Week 16 CSA News

The usual things happened this week, for this time of year; the leaves changed, the nights got longer the mornings cooler, and deer and mice and coyotes and bear hunters returned to the ecosystem.

I guess one thing was totally new, and kind of surprisingly exciting this week though – after being completely off grid for almost a decade, we are thinking we might get connected to electricity.

Nothing happened, and there’s no single reason for it. But while idly contemplating the various expensive and onerous options for stand-alone propane refrigerators, i wondered … why not get electricity? It wasn’t urgent – our current set up is working fine, and quite superior to anything we’ve had before here. But … it got me thinking of the reasons we started off grid and have remained that way. And for the first time, when I faced the notion, I didn’t find it repellent. In fact, it was intriguing.

So when Kristin woke up that morning, I asked her what she’d think about getting connected to power. At first she was hesitant – not believing I wasn’t going to change my mind. But it seemed clear that she liked the idea. We’re no longer worried that we’ll financially sink into the abyss on the meager income of a tiny farm, and we feel well and truly disentangled from the mainstream way of being that society had taught us was the one True Way.

What matters most to us both about our lifestyle and living arrangements is the ability to live and work on the farm together, as a family. When we started, that meant us and our dogs – now that has expanded to include one son and soon, another – as well as Kristin’s parents, who are deeply and wonderfully intertwined in our lives here. We don’t want to have city jobs, daycare, life times spent with people we do not love, doing things we don’t enjoy. We want to make our living from this land, in every sense of the phrase. To spend our own lives here, and to create the foundation for the lives of our children.

And having electricity not only wouldn’t hinder any of that at all, and would actually make it easier to do it better. Winters would be less of a dreadful pain, we’ll be able to grow and store more crops in more ways. We’d still be living as close to the ground as we can, with wood heat, composting outhouse, low income & low expenses – we’d keep our solar power set-up minimizing our costs and reliance on the grid.

I dunno; it’s been less than 24 hours since this game-changing notion emerged, and we are only just beginning to unravel the implications & the possibilities. It wouldn’t be interesting. And Interesting is our jam. …

Inside Box 16

We couldn’t close the boxes this week no matter how well we Tetrised the contents.

  • Spaghetti Squash – sure, you can make it a spaghetti substitute but adding tomato sauce makes it kind of watery and meh in our experience. Split in half, gut the seeds, bake in oven until the flesh pulls out with fork in strings. Great with butter or Parmesan cheese.
  • Tomatoes – you are likely familiar.
  • Peppers – all sweet other than the dark green Poblanos (which have heat in their seeds if you don’t remove them
  • Ground cherries
  • Broccoli
  • Kohlrabi
  • Red Onions
  • Daikon radish – a powerhouse in kimchi, but also delicious sliced in a salad or stir fry.
  • Lettucea red head and a green head
  • Swiss Chard – dang it’s pretty
  • Zucchini

also this week

Week 15 CSA News – Autumn Intensifies

The signs are everywhere. The sumacs are reddening, and we today gave out all of the tomatoes without any left to ripen for the weekend market. The unpredictable cracks and bangs of the acorn bombardments have become regular enough to be nothing startling, no matter which metal roof or drum they fall upon.  We tore out almost 100 feet of blighted cherry tomato plants, and all of the melon plants. We close the high tunnel well before sunset, hoping to capture some heat so the tomatoes and sweet potatoes can develop a bit more. (Hmm, look at all the tomatoes in that paragraph – well, this week is the end of the Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes Season, after all.)

the opening of former cherry tomatoes

We feel good about how the growing season turned around. Spring was a bit brutal, but Summer turned out wonderfully, and Fall is looking set for more of the same. Hard to believe there are only three CSA boxes to go! The the party, the field clean-up, moving this winter’s woodpile, cutting the firewood for 2023, ordering next year’s seeds, the new baby … and then it’ll be Spring again and next year’s crops will be going into the ground!

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now, it’s Now, and Now is beautiful autumn, and it finally rained, and we haven’t even closed the bedroom windows at night yet, let alone started the wood stove. A proper September feels like this, suspended timelessly between summer and fall, the sunlight golden at any hour. We’re grateful for everyone who makes possible our lives here, doing this, being here, Now.

I never imagined I’d be married to a farmer, living off the grid, raising sons and growing food in the woods of Wisconsin. But I can’t imagine life any other way being so sweet, feeling so meant to be, so rewarding. Even through this year’s turmoil of drought and doom and with the uncertainties of the future writ large, I’ve never once doubted that this life here on Que Sehra Farm is my Best of All Possible Worlds. So thanks for eating with us.

… and that, Now, means this:

inside Box 15

  • Tomatoes – lovely beasts. Kristin turned a bunch of the orange ones into a Bloody Mary Mix that looks like sunshine and tastes like it too. I’m not that into bloody marys, but I’d drink this plain by the glass. I guess we’ll call it “Sunny Mary Mix” maybe? Anyway, you just get plain tomatoes, so I’m rambling.
  • Cabbage – Kristin tried to twist all the cabbages around in the field last night to prevent them from cracking, once we realized that the rain was really going to hit us for once (we got an inch!). It mostly worked! Saurkraut or cole slaw? Pan-sear slabs of it? Roast it or grill it? People do all kinds of things with a cabbage. Damn they’re tasty; get creative or play it safe, you are unlikely to go wrong any which way.
  • Red & Green Head Lettuce – salad season returns! We keep hearing people talk about wilted lettuce salad, but we don’t know much about it. Do you?
  • Orange & Yellow Carrots – If you eat them all you will be able to see in the dark. Perhaps. A roasted carrot dish with Thyme …. that’s definitely a recipe that you could find in a search engine’s results.
  • Thyme – that little bag of herb is not marijuana. If you don’t want to use it right away, it would be easy to dry it for later!
  • Red Onions – this year was not as good for onions as last year was. But if you were in the CSA last year, you might still have some left over? heh
  • Peppers – a combo of not-hots.
  • EggplantsAsian and/or Italian Eggplants
  • RadishesDaikon, Watermelon, and/or Black Spanish Round – roast them up and eat with the roasted carrots perhaps. Maybe you still have some beets too! Or slice em up onto a salad or sandwich, they’re right purty inside.

CSA Week 14 Newsletter

Well, here we are. And, you’re there. I’m glad we’ve established this, if sorry for wasting your time. Not enough to delete that though, apparently, nor enough to stop this nonsense immediately.

But. It’s September. The color changes have started. It’s dark when the alarm goes off to harvest for the farmer’s market, it’s chilly and dewy and dim in the mornings. The tomato plants have begun their annual dying dance with farewell fungi. The pumpkins are emerging, the hens’ egg laying slowing, the weeds seeding.

There was a mouse that scurried, and a coyote that howled. The abundant beautiful tomatoes of summer were smoked, and frozen, and canned in myriad ways. The coming baby is evident. Thoughts about firewood, window plastic, and enclosing a shower have been thunk.

Yes, summer is in the past. But the chills of Coming Autumn are not foreboding, as are those of Coming Winter. These are invigorating, an energy all its own, as the leaves all breathe deeply, basking in the timeless sunshine of their passing summer moment.

The dance of Shiva e

And, we picked a date for the Harvest Party! It’ll be Sunday, October 10th; if you have a calendar and mark things in it, this might be a good candidate.

Or remember it as a good review: 10/10, would recommend.

Inside Box 14

  • Beets – the greens are the same as chard; nutritious and great sauteed or perhaps in a quiche or some creamed greens.
  • Bok Choi
  • Sweet Peppers – the poblanos (see pic above) might have a little heat if you don’t take our their seeds.
  • Hot Peppers (Jalepeno & Andes Rainbow) – bagged separately so you don’t have to play Hot or Not with your face at risk.
  • Lettuce (red or green) – BLTs?
red lettuce
  • Zucchini – if you don’t know me by now, you will never ever never ever know me ooooo oooo-ooo ooo
  • Tomatoes – they’re starting to slow down now, although that won’t show until next week for y’all. This had to have been our best tomato year ever, in both quality and quantity.
  • Italian Basil – add it to some tomato sauce or something.
  • Tomatillos – yes, salsa verde is great but you could try one of the recipes here, too. (PS that is a good site to search for quality recipes on)

CSA Newsletter: Week 13

There are a lot of wild turkeys this year; more families with more little ones. It’s likely that this is fact related to the strangeness of night after night week after month of no yipping wailing yowling howling coyote packs.

Or, perhaps, the absence of coyotes is due to the similarly mysteriously missing mouse population – last year, the mice were a Biblical Plague Level force of nature, but now I have seen almost no sign of a one. And the same goes for the pocket gophers; we’d be in trouble if we were reliant on the $3-per tail bounty that the local government pays out.

Maybe the hot drought in the sandy barrens ecosystem didn’t leave water enough to raise rodent families?

I don’t know, but it’s fun to wonder.

We are in the splendid blur betwixt summer and autumn.

And this is what it has for us to eat:

Box 13 & Company

  • Wild Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms – The recent rainy spell kick-started the dormant Laetiporus! Over the weekend we found a dead oak covered in them , and immediately afterward the Neighbors Marquardt alerted us to a patch twice as big in their woods across the road! Those we sold at the farmers’ market, but Thursday evening, Neighbor Russ tipped us off that his brother (who lived down the road) had a huge oak covered in them! So on Friday we climbed up some ladders and harvested enough to send some to all of you.

They are still in good shape, but a tad on the older side … this just makes them a little more dry than when newly-erupted. I asked Marcia how she might use the mushrooms included in this week’s box, and she reported that

True to it’s name – texture like chicken, long fibers – sauté  and / or fry.  Gently clean with soft veggie brush if needed. Remove damaged, soft or really dried spots.  Cut “woody”part of stem away (editor’s note: I tried to do that already).  Soak in salt water / bugs or small larvae will retreat.  Not too long, so mushroom doesn’t get water logged.  Heat clarified butter and / or olive.  Sauté shallot, garlic – tear or cut 1”slices (with grain) cut smaller if preferred, add Shallot / garlic. Sauté at least 5 minutes. Add dry white wine or broth – sea salt and pepper, sprigs of fresh tarragon.  Simmer another 5 minutes / liquid is absorbed.  Cook longer if you want Chicken browned .  You can flour / egg / flour if you want – not my favorite.  Then of course there is google !  Disclaimer – Don’t consume raw. 

  • Brussels Sprouts Tops – to ensure that the plants form the sprouts we want, we “top” them so they cease in their vertical endeavours. All the leaves of the plant are edible, but these at the top are the newest, freshest, most tender and desirable; in many languages, the etymology of the word for “war” is based upon the “Brussels tops” conflicts between families, tribes, and nations competing for this rare and delicious greenery.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – we limited it to about a pint each this week, although the plants are showing no such restraint.
  • Tomatoes – We have never had this good of a tomato year; enjoy the pristine bounty. It’s an abundance that is amazing to enjoy as a problem to solve. The Frankensmoker is working overtime, while in the kitchen Kristin transmutes the torrent of beautiful excess tomatoes into salsas & sauces.
  • Potatoes
  • Red Onions
  • Hakuri Turnips – So sweet they can be eaten raw, like an apple. Most folks so slice them up though, for salads and such.
  • Eggplant – they like good cooking oil.
  • Sweet Peppers Medley – totally.
Kristin peppering and Steffan eggplanting, this morning

Week 12 CSA Newsletter

The drought continued all week, up until this morning, so we got to harvest and pack boxes in the rain. It wasn’t bad, and we needed it. There was high tunnel harvest to do during the brief downpour part, although it did make Kristin run around in it cutting melons of the vines, for fear that they would split open.

This was a tomato-tastic week. The high tunnel plants are taller than us and positively laden with huge fruit, the cherry tomato plants in the field are simply bonkers, a wall of constantly ripening flavor bombs. We are making ketchup and canning smoked tomatoes and jarring tomato juice and making plans to make more tomato stuff.

The rain was exciting this morning (when it finally stopped dodging us), but the real excitement this week came when we were awakened at dawn on Sunday morning by a cacophony of chicken cries, a birdy bedlam unlike any of the many bizarre and startling noises that they usually make. I rushed outside, confused about how whatever it was could even be happening since I hadn’t yet let any of them out of their coops. Following the continued cries I discovered the mama hen who tended the most recent hatch of seven chicks, rushing about in a horrible tizzy.

Her little herd of fluff ball chicks were all in hiding, slowly they rejoined her, first one, then a couple more, and more, until all but one of the seven were accounted for. I looked around but saw no sign of her. Laying conspicuously on the ground in the middle of it all was this feather:

sharp-shinned hawk feather

I knew right away it was from a bird of prey, and the cause of the commotion seemed clear – a hawk had swooped down and snatched one of the chicks up. I returned to bed and updated Kristin and Otis about the loss … but then, within an hour I checked on them again and saw that the seventh had returned; clearly shaken, more skittish than ever, and with a bit of blood around one of her feet … but alive and pretty much well! (Amusingly, the mama hen was one of Gargoyle’s hatch that we thought were dead last year … they seem to be a lineage of near-death survivors.)

Overall, it’s summertime abundance time on the farm, even as we feel the pivot turning us inexorably toward autumn. Sweatshirt mornings, comforter nights; double-digit CSA week numbers. That’s a poem, perhaps.

We had another awesome week at the market, and spent all our field time harvesting again and again, trying to keep up with the season of abundance. It’s still stressful, but it’s hard not to be aware even amidst it that we are lucky to have problems of too much of too many good things – especially after such a challenging and mean spring.

The woods around us are lush and lively, the days are just idyllic, packed with postcard-summer moments and Instagram scenes. It’s easy to remember how lucky we are to live this life in this place as we watch Otis transforming, surrounded by the strange and beautiful nest we have built here.

It’s a good life .

Inside Box 12

Zucchini – The backbone of the veggie garden remains unbowed, unbroken; defiant, proud, productive. Monster beast plants that can’t stop and won’t stop.

Watermelon – (red or yellow)- we could grow mini watermelons and save ourselves some strain, but they never taste as good as the full size ones it seems. You could combine some with your basil microgreens to make a salad or an agua frescaa. If you got a red one you could even pickle the rind (the yellows don’t have much of it).

Edamame – We had to harvest these in the rain, so they’re kind of dirty. So wash them before you boil them until the pods soften so the beans will pop out easily. Like pasta, try 5 or 10 minutes and test to see if they need more.  Most commonly, folks salt the pods and use their mouths to pop the beans out into their faces, but if that’s not your jam, you can use your fingers to pop em out and then use the beans in a dish. You likely don’t have enough to make hummus, but they’re great in stirfries and salads.

Shallots – onions with a superiority complex.

Carrots – It was great carrot-pulling weather this morning.

Choi – The stems are crunchy and tasty when sliced up, and the leaves are delicious too. If you stirfry it, add the stems in first because they need longer than the leaves. Or save time and eat ‘em raw.

Broccoli –  sideshoots from the same Spring plants that struggled so badly with the early heatwave. They are making up for lost chances with abundant side shoots. Call them “Baby Broccoli” and they’ll be cuter and therefore taste better, says a scientist.

Cherry Tomatoes – oh my god. Good thing this was the year we finally figured out how to make an awesomely effective trellis for these, because they’re coo-coo bananas. We did this yesterday, but skipped the herbs part: https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/roasted-cherry-tomatoes/ – it concentrates the flavor of the cherry tomatoes and you can burn through a lot of them this way.

Tomatoes  – There is a special form of yoga one performs when harvesting these from the jungle inside of the high tunnel. Kristin saw a tempting tomato tart recipe somewhere but now we don’t know which one it was. They all look good, as do the tomato galettes.

Basil Microgreens – these want to be with your tomatoes, don’t stand in their way. Pasta dish topping?

Ground Cherries – did you eat these out of your grandparents’ garden when you were a kid? Be a lot cooler if you did. But if it’s too late you can still make memories with them now, for yourself – and any children in the vicinity, if you’re willing to share them.

Okra? Probably not, but two of you won the okra lottery this week, enjoy!

what will be will be