Week 9 From Outer Space (or Wisconsin anyway)

There’s a mimic bird around here; last year, it was a rusty hinge. We spent some time trying to figure out where the door or piece of equipment was swinging in the wind before realizing the “screee” also happened when there was no wind. Turns out that catbirds are notorious mimics and in our hood. This year, the resident catbird is into the loud “beeep” of the solar power inverter being overtaxed and shutting down. Hijinks ensue; I hope the bird is amused.

tabletop getting sparse halfway through the market
tabletop getting sparse halfway through the market

The days have been hot but not ridiculous – it’s definitely summer, humid and steamy … and the mosquitoes have been loving the moisture. For our new screen porch, we thank the gods, as well as Craigslist Free listings for the porch, Patriarch Jim for construction, and my departed Mom for financing the deck materials. We went and foraged some chantrelle mushrooms to eat down by the River, and were grateful for the lesson nature provided us there – namely, that as voracious as the skeeters are at the Farm, they could be so, so much worse.

baby monarch
baby monarch

A lot got done this week. We weed-whacked down the spring salad rows, and then tilled under the remains and old hay mulch (thanks Neighbor Dave!).

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That completed, we transplanted out the next wave of recruits from the greenhouse: broccoli & cabbage mostly. Kristin hunted squash vine borers, which we’d lured into “trap crops” – varieties of plants they love mostest, which she pulled out and dissected, wiping out the hellspawn within.

hubbard squash trap crop - main stem infested with squash vine borer larvae
hubbard squash trap crop – main stem infested with squash vine borer larvae

We trimmed diseased tomato leaves from the plants in the field – we’re not having a great tomato year (more on that in a future newsletter) like last year, but they’re doing OK, moreso in the high tunnel.

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The WWOOFers learned the joys of hay mulching (ie sneezing, itching), which they’d all missed out on in the springtime.

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We helped The Neighbors tidy up the grapevines in their vineyard, and drank and made merry.

It was a good week on the Farm – with a good box to cap it off:

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Box 9

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Forecast called for a cloudy, rainy harvest – so of course it was a steamy, sunny harvest, 90 degrees under bright blue skies.

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CSA Harvest days have been downright pleasant and fun lately, with time for a delicious lunch and room to chat before heading to the Cities.

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Halfway through the season now, and we have a pretty reliable regular Tuesday crew going now (between the Senior Sehrs, Neighbor Marcia, friends Steffan & Angela, and WWOOFers Sarah, David, and Grace).

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As we all work through the weeks the process flows more and more smoothly … we even slept in until 7:00 today!

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It left us enough time to fill your boxes to the top with freshly harvested:

Sweet Corn: It might have been just a touch early to harvest, but it should be sweet and tasty even if kernels aren’t as big as they might have gotten. But waiting a full week would have been too long for some of it, so que sera, sera; there will more next week, unless the raccoons figure out how to get past the electric fence … (PS the photo at the top of the page is actually a corn stalk, not an alien. They grow backup support roots when they get tall … and some of our popcorn is over 10 feet now!)

Okra or Cauliflower – The okra is doing even better than we thought it would – there aren’t a ton of plants, but they’re so tall that we’ll soon need a step ladder, or stilts perhaps to harvest them.

okra reaching for the sky
okra reaching for the sky

Since there wasn’t enough cauliflower to give a full head to everyone, we randomly distributed one or the other. You probably know how to use the cauliflower – if you got a purple variety, the color does remain even through cooking (unlike the beans). A farmers’ market customer that grew up in Georgia told us, in her thick lovely accent, that ours is the best okra she’s had – and she’s been buying us out of it. So if you’re ever going to try this sometimes intimidating southern staple, now’s the time. If you put the pods in a pan whole and cook them, they won’t be slimy. Then you can cut them up as desired. Or, you can slice them the long way and grill them, slice them crossways to make nifty little star shapes that can be breaded with cornmeal and flour and salt and pepper (this is how Georgia does it, and says she just snacks on it like popcorn). If you didn’t get okra yet and want to try it out just let us know!

Tomatoes: If the sides are a little bit soft, it’s probably ripe. Or that’s how I’ve been judging them lately with some success anyway – color doesn’t help as much with so many varied shades of heirloom.

Zucchini – Now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to practice, we’re starting to slowly increase the levels of zucchini in your boxes, much like gradually boiling a frog alive.  No, ok they’re not bad – very versatile veggies, with an incredible range of possibilities – but oh boy do they produce a lot when they’re on their game like they are now.

Onions – You like them.                                                       

Cucumbers – The cucumber beetles have greatly reduced yields, taking out many plants entirely and stunting the rest – this time of year, their larvae are down in the soil feeding on the cuke plant roots. We hate them, but it’s not all bad – we’ve had a few good weeks of cucumber abundance, and the experimental fall crop in the high tunnel seems to be coming up nicely. We may try some late season sugar snap peas in the gaps in the cucumbers’ cattle panel trellising …

Potatoes – The reds are finished up early, but with a strong showing – enjoy them in potato salads with the onions, or baked, or fried. You probably have plans for them.                         

rodents love potatoes, too
rodents love potatoes, too

Thai Basil – nice herbal addition to Asian dishes! Add it to stir fries after turning off the heat, or add into noodle salads. Or just sniff the bag.

Peppers – Same mix as previous weeks roughly. Now it’s the waiting game, watching the other varieties of pepper and waiting them to ripen past the green stage into fully-flavored reds, blacks, and yellows.

Beets – It’s been a good beet year! I can tell because we’re letting you have some – in previous years we had to guard them with our lives and save them for pickled beets.

how's this for "flannel hash"?
how’s this for “flannel hash”?

Beet Greens – One of the finest of root crop greens. We like to make salads with sautéed beet greens and roasted beets together. (Neighbor Marcie loves beets with cottage cheese, but I don’t know what she does with the greens – perhaps we will find out.)

two-faced sunflower mutant
two-faced sunflower mutant
Widget does more harm than good when she tries hunting voles in the garden
Widget does more harm than good when she tries hunting voles in the garden
Neighbor Marcia shows WWOOFer Grace how to perform a bee hive inspection
Neighbor Marcia shows WWOOFer Grace how to perform a bee hive inspection

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Harvestman guards an artichoke
Harvestman guards an artichoke

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