Farm Newsletter June 24, 2019
Come Pick Strawberries!!
It’s summer now, right??
We’re excited to see what the plants do when we top 80 degrees tomorrow, for the first time in weeks. Everything looks great, they just can’t do their amazing feat of inches-a-day growth when it’s so cool in the day and night. They’ve been growing plenty of roots to soak up the irrigation and small rains we’ve had, and we think they’re gonna take off.
The harder rains have missed us so far this year, at least since the multi-inch pounding rain way back when the ground was frozen. A lot of insect pests have been missing us too — but we don’t miss them!! Cold winters here and down south, and a minimum of strong south winds, have meant we’ve seen almost no insect pests the last two years. Anything can happen yet, but it’s been really nice to be scouting and not find any!
Our ecological insect strategy has been building up populations of native bees and wasps — we’ve been seeing more species and more of them every year since we started planting more permanent insect habitats — aka prairie strips. We now have 2 acres of prairie scattered around the vegetable fields, providing habitat for many species of insects. Many are pollinators, attracted to the prairie and wetland flowers, and many of them are carnivorous at one life stage or another, helping to reduce populations of pest insects when they are present, and hopefully keeping them from reaching damaging levels.
We’ve seen it work so many times, and can’t help but write about it here again and again. It is one of the main ways we avoid using pesticides, by letting the diverse ecology of native plants and insects (and more) provide some services to our very non-native tilled fields of vegetables with origins around the world. We get pollination benefits too, on our flowering crops. Our next door neighbors at Spring Wind Farm and Little Hill Berry Farm have also been adding habitat. Aaron says that despite the cool and wet weather during blueberry pollination, their plants have good fruit set. There were more natives present than in previous years, and they seemed to have really helped with pollination.
Last year we were one of a couple dozen farms nation-wide to be “BEE BETTER” Certified. This is a new certification, and we were proud to be asked to be part of the pilot group. There are brochures in the barn about BEE BETTER — feel free to grab one if you want to learn more. We’ve also been paired with a Master Naturalist who will visit the farm over the summer to take stock of the native insect species we have living with us. We’re excited to be a part of the effort to support our insect friends, as the effort sprouts wings and takes off near and far!
Summer squash and zucchini are the exciting and versatile additions to the lineup this week — we might have to limit them They’re both so good fried in butter with salt and pepper, or shredded into vegetable pancakes or as grilled or roasted slices on a sandwich.
By next week or the week after we should be able to harvest some cucumbers and cabbage, followed by beets and carrots in early July.
We’ll continue to have greens and lettuce, boc choi, kale, and head lettuce, radishes and turnips. Looks like we’ll have more kohlrabi and hopefully more broccoli available — the kohlrabi seemed to grow slow in the cool, and the broccoli made small heads to start off, hopefully they’ll start getting bigger soon too. Spinach is just barely pickable this week, so once the heat arrives it will be bolting fully and the flavor no good. It was a nice spring spinach crop, which we don’t always have.
We’ll stick with the main part of the share being a count, hopefully of 16 again. Next week or the week after we hope to switch to a 1/2 white bag, but we’ll see if enough crops grow big enough by then. That will be when it feels like mid-summer eating has arrived — cucumbers, zucchini, beets, carrots, cabbage.
Garlic scapes are always one of our favorite flavorful and life-giving foods in June. If you have scapes left in your fridge look on our website for the recipe for garlic scape pesto — it’s easy and only takes a handful to make a small batch, and is super good on sandwiches or pasta or for dipping.
There are tomatoes about half-size out there; our prediction for the first tomatoes in the share is July 23, a little later than usual, but if the “over-80s” don’t last, it could be even longer. For now there’s lots of yummy spring eating to go around!
What’s for U-Pick?
This looks like the beginning of what looks to be a very good strawberry harvest here. There is lots to pick and awesome flavor out there. We have three varieties in two different plantings, all very flavorful and good-sized. We did trials for a couple years and are very happy with the varieties we’ve settled on — they are producing well in our organic system, and usually ripen 4-7 days apart. The only thing not awesome about this year’s harvest is that it looks like all three varieties are coming in at almost the same time — this week, weekend, and next week will be the best times to pick. After that, we’d normally have another week or even two, but something about the timing of the cool weather and slow spring has them ripening much closer together.
Thanks for understanding the tricky communications about limits and picking urgency. Our goal is to try to get everyone equal amounts of strawberries throughout the berry season and to let as few berries go by out in the field as we can. Keep an eye on the U-pick board to make sure you’re up to date when you’re here. If there are quick changes in picking or limits we’ll send another email to let you know.
And remember, the trick to picking strawberries in such crowded plants is to wave your hands around to find the berries, brushing the leaves aside to see the berries. These plants are less crowded than ours are some years, but if you don’t see any, start waving. Please pick the ripest berries and leave the partial ripes for someone to pick in a day or two. If we overpick in one area, then another area might not get picked and some will go by. And remember to move the red flag as you go!
Peas — Should be ready fully by next week, but may trickle in later this week. Once they start, about two weeks will probably be heavy picking, and if we’re lucky we’ll get a third week after that. These cool temps are great for peas; if it stays hot they’ll go by sooner. We’re excited to have our old standby pea variety back! Super sugar snap — the sweetest, and most productive.
Cilantro, dill, mint and lemon balm. The mint and lemon balm are absurdly weedy; we planted more in a new location this year, and they’ll be ready to pick next year. For this year, you’ll just have to dig through the weeds to find them. Sorry!
Please always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available and picking amounts.
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. If you’re interested in being on the volunteer list, please let us know too!
Please bring your own scissors for herbs and flowers. Many shareholders just leave a pair in their car so they always have them. If you happen to forget, we have a few “kid” scissors that we are happy to lend out.
Nuts and Bolts
Organic Cookies and Lemonade 50 cents each at the barn on Tuesday this week! Made by Allia and her friend, Elizabeth.
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 1:30 – 6:30pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.)
Starting this week we will be offering herbal products for sale in the barn that we are really excited about! Our farm, along with our friends at Spring Wind Farm and Keepsake Cidery have partnered together to create Prairie Fire Herbal. Over the last year we have sourced medicinal herbs from the three of our farms (all grown organically) and made a few tinctures and salves to sell. Our tinctures are: echinacea tincture for helping stimulate your immune system, echinacea and elder flower tincture for that double flower power immune strengthening, and nettle tincture for helping with allergies. All of our tinctures use herbs from our 3 farms and organic vodka locally made at Loon Liquors. We also have made 2 kinds of salves from herbs from our farms, with organic olive oil, coconut oil & beeswax. Healing Herbal Balm for many many skin issues, from dry skin to healing wounds and rashes—one of our friend calls it “magic salve” because of all the skin issues it has taken care of for her and her children. Also Muscle Soothing Balm that helps your aching muscles and is a great way to end the day. All products are $10 each–cash only please. If you have any questions, please ask Erin in the barn.
Change Pick-Up Day Form — Click here.
Parking — PLEASE PULL FORWARD ONTO THE GRASS — so there is plenty of space behind you for cars and people to get by. It does drop off into the field eventually but it’s flat for a few feet first.
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, and the new machine shed (hiding in the woods up the hill). There are sharp tools in many places, of all shapes and sizes.
Grape arbors — West of the barn — There are tiny and fragile grape plants at the bottom of each post, please tell your kids to be careful around them as they get established — they can be snapped and broken, which makes us sad. Also please no climbing on the arbors. You are welcome to hang out under the arbors, have a picnic or snack etc, but the grapes will be for our personal use. Thanks!
Be aware that farm trucks and tractors may be going up and down the driveway, near your cars and/or near the barn. We all drive carefully but please pay attention to small children especially in those areas, and back up carefully.
Another hazard you should know about is a small drainage pond / mud pit west of the barn— we have it fenced off for safety and it is completely off limits. It catches, and drains, excess rain water from parts of the hill, along with water and soil from washing veggies in the barn, and keeps it all from eroding into the fields. We’re glad to finally have a decent solution to that problem but need your help in making sure kids know it is not a place to play.
We love having all of you come to the farm and hope it can be safe and fun for all! Thank you for making it such a great place to be! Thank you so much for your support!!
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Alissa, Danny, Ed and Emily
Choi with Gingery Butter
from Angelic Organics Kitchen (adapted from Judy Gorman’s Vegetable Cookbook)
This sauce has characteristically Asian-inspired flavors, but this recipe uses butter instead of oil for added richness. Don’t be fooled by how simple this is; it is an interesting and wonderfully flavorful side dish.
- 2 medium choi (any kind), sliced crosswise into 1-inch strips
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the choi; cook until the choi is tender but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the choi in a colander and immediately run under cold water. Drain well.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and choi; cook, stirring constantly, until the choi is well coated and heated through.
3. Remove the skillet from heat. Stir in the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Garlic Scape Pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes*
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few generous grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
*Or use half scapes and half herbs such as basil, dill and chervil
In a small, dry pan set over very low heat, lightly toast the pine nuts, stirring or tossing occasionally until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Combine the scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 20 times, until fairly well combined. Pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the oil is incorporated, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese. If you plan to freeze the pesto, wait to add the cheese until after you’ve defrosted it.