Farm Newsletter June 20, 2016


Farm Newsletter June 20, 2016

Farm News       Crop Forecast

U-Pick              Recipes               Nuts and Bolts


Optional Farm Tour after Eating

Greetings Friends!

The strawberries on the farm are amazing us right now.  Strawberries are a blast to eat, no doubt.  But the fact that we have any this year is remarkable, and we owe a big thank you to the Jordan aquifer.  (Well, also thanks to electricity and 20th century well drilling technology.)

The hard freeze in mid-May devastated many fruit crops in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Vineyards and orchards lost 25-100% of their crops, and strawberry growers without big enough irrigation systems lost the same.  We are fortunate to have plenty of irrigation — we grow less than 1/3 acre of berries and can water over an acre at a time.  This is thanks to thirsty veggies (which are generally about 90% water), quick-drying soil, and a location that seems to miss rain as often as we get it– all of which have pushed us to invest in a bigger well pump and more pipes to carry the water around the farm, so we were able to water the flowers to keep them from being damaged by the cold.

That’s what’s amazing to us, that watering these plants in freezing weather protects them.  Usually being wet makes you colder, right?  Like going swimming on a hot day.  But as the irrigation water turns to ice on the flowers, the physical change releases heat (1172 BTus per gallon, to be exact).  The heat is drawn into the flower, not released into the air (that’s a different lesson in physics, maybe one of you can make that one clear to us), and the flower’s temperature can be maintained above freezing, and the fruit can develop in the next few weeks.  Wow!

So we watered all night, two nights in a row, and in the mornings the strawberry rows were completely covered in ice.  Once the sun melted the ice we could see that the blossom’s centers were still yellow, the color of sweet relief and of berries-to-come.  Cold damage turns the center black, and those flowers will not produce fruit.  There were just a couple of those in a corner where the breeze blew the water away.  So whew!  we have a crop to enjoy and share.  We’ve done it several times before but it is incredible every time.  Overhead irrigation for frost protection is standard practice in strawberries, cranberries, oranges and maybe more, and learning about it is a fascinating look into how plants work and how food is grown.

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Crop Forecast

This week we get to start picking some heartier veggies for you, though it’s just the beginning of summer eating.  Summer squash and zucchini are starting to trickle in, which is the biggest change right now.  Kohlrabi, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli and beets  are later than last year but should be coming, at least a little and maybe a lot, in the next 2 weeks.  Carrots maybe maybe next week.  There are some 3″ tomatoes out there but they’re more like a month from being ready.

We’ll also try to add baby leeks (which are very mild and can be used much like scallions).  We’ll have all the same greens and leaf lettuce.  Head lettuce should last 1-3 more weeks, but fewer varieties, since the butterheads and romaines don’t like heat it’s not worth planting them for this late of a harvest.  It’ll mostly be red leaf and summercrisp, with some red romaine.  You may notice some holes or shredded leaves — that’s from one or another of the heavy rains.  Not h—, but just hard pounding raindrops ripping through those tender leaves.  They still taste good, and most heads are growing so fast the damage is mostly disappearing.  These upcoming cool temps will keep it all around longer.

Garlic scapes will probably go this week and then be done.  We switched over to them from the spring garlic stalks since the latter were getting tougher-skinned as they mature, which the scapes will do soon too.  Remember garlic scape pesto (see recipe here) is a zesty green hit, but we also love just freezing scapes with olive oil: chop coarsely by hand, then puree in a food processor with some olive oil, and put in ice cube trays to freeze.  The cubes add a little green summer zest to winter cooking, especially when added at the last minute.  After this week we’ll have to wait until garlic harvest in late July to have more fresh garlic flavor, but scapes last forever in a plastic bag in the fridge, so don’t be shy in how much you take.  We have oodles and oodles of them.

Spinach did not like the first hot weekend (last weekend) — it starts to bolt, or flower, in warmer weather.  So it’s done until September.  We’ll start planting the next rounds at the end of July.

Soon we’ll switch from a “counting” mix and match (ie the “12-16 pieces” table) to a “bag size” mix and match, (ie where you fill 1/2 white thank you bag with the crops you’d like to have)  So keep on your toes and watch those signs!  Y’all are great.  Thanks for adapting to this unique way of getting your veggies.   We hope it keeps working for you for years to come.

Weatherwise, we love the 80s highs, because the veggies do.  They thrive in this weather.  90s are stressful, just like they are for people, and although the extra heat can kick the plants in the pants, if we’re in the 90s for too long all sorts of unwanted things start to happen.  70s are a little chilly and the plants move a little slower, but they can still do what they need to do.  It is astounding what the crops can and hopefully will do in the next 6 weeks.  They’ve been busy filling the soil with roots, building relationships with microbes and worms and the like, and are looking ready to suck up nutrients to power the incredible rate of cell division and many feet of above-ground growth.  All while we go about our daily to-dos, thinking we’re the ones getting something done.   Go plants!

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What’s for U-Pick?

Strawberries, that’s what!

What a fantastic strawberry harvest.  The flavor has held steady in our old variety, despite the rains, and also there’s been just a little grey mold (rot — botrytis, technically).  We’re trialing a couple new varieties down by the driveway, to find one we like that comes in a little later than Allstar (the oldie but goodie) so the picking season can be a little longer.  The new ones (which come a little later and hopefully would extend our picking season a week or so) have been large but haven’t tasted as good, so we’ll keep watching and taste-testing.  It’s a hard job.

There are lots of berries left to come, though they will start being the smaller ones now.  We should be able to keep the picking limits high.

Plus cilantro, dill, lemon balm, mint, and now pea shoots.   The pea shoots are next to the greenhouse — they are a short pea variety (knee high)  whose tendrils, or shoots, are especially tender and good for snacking, tossing in salads or stir-frying.  Pinch or use scissors to cut the top 3″ off.  These are a nice addition to early summer meals and will be good for 2-3 weeks.  They have sunflowers growing on either side of them, which may still be hiding in weeds, so walk carefully.  We’ll try to get the weeds out soon.

Snap peas will be starting soon, probably trickling in later this week.  They are hiding east of the barn and north of the “Cubhouse” (the little greenhouse with little tractors in it).  Save some extra time for when you come get your share, or come back another day for U-pick– It’s picking time!

Please always check the U-pick board when you’re here to confirm what’s available and picking amounts.  Please bring your own scissors for U-pick.  If you don’t have them with you, ask Erin or Ben or one of the crew and we can loan them. 

U-Pick Help: If at any point in the season you are not physically able to U-pick due to an injury or any other reason, please let us know. We have a list of generous folks that are interested in volunteering to pick your U-pick crops for you.

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Nuts and Bolts

POTLUCK HERE THIS SATURDAY JUNE 25th! 5pm.  Forecast looks good so far, and the bugs haven’t burst out yet.  Bring a dish to share, plates, something to sit on, and anyone you’d like to bring.  We’ll set up tables at the new party spot west of the barn (we had a flat area made with the drainage pond).

Reminders from the email last week :

Maple Syrup from Enchanted Woods, our employee Aaron Ray and partner Molly Woods, for sale outside the barn.

Hard Cider from Keepsake Cidery in Dundas will be sampled at upcoming share pickups. Cider shares available.  Nate Watters and Tracy Jonkman, info at or email

Cheese CSA Shares from Singing Hills Dairy will start next week, starting the 27th.  Contact Kate Wall and Lynne Reeck with questions at

Remember your reusable bags and also to sign in when you pick up your share. We have plastic bags for you to use and as usual will also have reusable bags for sale in the shareroom. The bags we sell are the same size as the plastic ones we supply for figuring amounts of veggies in your share. Feel free to ask one of us for details.

Sign-In Sheet When you come to pick up your share, please sign the sign-in sheet on the table inside the barn door. This helps us know how many people came each day, so we can be sure to pick more than enough for everybody.

If you split a share, please sign in on the same line as your share partner. Also there is a “share partner notes” sheet. Feel free to use this to communicate with your share partner regarding splitting details.

Share Pickup Hours Monday, Wednesday Friday 2:00-6:00pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.)

Please Drive Carefully —Children are everywhere.

Glad to have you back enjoying the place and the harvest,

Your farmers,

Erin and Ben, with Allia, Aaron Ray, Ali, Anna, and sometimes Brynna, Jesse and Karl

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Warm Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Chevre

from Recipes from America’s Small Farms by Joanne Lamb Hayes & Lori Stein

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, pressed

2 tsp honey

½ tsp paprika

1 ½ cups sliced white or cremini mushrooms

3 cups Lacinato (Tuscano) kale, rinsed, drained, and torn into pieces (about 3 ounces)

2 cups mixed baby greens

salt and pepper

8 to 12 ounces firm chevre, thinly sliced or crumbled

¼ cup pistachios, toasted

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic,honey, and paprika in a small bowl. Bring ¼ cup of the mixture to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring once or twice, just until it begins to wilt.

Toss the hot mixture with the baby greens in a large bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the greens among 4 serving plates; top with the chevre and toasted pistachios. Serve immediately; whisk the remaining balsamic vinaigrette and pass to drizzle over the greens.



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