Lost Tools

I’m certain that I write on this topic each year – lost tools. This is probably because I use this blog as my therapy where I ruminate out loud about my shortcomings and frustrations.

“Mar, have you seen the wheelhoe?”

“Well, I don’t know, where did you last use it?”

“Over by the lettuces we planted in the north field last week….I swear”

I tramp back to the same place I already looked, thinking it will now magically appear.  So I walk around the perimeter of the north field thinking that I would have left it at the end of the bed. Since we haven’t mowed around the garden, if it were there, I would be under grasses and weeds four-feet tall. No dice. 

After going through the packing shed, old high tunnel, barn, milkhouse, and the edge of the front field, I recruit my son, Will. “OK, I’ll walk along this side, you go along the other side of the field.” So, we walk the perimeters of the north field (again.  I’m sure it’s here!), front field, and the back field. Will didn’t find the wheelhoe, but Will came back with a cup, a pair of gloves, and my hand hoe. I also found my 5-lb hammer in the tomatoes. Partial successes.

wheel hoe by corn.jpg
Can you spot the wheel hoe?

I relieve Will of his duties. I’m now over 30 minutes into this goose chase and I give it one last push as I scour the out-of-the-way places. Visibly agitated, I mutter to myself as I stomp around by the winter greenhouse and kick around weeds growing in the backyard. This is when the voice of my dad comes in my mind, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I wish, dad. I tell myself that after this escapade, I’ll create this organization that will be the envy of the organic community…I’ll write books about my system and give workshops. Forget it, I give up. Mind you that the wheel hoe is 5-feet long and painted red. This place isn’t that big.

I go back to saving some herbs, pulling weeds by hand. Working 10 minutes, and, eureka, I know the location of the wheelhoe! 10 beds over, between a row of corn and onions, there is sits. Alleluia. I finally get down to business and attempt to clear out the bed for a couple hours. I go in for lunch and leave the wheelhoe where I last used it, destined to repeat the process in a couple days.

In the box:

 

Seasonally Challenged

Well, we’re back again for another season, a well-worn path by this time. Starting the season takes not just a shift in schedule, but also perspective. Since a box must go out each week, I need to continually focus on the many moving parts of the operation. I obsess over details of each crop, weather captures my attention, and stringing together many small tasks each day seems to consume all my time. Alas, the life of a vegetable farmer. At the same time, I celebrate the rituals to starting up the farm for another season. Setting up the packing shed. Trellising in the high tunnel. Even assembling the 2019 member email list.

Ryan with newly set up packing area
Wash Tubs and crates clean and set up for a new season

The big story so far this year has been the weirdest start of the season that I’ve ever experienced. Snow in May, followed a mini-drought with 90-degree heat, and lately the coldest and driest June I can remember. We thankfully have started to receive some rain in the past five days, which makes a big difference. The effects of this strange weather, however, have already been felt on the crops.

For 15 years I’ve always had garlic scapes in the first CSA box. This year I can’t find a single garlic scape emerging in the field (a scape is a shoot that comes off the greens of the garlic plant). Since garlic is planted in the fall, this is clear evidence that it’s not my disorganization in planting, but actually the weather which has set back crops. Only now are peas laying on flowers and early crops like broccoli and cauliflower plants are just not to their usual size. Arghh! You can see why I pushed back the start date a week. But ‘the show must go on’ and we managed to scour the fields to get something out the door.

The life of the vegetable grower, however, isn’t all stress. It can be magical. I think about the summer solstice last week when we weeded onions until dark. Walking away from the field with the smallest touch of light still hanging around, I felt great. My hoe slung over my shoulder, I walked by clean rows of onions to join my family rounding the woodshed and heading to the house. As we climbed the hill, I looked over the back field. A sense of togetherness and accomplishment sat in my heart. On this longest day of the year, we were my ancestors, a peasant family engaged in the oldest of traditions. This is the magic of farming as a family that I feel grateful to experience.

In the box:

  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Baby Bok Choy: These are not the prettiest I’ve grown (flea beetles got out of control in our mini drought), but should cook up well. See video below or at https://youtu.be/UvMAAYtYPDw
  • Spring Greens Mix: This is mix with a nutty frisee (endive), spicy arugula, and lettuce. Dress with a lemon-based dressing (https://tastykitchen.com/recipes/salads/a-simple-spicy-arugula-salad/). Frisee is my favorite green. I sat down last night with a bowl of this mix and simply a lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
  • Sprig of Basil

A new season

We have reached a new veggie season. For me, this is year 14 in Otter Tail County as Lida Farm. One growing season will end, and, before I know it, another will begin. My sense of these 14 years runs different than my members and I need to remind myself that some CSA members are experiencing the variety of vegetables throughout a summer for the first time, even if it’s ‘old hat’ to me. This reminder is both exciting and humbling.

e14bd-img_9144

I remember back to my first year as an apprentice. I was 23 years old and decided to go ‘all in’ on this farming thing and live and work full-time on an organic vegetable farm. I was out in the field and seeing cauliflower grown for the first time and eating kohrabi for the first time ever! I remember asking Paul, my farm mentor and employer, if people actually ate this stuff called arugula. Well, fast forward 18 years and now I’m the guy saying, “Sure, it’s a good green with nutty taste…why wouldn’t a person eat arugula?” Or I’m surprised when a customer at a farmers market hasn’t even heard of swiss chard. Either way, the point is the same, we’re not all on the same page when it comes to veggies and it’s part of my job to be your guide to the season and gently introduce different crops to CSA members and farm stand customers alike.

So, I’d like to invite you to take on the season in the spirit of discovery. Let’s try some new foods and together learn some things about agriculture and growing. After all, this is the thin green line of life which feeds us both.

In the box:

  • Arugula: The bunch with a blue band and oakleaf-shaped leaves. See recipe below.
  • Snap Peas: As snap peas, you eat the whole pod.
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Green Onions
  • Spinach
  • Kale: A variety called Westlander that we get from High Mowing Seeds, this has become a real standby.
  • Basil 
  • A couple radishes: Man, this first set of radishes didn’t fly, but part of the bed came thru, so I thought I’d include a couple. They give the box some color anyway.

Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette 

Adopted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everybody by Deborah Madison

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

A few green onions, finely diced

5 T olive oil

Bunch of arugula, chopped coarsely and large stems removed.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese , coarsely grated

1/2 cup walnuts, roasted

Combine zest, green onions, olive oil, and lemon juice together with salt and pepper to taste. Assemble salad in bowl and toss with nuts, cheese, and dressing. I associate arugula with Italy, so find your inner Italian and combine this salad with a nice crusty bread like Falls Baking baguette we carry in the co-op and a red wine.

Season is Firing Up (Maybe too Quickly)

Twenty waxed boxes are piled next to the bin of moldy winter squash ‘seconds’ we set aside for home use, just next to the dozen dirty harvest bins and tangle of tools in the corner. This was the early spring scene inside our packing shed, a window into my state of mind at the end of the season. I remember saying many times, “I’ll get back to that later….later…later.”

High Tunnel SprinklerWell, it’s half a year later and the exhaustion of fall has given over to the fresh energy of spring. Little projects that I couldn’t muster the power to tackle, now take only 10 or 15 minutes. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this revelation of “that wasn’t hard at all…why didn’t I do this earlier?” Like a plumbing issue you just ‘lived with’ for years, there was no reason for not fixing it earlier.

In April we started to turn over the idle engine of Lida Farm. Seedlings were growing to plants in the greenhouse, greens were germinating in the high tunnel, and we’re undertook the spring rituals to ready ourselves for summer like organizing tools and sharpening hoes.

Surprisingly, however, nature had other ideas. We went from snow on the group just three weeks ago to over 90 degrees last week. We’ve had to take it from leisurely spring rituals to planting at breakneck speed and irrigating. Hold on tight…

CSA Sign-up Season

Another February has rolled around and we are readying the farm for another season.

NOW is the time to sign up for the summer CSA season. We are doing something new and exciting this year by offering ‘farmstand bucks’ with a membership for use at our on-site farm stand or to arrange for bulk purchases (available for pick-up on farm). Our idea is to give member more flexibility with their membership.

  FULL SHARE: $525 (16 boxes plus $30 in farm stand coupons)

  EVERY-OTHER-WEEK SHARE: $275 (8 boxes plus $20 in coupons)

Picture of CSA box in August
August CSA box

In each 3/4 bushel box you will receive a mix of what is in season (between 8-12 different crops each week). The early season boxes will be quite a bit different than late season boxes. We are a certified organic operation, so all our crops are grown without any synthetic pesticide, herbicide, or fertilizer. We concentrate on the staples like lettuce, tomatoes, and sweet corn, but we also mix it up with some interesting crops too.

DROP SITE LOCATIONS

  1. Detroit Lakes – MANNA Food Co-op (Mondays)
  2. Pelican Rapids – Riverview Place (Tuesdays)
  3. Perham-location TBD (Mondays)
  4. Fergus Falls-Keller Williams Realty (Tuesdays)
  5. Lida Farm (Mondays)

HOW TO SIGN UP

Please fill our our 2018 order form below to join for the year.  We ask for half the payment when you sign up with the remainder due half way through the summer.

2018 CSA Order Form (click to download)

We do fill up each year, so please contact either Maree or Ryan to confirm availablity if you’re reading this after April 1 or reach out with any other question you may have. Find us at lidafarmer@gmail.com or 218-342-2619.  We’ll make a note on this website and on Facebook when we do fill up.

2018 CSA Brochure (click to download)