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Spring clover!

Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! To find out more information about our farm, follow the header bar links above. To read about our latest happenings, scroll down for recent blog entries*.

* Why are the “Full Diet” entries password protected? They contain very specific logistical information for our current Full Diet CSA members — not terribly applicable to anyone else. All our newsy entries and photos are public for anyone to view!

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Gone to play

Dottie during our weekly morning date at the river.

Well, folks. This is going to be a most minimal newsletter. I just want to touch base so you know we still exist and that the CSA harvest will be on as normal (with Casey present as normal too!). But, at the moment, we are gone! Off to play at Oregon’s beautiful beaches with farmer friends who are also playing hookey for a few days.

Technically, I am writing this before we leave and will date stamp it to post at the usual Monday evening time. So by the time you read this, I will be thoroughly in relaxation mode. However, getting away from the farm midsummer takes quite a bit of intention and lots of planning. But it will be worth it. Because we are a family too, and while summer is a busy season on the farm, it is also a prime time for play and vacationing too (as you all know!). Ours will be a mini vacation, but delightful nonetheless.

More farm-y thoughts back here next week! For now, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Green beans!
  • A sweet surprise — You’ll get something fun in a pint cup, but we’re not sure which fun thing yet …
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Potatoes
  • Summer squash and zucchini
  • Leeks
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Notes from this July

Rusty working in his garden ...

Oh, summer is upon us. This week we weathered several truly hot days, followed this weekend by a lovely break that brought us cooler temperatures and some rare all-day thunderstorms. Out here on the farm, life feels buzzing with fullness from sunup to sundown (which is still quite a long day, in spite of us having passed the solstice now!). If we ourselves are not moving on a project, then someone else on the island is: another farmer making use of the last moments of the day to mow or the barn swallows busily feeding their babies in the nest on our porch. Always something.

All this movement and work makes for a beautifully exhausting time of year. Really, we love it, because we know how quickly this moment will shift again. We love watching the heat speed along plant growth. This time of year we can check on a planting in the morning and find it larger or taller at the end of the day. So much growth!

For your viewing pleasure, here are snapshots from the week:

Dottie in our home garden (same as "Rusty's garden" above).

… is it so ridiculous that we have a home garden? This is actually the third time we’ve attempted a small garden in this spot, and the first year it’s actually really worked — in large part because it’s the first year that kids have been super engaged in it, allowing us time and energy to take care of it! I can tell you what: it is SUPER satisfying to hoe such a (relatively) small space! We’re having lots of fun, and the kids visit it daily to check on plant progress. This year our garden is mostly random things that Rusty was interested and we had extra transplants of. Casey tried to keep things in rows, but with kids helping, it’s a bit more random than not. But we’re hooked and will keeping on “gardening” every year! (Also, if you visit us, Rusty will insist on giving you an extensive tour of his garden. It’s his favorite thing to do right now.)

Casey and the crew brought in our garlic harvest last week. It's as beautiful as we anticipated! Casey lined these garlic up on the table the other night without saying anything. How could I NOT take a photo???

And speaking of July growth, the field corn planting is exploding right now — taller and taller every day!

This is how Casey begins every single day (including weekends) this time of year. After all these years, Casey is still our main irrigation pipe mover! In midsummer, he moves pipe usually twice per day. These are 40' long sticks of aluminum — not as heavy as one might expect, but it still adds up to A LOT of work every day (including simply plenty of walking!).

But there are moments for play too in July ... lots of them! We spend quite a lot of time outdoors, exploring the farm or just swinging away in the shed ...

I hope you all are enjoying summer’s energy too! This is the moment in the year when summer feels like it could last forever. It won’t. Let that thought carry you through those extra hot afternoons — savor it!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Potatoes!!!! — Casey was super excited to harvest the first of this year’s potatoes for you this week! Food-wise, we’re in a bit of a lull between exciting fruit crops (the cherries and raspberries are done but we’re still waiting on tomatoes …). But, potatoes! In our house, we’ve been making a lot of hashbrowns lately with these delicious potatoes, but I think a potato salad may be in the works for our weekend trip to the beach. I don’t really need to give you advice on this one, I’m sure!
  • Celery leaf — Think of this crop as an herb rather than a vegetable — this is celery that is grown specifically for its leaves, which pack some seriously delicious celery flavor. You can chop it and add to a salad (or even a potato salad), or add to stocks and soups for the quintessential celery base flavor.
  • Salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Summer squash & zucchini — Have you tried making last week’s “squash-a-ganouj” recipe yet? If not, try it this week! I think we’ve been eating it almost daily!!!
  • Garlic — Some of the beautiful new crop! Use for making squash-a-ganouj or in any other delicious garlic application!!!
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Old fashioned farming

Hay in the field.

Last week I finished reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I’ve long been familiar with Berry’s nonfiction and poetry. In fact, Casey and I wrote Berry a letter some number of years ago, letting him know that he can be credited (at least in large part) to turning us onto the idea of farming so long ago. We felt the need to thank such a living legend while he was (and still is!) living.

But Jayber Crow was my first experience with Berry’s fiction. Not surprisingly, the pace of the book was slow, and I worked through it with some dedication a few evenings a week. It was slow but rich. And all so very intentionally so.

The story spans many almost the entirety of the 20th century in rural Kentucky. Through the dramas of the characters, we see larger movements unfolding — especially the movement away from an old fashioned man and animal-powered type of farming and toward mechanized (and high debt) farming. As someone who is very familiar with Berry’s nonfiction essays, the themes felt very familiar as they revealed themselves through these specific stories. With regret, the narrator tells the story of one farm in particular that over decades transitions from a sustainable stewardship under the hands of a hard-working but patient and calm farmer (horses and mules and all that) to an out-of-control, eroded wasteland under the hands of his rushed, prideful son-in-law. But, of course, the narrator takes his time telling the story, clearly revealing where his own loyalties lie simply in his pacing if nothing else!

And, so, pace has been on my mind. Along with hand tools and other kinds of “power” on our farm. Our own farm is not-so-much “old fashioned” as all that. We’ve never believed that by eschewing chemicals and debt we were just walking back in time. We own fuel-powered vehicles, including a tractor for tillage and such. But our farm certainly can relate back to those ideas Berry idealizes: stewardship; intentionality; appropriate technology; human and animal scaled operations.

Fittingly, I went to Wilco this weekend to pick up a second pitchfork for the farm. I ran into some long-time CSA members who commented that I looked so perfectly “farmy.” Yes, pitchforks and scythes and all that do harken back to those older farms — the era that Berry eulogizes in his writing.

But for us, a scythe or pitchfork is not nostalgic (nor is our decades-old cultivating tractor) — these are real useful tools. Ones we prefer (at least for now) over their modern equivalents. We owned a scythe before any other tool on our farm — before we even had a farm. Wendell Berry has a famous essay about scythes (“A Good Scythe”) that turned us onto the idea of a different kind of power. Since acquiring our first “good” scythe over a decade ago, we have used them regularly. Because they are useful. How do we use it? Where others might use string-trimmers and such. Oh, the difference between wielding a loud, vibrating, fume-creating string-trimmer and a scythe — how vast in every way! We scythe the grass out around our orchard trees; we scythe green oats to feed our animals; we scythe lines in the pasture to keep the grass from shorting out our electric fencing … I am not convinced that doing this work with a hand tool is any more taxing that carrying around a big machine. If anything, we’re convinced of the opposite. And, it’s lovely.

Using the tractor to haul loose hay.

The pitchforks have been getting more action too since we started making our own hay last week. I mentioned that we bought a mower-conditioner. We also bought a hay rake (and we borrowed a “tedder” from a neighbor). But we did not buy a baler. Instead, we have been manually picking up hay and piling it in our hay shed loose. Which is of course how hay was stored for all the centuries before balers were invented.

Is it as efficient as bales? Oh no — not in terms of effort or space. But it’s scale appropriate. A baler is an expensive, complicated, single-use piece of machinery. We hear they are good at breaking themselves when you need them to work. And so for now, buying our own baler is not high on our farm’s priority list. For now, making hay for our own animals will continue to be a hybrid-enterprise — part mechanized and part good old-fashioned human powered labor.

Casey throws hay higher and higher!

Incidentally, that old-time farmer that gets high praise in Jayber Crow is described as being a good leader because he starts work with his hired hands, digs right in their with them, and ends work with them. As I watched Casey hauling hay beside two of our workers, I thought this is also something we have in common with that farmer — we love the work that we do, and we would never ask anyone working for us to do anything we wouldn’t (or don’t) do beside them. And so, tasks that could feel very hard just feel like good valued work. We watch as the hay piles up, perfectly conditioned in the summer heat, and moved by caring hands. Certainly, it wouldn’t make sense to do it this way on a larger scale, but for us, for now, it works. One step at a time; intention all the way.

I suppose that’s all we can do around here — the future is so hard to predict, and the enormity of our work can feel daunting if we think of it all at once. But one step at a time; a load of good hay here, a load of good hay there — and so we prepare for coming seasons.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Make some squash-a-ganouj! “What’s that?” Casey made it up this week. We have always loved the flavor combination of baba ganouj: roasted eggplant + tahini + garlic = yes, please! But our eggplant season is often fairly brief (depends on the year, but compared to other staple crops, it is always much shorter!), so we would have to wait until late summer to get our baba ganouj fix. Until now! This weekend Casey tried making baba ganouj with zucchini instead of the eggplant. He roasted it and then prepared everything else using (more-or-less) basic baba ganouj proportions. In other words, he stuck some roasted zucchini in a food processor with tahini, lots of garlic, and salt … if we’d had some lemon that would have been awesome too, but we didn’t, so Casey added some red wine vinegar, and it was still awesome. We’re totally hooked. The texture and flavor is super close to the eggplant version (perhaps a bit milder? But not much!). He made another batch tonight. Highly recommended!!!!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Fennel
  • Lettuce
  • Beet greens
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
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As June ends …

Casey enjoying perhaps the earliest plum we've ever harvested here on our farm! "Happy early birthday to me," he said with joy. (He turns 35 next Saturday!)

How is it July already? Tomorrow, anyway … We are knee deep in real summer now, although we appreciated the last little respite we received just after the solstice. A final touch of Oregon June before we head into the real dry season.

Alas, I had so many plans this week for newsletters — the farm has me thinking a lot these days about so many things related to growing food, nourishing community, understanding each other as people. But, today was “one of those days.” Our normal rhythm was interrupted by various things, including lots of fetching things — the kids and I picked up some laying hens this morning from a friend and then Casey spent the better part of the day picking up a mower/conditioner from our tractor guy in Canby. This is step #1 in our new adventure of making our own hay! As I’ve noted in previous newsletters, we’ve had others make hay on our ground before, but it’s time for us to take control of the process from start to finish.

So, even as I write this, Casey is out “making hay while the sun shines.” The kids are already in bed, but we have a few more hours of sun left here in Oregon, such as it is in summer. But I can tell that our farmer bedtime approaches, so rather than try to muster some beautiful prose, I’ll end with a few more photos from the week that can help share the story of our farm in this season:

Sigh ... a most beautiful potato planting under a crisp blue sky.

I've set for a goal this year to harvest and dry enough herbs from around the farm to last Casey and me through to next spring (when the nettles come up again!). I pick a few little items here and there as the kids and I meander. Today's harvest: red clover blossoms and St. John's Wort!

Rusty loves to check out the animal den beneath our large Linden tree by the creek! We found some cool jaw bones here once. And, we think an owl lives high up in the tree too, because we've found pellets and droppings in a pile nearby. These are big adventures for these little ones (and me too!).

Have a safe and happy 4th of July everyone! We’ll be on the farm (as usual) celebrating Casey’s birthday (as usual). We don’t really do loud noises — for now … we’ll see how long until our adventurous boy changes the tone of the 4th on our farm.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder: The third quarterly CSA payment is due this week! I sent out email statements a while back — check yours for exact details (if you didn’t get an email me, then it’s likely you don’t owe anything this time around). Please email me if you have any questions! Thanks!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Summer squash & zucchini!!!! — I can’t believe how excited I am about this summer squash and zucchini! I hope you are too! I’ve written many times in this newsletter about Casey and my own “journey to being vegetable eaters.” I think it’s easy to assume that farmers like ourselves are lifelong vegetable eaters, which is only somewhat true for Casey and me. As with many people, we were fairly ambivalent about vegetables growing up and really grew into our love as adults. This love grew directly out of trying new vegetables over and over again. Vegetables which I once actively disliked (fresh tomatoes!), I now love! Others that I just didn’t have much enthusiasm for (fennel), I also now love. Summer squash and zucchini fall into this category. For years and years and years, Casey and I grew these crops and felt pretty “eh” about them ourselves. We’d eat a bit every year, but in the last few years we really got excited about them. Last year especially, our liking turned to downright ecstatic love as we discovered how much we love roasting summer squash. This year when we picked the very first earliest summer squash, this was what we did first: slice it into chunks and then roast it at 425° (with butter) until soft and crispy on one edge. We like to put plenty of salt on it. I’m going to start drooling right now, in fact. We also love using summer squash and zucchini as the base for all kinds of summer stews. I’ll start with onions/leeks frying in butter, add zucchini, then maybe some kale or carrots or whatever else we have around (tomatoes, of course, once they arrive). Plenty of salt and butter helps here too. But seriously delicious stuff! Also, I love that summer squash is a great item for the kids to help with in the kitchen. Last year I bought them both “safety” knives that can actually cut foods but not skin, and summer squash are a favorite for them. I pull up chairs on either side of me and cut long strips for them to cut on their own cutting boards with their own knives. Rusty has been known to chop all of our squash for a meal — a real help!
  • Cherries
  • Fava beans
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Summer leeks
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Fruit heaven

Raspberries in various stages of maturity. Meaning: more to come!

As Casey and I walked from picking raspberries to cherries this weekend, we both remarked on hard it is to remember that once upon a time our farm grew only vegetables! In our eight prior seasons, much has changed of course, as we’ve expanded in many dimensions. But right now everything feels focused on the fruit.

Our strawberries are still producing some last few delicious fruit, but with raspberries and cherries on, it’s hard to notice or care about strawberries. While our own blueberries are still years out from producing, the kids and I made a trip to town this morning to u-pick, where we heard the same story we’re hearing from all the farmers: everything is maturing so early! And, at the same time!

It certainly feels like fruit abundance everywhere we turn on our farm. Even in places where the fruit is not ready, it is visible and thriving — apple trees loaded with quickly growing globes; blackberries filled with the humming of bees; plums just beginning to blush …

Hazelnut cake with raspberries and cream for the solstice!

The kids are in heaven of course. Casey and I try to reign them in from constant grazing while we pick — we have these ideas about mindful eating that we try to instill, but alas they are young and what is the point of living on a farm if you can’t gorge on berries as a child? Every now and then, we manage to make the point of our excursions to actually pick and put in a container for later. Our freezer is filling up, and we canned thirty small jars of cherry jam this weekend. And, we’ve been making sweet treats for after dinner — we welcomed summer with a hazelnut cake topped with raspberries and whipped cream. And then the next night we made cherry ice cream. We are living it up, my friends.

Pitting cherries on the front porch. (And fava beans!)

And, oh, I can feel the splendor of this abundant season in every cell of my body! As the kids and I tromp to and from each exciting outdoor adventure, I feel so alive and energized by the good food we are eating. Late winter’s mild deprivations are not so far back in my memory so as to be forgotten, and I am filled deeply with gratitude for the plenty of early summer. Every crisp bite of salad is a celebration right now. And, of course, the fruit.

Casey and I often laugh about how, really, people just want sugar. Some people in the CSA do genuinely get excited about strong bitter chicories, but everyone rejoices about fruit and deliciously sweet carrots and delicata squash and all these good things that the earth infuses with sweetness. I find it truly miraculous that we can grow these things out of soil. Dirt. Manure. Microbes. Mixing with the magic of sun and water. Add a seed, and a few months later … DELICATA?! Really? How does that happen? I never tire of this miracle, repeated millions of times over the seasons here on our farm. (Another miracle is watching cows eat grass and then pouring their cream into my coffee — grass to cream … how does that happen?)

And fruit is perhaps the most miraculous because of how intensely it sucks that sweetness out of the universe and puts it into one tiny morsel. Summer, embodied in flavor form.

One of our household’s favorite books of all is Jamberry by Bruce Degen. We’ve been reading it a lot lately. If you’re not familiar with it, the story depicts a boy and a bear who dance through a somewhat fantastical rural world just totally overflowing with berries everywhere. The rhyming lyrics create a song in homage to exactly what we’re experiencing right now, which I can only imagine feels about as fantastical to our wee ones. The final stanza reads:

Moonberry, Starberry, Cloudberry Sky -
Boomberry, Zoomberry, Rockets shoot by !
Mountains and Fountains rain down on me,
Buried in Berries, what a Jam Jamboree !

(If you have young kids, this book is a must by the way!)

Anyhow, we hope you are rejoicing in the season — in the arrival of summer with its reliable sunshine and warm days. The continual flow of good things to eat in CSA shares, our own yards, and at the market. The opportunities for trips to the beach and the river and other bodies of water that suddenly seem so inviting, cool and refreshing. Rejoice in this time of year! Live it up!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables (and fruit!) …

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

A sneak peek!

P.S. On the horizon of more awesome things coming soon: garlic. We will be harvesting it early next month (maybe sooner — the season sure is progressing quickly!). It is, by far, the most abundant, prolific, beautiful, amazing planting we’ve ever had. I guess that’s the nature of being such a diverse farm — each year has its stars. Garlic is star-worthy this year.

~ ~ ~

How to store produce without plastic: A CSA member sent me a really cool link this week regarding how to store your fruits and vegetables without relying on lots and lots of disposable plastic bags. Here is the link with lots of specific tips for each kind of fruit and vegetable. Storage of produce is a continual conversation we have with CSA members (in both programs), because honestly modern fridges are not terribly well suited to storing large amounts of fresh items. For one thing, the defrosting nature of the compressor units dehydrates anything not sealed in something. The default material is plastic bags, but these have their own challenges, namely that they tend to lead to crushing of greens, which leads to premature spoilage. Because we have the benefit of three walk-in coolers on our property, Casey and I actually only have an under-counter fridge in our kitchen, where we mostly store leftovers from meals, condiments and dairy products. When we want to cook, we usually pull from leftover vegetables in our coolers, which are stored packed loosely in our blue bins. We consistently keep veggies in those bins for crazy long amounts of time, which makes sense given that they get put away when still extremely fresh! (Since we harvest for the CSA programs just the day before!) But I also think it helps that foods are not being crushed. If you can make room in your fridge for washable bins of some kind, it can really lengthen the shelf life of greens especially. That’s why those fancy salad mixes are sold in those rigid plastic ‘clamshell’ containers! In fact, we have many Full Diet members who reuse such containers for their own salad mix! Anyhow, the point is to consider how you are currently storing things and whether it’s a system that can be improved to increase the freshness of your stored veggies and hopefully cut down on your disposable plastic use!

~ ~ ~

Quarterly CSA payment due! I emailed quarterly account statements to folks at the end of last week, reminding folks that the third $270 payment is due. You can bring a check to pick-up or mail it to us by July 1: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville, OR 97128. If you did not receive a statement via email, it most likely means that you do not owe us money right now! But if you are unsure, please email me: farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org. Thanks!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries — These are “Lamberts,” an old variety from trees that have been growing on my parents’ property for the better part of a century now! Tasty tasty!
  • Raspberries — More of those delicious Tulameens ……..
  • Fava beans — Did you try roasting them last week? Was it so good?
  • Snap peas — These are winding down, in part because our attention has turned elsewhere (hello, cherries and raspberries? Oh my!). But they are still too good to pass up!!!! Crunchy and sweet and delicious! How does this happen? A miracle!
  • Salad mix — Get your salad on this week with both salad mix and head lettuce. Load your salad with filling toppings, and you’ve got a great quick meal for a warm summer evening!
  • Head lettuce
  • Bok choy — Hey, what’s this? A little something different in the cooking green category this week. Bok choy is great for stir frying — pair it with chopped carrots and scallions and add a little ginger or soy for an Asian flavor.
  • Carrots
  • Scallions
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