Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What to Do With Your Share---Week 4

May has been great this year. If we were a baseball player we would have a pretty good batting average. Our weakest hitter so far has been the root vegetables, but hakurei turnips and a few radishes finally step up to the plate. Looking forward to keeping them on the roster for the near future.

A favorite of ours with the hakureis is a curry from this blog exactly 5 years ago in 2011. We also recommend the curried spring vegetable stir fry from 2014.

The Asian greens haven't seemed to stop growing. This week's bok choi is a variety called joi choi. The bed it was planted in this April had some remnant seeds of buckwheat in it. These small grain plants are not a real weed problem, as they are easily hoed out or killed by frost. The flowers are an early source of food for flying insects and perhaps a reason we have so few pests this spring.

The herb choice this week is a mixed bunch. See if you can tell the parsley apart from the cutting celery and the dill from the herb fennel. This group of herbs are all ready for picking now and can be used to garnish just about any dish. Try the cutting celery with a stir fry, or the herb fennel with your chard.

We hope you got the email about the  strawberry patch Upick. It is open until it runs out of berries for members and their families. The kiddos who have come so far have all left red-handed. It is supposed to be a beautiful week and we need a least a few folks to keep the patch picked.

In the meantime we can spend some time getting the tomato beds weeded, staked and mulched. Make hay while the sun is shining.

In the Share: Week 4

SUGARSNAP PEAS F/P  It is hard to judge how many will be ripe when we pick them with the CSA tomorrow, but the plants are loaded with fruit.  We will try to get some to everyone on Weds.  By Saturday and next week we should have lots more.

SPECKLED ROMAINE LETTUCE F/P  A lovely tender romaine heirloom that has a tendency to burn out in the heat.  Lucky for us it has headed up nicely for this week's shares only.

BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE F  Smaller heads this week, the butterhead season is about done.  We have more red leaf lettuce and green romaines that will hopefully keep us in salads through June.

BROCCOLI F/P  Bunches include standard broccoli and it's cousin, gai lan.  I hear broccoli leaves are the new kale.



TURNIPS AND RADISHES F/P  The first of the spring roots have taken their time, but they have turned out to be a nice intro to the root harvest.


HERB MIX F/P  Dill, herb fennel, parsley and cutting celery.  See Tom's post on herb identification.

BOK CHOY F  Our white-stemmed varieties are growing handsomely.  If you haven't yet stir-fried, I recommend the finished product.  Tom's making one with tatsoi and green onions right now.

NEXT WEEK:  Lettuce, peas, turnips, greens, kohlrabi, beets and herbs.


May is a make-or-break month.  If you get the plants in and the weather holds, it sets you up for a good summer.  If it storms and rains and stymies your planting schedule, you are in for a rough ride.  Last year's 30+ inches of rain in the months of May and June gave us fits.

happy potato plants

This May was actually really great.  We received a nice amount of rain, but not too much.

The CSA crew on Saturday helped us with mulching our other big block of tomatoes and peppers.  It is a messy job, but it pays off in cherry tomatoes so totally worth it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In the Share: Week 3

STRAWBERRIES F2/P1  We thank our 2015 crew who planted the new patch just in time for the 2007 patch to dwindle out.

BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE F/P  Here is Tom's yummy recipe for strawberry garlic scape dressing for your butterhead lettuce salad.  Highly recommended.



TAT SOI F  Tat soi is bok choy's thinner-stemmed, darker-green cousin.



GARLIC SCAPES F/P  The young flower bud of the hardneck garlic plant.

HERB CHOICE F/P  Cilantro, mint, tarragon.

NEXT WEEK:  Lettuce, swiss chard, strawberries, broccoli, sugarsnap peas and herbs.

With the third week of the field harvest season upon us we are happy with how it is going.  The lettuces continue to be huge and beautiful.  There is nothing quite like a blushed butterhead that is just as heavy as it is delicate.

Expect another few weeks of Spring greens before we transition to the summer fruits and roots.  The weather has given the crops a nice amount of rain and sunshine.  We missed the five inch downpour on Sunday and count ourselves lucky.  Fourteen years of experience plus good weather equals healthy plants and happy farmers.

We are up to 129 CSA members and counting.  We have had a string of new memberships coming in.  I want to welcome all the newbies.  We don't have as much time to get to know folks this time of year, but I hope you stick with us and we look forward to seeing you out at the farm this season.

The new Crossroads site at Lifted Spirits is working out great.  We are so very grateful to Michael, Darren and Kyle for letting us take over their space for a few hours every week.  Here's the haul from last week along with the very pretty sign courtesy of distribution coordinator and artist, Stacey Cook.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 3

Spring has felt like it has gone on awhile this year. It is only now really warming up to a point where you break a sweat. With the nighttime temps creeping up to 70, the summer plants are ready to start growing.

Meanwhile we are in the heart of one of our more luscious May's. The word "greens" is used a lot to talk about the shares, and here in our household we have been taking advantage of the savory dishes we can make with them.

A head of lettuce
While greens on their own with only a little oil, salt and pepper can be quite satisfying, it is when you add some umami that things kick up a notch. This flavor sensation can be added with ingredients such as mushrooms, bacon, fish sauce, seafood, fermented vegetables, toasted nuts, balsamic vinegar, cheese, and more.

My goal today was to make a wilted lettuce salad out of the biggest head of red leaf lettuce that we picked today. Well it turns out that our frying pan was filled before I cleaned the whole head. It tasted great, and a couple of helpings later and the whole thing was gone. It is a great way to eat up your lettuce.

I used the wilted lettuce salad recipe from our June 11, 2013 blog with a few modifications---I used bok choi instead of hakurei turnips, and I only cooked the lettuce on high for 30 seconds and then let it wilt in the hot pan for a few minutes.

Grandpa the tractor with our Tortella spader.
Meanwhile, out in the fields we continue on with the SARE cover crop project. One of our test blocks is shown below. In the right half of the bed we rolled down/crushed the cover crop (rye/vetch) to form a mulch. On the left we mowed and spaded in the crop to incorporate it into the soil. The rye grass did not germinate well and our crop is mainly vetch this year. Lower in biomass but high in nitrogen content. 

SARE cover crop test plot

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In the Share: Week 2

SWISS CHARD F/P  The first picking of these colorful greens.

STRAWBERRIES F/P  We have picked the patch twice through and have enough for everyone to get one pint.  There are many more berries yet to ripen and we should be able to give all a quart by next week.

BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE F/P  The lettuces continue to be both heavy beasts, yet delicate at the same time.  Partial shares get a choice of butterhead or red leaf lettuce.


BOK CHOY F/P  I just finished eating Tom's fried rice for dinner with bok choy, green onions and garlic finished with a few eggs from our hens.  That's good eating!

GREEN GARLIC F/P  Just like onions, you can eat your garlic at the green stage.

CILANTRO AND DILL F/P  Cilantro played a role in the fried rice too.  Yummy!

GREEN ONIONS F  We continue to harvest the over-wintered patch.

ARUGULA F  First picking with hopefully more to come.

NEXT WEEK:  Lettuces, tat soi, strawberries, onions, radishes and broccoli.


Last week I managed to greet almost every member household as you all picked up your first shares.  I enjoyed reacquainting myself with all of you and I hope that you will enjoy what the farm has to offer this season.

When I wasn't hauling crates to and fro last week, I took part in a flurry of planting.  Thousands of heat-loving crops needed to go in and we had about 48 hours to get in done.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, basil, squash, cucumbers and beans are all in.  They were watered in nicely thanks to the rain and are ready to take off with some summer heat that should arrive soon.

With the rains arrival, there was other work to be done.  The last two days have been wash-outs but we just put on the rain gear and keep going.  Here's the crew harvesting the arugula this morning.

On the way to the arugula this morning, we saw these tracks which we think are coyote.  The coyote have lived on the Graff farm for years, but they used to stay further away when we had our dear dog, Rocky.  Now without a dog, we are hoping the coyote are able to move through our fields during their nighttime hunts and help us keep at bay the many critters that want to eat ripe fruits and fresh greens.  Good luck, coyotes!

What to Do With Your Share---Week 2

Things are growing fast out here. The alliums are plumping up, greens are peaking, and the first fruits of the season are here. We like what we see out there right now, and are enjoying the nice harvest.

For the next several weeks it will be stir-fry season. The Asian greens are quite happy with the weather and have sized up as well as they can during spring. So this time of year we like to link you to Twenty Tips for Stir-frying by Rhonda Parkinson. Another suggestion is Stir Fry Soup from our blog five years ago.
Bok choi
Tonight at dinner we made a fried rice with egg and vegetables.  Regularly having cooked rice in the fridge, a boatload of vegetables, and fresh eggs at hand makes this a go-to meal. We cook the veggies first, add several eggs to the middle of the wok to scramble, throw in some rice, stir it together. and cook until the rice crisps up a bit. A hearty meal.

On the way to making fried rice with egg and vegetables
Our recipe above is a little ahead of the harvest curve, with some hakurei turnips and gailan, but it can be made with most any of the roots and greens you have in our share. Short on fresh ginger, we even used crystallized ginger for flavor. What doesn't get eaten tonight is perfect for lunch.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What to Do WIth Your Share---Week 1

The CSA season is here, so welcome to week 1. We have been gearing up for this day since the first seeds were planted in the greenhouse back in February. It is time to start harvesting.

We do our best to give you crops are at their peak, and the lettuce could not be better. It is only so often during the year when this salad green is so tender and crisp at the same time. In last week's blog I recommended focusing on making some good salad dressing for the next month.

If you check out our group page, you find another suggestion, lettuce wraps. Stacy Cook revived a link to our friend Heather Hands' blog of 2009. The butterhead leaves are especially suitable as wrappers or scoops. You can make whatever filling suits your desires.

The spring herbs are in peak form too. We moved the mint out of the field beds and into our home herb garden. The area they are thriving in has been a repository for greenhouse compost the last 10 years. The mint is the happiest we have ever seen it and the sprigs are first cuttings and fragrant. The chive flowers are at their edible best, with just a little crunch. The slight anise taste of tarragon goes well with fish, chicken, in a salad dressing, or to garnish a slaw.

One item new to our share list this year is field pea shoots. These greens are actually one of our cover crops, and we feel they represent a way to make an important connection between you and our soil.

One of the premises of our farming method is "you are what you eat, so you are what your plants eat." We feed our vegetables field peas by growing them, turning them into the soil, and letting the life in the soil digest them and release nutrients to the plant.

When we eat pea shoots the same thing happens. Bacteria in our digestive system break the pea shoots down so our body can utilize their nutritional content. It reminds us that our life is reliant on a host of other living things to perform that most important task of eating. It also reminds us that we must treat agriculture as a biological process, and not a chemical one.

The pea shoots are a sweet green for any type of salad. We chop them and use them as an ingredient in just about any type of fresh salad we make.

In the Share - Week 1







CHIVES AND CHIVE FLOWERS F/P  The chive flowers are a pretty salad topping!


PEA SHOOTS F/P  Read Tom's post for more info. on this succulent Spring treat.

NEXT WEEK:  More salad greens and herbs, Swiss chard, green garlic, bok choy

Welcome to Week One of the 24-week CSA Season!  We are happy to welcome both those of you who have been with us through the years and those who are brand new to our CSA and farm.

For the newbies, thank you for taking the plunge!  The first season is often a period of adjustment as you learn how to eat seasonally in our region.  We grow crops that thrive in our climate and in our organic soil which is pretty opposite of the American diet where we can eat everything any time we please.  So, to assist in the dietary shift you are about to make, each week Farmer Tom will cover some of the less usual crops and how to enjoy them.  Every week I (Rebecca) list what is in the share for the week and give a quick farm report. And, that's my cue...

The field harvest for the CSA began today when we brought in a few hundred lettuce heads for the shares tomorrow.  The lettuce crop is plentiful.  Two plantings have ripened concurrently so we have double what we need.  Blame the warm Spring for the fact that you will eat lots of salad for the next month or so.

We had five inches of rain in ten days, so there was a period of time when we couldn't do much in the fields.  We have made up for lost time since, with all the Spring crops getting a nice weeding with the tractor.

We then shifted gears to the Summer crops of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant and were able to get several hundred of each of those crops planted thanks to our transplanter and the crew putting in extra hours last weekend.

Right before the rain on Sunday we also managed to do something we had never done before:  put the chickens in the high tunnel.  The CSA members helped us glean the last of the worthwhile crops out of the structure ahead of the move.  We made sure to leave them plenty of less-than-desirable plants to pick at.  They appear to be enjoying their new environment.  It is staying dry for them for now until we remove the plastic cover when we find the time.  We are hoping that their stay will lead to a healthier, more fertile high tunnel going forward.  Thank you, chickens!  And thank you to all of our CSA families for your support!  This family farm is feeling grateful!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What to Do With Your Share---Extended Season Week 3

Things are shifting gears here on the farm. The high tunnel season is over and the field is starting to show its stuff. We are really enjoying the fresh lettuce and other goodness in the share.

And a good lettuce deserves good accompaniments. A creamy, fresh dressing is an excellent match for the butterheads in this week's share. Their season can be short, so we eat it as much as we can right now.

Our suggestion is to stock the fridge and cupboard with staples like plain yogurt, mayo, eggs, tahini, EV olive oil, citrus, and your favorite vinegars. If you do you can use fresh seasonings from the share like green garlic, chives, dill or cilantro to keep things local in making your dressing.

Butterhead Lettuce Heart Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
(dressing modified from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

1 egg yolk
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1/4 cup chopped green garlic or garlic scapes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup best-quality olive oil

1. Take outer leaves off lettuce head (save them for another salad or sandwiches) until you are left with the tender heart. You may want 2 lettuce heads per salad. Wash, dry in a salad spinner, and place in salad bowl or individual bowls.
2. Combine egg yolk, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process briefly.
3. With the motor running, slowly dribble in the olive oil.
4. Taste, correct seasoning if necessary, and transfer to storage/serving container.
5. Top salad with the dressing and garnish of choice (we used roasted pumpkin seeds

In the near future we hope to see this recipe be able to include fresh strawberries. We have two patches this year and look forward to the chance to have a good harvest in late-May.

Finally, a little note on the late Rocky. Since he passed in late July we have been taking different opportunities to scatter his ashes on the farm. We reserved some for remembrance and found a beautiful receptacle in a carved Peruvian gourd. Thanks to my sister Cathy for the gift.

In the Share: Week 3 extended

BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE  The first heads from the many 100s in the fields.

LETTUCE MIX  The last of the high tunnel crop, cut for salad mix


SPINACH the last leaves from the high tunnel crop




GREEN GARLIC  Young garlic plants from the field.

HERB MIX  Cilantro and dill

NEXT WEEK:  lettuce, green onions, spinach, kale, and herbs.

We had a nice stretch of days perfect for those rainy-day jobs that are put off when the fields are good for planting.  A big priority this year has been reinforcing the deer fence.  Much time has been spent replacing some of the fencing material, adding posts and installing new gates.

Overall the fence has held up considerably well since the membership helped us encircle the fields back in 2005.  In 2008 our beloved farm dog, Rocky, joined the team and we had to worry less about openings in the fence.  He even made some himself!  So when we lost Rocky last summer we contemplated getting a new pup to keep up the task of keeping wildlife out of the fields.  Instead we chose to take a season and see if we couldn't make it on our own.  It is a challenge, for sure, and we are trying to be extra vigilant about closing gates and keeping an eye out for signs.

The fields are growing in well thanks to a good amount of rain and sunshine.  We are one week away from the start of the 24-week season and 70 more families to feed.  Here we go!