2016 CSA Week 7

We are so happy with the amount of rainfall we've gotten this year, including another 3/4” last week. We love seeing water easily absorbing into the garden with no run-off or standing water. This is a sign of good planning for the direction and slope of our permanent raised beds, and also testament to the value of mulching, incorporating hay, and adding compost over the years to boost the organic matter in the soil.

We do most of our farm projects in the 'shoulder season' when the ground thaws out in March, or just up until the ground freezes solid some time in late November. We try not to do any building, fencing, or other infrastructure work during the weeks of market. Despite best intentions, we added an infrastructure project last week: moving some fence and breaking ground for beds that will go into production two years from now. Two years may seem like a bit of overkill on pre-planning. But, we are just now starting to understand how to build soil fertility without working ourselves to death.

Generally, we follow a type of minimal tillage, intensive, vegetable farming practice using permanent raised beds. It's pretty far down the rabbit-hole of sustainable agriculture and is certainly not the only way to grow a sustainable farm; there are MANY ways to have a sustainable farm! To really get a sense of what we are doing, we will have a Farm Tour later in the season, but in short, we put a lot into the garden beds and once they are established we only work the top two inches of soil. This approach creates beds that are fertile, full of microbial life, and incredibly productive.

Last week we broke ground for 50 new- 30 inch wide by 100 foot long beds. These will be cultivated for the rest of the season. Tillage will kill quack grass by exposing the roots to the coming warm, dry days. This fall, the beds will be covered with tarps so we don't leave them bare through the winter. In the spring they will be cultivated a few more times to get remaining quack grass, and then seeded for the whole season to a cover crop, which will be flail-mowed in early fall, covered with tarps again to let the earthworms do their work of reincorporating the crop residue into the soil, the tarp will be removed and we will shape the permanent raised beds, add compost, and finally plant in 2018! If you see Jay this week, give him a gentle pat on the shoulder for a job well done. He moved a bunch of fence in the last week!

Partial Share 
Carrots - Partial Bundle
Salad Mix - Partial Bag
Rainbow Chard - Partial bundle
Bulb Fennel - 1 Small
Dark Red Beets - Partial Bundle 
Mini Onions - Partial Bundle 
Cauliflower OR Broccoli - Small Head 
Sugar Snap Peas - Just a few 

Full Share
Carrots - Bundle
Salad Mix - Bag
Rainbow Chard - Bundle
Bulb Fennel - 1
Dark Red Beets - Bundle
Mini Onions - Bundle
Cauliflower OR Broccoli - 1 Head
Sugar Snap Peas - Just a few more

Everything this week is probably pretty familiar – except the bulb fennel.
Fennel Tops
The tops of your fennel can be used as an herb. The stems aren't good for eating but can be saved and added to soup stock. All those frothy tops are a yummy addition (1-2 tsp) to a dressing, drip, sauce, or topping for chicken, fish, or soup. If you have too much to go through this week, you can zap it in olive oil and freeze it in ice cube trays to add to soups/stews/casseroles later.

The bulb
(YUM!) is lovely raw, sauteed, roasted, or grilled. These are so good, I'm kicking myself for not planting more of them this spring. I just seeded some for fall and hope to have enough for full shares to get a large bundle of 4-5 so you can make a roast fennel casserole. With this amount (which I know, is small, especially for a family to split) It's best just to cut the bulb in half and lightly saute the bulb of your fennel in a pan or on the grill and maybe everyone in your family can have a bit on top of their burger, with some of those baby red onions and some good blue cheese...mmmm….BURGER BLISS!

Or if you are roasting your beets you can split the fennel into a few pieces and roast it along with them.
I LOVE the anise flavor of fennel and it would be SO good lightly sauteed with your cauliflower or broccoli. However, if you aren't sure you will like the flavor you should cook it separately, as it will give an anise/licorice flavor to anything it's cooked with.

Oh! And don't forget if you are running out of vegetable inspiration to check out that AMAZING vegetable guide at earlymorningfarm.com. The Beet & Fennel soup looks especially good! 

Next week is looking like we are entering summer squash and zucchini season! Also we will have yellow beets and cabbage, and hopefully more than just a handful of sugar snaps for everyone.

CSA 2016 Week 6

Week 6, June 19 2016 ~ !IT'S SUMMER!

We did our weekly farm walk last night where we go around and look at everything. Pull a couple carrots out of each row, a few beets, notice how the broccoli and cabbage are starting to head up. See how it !actually! didn't kill the corn to flame weed it when it was an inch high last week (thank you internet articles for being right about that…). Looking for bug problems and signs of good bugs, making a long, but manageable, list for the week ahead.

The Zucchini and Summer Squash are just about to flower. This time of year feels a little like the calm before the great deluge of summer vegetables that are to come. This is also the time of year where we really have to stay on top of the weeds. This year, our goal is to not let any weeds go to seed in the two acres around our house where the vegetable beds are. Last week I kind of altered that goal to - no noxious weeds going to seed in that two acres - and no weeds going to seed at all….next year.

Our apologies that last week the Thursday CSA folks didn't get garlic scapes in their shares. Last year we only had 25 CSA members and 100 row feet of garlic. This was enough scapes for everyone. So with some easy math I thought 200 row feet of garlic is enough to do the same for our 50 families this year….but somehow that 1+1=2 didn't really work out. I am scouting for scapes every other day and hopefully will have enough for the shares this week. If not, there is a later variety of garlic that puts out scapes last, and we will save those for you guys.

In past years, we literally harvested, made sure there was enough, and then wrote the newsletter on CSA day. This year, to preserve our sanity, we're making the newsletter a few days before the reality of harvest. We're learning that, for a variety of reasons, there will be weeks where Tuesday folks may get different things than the Thursday folks. When this happens, we will ALWAYS put an explanatory note in the box with the shares. We thank you for your patience on this.

Partial Share
Carrots Partial  -  Bundle
Salad Mix - Partial Bag
Curly Kale - Partial bundle
Dill Small  -bundle 
Dark Red Beets - Partial Bundle 
Purple Bunching Onions - Partial Bundle

Full Share
Carrots - Bundle
Salad Mix - Bag
Curly Kale - Bundle
Dill Small -e Bundle
Dark Red Beets - Bundle
Purple Bunching Onions - Bundle

This week all the veggies are pretty straightforward; nothing too unusual in the box this week. But one way you can really maximize your share is by using the tops from your veggies. Beet greens are actually one of my favorite greens to eat and you can also eat your carrot tops!

Remember! If you aren't going to eat the greens right away to cut them off the roots. Both the roots and the greens will stay fresh longer this way; the tops pull moisture out of the roots even after they are harvested. And always keep greens in plastic in the fridge to keep them fresh if you aren't eating them right away.
Use those carrot tops! Substitute carrot tops for basil in your favorite recipe and...no it won't taste like basil pesto at all. It'll be more like a parsley pesto but still really really yummy! Not feeling like pesto? Use your carrot tops in salad dressing or, if you juice, yes, you can juice them.

Sauteed Beet Greens Beet greens are one of my Very Favorite greens to eat. Here is how I prepare them. Saute onion or garlic in a generous amount of fat. Very finely chop beet greens discarding the woody part of the stems. When onions/garlic are translucent toss in your finely chopped greens, cook 2-3 minutes, add a bit of balsamic vinegar or lemon. Cook another minute or two and !boom! A pan full of yummy veggies. Your Curly Kale, or any other bitter greens, will be lovely lightly sauteed this way.
I love roasted beets and like to roast a bunch all at once to have in the fridge to go with lunch all week. I like them served warm or cold. When it's hot out I love cold beets with yogurt dill sauce; YUM!
I hope you are enjoying getting chard or kale every week and aren't getting tired of Kale. Remember you can use cooked kale or chard in place of cooked spinach in any recipe.

Next week we will have carrots again for sure and maybe beets too depending on how everything else is coming along. We will have sugar snap peas! Maybe the bulb fennel will be ready, it is growing sooooooooooooooo slowly. And the first Brocolli could be ready! ~HAPPY SUMMER!~

2016 CSA Week 5

Week 5June 12 2016 ~by Mandy

Things are growing slowly and steadily here at the farm. The majority of the squash got in two weeks ago, the corn was planted last week, the potatoes are getting hilled for the first time this week. The first planting of beans got seeded last week and the tomatoes in the high tunnel will be trellised soon. The pea trellises finally went up and our normal weekly salad greens went in the ground. Spring crops are coming out of production and those beds are getting reseeded with summer crops. Hooray!

We are having a normal amount of pest pressure and now that a few very abnormal 90°+ days are behind us, it looks like we have some beautiful seasonal June weather in store. For now, the farm is looking good! Jay and I are stepping back everyday and wondering how it is that we aren't feeling totally overwhelmed all the time like we have felt this time of year over the last three years.

There are lots of reasons. Most of them have come with a great deal of planning and intention this year.  First we decided this year to stay small. When you visit, it might seem like, “wow this is such a big garden!” but really, it's not a garden, it's a vegetable farm. And for a production vegetable farm, we are a Very Small Farm. How can two people raising three kids pull off running a small farm? This is a question we ask ourselves often. We are just beginning to be able to answer that.

This year we have been able to hire out some labor for the first time and it has been….just...so...amazing. We have one friend, neighbor, CSA member, and fellow farmer coming helping to transplant and weed a few hours each week, a young nursing student who comes out to help weed and transplant one morning a week, and a very large and capable teenaged young man working for us one morning a week doing heavy work including shoveling, schlepping compost, and weed eating. We also have a wonderful young lady we've hired to be our market assistant this year. Though they don't work many hours, they are hard workers and fun to be around. We are so thankful to each and every one. Simply, the hours they put in are hours Jay and I aren't working. It's a small start, but has made our workload Much More SustainableAnd really, we've been able to take this step because you all have supported us. So thank you!!

CSA WEEK 5 Partial Share 
Kohlrabi - 2 
Salad Mix - Partial Bag
Chard - Partial bundle
Dill - Small bundle 
Baby Romaine - 1
Salad Turnips - Partial Bundle
Garlic Scapes - Partial bundle

Full Share
Kohlrabi - 3
Salad Mix - Bag
Chard - Bundle
Dill - Bundle
Baby Romaine - 2
Salad Turnips - Bundle
Garlic Scapes - Bundle

Garlic Scapes This delicacy is the seed head created by each garlic plant. I harvest scapes just as they start to emerge from the plant, and pull them out oh-so-slowly to get the super long scape. I prefer young scapes like these to the tougher, older ones that have started to curl.
You can use garlic scapes in place of garlic in any recipe. When people ask “what do I do with these?” I answer, “What can you NOT cook with these?” Seriously! Garlic makes everything better; homemade pesto, mayo, or salad dressing….yum! Some of my favorite ways to cook with scapes are to dice and saute with greens, dice and add to stir fry, get out a veggie peeler and make big long peels, coat peels with olive oil, and top a pizza. They are also good grilled in a grill basket. If you want to save some for later you can put them in a blender/food processor with butter or olive oil and freeze for using as a pesto/sauce later.

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family and though it may look like a small strange planetoid, I think of it as a 'cabbage turnip.' They're good raw or cooked and we love them with dill. You can slice them very thinly and eat them raw with yogurt and dill and you're going to be like, OHMANTHISISGOOD! Also you can saute some of your garlic scapes in butter for 2-3 minutes, thinly slice the kohlrabi, and saute with the scapes 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and add chopped dill. Then I suggest you go find a chair because you're going to want to sit down when you taste 'em!

(Everyone chant) Grow! Carrots! Grow!

Next week we will have more of those pretty purple 'green' onions, lettuce mix, and keep your fingers crossed for either beets or carrots.  

2016 CSA Week 4

Week 4, June 6 2016 ~by Mandy

Things are growing like crazy on the farm and last week we got a HUGE PUSH of plants in the ground! We are still a
little bit farther behind than I would like...that's why the eternally optimistic farmer always says NEXT YEAR is going to be even better! Today for something different: A little info about….a common question we get, “Are these greens washed?”

Friends, in short, technically, no….no they are not.

One neat thing about CSA is we have an opportunity in our CSA newsletter to delve a little deeper than I often am able to at CSA pickup/market. So. Let's look closer at that question. I'd like to share a little bit with you about the harvesting process of salad greens, dive (just a bit) into food safety, and round it up with a very long winded answer that still doesn't really answer the question.

First, your greens are harvested with Extreme Care. We keep our harvest totes clean. We never set a harvest tote on the ground (!) it either stays on the harvest cart (cleaned every harvest day) or is nestled into another tote which does touch the ground. After being harvested, your greens are cooled in our walk in fridge. Then they are hydro-cooled in our crisp, fresh, well water. We fill clean tubs, soak the greens and then rinse them in our commercial salad spinner.

So, with all the care that goes into harvesting our salad mix, why don't we sell it as “Ready to Eat?” Because in the State of Montana, salad greens would need to be washed in a commercial kitchen to be labeled “Ready to Eat”. And you know what? That's okey-dokey with me. Because selling my greens is a two way street between producer and consumer, selling those greens as NOT WASHED! also protects me as a grower. Food grows outside attached to the ground where there are mice, birds, honeybees, hummingbirds and more in the field … there was a toad hanging out in the arugula last week when I was harvesting. “Hi Mr. Toad, thanks for eating the grasshoppers.” And off he hopped...

I'm very thankful that we have Food Safety Management on the radar at our farm; it's put more intent and focus into our harvesting and post-harvesting, but more than my (TWO INCH THICK) binder full of our food safety plan, what really keeps me motivated to harvest with care is thinking of all of ~you~.

And that's one (of the many) things that is great about buying local. My customers aren't some nameless faceless group of people. They are ~you~ I know you and I see you every week. And I want to provide you with safe, beautiful, abundant, perfect veggies:

Partial Share 
Small Napa Cabbage - 1 each
Salad Mix - Partial Bag
Lacinato Kale - bundle
Cilantro Small bundle
Arugula Partial bag 
Easter Egg Radishes Partial bundle 
Purple Spring Onions Partial bundle 

Full Share
Small Napa Cabbage - 1 med or 2 small each
Salad Mix - Bag
Lacinato Kale - Large Bundle
Cilantro Small - Bundle
Arugula - Bag
Easter Egg Radishes - Bundle
Purple Spring Onions - Bundle

Aren't those Easter Egg Radishes just beautiful? Our middle child actually squealed with delight to find a purple radish on his salad at dinner. If you don't care for the spicy bite of radishes remember you can grill, roast, or saute them. Also, the tops on these guys are gorgeous and would be perfect sauteed with your morning eggs.

I'm sure most of you have heard of making kale chips. A super neat idea (from Tracy!) are these 'Everything Bagel' Kale Chips. Kale is a pretty incredibly diverse vegetable. I like it sauteed or added to stir fry. The kids, of course, like the chips. And the toppings on the “Everything Bagel” Kale Chips make them super yum.

A Napa Cabbage Cole Slaw with Yogurt and Herbs will be perfect for this hot week coming up!

Coming Week 5:
Looks like next week we will have some new things to add including red beets and kohlrabi. We'll see if the dill I planted decides to play along; because dill and kohlrabi are a match made in veggie heaven. Also looks like there will be spinach and red leaf lettuce.

Time, weather, and bugs willing….it's getting' hot out there!