Welcome!

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The farm family in 2016

Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! Oakhill Organics is a family-run farm located on Grand Island. We grow everything we sell right here on our farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm news on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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The weight of waiting

Peeking at germinating tomato plants under row cover — summer will come!

I keep thinking of different metaphors for this unprecedented moment in the world. As I said last week, a good friend described this as “time outside of time,” which is a beautiful cosmic way to think of what really feels like a lot of drudgery. There is a lot that does feel profound right now — the poignancy of every day life, of saying “I love you,” of cherishing all that is still with us: the beauty of spring’s unfolding.

The mourning of our real and potential losses too is also profound, and I know that I am one of many who has felt real, intense grief as I struggle to process the huge losses in my own life and all around me. Jobs and businesses in limbo. Concerts, sporting events, and plays cancelled (all that hard work!). Much needed family vacations skipped. Milestones and passages marked without gatherings (birthdays, weddings, graduations, funerals). Loss of health or worries about health. The loss of normalcy all around. For some, the loss of loved ones. The fear of more losses to come.

Like all grief, however, the work of mourning normalcy can also be full of drudgery. There can be days of listless energy. Emotions that feel unformed and vague but cover everything with a gray haze. The inability to focus or feel productive. I think so many of us are feeling the effects of this large scale mourning even as we have expectations that we should somehow be productive while at home too!

But, added to the grief is the waiting. Waiting is very different from anticipating. Anticipating can be a beautiful, joyful experience that highlights the pleasure of an upcoming occasion. But, waiting can feel different. I’m thinking here of the waiting we do when stuck in traffic and are uncertain of how long it will be before we get home. Or, the waiting of a child on a long car trip, watching the scenery pass by until it all becomes a blur and there’s only the question left … “Are we there yet?” Or, even worse, the waiting that comes when you schedule an appointment for a repair or utility connection at your house, and you’re given a window of time (“we’ll be there between 10 am and 2 pm”). And, so you find yourself at home, theoretically with lots of time to get things done, but find it very hard to focus with the thought that you might be interrupted at any moment.

Those are the kinds of metaphors I’ve been thinking of most — the hard, icky waiting — as we enter another week of waiting for Covid-19 cases to peak and then slow down and then pause … so that we can then hopefully restart some new version of “life-as-normal” (which even then might not look “normal” for quite a while).

Casey and I have both actually been incredibly busy during the isolation period, getting spring work started on the farm, starting the CSA, homeschooling the kids, and doing all the other work we do around the community (now just mostly remotely, which has been a big learning curve as well!). But, for me, all the busy-ness still has had that vague foggy feeling over it all — I can’t shake those sensations of mourning and waiting all mixed into something undefined and just kind of “blah.”

Compounding our own experience of the isolation, our family actually had influenza twice in February (type B and then type A). So we’ve been doing some form of self-isolation (and lots and lots and lots of cancelling) off-and-on since February 1. Quite frankly, friends, I am tired of missing the people and activities that I deeply love.

Certainly, the silver lining of all of this is heightened gratitude for it all. I never take our life for granted — I honestly would not change a thing — but WOW … the last two months have put even more emphasis on how much happiness is to be found in the simplest parts of our life. The ability to gather and laugh with friends in person. Singing with other people. Sharing a meal around a table. I miss those simple, free joys so very much.

Part of why I’ve found it important to be real and share my sense of loss in this season is that I want to create space for other people to acknowledge theirs as well. I think that if we dismiss our own losses (even small ones, like missing having coffee regularly with a friend) as unimportant in the scheme of the world, we risk losing gratitude for all the wonderful little things in our life as well. Yes, I continue to be grateful for my health, for my family, for my relative stability right now. None of that changes the losses — the cancelled choir concert, the missed 20th wedding anniversary trip I had planned with Casey. I do mourn these and more.

I look forward to more such special things in life in the future, along with the regular wonders too, even as I am as grateful as ever for each new blossom that shows up in my garden. It has been so, so wonderful to watch spring change and beautify the landscape around me, even as I stay put. I have more appreciation than ever for these treasures. Last year I put in a new small flower bed in front of our house, and all spring I’ve delighted in the progression of blooms. I’ve realized that gardens are gifts we give to our future selves. Even when we know what we’ve planted, it’s surprising to see the buds forming and the new growth and the display of color months or years later.

So, life — even amidst the uncertainty, the grief, the waiting — has its wonders and small joys. But friends, I think it’s okay to cut yourself slack if there are days during this isolation when you can’t seem to get everything done on your list … or can’t even make a list at all! These are hard times. If you can only do a few things, please do what you need to do to stay as emotionally and mentally healthy as possible through it all: take walks, cuddle your pets, intentionally appreciate spring’s beauty … and, of course: eat well!

We hope that last week’s share of vegetables brought some lightness and connection into your week. We really appreciated all the grace we were given around the new temporary systems and the technology. Overall, it seemed to go quite well. We had a few issues with orders not coming through to us, which I’m continuing to problem solve, but for the most part everyone’s orders arrived fine and we were able to download them into a spreadsheet for harvest and bag packing.

I will probably check for orders on Tuesday evening again and email anyone I haven’t heard from, just to make sure we don’t miss anything. Remember that you should see a green confirmation message on the screen after you place your order. If you don’t see that screen, it’s likely I didn’t get your order.

If you have any questions about the process or are uncertain whether your order worked, you can call (503-474-7661) or email me ( farm at oakhillorganics dot com). I’ll be at pick-up this week as well to help Casey, which will also make that part smoother, and I can answer questions there (from a distance!).

Until we get some kind of “all-clear” we’ll continue to practice social distancing at pick-up, so we thank you for your cooperation. It sounds like six feet distance is a minimum and more space is even safer. It has been uplifting to see the world cooperate in order to keep people healthy — even though we are apart, we are truly in this together!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: The list is essentially unchanged from last week, except we have Goldrush apples instead of Cortland. This apple is suitable for eating or baking. It’s very sweet and has a firm texture.

Also, no limits on radishes this week. And, you’ll notice a new order to the list — we realized that since we’re packing bags from this list, it makes sense for us to put the heaviest items at the start of the list (so they’re at the bottom of your bage), which is apparently opposite of how I’ve made my lists for years! (I’ve also made putting in your phone number optional since several people had issues with that field.)

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
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Starting amidst uncertainty

Beauty persists and sustains.

Friends.

Here we are, at the beginning of our 15th season. We’ve made it through one and a half decades already, cultivating this soil, feeding our community. And yet, here we are facing a season with more bewildering unknowns than any we’ve faced before.

Also, as the entire world experiences a shared profound disruption to life and business as we know it, we feel more committed to growing food than ever before. The concept of local food security has taken on new levels of relevancy and urgency for many people, demonstrated by the recent increased interest in our CSA (and we’re hearing the same from other local farmers and producers).

We feel fortunate that as the economy stands still, our work is still needed and still seems safe to do. However, it also feels like a great responsibility to be operating during a time when staying home is the safest choice for all. The kids and I have been staying on the farm since March 12, and Casey has limited his exposure to others, only attending mandatory meetings (with physical distance between participants) and doing the necessary runs for provisions. We have one friend coming to help us weed once/week, and otherwise we are the only ones on the farm handling bins and vegetables — which is minimal anyway. We are doing our best to keep ourselves healthy so that we can provide a long season of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for you.

This week, my top priority is helping everyone get on board with our temporary, new system, which I detailed in a recent newsletter. As a recap, we want to minimize interactions during pick-up, so we’re asking people to place their order ahead of time. We’ll email you the newsletter Monday night, and we ask that you place your orders THROUGH THE WEBSITE by the end of Tuesday. Then we’ll harvest Wednesday and bring to the storefront on Thursday (open hours are 3 to 6 pm). We will pack bags and BRING THEM OUT TO YOUR CAR. No one besides Casey will be allowed into the storefront during pick-up. We also ask that people maintain a minimum of six feet distance from us and any other CSA members when they come to pick up their veggies. It is imperative that we slow the spread of Covid-19 in our community, and we thank you for your cooperation.

Another advantage of this system is that it will help us be more efficient with our time and vegetable supply during this tumultuous season by only harvesting what has been ordered. Generally, we have extra after CSA pick-up, which often goes to good use (we eat or take to food bank), but right now it feels important to be careful with our supply, especially with increased demand during a time which is always the tightest time of the year (early spring).

All that to say, IF YOU WANT VEGETABLES, YOU NEED TO PLACE AN ORDER ON TIME! We know this requires you to do more homework than normal, and trust me we will be happy to go back to the traditional method eventually too. But for now, we thank you for your cooperation in making this system work. Also, putting in a vegetable order seems like a much more positive use of time than endlessly scrolling bad news on Facebook (which I have been guilty of doing during this quarantine time!).

A friend of mine recently described this period as “time outside of time,” which seems like the best description I’ve heard yet. With the vast majority of life on pause, we are all collectively waiting — reinventing our lives in a new, smaller, more confined reality. This too will pass, but it may last longer than we’d like, and the world will not be the same on the other side. There will be losses; we just don’t know what yet.

In this time outside of time, we hope that your weekly fresh vegetables from our farm help you stay connected to the larger world, to the soil, to the seasons — all of which are still here, still sustaining us. Our focus will on that feeling of sustenance this year, keeping our focus on growing for sustenance. We may not experiment quite as much as in prior years, sticking instead to varieties of vegetables that we know thrive on our farm — and plenty of them. We’re not going to try and ‘wow’ anyone this year, but instead be like the earth — a solid, grounding, reliable foundation for our community as we walk this new, unknown path together.

And, more than ever, thank you for the work you do in our community. Thank you to everyone who is on the front line: health workers, grocery clerks, first responders, mechanics … But everyone plays a role, even if it is a quiet, behind-the-scenes one. It has become clear to me amidst this pandemic that we need each other to be healthy and well. We truly are connected, just as the earth has been telling us since we were born. We see it now clearly: the air I breathe is the air you breathe. Thank you to everyone for doing your part right now: Staying home. Staying connected with loved ones in safe ways. Sewing masks. Checking in with neighbors. Praying.

Now, time to get this season started! Your first order form is below. Please let me know if you have any questions about how any of this works! You can call me (503-474-7661) or email ( farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com ). If you haven’t made your first payment yet, you can bring a check to pick-up or use a card to pay via PayPal (go to paypal.me/oakhillorganics where you can pay with any credit card). Casey will be available to answer questions (briefly and at a distance) at pick-up, 3 to 6 this Thursday.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
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CSA update: staying safe in 2020

Casey chisel plowed a cover cropped field on the spring equinox

My oh my … friends, it has been so long since I updated our community in this format! I have mostly stuck to quick Instagram and Facebook posts, as our with break has been very full with beautiful in-person celebrations, gatherings, and work — all of which we especially treasure now.

Now we are in a new season (in so many ways!). Spring began this week, and the CSA begins soon — on April 2!

As we prepare, I want to share an important update on how we’re going to operate the CSA during this season of “social distancing” because of Cv-19. We are strong supporters of healthy distancing right now as a critical way to slow the spread of this disease and make sure that our health care system isn’t overloaded. The kids and I (Katie) aren’t leaving the farm at all, and Casey is limiting his trips to town and shifting as many meetings as possible to phone. We strongly encourage others to do the same.

However, supporting social distancing has been a jarring about-face from our foundational values in life. Prior to this pandemic, we had intentionally prioritized in-person community-building in every aspect of our life, including CSA pick-up, which is a weekly event that brings friends together in our sweet downtown storefront.

But to keep you safe, we needed to rethink HOW we do pick-up — at least temporarily. We wanted to retain as much of the experience as possible, especially the aspect of choice and the routine (day/time/location), but we wanted to limit the interactions until it is safe for us to share spaces again (I am SO looking forward to that day!).

Here is our plan for how each CSA week will work:

  • Monday night or early Tuesday of each week, we will email you the CSA newsletter, which will end with an online availability list/order form
  • By the end of Tuesday, you’ll decide on your order and fill out the form (this is new homework for you — we need you to do this)
  • Wednesday, we’ll harvest for you
  • Thursday, we’ll meet you at the CSA storefront during our usual hours (3-6 pm) where we will pack people’s shares into new, unused paper bags and deliver to cars (or bikes) as they pull up front — drive thru veggies! Woo hoo!

We will take precautions around cleanliness at every step — including hand washing, sanitizing bins, and cleaning surfaces. No one besides us will come and go from the door during the pick-up.

To keep things very clean, we will have a drop off box for payments, and we will only be doing prepaid CSA and “a la carte” sales. (If you haven’t sent us your first payment yet, you can bring it with you to put in the box at the first pick-up. We can accept checks or cash in an envelope labeled with your name. We also have set up PayPal for online payments — you can use any credit card to do this.)

For you to practice this new “ordering ahead of time” procedure, below is a SAMPLE form for you to fill out. I repeat: THIS IS JUST A SAMPLE and does not represent a real CSA share (although it’s representative of the season)! But please try it out so that you can check in with me with questions, and so that I can make sure it works on my end.

It should be fairly self-explanatory — you provide basic contact info, followed by an estimate of when you’ll arrive at pick-up to get your prepacked vegetables. We’ll be doing the packing on site, so we’ll prioritize filling the early arrival orders first.

Next you choose your items for the week! You will need to remember how many items you signed up for (and select that many items), or mark if you have an “a la carte” share and we will deduct the number of items from your account. Check in with me if you need a reminder of how many items you’ve signed up for!

Here’s the SAMPLE form for you to try:

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.

How’d that trial go? I’m crossing my fingers that this works well for everyone! Thank you in advance for making the time to place orders each week.

If you have any questions, please contact me. My phone number is 503-474-7661 or you can email farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com.

I want to reiterate that, in our minds, this is a temporary innovation for our CSA. We look forward to the day when we can truly host you in the cozy storefront again and you can linger in conversation outside on the bench while you eat your strawberries. Friends, we cherish the social, community-building aspect of our farm, and it breaks our hearts to miss it now. But, because of our care for the community, we are putting safety first, and we think this plan will be an effective way to keep us connected (and keep you fed!) during these exceptionally challenging times.

Please let me know if you have any concerns, questions or ideas as we approach the beginning of the CSA. Also, new members at this point will not start until summer but you’re welcome to approach us about signing up now for later. However existing members are welcome to adjust their share size if desired (for example, you may want to receive more items each week if you are not eating out like you used to).

From our perspective, our work as farmers is more important than ever as we face this unprecedented disruption in existing economic and social systems. We have so many emotions every hour of the day right now as we respond to the ever-changing unfolding of this health crisis. So many moments in our days feel extremely normal — the kids and me playing games at the picnic table outside in the sun, Casey chisel plowing the field, sharing dinner as a family … but these daily moments are now supercharged with gratitude and appreciation as we realize more than ever before the unpredictability of life. And, then there are other moments that suck us out of the present and remind us of the great losses all around us: the social distancing that keeps away from friends and family and organizations/activities we love (choir for me!), the economic challenges for individuals and businesses alike, and the palpable fear for what is coming. My emotions have see-sawed from one extreme to the other, with many tears along the way.

More than ever, I’d love to welcome you back to the season with long chats. But, not yet. For the first part of the season at least, we will offer our care through the safety of distance and through excellent fresh seasonal vegetables. May they nourish your body and soul as we all walk through these challenging times together.

Watch your emails (and our Facebook page) for the first newsletter of the year and order form. Until then … stay well.

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Winter Holiday Harvest 2019

The winter forest

Winter is almost upon us! The nights are long; trees empty; skies gray; neighborhoods festive … which means it’s time for our winter Holiday Harvest! This is an opportunity for you to place a custom order. Use it to plan your upcoming holiday meals or just stock your pantry!

How it works: you look at the list of items below and select what you’d like. Email us your order to farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com by Wednesday evening. On Friday, December 22, from 3-5 pm, we’ll bring the harvests to our downtown storefront for you to pick up! You can bring cash or check for payment.

Now, time for you to pick! …

  • Apples ~ Goldrush (yellow) or Cortland (red) ~ $3/lb (order by the each or lb)
  • Seasonal salad mix ~ $4 per 0.5 lb bag (order by the bag)
  • Brussels sprouts ~ $5/lb (order by the lb)
  • Chard ~ Golden ~ $3/bunch (order by the bunch)
  • Kale ~ Dinosaur or Red Russian ~ $3/bunch (order by the bunch)
  • Cabbage ~ Salad/fresh or storage ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Spaghetti squash ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Pie pumpkins ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Carrots ~ $3/lb (order by the lb)
  • Beets ~ $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Potatoes ~ Yellow or red ~ $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Leeks ~ $3/bu (order by the bunch)

Questions? You can call (503-474-7661) or email: farm(at)oakhillorganics(dot)com.

Remember to order by Wednesday evening!!!!!

And Happy Winter!

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Looking to winter …

Most of the leaves have fallen from trees along our creek now …

Here we are, at the end of another wonderful CSA year. We’ve once again walked through the seasons together, tasting everything from the tender spring Asian greens to sweet crunchy peas to bright corn on the cob to the tartness of apples.

And, again, we are filled with gratitude for it all — for the nourishment we’ve shared from this land and for the connections that have grown between people. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: thank you for being a part of this growing community. Thank you for seeking a different kind of eating experience, one that allows you to put your roots deeper into this place where we all live. Thank you for every good conversation, for every recipe tip shared, for every dollar you’ve invested in your local economy.

Now is the time for our family to follow the lead of the natural world and take a pause from the rhythm of harvesting so that we can do winter’s work: rest, of course (which is the work of winter!); followed by clean-up, orchard maintenance, infrastructure repair and maintenance, and (surprisingly soon) seed orders and sowing. We’re looking forward to the shift in our daily and weekly routine, especially as we feel the built-up pressure of deferred projects (and some deferred rest too!).

Last week I shared news for next year’s season (our 15th season), and we’re taking sign-ups now. You can sign up easily at this week’s pick-up, or send me an email with your contact info and desired share option for 2020.

Before we’re completely done for the season, however, we do have our two Holiday Harvests coming up! The first is our Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest. See the list of what’s available below, and then please place your orders by Sunday evening! Email us your orders to farm(at)oakhillorganics(dot)com, and we’ll harvest and have it ready for you to pick-up at the CSA storefront Tuesday, November 26, 4-6 pm. This is an opportunity for you to share our good veggies with your loved ones as you celebrate, but you’re also welcome to just stock your pantry!

Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest availability list:

  • Apples — Goldrush (yellow) or Cortland (red), order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Seasonal salad mix —  order by the bag ~ $4/0.5 lb bag
  • Brussels sprouts — order by the pound ~ $5/lb
  • Kale — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch
  • Chard — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch
  • Cabbage — order by the each ~ $2/lb
  • Potatoes — order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Beets — order by the pound ~ $2.50/lb
  • Carrots — order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Pie pumpkins — order by the each ~ $2/lb
  • Leeks — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch

Our Winter Holiday Harvest will be on December 20 — we’ll email you a week ahead of time with a link to the list and a reminder to order!

Again, thank you for being a part of our farm and the wider community this year! It was been an honor to farm for you! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Leeks
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2020’s CSA!

Today was another beautiful day for CSA harvest!

This week marks our second-to-last CSA harvest of the 2019 season. Next week, November 21, will be our final pick-up! Which means that it’s definitely time to begin thinking about next year’s season … our fifteenth season growing food for our community!

This has been a wonderful year, and when we were planning for next we decided to very much continue in the same vein in terms of season length, scale, and certainly our tried-and-true customer-friendly pick-up style.

Here are the basic details (and I’ve also updated the website with this information as well):

  • 33 weeks, running April 2 through November 12
  • CSA pick-up on Thursdays, 3:00-6:00
  • Same prices for shares:
    • Medium share (5 items/week) ~ $495
    • Large share (8 items/week) ~ $792
    • X-Large share (12 items/week) ~ $1188
    • Custom share size (you choose the number of items) ~ price varies
    • “A la carte” flexible CSA ~ you deposit a sum of money ($300 minimum) to create a balance and then work off that balance throughout the season, allowing households that need more flexibility to still participate in our CSA program without committing to a set amount of produce every single week (please note: no balance can be carried past end of 2020)

We will have a clipboard out at pick-up this week for easy-peasy CSA sign-ups! As always, there’s no need to pay anything now; we just know that it’s easier for people to commit now and not worry about their CSA over the next few months. We’ll contact you again when it’s time to pay and begin picking up!

We also still have two Holiday Harvests coming! More information about our Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest in next week’s newsletter!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Chicory salad mix
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Golden chard
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Winter squashes — lots of kinds!
  • Leeks
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Deeper into the season

So much fog in the mornings lately!

Halloween has come and gone. We had a blast being downtown during the giant Halloween block party last week — what a joyous occasion (the dry weather helped!)

And, now, we are deeper into autumn. This week has brought us mornings (and even sometimes whole days) of dense fog. We’ve built more fires in the wood stove to keep warm. When I took a neighbor on a quick tour of the farm yesterday, there was very little to see — most of the vegetables having been harvested or looking humble under the low dusky light. It’s starting to feel sleepy and restful out there.

The shift also has us looking ahead to the rest of this year and even next. We’re still working through details for next year’s CSA season and will “publish” those next week, but we want to make sure you have these important remaining 2019 dates on your calendars:

  • Thursday, November 21 ~ This year’s final CSA pick-up!
  • Tuesday, November 26 ~ Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest … we’ll include the availability list in our final newsletter. Email us your order by Sunday evening!
  • Friday, December 20 ~ Winter Holiday Harvest & CSA open house at storefront … we’ll email the availability list a week ahead of time. Even if you don’t place an order, we invite folks to drop by for cider and treats and to celebrate!

Also, while you have your calendars out, I want to invite you to the McMinnville Women’s Choir’s winter concert on Saturday, December 7. We’ll have two performances, at 3 and 7 pm. This year’s theme is “Turn the World Around,” and we’ll be singing winter holiday songs from many traditions in many languages! You can find out more and buy tickets at EventBrite: click here.

Hopefully, you’re looking forward to many other November and December occasions. This is such a full season, even as we go into restful mode many of us pack our schedules with time to connect and celebrate. It is good!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Goldrush apples
  • Mixed chicory salad
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Fennel bulb
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Rainbow chard
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Leeks
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In praise of chicories

This week’s beautiful chicory mix!

While we are gearing up for plain old Halloween here in Yamhill County (see our note below about logistics!), in Seattle this week chefs, farmers, and eaters are celebrating “Chicory Week” — a week-long festival celebrating all things chicory.

Their timing is perfect, of course, seeing as how we are entering the long, beautiful chicory season now, which lines up with our coldest, darkest months.

Before we farmed ourselves, Casey and I couldn’t have told you much about the diverse, delicious chicory family of greens. Back then, salads meant lettuce, or maybe spinach. But, as we began creating the seasonal flow of vegetables for our year-round CSA, chicories quickly came to the forefront as a perfect green for the shoulder seasons.

So, what are chicories? Technically, “chicory” is a big family of greens that does include lettuce (and also dandelions!). But, when used as a culinary distinction, chicory refers to specific greens that are similar but also fundamentally different from lettuce — most of them with an Italian agricultural and culinary heritage. The chicory most people are familiar with is the vibrant red and white radicchio (so beautiful!), but the Italians have bred many more kinds, each with distinct coloration, flavor and shape. Some, like typical radicchio, are round and tightly wrapped. Others have a long shape. Others have even been selected for the shoots that grow out of the tops! Colors range from deep red to pink to dark green to chartreuse, with lots of bright white mixed in.

And, now, why do we love them so? From a farming standpoint, they fit a niche for salad greens that can be harvested even in the cold and wet months. They’re perfect for places like the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, the Willamette Valley) or Italy, where winters are generally milder, but still too dark, cold and wet for tender lettuces. We sow ours in late-summer, which gives them many months to grow and head up before the cold really hits. Most vegetables do very little growing in the darkest months, so we actually do much of our cold season cultivation in those last few months and weeks of summer, to get plants established that can hang out in the winter fields for harvest (or regrowth in the spring).

Once the radicchios and other chicories are a good size, they can withstand quite a lot of our typical winter weather, although you might not know it looking at our winter fields. At this point in the fall, you can more or less “see” the chicories when you look at a row, but by January or February, you will mostly see slimy leaves over round shapes. But, this, my friends is the true miracle of chicories …

Come mid-winter, we can cut those heads and with a few deft hand movements, peel back the protective outer wrapper leaves and find inside a brilliant, beautiful head of radicchio. Our other favorite type of chicory, castelfranco, has even withstood temperatures as low as 5.8F and still remained harvest-able and delicious! Not only does the cold not hurt chicories, it can enhance their coloration and flavor — producing brighter hues and mellowing the bitterness associated with these greens.

Because, yes, they are more bitter than lettuce or many other traditional salad greens. For chicory newbies, this can be a surprise at first. They are also sturdier in their texture — more toothsome, you might say. The Italians, some of the world’s first “foodies”! — have long delighted in that combination, and I think Americans in general have missed out on some of the great eating experiences that come with appreciating a full range of flavor palettes.

(We’ve missed out from a health-standpoint as well, as bitter vegetables aid in our digestion — but I tend to personally avoid arguments such as “Eat your vegetables, because they’re good for you,” favoring the “eat veggies because they’re delicious” approach.)

So, if you’re new to chicories, how should you begin learning to love this green?

First, appreciate its beauty, because this is a darned beautiful family of greens. This week’s mix is a great showcase of chicories’ wide range of shapes and colors.

Second, serve it like the Italians. You actually can just make a normal salad out of this mix, and Casey and I often do. But chicories can handle a much heavier salad dressing than lettuce, so think of your creamiest or thickest dressing. They also benefit from being dressed prior to serving, as the wilting can increase the eating pleasure. Some people even dress chicories salads with warm dressings to further wilt the leaves (bacon is often a component of such a salad — just saying).

Finally, eat it. I mean, give it a try again and again. With different toppings, dressings, etc. Casey and I have gotten to the point where we love these cold season salads so much that the idea of eating lettuce when it is cold outside sounds about as good as eating a popsicle! Our bodies crave the different texture and flavor this time of year, and we find that the bitter flavor of our salads offsets the sweeter flavors of the many roots and squashes we eat. There’s a sense of balance on our plates — vibrant, bitter salads next to bright orange, sweet squash. Such combinations have come to viscerally define our cold season eating experiences.

I know I often wax poetic about the joys of seasonal eating, and this is a great specific example of why I love eating what it is in season. My entire body, inside and out, gets to feel different in different parts of the year. Every sense is aligned with the shifts of the natural world.

And, why does this matter? One, it reminds me that I’m part of the natural world too. But, it’s also just interesting. And I think human beings like interesting things! It is interesting to experience the seasons change — to feel biting cold on my cheeks again for the first time in months, to see the falling leaves from the trees, to hear the geese honking as they fly over head, to smell the smoke from the wood stove. Likewise, it is interesting to taste new flavors — each successive apple variety as they ripen, the first of the Brussels sprouts (in this week’s share!), and yes even the bitter of the chicories, which be a mainstay going forward now.

May this meditation on chicories help motivate you to learn to love this truly wonderful family of greens. Enjoy all of this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Important note about Halloween pick-up!

As a reminder, tomorrow is Halloween! There is a trick-or-treating event on 3rd Street from 4-6 pm, which may increase congestion in the area. We will be open at 3 pm if you want to come before the event starts. Casey will also stick around until 7 pm (rather than the usual 6:30) so if you need to come later, he’ll be there. We hope it all goes smoothly for everyone!

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Goldrush apples — One of our all-time favorite apples, for many of the same reasons we love chicories — it is an outstanding addition to our cold season CSA, capable of storing in good condition for months and months in our cooler. It has a very different flavor profile than other apples too, being exceptionally strong in flavor. It’s so sweet that I wouldn’t describe it as tart at all, but there is the complexity that an underlying tartness brings to the flavor too. It also has a unique texture.
  • Cortland apples
  • Mixed chicory salad mix
  • Brussels sprouts!
  • Fennel bulbs — Another great Italian vegetable! This time of year, I recommend adding chopped fennel bulb to a pan of mixed roasted vegetables for a very satisfying, warming dish.
  • Dinosaur kale
  • Rainbow chard
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Delicata winter squash
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Almost Halloween …

Annual photo of our giant walnut tree in full fall color!

It’s really been a beautiful fall. What fall isn’t, really? Some are sunnier. Some are rainier. Many bring both kinds of weather into our lives in doses that keep us on our toes and interested in what every day will bring — so unlike the monotony that can set in during summer (dry, hot) or winter (wet, gray).

And, then there are fall days like today, when the foliage is at its peak of color and the sun comes out, shining its natural golden filter over everything. Be still my heart amidst all this splendor! It was an perfect day to harvest, and the vegetables match in flavors and tone: savory leeks for cold weather stews paired with golden pie pumpkins and yellow chard. Yum!

And, in other fall news, a few important notes for next week. This will be the first time we’ve hosted CSA pick-up downtown on Halloween day. You may be aware that there is a well-attended trick-or-treating event on 3rd Street from 4-6 pm. The event itself will take place only on 3rd Street, but it’s possible that this event could affect parking and increase congestion, so if you are able we recommend coming on the early side next week.

We won’t have candy, but we will be in costume ourselves and would love to see others in costume too! I have to admit that I used to feel rather underwhelmed about Halloween (even though I have always loved fall!), but somehow Dottie got Halloween on her radar at a young age and she has really inspired me to love this holiday too! She’s all about the spooky-goofiness of it all, and so now I find myself smiling at yards full of skeletons and of course the classic pumpkins. Death is a hard reality for us all, and I love the childish response to make fun of it for one night of the year (or embrace it, depending on your view — but I think most of Halloween is akin to Carnival, a riotous way to process hard realities through laughter and goofy joy).

But that’s next week! This week we’re graced with this golden fall goodness. Soak it up! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cortland apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Golden chard
  • Broccoli — This has been a stellar broccoli season. The mild summer combined with good rainfall followed by nicer weather is exactly the perfect set of conditions for growing big, beautiful broccoli with lots and lots of tasty side shoots. We hope you’ve been loving the broccoli abundance as much as we have!
  • Cabbage
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins! — We’re bringing some jack-o-lantern pumpkins to pick-up tomorrow! If you still need a pumpkin for your porch, pick one up!
  • “Elba” potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
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Through poetry’s lens

Beautiful fall dinosaur kale!

The kids and I cuddle up to begin our school day today and opened with poetry, as we do most days. Right now we’re reading poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and today we read “The Rainy Day,” which says, “The day is cold, and dark, and dreary” etc.

And, yes, it was indeed! The kids remarked on how fitting the imagery was in the poem in relation to the world outside. In our case, we were not feeling depressed or down like the narrator, but nonetheless we felt a kinship because it felt very true that “Into each life some rain must fall”!

Poetry has a remarkable way of connecting with our lives, in big and small ways. Unlike a novel, or even an essay, which have room for multiple characters and story development — which may or may not resonate — poems paint pictures. Pictures of scenes, emotions, brief events. They are like distilled snapshots of life — no less deep for their brevity. I love this about poetry, how in just a few lines a poet can touch upon truths and experiences that help me more clearly see my own. And, perhaps more importantly, help put my perspective and experiences in the context of humanity and the wider world.

Interactions with and observations of the natural world have prompted some of the best poetry. One of our personal favorite poets is, of course, Wendell Berry the quintessential farmer poet from Kentucky. He famously wrote that “eating is an agricultural act,” and I would add that for Berry farming seems to be a poetical act! Being a poet and writer seems to have opened his senses to his experience of the land so that basic work becomes the inspiration for a bounty of poems. His experience with the land inspires him to see and write differently, and then we receive the gift of his poems, which inspire us readers to also see differently.

We’ve loved sharing favorite poems with you all over the years, both in newsletters and on the big chalkboard at pick-up. Our work out here is very physical and in that way quite straightforward. We work the soil. We plant seeds. We bunch kale. We wash bins. But, even though neither Casey or I are poets, like Berry, we experience more than just the soil and sun as we work. Harvest days have often felt like alchemy, as our hands reach into rows of plants and transform their sometimes scraggly growth into bins full of beautiful, clean vegetables for our community. There are countless moments that beg to be distilled.

I do my best to share some of those experiences in the long essay form, but I am so grateful to the work of poets who can take the profound and mundane moments of life and work alchemy of their own, to share with us all.

If you don’t currently include poetry as a regular part of your life, I encourage you to make room for it. Long ago, when we lived at Holden Village, we learned that poetry is really best appreciated read aloud with others. There, we were regulars at “Poetry, wine and chocolate” nights — a great tradition that begs to be repeated elsewhere. All you have to do is pile books of good poetry* around the room, serve some wine and chocolate, and take turns reading! Easiest party to host ever!

We haven’t hosted such parties of our own, but we do read poetry, both as part of the kids school routine and on special occasions. When Rusty was little, I even compiled a spiral notebook of my favorite seasonal poems that are suitable for reading before meals. That book also forms the basis of what I write on the chalkboard at CSA pick-up.

In closing, I want to share one of those poems, fitting for this moment in Autumn, by another of our favorite poets. As you read, think about how the poem changes what you feel. Think about how it provides an opportunity to pause, the see the autumn world a little differently. Think about how awesome poetry is!

Linger in Happiness
Mary Oliver

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear—but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

* Don’t know where to begin finding “Good Books of Poetry”? I recommend reading The Poetry of Presence: an Anthology of Mindfulness Poems. This is an amazing compilation of poems from many great poets. Start here, and you’ll begin to learn the names of poets you want to spend more time with going forward. Also, Oregon has produced many great poets: William Stafford (and his son Kim Stafford), Brian Doyle, Ursula LeGuin, and the very local Bethany Lee and Ellen Summerfield! I’ve also found some great books just browsing at the library in the poetry section!

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Upcoming dates: I wanted to remind you of important dates this fall … we’re getting close to the end of the season!

  • Thursday, November 21 — Our final CSA pick-up of the year! (Week 33!)
  • Tuesday, November 26 — Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest! (veggie list will be in final week’s newsletter and orders will need to be placed by Sunday evening)
  • Friday, December 20 — Winter Holiday Harvest & Open House! (veggie pick-up and Open House at storefront — we’ll email veggie list week ahead of time! We’ll have some treats at the storefront if folks want to linger and visit!)

 

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — More of the yummy Jonagold apples … even more different varieties yet to come this fall!
  • Pears
  • Fall salad mix — A colorful mix of cooler season greens: escarole, radicchio, arugula, and mizuna.
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Broccoli & cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
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