Welcome!

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The farm family in 2016

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

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Thanksgiving 2018

Happy fall, everyone! Thanksgiving is coming early this year — next week! We’ll be hosting our usual Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest next week as well. Here’s how it works:

You read the list below and decide what you want and how much. You can order for your holiday meal or just simply to stock your pantry for the coming weeks. Then send us an email with your completed list to farm(at)oakhillorganics(dot)com by the end of this Sunday. Please provide your name and cell phone number with your order in case we have questions!

We’ll harvest your order and bring it to our downtown Mac farm storefront for you to pick up (and pay for) on Tuesday, November 20, 4-6 pm. Our storefront is located off of the 2nd St parking lot between Evans and Davis Streets.

Now that you know what to do, here’s the list with unit size and price:

  • Goldrush apples ~ Yellow with strong flavor, suitable for cooking or eating ~ $3/lb
  • Melrose apples ~ Red and good eating or pie apple ~ $3/lb
  • Honeycrisp apples ~ Red and good eating apple ~ $3/lb
  • Seasonal salad mix ~ $4 for a 1/2 lb bag
  • Arugula ~ $4 for a 1/2 lb bag
  • Brussels sprouts ~ $5/lb
  • Kale ~ $3/bunch
  • Chard ~ $3/bunch
  • Cabbage ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Cauliflower ~ $3/lb (order by the each)
  • Masquerade potatoes ~ Purple/yellow skin with yellow flesh ~ $3/lb
  • Harvest moon potatoes ~ Purple skin with yellow flesh ~ $3/lb
  • Beets ~ $3/lb
  • Carrots ~ $3/lb
  • Spaghetti squash ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Pie pumpkins ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Delicata winter squash ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Butternut squash ~ $2/lb (order by the each)
  • Marina di Chioggia squash ~ $1/lb (order by the each; these are big!)

If you have any questions, you can call me: 503-474-7661. Looking forward to seeing and feeding some of you next week!

 

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Farmers’ dozen

Dottie makes one of the final bouquets of the year from the flowers in the kids’ garden.

Here we are, friends — the 40th and final CSA pick-up of 2018. The completion of what I’ve been calling our “farmers’ dozen” year, hearkening to the “baker’s dozen” (although 40 weeks of local vegetables seems like a bigger addition than one extra bun or cookie!).

2006: At the end of our first season, we bought our land! We were like: “WHOA!”

Casey and I have been farming here in Yamhill County for thirteen seasons. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around tonight. Much like with parenting, the time has flown by and yet those years feel so full that it’s hard to remember life before. Haven’t we always been farmers here in Yamhill County? Certainly, we have been for the bulk of our adult life. We were 25 and 26 when we first moved to McMinnville to start a CSA and put down roots. We knew even then that we wanted to live a very rooted life, where our community and our physical place would be deeply intertwined with our life in tangible, essential ways. Farming was such an obvious solution to that desire, allowing us to meet hundreds of people over the years, getting to know many of them quite well, and providing us an income based on the health and our stewardship of our home.

In these thirteen years, the farm and our land and our community have changed continually. I don’t think that I fully appreciated how dynamic our lives would be from the vantage point of a 20-something leaping into a long-held dream. Back then, it was more two-dimensional — we would start a farm and then enjoy living on it for the rest of our lives. The end.

How boring that would have been! And, of course, how unrealistic. Instead, the farm has been an ever-growing, vibrant co-creator of so many different kinds of experiences and projects. Trees that I thought were tall when we moved here have continued to grow taller! Trees that we planted are now tall as well! We have grown and raised a wider variety of crops and animals than I anticipated from the start.

Baby Rusty meets baby brassicas in 2010

But key moments stand out in my mind as being game-changers for us as farmers and dwellers in this place. The first was the birth of our son Rusty in 2009, which profoundly shifted everything. My own personal relationship to the farm changed as I added a new (and enormous) role to my life as primary parent. Both Casey and my perspective of the farm changed as we saw everything through Rusty’s new eyes. We came to appreciate mud and dirt as sources of creative play rather than just the by-product of our work.

Our years of keeping animals and tending more land (100 acres at the max) were another enormous shift in how we experienced our farm, as a home to many creatures beyond us.

Now, it feels as though we are nearing another potential transformation in our role here, as we work toward the upcoming election (20 days from today!). We still don’t know what the outcome will be, and we can only really guess at how each outcome will turn around and affect the choices we make in the near future about the farm.

Amidst the big unknowns, two things remain true:

  1. Connection to place and people continues to be the defining driver behind all that we do. Even though the work of serving as Yamhill County Commissioner will be very different, it too originates from this same love and continually deepening roots here. We became farmers because we wanted to do real work that would create positive connections in one particular place on the planet. Ditto for Casey’s bid for commissioner.
  2. We love growing things. I can’t even tell you how much we continue to love the miracle of growth. Every single spring feels like a revelation again and again, as we watch leaves and buds return to trees and plant seeds in the soil and get to participate (again!) in the mystery of existence. We love the feel of dirt on our hands and the satisfaction of physical work. Plants are amazing and beautiful (and delicious and nourishing too!).

What form these two truths take in 2019 is still up in the air. But just knowing that we may be on the precipice of some new formulation of these truths has me feeling wistful this evening as I write the final newsletter of the year. The last thirteen seasons have taught me that life is full of evolution and change, so there are no regrets or unhealthy nostalgia — but I feel so much gratitude for the many versions of our farm that we have experienced so far. We have been nourished by living here and many (including us) have been literally nourished by our work here. Our home isn’t fancy; the land isn’t perfect. We have had struggles in how we work or what we do here too, as we’ve learned innumerable skills and lessons about what it means to farm, get along with people, and be stewards of a place. But, in all that imperfection is real goodness. It’s been good for us to be here in ways that are beyond words.

So, as we wait on the precipice of something new, we give thanks for this season and the twelve that came before it. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Want another walk down memory lane? I wrote a “remember when” post at the end of our tenth season that has lots of fun pictures from the first decade. You can read it here.

P.P.S. An extra big thanks to our CSA members who have been with us since 2006. We are grateful for all of our CSA members, but it’s been special to get to know this handful of families who have been CSA “lifers.” Thanks for sticking with us through all the bumps of the last 548 CSA weeks! (Yes, that’s how many it’s been, according to the website! That’s a lot of weeks of fresh seasonal vegetables!)

~ ~ ~

This is it for 2018! Are you interested in 2019? You can “commit” by signing the form at CSA pick-up or dropping me an email with the number of items you estimate you’ll want!

Holiday Harvests coming later this fall! We will still be doing our usual holiday harvests later this fall, one before Thanksgiving and one before Christmas. Watch your email for an announcement a week ahead of time! It will contain a list of what’s available, from which you’ll place your custom order and then meet us at the storefront to pick it up! It’s always a favorite part of our family’s holiday traditions as we get to touch base with people. And, we love knowing that our vegetables will get to be a part of your holiday celebrations too.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Salad mix – maybe
  • Cauliflower/broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Butternut squash
  • Delicata squash
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Fall sights around the farm

The trees along the creek are glowing with fall foliage

Have you noticed? It’s fall now. More than just fall — it’s October, which brings with it all its own unique sights and glories. Brilliant foliage. Spooky decorations. Fall harvests. The wrapping up of another CSA season. Yes! Next week (October 18) is our final week of the 2018 season! Have you signed up for 2019 yet? You can do so at pick-up this week, or drop me a quick email.

But in the meantime, for this week’s newsletter, I thought I’d share with you some of the very fall sights we’ve been seeing here on the farm and out and about:

The first of this year’s jack-o-lanterns. Dottie’s is front; Rusty’s behind. The kids always carve several sets over October — I guess that’s the perk of living on a farm that grows pumpkins! (No cats were harmed in the carving, by the way … I think he’s just napping. BUT, I do believe several apples were consumed!)

Speaking of Halloween, we put up some spooky decorations this year, at the kids’ request. Casey and I would be content with all the natural seasonal stuff: acorns, pumpkins, leaves, etc. But ghosts and skeletons are fun too.

Last week we went for a hike at Miller Woods in the rain! It was a great way to remind ourselves that our outdoor life doesn’t have to end when the seasons turn cold and wet … we just have to make sure we’re appropriately outfitted so we can stay comfortable and continue to enjoy ourselves. Also, the misty woods are simply gorgeous.

Like I said: warm clothes! Oh, and we found a mushroom! Western Grisette, I think.

The rough-skinned newts were also enjoying the rainy forest. We saw several crossing the path.

Last Friday, we also built our first fire of the fall! And, then Rusty built a nest in front of it.

October on Grand Island means that it’s Heiser’s season. We visit the pumpkin patch almost every weekend. It’s one of the few destinations in our life that we can actually walk to (which the kids and I did this Sunday).

The BIG slides at Heiser’s are super fun!

Shortening days also means that I’m now often starting my morning walk before the sun comes all the way up. Safety first!

One more week, everyone! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Delicata squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Salad
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers — Sweet and hot
  • Carrots
  • Beets — Time to make “root parade”! What is root parade? That’s when you line up all the “roastable” vegetables (heavy on the roots) in your house on your counter (making a parade) and then chop them up and roast them together! You might just call this roasted fall vegetables. We call it root parade. Beets are a great ingredient, along with delicata squash, carrots, potatoes, and onions!
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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Fall weather is the best

Casey harvesting Concord grapes for the CSA

What a beautiful fall afternoon for harvesting! It’s days like this that drew us to our work to begin with — Casey ends up working outside in all kinds of weather throughout the year. You name it; he’s worked in it: heat waves, wind storms, downpours, cold spells. He has even milked a cow on pasture in deep snow!

Admittedly, sometimes working in all kinds of inclement weather can be exciting. But when the weather seems to stall into a long period of something hard, such as very hot weather or very rainy weather, it does eventually lose its appeal. Not because being outside in all weather is hard, but more because often the work itself just gets harder because weather affects more than just our bodies. In hot weather, we have to be mindful of what time of day we harvest certain crops and how quickly we get them into cold rinse water and then the cooler. In rainy weather, every motion can take just a little bit longer because of the delays in working to avoid making mud (for example, we’re less likely to drive our field vehicle down a row and so each individual bin has to be carried a longer distance).

But then days like today come along and the golden sunlight falls so gently over everything. Birds sing. The fall harvests offer up their abundance. This season is a gift every single year. We’re soaking it in, knowing that the darker and wetter weather is soon to come!

Although this late fall will look very different for our family as we are ending the CSA in mid-October rather than late November (or even mid-December as we did our early years before we learned that some weather is just not worth working through). It will feel unusual to be done a month earlier, but it will be good this year — after 13 long seasons, a slightly earlier end will provide room for some other work. Plus, this CSA season will still have been 40 weeks long! After all these years, I still marvel at how this farm can produce such a wide range of delicious fresh food for such a very long season. We all get to eat well, in many kinds of weather!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Commit now for 2019! We’re taking commitments for our 2019 season now, even though we don’t know the details yet. In our experience, it’s EVER so much easier for everyone to get on board while we’re all still in the rhythm of the weekly CSA harvest. Then we can do the work of communicating what you need to know over the winter, and you can rest easy knowing that your CSA produce is coming!

After realizing that our website forms had stopped working sometime this summer, I’m going back to tried and true sign-up methods for now: you can sign up on the clipboard at CSA pick-up or drop me a quick email to let me know how many items you estimate you’ll want next year! (You can always change later.) Let me know if you have any questions!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Salad mix
  • Peppers
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Winter squash — Various kinds!
  • Onions
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Planning for next year

Part of the winter squash harvest already under cover.

Fall arrived last week and with it thoughts here on the farm about 2019. We are always working a few seasons ahead out here. For example, we sow leek seeds into flats into March that we plant in May to be harvested the following March! Leeks and garlic are the crops that take the longest specific kind of forethought, but all of the farm operations require planning — where we will sow a cover crop this year to ensure good crops next year?

And, now it’s time to think more concretely about wrapping up this season and preparing for the next, including some parts that require your cooperation. We only have three more weeks left of this year’s CSA, ending on October 18. This is the earliest we’ve ever ended the CSA, but because we started the year in mid-January it will still have been a very full, long 40-week CSA season (whew! That’s a lot of weeks of local vegetables!).

As far as end-of-year housekeeping items, here are things for you to do:

  1. Make sure you are all paid for up 2018. I’ll send out reminders to folks who still have a bit of their CSA balance left, but you can check with me at pick-up as well.
  2. Put our fall Holiday Harvest dates on your calendar! We’ll be doing these special custom harvests as usual this year, on November 20 for Thanksgiving and December 20 for the winter holidays. We will email you a notice when it is time to place an order.
  3. Commit for next year!

Here’s the deal with next year’s CSA. We’re going to be honest and say that we don’t know what it will look like yet. The big unknown, of course, is the November election outcome. We are drafting plans for both possible endings to the campaign, but we won’t be able to take action until we know whether Casey is going to be county commissioner next year, which is a full time job. Thankfully, there’s plenty of time between November 6 and the start of a CSA season to figure out details, including possibilities such as hiring a farm manager (we’ve already reached out to some people who might be well suited to helping Katie with the task of keeping things going). We’ll share our plans as soon as we know them so that you can make sure it all still sounds wonderful, local and delicious to you!

But, in the meantime, if you have been happy with your CSA experience and would like to continue, we’re going to offer two easy ways for you to commit for next year now — and we’ll fill in the details regarding season length once we have them pinned down. As always, if something comes up for you in the meantime, nothing is set in stone, so you have nothing to lose by committing now to save a spot and help us plan accordingly. Plus, in our extensive experience, it is just simply so much easier for you to recommit now while you’re in the rhythm of receiving these emails and coming to CSA pick-up than for you to think about doing extra sign-up paperwork mid-winter.

Ready? Here are the two ways (second list of the newsletter!):

1. Write your name and (estimated) number of items you want each week on the clipboard we’ll have at CSA pick-up for the next three weeks!

2. Fill out a “simple online form” that I’ll hopefully have up and running by next week’s newsletter!*

Easy peasy!

And, for the remaining three weeks, the focus will be on all the delicious abundance fall has to offer. Check out this week’s list of options! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. That * above? That’s there because I realized tonight (!!!!!!) that all the sign-up and contact type forms I’d been using on our website have apparently (!!!!!!!!!) stopped working sometime in the past few days … weeks … or months! (!!!!!!!!) I’m working on figuring out how to get those handy forms up and running again because they’re GREAT (when they work!), but in the meantime I’m sitting here realizing how many messages and CSA sign-ups we may not have received over the last few months because of a technical error running under my radar. Oh goodness, world, I am so sorry if you tried to contact us and we never heard! This website has given me loads of challenges this year as it gets older and clunkier. Perhaps one of this winter’s projects will be to revamp it from the foundation up so that I stop running into these kind of “hey-something-broke-and-you-didn’t-notice” problems!!!!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Prune plums
  • Grapes
  • Salad mix
  • Califlower/broccoli
  • Hot peppers
  • Sweet/bell peppers
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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Harvesting plums

Brooks plums!

Do you remember the first food you ever harvested for yourself? Growing up in a suburban environment, my first memory of harvesting comes in young adulthood. I may have snacked on a wild blackberry before that, but the first time I really harvested was when Casey and I were attending university in Bellingham, Washington.

When we were living in Bellingham, it felt like a city that had a former glory — mansions turned into multi-unit residences were all over town, symbolic of a time when there were people with a lot of money and willingness to invest it in domestic bliss. And, often in the yards of these old houses (large or small), there would be fruit trees leftover from this earlier era, when apparently part of the plan for domestic bliss included being able to pick some fruit in one’s own yard.

By the time we lived there, many of these old apple and plum trees were gnarled with age and lack of attention. We would walk through neighborhoods and see fruit falling to the ground, unattended by the current inhabitants of the homes (in many cases, college students or younger renters). But, for whatever reason, the trees remained uncut and growing all over the city.

There was one row of old plums trees in particular that Casey and I “discovered” early on. They grew behind one of the dorms at the far south edge of the campus, probably leftover from before the property was owned by the university. Those Italian plums always ripened in early September, before students had even returned to campus. The first year Casey and I found them, we thought we’d hit the mother lode — several trees full of ripe plums, and no one around to eat them! We returned that year, and many summers after, with bags and picked enough plums to eat and put up (maybe we dried them in our oven????).

Those first experiences with fruit trees in neighborhood yards were a revelation to me. Every year, the fruit felt like such a gift from the universe. Each fruit such a marvel of sweetness and nutrition! Just growing there, year after year, even in cases of minimal to no maintenance.

Now that we have our own well established orchards, which we planted not quite a decade ago, the miracle remains as remarkable to me as ever. As the summer wanes and colorful orbs of different shapes and hues fill our trees, I cannot believe the annual gift of these trees. Vegetables are cool and delicious and we love growing them too, but they also represent a lot of work each year: sowing, planting, weeding, harvesting. In contrast, now that the orchards are established and growing in our good soil, they feel — not quite easy (that would miss the point of the work we do do) but abundant in their response to our simple efforts. It feels so collaborative. We give the trees a home, and each year they give us fruit. And, we are grateful.

We’re definitely in the high season for fruit now too: perennial and annual both. Look at this week’s list of offerings! Oh my! What a delicious time of year this is. Enjoy this week’s vegetables! And, fruits!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Concord grapes — You know that classic “grape” flavor? That distinctive flavor comes from Concord grapes. This particular planting is said to be from cuttings carried on the Oregon Trail! One important warning: because this is an old variety, the grapes have seeds. Some people like to just crunch them up and swallow them with the grapes. I usually spit mine out (but I also usually eat these grapes standing outside by the trellis, so it’s easy to spit them onto the ground). It’s up to you, just be warned so you’re not surprised by their presence!
  • Delicata winter squash — This last week of rainy weather felt a lot like fall, didn’t it? Fall does officially arrive this coming Saturday, and with it so many wonderful fall foods too, including the first of everyone’s favorite Delicata winter squash. Two simple ways to prepare these: slice lengthwise, remove seeds, put on a pan cut-side down, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 375° until the cut edge is caramelizing and the flesh is cooked through. Or, slice the other way and make thin Delicata “rings.” Remove the seeds and roast these on a pan with lots of butter or oil until they are crispy and soft inside. Either way, you can eat the skin!
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Salad
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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Adapting our skills

GIANT campaign sign on the farm box truck!

Fall on the farm is a classically busy time — time for getting the final plantings of greens in the ground, for beginning to harvest storage crops like apples and winter squash, and for sowing winter’s cover crops.

This year, we’ve added a new twist, as we continue the work of running Casey’s campaign for Yamhill County Commissioner. I’ve been mostly silent on this enterprise in these newsletter this year, assuming that folks who are interested can easily follow his campaign news on the other social media outlets we’ve used for that purpose. We also haven’t wanted to assume that people who enjoy our vegetables are necessarily 100% on board with our politics! We are grateful for our farm’s diverse community and want everyone to continue feeling welcomed and comfortable in the spaces we create around our farm (such as at our storefront!).

But, I did want to reflect briefly on the process of running a campaign — because, quite frankly, it’s been a fascinating experience! When Casey and I decided that, yes, we were ready for him to step into the work of running for office, we had some inklings of what a campaign would be like because my mom has also run for office before. However, we’ve approached most of the work “one step at a time,” learning about each new piece of the puzzle in the order of their urgency. We have had to ask: what needs to happen next? And, then that’s the project we work on, leaving the others for a subsequent day or week. It has felt at many times like walking through a dense fog, where we can only see what’s immediately in front of us. One week, we needed to write a candidate statement for the voter’s guide, so we worked on that. The next week, we needed to design signs, so we did that. And, so on.

The summer break between the primary’s conclusion and real start of the fall general election provided us a needed opportunity to step back and think more about the big picture, including taking several weeks to revise the language around the campaign. What did Casey want to emphasize in his materials? Revising those priorities and language choices allowed us to start the fall with a better idea of how to tailor every other choice around those foundations.

Along the way, we’ve been surprised to learn how many skills we already have for this work too. Marketing a candidate for local office is, ultimately, not really that different from marketing a local farm. There are very similar “pieces” to the puzzle: creating images and stories that represent the desired image — one that is authentic to the candidate or farm and also appealing to many people; building enthusiasm through upbeat, positive social media messages; meeting people in community spaces and sharing a positive message in person; and creating opportunities for people to gather and learn more. We’re very aware of how every spoken or written word or shared image needs to represent the goals of the campaign — that’s something we’ve become keenly aware of in running the farm as well.

So, in that way, we’ve leaned heavily on all that we’ve learned over the last 13 years of farming in terms of writing letters, designing ads, composing social media content, reaching out to people for help and connections, and making other fun surprises happen (such as deciding to make good use of the existing real estate on the farm box truck for a truly giant, truly beautiful, hand-painted wooden campaign sign made by local artist Mitch Horning).

Tonight we’re pulling all those skills together to officially launch the fall campaign at a party at Community Plate. I probably won’t post this newsletter until after we get home, so I may add a post-script with an update of how it went. Regardless, we are looking forward to the opportunity to once again gather with community and build enthusiasm.

After recent years of feeling frustrated by the political climate at large, Casey and I have both really enjoyed the work of pondering our ideal candidate. If we could dream up the person we’d be overjoyed to vote for, what would that candidate say? What would he or she do? What would his or her priorities be for our community? Along the way, we’ve listened to others to learn the same from them, and we’ve pulled all those ideas together as we’ve worked on the campaign, aiming to create a campaign that we (and hopefully many others) can become truly, genuinely excited about. For Casey and me, the “means” are the “end.” How we do things on a day-to-day basis is the work of our lives, and this campaign is no different. At the very least, we hope that the campaign itself can be a positive influence on local politics.

So, what did today look like on the farm? The morning found Casey harvesting in the fields (for tomorrow’s CSA!) and me inside doing school with the kids. An out-of-town friend arrived in time for lunch, and then he and Casey took off in the box truck to put up more field signs while I wrote this newsletter and prepared things for tonight’s party. Then we’ll all meet up in town for the party! It’s been one of many full days, as we balance the many passions and joys of our life!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Look at all those people!

P.S. Campaign kick-off party is over. I’ll just say this: we reached (and possibly exceeded) capacity for Community Plate!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Prune plums
  • Liberty apples
  • Jonagold apples
  • Sweet corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Onions
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Summer’s gold

September sunflowers against a blue sky

We still have a few weeks before the fall equinox brings the official start of the next season, but this week after Labor Day marks such a profound shift in everyone’s routine as school starts up again — it feels like the beginning of the end of summer’s reign.

But, oh, some of the best weeks of the year are coming up! Here in the PNW, the blue skies have returned after August’s smoke, and I am reminded of just how magical and golden late summer light is when it falls across the fields. It’s a delicious time of year too, when so many different fruits and vegetables are mature and available at the same time — summer (tomatoes and peppers) overlapping with the first of the fall foods (spaghetti squash and broccoli).

There’s a feeling in the air of a work well done, both our work on the farm (resulting in abundance) but also in the world at large. All around us, wild plants are maturing their seeds and finishing their growing season life cycles. Some deciduous trees are already beginning to look dormant because of normal end-of-summer drought stress, adding to the golden color in the air. Beautiful.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Prune plums
  • Honeycrisp apples!
  • Sweet corn!
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Basil
  • Peppers — hot & green (the different types will be clearly marked!)
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Spaghetti squash — We taste tested the first of the spaghetti squash (part of our job! gotta do it!), and it was delicious: sweet and savory all at the same time. We prepare our squash by cutting it in half lengthwise, then baking it cut-size up (drizzled with olive oil) until the flesh is cooked through and soft. When cooked, the “strings” (or noodles?) of the squash flesh are easy to tease out with a fork. We love using the cooked squash as a base for other veggie dishes (just like pasta!).
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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Going “home”

Enjoying a brief weekend “sun break” at Lake Washington in Bellevue, WA

I mentioned earlier this summer that this is the year of 20th high school reunions for Casey and me both. This weekend was mine, which entailed a bit more travel as we had to drive north to my home town of Bellevue, Washington.

I haven’t spent much time in Bellevue since my parents sold the house I grew up in 14+ years ago (and soon after moved here to Yamhill County). We visited the old house with the kids over this weekend, and it is still the yellow color (with a green door) that my parents painted it almost 30 years ago. To put that yellow paint job into context, every single other house on the large suburban hill where I grew up was (and remains today) some shade of brown, gray, tan, grayish blue, grayish tan, brownish gray, or brownish tan.

I was young at the time my parents painted our house, but I don’t remember them choosing that paint color out of any counter-cultural impulse (although I think our neighbors might have wondered). They genuinely liked the suburban neighborhood with its proliferation of neatly trimmed rhododendron shrubs and Japanese maples. They also liked yellow and the idea of a cheerful house.

But maybe that yellow house should have been a clue of some kind. Or, maybe living there set a course for me. Either way, in retrospect, visiting the old house and confirming how very unusual it was (and is) for its context felt like a larger symbol for my own experience growing up in a city that never felt like my home.

It was never a particularly strong dislike for the place in itself, but more a longing for something different. Even back in 1998, Bellevue was turning into a city in its own right (and let me tell you, this is even more true today!), and I knew from a very early age that cities just weren’t for me. And suburbs even less so. Cities felt over-stimulating. Suburbs felt under-stimulating. Neither contained enough of the rhythms of the natural world that I longed for without even really knowing what that meant. Again, I couldn’t have articulated this at the time, but I think I yearned for life that felt more authentic to me — whatever that meant. As early as 13, I remember knowing I would leave for a different kind of lifestyle somewhere else.

Clearly, I listened to my own yearnings and moved north to Bellingham at 17. Bellingham felt like a much smaller city, yet one that was alive with walk-able destinations and trails leading to the woods and to the wind-rippled bay. There, I lived in another yellow house with a green door there, this one tucked into a neighborhood full of colorfully painted old houses.

I have deeply loved every place I’ve loved since then — Bellingham, the mountains of central Washington, and Yamhill County — so it was startling to return back to that place of origin and feel so little sentimentality at all. Instead, I received a different kind of blessing: affirmation of my choices and acceptance of who I am. Bellevue is a fine place to live and thrive for many people, but it just wasn’t my place or lifestyle.

However, it’s a place I can very much appreciate now as a visitor — seriously, there are some amazing rhododendron trees in people’s yards! plus wonderful restaurants serving food from every conceivable culture! and parks all over! And, perhaps most important of all: Bellevue and the Seattle area are still the home of many people I love and am grateful to have reconnected with over the recent reunion weekend.

After a weekend of revisiting old haunts and catching up with so many old friends, I am filled with abundant gratitude for this life I have lived so far — for the choices I’ve had the freedom to make and the positive experiences at every step. I truly wouldn’t be who I am today without those years of living in the yellow house on the hill of brown houses.

Writing about the experience of “going home” is a genre almost in of itself, and here I am trying to do a very cursory reflection on a brief experience. But home is something very important to me, something Casey and I have actively worked to cultivate in our lives, wherever we’ve lived. “Home” is so much more than a particular house in a location but the lives we build there and the people we love.

Speaking of which, Casey and I are coming up on another important 20th anniversary … It was 20 years ago this fall that we met and started dating while living in the same dorm our freshman year in college. Clearly we knew we had a good thing going because we married not too long after, but we truly had no idea how much wonderful life was ahead of us — how many projects and adventures we’d share, culminating in this farm that grows food to feed people and two wonderful children! We’ve even literally built a home together (but have yet to paint it yellow with a green door … maybe we should?). When I think of all that, I feel sentimental down to my toes! And I still get to live in this home with Casey and our kids (and my parents next door to us, to boot!). Thanks be!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
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In tension, we wait

Casey and the kids follow some searchers into the brush along our property’s waterway

Several things happened out here in the last week. For one, Dottie lost her second front top tooth and now sports a classic almost-six-year-old gapped grin. The sunflowers in the field starting blooming in earnest. And we enjoyed a few days of genuinely clear, blue skies (in between days of smoke).

But one story eclipses them all (though not an actual eclipse — that was last year at this time): a visitor to the island went missing on Saturday night just down the road from our farm and has yet to be found after a massive 300+ person search operation. More information can be found about the situation here:

It’s been surreal, to say the least, to have our quiet rural island turned inside out as everyone (including lots of islanders) searched for this person. It has also been deeply sad, frustrating, and scary as she still hasn’t been found.

This was Casey and my second experience of being involved in a search and rescue operation near our home. I wrote last year about the earlier experience, which occurred when we lived in the wilderness in Washington. We never found that person after a week of searching in the wilderness, and now we are wrestling again with all the emotions that come from a [so far] unsuccessful rescue operation.

We’re also pondering how much, if at all, we should change our understanding of this place we call home. Much remains a mystery at this point. This story is still in progress, it seems, making it hard to really write about it clearly with everything so raw and fresh and uncertain here on the island.

One thing that was certain: we have amazing neighbors. This shared search effort demonstrated once again how good-hearted, brave, and compassionate they are. The early search efforts were led by people from another county, who don’t know the island and all its vast fields and wild areas well. Immediately, people from the island stepped up and accompanied the searchers. Those who couldn’t help go out and search took the time to thoroughly assess their own property or helped spread the word to other neighbors. Though none of us knew the missing person, there was a sense of shared responsibility for helping someone in need.

The wider community pitched in on a massive level too. Within hours of a Facebook post announcing the search, it had been “shared” over 2,000 times. People from all over Yamhill County offered to help search. Others offered to help support the search by cooking and feeding people. People stepped up, using their own free time to volunteer.

So, even though we’re grappling with the ramifications of a deeply sad, worrisome, and scary event, I find myself feeling as grounded as ever here at home, connected to the people here and beyond who care. Though I’ve been up at night worrying, ultimately home still feels really sweet.

Last night was the first quiet evening since Sunday here on the island. As Casey and I sat reading before bed, the dark gathered outside the open windows, accompanied by the ambient island sounds drifting through. We heard crickets and the unmistakable hum of a swather driving down the road to a field. They were the sound of business-as-usual on the island, of this place and its creatures and people doing the things they do. I found it so comforting, even as I continued (and continue) to hold prayers and hopes in my heart for this very hard situation. In so much of life, we find ourselves in these paradoxes of emotions and realities: joy and peace running up against fear and grief. I used to be confused by how those tensions could hold in place, but with more experience I see that the tension of these seemingly disparate experiences is really what we call life.

Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers and positive thoughts for everyone involved. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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CSA payment reminder! If you haven’t had a chance yet to pay the remainder of your CSA balance, please do so ASAP! Thanks!

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Salad mix
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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