2017 CSA Week 12

Can you believe how much warm weather we have had this year? We are pretty surprised by the number of days over 90 degrees. The two week forecast looks like more hot days with weather in the mid 90s is going to just keep coming. We have been joking that we hope it doesn’t go straight from 95 for a high to 45 for a high in mid august and stay there until we return to 8 months of snow cover. 

That’s a bit of a dramatic over-exaggeration but this spring really did go from abnormally cold, wet, and gray to abnormally hot, sunny, and dry. The summer crops are all thriving in the heat, especially the zucchini and cucumbers, which we are making sure to harvest at least every other day to get to them before they are gigantic.

This week will be your first week for having a few non-refrigerated items in your CSA. We will have these set out separate from your box at CSA pickup with a clearly marked sign. “Take One Bag of Tomatoes and One bag of Potatoes”. Don’t forget your Potatoes and Tomatoes! It happens every year . . . don’t let it happen to you!

~A bit about our fresh potatoes~
If you’ve never had fresh dug, thin skinned, new potatoes you are really in for a treat. They may need a light wash in your kitchen sink to get any stubborn dirt off, but there is no need to peel these beautiful potatoes. The potatoes don’t need to be refrigerated and can be kept in a paper bag in a dark cabinet or on your kitchen counter until you eat them this week. These are good boiled for potato salad, or pan-fried/braised (with lots of butter!!!) for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

~A bit about our tomatoes~
This year we are growing 4 different types of tomatoes. We have our Mini Slicer, Large Slicer, Sungold (orange) cherry tomatoes, and red cherry tomatoes. We currently “only” grow 200 tomato plants and don’t have enough to include the same variety of tomato in all the shares every week. We will be alternating which type of tomatoes the full and partial shares get and keeping track to make sure everyone at every pickup site gets to try all the different varieties over the course of the season.

The tomatoes are ~just~ starting to produce this week we have enough for just a few for the partials and a few more for the full shares; pints and quarts of tomatoes will be coming before you know it!
We grow our tomatoes in our unheated high tunnel and carefully prune and trellis the plants for maximum yields. Someday we would like to add just a little supplemental nighttime heat for our slicer tomatoes. Tomatoes really need warm nights to grow well and get full flavor. Even with highs in the mid 90s we have our lovely cool nights that are easily 40 degrees cooler than our daytime temps.

You never, ever, ever need to refrigerate our tomatoes. Refrigeration wrecks their flavor. Our late summer/fall nights are often just as cool as a refrigerator. It may be just me, but I think the texture changes if they get cold after they’ve come off the vine more so than if it gets cold while they are still vine ripening.

~A bit about the varieties of Zucchini~
In addition to green zucchini we also have a yellow zucchini, light green ‘ribbed’ zucchini, and a light green, dark green, and yellow patty pan squash. All of these can be used interchangeably and even though they all look very different they taste pretty much exactly the same.

~A bit about this year’s cucumbers~
This year we cut back on the number of varieties of cucumbers we are growing. We have a green slicer, a white slicer, and lemon cucumbers. We only grow a few lemon cucumbers and when they are at full production we will make sure all CSA members get lemon cucumbers in their box at least once this year.

CSA week 12

Green Cabbage - ½ large 
Fresh “Red long” onions - partial bundle 
Red Green Onions - partial bundle 
Zucchini/Patty Pan - 1-2 each 
Cucumber - 1 large 
Curley Parsley - Partial bundle 
Lettuce Mix -  Partial bag 
Braising Mix - Partial bundle 
Tomatoes - ¼ pint 
Potatoes - Partial bag 

Green Cabbage - 1 med
Fresh “Red long” onions - bundle
Red Green Onions - bundle
Zucchini/Patty Pan - 2-3 each
Cucumber - 2 medium
Curley Parsley - bundle
Lettuce Mix - bag
Braising Mix - bundle
Tomatoes - ½ pint
Potatoes - Full bag

Red Long Onions- are a french heirloom “Red Long of Tropea” and are similar to the mini onions, they are a fresh onion that is good raw, sauteed or grilled.

This week’s Braising Mix is a lovely bundle of a collection of mustard and Asian Greens. I love this with eggs! Chop and saute some of your red long onions and finely chop the whole bundle of Braising Greens, saute about 2-3 minutes, add a dash of balsamic vinegar and scramble 3-8 eggs to add to the skillet. The Brasising Mix would also be good added to a stir fry or any casserole, frittata, or quiche that you usually use cooked spinach, chard, or kale.

It’s going to be so hot this week I know we’ll be using our green cabbage to make a coleslaw. We love a nice rich cold coleslaw and burgers and pan fried potatoes for dinner when it’s hot.

We are including a bundle of parsley in the shares this week. Sometimes I like to put about a cup each of oil and vinegar and a bit of salt, half a bundle of green onions (top to bottom!) and a bundle of parsley in our vitamix for a thick green dip. I don’t add water so it’s thick enough for the kids to ‘dip’ their cucumber slices at dinner. They love dip more than dressing :)

Don’t forget to save the date for our farm tour:

Wednesday August 16, 6-7:30 p.m

~Happy August!

2017 CSA Week 11

We hope you all are having a wonderful summer. Can you believe this week puts us at the half way mark of our CSA season? The shorter day length always takes me off guard this time of year. But as the garlic hangs curing in the shade we know every day is getting a bit shorter; all the more reason to savor our beautiful summer in Montana.

With highs in the upper 80s and 90s this week it may seem a bit premature to be thinking about cold nights but late July is the time we are busily planting many of our Fall crops. It can seem like a crazy thing to keep planting when we have so much bounty, but the only way to have many of our favorite veggies in the Fall is to plan for them now. 

This week we will break ground for some new garden beds for next year. We use 30 inch by 100 foot beds, and currently have 144 of them in production. We are currently using an ‘intensive’ method where as soon as a bed comes out of production it is planted to the next crop. To increase efficiency, next year we want to keep production the same but increase the number of beds.

We spend about two weeks in the winter planning the planting schedule for the coming year. Next year we would love to have more flexibility with planting dates and more permanent beds will allow us to do that. For example, we do six plantings of carrots a year.   Due to irregularities in weather, beds don’t always ‘clear out’ as timely as we would like in order to make space for the next crop. It’s really exciting to think about having enough bed space to have all the carrots for the year in the same area with space to clear out beds as conditions require rather than on a set schedule.

Another infrastructure upgrade coming up for us is the addition of a second 34’ x 100’ high tunnel in late summer this year. Up until this year, we have done all infrastructure upgrades in the off-season; but last year with such an unusual wet fall and an unusual cold wet spring, we found it’s just too risky to try to get ALL our projects done in the off season. Many, if not most, need to get done when the farm is at full production. This is both challenging and exciting.

High-tunnel construction step one:  Get out the 100' tape.

We’ve stopped thinking of upgrades as something to put off for the fall and spring, and so each week we find ourselves making changes to the farm. For example, we noticed a few weeks ago that our greens washing area was too small to accommodate our growing roots washing needs. We spent a little of our precious time digging (with a tractor) a big hole next to our pack shed, and filled it in with drain rock and gravel. With a few hoops left over from the prop-house build and a shade cloth, we now have a lovely roots washing station. In years past, because we didn’t give time to making farm improvements, we spent about an hour a week fighting ‘farm entropy’ and trying to tread water to keep everything going. This year the farm gets BETTER every week. It’s really neat to see the farm grow and change so much over the course of a single season.

CSA week 11

Broccoli - 1 med 
Mini Onions - partial bundle
White Green Onions - partial bundle 
Zucchini/Patty Pan - 1-2 each 
Cucumber - 1 med 
Basil - 2 oz. 
Rainbow Carrots - Partial bundle
Lettuce Mix - Partial bag 
Lacinato Kale - Partial bundle 

Broccoli - 1 large or 2 med
Mini Onions - bundle
White Green Onions - bundle
Zucchini/Patty Pan - 2-3 each
Cucumber - 1 lg or 2 med
Basil - 3 oz.
Rainbow Carrots - bundle
Lettuce Mix - bag
Lacinato Kale - bundle

So instead of recipe ideas I’d like to take a bit of space to talk about the week’s photo/list and what is in your box.

The CSA photo and weekly list are a guide to what will be in your box each week.
We work to make sure there will be the exact quantities available for harvest so all the boxes follow the weekly photo and list. But we make the list on Sunday, and sometimes we start harvesting and realize there is enough to put more in the box, or that we might be short on some items. For example there may be fewer cucumbers and more zucchinis than we thought/or vice versa.
Or we may be short just a few broccoli and sub in a few cauliflower, etc.

Quantity in the boxes

Jay and I are both, by nature, very generous people, and we LOVE loading the boxes up with bounty. Also, we know that if we overload your box beyond a 20% savings it’s also not good for our growing business. So, this is the time of year when I have to exercise the most restraint with what goes in the box. The Full Share value comes out to be $26/week and Partial Share value is $18. Sometimes we include something like a 5 pound cauliflower (that’s a $15 cauliflower!) and we know we are a bit above our goal of not exceeding $30 value / week for a full share. But, overall, in the summer we try to limit ourselves and keep the box value reasonable. We are constantly striving to make CSA be a good deal for you and something sustainable for us as our farm continues to grow.

Be sure to be paying attention to what you like getting in your box, what you go through the most, and what you would like more of. We will be doing a survey in September and we really love the response we get from you about CSA. Over the years we have loved getting great suggestions from our customers!

Don’t forget to save the date for our farm tour:

Wednesday August 16, 6-7:30 p.m.

Have a great week!

2017 CSA Week 10

~by Jay

You might not be aware, but on top of everything else she’s in charge of, Mandy pretty much writes the newsletter every week. Over the years, we have edited enough of each others’ writing to know the idiosyncrasies of each others’ writing styles pretty well. Mandy tends to be a very direct writer. She found “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White quite early, and I think it really spoke to her. It has certainly served her well. She is a clear and lighthearted communicator. She wouldn’t, for example, ever use the word ‘idiosyncrasies’ in a newsletter.

I, on the other hand, am afflicted with a curse of overly verbose diction. I love grammar and language and how trixy they can be. Doubtless, Mandy will wake up tomorrow and cringe when she reads this. Alas, she is asleep, and this small token of appreciation and thanks we send to our dear customers, this celebration of our season and the produce it procures, is up to me. Grab your thesaurus, dear reader, it may be a bumpy ride.
* * *

It’s the peak of the season! Or close to it. This is the time of year we all think about when we’re struggling through a fourth cold snap, mid-February. It’s nice to stop and really appreciate it. I had the very great pleasure of hanging 300 row feet of garlic in our drying shed late last week. The smell of heat and garlic and soil all wrapped up together with jute twine and hung from the drying racks is simply magical. I don’t always love some of our repetitive tasks, but I could hang garlic all day, every day.

We have amazing weather coming – highs in the mid-80s and sunny as far as the 10-day forecast can see. Every time you turn around something in the gardens has grown bigger. But already we are starting to seed our fall plantings, and our prop-house is filling with the last things of the year. We think of our season as a 100 day sprint between last frost and first frost. We are right about at the midpoint of that window just now. In short, the time to take advantage of fresh veggies is now.

We love seeing all of you in the various different places you can do just that. We’d love to continue last week’s great success direct ordering by email for pick up with your share. Our farm-stand on Thursdays from 5-6pm has become a smashing success as well, and has the added benefit of bringing in some friends and neighbors. And it’s always nice to chat with those we see at the market on Saturday. We love how many of you see the CSA share as a mere starting point for your much larger weekly veggie plans.

CSA week 10

Red Cabbage - ½ small 
Cauliflower - 1 
Mini Onions - ½ 
White Green Onions - partial bundle 
Zucchini -1 each 
Chioggio Beets (no tops) - partial bag 
Basil - 2 oz.
Carrots - Partial bundle 
Baby Kale - Partial bag

Red Cabbage -½ large
Cauliflower - 1 large
Mini Onions - 1
White Green Onions - bundle
Zucchini - 2 each
Chioggio Beets (no tops) - bag
Basil - 3 oz.
Carrots - bundle
Baby Kale - bag

We talk about the grill a lot. Maybe it’s because we live in a particularly hot little house, but we just don’t like to cook inside when it’s above 90 degrees outside. A key to effectively using the grill when working with veggies, is the Grill Basket. If you have larger patty pan squashes cut as slabs, cabbage cut into solid quarters, long green onions, even carrots, you might grill them directly on the main grill, but for anything smaller, you really need a grill basket. If you’ve never used one, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to chop up your beets, zucchini, cauliflower, mini onions, and carrots, toss it all in a grill basket (maybe a light brushing of olive oil) and just let it work. It’s a forgiving and versatile tool. The candy-striped chioggio beets in this week’s share are exceptionally beautiful chopped and grilled. I took a look over at our go-to CSA recipe treasure-trove, Early Morning Farm, and found they have a whole guide to grilling things:

The basil is begging to be made into pesto. Pesto recipes are pretty simple, just zap up some basil in a food processor or blender with a dose of extra-virgin olive oil, add some salt, a few of those scapes if you still have them, regular garlic (is coming!) if those left your crisper weeks ago, add some Parmesan if you’ve got it, and there you have it. Traditionally, pine nuts are a part of pesto recipes. We find that to be just a bit too expensive. We substitute toasted walnuts or sunflower seeds. Pistachios or almonds or roasted pumpkin seeds work too. You just need something nutty and roasty to pair with the sharp basil and garlic flavors. Don’t skip the toasting part – it brings out that nutty flavor. You won’t regret using the whole bundle for pesto. My favorite way to eat pesto is on pizza, but it’s fantastic on just about anything savory and light. Grilled chicken and pesto?! Yum.

Well, it’s getting late even for me, and that’s all I have for you this week. Don’t forget to save the date for our farm tour:

Wednesday August 16, 6-7:30 p.m.

Have a great week!

~Jay (& Mandy)

2017 CSA Week 9

July 9 , 2017 ~CSA Week 9~

We hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July and have been able to stay cool as much as possible in the crazy heat the last week. The vegetables are holding up well in the heat so far. We are spending a lot of time irrigating and making sure everything is getting enough water.

Despite the warm weather we are still weeks away from the first tomato. The Zucchini have started producing which is exciting because that means...cucumbers will be next!

Hilariously, I didn’t take any broccoli to market this Saturday because I wanted to make sure we have ‘enough’ for CSA this week. And, when I uncovered them Saturday night when I came home from market I was like….oh, look….every single head is ready and it looks like they are 2-3# each!

We have been trying to get the online store going for CSA members but it’s been slow to take off; probably because we keep forgetting to ‘activate’ and update the store.

If you are interested in adding Broccoli or Red Cabbage to your share this week text Mandy at 471.9538. CSA member stock up special price this week is Broccoli $2.50/lb and Red Cabbage $1.60/lb. Also if there is anything else you want send Mandy a text by 6 pm on Monday for Tuesday folks and by Wednesday for Th/Fr folks.

Thank you all so much for the positive feedback about introducing the Lower Valley Farm Crew in last week’s newsletter. There is so much we would love to share with you about the happenings on the farm each week and so little time and space to share in the newsletter. Probably the Very Best way to share with you about how the farm works and answer questions is to show you. We are very pleased to announce we will be having a farm tour this year! Save the date for:

Wednesday August 16, 6-7:30 p.m. Lower Valley Farm Tour!

We would love for you all to be able to come and see how much the farm has grown. We are constantly humbled by the fertility and abundance of the farm. We currently have ONLY two acres of vegetables in production on the farm. When you think about the hundreds of tables the produce fills each week, it is a pretty amazing thing! Come and check it out with a guided tour.

CSA week 9

Partial Full
Lettuce Mix - partial bag 
Broccoli - 1 
Mini Onions -   ½ bundle
Purple Green Onions - partial bundle 
Zucchini/Patty Pan -1 each 
Red Beets -   partial bundle 
Dill - partial bundle 
Carrots - partial bundle 
Toscano Kale - partial bundle 

Lettuce Mix - bag
Broccoli - 1 large
Mini Onions - 1 bundle
Purple Green Onions - bundle
Zucchini/Patty Pan - 2 each
Red Beets - bundle
Dill - bundle
Carrots - bundle
Toscano Kale - bundle

This is one of those weeks. When we advertise our CSAs, we often speak about eating seasonally, and following the abundance of the seasons. If we have a long cold spring (as we did this year), we say, CSA might start later and/or be thinner, and then later in the season when there is more abundance, shares might be larger. So… it’s later in the season! It’s a big share this week. Let’s dig in to how you can take best advantage.

You’ve had green onions in your share for many weeks now. Growing green onions this year has been among our most successful endeavors. It has been the perfect storm of three factors. First, we planted them in very fertile 3rd year beds. All the crops in this garden set have gone gangbusters. Second, we planted them using our new Paper Pot Transplanter, and so we got a very uniform planting that was perfectly dense. Third, as we mentioned last week, we have a lot more help on the farm this year, and so we have been able to stay on top of weeding. The result of all this has been our most prolific and generally awesome green onions ever.

Here’s something everyone on the crew has been doing lately. This idea is courtesy of Jenny Mattern - make yourself some rocking onion powder. Lay out the greens part of your onions on a baking tray. (Use the white bulby part in a salad or something) Set your oven to it’s lowest setting overnight and jam it in a food processor/blender the next day. Levi went home (he lives nearby) last week at lunchtime because he needed to pull his out of the oven. Katie L made a batch, and by then we were pretty much shamed into trying it ourselves.

The super beautiful Mini onion is a lovely little sweet onion perfect raw, grilled, sauteed or baked. Use the greens part just like you would your green onions. They’re a little hardier, but are just as good! Add them into your onion powder stash. Perfect!

It’s a cruel irony that just when the heat drives us all to grill outside, forest fire season begins and drives us all back in. If the smoke isn’t too thick this week, stay cool inside and grill your veggies. In this week’s share, the beets, mini-onions, broccoli, and summer squash can all be grilled to scrumptious perfection.

Have a great week!

~Jay & Mandy

2017 CSA Week 8

****Please NOTE**** The 4th of July falls on a Tuesday this year!
All members who pickup on Tuesday will pick up on Monday July 3rd 5-7:30 at the Mason’s

Have you guys seen the weather forecast? We can’t believe how hot it’s going to be...for the foreseeable future! It’s so crazy that we started with such a cold gray spring and now here we are with such intense sun and heat.

Everything is going really well at the farm right now. Last week we hired another full time field worker for our crew. We are so blessed this year to have, truly, a Dream Team 2017, and we thought we’d take a minute to introduce you.

Right now we have Jay and myself both working. We are able to both work on the farm this year because we have a wonderful full-time, in-home, child-care ninja who we are so, so thankful for. Faith has the most important job on the farm.

This May we hired Kari and she has been incredible to work with; Jay and I can’t believe how much we got done this spring with ‘just’ a three person crew. Kari comes from a diverse background, and her incredibly deep knowledge of work-flow and systems is a secret weapon that unfurls daily as she helps us streamline our daily work. “Game-changer” is a word that gets thrown around far too often, but it’s fair to say that before Kari started here, we didn’t even know what kind of game we could bring.

We have also hired our dear friend Katie to be our part-time pack-shed manager. For the last month Katie has bagged up every single bag or clamshell that leaves the farm; she is efficient and organized and doing such a great job.

Last week we brought Jenny Mattern on as a part time CSA co-ordinator for the Kalispell Pickup, and we are pleased to have her daughter back again as our Saturday Market Assistant while her son comes to fill in as a mother’s helper on Friday mornings. There’s some pretty intense boy energy at the farm Fridays! The Matterns have been with us from the beginning. They are amazing and we love them.

Hiring Levi as our new full-time field worker has been transformative, and it’s only been a week. Levi is an excellent addition to our farm team; he is an incredible worker, picks up on new tasks quickly, and is a great communicator. As a veteran of an Army airborne division, Levi is proficient at any task we throw his way. He’s all around great.

What’s most amazing about our crew is how each one brings new ideas to our work that we would never have thought of otherwise. Whether it’s Kari introducing us to corporate-level work flow plans, or Levi engineering (is ‘MacGuyvering’ a word?) a feature for our power-washer to run continuously, I don’t think we anticipated how much talent each person we’ve hired would bring to our farm. These wonderful people we get to work with are making this farm grow in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We are so grateful for them. Give them a high-five if you see them!

CSA week 8

Baby Kale -partial bag 
Red Butter Lettuce -1 
Green Cabbage -  ½
Purple Green Onions -partial bundle 
Hakuri Turnips -  partial bundle 
Golden Beets - partial bundle 
Basil - 2 oz 
Carrots - Partial bundle 

Baby Kale - bag
Red Butter Lettuce - 1 large
Green Cabbage - 1
Purple Green Onions - bundle
Hakuri Turnips - bundle
Golden Beets - bundle
Basil - 4 oz
Carrots - bundle

Our zucchini and other summer squashes are just now coming on, and it looks like next week we will have zucchini in the shares. This is a transition time on the farm. Gone are the cool weather crops like arugula or bok choi, and while the high summer crops are coming in, they’re not far enough along for inclusion in the shares. While we’re a few hot days away from our first red tomato or our first handful of green-beans, it’s a great time for sweet early carrots and cabbage. Hold onto your hats!

Green Cabbage is of course lovely as a slaw, but there’s so much you can do with cabbage! You can slaw it, ferment it (sauerkraut!), bake it, boil it, roast it, even grill it. We love to slice our cabbage into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 450 for 30 minutes or so. Grill it if you don’t want to heat the house up. Flip the wedges over half-way through to get a nice even roast. Garnish with lemon and fresh herbs. Here’s a great short article on ideas for cabbage courtesy our dear friend Tracy at Early Morning Farm: https://www.earlymorningfarm.com/12-ideas-cabbage/

The Golden Beets are a gift that just keeps on giving. Don’t over-look the greens, but is there anything you can’t make better with those beets? Ah, yes, borscht. Don’t try to make a borscht with the goldens, it’ll probably taste great, but won’t have that lovely pretty red color a good borscht should have. Grill or roast the golden beets for maximum aesthetic awesomeness.

Baby Kale – Remember that suggestion from week 6 to make baby kale salad? We asked, and she delivered. Here it is, straight from the source: Tavonna’s Killer Wilted Kale and Roast Beet Salad.

Saute some mushrooms. Chop and cook some bacon. Roast a few golden beets (or butternut squash, or sweet potato). While these are warm, toss with baby kale to wilt. Add: Chopped red onion, dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, mayo, garlic (scapes!), salt and pepper to taste.

Keep cool this week and have a happy and safe 4th!
~Mandy & Jay