Week 15 CSA News – Summer’s Encore

So this was the week that summer came back for just long enough to remind us that we didn’t actually love everything about it. By today, after a few sweaty days and sticky nights, we were all happy to get back to bemoaning how chilly and gray things are, which we’d only just barely been able to get into last week.

With all the temperature changes, you’d think we’d have had an abundance of stormy rainfall, but of course that isn’t how the drips fall out on the Barrens. We had just shy of 1/2″ total … enough to whet the thirst of the fall salad, to be sure. And although it’s easy to feel angsty over how dry things have been for us this year, it’s refreshing to realize that too much moisture is just as much of a problem – perhaps more, since we can irrigate, but farms who got swamped this season can’t turn on a field dryer.

tis the season to make Fire Jelly
tis the season to make Fire Jelly
Otis on the crabapple picking expedition
Otis on the crabapple picking expedition

We did plenty of fruit scavenging and foraging – mostly tart crabapples from a friend’s place and wild grapes from the Barrens by the farm. We learned that the low-hanging grapes most readily accessible were woody-tasting and made for mediocre preserves, so we adapted, using our advanced ape brains to acquire the sweeter, plumper, most abundant fruit from 30 feet in the air.

Neighbor Don lifts Gabe & Jeff skyward, to pick crabapples from his tree
Neighbor Don lifts Gabe & Jeff skyward, to pick crabapples from his tree

The grape vines that were most successful at graping had often killed their host trees, by stealing all their sunlight. This meant that there were grape buffets way up high out of reach … unless some enterprising primates realized how weakened the grape-killed tree scaffold was, and rocked the entire thing until it crashed to the ground for easy picking! Much celebrating and jelly was made in the wake of this discovery.

a laden grape vine is taken home for processing, like a hunter's deer
a laden grape vine is taken home for processing, like a hunter’s deer

Box 15

Fall Salad Mix – First cutting! A less lettuce-y mix than our spring salad, with a variety of flavors and textures. It includes: Curly green lettuce, cavendish red lettuce, arugula, green and red mizuna, tat soi, and a few pea tips with more to come.

Dang it, I meant to take a photo of the beautiful mix all laid out on the processing table!

Tomatoes – A nice addition to your salad.

Bok Choy – did you know that “the Cantonese word choy can be translated loosely as ‘cooking greens’”? I just read that in Mark Bittman’s great reference for storing and cooking vegetables, How to Cook Everything. If you have Amazon Prime it’s free through Prime Reading.

Onions – Good in most things really. Not many things will as quickly bring a spouse around sniffing the air and proclaiming hunger as do onions hitting a hot frying pan.

Tomatillos – Good in a few things. People often ask what to do with these and salsa is the play. But I have also used them to make a southwestern chicken soup, or they can be sautéed with other veggies, or eaten raw …  but the main thing we do is broil or grill them, and blend them up with garlic, onion, and salt. I like that they have a sweet and tangy flavor and that they make a thick, not runny, salsa.

Peppers – sweet ripe ones and a few jalapeños. Good for salsa, fajitas, stir fry, or crunching on raw. I can tell the night temperatures have been warmer this year because of the amount of ripe peppers that we’ve been harvesting.

Broccoli heads – maybe some broccoli cheddar soup, broccoli casserole, or a broccoli quiche? Something warm and hearty sounds good to me today.

Zucchini – Still going, until the frost comes.

Cucumbers

Spaghetti squash – More potential than just treating it like spaghetti. It could be baked into a cheesy casserole or even used with an Asian peanut sauce 

the level 1 bluff of a hognose snake
the level 1 bluff of a hognose snake

 

Loading the solar dehydrator with "chicken fat" bolete mushrooms from across the road
Loading the solar dehydrator with “chicken fat” bolete mushrooms from across the road

On the 14th Week of CSA Season …

This week was a quintessential summer/fall cusp kinda week, I’d say.

roping a stubborn tree to pull it down with the car
roping a stubborn tree to pull it down with the car

Cool nights, warm days, only going into the field to harvest, cutting and stacking firewood, planting fruit trees, thinking ahead to winter a bit.

We foraged up a bunch of wild grapes, made tomato sauce and smoky salsa, and let Otis start tasting the fruits of the field.

And we went to the wedding party for our 2016-17 field helper extraordinaire, Sarah.

The harvest today went smoothly, with gorgeous weather, even though we had a small crew; helped that we pulled the soybean plants and did all the edamame picking yesterday afternoon!

Looks like we’ll get at least one more week of warm weather crops – no frost in the forecast, which is nice, since sometimes it can happen as early as September 15th … (!!)

Box 14: The Innards

  • Edamame –  The boil, salt, snack method is the gold standard! Make sure you cook them long enough that the beans will easily come out of the pods! Ooooorrrr you can shell them, and maybe toss in a stirfry, or make hummus!
  • French breakfast radishes –  We tried to give you enough to make roasting them a worthwhile en-devour – perhaps with the carrots! If you’re not eating them tonight, cut off the greens – and save them – you can sautee them, or maybe make a radish leaf pesto! (Don’t forget to wash them though – we rinsed them, but they tend to hold dirt stubbornly.)
  • Carrots

  • Zucchini –  Zuke season is winding down fast!
  • Cucumbers – also winding down.
  • Eggplant –  Still going strong.  You’ve all been on this ride before – you know how to eat these by now I reckon …
  • Tomatoes –  a bag of delicious Sun Gold and Chocolate Cherries, plus an heirloom  slicer.

  • Watermelon (some red, some yellow)
  • Sweet Peppers –  (mostly bells, with some assorted other varieties.  

  • Broccoli – still the sideshoots from the Spring crop – the Fall broccoli are coming along – maybe even next week!

Widget hunting beneath the chicken coop
Widget hunting beneath the chicken coop
Golden Woolly Bear
Golden Woolly Bear

 

Otis on the wild grape foraging mission
Otis on the wild grape foraging mission

 

Sun flower head picked clean by birds (and voles?)
Sun flower head picked clean by birds (and voles?)

 

Bok choi ... hoping this doesn't bolt and gets even more big and beautiful
Bok choi … hoping this doesn’t bolt and gets even more big and beautiful

 

Bok choi and lettuces coming along nicely
Bok choi and lettuces coming along nicely

 

WHICH LUCKY MEMBER WILL GET THE FERTILITY TOTEM TOMATO!?
WHICH LUCKY MEMBER WILL GET THE FERTILITY TOTEM TOMATO!?

 

moth on our bed
moth on our bed

 

cutting his teeth on the bounty of the land
cutting his teeth on the bounty of the land

 

Holy Buckets it’s Week 13

In this week’s news, the plants are senescing (spellcheck doesn’t know that one)! Weeds are dying and leaves are starting to turn! AUTUMN IS COMING! The Harvest Party will be October 14th – mark your calendars! And it’s just 5 boxes left after this one, before Winter comes for us all.

We started the process of planting two new pear trees … but they’re not in the ground yet. First we’ll have to cut down some standing dead oak trees, which meant we first had to move some old tractor implements and a couple of wood piles out of the impact zone.

Grandpa Jim moves some of the old implements out of the pear tree patch
Grandpa Jim moves some of the old implements out of the pear tree patch

This, plus starting to build up our winter’s worth of woodpiles “upstairs’ took an entire afternoon … later this week we can cut down the trees, dig and amend the planting holes, etc … and then double our pear tree population!

We did plenty of canning – made fire-roasted salsa, tomato sauce, and some deliciously tart crab apple jelly.

squeezing the precious juices out of a bucket of crabapples
squeezing the precious juices out of a bucket of crabapples

 

blasted onions for our fire-roasted salsa
blasted onions for our fire-roasted salsa

 

After a week filled with dry soil and endless near-misses, we finally got rain … as Steffan said, “if it’s going to rain, of course it will be on harvest day!”

one of the many ridiculous non-rain events we had this week - we got no measurable rain, as that narrow little channel of dry stayed right over us as the storm system rolled through
one of the many ridiculous non-rain events we had this week – we got no measurable rain, as that narrow little channel of dry stayed right over us as the storm system rolled through

We set up a couple of market canopies and hurried to

CSA Box 13

  • Tomatoes – enjoy them while we can – we have now started to pull out plants stricken with the dreaded blight, but it will likely spread quickly regardless. Fortunately, hopefully, the plants in the high tunnel – shielded from dew and rain –  are still doing well and should continue to produce at least some goodies to share with you for weeks to come.
  • Broccoli –  It’s been a great broccoli year; hope you like it, because we’re happy to be able to give it to you week after week ….
Jeff splits out the broccoli while Steffan lurks
Jeff splits out the broccoli while Steffan lurks
  • Cucumbers 
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet Peppers – bells, Carmen (long red)
Madeline scowls at the rain, Jeff vogues, and tomatoes, melons, and peppers do their thangs
Madeline scowls at the rain, Jeff vogues, and tomatoes, melons, and peppers do their thangs
  • Watermelons – yellow or red
This melon grew halfway through the plastic, which constricted it so tightly that it broke in half when removal was attempted
  • Onions
  • Potatoes – mix of red, gold, & blues
  • Fennel – try sautéed with the peppers and some sausage, or roasted with your potatoes?
  • Hops – (provided to those who requested them – let us know if you want any next week, there are still plenty!)

 

foraging for wild mushrooms to sell at the market with my sidekicks
foraging for wild mushrooms to sell at the market with my sidekicks

 

the big broken branch from the Double-Epic Week 4 Harvest finally fell down

 

wild, delicious chicken of the woods growing on an oak log
wild, delicious chicken of the woods growing on an oak log

 

the crazy boundaries between the symbiotic mold and fungi colonies that cooperate to form lobster mushrooms
the crazy boundaries between the symbiotic mold and fungi colonies that cooperate to form lobster mushrooms

 

the chickens enjoy the melons not fit for human consumption
the chickens enjoy the melons not fit for human consumption

the Week 12 News

So how about this weather!? We got several inches of rain this week, in addition to some quarter sized hail and a whole lot of wind.

just one of the several rain storms dropped almost 2"
just one of the several rain storms dropped almost 2″

The plants are kind of beat up, but I reckon it’s a worthwhile trade-off if that is what it takes to get some real good soaking rain for the field – especially the newly-seeded fall crops.

pepper with a hailstone bruise
pepper with a hailstone bruise
wind damage in the field
wind damage in the field

 

Out three WWOOFers convinced us to take a day away from the farm to go to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, which turned out to be a wonderful time – dressing up in costume and bringing a young child made it by far the most fun I’ve ever had at the event.

It also helped that there was rain wrongly-forecasted, so there were no lines to get in or get food or get out again! Beautiful.

Today was WWOOFer Mercedes’ final day of her August stay – we’re sad to see her go, but know she’ll be back soon … not least/only because we’re holding her sweet pop-up camper hostage.

WWOOFer Mercedes w/ Special Friend, processing lobster mushrooms for the market
WWOOFer Mercedes w/ Special Friend, processing lobster mushrooms for the market

Inside Box 12

  • Tomatoes –  the field tomatoes are starting to show signs of disease, but we’re still getting plenty of beautiful specimens for you!
  • Eggplants –  one large or two smaller ones 
  • Peppers – (ripening sweet peppers, and jalepenos (bagged with your broccoli)
  • Zucchini 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Broccoli 
  • Melons – (either a honeywhite muskmelon, a cantaloupe, or a Sun Jewel) If you got a cantaloupe, eat it ASAP – they are READY!
  • Shallots  
  • Spaghetti squash 
  • Apples – Picked just before a storm came that would have knocked them all down to be bruised to mush! These are from a tree that Kristin’s folks planted on the farm in the late 70’s! This was a great year for the tree, which hasn’t produced nearly such an abundance since we moved in.
  • Beans 
  • Basil –  (either Purple or Italian)
Kristin's baby hognose buddy
Kristin’s baby hognose buddy

Mercedes labelling newly-made preserves for the market
Mercedes labelling newly-made preserves for the market

 

WWOOFer Jeff discovered this stinging (Io moth) caterpillar by stepping on it barefoot.  ouch
WWOOFer Jeff discovered this stinging (Io moth) caterpillar by stepping on it barefoot. ouch

 

 

 

Week 11 CSA Happenings

This week, we gazed upon the expanding collection of damaged/ugly tomatoes on the porch awaiting consumption and/or canning, and felt the late summer pivot point.

Rather than focusing on maximizing future harvests (planting, weeding, mulching, pruning), much of our energy now goes to dealing with the bounty – harvesting, preserving, canning. The night comes earlier and earlier, the night breezes cooler and cooler, and the calendar turn to September draws neigh.

We’ve been turning cucumbers in relish, apples into herb-infused jelly, tomatoes into sauce. The seeds planted last week are all up and looking healthy on the west side of the field.

baby beets emerging
baby beets emerging

The surrounding woods have yielded good quantities of lobster and chicken of the woods mushrooms, contributing to our Saturday farmer’s market being the most profitable of the year so far.

Lobster & chicken of the woods mushrooms amongst the farm produce at the Saint Croix Falls Farmers Market

The tomatoes are stunning – this is the week or two of peak production before the inevitable blight comes to the field and withers the plants away.

WWOOFers Jeff & Maddy have returned, and are pleasantly surprised to find that the mosquito massacre of July has subsided almost entirely. While Kristin was busy with the baby, Jeff helped saw down two huge standing dead oaks that I’ve been wanting down for years … we need more firewood curing!

dead oak about to fall
dead oak about to fall

 

The Week 11 Box

  • Brussels sprouts tops – This is the time of year we top the brussel sprout plants so that they put their energy into the sprouts instead of further vertical growth – and those leaves are super tasty! Here’s some info about eating them!
  • Heirloom & Cherry Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers 
  • Zucchinis 
  • Onions
  • Peppers (mostly sweet ones, and a few jalapeños)
  • Beets –  the ones that the voles spared.

    vole-damaged beets for us to eat
    vole-damaged beets for us to eat
  • an Eggplant 
  • Broccoli 
  • Okra or Tomatilloes –  luck of the draw!
  • Sun Jewel Melons –  an asian melon that often splits as they ripen (so don’t worry if yours has cracks in the skin. Firmer flesh than musk melons, and great for breakfast!
  • Tri-color Beans – a mix of our green, purple, and yellow beans
WWOOFer Mercedes harvesting your tomatoes
WWOOFer Mercedes harvesting your tomatoes

what will be will be