There was a fun coincidence this week – as I mentioned last week, we now have 6 people and 3 dogs at our farm with one thing in common – we all spent time at Habitable Spaces, the sustainable farm & artists’ residency in a tiny town in Texas called Kingsbury. And they’re not just casually located there – Shane & Alison, who run Habitable Spaces, are central members of a political battle to maintain Kingsbury’s independence from nearby Seguin, which is trying to absorb Kingsbury like The Blob.
Kristin, the dogs, and I spent two months there this winter helping out and building them a wood-fired earth oven. Reynaldo (who we’d met in Mississippi before we went to Texas), went there shortly after we left, on our recommendation. A month or so later, we recommended it to The Brazilians (Cristiane, Lucas, & Neo) by email when discussing their WWOOFing trip, and they happened to be right by Kingsbury when they got the message – and so they went too. And after they traveled on, Alabama Spencer came to Kingsbury – where he heard about us and our farm, and decided to include Wisconsin in his cross-country trip route.
Reynaldo came to Que Sehra Farm first – then last week Spencer arrived here an hour before the Brazilians did, where we swapped tales of the people and dogs we’d all met in Kingsbury, and Reynaldo showed them the amazing, almost-completed oil painting of downtown Kingsbury that he’s been working on here for the last few weeks.
On Friday, we all took a break from the field to go forage for edible mushrooms and take a dip in the Saint Croix river. We found plenty of beautiful chanterelles (which Kristin made for dinner than night with pasta, butter, herbs, and a fresh Chicken of the Woods mushroom we found growing just outside our trailer), and took a refreshing break in the cool, fresh waters of the St Croix.
On the way back to the car, I detoured through the woods, hoping to find something else good.
I didn’t find mushrooms – instead, I found a rusty old beer can, in a small cache that had sat together since the 1960s. I could tell from a distance it was an odd can – not a brand I was familiar with. And I burst into laughter when I turned it around and got a good look.
Kingsbury Beer, from Kingsbury Breweries – I hurried back to the other Kingsbury veterans to show them the find. None of us had ever even heard of Kingsbury beer before – and we loved that we happened to find a can of it in the woods while foraging with folks with Kingsbury as our common thread.
It’s been a very summery week – in fact, we went river swimming three times this week, avoiding the baking (poaching, really, with this humidity) sun of the open field and renewing our spirits and bodies by floating in the stunningly beautiful Saint Croix – wide, slow, clean – without a single sign of mankind in any direction.
Then back to the farm, where summer’s hallmarks are popping up in ever increasing numbers – the first ripe tomatoes! Eggplants! Peppers! And did I mention TOMATOES!?
The tomato plants look better than any previous year, thanks to a combination of our improved soil, new mulching and trellising techniques, and great growing weather.
In fact, most everything in the field is going great right now* – sure, a couple crops are not doing as well as they should be, and there are voles and weeds and bad-guy bugs, but overall, the forces of good growin’ clearly have the upper hand.
The experience we have from last year, the help from our awesome WWOOFers, and the regular rainfalls have really worked out well – we’ve keep ahead of the weeds like never before, and are excited to have some room to breathe to take time to go flow with the river, and get beds prepared for the crops for late summer and fall.
Warning: now that the boxes are getting heavy, be sure to pick up your box from the bottom – just in case the weight is too much for it!
Just as we woke up to harvest today, the thunder started rumbling, and before we were out the door, the downpour began – fortunately, we’d known it was a possibility, and gotten the beans all harvested as the sun went down Monday night (handling bean plants when wet spreads disease).
I donned swim trunks and a raincoat, and got the processing area ready while Kristin made us breakfast – by the time we finished eating, the rain had slowed enough to harvest in, and stopped in time for lunch and packing up the CSA boxes – which contain:
- one of the first Tomatoes of the season! – more to come … I maybe sort of tried to convince Kristin to let us eat tomatoes all week on the Farm instead of sharing just one per box with ya’ll, but she overpowered me …
- Basil – two kinds are in the same bag: . Italian Basil is the green leaves and smells like you’d expect basil to smell. It’s good for Italian food, of course … and goes great with tomatoes. Thai Basil has a purplish tint, tastes spicier, and is often used in Asian dishes – although it can be used along with sweet Italian basil. Here’s a good overview of the difference basils, with some recipes.
- Pepper medley – hot and sweet varieties
These are the hotties – if you don’t like much heat, you can remove the seeds and the white membrane that the seeds are attached to, to cool them off:
And these are the sweeties – if you don’t like mild peppers, you can poke a small hole in the side and inject them full of habenero hot sauce or something similar. But that would be kinda weird, really:
- Beets – Best when roasted, although can also be good grated raw, in wraps or salads.
- Beet Greens -Beautiful, nutritious, delicious – these are really top notch greens, not just a byproduct to be discarded! Great for creamed greens, Use in place of Swiss Chard if you have a recipe for those that you like. (such as a chard tart) .Kristin makes an amazing salad with beets roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then skin them, put the liquids from the roasting into a pan on the stovetop, and add lemon and orange juice, and reduce it down to a light syrup. Wilt some chopped up beet greens in this syrup for a minute, and then toss with the chopped up beets. Maybe add feta cheese, goat cheese, fresh herbs (basil or mint).
- Broccoli – tender young side shoots – better consistency and flavor than large heads.
- Zucchini – there are four different kinds, green standard ones, mint green stripey guys, yellow crook necks, and the Pac Man ghost-shaped pattypans. Have you ever had chocolate zucchini cake? It’s delicious – Kristin’s mom made us one this week, and it was a huge hit with everyone.
- Cucumbers – a mix of slicers and picklers – all good for salads, sandwiches, etc. We like to snack on them raw when working in the heat – here are some slightly less simple recipes that are also perfect for summertime. Or make what Kristin has been serving up all week – a sesame cucumber salad!
- Onions – eat them.
- Beans – a mix of varieties that play well together – the ones with purple coloration will lose their color when cooked, so serve those raw for best effect.
- Okra (Large boxes only) – As northerners, we had little to no experience with okra until we started growing it. We’ve learned that it’s best to cook them by sauteeing them whole . Here are six recipes that promise a non-slimy okra experience.
PS – We saw the White Cat again – on the drive to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, not far from the Farm. We thought she was dead on the side of the road … but no, she was just hunting, and crouching perfectly still on the edge … and of course, she bolted when Widget and I approached to see if she was alive or in need of help …