Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables

 

Small Family Farm
Below are current issues of The Weekly Dig Newsletter, from Jillian Varney, owner of the Small Family Farm. Stay up to date on what's happening on the farm!

March Twenty-Nineth

The farm comes alive again slowly, quietly, almost secretly. The hive hums when the sun shines.   The greenhouse doors fling open to release the excess heat. The chickens lay eggs again and the children think that since it is officially Spring, they can dare to walk outside without coats or hats. The seeds are germinating in the plastic hoop structure that smells of earth and wood smoke and feels moist and invigorating.

We are nearly one month in to the start of a new season. Plans to begin field work form and the machines are greased and ready to go. The farm help is lined up and the CSA memberships are steadily coming in. The winds blow strong and make the willow tree dance. We are longing for fresh, tender, green food again and the promise that it is not far away feels reassuring.

The farm wife, as I am calling myself these days, feels especially cooped up from keeping three small children warm, healthy and entertained. I do everything I can to care for needs of the people and the farm in the role I am currently playing. I look out the window and watch Adam go to work most days wishing I could follow. But I also feel grateful to get to work from home and get to spend so much time with my children. I remind myself that this is an era of our lives that will one day feel like it didn’t last long enough, but at present feels slow and binding on a late March day.

I raise a three month old and watch him try to kick himself over onto his tummy. I watch my 6 year old learn to count money and read books and add numbers. Our farm house feels a little like a kindergarten when you walk in, but smells like a restaurant. I watch my 3 year old copy everything her big sister does. I watch the robins return and the maple sap drip. I suggest and insist on projects that Adam and hired help can work on. My involvement with the farm feels like it is at a mosey-posey pace with a baby on my back and a toddler tagging along. I support Adam in every way possible to keep him well fed, rested and focused on farm work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8DXkkBB04A

Again I need to remind myself that this is just a stage and one day our children will help seed in the greenhouse. They will one day help make dinner and fold laundry and shake rugs out and bring wood in. One day I will want nothing more than to have them fit cozily on my lap again and to read them a picture book. My body will ache from working on the farm and I’ll wish for a slower pace of life.

Meanwhile the earth tilts toward the sun and warms our landscape. The mornings on the farm are no longer quite. The sounds of those noisy birds are back and hungry animals hustle all around. The lawns looks almost green in places. We seed lettuce this week in the greenhouse which is just four weeks until transplant in the fields. The greenhouse tables are getting full and we are beginning to need to shuffle flats around to make room for all of the seedings coming up. I share the girlish excitement with our little ones for the dawning of a new season. I feel excited for the workers to come back and breathe community into our little farm. I feel optimistic and I whistle and sing as I walk around the farm with the children doing chores and keeping home. Spring time has a way of making you feel young again.

Farmer Adam came home with a brand spankin’ new disc today (a primary tillage piece of equipment) that will make our field prepping work smooth and even a little fun! We’re just a few short weeks away from seeding and transplanting out into the big wide open spaces. Birds fill the trees and the sonic spaces. Soon the sounds of diesel engines and people’s voices will fill our farm. And before long, as a result of this glorious community effort and will, there will be eclectic and bounteous boxes of vegetables harvested from the earth here. We look forward to sharing this season with you!

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How do you imagine your farmers in the wintertime? Do you imagine us with our heads stuck inside seed catalogs mulling over varieties? Do you imagine us walking our frozen fields with a cup of coffee? Do you imagine us curled up in bed, sleeping in and feeling a little guilty about it? Do you imagine us fixing tractors and sweeping the greenhouse floor again and again? All of the above is true, but there’s a lot more to kicking off a new season than simply waiting for it to roll around.

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(C'mon Sunshine!)

We have finished the seed orders, the soil mix has been delivered, and repairs and maintenance around the farm are continual. But there are some really grueling, tedious jobs that happen in the winter months that you might have never dreamed that we do. We have every bed of the farm laid out on a spreadsheet with the row-feet of each bed and field mapped out. We plan, bed by bed, what will get planted where and when-months in advance. We need to make sure we have enough bed space and row feet to grow enough fennel, for example, for 300 CSA boxes two weeks in a row. We even have some really juicy greenhouse excel spreadsheets that lay out our seeded crops as far as when we will seed them, how many trays we will seed on what day, and what size blocks to seed into. Oh, and taxes, don’t forget those! We just got our taxes done and that is one of the most exciting parts of our job!

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(This is our soil mix that we use to start the seedlings in just a couple short weeks!)

February is the final month of our ‘off season’ with the first of our greenhouse seeding beginning the first week of March. We are now doing some marketing work such as distributing fliers, scheduling Lunch and Learns, updating the website and trying to learn more about social media and marketing work in general. We’re better farmers and family folks than we are at selling stuff-but it’s part of the game we’re playin’. We are even beginning to line up some of our labor and employee help for the 2018 growing season, hoping that many of the terrific helpers we had last season will want to join us for another trip around the sun while playing in the dirt.

We entered the winter with 5-6000 lbs of carrots and 3000 lbs of parsnips. We also had extra celeriac root, rutabaga and a few onions, garlic and miscellaneous items that we have been selling to a handful of local food coops and restaurants. The very impressive Viroqua Food Coop in our tiny little town of Viroqua is our biggest and most consistent buyer with substantial weekly orders. If you’re ever passing through Viroqua, you’ll have to check out our very awesome Coop that is in the middle of a huge construction project where they are doubling in size!

I did find some time to bring a bin of apples up from the root cellar, cut them into rings and dehydrate them with the girls. Since most of the summer months means all work and no play, we’re finding more time for the kids. Ayla, 6, is learning to knit and cross-stitch and fold origami paper into beautiful shapes. Aliza, 3, loves playing with her dolls, building little structures for them, and copying almost everything her older sister does. And our two month-old, Arlo, is a dream baby, sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches at night, smiling and cooing when he’s awake and providing entertainment for us all and justification for staying indoors and spending more time as a family.

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November Twenty-First

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

1 Butternut Squash-  All Squash varieties will keep best at room temperature.  They prefer a warmer or dry area.  If they start to develop spots of any kind, you’ll know it’s time to eat them up.  They don’t like to be kept in refrigerators and they look very festive sitting on your countertop.  Butternuts are the classic, creamy orange squash that everyone loves and many recipes call for.SFF Oct2017 468

2 Pie Pumpkin-  Keeps best at room temp.  One very cute looking pie pumpkin with just enough flesh to make a home-made pumpkin pie.

2 Sweet Dumpling Squash-  Keeps best at room temperature.  They have a flesh similar to color, texture and flavor as a delicate.  Usually a very sweet squash, but they can vary.

5 # Carrots-  A nice bag of carrots for you to snack on, add to your fall soups or cook in any way you can dream up.  We thought the carrots this fall were very sweet and crispy!

5# Potatoes-  Many of the potatoes were the Yukon gold variety which is a very creamy potato that is very nice for mashed potatoes.  But some members may have received russets which are a more textured potato that hold together very nice in a soup or stew or for baking.

1# Garlic-  Garlic will keep best in the refrigerator.  You can keep a bulb or two on your counter at a time, but truly they will keep best in the cold and dry of your refrigerator.  They will dry out and possibly sprout if left on your counter.

1 # Leeks-  Leeks are in the onion family and can be used in soups much like an onion.  Potato leek soup is the most common recipe.  Leeks can be used all the way up the stem to where they turn into the dark green leaves.  The dark green leaves are edible, but a little more tough (toss them in your stock).SFF Oct2017 337

1# Parsnips-  Parsnips are actually really wonderful!  If you’re new to cooking with this long white taproot, don’t feel discouraged!  They are similar to a carrot in flavor, but can sometimes be even sweeter.  They keep teriffically well in a plastic bag in the fridge.  And if your only experience with them is the paraffin wax coated roots from the grocery store, we beg you to try the difference!  Check out the cheezy, but helpful video we found online on how to caramelize them with carrots. 

3# Sweet Potatoes-  This year our sweet potatoes weren’t quite as last year.  Due to when the slips arrived in the mail, we planted them later than usual and they didn’t size up as nicely this year.  So some of your sweet potatoes are a little smaller than what we have given in the past.  But the small ones are just as good!  No need to peel your sweet potatoes!  Did you know the skins are healthy to eat and perfectly edible?  Yes!  We like to make home-made sweet potato oven fries.  Toss them (cut into sticks with skin and all) with coconut oil and bake them into fries.  Yum!

3# Onions-  A nice mix of red and yellow onions for storage.  Onions also prefer a refrigerator for long term storage, but if you cook with a lot of onions, they’ll be fine on your counter for up to a month without sprouting.

3# Beets-  Beets keep terrifically well in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.  But these guys are so sweet, I know they won’t last long at your house!  Boil or roast them and discover your favorite beet recipes.

1 Brussels Sprouts Stalk-  Brussels are truly a unique fall gem that can only be enjoyed this time of year.  They’re a bit of pain to snap off of the stalk, peel back and prepare, but they’re so worth it!  Have you had roasted Brussels Sprouts?  Try it!  

November 15th

Winter on the farm is only just a few days away.  It’s hard to believe!  We’ve been working as busy as bees taking advantage of every hour of daylight these days trying to get the last of our storage crops out of the field.  We have just 1 bed of carrots, 1 bed of parsnips, and some rutabaga left to harvest.  They crew has been working very hard lifting out all of the plastic mulch that we used this summer and rolling it into balls so that it can be taken to a recycle dumpster.  We are very fortunate to be able to take our plastic mulch and plastic irrigation tape to a dumpster near by that will go to an agricultural plastic recycle center.  We aren’t proud of our use of plastic mulch, but it has it’s place on our farm and saves us huge amounts of labor and fuel in cultivation in the summer. DSC 0351

We also just finished garlic planting and mulching in the nick of time before we had some very hard freezing weather.  We planted about 600 lbs of garlic on the farm this year and managed to get it all mulched by last Friday.  Now we’ll have just a few more days of field clean up picking up irrigation lines and a little mowing on top of our harvesting we can get done before old man winter moves to town. 

We are also very excited about nesting and preparing for the arrival of our 3rd child who is due on December 14th.  I have been working hard to keep up with the crew and help with the field work in whatever ways I can.  I’m feeling thankful for the crew of young, strong workers this summer to help compensate for my lack of strength this Fall.  This baby comes at great timing, at the close of a long season and when we’ll have a chance to really rest and bond as a family in the darkest winter months of the year.

But our resting period is not long!  We’ll get a few short months free of field work, but we’ll be back to work marketing for 2018, ordering seeds and supplies and beginning greenhouse work the first week of March.  For now we are very much looking forward to Thanksgiving and spending more time doing what we love most, cooking warming, home-cooked meals in the kitchen and sharing them as a family. 

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

1 Butternut Squash-  All Squash varieties will keep best at room temperature.  They prefer a warmer or dry area.  If they start to develop spots of any kind, you’ll know it’s time to eat them up.  They don’t like to be kept in refrigerators and they look very festive sitting on your countertop.  Butternuts are the classic, creamy orange squash that everyone loves and many recipes call for. 

1 Pie Pumpkin-  Keeps best at room temp.  One very cute looking pie pumpkin with just enough flesh to make a home-made pumpkin pie.

1 Sweet Dumpling Squash-  Keeps best at room temperature.  They have a flesh similar to color, texture and flavor as a delicate.  Usually a very sweet squash, but they can vary. 

5 # Carrots-  A nice bag of carrots for you to snack on, add to your fall soups or cook in any way you can dream up.  We thought the carrots this fall were very sweet and crispy! 

5# Potatoes-  Many of the potatoes were the Yukon gold variety which is a very creamy potato that is very nice for mashed potatoes.  But some members may have received russets which are a more textured potato that hold together very nice in a soup or stew or for baking. 

1# Garlic-  Garlic will keep best in the refrigerator.  You can keep a bulb or two on your counter at a time, but truly they will keep best in the cold and dry of your refrigerator.  They will dry out and possibly sprout if left on your counter. 

1 # Leeks-  Leeks are in the onion family and can be used in soups much like an onion.  Potato leek soup is the most common recipe.  Leeks can be used all the way up the stem to where they turn into the dark green leaves.  The dark green leaves are edible, but a little more tough (toss them in your stock). 

1 Celeraic Root-  Don’t judge this book by it’s cover!  Celeriac is the price disguised as a frog.  It is very ugly on the outside, but a true gem to have in your fridge to add to your soups and stews.  Peel it, cube it and boil and mash it with potatoes for a celeriac mashed potato recipe.  It is also wonderful if peeled and then cubed very small into a soup or pureed into a creamy celeriac potato soup. 

1 Rutabaga-  Rutabaga are lovely if peeled, boiled and mashed with a little butter.  Your family might not know that they aren’t mashed potatoes.  Rutabaga are also nice if peeled and cubed very small and added to any soup or stew of your choice.  They don’t have a lot of flavor, similar to a potato, so very benign in a soup or stew.  They have less starch and carbs than a potato as well. 

3# Sweet Potatoes-  This year our sweet potatoes weren’t quite as last year.  Due to when the slips arrived in the mail, we planted them later than usual and they didn’t size up as nicely this year.  So some of your sweet potatoes are a little smaller than what we have given in the past.  But the small ones are just as good!  No need to peel your sweet potatoes!  Did you know the skins are healthy to eat and perfectly edible?  Yes!  We like to make home-made sweet potato oven fries.  Toss them (cut into sticks with skin and all) with coconut oil and bake them into fries.  Yum! 

3# Onions-  A nice mix of red and yellow onions for storage.  Onions also prefer a refrigerator for long term storage, but if you cook with a lot of onions, they’ll be fine on your counter for up to a month without sprouting. 

3# Beets-  Beets keep terrifically well in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.  But these guys are so sweet, I know they won’t last long at your house!  Boil or roast them and discover your favorite beet recipes. 

1 Brussels Sprouts Stalk-  Brussels are truly a unique fall gem that can only be enjoyed this time of year.  They’re a bit of pain to snap off of the stalk, peel back and prepare, but they’re so worth it!  Have you had roasted Brussels Sprouts?  Try it!  

Recipes

Shepards Pie with Rutabaga Topping

Mashed Potatoes with Celeriac Root

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Potato Leek Soup with Celearic Root

October Eighteenth

The Final Week of Summer Share CSA deliveries brings a kind of bittersweet feeling.  We are welcoming the slower pace of the waning day length, yet recognizing the end of the work we love and the food that has been so bountiful and plentiful all summer long.  Mostly though, I feel a strong sense of gratitude for everything the farm and the community has had to offer us this season. 

The CSA model so beautifully embodies everything a community and a small piece of land can accomplish when they work together.  Without the help of all of the amazing pairs of hands that come to this farm and work, the people like you who have chosen to give their hard-earned dollars for a CSA share, and the desire that Adam and I share for organizing this symphony of food production, there would be one less family farm preserving a piece of land and the healthy little ecosystem inside it. DSC 0341

We all love the idea of there being more organic farms on the countryside, cleaner soils and water in our communities and the preservation of a small family farm.  These things are all possible simply because people like you, yes YOU-reading this exact newsletter, care so very much about them.  Because you care about them and support them, they exist.  And for all of this I honesty and genuinely feel gratitude.  It makes my heart sing to see crews of mixed ages, skill levels and backgrounds, all come together on a weekly basis and show up to stick their hands in the soil and get their clothes and nails and boots dirty while picking spinach and peeling leeks on a foggy October morning. 

The farm will soon turn a page.  We will finish up our 12th season running our little CSA.  The leaves will soon all be fallen from the trees, the ground will soon be frozen, the carrots and the sweet potatoes will all be harvested and safely stored away for winter sales.  After the first of year, we will begin marketing for our 13th season running our small CSA.  We’ll get a couple short months rest before greenhouse season begins again and the earth’s little trip around the sun starts anew. DSC 0349

Fast approaching is my favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving.  I love the idea of there being a Holiday that causes us all to pause for a day and recognize everything the earth has offered us.  In the days of semi-trucks and ships shuttling food across the globe at record speed, we no longer experience hunger and famine the ways people once did in this country.  We have access to every kind of fruit and vegetable at any moment-free of worry that it might not be there for us tomorrow.  But if we honor the pause that Thanksgiving day offers us, we can try to reconnect with how blessed we truly are. 

So Thank You, from the depths of my heart, for an amazing season of bounty that feels like a celebration to me each year that we accomplish it together.  I feel honored to do this work.  I feel thankful to share it with you.  I feel blessed to have this life and look forward to doing it all over again next year.  We hope you will join us! 

Soooo……What’s in the Box???????

Brussels Sprouts-  Yes, these are the very funky looking vegetable that grows on a stalk.  They have the little sprouts that go all the way up the stalk.  We left the snapping-them-off-the-stalk part for you as well as any additional cleaning you desire for these.  One member told us she never learned to love Brussels Sprouts until she had them roasted in the oven.  Check out our roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe in last week’s newsletter. 

Broccoli or Romanesco-  A gorgeous head of either broccoli or romanesco for you.  We didn’t quite have enough Romanesco to give everyone one.  We filled in with Broccoli for those that didn’t get it.  Romanesco is the lime-green broccoli or cauliflower-like vegetable that is fractal looking.  Romanesco spirals up to a point at the top.  A really fun vegetable to grow.  It has a very long season and comes  on somewhat irregularly and sporadically, so it can be difficult to time for a CSA giving. 

Cauliflower-  Very nice heads of cauliflower for everyone.  We really struggled with getting these guys in the boxes this week with all of the other items to tuck in there.

Butternut-  This is probably the most-loved winter squash variety of all.  Everyone seems to know this variety of squash and loves to eat and cook with it.  The texture is smooth and consistent, the flavor is sweet and nutty, and the sheer color of the flesh once cooked up is warming and comforting.  Squash keep very well on your countertop for months. 

Bell Peppers-  Several peppers per member or enough to fill out the box.  Not necessarily colored bell peppers this week.  We knew frost was coming, so we went out and clear-cut the pepper plants no matter the size or color of the pepper.  Adam reminded me that some people do love to eat green peppers.  All peppers will turn color eventually; green peppers are just ‘unripe’ peppers that would turn color if left on the plant long enough.  Peppers freeze very nicely!  Just slice them up, de-seed them, and freeze them in zip-lock bags!  No blanching or extra work required!  We love to use frozen peppers in the winter months on pizza, fajitas, quiches or even thaw them and roast them if you like them that way. 

Spinach-  .4lbs  A heavenly bag of tender spinach for all this week.  This spinach was first-picking greenhouse grown spinach.  We plant greenhouse spinach in the Fall to have spinach for winter harvest.  This was the first picking which always means the leaves are more tender.  Yum!

Parsnip-  1#  We had a great parsnip year!  Many of the parsnips this year were big and beautiful as we always strive for them to be, but we have had years where many of them did not size up well.  Parsnip sold in stores are many times coated in a paraffin wax (a plastic wax) to help them keep and to prevent them from oxidizing.  We strongly feel that coating your vegetables in paraffin wax is un-necessary-even for storage life.  Taste the difference.  These are so fresh!

Rutabaga-  These are not turnips!  A rutabaga does look quite a bit like a large storage turnip-but I assure you these are rutabagas.  Rutabagas are wonderful if you just peel them, mash them and toss them with butter like a mashed potato-and your family will never know the difference!  They’re just a little less starchy than a potato.  We also love them cubed into a soup or stew.

Sweet Potatoes-  Two pounds of fresh, lovely sweet potatoes.  This year wasn’t our best sweet potato year.  We still got a nice harvest for our CSA members, but many of them did not size up quite like they did last year.  You can eat sweet potato skins.

Celeriac Root-  Our celeriac roots are huge this year!  These are not the most beautiful vegetable in the world, but they do get major brownie points on our charts for a few different reasons.  Which are:  they are a low-carb root veggie that adds variety to what is available locally for vegetable offerings in the fall.  They are fantastic keepers.  Store these in a plastic bag in your fridge, and they wil keep for months!  They also offer a very smooth and subtle celery flavor to your soups and stews that we have really learned to love.  Don’t judge this book by its cover.  It really is an awesome vegetable!

Leek-  Take a leek?  One big ol’ leek for each CSA member this week.  Leeks are in the onion family.  You can use them in your cooking like you would use an onion, but they are also fun to feature in a potato leek soup, fried in coconut oil until crispy and sprinkled on top of your soup or salad or really any dish.  Have fun exploring leeks if you’re new to using this vegetable.  The most commonly used part of the vegetable is the white stalk, but they greens are also edible.  They get a little tougher as you go up the leaves.

Recipes

Celeriac Mashed Poatoes

Potoato Leek Soup with Celeriac Root

Celeriac Potato Hashbrowns with Jalapeno and Cheddar

The Great Dane Inner Warmth Squash Peanut Stew

Smoky Romanesco Celery Root and Broccoli SoupSmoky Romanesco Celery Root and Broccoli Soup