We’re baaaaaaaaaaack!

Willamette waters rising in the orchard …

Hello, friends! Long time, no see! (Except of course that we live in a very small community and see current and former CSA members every.single.day every.where.we.go.)

We are SO happy to be getting back into the weekly rhythm of harvesting for our CSA community. For a couple of years now, Casey and I have been talking about the need for a sabbatical from the farm. In any profession, beloved or not, there comes a time when it’s healthy to step back from the routine, breathe, and get re-inspired. I have to admit, however, that I think we had been picturing a long winter of camping in the desert (or something similar) rather than a winter of Casey adjusting to a new, very responsible, role in our community.

But that’s about right for us. We’ve never been good at taking breaks, finding our joy and energy in the doing parts of life. Maybe next winter we’ll plan a shorter camping trip in the desert. (Also, in the scheme of what’s “normal” for farming, not harvesting from October to April isn’t really much of a break … but it’s the longest break from the CSA we’ve had since 2007!)

Either way, here we are, back in the fields and looking forward to restarting our regular weekly date with all of you!

We haven’t made many changes to the program this year — in fact, if anything, our brief stepping back highlighted to us how well we’d fine tuned our CSA system over the years into something that feels like it works really well for our farm and for our farm members. We still love the flexibility we offer our members to build their own shares each week, based on their preferences. We still love having a special pick-up space that is comfortable for everyone to linger if they want to visit with us or friends. We still love that our CSA offers a unique mix of annual vegetables and perennial fruits, all from our farm. We like the niche we’ve formed in the wider food community of Yamhill County!

One change returning members will notice is that the storefront itself has been made-over. We’re sharing the space this year with Suzor Wines, who will be using it on different days for wine tasting events. We appreciate the work they did this winter to upgrade parts of the space (sealing the floor, exposing more of the cool brick wall, covering up the drop ceiling panels, etc.). With how we’re sharing the space, the functionality and flow for our members will remain the same, but with some new touches.

Also, folks may remember from last year’s newsletters that our former organic certifying body closed shop mid-season (!!!!!!!). At the time, we felt too overwhelmed by summer work to apply fresh with another certifying body, but we have now submitted our certification materials to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). So, if all goes as it should, we’ll be officially certified again in a few weeks/months. We’ll let you know how that goes!

In other current farm news, after several dry and uneventful years, we’re in the midst of a “high water” event here on Grand Island — funny timing with our first CSA pick-up of the year! You know what they always say: April downpours bring April floods! (That’s it, right?)

Anyhow, the Willamette River is at so-called “action stage” right now, meaning that we now have a waterfront view from our house! Over the years, we’ve experienced many such events, including an event that actually qualified for the label “minor flood,” so we knew what to expect when the National Weather Service began predicting a rise. We pulled out our “flood notes” folder and looked at what we observed in past events: at what level does the river cross our fields? fill out lower greenhouses? move through our home orchard? cross the road off the island?

Given the timing with our first CSA pick-up, Casey and I were a little less than enthusiastic this time around. A high water event in, say December, is way more fun for us farmers than in early April when we’ve got two lower greenhouses full of well-tended plants (we’ll pull the lettuce and re-plant with zucchini after the water goes down). But, the kids have filled in for our lack of enthusiasm. It’s been long enough since we’ve had high water that I think it feels very fresh and exciting for them to monitor the water’s rising in the fields. Each time they wake up, or we come home from town, they run down to the lowest part of our field to note how the water has changed.

Last night, they hauled Rusty’s kid-sized kayak and lifejackets down to a safe spot at the edge of our field and paddled around for awhile before bed, keeping alive a tradition we started years ago of going out on flood waters in boats or on surfboards with wetsuits. We figure that if we’re going to have the river in our backyard, we might as well have some fun on it! We also love watching the water birds during these events. The ducks especially always seem delighted with the extra space. Yesterday the kids and I spotted three ducks and a couple of Canada geese, looking — to us humans — like they were having the time of their life on what was (and will be again) a field of organic grass and mustards.

The water will recede soon enough — when we get wet it is because the river is high, but our soil is still well drained — and the bulk of our fields and greenhouses are still safe and dry. And then we’re hoping we jump right into late Spring warm growing weather! It was a colder late winter and early spring than we’ve had for years now, and we’re getting antsy for those days of super growth! They will come!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Have you made your first CSA payment yet? We ask for one-third of your total or the full value by the first CSA pick-up. You can bring a check or cash with you if that works best! I’ll have account details at pick-up too, so you can always ask me questions when you come to pick up your veggies.

Put these dates on your calendar! You are invited to join us at the farm on Wednesday, May 15 at 5 pm for a potato planting party and potluck, and on Saturday, October 12 for our annual pumpkin patch open house featuring live music, farm tours, cider pressing, and a veggie/fruit tasting. While we aim to grow fruits and vegetables that are delicious and wonderful for their own sake, we also know that a CSA is also about connection and community. That’s why we’ve built a pick-up style that encourages interaction, write weekly newsletters with farm news, and also host these regular on-farm events. We hope that you’ll join us for one of them, this year or in the future!

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Meet this week’s vegetables: April is an interesting time of year to begin a CSA, since it is so much of a transition between winter storage/over-wintered crops and newly planted greenhouse crops. In the coming weeks, you’ll get to eat some of both as we slowly eventually shift to all spring-planted and then finally get into the main season field crops.

  • Radishes
  • Apples
  • Rapini — For those of you new to seasonal eating or our CSA, let me introduce you to one of early spring’s fun treats: “Rapini” is the word used to refer to the edible flower buds put up by biennial brassica plants after a winter. Each kind of brassica has its own unique rapini, but they are all tasty! We treat them like any leafy green vegetable, usually chopping and sautéing with butter (and maybe some kind of onion or allium if we have them). You can also roast rapini so that it’s slightly crispy (similar to how one might make kale chips — make sure your pan has a single layer for best results).
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Salad mix — A mix of many kinds of green growing in our field right now! Expect a wide range of flavors and textures, all of them delicious! We find that cooler season salads stand up well to more liberal dressing. We especially love using a creamy dressing that isn’t too sharp so that we can load it up and enjoy. To make a salad a meal, top with nuts, cheese, and chunks of meat.
  • Mizuna — Mizuna is an Asian green suitable for eating as a salad or for throwing into a pan and very lightly sautéing.
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
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