Farm Newsletter June 12, 2018
Hopefully you got to enjoy the sun this weekend, while it was shining through! We were glad to have enough dry days (or half days!) last week to catch up on the weeding and planting that was starting to get urgent. Those days were crucial to preventing the current generation of weeds from getting a few inches taller and 5 times as hard to uproot and have die off before rerooting again in the next rain. While we were getting impatient for the chance to do that work, we were fortunate; as often happens we missed a few rains that other nearby areas got, which left several farmers we know falling even further behind in the June work of keeping the weeds at bay, making hay, or getting last major plantings in. But most folks were able to get in the field over the weekend.
The quietest, most wild and inspiring spot on the farm right now is our back field, through the wooded corner west of the barn; the field we call Larsen’s, after the last family to live in the adjacent house and farm that land. A few years ago, with NRCS help with funding and technical support, we started strategically planting prairie strips, or pollinator strips, around the farm. Each year they are getting more diverse and dense with dozens of species of native flowers and grasses. They’re just downright lovely. They add some wildness to the order and uniformity that growing this many veggies requires.
Together those plantings total 2 acres — that’s 2 acres of new homes and food for beneficial insects, and deep healing for the soil, and our hearts and minds. Some of it is planted where we needed waterways to absorb water from heavy rains running off our own fields, some is planted on a high-and-dry gravelly ridge that was too erosion-prone for us to plow and plant, and some is planted in a wet corner, soaking up tile water and surface runoff from neighbors fields. This year we also had a couple berms made — one you’ve probably walked over to get to the northern strawberry patch — to catch and retain water that used to rush down and gully lower fields and head too directly into the ditch. That wet muddy spot on the way to the berries was made on purpose to catch and soak up rain that the fields can’t soak up — we’re sorry the grasses haven’t gotten established yet and the ongoing rain made getting to the strawberries a little challenging last week!
Back at Larsen’s though — there is a dense cover of 3 and 4 foot tall grasses and flowers in the waterway there, doing a super job of soaking up rain as needed. And feeding the bugs!!! Many pollen-loving insects are also predators for vegetable pests — like lacewings, whose larva are like little dragons gobbling up aphids and other trouble-makers — so we’ve always tried to have as many flowers in bloom around the farm as possible.
And all around that waterway is a field of tall sorghum-sudangrass and buckwheat, with some clover growing underneath too. It is just lush and heavy and full of good news! Most of that field this year is laying fallow; meaning we’ll plant no veggies there, just a mix of those grains and legumes to feed to the soil, outcompete the weeds and provide some more bug habitat on the farm. Soon we’ll have to mow the cover crop, or soil-building crop, as it’s known, to keep any weeds living in there from going to seed. We’ve also found, from published on-farm research and now our own experience, that mowing the sorghum-sudangrass slows down thistle for a year or two. Thistle is a powerful plant and difficult weed to manage — this way we get to feed the soil to help keep it producing healthy food for future generations, and knock back some of our worst weeds at the same time.
So walking through that field reminds us of how a good harvest, on any farm, is the product of many years of soil building and pest management — thousands of years of glacial soil-making, but also recent years of feeding the soil life. It is so easy to abuse soil in search of a good harvest; our country learned that the hard way in the 20th century. Vegetables are an annual crop that thrives with tillage and bare soil (read : erosion-prone) so we do our best to protect and give back to our fields, with compost, cover crops, probiotic tea, and mineral nutrients, and the waterways and berms. There is so much out of our control — what bugs or microbes or wild weather will come our way this year?? — that Larsen’s field is a lovely example of the many different ways that farmers care for the land that cares for us all.
This week we should have more summer squash and zucchini, and maybe a few cucumbers too. Broccoli should start trickling in this week, and soon after that we should be able to pick some cabbage, carrots and beets.
We’ll continue to have greens and lettuce, kohlrabi, boc choi, kale for at least a few weeks, with 1-2 weeks left of head lettuce, radishes and turnips. Plus baby leeks, which are milder and flatter-leaved than scallions; like scallions you can use the whole plant. Spinach doesn’t like hot weather, and caught a disease last week, so it is just barely holding on for a smidgin this week; next week we probably won’t be able to pick any.
Garlic scapes! Make Pesto!! (see recipe here on the website, or the recipe for grilled scapes down below) This will be the last week we have them, and you can really take as much as you want. The pesto is so zingy and refreshing, and refrigerated lasts a couple weeks and frozen (in ice cube trays) many months. The scapes themselves will be fine in your fridge (in a bag) for many weeks so if you won’t get to it soon take plenty anyway.
What’s for U-Pick?
Well, Strawberries looked great until about Tuesday, when the rain kept coming and coming, right as they were ripening the first round of big fruit. We had picked off a few over the weekend and left what was to be perfect for the first picking day on Tuesday, but we were beat by the water and the fungus. But there are more berries coming and if we get more dry periods than last week the picking should be better!
It wasn’t a lot of volume of rain, which is nice, but just so many hours and days of wetness that let the fungus spread so fast and far. There are more rotten berries than we’ve ever seen before; since we don’t spray any pesticides, fruit crops can be the hardest to keep healthy, and strawberries are at the top of that list for us.
We have three varieties in two different plantings, to try to find a good balance of flavor and berry size, and productivity in an organic system. They also have slightly different ripening times, by a week or half-week each; we used to grow just one variety but wanted to lengthen the berry season a little, and it has the side benefit of them having a chance at ripening in different weather patterns. We’ll see what this week brings! It could go either way.
Important picking notes for this week: With more berries coming in there is still a chance at an easier harvest. PLEASE start picking at a red flag, and pick heading away from the barn. Pick all that are red and ripe in your row, and move the flag to where you stopped picking. If you don’t follow this system more berries will go unpicked and there will be less for everyone, because the areas that have the ripest berries can go unpicked, especially when they’re a little longer walk down the row.
Peas! are coming soon, maybe a few this week, maybe not. By next week they should be fully in, and peak picking for hopefully two weeks. They don’t like heat waves though, so this weekend could shorten the harvest a little.
Cilantro! Dill this week. Basil and Flowers trickling in next week.
This spot in the newsletter will keep you informed, and always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available and picking amounts.
Nuts and Bolts
We are looking for U-pick volunteers!!!
Do you have a little more time to spare when you are out at the farm to do a little more u-pick? Please let us know! Some of our members have back issues or other conditions that make it hard to do u-pick, but we’d love for them to still have access to the u-pick crops. If you are able to pick extra herbs or more strawberries etc, we would SO appreciate that! If this is something that you would be happy to do, let us know and we will connect you with someone who needs assistance. Thanks for considering!
Maple Syrup for Sale this week!
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.
CSA Handbook for You — If you are new ot the farm and didn’t get one please ask us for one. If you aren’t new to the farm but would like one, please ask. It contains info about logistics on the farm, and lots of tips for U-Picking, storing and preserving the farm’s bounty. It is also available online on our “Information for CSA Members” page (click here).
Share Pickup Hours TUESDAY and THURSDAY 1:30-6:30 pm.
You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.) Please note — the barn will probably be unstaffed from 6-6:30 so we can start dinner and evening time as a family — we’ll try to leave it well-stocked and all set up for easy self-service, but if there is a vegetable we’ve run out of or if you have any other question, please text Erin at the number posted in the barn and we’ll be happy to come down and help.
Change Pick-Up Day Form — Click here. Please fill out this form instead of emailing us. Thanks!
Please Drive Carefully —Children are everywhere.
On the note of children, please know where yours are at all times. ESPECIALLY All buildings (except the shareroom area of the barn) are off-limits to children. This includes the root cellar and back of the barn, the new construction near the barn (soon to be the walk-in fridge), and the new machine shed (hiding in the woods up the hill). There are sharp tools in many places, of all shapes and sizes.
We love having all of you come to the farm, it’s been so great to have you back enjoying the place! Thank you for making it such a great place to be!
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Alissa, Bisharo, Danny and Sahara
Grilled Garlic Scapes with Black Pepper
black pepper, to taste
sea salt, to taste
Heat your grill to a medium or low flame.
Massage the scape with oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Toss them onto the grill and brown both sides, remove them when they’re soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, a lighter shade of green and golden brown in parts.
Green Garlic Risotto
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 stalks of green garlic, finely chopped (or garlic scapes)
pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio
1 cup mizuna or arugula roughly chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan bring the broth to a simmer. Reduce the heat and keep warm. In a large heavy bottom pot heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat. Add the green garlic and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring often for about 1 minute.