Summer season begins!

(CSA Newsletter: Summer Week 1)

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet onion — Since these are sweet onions, they are great raw or barely cooked (such as quickly grilled on your 4th of July BBQ!).
  • Rainbow chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower — We hope you enjoy our first picking of cauliflower. Neither of us used to be big fans of this broccoli relative, until we tried eating it fresh-off-the-farm. Now we love it. While it’s great raw, we especially enjoy it cooked. One of our favorite quick meals is to roast chopped broccoli, cauliflower & onions in the oven. Simply chop into large chunks, throw onto a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and roast at 400° until the broccoli & cauliflower are just starting to brown at the edges. Stir at least once during cooking.
  • Summer squash — We’re growing four varieties of summer squash this year, & you’ll have the opportunity to try each one over the season. They can all be treated as you would zucchini in a recipe or preparation, but they do each have a distinct taste & texture. If you have a bigger squash this week, we recommend slicing it length-wise, dipping in seasoned oil & vinegar, and then quickly grilling on your 4th of July BBQ!
  • Beets
  • Parsley — The first of our summer herbs. We don’t grow many herbs out here, but we feel like parsley & basil are essential to our cooking, so we will aim to give out a bunch of either at least every other week. Lately we’ve been enjoying trifolati (parsley pesto). Finely dice parsley leaves and integrate with a little olive oil, butter, salt & pepper (& garlic if you have it on hand—our garlic harvest is coming soon!). You can use the parlsey pesto in pasta or simply serve on sliced baguettes.
  • Salad mix — If it gets too hot to cook this week, you can always eat a Big Green Salad for dinner!
  • I think that I’ve announced the beginning of summer several times in newsletters already this year, and hopefully this will be the last, since there’s no denying summer is upon us. And it’s very much official now for the CSA as well, as this week is the first of our summer season. As you know, we’ve organized the CSA into three seasons this year, in order to allow us ‘wiggle room’ in our numbers and better reflect the volumes of produce in the fields. Accordingly, we’ve slightly enlarged the CSA this season.

    As such, some of you are new this week: welcome! We are glad to have you join us this year and this summer season.

    And it’s looking like it should be a delicious season indeed. Some days we wish we could have you all out here daily to experience the fields. Obviously that idea is far from practical (although we will definitely have a second open house in August), but we just get so excited by what we see. The fields look really good these days—everything is sizing up and growing vigorously.

    We have fruit setting everywhere: little baby tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers. We harvested our very first green beans last week for Nick’s Italian Café (hopefully we’ll have enough for the CSA next week). Our summer onion planting is deep green, almost weed-free, and growing quickly. The potatoes are nicely hilled and developing potatoes already (we know, because Casey accidentally pulled one out when hilling). The winter squash have canopied and are creeping into the paths (and setting fruit already). Our leeks are as thick as our thumbs and a lush dark blue-green. And we have sweet corn that is already hip high (I think the classic saying is ‘knee high by 4th of July’).

    We relate all these good seasonal tidbits in the most humble state possible. Our new land is amazing, and we are continually humbled as we realize how much of our success this year is due to the amazing soil we have the privilege to farm. We knew that Grand Island had good soil before we purchased our farm last year, but actually growing vegetables here is a revelation of sorts. I would never jinx ourselves by saying something as foolish as ‘this year feels easy,’ because farming is not easy. But some parts certainly feel easier on our new soil.

    We still have to be constantly vigilant about keeping up with sowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, irrigating, etc. But we’re starting to feel like if we keep up our end of the bargain, the plants will grow. That might not seem like much, but it’s a reassuring feeling. We’re entering the high summer season with much optimism—guarded optimism, but optimism nonetheless.

    And, of course, since time is wonky on the farm (as I noted last week), even as we bask in the summer side by the side of the Willamette River (we took a break this afternoon), we’re starting to think seriously about fall and winter. We inventoried our seeds this weekend and ordered some more for our next round of sowing, which we also just began.

    With the current field growth in mind, we already can’t wait to see how our fall garden holds up on such well-drained soil. Last year we knowingly challenged ourselves by pushing the harvest season—during the wettest fall on record. Our planning last fall saved us, since we over-planted, but we also watched numerous plantings of carrots and other crops rot in the field before they were ready to harvest. In some ways, crop failure is the very nature of fall and winter gardens—the weather is so unpredictable that almost anything can happen to a crop before harvest. But after watching the spring, and now the early summer, on our new land, we hope we will have much less rot and more beautiful sweet fall produce.

    And so, with that guarded optimism applied to our late season garden, we are happily sowing long-season cabbages, cauliflower, pumpkins, chicories, kale, green onions, and more.

    This next week holds many equally exciting tasks for us on the farm, including our very first garlic harvest! We grew garlic at the farm we trained on, but this is our first time growing it in quantity on our own. Frankly, we’re a bit nervous about how it will go, since we suddenly have to find room to store and dry five beds of garlic (about 6,000 heads). We’ll let you know how it goes, and soon you’ll have garlic to use in your veggie-rich meals!

    … well, you might not immediately tell from this highly optimistic (albeit guardedly so) newsletter, but in addition to all the fun sights and successes, we’ve also been bone tired lately. Tired in a good way—it’s the feeling of accomplishing each day’s tasks—but we’re still exhausted much of the time.

    So, I apologize if the writing end of the CSA has become disjointed or less prolific. Last winter a farmer friend asked how I find time to write such long newsletters and blog entries—at the time I wasn’t sure of an answer, and now I’m starting to wonder myself how I did it last year.

    In actuality though, these weekly check-ins are as valuable for us as for you—we appreciate the opportunity for at least one purposeful reflection each week; it’s helpful for our own appreciation of the farm as time passes. As I’m sure you’ve noticed in my frequent references lately, time is bizarre out here. We can get so caught up in our routine that we could easily forget to observe the kinds of things I shared earlier in this newsletter: the small changes each day that add up to a successful season.

    So, as always, thank you for joining us in this growing and eating adventure. Although you can’t be in the fields with us witnessing first hand the changes, we hope that you enjoy the results and can experience the shifting seasons through the seasonal progression of vegetables.

    Have a fun & safe Fourth of July, and enjoy this week’s vegetables!

    Your farmers,

    Katie & Casey Kulla
    Oakhill Organics

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