Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables

 

August 17th

A little fact about me is that I rarely leave the farm.  I’m a bit of a spoiled country girl that has a husband that does my bidding off the farm and runs my errands for me and a lovely mother to help with delivering CSA boxes on Wednesdays so that I can stay home and attempt to “keep up” with the innumerable tasks that must be done on the farm.  It is my job to make sure that all systems run smoothly, all harvesting is kept up with and the oil changes in all engines are never missed.  If this farm were an orchestra, I would be the composer. 

Being the country girl that I am that rarely leaves the farm, I sometimes feel a bit out of touch with the world of good food that is happening in the city.  In my mind, good farming practices equal good food.  I live, eat, sweat, sleep, and work for wholesome, nutritious and down-right delicious, no, gourmet food.  My standards for what defines good food are unfairly high.  Frequently, when we go out to eat at a local or even non-local restaurant, we are sorely disappointed.  You might think that I’m sounding almost snobby or snooty on my definition of good food, but please allow me this one truth-I have earned this stance.  I understand the construction, the energy and the effort that goes into food because I grow food.  I live behind the scenes of food.  I know that what makes a meal delicious is the ingredients. 

As a local, organic farmer who pays close attention to the health of our soils, the rotation of the crops and pasturing animals, and the biodiversity of the farm, I really wish that everyone in the world cared about these matters as much as I did.  Wendell Berry says that, “a nation can be judged by how it treats its animals”.  Also, a nation can be judged by who they are giving their money to to raise their animals.  If everyone understood the consequences of what they put into our mouths each day and who they are spending their food-dollars with that are supposed to nourish their bodies and minds, maybe we would be a different kind of people. 

By global standards, I am a very wealthy person, by US standards, our family lives in the lower middle class, but by my own very modest criterions, we are highly privileged and blessed to have access to the best food that the Midwest can produce.  My goal in life is to work towards bridging the gap between Starbucks and Kickapoo Coffee, between Tyson chickens for 99-cents-a-pound and pastured, rotationally grazed freedom rangers and between California Dole produce and Small Family Farm CSA produce.  There is a tremendous amount of flavor, culture, color, scent, nutrition and quality that is lost when we eat and buy cheap food. 

In my dirty farm jeans and torn work shirts I look and behave a bit like a hermit that may have never actually had the honor of sitting down to a decent meal.  If you saw me on a Tuesday afternoon after the craze of the hustle and bustle of a busy harvest week you might pitty me just enough to invite me in for a good warm, home-cooked meal.  But if you knew me better than the dirt beneath my fingernails you would know that I have given it all up for the ripening tomatoes on the vine, the pigs in the pasture and chickens in the coop.  Nothing is binding me here to these animals or to these plants except for my passionate belief and love for supremely high quality food and the enrichment of the community that surrounds it. 

Sooo....What's in the Box???

Watermelon or Cantelope-  We harvested mostly red watermelons for everyone that we believed were ripe and ready to be picked.  Your melon will ripen off the vine a little.  If your yellow spot isn't as yellow as you would like, allow it to sit on your counter for a few days.  The Cantelopes will ripen further.  Do not put your cantelope in the refrigerator, it will ripen on your countertop further after 4 days or so.  

New Red Norland Potatoes-  Beautiful new red potatoes!  We do not wash our potatoes.  Potatoes will keep best with a bit of dirt on them.  The potatoe skins will scuff off during the washing process when they are so freshly dug like these.  

Scarlet Nantes Carrots-  More beautiful orange carrots.  They will keep best in a plastic bag in the fridge if you remove their stems for storage.  

White Onion-  We're going to get rid of our white onions before we move on to a different variety of onions because white onions do not like to keep.  

Cucumber-  Cucumber production is going down hill fast, I am sorry to say.  It's hard to tell if we'll even have cucumbers for next week.  The plants are looking pretty chewed up by the cucumber beetles and production is slowing down quite a bit:(

Summer Squash, Zucchini and/or Patty Pans-  Still more squash to go around.  The plants are also starting to look a little tattered, and we expect that production will start to wane soon.

Green Beans-  We were totally amazed that the green beans are still producing as well as they are.  We have a new flush of yellow and purple beans coming on soon to take the place of the green ones!  

Tomatoes-  A slow start on tomatoes, but a few are better than none.  Some of the varieties have not even started to produce yet, so still a ton of tomatoes to come one.  Next week should be a good week!

Eggplant-  We were able to give an eggplant for everyone this week!  Send me your favorite eggplant recipes!

Green Pepper-  We picked a green pepper for everyone, but a few folks may have received a red pepper instead.  

Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper-  This is the little yellow pepper in the box.  These little puppies are not very hot when it comes to hot peppers.  In fact, they are the most mild of all the hot peppers.  

Swiss Chard or Red Curly Kale-  We tried to pick Swiss Chard for everyone this week, but they plants were looking very rough!  We picked small bunches to make it last, but we still ran out of chard to pick and went to pick the Red Curly Kale to fill the rest of our harvesting needs.  You may have receive the curly Red Kale instead.  The Swiss Chard plants will make a come back after a little rain and some cooler weather!

Next Weeks Guess:  Red Cabbage, beets, cantelope, rainbow lacinato kale, white onion, green pepper, tomato, zucchini, summer squash, patty pan, green beans, celery

Recipes:

 Warm Red Cabbage Slaw (this recipe was recommended by a Madison CSA member...in case you still have a cabbage in the fridge;)

Spicy Potato Sausage and Green Soup

Tomato Onion and Cucumber Salad (Therese, a Viroqua CSA member has shared this one with us)

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Hummus

August Twenty-Fourth

We all have our heirloom family dishes, dressers and Afghans, but so few of us have heirloom family tomato seeds.  I suppose that if this were Italy, we would have all four.  But since the concept of heirloom varieties of vegetables is a bit ‘Greek’ to all of us, I’ll do my best to give you the Heirloom Tomato Course 101.  Heirloom tomatoes are deserving of an introduction and if I’m to convince you to appreciate their unique look and supreme flavor it is helpful to know a bit about them. 

Heirloom plants are usually open-pollinated plants. Heirlooms are cultivars that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history. By open pollinated, I mean plants that were allowed to be freely pollinated by bees, birds or wind and their seeds were saved from the female parent plant that may have had slightly different characteristics from the plant we are eating from now because the male parent plant is usually unknown. Conversely, a hybrid plant comes from controlled pollination where the female and male parent plans are known and are deliberately bred so that the seeds they produce contain desirable characteristics from each parent plant, such as the right shape from one plant and the right color from the other, for example.

Are you bored yet? 

Open pollinated or heirloom cultivars preserve genetic diversity (this is what is cool about them). Since they are open pollinated, from year to year they are naturally bred to ‘evolve’ so to say, with the times, the farm’s soil conditions(and climate as seeds are sometimes transported across the country), and other fancy things like the ability to resist blights. Who knows what kinds of things these mysterious plants are adapting to from year to year.  Heirloom plants are usually continuously bred by seed savers because of their hardy nature and the superior flavor, color, shape and textures that the fruits themselves possess.

Oh, and one other thing about heirlooms, they usually look really funky. I’m a funky sort of a gal, so I dig funky vegetables. They are usually in-consistent in their shapes and their colors sometimes vary-you can see how this would annoy your average grocery store produce buyer who wants all the tomatoes on their shelves to look the exact same. Heirloom vegetables have a superior flavor as they are bred primarily for flavor and their genetic adaptability. Enjoy your Heirloom Cherokee Purple, Yellow Brandywine, Pink Brandywine, San Marzano, and Nepal tomatoes. 

cherokee_purpleFully Ripe Cherokee Purplesan_marzanoSan Marzano Heirloom Pasteorange_blossomOrange Blossom HeirloombrandywineFully Ripe Brandywine HeirloomromaClassic Roma Paste Tomatored_heirloomRed Heirloomheriloom_behaviorFunky Heirloom Behavior with Cracks and Bubbly Ridges

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Red or Green Cabbage-  How many creative ways can you use cabbage?

Red Watermelon or Cantelope-  Allow your cantelope to sit at room temperature for an extra day or two to ripen a bit more.  

Red Beets-  The greens on the beets were looking a bit rough, so we just topped them for this week.

Cucumbers-  The final giving of cucumbers.  They look a little rough this week as well.  

Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Patty Pans-  WOW, can you believe the squash production?  

White Onion-  More where these puppies came from!

Garlic-  Armenian Garlic.  Keeps best in a cool, dark and dry place.  It should be all cured down by now.   

Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper or Jalapeno Pepper-  The Hungarian Hot Wax are a very mild hot pepper or also called "bananna peppers".  We also picked some of the little green Jalapenos.  Be prepared for a bit more heat if you got a Jalapeno!

Sweet Corn-  We don't pride ourselves on the sweet corn that we grow, but we do grow sweet corn!  We were able to give everyone half a dozen this week.  We may not have been able to fit more in the box anyways!  It's organic, so watch out for your occasional worm!  

Colored Pepper-  You may have received a purple, yellow, orange, red or bi-colored sweet pepper this week.  

Green Beans-  Definitely the end of the patch with these green beans.  We're just waiting for our yellow and purple beans to come on now!

Celery-  This is the final celery giving.  The top leaves were really starting to yellow.  Celery is a heavy calcium feeder on your soils, and we suspect that our calcium levels may not be exactly where they need to be for celery.  Every year we get a bit better at it.  

Heirloom Tomato Mix-  If your tomatoes are not fully ripe, allow them to sit at room temperature on a windowsil, countertop or ledge.  They don't actually love full direct sun for ripening.  I would discourage you from placing them in the refrigerator because the fridge will hamper ripening and it can affect the flavor of the tomatoes.  If you're not sure what color your tomato is supposed to be, rely on the feel and the softness of the tomato to know when it's ripen.  

Flat Leaf Italian Parsley-  A fun summer herb for all of your cooking.  Pluck the leaves from the stems, dehydrate your parsley, and store in a glass jar with a tight lid for winter usage.  

Recipes

Tomato Onion and Cucumber Salad- From Therese, a Viroqua CSA member.  

Mexican Black Bean and Corn Salad

August Thirty-First

It’s that time of year, isn’t it?  The days are becoming noticeably shorter, the nights are noticeably cooler and the reality that summer is waning is beginning to set in.  The kids are all going back to school, the pools are closing, and everyone you know with allergies is walking around with pinched noses and handkerchiefs.  The infamous end-of-summer Labor Day Holiday is here and the school year routine is soon to be re-established.  The summer “thrill is gone”, so to speak.coverallsJillian, Adrianne and Kate all showed up for work in Coveralls on Tuesday! We rock the farmer-chick look!

Even the most enthusiastic gardeners I know have all lost their gardens to the incessant weed pressure and are picking the last of their green beans, sifting through the overgrowth for any more tomatoes that might be hiding in there, and are plucking that last of the beets and boat-sized zucchinis from their patches.  Let’s face it, you don’t even want to mow the lawn any more, much less think about planting fall spinach.  That excitement that tickles the inside of us in early Spring that tricks us into making big plans for herb gardens, tomato patches big enough to can tomatoes to share with immediate relatives, and planting enough lettuce that there will be enough for both you and the rabbits, are all starting to fade.  With my own overalls fitting a bit snug these days, I too am looking forward to raking up the last of the fallen November leaves and snuggling in with a new babe.

But your farmers will persevere!  We’re a bit dry out here with experiencing the closest thing to a drought that we’ve ever seen and a couple days in the 90’s later this week, but still optimistic that fall rains will come and the weather will cool.  This week we watched a few of our fall successions of cilantro, radish, mustard, spinach and lettuce germinate.  We’re cultivating our fall broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi and we’re still picking strong off of the most beautiful patch of tomatoes that we’ve ever grown!  We’ve still to unearth thousands of pounds of carrots, potatoes, parsnips and wagon-fulls of sweet storage winter squash!  I think I feel a second wind coming…

While mustering up the energy to finish all the projects we began in the hypnotizing Spring becomes challenging, we rock on.  While remembering why, exactly, it was that we wanted to become farmers for a living is a bit hazy and how, precisely, we thought we would be able to harvest all of this food becomes a bit foggy-we rock on.   It’s our commitment and promise to you that keep us picking all of this food up off the ground and planting the seeds of tomorrow still today.  And with the healthy reminder that before we know it we’ll be stuffing our wood stoves and shoveling our decks, it helps us appreciate the loveliness of today. 

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Youkon Gold Potatoes-  Beautiful, golden and freshly dug potatoes unearthed just days ago!  Remember that we don't wash our potatoes because it's a tremendous amount of work to wash, dry and then bag them in addition to the labor-intensive process of growing and harvesting them.  They also keep much better with a little dirt on them;)  

Carrots- We harvested bulk carrots this week instead of bunching them in the field!  

Sweet Corn-  We harvested some of our own sweet corn and we purchased some this week to help make up for what we lacked.  Really, really sweet corn!  Yum!  

Cantelope or Eggplant-  I hope you got whichever one you wished for the most!  Cantelopes were in very short supply and eggplant production is down a bit from the dryness.  

Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Patty Pans-  Squash production is waning pretty dramatically now!  Enjoy it while it lasts, it's almost over!  

Sweet Colored Pepper and/or Sungold Cherry Tomatoes-  You may have received a yellow, orange, red or purple pepper.  You may 

White Onion-  More where these babies came from!  Packing_CrewCorning around after CSA Box Packing. Jillian, Adam, Adrianne, Evan, Cory and Steven all mowing on some sweet corn!

Green Beans-  Next week our yellow and purple beans will begin, I promise!

Tomato Mix-  A mix of ripe and unripe, heriloom and hybrid, roma pastes and slicing tomatoes.  We tried to mix it up for everyone.  About 5+ lbs of tomatoes this week!

Sweet Basil-  A small bunch of basil for your sauces, gazpachos and ratattouis!

Rainbow Lacinato Kale-  A bunch of cooking greens to hold us over until the lettuce picks back up again!  This is a cool new variety of Kale that Fedco seeds was selling this year!  We had to try it!

Recipes-

Chunky Celery Soup Recipe-  This recipe was shared with us by a West Salem member if you still have celery left over from last week...

Gazpacho-  A spicy summer tomato drink if you have a couple cucumbers left over.  

Ratatouille-  A summer jumbo of all of your favorite items!

Toasted Garlic Green Beans

September Third

All at once a shift happened on the farm this week.  On Friday morning around 7:30am a 15 second gust of 60mph winds ripped through the farm and tore two large branches off of our beloved (and huge) willow tree that grows snug up near the north-west corner of our home.  As good karma would have it, the limbs did not damage the house, deck or Adam who happened to be returning to the house from closing the greenhouse doors.  Friday morning was a violent morning of high winds, thunder, lightening and rain that actually left the garden’s quench for thirst satisfied and the crops undamaged. Week_14This Week's Bounty!

The high winds on Salem Ridge Road present themselves during the changing of the seasons.  It could be wishful thinking, but even in my short life experience so far, I can see that fall is coming.  The winds left our lawn littered with willow branches challenged the integrity of our tomato trellising and reminded us at the same time of how powerful Mother Nature can be-just when we start to get a little impatient and frustrated with what she has and has not been providing us with this season.  Humbled by the winds and rain, our lips are sealed of complaints once again. 

The weeds on the farm, no matter their growth stage of child or adolescent are pre-maturely making a hurried attempt at going to seed.  All the plants know that there isn’t much time left of warm soil temperatures and long hours of sunlight and sense the need to drop their seeds before they risk endangerment of their species.  All the little fuzzy caterpillars of all the fuzzy species are busy worming their way to an appropriate place to cocoon themselves.  And all the fruit and nut bearing trees and bushes are well on their way to dropping their fruits and spreading their seeds. 

When we bought our farm in the Spring of 2007 I remember saying to the previous owners that I really thought the wind was lovely up here on the ridge, with a sort of enchantment in my eyes.  Wind is subtle and gentle yet it can be strong and moving.  She watched me while I looked off into the distance in a gaze and said with a chuckle, “You just wait, honey”.  The Salem Ridge winds symbolize change for me; the changing of a weather pattern, the changing of a season and still symbolizing (with a little less naiveté) the changing of a life’s course. 

Sooo, What's in the Box?????

Green Cabbage-  We had to peel back a few of the outer layers of cabbage this week because they weren't looking so great on the outside.  We're now waiting for our fall crops of green, red and Napa cabbage to come on.  

Beets-  We harvested most of the beets with green tops so you could use them to cook with.  We ran out of large green-top beets and sent bulk beets for those who did not get the tops.  

White Onion-  More white onion for your regular cooking needs.  

Sweet Peppers-  Sweet peppers are really starting to ripen now!  We harvested everything that needed to be picked and were able to everyone at least two red or yellow sweet peppers!

Hot Pepper-  You probably received a hungarian hot wax pepper or bananna pepper which is a long, lime-green pepper.  When Hungarian Hot wax are fully ripe they will turn an organge or red in color!  We did harvest a small quantity of Jalapeno and Chile Peppers as well.  The Jalapenos are little, dark-green peppers and the chilis are long, red and skinney peppers.  All three are hot peppers, so watch out!  Box_UnloadingAdam and Evan Unlading the freshly packed boxes into our root cellar/walk-in cooler. Notice a couple missing branches from the willow tree in the upper right hand corner?

Sun Gold Cherry Tomato (or Extra sweet Peppers)-  Remember the Sun Golds are a beautiful orange when fully ripe.  We ran out of the plasitc clam-shell containers to put the cherry tomatoes in this week, so ended up bagging some of them in small, brown paper sacks as a temporary solution.  When we ran out of cherry tomatoes to give, we were able to give everyone an extra couple sweet peppers!  

Garlic-  Another bulb of garlic for your regular cooking needs.  Garlic prefers cool, dark and dry storage.  Or else, just keep it on your countertop and use it up soon!

Zucchini, Summer Squash and Patty Pans-  The soft summer squashes are on their way out the door!  Enjoy them while they last!  

Tomato Mix!-  Everyone received around 5.6 lbs of tomatoes this week!  You may have received a mix of the large and flavorful Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Red Nepal or the more noraml looking Big Beef, the Yellow Taxi and Orange Blossom Tomtoes or even some of the Mariana Roma Paste tomatoes.  Allow your tomatoes to sit on your counter at room temperature to ripen.  Refrigerators can affect the flavor the tomatoes, do not refrigerate them unless they are becoming too ripe and you need to buy yourself more time before you use them up.  

Collards-  A southern cooking green for all of your soups, currys, fritattas and greens dishes.  I've totally fallen in love with collards this year.  Love 'em!  

Green Beans-  I mean, yellow and purple beans and big old bags of them!  Be warned that the purple beans turn green when you cook them, but it's only  mildly disapointing until you get to eat them and see how yummy they are!  

Recipes:

Roasted Beet Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Feta Cheese

Beet Kvass- (A healthy Beet Tonic Beverage)

Collard Greens with Tomatoes and Asagio

Teriyaki Green Beans with Cashews

September Fourteenth

So….how is the veggie consumption coming along?  How are your Spring ambitions to eat more fresh vegetables living up to your promise to yourself?  How has the look of your dinner table changed since the vegetables from the farm started filling up your refrigerator and countertop?  How has this experience changed your lifestyle…or hasn’t it? Week_15Mid September's Offerings

My biggest fear is that one week of your life blends into the next week so quickly and one week’s worth of vegetables piles on top of the last week’s worth that the next thing you know you’re scratching your forehead and wishing it would just stop and that you had never signed yourself up for this in the first place.  Maybe in the drear of March (the month of green-food deprivation) you signed up for this CSA thing and then had 3 good months of a promise you had made to yourself that ‘starting in June’, you’d begin eating all fresh food again.  If the thought of one more tomato in your CSA box is beginning to turn your eyes yellow, I beg you recall that day in March when you would have done anything for a local, in-season, ripe tomato. 

If I’m describing you, if your head is hung low and you’re feeling guilty about zucchinis and tomatoes gone bad, I’m here to say that it’s not too late!  You’re being blessed with a large quantity of fresh, local, seasonal and organic produce that many families across the world would feel so lucky to receive.  We live in a part of the world where our groundwater is not so polluted that we can safely drink from it, our soils are so rich we are referred to as ‘the motherland’ and our environment is so vast that we must take highways from one city to the next, all the while breathing in fresh air.  What I’m saying is, REALIZE how lucky you are to have so much live, colorful and fresh food in front of you!  Know that by eating this food it will make you more lively, colorful and vibrant of a person! 

Each morning our little Small Family of worker shares, farm helpers and farm owners convene at 8am on this little patch of earth and literally sew into it laughter, community, intention, health and love.  We spend our mornings, evenings, weeks and months of our lives concerned with the wellbeing of this little farm, these little animals and the people who will eat the food that is grown here.  We really believe that this is more than just a regular ‘ol tomato.  Because if you held one of our tomatoes in your hand and you held a miscelanious tomato from the super market in your hand, which one would feel more alive?  Which one would you want to eat to nourish you? 

In turn, I imagine you, in your kitchen, with your spouse or your room-mate or your children chopping vegetables together.  I image you talking about who will peel the garlic gloves and chop the onion while someone else cleans up the potatoes.  I imagine someone clearing the day’s mail, books and lap-tops off the kitchen table to make room for dinner plates and silverware.  I image you with your family sitting down together and holding hands over a meal that came from a farm that you know and was prepared by the hands of your household.  I image a prayer or a blessing or at least a moment of pause or awknowledgement.  Then I imagine your family feeling truly nourished by healthy food. 

Of course, then, I imagine everyone working together to clean dishes, sweep the floor and then someone turning the overhead light off above the sink just before leaving a kitchen that still smells of good food, family and contains a warmth that only a family that works, talks and eats together can infuse into a room.  All because of a little meaning behind a little basket of fresh vegetables from a farm you know of. 

Sooo, What's in the Box????

Youkon Gold Potatoes-  More of these creamy, golden beauties for your mashing delight!  Remember that we don't wash potatoes becuase of the tremendous amount of work involved, the potential for scuffing and because the potatoes are easier to handle, store and bag when they're dry with a bit of their own dirt on them.  As my grandparents alwasy used to say to me, a little dirt never hurt anyone;)

Scarlet Nantes Carrots- Bright orange roots, WOW!  

White Onion- Quite possibly the final white onion giving. We'll be on to our yellows and reds soon!  

Cayenne Pepper-  The long, red and skinney hot pepper in the box.  These are nice stuck whole into a pot of chile.  

Cherry Tomatoes-  We ran out of our plastic clamshells, so many of them are delivered in brown paper sacs this week.  We'll have more plastic clamshells for next week.  

Lottsa Sweet Peppers-  Everyone received at least 5 or 6 colored bell peppers this week that were red, orange and yellow!  Everyone also receivd I was actually dreaming about bright yellow peppers on Monday night in my sleep!  You may have received a small eggplant instead of a 6th pepper.  

Yellow and Purple Beans-  Hopefully we don't loose our beans to the frost on Wednesday night!  We predict that we have at least another week or two of production from these plants!  

Lottsa Tomatoes-  Another huge bag of tomatoes!  5.25lbs of tomatoes for everyone consisting of a nice mix between the heirlooms, romas and regular 'ol red slicers.  

Curly Leaf Parsley-  Yummmmm!  Fresh parsley!  Dehydrate these leaves in your dehydrator and store it for dried use in the off season.  

Swiss Chard-  More fresh cooking greans.  The leaves are young and tender this week!  

Lettuce-  Finally a fresh head of red or green lettuce again!  

Recipes:

Cream of Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Swiss Chard and Tomato Fritatta