Welcome!

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The farm family in 2016

Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! Oakhill Organics is a family-run farm located on Grand Island. We grow everything we sell right here on our farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm news on our blog! Our 2020 CSA program is now full — please email us to be added to our waiting list. We may add more members mid-season.

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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If the apron fits …

Apron on and ready to cook some VEGETABLES for dinner!

A few people have commented on my new CSA pick-up look — the old green Roslyn Café* apron that I’ve been wearing to protect my nice “town” clothes while I pack bags at the storefront on Thursdays. (* shout out to my Washington peeps and Northern Exposure fans!)

I’ve worn aprons in various context for years. When I was growing up, my mom almost always wore an apron while cooking. This image of her is somewhat incongruous with everything else I knew about her. My dad started medical school when I was one, and my mom worked in banking the whole time he was in school and residency. This is the career she started as a teller in college and continued until she was a VP of lending of a small bank in the Seattle area. I have many memories of hanging out in the banks on the weekends or listening while she mentored her younger colleagues after work — especially other women. They’d discuss the ups and downs of being professionals in a world that wasn’t always easy to be in.

Suffice to say, it was a man’s world, and my mom worked hard to prove her place in it. Carving out her own space often meant adopting signifiers of masculinity, and my mom (like many second-wave feminists) reinvented what it meant to be a woman in the second half of the 20th century. She went by the short gender-neutral version of her name (“Kris” rather than “Kristine”), stood tall in her professional suits, sometimes even smoked cigars, and kept our apartment free of anything “frilly.” I was raised wearing gender neutral colors and given “boy” toys along with dolls. She always wanted me to to be free of the confines of societal expectations of traditional femininity.

And yet, I also remember the weekends when she and I would be home alone, and we’d both don our aprons, pull out the Silver Palate cookbook, put Joan Baez or Kate Bush on the stereo, and bake the best chocolate chip cookies ever. Even when she was stretched thin by balancing her own demanding career while parenting me and supporting my dad’s big career change, she’d make time to cook real food because she loved good food and she loved sharing it with us.

Later, when my dad was finally in practice doctor and she slowly let go of her own career so our family life could be more relaxed, that cooking took on bigger and bigger proportions. She experimented with different kinds of cooking traditions, diving deep into the Scandinavian foods from her family’s background but also learning more about the diverse cultural traditions that co-existed in the Puget Sound region. One summer, she and I took cooking classes together at Uwajimaya, learning how to steam homemade hum bao dumplings in bamboo trays on our stovetop. Midweek meals would often be more simple, but still prepared with love and always with that important apron in place to protect her clothes.

My mom and I also later expanded our interests by taking black and white photography classes together at the local community college. Again, we wore our aprons, now protecting our clothing from the staining chemicals we used to develop our photos in the darkroom. I actually went on to major in photography in college — I think I may be one of the last generations of photography students who studied darkroom photography because that was still the best we had! Digital photography quickly caught up in quality soon after I graduated, but I spent many hours and days in the red light with my apron on, gently agitating water bath trays.

During and after college, I had the joy of working in the large, joyful, always busy kitchen at Holden Village, a remote retreat center in the North Cascade mountains. There, every shift in the kitchen started the same — the donning of a clean apron from the apron drawer (all of which were sewn by volunteers with the most bright, colorful patterns they could find). With five to ten people all scurrying around to prepare three meals a day for upwards of 400 people, we were a lively aproned crew — chopping vegetables, kneading bread, stirring literal cauldrons of soup, and often singing along to music while we did it all. Those were very good times. If fun is a nutrient, our food must have been deeply nourishing.

So, aprons are a positive thing to me. I don’t see a lot of my peers wearing aprons today — it seems so old fashioned and weird, I guess? Or, maybe people were just never introduced to the utility of it. It feels so normal and comfortable to me, but I’ve definitely had friends raise eyebrows or make surprised comments when they see me cooking with an apron on. How could something modeled by my awesome mom not still be awesome and relevant today? In my friends’ presence though, I have felt like I might as well be wearing a bonnet or corset!

But, old fashioned or not, I still wear an apron every time I cook at home — an old authentic Kingdome vendor apron (another shout out to my fellow Washingtonians!) that I found free in the “give away” shelf of our college apartment building. Here’s the deal with wearing an apron — I feel like I can cook (or work in the darkroom) more freely. I don’t even have to think about splattering my clothes, and I guess I’m kind of a messy cook! (I also really relish when I get to wear stain-free clothes after all the years of babies and toddlers wiping their noses and hands all over me.)

I feel the same way about wearing gloves when I work in the fields. I can weed with so much less hesitation when I have that layer of protection. I can weed with more vigor and speed knowing that my nails won’t jam against small rocks in the soil. I love the feeling of being properly outfitted for my task. It’s both physical and psychological. When I pull on my gloves, my sun hat, and my boots, my whole body and mind are ready for farm work. Likewise, when I put on my apron to cook dinner, my whole body and mind are ready to cook. It helps me focus, as well as helping protect my clothes from stains as I stand over a pan frying onions and butter (best smell ever!). And, at the end of the day or mealtime, when I take off my gloves or my apron, then I’m also saying: “And now I’m done.”

I have deep appreciation for these kind of physical routines and signals that help me create boundaries between tasks and keep focus. As more and more of the world’s work goes to computers — which can be used for work, recreation, socializing, and more — I think many of us experience more bleeding between different kinds of tasks and modes. Some people call this “time contamination.” Checking work emails at home, for example, blurs the line between work and home quite a lot and can make it hard for us to ever feel like we are done with work.

Of course, now so many of us are working at home … all the time. In our own household, we’ve been talking about how we can create boundaries around our work and home life even though so much of our work happens at home. The outfits we wear and the way we spend our time are a big one. I’m reminded of wonderful Mr. Rogers, who started every episode of his show by changing his clothes — in this demonstration he showed us that now it was time to be with us.

My apron is one way I do this with one household task, as well as the CSA pick-up. Gloves and work clothes are another way. For Casey, I can always tell when he’s officially done with farm work in the summer when he takes a dunk in the pallet bin we fill with cold water in the summer. That’s his way of literally cleansing off the dirt and dust and sweat of the field to be done for the day.

I’ve also observed how we have a new physical reminder and tool in our routines these days: the donning of masks to go into town and public spaces. This is a new one for me, and to begin with, it definitely felt and looked weird — I suppose a bit like when people see me wearing my apron while cooking at home. I can’t say I’m fully adjusted just yet — I still definitely notice masks when I go into town, but I have gotten accustomed to remembering to pack and wear my own. Like an apron or a pair of gloves, it’s a simple but powerful tool of protection. By wearing a cloth mask, apparently I can help prevent the spread of my germs to others. When faced with a virus that can spread even from asymptomatic, unwitting carriers, this simple bit of fabric can become a lifesaver — that’s even more important than preventing stains on my shirts or stubbed fingers!

And, much like aprons, masks offer the potential for some self-expression in their colors and shapes and patterns. I’ve chosen to wear simple, solid color masks, but Casey loves the farm-themed tractor mask a CSA member made for him. I love seeing what other people wear, and I also just love seeing masks. I mean, I don’t like that we’re in a pandemic and basic human connection has become so complicated. But I love that by wearing a mask in public, we can all visually express our care for each other. When I put on my mask, I am physically reminding myself that I love other people — that I even love strangers.

On a more pragmatic level, putting on a mask is also a reminder that I am not at home and I should be more cautious with my personal hygiene — using hand sanitizer, not touching my face, etc. While this isn’t the happiest message, it’s an important reminder to stay alert and remember that we are still living through a global pandemic.

It’s all very poignant and mixed for me. I often find my trips to town to be sad because they remind me of the people and places and routines I miss deeply. But I am grateful that my mask allows me to see people and do basic errands while keeping others safe. I put on that mask, and it feels like a kind of physical love in a time when I can’t hug my friends.

This week I invite you to do two things: first, consider how you build boundaries and routines into your life to help you focus on what you are doing (am I working? am I with my family?). For me, putting on an apron or gloves help me focus on my work; taking them off helps me relax and be with my family. What might that look like for you? Second, I also invite you to reconsider that pesky face mask and see it in a new light — as a physical reminder to be careful, but also as a physical symbol of your love for the world. Because that’s the underlying positive message of all these hard pandemic restrictions and changes — we’re all making hard sacrifices because we value people.

Apron or no apron, have fun in your kitchen this week, and enjoy this week’s vegetables too!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: So many good summer flavors to enjoy this week. Remember to place your order by the end of Tuesday! It’s really important for us to have orders on time so that we can harvest adequate amounts of everything! Thank you!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Summer’s gifts

We welcomed summer with a fire in our outdoor rock ring.

Summer is here! Hoorah! Saturday marked the solstice — the longest day of the year and the peak of the sun’s photosynthetic potential.

Ever since the kids were little, we’ve dedicated the top of a little bookshelf in our living space to be a “nature table,” the place where we put our found trinkets and treasures as well as small ornaments to mark the season. I like to keep a bouquet of seasonal flowers (or foliage, depending on the season), as well as an art card depicting kids outside doing seasonal things.

Hiding the messy contents of bookshelf itself (games, school supplies, etc.), I’ve hung a curtain. Years ago, I sewed four different solid-colored curtains for this bookshelf, a different color for each season. This weekend I took down the bright green we use for spring and hung up the muted yellow that we use for summer.

And, already I can see this same change taking place outside in our fields. The spring rains had turned our fields such a vibrant, alive green, and even with the June wetness, already that color has shifted as grasses set their seed heads or go dormant. There is still quite a lot of green in the scene, but I can see the shift. Spring is about growth; summer is a time of maturity. Grains fill out and are harvested; summer annuals put out flowers and fruit; potatoes secretly size up underground. Spring is potential; summer is fruition.

While this summer feels like another beautiful turning in that endless reliable wheel, it feels different too. As I’ve noted before, this entire year feels like a step outside of time. Even though I can see the same ancient patterns at work in the natural world, in our human world it feels as though the future is unpredictable. What will next year bring? What will the next season bring? What will the next month or even week bring? We’re living amidst a global pandemic as well as global awakening. It’s a major election year to boot. My oh my, there is much to ponder these days.

And even as this time feels unprecedented, I feel a slight reprieve from all the unknowns as we go into the reliable dry season of summer. After months of avoiding All The People and All The Places, it feels as though summer could provide the opportunity to see some people in the safer context of distance outside. Our family certainly isn’t about to host any potlucks or sit close to friends, singing by our outdoor fire like we used to. But. It does feel as though we can connect outside one-on-one in ways that are mindful of maintaining distance. Hiking. Kayaking. Sitting across a fire from a friend. These are activities that would feel normal in any summer, and finally something normal is also (reasonably) safe. I, for one, am SO grateful for this renewed ability to connect in some measured ways.

I don’t know what fall will bring, and if I think about it too hard, I have to admit I get scared and anxious. Most days can feel reasonably normal, but at night before I fall asleep, the weight of what has changed and remains uncertain bears down on me in the dark. A good friend reminded me that this experience is grief.

At the very beginning of the quarantine, I happened to read Julia Butterfly Hill’s memoir of her two years living the tree she called Luna. I had purchased it months before out of curiosity. Reading The Overstory made me want to learn more about the real story that inspired much of that novel, but the book sat on my shelf for a long time, perhaps just waiting for the right moment to plop into my lap.

If you’re unfamiliar with her story, Julia Butterfly Hill lived for two full years (1997-1999) in a redwood tree in California in order to raise awareness of the clear-cutting that was destroying the last of these ancient forests. She did not touch the ground at all for two years. She lived and slept on a tiny plywood platform high up in the tree with only tarps for shelter. When storms blew through the forest, she had to hold on to branches and learn to move with them to keep from falling to her death. When it snowed, she woke up covered in snow. Flying squirrels crawled over her in the night. It was an intense experience, to say the least.

What I didn’t know at the time was that she started this process with no intention of remaining so long. She was very new to activism at all and went up the tree based on a gut instinct. The situation evolved over time, and she never knew how long it would last. The days simply added up and as she gained more and more media attention, her resolve to stay increased. She makes it clear in her memoir that she never would have had the fortitude to plan on a two-year stay. Would Hill ever have climbed into Luna if she had known? Unlikely. But as she stayed, she learned how to live in her unique new environment. She couldn’t have prepared beforehand; she learned how to survive from the tree and the experience itself. She literally developed new muscles from climbing and living in Luna, but she also developed inner strength and patience as well.

I keep thinking about her experience as we go deeper into this pandemic. None of us were really prepared for this or knew it was coming. We still don’t know how long it will last, and it’s probably for the best, as like Hill we will continue to develop our stamina and patience and necessary innovations as we go. Hill missed a lot of life squatting in that tree; she missed celebrating birthdays and milestones with friends and she missed years of potential college education or career building. We are missing much of the same down here on the ground now. But her experience reminds me of how deeply resilient and innovative we are as humans. It reminds me of how we can endure and find ways to grow in unusual circumstances. Hill kept her body healthy by climbing rather than walking; she connected with a large network of fellow activists to keep her stocked with necessary supplies; she read at length about forests and trees and the politics of the timber industry while camped out on her platform.

We too have this unexpected opportunity. I never want to sugarcoat this pandemic experience. I would never choose this for myself, for my children, or for the world. But, here we are, working our way through this global crisis together. We have a much bigger world than Hill’s tiny platform and tree, and we too can innovate and grow in unexpected ways. We will all be marked by this, but I hold on to the hope that we will learn things about ourselves and humanity that we truly never anticipated. It is my hope that, like Hill, we learn to pay better attention to the world around us, learning to appreciate the natural world and other people in deeper ways. For sure, we have already learned how real the connections are between all of us. We can no longer pretend to be isolated creatures now that we see that the air I breathe is literally the air you breathe and vice versa. This is a profound lesson that could have profound impacts on how we all live our lives going forward, not to mention how we choose to run businesses and operate governments and communities. That gives me hope. It is still all very painful, but I feel hope in these potential lessons.

And hope in the summer’s coming gifts as well. I can see the pregnant world before me, ready to burst with so many fruits and glories. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Payment reminder! (This is only relevant for CSA members who started in April! If you just started in June, please disregard …) Goodness me, the second scheduled payment date came and went without me even noticing! Oops! I’m going to blame this on “Covid-brain,” which I think is a real thing. Either way, second payments were originally scheduled to be due last Thursday, but because I dropped the ball I’m going to send out statements this week and it’d be wonderful if folks could deliver payment by the end of the month. Watch your email for a statement — if you don’t receive one, it probably means that you don’t owe any money! You are always welcome to email (farm at oakhillorganics dot com) or call me if you have questions about your balance due!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: It was fun to have the number of orders for the “humbler” veggies go up last week! I especially loved every time I put those gigantic bunches of chard or kale into bags. It was very satisfying, and I hope you all enjoyed them! This week’s exciting news for the week is the first of the summer carrots (woo hoooooooo!) and the start of the Lambert cherry season. These old fashioned cherries (dark red, very sweet, big) are the bulk of the trees in the small cherry orchard on my parents’ property (next door to ours). We’ll pick plenty of these as long as they are in good shape — the season length usually depends on weather, so we’ll enjoy them while they last. (Next up will by the first of our plums!)

Also, we have the first of our fresh bulbing onions this week. There’s nothing like the smell in the house when we cook with good onions. Yum!

And, of course, all those humble green vegetables are still in amazing, plentiful shape: kale, chard, parsley, fava beans … and, in case we weren’t certain that summer has arrived, the zucchini are ON. Today’s midweek picking yielded eight bins. Wowza! Summer!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

June’s gloom

Also in June: the giant linden tree on our property blooms and fills the air with its fragrance!

This is actually the third newsletter I’ve ever published that has some combination of the words “June” and “gloom” in its title. Because, well, this is A Thing — this rainy, gray weather in June, before summer really sets in for good.

It actually feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve experienced the “June gloom” — to the extent that both kids are marveling at it in wonder. It has been extra rainy indeed. Knowing that seemingly endless dry hot days are ahead of us, we’ve all been savoring the coziness of being inside during downpours. But we did get caught outside in at least one drenching rainstorm last week when we were biking (Casey and the kids) and hiking (me) at Spring Valley. We were soaked through, but thankfully we were close to home. It was a two-coffee day for me, for sure.

The regular happening of June gloom is a seasonal marker for Casey and me — it’s often the time when we have finished quite a lot of our planting but then have to pause on field work. It’s just too wet to hoe or hand weed on days like this, so it provides a perfect window of time for thinning our apple trees. Every year, we individually touch every apple cluster, removing all but one apple to grow big and mature. It’s a simple, meditative (and time-consuming!) task that makes an enormous different in the quality of our apples. We finished this year’s thinning this weekend. Then we did some weeding in the high tunnels, where the ground is still workable. And today Casey and I both caught up on lots of farm paperwork while more rain poured down outside.

Really, the June gloom is wonderfully timed in all these ways, providing us a breather before we jump back into the active pace of the main growing season. But we do hope that it lets up soon so that the cherries won’t split and we can start weeding all the plantings in the field too. Even though the season is progressing along nicely, and even though the June gloom is pretty normal, if we step back and look at the season as a whole so far, it’s been rather slow and late in many regards. At least, compared to some recent years. It’s so easy for us to recalibrate our expectations based on the last year or two rather than really remembering the wider scope of averages. Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, it’s almost hard to remember what “normal” felt like or believe that we’ll ever get back to it.

But time passes. Seasons come, and seasons go. And here we are, still poised at the top of a wave of the growing season, ready to take the plunge into abundance once the summer decides to come out and stay out. The summer solstice is on Saturday, marking the peak photosynthetic potential of the year. Even with so much other uncertainty around us, we can rely on this — the seasons will turn. The sun will shine!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Each week, Casey and I can always predict which vegetables will the most popular. We think of these as the “sexy” options — usually it’s something new, or a perennial favorite. More often the “sexy” items are sweet, colorful, and often fruits (peas, green beans, cherries). Meanwhile, there are other beautiful, humble vegetables that maybe don’t stand out in the list with quite the same level of bright lights shouting “ORDER ME!” and so they get fewer orders.

One definite downside to the ‘order ahead’ system is that it’s hard for you to appreciate the beauty in some of our humble, steadily available vegetables. If you don’t order them, you’ll never see them! So, this week I thought I would share with you that some of these humbler vegetables have been outstandingly gorgeous lately — I mean, really really really at their peak beauty, flavor, and texture. They’re abundant too, making for large share amounts. Which humble items am I speaking of? Kale! Chard! Fava beans! Parsley! If you really want to pack some WOW (and volume) in your bag this week, I recommend ordering any or all of these.

This isn’t to say that the other items on the list aren’t excellent right now too … it’s just that I don’t think maybe people need to be reminded that cherries and strawberries are awesome. Everyone knows cherries.are.awesome. Deeply so. But remember the humble green things too as you build your share this week!

P.S. A note about strawberries — we are between plantings this year, really needing to replant (which we will for next year). So the strawberries aren’t nearly in the abundance we prefer, but don’t worry — as long as they don’t split, we have cherries galore. Which will be followed by plums and more tasty fruits. We love the “sexy” items too!

Now, onto the list … REMEMBER TO INCLUDE YOUR NAME!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

A constantly moving train

A well weeded planting is so satisfying! This was a couple of weeks ago and everything is MUCH larger now already.

When we first started the farm in 2006, I feel like I spent a fair amount of time in our newsletters documenting (and educating our eaters about) the trials and tribulations of farming. We “learned” something new almost every day … by which I mean, we made mistakes and then learned from them in useful ways for the next time we grew that crop or the next season.

At some point, I stopped writing so much about how hard it all was because … well, it sort of wasn’t as hard anymore. At least, not in such a profound, gut-wrenching every.single.day kind of way.

Over those early years, we really truly did learn a lot. Every event that felt predictably stressful became a trigger for changing something in our systems. This is especially true in our approach to the “shoulder” seasons — i.e. anytime that isn’t in the main growing summer season. We built more high tunnels to help us get a jump start on the spring season, and we built more conditioned storage space for successfully storing different crops after harvest. These two changes in particular eased a lot of the stress we experienced, but there were countless tweaks and fine-tuning of our growing methods — selecting the best varieties for our growing conditions, buying good tools and learning how to use them, figuring out what scale of operation works best for us.

Along the way, we’ve found that we’ve internalized so much of the annual process that we have what can only be called a “gut level” sense of what to do and when in the season. The rhythm of it feels intuitive after so many years of practice.

That being said, I’ve been marveling lately at the complexity involved in growing fresh market vegetables for direct-marketing — and especially for a CSA where there’s a goal of having a reasonably stable amount of produce of an approximately stable number of different types over a set number of months.

For example, right now we’re supplying about 60 households with vegetables every week — working out to about 300 “items.” We aim to have about 9-12 options for people to pick from, and the numbers don’t work out evenly as people have different share sizes and different preferences. Over the years, we’ve learned which items will be more popular than others, so we can somewhat predict ahead of time our planting amounts, but we do have to predict and estimate.

But the really amazing — and challenging — part of planning, planting and harvesting for a CSA is that the vegetables are constantly growing and changing. And, to complicate the planning even further, the rate at which the vegetables grow and change also changes through the season (following much the same curve as the sun in the sky and day length). So, for example, lettuce planted in March will mature more slowly than lettuce planted in May or June. But, nonetheless, we need a certain amount of lettuce per week, so we need to account for the slower earlier growth in our planting.

Lettuce, actually, is a fairly simple crop simply because it can be harvested at almost any stage of its growth — as small baby leaves or full, mature heads. Other crops that involve the  maturation of a fruit are much more finicky. The window of time for picking a yummy sugar snap pea pod, for example, is small — each pod is in the ideal stage of maturity for only about a week, depending on weather (warmer weather will speed up the maturity and vice versa for cool weather). Zucchini need to be picked at least twice a week to prevent the fruit from becoming bigger than most people want to eat. Either way, most crops will only “hang out” in a harvestable state for so long, and we need to stay constantly aware of how everything is maturing and whether it is past its prime. Even classic storage crops need attention in storage, although they are much more stable than quickly growing crops in the field. The farm is a constantly moving train.

None of this time equation takes into account the other expected vagaries of growing: the pest and weed pressure, the unexpected weather, the low germination rate of a packet of seeds. We are constantly tinkering and adjusting as we move through every season — planting another planting of corn because the starlings picked off the first, sowing more cucumbers because the first one failed to thrive. These are the reality of growing, and we’ve gotten to where we hardly even notice the “failures” because we have come to expect that not every thing we plant will thrive every time. We know that sometimes you just need to till a few beds in and start over. Honestly, that’s just part of the game.

I’m still amazed at how much there is to learn — really learn — about all these different crops we grow. We learn by paying attention to them, year after year, understanding how they grow differently under different conditions and different care. Suffice to say, there are a lot of moving parts involved in a fresh market vegetable farm. To have the right amount of produce in the right number of types at the right time … even after all these years, each week’s CSA share still feels like a minor miracle.

Which, of course, it is! The gifts of the earth are a miracle — sunlight transformed through photosynthesis into energy that the plant can use, and then that we can also use. It really is a miracle — all life as know it starts with the sun and those tiny amazing chlorophyll cells. Casey and I just get to be partners in the process — as do you, as conscious grateful eaters.

Even amidst all the uncertainties of this weird year, the sun does still shine (albeit through a layer of clouds today), and the plants are growing. Let us rejoice in these gifts! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

P.S. Did you know that I also post little bits mid-week on Instagram and Facebook? You can find us @oakhillorganics. Usually I just post extra photos from the fields that I think our customers would enjoy. Occasionally something related to homeschooling.

But this last week we participated in a larger effort on the part of white social media users to mute our own content and “amplify” the voices of people of color as part of the current #blacklivesmatter movement. I shared something each day related to the cause: for example a poem by lucille clifton and a list of children’s books about race in America.

It was definitely different than my normal content on there, but I don’t see it as profoundly different from what Casey and I have always aimed to do by being farmers. We started our farm out of a desire to make positive change in the world, and in our mid-20s sustainable food and farming seemed like The Issue. We saw farming as a way to physically manifest many of our ideals about the world — we could practice what we preached about organic agriculture AND connect our community. I see now that our ability to follow through on our goal of moving to a rural area, buying land and starting a farm business was an incredibly privileged act. While we certainly came up against plenty of obstacles to surmount, none of them were because of our skin color.

I learned today that farming is the second “most white” occupation in America (second only to veterinary medicine, which is also closely linked to agriculture). 95.8% of farmers and ranchers in America are white. (Source)

In the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of self-education about how race functions in America. I’ve immersed myself in the voices of people of color who speak directly to their experience of race in America. I’ve read the most amazing books, many of which were uncomfortable at times, because they had hard stories to tell. Stories in which I was unknowingly complicit.

Anyhow, I didn’t intend this post-script to become it’s own newsletter of sorts, but I did want to direct people to our social media presence if they hadn’t connected with us there yet and also somehow mark the end of my week of muting our “normal” content. But I don’t see this last week as an aberration of our goals with the farm — to me it felt like a particular distillation of what we’ve wanted to do as people who work for justice and positive change in the world. We will always be striving toward those goals.

We too are a moving train in our way, as Casey and I continue to grow and learn and listen. We listen to our land and to the plants here, and we also try our best to also listen beyond the borders of our lived experience. We hope you do too. To that end, to accompany the list of children’s books I posted on social media this week, I wanted to share a list of recommended books for adults who might be realizing they have a lot more to learn about race in America too:

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

Happy reading!

P.P.S. In super mundane news, have all our new members paid your first payment? If not yet, thanks for doing so this week!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: In the continued theme of “the farm is a moving train,” we have many fun new summer-y options this week, but not yet in overly plentiful supply. You’ll lots of new items in the week, many of them limited to one. But given the number of options, I don’t think that will be a problem. More likely, you’ll have a hard time choosing what you want!

Please remember to include your name when placing your order! Last week we had several orders without names attached. Thanks for placing your order by Tuesday evening!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.

 

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Farm animals

Farm cat Mokum ”visited“ me while I planted more potatoes this weekend.

On a week when it feels as if the world is possibly about to fall apart (or, more hopefully, about to be reborn into a new understanding of justice — who can tell from our vantage point today, mid-stride in an historical moment?), I have been taking comfort in the ongoing miraculous non-human life that surrounds us every day on the farm. I can find myself overwhelmed by anxiety (mixed with hope) on these tumultuous days, and it helps me feel grounded to pay attention to the ongoing work and growth and beauty just outside my door.

Specifically, I’ve been paying close attention to the animals on our farm. We haven’t kept any livestock for years now, but our world still teems with animal life, and I never seem to tire of watching and interacting with the creatures that share our home. We have two adored farm cats, whom we brought home from the McMinnville Farmers’ Market back in 2007. A customer walked into our booth with a kitten in her arms and then told me his brother was in the car — we adopted both on the spot! They were both white with orange ears and tails, and we named them Mokum and Nelson after two of our favorite carrot varieties (in homage of their orange tails).

Cats are always special pets, but these two surprise me all the time with how they have integrated themselves into our family and our life here. Mokum especially joins us as we work or play outside, often situating himself nearby for a nap or sometimes jumping right into our space as we, for example, try to plant potatoes. In the photo above, Mokum had been walking in front of me as I laid out potato seeds and then finally planted himself in my bin of cut potato seeds and stayed there, letting me carry him along with the bin. He also joins us on walks around the field and comes running if one of the kids injures themselves and cries. He comes up and licks their faces to make sure they feel better. He also greets all our visitors and is a favorite among our friends.

But, from a farming standpoint, Mokum’s most amazing skill is his ability to hunt and kill gophers. We’ve always had a lot of gophers in our fields. In the early years, we would lose massive chunks of plantings to their damage and even reached out to other farmers asking for advice. Many suggested particular dog breeds, which wasn’t the answer I was expecting! But, without me really noticing, over the years our gopher pressure has lessened — not to the point of disappearing, but certainly reduced from the early years. In the same time, we’ve witnessed Mokum carrying many a gopher up to the yard from the field. Friends, do you know how big gophers are? They are large rodents. And Mokum is not an exceptionally large cat. But, he is an impressive one and clearly a good, patient hunter if he is able to catch these elusive under-ground rodents.

Mokum’s brother Nelson shares many of these attributes but he is more shy and has some health problems that make him a quieter, but still sweet, presence on the farm.

But this last week I’ve especially marveled at how the wildlife that shares our farm has also come to feel like friends and neighbors. I put out a bird bath by our house earlier this spring, which so far has mostly served as a very large, awkward cat water bowl; but last week a western scrub jay also started visiting to drink. The same jay has been hanging out in our yard in general, looking at us from the branch of a maple tree while we eat dinner at the picnic table below. It cocks its head in the funniest ways as it watches us, making it look as though it is trying hard to comprehend us and our activities. We’ve named it “Scrubbie” for short and once we named it, we became even more aware of its constant presence in our yard and near our house. This bird has apparently decided this is home for the summer. Even now, I am sitting outside typing, and Scrubbie is visiting one of our bird feeders in the walnut tree.

While Scrubbie seems to the most active “watcher” of us I’ve seen in a while, over the years, we’ve had other occasions to identify individual birds and form mutual watching relationships with them — kestrels that perch on the same wire day after day, a turkey vulture with a particular notch in its wing that returns year-after-year, a family of sparrows that builds a nest in a box on our house, a heron that visits our fields to hunt … There are also the innumerable birds whom we don’t see as individuals because there are so many that visit: the hummingbirds that daily visit my garden (which I specifically planted beneath our windows to provide food for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies), the bald eagles that soar over head, the cedar waxwings eating berries in my parents’ service berry tree, the dancing swallows swooping over the fields.

There are more animals that share this space as well, some of which we only see through the signs and tracks they leave behind. Deer walk along the edge of our fields every night it seems, based on the tracks and trails we see. Thankfully, they must have plenty of forage on the island to not become too interested in our fields. We know there are raccoons living in trees here — sometimes we see one checking the cat food bowl in the evening and occasionally we see babies scampering in trees during the day. We’ve seen beavers in our fields many times, and last winter the kids and I watched a nutria slump its way across our field to nibble in our greenhouses multiple days in a row. I was a little worried at first about what a rodent of that size could do to our winter crops, but it stopped the habit after a few days — perhaps it realized it was too exposed that far from the brush. And, of course, at dusk, we love to watch the bats come out, visible mostly by their dark silhouettes against the purple sky. Soon after, we inevitably hear the not-so-distant cries of the island coyotes — a haunting nighttime sound. And, then, finally the owls, hoo-ing in the dark.

Casey and I have always loved the alive “wildness” of our farm. This year things are looking “tidier” than in recent years thanks to staying home more, but our farm is never perfectly weeded. Nor do we strive to exclude other animals from our farm — even while we are glad to have less gopher-pressure on our crops, we still appreciate the role gophers and other burrowing animals play in soil health and the larger ecosystem! For me, thinking about the way we share our home with all these other creatures and plants is so humbling and inspiring

Friends, I want so badly for positive change in our human world. I want to live in a world that really truly cherishes all human life (#BlackLivesMatter!!!!!!), and even sees and acknowledges the inherent value of non-human life too! Can’t people see the miracles all around them? How we can take any living person or thing for granted, when all are a miracle. The beauty of the world — all of it, the human and non-human — overwhelms me.

I’m so grateful for all the people who show up for the hard work of justice day-in and day-out. I’m humbled by them too, especially in a strange pandemic era when it feels so hard for me to reach out and really be present to this important work. I want to be there for all of this, witnessing the human story just as I witness the non-human story every day on our farm. I want to sing justice on with my choir sisters.

And yet. Here I am, on the farm instead. It is a strange time. I don’t always know whether I’m making the right choices — to stay put and be safe; or to reach out and help others. I want to connect … how? But, I’m here on the farm, still paying attention. As Mary Oliver famously wrote, “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention.”

So, I’m paying attention as well as I can this summer to what I can. And learning what I can. I am reminded again and again that our presence here on this farm is a small moment in time compared to the larger ongoing cycles of life. Our presence here is small compared to the vast number of generations of Kalapuya who lived here and their ancestors before them. Our presence is small compared to the eons the Willamette River has spent meandering across the valley, shaping habitats for the ancestors of the animals living here now.

These animals humble me today and everyday with their presence. Even funny little head-cocked Scrubbie.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Welcome new CSA members! A cohort of new CSA members is starting the program this week. With the increased interest in CSA programs right now, we have experienced increased demand but waited to add more members until we could plant for them! We’re definitely in the growing season now, about to start riding the big wave that is summer (we can see it forming! Almost here!). We’re excited to have more folks with us to experience the goodness of it all.

As a reminder of how the system works this year: at the end of this newsletter you’ll find our weekly availability list and order form. Please fill out this form by the end of Tuesday. On Wednesday we’ll harvest for everyone based on the orders, and then on Thursday we’ll meet you at our storefront between 3 and 6 pm to pack your orders and deliver them to you! We are still asking people to stay outside the storefront; we’ll bring packed orders out to you.

Let us know if you have any questions along the way!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

The star of this week is, of course, still the sugar snap peas. So yummy and easy to eat! These are peas that have an edible pod, so all you need to do is snap off the string (if you want) and pop them in your mouth! Pair them with hummus or other dips to make a filling snack or appetizer. Or chop onto a big salad with lots of other toppings to turn into a meal!

We also have a new Asian cooking green to offer you: Yukina savoy. In flavor and texture, Yukina is somewhat like a cross between bok choy and spinach (although not related to spinach at all). It has a darker green color and softer texture. It cooks up quickly and makes a great stir fry green, but it is also tender enough to chop and add to a salad.

We also have parsley this week and the first of the zucchini! New flavors! And, much more summer to come …

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.

 

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Endings & beginnings

May is mowing month — including in the orchards.

Every season seems to bring in its own significant turnings, marked by both endings and new beginnings. This last week brought many endings to our little family, few of them relating directly to the natural world, but in sync with it in the way human endeavors often unconsciously are.

Last Tuesday was the Oregon primary election, ending several months of frenzied activity amidst what must have been one of the oddest campaign seasons ever as candidates and voters alike were kept from interacting in all the normal, casual, face-to-face ways that foster true connection, conversation, and trust. It was weird, to say the least, and unpleasant at many points as voices strove to be the loudest and most outraged in the only channels available: social media and traditional media.

The experience left me with a sour taste in my mouth, one probably fairly consistent with ages and ages of people’s distaste for political wrangling. I know that the creation of strawmen opponents and distorted political rhetoric are by no means new, in spite of the “novelty” of living in the Covid-era. Nonetheless, I was glad to be finished with the first wave of the year’s election process and hope against hopes that this fall might bring something that feels more productive all around. Maybe it’s wishful thinking?

In more positive news, our family is also wrapping up another long project: the kids and I will complete our academic year at the end of this week. Rusty will have completed fourth grade, and Dottie first grade. We’ve already completed most of our work (Math, etc), so this week we’re just finishing up a few books we’re reading together and laying a little of the ground work for next year’s more advanced studies. For example, today the kids and I spent some time looking at different kinds of writing and talking about how writers decide which “genre” and “form” to use depending on their “purpose” and their intended “audience.” It was a fun little discussion as I helped point out to the kids that different texts are different lengths and use different words and forms. For example, a letter to the editor is much shorter than a novel and has a completely different purpose to fulfill. These are things writers think about in order to be effective communicators through the written word. These are ideas we’ll revisit regularly as we continue to read and they begin to learn more about writing (especially Rusty, as he nears the end of his “elementary” education).

But mostly we’re just excited to be finishing up. The kids are learning the great joy that comes from completion. It is such a good feeling to have spent nine whole months working diligently every day and then stepping back and seeing the vast progress that comes from all that regular little bit of daily work. This year we focused our studies on the 19th century, reading about that era’s history and sampling its literature and arts. We all feel like we have a better sense of the 19th century’s “flavor” — its unique conflicts and challenges as well as its advancements. Such a complicated period of history that lays so much groundwork for our contemporary lives — it’s still with us in many ways as we continue the grand experiment in “modernity” that began so long ago. I’m excited for us to jump into the 20th century next year as we continue learning about the great stories of humankind.

But, first: the next beginnings. The primary election and the school year behind us, we will not be left with an empty vacuum, but instead with the returned rhythms of summer. As I wrote in last week’s newsletter, this summer will not be quite like recent summers, as it will miss many of the off-farm activities we’ve come to love (swimming lessons, camps, camping, etc.), but there’s still so much summer goodness to savor here on the farm and nearby as a family.

I’ve written in this newsletter many times over the years about how farming transformed summer from my least favorite season into my favorite one. Yes, it can be hot. Yes, it can be dusty. But, oh it is also so delicious in every sense! We’ve already begun eating more meals outside at the picnic table, relishing in the soft evening breeze as we watch the turkey vultures circle overhead. On Saturday, we made a little campfire in our fire pit and stayed out until dusk when the bats came out.

There is much work to do in this season too (Casey mowed all week, and this week we’ll be transplanting so many plants!), but it is work that comes with wonderful rewards all season long in the form of those delicious foods we only get to really enjoy in the summer. Now that school won’t be the opening act in the kids and my day, we’ll have a new rhythm of going outside first thing and participating in the work of the farm while it is cooler.

Even though the farm has been operating full throttle already for months, the kids’ and my new rhythm and relationship with the work feels like a fresh beginning in this strange year. I’m very grateful for this work and this place, more than ever. And grateful that we can still share the best parts of it with you, even with our continued distance.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

Fun new veggie this week … the sugar snap peas! We have so many peas on their way, but the harvest is always a curve that starts out slow, then roars along, and then finally slows down again. Since we haven’t actually harvested them yet for this week (one of the oddities in this new system that is very different than how we’d “normally” order things), we don’t exactly know yet how much our first harvest will yield. We think it will be good, but we can’t say just yet. So, we’re putting a limit on the orders for this week, and we’ll adjust the bag size based on the harvest yield.

Also, more brococli and cauliflower to come … ! (And more baby carrots too.) In the category of “beginnings and endings,” this week and next definitely mark a turning point in the the ending of the over-wintering vegetables and not quite the full start of the summer vegetables. We’re definitely still relying on some of the spring-planted high tunnel crops while we wait for the season to come on in fully force. Soon!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Envisioning the year …

Drying raspberry leaf for tea (discussed more in newsletter later) — I harvested fresh canes, removed leaves from stem and arranged in this drying rack outside. Then I brought this rack inside to hang from a hook in our living room.

At the beginning of 2020, I thought I had a sense of how the year would go — what growth would happen, how our family would spend our time, what the challenges might be … I “knew” that I was scheduled to attend my first-ever large choir festival in Minneapolis, which would also be my first travel away from the family. I also “knew” that the kids would continue doing their favorite extra-curricular activities away from home with other children. I also “knew” that we’d have a wonderfully full personal calendar of connecting with friends, making music, hosting farm customers on the farm, etc etc etc.

Ah, how plans can quickly unravel. How much can be cancelled so quickly, changing life completely.

We have all now shared (apart) an unexpected constricting of experience and movement for the last two months during the Covid-19 quarantine.

Last Friday, Yamhill County slowly, cautiously began to reopen to business and recreation. The details of that reopening are well beyond the scope of what I want to address here today, but I want to share my own thoughts on how our farm and family are thinking about the rest of 2020 from our new vantage point of pandemic-life.

First of all, Casey and I conferred about how we are operating the CSA — with preorders and packed bags — and decided that we’d like to be conservative and continue using these physical-distance-based operations through the remainder of the 2020 CSA season. Technically, I think our farm could meet the “Phase 1” guidelines for safety with our older methods of a self-serve farm stand, but we feel more comfortable with keeping contact at a minimum for all of our members right now. This system seems to be working well enough for the purpose of delivering fresh produce to our community in a way that doesn’t add much extra work or burden to anyone involved.

The big piece that’s missing, of course, is the social vibrancy and ease of the storefront pick-up — but we will return to that in time. For now, we want to maintain the safest option, knowing that we have many members who will continue to be very conservative in their own choices about socializing and interacting with others this year. We don’t want anyone to feel like they need to make a hard choice between feeling confident about their health and getting vegetables — hopefully continuing with this low-distance option feels very comfortable for everyone.

Also, in the event that the entire community has to pull back again due to an outbreak, we don’t want to have to flip flop back and forth between systems. This is working; it feels safe; it’s easiest to just keep on going with it for now. Thank you so much for your participating in this unexpected evolution of our CSA system and for being respectful of social distancing at pick-up!

On the home front, we’ve been doing similar analysis of our family’s changed lifestyle and how much we want to alter it going forward, knowing that we’re still very much in the midst of a global pandemic (albeit one that, so far, hasn’t hit our community hard). In a similar vein to the pick-up system, at this point we’re emotionally and mentally preparing ourselves for many more months of a very similar lifestyle to what we’ve been doing: mostly staying home, engaging in extra-curriculars and social activities through remote applications like Zoom, focusing our life here more than we have in years.

Depending on how the summer goes, we may stretch ourselves some to include occasional outdoor gatherings that feel very safe — kayaking with friends comes to mind, because being in separate boats seems like an excellent way to keep distance and still be together! But we expect to miss the usual rounds of swim lessons and camps and camping with friends and in-person music lessons and large gatherings with extended family and so much more.

While there are parts of this plan that bring so much sadness and grief, we’re working as a family to focus our attention on the potential gifts in a year spent closer to home. As the children have gotten older (they are 7 and 10 now!), our life has expanded a lot in wonderful ways as the kids have wanted and needed more interactions and opportunities beyond the farm. In recent years, there’s been a fair amount of me playing the quintessential Mommy-chaffeur. In fact, earlier this year we were car shopping, anticipating the need to cart around more than just our kids as they get older and want to do more with friends.

It’s a big shift then to bounce back to a reality much closer to their earliest baby months, when staying close to home was just part of the developmental stage of frequently napping and nursing babies. In fact, I’d say we’re home even more than any period except the first few weeks of the children’s lives.

But, again, there are gifts here. Knowing that this period will pass (pretty please, universe), and knowing — quite frankly — that we don’t have an option, and knowing that — again QUITE frankly — that we’re NOT missing out on anything by staying home (no “FOMO” is a quarantine gift!), we can lean in to the positive aspects of a slower-paced life here.

Casey and I are both excited about the prospect of possibly having more time and energy to attend to all the farm and home projects that inevitably get shifted to the bottom of more urgent lists (or otherwise put off because there are fun trips and things to do in our free time in the summer). The house siding has been needing some work for years, and maybe being home this summer — no weekend camping trips in sight — will be the push we need to get it done. We’re also excited about just knowing that we’ll have time to continue doing our farm work well. It’s a really good feeling to have fewer things competing for our attention. There’s a sense of ease there that has been missing in recent years — even as our lives and days are very full with many obligations, even just removing most of the driving has provided us more time and presence for other things.

I am personally also excited about the ability to reconnect with this place where we live. Part of the appeal of farming and living on farmland was all the romance of homesteading and providing for ourselves. Although we’ve farmed commercially since 2006, our own personal “homesteading” efforts have waxed and waned over the years, depending on how burnt out we have felt by farming and parenting at any given moment in time. There were years when we were making our own yogurt (from our own raw milk!), grinding our own beef, and canning tomatoes. And, then there have been years, when aside from the produce we grow for the CSA, we live and eat more or less “normally” for a contemporary person who cooks from scratch — meaning we buy yogurt, buy ground beef, and just forgo tomatoes completely when they’re not in season. Operating the CSA — and eating the veggies from the farm — is our most consistent connection to the land, and that’s a huge part of why we feel like the CSA is an integral part of our living here at all. It’s how we relate to our land.

But there are other dimensions to living here too that are worth my exploration — things that aren’t connected to the CSA or anything business-related at all. For example, harvesting and drying herbs for our own tea. This is something I dabbled in briefly many years ago (during that same era of making yogurt and grinding meat). Casey and I have a cup of herbal tea every night before bed, and for most of our years of drinking tea we’ve bought prepared teas for this purpose. Occasionally, we’ll harvest and dry nettles or other herbs, but we’ve not kept this habit steadily up enough to forgo purchasing teas.

This year, I’m so happy that I finally developed a better drying system so that hopefully I can make it a regular part of my life — at least during this stay-home year. I have a hanging drying rack that I can pull out from storage and hang in our living room when I’ve harvested. It holds the perfect amount — the two trays hold about one of our blue bins worth of fresh branches or sprigs, which produces about a half gallon of dried crushed herb, depending on the plant. So far this year, it’s been sweet and easy to move from herb to herb as the season has unfolded: nettles to lemon balm to raspberry leaf so far — all harvested here on the farm (I’ve grown many herbs in my garden for their beauty for years) or wildcrafted from areas close-by that we consider an extension of our home.

(Quick important note about the ethics and safety of consuming wild plants: It’s very important when “wildcrafting” to pick from areas familiar to you in order to have a sense of the cleanliness of the plant and also to have a sense of what level of harvest is sustainable for that place and population. For example when wildcrafting nettles, we are careful to take only a small portion of what is growing there. Some plant species are not abundant enough for wildcrafting at all, in which case it is better to buy those herbs from reliable sources such as the Oregon-based company Mountain Rose Herbs. Also, do NOT consume wild plants unless you are confident about making a positive identification. Here in Oregon, we’re lucky to only have a handful of poisonous plants to worry about, but if you plan to wildcraft at all, you should learn to identify those first. I highly recommend referencing multiple field guides and references books to learn plant identification, but the best bet is to consult books and harvest with an experienced guide the first few times. Learning about wild plants is a lifelong journey, one we are happy to be on, but we recommend others start very slowly and carefully.)

Now back to tea making … We have a press pot that I bought at the Velvet Monkey for making the loose tea, making it easy for us to make our evening cup of tea with the loose dried herbs. So far we’ve been focusing on one herb a night, but I like to make blends sometimes too.

Even though much about this spring has felt anxiety-ridden to me, fitting in this very small practice of drying herbs and making tea has been such a sweet gift of the quarantine. Would I have fit this in if our life was on the usual schedule? I don’t know. It’s something I’d been wanting to do for awhile, but life was very full already. I really appreciate the opportunity to engage with our home, and lean on it for nourishment during these hard times. I can also tell you that the tea we drink now has a depth of flavor (and presumably a similarly-matched depth of physical benefit) that blows tea bags out of the water. I mean, there’s really no comparison at all — as you might expect, it’s an equivalent difference between buying frozen broccoli and eating freshly harvested local broccoli.

Another “homesteading” type routine that I’ve brought back into our life is making our own fermented sauerkraut. Again we’ve done this in the past but fallen out of the habit. It’s wonderful to get back in the routine with some new improved tools (I’m using the food processor more now and bought some cool new air-locks for my mason jars), and we are all enjoying the tasty results.

So, there are riches here! There’s also the time to go on walks and fully weed the flower garden and make bouquets for the house and read books together and do puzzles and color. I haven’t personally had as much time for all of these as I’d like this spring because of working on a political campaign, but as I look forward to the rest of 2020 I envision a lot more of these sweet alternatives to camping and driving kids to swim lessons and the like.

I am deeply glad that Yamhill County is slowly reopening business — I am excited to be able to go shopping for new clothes downtown again or maybe even eat out a few times — but for me personally, and for the farm, there’s also no rush to try to regain the old sense of “normal.” I’m okay with taking things slowly, continuing to do my part to reduce the spread of illness, and just really savor what I can this year. Maybe this year I’ll spend more time watching butterflies and hummingbirds visit my flower garden. And, who knows, maybe I’ll even work more on the homeschooling website that I started and never really finished!

Does that mean I won’t miss singing with friends? Of course not. And, I also want to acknowledge that so much of my relative comfort in this scary situation is based in the privilege of having relative stability and lots of resources. But this is my life today. It’s very different than how I expected it to look this year. But this is it. I have this day, and I can find joy in it.

May our [safely-delivered] vegetables be one of those little joys in a year that may look very different than the one you envisioned. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

Casey and I realized last week that the one drawback to our current ordering system is that you all can’t see what looks especially awesome from the fields before you choose. So, I am going to try to highlight particularly awesome vegetables as they come along so that people don’t miss out. (Um, of course, all our vegetables are awesome, but some are awesome-er some weeks.)

This week I want to note that the bok choy has been outstanding these last few weeks! They are large, heavy heads of goodness! If you’re unfamiliar with bok choy, it’s an Asian green in the same wider family as turnips and mustard greens. We usually stir fry it with Pan-Asian flavors like sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. It pairs well with tofu or meat and rice. Very yummy, and these heads have been especially gorgeous.

Now, onto the list. Please place your orders by Tuesday evening!

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Scale matters

Sugar snap peas coming very soon! Lots of them!

Earlier this week I did something that I haven’t had to do in many years. I closed our CSA to new members — not permanently, as we’re continuing to take names for a waiting list and may still let more people in later this year once we get a “feel” for our CSA after we add more members starting in June.

We haven’t had a waiting list for our CSA in quite a long time. For years now, we’ve been in a sweet spot where the demand for our CSA matched up really well with our growing plans every year. Our farm’s production peaked in the years 2012-2014, and since then we’ve been intentionally scaling back our production, meaning that we haven’t had to work hard to retain every single member (let alone work hard to grow our numbers). We’ve still had a steady supply of interested new folks (mostly thanks to word-of-mouth advertising) — just enough to replace the inevitable attrition and fill our program every year without too much effort on our part. We also didn’t have too many people signing up either in these years, as our community has seen tremendous growth in quality local buying options since we started our CSA in 2006. It felt as though we’d hit a groove in our place in the community — our small farm filled a perfect-sized niche for what we were wanting to produce at this point.

But this year, everything feels very different. We are observing a huge renewed interest and demand for locally produced food. Every farm we know is receiving many more queries than typically expected, including us! We’ve been adding new members for a June start because we needed time to actually grow the produce to meet the increased demand.

However, inquiries continued to flow in at a steady rate, and we were realizing that if we keep accepting everyone, our farm would actually have to shift our scale of production. Our tools and rhythms and procedures would no longer be as well suited to what we’re trying to produce.

This isn’t impossible to achieve, of course. We have plenty of land available to grow on. Our farm has operated at a much larger scale in the past, with several employees and machinery running somewhere on the farm during most business hours. But, as we’ve experimented over the years with different ways of running our business, we’ve found that — for us — bigger isn’t better. We operated with just the two of us on the farm for the first three years, which were exhilarating, hard, fruitful years of us building our business from scratch. In our fourth year, we added our first employees (and also a baby!), and things shifted a lot. Over the subsequent years, we added more employees, more land, more equipment, more customers, more different products.

What we found was that every time we scaled up or added something, we were still always just shy of feeling like we could really meet our goals for the farm, whether those be financial or agricultural. I think a lot of businesses feel that pinch and think that maybe in the next scaling up, I’ll get closer to my goals.

Thankfully we had had our earlier experience of operating a farm with just our labor, and we remembered how that felt. Certainly it was (and is) a lot of work, but we also experienced a large amount of flexibility in operating a smaller farm with fewer people. We found that it was easier to save money for important purchases without an ongoing payroll. We also found that we could be incredibly efficient when all our labor (i.e. us) already knows how to do all the work and well. No teaching required!

So, from our peak in 2014, we’ve slowly worked our way back to a two-person farm. We said good-bye to our last (very beloved) employee at the end of 2015.

Our farm today isn’t exactly like it was in those early years. In some ways, it’s much simpler and smaller. We spend fewer hours overall per week farming — partly because we’re not in “building” and partly because we’re more efficient at the work and partly because we have better tools. We have more high tunnels, which has helped tremendously with our shoulder season growing. But our farm is also much more diverse in terms of crops and growing methods now too. We have two mature fruit orchards (we planted them in 2009 and 2010). We also now grow micro-scale OLCC-licensed cannabis as well as operating the CSA. Also, Casey and I both have full-time jobs aside from the farm as well: he’s a county commissioner and I homeschool our two growing kids.

We love the balance of the work on the farm these days. The scale of the farm feels very sustainable to us — it’s big enough to justify its existence and pay its own costs, helps our family earn an income, and feeds a large number of people in our community (we’re providing food for 50 households every week right now, and that will go up in June). But, the farm is also not so big that we can’t run it well and we can still take on these other projects in our life too. We love being able to really pay attention to every part of the farm in a significant way. We missed that intimacy when we were bigger and there was more to manage. We love this work, and we love doing it at this scale.

And so, this year for the first time we had to pull back and reaffirm that we really truly do want to stay a small farm. We do hope people who are interested in the CSA will contact us about the waiting list, since we could very well find ourselves in July with more extra produce (and more extra time) than we predicted.

In regular farm news, we planted in the fields this week, and more will come soon! We also received our potato seed order (finally!) and will be getting those in the field soon along with winter squash transplants. I’m always amazed at how early in the season we plant for the next fall and winter of eating. And, right around the corner are more good spring treats …

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
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Planting season is on!

Freshly planted cauliflower!

This weekend brought a LOT of rain to the farm — big storms rolled in over and over again. On Saturday, we mostly did odd jobs around the farm and house, and it was actually rather lovely to watch the really hard rain. It made me realize how here in the Willamette Valley we have a lot of drizzly days but big downpours are much less common.

That being said, we also had a lot of flats of starts in our greenhouse ready to plant and we really can’t plant outside in that kind of rain — aside from how hard it is to physically do, it also just makes a lot of mud and is super counter-productive. Thankfully we have high tunnels on the farm! And two were just about ready to plant, so on Sunday morning we mostly filled them with all kinds of exciting summer things: cauliflower and zucchini and sunflowers and tomatoes and lettuce and cucumbers and melons and beans and more!

Before too long, we will plant outside too. The ground is ready; we just need the dry weather to make planting possible. It will happen!

And, good thing, because now that we’re in May we’re seeing the beginning of a big shift in vegetables — we’re moving out of the over-wintered crops and more into the spring planted items. This week’s exciting new item are fava beans. These are the fresh stage when the peeled inner beans are delicious to even eat raw!

If you’re new to fava beans, there are two ways to eat them. The traditional Italian way to prepare fava beans is to shuck the beans out of the big fluffy pods, then peel the white layer off of the inner bright green bean. Yes, this is work (the Italians founded the “Slow Food” movement after all), but it results in a real treat. You can throw these green beans into a salad or sauté with butter and green garlic and toss with pasta or blanch and purée into a paste to spread on toast.

Alternately, if you don’t want to go through all the work of shucking and peeling, we discovered years ago that you can eat fava beans whole if you roast or grill them. We usually roast them: tossing with olive oil and then spreading them in a single layer in a pan and roasting at a high temp (425°) until they are browned and soft all the way through. Liberal salt is good. Warning: they’re rather sloppy to eat. We just put them whole on our plates and eat with our fingers.

We’ll have fava beans more than one week this spring, so we encourage you to try both approaches at least once! Our typical trajectory is to start with the slow, laborious route the first few times we eat fava beans in the season. Then we switch to the simpler method as we get more immersed in spring work and just want to eat dinner five minutes ago.

And more good treats lie ahead of us! Casey’s a surfer, and I always love the imagery of the growing season being one long beautiful wave that we get to ride from May to October. Here we go! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Saving or savoring?

These lilacs were telling me: “Stop your running around! Notice how lovely I smell! Make a bouquet!” So I did.

I ran across the best quote in a book I was reading earlier:

“I arise every morning torn between the desire to save the world and the desire to savor the world. It makes it hard to plan the day.”

~ T.H. White (author of The Once and Future King)

Can anybody else relate? I definitely can! — especially in light of the last few weeks of social distancing. I know that for most people this has been a extremely hard season of life, potentially being cut off from soul-feeding work, from loved ones, for normalcy and predictability.

However, I have also heard reports of people finding solace in their newly expansive days: taking long walks, doing jigsaw puzzles, stretching their bodies, reading books with their children, gardening, baking bread. I know that hasn’t been true for all, but the slower pace has been beneficial in its odd unexpected way for many, even as it has mingled with grief and frustration and fear. I hope that this positive taste of slowness is something that lingers, with renewed appreciation for all these simple joys that can be cherished at home alone or with our closest loved ones.

Casey and I have not been able to dip quite as deeply into the wellness of slowness out here on the farm. In some ways, much has been been “pruned” from our lives. We stay on the farm almost all the time, eliminating a lot of driving time that was just a normal, expected part of our daily life. But, even then, with all the hats we wear, our days have been extra full. As you know Casey is both a farmer and a County Commissioner (and the board chair this year), and he has taken on full responsibility for the county’s coronavirus response. He spends hours every day reading the latest research and news and corresponding with people in the county and state about what needs to happen next, whether that’s offering grants to small businesses or contact tracing or connecting local manufacturers of PPEs with buyers.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to homeschool the children (something that was already normal for us but has less built-in breaks now that we can’t do our extra-curriculars), helping the McMinnville Women’s Choir fundraise (since we had to cancel our concert), and helping to running a local election campaign that I am passionate about. It’s been a LOT.

Oh, and also? It’s spring! So there’s plenty for us to do on the farm too. Because each of Casey’s hats (commissioner/farmer) are so different, the balance works for him. I can tell you from first-hand experience of knowing Casey since he was 19 that “resting” is not really a thing for him. He has a lot of natural in-born energy, and he’s like a work dog that will start chewing on the couch if it can’t work. When we were in college, he’d regularly start his day working in the biochemistry research lab at 6 am, then attend his classes, then go on a ten-mile (or longer run), then do some homework, then make dinner (and then fall asleep on the couch in the evening).

I, on the other hand, feel more stretched thin in my many roles. Casey and I both savor the world, but we do it in different ways. I love having quiet time to just sit. Or, yes, take long leisurely walks or even do puzzles while listening to audiobooks! Looking back on recent years, I think I’ve let a lot of this savoring time slide. Surprisingly, when the kids were young, they actually forced me to do more slow-paced things like going on weekly nature outings that were deliciously slow (kid-paced) and forced me to really see and hear and smell and touch (and sometimes even taste!) all that was around me.

Those outings and similar occasions when all I “had” to do was be with the children were really lovely (especially once they were at least old enough to not pinch and bite each other or need me to wipe their butts — I will be real about that!).

But as the kiddos have grown older, we’ve prioritized more structured activities for them and when we are on the farm, they’re so much more independent that I find myself filling those lazy afternoons now with work (such as helping with a campaign). Also, the quarantine itself interrupted two much-needed “mini-vacations” Casey and I had planned this spring, and of course we just filled that time with work!

The obvious answer to T.H. White is that we don’t have to choose either in life. A full, well-lived life will probably be comprised of lots of both saving and savoring. And, in many ways each contains part of the other. Why would I care to save a world I didn’t savor? How could I savor a world I didn’t help take responsibility for? But, there’s probably a really important balance-point to be found in every life. Some of us, like Casey, can probably lean more heavily toward the active work part, finding energy in that act itself. Others of us, perhaps like myself, need to build in more of the savoring in order to remember why in the world we were doing all that work to begin with!

I’ve always loved the concepts of keeping a Sabbath or taking sabbaticals. Our faith traditions have built-in reminders that we do need pauses, time to just cherish the gifts of our life rather than always racing on to the next Very Important Project. I also appreciate the idea that the work we do can have rhythms, whether that be daily (time for each in the day), weekly (taking one day off out of every seven) or more seasonal (vacations, sabbaticals). Scheduling, of course, is the very conundrum I think White was talking about! It’s not that life can’t have both saving and savoring; it’s more an issue of how to schedule both. But, regardless, I think it is essential for all of us to step back to assess, rest, and actively just enjoy these lives we get to live

(Which is also part of why our family takes summer off from learning even though many other homeschooling families go year-round. I love seeing the kids embrace their free-time in the summer, and I love seeing how many huge leaps they make when they jump back into school work with fresh energy and a slightly more developed brain.)

Looking past election day (May 19!) and the end of our family’s school year, I am already planning to shift the balance for the next season of my life — namely, this coming summer. Because I’m a list maker, I’ve even started making lists of how I want to spend our days, shaping them on the assumption that we still probably won’t be leaving the farm as much as we might normally do in summer. Farm work will of course be a priority, but at this point much of that work feels like it falls more heavily in the savoring category for both Casey and me — it forces us outside, working together, in the natural world. Since it isn’t the same 24/7 work it used to be, we find ourselves very renewed by it. But I also plan to go on bike rides with the kids, knit, play music, work in my own garden, and even (yes, I put this on my list) “read and/or take naps in the hammock.” (Apparently I have to put naps on a list in order to give myself permission to take them!)

I’ll be honest that I’m pretty exhausted by this entire spring — by the uncertainty and the unexpected work to do without the usual joys of singing with friends. I’m sure many others feel the same (certainly all the parents out there who are having to work remotely while also take charge of educating their own children!). It’s been a trying season in so very many ways.

I encourage other people to think about what could be removed from their plate in the coming weeks or months. I’m mentally preparing myself for potentially another year with quite a lot of cancellations and possibly massive disappointments. For sure no summer trips to Europe (or for me Minneapolis) or even to go camping at Silver Falls will be happening this summer. There will be relationships stretched thin by distance. There will be continued uncertainty and fear probably for awhile yet to come … but the world is still here for us to savor. I’m working on what that looks like for me — what might it look like for you to savor, even now?

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

Place your order:

Please select the vegetable items you'd like to receive this week, to total to your share size. If you order 2 (or 3) of something, it counts as 2 (or 3) items. Some items are limited, as marked.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment