Winter’s pleasures

Winter opened with [receding] high waters and a pretty moon that came out to visit as the very short day turned to afternoon/evening.

Winter Solstice brought to the farm receding flood waters and a pretty moon that came out to visit at the end of the very short day.

Hello, friends! Oh, how good it has been this week to re-enter our usual farm rhythms after a restorative period of time off. As much as we appreciated (and needed) our break from the CSA, we have been smiling all day as we harvested this week’s share. And, I certainly feel a welcome return now to this weekly practice of writing about the farm for you all.

Yes, the CSA begins again this week! Tomorrow! Thus, beginning the next season of our life here on the farm — the part of our winter that is less focused on the internal work of dark December and instead begins to unfold toward the eventuality of spring. Of course, the last two days have been quite the return of dark, gloomy, WET weather, making it hard to remember that we’re moving swiftly toward that lighter season again. But, we really truly are. Signs of it are all over the farm already, including in the fact that we begin again feeding you, our community, on a weekly basis.

So, welcome back! Or, welcome for the first time! We are so glad to have you. Just yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with folks from a local food project called LETumEAT. They’d like to feature us as “Feeders” on their growing website, so we sat and chat over tea, each sharing the story of their food adventures. I was excited to hear about what they’re working on, but it was also with deep pleasure and gratitude that I shared our story. I couldn’t help but express repeatedly our family’s amazing gratitude for the community that has sustained this farm for ten years now. It was a perfect way to reflect on our farm’s history as we start this new season (our eleventh!). And, again, THANK YOU.

We enjoyed a [very cold!] New Year's Day hike at Willamette Mission State Park.

We enjoyed a [very cold!] New Year’s Day hike at Willamette Mission State Park.

We think that this winter will be delightful in many ways. This winter has already been delightful in many ways. Our family has had great adventures over our break, as we explore our local landscape in its more barren, wet, muddy version of itself. But, this is also a sweet season for local eating. And, by sweet, I mean sweet. I have to admit, sometimes when Casey and I are slogging in the mud to pick kale in January or fretting about how the spring hard weeks will go, I question the whole “seasonal local eating” thing. Why are any of us doing this crazy thing when there is food in the stores regardless of our efforts?

Many reasons. The fun of it. The challenge. The connection to our place. But I want to refer back again to it being sweet. Literally. How do all these hardy vegetables manage to maintain their shapes in the midst of winter’s cold? They do it by getting sweeter. And denser in the process. The result are vegetables that you just cannot recreate by shipping foods from other climates out-of-season. To us, kale in winter is an almost entirely different culinary experience than kale in summer. The flavor and texture are both fundamentally different, and Casey and I come to believe that the state of winter-grown vegetables meet some needs in us too. By getting sweeter, the kale serves its own purposes, but I also feel like that kale is what my body craves during these dark, cold months. It doesn’t crave the greens that might be grown in Mexico right now; it craves these greens in our fields. The greens that are experiencing, and responding to, the very same seasonal elements that I am experiencing and responding to with my body as I harvest.

Likewise, the proliferation of comforting sweet roots and storage vegetables feels like exactly the right thing to bring to our table when dinner is eaten after the early dusk — roasted sweet potatoes or parsnips elicit “hoorahs” from us all as we hunker down for winter evenings of reading books on the couch before going to bed early.

We hope that you too will find yourself embracing the season through foods this winter. Ponder how each food represents this time. We’ll see that even that kale I mentioned will change as days lengthen — buds will appear as it prepares to flower in the spring, and we will enjoy those tender delights too (we call them “rapini”). Winter eating is always an adventure — a fun one!

2016 brings other adventures to our farm as well. This year we have made the decision to operate the farm with no hired labor — this will be the first time since 2008 that we haven’t had any employees working alongside us! I must say that there is something truly wonderful to know that Casey and I will be personally harvesting everything that we share with you this year. I’m sure I’ll return to this thought again and again as we find our way into this new reality of our farm. I’m sure we’ll have much to learn.

For now, we will continue going on cold weather hikes with the kids on the weekends, homeschooling and farming mid-week, and meeting with you in joy every Thursday. We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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First CSA payments due! A reminder to everyone to be sure to give us your first CSA payment of the year tomorrow (if you have not already mailed it to us). We accept cash or checks. You can pay in one lump sum now or just one-fifth. If you pay in five payments over the year, the next payment will be due by March 17. I will send an email statement and reminder.

Pick up reminders: CSA pick-up is open from 2 to 7 pm every Thursday. Please bring your own tote bags or baskets to our McMinnville storefront to pick up your vegetables. You can find us off of the 2nd St parking lot between Davis and Evans St! As a reminder, we’ll have other items available for sale as well (see the list of what’s available below!).

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Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Liberty apples — Apples and peanut butter have been the favorite snack in our house this winter — it’s a classic combination! The Liberty apples are definitely one of our kids’ favorite.
  • Butternut winter squash — I have heard of people cooking these whole and then using the cooked flesh (which is how we prepare our other large squash, which I will discuss in a moment), but we almost always like to peel, chop and then roast our Butternut squash. We usually cook it in two different rounds, making one squash last for two meals. I’ll start the first day by cutting the top off of the bell end and peeling and roasting just that part of the squash. I put the remainder in a bag in the fridge overnight for use the next day in a similar fashion (normally we don’t recommend storing squash in the fridge, but once it is cut, it is a good idea to keep it fresh that way). I like to use a paring knife to peel, but I’ve seen Casey using a veggie peeler with good success too. We like to chop the Butternut into relatively small bite-size chunks and roast at high heat (425°), turning regularly, until crispy. These are like candy.
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash & Crown Pumpkins — These are two similar winter squash (they are in the same “family” and offer similar cooking and eating options). Because of their large size and relative challenge to cut/peel (because of the bumpy skin), we almost always bake these whole. I wash the skin again and remove the stem by bumping it on the edge of the counter (I have to do this to get the squash to fit in the oven!). Then I place it on a baking tray and bake at 350° until a paring knife slides in with absolutely no resistance. Once the squash is cooked, I pull it out and let it cool on the counter. If it’s meal time, I’ll cut slices out and remove the seeds and serve them hot. Otherwise, I might just put the cooked squash in the fridge for use later. We eat the cooked squash in many different ways over several days — we might make some squash muffins or bread (or even a little pumpkin pie!), but mostly we take out slices, remove seeds and reheat them by pan frying or roasting at high heat until warm through and slightly crispy. With butter and salt, this is quite the treat.
  • Mustard greens — Mustard greens are spicy when raw (this are not the greens for putting in your juicer, unless you like drinking spicy things!), but their flavor dramatically changes when cooked. They still taste like mustards, but without the heat. We have always loved pairing mustards with pork products — cooking it with bacon or ham. We also love them cooked with butter and a little broth and served with fried eggs for breakfast.
  • Green chard
  • Red Russian kale
  • Turnips — Our favorite way to eat turnips is easy — peel, slice and eat raw. Tonight at dinner, Casey served turnip slices and carrots sticks with homemade mayonnaise for dipping. The fresh, crispy flavors are wonderful!
  • Carrots — We’ve been eating loads of carrot sticks this winter (second favorite snack after apples). I always peel our carrots before slicing. To me, that simple act elevates the results from good to superb.
  • Parsnips — I also prefer to peel our parsnips before cooking. Often there are funny looking bits on the skin that peel right off with a couple of swipes with the peeler. Any bigger parts that seem in need of trimming, I’ll take off with a paring knife so that when I go to chop the parsnip, I’m left with just beautiful white root flesh. I’m sure no one would be surprised to learn that we mostly eat our parsnips roasted. This winter, I feel like I’ve really mastered the art of roasting parsnips. Root vegetables don’t all cook in the same fashion — they benefit from slightly different kinds of treatment. I have found that we really enjoy the parsnips when they are roasted for a little bit longer at a slightly more moderate heat (375°) with lots of butter and lots of stirring during cooking. Eventually they will start to turn golden brown while the inside turns soft. It’s quite a transformation from the woody-looking, ugly root that often comes out of the ground!
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks — What this year’s leeks lack in size they make up for in flavor. As much as possible, I start our meals with some chopped leeks frying in butter. That particular smell just delights the whole house and gets of all us ready to eat dinner.

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — NONE AVAILABLE QUITE YET! We have a new, young flock of layers that are literally just beginning to lay. We’re getting five eggs a day right now, with more to come soon. On the upside, with all these layers being young and fresh, once egg production begins, it should hold steady through to the end of this year.
  • Stewing hens — In related news, we have stewing hens for sale! Our family has been eating these at least once a week all winter. We stew them in the crock pot all day and then pick the meat off the bones for dinner. It’s incredibly flavorful and tender. If you prefer the crispiness of a roasted chicken, we’ve found that we really enjoy taking the stewed chicken, parting it out and then putting it under the broiler until the skin and meat start to get crispy. As far as the remaining stock, that stuff is pure gold in our house. We used to try to make soups, but we realized that we love it so much that we just want to drink it plain. So many of our meals this winter have been paired with a little cup of broth for us to drink as well (this was especially as our family was visited by all kinds of viruses and the like during the holidays). Or, we’ll add it to our greens as they are cooking to speed up the process. What broth we don’t use the first day, we store in a jar in the fridge for use later.
  • Pork — We have all kinds of fresh pork cuts in the freezer, along with some no nitrate-added bacon and hams! Roasts and ground pork are $8/lb; pork chops and bacons/hams are $12/lb.
  • Lamb — We have assorted cuts. Roasts and ground lamb are $8/lb; chops are $12/lb.
  • Beef — We are temporarily out of our classic ground beef staple! We have more beef animals that gaining weight on the farm right now, and we will restock the ground beef when they are ready.
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