garlic.
Summer Squash
Green Beans

Hot, Hot, Hot

This morning I was out picking peas as a front came in.  The bright sunny morning turned into night-time just before the clouds unloaded on me.  It made me think about how much we’re “locked in” this time of year…all year ’round really.  Although picking peas in the rain isn’t ideal…the boxes need to go out by the afternoon no matter what.  Looking to next week, it seems like we’re in for a hot one.  NOAA weather even has this new picture I’ve never seen before of this blazing sun (left). It’ll be interesting.

In the box:
Deep Purple Scallions: A different color from your typical green onions, but the same flavor.
Gonzales Green Cabbage
A mix of Cucumbers: They are first starting to come in, so there’s a motley mix.  Some are squat pickling cucumbers, some are the first regular slicing cucumbers, and the smooth-skinned ones are a Middle-Eastern variety called Socrates.
Zucchini: Everyone has a standard zuke called Cashflow, and most should also have a round zuke called 8-Ball.  Otherwise you got a yellow straightneck.
Salad Mix: Sorry for the over abundance of lettuce, but this stuff needed to be cut or it would all go bad.
Red Oakleaf Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
Frisee: The really frilly green which is typically found in a salad mix.
Snap Peas: These are edible pods peas, so don’t shell them…just eat them.
Red Rubin Basil: Use the same as you would regular green basil.
“Green” Garlic: This is fresh garlic so it’s not dried down or cured yet.  You use the same way as any garlic….it’s just a bit stronger flavor.

Disaster Strikes Again!

July 4th typically brings some fanfare…fireworks, that kind of stuff. This year I thought I would just get an interesting show of lightning as I
watched the bolts scrawl across the night sky on my driveway. But when I was sleepily moping my way down to feed the chickens just like I do every morning, I had a quite a surprise when I looked past the barn to our high tunnel all torn apart by high winds. This was soon followed by me kicking a couple feed buckets and words I won’t repeat here.

Although not the best development of the season, after I cool down, I always find the positive side.
1. The frame of the high tunnel didn’t get blown away or damaged.
2. No hail. Maree and I thought hail would be a real possibility when the front hit.
3. Generally the crops are looking good this year-that’s what matters. Even the plants in the high tunnel weren’t damaged.

I fully expect I can repair the plastic with greenhouse tape, a strong and clear tape used in situations just like these.

Otherwise the rest of the week was fairly normal. I did spend last night haying our few fields with my neighbors even though I really should have rather been picking peas for the box.  But when bales need to come in, they need to come in.  It’s all ok with me, regardless, since it’s a job I always love doing.  It’s one of the toughest jobs on a farm physically, but a person just feels good getting the bales stacked in the barn and nice and dry.  A person also sleeps really well too.  I told my neighbor Marv that I think anybody who currently needs sleeping pills for a good night’s rest find some baling party they could help out with.

In the box:
Mammoth Melting Snow Peas
Arugula: The ones that look like little oak leaves.
Packman Broccoli
Napa Cabbage aka Chinese Cabbage: I thought I’d throw in a recipe video (below)…you really can’t go wrong with this by sauteing it.  I like a basic recipe which is only cabbage, sugar, rice vinegar, and cayenne or red pepper flakes.
Green Onions
Red Sails Lettuce
Green Lettuce
Zucchini: Hey, first of the year.
Braising Mix (colorful bunch of greens): Some last week, but this stuff is “ready” and wouldn’t last another week.

Chinese/Napa Cabbage Video Recipe:

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How Organic is Organic?

At least once a season I like to take a little time to explain our growing practices.  I’m always asked if we’re organic, and I have to explain that the term has become pretty confusing since the national organic standards were put in place by USDA.  Since I’m not certified by an official third-party, I cannot use the term “organic” without being subject to a fine, so I just explain a bunch of details about our practices.  I’ve found eaters are most concerned about individual practices anyway and are not too concerned that I don’t have the official USDA organic logo.

First and foremost we NEVER use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.  The only bug we do control is the Colorado Potato Beetle with a natural spray with an active ingredient called Spinosad, which is a bacteria which affects the bug’s nervous system.  This spray is approved under organic certification, which, I know sounds kind of confusing, but there is a family of natural organic pesticides.  Since we don’t have much recourse for bugs, sometimes we will use a physical barriers.  We will put a row cover (kind of like a big dryer sheet) over some greens, for example, that are really susceptible to flea beetles, so the bugs just can’t get at the plants.

For fertility we use good old fashioned manure we procure from our neighbors and manure from our chickens and sheep.  Last year we had nearly 20 loads spread from my neighbor’s dairy herd besides the bedding from last year’s broilers and a good fall cleaning of the barn where the egg layers and sheep hang out.  Corn is a heavy feeder, so we sidedress the young plants with a composed chicken manure in pelletized form.  Also this year we are experimenting with using worm castings on our celery and lettuce, which are both heavy feeders but need a fertilizer which is gentle and safe.  We actually get this from one of our CSA members, Betty and Leroy Fiedler, who just started their worm composting business last year called Genesis on Lake Franklin.

For weeds, it’s a 3 stage process.  We do our best to take out as many as possible by mechanical cultivation with the tractor, next we hoe, and, we always end up pulling weeds by hand.  If a person is really good at timing stage 1 and 2, you never need to get to stage 3, but that hasn’t been the case with us so far.

Bottom line, we raise our stuff as best we can to make sure  the farm and plants are healthy which produces good food which makes your family and our own family healthy.  Let me know if there’s anything you want to know more about.

Important Note: We will have to deliver on Saturday, July 23 instead of Friday, July 22 since I have to be out of town for my other job.  Let me know if this is an issue and we’ll try to work something out.

In the box:
Strawberries: the heavy rains last week did splash dirt a bit on them, so I advise washing.
Salad Mix (see recipe below)
Swiss Chard
French Breakfast Radishes
Braising Mix (colorful greens) or Green Lance (small broccoli plants): Either are good for adding to a stir fry right at the end.
Garlic scapes (funny curly onions): these are shoots that garlic put up this time of year.  Think of them as a garlic-y green onion and use where you would garlic.

If you haven’t read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, you may just want to check it out during this CSA season.  It’s a good read with recipes included that may help you out when stumped on how to use something in the box.  Here’s a recipe for this week on using greens:
This recipe also uses eggs…you are able to add on Lida Farm eggs through Local Dirt as they are available throughout the season!