On a roll now

Over-wintered kale in front of a Brussels sprout stalk forest.

Over-wintered kale in front of a Brussels sprout stalk forest. They all look like little trees this time of year.

We’re on our third week of the CSA already! It’s amazing how quickly we got back into the weekly rhythm of the farm after a longer than usual break. It feels good to be back on a roll like this.

We’re looking ahead a lot these days, as always pondering the next steps on the farm. This time of year, Casey is doing lots of sowing into flats to transplant later. He’s also been carefully managing our crops in the high tunnels since those will make up a lot of the early share contents.

We’ve submitted our organic re-certification forms as well, which feels like old hat at this point in our eleven years as a farm. And yet it still feels like an important part of our farm too, this verification that we follow through on our growing values consistently and carefully.

We’re also thinking about spring cleaning around here — namely taking care of our livestock equipment by finding it new owners. After five years of having animals on the farm, we are taking a break from that part of farming. We had thought it might make sense to hold on to some of the items, since we haven’t ruled it out completely that we’d do it again in the future. But I attended a farming conference recently, where the keynote speaker Ben Hartman talked about the “lean farm,” which means using efficiency principles to operate a farm. Part of this is not holding on to things that aren’t actually being actively used. This is a concept I already apply in our home — I even mentioned last week how I love decluttering and moving things on regularly! — but his talk was a good reminder that we need to practice this same principle on the farm as well. We have seen over the years how items that are set aside “just in case” or “for future years” often just become detritus that attracts weeds (blackberries!) and eventually end in poor condition. So, we decided that it was time to find new homes for all the equipment while it is all in good working condition. I posted a list of our items here on the blog and we’ve begun talking with other farmers who want to come and help us clean up the farm by making use of these items!

Otherwise, we’re just grooving along out here on the farm, waiting for things to warm up and stop being so so so wet. On the homefront, we’re almost completely out of seasonal firewood, which is a first for us. There have just been a lot more very cold days this winter, and I think we went through our wood supply at a much faster rate than normal! Since we’re so close to spring, when it is finally gone we will just plug in a space heater. That may be this week! We’re ready for warmer temperatures!

But, we’re also mindful that we don’t want to rush time too much. With these growing kiddos in the house, we are trying to be as present as possible now. Yep, it may be cold and we may be anxious for the change of spring, but today we’re here with these kiddos and that’s something to be grateful for every single day.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — Mostly Cortland apples in this week’s mix. Folks often ask: what are these apples “good” for? The answer is always eating. When we planted our two orchards in 2009-2010, we selected apples based on these criteria: 1. suitability for growing organically in the Willamette Valley (so disease resistance was important!); 2. availability from local growers (we purchased all our trees here in the valley!); and 3. yumminess for eating!!!! Certainly, some of our apple varieties make great pie or applesauce or cider, but they are all also good for just plain old eating. We know that this is the primary way most of our CSA members eat apples (us too!), so we made sure to pick apples with good flavor and texture! I’ve been amazed over the years to see how much variety we have in our orchards in that realm — some apples are softer and milder; others are crisper and tarter; others are crunchy and sweet. And yet they are all delicious. Apples amaze me. I even once wrote a very long essay about apples that was part of my Master’s thesis. Because I love them that much.
  • Seasonal salad mix — We officially announced to our local restaurant and store clients that we’re going to take a break from custom harvests for them … the break began in January in order to accommodate some travel plans of ours and to avoid harvesting in the crazy winter weather, but we decided this month to continue it for some unknown period of time (for the most part, we’re still working with one beloved customer). As always, a lot of different factors went into this decision, but it gives us an entire free day to use on the farm for other projects, which has been great (especially as we don’t have employees anymore, an extra day for Casey is extremely helpful!). But another side benefit is that Casey now has more time and material for making salad mix for our CSA! Salad mix was one of our most popular items with the restaurants, and try as we might, it was often hard to have enough salad for BOTH the restaurants and the CSA (especially in the winter months!). We’re excited to have salad available more often for our CSA this year as a result of this change! The contents will continue to change over the weeks and months as what we have in the fields shifts, of course. Which is why we call it a “seasonal” salad mix!
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash — Last week, lots of people volunteered praise for this squash. It is good, isn’t it? I find these giant squashes to be fascinating, especially in how they dramatically improve in flavor over their winter storage tenure. They truly are a storage squash, intended for eating at this end-of-winter time of year. We enjoy them in fall as well, but it’s worth waiting until February and March to really savor their sweetness. It feels like a delicious final echo of summer’s bounty that helps us remember what is to come in future months! (Hard to remember sometimes at the end of winter!)
  • Butternut squash
  • Kale — The kale in this week’s share is full-sized and from the greenhouse!
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips — This winter we have been enjoying turnips more than ever. We’ve been roasting them on their own (in lots of butter, as usual). We roast peeled and chopped pieces until they are slightly crispy outside and soft inside. We found out that they are especially delicious when served with plain chevre. The goat cheese flavor brings out the underlying sweetness of the turnips.
  • Beets — We also love roasting beets, which is a super simple way to prepare this vegetables (one that often gets made into fancy pickles and things — delicious but maybe not as easy to do when one is trying to prepare a quick weekday dinner!). To roast them, I start by giving them another good scrub to remove any remaining soil. Then I chop off the ends and chop the beet into bite-sized pieces (please note: I do not peel them! Which makes this super easy!). Then I roast/bake them at a relatively low temperature (325°) with lots of butter, stirring regularly so that the butter coats all sides of the beets. Beets take longer to cook all the way through than, say, potatoes, so I find that they lower cooking temperature with lots of butter allows them to cook thoroughly without burning on the outside. I call them done when the outside of the beet is starting to shrivel and the inside is soft all the way through (it’s hard to see a “browning” on a dark red beet, which is why I look for the texture). I salt them and them serve them with yogurt on the side. Goat cheese is good here too! We ate these for dinner tonight! (With cooked kale and cabbage and beef roast!)
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes
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