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!

Week 11 CSA Newsletter – Prime Time

We had our best-ever sales day at the Saint Croix Falls Farmer’s Market this week, the boxes are packed to the brim with tomatoes, we couldn’t even fit everything inside so there are melons on the side – this is Peak Produce season.

We’ve been smoking vegetables (in the Frankensmoker, not in a pipe), roasting onions and canning salsa and basking in the rare and precious beauty of a summer without mosquitoes and taking kids and dogs and farmers and helpers to the creek, and we’ve been looking for blackberries and finding less blackberries and searching for chokecherries and wild grapes but finding neither and hunting for mushrooms and finding lobster mushrooms and we’ve been pulling out some weeds and letting other weeds get happily overgrown and writing this sentence.

It’s been good. I don’t know anything more about the future than I did this spring, but summertime just reminds one that it’s quite OK.

found this at the base of an oak tree while blackberry picking with Otis. likely been there for a hundred years

The sunshine is a powerful thing, and the summertime food reflects it too.

Inside Box 11

  • Tomatoes – At last, the massively-laden vines inside the high tunnel have decided to change their fruit from greens to reds. Or oranges. Or even to different shades of green, in certain cases (if you got a green tomato, it’s ripe, or damn close,
  • a Melon – ok that’s not actually inside the box but whatever. You probably have a perfectly-ripe cantaloupe (eat it eat it eat it before you risk living with the regret of a mushy mucky overripe fruitfly hotel), but maybe you got a watermelon or a Lily or a honeydew. Cut it up, eat some, store the rest in the fridge for later.
  • Edamame or Tomatillos or Okra – if you’re not sure what to do with yours, we can help
  • Cucumbers – they’re almost done for the season. Some farms plant “succession crops” weekly, so that their fields produce a constant stream of cucumbers throughout the season. We feel like there are wonderful times both to have and not to have cucumbers.
  • an Eggplant – Asian or Italian style
  • Kohlrabi – it is simple to peel and slice them up to eat raw with a little salt & pepper.
  • Zucchini – ain’t done yet.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – a few pints of mixed Sun Golds and Jasper and/or Purple Bumblebee.
  • Beets Our first planting of beets did terribly but the second one did well enough and this is them. If you boil or roast them first, the skins will then slip off , no need to pre-peel.
  • Sweet Corn – It’s a different variety than last week – we staggered the planting of different types but somehow they still came ready barely a week apart. Which do you prefer? (PS This will be the last sweet corn for the year.)

Week 10 Newsletter – rainclouds Ahoy

IT RAINED.

A lot, and then later some more, and then again, and some drizzle too.

At first it was a cause for great joy and then eventually turned to mild alarm … too much rain at this time of year splits tomatoes & cabbages, encourages crop blights, and waters down the flavor of melons. When it rains, it pours, yeah yeah yeah. A farmer’s fret is never done.

However the more recent thunderstorms returned to our regular program of skimming just barely past us, so all is good in the hood.

In other news, there are rabbits in the field. They eat things and Widget chases them. A new WWOOFer family arrived – and they have a kid Otis’s age! Will be a good three weeks working and living alongside them. The high tunnel plants are doing .. a little too well? I feel like a jungle explorer just trying to get from one side to the other. The tomato plants are a dozen feet tall, some of em. The wild blackberries are slowing down, lobster mushrooms are coming up – as are other fungi thanks to the recent rainfalls.

Inside Box 10

Summer is here; we had to upgrade to bigger boxes this week just to fit all the bounty inside.

  • Melon or Ground Cherries – if you got a melon last week, you’re getting ground cherries. Otherwise, you’ll discover that the heaviest item in your box is either a watermelon or a cantaloupe. IF CANTALOUPE EAT ASAP, they are ready!
  • Sweet Corn – speaking of ASAP eatting … sweet corn is BEST RIGHT NOW and you should enjoy it soon, before any more of the sugar gets converted into starch There is all kinds of stale “sweet” corn available later in the year for pennies, but this is as fresh as a non-farmer can get it.
    PS if you never have eaten it raw, humor me and try at least one unheated, unbuttered, and unsalted. It’s the best damn grass you’ll ever eat.)
  • Cherry Tomatoes – Fun fact: these are really hard to find within the massive plants. Enjoy the ripest ones first, let the ones that are still a bit on the firm/greenish side ripen up on your counter.
  • Tomato Tomatoes – they’re mostly still teasing us … SO MANY beautiful but green tomatoes, lurking. Taunting. But slowly starting to ripen …
  • A green pepper and some jalapenos – for some reason many of the sweet pepper plants just aren’t producing fruit. Hmm.
  • Pickling and/or Slicer Cucumbers this week I was reminded that not everyone knows that you can simply eat “pickler” cukes just like you do “slicers.” The only reason for the name is that you cannot pickle Slicers (their skin is too tough and their innards too mushy).
  • Zucchinis
  • Microgreens – two people are getting sunflower shoots, everyone else gets zingy radish.
  • Onions and/or Shallots
misty morning after The Rain

Week 9 – Season’s Midpoint

Today is my birthday, and I’m going to use that as an excuse to not write much (even though the real culprit is Otis watching ‘Scooby Doo’ in the van and my inability to like, think straight while the silly dialog and laugh track blast into my cranium). Jeepers!!

Here’s some stuff that happened this week:

if you watch closely, it never actually storms on the blue dot (the Farm)

Zoinks!!

Inside Box 9

Yikes!!

  • Sun Jewel Melon -or-Big Tomatoes w/Eggplant -or- Ground Cherries
  • Cabbageeither Red or Green
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchinis
  • Bag o’ Beans
  • Bag o’ Basil
  • Bag o’ Broccoli & Side Shoots
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sunflower Shoots

Week 8 Newsletter: generationing

Well, it’s hot again but we did finally get a real rainfall this week – damn near two inches worth on Friday. This produced a bumper crop of cucumbers. Of course, by harvest today the ground was dried out again; Grandma Deb had to run water all along the carrots just so that we could extract them from the concrete grip of the heat-blasted field.

Speaking of Grandma Deb helping – have I told you lately how lucky we are that Kristin’s folks come out for every harvest and plenty more? Jim’s processing area roof is moving right along, and today he restored the Weed Steed lawn tractor – while Deb grandma-ed and assembled the harvest squad sandwich feast.

Back when we named the farm with “Sehr” built in, I didn’t really realize just how apt it would prove to be; not only literally making our living on the Sehr family land but with Sehr support making our lives there possible.

So, I guess here’s another newsletter about gratitude and about how yeah I have poison ivy and some of the winter squash plants are too far gone to save and it’s stiiiiiill dry and hot and that might be Climate Change and it might be the beginning of the end of human civilization as we’ve known but, maybe not, and in the meantime there are some damn Good things in our lives like co-existing with family and ripe wild blackberries eaten by the fistful in the woods and baby chicks and the vegetables that abide and help us do the same.

next ge

I love how writing this Newsletter encourages me to step back and think about the bigger picture, the larger backdrop that the drama of our problems and fears play out on, and to remember how beautiful and amazing it is, and how lucky we are.

Inside Box Eight

  • Peppers – (one green & a few jalapeno)
  • Cucumbers – a couple slicers & a handful of picklers. The cukes are rocking this week.
  • Kale etc Mix (Curly Blue, Scarlet, and Tuscan aka Dino aka Lacinato kale, plus a few random collard and Swiss chard leaves)
  • Tomatoes – (either cherries, plums, or a full-size) – the tomato plants are happy and have plenty of green fruit on them, but for some reason they are playing hard to get and ripening in slow motion.
watching the tomatoes theme music
  • Microgreens (Basil & Cilantro) – the cilantro is awesome in tacos. The basil is great with tomatoes.
  • Zucchini & Summer Squash
  • Beans (Purple, Green & Yellow) – note that the purples turn green when cooked, if you’re into them one way or the other.
  • Carrots – we debated about whether or not to include the greens again. You got them. Probably for the last time this year though, unless there is an outcry or threats. Might be a good time to look up a carrot green tabbouleh recipe if you already did a pesto with them.
who got The Lovers in their box this week? (the carrots are the Lovers, not Marty & East Coast Pete)

what will be will be