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  • Writer's pictureThe Farmer's Wife

Week 3- CSA Newsletter

Greetings All,

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July! And hopefully some fun festivities this weekend maybe, too?! It's a great time of year to celebrate with friends and family.


We went to Uncle Dan's cabin for the afternoon once we wrapped up with all the farm chores. We had a great time with family, and we were even able to swim some before the rain moved in. We didn't get much rain here at the farm, less than a half inch. So that's still more than we want but it's not as bad as it could have been!!


This morning the kids brought in a bucket full of dirty water and then excitedly showed me all of their tadpoles! So naturally, I'm helping them set up the aquarium for the living room because there is always room on my hutch for a bunch of tadpoles ;) The frogs laid their eggs everywhere this spring because of how wet it is! William & Kelsi pulled these tadpoles from a tire rut on the tractor road. They were saying they're rescuing the tadpoles because later this week with 80* weather coming in, these little ruts will dry up. So naturally, we made room for them in the house ;P

I grew up with my hands in buckets too. My aunts and uncles still tease me about 'day pets'. Frogs, snakes, skinks (lizards), salamanders, fish, tadpoles, the list goes on. The term day pet came from my mom always telling us that we could catch whatever we want during the day but that once bedtime came, we had to let everything go so we could try to catch it again the next day.


I grew up in Apple Valley so there weren't as many critters there but we spent a lot of time at the lake when I was younger. We had a cabin on the White Earth Indian Reservation, where my great grandfather William Warren built all the cabins on Net Lake. So we spent every waking minute finding every creepy crawly we could get our paws on ;) The tradition lives on! And now that we're at our farm in Oak Park, this is a day to day occurrence with the "what's in the bucket" question with our own kids now! I absolutely adore their interest in the outdoors!!


PORK


We've got about 70 pigs here right now, some are inside the barn because they're small enough to go through the cattle panels. We use cattle panels as fencing for our pens, so naturally it's a problem when the little ones just help themselves out, haha! So most are outside, and the ones in the barn (nursery) will be headed out there soon in a couple weeks I'd guess. It's important to have all different sizes of pigs because our butcher dates are spread out between Sept- Oct- Nov. So we want the right size market hogs staggered throughout the fall, or we'd have enormous hogs by November.


I was asked the other day, what is the difference between a hog and pig? I use both terms and sometimes it's confusing and prompts questions. They way I see it, they're 'pigs' until they're market sized hogs. Meaning when they're small they are pigs and when they're full grown and ready for the butcher shop, I call them hogs. I am not sure if this is silly to mention but a good friend asked me about it so I figured if they didn't know, you guys might not know either.


For those of you who have previously bought hogs from us, you should have gotten an email this morning with the link to get your deposits in and sign up for your butcher date. For those of you who are interested in getting a half or whole, we will be opening it up to new CSA Members next weekend (we added more pigs this yr so we will definitely have availability). I'll add that info in the blog here when the time comes.


YOU'RE THE FIRST TO KNOW... I literally haven't told anyone that isn't family... we are going to be selling our pork products at our farm stand this summer!! We got permission from the Hudson's, who own Hardware Hank in Zimmerman there, and we have permission to bring our plug-in freezer and sell pork products! We are planning on doing some fun marinated pork chops, of course, TONS of bacon, lots of brats, hot dogs, brat patties, snack sticks, all the fun stuff. We're doing in smaller packages too so the price point is approachable for everyone.

It almost doesn't feel real because of what a special opportunity this is for our farm. Expanding into something that we've never done before is nerve wracking. It's a lot of money on the line and a heaping bucket full of faith that it'll work out... Gosh I hope it goes well. It almost makes me more nervous even just sharing it here because what if it doesn't work out?? There are SO many variables at play. New things are exciting, but super scary too!!!


We brought a TON of goodies up to Uncle Dan's cabin on the 4th and had a good time sampling all sorts of new products with family. They served as taste testers so we can choose some fun stuff to get made with our pork! One thing that I am SO excited for is the blueberry maple snack sticks. We didn't make a ton of maple syrup this year but I'm hoping to be able to get them enough so they can use our maple syrup with our pork!

I think part of the fun of what we do is that we can daydream all we want. Anything we think of, we can make happen. It takes a lot of work to 'follow your dreams' but it's so worth it!!


Uncertainties.


This past week we had a really hard time with the lettuces. I'm glad I got so many emails about how nice they were and about how you were sharing with your friends and family over potlucks :) I am bummed to share that the lettuces are pretty much done for the season. We are going to harvest what we can for the Jumbo & Family Shares this week. These heads will be a little smaller I'd imagine. These are the heads that were too small to harvest last week.


This year has been rough for our crops! I think Farmer Ben is doing a great job but part of the reason we had to wait until today to send out this newsletter is because SO MANY VARIETIES are right on the fence. Are they going to be ready? Are they going to be too far gone (like the lettuces) are they going to head soon enough? (like the broccoli) I apologize for the late blog post again and in the future, I hope that our varieties are cut and clear so I don't have to wait until Saturday to send this to you. It's the maybes that's driving us all nuts around here! We've been waiting all spring (and all winter) for these crops!!!

We just started harvesting zucchini this past week! We picked on Wednesday morning and were able to get 4 cases of zucchini so we distributed it throughout the CSAs that day. I'm sorry for the folks earlier in the week because you didn't get any- but it wasn't ready at that point or we would have added it to your boxes too. If we didn't add it to the Wednesday shares it would have gone to waste. The good news is that it's producing good and we're adding it to everyone's CSA Shares this week!! :)


What to expect in your CSA Shares this week: Jumbo & Family Shares: Broccoli, Red Potatoes, Zucchini, Beets, Radishes & lettuce! Single Shares: Broccoli, Red Potatoes, Summer squash, Beets & Radishes!


Let's get into some details on your produce varieties this week. I want to mention that in the beginning of the season you'll be seeing lots of little tips and tricks to make prep work easier. Later on in the harvest season you'll be seeing more info here about storing and preserving your veggies. I imagine you probably aren't going to be blanching and freezing the first head of broccoli that you get this season ;) But later on this summer maybe you'll be putting some up for the winter! So the content here changes gears throughout the season as I write about what I think you want to know more about.


Zucchini & Summer Squash

I want to start with these varieties. Zucchini and crook neck summer squash are the varieties you'll be seeing this week, and they're all a part of the umbrella of "Summer Squash". There are hundreds of varieties of summer squash, we just grow 3. Yellow zucchini, green zucchini and crook neck summer squash.


You'll see lots of winter squash later this fall too. The biggest difference is that summer squash continually produces all summer long, whereas winter squash grows all summer long only to ripen in the fall! You harvest the winter squash one time, whereas we harvest our summer squash varieties every other day, ALL SUMMER LONG!


These are crook neck summer squash. Single Shares will receive these this week! These are more delicate than zucchini and their shelf life is a little shorter as they bruise a lot more easily. They are desirable because they're so tender that a lot of folks use these raw. Their seed cavity is shorter and wider towards the end where they get fatter. The seeds are pretty small but if you end up getting a bigger one with larger seeds, some folks will use a spoon to carve out the seeds. Some folks do that with zucchini too.



Zucchini is a variety that comes in a great deal of sizes and shapes. Just like us! The important thing is that we need to embrace the zucchini at whatever size they are. We grow yellow and green zucchini and when you see "Zucchini" on the harvest list, we do try to mix yellow and green for you when we can! We do that because it's more colorful and as you know, we eat with our eyes before our stomachs ;) the aesthetics of the food we're enjoying adds a lot to the meal presentation and overall satisfaction.


When we go out and harvest zucchini, we go through the entire patch and take every zucchini that's big enough. Since they grow SO fast, some can be thinner and shorter, and others can be larger and thicker. I think it's important in our CSA journey to mention that every zucchini has it's purpose!


Thinner smaller zucchini are best suited for eating in salads, or a stir fry for example because they hold their shape a bit better than the larger ones. Larger zucchini are best suited for grating to make fritters or zucchini bread! Another way to use the bigger zucchini is to cut them in half and scoop out the middle/seed area and use them like a boat.

BEETS

You can eat the beets of course but the tops are also edible! In the spring we will give you the beets with greens intact. In the fall we always cut off the greens because they're weathered and we wouldn't use them in a salad or any cooked greens dishes because they'll be damaged from the weather. In the spring the greens are usually really nice, and these greens might have a little spot here or there but you should be able to utilize the greens this week!


Beets are known for their earthy flavor, and they can add depth to a lot of dishes because of that. They are notoriously strong colored and stain your hands. I even used them one time to tie-dye shirts when I worked at the kid's summer program back in college. I had a whole line of veggies, and we were 'experimenting' which veggie color would hold the best and the beets were by far the strongest colored! They also have a TON of nutrients, they're best known for their antioxidants. They're known to help with cell wall functioning and inflammation and the juice is known for cleansing your liver and improving it's function. So maybe after the 4th of July weekend this is very timely....


Did you know that cooking beets won't give you the same health benefits as eating them raw because heat destroys betalain pigments? Most veggies have different nutritional info BEFORE and AFTER cooking because you lose some nutrients when they're cooked. Though I like to think of ANY veggies in our diet as a win... We can't only eat them raw, as that would limit the uses in the kitchen and ultimately result in us eating less beets all together. Just an interesting tidbit I wanted to share.


If you've ever used beets in your kitchen you know that they're bound to stain your hands and cutting board, everything! You need to peel beets, unless they're just tiny (because the skins are so thin at that size). Personally, I would rather peel beets when they're raw because the color doesn't bleed as bad. Your hands won't be red if you peel them with a paring knife and they're raw. If you boil them or roast them first, the skins come off super easy! The hotter the beet, the easier it is to peel; don't burn yourself though! The staining is more prominent in cooked beets so if that bothers you, you could wear gloves!


BROCCOLI

I could spend days writing about broccoli.

We don’t use pesticides if we don’t absolutely have to. Broccoli really only has one prominent pest, the broccoli worm. We harvest them right away in the morning and put them in the wash tank with a burlap sack over the top of them. Let them sit for an hour or so, which will essentially drown the worms. Then we take all the broccoli heads out of the tank and let them dry slightly before we add them to your CSA boxes. I think we can all agree, we would rather see a bug or two than be applying some sort of pesticide to your produce.


Our suggestion is to soak them at home too, because there is nothing good about finding a hitch hiker. I fill my sink halfway full and then put about a tbsp of salt in the water, and about a quarter cup of vinegar and then let it soak in the sink for a half hour just to be sure. Some folks just use vinegar or salt, but in my opinion if you have both in your kitchen already you may as well use both. They're inexpensive and most importantly, you won't be able to taste any difference after you rinse off your broccoli!


Keep in mind that you can use the broccoli florets and the stems alike! If you get a chance, cut yourself a piece of the stem and try it plain. You'll see that it's much more tender than the storebought broccoli because it's super fresh. If you like slaw, you can use the stems from your broccoli in your slaw! The smell of fresh broccoli is much more strong compared to broccoli in the store. So don't be alarmed if the smell makes you wonder- it's just really fresh broccoli!!

Store it in the fridge for a few days wrapped loosely in plastic. If you can't get to it soon enough and it gets a little soft you can always put it in a sink full of cold water to revive it, or just add it to your alfredo for a nice finishing touch!

***This is the last time you'll see lettuces this season! We'll still have greens like swiss chard and kale in the boxes periodically, but you won't get any heads of lettuce after this week. Isn't it crazy just a few weeks ago I was telling you about how exciting this time of year is because it's so brief. It's here, and then gone!! Some folks would wonder why we don't plant lettuces for the fall because they do well in the cool weather- the answer is simply that the fall is reserved for so many other varieties that are specific to the fall, too! Like pie pumpkins and squash, brussel sprouts, apples, and more! So it's not a lack of desire for fall lettuce, we just know we don't have room with all the other goodies we've got lined up for you.


Sorry I'm a sucker for pictures of my kids when they were younger and I wasn't going to go dig a bunch of potatoes before I posted this so you guys get a flash back from 2 yrs ago. Crazy how much the kids grow!


POTATOES Red potatoes are easy to use- they're something that everyone already knows and loves. These have a lower starch content compared to most potatoes and they hold their shape well when they're being cooked. Whereas, a russet potato would just fall apart if it's boiled (which is why those are best for mashed potatoes). Red potatoes are best for potato salad because they keep their shape!


Red potatoes are different in the spring vs the fall. In the spring the skins are super thin and in the fall the skins are much thicker and provide protection for the potato. In the spring the skins are so thin that if you look at them funny the skins will fall right off. Some older folks will refer to the 'finger nail test' which is referring to the age/freshness of a potato. If you can use your fingernail to rub off the skin, it's a new potato! That is good because of course we want them fresh! When you get your potatoes this week you'll know exactly what I am talking about with the fingernail test ;)


*Store these new potatoes in the fridge! In the handbook there is a section on this and it does explain that later in the fall you will store the potatoes differently. Right now, we suggest storing them in the fridge because the skins are so thin they are more delicate. In the fall when the skins are thick, we suggest storing them in a cool dark place and not the fridge.



WRAPPING IT UP


This week we will have some heat!!! Ben is over the moon happy about getting some help drying out the fields but now his concerns have transitioned to the planting weather. High 80's this week doesn't make for good planting because it stresses the little plants so much that it does damage. So we'll run the irrigation where we will be planting for a few hours ahead of time so that we can get the ground nice and saturated before we plant, which will help those little seedlings get rooted and do well! We don't have time to waste! Or plants to waste!!


We've got a whole greenhouse full of plants right now. Some are there to replace the plants in the field that died and others are there because they're succession plantings. We plant cauliflower 3 times a year for example. We have about a dozen crops that are planted multiple times a year so that you get the best experience with your CSA. We want a good variety and bountiful crops to share so we are just seeding like crazy in the greenhouse! We do this every season!


Kelsi and William just came inside and told me that they're going on a snake hunt. Not to eat them, but to put them in a bucket and haul them around all day. Then they try to catch bugs and worms, anything really, to put in there with the snake because they're being thoughtful and want to feed the snake. They mean well!! Time for me to get outside and help them find some snakes haha ;) Maybe I can even convince our middle child to come with us- but she's busy in her hammock right now. "busy". hahaha


I hope everyone had a great week and enjoyed their veggies too!!


Unofficial quote of the week: "Do things for other people. Not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are."

Eat Good & Be Well,

~The Farmer's Wife

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