Week 11: Pico & Corn Relish Season

It was a week of lots of eating lots of fresh pico de gallo, canning corn relish, helping our friend Steffan prepare for his outdoor wedding here next month, and finally completing the new velociraptor cage all around the processing area, to keep the chickens from strolling in and hanging out.

maybe we should electrify it. and put in sprinkler auto turrets.

It was also a week of strange and amusing critter happenings.

First something was screaming horribly in the woods in the late evening and early morning hours. Like, loud terrible repeated shrieks of utmost dismay … which turned out to be a hunter using an app that plays sounds designed to draw in predators, like the coyotes he was hunting.

Then there was the creature that haunted the Fish House – the repurposed ice fishing shed that WWOOFer Jenny has been staying in. Something was inside the wood stove in the middle of the night, scratching and scrambling and being terrifying. When we came to investigate, there was nothing to be found … well, nothing alive. There was however, a flat, mummified, long-dead flying squirrel preserved in the ashes.

We told her not to worry, it was just the ghost of the squirrel and he couldn’t hurt her. Of course, the sound came back a couple hours later, and she spent the night in her car. Then next night, it returned, so she opened the woodstove … and a quite- alive flying squirrel came ambling out into her cabin.

Eventually, it went out the door, and eventually, she got back to sleep.

Inside Box 11

  • Hot & Sweet Peppers – hot peppers are either cayenne or jalepeno. Sweet peppers are a mix of other peppers – all larger than the hots.
  • Sweet Corn
  • a Melon! – a magical blend of fate and free has brought you either a watermelon, Crenshaw melon, or Musk melon.
“Your baby is the size of a watermelon”
  • Tomatoes – they are definitely slowing down lately, and getting less perfect as the season slides down further from summer;s pinnacle, starting the descent into autumn. We have many more ugly ones now for saucing and salsas … and fresh pico on everything.
tomato & basil: as classic as peanut butter & jelly
  • Basil: (either full-size or micro-greens) – “Don’t put them in the fridge,” he repeated, again.
  • Cucumbers – maybe slowing down
  • Zucchini – not slowing down
  • Cherry Tomatoes – hitting their stride in the field!
  • Sweet Onions
  • Shallots
  • Micro-Greens (either radish, kale, or amaranth)
packing up today’s boxes

Week 10: of Onions & Truck Toppers

It was a lovely week, with a trip to our magic waterfall and swimming in the Saint Croix and some good rain that got here and some bad storms that missed us and lots of blackberry picking and lobster mushroom foraging.

On Thursday morning I woke up and opened my eyes and Kristin rolled over and said “we need a place to cure some onions.”

“OK. Some? How many is some? Dozens? Hundreds?”

<a moment of silence>

“Thousands.”

onions pulled & ready for curing

Oh boy! So I set to work brainstorming how to create a space for them; they would need shade, maximum ventilation, and protection from rain. We don’t have much indoor space here, so we’d have to build something!

For the base, I knew one of the big sturdy pallets (donated by an Action Squad fan) would probably work well. Once measurement revealed that it would fit perfectly beneath the truck topper that The Neighbors Marquardt had just given us, everything started to flow easily, and in a few hours, Marty and I built a sturdy shed with four 4×8′ chicken wire shelves.

Most of the onions fit inside this, and the rest went onto the screenporch of the Albatross in towers of scavenged bread trays.
A little more work with some dumpstered luggage fabric, and we had four drop-down sides to protect the curing onions during the rain forecasted for the evening.

And so, the Onions Shack joined our shantytown, as the sixth repurposed Truck Topper.

I repeatedly went outside over the course of the following days, just to admire it.

Some vegetables happened this week too, but that was on Kristin’s end and she is the driver and I’m the newsletterer so this is what you get. I suppose the boxes say all that needs to be said anyway, so let’s get to

Inside Box 10

  • Sweet Onions – eat them raw or caramelized!
  • Sweet Corn – eat it as soon as possible for maximum sweetness!
  • Broccoli – the spring broccoli plants have sprung back into action with these cooler temperatures, pushing out abundant tender side shoots.
  • Micro-greens (Radish, Cilantro, or Red Cabbage) – I have been trimming them with less stems this week, hopefully they’re even better now!
a rainbow of micro-greens growing in the Little Greenhouse
  • Slicing Cucumbers
  • a party of Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
cherry tomatoes heading to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday
  • Zucchini
  • a Melon! (Lily, Sun Jewel, or a mystery melon that we lost track of the name of)
melons! clockwise from top: Lily, nameless mystery, & Sun Jewel

Good.

Week 9: Chickens of the Woods

Well, I thought this newsletter was going to be mostly about seasonal shifts and foraging bounties of lobster mushrooms & blackberries, and maybe something about how I first came to this land exactly a decade ago, and fell instantly in love … but now, instead, we are going to talk about the wild chickens of the woods.

Yes, there is a delicious wild mushroom called Chicken of the Woods, and yes, I did find one that was too old to be eaten while we were out finding lobster mushrooms early in the week.

sadness when Weekly Chicken of the Woods #1 was old and oogey

Yes, we did offer our members some of the fresh, beautiful specimen we discovered while out foraging for wild berries a few days later.

WWOOFer Madball & her find: the week’s second surprise chicken of the woods

And yes, our CSA members, Neighbors Marquardt, did gift us a second massive Chicken of the Woods mushroom yesterday!

Neighbor Dave delivering the week’s third surprise chicken of the woods

However, none of these are what we are most excited about at the moment. While we were harvesting for your boxes today, Marty went into the chicken yard to dump some culled cabbages for chicken food and future compost.

And while in there, he spied a gang of tiny chicks fleeing into the dense underbrush behind the chickenyard.

They hid too well for us to find, but while we took our lunch break, they re-emerged … eleven beautiful babies wisely following their proud momma (who we’d noticed had gone rogue in recent weeks, sleeping somewhere secret in the woods, rather than the coop).

the finale of the week’s wild chickens of the woods , emerging from the undergrowth

So we all fanned out through the woods, forming a gentle line of shooing and baby talking, moving the family to safety – first, through the gate into the chicken yard, and then through the door of the little truck topper coop, where mama and her brood can relax in safety and privacy as they grow up a bit.

out of the woods and into the chickenyard

The herding went off without a hitch, and now the farm is feeling bright and cheerful, in a way that’s hard to explain but inarguably real for us all.

There is new life on the land here, new sparks for us to tend and bring up into our magical, grubby existence on the edge between the Barrens and Civilization.

It’s beautiful, and we are well reminded of that today.

Inside Box 9

  • Potatoes (red purple, yukon gold, and/or maybe russets)
  • Green Cabbage of Unremembered Variety
  • Eggplant – the season’s first! You probably remember that they will soak up a lot of oil when cooking, so choose an oil that you like the flavor of.
  • Shallots
  • Zucchini – all the kinds
  • Cucumbers – big slicers and littler picklers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Savory herb – will pair great with the potatoes!
  • Micro-greens (either basil (don’t refrigerate!), cilantro, radish, or a mix with cabbage, kale, and amaranth)
  • Tomatoes – they are ripening more slowly with these cool nights; use the soft ripe ones first, and let the firmer ones finish ripening on a counter for later in the week.
like it says

Box 8: Mungo Season

In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather’s fine
You got berries, you got berries on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find

If the veggie’s ripe take it in for a meal
If it’s not ripe yet just let it stay in the field
Speed along the rows
Pull a weed or maybe three twenty-five
When the sun goes down
You can make it, make it good and really fine

We’re not bad people
We’re not dirty, we’re not mean
We love everybody but we do as we please
When the weather’s fine
We go hikin’ or go swimmin’ in the stream
We’re always happy
Life’s for livin’ yeah, that’s our philosophy

Sing along with us
Dee dee dee-dee dee
Dah dah dah-dah dah
Yeah we’re hap-happy
Dah dah-dah
Dee-dah-do dee-dah-do dah-do-dah
Dah-do-dah-dah-dah
Dah-dah-dah do-dah-dah

Alright ah

Nora and the boys

Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh

Inside Box 8:

  • Shallots – use like onions … but with milder, more complex flavor.
  • Carrots – a medley of three colors of carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli – the spring planting is growing kind of oddly due to the recent heat waves, but it’s still yummy!
  • Micro-Greens – four of you are randomly getting flavorbomb basil microgreens – don’t refrigerate them or they’ll turn black and yucky. The rest of y’all have a colorful mix of amaranth, kale, kohlrabi, and mustard greens.
  • Green Beans (and a dash of Purple) – they’re slowing down finally!
the bean harvest crew
“Flying Lobster” aka Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Box 7: Winter is Coming… summer is here

It was a week of storms and transitions here on the farm. Just like last year around this time, we took shelter in our root cellar from a threat of tornadoes and straight line winds – and just like last time, the winds bypassed us, doing no harm here … but raising some hell just a little bit beyond us. (In fact, our own CSA shareholders and neighbors “The Goat People” had a big old oak blow down right on top of their helpers’ car!)

In other news, we did a lot of wild berry foraging again (raspberries are fading, blackberries are starting up), our dogs both made huge strides in recoveries from their maladies (a spinal injury and a severe grand mal seizure cluster), and Keegan & Charley (the lovely couple of WWOOFers we had staying with us for the last month and a half) moved out of the ice fishing shack to embark on a new adventure, battling an oil pipeline.

The season has shifted for us, it feels – from prepping & planting to maintenance & harvesting taking up most of our time. It’s a foundational pivot, and one impact is that even during heat waves, we sometimes find our thoughts turn toward winter. With the pandemic, the future is even murkier than usual. Magic 8-ball’s stuck on “Cannot predict now” and the soundtrack on “Que Sera, Sera.” But these are just early stirrings, without any concern. Because right now it’s peak, glorious summertime, and Life is in full, beautiful swing all around us.

Ain’t it grand?

Inside Box 7

It was a crazy raining downpour harvest this morning! The rain smashed our farmers market canopy, but Grandpa Jim came to the rescue and franken-fixed it with parts from one of our old dead ones. The boxes are really looking like summertime now, with rainbows of color from tomatoes and beets and zukes …

  • Tomatoes – the season’s first heirloom and cherry tomatoes! Most are ripe, some are just close to ripe … can be hard to tell since they come in so many colors (even green!) so gently squeeze to if they have a little bit of give to the skin. If so, they’re ripe!
  • Beets
  • Green Cabbage (Early Jersey Wakefield)
  • Big Onions
  • Bean Medley (Green, wax, and purple green beans)
  • Microgreens (basil, kale, kohlrabi)
this morning’s harvest was ideal swimsuit weather.
(Note that I’m not actually laying on the greens, And I’m not naked.)
  • green and golden Zucchini
  • Cucumbers (picklers and slicers)

what will be will be