A November mood

November is fully ripened red peppers!

November began today. Much to think about this month, beginning with the upcoming end of our 2017 season! We have three more weeks before our final pick-up of the year on November 16 (more important dates below). You can sign up for our 2018 season now either by filling out this simple online form or filling out the equally simple paper form we have on a clipboard at CSA pick-up. I apologize that we still don’t have dates for the season — it will begin sometime in January or February, but we are waiting on about three factors before pinning down the final date. We will for sure know before the last week of this year and make sure that you know when to come pick up your first share of the year! Since it will be our 13th season, we’re calling it our “farmer’s dozen” season (if bakers get 13 in a dozen, why not farmers too?). We’re envisioning a special celebration in honor of that distinction. More details to come soon.

Tender fall kale in the field

In the meantime, it’s November indeed. Goodness, this fall has been glorious. I’ve already written about that in earlier newsletters, but it deserves a million mentions really. The golden sunlight and vibrant foliage have been endlessly inspiring and lovely.

But it is still fall. And, as the kids and I went for a walk around the fields this afternoon, I reflected on this season and what it brings to the farm and to our lives. In keeping with today’s holiday (Diá de los muertos or All Saint’s Day), fall does seem to bring up thoughts of death and passing away. The leaves fall and begin to work their way back into the soil. The crops are worked in. Perhaps above all else, for me fall brings reflections on the passage of time. This pause at the end of the year’s busy-ness prompts recollections of the year and the years before it, including the people and things that have passed away. It always feels like a bittersweet kind of nostalgia as I look backward.

The kids in their Halloween costumes

These feelings are, of course, intensified now that we are parents and have these wonderful children in our life who are growing so very fast. At 5 and 7, they are quickly growing out of being “young children.” It is so delightful to watch them grow more and more into themselves as they acquire new skills and interests, and yet this fall brings with it a sense of a snapshot image — this is who they are this fall, and they will never be these exact people again. I can feel our family unfolding from the tight, safe and sheltered bud of early childhood. We all have more outward motion now, building lives that include elements beyond the farm and beyond each other. It feels healthy, and yet this fall I feel the loss of those early cocoon like years where the farm and our family was our everything. Those years were filled with all the expected challenges of raising babies and farming, and yet I see them in my mind’s eye as a rosy warm glow.

The more years we spend on the farm, the more I recognize similar movement in our relationship to this place. Early on, I don’t think I appreciated how much the farm would be in constant evolution over time. The dynamic change is what makes it a vibrant beautiful place to live and grow, and yet it is another way of marking time, seeing the trees we’ve planted grow and the fields constantly shift in their quilt-like patterns — never the same two years in a row.

Fava beans in the greenhouse — looking ahead to 2018’s harvests already!

I am thankful though for all these bittersweet fall feelings. Because, really, they are almost all wrapped up in deep gratitude. Gratitude for the season that is passing away, which was once again filled with abundant, delicious food and connections with our community. Gratitude for the presence of these two delightful people in our family, who we have the privilege of nurturing as they grow. Gratitude for the place that sustains us. I am thankful for the pause this season provides to let all the gratitude sink in deep amidst all the quiet moments of fall.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Rusty looks for an apple in the [mostly picked] orchard

~ ~ ~

More upcoming important dates: Make sure these are on your calendar!

  • Final 2017 CSA pick-up ~ Thursday, November 16
  • 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.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — Newton Pippin!
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Butternut squash
  • Delicata squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
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Nature’s gold

The view toward our orchard from under the walnut tree

It feels like the story of the week is quite simply color. We have hit the peak of the season’s leaf display, and everywhere we go our vision is filled with bright displays of gold, orange, and red.

Fall foliage feels like such a gift, doesn’t it? When summer ends, it can be hard to say good-bye, but then amidst all the sweetness of fall harvests (apples! carrots! cabbage! beets!), we also find ourselves immersed in a world that is on fire in a way completely different than the fire of summer heat — a world that glows all around us.

I have a good friend who says that every fall she watches for the perfect fall day, when the colors are vibrant, the temperature cool, and the sun shining down. She says she stores these perfect fall days in her heart and that it gives her peace throughout the year to know that they are always with her, regardless of what happens in the future.

As we approach the end of another season (the last CSA pick-up is on November 16!), we once again find ourselves contemplating endings and conclusions. Fall is a perfect time to take stock and appreciate what has come before in the year. Winter will bring more opportunity to plan and dream, but now it feels like our minds and hearts follow those leaves as they float down, down, down, resting in the memory of the seasons past.

It’s a quiet time. A peaceful time. Soon there will be more to say (and definitive dates for next season as well), but for now we’re content to just be present in this world aglow.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — A mix of several kinds: Liberty, Newtown Pippin, and Braeburn.
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Carrots — This year’s fall carrots are exceptionally large, beautiful and delicious! We think you’ll be as excited about them as we are!
  • Beets
  • Kabocha winter squash
  • Delicata winter squash
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Community looks like …

Luminous Heart performing at this weekend’s [gorgeous!] farm open house.

“Community” has been a regular topic for these newsletters over the years. No surprise, since we run a “Community Supported Agriculture” program, it’s something we think and care about (beyond just as a marketing model). When we have our on-farm events, we love seeing the physical manifestation of our weekly work — people who eat food from our farm walking our fields, connecting with us, with the place we farm, with each other.

So, this weekend, community looked like friends tasting apples we planted almost a decade ago (more on that below), kids running through the field with stick “swords,” beautiful harmonies floating through the sunny fall air, and pumpkins piled on the porch.

At these occasions, this one included, I am always struck by how many directions the community runs. Yes, our farm’s CSA is one nexus point for community in McMinnville, but our farm members have infinite other connections with each other and with us. Our family benefits from the work and efforts of our friends and customers as well. We eat food others have grown too; we educate our children together; we support each other’s ministries and service work; we heal each other.

As someone who grew up in a larger city (Bellevue, Washington), the multiplicity of connections in small town life are still a delightful surprise. Growing up, friendships usually just had one point of connection. Now, I love that moment when a third party asks how a friend and I met and we look at each other with eyes raised, wondering how did we meet? Because, sometimes the answer is just that we share community and affection grows over time.

I also grew up in a place where anonymity was the norm. It was a rare event to run into an acquaintance when out running errands with my parents. Meanwhile, I’m sure that our children have no concept of what it might even mean to be anonymous in a town where it seems that everyone knows them where ever we go.

Without a doubt, small circles such as this can create complicated situations at times. Community is a real human experience, not a fairy dreamland (I was going to say not a “fairy tale,” but actually fairy tales are usually quite complex as well!). It seems that I always know a few people who are in times of hurting because of hard interactions or mixed up communication (or I myself might be in those situations at times too). But, one of the blessings of living in community is that there is time for forgiveness and moving forward in relationships. If we chose to let community life be our teacher, we can remember through the pain the things we share and have shared with people, in times of conflict.

And, then there are those moments that really are like a fairy dreamland — when the October sunshine warms our bodies, harmonies warm our spirits, and good food warms our tummies. Thanks to everyone who came out to help us experience one of those sublime moments of connection this weekend; here’s to more of the same in the future!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. And, we want to share the results of this year’s apple tasting too! Out of ten different varieties (all planted and grown here on the farm by us), the favorite apple was Mutsu! We love it too! And, before we tallied the votes, we pulled one name in a raffle for a tote bag. Jack L. is the winner and will receive a tote bag this week at pick-up! Thanks for coming out to play with us Jack!

~ ~ ~

2018 news! We’re going to begin taking sign-ups for next year’s CSA season this week at pick-up! We don’t quite have the actual dates finalized for the season, but the pick-up day and time will remain the same, as well as the price (if it changes at all it will be because of a shift in the number of weeks, but the price per item per week will stay the same!). We know the CSA will begin sometime early in the new year, as usual. We will have next season’s dates/length sorted out by the end of this season, but we wanted to give people time to commit right away since we know there are folks who are ready to commit. I know that’s vague for now! Feel free to wait for the precise details if you prefer!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes
  • Newton Pippin apples
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Salad mix
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Sunshine Kabocha squash — This is a delicious winter squash with a flavor (sweet) and texture (soft and moist) slightly different than any of the others we’ve give out this year. We like to cut it in half and bake it cut-side down until it is cooked through and soft. At that point, you can just slice it and serve it as is (yummy with butter and salt!) or keep the cooked squash in the fridge and reheat slices when you want to eat it. It fries up nicely in a cast iron pan. You can also use the cooked flesh for baking with, such as you might with a pumpkin.
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Fall’s return

A freshly sown (and watered) cover crop field on a golden October afternoon.

I keep a five-year journal for our family, in which I write things of interest for each day: the weather, any note-worthy sightings or events (eating the first ripe tomato of the year, for example), and a short description of our day. It’s all very brief, but now I’ve been keeping it for over a year, and I’m starting to reap the benefit of a journal of this style. Each page is assigned one day of the year, and then there are five entry spots, one for each year.

This layout allows me to very easily look back at what we were doing at this same time last year as I make entries now, which is very cool. I’ve attempted to keep a multiple year journal like this several times before, but this time it’s actually sticking and it’s serving exactly the purpose I’d hoped. It provides written documentation of our often foggy memories of seasons and events.

For example, our memory of last fall, winter, and spring is that it was so dark, wet, and gloomy. Of course, weather records back this up — it certainly was an exceptional year in terms of number of rainy days and total rainfall. But now I have my own records to look back on too, which also verify our “sense” of last year. Here are some of the quick weather notes from last year, starting on September 30:

“partly sunny, turned to rain”
“62° [high] but mostly cool, windy & rainy”
“58° Rainy & gray-ish”
“57°! Rainy, cool, gray DOWN RIGHT CHILLY!”
“Rainy & gray most of the day!”
“62° Very rainy & blustery then sunny!”
“61° Gray & rainy – very fall!”
“59°! Rainy all.day.long.”
“68° gray but surprisingly warm!”
“53° & very rainy all day long”

I think you get the idea! It continues in that vein most days in October. I even use redundant descriptors such as “WET RAIN,” suggesting that it was rainy indeed.

As summer neared its end this year, I found myself bracing for fall’s arrival. All that extra rain and darkness last year was hard for us as a family and as a farm. It wasn’t brutal or devastating the way weather has been for so many in our country this fall (our hearts go out to so many displaced people in our country right now), but it was still challenging. And, as is often the case, our memories of the most recent season loomed out of proportion to the averages. All those beautiful falls we’d experienced on the farm were dwarfed by the recent proximity of one hard fall.

So, it’s been such a relief to find fall again this year — an Oregon autumn that brings with it rain, yes. But also days with golden sunlight, and sunbreaks even on the rainy days. By November, the chances of clear days certainly can be expected to drop, but it’s been so glorious on the farm to have these final days of easy working weather (and easy playing outside weather too). Casey was able to work up our fields and sow an oat and clover cover crop for the winter (which has now been watered in thanks to the rain). It may not last much longer. Next year may be different. But, on each sunny day we can still savor this October’s glow. It’s a reminder that every day is a gift to be appreciated.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

 

Luminous Heart

Fall CSA open house this Saturday, 2-4 pm!

And speaking of sun, the weather is predicted to be fine for our gathering on Saturday. Please come out to join us for a variety of activities on the farm. We’ll have a dozen of our favorite apple varieties sliced up for you to taste side-by-side (and vote on your favorite!). Casey will give tours of the farm. And, local acoustic musical duo Luminous Heart will be playing!

Directions to the farm: Take Hwy-18 to Dayton and drive south through Dayton on Wallace Rd/HWY-221. Keep driving south on Wallace for about seven miles and then turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd (you’ll see signs for Heiser’s Pumpkin Patch). At the first intersection after the bridge, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is the first on your LEFT (you’ll see our red pole barn at the road). If you have any questions, my cell is 503-474-7661.

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Pears — Did you know that pears don’t ripen “properly” on the tree? If left to ripen on the branch, they usually turn mealy. However, they are “mature” before they are soft, and that is when they are traditionally picked (you can tell before they start to fall off the tree and/or are easy to pick). But then they need to be allowed to soften off of the branch, which will result in a smooth soft flesh — the kind most people prefer. This process begins in our cooler, so it’s likely that some of your pears may be ready to eat when you pick them up, but if not set one or two on your counter for a day or two and let them soften further. A perfect pear is divine!
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Salad mix — Casey thinks this week’s salad mix is extra beautiful. It’s also extra flavorful, as we move into the season of having greens other than just lettuce in our mixes. This week’s mix does include some tasty tender lettuces, but it also contains baby arugula (which can be a bit spicy), baby kale, and baby Asian greens.
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Pie pumpkins — Wondering how to use to use a fresh pie pumpkin? It’s easy, if you plan ahead! We cook our pumpkins whole (many years ago we tried to peel a pumpkin, and it’s hard work!). Just pop the whole thing on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 350° until you can slide a paring knife in to the side without resistance (it helps to remove the stem, just to make sure it fits). Once the pumpkin is cooked all the way through, cut it open and let it cool off. At this point, the seeds will scoop out easily. Once it is room temperature, you can measure our the pumpkin flesh and mash it to use in any pumpkin or squash recipe — pie, muffins, cookies, soup, etc.
  • Garlic
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Early October visions

The Brussels sprouts are beginning to “sprout” out in the field! They’ll continue to size up over the next two months and be perfect for Thanksgiving harvests.

My last two newsletters were so heavy on book thoughts, and yet there’s this beautiful world to share with you too! So, to balance things out, I thought I’d make this week’s post mostly visual. I captured some of the sights of our week, here on the farm and a little bit from being out and about in Yamhill County too:

Neighbors offered to let the kids and me pick up the chestnuts from their trees this year (since they will not be using them). What fun it is to pick up these smooth brown nuts — they feel so good in the hand. So far, we haven’t roasted any, but it is in our plans to do so on one of the first truly cool evenings of fall.

We went to Miller Woods for our weekly nature outing last week. The forest is still mostly green, but we could see the orange creeping in and the air just “felt” more like fall.

The kids took a break from hiking to draw in their nature notebooks.

Casey has been bringing in the winter squash, a bit at a time. These are some of our favorites: Marina di Chioggia — HUGE squash that get sweeter in storage over the winter. These are for eating in February and March!

When I was out by the greenhouse yesterday, I looked down and tried to brush what I thought was a leaf off my pant leg. Turns out it was THIS fellow instead. It hung out on my pant leg for a while and then slowly made its way back into the greenhouse. At the end of the summer, our fields and greenhouses are full of thriving predatory insects, such as this praying mantis. This one was particularly large!

The sunchokes (aka “Jerusalem artichokes”) are finally blooming! The part of the plant you eat is the tuber that grows at the base of this native annual sunflower. The variety we’ve grown the last two years is especially tall, towering well over our heads. With so few blooms in the fields this time of year, it’s a treat to see these sunny blossoms in the field.

What is fall without a messy-looking field corn planting? This image is quintessential autumn to me.

Late summer is all about fruit, but fall is so much about SEEDS. Everything left in the field (including weeds) is setting and maturing seeds right now. Everywhere we walk, seeds pop out of the brush, sticking to our pant legs or falling to the ground for next year. This fennel plant is working on joining the crowd with some late blossoms.

Earlier this week, Casey disked in a cover crop on this large field for the second time this year. Growing a cover crop and working it in is important work for next year’s crops — we’re adding organic matter and fertility back to the soil as well as working through the weed seed bank. The ash trees in the distance are just starting to turn colors.

I found a small patch of phacelia (aka “Bee’s friend”) in an older planting this afternoon. We plant this flower in our fields to attract beneficial insects to our crops. We’ve observed that when phacelia (and calendula as well) grow nearby our brassica plants (such as Brussels sprouts), we have much reduced aphid pressure. Plus, the unfurling blossoms are gorgeous and beguiling.

We have so many apples maturing in our orchards right now! (And we’ve harvested so many for you to eat already!). We are grateful that we planted many varieties of apples that mature over a long season so that the work of picking doesn’t all pile up at once. We’ll be picking apples all fall, as each variety becomes ready, and then storing many of them in our cooler for eating all winter and into next spring.

And, back at our house, I have to admire the second-growth hollyhock blossoms by our front door. I think this second round is always my favorite of the year, especially because they come at a time when the garden contains so few flowers.

Thanks for sharing in these fall sights with me! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Upcoming important fall dates: We’re nearing the end of this year’s CSA season! Casey and I are working on details for 2018 and will begin doing sign ups soon. But in the meantime, we want to share the remaining important dates for 2017 so that you can make sure you’ve got them on your calendar:

  • Fall Open House ~ Saturday, October 14, 2-4 pm ~ Come out for live music, farm tours, an apple variety tasting, and good company! Directions to the farm: take HWY-18 to Dayton. Drive south through Dayton on Wallace Rd/HWY-221 and keep going south for about seven miles. Turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd. At the first intersection after the bridge, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is the first on your left!
  • Final 2017 CSA pick-up ~ Thursday, November 16
  • 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.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums
  • Pears
  • Liberty apples — Another new kind of apple! This is the one in the photo above — a perfectly red apple with delicious flavor and texture.
  • Concord grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Beets
  • Garlic
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Technology & our attention

Old technologies: a pen and paper. (In this case, quotes from The Shallows that I wrote down in my personal “commonplace” book of quotes and passages.)

This is your brain on the internet.

I’m not talking about the image above; I’m talking about your brain, right now since in order to read this newsletter you have to be on the internet (sorry friends that I stopped printing hard copies years ago). And I’m talking about my brain too, as I write this. As you read this newsletter, do you have other windows open on your computer? Will you hear a notification sound during your read of this, which might draw you away for a moment to check for another important email or message? I admit that I have other tabs open, and it’s likely that I’ll pause at some point in the composing of this to look at something else. Because, well, this is how most of us function these days — multi-tasking to a high degree via our technologies.

I don’t mean to freak anyone out, and perhaps this is stating the obvious, but these new normal ways of being in the world — constantly connected, constantly interrupted, constantly multi-tasking, constantly skimming a screen for quick information — is apparently changing our brains. Or, so reports Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2010).

Friends and acquaintances will know that a book with that title would interest me. I’m a slow adopter of certain technologies, still holding out against a smartphone (I’m happy to show off my sliding QWERTY keyboard if anyone is interested in seeing my old-school phone) and resisting joining some popular social media platforms (I’ve drawn the line at nothing besides Facebook). I complain about the internet a lot too, probably eliciting quiet inner eye rolls from some audiences. I find myself drawn to writers who confirm my bias against too much connection, so when I learned of Carr’s book, I was excited to read it.

I thought that I knew what he was going to say beforehand, but his book surprised me with the breadth and depth of his research and arguments. I was first surprised with finding in opening chapters the first very familiar descriptions I’ve ever read of how I feel when I spend too much time on the computer. Carr was actually an early adopter of many technologies and embraced each new development enthusiastically. He is no alarmist Luddite crying alarm at novel technologies (in fact, he addresses that response to his work throughout by putting these new technologies with the context of other historical sea changes). But, he reports that as he embraced early computer and internet technologies, he personally began to notice a profound (and unpleasant) shift in his thought patterns. He noticed that his brain seemed to be “hungry” for email and click links, even when he wasn’t around the computer. He also found that it was very hard for him to sit for long periods of time to do focused deep reading with books anymore. As he said: “I missed my old brain.”

I can relate to this experience so well, and it is why I’ve struggled with my relationship with technology my whole adult life. I totally see all the benefits and uses of all of it, which is why I’m on here typing a blog entry and why I sent a friend a series of Facebook messages earlier and why I will later stop by my Quickbooks window to make an invoice for a restaurant. However, I do not like how it all makes my brain feel. Compare these common two scenarios in my life:

  1. An hour spent sitting in a hammock reading a thoughtful non-fiction book (such as The Shallows)
  2. An hour spent clicking around doing various tasks (shopping, messaging, working) and following links on the computer

Here are my comparisons between the two: In scenario #1, time will actually feel longer than an hour. I have always enjoyed that treat of deep reading, where time slows down even though I am happy (in contrast to many happy moments in life where time seems to speed up). After the hour of reading, I will stand up, stretch, rub my eyes a bit, and feel refreshed for the rest of the afternoon. I will feel like the period of time gave me a long continuous thread of restful attention.

In scenario #2, I will feel like no time passed at all. I will likely feel like I didn’t get done what I sat down to do, because I will have been distracted so many times by incoming emails or random thoughts. After the hour, I will feel foggy and distracted and have a hard time focusing on the people or world around me. I will feel like the period of time left me with fragments of thread.

I observe the results of these two scenarios regularly, and it is why I grapple with how to best use technology so that I can benefit from it without being consumed by it. But, I find it very hard to achieve that balance, continually getting sucked in for rounds of scenario #2 without intending to. And, in Carr’s book, he talks about how there is no simple using of a tool. To use a tool, especially a technology as profound as the internet and related communication devices, changes us. It’s never a one-way relationship. Our brains are incredibly plastic and change and adapt to the ways we use them. For example, the more we engage in interrupted, multi-tasking types of technologies, the more we train our brain to be interrupted (making single focus more difficult).

Carr’s book dives even deeper, almost into the realm of philosophy, as he examines our very conceptions of what it means to be human. We’re not computers, he says, and we miss out on understand how our brains actually work if we assume that “off loading” mental work onto computers “frees up” data space. Our thought process is infinitely more complex than the binary codes that make up programing, and our ability to learn and remember are organic processes that require (drum roll) … our attention.

As a specific example, Carr cites several different studies involving reading comprehension and information retention that compared linear reading (i.e. just text, either on paper or a very plain screen presentation) versus more interactive reading experiences (screen-based with hyperlinks, images, etc.). Consistently, the linear presentations lead to greater comprehension and retention of information. Apparently, even the most minor “interruptions” in our reading process (such as whether deciding to click a hyperlink) affect our ability to learn.

So, I’ve been thinking (again!) about how and when I pay attention. How much do I multi-task? (When on the computer or in the office, a lot!) What are the practical choices I can make to lead my brain back into more experiences of that long thread of attention that evidence suggests leads to a different quality of learning (and also that I find infinitely more pleasing as a person).

I always ponder what it would be like to make even more radical choices to disconnect, beyond the limits I’ve already placed upon myself. Many times over recent years I’ve thought “We farm for a living! Surely we have a choice in how we engage technology!” But in this era, to disconnect completely feels very difficult. Because so much of life is connected, it seems like to disconnect would require dropping responsibility in many areas of life. It could lead to more peaceful days and long threads of attention, but how would we maintain farm communications with chefs and customers? How would we maintain friendships?

I recently ran across a series of columns on The Guardian website, written by a man who has decide to forgo “all” modern technologies, communication and otherwise (not sure exactly where he draws his line, but I know it excludes electrical technologies of all kinds, even off-grid ones). I couldn’t help feeling irritated by his columns, probably in large part because of jealousy, but also because it seems like such a privileged choice. He has the choice to let go of technologies that have historically and globally been liberating to women and children (hauling water and fire wood can take hours per day). But he reports feeling great peace in his technology (and responsibility?) -free days.

We’ve never gone that far. But not that long ago, we did manage to maintain all our responsibilities and relationships without internet at home at least. For the first three years of the farm, we didn’t have internet on the farm. Chefs would call on harvest days to find out what we had and place their orders. (Do our long-time customers remember calling to place your Holiday Harvest orders?) And, once or twice a week, we would get our email and internet business done using wi-fi in our “downtown office” (i.e. Red Fox Bakery). When we were on the farm, we were just here. (To put our inconvenience-comfort level in context, we also didn’t have laundry facilities on the farm yet back then either!)

Once I became pregnant with our first child in 2009, we started realizing that needed more of those conveniences at home (internet and laundry both), and life changed. I have spent the intervening years constantly brainstorming ways to engineer new limits into my life, to get back to that head space of being present.

I know I’m not alone in these struggles, although I’ve often wondered whether I am more particularly sensitive to the vagaries of my mental space than others. Quite possible. That is why reading The Shallows was refreshing to me, because I found a kindred ambivalent technology user in Carr. And, receiving affirmation that my experience is real helps me (once again) to reassess my habits. I have already turned off all notification sounds on my email and Facebook, which is a great way to begin ending the constant experience of interruption. I want to slowly adjust how I use the computer so that I don’t multi-task at all — perhaps by only having one application open at a time! It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but can you imagine actually doing that? I haven’t established that habit yet, but I’m intrigued by the possibility.

Meanwhile, in farming land, we’re in the thick of so many fall harvests out here. The sunlight has turned golden. Pears are falling on our path to our house. The nuthatches have returned to our feeders. These are things worthy of our undivided attention.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

 

Luminous Heart

 

Fall Open House ~ 2-4 pm, Saturday, October 14

Make sure you have this date on your calendar! We’ll be hosting our annual fall open house on the farm in mid-October this year. Join us for tours of the farm, an apple variety tasting, and live music from local duo Luminous Heart. I’ll post directions in the next two week’s newsletters. We hope you’ll join us!

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Concord grapes
  • Prune plums
  • Jonagold apples
  • Pears
  • Sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale — Greens season is coming back! So many other good things abound in mid- to late summer that we often take it easy on cooking greens in the harvest round-up. But you’ll be seeing more and more of these yummy greens returning to the weekly list as we move into the season of stews and sweaters and scarves! (Which aren’t necessarily related to kale directly, but they sure are in spirit!)
  • Delicata squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Beets
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Books for fall

Autumn-themed reading for kids of all ages!

This Friday marks the fall equinox and the start of the next season (although it feels as though fall has arrived already with all this rainy rain rain)! In honor of the shift, I wanted to share with you all a list of books. Several years ago, when Rusty was preschool age and I was starting to wrap my brain around what it would mean for him to learn at home, I started collecting seasonal picture books. I knew that keeping the rhythms of the year present in our life was important to me to do in intentional ways beyond just living it. I wanted to share stories and images with Rusty that would resonate with what he was experiencing as he grew and started noticing the cycles himself but that would also open his imagination to the wonder of story and art.

I searched high and low for quality books that would meet those criteria: I wanted to find books with seasonal content, but they also had to have superb story-telling and artwork. It turns out that natural themes often go hand-in-hand with some of the best children’s books, so I found plenty that I fell in love with. Eventually I started organizing my search so that I would end up with about one book to read per week of the year.

It took several years to get to that point, but that’s where we are now — I have two small shelves full of seasonal books, and we generally read about one book per week, chosen because it somehow speaks to our life at that moment in the year. Books featuring fall leaves, for example, we read in October when the leaves on our trees are turning color and falling.

We read picture books outside of these seasonal books too, but I have to be honest and say that these two shelves of seasonal books contain many of my personal favorite picture books. They are books that just get better with every re-read, and since we revisit them every year (and often several times in the week that they are in our book basket), my love by now runs deep.

Since pretty much every person in our CSA has children in their life, I thought I’d share our fall book titles with you, in the hopes that perhaps you will find a new favorite and enjoy a sweet seasonal moment of reading cuddled up with a young one. May you find your imagination opened to seeing the season in new ways, through the eyes of a child.

These are listed in the approximate order that we read them over the fall. Happy reading!

Click on thumbnails for larger images

Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow ~ Beskow was a Swedish writer and illustrator whose children’s books often personified elements of the seasons and nature and turned them into delightful stories. In this book, a boy named Christopher is lonely until September (another boy) comes to join him in his garden. They end up playing a game of ball that introduces Christopher to all the early fall sights of the garden, each given human shape and character. Beskow’s drawings and depictions of plants and animals are quite accurate even amidst the fanciful stories.

Autumn by Gerda Muller ~ One of four wordless seasonal board books by this Dutch illustrator-author. In Autumn, children explore different elements of the seasons: splashing in puddles, collecting nuts and mushrooms, building kites to fly in the wind, staying indoors while a storm rages outside … Each spread is simple in its design but deceptively packed with (accurate) natural details for children to discover as they look at the pictures again and again. Suitable for the youngest book lovers. (By the way, Muller is one of our absolute favorite author-illustrators, and I highly recommend any book by her that you can find.)

Fall by Chris L. Demarest ~ This is a simple board book that utilizes clever cut outs, vibrant artwork, and very simple rhyming to evoke the sights, sounds and pleasures of the season. A very short read that will likely be asked to be repeated several times in one sitting because the rhymes are so fun! Suitable for the youngest book lovers.

Flower Fairies of The Autumn by Cicely Mary Barker ~ Barker wrote and illustrated a huge collection of “flower fairy” poems, which each feature one plant personified by a fairy. The poem itself is often written from the plant/fairy’s point of view, and the pictures feature botanically accurate illustrations of that plant with some kind of fairy that shares characteristics with the plant or is somehow interaction with it. Barker was British, and her plants are ones that were common in her home country, but in our experience many of them overlap with species that grow in our area too (sometimes with a different common name).

Spider Watching by Vivian French (ill. by Alison Wisenfeld) ~ A book in the fabulous “Read and Wonder” non-fiction series of children, which pair beautiful illustrations and stories with accurate non-fiction concepts. In this case, the topic is spiders, which we are always more aware of in the fall when spiderwebs shine with mist every morning on the farm. In this story, some children explore the life of a spider in a garden shed and learn how cool spiders really are.

Autumn Story (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem ~ Brambly Hedge is one of my favorite literary finds as an adult — I did not encounter these stories as a child, but I know I would have loved them, and our children certainly do. Over eight stories (published originally as separate books but available now in a complete edition), Barklem has woven a completely engrossing world of small mice who live in fabulous houses inside tree trunks in the English countryside (the houses are drawn using architectural-style cross sections so that young and older minds alike can inhabit them imaginatively). Again, the drawings are accurate, both to natural elements but also to cultural details of life in the English countryside sometime in the past. In this fall story, one young mouse gets lost after wandering away during the fall harvest. Her adventures and rescue make up the story.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert ~ This story is simple, but the illustrations are what really make it stand out: they are all made out of collages using real fallen leaves. The book is fall in its message and its medium! Our children love identifying the types of leaves used in the illustrations as well.

Katya’s Book of Mushrooms by Katya Arnold ~ This is a longer book than most on my list — suitable to several rounds of reading or a very long reading with an older child. Arnold writes lovingly about her lifelong relationships with mushrooms, beginning in her childhood in Russia. Every page is loaded with information (and stories) about mushrooms and colorfully illustrated by the author. Her pictures are zany, fun and upbeat, and her love for mushrooms is contagious!

The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer (ill. Penny Dale) ~ Another “Read and Wonder” book in which a family goes for a mushroom hunt in the English countryside. Impressionistic (but accurate) illustrations glow with fall’s golden light.

The High Hills (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem ~ Another fall-themed Brambly Hedge story. A young and old mouse go on a mountain adventure together and lose their way but make their way back home via a different route.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri ~ In this simple board book, a busy squirrel can’t play because it is too busy preparing for winter. Perfect for the youngest readers!

Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor ~ One of Tudor’s most simple books, this one tells a straightforward story of a girl making a “pumpkin moonshine” (i.e. jack-o-lantern).

Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead by Nancy Luenn (ill. Robert Chapman) ~ A girl celebrates Day of the Dead for the first time since her beloved grandmother died. She tries to feel the presence of her grandmother as she prepares her gift. Describes many of the cultural elements of this holiday in Mexico and features gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Story also printed in Spanish on each page.

Woody, Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow ~ Another Beskow book featuring fanciful characters depicting accurate parts of nature. Two little acorn boys float away from home on an oak leaf and go on adventures. They are eventually found and rescued by a squirrel and a little girl and go home to receive a huge party in gratitude for their return.

Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter ~ Potter is of course one of the most classic children’s authors. Two squirrels gather nuts for winter, but then one is pushed into a tree trunk and cannot get back out after he eats too many nuts.

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall (ill. Barbara Cooney) ~ The story of a 19th century New England farmer who takes his year’s worth of farm grown or made goods to town to sell in the fall and then returns home with purchased items for his family, which they use in starting the next year on their farm. Very simple story beautifully illustrated by Barbara Cooney, one of my favorite illustrators.

Chipmunk Song by Joanne Ryder (ill. Lynne Cherry) ~ A child imagines being a chipmunk and goes through a chipmunk’s day, prepares for fall and eventually hibernates through the winter. The illustrations are highly detailed and provide lots of room for the imagination to join the voice of the narrator.

Thanksgiving at Our House by Wendy Watson ~ A collection of little funny poems and rhymes (reminiscent of nursery rhymes) about a large family coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The illustrations themselves tell most of the story as they depict all the preparations and the various stages of the feast, including lots of antics on the part of the children.

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle (ill. Becca Stadtlander) ~ A CSA member gave us this book, which depicts a contemporary farming family preparing their diverse homestead for the arrival of winter. The illustrations are really sweet and cozy.

By the time we get to December, our reading list shifts strongly to Advent, Christmas and winter-y books (even though technically “winter” doesn’t begin until the solstice at the end of the month). Advent and Christmas books are really worthy of their own list. Perhaps I’ll do another post as we approach that season later in the year!

Until then, Happy Fall! May it be a fall with plenty of variability — golden days mixed in with the foggy mornings and rainy squalls (this week has been mostly rainy squalls!).

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Concord grapes — When you think of “grape flavor,” the flavor that comes to mind is the signature Concord grape flavor. Ours is an old planting — rumor has it the cuttings came on the Oregon Trail itself. They are a taste sensation — sweet and flavorful. And, they also contain small grape seeds, which you can spit out or just chew up and swallow. Both options work just fine, but it’s good to know ahead of time that you’ll be encountering grapes! These make awesome juice too!
  • Prune plums
  • Melrose apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Delicata squash
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
Posted in Home learning, Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Harvest season is here

Nothing like a Gator-bed full of sweet peppers to signal the start of harvest season!

Well, tonight I spent most of my newsletter writing time fixing our blog. Earlier this evening, it was throwing out a weird error message and not letting me log on, so I got to learn new things about what can go wrong with a WordPress website and tinker with some behind-the-scenes-file-management stuff. I’m happy that it’s up and running again (just had to remove a funky, corrupted plug-in file), but I’m running out of energy to write something thoughtful!

So, I’ll just report the obvious: we are in the midst of harvest season out here on the farm! Yes, it’s always harvest season for a year-round CSA, but this is the time of year when we harvest extra lots to start “putting up” the items we provide our members through all those dark, cold, wet months (which are on their way!): apples, winter squash, potatoes … those are the first items on our list, and eventually we’ll add carrots, cabbages, pears, and more. Busy busy busy!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Prune plums
  • Delicata winter squash — This is one of our CSA’s all-time favorite squashes! We have two favorite ways to prepare them. First, wash the outside (before either preparation). Then, you can cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake cut-side down at 350° until they are cooked through and started to brown on the cut edge. I usually drizzle the back with a little oil to keep it from drying out. The resulting cooked squash are yummy to serve on a plate on their own or filled with something yummy and stewy. We call them delicata “boats”! But we also love to slice the delicata the other direction in order to make rings. It’s easy to remove the seeds with a butter knife. I roast these on a pan (with lots of butter) until both sides are crispy (flip halfway through cooking). Delicata rings are a tasty delight, reminiscent of donuts! In both preparations, you can eat the skin of the squash. It’s especially tasty in the rings!
  • Sweet peppers
  • “Juliet” tomatoes — These are a plum/roma type of tomato, suitable for every possible tomato use. They have great deep complex flavor and sweetness, so they’re great for eating fresh, but they also cook up into a nice sauce (not too watery) and dry well too!
  • Red slicer tomatoes
  • Salad mix
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Zucchini
  • Red onions
  • Garlic
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All eyes on the sky

Sunflowers against a smoky September sky.

This week, the major story of life here in Northwestern Oregon has been smoke, smoke, smoke. Or, for people closer to the wildfires burning around Oregon: fire, fire fire.

Oh, it has been smoky. And scary. And frustrating. Of all the wildfires burning in the region, the Eagle Creek fire has been getting perhaps the most attention because of its unique story and location. Rather than being set naturally by a lightning strike (which is a common wildfire story), this one was apparently set purposefully by teenagers making a video of themselves throwing firecrackers into the woods while on a hike. This fire is also unique because of its close proximity to many population centers, all along the Columbia River Gorge but also the exurbs of Portland itself. That proximity has caused large scale evacuations and created hazardous breathing conditions in Portland.

Looking out our windows, the landscape is once again brown this summer. Just at this moment, it is hard to remember the blue sky and the vibrant colors of our world — everything is dulled by the smoke and the air is filled with minute particles. Our car has a visible coating of ash on it, and we find ourselves trying not to breathe hard. I haven’t run in several days, because it would seem highly unwise in these conditions.

As people whose occupation requires outdoor work, we are often more tuned into weather than average. We often find ourselves having conversations with other outdoor workers (postal carriers, vineyard workers) about weather events that perhaps only we notice — slight upticks or down-ticks in temperature, wind, excessive rain. But, this smoke is a natural event that is affecting everyone as people hunker inside on some exceptionally hot late summer days, just waiting for the “all clear” to go outside again.

And, when will that come? Today, we don’t know the answer to that story. Many western wildfires burn until the late fall snows arrive in the mountains, but most are usually located farther away from population centers. It’s hard to imagine our region living like this for another two or three months. Already, people are struggling to breathe, and the cumulative effects for outdoor workers across the region could be dire.

We will see. In the meantime, our region is once again watching the skies expectantly. This time, not to appreciate the glory of a celestial dance, but to watch for clouds, rain, or even just a breeze that could change the trajectory of smoke and flames. Once again, we are humbled by the power of the natural world, but I think that few are feeling ecstasy this time. We will save that emotion for when we see blue skies again and can breathe deeply of the life-giving air that sustains us all. May we be grateful every day for these simple gifts of life!

Take care of each other everyone. And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Two reminders:

  • Your final CSA payment is due to us by next Thursday, September 14! Please pay the remaining balance due on your account (I emailed statements to everyone). You can mail us a check: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128. Or, you can bring check or cash to CSA pick-up. Please let us know if you have any questions!
  • Remember to put our upcoming Fall CSA Open House on your calendar! It will be 2-4 pm, Saturday, October 14. We’ll have live music (the duo Luminous Heart), an apple variety tasting, and tours of the farm! Join us! (More details to come as well).

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Salad mix
  • Spaghetti squash — We have been loving having spaghetti squash in our diet this week. We prepare it very simple — slice it in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds; drizzle liberally with olive oil and then bake cut-side up in the oven at 375° until it is cooked through. At that point, you can scrape out the “spaghetti” from the shell of the squash with a fork. We like to make this the base for a stewy vegetable dish (much as one would do with rice or pasta).
  • Peppers — Sweet (red) peppers again this week! Many more!
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Hydro-cooling

Photo from the farm archive: January 2008, our newly remodeled outdoor wash station, ready to go for the start of our third season. (It’s since been remodeled and moved several more times!)

Do you know one of the secrets to having really great, fresh produce for customers? Cooling the harvest as quickly as possible.

When vegetables and fruit are in the field, they are the same temperature as the air. This seems obvious when you think about it, but it’s not obvious in a world where most people buy produce at a store and then put it almost directly into a fridge. That “cold chain” from field to fridge has been carefully built and maintained for customers by farmers (and transporters and retailers in the case of grocery store produce). But, first the produce is often times hot because it doesn’t start in the cold chain. It starts growing on the ground out in our fields, where summer temperatures can rise above 100°. We avoid picking tender vegetables like lettuce during the hottest part of the day, but even in the morning during a heat wave it can be 80° in our fields. Which means that the lettuce is 80° when we pick it. Just think of how quickly lettuce would wilt on your counter at 80° (or hotter)! That’s the same thing that could happen in our fields if we were not careful to bring food into the wash station as quickly as possible and then cool it off as quickly as possible.

And, how do we cool it off? Not by sticking it directly into our walk-in cooler. That would take too long, and the lettuce packed into bins would hold their heat for a long while, making for wilted or lower quality lettuce. Every minute that lettuce is left warm after cutting reduces its shelf-life and quality for our eaters.

The key is to dunk it as soon as possible in very cold, clean water (which serves the double purpose of cleaning the lettuce as well). This process is called “hydro-cooling” and it is very fast and effective. Our clean well water thankfully comes out quite cold, so we are able to use it for this purpose. Since the beginning of the farm, our favorite vessel for hydro-cooling produce has been re-purposed bathtubs lifted up off the ground (so we don’t have to bend as far — see the farm archive photo of an old wash station above). They work great — a bathtub can hold enough lettuce at a time that we can easily hydro-cool a whole batch of lettuce (or other crop) in a quick and efficient manner before packing it to clean bins and putting it into our cooler, where the lettuce will continue cooling to 34°. Our cooler will hold the produce at that temperature until it is time to take it to our customers.

So, we use a bathtub, designed for bathing humans, to hydro-cool our produce. But we’ve found that us humans also benefit “hydro-cooling” on hot days as well. Really, there’s nothing better at the end of a long summer day than dipping into cold water. It offers immediate refreshment beyond what walking into a cool space could do. And, what kind of vessel might work well for the human body? I suppose we could set up an outdoor bathtub for ourselves as well, but somehow we’ve never made that choice.

Instead, we use agricultural containers! This smaller one is a sturdy animal trough, leftover from our livestock days but long since turned into a wading/cooling pool for our whole family. It’s about a million times sturdier than any wading pool you’ll ever meet (and cost quite a lot more too, but we’re happy to not have to throw away “trash” at the end of every season because of punctured cheap wading pools).

Two of the kids’ friends enjoying our little “wading” trough. It’s just big enough for a full grown adult to dunk backward into for full immersion, but safe enough for young kids to splash around in too!

And, just this weekend we added a new deeper bin to our hydro-cooling options:

All four kids beating the heat on Tuesday afternoon!

This is a “macro-bin,” a plastic agricultural tote often used locally for harvesting and transporting wine grapes. We bought ours for storing apples over the winter in our cooler, but it’s temporarily out of the cooler and filled with cold water for dunking, jumping, splashing, and all kinds of summer fun!

Joy!

Big jump!

(Casey does want me to note that of course the macro-bin will be thoroughly scrubbed, washed, and sanitized before the fall’s apple harvest! Which it would have needed to be after storing last year’s harvest all winter anyway.)

So, apparently on our farm, we hydro-cool the produce in human tubs and the people in farming tubs. As long as it works, I guess why not?

And, as hot as it has been this week, we know the heat’s days are numbered. Certainly, we will still have warm days in the coming fall days, but they will be spread out more and more between days like today that start out cool and cloudy. We can really feel all the signs of summer winding down out here on the farm: yellow jackets prowling the ground for fallen fruit or meat scraps, brown dry grass everywhere, wagons full of winter squash from the kids’ garden … September is around the corner!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Chehalis apples
  • Brooks plums — These are one of those classic uniquely Oregon fruits — big, meaty prune-style plums that are great for eating fresh or for drying. I will always remember eating a ton of these right after Dottie’s birth (she turns five on Monday!). It was the first year they’d produced more than a handful of fruit, and little two year-old Rusty and I would make a daily “outing” of picking plums in the orchard (which is maybe 100 ft. from our house?). It certainly felt adventurous with a new baby in tow! Plus, they were delicious and we couldn’t stop eating them!
  • Red plums
  • Sweet peppers — One thing we have learned over the years is that when our “sweet” varieties of peppers begin to color up, they are sweet indeed! They do not have to be 100% colored in order to taste great. We’re now picking red peppers, and they are fabulous!
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers
  • Green peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
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