Preparations for Autumn

Hey, we’ve come to the end of another summer CSA season and I’m tired.  Mar and I are motoring over to Duluth on Sunday after the farmers market on Satuday and we’re taking the kids to the Black Hills next week for vacation.  We’re been harvesting, washing, and packing produce 6 of every 7 days for the last four months….it will be nice to take a break.

When we return there’s still preparations before freeze up.  We’ll need to take out tomato trellis, disk the fields, and plant our rye cover crop.  Wood needs to be stacked, a cabins needs winterizing, and I have a plan to build a sauna this fall.  We still even planting late season greens since we’re going into our third year of the winter CSA.

So, as you look to preparing for the cold weather yourself, let me get a couple things on your radar:

  1. Buy Some Meat: Our members, the Nordgrens, farm west of Pelican and have beef and pork available for sale this fall.  Contact them at 218-340-2423 or if interested.
  2. Fall CSA Share: We’re planning on delivering “Halloween” and “Thanksgiving” boxes of good fall crops and some greens.  I’ll be sending out an email to give you a chance to sign up.  
Thank you, CSA members, for joining us for the ride this year and thank all others who read this blog.  I hope my words give you some insights into our farm life, provide a few things to ponder, and maybe provide a little humor.  -Ryan.  

In the box:

  • Celariac: Yes, this is a crazy looking vegetable, I know.  It’s the ugly bulb on the end of a skinny celery stalk.  You use the bulb in cooking anywhere you’d use celery.  
  • Autumn Greens: These greens in the bag are young and mild, so you could use as you would salad mix/lettuce or use to finish off a dish where you’d cook down some greens. 
  • Chiogga Beets 
  • Sunshine Kaboca Squash 
  • Acorn or Carnival Buttercup Squash
  • Red Onion
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips: The white carrot-looking things
  • Pie Pumpkins 
  • Cabbage: Not the prettiest cabbage I’ve grown…

Party Preparations

Maree was greeted yesterday by a pig being butchered in her front yard.  She took it pretty well. 

Here at the farm we’ve been doing our best to get ready for the harvest party.  This is the one time each year when we invite a bunch of people over to celebrate the season.  We’ve been mowing (this only happens about 4 times a year), weedwhipping, and generally putting things away so it looks a little less chaotic.  Hopefully when you come, you will still see the real Lida Farm behind all this order 🙂 

Harvest Party in the Barn, 2014 or 2013
We do have a little rain in the forecast – still only 30% chance this evening – but please come prepared just in case.  We’ll go on a little walking tour at 5 pm so we’ll trounce through some wet grass at the very least.  Just in case of bad weather, we are setting up the barn for dining.  Ideally, we’ll be outside, but, should we need to go inside, it does make for an authentic barn event experience.  Lots of hay bales and bad lighting…
Please note that this weekend at Maplewood State Park is Leaf Days, a great opportunity to check out leaves in their autumnal glory.  If you’re making the trek to the party, you could make a day of it.  
In the Box;: 
Salad Mix
Parsnips: Those loose white things which look like carrots. 
Butternut Squash: The tan one
Sunshine Kabocha Squash: The red one
Russet Potatoes

Big Vegetables

Some crops we plant, weed once, and forget about until fall.  Once such crop is rutabagas.  Only last week we said, “Man, we should go and check on those…maybe they’re ready to go into the box.”  Well, we went to rutabaga corner in the front field, and, wow, they got huge!  About a quarter of them got so big that they were weirdly misshapen and we kept out of the CSA boxes. This one was bigger than my head:

In the box:

  • Rutabaga
  • Butternut Squash: The long tan one.  Butternuts lend themselves well to a bisque or soup.  Check this one out:
  • Buttercup or Kabocha Squash: These two really look a lot alike.  A kabocha is rounder than a buttercup and more yellow on the inside than the orange-fleshed buttercup. 
  • Russet Potatoes
  • Carrots 
  • A Couple Onions
  • Spinach: Some is red and some is green.  Both kinds really got messed up by the hail last week, so it doesn’t look the best, but the holes won’t make it taste badly. 
  • Cilantro: The green bunch with the red band
  • Garlic 
  • Eggplant

Adolph Pesch: Spudman

I remember when I was a teenager, my grandpa had me take a copy of the magazine “Spudman” from a shelf so he could proudly show me a picture of himself hosing down potatoes in some non-descript warehouse in East Grand Fords.  “You see, I’m famous…I made the big time…” he said, teasing.  My grandpa Adolph–a name that went out of style for good reason–worked 3-4 jobs in this prairie town to support a family of 11 kids, one as hired man working the potato fields which surrounded the town and another in the dank warehouses which were East Side’s defining feature (besides the 60+ bars back in the day).

You see, unlike other farmers who point back to long lineage of farm owners and operators, my own past is filled primarily with landless peasants and farm laborers.  In a similar way to my grandpa who traveled to EGF from Floodwood in the 30’s, my grandma Adele’s family brought themselves to the Red River Valley in the midst of the depression.  They came to work the fields because, no matter how tough hoeing potatoes sounds, it sure beat the poverty and shame of the Turtle Mountain Reservation.

Historic picture of East Grand Forks potato warehouse (Source:

I bring up my family’s  farming history because our past always follows us around – it’s part of who we are.  Today, as I gathered up the first of the big Pontiac potatoes with those deep-set eyes, I couldn’t help but think about my grandpa.  This red potato, together with the Norland variety we also grow, was a mainstay of the Red River Valley potato business.  I’m sure Adolph spent many an hour digging the same variety out of the ground, and, like myself, washing them.  It took three generations, but this younger Spudman can say these potatoes came out of his own ground.  The inspration to work hard and care for his family came from elder.

In the box:

  • Arugula: This was much prettier a few days ago before the monsoon and hail.  
  • Cilantro: Small bunch with red band
  • A Couple Peppers
  • A Couple Tomatoes
  • Bunch of Beets
  • Buttercup Squash: Seemingly everybody’s  favorite with a deep orange flesh inside 
  • Acorn Squash: Great for stuffing (think pork stuffing cooking inside in the oven…) with a yellow flesh
  • Red Onion
  • Daikon Radish: I always suggest using in a salad with vinegar and sugar…something like this
  • Pontiac Potatoes


Bountiful Harvests

This time of year we start to pull in some big harvests.  Earlier this week was the onion harvest, but coming up is still very heavy winter squash and potato harvests.  In the middle of the summer we just pull in the bit of a crop that we need, but, as cold weather and frosts become possible as we move into september, we need to pull in an entire crop to keep it safe and sound.

Onions drying on hayrack

In the box:

  • Edamame: Yes, the big bunch of soybeans stuffed in your box.  Pull the pods or beans off the stalk, boil in saltwater a few minutes, and serve.  You pop the bean out of the pod into your  mouth…think a snack with a beer. 
  • Black Spanish Radishes: Bunch with blue band and greens.  These are radishes that get big like a racketball.  With their rough outside, you need to peel these before using. 
  • A few slicing tomatoes
  • Colored pepper
  • Italia pepper: The long red/green pepper – sweet, not hot. 
  • Cippolini onion: The flat onion…really my favorite.  It’s pungent with a good flavor, so use as you would a yellow onion in cooking. 
  • Melon: Some received a yellow canary melon, some a cantaloupe.
  • Delicata winter squash: First squash of the year.  Cut in half, remove seeds, and bake face down on a cookie sheet until soft.
  • Cucumber
  • Swiss Chard or Kale 

Eating in Season: Keeping it Simple

The number one reason members do not stick with a CSA is what I call food guilt – there’s too much stuff and they don’t get through it all.  I’ve found that folks feel quite differntly about produce that comes through a CSA than they get at the grocery store.  We always have a portion of produce form the store go bad, but we still keep buying stuff there – for example, we’ve maybe eaten about 50% of the avocados we’ve puchased at the store in our lifetime before they went bad.

At the farm, to minimize this sitution where members may find themselves overwhelmed with produce they can’t eat in time, we carefully think through the box each week.  We try to give a variety in good-sized proportions – enough of each crop so you can use it in a recipe, but not so much that it’s a burden.  On variety we also try to do about 80% of staple crops like onions and tomatoes and only 20% “different” things like fennel or Asian greens.  Part of the excitement of the CSA is receive something you haven’t eaten before, but too much bok choy makes somes members think this whole CSA deal is crazy.  It’s always hard to know which crops will push people over the edge.  I’ve had members ask for about ten times the amount of fennel is a season and others give me a look like “are you kidding me…I eat this bulb which smells like licorice?”  A tough balancing act at times.

The real key to making CSA work, however, is getting into the groove of eating in season and being a flexible cook.  Everybody cooks differently, sure, but if you’re searching for a magic recipe which uses a bunch of the crops in the box, you could drive yourself nuts.  Instead, I always go off script and think of ways of preparing the veggie as simply as possible.  Especially in the summer, dressing veggies with vinegar and oil to eat raw or grilling/sauteeing veggies with just salt and pepper seasoning makes for great grazing in the evening.

In the box:

  • Melon: Most get a canteloupe, but I had to substitute in a watermelon in some boxes. 
  • Yellow Onions: These are not sweet like we’ve done in the box to date, but cooking onions.
  • Italian Eggplant: See eggplant stacks recipe below
  • Hakurai Summer Turnips: Yes, they look like racquet-ball sized radishes, but these are turnips.  Really sweet and smooth.  Simply peel and slice these and eat with some salt.  You could shred with carrots or cabbage and make a slaw – add sugar and rice vinegar. 
  • Roma Tomatoes 
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Red and Green Peppers
  • Cucumber 
  • Celery 
  • Red Cherry Tomatoes 
  • A Little Basil: I included this if you want to do the eggplan recipe in the video.
Epplant Stacks
There are a bunch of recipes like this.  We find this a verstatile dish which lends itself to combining the eggplant with a lot of other veggies in season.  
Eggplant: sliced in rounds 
Panko crumbs or breadcrumbs
3 eggs 
Fresh Mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant rounds generously with salt; place on baking sheet for 15 minutes to draw out moisture. Use paper towels to blot moisture from each side of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl. Place panko bread crumbs in a second bowl. Dip each side of the eggplant slices in the whisked eggs, then press into the panko crumbs to coat each side. Place slices on a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
  4. Spray the tops of eggplant generously with cooking spray. Bake 8 minutes in preheated oven. Turn each slice, and spray the other side with cooking spray. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Make stacks by putting slice of mozzarella and leaf of basil between eggplant.  You can put a slice of tomato in your stack too, or cover with spaghetti sauce and top with some olive oil…whatever you’re in the mood for.  We typically serve a stack with three eggplant slices for each person. 

Baby Cows!

I haven’t written yet about the new member of the family since she was born about six weeks ago now.  Meet Juneberry the heifer calf.

Years ago this farm saw many a calf born each year when the Kratzke family (who we bought the farm from) ran a dairy operation.  But that was a long time ago now.  To the best of my knowledge this is the first calf born here since the 1970’s….that’s pretty exciting after such a long stretch.

In the box:

  • Japanese Eggplant 
  • Sweet Corn
  • Leeks ‘
  • Oranos Pepper and Anaheim: The orange one is sweet, the green anaheim is hot.  
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Lemon Balm: Yes, this is the weed-looking thing on the top of the box.  Think of using in your lemonade or suntea – also nice laid over a baked chicken or fish.
  • Yellow Summer Sqush 
  • Mix of Tomatoes: The heirlooms are cracked and ugly-looking, but good for fresh eating.  I included a few romas, which are best for a sauce or cooking.  Types included German Pink (pink), Golden Rave (yellow roma), Margold (blush red/yellow), Green Zebra (green with stripes)
  • Watermelon: Some got a yellow variety, some an orange variety.