Brown sky at morning …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

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