New horizons, part I

Into the desert!

Our family went on a quick adventure since last week’s CSA pick-up. On Friday morning, we boarded a plane at PDX and flew to Phoenix for a brief stay in the desert!

We went for the occasion of Casey’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to celebrate by having their family join them on a vacation, and we were happy to accept their generous offer. (Incidentally, the last time Casey and I flew was ten years ago when we celebrated their 40th anniversary in Palm Springs!)

This was the children’s first time on a plane, and they gave the experience two thumbs up. It is always so magical to feel that lifting into the air and then watch as the world becomes smaller below. We had especially spectacular views of Mount Hood and St. Helens on our way back home.

But, besides the quality family time all around, the highlight of the whole adventure was exploring the desert and [very briefly!] getting introduced to its very different geology (ancient rocks!), history, and flora and fauna. Everything about the ecosystem is so fundamentally different than the place we’ve made our home. So much of life in the desert is dormant (or close to it) most of the time, only showing its full range of foliage or behaviors in those rare, short periods after rainfall. As an example, I learned that the desert tortoise spends 95% of its life underground, mostly dormant!

In the case of plants, many lose most or all of their foliage in between rains (or curl up their leaves to retain precious moisture). We had studied the desert before our trip, and yet we still found ourselves confounded as we tried to identify some of the common plants, because our guidebooks all pictured them in full leaf and flower. But at this point in the year outside of Phoenix, all the vegetation is in its dry state — most are very brownish, lacking clearly identifiable foliage (and certainly no flowers except in town where the same native plants are irrigated).

As farmers, we are naturally conscious of these kinds of life cycles in plants and found it all very fascinating (if at times bewildering). We were just visitors, unable to inhabit the place and experience its full range of expression, but even in our brief time we left in awe of how life can thrive in what feel like very challenging contexts. We were also awed by the “language” of the plants — the cacti especially seemed to communicate clearly with the world: “do not eat me!” And, of course, we found the seemingly endless variety of saguaro shapes beguiling. The older branched saguaros seem to each have such character, and I imagine that it would be easy over time to form attachments to individual specimens and possibly even attribute them personalities based on their forms.

Family beside an ancient giant saguaro.

We spent every morning hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, where we were able to see all this magnificent life up close (in addition to the flora, we appreciated the fauna that we got to see: many lizards, some familiar and unfamiliar birds, deer, a dead scorpion, and a rabbit). The weather was relatively mild for the area, but by the afternoon we were ready for a different pace and spent most of those hours in or beside the backyard pool at the rental house with cousins. We learned that our kids have become real swimmers over the last year of swim lessons as they dived for golf balls and splashed in the deep end. Great fun!

And, then we came home. I, for one, was delighted to return. For me returning home is almost always the best part of trips away, as I return with renewed appreciation for our life here. Today I was even loving the rain! I think that the rest of the family could have enjoyed more time in the desert first (especially Casey, who spent today partly numb from cold as he finished the second-to-last CSA harvest of 2017 in a chilly November rain). I imagine that we will visit the desert again in future winters, simply to learn more about a very different part of this world we call home (and soak up some of that good desert sun).

Now we’re looking ahead to the end of the year — next week is the final CSA pick-up of 2017! And, right on time, it is starting to feel appropriate to end. As mentioned above, this is definitely the time of year when the work of harvesting becomes more challenging — both to the body itself but also just in general. More mud to remove from roots, for example, amidst the cold fall rainy spells. So, we are looking forward to the break that will be timed with those weeks best suited to organizing work and other projects we can do inside.

We are taking sign ups now for our 2018 season, and by next week we should have a firm idea of dates for that season. You can sign up now online or at CSA pick-up on paper. Also, next week we will include the Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest list in the newsletter so that you can begin planning your holiday meals (or make your list of extra veggies for eating during the break). Please place your orders by Sunday evening. Pick up will be on Tuesday, November 21 from 2-4 pm.

Please let us know if you have any questions as we wrap up our CSA season! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Upcoming important dates: Make sure these are on your calendar!

  • Final 2017 CSA pick-up ~ Thursday, November 16 (Next week!)
  • Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest ~ Tuesday, November 21, 2-4 pm ~ More details to come. Place orders by Sunday evening.
  • Winter Holiday Harvest ~ Friday, December 22, 2-4 pm ~ More details to come. Place orders by Wednesday evening.
  • January or February ~ The start of our 13th CSA season! (Farmer’s dozen!) Sign up now here.

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers — Hot and sweet!
  • Brussels sprouts — For a kid-approved quick Brussels sprout dish, we recommend pan frying halved Brussels in butter until crispy and soft. The cooking should bring out the nutty flavor of the sprouts. Yum. Meanwhile, brown some good quality ground beef and then stir in as the sprouts finish up cooking. If you make enough of the sprout/beef combination, it makes a great main dish. Rusty says it’s his favorite dish and that he would happily eat it every night for dinner.
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Delicata squash
  • Spaghetti squash
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