Welcome!

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The farm family in 2016

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

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Looking to winter …

Most of the leaves have fallen from trees along our creek now …

Here we are, at the end of another wonderful CSA year. We’ve once again walked through the seasons together, tasting everything from the tender spring Asian greens to sweet crunchy peas to bright corn on the cob to the tartness of apples.

And, again, we are filled with gratitude for it all — for the nourishment we’ve shared from this land and for the connections that have grown between people. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: thank you for being a part of this growing community. Thank you for seeking a different kind of eating experience, one that allows you to put your roots deeper into this place where we all live. Thank you for every good conversation, for every recipe tip shared, for every dollar you’ve invested in your local economy.

Now is the time for our family to follow the lead of the natural world and take a pause from the rhythm of harvesting so that we can do winter’s work: rest, of course (which is the work of winter!); followed by clean-up, orchard maintenance, infrastructure repair and maintenance, and (surprisingly soon) seed orders and sowing. We’re looking forward to the shift in our daily and weekly routine, especially as we feel the built-up pressure of deferred projects (and some deferred rest too!).

Last week I shared news for next year’s season (our 15th season), and we’re taking sign-ups now. You can sign up easily at this week’s pick-up, or send me an email with your contact info and desired share option for 2020.

Before we’re completely done for the season, however, we do have our two Holiday Harvests coming up! The first is our Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest. See the list of what’s available below, and then please place your orders by Sunday evening! Email us your orders to farm(at)oakhillorganics(dot)com, and we’ll harvest and have it ready for you to pick-up at the CSA storefront Tuesday, November 26, 4-6 pm. This is an opportunity for you to share our good veggies with your loved ones as you celebrate, but you’re also welcome to just stock your pantry!

Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest availability list:

  • Apples — Goldrush (yellow) or Cortland (red), order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Seasonal salad mix —  order by the bag ~ $4/0.5 lb bag
  • Brussels sprouts — order by the pound ~ $5/lb
  • Kale — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch
  • Chard — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch
  • Cabbage — order by the each ~ $2/lb
  • Potatoes — order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Beets — order by the pound ~ $2.50/lb
  • Carrots — order by the pound ~ $3/lb
  • Pie pumpkins — order by the each ~ $2/lb
  • Leeks — order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch

Our Winter Holiday Harvest will be on December 20 — we’ll email you a week ahead of time with a link to the list and a reminder to order!

Again, thank you for being a part of our farm and the wider community this year! It was been an honor to farm for you! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Leeks
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2020’s CSA!

Today was another beautiful day for CSA harvest!

This week marks our second-to-last CSA harvest of the 2019 season. Next week, November 21, will be our final pick-up! Which means that it’s definitely time to begin thinking about next year’s season … our fifteenth season growing food for our community!

This has been a wonderful year, and when we were planning for next we decided to very much continue in the same vein in terms of season length, scale, and certainly our tried-and-true customer-friendly pick-up style.

Here are the basic details (and I’ve also updated the website with this information as well):

  • 33 weeks, running April 2 through November 12
  • CSA pick-up on Thursdays, 3:00-6:00
  • Same prices for shares:
    • Medium share (5 items/week) ~ $495
    • Large share (8 items/week) ~ $792
    • X-Large share (12 items/week) ~ $1188
    • Custom share size (you choose the number of items) ~ price varies
    • “A la carte” flexible CSA ~ you deposit a sum of money ($300 minimum) to create a balance and then work off that balance throughout the season, allowing households that need more flexibility to still participate in our CSA program without committing to a set amount of produce every single week (please note: no balance can be carried past end of 2020)

We will have a clipboard out at pick-up this week for easy-peasy CSA sign-ups! As always, there’s no need to pay anything now; we just know that it’s easier for people to commit now and not worry about their CSA over the next few months. We’ll contact you again when it’s time to pay and begin picking up!

We also still have two Holiday Harvests coming! More information about our Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest in next week’s newsletter!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Chicory salad mix
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Golden chard
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Winter squashes — lots of kinds!
  • Leeks
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Deeper into the season

So much fog in the mornings lately!

Halloween has come and gone. We had a blast being downtown during the giant Halloween block party last week — what a joyous occasion (the dry weather helped!)

And, now, we are deeper into autumn. This week has brought us mornings (and even sometimes whole days) of dense fog. We’ve built more fires in the wood stove to keep warm. When I took a neighbor on a quick tour of the farm yesterday, there was very little to see — most of the vegetables having been harvested or looking humble under the low dusky light. It’s starting to feel sleepy and restful out there.

The shift also has us looking ahead to the rest of this year and even next. We’re still working through details for next year’s CSA season and will “publish” those next week, but we want to make sure you have these important remaining 2019 dates on your calendars:

  • Thursday, November 21 ~ This year’s final CSA pick-up!
  • Tuesday, November 26 ~ Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest … we’ll include the availability list in our final newsletter. Email us your order by Sunday evening!
  • Friday, December 20 ~ Winter Holiday Harvest & CSA open house at storefront … we’ll email the availability list a week ahead of time. Even if you don’t place an order, we invite folks to drop by for cider and treats and to celebrate!

Also, while you have your calendars out, I want to invite you to the McMinnville Women’s Choir’s winter concert on Saturday, December 7. We’ll have two performances, at 3 and 7 pm. This year’s theme is “Turn the World Around,” and we’ll be singing winter holiday songs from many traditions in many languages! You can find out more and buy tickets at EventBrite: click here.

Hopefully, you’re looking forward to many other November and December occasions. This is such a full season, even as we go into restful mode many of us pack our schedules with time to connect and celebrate. It is good!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Goldrush apples
  • Mixed chicory salad
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Fennel bulb
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Rainbow chard
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Leeks
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In praise of chicories

This week’s beautiful chicory mix!

While we are gearing up for plain old Halloween here in Yamhill County (see our note below about logistics!), in Seattle this week chefs, farmers, and eaters are celebrating “Chicory Week” — a week-long festival celebrating all things chicory.

Their timing is perfect, of course, seeing as how we are entering the long, beautiful chicory season now, which lines up with our coldest, darkest months.

Before we farmed ourselves, Casey and I couldn’t have told you much about the diverse, delicious chicory family of greens. Back then, salads meant lettuce, or maybe spinach. But, as we began creating the seasonal flow of vegetables for our year-round CSA, chicories quickly came to the forefront as a perfect green for the shoulder seasons.

So, what are chicories? Technically, “chicory” is a big family of greens that does include lettuce (and also dandelions!). But, when used as a culinary distinction, chicory refers to specific greens that are similar but also fundamentally different from lettuce — most of them with an Italian agricultural and culinary heritage. The chicory most people are familiar with is the vibrant red and white radicchio (so beautiful!), but the Italians have bred many more kinds, each with distinct coloration, flavor and shape. Some, like typical radicchio, are round and tightly wrapped. Others have a long shape. Others have even been selected for the shoots that grow out of the tops! Colors range from deep red to pink to dark green to chartreuse, with lots of bright white mixed in.

And, now, why do we love them so? From a farming standpoint, they fit a niche for salad greens that can be harvested even in the cold and wet months. They’re perfect for places like the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, the Willamette Valley) or Italy, where winters are generally milder, but still too dark, cold and wet for tender lettuces. We sow ours in late-summer, which gives them many months to grow and head up before the cold really hits. Most vegetables do very little growing in the darkest months, so we actually do much of our cold season cultivation in those last few months and weeks of summer, to get plants established that can hang out in the winter fields for harvest (or regrowth in the spring).

Once the radicchios and other chicories are a good size, they can withstand quite a lot of our typical winter weather, although you might not know it looking at our winter fields. At this point in the fall, you can more or less “see” the chicories when you look at a row, but by January or February, you will mostly see slimy leaves over round shapes. But, this, my friends is the true miracle of chicories …

Come mid-winter, we can cut those heads and with a few deft hand movements, peel back the protective outer wrapper leaves and find inside a brilliant, beautiful head of radicchio. Our other favorite type of chicory, castelfranco, has even withstood temperatures as low as 5.8F and still remained harvest-able and delicious! Not only does the cold not hurt chicories, it can enhance their coloration and flavor — producing brighter hues and mellowing the bitterness associated with these greens.

Because, yes, they are more bitter than lettuce or many other traditional salad greens. For chicory newbies, this can be a surprise at first. They are also sturdier in their texture — more toothsome, you might say. The Italians, some of the world’s first “foodies”! — have long delighted in that combination, and I think Americans in general have missed out on some of the great eating experiences that come with appreciating a full range of flavor palettes.

(We’ve missed out from a health-standpoint as well, as bitter vegetables aid in our digestion — but I tend to personally avoid arguments such as “Eat your vegetables, because they’re good for you,” favoring the “eat veggies because they’re delicious” approach.)

So, if you’re new to chicories, how should you begin learning to love this green?

First, appreciate its beauty, because this is a darned beautiful family of greens. This week’s mix is a great showcase of chicories’ wide range of shapes and colors.

Second, serve it like the Italians. You actually can just make a normal salad out of this mix, and Casey and I often do. But chicories can handle a much heavier salad dressing than lettuce, so think of your creamiest or thickest dressing. They also benefit from being dressed prior to serving, as the wilting can increase the eating pleasure. Some people even dress chicories salads with warm dressings to further wilt the leaves (bacon is often a component of such a salad — just saying).

Finally, eat it. I mean, give it a try again and again. With different toppings, dressings, etc. Casey and I have gotten to the point where we love these cold season salads so much that the idea of eating lettuce when it is cold outside sounds about as good as eating a popsicle! Our bodies crave the different texture and flavor this time of year, and we find that the bitter flavor of our salads offsets the sweeter flavors of the many roots and squashes we eat. There’s a sense of balance on our plates — vibrant, bitter salads next to bright orange, sweet squash. Such combinations have come to viscerally define our cold season eating experiences.

I know I often wax poetic about the joys of seasonal eating, and this is a great specific example of why I love eating what it is in season. My entire body, inside and out, gets to feel different in different parts of the year. Every sense is aligned with the shifts of the natural world.

And, why does this matter? One, it reminds me that I’m part of the natural world too. But, it’s also just interesting. And I think human beings like interesting things! It is interesting to experience the seasons change — to feel biting cold on my cheeks again for the first time in months, to see the falling leaves from the trees, to hear the geese honking as they fly over head, to smell the smoke from the wood stove. Likewise, it is interesting to taste new flavors — each successive apple variety as they ripen, the first of the Brussels sprouts (in this week’s share!), and yes even the bitter of the chicories, which be a mainstay going forward now.

May this meditation on chicories help motivate you to learn to love this truly wonderful family of greens. Enjoy all of this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Important note about Halloween pick-up!

As a reminder, tomorrow is Halloween! There is a trick-or-treating event on 3rd Street from 4-6 pm, which may increase congestion in the area. We will be open at 3 pm if you want to come before the event starts. Casey will also stick around until 7 pm (rather than the usual 6:30) so if you need to come later, he’ll be there. We hope it all goes smoothly for everyone!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Goldrush apples — One of our all-time favorite apples, for many of the same reasons we love chicories — it is an outstanding addition to our cold season CSA, capable of storing in good condition for months and months in our cooler. It has a very different flavor profile than other apples too, being exceptionally strong in flavor. It’s so sweet that I wouldn’t describe it as tart at all, but there is the complexity that an underlying tartness brings to the flavor too. It also has a unique texture.
  • Cortland apples
  • Mixed chicory salad mix
  • Brussels sprouts!
  • Fennel bulbs — Another great Italian vegetable! This time of year, I recommend adding chopped fennel bulb to a pan of mixed roasted vegetables for a very satisfying, warming dish.
  • Dinosaur kale
  • Rainbow chard
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Delicata winter squash
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Almost Halloween …

Annual photo of our giant walnut tree in full fall color!

It’s really been a beautiful fall. What fall isn’t, really? Some are sunnier. Some are rainier. Many bring both kinds of weather into our lives in doses that keep us on our toes and interested in what every day will bring — so unlike the monotony that can set in during summer (dry, hot) or winter (wet, gray).

And, then there are fall days like today, when the foliage is at its peak of color and the sun comes out, shining its natural golden filter over everything. Be still my heart amidst all this splendor! It was an perfect day to harvest, and the vegetables match in flavors and tone: savory leeks for cold weather stews paired with golden pie pumpkins and yellow chard. Yum!

And, in other fall news, a few important notes for next week. This will be the first time we’ve hosted CSA pick-up downtown on Halloween day. You may be aware that there is a well-attended trick-or-treating event on 3rd Street from 4-6 pm. The event itself will take place only on 3rd Street, but it’s possible that this event could affect parking and increase congestion, so if you are able we recommend coming on the early side next week.

We won’t have candy, but we will be in costume ourselves and would love to see others in costume too! I have to admit that I used to feel rather underwhelmed about Halloween (even though I have always loved fall!), but somehow Dottie got Halloween on her radar at a young age and she has really inspired me to love this holiday too! She’s all about the spooky-goofiness of it all, and so now I find myself smiling at yards full of skeletons and of course the classic pumpkins. Death is a hard reality for us all, and I love the childish response to make fun of it for one night of the year (or embrace it, depending on your view — but I think most of Halloween is akin to Carnival, a riotous way to process hard realities through laughter and goofy joy).

But that’s next week! This week we’re graced with this golden fall goodness. Soak it up! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cortland apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Golden chard
  • Broccoli — This has been a stellar broccoli season. The mild summer combined with good rainfall followed by nicer weather is exactly the perfect set of conditions for growing big, beautiful broccoli with lots and lots of tasty side shoots. We hope you’ve been loving the broccoli abundance as much as we have!
  • Cabbage
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins! — We’re bringing some jack-o-lantern pumpkins to pick-up tomorrow! If you still need a pumpkin for your porch, pick one up!
  • “Elba” potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
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Through poetry’s lens

Beautiful fall dinosaur kale!

The kids and I cuddle up to begin our school day today and opened with poetry, as we do most days. Right now we’re reading poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and today we read “The Rainy Day,” which says, “The day is cold, and dark, and dreary” etc.

And, yes, it was indeed! The kids remarked on how fitting the imagery was in the poem in relation to the world outside. In our case, we were not feeling depressed or down like the narrator, but nonetheless we felt a kinship because it felt very true that “Into each life some rain must fall”!

Poetry has a remarkable way of connecting with our lives, in big and small ways. Unlike a novel, or even an essay, which have room for multiple characters and story development — which may or may not resonate — poems paint pictures. Pictures of scenes, emotions, brief events. They are like distilled snapshots of life — no less deep for their brevity. I love this about poetry, how in just a few lines a poet can touch upon truths and experiences that help me more clearly see my own. And, perhaps more importantly, help put my perspective and experiences in the context of humanity and the wider world.

Interactions with and observations of the natural world have prompted some of the best poetry. One of our personal favorite poets is, of course, Wendell Berry the quintessential farmer poet from Kentucky. He famously wrote that “eating is an agricultural act,” and I would add that for Berry farming seems to be a poetical act! Being a poet and writer seems to have opened his senses to his experience of the land so that basic work becomes the inspiration for a bounty of poems. His experience with the land inspires him to see and write differently, and then we receive the gift of his poems, which inspire us readers to also see differently.

We’ve loved sharing favorite poems with you all over the years, both in newsletters and on the big chalkboard at pick-up. Our work out here is very physical and in that way quite straightforward. We work the soil. We plant seeds. We bunch kale. We wash bins. But, even though neither Casey or I are poets, like Berry, we experience more than just the soil and sun as we work. Harvest days have often felt like alchemy, as our hands reach into rows of plants and transform their sometimes scraggly growth into bins full of beautiful, clean vegetables for our community. There are countless moments that beg to be distilled.

I do my best to share some of those experiences in the long essay form, but I am so grateful to the work of poets who can take the profound and mundane moments of life and work alchemy of their own, to share with us all.

If you don’t currently include poetry as a regular part of your life, I encourage you to make room for it. Long ago, when we lived at Holden Village, we learned that poetry is really best appreciated read aloud with others. There, we were regulars at “Poetry, wine and chocolate” nights — a great tradition that begs to be repeated elsewhere. All you have to do is pile books of good poetry* around the room, serve some wine and chocolate, and take turns reading! Easiest party to host ever!

We haven’t hosted such parties of our own, but we do read poetry, both as part of the kids school routine and on special occasions. When Rusty was little, I even compiled a spiral notebook of my favorite seasonal poems that are suitable for reading before meals. That book also forms the basis of what I write on the chalkboard at CSA pick-up.

In closing, I want to share one of those poems, fitting for this moment in Autumn, by another of our favorite poets. As you read, think about how the poem changes what you feel. Think about how it provides an opportunity to pause, the see the autumn world a little differently. Think about how awesome poetry is!

Linger in Happiness
Mary Oliver

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear—but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

* Don’t know where to begin finding “Good Books of Poetry”? I recommend reading The Poetry of Presence: an Anthology of Mindfulness Poems. This is an amazing compilation of poems from many great poets. Start here, and you’ll begin to learn the names of poets you want to spend more time with going forward. Also, Oregon has produced many great poets: William Stafford (and his son Kim Stafford), Brian Doyle, Ursula LeGuin, and the very local Bethany Lee and Ellen Summerfield! I’ve also found some great books just browsing at the library in the poetry section!

~ ~ ~

Upcoming dates: I wanted to remind you of important dates this fall … we’re getting close to the end of the season!

  • Thursday, November 21 — Our final CSA pick-up of the year! (Week 33!)
  • Tuesday, November 26 — Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest! (veggie list will be in final week’s newsletter and orders will need to be placed by Sunday evening)
  • Friday, December 20 — Winter Holiday Harvest & Open House! (veggie pick-up and Open House at storefront — we’ll email veggie list week ahead of time! We’ll have some treats at the storefront if folks want to linger and visit!)

 

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — More of the yummy Jonagold apples … even more different varieties yet to come this fall!
  • Pears
  • Fall salad mix — A colorful mix of cooler season greens: escarole, radicchio, arugula, and mizuna.
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Broccoli & cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
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Root parade

Just for fun: a late blooming sunflower in the fields on this sunny afternoon!

What a beautiful day for harvest! Casey and I enjoyed ourselves very much in the fields this afternoon. It was a treat to be in the warm sun, although there was still a chill in the air (and certainly in the shadows). Another frost is predicted for tonight, and I believe it!

Rather than waxing poetic about this moment on the farm this week, I want to share a story from the past that is culinarily appropriate for the fall shares. I’ve shared this story before, but it’s one of those stories I love telling over and over again.

A long, long, long time ago (probably around 2003 or so), Casey and I once lived in Bellingham, Washington and were young married students, still learning so much about the world. One of the things we were learning and thinking about was how to keep house in a sustainable way, including the importance (we learned!) of eating local vegetables in season. This was a very new idea to us at the time! There were cold season vegetables that we had rarely eaten and certainly never cooked before that we now noticed in the produce department. We knew we weren’t going to eat tomatoes in fall and winter anymore, so what would we eat? It turns out that we would eat vegetables like beets and carrots and potatoes and cabbages and leeks — staple foods for the cold seasons of our CSA.

So, one day I decided to buy several of these relatively new-to-me vegetables. Since we weren’t using plastic bags, I put them straight into my cart and then straight onto the check-out conveyor belt at our local food co-op. I lined them all up — potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and more — and watched them move toward the checker. As they moved toward the checker, I laughed and said, “Look, it’s a root parade!”

I have to admit, the checker (who was probably tired and uninterested) didn’t find my joke as funny as I did. But that night when we chopped all those vegetables and roasted them, Casey and I enjoyed the colorful and flavorful results of our “root parade” very much, and that name has since stuck around to be used anytime we roast a pan of mixed root vegetables (often plus other items too).

This is definitely the season for making root parade! It’s easy! You can include non-root vegetables too, of course (such as winter squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, even cabbage), but roots make a great foundation for roasted vegetables. Chop them into bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind cooking times. Beets, for example, take longer to cook than potatoes or carrots, so I chop them smaller. Broccoli and cauliflower are less dense and can be left larger.

Once everything is chopped, put it in a pan, being careful not to overload (or veggies will steam rather than roast), add butter or olive oil, salt, and then roast at a high temperature until everything is soft inside and crispy outside. You’ll want to stir occasionally during cooking. If you have a convection oven, definitely use the convection setting, as the moving air will help everything crisp up. So will letting the vegetables briefly stand out of the oven before you serve them up.

There are other wonderful ways to enjoy all these good fall foods too. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Jonagold apples — With each new variety of apples that matures, I think,“Wow, this is outstanding. This is my favorite apple.” The Jonagolds are no exception — I’m blown away by their crispy texture and delicious sweet complex flavor.
  • Pears
  • Sweet peppers
  • HOT peppers — Folks have been asking, and the hot peppers are finally ready! We will CLEARLY mark these at pick-up.
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower
  • Golden chard
  • Spaghetti squash — Now that it’s cooler out, it’s definitely the season for eating yummy, warm spaghetti squash. Maybe you’re like I used to be and think you don’t like spaghetti squash. The spaghetti squash I remember from being a child is fairly bland in my memory. It’s hard to assess such things through memory, but looking back I’d guess those squash either weren’t super mature (as was the case for much of the winter squash I ate in cooler Washington State actually!) or was a less flavorful variety than we grow today. While our spaghetti squash make a fairly neutral base for all kinds of dishes, I think they have lots of flavor on their own too. Once again, our favorite way to prepare these squash is to cut in half lengthwise (which is challenging, yes), remove seeds/pulp, and then bake cut-side up in the oven (drizzled with olive oil or butter and salt). Bake until the squash is cooked through and the “noodles” can be easily forked out.
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini — Definitely the very last of the year’s zucchini since the plants are mostly dead and we’re expecting our fourth frost of the fall tonight.
  • Potatoes — The potatoes seem especially beautiful this week!
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A week full of fall

It’s OCTOBER!

I love the seasons of change: spring and fall, the times when we shift most profoundly from dark to light and then back again. In each season, I find myself watching for the next sign of change. In spring, it’s the subsequent unfolding of flowers and leaves. In fall, the signs of the shift come in many forms.

Last week when the kids and I went on our nature outing at Willamette Mission State Park, we looked for various signs of fall. I was surprised by some of what we noted — phenomena that are definitely autumnal, but didn’t fit my typical list (and many that do!). We saw hops on the vine, nettles that had freshly sprouted thanks to rain, acorns and hazelnuts beginning to gather under trees, and of course the first of the crispy leaves falling on the path.

Bear’s Head mushroom

Since then, though, it’s been a fall-a-palooza around here. We built our first fire in the woodstove over the weekend in response to chillier temperatures. We found our first edible mushroom in the forest (and ate it! Yum!).

We also witnessed, for the first time in our memory, a migration of turkey vultures! Turkey vultures are regular summer residents here on the island, and we always delight in their return in spring (and have even noticed a few with particular wing markings who we recognize from year to year). But we’ve never particularly noticed the moment of their departure. Unlike Canada geese, turkey vultures are silent birds, and they don’t travel in such clear formations. Even when we saw them this weekend, at first they just looked like normal turkey vultures, circling on the air currents. Until we realized how very many of them there were circling, and we noticed that more and more were coming from the north and the whole swirling cloud was flying south (still in their circular soaring way). We can’t say whether any of those turkey vultures were “our” island neighbors, but it is certainly time for birds to begin migrating en masse, one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

And, in terms of fall’s arrival, Casey woke up me this morning singing, “Ding dong the zucchini are dead!” Because we had our first frost on Monday, followed by another this morning! Although not unheard of, I’d say that frosts at the end of September and beginning of October are on the very early side. Our crops will all be fine. Anything that needs protection is in a high tunnel, and the cold weather will help our Brussels sprouts get sweeter (we’ll harvest the first of those tasty green treats soon!).

Trying out our pumpkins after dark

The kids are very excited about all of this cool fall stuff! They love this time of year. Dottie and I harvested pumpkins for our porch, which the kids have already carved! I doubt they’ll hold up through the whole month, but I’m sure the kids will be happy to carve more later too!

To share in the October love, we harvested the first of the pie pumpkins for this week’s share. They’re big enough to use as decoration and delicious enough to eat! (Or one and then the other!). If you’ve never worked with fresh whole pumpkins before, the easiest way to cook the flesh is to bake the pumpkin whole. Removing the stem will help it fit in your oven. We like to poke a few holes in the top to help release steam. Be sure to put it in a pan, because it will get juicy! You’ll know your pumpkin is cooked through, when you can very easily slide a paring knife through the skin and flesh.

Once it’s cooked, you can cut it open and let it cool. At that point, the seeds and pulp should come out easily with a spoon, and the skin will just peel off. You can use the cooked pumpkin in any recipe calling for pumpkin! Pumpkin bread, pie, soup, etc.

We will probably make something yummy with pumpkin this week, but I’m definitely scheduling a batch of beef and vegetable soup for the weekend. It’s been months now since we’ve made soup, and I’m ready! My standard soup is very simple: I cook beef bones and meat in the crock pot overnight (with just a few bay leaves), then strain the broth, pick the meat and add whatever veggies are around. Cabbage, carrots and onions are a favorite. If we have leftover rice from another meal, we’ll add that as well.

However you prepare them, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Pears
  • Concord grapes
  • Liberty apples
  • Sweet peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Pie pumpkins
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Fall & the ephemeral

Making ephemeral nature art while Mokum cat chills nearby

Monday was the fall equinox, the time when day and night match in length, the marker of our entry into the next season.

Autumn. It’s a time of senescence. Most plant-life has matured, produced fruit and seeds if they do so, and is now shifting back toward winter mode. Leaves will lose their green color and float to the ground. Annual plants will brown, wither, and melt into the soil, leaving next year’s growth to the promise of seeds.

It is a time when the world reminds us so viscerally: “This too will pass.” All of it. In Autumn, the ephemeral nature of our existence is on beautiful, vibrant display.

We can respond in many ways. I think feeling some amount of grief is a natural response, and fall triggers those feelings for many people (even as others delight in pulling out sweaters and drinking pumpkin spice lattés!). I think many of us can share in Demeter’s grief as her daughter Persephone returned to the underworld for three months every year. Grief is certainly a real, human response to the ephemeral quality of our lives. Woven into the fabric of every beautiful relationship is the reality that it will end, somehow, someday. Before we kiss our loves on our wedding day, people traditionally said “until death,” acknowledging that future end. New parents feel this dual reality so keenly from day one of their child’s lives — the intense joy/pain of loving another person so fiercely while also being so keenly aware of their vulnerability.

So, there may be grief. But, there is also the potential for deep and profound love and awe when we acknowledge the ephemeral nature of flowers, of relationships, of communities, of people. Out of fear of future grief, should we not love the world because it changes? Because seasons take turns in the course of the year? Because plants die to make room for next year’s seeds?

Should we not love our babies because this stage of life is so passing too? That is not what my heart says. My hearts say to savor, to kiss those toes while they are tiny, to treasure the beautiful moments that we know are fleeting.

We were all babies once. We have been many things. Each season of our life passes to make room for the next one, for the next stage of our growth. The same is true for people in groups: families and communities constantly changing and evolving.

I’ve always been very inspired by scientific insight into the nature of existence, especially cosmology, those deep inquiries into the story of the universe. To that end, I want to share words from Carlo Rovelli, an Italian theoretical physicist and author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, from which I pulled this quote (which I have broken into lines for poetic emphasis):

“We are born and die as the stars are born and die,
both individually and collectively.
This is our reality.
Life is precious to us because it is ephemeral.
… immersed in this nature that made us and that directs us,
we are not homeless beings suspended between two worlds,
parts of but only partly belonging to nature,
with a longing for something else.
No: we are home.”

This weekend, we gathered with some friends to celebrate fall’s arrival and acknowledge the preciousness of our ephemeral reality, and especially of the natural world. We built together ephemeral nature art. Rather than being more permanent than reality (such as oil paintings of kings and queens, attempting to preserve their likeness forever), ephemeral art is intended to change almost as soon as it is completed (or even during the creation process). Andy Goldsworthy is an excellent example of an artist who has explored these themes and media throughout his long career.

For our piece, we collected many natural materials from our environment: everything from apples to phacelia blossoms to sticks to Douglas fir branches to stones from the river. Already, the wind has blown the lighter leaves away, the sun has withered the blossoms, and our cats have budged other pieces while walking across it. It will continue to change over the season, our work together lasting mostly in our memories and photos.

Among other things, the slow disintegration of one artwork — ours or Andy Goldsworthy’s — reminds us that if we want the world to be beautiful, we need to show up and join in its creation every day, to be a part of the process. The really important work of life is never done. It is through our presence and our work together that communities are sustained, children raised, that beauty persists. Not to say that nature doesn’t play a profound role in this too, but we are truly co-creators and our presence and work can foster health, beauty, joy.

The bouquet I cut and bring inside today will wilt in time — but I can sustain the beauty by nurturing my garden year-round, by composting the wilting flowers, by paying attention to new blooms, and by making a new bouquet.

Our presence and energy matter so much in this ephemeral world. We can embrace these few moments we have together here and fill them with growth and promise.

Enjoy this week’s fall vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Liberty apples
  • Comice pears
  • Concord grapes — These have seeds!
  • Sweet peppers
  • Green peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Delicata winter squash — Pretty sure at least half of the people who walked in our door last week said something along the lines of: “I am so excited about the delicata!” Us too! We harvested more this week!
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
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From whining to wonder

Walking at Baskett Slough, earlier this summer

We’re well into our school routine here at our house now. It’s shaping up to be another fruitful year of growth and learning. There are many things I love about our home learning lifestyle, but what keeps me going on the hardest days are the little bits of bliss I find in two particular activities: reading aloud with the kids and going on nature outings with them.

Rusty and Dottie are two of my all-time favorite hiking companions. As I’ve mentioned before, we aim to get out and explore one afternoon per week. In recent years, these outings have been some of my most profoundly happy moments, when I feel a glow of peace and contentment.

Which is maybe surprising, because — well — getting kids outside and hiking isn’t always an easy endeavor. It can feel like a real push to pack all the necessary supplies, convince everyone that yes actually this is a good idea, support kids as they learn to walk at a steady pace (and uphill no less!), and keep everyone feeling chipper even amidst potentially challenging weather. Taking kids on hikes has the potential to be a recipe for major whining and resistance.

But, over the years, we’ve made it work — me and these two kids (with Casey’s enthusiastic help on weekends too). It’s still not perfect … kids go through developmental stages where whining will pop up again and I feel like I need to re-establish the rhythms and routines that have worked for us for years now. But, to me, it’s been worth the work, because once we work through the whining (again!), we move into the state of wonder. And wonder is my happy place. It’s also a state of receptivity, from which children can learn to observe the natural world around them, growing naturally in reverence and appreciation for the miracles of life. One of our goals as parent-teachers is to instill love for learning in general, but also love and appreciation for the natural world. One can only love what one knows, and so we go out, every week (or close to it!), and grow the familiarity and love that comes from a relationship.

If you have a child in your life with whom you’d like to share wonder and in whom you’d like to grow a love of the natural world, what follows are some of my best “go to” tips for making exploring outside a fun, accessible activity. I think much of this is common sense, but in my experience, a lot of adults feel daunted by taking kids on nature outings. These are strategies that have worked well for us:

  • Start young, if possible. If not, start now. There is no child who is too young for nature outings. Babies can be carried in baby packs! The younger the child, the more all of these tips will be important to consider. But, making the natural world a normal part of your life will build familiarity and comfort for your child.
  • Pack food. It really doesn’t matter if you just ate lunch, kids will get hungry outside moving their bodies! Hunger = whining. <—– For realz, guys. Times a hundred. So, pack snacks! Ideally, they would be snacks that provide some lasting energy through protein and fat or complex carbohydrates: nuts, cheese, sandwiches, apple slices, meat sticks, etc. Avoid anything too processed or junk food, which will give a quick sugar high followed by a crash. Pack more than you think you’ll need. Also, consider using snacks as an incentive for getting somewhere if you’re on a trail. I often like to save our snack break for when we’re at about the halfway point on a trail.
  • Dress for the weather. The kids and I have hiked and explored in all kinds of weather: Downpours! Freezing temperatures! Hot afternoons! I find that experiencing the vagaries of weather is an integral part of our experience — how does the weather change what we see, hear, feel around us? How do our bodies respond differently? What different animals come out or hide? We are going outside to stimulate our senses, and weather does that. But, there’s a limit to how much discomfort a kid (or adult!) can handle and still enjoy the experience. Here’s another true equation: Being cold = whining. (Being too hot too!) In summer, sun hats and long sleeves (and appropriately chosen shady locations) make a big difference. The rest of the year, layers are very useful. The classic combination of layers for a cold PNW outing is: base layer (long underwear), middle layer (comfortable pants and shirt), warm top (sweater or fleece), and outer shell (rain jacket, and maybe even rain pants!). Plus hat and gloves! (Gloves are a must!) These layers can be taken on and off as needed. Shoes are important too. We tend to hike in good sandals (ones that strap on — no flip flops) in the summer and plain old rubber boots in the winter (with thick socks they’re pretty comfy for hiking, and they keep our feet dry).
  • Pack a few other essentials too. My bag always includes a big water bottle, some extra snacks, a small first aid kit, small binoculars, and hand sanitizer, wipes and a poop shovel (my kids have pooped in many a woods and not every park location has potties). Because we end up carrying so much stuff, the kids have each had their own appropriately-sized backpacks from a young age and carry their own food, water, extra jacket, etc.
  • Set realistic goals. While we hike regularly, the kids and I don’t do big distances. Our average hikes range from 1-2 miles. Now that they’re older, they can certainly hike farther, but we’re not going outside just for exercise (although that’s part of the goal). We’re going outside to become familiar with locations in our environment and watch them change over the season. To that end, a little wander is sufficient, and a shorter distance is very doable for the kids rather than slightly challenging and daunting. We’ve explored many shorter trails in our area and have about half a dozen places we visit regularly. Many of them offer multiple shorter trails so that we can explore different areas on each visit.
  • Dottie counting tree rings at Miller Woods last week

    Meander. Look around. Pause. Ask questions. Again, if you’re with kids, don’t just zoom down the trail, arms pumping, sweat pouring down your face. Learn to walk steadily but keep your senses open and alert to what is around you — so that, for example, you notice when you hear a woodpecker and pause to find it with your eyes. Set the example of taking in everything around you: stop to examine a mushroom or count tree rings. Taste miner’s lettuce together. We keep “nature notebooks” (spiral-bound sketchbooks) that we bring with us on outings so that we can draw things of interest to us, which is another way to force us to sit still in one place and really take it in. This is a good activity to pair with a snack break too. I think the meandering nature of our outings is part of what feels so different (and blissful) to me compared to when I hike with other adults. When I’m with other adults, we often fill the space with conversation and move through the environment quickly. Even when I’m hiking alone, I rarely find myself as conscious of my surroundings since I usually move faster and get lost in my thoughts. I love the slower, sensory experience that the kids and I seek out. When the kids and I do talk, it’s usually about what we’re seeing or doing at that moment, keeping our attention present.

  • Sing when energy flags! This was an important strategy when the children were very young. Often they’d lose energy on the home stretch of an outing. We would already have eaten our snack, and they’d need a last boost of enthusiasm to get back to the car. I found that cajoling and comforting didn’t really work, but singing “The ants go marching” worked well to turn moods around and take the focus off of fatigue. It’s also a nice long song with a marching rhythm. I have other seasonal songs that I’ll sing too. Songs that can be easily changed or personalized to make more verses are fun and useful too (for example the “name game” song: “Dottie-Dottie-Bo-Bottie-Banana-Fana-Fo-Fottie …). Kids love singing about themselves or their friends and family.
  • Build your knowledge. We enjoy bringing a field guide or two with us on trips so that we can stop and look up an unfamiliar plant. Or, we’ll take a photo or draw a picture and looking things up when we get home. Even at a very young age, my children were captivated by this simple activity, and it helped them see the patterns in the world around them and to experience the forest taking definition — shifting from being a blur of nondescript green foliage to a landscape of familiar and specific friends. Kids are also remarkably good at learning to identify things — just think about how they can become walking dictionaries of Pokemon cards. Those pattern recognition skills are in us because, until very recently in human history, every person played a role in their own food procurement and production — which required recognizing plants and animals! A simple way we guided our growth at one point was to pick a “plant of the day” — we’d find a plant we didn’t yet know or recognize, describe it, draw it (and take a photo), and then look it up later and read about it. An important place to start with learning about plants is how to identify the handful of dangerous plants in our region: particularly stinging nettle, poison oak, and baneberries.
  • Make outings regular and predictable. If you really want to bypass whining, build a regular nature outing into your life rhythms and make it (mostly) non-negotiable. The best way to get resistance is to ask if kids “want” to go on a hike. Some kids might jump on this offer. Most probably won’t. But if it’s just something your family does every weekend or every Wednesday after school or what not, it becomes a predictable part of life. No one has to “decide” anything; it’s just what you do that day! (This is helpful for adults too, by the way! It’s hard to work up the energy to get everyone out the door.) The more regular this becomes, the more quickly kids will learn to transition from whining into wonder — especially if prior outings have been positive!
  • Be patient. Keep trying. Helping kids learn to love the natural world and outdoor recreation is a process. If a first outing doesn’t feel successful, don’t give up! First of all, giving up because of whining or resistance is a really sure way to get more of it in the future (about all kinds of things), but also because getting outside with kids is a process for everyone. It has to start somewhere.
  • Set an example. If you want the children with you to love the experience, start by loving it yourself (all the above preparation can help make it positive for you too!). But, to bring this back to the main goal of avoiding whining: DO NOT WHINE YOURSELF! In my experience, when children start whining, adults can sometimes fall into that same tone of pleading, and oh man it is a vicious feedback loop. Adults, use your ”big strong” voices at all times! This is where singing or taking snack breaks can help — both can cut the whining cycle so that you don’t get sucked in too.
  • Collect things … responsibly! Generally speaking, it’s best to leave things where they are in the forest or other wilder places for the health of the ecosystem. But, I make an exception for young ones, who can delight in collecting souvenirs from their adventures. When the children were younger, we designated the top of a short bookcase as a “nature table,” where we could display the treasures we’d found and enjoy them over a longer period of time. I taught them early on what was okay to pick up and take home, for example fallen leaves, rocks, pine cones (wildflowers, not so much, unless they are blooming in vast profusion, and then we pick one). Dottie especially always enjoyed an outing more if she could be doing things with her hands. The kids always (always!) seem to pick up a special stick on an outing. Our trunk has transported many sticks back home over the years (there is in fact, a stick in the icy picture below).

    Stomping on ice at Willamette Mission, 2017

  • Mix it up. We love revisiting familiar places, but our nature outings would be boring if we only ever went to the same place. Occasionally driving farther to explore a brand-new place is an extra treat. Sometimes I’ll come up with a new “game” for us to play while we walk, such as counting all the types of plants we can identify. Recently we did a scavenger hunt, where we looked for things that fit categories I’d come up with earlier: something red, something that grows in threes, something that looks old, etc. We each found different features in the park that fit what we were looking for, and it was fun to keep looking for new ways to interpret our clues.
  • Be open. I definitely don’t always come up with clever ideas like a scavenger hunt — more often, we just head out with our gear and open senses (including our hearts!), ready to see what kind of miracles or adventures come our way! I will be honest: I still doubt, almost every week, that we will find anything interesting. Why do I still doubt this after years of experience? Perhaps it’s just hard to imagine that, once again, we will be amazed or intrigued by something new. But, OH, the miracles we’ve witnessed! We’ve come across a big patch of giant lupine all in bloom. We’ve broken frozen puddles of ice. We’ve found a snag alive with a bee hive. We’ve walked through fields of wildflowers. If we’re open, even the smallest change in the place can be truly miraculous. But we need to learn to see and appreciate such things, and of course so do our children.

I hope one or more of these tips prove useful to someone! I think that getting kids outside, engaging the natural world, is a game changer. Our world’s sustainability hinges on whether future generations love the world enough to work for its preservation. Last week I wrote about dust erosion, but erosion is only a perceivable problem if we care about soil. If we love it, even. Have a feeling of reverence for the miracle that is soil life. The same goes the forest, the oak savanna, the river. So, I pray and hope that people who have children in their lives will set as a goal to foster love for the world, whatever form that takes. Just going out in the backyard to play can be a way to plant the seeds of that love! Visiting the beach! Kayaking on the river! There are many ways to build our children’s relationship with the world around us. But, as George Eliot wrote, “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

Another great way to connect to the world? Eating seasonally, of course! Taste the flavors of the season on your plate, and rejoice! Next Monday is the fall equinox, marking the beginning of a new season. If you have children in your life, this is a great opportunity to check in about the changes in the world around us, starting with the veggies in your dinner, which are definitely shifting. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Want some more resources on getting kids outside? Here are some links to useful opportunities, products, books, and places to visit:

  • Deuter makes some great child-sized backpacks! We bought some for our kids years ago at Salem Summit, a locally owned outdoor gear shop in downtown Salem.
  • Shanleya’s Quest is a fun picture book introduction to seeing patterns in plants. There is an easy-to-play card game that uses the ideas in the book.
  • Outdoor Education Adventures is a Yamhill County-based outdoor education program for kids of all ages. Our kids have loved their summer camps.
  • Zena Learning Center is a nature-based educational opportunity for homeschooled kids, located in Polk County. Our kids attend and love it! There are also summer opportunities.
  • A few of our favorite local field guides (hard to narrow it down, but these are our most often used!). Many of these may available at Third Street Books, but I’ve included links to Powell’s:
  • And, some of our favorite local places to explore and hike:
    • Baskett Slough — National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County
    • Darrow Bar — Small park off of Wallace Rd in Polk County with surprisingly large trees and little trails
    • Spring Valley — State park off of Wallace Rd in Polk County with Willamette River access and several trails
    • Willamette Mission State Park — We walk over on the Wheatland Ferry to access the trailhead there!
    • Airport Park — Little park by the Mac airport with some cool trees and wildflowers in the spring!
    • Tice Woods (aka Rotary Nature Preserve) — a big restoration project has just begun here! Watch it unfold.
    • Miller Woods — Day-use fee required. One of our all-time favorite places.
    • Harvey Creek — Sweet little hiking trail and creek access. A favorite on a hot summer day.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kaleidoscope: An Introductory Guide to the Yamhill River Watershed by Laura McMasters and Wendy Thompson. This little spiral-bound book charts out suggested introductory field trips to most places of interest in Yamhill County! A great way to find new parks and places to visit in general. It provides cultural and natural history information along the way. I have seen it available for purchase locally at Harvest Fresh and Third Street Books, but not for a few years now.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Concord grapes — Remember that there are seeds in these!
  • Melrose apples
  • Pears
  • Delicata winter squash — Woo hoo! Remember that the skin on these squash is tender enough to eat along with the inner flesh. Our favorite way to eat them is to slice them into rings, scoop the seeds out with a butter knife, and then roast with butter. They are like donuts!
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Basil
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
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