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Mom, Dad, and I went down to LaCrosse last weekend for the annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference.  It is always a good time full of excellent food, informative workshops, and meeting up with other farmers.  I personally find it inspiring to see the diversity of people involved with organic farming:  young and old, rural and urban, red and blue, dreadlocked and beer-bellied, talkative and stoic, community organizers and self-sufficient livers.  Sustainable farming is good for the land, providing us with healthy food and a more robust local economy.  By keeping your food dollar circulating within the local community, you are directly helping to create a healthier food system and higher quality of life for all of us — you the eater and us the growers, but also the non-local food eaters who still benefit by having cleaner water, more wildlife habitat, and more resilient rural and urban economies.  I think part of the reason that sustainable farmers are a diverse crew is that a vibrant local economy is something that people from all walks of life can agree is a good thing.

This year we had a few things in mind to focus on, so we went to sessions about pastured poultry, hoophouse season extension, and permaculture orchard design.  There was also a really nice panel discussion of and for CSA farmers.  Partly because of that discussion, there have been some new collaboration and support initiatives for CSA farmers that deliver to the Twin Cities, such as peer-mentoring options and potlucks for farmers.  A few of us are also hoping that we could hold a CSA-specific conference in LaCrosse the day before the usual annual conference begins.

I love being a farmer in Minnesota, and having the winter to rest, dream, study, plan, organize, and collaborate.  I honestly don’t know how they do it year-round in warmer places.  The annual organic conference is one of the signs that spring is right around the corner.  We are tapping maple trees right now, and getting ready to start the onion seeds next weekend.  Another growing season is upon us, and as the days get longer and longer we too are feeling more energized and excited.  Here we go again for another trip around the sun!

Looking forward to sharing the growing season with you,
Chris.

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 Our garden is not really put to bed for the year until sometime in November.  After everything is put away and next year’s garlic is planted, we turn our focus to splitting enough wood to stay warm for the winter.  Thanksgiving arrives quickly each fall, and we settle in to holiday celebrations and eating our way through all the frozen and canned food we put up at the peak of the harvest.  This year I have been especially amazed at how long I eat FRESH food from the garden.  Just today for lunch I made risotto & chicken and added in the last of the red cabbage in my fridge, and the last of the CILANTRO too.  I know, crazy right?  Right before the ground froze hard I had uprooted the cilantro plants that didn’t want to produce a yield during the CSA season but then thrived in the mild November weather.  I wrapped the plants, roots still attached, in a slightly damp towel and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  Today I went to clean it out, expecting it to be a slime fest, and instead found some quite green and perky cilantro leaves tenaciously holding out for the return of spring.  Plants continually surprise and amaze me.
 
Two nights ago I was making a simple chicken soup (out of the same chicken leftovers used in the risotto).  In my fridge I found the badly neglected pile of parsnips and hakurei turnips.  The parsnips were dehydrated and hard, and I quipped that Hansel could easily pass one off as a skinny little finger when the witch came to see how he was fattening up.  I was going to compost them, but at the last minute I decided that they weren’t moldy, just dehydrated, and so I threw them into the soup.  I was actually quite shocked at how tasty they cooked up!  Now the only fresh stuff left in the fridge is a few wrinkly kohlrabi, a bag of carrots, and a bag of rutabagas.  On my dining room table a few baby winter squash are still passing as a centerpiece as I slowly eat my way through those too.
 
I think the winter is a very easy time of year to eat more veggies.  Grab something out of the freezer and throw it into a soup, casserole, hot dish, or crock pot.  Leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach are easy to cut up in small pieces and sneak in.  (This is how we get my grandma Vangie and dad Darwin to eat them.)  Last night I was at my brother’s for dinner, and my 4-year-old niece Alyssa informed me that, “This sauce has spinach in it.”  I replied, “Oh good!  I love spinach!  I was just teaching some kids today about how leaves make food for the plant, but then us people come along and eat the plants!”  And she said, “Like spinach–it’s a plant!  I like it too.  Look, here is a tiny piece stuck to this noodle!”  In the background Alyssa’s parents were picking their jaws up off the ground, because moments before I arrived Alyssa had been telling them she didn’t want to try sauce with spinach, because it looked funny.  It’s all about how you frame it!  (And it doesn’t hurt that I am the “cool aunt” and not mom or dad.)  I will admit that I myself did not used to like Kale.  I used to make myself eat it because it is so jam-packed with nutrients.  But then it grew on me, and now I really genuinely love it!  I try to fill up about 1/3 of my chest freezer with bags of kale and broccoli, as my source of green nutrition throughout the winter.
 
My other winter eating tip is when making soup, curry sauce, etc, make plenty of it so there is leftovers.  I try to pack one or two pint jars with the leftovers and stick them in the freezer.  Then, when I don’t have any easy lunch options, I just grab one of those frozen jars to bring to work with me.  Last week I ate a jar of wild rice topped with garbanzo bean and veggie saute with Seeds of Change brand Madras sauce on it.  When I made the meal, I remember that I added in the rest of my fennel just to use it up, and it was an okay meal at the time.  Nothing that really stood out, but it was at the peak of the harvest.  BUT, when I ate the reheated jar of leftovers last week, it was AMAZING.  And the fennel was the true highlight of the dish.  People romanticize eating summer out of a jar in the middle of winter, but that is what it felt like.  I was eating fresh September sunshine, and it made my whole mouth come alive!
 
One last thing, if you are like me, I just hung to dry those bunches of herbs from the end of the season.  It was a quick and easy way to deal with them.  Now is the time to go back and crumble the leaves off the stems and put them into (labeled) jars.  If you wait much longer, they will probably accumulate noticeable dust and sometime soon you will go to use them in some lovely soup but instead you will get grossed out and just throw them away.  Save the herbs!
Happy 2010 everybody, we hope winter is treating you well.
Sincerely,
Chris.
8-24-09 week 12 002

August 24th, 2009. Just before the peak of the tomato harvest.

10-18-09 cleaning up 015

The tomato patch on October 18th, 2009.

We have been busy planting garlic and putting the garden to bed — pulling up the drip irrigation, trellis fences, stakes, and hoses.  The only things left in the ground are the rutabagas, some carrots, some parsnips, and of course the freshly planted garlic.  We will leave most of the parsnips in the ground until the spring thaw.  Usually at the tail end of maple syruping season we will go harvest the rest for a sweet spring parsnip feast (or three).

We also spent quite a bit of time picking the last of the raspberries.  We often felt like bears, ambling by the patch and getting distracted by the berries for a couple hours.  Our friends and hunting companions stopped by to set up their deer stands, and ended up at the raspberry patch too!  We sent the berries home with them, and last weekend for deer hunting Heidi brought back raspberry jam to share.  What a treat!

My dad, Darwin, went on his first elk hunting trip to Colorado for two weeks in October.  It snowed a lot while he was there, but it ended up being a good thing because the elk came down to lower elevations where they were easier to find.  He came back happy and with some elk to put in the freezer.  While he was gone my grandma Vangie and mom Carol and I (Chris) had a great time working together in the garden:

From L to R, top row: Arugula, Broccoli, Bok Choy, Lettuce Mix.  Bottom row: Hakurei Turnips, Radishes, Garlic Chives, Oregano, Onion Flowers, Lemon Thyme.
From L to R, top row: Arugula, Broccoli, Bok Choy, Lettuce Mix. Bottom row: Hakurei Turnips, Radishes, Garlic Chives, Oregano, Onion Flowers, Lemon Thyme.

In your box this week:
1. Broccoli
2. Hakurei Turnips
3. Radishes
4. Lots of lettuce
5. Lots of Bok Choy (final harvest of this planting)
6. Arugula
7. Oregano (probably the last for a while)
8. Garlic Chives
9. Onion flowers (use them like green onions)
10. Lemon Thyme

CSA member Kevin begins his new modeling career
CSA member Kevin begins his new modeling career

 After a couple weeks of intensive weeding, we are now over the hump and on to the next stage of the growing season.  After we finish mulching these freshly weeded veggies, we will be relatively ready to shift most of our time into harvesting.  We finished weeding just in time too!  The peas and green beans will soon be bearing their lovely seed pods in abundance.  The zucchini are warming up, ready to jump into the game any moment.  We also harvested our first beet!  The boxes will continue to add bulk to their leafy greenness as we progress further into the season.  If you are a tomato lover, you will be happy to know that we have many fruits set on the vines, and they are progressing nicely.

Grandma Vangie to the rescue!
Grandma Vangie to the rescue!

Speaking of tomatoes, roughly 450 tomato plants would like to take this opportunity to formally recognize and thank Tony, Dave, and Vangie for all of the weeding, pruning, staking, and mulching that has happened in the last week or so.  The plants are enjoying the breeze that moves easily through their freshly pruned vines, preventing fungal invasion.  They are enjoying the extra water and space now that the weeds are gone.  And they love the mulch that holds in moisture even on hot afternoons.  THANKS FOR YOUR HELP TEAM!

We paid Dave for his hours of work with one of the first raspberries of the season.

We paid Dave for his hours of work with one of the first raspberries of the season.

 

 

The week has flown by!  The veggies are happily growing day by day.  The peas are covered in flowers, so pea pods will be ready soon — hooray! 

 Here are some photos from last weekend, June 27, 28, and 29.  It was a really lovely weekend and Monday harvest.  We are very thankful for the inch of rain last Saturday, and it was a nice change to need long sleeves to keep warm while harvesting on Monday.  Our beekeeper Thea stopped by and because the hives are doing so well she added another super (box) on each hive so they will have plenty of room to expand while Thea, Jim, and Thea’s son Tristan tour Latvia and France with their clogging group, “The Wild Goose Chase Cloggers.”  We wish them safe journeys and that they meet many new friends along the way!

6-15-09 week 2 010 compressed

The greens have arrived!  In your box this week:
1. Rainbow Chard
2. Kale (Red Russian and Dino/Lacinato varieties)
3. Arugula
4. Baby Bok Choy/Pac Choi
5. Lamb’s Quarters (the ones with white or pink powder on them)
6. Green Bunching Onions
7. Radishes
8. Sweet Hakurei Turnips (look like white radishes)
9. Lemon Thyme

I’ve been thinking of this week as a “blood building week.”  After a long winter, the nutrient rich harvests of spring have arrived!  Greens are full of digestable calcium, iron, and vitamin C.  Also, my chef friend Nick taught me that radishes help your body metabolize fat (perfect timing as one of the first spring vegetables following heavy winter foods).  Admittedly, this sudden influx of greens can appear daunting.  Try a raw salad of lamb’s quarters and turnip greens, with radish and turnip slices, and maybe some honey goat chevre cheese and raisins.  Also, greens cook down A LOT!  So an easy way to use them up is to steam, braise, or saute them.  EVERYTHING in this week’s box could be put into a mouth-watering mega frittata.  (That’s my plan for tonight’s supper!)  Even the radish greens are edible and an excellent source of nutrients.  (While they could be eaten raw, due to the texture I’d recommend cooking them.)

 This week at the farm has seen noticeable growth of leaves.  The Alcosa savoy cabbage is still winning the garden beauty contest, in my opinion.  Yesterday while Natalie and I were harvesting the bok choy we had to stop for a moment and admire how the Alcosa leaves glowed in the sun’s backlight, and how they are already curling up into gorgeous little round cabbage heads. 

Sunday was a social working day at the farm.  Some family friends stopped by, and while we were giving them a little tour our neighbor Pete (http://www.roselawnstables.com/) came by and invited us over to see his newly planted blueberry field.  So we all went over there for a bit, and upon returning met up with our beekeepers Jim and Thea, who had come up to the farm to check on the hives.  They got married a couple weeks ago, on a beautiful sunny afternoon under the big oak trees at Theodore Worth Park in Minneapolis.  It was a very beautiful and meaningful ceremony, and I felt lucky to be witness to it.  For their rings they formed beeswax from their hives into bands, made molds, and then poured gold into the molds.  Here is a photo of the newlyweds.  Thea is holding a frame mostly of honey, and Jim is holding a frame mostly of baby bees (aka brood).

6-15-09 week 2 006 compressed

Our main goal at the farm this week is to get more things mulched.  Mulch will relieve weed pressure, retain moisture, and give all those little soil creatures an easier place to live.  We like our soil creatures!  We hope you have a great week, and we look forward to seeing you again next Monday.  I predict your skin will be glowing and your hair will be super shiny after eating all these dark leafy greens this week!

Sincerely,
Chris, on behalf of the rest of the team

 

  6-8-09 week 1 016

In your box this week:
1. Rhubarb
2. Green Onions
3. Chamomile
4. Oregano
5. Lemon Thyme
6. Garlic Chives

Which herb is which?  

chamomile chamomile
garlic chives garlic chives
lemon thyme lemon thyme
oregano oregano

Fresh vs. Dry Herbs:
Use more of an herb when fresh and less when dry. For Thyme, for example, 1 Tablespoon fresh = ¾ teaspoon dry. Herbs can be stored in the fridge to use fresh, or can be hung in a cool dry place to dry.  Once dry, hold inside a bag and crumble leaves off of stems. Then pour into a jar.

To Find Recipes:
Use the search box or click on the ingredient you are interested in using to get a list of all uploaded recipes which contain that ingredient.  CSA member Amy highly recommends the Rhubarb Chutney recipes!

Farm News:
After a very dry spring we are feeling thankful for the rain this past weekend – our farm received a little over two inches! I 6-8-09 week 1 019went to North Carolina for a week (for a nature play training for my day job) and when I returned the plants were noticeably larger. It is an exciting time of year with the plants establishing themselves and starting to show it. The weeds are also staking a claim, and while I was in NC my dad and mom, Darwin and Carol, put in many a hour hand weeding. Once the plants get a little bigger we will mulch, mulch, mulch. The straw helps retain moisture and keep the weeds down.

Share Your Recipes!

If you would like to share a recipe with our members, write it in a comment and then we will paste it into a post. You can then search for recipes by ingredient, either by using the search box feature or by clicking on the category of your choice.

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