The newsletter that wasn’t

Our website was hacked, so I didn’t post a newsletter as normal. For posterity’s sake, here is the email I sent out to our members instead:

I am having technical difficulties with the farm website this evening. I am hoping to have it sorted out ASAP, but in the meantime I wanted to get out an email to folks with important information about the week:

1. Reminder that we are returning to our original CSA pick-up window of 3:30-6:30 pm, beginning tomorrow!

2. Your next CSA payment is due tomorrow if you haven’t paid it yet! Let me know if you have any questions about your balance due!

3. Here’s a list of this week’s veggies:

  • Strawberries
  • Salad mix & head lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Fava beans
  • Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Fennel bulb
  • Spring onions
  • Garlic scapes

Hopefully you’ll be hearing from me again soon with a newsletter, but either way we’ll see you tomorrow at CSA pick-up! 3:30-6:30!!!!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Kids and gardening

Rusty was planting so fast that it was hard to get a photo of him!

We’re a farming family. But I imagine what that means differs a lot from what people might think it means. I know that it certainly looks different than how I imagined once upon a time, before the farm and kids were both an actual reality.

Before having kids, Casey and I both worked full-time on the farm, both doing the physical hands-on work. We didn’t even have employees the first three years, although we had some regular CSA member helpers (who were awesome!).

But when Rusty was born eight years ago, we had to figure out the farm dynamics all over again. During pregnancy, I contemplated our work a lot and watched my friends with their babies and pondered how (and if) the two were compatible. Our work on the farm is fast, focused, and very physical. Part of how Casey and I have been able to make our small farm profitable and thriving is because we are both incredibly driven, task-oriented workers. Before kids, we raced around the farm — not sprinting, but walking quickly from task-to-task. We loved our work, and we knew how to do it, and so there was little stress in our days. We just decided what to do and then did it, with few distractions.

The energy of pregnancy, and then early motherhood, felt very different. Much, much, much slower. Much slower. The energy felt less task-oriented and more presence-oriented. Pregnancy was so much about waiting and just being — even as I continued to work on the farm (up until the day I went into labor!), I could feel my inner drive shifting to a new pace. And certainly, caring for a newborn and baby was so much about just being. Being a lap, being arms to hold someone else, being with this new little creature who needed me so intensely — not necessarily to do anything physical, but just to be with him.

The shift from moving all day to sitting most of the day was a big one, to say the least! But motherhood brings useful shifting hormones too, so I didn’t begrudge the shift. But I did recognize that it felt wholly inconsistent with the sharp focused way I previously moved through my days. I could no longer expect to finish any task uninterrupted — or finish at all! And, in spite of many people’s fantasies about farm life, it turns out that babies don’t really love being on a mother’s back while she does farm work. Somehow Rusty could always tell when my attention was focused elsewhere, and that was not what he needed or wanted.

Thankfully, I had seen this coming. I had seen it in watching other babies, and I also observed in myself that I really don’t enjoy multi-tasking. I loved having that single-focus of farming, and I was ready to be single-focused on mothering now. I didn’t want to begrudge the farm for taking my attention away from my baby, and I didn’t want to begrudge my baby for taking my attention away from the farm.

So, our farm family shifted into new roles: Casey as the primary physical operator on the farm (and definitely more than part-time parent), and me Katie as the primary parent (and part-time farm administrator).

Over the years, as the children have grown, we’ve tried integrating me and them into the farm work in meaningful ways. It’s worked at times and not at others. That integration has always had to be “extra” labor, because it’s never “worked” for us to rely on me (and certainly not them!) to complete tasks. There’d always be interruptions — a classic one being one of the kids needing to go poop while I am helping Casey harvest! This is not a interruption that Mama can ignore! And so, I’d pause working and take whichever child up to the house and sit while they take their time and help them clean up and then eventually make it back out to the fields to harvest … until the other one had to poop! (At least they have healthy digestion systems!)

Again, perhaps we could have done more integrating, but Casey and I have both never wanted to feel cranky with the kids or with the farm, and in that regard it has always felt best to raise the kids on the farm but not force a relationship between them and the farm. If they want to help, then they are welcome, for as long as they want. Two falls ago, Rusty chipped in when we were filling our Thanksgiving Holiday Harvests. He couldn’t read yet, but he understood about numbers and weighing things, so he genuinely helped weigh out potatoes and carrots and pick out the right number of bunches of kale. But most times one of them weeds or plants for a 15 minutes and then runs off to play.

So, so far the farm has not been a major source of occupation of their time or work. It will be interesting to watch how their relationship with the farm continues to grow over the years. Will they eventually want to step up and help us more with the actual sustained work? Or, will they mostly view the farm as their home rather than their occupation?

They certainly interact with it daily. It is the entire context for their outdoor play life. We have a good sized yard, but it is not fenced and they wander to and from the grass outside our house into the orchard and the cover cropped fields and beyond. Rusty especially ventures far from the house daily as he engages in elaborate, ongoing imagination games (often reenacting historical events). They both love seeking out new fruits and enjoy being kept up-to-date on which crop is coming in next so they can be the first to taste a ripe strawberry or plum or whatever it is. And, it is very clear in how they give their friends tours that the farm is a place of pride for them. They seem to enjoy knowing this place so well and having ideas of cool things to show to other kids, which vary from season to season. They want to share tasty treats and show off hidden nooks under special trees.

Why NOT plant your garden in pajamas?

But, each year their dedication to their own little garden grows. We keep a little patch of ground between our yard and the fields that used to be the “family” garden but has morphed into the kids’ garden exclusively. In recent years, we’ve given them free creative reign over what they plant and how. They’ve purchased and planted tress of their own choosing (Rusty has a crab apple and Dottie has a plum). Each year they pick out a few items from our many seed catalogs, and they sow those seeds themselves and then plant the starts themselves. Dottie always chooses lots of flowers, and they both love growing melons.

This weekend, the kids took the initiative to plan out this year’s set of starts. Casey tilled up some of the garden (some in bed shapes, some in random between-the-trees shapes), and the kids planted their starts with the skill of someone who has grown up on a farm: efficiently and effectively both. This year they even put their plants in rows! They know now that this really is easier to tend.

They still need help at many points in their garden, of course. Although they could fill the flats with soil on their own this year, they still needed my help to sort out all the seeds and label the flats. Casey and I end up doing a fair amount of weeding and watering, but the kids keep a close eye on things, taking the initiative to trellis tomatoes and harvest when appropriate. And, each year, they seem to naturally take on more of the work as their enthusiasm for the project continues to grow. I think their ownership over it is key. This is truly their garden, the result of their imaginations and desires. This is an aspect of raising our family on a farm that I didn’t imagine ahead of time. Call me short-sighted, but long ago if you’d asked me to picture our future family farm, I would have pictured children helping us with our project. Instead, where the kids meet the farm is us helping them with their farming project.

Nelson asks, “What are the kids planting THIS year?”

Many years from now, I look forward to hearing about how the kids remember this time in our life. Already it’s clear that Rusty has memories that Dottie doesn’t, simply because she was a baby during particular phases of our farm’s life (such as when we were farming 100 acres and milking cows and raising chickens and all that!). So far, those memories seem to be sticking with Rusty, even though he was relatively young too. But certainly, they both will remember this place as the foundational context for so much of their lives: their home, their place of learning, their playground.

Like all parents, Casey and I have moments of doubt about our choices and can sometimes focus on the experiences and things we haven’t provided our children. Balancing our work here with raising children hasn’t always been easy. But the land itself … it is like another parent and a teacher and a friend and so much more. What lessons are they learning that we’ll never even know, because they won’t even know to name or share those experiences with us? We are so grateful.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

CSA payment due next week! Reminder that your next CSA payment is due next Thursday, June 7! You can bring a check or cash to pick-up (or mail a check to Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128). I emailed statements over the weekend, but please let me know if you have any questions about your balance due! And, please check with me if you are unsure whether you have signed up for the second half of the season! There’s plenty of room for everyone.

CSA pick-up window changing to 3:30-6:30 too! Also starting next week, we return to our former pick-up time window of 3:30 to 6:30 on Thursdays!!!!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries Limited again so that everyone can have a share of these delicious Hood berries!
  • Carrots — The first of this year’s spring planted carrots! Limited so that everyone can enjoy! These are “Mokum” carrots, a variety that we love so much we named one of our kittens after it 12 years ago (he’s now a sweet adult cat).
  • Fava beans
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Kohlrabi
  • Kale
  • Rainbow chard
  • Butternut and Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Spring onions
  • Garlic scapes
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Orange wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

an orange wheel
barrow

tipped on its
side

beside the cover
crop.

~ Katie Kulla (a la William Carlos Williams)

In brief farm news, this week we took a break from spring farm work and campaign work to get away for two nights of cabin camping. It was a much needed step away from things and very restorative!

Looking ahead, the next CSA payment is coming up at the end of this month. I am emailing out statements later this week.

Have you signed up for the second half of the season yet, beginning in June? Check in with me if you are unsure.

Also, a reminder that beginning in June we will be shortening the CSA pick-up window back to our original window of 3:30-6:30! Thanks for your understanding, and please check in with us if the shift poses challenges for you.

The sun is shining and everything is growing rapidly on the farm! Hoorah! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries — Woo hoo! The Hoods are here! Because these are the very first of the strawberries, they will be LIMITED this week!
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Fava beans
  • Kohlrabi
  • Napa cabbage
  • Butternut & Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Torpedo onions — These are some of our favorite onions ever. They are sweet enough to eat raw but have enough flavor that they are delicious when cooked too.
  • Green garlic
  • Garlic scapes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 2 Comments

A big news week

Tidy furrows in the fields …

It was big week around these parts, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Casey got the first of the potatoes planted!

Oh, wait … that wasn’t what you were expecting me to write about? That’s right, there was another big thing that happened this week too:

The primary election! Our family survived our first season of campaigning! Hoorah!

Casey on election night!

The results were positive too: Casey almost tied with the incumbent county commissioner and will be headed to the run-off general election in November!

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we already laid most of the groundwork and we’re excited to see how the next steps go. In addition to the campaign work itself, we’ll also spend the next few months brainstorming different possibilities for next year (we’ll have to have Plan A and a Plan B, depending on possible election outcomes).

But, first, we celebrate! The next few weeks we’re going to take a bit of a break from too much campaign work and focus on enjoying the start of summer activities: kayaking, etc. Life is for the living!

Plus, there’s a lot more to plant too!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Radishes
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Salad turnips
  • Fava beans — We’ve begun picking the fava beans! They are a little on the younger side still, but we like starting to harvest them at this stage because it offers a different potential eating opportunity than the later beans (which are bigger and great for shucking). When the fava beans are long but not yet full, we love to roast them whole and eat the whole bean (pod and all). It’s delicious! Be sure to put them in a single layer so that they actually roast rather than steaming, and use good oil/butter and salt. We love this spring treat!
  • Head lettuce
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Rainbow chard
  • Kale
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Garlic scapes — Garlic scapes are also sometimes called garlic “whistles” — they’re the green shoot that pops up out of the top of the plant as the bulbs begin to grows. Technically, the buds will open into a flower, so in a way you could think of these as garlic rapini! The entire length of the stalk is usually tender enough to cook with, so chop the whole thing up and use it as you would other garlic — toss it in the pan with butter before cooking greens or add it to salad dressing, etc.
  • Green garlic

 

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

What can you see?

And, what color is the sky anyway?

I recently listened to the tail end of a fascinating Radiolab episode about how ancient cultures don’t seem to have a word for the color blue. The classic example is in Homer, when the narrator refers to the “wine-dark sea.”

I had heard of this phenomenon before and enjoyed hearing the radio show use its unique investigative techniques to tease apart the significance of no mentions of blue. Spoiler alert: the end conclusion is that human eyes have been able to see blue practically forever, but that words denoting blue don’t seem to show up in languages until the corresponding cultures find the technologies to create blue dyes and pigments. True blue is actually rather rare in nature and one of the hardest colors to create (unlike red, which can be made from simple clays and is the first named color in all languages after black and white).

Researchers have visited an African tribe that still doesn’t have a word for blue and shown them color swatches that are all various shades of green and then one blue and asked them to point out the different one. The participants didn’t seem to even see the difference even while they stood out starkly to the experiment designers.

Everyone on the radio show marveled at this phenomenon — how could someone not see blue just because they don’t have a word for it? Isn’t it so obvious that the sky is blue? (Another spoiler: actually not really when this hasn’t been pointed out as “true” fact — many days the sky is actually gray or white.)

I suppose it does seem funny at first that someone wouldn’t be able to see blue, especially in a culture where teaching children the colors of the rainbow is part of introductory language skills. Look at board books for toddlers, and you’ll inevitably see pages sorted by color because apparently we think this is a very important early skill to have!

But I had to laugh at the naivete of the radio voices. Because, of course, this is how perception works. When we learn to identify something (often by giving it a name and thereby categorizing it), it suddenly stands out to us.

Because our culture is very invested in the idea of blue, not being able to immediately distinguish “blue” from a similar tone of “green” seems ridiculous and almost unbelievable. But, my friends, you should sit down with a painter sometime and learn about all the “obvious” color differences that you have yet to notice because you don’t know their names and haven’t spent hours carefully mixing them.

Furthermore, if I were to play for you various notes for you on the piano, would you be able to pick out an E? I know people who can, but I can’t at this point. If you are singing, can you tell if you go flat? To an experienced musician, that sounds will be painfully obvious, but many people cannot distinguish that “obvious” sound.

Likewise, have you ever been at a dinner with any of our wonderful local wine industry professionals and listened to them remark on tones in the wine that you just don’t notice? I have.

It’s not always sufficient to point to something once and say “this is the color blue” (apparently not, because we stuff our children with color information repeatedly throughout childhood), but through repeated exposure and examples, “blueness” becomes obvious. This is why I (as a novice wine drinker) can’t always distinguish the same flavors in wine that people much more experienced can. It’s not necessarily because my taste buds are less sensitive, but because my mind has fewer examples of those tones to draw upon for comparison.

On the farm, we have observed in ourselves and people working with us that the longer a person works with a particular crop, the easier it is to see the markers for appropriate maturity. A classic example (and appropriate right now!) is learning to see the perfectly ripe snap pea. The first few times a person picks, they will have to consciously consider each pea for size and shape and consider to input of a more experienced picker (too small; too fat; etc.). But after years of picking, perfectly mature peas are so obvious that picking can be done much quicker and almost unconsciously while carrying on a conversation or listening to the radio. Casey and I had this experience with almost every crop we’ve grown, that our years of learning to see it translates into a kind of expertise that allows us to make very quick and accurate decisions when harvesting (or planting or weeding or doing ground prep, etc.).

One of my favorite parts of the second Genesis creation story is when God brings all the animals and creatures of the earth to name them (Gen 2:19-20). Many people read this story as a narrative of domination, but I always read it as a story about learning to know about the world. When we give names (or learn names from others) for things, we see them in an entirely different way.

For me, this is one of the true joys of living and learning. I absolutely love the experience of increasing my knowledge of the world and thereby fundamentally shifting the way I experience everything. Spending our days on the farm and learning about the world around us has brought so much more definition and richness and depth into my perception, and I know that this process will only continue as I continue to make time to observe and learn.

What is a forest if you walk through it unaware of the diversity of creatures living there? How does that experience fundamentally change if you slow down and take the time to learn to identify the differences between the plants and trees (usually by learning the names others have given them)? I have spent years now hiking the same trails near our farm, and I still see new plants each year and learn new bird calls. The more I learn, the more I am able to see what I don’t yet know. This spring, I noticed and identified blooming Western Meadowrue for the first time — a beautiful tall plant with distinctive male and female blossoms. I can guarantee you that I will not miss this plant in future springs, but I can’t say I remember seeing it at all in past years. Of course I did, but I did not see it until I took the time to notice, learn, and, yes, name.

It’s like walking through a large crowd and seeing only a blur of faces and then seeing a person you know and recognize. But with each year, I become friends with more and more of what I see in the forest, by the river, and along the hedges of our farm.

What do you see? A bunch of green leaves? Or, familiar friends with names? (See below for names.)

I could list countless more examples from different parts of life, all of which are experiences that I genuinely treasure in my heart. This is the joy of life. When we take the time to learn in these ways, our appreciation of whatever we love is enhanced, whether it be fine wines, music, the natural world, poetry, athletic endeavors …

It is a great joy to be sharing my lifelong love of learning with our growing children. I do think that a love of learning is such a natural part of who we are as people that it is an easily contagious kind of passion. Here’s to always learning and seeing new things!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. The leaf samples from our hedge are, from left to right: Linden, wild clematis, Oregon ash, redosier dogwood, hazelnut, and cherry!

P.P.S. On a different note: Oregon ballots are due by 8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 15! Remember to vote! You can find a list of Yamhill County drop sites here.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cilantro
  • Radishes
  • Salad turnips
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Head lettuce
  • Chard
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Spring onions
  • Green garlic

 

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Summer is a-coming in

Sandals drying after afternoon creek fun

“Summer is a-coming in” is the first line in a very old round, and it’s been running through my head today. In the song, the singers point out the signs of summer: “Loudly sing cuckoo” and “Ewe bleateth after lamb.” Around here, the signs are a little different but present nonetheless.

Yesterday was May Day, which for me often feels like a significant turning point in the seasons, as we leave behind predictably wet cool days and head into the dry warm season. Not that May and June won’t bring showers (they often do!), but the balance shifts usually right about now. Regardless of the actual weather, the days are now lengthening significantly, with many more light hours in each 24-hour cycle. More sunlight means lots of green growth all around! Trees are putting on leaves in earnest.

More signs of summer a-coming in here on the farm: newly planted crops growing in the fields … sandals drying in the sun after an afternoon of creek wading and splashing … grass growing rapidly all around … red clover blooming in the cover crop … red-wing blackbird songs in the morning … lilacs blooming by the door … and, the first of the sugar snap pea harvest!

PEAS!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cilantro
  • Sugar snap peasLIMITED THIS WEEK! Please only take one item worth. The first of the year! More to come … if you’re unfamiliar with sugar snap peas, these are the kind that have a delicious, sweet, tender pod you can eat along with the peas inside. Our kids are SO excited that these are in season again! For them, it’s the very first of the year’s parade of delicious fruit crops.
  • Salad turnips
  • Head lettuce — LIMITED THIS WEEK! Please only take one item worth.
  • Spinach — LIMITED THIS WEEK! Please only take one item worth.
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Chard
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Green garlic
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A full day

Planting time!

I apologize that the newsletter is going out so much later than normal. Today was an exceptionally full day in our household.

Casey has made good use of the dry sunny weather to work up ground and get planting again (outside the greenhouses!), so between yesterday and today he harvested for the CSA and planted: kale, napa cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli raab, green onions, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, head lettuce, and rainbow chard. He also sowed: bush beans, lettuce, basil, carrots, more kale, and cilantro.

Meanwhile, the kids and I did school as usual and went on a hike with friends where we saw lots of wildflowers blooming in the woods at Airport Park.

We also both prayed a lot for Erick (see last week’s newsletter for details). I also checked social media and email a lot looking for updates and haven’t seen anything definitive yet as to whether his execution went through as scheduled today or whether he received a last minute stay. I will let you know.

We also hosted the last of a series of town halls Casey has been having, this one in Willamina. Talk about a full day!

But, it’s exciting to have plants in the ground and to be working on so many other positive projects too.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Dottie visited Casey while he was planting and took a little field rest in the shade of the fava beans:

“Doesn’t this look so nice, Mama?”

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cilantro
  • Bok choy
  • Radishes
  • Salad turnips
  • Lettuce or salad mix
  • Kale
  • Kale rapini
  • Chard
  • Sunchokes
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Green garlic — What is “green” garlic, you ask? This is the same plant but before the garlic have formed a bulb and dried down. In this green stage, the flavor is milder but still very savory. Prep it how you might a green onion or leek (chop the white part but also any tender greens) and add it to the oil before you cook greens … or use it in any other garlic-y application! It’s a special spring treat!
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A caring request

Pretty spring food

Last night, I woke up with a heavy heart in the early not-yet-morning hours. This happens to me sometimes, as I’m sure it does to others too. It is amazing how out-of-proportion worries can be in those dark hours being the only person awake in the house.

My heart can feel like it literally hurts (which apparently is somewhat true with emotional pain — it can be measured in the brain just like physical pain). Last night I was weighing the wisdom of caring about the situation of others, because sometimes that feels like it just brings extra pain into my life. To put it simply, seeing injustice and pain and frustration in the world and then caring about changing those situations is hard.

The desire to help others is of course a big part of why Casey’s running for office right now, but campaigning brings its own special kind of frustration and pain as I’m sure you can imagine! But I also have another thing weighing on my heart that I want to share with you in the hopes that perhaps you too can put it in your heart and do that thing we call prayer.

I am pen pals with a 31-year old Texas man who is currently on death row. Erick and I met through the Death Row Support Project. He is scheduled for execution next Wednesday, April 25.

I have always found the death penalty to be morally repugnant — how does killing one person fix the earlier loss? That’s assuming that the person being executed is actually guilty of the original crime, which is not always true in a justice system built and operated by flawed humans who can make mistakes.

But, of course, knowing a person who is actually going to be executed gives me a new level of awareness of the death penalty and its consequences. Erick has a nine year-old son and a partner outside of prison.

With a week left before his execution, there is still the possibility that Erick’s execution could be stayed or rescheduled. But seven people have already been executed in the U.S. this calendar year, so this is a real threat to his life.

I bring this up here for a few reasons. First, it’s something that’s on our mind here on the farm. Both Casey and I have Erick in our thoughts most of the time. Second, the primary goal of the Death Row Support Project is to provide meaningful connections to people on death row, but I think an equally important second goal is to humanize people who have received a death sentence — and thereby raise awareness of the death penalty itself. For many of us, it’s not a daily reality, nor something we fear for our children. But it’s a reality that will not change without a level of awareness and attention. I wanted to spread that awareness via my story of my friendship with Erick and my own possible upcoming loss.

But, lastly, I share this story to hopefully enlist your prayers (or meditations or intentions or thoughts) for Erick. I ask for prayers for a miracle that will change the outcome. And, on April 25, I ask for prayers for Erick as he possibly departs this world in a manner none of us would choose for ourselves or our loved ones. I ask for prayers just of love and prayers that he feels held, carried, embraced. Or, simply pray for whatever feels fitting to you based on your faith or spiritual tradition.

Another American in prison, whom I don’t personally know, is scheduled for execution tomorrow in Alabama. If you feel so moved, you could also offer prayers for Walter. If you’d like to see a list of upcoming scheduled executions so that you could continue praying or meditating for people, here is a link to that information.

Thank you all for your care.

And, of course, still do please enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Fennel bulbs
  • Head lettuce — LIMITED! 1/share
  • Spinach — LIMITED! 1/share
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Marina de Chioggia squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Green garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 2 Comments

April showers (& blooms)

The view from our upstairs window: a rainy day and a pear tree in full bloom.

Sometimes when I’m not sure what exactly to write about for the weekly newsletter (by our count, I’ve written over 500 newsletter!), I go for a stroll around the farm with a camera to see what stories arise in pictures.

This week is all about blooms. So many trees are in some stage of bloom, including (most notably here on the island) the cherries. The landscape is filled with white trees, including those wonderful annual surprises of blooming trees tucked into unexpected places along waterways and in hedges.

Cherry blossoms!

Pear blossoms!

The earliest of the apples are blooming!

Even the peas are getting in on the action …

But, it’s also April. That month associated with showers. And, I observed today that those same blooms just can’t shine their brightest when it is dark and gloomy out. April showers dampen April flowers? Maybe.

The rain this last week has certainly had a dampening effect on other parts of our household. Casey’s been a little under the weather, and the kids were pretty antsy by the end of the very wet weekend (just shy of 3″ over the weekend!). Normally they spend a good part of the day outside, at the very least running outside to release energy a few times a day. They’re great at doing this in all kinds of weather, but pouring rain felt like a barrier even to them.

It’s hard for all of us to not feel antsy for the coming turn in weather, when more days are dry and warm than not. It is coming very soon (May seems like the tipping point).

But I’m working hard to appreciate every day’s gift. And in the last week I’ve been especially grateful for our small cozy house and the shelter it gives us in all kinds of storms. I’ve also been grateful for the joy of indoor pursuits. Good books makes my mental gratitude list almost every evening. I’m in the midst of a great fun engrossing epic novel, which helps make up for the rainy weather outside. And, this weekend, amidst another very wet afternoon, Rusty sat down and for the first time really got sucked into a novel for a lengthy period of time and finished the last quarter of Redwall, a book he’d been working through since January.

The forecast is for more and more rain, so I’m sure good books will stay on my gratitude list for a while yet. But when I look out the window to the south, even in the gathering darkness, I can see the band of white in our neighbor’s cherry orchard, reminding me that summer is very much on its way, soon to bring all the sweetness of that season.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — The apples are beginning to bloom, and last year’s harvest is about done! This is the last week of apples until mid-summer … but the strawberries are blooming now too.
  • Cilantro
  • Radishes
  • Salad turnips
  • Seasonal salad mix — Almost entirely from greenhouses this week, featuring lots of tender greens.
  • Kale rapini
  • Cabbage rapini
  • Chard
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Sunchokes
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Food, landscapes, people

Snack time!

Somewhat regularly, our kids go out to the fields to “graze” on whatever tender greens are growing out there — fennel tops, rapini, and chickweed are among their top hits. Grazing like that is pretty much their favorite way to eat greens. If we serve a salad at the table, one of them will eat it (most of the time), but the other will pass.

But nibbling greens fresh in the fields has a magic appeal that never seems to grow old for them. They also loving sharing their finds with friends.

Most kids seem to be up for the adventure of greens nibbling, even if they too might not love salad at other times. Over the years, Casey and I have been amazed at how open kids are to tasting new things in the context of a field walk. Some of these greens have very strong flavors (by kids standards), and yet when presented as an experience, kid palettes respond differently apparently.

I have to admit that it is a cool experience to realize that food can be part of our landscape. That we can walk around and nibble edible things, rather than just find them stacked tidily (and for sale) inside stores.

I remember years ago when my younger cousin came to visit us from Southern California during blackberry season. She spent the morning helping Casey and me weeding and then we all roads bicycles down to the river, stopping to pick blackberries on the way. I didn’t think she would be so impressed by our lifestyle given how much fun hers sounded, but she repeatedly exclaimed at the wonder of eating food just growing along the road.

The kids and I read a book about the Kalapuya people as part of school this year: The World of the Kalapuya. “Kalapuya” is actually a family of languages but is in the case of the book used to describe the linguistically connected people who lived in what we now call the Willamette Valley. Much of the book was interesting to the kids and me, but I think we were most intrigued by imagining how different this place where we live must have looked hundreds of years ago. When Europeans first began exploring North America, they concluded that native peoples did not practice agriculture, because the landscape did not resemble their conceptions of a tended, cultivated landscape. In Europe this would mean fences marking fields (in part because of domesticated food animals, something people in the Americas did not have) and tillage.

What we learned in the book about the Kalapuya is that people native to the Willamette very intentionally cultivated food crops but using tools unfamiliar to Europeans. Fire was a very important tool for the Kalapuya peoples, and was used to prepare land for planting, to maintain open grasslands for hunting, to harvest crops such as tarweed, and to rejuvenate other perennial crops (such as camas). Much of the landscape would have been productive for some form of food: wapato growing along the edges of waterways, berries growing in thickets, nettles growing under the shelter of forests, large fields of staple crops growing in other places.

As we learned about their food sources and how they tended, cultivated or promoted their production, the kids and I marveled at what all that must have looked like. I know that I have a instinctive response to the beauty of the Oak savannah grassland, an ecological feature most likely owing its original shaping to human activity. Conservationists today are working to reestablish such ecosystems, because they are historical to the place and because they are systems that can teem with all kinds of ecological diversity, clearly benefiting more than just people.

Later this year, we will enjoy eating the handfuls of salmonberry that grow along one of our favorite local trails. (They have already bloomed!) As the kids know so well, finding food in our landscape is a treat, and for me it is extra special to enjoy those foods that have been native to this place long before our arrival. Foods that would have nourished people who shaped this landscape over centuries and millennia with their own tending and cultivation.

There is, too, deep sadness to eat those berries and remember the very hard history of how those people came to dwindle in numbers (disease) and then be displaced (onto reservations) and then stripped of cultural memories (through forced schooling). I’d like to follow that statement up with some kind of “but …” statement that turns this around, but — no — there really is just sadness and grief mixed right in there with the sweet joy of finding a berry in the forest.

We talk a lot in our house about the future and responsibility and how do we live now, knowing the past that has come before us. It’s something we wrestle with as parents (especially as homeschooling parents), wanting our children to grow up with a rich, complicated understanding of this place where we live and the people who do and have inhabited it. Today we read Martin’s Big Words in order to observe the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. History is important around here: the history of people and natural history too.

Whatever actions Rusty and Dottie choose to take in their life, to work for justice or to create or to just live kindly, they know the taste of these foods that make up our landscape. They know that there are stories in the fields and in the forests, that flavors can be found living and growing around us. It’s something.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — We’re almost done with apples for the season! Then we’ll have a fruit gap while we wait for the strawberries to come on in May.
  • Sunchoke & kale ferment — A small amount of this ferment left. Time to think of the next ferment possibility!
  • Bok choy — This is a tender Asian green, suitable for eating raw or quick cooking (such as in a wok). Pairs well with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil/seeds, and ginger.
  • Radishes
  • Head lettuce — The first head lettuce of the year! Because these are the first, we’re going to limit them to 1/household for this week. Thank you for your understanding! Much more lettuce is on the way! (Trust me, spring is such a lettuce-filled season!)
  • Salad turnips — LIMITED as well for this week! These turnips are a spring treat. They are delicious to eat raw, resembling a smooth, mild radish. Eat the leaves, too!
  • Chard
  • Red russian kale rapini — Beautiful kale rapini! Still some leaves, but mostly just the tender stalk and buds
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Butternut
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