The 2017 CSA begins tomorrow!!!!!! Hoorah! So this is our first (of 40) newsletters of the year, one of many habits we are restarting after our winter break.
As returning members know, we added a few extra weeks to our break this year, and BOY OH BOY are we grateful that we made that decision! The weather turned out to be extra winter-y through January, and each time a Thursday would roll around and we’d look out at frozen and/or snowy fields, we’d feel happy that we just got to enjoy the winter without feeling unnecessarily burdened by it. We even decided to make the unprecedented decision to take a break for harvesting for restaurants as well. It just felt like we needed to give the fields a break from our presence and our mud-making boots. It was nice to not have to work harvest miracles in the middle of those dark months.
We made good use of the extra time — both for play and work. Our family left the farm for seven nights, which is a first since we started the farm in 2006. We drove up north to Washington to visit friends and Holden Village (all around the Lake Chelan area). Our trip was a veritable Winter Wonderland adventure, with feet of powdery white snow everywhere, sub-zero temperatures, starlight at night, and priceless visits with wonderful people.
Back at home, we’ve all kept busy with various adventures and bits of work: pruning the orchards, cutting firewood for next winter, and working on some building projects. Casey also built our fifth (and probably final) high tunnel for the farm. So now we have two on our lowest ground and three on our highest ground. The new one was planted the moment it was completed … because we already had plants in the ground ready to go! We knew this high tunnel was going to be built this winter, so Casey planted with it in mind and worked around it.
Last year was our first year really carefully managing our high tunnels (the benefit of scaling down our farm: we have more time for some “smaller” spaces!), and we were amazed at what they were able to produce for us, especially in these shoulder seasons that have historically been stressful for us. We found that vegetables were consistently ready earlier in the season (which was not a surprise to us) AND that they were higher quality AND more productive. We also realized that they allow us to work better in the winter and early spring, because we can actually do things like weed on rainy days (impossible outside for most of the winter!). We even branched out and planted our garlic in a high tunnel this year for that very reason, since our winters are often mild enough to allow weeds to grow but not mild (or dry) enough for us to weed them properly when they need it. So, we’re happy to have a fifth such space for our use this year. We’re especially grateful now, when the harder-than-average winter has cut back on many of our typically-available-over-wintered veggies in the field. We’ll be leaning on the greenhouses hard this spring thanks to all that cold and snow. The high tunnels don’t actually cover that much ground on our farm, but they provide us so much.
I (Katie) and the kids have been busy with our homeschooling related activities. We start each morning with “school.” I always put that in quotes because what we do doesn’t really look like school, but it’s our equivalent — a little structured time when we do sit down to work. We practice handwriting, do some math, read together from several classic books, practice Spanish, move around a bunch, and do other little projects depending on the day. We’ve also added a few other activities to the kids lives this year: ballet for Dottie, swim lessons for both kids, among other things. We’ve also been going on a weekly outdoor outing, just me and the kids. We explore all the amazing places near our farm, enjoying the outdoors regardless of the weather.
And, today we all got home from our 11th annual trip to Breitenbush Hot Springs for a farmer gathering. We always think of this trip as a big turning point in the season. Often the time leading up to the trip feels like winter and there will even be snow on the ground while we are there. But it often turns while we are there, which happened again this time — the temperatures up there rose above freezing, and today it was even raining on top of the snow. Returning feels like pressing the “start” button for so many of our spring-like activities. We’ve already sown some transplants and some in the greenhouse, but those types of projects will just pick up now that we’re back.
Including, of course, the start of our 2017 CSA! We are excited to see all of you again tomorrow after our winter break. We miss your friendly faces and weekly routine of touching base with you.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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First CSA payment due tomorrow! Have you made a first payment yet? If not, please bring cash or check to pick-up for either one-quarter or the full value of your share. If you can’t remember the amounts, you can ask me at pick up or email me.
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Apples — This week’s apple selection are mainly Honeycrisp
- Baby kale — These bunches of baby kale are super tender from our high tunnels! We’re picking whole plants small now in order to give other plants the space to grow big for picking later. These are absolutely delicious, suitable for making a salad (or cooking too).
- Brussels sprouts
- Marina di Chioggia winter squash — This winter squash has a been mainstay of our winter diet. We gave out the smaller ones in the fall and now mostly have the TRULY ENORMOUS ones left. We’ll be cutting them into quarters for you all, since some of these literally would not even fit into an oven. To cook them, we recommend just putting them on a baking pan and baking at 350° until they are soft all the way through (depending on the thickness and size, this could be up to one hour). We usually put the cooked squash in the fridge and eat a little bit of it every day. We like to cut slices and reheat them in the oven with butter so that the squash is crispy on the outside (a well seasoned pan helps with the browning, and you can also do this on the stovetop). We eat the skin and all. That’s the simple way to eat it, but you can also use the cooked flesh to make any kind of pumpkin baked good or soup.
- Sunchokes (aka “Jerusalem Artichokes”) — I don’t really know how this delightful (and funny looking) vegetable ever picked up that second name, since they are neither from Jerusalem nor related to artichokes! Sunchokes are the tuber of an American plant related to sunflowers. We mostly eat them raw, sliced thin into cole slaw type salads. But they are absolutely delicious roasted as well. When we roast them, we typically cut them small (cutting can also help clean any soil left in all those tight crevices!) and roast them until they are crispy outside and chewy/soft inside. They take longer to soften than potatoes or carrots, so leave plenty of time (in relation to how small they are).