Even in the dead of winter, sleeping farms like ours still have work to do. Some of that work is planning out the season-picking out seeds and perusing new tools-but some of it is fighting the elements of winter. I have to admit, like mowing grass in the summer, that I’m a lazy snow shoveler. Last month, after allowing a drift to grow with every flurry and wind gust, the whole family was walking up this 3-foot high incline and back down every time we wanted to get to our front door. After walking on it for a couple of weeks combined with a couple freeze-thaw cycles, the drift became a mini glacier on our sidewalk, impenetrable to all snow shovels. My strike of genius – maybe my greatest of all time – was to rescue the broadfork (typically used for breaking up soil) from our packing shed and pry apart the drift as if I were digging up carrots. One of those true dad ‘eureka’ moments.
But enough of winter. We’re putting that behind us, right? This time of year pulls me deep into the most important of tools to adapt to the season – the winter greenhouse. Even though we’ve been growing greens in there since the beginning of the year for the Winter CSA, the summer season now begins its slow march forward. Onions and slow-growing herbs were seeded a month ago already, but just yesterday I laid down over 2,000 pepper seeds in trays. They are now safe and sound on a heating mat, working on germination. Today I plan to plant tomatoes for the high tunnels. After they pop, it will be just 6 weeks before they are in the soil – hard to believe. Man, I’ve got to get going!
P.S. Yes, it is the season for CSA sign up. I am sitting on a bunch of stuffed envelopes addressed to members last year which will get out tomorrow, but a person could also download the order form here.
Man, another final box, another end to a season. I had this experience now for 15 years and I find that each year has it’s own flavor. I’ve had years where I’m still energized and not ready for the season to end and I’ve had years where we barely made it over the finish line due to exhaustion.
This year, right now as I sit here, I’m not catching the same end-of-season relief. This darn rain has made our final fieldwork very difficult. I’m not looking forward to fighting mud. Also, have you ever had that feeling that you bit off more than you could chew? If you know me, I have the tendency to over-commit and I’ve painted myself into a new corner with my many jobs I try to manage.
I’ve learned that projecting too much into the future causes anxiety, and, at times like these, a simple reflection on the season as a whole balances me out. We had some great accomplishments and a lot of things went right:
Even though a couple crops were total duds (what happened to you, celery?), vegetable production was mostly good. We had our highest tomato yield ever.
We had a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the Farm Stand at Manna Food Co-op and I started Friday markets there.
A crazy number of people discovered the farm stand at the end of the driveway this summer.
Wonderful members and customers. Every week I’ve had members and other customers voice their thanks and appreciation for the work we do. We can rest assured that our daily activities produce something good on this earth and our work matters to others. I find this very meaningful.
Great partners. I have the pleasure of working with and knowing many other people who are trying to make the world better through good food and helping others find wellness in their lives by giving their time and energy. A shout out to my fellow board members, staff, involved member-owners at Manna Co-op, fellow members of our Sustainable Farming Association chapter, and enthusiasts of the good food movement across some of the many food-related initiatives I’ve been involved in.
So, yes, we still have challenges to take on in the near future, but the heart all of you have for this work and our operation makes me feel so grateful and we’re lucky to know and engage with every one of you.
In the box:
Long Pie Pumpkin: I added a little video to get your going on doing pie pumpkins from scratch. Mar and I stumbled upon this pie pumpkin some time ago and are big fans of is taste and texture.
Salad Mix or Spinach: (Farmers Choice)
Black Spanish Radishes: These seem like crazy things, I know, but most peel them before slicing.
Mid-September typically brings a frost that brings summer plants to their knees or at least shuts them down enough that I feel a sigh of relief. So, imagine me reacting to Friday night’s frost – yeh! Still, it was not enough of a hit to call it quits on summer. Some tomatoes are hanging on, peppers escaped below their thick foliage, and, heck, even beans made it through untarnished. Well, enough for that escape hatch!
Instead, the season marches on and I’m just getting tired. We didn’t get a freeze last night, we got a thunderstorm! A thunderstorm? Come on, two more inches of rain? The end of the produce season should be me mowing down weeds, tilling a bit, and putting beds to rest. Not this year. Picture me sitting on my couch anxiously looking out at a pile of mud which was once a field on my second cup of coffee – hoping for the oomph I need to surge inside me, awaiting one more shot of an adrenaline-fueled caffeine buzz to slog through mud and save the spinach.
As you can tell, farming this time of year gets pretty mental. It’s a motivation game. I try to focus on the beautiful images I can see around the farm at every turn.
Whether we make our living slogging through a field or typing on a keyboard, I think that’s all we should ask of ourselves. Pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us all.
In the box:
Pie Pumpkin: You just bake this this over like any winter squash. Cut in half, take out seeds and bake upside down on a cookie sheet. Once soft you can use however you use that pumpkin stuff in the can.
Red Kuri Squash
Rutabaga: See recipe below for a fall soup. I like that this guy says not to be afraid of the rutabaga because it is a pretty intimidating veggie.
Hello folks! As a farm operator with a dayjob, there’s no time for a newsletter. I must travel to Duluth this morning for the annual Extension Program Conference. Boxes are available at the farm as of 8 am this morning and those in D.L. will be there by 8:30 if you want to pick up early. Take care. -Ryan.
In the box:
Mixed Beets: A mix of gold, red, and Chiogga beets (cut a cross-section Chiogga are pretty inside with red and white concentric circles)
‘Sunshine’ Kabocha Squash: If you like buttercup, you should like Kabocha. Similar color and taste.
Yellow ‘Satina’ Potatoes
Sweet Onion and Red Torpedo Onion
A few Tomatoes
Yellow or Orange Pepper
Mizuna: A Japanese green you had in some spring boxes. This can be mixed in with a salad or put on sandwiches or burger instead of standard iceberg.
Fresh Dill: Best idea ever – cut this up with some sour cream and put on those yellow potatoes!
Little Broccoli: A few of you lucked out and got a nice-sized head, but most of you got these tiny heads (bit of a disappointment – in hindsight, I should have planted them in a different area).
For those of you new to the CSA this year, for over ten years we’ve had a harvest party for CSA members and friends of the farm at our place. It’s been the last week of September for quite a few years. Potluck, music, farm tour, connections…it’s been great.
After many years we’re kind of burnt out – event planning stresses us out in a way that packing CSA boxes doesn’t. So, this year we chipped in with our fellow farmers in the Sustainable Farming Association chapter to do a harvest festival instead. Although I’m sure many of you are saddened that we will at Lida Farm on in two weeks for the potluck, hear me out because I think this may be the best of all worlds.
Called the Deep Roots Festival, there will still be good music, farm tours, food, and connections on Saturday, October 12 starting at 1 pm. You not only get the official farm tour of Lida Farm, but there are three other farms on the circuit including North Circle Seeds, Northcroft Fiber Farm, and Twin Oaks Diary. In addition, there are three hands-on food workshops in the afternoon to choose from before a catered farm-to-table dinner. No need to bring a dish, just show up and enjoy the show! I’m also excited that we’ll be hosted at Milt’s Barn near Pelican, which is a wedding venue. So, it’s not only a beautiful setting, but one which functions well for dinner – no blowing fuses and the whiff of manure as you would experience in our own barn 🙂
There is a cost, however, but I think it’s going to be worth it. It’s $35 per adult or $30 (if you become an SFA member) for dinner and all activities. We worked to keep it a family friendly event, so only $5 per kid 12 and under. IF you only want to stop by Lida Farm and pickup your pumpkin (free to all CSA members), you can certainly jump on our tour for no cost but I would love for you to consider signing up for the whole event. All proceeds go to our chapter to promote sustainable agriculture in the region. Please sign up at http://www.deep-roots-festival.com
We hope its the first of an annual event to celebrate the harvest season. I know that I’m looking forward to it.
In the box:
A few regular tomatoes – are you tired of tomatoes yet?
Little salad mix
Delicata winter squash: I bake these dry (the video below suggests using water, but delicata has a thin skin). I’m also a bigger fan of an oven than a microwave… I had to use this video as a shout out to my friends in Extension!
I used to wonder why our dad got so bent out of shape when we were slow getting into the car in the morning. My brother and I were tired so we just didn’t move so fast. Our dad would give the impatient, “Come on! Let’s go!” to cajole us. In times of desperation, he’d lay on the horn in the driveway. I think in the back of my mind I had the idea that middle-aged people were just unhappy. Now I get it. I have even laid on the horn in the driveway a few times myself. Have I become my dad?
Now 42, I don’t think that middle-age makes a person unhappy. I think few people would describe me that way. But with school starting, there is just a schedule pressure that makes everybody crazy. In some ways the school schedule is good because it forces discipline at the farm. I’m a procrastinating pusher in my work style. I will only do a job when absolutely necessary, but will run like mad to slug out any task on the docket. I admire people who have two weeks planned out and diligently take measured steps day by day so everything is done at least three days before its due. I think my adrenaline levels would be more stable.
The birds have something to tell us. As I said this to Jackie, I had no idea their message. They were keeping it to themselves at this point. All day, they had gathered – flocked together, if you will – until a gigantic conga line of them were draped across my telephone wire. It was quite a sight. People stopping by the farm stand were even taking pictures.
As I walked back to my harvesting, the phrase ‘the birds have something to tell us’ took on more meaning. I remembered the story my grandmother told of losing her eldest son. She was born in the Turtle Mountains in 1920 and raised by her Metchif-speaking grandparents (Metchif is a mix of Native languages and French). Even though she had spent her life trying to get away from the reservation and being ‘Indian’, the story of her son’s passing was every bit as mythical as stories told by the oldest and wisest of medicine men. She told me how a raven had perched itself on the window near the sink where she was washing dishes. As the bird turned its eyes to meet her own and pecked at the window, she said that she knew. Upon climbing the stairs, she discovered that Scarlet Fever had finally taken him even though Billy lived but 20 minutes before. She recounted this to me some 60 years later with the lingering pain of a mother’s heart, but also the wonder of a story that held great meaning. The raven was not a coincidence, but a messenger from another world. To my Catholic grandmother, a messenger from God.
For me, my grandmother’s stories pulls my imagination to a pre-modern time where people better heard the messages that nature provides. She could have told stories to me that illustrated the abject poverty she lived on an Indian Reservation, but instead she chose to share images of a supernatural America now lost to time. Toys purchased from a Jewish peddler who drove his donkey cart across the prairie from Grand Forks. Her devout grandfather who knelt before he planted each row of crops to perform the sign of the cross. Family members who freely walked across the national border to gather chokecherries, just as their ancestors did. Animals communicating important news.
I don’t think the stories of humans learning from nature are exclusive to Native Americans. We don’t need to fetishize Native knowledge as if it were the only tradition available to unlock some human mysteries. If you go back far enough, every cultural tradition has respect for nature and belief in the power of nature’s spirit. Even the most modern Western European can find an earth-centered spirituality in the not too distant past, whether you call it folklore or paganism.
So, again, what are the birds telling us? At this point, A HELL OF A LOT. Are we too distracted to listen? In our obsessive pursuit of consumption, we are passing the point where nature can repair itself. We owe it to our ancestors to at least listen to this message, whether given to us by our neighborhood barn swallow or a girl from Sweden.
In the Box:
New Orchid watermelon
Black Spanish radish and some red radishes
Regular red tomatoes
A sample of heirloom tomatoes: They are ugly but good