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! We sell primarily through our unique 40-week long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which offers customizable share sizes and contents. 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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Brown sky at morning …

Not the prettiest picture I’ve ever posted on this blog …

I suppose this has become an annual tradition now — sometime in late summer, I post a picture of unbelievably hazy and smoky skies over the farm. These new kinds of inclement weather events have started to feel normal over the last few years, but I still marvel every time the low pressure systems roll into our summer sky, pushing down all the ambient dust and smoke onto the landscape (and into our eyes and lungs). It’s not a pretty sight, nor a pretty feeling, to spend time outside during these spells.

Picture taken on drive home from Salem last night — red sun setting in brown sky, as seen through a very dusty windshield

But, this is one of the realities of living where we live — regular poor air quality. I will be honest and admit that this is one aspect of my chosen home that I am not reconciled too yet. I have this idea (which may or may not be true) that other regions have cleaner air than we experience in the Willamette Valley, and when things turn brown here I find myself wondering about where those clean air places are.

I’ve always been emotionally affected by the weather — not so bad that it causes deep depression, but I find myself turning inward on rainy days and feeling exuberant and joyful on sparkly sunny days. This dark, hazy weather, however, can be the hardest if it lasts for a long period of time, such as it can in the winter sometimes.

In a region without summer precipitation (i.e. seasonal droughts), the brown stuff can really build up in the environment. The dryness creates the perfect context for smoke (i.e. wildfires) but also for dust in our agricultural region. This is the season when farmers are mowing or working up very dry fields, which inevitably kicks dust up into the air. Our family has spotted some amazing dust devils in some large, dry, dusty fields near our farm recently — some forming clear, long-lasting funnel “clouds” that dance all over the fields.

This dusty time of year, I am so grateful for the trees that share this environment for us. I just recently read the “Forest Bathing” book I had referenced in a prior post this summer, and in it the author talks about the huge role of trees in filtering particulates out of the air. In one study, the presence of street trees measurably cut down out on the road dust that entered homes in a city neighborhood.

Our house is tucked between two large trees: an enormous black walnut on the east side and a large pear tree on the west side. We actually measured the distance between these two trees when designing our house, and that number (24 ft) was how big our house got to be. Looking out the windows on both sides of our house makes one feel like we live in a tree house — this time of year, green foliage fills the window views completely.

That immediate green foliage is so welcome when the hazy air turns the more distant foliage various shades of brown, plus I feel some comfort being near these beautiful, giant, living beings that can provide our family a level of refuge from the air at large. Through the summer heat and dust, the large area under the walnut tree’s canopy has become like an outdoor play room for the children and their friends, sheltering them both from the harsh rays of the sun and some of the poor air quality as well. When all seems too hot and too smoky and I read alarming articles about climate change in the newspaper, all I want to do is plant more and more trees on our land. Thank you, thank you, thank you to our co-inhabitants of this space we call home.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder: final CSA payment due! I emailed CSA statements last week with reminders of what folks still owe for this remainder of this season! Please let me know if you have any questions about your balance.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Chehalis apples — The Chehalis apples (our earliest variety) just keeping getting tastier and tastier! More apples coming soon too!
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes — Red slicers and big striped heirlooms
  • Basil — Basil is the flavor of our days right now. We’ve been adding it to at least one meal a day, just a few chopped up leaves thrown in with sauteed zucchini. Both have become satisfying staples in our summer diet.
  • Lettuce mix
  • Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Masquerade potatoes — Have you seen our beautiful new potato variety this year? The one with the purple and white skins? We think it’s such a delightful sight, and it tastes good too.
  • Onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

A dinner prep walk

Hazy/smoky skies over a yellow oat cover crop field … definitely late summer now …

Our schedules this week have meant less family time than we usually expect, so tonight before making dinner we all went out to the fields together to pick vegetables to cook. I took pictures along the way, capturing the distinctive look and feel of the August garden, so that you could join us in exploring the late summer crops …

Later planted pumpkin plants working to catch up! (I wouldn’t even be able to walk in the earlier planted squash planting!)

Fennel bulbs, gone to seed, full of buzzing insects of all kinds

The sweet corn is tall enough to hide in!

Fall broccoli, getting ready to start heading up

Freshly weeded carrots, destined for late fall shares

Beets!

Apples!

Pear trees take the longest of all our fruit to mature. We’ve been waiting and waiting for them to produce fruit since planting these trees in early 2009. This year, we have a few absolutely gorgeous pears. Hopefully more in future years! (Rusty’s hand, for comparison)

We had to pick a couple of figs before we left the orchard — so sweet!

Bag full of dinner food, hand full of kale … time to head back home to cook (and publish the newsletter!).

Thanks for joining us on our evening walk! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Final CSA payment due next week! (Or soon after)

Hey all — how fast is this summer going? Apparently fast enough that next week is our final scheduled payment for the CSA season! Normally I like to email statements earlier than I have, so if you need another week to get us a check, we totally understand. Watch your email for a statement coming ASAP! Thanks!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Red plums
  • Chehalis apples
  • Tomatoes — Red slicers and cherry tomatoes available
  • Green peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Lettuce mix
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
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An unexpected decision

“Chocolate” sunflowers that Rusty grew this year

What do we typically do on the farm this time of year? I imagine the list is fairly predictable: lots of harvest and irrigation, and even a little planting (for fall and winter). This is also the time of year when we help the kids enter items from their garden (along with artwork) to the Yamhill County Fair (Rusty entered one of his “Chocolate” sunflowers!).

What do we typically not do on the farm this time of year? Paperwork. I continue to do the usual maintenance things — mailing checks to the bank, making invoices for restaurants, and paying bills — but the bulk of the big farm paperwork happens over the quiet winter. That’s when we sit down to file our taxes, update next year’s CSA information, and do our organic certification paperwork.

Which is why a recent situation left us wondering exactly how to respond. We had filled out our certification paperwork as usual this winter and were awaiting our inspection earlier this summer when we heard some very unexpected news: Stellar, our certifying agency, was going out of business. The short story is that they were being shut down by the USDA, but this occurrence has no bearing on the rigor of each individual farm (such as ours). I’m still not entirely sure about all the details, but the consequence was that we were given until the end of September to decide on a new certifying agency and begin the process of filling out their forms and switching over.

We’re still hemming and hawing over how to approach this situation given the time of year. We’ve been hemming and hawing for weeks — which agency? When will we fit in the paperwork amidst the very full timeline of August?

At this point, we don’t sell into any processing or retail markets that require certification of us. It’s something we’ve chosen to do because we enjoy the process and love being able to freely and legally use the most accurate word to describe what we grow. When we started our farm back in 2006, the farmer we trained with told us that the farming is the hard part. He said: “Don’t do all that work and then not be able to use the right word!” That stuck with us, and we’ve always enjoyed the process.

We have had a pause in our certification status for a period in our farm’s history because of a practical considerations, and we appreciated that our customers understand that the certification itself is the “icing on the cake” rather than the substance of how we farm. Either way, our farming methods are consistent with our personal values: organic-compliant sources of fertility (mostly from cover crops at this point), no pesticides at all (organic approved or otherwise), weed control through mechanical means (hoes and hands!).

Regardless of what we decide, those practices will stay the same, and we will be certified for sure next year. We’re just still trying to figure out if it might make most sense at this moment in the season to just simply pause this official process until we can easily make more time in the office again. Still figuring that out. We’ll keep you updated. If you have thoughts, let us know!

But, for sure, we’ll be going to the fair later this week (as always) to check on the status of the kids’ entries and enjoy seeing what the rest of the community has contributed! Without a doubt, visiting the fair is part of August on the farm.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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Reunioning

Kids playing in the surf on Casey’s reunion weekend

Casey and I both graduated from high school in 1998, which means that this summer is the time for our 20th high school reunions! For better or for worse, the 20th reunion can be one of those milestones in life that can trigger all kinds of “checking in” on oneself. The classic stereotype is trying to fit into old prom dresses or whatever other unlikely torturous scenario one might choose to self-inflict in order to appear forever young (or accomplished, etc.).

What Casey and I are discovering, however, is that the reality for our classes and classmates looks pretty different. People are very absorbed with their lives: with raising children, working hard on their careers, and maintaining a lot of relationships in general. In our experience, the hardest thing about the 20th reunion is making sure it happens amidst everyone’s full plates of existing commitments and responsibilities!

Nonetheless, they are coming together, albeit in pretty low key forms fitting with what folks our age have going on. Casey attended his in Lincoln City this last weekend, which (again fittingly) began at the beach itself. What fun to meet classmates again as adults! At 18, I think it’s easy for us to forget how very young we are, because of course seniors feel much older than the rest of their schoolmates at that point. But graduation is such a starting point to life, and of course vast amounts of maturation happen in the subsequent decade or two.

At the recent reunion, and other recent occasions when we’ve reconnected with old friends from our younger days, we’ve been struck by how very awesome that growth is. Our old friends seem so grounded in these beautiful ways, having grown in basic patience through parenthood or challenging careers. Certainly, most of us look visibly older (laugh lines, folks!), but what has struck us is the growth in spirit, the depth that can only come from lived experience. On these occasions, it’s hard to see life and aging as anything other than a gift. When talk moves away from small chit chat to the nitty gritty of our lives, we learn how many challenges we’ve all encountered along the way, often ones we never expected when we were 18 (that is definitely true for Casey and me!). But often these are the same moments when we’ve grown the most or worked to earn that sense of “groundedness” that we didn’t have years ago.

My own reunion is coming up at the end of next month, and I’m looking forward to extending that experience further into the summer, remembering how far we’ve all come and how hard we’re all working these days to contribute to our communities and families. I feel inspired by our generation and the earnest dedication we seem to be bringing to our lives, ones that have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It’s clear that even though we were inspired by our parents, our lives are taking shapes of their own, with priorities relevant for the era in which we live now. Meeting again these old friends is inspirational and hopeful: real people doing real things in real places, with a lot of purpose and love and patience. What more could we ask for really?

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Make a tomato salad!

We ate the most delicious cold salad dish this week. Casey started by chopping some tomatoes and then mixing them with mozzarella pearls and a few other chopped summer treats (zucchini, diced onions, basil, and cucumbers, which are just coming on!). He added some chopped avocado too (sorry, not local) to give it more body and then tossed the whole thing with a little mayo, olive oil, and vinegar. At the end of a hot day, this salad became a perfect part of our dinner meal. It’s also a simple preparation that can be easily altered throughout the summer depending on what vegetables are on hand. It’s also highly portable if one is going on a picnic or to the beach! Just put it in a well sealed container and pack a fork!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Figs
  • Chehalis apples — The first of the apples! These are a crisp, tart green apple, yummy for eating fresh or baking with.
  • Shiro plums
  • Tomatoes — Red slicers and cherry both
  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • New potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
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Summer is hot

Casey moving irrigation pipe — a daily farm task this time of year

Yes, summer is finally hot! This week brought on the first [moderate] heat wave of the year, marked by the installation of the kids’ window AC unit (usually it’s in their window in May or June!). Temperatures have risen into the upper 90°s, definitely warm enough for folks to sweat and feel uncomfortable and feel like it is indeed summer!

Even though the temperatures have been mild this year, that hasn’t translated into reduced fire danger in Oregon. Low snow packs and rainfall combined to make an early start to the wildfire season, and we’re well into it now, as folks in other parts of the state can attest to.

Closer to home, we witnessed a brush fire in a field earlier this week, driving past it on our way to pick Rusty up from farm school and then arriving home later that afternoon to see the smoke plume from our farm. Thankfully this one was put out quickly, but it is still startling to realize how vulnerable we can be in our region in this dry season.

We’ve been looking around our place this summer and pondering our own fire safety — what are the risks here and what can we do to mitigate them? Having lots of irrigation water around helps, but we’re still surrounded by fields that get extremely dry in the summer. A few years ago, a tree fell across the power lines at the north end of the property, starting a brush fire when the lines landed on the ground. Again, thankfully that one was extinguished quickly as well, but it still demonstrated that we live with kindling on the ground this time of year.

Just something we’re thinking about around here on the farm as we continue the never-ending process of refining our systems and improving our work and home.

The heat is also bringing on that wave of summer produce! Our table has been heaped with the first fruits of the warmest season. You’ll get to share in that abundance this week as well. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Figs
  • Plums — Yellow and red/purple types
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • New potatoes — One of potato varieties this year features a beautiful swirl of creamy and purple skin!
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
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Ambience

Looking up through our enormous walnut tree

One of many things I love about summer is that it offers me experiences that, for me, are very close to pure bliss.  Yes, really! I have thought about this particular language, and I think it is the most accurate choice I can use to describe certain kinds of sensory experiences.

It all begins outside. Of course! Our native habitat as people! The nests we build for ourselves are cozy too of course, but our nests (i.e. homes and offices and cars) these days are so full of sensory deadening experiences. Especially when it comes to our sense of hearing.

How many little, often not pleasant, sounds fill your daily life? The hum of the refrigerator. The almost silent, but present nonetheless, buzz of all kinds of electronics. The agitation of the washing machine. The exhaust fan over the stove. These sounds are ones that our minds have to tune out in order to hear the things we want to hear inside our homes: conversations we are having with others, music we’ve chosen to listen to, perhaps even the quiet crackle of wood in the fireplace.

Outside, we are also often exposed to this kind of persistent noise pollution, usually in the form of engines and machinery: passing vehicles, airplanes, lawnmowers, and (worst of all!) leaf blowers!

Our brains actually have to work hard to allow us to function without constantly being aware of such noises. And some of us have a hard time ever tuning them out, having to make a conscious effort to pay attention with such noises in the background. Rusty and I are both in that category — I could never study with music playing and still prefer to read and write in [relative] silence. Rusty needs as quiet a space as possible if he is going to concentrate and learn something new, especially with math.

But, for the most part, most of us do effectively tune out all those unpleasant ambient noises that have come with modern humanity’s presence on the earth — especially the human-created sounds that are of the purring, roaring white-noise variety. If we actively heard and listened to all of these sounds, we would be constantly over-stimulated, and so we unconsciously tune them out.

But, not without a cost. To keep our focus on what is important, we have to deaden our senses a bit (or a lot in the case of people who live in very noise polluted environments). In some ways, we walk through the world with ear mufflers on, not hearing with awareness the annoying sounds but also missing out on a multitude of other beautiful, even (dare I say it?) blissful, sounds.

Here is my own personal experience of bliss. Being in an outdoor space separated enough from modern noise pollution that I can start to open my ears again … take off those mental mufflers and let my ears truly take in all the auditory information surrounding me. To hear the ambient noise of other living creatures and natural phenomena that normally get buried under the constant roar of humanity’s influence. Here are some of the things my ears take in:

Wind rustling leaves

Swainson’s thrushes calling

Water trickling over rocks

Quiet buzzing and clicks from insects

Red-winged blackbird calls

Bird songs. Bird calls. Bird songs. And more bird calls.

Yes, bird calls and songs. That’s my blissful place. The feel of the air against my skin. The earth beneath my feet. Dappled shade from trees. And bird songs.

It’s pretty simple, really. All that big bliss from stuff that just exists in our world, without anyone having to build it or buy it or make it. The Swainson’s thrushes don’t need me to do anything in order to engage in their magical swirl of song. We use the word “ambience” most often to refer to constructed human spaces, and yet the original ambience was just this free world around us.

And, yet. This bliss seems to be hard to come by these days, as those quiet places become fewer and far between. Looking back, I see clearly that it was this particular blissful experience that led me to farming as a career. The farm we trained on was definitely one of those rare places where the only sounds around were the ones we made ourselves (plus the ambience of the natural world and the occasional airplane), as those fields were set well away from any road.

Here on Grand Island, we can find that experience in the field too, especially as we are often serenaded by Song Sparrows that like to build nests amidst trellised peas and in orchard trees. But, the island is also a bustling place of business too, and some days the air is filled with human-created sounds: the rumble of a sprinkler engine, the roar of a tractor or sprayer, the chatter of people working in fields nearby. Thankfully, the presence of the natural world here is strong, so it feels as though we get both sets of sounds in our ambient environment: Swainson’s thrushes in the trees by the creek, wind blowing through the walnut tree outside our window, and a bit of distant tractor roar.

The ambient sounds of our country life are a big part of what I love about our rural home, in spite of the many inconveniences and isolation of life farther from town. Especially in summer, I cherish the mix of sounds I can hear through our open windows. It is part of why I can never imagine having air conditioning in our house! I would miss the sound of birds during the day and crickets at night! (The crickets haven’t started singing yet, but I imagine it is soon!) We like to keep our house quiet to better appreciate these gifts, keeping laundry to as few days as possible and only playing music when we want to actively listen to it. I am also scheming about replacing our fridge with a silent type someday (i.e. a dual gas and electric model), but that would be an investment to plan for.

But, even with our happy ambient sounds here at home, I crave at least a weekly trip to those even deeper experiences of bliss, where human sounds are far, far away and I can let my ears go wide open. When surrounded by the natural world, I feel my senses let down their default guard and I can see, hear, smell, and feel everything in such a profoundly joyful way. As Wendell Berry famously wrote, there is peace in wild things. For me that peace comes especially in the quiet places. Thankfully we are blessed with a few such spots in our area: Miller Woods, Baskett Slough, and Willamette Mission are some of my favorites.

There’s actually a word now for this particular kind of bliss. I knew I was not at all unique in my experience, given that really I’m just seeking out the feeling of truly being home in the world. The word being used to describe it now is: “forest bathing.” There’s even at least one book on the topic! (Which I haven’t read yet.) “Forest bathing” is more specifically linked to the experience of being near trees and the whole deep level sensory experience that provides (which has a multitude of documented mental and physical health “benefits”). It’s a big topic, one that relates so much to our biological history and our political actions for the present and future as well as our own personal lifestyle choices and habits.

Maybe someday I’ll read the book to learn more, but in the meantime I just keep seeking and appreciating those little blissful experiences of my own, enjoying small versions at home and seeking out the deeper ones when I can (usually with kids in tow — hoorah for weekly homeschooling hikes!). I also know that this human bliss is worth working for, worth speaking up for. Yes, for our own human purposes but also for the benefit of all those wild creatures and living things that exist in those spaces as well. When I am there, experiencing bliss just from sharing a space with tree, birds, fungi, algae, rodents, ferns … I realize how connected we all are. I think maybe that’s even what the bliss is, that opening up of the senses to be with the world in a way that makes us more conscious of we are part of the world.

If this kind of experience is not a part of your regular routine, or not even something you recognize from my sharing of it, I recommend you stretch yourself and give it a try sometime. Try “forest bathing” (or perhaps to be closer to my version: “bird song listening”). Many of us live with such deadened senses from over-stimulation that at first it’s hard to find bliss in ambient natural sounds. What is there to hear when the loud music and podcasts and roars all slip away? It takes time to re-sensitize ourselves to these natural gifts — the orchestra of beauty that is just the gift of existence in this amazing world. It’s worth it.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Salad mix
  • Head lettuce
  • Basil
  • Chard & kale
  • Napa cabbage
  • New potatoes
  • Onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Happy 4th!

Independence Day flowers!

It’s the afternoon of the Fourth right now, and our family is taking a quiet pause between holiday activities while it drizzles gently over Oregon. So far today, Casey has harvested and then we all joined friends at the river for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, hot dog roasting, and general summer outdoor merriment (before the rain began!). More to come, hopefully dry enough to enjoy!

I’m going to keep this newsletter short to better savor the holiday while it lasts (and I imagine that you all are too busy to read a long newsletter tonight anyway, so I’ll save my rambling meditations for next week), but I wanted to say hello and let you know that CSA harvest and pick-up are on as usual this week.

We hope that you too are having a fun and safe celebration with friends and family! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Plums — The first of the year’s plums! These are called “Methley” plums, and they are always the first of the year. They’re a cling-stone type with lots of flavor and juice (we always end up with plum juice running down our chin with these ones!).
  • Tomatoes — VERY limited this week! They’ve just begun! But we’re so excited they have!
  • Basil
  • Green beans
  • Head lettuce
  • Salad mix
  • Kale & chard
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots — Limited this week
  • New potatoes
  • Onions

 

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Farm family at play

Hiking into the Darrow Bar woods

Summer on the farm is, of course, the high season for our work. Planting! Followed soon behind by weeding! (Lots of that this week.) And then harvesting and harvesting! And all of that at the same time, all through these warm, growth-filled weeks!

It’s good. It really is! And the farm work can also creep into every daylight hour (of which there are many!) if allowed.

Since starting the farm over a decade ago, Casey and I have always had a policy of working hard and then making sure we have time to also rest and play hard too, even in the summer. But still, before we had kids, the summer work hours were long and the play was tucked in here and there (mostly limited to much needed trips to the river on hot days).

But kids change everything. Our life right now is also their childhood, and it has been a [challenging] pleasure to realize that we need to fit in more play for them, which means at times more play for us too. And, summer is a peak season for outdoor play.

KICK!

Hikes are a longtime play staple for us, but this summer we’ve added two new adventures: first, Casey decided to give one portion of a scheduled cover crop field a new purpose by working it smooth and sowing perennial grass. Voila: we have a small playing field just past our yard now! It’s the perfect place (albeit with gopher and mole holes, of course) for our kids to grow up a bit in their playing skills: beyond just running around to throwing and catching (frisbee) and kicking (soccer ball) — just in time for the World Cup!

Rusty also graduated this week out of the tandem kayak with Mama and into his own very little youth-sized kayak (on sale!). He’d practiced paddling plenty with us — I often let him do most of the paddling when we’re in the tandem together — so he was definitely ready for the work of motoring and steering himself around the river on his own. The kayak is light enough that he can even haul it to the river himself, making it a new privilege as well as a new responsibility. A milestone for our family!

Kid-sized kayak!

And, of course, there’s still plenty of fun and hilarity in the farm work itself — especially with kids in tow! We finally finished up the apple thinning the weekend, with just a few “apple bombs” lobbed our way by the kids (when they weren’t distracted by looking for early ripe plums and building castles with chunks of dry dirt in a nearby field). As we neared the end, both kids joined in to help finish faster, hands flying high and low in the final apple trees, followed by a ride back to the house in the bed of the Gator.

Done with the thinning!

It’s definitely not all fun and games out here, but summer days do bring a special kind of joy to much of what we do. How are you playing this summer? Share your favorite activities with us at pick-up!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries — These cherries are from the two acres of “Lambert” cherries on my parents’ property next door to ours. They are an older style cherry, not really planted anymore, growing on super old style trees: full size cherry trees! This means that ladders or lifts of some kind are needed to pick them, something that contemporary orchardists avoid (because standard-sized trees take longer to come into production and picking from ladders is slower and much less safe). This orchard was planted over 70 years ago. We’ve watched neighboring farmers slowly remove their similar-aged trees and plant the newer, smaller cherry trees with newer varieties. Those trees are certainly easier to care for and harvest, but they won’t live as long as the standard full-sized trees. And while the newer varieties are delicious, we’re fond of this dark purple, plump, sweet, old style cherry.
  • Zucchini & new potatoes — The first of these staple summer crops — still limited as we wait for full production to get into swing (soon!).
  • Basil — Basil! Limits still this week until it gets into full production.
  • Green beans — The first of the green beans! Limits this week!
  • Salad mix
  • Head lettuce
  • Rainbow chard
  • Napa cabbage
  • Fava beans
  • Fresh onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Summer’s eve

Lavender is blooming in our garden!

Tomorrow is the summer solstice! Of all the seasonal shifts, this one always feels the most like an afterthought to the season itself. By which I mean it feels as if summer is already upon us in many ways, but tomorrow makes it “official.”

It also means that tomorrow will be the longest day of the year. This is it, friends! The most daylight we’ll have in one day! Last night as I went to bed just after dark finally settled over the farm I stood at a screen window and listened to the sounds of the night. In the summer, night is rarely quiet around here. Last night I heard the sound of people in the distance visiting, the chick-chick of a sprinkler running in a field, the dull roar of a motor (probably the motor on the big sprinkler itself), and the “night birds.” That’s what we call the birds that gather in trees near our house and make quiet calls and rustling sounds all through the dark.

Even though days will now begin to shorten (as we turn again in this great spin around the sun!), those night sounds will continue for months to come. This is such an alive time of year, not containable in even the many hours of the day. Here on the farm, we can see the wave of summer produce and fruit forming.

It’s such a fabulous time of year, especially here in Oregon. Happy Summer! Enjoy this week’s vegetables and all that are to come!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Basil — When we move new basil starts around in the greenhouse in early spring, we might brush a plant gently and suddenly be transported directly to summer. Smell is like that, and the smell of basil is summer for us. This is the first of the season! More to come, along with other summer delights.
  • Cilantro
  • Salad mix
  • Head lettuce
  • Napa cabbage
  • Regular cabbage
  • Fava beans
  • Chard or kale
  • Zucchini
  • Spring onions
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Technology works … ’til it doesn’t

Perfectly thinned apples growing big for later this year!

It’s been one of those weeks. Thanks for rolling with our lack of newsletter last week — I believe that was a first in our entire 12.5 years of operating our CSA that I didn’t publish a newsletter! The reason being: our website got hacked!

So, rather than enjoying writing about our week I spent Wednesday evening trying to figure out how to get our website back up and running. It still “read” mostly like normal, but I couldn’t log in and publish or make other changes to the WordPress site. Since I have other commitments in my week, I could only work on it in spurts and it ended up taking several days, finally being up and running at the end of Saturday (after many hours of my tinkering plus extra money paid to our server for their services). Yikes!

In the process, I realized that most of the digital technology we rely on for farm operations is pretty overdue for updating. My cell phone (a relic “messenger” style phone with a QWERTY keyboard) was on the fritz, and our old laptop and slow internet combine to fill every work session with unnecessary (and sometimes long) p … a … u … s … e … s … And, for campaign work (such as posting to Instagram), we were relying on a clunky combination of a older, borrowed device, an older digital camera, lots of cords, and a slow process overall.

So, the unexpected and unwelcome hack has begun what will probably be a summer-long process of updating and/or replacing such things. Such work is not my favorite (we are farmers after all — we both prefer the tangible outdoors world!), but I’m finally accepting that it’s definitely an inevitable part of operating a small business (not to mention running a campaign and homeschooling!). I started by buying a smartphone — the first between the two of us! Next we’re going to look into finally burying a phone line to our house so that we can upgrade our internet to DSL (from a cell-based source right now). Then, eventually we’ll update the laptop. All as finances and time allow, of course, but we’re starting down that road. It’s inevitable, even though I feel like I would be happy to keep using the same old everything for the rest of my life (but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way!).

Around all this technology research, we’ve also been working on the annual apple thinning — a lovely process that we usually break up over several days. Casey scythes the long grass around each tree, and then we circle them together, removing apples in order to provide more room and air flow for the remaining ones. This simple task increases apple size and quality tremendously, and it also gives us a good opportunity to check in with each tree and assess its health. Our orchards overall are doing great, but this year we decided that there are a few trees that consistently seem to look and perform poorly compared to the rest, so we’ll be removing those to make more room for the thriving trees.

We were also grateful for the rain that fell over the last week! The spring has overall been very dry, which has made planting simpler and more straightforward, but it didn’t feel like the world was ready for the hot, dry season just yet. So we were relieved when the clouds rolled in and rain drenched the fields several times (conveniently irrigating many summer crops for us!). We’ll see if that was the end of the June rains or not!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries
  • Cherries — The first of the cherries! LIMITED this week so everyone can have a taste!
  • Salad mix
  • Head lettuce
  • Fava beans — The fava beans are definitely big enough to warrant shucking and peeling now, in the traditional Italian fashion. The bright green beans are so sweet and tender and delicious!
  • CarrotsLIMITED this week!
  • Napa cabbage
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Zucchini — The first of the zucchini! LIMITED this week (but I’m sure not for long!).
  • Spring onions
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