FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 8
This week is super exciting for a lot of reasons. I know, I’m pretty excitable but really this week is FULL of new varieties for us to enjoy. SPOILER ALERT: TOMATOES & MUSKMELONS!
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll see some transition in our crew. We have a couple of our helpers going back to college, and though we will miss them a lot we wish them the best! We have a lot of fun working together, lots of laughs and great days together! Over the next couple of weeks we’ll have some new faces out to the farm to train in. With the nature of seasonal farm work, we expect this every year. We have a lot of highschool/college aged kids working with us, but age ranges of people we’ve worked with over the years is anywhere between 15-55. Everyone has their own skill set that they bring to the table and we’re thankful to have that kind of range of skills because it helps us all work together so efficiently.
Friendly reminder: If you’re having someone else grab your CSA Share box please make sure they know that each box has someone’s name on it. We had this happen a couple times over the past few weeks where a CSA member is out of town and they have a friend/neighbor go and get their share and accidentally grabbed another member’s share box unknowingly. If they’re not a usual member it makes sense that they wouldn’t know about the names on the boxes- so please make sure that you share that detail with your friends or neighbors who are taking over your share for you while out of town.
I am super excited to announce a partnership with Kristen. She will be posting to the blog every once in a while to share her insight! She is a local Registered Dietitian (RD) who has a huge understanding of the food we eat. It's not all about the nutritional values either- there is a lot to healthy eating that doesn't come in the form of calories and carbs. It's a lot about being mindful, making choices, and using all the information we have at hand to make decisions that are good for ourselves & our families! I have an intro post to her and her skills & passions in the blog too (a whole separate post, which is also linked to the weekly email).
The beets are now getting to size which is super exciting! These are usually planted quite a bit earlier than what they were this year. Though we wish we could have gotten them in a bit earlier, we did have our hands really full this year. I expect to have beets in the CSAs within the next week or 2, although the greens are looking a bit rough. I don’t expect to be able to give you beets with the greens intact because they’re being enjoyed by some little pests. This is part of the learning process at the new land though. Depending on the proximity to water & shade, the soil type, and so many other factors affect pests reproductive life cycles, ie. how successful they are at eating all the veggies. So next season we’ll try planting them farther away from the 10 acre wetland on the NE corner of our property in hopes that those pests aren’t as successful in finding these tender greens.
Good news though- still haven’t seen a single deer in the farm fields! I think they’re freaked out about not having tall cover to stand in. The field corn is super tall right now and there are thousands of acres around us planted in it, so I’m sure they’d rather go in there than out into our fields where they’re easily seen.
A little reflection about moving this spring..
After talking with a friend the other day, it really hit me. The end of April we closed on our farm house- you know- in the middle of “coronavirus season”. Right after the kids’ school was cancelled we had a couple weeks of them being home at the same time Ben and I were trying to pack and plan for the move. A huge worry for us was about the actual closing process- back in the first couple weeks of the covid season, we were concerned that we weren’t even going to be able to meet with our title company. Also worrying about not being able to leave the house (remember the permitting that happened right away?), though we were deemed “essential workers” like many others it still shook us up wondering if things would actually work out.
So skipping forward through moving our family of 5, along with all our personal belongings and also the farm equipment and the sheds full of our stuff- we were moved in the last week of April. We were contracting out some of our tractor work to one of our long time employees whom we trust very much. Ben still had all the plants in the greenhouse back at the Big Lake farm (ie. His parents’ house). So he was making multiple trips there every day to care for those plants, while bringing trailer loads back here to plant, while working up the fields and laying the mulch, while… I could go on. So everything basically had to happen all at once.
I think a huge blessing to us was having our CSA program sold out prior to moving. That made a huge difference in the amount of time I was spending in the office and it allowed me more time to help in the fields and prepping the buildings for this season’s purpose. The alpaca barn, which is our pack shed now, literally had alpacas in it just last fall. So there was a lot of cleaning and reorganizing to do, along with building a walk in 8X16 cooler to store produce.
Moving forward through the first few weeks of CSA Shares and now we’re onto making the fine tune changes, like having a white board in the pack shed to list the varieties and quantities of everything. Changing the “she shed” as I termed it (yes, I did claim one of the buildings LOL), into the tomato sorting shed. Organizing where our tools are kept, farm equipment, etc. And just keeping the plants happy and maintaining our harvest on a day to day. It’s been a heck of a season so far!!
I have to stress that this is exactly what we wanted. We didn’t fall into this situation by accident- we had been saving and planning for buying property for years and this house wasn’t even on the market when we made an offer. We are so thankful to be busy! This place felt like “home” as soon as we walked in the door. Though I still find myself telling everyone who comes here “Don’t mind that the house looks lived in, because it is” haha! This year, even with the mishaps like the spinach, cilantro, a few other varieties not doing well, is still one of the best growing years we’ve had. Living in the same spot as we’re farming instead of commuting to 3 different fields allows Ben to be home more with us too! <3
Also, just in the normal chaos of life on the farm I have to mention that we inherited an extra 20 chickens yesterday because my brother in law has a weasel in his coop so to keep them safe they’re all coming to join our birds. That’s a lot of extra chickens, lol! So today we’re working on building a setup in the barn for them with lots of roosting space and laying boxes. I didn’t mean to go on and on about farm life for so long but here we are, lol.
This week in the Jumbo and Family Shares you can expect: Acorn Squash, Muskmelon, Zucchini, Crookneck Squash, Roma Tomatoes, Basil, Sweet Banana Peppers!
This week in the Single Shares you can expect: Acorn Squash, Muskmelon, Zucchini, Crookneck Squash, Slicing Tomatoes, Basil, HOT Banana Peppers (will be in a bag)!
This week we have a lot of new varieties included which means that you’ll likely be referencing the farm to table storage guide that we sent you earlier this season in your welcome email. Remember, there are a LOT of varieties in there, so the easiest way to search for what you want is to do the search function. Click the control button (CTRL button) on the bottom left of your laptop/computer, and then also hit the letter “F” key and it’ll bring up a window where you can type in whatever variety you’re looking for and it will bring it to the top. Next season I’ll be looking into a better layout with page numbers so it’s easier to get to what you want.
The crook neck squash and zucchini can be used interchangeably almost always. They’re both varieties of summer squash, but the crook neck summer squash is generally more tender than the zucchini. Though that is very size dependent because the smaller the squash/ circumference of the squash, generally the younger and more tender they’ll be. Tender young summer squash can be used to top salads or eat raw. At our kids’ daycare they slice zucchini and then give the kids ranch to dip it in, it looks just like a cucumber but they’re eating zucchini!
MUSKMELON: This is important to share with you. These are harvested when they’re ripe. This gives a whole new meaning to “vine ripened” though. So the ripening process of the melons is to push all of the sugars in the plants to their fruits to increase the reproductive success of their seeds within the melons. The vines are starting to die off (yellowing leaves and collapsed in height as shown above), turn brown and the leaves are wilting. A sure sign of ripe melons, but also consider their color is bright yellow now. When touching the blossom end of the melon (the side that isn’t attached to the plant), you’ll feel a little give.
IMPORTANT: These do not have a good shelf life! What we are trading in shelf life, we gain in flavor. So when these are harvested in mass quantities to ship on semi trucks across the country they’re harvested when they’re not ripe at all. That way, by the time they get to their destination a couple weeks later they’re soft enough and orange enough on the inside to be perceived as fresh & ripe. So instead of harvesting them under-ripe so they can last a long time, we’re harvesting them ripe so they have maximum flavor and sugar content! Whew, that’s a lot about melons but it’s important to know they will keep for a couple days on the counter or 3-4 days in the fridge. If you want to wait to eat it I would suggest cubing it up and putting it in in a bowl in the fridge. It won’t continue to ripen if you remove the seeds from the center.
Traditional large slicing tomatoes can be used to top a burger, as wedges to garnish a salad, or diced on top of tacos for example. Roma tomatoes are also great for the purposes listed above, but they’re known for their value in making sauces or canning. They are smaller and elongated, they’re oval shaped not round. They have a much lower water content than that traditional slicing tomatoes, so if you’re making salsa for example the process of cooking it down is almost twice as fast as traditional tomatoes.
Do not refrigerate tomatoes; cold temperatures deplete their flavor & texture. If your tomatoes smell fragrant and yield slightly when squeezed, they are ready to use. If not, store them for a few days at room temperature out of the sun until they are ripe. My dad’s trick was always putting dry tomatoes in a brown paper bag on top of the fridge, which accelerates the ripening process.
The basil is a little sunburnt. It’s really nice underneath the top layer but the very top leaves were exposed to the super hot and dry weather we’ve had. If you google it, it’s actually fairly common. It happens when the plants are young, or when there is exposure to the direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. The basil is very fragrant and tasty! The top leaves will be picked off by us for the most part, but if you see any that we missed that are discolored feel free to discard those. We will be doing our best to make sure that leaves that are too damaged don’t slip through.
This is another new one this week! Acorn Squash is one of the classic squash varieties. When we used to go to markets this was one of the most popular kinds of squash. To bake, slice in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and place facedown on cookie sheet. Add 1/2 inch of water to pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until shells are soft and starting to collapse. Remove from shells, and fill with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, seasoning or fillings. You can also boil or steam it to cook it. Since this is the first of many winter squashes I won’t get into the long term storage info because I don’t imagine any of us freezing or keeping the first real winter squash of the season past the first frost. But lots more on this will be coming soon!
This week is a really fun one for us to introduce all of these new varieties in your CSA Shares and we hope that you enjoy them very much!!
Have a wonderful weekend,
~The Farmer’s Wife