What the winter has brought

When the river floods ... go kayaking in the field!

When the river floods … go kayaking in the field!

I keep just a few items on the windowsill behind my standing desk in my office, one of which is a falling apart book my grandmother Dorothy gave me years and years ago. It was originally given to her, and I think she probably just gave it to me because she was cleaning out her things and thought I might like it. I don’t know why I managed to hold on to this book when I myself have given away so many things in my life, but I have, and it has become one of my handful of mementos from my grandmother. For some reason, I found it touching as a child and kept it through every single purge and declutter I’ve done (which, if you know me, is a lot).

The book is called If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow. And, on each page we’re offered a little disappointment, such as “If you lose the key …” and on the next page, we’re offered a solution, “throw away the house” (with a colorful illustration of a hand tossing a toy house into the air). Each is a bit nonsensical, including the last one: “If there is no happy ending … make one out of cookie dough.”

I thought of these funny solutions this weekend as we accompanied the kids to the flood waters for our annual “Field-Floodwaters-Boating-Adventure.” To me, this is a real life version of my grandmother’s book: When the river floods … go kayaking in the fields! It feels almost as impossible, and yet it is wholly impossible. And wholly wonderful in its radical hilarity.

Dottie's paddling is not as effective yet as Rusty's, but she can get out there anyway!

Dottie’s paddling is not as effective yet as Rusty’s, but she can get out there anyway!

In past years, our adventure was a family one — all of us exploring in a canoe together. But this year, the canoe we used to use is gone, and all we have left is Casey’s old white-water kayak. We weren’t sure if the kids were ready for solo kayak, but it turns out that they are (in calm, shallow flood waters anyway). And the fun remains the same in this new version, with all of us marveling at the craziness of traveling by boat where we normally travel by foot — cruising by the tops of weeds, no less!

I love when things that people might normally see as hard can be turned on their heads like this. To be accurate, the high water we’ve experienced on the island lately really hasn’t been much to speak of. People often reach out to us when the weather gets exceptionally wet and drainage ditches fill all along county roads — they want to know if we are okay down here on the island! The truth is, we flood less frequently than many folks who are higher! The Willamette is a big river, and it takes a lot of river to bring it up. And, our fields drain well, so in the meantime, we don’t have drainage issues (there aren’t even drainage ditches on the island … we just don’t need them!).

But, my goodness, it has been wet this winter. And cold. And snowy. And wet some more! I’m sure you’ve already heard that Portland has broken its record for rainfall in February … and we still have a week of February left to go, with more rain falling!

Winter is known for its cold. And its wetness. And its snow. We’re not super surprised or anything, but it is always a notable experience when we go through seasons that are the farther end of a spectrum away from “average” (the “average winter” doesn’t really exist, of course, except in the numbers created by all the vagaries that go on the record!).

And, unlike these normal high waters (which are nowhere near our over-wintered crops), the more extreme measures of winter do have an effect on the crops in the field. The extended cold spells killed off or set back crops that we normally harvest in late winter or early spring. And, the continued extreme wetness (and accompanying darkness) slow down the growth on the plants that are the fields.

It is what it is — every year has its vagaries. Each winter I daydream (only briefly!) about the upcoming season, when every crop will perform as predicted … which is of course always a daydream. Each year, there are are unexpected surprises with one or more crops. Casey is happy to have crops growing in high tunnels right now, and we feel confident that our CSA will roll merrily along, with nary a blip. But we also feel like it’s useful for our CSA members to have insight into what has and is happening on the farm and how that might affect our CSA shares from week to week. The last few winters were ones when our long CSA season felt relatively easy (the winters were relatively mild and dry), and this winter is one when we’re going to feel more like rock stars for pulling this cold-season growing/harvesting thing off. At the very least, it takes Casey just a little extra “gumption” and persistence to put on full body raingear and go out to harvest, wash and pack produce on very wet and cold days like we’ve been having!

But: the daffodils under our walnut tree are up and open. And nettles are emerging in the forest. And Indian-plum are blooming. Even though many other signs of spring still feel weeks off (and later than we’ve come to expect), these are big seasonal markers for us. We can feel the sap rising in our souls, as we put seed after seed into trays in the greenhouse — seedlings that will grow into peas and tomatoes and zucchini and more! We’ve just got a few more weeks of official winter!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

  • Apples — Mainly Jonagold this week
  • Salad mix — Winter salad mix is such a wonderful treat! You’ll encounter lots of different textures and flavors in the blend, including items that are only available briefly this time of year (such as thinned baby radish greens — so tender!). To get the feel for this salad, we recommend tasting a few of the different leaves individually before dressing so that you have a better sense of what you’ll want to apply. We usually make a simple homemade mayonnaise that I whip up in a mason jar with an immersion blender: I put one egg in (farm-fresh eggs are the safe bet since it will be raw), then I pour in a little vinegar and add olive oil while blending until it is the texture I want. Then I toss it with the salad before serving.
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Carrots — The carrots are limited in supply for now, so we’ll ask folks to limit themselves to 1 items worth/household. Thank you!!!! We know everyone loves them, so we want to make sure everyone gets some! And in the greenhouse, the spring carrots are just showing their first leaves.
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes — Sunchokes are a crop that outperformed our expectations last year. For many years we’ve had lackluster harvests of this veggie and it’s been an item we’re only able to give out to the CSA once or twice before it’s gone. This year we bought our seed from a different source, and WOW! The sunchokes were abundant and more beautiful than any we’ve grown before! Since we have a lot (and they are so awesome), we’ll be giving them out regularly and we encourage you to experiment with this fun winter crop.
  • Potatoes
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