Welcome!

img_3347-copy

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

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

It’s not about the food …

Plum buds getting ready to bloom in the orchard. A green cover crop.

Many years ago, before we starting our farming venture, I helped operate the kitchen at a remote mountain retreat center called Holden Village. In the kitchen, we had a motto that guided our days: “It’s not about the food …” was posted visibly in our office, near our shelves full of cooking books (whose presence seemed to imply that maybe our jobs were about the food after all).

Obviously, food was our primary work. We cooked three meals a day for a community that ranged in size from 70 in the winter to 500+ in the summer! We would regularly chop ten gallons of onions for one meal. I know, because we’d do all the veggie prep the day before and measure and store them in five gallon buckets in our walk-in cooler. That’s a lot of onions. We even kept a pair of goggles around for the onion chopper to wear during his or her task.

But, even though our work was obviously to prepare food, we actively recognized that food isn’t about the food. Food is so much more than just some material stuff on a plate that we put into our bodies as fuel. Food is about pleasure. Aesthetics. Adventure. Politics. Culture. Family. And, perhaps most importantly to us, food is about connection. At that retreat center, we sat down together to pray and then eat three meals a day. One or two of those meals, every day, was served “family style,” with the dishes of food served in the middle of each table set for eight people. Each individual diner would take a portion and pass the contained, keeping in mind the importance of making sure everyone received a share, all the while making happy conversation about their day. That act of breaking bread together was a physical manifestation of the retreat center’s larger mission of connection, community, and faith. And, it was important as a kitchen staff for us to remember that our work was just as sacred as the pastor and worship team’s work — that by literally setting places at the table for our guests, we welcomed them into an experience with infinite layers of meaning. It was profound work to be doing, even if some days it felt like we were just chopping onions and laying spoons on tables and slicing bread.

In our work as farmers, I think we’ve carried over this philosophy. Certainly, our work is about the food — the CSA wouldn’t exist without the kale and carrots that Casey diligently harvests each week. And yet, our work is about so much more as well …

This afternoon we arrived back from two nights at Breitenbush Hot Springs, a different mountain retreat center that we visit every February for an annual gathering of farmers. We soak in the hot springs together, eat food over lively conversation, and sit on the floor to share all about the challenges and joys of the work we do — sometimes we discuss nitty gritty detail about fertilizer application and sometimes we ponder the bigger picture of why we do this work to begin with. Often we talk about our love for the work and for what it brings into our life. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us farmers to take stock, connect, and remember what brought us to these choices years ago.

What kept coming up in my mind when I thought about our work is all of you and the interactions we get to enjoy at our CSA pick-up. Can I just say that we love how we operate our CSA, with its self-serve pick-up style that allows people to meet and mingle with each other and us??? Obviously, we chose it intentionally all those years ago, deeply inspired by our experiences at Holden Village and its focus on community building. Never ever did we think we would enjoy packing up boxes to ship off to faceless customers. We wanted the farm to be a nexus for interactions. We wanted to meet the people who would eat our food! The relationships that have flowed from that choice have exceeded our dreams, especially as they continue to grow in depth year-after-year.

What these relationships lack in depth, they make up for in breadth, in repetition, in time. After watching our customers’ children grow over the last decade, there is a different kind of connection that grows. There is a care that comes from simply seeing each other in person each week. In that way, growing these vegetables and harvesting them feels a bit like a little prayer for our community each and every week. We can’t help but think of you all as we go about our work, calling to mind who will be especially excited about a new crop or remembering another CSA member who might be struggling with life that week.

In 2006, when we started this whole business, I’m not sure I fully anticipated the unique role the pick-up itself would come to play in our farming experience. I also could never have anticipated the way society would change around us. A common topic of conversation among people these days seems to be how physical in-person interactions with our community appears to be declining. Certainly people still see their good friends or their family, but many people have decreasing numbers of community interactions that are less intimate — that bring them into contact with people they might not otherwise visit with. Schools can still serve this role for many people who are parents, but other former such institutions are waning: churches, clubs, and other social activities. A friend who has been involved on Linfield’s campus since 2007 has noticed a marked drop in student participation and leadership in activities corresponding to what appears to be a big increase in cell phone and social media use. This tracks national and generational trends.

At our farmer gathering, a farmer from tiny little Waldron Island in the San Juans reported a similar trend. On that island (year-round population of 100 people), residents used to make a gathering event out of going to the post office to check mail the three times a week it was delivered. Now, with email and easier communication options for residents, getting mail has become less of a priority. A natural community meeting occasion has slowly slipped away, and she reported that the older residents feel the loss most keenly, remembering well what it used to be like in that remote community.

Overall, I actually feel like the greater McMinnville community as a whole works hard to sustain these kinds of connections. I love how many opportunities there are here to connect in person. But it does feel like we have to choose to connect because social media can dangerously “fill” that social need without actually filling it. We can become friends with people who don’t live in our community or we can dangerously find ourselves frustrated with people who do live in our community. The on-screen aspect of communicating can strip people of their humanity and make it harder to forgive or move on from arguments in the same way we often have to do in real-life communities (ideally, anyway!).

Anyhow, as a person who genuinely loves people and finds their stories and experiences fascinating and inspiring, I am continually grateful for the opportunity to interact with you all. Most of you we wouldn’t otherwise know or have regular interactions with, and our life would be less rich as a result! If all we do is connect with people who we immediately like or who have lots in common with us or do the same things all the time, we have fewer opportunities to grow and to learn.

All this from some vegetables! And more! Which is why we always said, “it’s not about the food … ”

That being said, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Nettle sauerkraut — We picked the first of the nettles this weekend! They are just coming up, so we didn’t go crazy, but we were very excited about that unique smell and flavor. Every year, we fall even deeper in love with this wild plant. Casey wanted to do something significant with the first of it, and he thought he’d experiment with adding it to a larger ferment. We haven’t taste-tested it yet, but we’re excited!
  • Apples — Goldrush and Fuji
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Butternut — We want you to know a little cool thing about butternut … as they store over the winter in our special “squash room” (which we keep at room temperature — their preference), butternut start to shrivel a little. This is a natural part of the extended curing process and it means the squash is getting sweeter. So, don’t be afraid of a little shrivel on your butternut! That is a sign that it will be tasty!
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Cultivating empathy

Kale! Growing happily in the field.

Here we are, at the beginning of February, but my senses tell me that spring has arrived. The cover crop is deep spring green and growing so quickly now. The field grown kale is putting on new leaves. In town, I hear lawnmowers in the distance. The sun is warm on my skin. Frogs sing their mating songs in the night. Birds sing their dawn songs in the morning. Flowers put forth buds all around.

It’s hard to not just rejoice in these things! And, we do! Without reservation, to be honest. Although it’s arrived earlier than we sometimes anticipate, the sensory experience of spring is just so full of bliss, especially for us farmers.

It’s wonderful to watch recently sown seeds germinate and grow rapidly in the greenhouses, bringing us the knowledge that in not too long we’ll be harvesting treats like tender arugula and the first of the radishes. So soon! So early! Such a contrast to last winter, which felt like it would never.ever.end. (It did, obviously, but in April we were doubting that we’d ever have a dry spell long enough to work our ground.)

On weeks like this, when we are treated with truly some of the most glorious weather for being outside in the entire year (much more comfortable than hot summer days!), I find that thoughts drift away, carried on emotions of contentment. Some days, this is just wholly enough — that gentle warm winter sun on my skin.

I’ve also been keenly aware lately of how much privilege provides that feeling of simple enough-ness — that I can feel those eternal moments of simple bliss because my basic needs have been met. Because I am not worrying about where I will sleep tomorrow night or how I will feed my children.

So many people in our immediate community, and in our global community, live with insecurity that eats away at any possibility of peaceful reverie. For whatever reason, my personal reading list has included several excellent recent non-fiction works that share, in detail, the stories of people living in different kinds of insecurity. The books document the daily struggles and huge sacrifices people make in order to find something resembling security, in order to eventually (hopefully) experience the full breadth of the human experience, including its joys. A theme of these newsletters in the last year has been the importance of empathy in our journeys together on this planet. Reading about real human stories helps me stay reminded of our inter-connections, our similarities, our differences … it helps me experience the breadth of my own humanity, including my ability to think beyond my own immediate perspective.

I highly recommend all three books; they are each incredibly detailed, well documented, and thoroughly researched. They are also all highly compelling narratives (page turners!), put together by very skilled authors. (For your convenience, I’ve provided Amazon links here for more information, but all these books are available in our local library system and could be ordered by your local book seller.)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration ~ Isabel Wilkerson weaves together the history of the 20th century migration of African Americans out of the south with specific stories of individuals who left in different decades and landed in different regions. The book is heart-breaking and inspiring and eye-opening.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity ~ Katherine Boo follows the lives of many different people all sharing life in a makeshift settlement (i.e. “slum”) in Mumbai. Through their experiences, the reader gets a glimpse of the modern politics and situation of India, which affects everyone living in the country, even those who have no permanent address and live on the streets.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea ~ Barbara Demick tells the story of several North Korean defectors from one city, beginning well before they ever dreamed of leaving their home country. Their accounts of life in North Korea reads like a dystopian novel.

Reading is of course only one way we can begin to connect other people and the world we live in. Spending time outside feels like another crucial one too, as our connection to the other plants and animals that share this planet feels equally important to cultivate. What do you do to cultivate that understanding of people and beings beyond yourself? If it is not something you work on, I recommend finding a practice that will help you feel regularly humbled, connected, in awe. Meditating on the vastness of the universe. Community service. Listening to young children learning to read. Gardening. Prayer. A faith community full of flawed people to learn how to love. We need these practices as much as ever in the course of human history. It seems that it is only through an understand of our connections that we can ever find our way to true love and true peace.

And, also enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder to extend your CSA season! In last week’s newsletter, we announced that our CSA season will now extend through October 18, but we want to hear directly from folks that they want to stay with us through all of those 40 weeks of delicious local eating. If you’re currently only signed up for the winter/spring season and want to extend through summer/fall, you can do so right now by filling out this simple form:


Yes! I want to extend my CSA season through October 18!


Or, you can extend in person at pick-up by signing your name on a paper form. Whichever is easiest for you!

If you haven’t signed up yet at all for 2018 and still want to, we are taking new members at any time! You can sign up online here, and we will prorate your price for the remaining weeks in the season.

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Sauerkraut [plain] — A new batch of ferment this week! This week’s is a more traditional plain sauerkraut made (of course!) with good organic cabbage from the farm. If you’d like some, bring a clean jar with you to pick-up or we can serve it to you in a bag.
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pip pumpkins
  • Sunchokes — In our first newsletter of the year, I included a basic roasting preparation for sunchokes. That is one of our favorite ways to eat them, but we also often eat them raw. Their fresh texture is crispy like a carrot but with the pop of jicama (no relation! … just similar texture). You can literally just eat them (which our kids enjoy), but Casey and I often will chop them up fine, or even pulse in the food processor, and add them to cole slaw-like salads in the winter. We like to chop up fine cabbage, sunchokes, carrots (and maybe even some kale or chard) and mix it with a mayonnaise like dressing. To make it more of a filling salad, we’ll sometimes add chopped leftover chicken or raw tuna. These salads make a great meal for when we’re out and about, but they’re also yummy at home too.
  • Beets
  • Carrots
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

CSA season update!

The mild weather has been great for early greens in the greenhouse! Direct-sown greens are coming up already!

Time for a big update for this year’s CSA! We have figured out the rest of the year’s season details, and we are adding another 20 weeks on to the end of the 20 weeks we’ve already signed everyone up for!

As we shared in last season’s final newsletter, Casey has been accepted to Willamette Law School for the fall. He’ll be starting in their part-time program, because he’d like to continue farming as well. We’re so grateful that this wonderful option exists so close to our home and farm! But even though we knew technically the part-time program will provide time for him to farm, we wanted to get more details before extending the season that long — specifically, would any of his necessary classes conflict with CSA pick-up? He got in touch with the school recently and learned that he will have several options for his schedule, so we now feel comfortable that it will indeed work, and we are feeling very enthusiastic about the next 38 weeks of CSA veggies.

We hope that you feel excited about this news too! For our existing CSA members, we’ll have a easy form for you to fill out at pick up, or here’s a quick and easy way to extend your season through the end of the year right now:


Yes, I want to extend my current CSA season through Oct 18 (40 weeks total)!


Since the season will now be twice as long, your total price will be twice as large as the winter/spring season you originally committed to. If you are making ongoing payments, the subsequent payments will be the same cost as your first one, and they will be due on March 29, June 7, and August 16. As usual, I will email everyone a payment reminder and statement about two weeks before each payment is due.

If you are not yet signed up for this year’s season at all, you can also do that now via the slightly more extensive sign-up form found here.

As we work through the season, we are going to make one change to how pick-up works to help better accommodate the changes in our family’s commitments. We are going to change the CSA pick-up window of time back to our previous 3:30-6:30 pm on Thursdays. We had extended it a few years back because we were doing a lot of other sales of meat and eggs at pick-up and thought having a longer window would help us handle the volume of transactions we were doing. At this point, it seems like most people can make it in that slightly more narrow window of time.

We’ve already changed the time on the website so that new members will have that in mind, but will officially make the change at the halfway point of the season (June 7) so that current members have time to adjust their Thursday rhythms if needed. Please talk with us if you have a schedule conflict so that we can brainstorm possible solutions. We’ve been known to be creatively flexible in surprising ways in the past.

As I said, we are filled with enthusiasm for these coming weeks and months of delicious locally grown organic produce! Recently sown early crops are already coming up in the greenhouses (as seen in the photos above), and it feels like spring is just around the corner. We’re finalizing our crop planning for the season and beginning to order seeds. This is always a very exciting time in the season, when we are refreshed from our winter rest and looking forward to the fun work of sowing and planting. Every year, it feels like a gift to be direct witnesses and participants in the miracle of spring and summer’s growth. It is with joy that we grow and harvest for you, our community of eaters. Thank you for your continued support and eager cooking and eating!

Let us know if you have any questions about the season! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check the last two week’s newsletters for lots more winter recipes and serving suggestions!

  • Apples
  • Spicy sauerkraut — Casey made a big batch of his famous seasonal ferment! This one has cabbage, chili peppers, beets, sunchokes, garlic, kale, winter squash, and carrots. To make sure everyone gets a taste, it will be limited to one item per household. If you want some, please bring a clean jar to take it home in! Or, else we can serve it to you in a doubled up plastic bag. Refrigerate!
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Sunchokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Spaghetti squash — We have fallen in love with spaghetti squash over the last two years, ever since we found a foolproof delicious way to prepare it (thanks to CSA members! You all give the best cooking suggestions!). Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp (they are easy to scoop out with a spoon) and put in a baking pan cut side up. Drizzle the squash flesh with olive oil and salt and then bake at 350° until it’s soft all the way through. Cooked this way, the spaghetti squash should be cooked but easy to pull out with a fork in the long “threads” that make it a perfect substitute for pasta spaghetti. We like to add more butter while it’s hot and then salt it and either eat it as a side dish or top it with more cooked veggies and/or meat or whatever! Red sauce is great too, of course!
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Pie pumpkins
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Winter foods

Winter in our farm kitchen — a large squash waiting to be cooked, while kids browse new library books and snack on carrot sticks.

Even though this winter has been relatively mild so far (at least compared to last winter!), it is still winter indeed in so many ways. This coming week, we’re watching for high water here on the island as the rain storms passing through the region will fill the rivers. We’re not sure how high the water will get as of yet, but the prediction graphs show an upward trajectory, and we’re keeping watch and making plans.

High water is part of our normal winter experience here on Grand Island and something that we’ve got long-term systems in place for. Mostly, it’s a matter of not placing important things in the known paths of flood waters!

Another regular part of winter around here is the food. Winter food is different, folks! Delicious! Hearty! Filling! Often quite sweet! But different still, especially compared to the summer vegetable garden foods that many people are most familiar with. For those of you who are still getting into the rhythm of eating seasonally, I thought I’d share some actual meals from our family’s kitchen this week to help inspire you to think simple as you prepare your vegetables.

Big squash

This week, we’re giving out Marina di Chioggia squash in the CSA. It’s a big squash (see photo above), definitely more than one meal’s worth, even for a family of four. We’ve learned over the years that many households just don’t want such a big squash, so we’ll be offering portions of it as an item this week (or a whole squash for multiple items if you want the whole thing!). Casey can help you navigate that choice at pick-up.

So, you might be wondering: why do we grow it anyway? Because it’s delicious! We’ve yet to grow another squash that has the same characteristics in terms of flavor and also long storage (it stores incredibly well through the winter and actually becomes more delicious this time of year after it’s been in storage for a few months).

In our house, we’ve learned how to make best use of this giant squash. It’s actually quite simple! We thoroughly clean the outside (because the skin is edible and we usually eat it too) and then pop the entire squash (minus stem, which can be knocked off) on a jelly roll type baking sheet. (If you only have part of a squash, you can do this too!) We then bake it at 350° until we can easily slide a knife all the way through the flesh so that we know it’s cooked through. Then we let the squash cool a bit on the counter and then put it in our fridge for later.

Once we’ve got this whole cooked squash in our fridge, we eat it regularly. The simplest preparation is to take thick wedge-shaped slices out of the squash, pull out the seeds, and then reheat the slices on a baking sheet or in a cast-iron pan. If you use a seasoned surface and some butter, the squash can be nicely browned on both sides, which is tasty! We put another big pat of butter on top when serving, and salt to taste. It’s a great side-dish to any kind of meal we might be eating. I even sometimes heat up a slice to eat with eggs at breakfast! If we have a Marina in the fridge, we will serve these reheated slices at least once a day.

But, we also like to do at last one other thing with the squash while we have it around, usually to make something sweet and dessert-like. You can pull the flesh easily away from the skin and remove the seeds/pulp, mash up the flesh and use it in place of cooked pumpkin in any of your favorite pumpkin recipes (muffins, breads, souffles, pies, soups, etc.)

A simple soup

This week we were all craving something extra cozy in our diet, so I put two packages of beef soup bones in our crock pot with some water and let them simmer for over 24 hours. Then I prepared an extremely simple soup. I sautéed some garlic in a bit of oil in a small stock pot. Next I peeled and chopped a few carrots and put them in (I made larger pieces so that they wouldn’t turn to mush). Then I chopped a whole cabbage finely and put it in too. Finally, I strained the beef broth I’d made (just by ladled it out through a strainer into the stock pot), and picked the meat off the bones and added it too with a little salt.

I started cooking the soup mid afternoon and then turned the heat off about an hour before dinner so that the flavors could meld without the veggies over-cooking (I think soup is the best after it’s had time to “rest”!). I thought that this soup would be a little boring, even if it was comforting. But it turned out to be simply delicious. The kids, Rusty especially, raved and raved about it. Cabbage! Carrots! Some beef broth! Who knew that it would be such a hit in our house, but I suppose winter foods are well suited to what we crave in this season, especially when the days are dark and rainy.

“Root parade”

Many, many years ago now, Casey and I were first learning about eating seasonally, which mean learning about what foods are actually in season in winter where we were living in Washington at the time. We discovered that there were many colorful roots and such foods that we were less familiar with: beets, potatoes, winter squash, sunchokes, carrots, and more. We went to the local food co-op, bought several of such items at once and lined them up on the conveyor belt at the check-out stand. I looked down at our line of vegetables and declared that it was a “root parade”! The name stuck, and we used it to refer to the mixed roasted root dish we cooked up that evening. And ever since, we’ve called a pan of mixed winter vegetables “root parade.” Now, you can too!

Whether you use the name or not, I highly recommend trying some variation on this dish anyway. It’s such a great way to take a motley collection of winter vegetables and transform them into something seemingly greater than the sum of its parts.

This week I had beets, carrots, potatoes, and butternut squash in the kitchen, but not enough of any one to be the main vegetable for dinner. So I cut them up and made a batch of root parade. When prepping vegetables for roasting together, it’s important to keep in mind that they have different cooking times. The faster cooking items should be cut larger and slower cooking items cut smaller. Faster cooking vegetables are potatoes, carrots, and winter squash. Slower cooking vegetables are beets and sunchokes.

I put my cut veggies in a pan with butter (of course!) and baked them at 375°, stirring regularly to make sure they were coated in butter and cooking evenly. Toward the end, I let them sit a bit longer on one side to get a little crispy. The resulting dish had such vibrant colors and yummy flavors! We love root parade!

Kale +

And, finally, a standard staple in our house that we eat at least every other day: cooked kale, plus … plus whatever! Casey and I eat cooked kale almost every day with eggs for breakfast, but sometimes it becomes our other meals too.

I always start with some butter in a big cast iron pan over medium-high heat (I mentioned last week that we eat a lot of butter — I like to use a BIG chunk when cooking kale). I chop the kale fine (usually removing the thickest bottom part of the stem first) and add the chopped kale to the pan and cover to let it begin to wilt. I stir regularly until the kale is soft and yummy looking. “Done-ness” is a matter of preference. I personally favor mushy, savory/spicy, mixed up foods (when I discovered Indian cuisine as I child, it was a revelation for that very reason!), so I let the kale cook until it is quite soft. But it’s totally okay to eat kale “al dente” too.

Now, for the “plus” part … you can serve the cooked kale as a dish dish. Or, you can add other items to it to make it a main dish. Recently, I stirred in a small amount of leftover chicken meat and then topped it with goat cheese. Ta da — a meal! (Or, if that’s not quite enough for a meal yet, serve it with a reheated slice of squash on the side! Or, dress a winter salad!) For a vegetarian option, tempeh or tofu plus a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce would delightful.

Hopefully these simple ideas will help inspire you in your own kitchen this week. Seasonal eating does not need to be complicated, especially if you focus on basic preparations that can be modified to work for different versions of similar vegetables. Root parade can be applied to what’s in the CSA almost every week this time of year. Cooked kale can be used with other cooking greens instead, such as chard and collards. And so on. Keeping some other basic spices or condiments on hand can help diversify flavors too. I like to always have tumeric and dried chili peppers around, as well as various ferments for condiments. Just remember to use good quality other ingredients to go with your good quality vegetables!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash — The big one in the photo above!
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Green winter

Dottie walks through the very green cover crop at the north end of our fields on today’s rainy winter afternoon.

The CSA begins again tomorrow (Thursday, January 18)! Welcome back to all our returning members, and welcome to our new members too! We are so glad to have you all join us for our thirteenth growing season, our “farmer’s dozen,” as we’re calling it.

We’re starting again smack in the middle of winter, as we always do. But, so far, this winter has been very different from last year’s, which was marked by extremely cold weather and lots and lots of snow! That was “fun” in its own way, but as farmers we’ve enjoyed the moderate weather we’ve had so far this fall and winter. There’s been plenty of sunlight to keep our over-wintered plants like kale and chard happy.

We’ll see what the rest of the winter and early spring bring, but right now it feels like a very green winter. Our cover crop is lush and actively growing on the sunnier days. I always find it remarkable how the colors in the fields flip spots on the far ends of the year. In winter, thanks to our consistent cover crop habit, we look out upon green fields backed by the brown/gray branches of bare deciduous trees (mostly Oregon ash and cottonwoods). Then, in spring, the whole world fills with glorious green as the leaves return. Until finally in summer, we arrive at the opposite configuration as much of our fields (and for sure the grassy wild edges around our fields) turn brown from summer drought or from active cultivation (revealing the rich brown of good soil) while the leaves remain green in the trees. Winter = green below and brown above. Summer = brown below and green above.

Obviously summer is more diverse than that as fruiting plants bring orbs of red, yellow, green, orange, and purple into our landscape. But if I squint my eyes, I swear I could tell the season just from the predominant horizontal bands of color shaping the Willamette Valley landscape.

And, the beginning of the CSA marks another kind of landmark in our winter season as we return to our weekly routines more firmly than we do during our break. Our “break” is a varied experience comprised of project-based farm work, family time, and usually a special trip or two (we just got back from an epic tour of NW Washington where we reconnected with many friends on Whidbey Island and in Bellingham). Overall, the defining factor of these weeks “off” is primarily their flexibility — I can take several hours to work on end-of-year paperwork while Casey hangs with the kids. Or Casey can spend two days working on building a fence without interrupting harvest routines. But now we’ll be getting back into our rhythms, which feels good too. There’s a helpful kind of momentum built into the farm rhythms we’ve established over the last decade, with days built in for harvesting and days built in for field work. Casey has already begun sowing seeds in flats for later transplanting and has direct sown the earliest crops in our high tunnels. It’s hard to believe, but spring will be here before we know it. The daffodils are even beginning to pop up in our yard (as enthusiastically pointed out by Rusty this week)!

We are looking forward to sharing the best of winter’s bounty with you over the coming weeks. At times we’ve thought we’re crazy to operate a winter CSA (shouldn’t we just go to Costa Rica for the winter or some such thing?), except that it is such a delicious time of year and it would be a real shame for all of us to miss out on the unique food experiences that can be enjoyed even when the sky is dark with incessant Oregon winter rains. In fact, we believe that the winter foods brighten those days significantly, bringing their sweetness and nutrition to our bodies at a time of year when we appreciate it so.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Paid yet? If you haven’t mailed us a check for your first CSA payment, please bring a check or cash to pick-up this week! Please let me know if you have any questions about your balance due. Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Each week I share the list of our harvest, along with preparation ideas. Winter is always a time when folks can use a little extra help, since sometimes the vegetables are less familiar (or in less familiar forms) than summer harvests. So, over the following weeks I’ll aim to share our favorite tried-and-true ways of preparing the vegetables in your share, focusing on the basic and simple methods that are staples in our kitchen. You can always ask Casey and me for more clarification or ideas at pick-up too!

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix — A mix of the unique tender greens that we grow in our fields in the winter. We love winter salads. They have more texture and flavor than summer lettuce, which can be an adjustment. But they are our favorite, in part because they can really handle a lot of dressing without wilting. We like to make mayonaise-like dressings (egg + vinegar + lots of oil) and tossing the finely chopped salad greens by hand so that all the leaves are coated. Add some extra toppings and it’s a salad fit for a meal. We recommend any of the following toppings (but maybe not all at once!): dried fruit, chunks of tuna or chicken, nuts, chopped bacon, slices of good sausage, cubed sharp cheddar cheese, or crumbled goat cheese.
  • Cabbage — In the winter, we almost exclusively eat our cabbage cooked. It becomes a simple base for many of our meals (sort of a pasta-substitute!). I chop the cabbage very thin while meanwhile heating up butter with chopped garlic in a big deep pan. If you’re familiar with our household’s cooking, you’ll know that we really like butter and use a lot of it. If I am cooking a whole cabbage at once (which I usually do), I might put a whole stick of butter in the pan to melt. Yes, really! Then I add the cabbage, put on the lid and turn the temperature to medium-high, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. This initial high temperature cooking will begin the cabbage wilting. Eventually it will start to stick, which is often a sign that it’s being caramelized and the sugars are starting to burn (yum!). At this point, I remove the lid and reduce the temperature to medium-low to finish the cooking. I like to cook the cabbage until it is very tender and caramelized, which also reduces its total mass so a whole cabbage can easily be eaten in one meal. The result has the savory comfort-food goodness of mac-and-cheese (but in vegetable form!). I’ll often turn cooked cabbage into a main dish by adding other things into it as it finishes cooking. A staple version of this dish (which I cook once almost every week) is made by adding tuna and tumeric. We garnish this dish with plain yogurt and whatever kind of good fermented thing we have in the house (a spicy kimchi or fermented sriracha is our favorite!).
  • Kale
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • “Sunshine” kabocha squash
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes — What are these funny looking things? They are also called “Jerusalem artichokes” but have no relation to either Jerusalem or artichokes, so we prefer the name “sunchokes.” They are the tuber that grows at the base of a native sunflower (a beautiful tall one!), and they can be eaten cooked or raw. For cooking, we recommend first chopping into one-inch pieces (trimming off any extra ugly bits along the way) — no need to peel. Then roast in a deep pan with butter, stirring to prevent burning, until they are caramelized outside and tender inside. I’ll share more ideas for raw preparations next time we have them.
  • Beets
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Happy 2018!

A farming blank slate on the New Year: a freshly worked greenhouse awaiting winter greens (which have been sown into flats).

We are coming up toward the end of our “winter break” as a farm — the CSA begins again on Thursday, January 18. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again then, and in the meantime we have a few reminders and updates from life out here on the farm:

First CSA payment due … Thank you to the folks who have already mailed us their first CSA payments. If you haven’t yet, you can mail it to us at: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville, OR 97128. Or, you can bring it to the first pick-up.

2018 plans in the works … We hope to have more information soon regarding the rest of the CSA season (after the initial 20 week season everyone has signed up for so far). Hopefully more concrete details will be in one of the first newsletters of the season!

Lots of December fun … our family has been enjoying our break, which has of course included some farm work (inevitable!). But mostly, our family has been enjoying loads of together time, with each other and with our extended community of friends and family. We celebrated Rusty’s 8th birthday early in the month, with a full-on kid party (his first!) with cake and presents and lots of noisy play.

We also took a somewhat spontaneous trip up to Orcas Island, to visit my aunt and uncle and some friends from McMinnville who recently moved up there. I visited the island a ton growing up, and it was really fun to share so much of that experience with the kids for the first time: the Puget Sound, the big ferries, the misty weather, the beaches strewn with shells and rocks, the short winter days at 48° north … !

The kids’ first ride on a Washington State ferry!

Crescent Beach at Eastsound on Orcas Island …

We also enjoyed one last cup of coffee and cinnamon rolls at my family’s bakery, Teezers, which ended its 30-year run on December 29. Eating treats at Teezers is one of my sweetest (literally!) childhood memories, and I wanted to make sure the children got to experience it too. It was clear as we sat there and visited with my aunt and uncle that they had nurtured a community gathering space in their little storefront, a place that had big significance for Orcas and would be missed. The local community was coming in at record numbers to also share in the final days of Teezers and to say thank you and good bye for so many cups of coffee and cookies over those three decades …

We enjoyed one last brevé and one last (messy!) cinnamon roll at Teezers in Eastsound!

We returned ready to jump into the peak of the holiday celebrations: decorating our tree, caroling, meals with family, wrapping final gifts! And, we hosted our Holiday Harvest too — thanks to everyone who placed an order for yummy winter food!

And, on the solstice, Dottie lost her first tooth! That was an exciting milestone to celebrate on the shortest day of the year.

Our humble little tree, decorated with lots of love and lots of special ornaments from all the wonderful people in our life.

We hope that you had a delightful December and are beginning 2018 feeling nourished by the twinkly lights, extra prayers, good food, and love of the holidays. Let us know if you have any questions about the CSA season before the first pick up!

Happy New Year to all!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Posted in News & Updates | 1 Comment

Winter Holiday Harvest

Our 12th annual Winter Holiday Harvest is coming next week!

Here’s how our Holiday Harvests work. You look at our list of available fruits and veggies (see below) and decide what you’d like to order. Maybe you just want some extra delicious organic produce for your holiday meal; or maybe you want to stock your pantry — either works for us!

Once you have your list, send your order to us by Wednesday evening using the handy form supplied below the list! How easy is that?

On Friday, December 22, we’ll harvest for you and bring your order to our downtown McMinnville storefront (off of the 2nd Street parking lot between Evans and Davis St.). You can pick up your produce any time between 2 and 4 pm that day. We accept cash or check payments.

All are welcome to participate! Any other questions? You can email us farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com.

Now, make your list! …

  • Apples — specify Liberty (red) or Goldrush (yellow) — $3/lb (order by the lb)
  • Seasonal salad mix — Mix of fall greens — $4/bag (o.5 lb bags)
  • Brussels sprouts — $5/lb (order by the lb)
  • Cabbage — $2/lb (order by the each, feel free to specify size)
  • Chard — specify Rainbow or Green — $3/bunch
  • Kale — specify “dinosaur” or Red Russian — $3/bunch
  • Delicata winter squash — $3/lb (order by the each)
  • Pie pumpkins — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • “Sunshine” kabocha squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Spaghetti squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Marina squash – $2/lb (8-14 lb, order by each)
  • Butternut squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Carrots — $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Beets — $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Potatoes — specify red or yellow potatoes — $4/lb (order by the lb)
  • Popcorn — $3/lb (order by the lb)
  • Garlic — $8/lb (order by the each or by the lb)

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (required)

Your Holiday Harvest order

Questions or other comments?

Posted in News & Updates | 1 Comment

New horizons, part II

The darkening November landscape …

This week is the final week of our 2017 CSA! Just in time, as the weather has definitely taken a turn toward the dark, cold, wet season that we call deep autumn or early winter. We still have our two holiday harvests, including next week’s Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest! I’ve posted a separate post with the availability list and ordering information here. And, you can sign up now for our 2018 CSA season here (more information below about season length)!

As we close this year, here at Oakhill Organics we are already deep in planning mode for 2018. As usual this means digging potatoes to store and signing folks up for the CSA and so on. But, we’re also looking even farther ahead, to fall of next year when things are going to change for us in a big way.

Ready for some surprising news? Casey has been accepted to Willamette Law School for next fall. Law school! Did you just fall off of your seat?

Here on the farm, this next step for our lives has been a slowly brewing inevitability. Casey has been itching to return to school for a couple of years now, but it took time to figure out what kind of further professional training he wanted and how we would make it work. The last year of seemingly extra intense national politics plus his own reading life have helped him narrow his focus to seeking a law degree. In our house, we often talk about what each person is “really into.” Right now Rusty is “really into” history. Casey is “really into” politics and law: reading “law blogs” (this is a thing?), attending oral hearings at the Oregon Supreme Court, interning and doing research for a lawyer friend, and generally geeking out over the intricate language of law and how the application of those laws (or lack thereof) has a real affect on people’s daily lives, their rights, and their access to opportunities in our country. We have also both been realizing that life is long, and we have many interests we want to pursue in addition to farming. There is time and room in life for multiple pursuits, and law school is the next one for Casey.

It certainly helped the decision making process to realize that Willamette Law School is one of the closest graduate schools (of any kind!) to our home and offers a part-time option. Both of these features mean that we don’t have to uproot our whole lives for this opportunity. Casey is going to start next August part-time, and we have about nine months to figure out exactly how to accommodate the new endeavor on the farm and in our family. We’ve already had several long discussions about what this could look like — what is sustainable and/or desirable for Casey and the whole family.

As a starting point for that process, we’ve decided to sign everyone up for a shorter starter season to begin with in 2018: a 20-week winter/spring season that will run from January 18 through May 31. We will decide early next year whether that season will be followed by a summer/fall season. We’ll let you know what we decide with plenty of time for people to make other plans if needed for those seasons, but we feel like we need to be a little closer to this big change to better understand how it will work for us.

Either way, we are looking forward to our 2018 winter/spring season — our 13th season as a CSA (our “farmer’s dozen,” I am calling it!). As always, you’ll have a wide range of seasonal vegetables, some from our storage rooms and others from the fields: winter squash, potatoes, kale, cabbages, sunchokes, chard, carrots, and so much more!

And, in the interim, our family will enjoy a few weeks of a break, much of which will be spent “doing” the holidays with our friends and family. Between Thanksgiving, Rusty’s birthday, and Christmas, we end up with a lot of different wonderful gatherings to attend and plan.

We hope that you too have a joyful holiday season ahead of you. As we go into this dark season, there can be so much love … and also sometimes so much sadness. We always aim to hold both realities in our hearts and prayers, knowing that this season can be very hard for people experiencing loss or struggling with depression.

This weekend, we hosted our homeschooling co-op out on the farm for a fall lantern walk. The children all made little tissue paper on glass lanterns, which we lit with safe LED tea lights, and we walked through our fields in the darkness singing. The point is to remember how even a small light can guide our way through the darkness. If we can find even a small source of light in our lives, it may not make the darkness disappear, but we can walk through it.

The darkness is certainly gathering outside my windows now, putting to bed a day when it felt as the sun barely came up. It’s a sign of the continuing turning in the yearly seasons, and for us a sign of the continuing turn in the seasons of life too.

So much love and gratitude to all of you as we end this year’s season!!!! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Looking for our CSA sign-up? It’s here. Looking for the Holiday Harvest information? That’s here!

P.P.S. Wondering what might be next for me, Katie, in this midst of Casey’s new pursuit? In 2018, I plan to lock myself in our cabin one whole day a week with writing materials (and no internet) and see what happens!

~ ~ ~

McMinnville Women’s Choir Winter Concert

Looking for a seasonal concert to ring in the holidays? Join the McMinnville Women’s Choir for our annual winter concert on Saturday, December 9 at the McMinnville Co-op Ministries’ Great Room (544 NE 2nd St, McMinnville). We’ll have two performances, one at 3 pm and 7 pm. Tickets are on sale now at Oregon Stationers.

I have been singing in this choir for several years now, alongside many current and former CSA members. Our winter concerts are not your typical “holiday fare.” We’ll sing a wide range of songs from different faith traditions, cultures and languages. We sing of the diversity of the human experience, including the darker parts of this season with the joyous parts too. Join us for songs and storytelling!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • German butterball potatoes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest

Our 12th annual Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest is next week!

Here’s how our Holiday Harvests work. You look at our list of available fruits and veggies (see below) and decide what you’d like to order. Maybe you just want some extra delicious organic produce for your holiday meal; or maybe you want to stock your pantry — either works for us!

Once you have your list, send your order to us by Sunday evening using the handy form supplied below the list! How easy is that?

On Tuesday, November 21, we’ll harvest for you and bring your order to our downtown McMinnville storefront (off of the 2nd Street parking lot between Evans and Davis St.). You can pick up your produce any time between 2 and 4 pm that day. We accept cash or check payments.

All are welcome to participate! Any other questions? You can email us farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com.

Now, make your list! …

  • Apples — specify Liberty (red) or Goldrush (yellow) — $3/lb (order by the lb)
  • Seasonal salad mix — Mix of fall greens — $4/bag (o.5 lb bags)
  • Arugula — $4/bag (0.5 lb bags)
  • Brussels sprouts — $5/lb (order by the lb)
  • Cabbage — $2/lb (order by the each, feel free to specify size)
  • Chard — specify Rainbow or Green — $3/bunch
  • Kale — specify “dinosaur” or Red Russian — $3/bunch
  • Delicata winter squash — $3/lb (order by the each)
  • Pie pumpkins — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • “Sunshine” kabocha squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Spaghetti squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Butternut squash — $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Carrots — $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Beets — $2/lb (order by the lb)
  • Potatoes — specify red or yellow potatoes — $4/lb (order by the lb)
  • Popcorn — $3/lb (order by the lb)
  • Garlic — $8/lb (order by the each or by the lb)

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (required)

Your Holiday Harvest order

Questions or other comments?

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

New horizons, part I

Into the desert!

Our family went on a quick adventure since last week’s CSA pick-up. On Friday morning, we boarded a plane at PDX and flew to Phoenix for a brief stay in the desert!

We went for the occasion of Casey’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to celebrate by having their family join them on a vacation, and we were happy to accept their generous offer. (Incidentally, the last time Casey and I flew was ten years ago when we celebrated their 40th anniversary in Palm Springs!)

This was the children’s first time on a plane, and they gave the experience two thumbs up. It is always so magical to feel that lifting into the air and then watch as the world becomes smaller below. We had especially spectacular views of Mount Hood and St. Helens on our way back home.

But, besides the quality family time all around, the highlight of the whole adventure was exploring the desert and [very briefly!] getting introduced to its very different geology (ancient rocks!), history, and flora and fauna. Everything about the ecosystem is so fundamentally different than the place we’ve made our home. So much of life in the desert is dormant (or close to it) most of the time, only showing its full range of foliage or behaviors in those rare, short periods after rainfall. As an example, I learned that the desert tortoise spends 95% of its life underground, mostly dormant!

In the case of plants, many lose most or all of their foliage in between rains (or curl up their leaves to retain precious moisture). We had studied the desert before our trip, and yet we still found ourselves confounded as we tried to identify some of the common plants, because our guidebooks all pictured them in full leaf and flower. But at this point in the year outside of Phoenix, all the vegetation is in its dry state — most are very brownish, lacking clearly identifiable foliage (and certainly no flowers except in town where the same native plants are irrigated).

As farmers, we are naturally conscious of these kinds of life cycles in plants and found it all very fascinating (if at times bewildering). We were just visitors, unable to inhabit the place and experience its full range of expression, but even in our brief time we left in awe of how life can thrive in what feel like very challenging contexts. We were also awed by the “language” of the plants — the cacti especially seemed to communicate clearly with the world: “do not eat me!” And, of course, we found the seemingly endless variety of saguaro shapes beguiling. The older branched saguaros seem to each have such character, and I imagine that it would be easy over time to form attachments to individual specimens and possibly even attribute them personalities based on their forms.

Family beside an ancient giant saguaro.

We spent every morning hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, where we were able to see all this magnificent life up close (in addition to the flora, we appreciated the fauna that we got to see: many lizards, some familiar and unfamiliar birds, deer, a dead scorpion, and a rabbit). The weather was relatively mild for the area, but by the afternoon we were ready for a different pace and spent most of those hours in or beside the backyard pool at the rental house with cousins. We learned that our kids have become real swimmers over the last year of swim lessons as they dived for golf balls and splashed in the deep end. Great fun!

And, then we came home. I, for one, was delighted to return. For me returning home is almost always the best part of trips away, as I return with renewed appreciation for our life here. Today I was even loving the rain! I think that the rest of the family could have enjoyed more time in the desert first (especially Casey, who spent today partly numb from cold as he finished the second-to-last CSA harvest of 2017 in a chilly November rain). I imagine that we will visit the desert again in future winters, simply to learn more about a very different part of this world we call home (and soak up some of that good desert sun).

Now we’re looking ahead to the end of the year — next week is the final CSA pick-up of 2017! And, right on time, it is starting to feel appropriate to end. As mentioned above, this is definitely the time of year when the work of harvesting becomes more challenging — both to the body itself but also just in general. More mud to remove from roots, for example, amidst the cold fall rainy spells. So, we are looking forward to the break that will be timed with those weeks best suited to organizing work and other projects we can do inside.

We are taking sign ups now for our 2018 season, and by next week we should have a firm idea of dates for that season. You can sign up now online or at CSA pick-up on paper. Also, next week we will include the Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest list in the newsletter so that you can begin planning your holiday meals (or make your list of extra veggies for eating during the break). Please place your orders by Sunday evening. Pick up will be on Tuesday, November 21 from 2-4 pm.

Please let us know if you have any questions as we wrap up our CSA season! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Upcoming important dates: Make sure these are on your calendar!

  • Final 2017 CSA pick-up ~ Thursday, November 16 (Next week!)
  • Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest ~ Tuesday, November 21, 2-4 pm ~ More details to come. Place orders by Sunday evening.
  • Winter Holiday Harvest ~ Friday, December 22, 2-4 pm ~ More details to come. Place orders by Wednesday evening.
  • January or February ~ The start of our 13th CSA season! (Farmer’s dozen!) Sign up now here.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers — Hot and sweet!
  • Brussels sprouts — For a kid-approved quick Brussels sprout dish, we recommend pan frying halved Brussels in butter until crispy and soft. The cooking should bring out the nutty flavor of the sprouts. Yum. Meanwhile, brown some good quality ground beef and then stir in as the sprouts finish up cooking. If you make enough of the sprout/beef combination, it makes a great main dish. Rusty says it’s his favorite dish and that he would happily eat it every night for dinner.
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Delicata squash
  • Spaghetti squash
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment