Welcome!

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The farm family in 2016

Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! Oakhill Organics is a family-run farm located on Grand Island. We grow everything we sell right here on our farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! We sell primarily through our unique 40-week long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which offers customizable share sizes and contents. You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm news on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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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
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

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
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

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

~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~

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
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Brown sky at morning …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

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

A dinner prep walk

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

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

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

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

The sweet corn is tall enough to hide in!

Fall broccoli, getting ready to start heading up

Freshly weeded carrots, destined for late fall shares

Beets!

Apples!

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

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

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

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

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Red plums
  • Chehalis apples
  • Tomatoes — Red slicers and cherry tomatoes available
  • Green peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Lettuce mix
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

An unexpected decision

“Chocolate” sunflowers that Rusty grew this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Reunioning

Kids playing in the surf on Casey’s reunion weekend

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Make a tomato salad!

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

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Figs
  • Chehalis apples — The first of the apples! These are a crisp, tart green apple, yummy for eating fresh or baking with.
  • Shiro plums
  • Tomatoes — Red slicers and cherry both
  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • New potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Summer is hot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

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