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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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Final bits of summer fun

Dottie enjoys the flowers in our home garden on a golden September evening. Love the light this time of year.

Hi all! This newsletter is going to pop up on Monday evening via WordPress magic, but I am writing it on Thursday afternoon. When you read this, the whole farming family will be gone away for one last summer adventure with our awesome crew left behind to hold down the fort/farm. So not much to say except, hello and here’s the veggie list!

(But one bit of newsy stuff: just wanted to remind you that quarterly payments are coming up due by October 1. I emailed statements to folks this last week. If you didn’t receive something, it most likely means you’re all paid up! Let me know if you have any questions!)

Savor these final days of summer goodness! Fall arrives this weekend! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Surprise veggie — Even I don’t know what this is! I suppose Casey and the crew have talked through a few options and the harvesters will make a decision based on how things are looking in the fields!
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Czech Black hot peppers — These little hot peppers came into our lives years ago when we were asked to grow the seed on contract for a catalog. We love how they mature earlier than other varieties (important in our relatively mild growing season). They have heat about equivalent to a jalapeño. The red ones are pretty darn spicy. The purple/black ones have mild heat and lots of good flavor. (To be clear, the small dark peppers are the hot ones!)
  • Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers — This may look like a hot pepper, but it’s not! This is a very delicious sweet pepper, especially favored by our local restaurant clients. We add these to all kinds of dishes, but we especially love chopping and sautéeing them with our morning eggs.
  • Kale
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Russet potatoes — The crew has been bringing in loads of potatoes lately. In contrast to last year (which was almost a complete crop loss), this year’s potato crop is fantastic! It’s been a number of years since we grew a classic Russet type — this is the quintessential potato that gets used for producing French fries the world over. I peeled and cubed some recently to roast for the kids. With plenty of butter in the pan and a sprinkling of salt, they were pretty divine.
  • Garlic
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Looking ahead …

We harvested the first of the winter squash last week. Nothing quite like the bed of a large truck filled with delicious squash for fall and winter eating!

Here on the farm, September is all kinds of wonderfulness. We’re bringing in so. much. food. these days, with much more continuing to mature and grow in the fields for later harvests in fall and winter (and some even in early spring!).

And the funny thing is: even though September is the culmination of one season, it’s also the beginning of the next. Because many of the foods we are harvesting now will be a part of our 2015 sales. Not surprising then, that this is also the moment in the year when we very seriously pause to reflect on the season that is coming to a close and intentionally look ahead to the next season.

Certainly, we can’t make very specific plans for 2015 yet — we will spend much of our winter season reflecting and tinkering and charting out planting plans — but this is the time when we start painting the broad outlines of next season. Will we take on anything dramatically different or new? Will we invest more energy in this enterprise or that enterprise? How big do we want to be? It’s useful for us to have general guiding goals both for our budget and operating goals before the next year even begins. We’ve been doing a lot of “envisioning” this last week, crunching numbers on different enterprises and assessing our priorities for 2015.

Which is why September is also Survey Season! We took a few years off from offering CSA surveys, perhaps because it was One More Thing To Do amidst years of Lots of Things To Do. Nonetheless, we want to revive this tradition as a way to simply check in with our CSA members more intentionally. Since I’ve been publishing the newsletters exclusively online the last few years, I figured I’d stay with the internet for the survey, so 2014′s survey can be found on Survey Monkey here (just click the link). The survey has seven simple questions, and we’d appreciate your feedback so that we can consider it as we continue our own planning! I generally like to listen to survey responses for a few weeks and then share some more of our own reflections as a wrap up, often right before releasing our next season’s sign-up details. So you can expect to hear more on the topic in the coming weeks.

But there are a few things I did want to share with you now. First, in regards to the fall abundance, we’ve recently advertised a special Fall CSA season as a way for new CSA members to try out our program for a shorter season at first (just nine weeks). They’ll be joining our existing CSA members in the same program that is already in motion, but we’re excited to bump up our numbers in this bountiful season and bring some fresh energy to our farm’s community as a whole. You can find info about that season here: http://www.oakhillorganics.org/2014/join-us-for-the-fall-season/

For existing members, if you have a friend you’d like to refer to this program, please ask them to mention your name when they sign up! Long ago, we offered folks credit toward their account for recommending our farm to others, and we’d like to revive that program as a way to thank you all for sharing the news. If a new member mentions your name, we’ll add a credit for one week of veggies to your 2015 account!

And, another very exciting project is on the horizon for 2015. I hatched this idea this last week and got super jazzed about it. I realized that next year is our TENTH season as a farm and CSA. (Holy moly — where does the time go?) It feels fitting to celebrate such an occasion with some kind of special project. So, I’m finally going to do it: I’m going to put together and publish a FARM COOKBOOK! I am sooooooooo excited about this project. All 2015 CSA members will receive a copy as part of their share! I already have recipes and cooking suggestions running through my head all day long (I need more time to type them out). I plan to load it with my general style of recipes and cooking suggestions: super simple, flexible ways to really enjoy and savor all these fresh flavors. But, in addition to my voice and cooking philosophy, I thought it would be lovely to include recipes from past and present CSA members too.

So, here is a call for vegetable recipes and serving suggestions!!! What I’d especially love to receive is your one or two absolute favorite “go to” recipes for using farm fresh seasonal vegetables. What are the preparation methods that your family consistently loves? I’m especially interested in hearing ideas for the less easy-to-love vegetables (fennel and beets immediately come to mind as challenging for some!). I will probably send out a separate email in the coming week reminding folks about the project and asking again (including former members in the call too at that point). Please email me your ideas: farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org. You can also drop off printed submissions to Casey and pick-up or mail them to me. Please provide your name so that I can give you credit in the book. And, since I really have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive, I guess I should add that I plan to include everything I receive, but if I receive overlapping ideas, I may have to give credit to a few people at once. I trust that folks will understand if their recipes get edited or whatnot. It will all be done in the spirit of good eating and community. I am super excited about a fun fall and winter project that will help us start our 2015 season in a celebratory mood!

To bring us back to 2014, a few more items worth noting: First, I want to remind folks that our Pumpkin Patch Open House is coming up next month: Sunday, October 26, 2 – 4 pm out here at the farm. We’ll have pumpkins (of course), another fun vegetable or fruit tasting (haven’t decided on what yet! This is always fun!), and once again: LIVE MUSIC! This year, we will be honored to host the newly formed local musical duo Awaken Jane, Jamie Corff and Emily Jones. We love it when good food gets to overlap with good music! So make sure you get the date on your calendar, and then pray a little for clear weather!

Second, I want to announce that we have extra sauce/roma tomatoes for sale. If you’d like to put up some tomatoes in the coming weeks, please let us know and we will bring you some at pick-up! They are $2/lb with a 10% discount for orders $100 and over. So, a 50 lb order would be $90 (and that would be about two of our blue totes worth of tomatoes). Email us with your orders — if we hear from you tonight, we can even bring them tomorrow! farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org.

Heaven on a plate!

And, finally, we have to send out a huge thanks to the organizers of Bounty of Yamhill County, the Big Dinner portion of which occurred last night. Our farm has contributed produce to the event every year, but we’ve not been able to attend the dinner. Casey stayed home with the kids last night so I could attend, and WOW what a magical evening of community and delicious food. Farms and artisan food providers from all over the county paired with chefs from some of our area’s best restaurants to create delicious mini-bites of food. All those mini-bites added up to one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever eaten. I took a photo of my plate to share with the kiddos (who wanted to know what I would be eating), and I thought I’d share it here too, just because it was so beautiful and represents so much talent and dedicated hard work from members of our community. This wasn’t even all of it (could only fit so much on my plate at once!). A truly unique and lovely dinner experience (and a fundraiser for the Yamhill Enrichment Society no less!).

My, how this late summer feels full and rich with thoughts, plans, harvests, and happenings! And fall is approaching … the kids have already started carving those pumpkins Rusty harvested from his garden last week. Today we ate toasted pumpkin seeds as a snack. And this morning we woke to a farm enclosed in white fog — such a common sight in coming seasons.

And, the food. Always the food. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • The kids like to make sure the vegetables are good before we harvest for you guys. Especially the sweet corn. They've checked and double-checked and triple-checked on this crop.

    Concord grapes — According to an old timer on the island, these grape vines were planted from cuttings brought over on the Oregon Trail. Whether that story is exactly true or not, the vines are old, and the grapes are of the Concord variety. You will recognize the flavor, since this is the grape flavor that gets used in everything (and the grapes used for juice!). Be warned: these pack super sweet awesome flavor as well as seeds.

  • Sweet corn — HOORAH!
  • Tomatoes — Lots of heirloom tomatoes in this week’s share. As a reminder, heirloom tomatoes often come in different colors that often belie their awesome rich tomato flavor. So, don’t shy away from tomatoes that aren’t necessarily dark bright red! Those other colored tomatoes are delicious. We recommend using them fresh, if possible, since they are so lovely that way. Perhaps make a very simple open faced sandwich out of good crispy bread, goat cheese, and slices of tomato. Or, just skip the bread and cheese, and eat slices of tomatoes with vinegar and salt.
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kohlrabi
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Potatoes
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Join us for the fall season!

Last week's beautiful share, to be delivered to a happy customer in Newberg. (Same great stuff went to Mac of course.)

Have you always wanted to try our CSA but been daunted by a yearlong commitment? Well, we’re facing a very abundant looking fall and wanted to offer a special shorter season experience for folks to try right now. Our “Fall CSA Season” will begin the last full week in September and run through the week before Thanksgiving — nine weeks total for a price of $216 ($24/week; we give out $25-30+ worth of fruits and veggies each week, making this the best deal in town!).

Each week, you will receive a bountiful selection of the season’s harvest. We carefully select a balanced share to allow you to have fun in your kitchen: cooking greens, roots, green veggies, onions, garlic, and always some fruit! We’ve been at this for nine years now and have developed a great sense for how foods go together well to help you make best use of the season’s offerings. In fact, we received this email from a member this week:

Just wanted to thank you for the beautiful fruit & veggies this week. Very nice selection!

In addition to the produce, each week we email you a reminder to pick-up on the day before, with a link to our week’s newsletter offering farm news and cooking suggestions for that week’s selection. Fall is one of the most delicious times of year, featuring a blend of the best of summer and winter. This would a fabulous time to get on board and experience the peak of seasonal eating. (Think one share might be too much for your household, even as a shorter trial? You are welcome to split a share with a friend. Many members enjoy the community aspect of sharing their share!)

We offer two convenient pick-up locations:

  • McMinnville pick-up — Tuesdays, 3:30 – 6 pm in the Granary District (just southwest of downtown Mac), season runs from September 23 – November 18
  • Newberg pick-up — Wednesdays, 4 – 8 pm at a private residence near George Fox, season runs from September 24 – November 19

Ready to sign-up? Email us with your contact info (names, address) and note your desired pick-up location. I will email you back an invoice for the season plus welcome information (including a few more pertinent pick-up logistics and details). Also, please note if you were referred by a current CSA member so that we can properly thank them!!!!

Direct all emails (including any questions) to us at farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org. You can also call us at 503-474-7661 if that works better for you (although you might hear our children yelling in the background as we talk). We are excited to have you join us for our fabulous fall experience!!!!

P.S. By offering this shorter trial season, are we hoping you’ll fall in love and be hooked and join our 2015 CSA? Of course, we are! And, we know you will!

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September sights

Sunflowers against a beautiful blue sky!

Was anybody else SO excited for rain this weekend? Our kids were!

Oh, September. How we welcome you with open arms. So many seasons on this farm are wonderful and to be cherished. And, come spring, I welcome the arrival of the growing season with great enthusiasm. But, September. This month holds an extra special spot in our hearts. Whereas those early spring days bring so much hope and anticipation, September brings so much satisfaction for work well done. To be clear, there is still tons of work left to do, but it is the closing up shop types of things: harvesting (so much!), sowing cover crops, disking in old plantings. Satisfying stuff.

Plus, September so often brings some of the best weather of the whole year. So, welcome to September, dear month!

Today, lots of photos for you. It’s just that kind of a week. The fields are look oh so lovely; the kids are cute; let’s just look at pictures together, shall we? Let’s begin!

Rusty's interest in our work has grown more than ever this year. Perhaps having his own garden helps. This weekend, he began harvesting his pumpkins. There are over 50, so this may take a while.

Casey helped Rusty bring the pumpkins up the hill to our house.

After bringing all sorts of goodies home from a field walk, Rusty took on the task of arranging our "nature table," which had been pretty bare lately (I guess we've just spending a lot of time outside!). I brought in the sunflowers; the rest of this is Rusty's doing.

I hear that "colony collapse" is a real thing — multitudes of bee hives just dying over the winter. But, I'll tell you what: on our farm right now, buzzing insects rule the air. Everywhere we look and walk, we are surrounded by honey bees, bumblebees, and yellow jackets (Casey and I both unfortunately got stung last week by yellow jackets -- OUCH!). Other pollinators are about too -- the lavender outside our dining room window has been visited by lots of butterflies lately!

Rusty's namesake plant, the beautiful Brussels sprout (if you don't know, Rusty's full name is Russell Sprout Kulla). A good planting of Brussels sprouts going into fall just makes my heart sing -- both for its beauty and for the promise of all those delicious morsels to be eaten on chilly days!

Another sight to warm the heart: rows and rows of beautifully trellised and perfectly weeded sweet pepper plants. Autumn is their season to shine, bringing summer flavors into our fall foods!

Digging fork + onions = sexy vegetable photo.

Another fall food preview (can you tell I'm excited about the turning of the season coming soon?).

This one should excite a lot of you!

Hey, look! It's me! End of summer tan, dirty feet (if I took off those sandals, there would be white lines on the tops of my feet!). Someday I'll have someone else take a photo so I'm less invisible.

The field corn is SO tall!!!!

So, there’s your little virtual tour of the farm right now. This next week brings more fun — I will be attending Bounty of the County this weekend. We’ll keep harvesting (have I mentioned that we harvest this time of year?), including beginning in on our big storage crops of potatoes and such. We’re caring for our little calf (now named August), who is thriving. We’ll also celebrate Dottie’s second birthday on Thursday! Our little sweetheart is almost two! What joy she has brought to our farm and family these last two years. Ah, life on the farm chugs along!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Broccoli!
  • Plums — Thess sweet tasty morsels are called “Imperial Epineuse,” a French variety of prune plums. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in flavor and sweetness. These are one of the most flavorful fruits we grow! Enjoy!
  • Green & sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets!
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic & onions
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Oats, dust, and a calf

Crummy photo quality: took this with my "not-so-smart" phone as we were loading oats into our old "goat shed" (never used for goats, now used for oats -- more details below!)

A few exciting happenings on the farm and in our life this last August week: First, our neighbor farmer arrived to combine most of this year’s oat crop (a few acres, sown in the rows of our hazelnuts, are yet to be harvested). We’d been waiting several weeks for this, and even though we will pay our neighbor his time, his help with our grain harvests is really quite the neighborly favor. His own ‘to do’ list this time of year is at least as long as ours, but somehow for three years running, he has fit our funny little fields into his combining schedule so that we can have oats available for our livestock and customers both.

We’re still figuring out details with so many parts of our expanded farm, including the storage of things like lots and lots of oats. A few years back, we stored most of our oats in one ton tote bags lined up in our pole barn. This year, that same pole barn is stacked wall-to-wall-to-rafters with hay we have made. So … where to store the oats?

Perhaps our neighbor farmer helps us out as much just to bring home goofy stories to share with his family and friends. Because we did find places to store the oats — random places, in fact, kind of all over the farm. An old compost spreader (basically a big wagon) got a new floor and was filled with oats. An old goat shed we built and never used got some new walls and was filled with oats (after Casey removed a panel from the roof). More oats went into loads and loads of our blue totes, which were then unloaded into our other pole building. We will definitely use those oats first, since we need those bins! A motley collection of storage vessels, to be sure.

And, then, within a day of finishing that task, our little family took off for one night at the beach. We didn’t actually visit the beach itself once (oh my!), since our time was filled with a family picnic at Devil’s Lake and then a hike to Drift Creek Falls (my first time! oh my!). But, oh, how wonderful it was to drive over there for a quick visit. When we arrived at the lake and departed our car, Casey and I both breathed deep with big sighs of relief. We hadn’t even realized how dusty the air is here in the valley until we visited the ocean and breathed in that cool, clean, foggy air.

Upon our return, the dust was even more striking. As we drove back into the valley, we could see a layer of brown covering the whole valley. I could write a whole newsletter about dust and its making (agriculture! annual tillage! grain and seed production!), but I will refrain for now. Seeing that dust, however, does force Casey and me to ponder our own agricultural practices in the context of the larger ecosystem. How do our choices contribute or mitigate this kind of air pollution? We were pleased to reflect on our oat harvest and appreciate how minor it was in the scope of our farm’s offerings and how very little soil disturbance was created as a result. Because the oats were standing tall, there was no need for the combine to disturb the soil. Also, we reflected on how established pastures with animals on them don’t make dust. ANYHOW. Lots to pull apart with the dust scenario; all of it quite complex and without easy answers. But I will comment that poor air quality is perhaps the one part of living the valley to which I am still not at all reconciled. I miss the clean ocean air we breathed in Bellingham. The dust challenges me.

Fortunately, our own farm (and the island as a whole) feels like a little refuge amidst all this late summer brown. Casey has been watering our pastures, and they are greening up again where they were yellow. The orchards are full of beautiful red and purple fruits, hanging on the trees like Christmas ornaments. Every where we look we see such abundance and growth and ripening: tomatoes, winter squash, apples, peppers … When I grow weary of the summer brown and heat, all these fruits of the season remind me of how very special this time of year really is. How quickly it will pass, and how all this food will continue to feed us through the year.

Francine checks on her very fresh calf (less than one hour old here).

And, today, another fun inspiring note: a calf was born! We had been waiting on one of our dairy cows, Francine, for quite a while now. Apparently she was bred in a different cycle than what we had noted in our records (with a different bull too!), so while it was clear she was pregnant, no calf appeared for many weeks as we waited. But, in the last few days, she was showing more signs of readiness. This morning Casey noted that she was having contractions, and then there was a calf! A beautiful little brown calf, yet to be named. We love it when these calves arrive without our help (a big relief), but the next few days will be full of some extra intense work as we help the new calf thrive and work Francine back into the milking routine. She is currently our most “sensitive” cow, so we will need to be very patient as we help remind her where to go and when (she’s actually been kept in this routine the whole time, but she still needs our patience as it becomes more “real” again for her!).

So, those are some notes from the farm this week. Now that most of our oats are in, fall (and its rains) are starting to feel more and more desirable. It will come. For now, we feast.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Tomatoes — All of our tomatoes in the field are really on now. This is an exciting part of the year for us, when we get to eat tomatoes at every meal and know that more will come tomorrow! This weekend, our family has set aside some time for beginning our big tomato canning process. We don’t can many foods, to be honest, but we love our tomatoes.
  • Tomatillos
  • Hot peppers — I may need to help you distinguish between your hot and sweet peppers. The hot peppers are the small purple/black peppers in your share. These are called Czech Black peppers, and they are very similar to Jalapenos in terms of flavor and heat. We grow them because they mature more reliably, and years ago we grew them commercially for seed and kind of fell in love (and continued saving seed).
  • Jimmy Nardello sweet peppersThe sweet peppers are the long, thin green/red peppers in your share (which look quite a lot like some varieties of hot peppers). These are “Jimmy Nardellos,” a delicious sweet pepper favored by some of our restaurant clients. They are delicious and sweet, but I should warn you that every now and then, one of them is hot (and sweet too). Perhaps nibble a bite of each pepper if you are sensitive?
  • Apples
  • Kale — Casey is excited about this kale! Perhaps because of the heat, this year we saw a huge influx of flea beetles (and heard of this happening elsewhere too). After Casey worked in a planting of mustards (which flea beetles LOVE), the beetles jumped next door to this kale and decimated it. The leaves were totally stripped to the ribs. Then we got some cool weather, and apparently the plants remained healthy, because they miraculously regrew the most beautiful healthy leaves. These kale will take us into the fall. Plants are amazing!
  • Cucumbers — A staple in our house right now at almost every lunch and dinner: peeled cucumber, sliced into discs and served with a batch of squash-a-ganouj.
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Potatoes
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