Farm Newsletter ** Week 8
I hope everyone is enjoying their veggies so far this season!
We're rolling into week 8 of the CSA season out of 16 weeks. So we've still got over half of our season left to celebrate all of the goodies we can share with you from our farm! I choose to look at it as an opportunity to thrive in the kitchen with all of the tools and fresh ingredients we have at our disposal, not a countdown to when it all comes to an end. We LIVE for this time of year and we've got a ton of fun ahead of us still!!
We had some damage from a storm last spring and we're finally getting around to scraping the old paint, priming and painting with a fresh coat! The barn is easily the most attractive piece of our farm. She's 106 years old and still looking great!
We had someone stop by a few years back and tell us that back in the 80s it almost fell over and that it had to be straightened out and reinforced. We've had so many people stop by over the years and ask to take pictures with the "family barn". I feel like we're all related even though we don't know each other.. someone even came with family from Florida and they wanted to show them "their roots" and where their family is from. There is something truly special about having this barn, it's like we inherited a legacy that goes along with all of these old walls and all of their secrets.
I fell in love with this barn before we even bought our farm. It has doors all over, accesses out the back, the side, the upstairs has a deck and a pool table! But the floors aren't as strong as they once were and while we haven't actually gone through, we've put a foot or two through.... needless to say we'd love to spend more time in here but we'll need to first empty the loft and replace the flooring for safety. I look forward to continuing the farm improvements over the years as time and resources are available. One day I'd love to be able to have guests up in the loft!
We just picked the first of our tomatoes for the season! It was only 8 baskets, but it's a nice start! We've got thousands of 'mater plants and eventually will be harvesting 40+ baskets a day. Right now, they'll come in as a trickle, and then there will be a waterfall! With how slow they're turning I doubt we'll have enough for next week's CSA but we'd love to start adding them week 9 if they start turning faster!
Grape tomatoes broke a ton of their dang stakes! Look at this!!
They are so heavy that they literally snapped off the stakes. These are 1x2 stakes that are pounded into the ground with a t-post pounder. It's all done by hand. There are only two plants between each stake, so it's not like the stakes are sporadic around the field and they have a dozen plants to support. These stakes definitely can't handle the pressure, lol!
See how they're all tipped to the right? There were rows in there to walk through before they all fell over!
The reason we stake the tomatoes up is so that harvesting is easier, so that we can actually see the whole plant and all the tomatoes. Tomatoes generally ripen from the bottom up, the tomatoes at the base of the plants ripen quicker than the ones at the top of the plant. It's actually true that the individual tomato ripens from the bottom up as well. There will be what we call a 'sunspot' on the bottom of the tomato right where the flower was (there is a little black dot in the center).
I suppose we should be thankful for this problem! It's all about perspective. There have been seasons where we haven't gotten to harvest any grape tomatoes. If the tomatoes are turning colors or there are a bunch of red ones on the plant, they'll actually explode and split open if we get a bunch of rain. I once had a CSA Member tell me their tomatoes were planted on the side of their house and after a storm they had to pressure wash the house because the tomatoes burst and left seeds and juice all over their house! We've seen that too- a huge rainstorm can actually be a really bad thing if tomatoes are ripening!
What happens if you don't pick up your CSA Share? I think this is a great time to talk about this since the summer is winding down and we're all seemingly just getting busier and busier! I'm getting a couple emails a week about this- what happens to my CSA when I forget to pick up? First I'll say, if you want to go check your CSA site to see if the boxes are still out there, great. If you don't want to make the drive to check, that's OK too. If the box is outside in the pick-up spot, feel free to grab it. If it's not visible, please don't go knocking and asking the host for your produce. **This happens at least a couple times a year, sometimes 2 days after the missed delivery even. With how busy we are, I can't facilitate special exceptions and late pick-ups only because it's always after the fact that I'm being notified. If you know you'll miss it/ won't get there in time just shoot me a text (not an email!) and I will see it right away and communicate that to your host.
In short, if you don't pick up within the time frame your CSA is forfeited. We do that for a few reasons but most notably because we don't want the produce to go to waste. Some hosts bring it to a food shelf, some gift it to a friend or elderly neighbor, some use the extra produce in their own kitchen; all of which are great avenues that don't lead to the veggies going to waste. We would love if everyone was able to get their CSA all season though, ultimately that leads to the best value and we want you to join us again next season! Value is SO important! We try very hard to make sure we get you your money's worth!!
THIS WEEK IN YOUR CSA YOU CAN EXPECT:
Jumbo & Family Shares: Sweet Corn! Spaghetti Squash, Cabbage, Purple Cauliflower, Zucchini & Bell Peppers!
Single Shares: Sweet Corn! Spaghetti Squash, Cabbage, Zucchini & Bell Peppers!
Sweet Corn! This is what everyone was hoping for, I think! We've got plenty of room in the CSA this week for corn!! Well, I should say we won't have plenty of room because these boxes are going to be tough to pack with all these big ticket items... but we've got plenty of room in the CSA lineup this week. Last week we talked about how certain varieties needed to be used right away when they start producing, cauliflower for example, will go to seed!
Picture from last season- but here are some nice looking bell peppers! We haven't harvested many but we're going to start Monday morning for our CSAs!
We have several colors of bell peppers and you'll get to see all of them throughout the summer! This week I'd expect to send a lot of traditional green bells because we have alot more plants in the field. We're only picking the biggest of everything though, so some of you might see some purple bells this week!
I have a sheet in my clipboard that documents what you get every day so we can make sure it's fair throughout and everyone is seeing everything this season! So I'll literally have it noted down to saying the quantity of peppers, color, and size, for every single size of CSA every day of the week. That's the only real way to make sure everyone gets everything!
You might see some hail dings on your peppers. Doesn't look like a ton but if you see a little white dot on the pepper, that's what it's from.
Spaghetti Squash is a type of winter squash. If you're not familiar, let's go over it in a bit more detail. Squash comes in two main forms- winter squash and summer squash. The summer squash is zucchini and crook neck summer squash, the thinner skin squash that can go from flower to full size in a couple days (or overnight, as some claim, haha!). Zucchini is known for growing fast!
Winter squash on the other hand, is started in the spring and has been growing for months quietly in the background. They grow larger and larger until they start ripening. Remember how we talked a little bit about the differences between produce that is harvested when it gets to the right size (like zucchini, eggplant) vs produce that is harvested when it's ripe? Tomatoes are only harvested when they're ripe and red. This is the latter type of produce. Squash ripens as the weather changes and the plants know that the sunlight hours are diminishing. Crazy how the natural world works together!
Winter squash comes in many forms and you'll get to see a lot of different varieties this season! We've got the classics like acorn squash, buttercup, butternut, etc and we've got some fun ones like the spaghetti squash, delicata, sweet dumpling, for example. One thing I need to make sure you know is that Spaghetti squash is different from every other type of squash out there because of it's texture.
Cut your spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and soft membranes that hold the seeds. Then use your hand (or a paper towel) and rub olive oil around on the inside of the squash. Place face down on a baking sheet and cook for appx 30 minutes for a medium sized squash. It's done cooking when it's fork tender, meaning you have to be able to stick a fork through it without and tension/ kind of like a potato.
Once you know it's done, flip it over so you can see the flesh and use your fork to run the length of the squash. There really isn't any way to 'mess this up'. By using the fork, you're creating little "spaghetti" noodles out of your squash. Every other type of squash is removed from the skin with a spoon, you just scoop the flesh out of the skin. Spaghetti squash is different because it's the only squash that will result in this texture! You could use a butternut squash and use a fork, and it'd never turn out anything like this.
The picture here is sourced from google- but it shows a great example of the finished product!
We generally get the spaghetti squash into our CSAs a couple of times a season. I LOVE these squash because they're special and they can be turned into so many different things. I'm cooking one tonight for supper with some homemade spaghetti sauce. Sounds fancy, but I just use my salsa and then add the herbs and cook it down so it's thicker; voila! Spaghetti sauce with the perfect amount of heat and big onion & pepper chunks!! I should add that when I make my salsa to can, it doesn't have any herbs. It's simply tomatoes, peppers, onions, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. So it sounds fancy to say "home made spaghetti sauce" but it's really just doctoring up something I already stored through the winter! We captured the flavors of the season in a little jar ;P I sell my salsa at the farmstand and end up selling hundreds of jars every year. I even have some people buy cases in advance; I have one family who gets 2 flats of salsa every year (24 jars)! I'm just trying to say- it really is good, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, haha! I'd love to share more about making salsa when tomatoes really start coming in!
As many of you know, we donate every week to CAER food shelf in Elk River. Many of you have donated to our Food Shelf Shares in $20 increments which we matched, so we donate 4 Jumbo Shares every week so they get a good variety. We also donate bulk produce above and beyond that, whatever we've got a big surplus on goes straight to the food shelf!
This past week, we donated over 950 pounds of produce!! Wendy and the team there were telling me that they're seeing an increase of over 40% of goods going out every month since November of last year. Every month they're getting another 40-50 families registering for the food shelf and last year at this time (and all years prior) it's usually about 5-10 new families a month.
They built a whole farmer's market set up there & have a permanent structure in their parking lot for all the produce farmer's bring in. I know other farmers bring a lot as well, but I know 100% that we're the only farm that brings them an intentional variety of produce to distribute in addition to excess and bulk.
Thank you for your support in helping our Food Shelf partners! And thank you for your support of our farm so we can continue doing what we love and fueling the families and communities around us. It's truly incredible what we're able to do with your support. THANK YOU!!
This past week was especially busy. We always find a way to add more to what we're already doing right?!
We had VBS (Vacation Bible School) every night with the kids at church, which is like an evening camp basically. They learn and get to play games & have treats, it's a highlight of the year at church that's for sure!
We also had the Benton County Fair and William & I volunteered for his Boy Scout troop at the demo derby! If you've never had the pleasure of this high-end reck neck entertainment, I certainly recommend it at least once. They drive cars around in circles until they smash everyone else's car basically.. the fire dept will put out fires (there are a lot!), and move the broken down cars out of the way. Then it comes down to just a few left in the arena and whoever still has an operating car (and did the best) at the end of it wins.
We served food and William was the 'runner' and was red in the face for hours. Going to and from the refrigerated semi to load whatever we needed and bring it back to the shack where we're cooking. That boy sure does know how to hustle!
Eat Good & Be Well! ~The Farmer's Wife