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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August events

Dottie with her blue ribbon zucchini at the Yamhill County Fair earlier this month.

This is a full month! When I look at our calendar, I am amazed at how much has already happened and how much is still coming. I imagine others are feeling similarly, as we all aim to get the most out of summer while it lasts.

Here are some highlights from our family’s August:

We started the month off with participation in the Yamhill County Fair! This is our fourth year entering, and it was the first year that I lacked enthusiasm for the task. It’s actually a lot of work, between dropping off entries (twice if you have a craft AND vegetables, as we usually do), attending the fair (the best part!), and picking every thing up after the fair is over. It was hot out, and Rusty had just spent a long (wonderful!) week at day camp with Outdoor Education Adventures, and I would have been happy to just let the fair slip away this year.

BUT, the kids would not let us miss it! This year, they stepped up and took initiative for preparing their entries and making sure I was on board to help fill out forms and drive everything to the fair. Dottie chose her artwork, and I helped her frame it. The morning of the horticultural entries, Rusty grabbed the fair handbook from me and took it outside to help guide he and Dottie’s picking for their entries from their garden (you have to know how many of each item to enter). I was so happy to see their genuine enthusiasm for a project that until now had been very much led by me. They wanted to participate in this event and share their work with our community.

They also, of course, love winning ribbons. That is part of the fun! And, as always, they did well. Our fair is small, so there is ample room for every participant to do well. Dottie won Best of Show for her garden painting, which was the highlight of the fair for her. Both kids won several ribbons for their vegetable and flower entries. And, we even managed to survive the heat on fair day too.

Rusty enjoying his first live Shakespeare performance! A big milestone in our house.

That Saturday, Rusty and I enjoyed a very special date. I was planning to go alone to Willamette Shakespeare‘s outdoor performance of The Winter’s Tale, but early that morning Rusty cuddled up with me and begged to go. We had read the story of this play as part of our school last year, so he knew the plot summary. He really wanted to go, so he joined me to Stoller Vineyards to watch the play in their beautiful oak grove. He loved it — every minute! And, I did too. We were in the third row, and we were able to enjoy every little detail of the performance (as well as the gorgeous setting). If you’ve never attended one of Willamette Shakespeare’s plays, you really have to check it out.

Now THAT’s the way to enjoy Shakespeare! Chillaxing on a summer evening. (Check out my summer sandal tan lines! Must be August!)

Next up for our family was a week of swimming lessons! Followed by a wonderful shared dinner with our neighbors, 47th Avenue Farm. We harvested some of that trial corn I mentioned last week and started our meal by each tasting eight different varieties of corn. Every single variety was outstanding! We stuffed ourselves with that corn and then ate roasted potatoes right out of the pan while we waited for hamburgers, which we ate with cucumber salad, roasted zucchini and eggplant, and fresh heirloom tomatoes. We finished it all up with watermelon. What an August feast! Then, Rusty led us all on an evening walk about the farm. We ran through the cover crop field in the golden dusky light and relished the sweet cool air that had finally returned to the valley. It was a magical summer evening.

This week Rusty is doing day camp again, this time learning outdoor survival skills. Meanwhile, back at the farm we’re getting busy preparing to host lots of out-of-town friends for Monday’s total solar eclipse!!!!!!!!! We’re cutting back blackberries, mowing, and generally tidying things up — mostly because having guests is a good excuse to do necessary housekeeping.

But, yes, there’s a solar eclipse coming on Monday! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we are so excited that we get to view it from our farm. I’m sure this is what I’ll write about next week, so I’ll leave it at that.

After that, our family will enjoy our last full week of summer “break,” ending with a fun date outing for Casey and me: attending the annual “Big Night” dinner at Bounty of Yamhill County. This is a super fun event that we look forward to every year. We are teamed up with Nick’s Italian Café this year, and we eagerly anticipate trying the yummy dish they make with our vegetables (as well as all the other delicious food too).

And, then the next day … we start school again! We’ll warm up to our school routine slowly, but I think we’re getting close to ready around here.

But, still! This has been such a fabulous summer for our family and farm, and I just want to hold onto it.

I imagine those sentiments are shared. I hope that everyone else has enjoyed their summer. At the very least, the food has been fabulous, right? And that will continue to be the case as we journey through late summer and well into fall.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Casey & Katie Kulla

P.S. After writing this post, I sat back and thought, “wow, we live in an amazing community.” Such wonderful things are going on here all the time! Thanks to everyone in the wider Yamhill County community who contributes to the ongoing awesomeness!!!!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Sweet corn
  • Salad mix
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Green peppers — If you’re wondering, yes we will have colored peppers too. But, (did you know?) that colored peppers (such as red) start green? Yes, indeed! Green peppers are just less mature versions of the colored bell and sweet peppers! This is why they have a different taste too, because the flavor profile is at a different stage of maturity. I’ve come to love both stages of peppers, appreciating them for their differences.
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
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Vegetable trials

Sweet corn!

Many parts of operating a year-round vegetable farm are fun — meeting new people, tasting the first of everything right in the fields (today’s first was a melon!), spending beautiful days entirely outside. But we also have the opportunity as farmers to add extra fun things to the overall mix if we choose. One of those fun “extras” is to try out growing different vegetable varieties on our farm. We do this on our own every year, looking for a few new fun things to add to our existing list of tried and true staples.

We are thankful to organic seed breeders who are always working to produce new varieties specifically selected for high performance in organic conditions, which are different than conventional conditions! Generally organic crops will encounter more weed pressure, have slightly less availability fertility (although not always), and will need to have better inborn resistance to a myriad of pests and diseases. We have seen here on our farm how different varieties of the same crop type will perform with pronounced varying degrees of success. It is a fun adventure to find the varieties (and sometimes even strains of particular varieties) that grow vigorously and still have great culinary qualities as well.

That work, albeit fun, takes time. We personally can only discover so much in a year, limited as we are by the nature of the growing season. That is why we are grateful to Lane Selman of OSU who works with farms across the valley to coordinate vegetable variety trials. Each year she works with participating farmers to determine which crops are of interest for study and then she (and farmers) select potential varieties to trial. Trials are planted on several farms so that information can be collected in varying circumstances (all organic). Selman helps to insure that shared planting protocol is followed across all the farms. Then as the season progresses, the plants are evaluated, and eventually the information is shared between the farmers and published for future reference. Whenever possible, Selman even organizes tasting events!

We’ve worked with Selman on several such variety trials over the years, enjoying the connection her projects give us to the wider community and enjoying watching several varieties grow in one relatively small area on our farm. This year we are participating in a variety trial of sweet corns. We grew eight varieties, and they are almost ready to pick now (likely they’ll be in next week’s CSA). Because some are ready, Casey has begun evaluating them and he lined them all up on our counter to take the fun photo in the week’s newsletter. Vegetables are endlessly fascinating in all their colors, textures, and flavors.

You can read more about Lane Selman in this interview from last year..

In other August news, we’re amazed at how fast summer seems to be speeding by now that we’ve passed the halfway point. Our August calendar is jam-packed with swim lessons, camp, the ECLIPSE (!!!!), and then the start of our homeschooling year in the final week. Earlier in the summer, I swore I wanted summer to last forever, but now that we’re in a persistently hot and dusty/smoky stage of August, I am starting to see the appeal of fall. Plus, there’s the joy of fall harvests beginning. This week’s share contains the first of this year’s apples! That is seriously exciting in our apple-loving house.

We hope that everyone out there is savoring these final weeks of the season too. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums
  • Apples — The first of this year’s apple harvest! These are our earliest apples, called Chehalis (must be locally bred!). They are a large, slightly tart apple great for eating or cooking both. A perfect way to start the apple season!
  • Sweet corn
  • Eggplant — We have LOTS of eggplant this week! So this would be a good week to experiment. One thing to note is that this longer style of eggplant (often called “Asian”) does not need to be peeled or soaked before preparing. You can prepare it very simply by chopping/slicing and then sautéing until it is soft to your preference. We often combine it with other vegetables to make a quick summer stew in our cast iron pan. It goes well with any of the classic summer vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn (cut off the cob) … Also, try making baba ganouj! Here is a link to an older post of mine with recipes for baba ganouj and roasted eggplant.
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Salad mix — Still too hot to cook? Salad for dinner is the answer!
  • Cabbage
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic – for the baba ganouj!
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It’s hot!

Oats in our neighbor’s field, against a smokey sky. Can you feel the heat?

The kids and I have special songs we sing for different occasions. We have one for welcoming back the rain, another one for saying good-bye and hello to each season, one for anticipating a family member’s birthday … and one for very hot days:

It’s Hot! It’s Hot! Just like a boiling pot!
The sun is shining oh so bright
Beaming heat with all its might!
It’s Hot! It’s Hot! Just like a boiling pot!
My clothes are sticking to my skin,
The sweat is dripping from my chin,
It’s time to go … for a swim!
It’s Hot! Hot! Hot!

(Mary Thienes Schunemann)

This week we’re experiencing weather worthy of this song! Most of this summer has been unbelievably pleasant. I’m sure we were all primed to appreciate summer after such a long, cold, wet winter, but still it’s been picture-perfect weather: dry and clear, highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s, plenty of expansive-feeling high pressure systems.

In contrast, right now it is 105° at the McMinnville airport, and the sky is filled with smoke from distant wildfires creating an oppressive feeling haze in the air. This is summer too, and I wouldn’t wish it away and miss summer entirely! But it is a different feel, to hunker down by water, in the shade or in the house while the world feels like its blazing around us (both because of the heat and the smoke!).

Casey started irrigating well in advance of the heat wave. He long ago started thinking of heat waves as “storms,” and makes an effort to prepare for them. We have found that, for our most heat sensitive crops, watering ahead of time is more useful than watering during the intense heat. He also has learned over the years how to weather the storm personally — covering himself head to toe in long clothing and letting himself sweat (and then drinking lots and lots of water!). He even recently bought a sun protection neck scarf so he finally can avoid getting slightly burned on parts of his neck that aren’t always in the shade of his straw hat. And, he ends every work day with a dunk in cold water, which makes everything better.

And, YES, we will be at CSA pick-up as usual tomorrow (Thursday), 2-7 pm. Our storefront space is air conditioned (although I’m sure it will feel warmish even if it is well below the predicted 107° that will be going on outside). However, if a CSA member feels that it will be an actual health hazard for them to come pick up vegetables, please contact us and we can make alternate arrangements of some kind.

Stay hydrated, friends! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Yellow plums
  • Salad mix — Too hot to cook? Make salad for dinner!
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant — This summer, Dottie has been calling eggplant “egg fruit,” presumably thinking that eggplant refers to the plant, therefore the fruit should be called a fruit. I’m sure that by next summer, she’ll have it figured out (we don’t correct her! But we do use the correct name in her presence), but I’m savoring the last of these little kid-isms in our house.
  • Green peppers — These are NOT hot! Just regular old yummy green peppers for eating raw (in salads or sandwiches!) or cooked in just about anything.
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Cabbage — If you run out of salad mix for your salad, make a cole slaw next!
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini & cousa squash
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A summer walk

The kids were excited to give our new friends a tour of the farm! They’ve also been loving playing in our very tall Sudan grass cover crop lately. They’ve carved out rooms and forts in the fields.

This week we have been hosting three folks who work with Coyle Outside doing outdoor education. They have been camping by our greenhouses by night and leading a survival camp for kids during the day in McMinnville.

This evening we gave them a tour of the farm, and I brought along my camera so that I could share the mid-summer sights with you all as well. Join us on our walk!

One of our first stops was one of our high tunnels, where we are growing (among other things) tomatoes! We’ve got the first of the year to share with you this week!!!! The first tomatoes always feel like a significant milestone. Even though it’s not the end of the season (by any means!), it feels like in some ways we’ve reached the finish line … this is what everyone has been waiting for. (And, I took this photo after Casey picked for the CSA, which is why these aren’t red!) Several other exciting new summer-y vegetables are on this week’s list as well! If you had any doubt as to whether it’s summer, this week’s share will confirm that fact for sure.

We planted a row of sunflowers this year, more or less just for the fun of it. This particular variety likes to shine its happy faces straight up at the sun. So cheerful!

Casey worked up one of our large cover cropped fields already, because it had quite a few weeds growing in it. He says that disking them in was very satisfying, and it serves an important purpose in helping us prepare this field for a future season — we work through the seeds in the “seed bank.” He’ll sow another cover crop here before fall.

Casey, Heath and Jeremy demonstrated just how tall some of the Sudan grass has grown! Sudan grass is related to corn, which means that it is a grass that will “winter kill” (i.e. die after the first few frosts). All this giant grass will then fall onto the ground and act as a mulch over the winter, which will prevent winter weeds from growing. It also maintains the fertility in the ground for a future season. Because the grass will be decomposing over the winter, it will be very easy to work up the ground come spring (in contrast to a cover crop that might live and grow over the winter, which will be harder to “integrate” in the early spring). We love Sudan grass for so many reason! Including because it is just plain beautiful!

Rusty told Callista (and little Midge) about the crops we’re growing.

One of Sudan grass’s “disadvantages” is that it does need to be irrigated in our dry summer climate (just like corn) … this isn’t a problem really, but it is a requirement of growing it, and means that it is a higher maintenance cover crop. Casey waters our cover cropped fields in the rotation with the vegetables, and we had to walk through one of the sprinkler lines on our walk today! It was hot in that golden evening sun, so we all enjoyed walking/jumping through the spray rather than avoiding it.

We walked through more freshly disked ground, which can be challenging! My sandals filled up with soil in unpleasant ways! The kids thought it was easier to be barefoot, and I wonder if they were right this time.

The same line of irrigation sprinklers that ran through the cover crop was also running through a freshly germinating field of fall crops (carrots, beets, etc.).

We took our guests to the orchard to sample the first fruits. We all ate Methley plums of course, which are almost done for the season. But we also sampled the very first figs of the year! Our fig trees died back many times in the early years of our orchard, but finally they seem to have grown big enough to produce large quantities of fruit. Fresh figs are quite an experience.

The orchard glowed with evening light.

We looped back toward the house, walking through another one our high tunnels, and then found our way to the shade of our giant black walnut tree.

We all loved our evening walk (even if it put dinner later than usual), and I hope you did too!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: So much new flavors and textures in this week’s share! Since this is the first week for several of these items, there will definitely be some limits in place. We always want to make sure that everyone in the CSA gets the opportunity to taste the new things, even when they haven’t yet reached peak production.

  • Figs — Fresh figs are a treat!
  • Shiro plums — Juicy yellow plums
  • Methley plums — Likely the last week of our juicy purple/red plums
  • Apples — This may well be the last week we give out these Goldrush apples from storage … they are amazing and we still have tons in our cooler! However, the very first of this year’s crop is just about ready! So prepare yourself for a significant shift in apple flavor/texture next week. Here on the farm, the new crop of apples coming on signals that it’s time for us to do a thorough clean out of our largest walk-in cooler, to prepare for the beginning of the big late summer and fall harvests.
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Green peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet corn
  • Green beans
  • Fennel bulbs — Casey tried out a different variety of fennel this summer, and it grows enormous bulbs! You’ll be amazed!
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Zucchini
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Searching for Doug

Holden Village in 2002 (the cluster of buildings at the very bottom of the photo), surrounded by wilderness.

Dear friends, today I have a personal story to share with you. It’s a story that has shaped my perspective on the world and that I look back on regularly as I continue journeying through the world, trying to always better understand how to live in the world.

It was 2002, fifteen years ago and several years before Casey and I embarked on any kind of farm journey. It was the summer before our senior year in college, and we spent our break between school years volunteering on staff at Holden Village, a remote mountain Lutheran retreat center in the Northern Cascades in Washington state. The village is located up Lake Chelan, accessible only by boat, followed by a ten mile bus ride into the mountains to the village itself. That summer, I worked in the kitchen, and Casey served as a “Maverick,” the crew who haul luggage, process fire wood and do various kinds of important physical jobs in the village.

It was a great summer spent making new friends, exploring the wilderness, and beginning to contemplate what might come after our undergraduate studies ended (the answer to this question later became spending an entire year at Holden!).

Toward the end of our time at Holden, the village hosted a group of guests from Seattle, one of whom was a man in his 50s named Doug. Doug had Parkinson’s, and his mobility was impaired enough that Holden lent him a motorized scooter to use on the hilly paths between buildings in the village.

I didn’t particularly notice Doug while he was in his village, but his story has become a part of mine. Here are the details as they were revealed over the week of his stay:

A couple of days into Doug’s stay, he drove his scooter out of the village on the road up the valley toward the major trailheads leading into the vast wilderness that surrounds the village on all sides. The gravel road ends there about a mile out of the village and then turns into forest trail. At some point on his journey, the scooter either became inadequate for the terrain or it ran out of battery charge, and Doug got off to start walking on the trail to Hart Lake, one of the most regularly used trails out of Holden. Two other hikers from the village were also headed out that way and passed Doug, saying hello on their way. Just a few minutes later, they crossed paths with another set of hikers headed back into the village on the same trail.

Even though Doug should have been right ahead of them, those return hikers never saw Doug.

By the time of evening vespers, Doug’s group had noted his absence and his scooter had been found unmanned far from the village. Because Holden is so remotely located, the village has its own chain of incident command, a volunteer fire crew, a professional medic, and volunteer first responders trained in wilderness rescue and first aid. These systems have saved many lives over the years, and stories of successful rescues and seeming miracles are told and retold by villagers as symbols of the awesome things the community can do.

That evening, those rescue systems began to go into place, beginning with thorough, systematic searches of the village itself — every basement, every attic, every single closet was searched. Doug was not found.

First responders hiked the trail where Doug was last seen, calling his name and checking the areas adjacent to the trail. Doug was not found.

The sheriff was called in to help coordinate a larger search of the area. He brought in trained search-and-rescue dogs, several sheriffs deputies, and forest rangers. Anyone in the village who was up for the physically demanding task and could temporarily leave their work area was invited to help in the effort. Casey and I both volunteered to help.

Before searching in the woods, we geared up by putting on multiple layers of clothing to protect us from the foliage we’d be walking through: long pants and boots, covered by gaiters to protect our ankles and calves. We tucked in our long shirts. We wore gloves, which we tied over our sleeves to keep any skin from being exposed. We wore hats and safety glasses to protect our faces.

We were organized into long lines of people and then we very slowly, very methodically walked through swaths of the forest in those lines. We moved slow enough that everyone could stay together, side by side, and we walked through every barrier — through stands of slide alder and willow; through patches of devil’s club; through wild roses, which have the sharpest thorns of all. We paused to look in every possible hiding spot — under logs and in thickets. We were slapped by leaves and branches as we went, any exposed skin left with scratches by the end of the day. Sweat soaked our clothes through from the hot summer weather and our exertion. As we went, we communicated constantly to keep everyone alert and make sure we were seeing everything.

We moved through large chunks of the forest and avalanche chutes like this. More volunteers walked through Railroad creek, which runs through the valley and passes near the spots where Doug was last seen and where the scooter was found. The village itself was searched again and again.

After the first couple of days, our efforts turned from finding Doug alive to efforts to find his body. My thoughts shifted from a desire to find Doug to something more complicated: Please let him be found, but please don’t let it be me who finds him. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to find a dead body in the woods, but still we searched. Casey and I threw our young and able bodies into the search with a passion, joined by others. Over the week of searching, a total of over 50 villagers spent some amount of time searching for Doug.

Meanwhile, in the village those unable to physically search kept up prayer vigils. Other people went about the important business of keep the village running, feeding us all, cleaning rooms for guests, organizing evening vespers.

Doug was not found.

After five and a half days of searching, the community and the sheriff made the decision to end the search. The wilderness was so enormous. We felt confident we had thoroughly searched the areas that seemed most likely for Doug to be. With his limited mobility, it was hard to imagine that Doug could have walked himself far off the trail through all that dense foliage that challenged even the young and fittest among us. We didn’t understand how he could have just disappeared, and yet Doug was not found.

The sheriffs staged a fake successful search operation for the dogs, to keep up their morale for future searches. But the rest of us were left to process our complicated feelings about our responsibility to this person who was lost and not found. We now had a new village story, one without a miracle.

At vespers, we celebrated Doug’s life — hundreds of people gathered to hold his memory in their hearts, many of whom had never even actually met him. Friends of his in his group spoke about his life. One of Doug’s friends, who was Native American like Doug, played the drum and sang a chant that sounded like a prayer and wail mixed into one haunting plea, rising over the room with the scent of burning sweet grass and pulling us all into the force of its sound. People wept for Doug.

And here, toward the end of my story about Doug, I want to tell you another important detail about Doug’s life. Doug was a formerly homeless man who came to Holden with other residents of the managed care facility where he was living in Seattle. He was born in Alaska and had come back from serving in Vietnam to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had spent decades of his life on and off the streets, struggling with substance abuse, instability, and health challenges. His life had been hard. After his passing, there was no one to call or notify — no family. All of his few friends were on the trip.

At Doug’s memorial, the counselor who traveled with the residents on the trip spoke about what life was like for Doug on the streets of Seattle, where his existence was ignored, where he was (at best) invisible to the wider community, where he tried to stay hidden much of the time. He talked about how men and women like Doug go missing all the time on the streets of Seattle, and no one notices. No one searches.

Among Doug’s few personal items left in his room was a book about Native American vision questing. We pondered whether perhaps Doug, finding himself in the wilderness, decided to lose himself one last time. Perhaps he saw the beauty of the woods and decided on some level that it would be better to stay here, even in death, than to return to a life that would continue to challenge him with the constant pull back into substance abuse and street life. It’s likely that a man familiar with the street could find ways to hide himself so that even our careful efforts wouldn’t uncover him. We wondered if we didn’t find him because he didn’t want to be found.

One person in the village shared that she had had a dream that she heard Doug’s voice speaking to her and he said that he was in water and that he was at peace.

We took what comfort we could in these possibilities, but we would always wonder whether we just missed him — whether he had an accident and was lying unconscious or immobile just beyond the boundaries of our searches. We will never know. Casey and I carry a part of Doug and his memory in our hearts to this day.

We also carry with us the profound example of what we witnessed and participated in that week — the power of an active love that sees the humanity and value in every single person. It is an example that has created a foundational story for me in my own life, one that I am always striving to live up to. What does this example mean for my daily life, in all its smallness and bigness? I feel like I always have more work to do in following this example, but the story is there in my heart. And when I pause to remember it, I look at my world with completely different eyes.

Doug’s story perpetually asks me to consider whether there are or should be boundaries on my compassion for others. Simply by arriving in Holden, Doug became a member of the community, fully fledged enough to warrant hundreds of people turning their world upside down to search for him. To me, the experience felt like a living example of Jesus’s shepherd parables.

Right now in McMinnville, there is a lot of talk about our county’s homeless population, which has appeared to grow in numbers (and certainly in visibility) in recent years. The voices I hear addressing the big question of what to do all acknowledge the complexity of the question. Implicit in the conversation is: who is responsible? That is the hard question, isn’t it?

When we are faced with people who are suffering or struggling, I think it is a natural human desire to find the differences between us and them. We want to see ourselves as fundamentally different or separate because to consider the possibility that we too could so suffer is of course terrifying. It is much easier to mentally check all the boxes as to how we could never end up in that same situation, therefore giving us peace of mind and also freeing us from feeling responsibility to help another human being. It is easier to place all the responsibility on the suffering-ones for their condition. “If only they’d get sober … if only they’d work harder … if only they valued stability … if only their behavior was less offensive to the community … then we could help.”

We do this in our daily lives too, with our friends and family, mentally separating ourselves from their struggles in order to keep our comfortable position of distance. In that act, we miss out on opportunities to grow in love with others.

And, of course, sometimes when someone is struggling it really is truly hard to know how to help. It really can feel futile to offer assistance when from the outside it looks like someone is making poor choices again and again or stuck in unhealthy patterns, whether that be a person living on the street or a friend living in an abusive relationship.

And maybe the point isn’t always that we need to fix others’ problems. Maybe the point, when faced with a person who is struggling, is to be kind. To see their humanity. To recognize that really truly every single person is trying their best in life with the gifts and skills they have at any point. To see each person as precious, regardless of how much of a mess they’ve made of their life so far. To see what we share rather than what is different between us. To stop creating artificial barriers based on our economic situations, our legal status in a country, our nationality, our gender, our language, our age, our education, our abilities, our “claim” to a community’s resources, or anything else. We can see people as human, even while they might remain in their problems. We don’t have to fix them before seeing them as human, and sometimes just the act of seeing someone as human can be the most powerful thing we do. Real relationships can be powerful.

I believe that any complicated solution needs to start from this place. Step one: fully and deeply acknowledge the humanity of others. Step two: ??????? Step two will differ from situation to situation of course, but I think it is almost always obvious to tell when a solution comes after step one comes first. The solutions look fundamentally different. Sometimes the shift in our paradigm about another person actually becomes the solution. But other times further solutions are needed, and after accomplishing step one (acknowledge others’ humanity), further solutions are usually more cooperative and caring and don’t resort to violence as a “solution.” For example, “violence” in the case of McMinnville’s street population could be asking people to not “exist” within a community — to move away completely or to hide themselves from sight.

And, dudes, I have to stop here right now and say that I am speaking from the bottom of my heart, and that I am writing about my highest ideals. Like many people, I have built walls and distance between myself and those who are suffering or struggling. By writing this newsletter, I am not in any way suggesting that I’m speaking from a position of accomplishment on this topic. I personally am not a saint, and I have to continually return myself to step one (acknowledge others’ humanity) every single day. In fact, there are days when I don’t even do this — sometimes weeks or months might pass without me remembering about step one — but there are days I do remember. I have habits and stories and values in my life that help me return and return again (over and over and over) to what I see as one of the most holy acts we can do as humans. My faith inspires me to believe that deep levels of kindness are crucial for humanity. And I hope to grow in my own kindness (through thought and deed) over my own lifetime.

I also fundamentally believe that being kind and doing step one (acknowledging others’ humanity) is very, very hard and requires discipline and intention, especially in cases when we find those humans to be offensive or problematic or scary or confusing to us. People who seem to jeopardize our own quality of life in some way and therefore seem to be engaged in violence against us already. Those are the kinds of people that Jesus spoke about (and to!) often in his sermons and parables about how to live. When he asked his followers to love their neighbor, he really wasn’t asking for something easy. Neighbors are often some of the hardest people to love; they are people we share space and resources with but not always by choice or because of common ground. But they are the people that we have in our life with whom to practice the art of love.

Doug was my neighbor for a few days and he taught me a life lesson by his presence and subsequent absence. Today I have different “neighbors” in my life and new lessons to learn (as well as those same old lessons again and again). Again, these lessons are so hard to know how to apply. But we can always start from that position of empathy, of acknowledging the humanity of others (including people who might seem to be in positions of power and acting badly from that position too!). Complicated stuff, my friends.

In closing, I want to share a poem by Brian Doyle that I just happened to read last night before bed. Brian Doyle was a Portland-based writer who passed away this May. Reading his words is one way that I find my way back to step one (acknowledge other’s humanity!) over and over again. His poems are almost always miniature stories, this one included:

Poem for Grace Farrell (1976-2011)

A thin column in the newspaper; she died in an alcove
Outside Saint Brigid’s Church. She was from Wicklow.
She had been an artist. She came here at age seventeen.
She drank. She married a man who slept on the avenue,
Not near the church. He didn’t like the church and said
That the church talked to him at night in a stern rumble.
He beat her. Her friends on the street beat him and told
Him to stay away from her. Her alcove had a roof on it,
In a sense, as there was a construction scaffold above it.
The folks like us—nobody know us until we are dead,
Said a friend of hers on the street. Her family in Ireland
Accepted her body, from the medical examiner’s office.
We told them that she was homeless, but they chose not
To believe that, said the examiner. Her name was Grace.
So that’s the end of the article. But what if that’s not the
End at all? What if the old church spoke to Grace Farrell
That night, held her in its southern arm, sang very gently
To her as she died, caught her spirit as it hit the scaffold,
And handed it up, weeping for the sweet broken woman?
Couldn’t that be? Couldn’t it be that we don’t know who
She was and wanted to be, and maybe she was a wonder?
That could be. Maybe she was what she was invited to be.
Maybe her soul said yes to pain in this world to save kids
Somewhere else. Maybe she was brave in ways we never
Will know now. Every time I think I know something for
Sure I get the gift of not being sure at all; isn’t that grace?

Enjoy this week’s vegetables …

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Methley plums — I can’t even imagine how many of these plums we have eaten over the last week. They are the “go to” snack food around our house right now!
  • Eggplant — Some fun new summer foods are showing up this week: eggplant! Green beans! Green peppers! Summer cabbage! Enjoy!
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers
  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • New potatoes
  • Beets
  • Zucchini & “cousa” squash — People always ask about the difference between our two kinds of green zucchini. The long dark green ones are the traditional Italian style zucchini. They have a slightly thicker skin than the lighter one, which is a Middle Eastern type of zucchini. Because of its thinner skin, it lends itself well to stews that benefit from the zucchini breaking down more. Both are delicious and can really be used interchangeably in recipes.
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 4 Comments

Best laid plans …

Unrelated to this week’s story, our Sudan grass cover crop is growing nice and green thanks to the shining sun and regular irrigation!

Do you ever one of those days? You know, the kind of weird ones? Last Friday brought some unexpected turns to our life last week, followed by so much kindness.

The kids and I went to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge for our Friday nature outing. It was lovely as always to walk along the very long boardwalk through the wet forest, but for some reason all three of us were just kind of cranky. I don’t know who started it or what — we all took turns sniping at each other or whining or whatever. It was a very different tone than I’ve come to expect from these outings of ours. Obviously they can’t all be wonderful, but in general we all seem to unwind as we walk into the forest each week. Except not this time, alas.

By lunchtime, it seemed like we’d mostly turned our “frowns upside down” as we ate our sandwiches and looked out over the refuge and explored a very large ponderosa pine tree (with perfectly spaced branches for climbing!). But by the time we were back in the car, things felt off again. Just weird. I looked forward to getting home and hopefully having a quiet afternoon of puttering around the house. I really wanted to clean out one of the sheds by our house, which had accumulated various farm and domestic related things over the last few years to the point of being pretty unusable anymore!

As we drove back through South Salem, however, Dottie announced that her seat belt wasn’t buckled right, and I pulled over on a side street to redo her booster. When I started the car back up, I looked over the hood to see a stream of something coming up from the front of the car — steam or smoke. Neither of those are good signs! I got out and looked closer but decided against trying to pop the hood since the stream had come out just where the latch was.

I really didn’t know what to do! But I figured that there should be a gas station or other car place within blocks so decided to keep driving. Thankfully, within two blocks, there was a gas station and I pulled in to look closer there. When I explained my situation to the gas attendant, he immediately went into the store to bring out his two co-workers and the three of them popped by hood (carefully!) and quickly diagnosed the problem — our radiator had cracked and spit out all the antifreeze! My car was overheated, so I couldn’t drive anywhere at that point. They invited me to park in the shade there while I called around and gave me a few suggestions. One of the workers asked if my kids were okay and said that she had drinks and popsicles if they needed anything. We were pretty set for food and water, but I felt so cared for by her offer.

Casey and I still don’t own smart phones, so I had to figure out how to find a car place or tow truck or something to get us out of there. I called Casey and received no answer, but my mom answered her phone and was already on the road and able to drive out to us.

So, we waited. The kids were upset at first about the idea of our car being damaged somehow since this was their first experience with “car trouble” (which I had to distinguish for them from a “car accident”). But we had books in the car, and eventually they just settled down to wait. After several more tries, I got through to Casey, who had been on the tractor when I first called, and he offered to come out too. He also called our mechanic friend, Matt of West Valley Auto, who called me and walked me through how to safely and effectively put water into the radiator. The woman at the gas station kept checking on us and offered to fill the radiator up with the hose, which we did in case it might end up making sense to drive somewhere else.

But in the end, my mom came and we called a tow truck and had the car towed to Matt’s shop. Casey arrived too, and he figured out what radiator we’d need and then drove off to buy a replacement and take to Matt’s. My mom gave me and the kids a ride back home.

So, our afternoon plans were derailed in an unpleasant way. But in one of those surprising gifts of the universe, I found that the car trouble really changed the attitude of all in our party. Our crankiness with each other (and just in general) was replaced with very deep gratitude for all the people who were able to help us find a way out of the situation. I felt grateful to strangers who were willing to care and be kind to us, and I was also grateful for the support network we have in our family (and that our lives are all flexible enough to allow for family members to drop everything in a minor emergency).

The next morning, Saturday, our fun plans to go kayaking were put on hold because we were sure when we’d need to go pick up the car. But that worked out okay too, because it gave Casey and me the unexpected opportunity to clean out the shed together. Which was certainly for the best — there were so many items in there that I really wouldn’t have known how to identify, let alone judge whether they need to be retained or recycled or given away. As it was, we cleared almost everything out, leaving us plenty of room for our bikes, surfboards, and emergency supplies. We even took the time to finally hang all our hand tools on the wall so that they are easy to find (we built this shed almost 11 years ago, and it took us this long? Oh well!).

And, by afternoon the car was ready, thanks to the speedy work of our friend Matt who knew that we needed it fixed as soon as possible. The car was fixed in just over 24 hours from the time that it first fizzled on me! Once again I felt so grateful! (And our kids enjoyed the early plums that were ready to eat in Matt’s driveway — yum!)

May all your summer adventures, the expected and unexpected, bring your gratitude and tasty fruit too. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums — The first of the next fruit! These are “Methley” plums, a hybrid Asian type that has sweet juicy red flesh. They’re never the biggest plums of the year, but they’re the first, so we eat them with deep appreciation!
  • Basil
  • Lettuce mix
  • Shelling peas — These are traditional shelling type of peas, and they DO need to be shelled in order to enjoy (the don’t have the sweet, tender edible pod like the sugar snaps do). Once you’ve shelled them, it’s simple to just toss the peas into any kind of dish you are cooking. When they are fresh like this, it doesn’t take much cooking at all for them to be delicious, so just add them a few minutes before you serve cooked greens, or throw them in a soup, or just gently sautée them with carrots, butter and garlic (add a little chopped ham to make it more a dish!).
  • Carrots
  • New potatoes
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

The joy of warmth

Summer on the farm!

These summer days have been so delicious lately. Dry air. Warm breezes. Growth all around. I’m not sure that I have ever felt quite so grateful for summer as I do this year after the year’s protracted winter of extra lots of snow, rain, cold and darkness.

I feel grateful every day that going outside is again a simple proposition: slip on some sandals and step outside (or, in the case of children, just step outside barefooted!). The warmth just feels so good this year, and I’ve already caught myself feeling sad that summer will end. Of course it will, and the odds are that by then our family will be ready for another turning in our rhythms. But we’re savoring summer’s treats now.

The world just feels so alive, as it is: bursting with abundant and growth. And our bodies feel similarly alive: no worries about vitamin-D deficiencies or lack of movement this time of year. These feel like the days of peak experiences.

The blooming forest at Miller Woods on last Friday’s nature outing: sublime!

I feel like my whole life has been a journey toward better appreciating this particular season. I remember growing up in the suburbs/city feeling like summer was … hot. Uncomfortably hot. Inside felt more comfortable, and I did love to do things like read, so that was okay with me.

But then later Casey and I lived in the mountains, and summer became the season for hiking. Then, we worked on a farm, and I discovered how much comfort comes with being soaked in sweat while wearing a big hat and long sleeves and pants (very cooling combination on a hot day!). I also learned to better appreciate the joy of eating summer’s foods only in summer. I now have this added association with the season, that this is when we eat tasty things like basil, sweet corn, zucchini, and (eventually) tomatoes and peppers.

Having young children at home has just added another layer of love to the season as I’ve watched them grow. From birth, Rusty has been more comfortable and calmer outside. When he was a fussy baby, we would take him on walks outside to calm him (even when it was winter!). Both children have intense needs for big movement. They love adventures and climbing and running and splashing! They can do these activities year-round, but as a parent I deeply appreciate how much easier it is for us all in the summer when they can just pop in and out of the house without needing to put on lots of warm layers (or peel off lots of muddy layers when they come back in). Honestly, I can’t even imagine parenting in a different context without easy access to the outdoors, because Casey and my #1 discipline technique is to send the kids outside. Being too loud? Time to go outside and play. Bickering? Time to go outside and play. Bouncing off the walls? Time to go outside and play. And so on. So, in that way, summer is a super relaxed time for us as parents!

We hope that you too are savoring all that the season has to offer, including all the food. Each week will bring more and more new flavors.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

CSA payment due this week! Another friendly reminder that your next CSA payment is due this week. You can bring us cash or checks to pick-up tomorrow! Please let me know if you have any questions about your balance due.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Fava beans
  • Salad mix — This week, the cut salad greens are a mixture of lettuce and spinach!
  • Frisée — For many years, we’ve grown frisée and simply added it to our salad mix. But this year the heads are beautiful and we feel like it’s time to once again offer this beautiful and distinctive green on its own. The most notable part of this green is the texture, which is feathery and delicate. The flavor, however, is robust, making frisée a great base for a complex salad. Traditionally it would be dressed with a hot oil (such as bacon grease!) and served with sweet and savory topics (like chopped bacon and dried fruit and maybe a poached farm-fresh egg). Here’s a post with some more suggestions, but rather than sticking closely to any one of these, just note the trends: a strong dressing, something sweet, and something salty/savory. Strong flavors all around. It’s a delicious way to fancy up the summer table!
  • Basil — One of the more amazing greenhouse experiences is handling the very first of the germinated basil seedlings in early spring. Just a brush of the fingers, and there it is: the smell of summer. It never fails to transport me months ahead to now — the season of warmth and sun and river play. And, now the basil is full grown and ready to be harvested! Casey picked the tops of the plants, and they are gorgeous! We love to use fresh basil in salads or sandwiches or chop it up and add it to our cooked greens. And, of course, you can take the time to turn it into a fresh pesto, using this week’s garlic, some good olive oil (there’s a store on Third Street), and walnuts (pine nuts are more traditional, of course, but we like walnuts as an Oregon variation).
  • Broccoli/cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Kale – dinosaur/tuscan/lacinato/black palm kale this week!
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Exploring new (watery) trails

Loaded up and ready to GO!

After years of deliberation, planning and dreaming, our family finally made a big purchase this weekend: we bought a tandem kayak!

We’ve lived on this river island for ten years now. What good is it to live on an island without a boat?

Water has always been an important part of our lives. Casey grew up in Lincoln City with a view of Siletz Bay out his windows and just a five minute walk from the beach itself. I grew up in the Puget Sound, with Lake Washington and the salty waters of the sound making up the backdrop of life. Not to mention all the tiny creeks and tributaries and sloughs that led in and out of all these bodies of water in our lives.

Evidence suggests that humans, as a species, flock to water. We need it for life, of course: to drink, for cooking and sanitation. But we also seem to enjoy its presence. “Water views” add value to homes, even though all homes in the same vicinity will have the same necessary running water in their showers and taps. We just love water: the feel of it running over heads in a shower; the sound of it flowing over rocks or in fountains; the calm placid sight of a lake or pond. I think that in so many ways, for us humans water equals life, and it stimulates in us the joy of just being alive.

Water metaphors abound in our culture and its stories and songs. Some of my favorites that come immediately to mind: the classic folk spiritual “I’ve got peace like a river,” which follows up this image with more watery lyrics — “I’ve got joy like a fountain” and “I’ve got love like an ocean.” Love like an ocean! Think of that imagery for a moment. What does it mean to have love like an ocean? That is a vast unending love, always coming to shore. Yes and yes.

Another all-time favorite quote of ours is from Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows:

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

Casey once had a t-shirt with that quote on it, and he wore it in our early years of farming. Those were years that, I have to admit, felt a little dry to us as we acclimated to a new warmer, drier climate than the ones we grew up in. Casey and I both felt some reluctance initially about moving to an interior river valley, having both grown up breathing the smooth wet air of the ocean. But of course finding ourselves farming on an island brought watery romance back into our lives, and over the last decade we’ve slowly gotten to know this new kind of water — water that isn’t as vast as the ocean, but that flows through the most populous part of Oregon, bringing life everywhere it meanders: farms, ospreys, blue herons, willows, cottonwoods, kingfishers, minks …

We’ve come to love the Willamette deeply, as the source of our life here in reality and also in spirit. When our work gets dusty and hot in the summer, the river is our refuge — a place where we immerse ourselves in its flowing coolness and come out completely rejuvenated.

But we realized a few years ago that our experience of this river has been limited to what we can see from the shore (plus a little swimming), and yet the river is also a trail in of itself. In fact, rivers around the world were some of the first trails and roads, providing humans with open navigable paths through dense woodlands, serving as connections between different communities for trading and friendship. In places where water is more navigable than land, boats continue to be the primary mode of transportation (notably along the fjords of Norway and in the Amazon basin).

Boats are an important human technology and can open up new pathways. Plus, they’re fun to mess about in. So, we took a few years for the kids to be old enough and to figure out what kind of boat might be best for us (to start with anyway), and then we did it!

We took it out twice during last weekend’s heat wave, both here at our river spot and then on the Yamhill via the Dayton landing. On our first outing, we paddled upstream to an area on the river that we often hike to. The route via the river felt very different!

We’ve got a long list of places we’d like to explore now that these local pathways are open to us. And, as I write this, Casey and the kids are down at our river spot on the island messing about with the kayak before dinner. Adventures abound!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. As a public service announcement, I want to add a note regarding water and safety. If you too like to explore our many rivers here in the Willamette Valley, please do so safely by wearing a coast guard-approved life jacket at all times — children and adults both! Locally in McMinnville you can buy life jackets at Bi-Mart and Big 5 (I’m sure other places as well — but we’ve bought them at these locations). We always insist that our children wear them even when they are just playing in the river, but certainly we all wear our life jackets at all times when in a boat. Rivers are unpredictable, and every summer brings a few tragic deaths to the community as people go boating and swimming in the rivers. Don’t just pack it; wear your jacket.

~ ~ ~

Reminder about CSA payment! Your next CSA payment is due to us by next Thursday, July 6. I emailed statements two weeks ago. You can bring cash or checks to us at pick up or mail a check to Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128. Please let me know if you have any questions about your account or balance due!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Fava beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower — There is a limit on these this week because we want to make sure that everyone gets a share!
  • Head lettuce — The heads are BIG this week! Time to make salad the main course of your summer meals. Load them all kinds of yummy toppings.
  • Bok choy
  • Zucchini
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Happy summer!

We prepared the orchards for summer this week: mowed the alleys, scythed around each tree, and then thinned the apples!

Yesterday was the summer solstice — technically, I believe we reached our apex of the year’s travel around the sun sometime right around Casey and my bedtime (9:30ish). As I pulled closed our curtains at bedtime, I looked out at the very bright blue sky, still lit up by the sun, and I thought that yes I am ready for that turn toward slightly longer nights again.

It will be awhile, of course, and I’m in no rush to see the days shorten quickly. But, summer is here! The sun has been so mild this year that it still feels good on the skin (in moderation, of course). The dust and heat waves will come, too, but right now summer is just all good.

As school gets out this week for the latest schools, I am sure that many in our community are also feeling the summer joy. School is good, yes? And so is that break. I think that the breathing in and out of the year is so important for us people — to work hard and then to break. And you folks who don’t farm are lucky to get your break smack in the middle of a glorious season for travel and outdoor adventures! We do as much of that as we can, but farming is for sure the focus of our time in summer (it is of course another kind of outdoor adventure).

May you all be busy preparing for summer’s gifts of adventure! And enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Fava beans — The beginning of this year’s fava harvest! If you’re new to fava beans, here’s the scoop: also called a “broad bean,” favas are one of only a few “beans” native to Europe. These are fresh favas, but they are also grown as a dried bean (which is similar to a lima bean). Fresh favas can be eaten several ways, but they are almost always cooked. The outer pod is very thick and fibrous and not suitable to eating raw, but you CAN roast or BBQ whole fava beans in the pod. This is the way we are most likely to eat them, because it’s fast, easy and delicious. Just lay fava beans in a single layer in a roasting pan with some butter/oil and roast at a high temperature until they are brown outside and cooked inside. Salt liberally. We usually pick them up with our fingers to eat. A more traditional Italian way to prepare fresh fava beans is to remove the beans from the outer husk and then peel the white skin off the innermost green beans. You can do this while they are raw, or you can blanch the inner bean and then “pop” it out of the skin. Once you have a pile of the green beans, you can cook them further — try sautéing in butter or olive oil with fresh garlic. Once cooked, you can simply add them to a pasta dish, or for the ultimate foodie treat: purée them into a fava bean paste and spread it on toast. Getting to that final point can take a lot of work, but it is such a delight.
  • Broccoli — When people think of spring foods, they think of the earliest, tender fresh greens. When people think of summer foods, they think of the fruiting zucchinis, tomatoes, and peppers. But there’s a whole other category of annual vegetables that arrive in early summer, before the fruiting has begun but after the tender greens have passed away. This is when we get to finally enjoy the longer season green vegetables that we planted at the same time as those earliest quick-growing spring greens — namely, broccoli!
  • Zucchini
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Bok choy — Bok choy is an Asian green that was relatively recently introduced to markets beyond specialty suppliers. Because it is most traditionally used in Asian cuisines, it’s safe to say that the flavors of those cuisines complement it well. I love eating it with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. But, like all greens, its uses can range for beyond what might have been “traditional” in its original context. Just this week, we enjoyed bok choy in a wide variety of contexts: for example sautéed with butter, peas, and diced ham. At another meal we ate it seasoned with chili powder and served rock fish on top. We often end up pairing foods based on what is in season (hence the bok choy and peas) rather than sticking strictly to any kind of recipes or servings suggestions. We find this a simpler way to address the bounty of the field and field our family fresh good food on our full days. What do we have? How can we put it all together? When starting with fresh ingredients, it’s really hard to go wrong!
  • Fresh garlic — Casey has begun harvesting the garlic! This is much earlier than “normal” for us because we experimented this year and planted our garlic in one of our high tunnels. We did this because one of our perennial big challenges with garlic is weeding it mid-winter. In our mild climate, there are plenty of weeds that love to grow (and even flower and set seed!) in the winter, and yet it is a very hard time to weed because the ground stays persistently wet for several months. We spent many, many winters trying to carefully liberate our little garlic plants amidst winter weeds, only to see them engulfed again soon after. It definitely affects the vigor of the garlic plants and their ability to put on big beautiful bulbs before harvest. By planting them in the high tunnel, we were able to give them more attention and weed them all winter (because the ground would have opportunities to dry out between winter irrigations). It isn’t a choice we would make if we grew lots and lots of garlic, but at this point we would rather have a small, reliably good crop than a larger, struggling crop. (In fact, I’d say that’s our mentality about many areas of the farm these days!) All that to say that this week we have some of this year’s garlic for you! It is not “cured” (i.e. dried down) yet, so you will find that the wrapper leaves are less dry than you might expect. Peel down only as necessary to get to something yummy. In this stage, the skin on each clove is likely to be fine for including when you cook. Use your judgment based on the texture.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

The tide

Cherries!

A farmer neighbor often passes me in his truck when I’m out on my early morning runs and sometimes he stops to say hi. Today he rolled down his window and said just one thing: “Katie, it’s cherry season.” Then he gave me a huge grin and drove away.

He’s excited because he’s a cherry grower, and this is action time for him — the next few weeks will bring a flurry of activity to his orchards as he and his crews happily bring in their harvest. I also smiled upon thinking of this new season, partly because cherries are awesome, but also because it signals another turning in the season. In so many ways, the beginning of the cherry harvest is the beginning of summer around these parts. The sound of another neighbor’s cherry shaking is a sound I positively associate with consistently warmer weather and the start of all kinds of summer activity on the island.

If you’ve never witnessed cherry shaking before, it’s an astounding sight: a very low custom tractor-like vehicle with a big mechanical crab claw out front drives around the orchard, grabbing very large old cherry trees and then literally shakes them so that the cherries fall down onto tarps workers have laid below. The tarps are then pulled up by another machine that carefully collects the cherries to later go into pallet bins. All day long this time of year, we hear the sporadic hum in the distance of the machine shaking those cherries down! The kids like to ride bikes down with one of us to watch.

Our cherries are later than those in other orchards on the island. They’re an older variety and we like to let them get truly ripe before picking them (whereas cherries intended for processing are often picked before all the sweetness and flavor have developed). But, the kids and Casey discovered that the very first of the cherries in my parents’ orchard were “ready” a few days ago. There is one tree that is a completely different variety than the rest, and it ripens first. By my standards, the first few cherries they were eating weren’t quite ready, but children love the joy of finding the first of the next fruit! All summer long they delight in eating slightly under-ripe fruit because it’s the next thing! Perhaps this is the ancestral joy that has fed into so many consumer fads and fashion gimmicks that tug on our genetic desire to find the next food (only instead it’s the next cut in pants or a newly designed mop).

I like to wait for the first truly ripe editions of each new food, but my delight is just as deep and real. In winter, the periods between changes in our environment can feel looooooong and mid-winter the world almost feels like it’s standing still. It doesn’t, but by human standards it can feel that way. Meanwhile, June through September feel almost too packed with change — it’s a never-ending parade of new flavors and experiences. The beginning of the cherry season is just the start of that influx, or as Wendell Berry calls it in this poem, that tide:

The Arrival

Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore.
In its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough.

And, June also brings a tide of work as well (the tide actually began in earnest in May): so much weeding, so much mowing, so much irrigating to do in the next few weeks and months! It is on, my friends!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries & cherries — Our first fruit of the year (strawberries) is winding down just as the next (cherries) is slowing winding up! Limited supply this week of these offerings until we’re in the thick of the cherry harvest. Soon! Then on to figs!
  • Salad turnips
  • Bok choy heads
  • Winter Density lettuce — This is one of our all-time favorite lettuces. It’s everything that iceberg should have been: crisp, flavorful, and refreshing. The leaves are beautifully shaped and we love making “arranged” salads that really show off the deep green top part of the leaf and the yellow-blanched heart at the bottom. But it’s also just great chopped and tossed with your favorite dressing!
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Zucchini — It has begun! In our household, the start of zucchini season is reason for much rejoicing. In the summer, we eat zucchini daily as a base for at least one meal. I love telling people about how we honestly didn’t love it much until just a few years ago. Even while we were growing and selling it, we felt kind of “eh” about it. But we kept trying it, and then finally we found our way to zucchini love! And boy do we love it!
  • Chard
  • New potatoes
  • Apples
  • Garlic scapes
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