Week 14 CSA Newsletter

I told you Autumn was coming! Hard to believe we were roasting hot so recently, as we wake up in the dim misty mornings thinking about multiple comforters and firing up the wood stove, but here we are.

The leaves are starting to change colors, the tomatoes are slowing down, and the mice are trying to start nests alongside our own. Thoughts of winter plans are intensifying, moving from vague notions to anxious 3 am ponderings, bullet point lists, and tentative Google-mapped routes.

Looks like we might return to Habitable Spaces in Texas for part of the journey, where they are also feeling the gavel of climate change – with weeks of triple digit temperatures throughout their summers now, they will be breaking ground rather literally, as they explore building structures buried down into the ground, in search of a more sustainable cool than stick built and air-conditioned structures dependent upon an increasingly unreliable and expensive electrical grid. Perhaps we can have Widget help us …

And really driving it home …. today during the harvest we covered up the sweet pepper plants with row cover fabric … because there’s a good chance it could frost before tomorrow’s dawn.

The season’s end is in sight – and so we did finally decide on a date for the 10th Annual Farm Party … Sunday, October 8th. Wandering Fire will be catering the gathering with wood-fired, free-will-donation pizzas, and I’m sure we will have a bonfire, and a crowd of good human beings with which to mingle and conversate.

As usual, it’ll be laid back and casual – feel free to bring a dish or a drink to share if you’re inspired, or just yourself and your posse, there will be plenty to enjoy. More info to follow, or feel free to ask questions or make suggestions!

My dad and his wife are here visiting this week, so that’s all I’m gonna write for now.!

Shirley found a lovely Chicken of the Woods & Dad got the largest Lobster Mushroom I’ve ever seen!

Have a beautiful week!

Inside Box 14

We got everything boxed up today just before the rain came on … good for the salad row, if not ideal for the row cover’s frost-prevention powers.

  • Summer Squash / Zucchini – the summer squash have given up the ghost now, although a few zucchini soldier on.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – grandma Deb & Kristin have both been enjoying this recipe and website, maybe you will too!
Canuck Wwoofer Paul harvesting your cherry tomatoes
  • Tomatoes – We’re gonna miss these soon enough, but for now they’re still giving me logistical fits. Definitely slowing down though.
  • Parsley
  • Mint & Mountain Mint – Mountain mint plants are not the same as true mints; they belong to a different family, but they can be used like true mints.
mint, mountain mint, and parsley
  • Shallots
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peppers – we’re loving these – there’s a chance we will be covering the plants up tonight to save them from the potential frost we’re facing … don’t tell the cherry tomatoes, which are gonna be on their own.
  • Apples – with the drought they’re runty and misshapen, but we’re happy to have them on the trees we planted. Some are Honeycrisps and some are Red Barons. The lumpy skin is just a cosmetic flaw – they’re tasty and normal inside.
  • one Cayenne Pepper – it’s the long red one, and yes it’s hot.
  • Radish Microgreens – elevate and zip up anything with a sprinkling of these on top

Week 13 CSA Newsletter

First, some sad news must be shared. Since we started this farm, we have been supported by our amazing neighbors – you’ve heard me write about Neighbors Dave & Marcia over and over through the years, and they’ve been in our CSA since the beginning. At the end of August, Neighbor Dave traded in his tractor for his wings. It seemed impossible to adequately summarize his influence on Que Sehra Farm, but I had to try – pulling together photos and anecdotes from years of this blog.

It hasn’t all been sadness, which is good because Dave wouldn’t have wanted it that way. For one thing, we got almost an inch of rain – for once, WE got the rain while everyplace to our north and south just had the dreaded thundersun. And that came on Saturday, just before the summer’s last gasp heatwave turned the broiler on.

Looks like this is the last day of that, before we’re reminded of sweatshirts and bonfires and all that autumnal wonderful. The last two farmer’s markets have been record breakers for us, providing objective and measureable verification that in spite of the drought, in spite of trials and tribulations of 2023 … things are, indeed, OK. I remember feeling optimistic earlier this year, when there was very little rationale for such optimism … that was around when I got to looking up the etymology of the word “pollyanna,” as I recall. But I was right! The boxes are bursting, the vegetables are lovely, and my recurring angsts are rooted in problems of abundance (OMG tomatoes stawwwp) (no, don’t please).

The foraging has been an abundance too, with hefty hauls of pristine lobster mushrooms and radiant chicken of the woods, while at home we smoked tomatoes and peppers, and roasted onions, and picked and juiced perhaps thousands of tart tiny wild grapes for jelly.

Hey foraging is a great transition into the part where we talk about what’s

inside Box 13

No, there aren’t mushrooms in the boxes, those were just why your box has that apple in it …

  • One Wild Apple – So I was out in our woods with the boys, enjoying our surroundings and picking lobster mushrooms to sell at the market. As we picked the last in our patch, Otis spied a big beautiful chicken of the woods mushroom on a dead tree, in the distance. And then, as we finished harvesting the clumps of that, I looked up and was … baffled. Apples? Big pretty reddish apples? Yes. We found a wild apple tree, and the apples turned out to be quite tasty (wild apples often aren’t, as their genetics are basically randomized)! Where had it come from and why had we never noticed it before and how was it thriving in the sandy shadows? The mystery apples tasted like a little bit of magic, so we are going to cut some branches this winter and try to graft them to rootstock so that we can plant our own … and we thought it would be fun to share one with you. (The boys made quick work of the biggest reddest ones.)
  • Summer squash/zucchini
  • Beets – might not be many, but honestly we’re lucky that we got any at all
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes – if you want a bunch of flawed ones for sauce, let us know because the high tunnel is producing them at Henry Ford production levels and it’s freaking me out.
  • Cherry tomatoes
Marty and Canuck Paul on cherry mater patrol
  • Curly Kale
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Italian Basil
  • Sunflower micro greens
thousands of dragonflies over the field

In Memory of Neighbor Dave

Dave Marquardt was our Neighbor.

That doesn’t sound like much, maybe. The word “neighbor” doesn’t mean more than houses in proximity, for most. But Dave helped teach us what being a Neighbor can mean.

See, Dave died last week. And I really couldn’t have predicted how hard it would hit, so literally close to home – and how major this transition into a future without Neighbor Dave would feel.

As I searched through ten years of blog posts, it became clear how present he had been throughout our history here, how instrumental in the creation of the field, the high tunnel, the root cellar … and our life here in the Barrens. So I brought some of those stories together, hoping to sketch a portrait of the Neighbor whom we have been so lucky to have.

Neighbor Dave delivers a beautiful chicken of the woods mushroom he found while mowing (August 2020)

Won’t you Be My Neighbor: a Decade of Dave

From the beginning, Dave and his tractor helped us prepare the field – driving past in 2011, he’d seen Kristin struggling alone to bring forth food from the sand and weeds, without tools, irrigation, or fencing … just her pure indefatigable gumption.

Dave loved to reminisce about those early days, how impressed he’d been, how he’d driven over and introduced himself… and began the relationship that would nurture our farm and family for years to come.

I used to call Dave “Tractor Man” – imagining a rural super hero in a John Deere-green cape who heard the distress call and came swooping in to save the day.

“This week, we finally cut down the “Ultimate Ticking Time Bomb” – the dead oak that leaned over the trailer and loomed over our bed. Neighbor Dave brought his tractor and a long cable over, and pulled the tree away from our home, while Kristin worked the chainsaw.

Of course, the old tree didn’t go without a fight – after it was “safely” down and we were removing the branches, one of them broke under tension and came flying freakishly up off the ground, broken end spinning around to punch Gabe just above the upper lip, splitting his face open. Dave got us a razor to shave it to the skin, so that his tape strips would hold the wound closed – although it was deep, it was remarkably clean, allowing it to mend nicely.”

September 24, 2014

Notably, in the decade we’ve been here full time, we never had to worry about being trapped in by the snow – because Neighbor Dave made our driveway a part of his plow routine, keeping our path clear even when we were Down South for the season.

After our first year living on the farm, we managed to get ourselves stuck in the Marquardts’ driveway on our way out of town … and Dave pulled us out, the first of many similar times that “Marquardt Search & Rescue” would save the day.

“Over the two days before we planned to leave, a storm buried the farm beneath 16 inches of snow – and nearly trapped us there. The snowplow took 2 and a half days to clear the road, just in time for us to leave – and our amazing neighbors Dave & Marcia helped us escape – plowing us out, and then pulling us up and out of their driveway when we got stuck there while trying to drop off some veggies as we departed.”

November 26, 2014

Building the 70x30x15′ high tunnel greenhouse was a huge undertaking for us, and if it wasn’t for Neighbor Dave’s help, we might be working on it still. When the semi truck first arrived with the new high tunnel kit within, we were instantly in trouble – we had no way to unload it all, other than unloading the entire truckload by hand, a piece at a time … but then Tractor Man swooped over and made short work of the unloading project … and kept on heroing for the rest of the build, from preparing the site and the soil and leveling and setting the foundation posts with his friend’s laser level, to anchoring the massive end posts, to hoisting us up to secure the fasteners along each rib, and getting the plastic over the top when the frame was completed.

April 2015 – Neighbor Dave doing some tractormancy on a pile of aged horse manure, to prepare the soil for the new high tunnel greenhouse

“Construction went faster this week – in part because we had more experience, but largely because we had good help – Jim continued as project foreman, and we were joined by Neighbor Dave and his tractor – which allowed us to forgo awkward tippy ladder work, and instead simply work from inside the raised bucket, with all the necessary equipment and tools up with us.”

August 11, 2015

Of course, his neighborliness went far beyond tractoring … Dave was generous beyond compare – with tools, food, drink, and his time. At first, having never been exposed to such consistent and profound generosity, I thought the neighbors just thought we were super awesome … but eventually realized it was more the case that the Neighbors were super awesome, and we just so happened to have been the lucky fools that landed next to them.

“Neighbors Dave & Marcia kept our flock of hens happy throughout the winter, provided us with additional firewood to fuel both the greenhouse heater and the new WWOOFer cabin, lent us gopher traps and taught us their use, tools, and best of all, their tractor!

Plus, when I was despondent thinking I’d killed our well pump (it turned out to just be a flipped breaker in the generator), Marcia brought over rhubarb custard dessert and ice cream; I literally cannot imagine better neighbors to have.”

Dave helping inoculate shiitake logs

As we explored the neighborhood and tested our capabilities, we got ourselves into various jams – and Neighbor Dave was always incredibly willing and remarkably able to help us out of them – we dubbed the neighbors “Marquardt Search & Rescue,” after the pattern became evident over the years …

“… in short order, we were well and truly stuck, the van having excavated a pit around the front passenger tire, the van resting on a deep, soft bed of sand.

The sun was setting, we were miles from anything, with two dogs and a baby. Fortunately, when I hiked up the hill, I was able to get phone service – and even more fortunately, was able to get in touch with our amazing neighbor (and CSA Member!) Marcia, who came and rescued us, as we walked down the road in our mosquito netting, as Otis laughed and cooed and thought this novel experience was the most fun he’d had in days.

The next morning, Neighbor Dave – the other half of the Marquardt Search & Rescue Operation – came out with his truck and helped pull the van out of the sand pit it languished in …”

July 31, 2018

That wasn’t the only times we got unstuck Dave rescued us from getting ourselves stuck in the barrens .. Otis still remembers the time he saw his first rainbow, as we waited on a logging road for Tractor Man to come pull us out of the massive puddle we’d mired the Subaru in …

Dave saves us from the muck

Oftentimes, the rescues were not because we were literally stuck, but mired over our heads in projects that were made easy with Neighbor Dave’s help … they neighbors would somehow know we could use help without being asked, with heroes’ spidey-sense …

“I began the struggle of tilling through the remaining roots and weed stalks with our little walk-behind … when I heard “STOP! STOP!” through my hearing protection.

And lo and behold – like an angel there appeared Neighbor Marcia, bearing glad tidings – Neighbor Dave had the tiller attachment hooked up to their tractor, and he could come and make short work of the area I was in if we could take down the fence a bit for access. And now the thick growth has been transformed into a nice fluffy uniform soil, ready to have salad mix, beet, cilantro, and dill seeds sown directly into for the late season’s harvests.”

Neighbor Dave tilling some of the field in 2018

Dave teaches Kristin how to excavate the hole for the root cellar

Neighbor Dave unloading the huge pallets & the semi dolly (August 25, 2020)

Even this last year, as his health problems mounted, Neighbor Dave made the CSA newsletter a couple times, first with the generous bounty of grapes shared with us from the booming vineyard Dave had cultivated …

“We have one just neighboring home out here on the farm, kitty corner from us. We have always considered ourselves incredibly lucky to have them – and now you can share a little bit in our fortune with this jelly. Neighbor Dave & Neighbor Marcia aren’t just neighbors and O.G. CSA members – they’re also vignerons! OK, I had to look that word up – they cultivate a lovely vineyard, and last fall it was bursting with grapes … a bounty that they shared with us! We don’t make wine … but we sure love homemade jelly. So enjoy some unique grape jelly, made by your farmers, with wine grapes from fellow CSA members!”

June 13, 2023

… and then with an epic final tractor rescue, where we were able to witness Neighbor Dave in his zone, working his flow state, making a complex and seemingly impossible rescue look easy, his tractor not a mere machine, but an extension of his good-natured and helpful will …

Neighbor Dave evaluates the destroyed goat manure trailer

“Things seemed hopeless for the trailer and its load of fertilizer … until our friend, neighbor, and CSA member Dave rolled up on his tractor like a knight in shining armor and saved the day. He and Grandpa Jim coordinated an amazing mechanical ballet, effortlessly spinning the crippled trailer around to level it and tipping it vertically to empty it out into a pile the tractor bucket made quick work of cleaning up (transferring it to the neighbors’ larger dump trailer).”

“With that trailer along with Dave’s truck, we were able to go back and use shovels, wheelbarrows, and the skid steer to clear out about half of the barn and get the contents home to be used next year. It was a lot of work and stressful when the trailer imploded, but everything got back on track so quickly and easily – thanks to the power of experienced and kindly neighbors – that it felt like something good that happened, instead of something … well, yeah, shitty.

Sometimes you need those little tragedies as opportunities to let the good times roll, the good people shine, the serendipity and magic and blessings that surround us to reveal themselves. And sometimes it’s literally poop. I love this life …”

July 11, 2023

… and sometimes, it’s the big tragedies we need, to realize how lucky we have been – to have had Dave Marquardt as our friend, as a teacher … and as a Neighbor in the most powerful and meaningful sense of that term, in a way that I never understood a neighbor could be, until our neighbors here patiently, wordlessly taught me.

We loved you, Neighbor Dave – and if we didn’t know what we had until it was gone, I guess it’s because some things are too big, too prevalent, to really notice properly as discrete things – when they are the environment, the bedrock, the conditions that make life possible .

We do know, now … deep in our guts, in the knots in our throats, and in our hearts as we look around the Farm every day and still see Neighbor Dave, larger than life, in every direction.

His spirit is built into the foundations here, and we glimpse his twinkling smile in a visiting dragonfly, and a punny mushroom in the chicken yard.

Dave, we are going to sorely miss your living presence in our lives – but we will never be apart from your spirit here.

Thanks, Neighbor.

the Week 12 CSA Newsletter

Creature Report:

Otis saw a blue jay. Sandhill cranes are being heard. Krisin saw a couple of day-walking deer looking at her from the edge of the woods. The 12 baby chickens look a lot like adults, and rays of sunshine on metallic-greening  tailfeathers are an ongoing gender reveal party  There are always more roosters than you dare let yourself hope. 

It seems the grasshoppers never got that bad this year, despite The Dry, and wonder if it’s because of all the blister beetles we’ve been seeing about the place – what with their grasshopper-egg-munching habit.

Garden Report:

It’s still happening. Pumpkins are emerging into the open. The last sweet corn was brought in to be canned as corn relish and vacuum-sealed and frozen.

Sehr Report:

We’re trying to preserve more stuff. It’s that time. We could be only a month out from the first freeze, they say. This week we brought home wild grapes, mostly Chokecherry season is on. So are the lobster and chicken mushrooms, and our apples.

The bugs have been barely noticable even down by the creeks and rivers, which really makes foraging so much easier to enjoy. (In related news, this is the week I finally got into some poison ivy.)

Jasper is wanting to know “why?” a lot for a one year old.

Inside Box 12

  • Edamame – boil them in salted water for 4-5 minutes, pop the pods out with your teeth and snack! Or hand shell and use in a stir fry or something.
  • Bok Choi
  • Eggplant – we’ve been smoking ours and making awesome baba ganoush
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes – the tomatoes are ON! This week was likely peak mater time.
  • Summer squash/zucchini
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Microgreen Mix – (sunflower, radish, broccoli, amaranth, kale, red cabbage)
  • Shallots
  • Potatoes (mix of red, white, and purples)

Week 11 CSA newsletter

It was the week in which we prepared for another round of baking heatwave while simultaneously beginning to ponder the cutting of firewood, as the season teeter-tottered atop the tipping point. Warm-blooded creatures of all types consider scouting for winter havens.

In the garden, “we are just mowing shit down, at this point,” Farmer Kristin reports, referring to utilizing Farmhand Gabe atop a riding blade machine, turning rows of towering weed forests into a finely-minced green mulch.

The weight of the dinosaurian tomato and pepper plants in the high tunnel has made us realize we will need to up our trellising game, if we’re going to keep spoiling our plants with amenities like consistent soil moisture and Munch Bunch goat manure. Which is to say; they’;re falling over and exploding a little bit, because they’re humongous. (Another one for the list of good problems to have.)

WWOOFer Laura has returned for another couple weeks in paradise, on her arc back toward Northern California, blackberries are still out there and wild grapes aren’t quite ripe but we still get them for crazytart juice. Lobster mushrooms emerge, grasshoppers are rather rude, sanhill cranes bugle and we assume they too are thinking about the coming of winter, a bit.

But it’s still early and hey it’s a bona-fried heat wave this week. But we probably do need to pick a date for the end of the year party. Think that it’ll be a potluck this time around, a few weekends into October ….

Inside box 11

Getting everything to fit into the box gets increasingly comedic this time of the season. Only the big 3/4 bushel boxes had a chance of closing. The clouds and cool 83 degree air held for the whole harvest – we got it done just as the sun broke through to turn up the broiler.

  • Russ Hanson Plums – eat soon, they’re ripe and ready!
  • Bree Broccoli 
  • Red or Green Cabbage
  • Shallots – the return of the fancy onions
  • Italian Eggplant of one kind or another
  • Thai basil – hopefully using it as packing material didn’t bruise it too badly.
  • Cucumbers – the plants report that they aren’t dead yet
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Tomatoes – we water them twice a day and it shows
  • Radish microgreens – zippy dish elevator

living close to the ground