Welcome!

Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! Oakhill Organics is a family-run farm located on Grand Island. We grow everything we sell right here on our 100+ acres, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm newsletter on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla & the whole Oakhill family

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Breaking ground

Freshly worked ground makes a fun new landscape for exploration!

Freshly worked ground makes a fun new landscape for exploration!

Oh, what a February this has been! This week brought more excitement — notably, a second calf born on Friday. Followed by another round of milk fever for the mom the next morning. Thankfully, we were much better prepared (in terms of supplies and experience), and the treatment process went smoothly and without drama. Both moms and calves are doing great today. Hoorah!

But the other exciting part of the week was the continued dry weather. I suppose dry calm weather really shouldn’t be called “exciting,” since it’s quite the opposite — so easy to work in on almost any kind of project. Yesterday Casey did the animal chores in record time, and when he was trying to figure out why it went so fast, I reminded him that the weather was perfect for beast and man alike. These things help.

And, dry weather allowed Casey and Jasper to get on the tractor in a major way. They disked and then harrowed three acres of ground in total over the week With another three just disked, that’s six acres total in some state of worked up-ness. In our ten seasons of farming in Oregon, we have never had so much ground worked up so early. Casey began with just an acre here on the home farm, then he kept going as the days stretched on. We are by no means ready to plant, but early working up means that the ground will be ready when we are ready. This is in contrast to some past seasons, when the starts in the greenhouse pile up and outgrow their trays as we wait and wait and wait for the ground to dry. We’ll still need to do a bit more tillage before planting, but in the meantime all our cover crops and pastures will be breaking down and turning into happy fertility and organic matter for our crops to eat on all season long. Good things.

We also had what we’re pretty sure was a record restaurant harvest this Tuesday — between the orders from five local restaurants, Casey was scrambling quickly to get the harvest done and delivered in some kind of normal time frame (he ended up being a bit late, but he got it done!). Selling to restaurants has been an unexpectedly awesome part of our farm business — way back when in 2006, restaurants weren’t particularly on our radar (we were too busy preparing for market and CSA sales), but that year two approached us. Over the years others have as well, and at times we actually tried to dissuade potential chefs from working with us (this was in the olden days when we weren’t as good at communication — getting internet access on the farm in 2009 helped change that a lot!). But the chefs have persisted, and we’ve stepped up to the fun challenge of providing exceptionally high quality produce, custom harvested, for 52 weeks of the year. I think we’re seeing the fruits of all that labor now in loyal relationships. We are so grateful for these folks! This week’s orders represented our most consistent long-term restaurant clients: The Blue Goat (in Amity), Thistle, Nick’s, Community Plate, and Valley Commissary. Not surprisingly, given their dedication to good ingredients, these are also the restaurants where our family likes to eat (when we get the opportunity to go out, which is slowly starting to happen again as the kids get older).

In less exciting, but very satisfying, news, I also finished our farm taxes and have the mental and desk space to be diving into this year’s next big paperwork project: organic certification! Hoorah!

I think that’s most of the farm news for this week. Rain is on the horizon, so the dry weather trend will end. I think most of Oregonians will feel comforted by the return to some kind of normal, although long-term forecasts suggest that the mild and dry weather may be coming back again. We’ll see. We hesitate to make any predictions about the year, since farming involves so many variables. But, we feel good about the work that has happened and is happening now. That’s something to rejoice in!

Checking on the kale in the high tunnel!

Checking on the kale in the high tunnel!

Also rejoice worthy: the continued growth of green things in the field (and our high tunnels). This week’s share includes the very first of the season’s rapini (the tasty edible florets of over-wintered brassicas), with much more to come soon. Hoorah again! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Want to buy something at our storefront but not in the CSA? Come on down! We are happy to sell any of our extra items (eggs, meat, grains, ferments, etc.) to folks who walk in. And supply allowing, we can sell veggies too! (Although if you plan to come regularly to buy veggies, we’d ask you to just buy a share! But don’t be daunted — our share sizes are totally customizable to fit even the smallest appetite household!) We’re in the storefront every Thursday, 2 – 7 pm. Stop on by!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas!

  • Kale rapini / greenhouse mustards / collards — Casey bunched various greens to get us started in our late winter / early spring greens mode. Things are still just coming on, but it looks tasty out there.
  • Celery leaf
  • Parsley
  • Field greens — More of those tasty greens that are suitable for salads or cooking!
  • Kohlrabi
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips — A CSA member shared this totally unexpected parsnip recipe with me: Rigatoni with beef and parsnip stracatto. It looks delicious and offers a very novel way to eat parsnips — in a red sauce with pasta! The recipe calls for beef, but I imagine this would be delicious with some of our farm lamb instead.
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for fermented items and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “sauerkraut” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Just one delicious ferment this week, but we have lots of it!
  • #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6
  • Eggs — $6 dozen
  • Pork, roasts & more — There is still lots of pork in the freezer! Prices vary.
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package ~ Ground beef is back! Hoorah!
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Birth on the farm

Annie welcomes her brand-new calf, Wissouri (a Jersey-Hereford cross).

Annie welcomes her brand-new calf, Wissouri (a Jersey-Hereford cross).

When I think of nature’s power, many images from my life come to mind: a strong gust blowing through tall trees, ocean waves crashing on the shore, a forest fire burning through the night. But, this weekend, I was reminded of another: the power of the uterus. Notably, the bovine uterus.

Last Friday morning our (favorite) cow Annie showed signs of impending labor, three weeks before what we believed to be her due date (calculated based on when we first introduced her to a handsome bull named “Lighthouse Hardcopy” last summer). But, as with so much this spring winter, life was ready to come — ahead of our schedules and expectations.

The whole family went over at the end of the work day to check on her, and I had the foresight to pack a snack and warm clothes. Good thing, because we arrived at the barn to find her having active contractions. Within a minute, we saw hooves show. We pulled out the almonds for the kids and found a good spot to watch in the event we were needed to assist.

No assistance was necessary. After a few more powerful contractions, Annie got serious and laid down to do the rest of the work. We watched as her massive square body tensed with the work of her uterus, and slowly we saw those hooves reappear, followed soon by a nose (hoorah!). Then more powerful work by those bovine muscles, and the whole head was out. As the body slid out, Annie stood up, her instincts telling her that gravity could be her friend for the last bit. And, then the calf was out! Annie went to work immediately with her large cow tongue, licking and licking and licking the calf, drying the wet slimy hide and welcoming her to the world.

We all basked in the glow of this successful birth and headed home after we’d seen the calf get up and nurse. The miracle of birth and new life never grows old, and we felt in awe once again of the powers of nature.

And, so, it was quite distressing the next morning to find that very same force of nature laid flat on the ground. Annie was down, completely down, with what we quickly realized was our farm’s first case of “milk fever.” This is a very common emergency created by a quick and massive depletion of a cow’s calcium reserves after birth (as all that calcium gets pulled to the milk glands). It causes quick, sudden and severe shutting down of a cow’s muscles, ending in death if not treated immediately.

Since this is a common situation, we had materials on hand to treat it. However, we learned quickly that we didn’t have quite the exact right materials (what we had were products intended to prevent milk fever, not to treat it after the fact — but we did not realize that when we bought it!). With my retired anesthesiologist father’s help, we got some calcium products into Annie subcutaneously, and I rushed to town to buy the exact right products as we also waited for the vet to arrive.

The vet, the retired anesthesiologist, and the farmer keep watch over Annie as she gets her IV of calcium gluconate.

The vet, the retired anesthesiologist, and the farmer keep watch over Annie as she gets her IV of calcium gluconate.

Casey rubbed and talked to Annie the whole time I was gone, keeping her breathing. When I arrived back at the farm, Casey and my father got an IV into Annie and we slowly began the appropriate treatment. Too much calcium too fast, and we could have risked sending her into cardiac arrest. So, we sat by her, watching the drip drip drip of the slow IV and hoping.

Eventually, we started seeing hopeful signs: Annie burped — a sign that her digestive system was kicking back into gear (cows have giant stomachs). Then we saw some muscles quiver and shake. Soon after, the vet showed up and brought us some more supplies, and we all watched a medical miracle take place: a cow who had been at death’s door, stood up and began eating again. Not just eating, but gently shoving around her cow friends to get to her food (which, if you know Annie, you know this is 100% her personality).

Back up, just a couple of hours after her milk fever!

Back up, just a couple of hours after her milk fever!

Several days later, Annie and “Wissouri” (Rusty named the calf) are still doing great. And, I have no idea if extra warm weather could stimulate an early birth, but the early birth feels like part of a bigger pattern here on the farm right now. As you all know, we have been experiencing unseasonably warm and dry weather here in western Oregon (at the same time that the rest of the country has been experiencing the opposite apparently!). We’ve been picking daffodils from our yard, and today we noticed that the raspberries by our house are already leafing out. All of this in February! Between the unexpected calf and the early signs of spring, we are having a hard time keeping our heads on straight about what month it actually is. Casey and I both have been “feeling” as though it is late March rather than mid February.

As people who must plan ahead, we can’t help but wonder all this wonderful warmth suggests for the rest of the year. “Drought” has been on the minds of many as we look at snow-less mountains and experience these dry February days.

Rusty sows pea seeds on our front porch in the sun this weekend.

Rusty sows pea seeds on our front porch in the sun this weekend.

But we don’t really know what is to come, and this week the warm weather has felt mostly like a little blessing (because, let’s face it, late winter can be just plain hard). We’re tending our greenhouses and sowing and looking forward to the beginning of the spring flush of work. We’re also waiting for one more calf to be born, who may come soon or may wait those extra weeks. We’re keeping on eye on that mama cow as we do all this winter spring work. Many more miracles to come! Calves! Blossoms! Greens! Grass! The world shouts with abundance and growth already! (And, yes, it is Ash Wednesday today too, the beginning of Lent. Hard to believe it amidst all the splendor already, but Easter will arrive amidst even greater displays of spring, I am sure.)

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla~ ~ ~Looking for more greens? Exciting news this week — Harvest Fresh Grocery in downtown McMinnville has begun stocking our seasonal greens in their produce department!

Awesome greens, available 7 days/week at Harvest Fresh!

Awesome greens, available 7 days/week at Harvest Fresh!

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas!

  • Chicory mix“Chicories” are a unique family of greens related to lettuce. The most famous chicory is radicchio, that pretty red and white leaf that graces many salad mixes. In Italy, however, chicories are a diverse and beloved category of greens to be cherished and highlighted on their own. They offer a wide range of colors, shapes and flavors, all featuring the more robust flavor and texture of a chicory. Over recent years, some of those diverse chicories have made their way to the states via dedicated foodies, farmers, and chefs. We love chicories because they offer the opportunity of salads grown outdoors in the winter (they are hardy enough to not even need a greenhouse in Oregon!). Chicories can also be braised (delicious with pork, winter roots, garlic, and green onions — oh my!). We have grown many chicories over the years and have settled on a few varieties that we especially love — they range in color from buttery yellow to bright green to pink to deep red and white. This particular mix features escarole and treviso. The easiest way to eat chicories is as a salad. To reduce any bitter flavor in the chicories, we’ve heard it recommended to soak them in ice water before chopping. We’ve never taken this step ourselves, however! We like to chop them into small strips (again, “chiffonade”) and dress liberally with a creamy dressing before our meal. Because chicories have much more body than lettuces, they stand up well to being fully dressed and even letting wilt a bit. Bacon is a classic accompaniment to chicories (chop it and mix it in), as well as nuts and dried fruit of all kinds. Or, of course, you could top with crumbled cheese.
  • Chard — Another green that does well in our Willamette Valley winters! We’ve chosen to grow some especially hardy chard varieties for our winter fields, and we love picking them this time of year. It is so satisfying to make bunches of greens in February. If you’re new to chard, as a cooking green it is remarkably similar to spinach (although it doesn’t wilt quite as fast or as completely), so you can substitute in most recipes that call for cooking spinach. We love to braise/sauté it in a cast iron skillet and then poor in beaten eggs for making a frittata (cook it at first on the stovetop and then when the eggs begin to pull away from the sides finish the top under the broiler).
  • Field greens — The same mix of greens we’ve offered the last two weeks, suitable for salads or cooking!
  • Celery leaf
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Green onions — In the winter, what can be more enervating than green onions? They are onions, and yet they are a green! We love the color these add to all kinds of foods — salads, frittatas, and more. We recommend chopping them fine and using them everywhere. And please use the whole thing. These onions are tender and flavorful all the way up.
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for fermented items and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “sauerkraut” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Another batch of last week’s yummy kohlrabi sauerkraut. This was a hit! We think it is notably sweet, and the texture of the kohlrabi is so delightful when fermented.
  • Beet pickles — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Fermented beets … just sliced beets, good quality salt and water!
  • Parsnips pickles — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Fermented parsnips … just sliced parsnips, good quality salt, and water!
  • #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6
  • Hens (and a rooster!) on pasture. Good stuff.

    Hens (and a rooster!) on pasture. Good stuff.

    Eggs — $6 dozen ~ Our supply is up! The hens have noticed (and appreciated) all this warm weather too, I think. So, if you’ve wondered whether we have enough eggs for you to buy what you want, the answer is now yes. And, if you haven’t tried our eggs yet, we encourage you to do so! Farm-fresh eggs are a revelation. Our hens are on pasture all day every day, resulting in deep orange/yellow yolks that are loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3 fats. We feed our hens grains (and pasture!) that we grow and grind ourselves and supplement their feed with fish meal for extra protein and oyster shell lime for extra calcium (ocean derived nutrients for us all!).

  • Pork, roasts & chops — We’ve got more pork in the freezer! Lots in fact! Chops, roasts, and more. Last time, the chops went fast, so if you want pork chops, this is your week to get some!
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
  • Ground beef — We are temporarily out. More coming next week!
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To the woods and back

The farmer and the boy, walking through the woods earlier today.

The farmer and the boy, walking through the woods earlier today.

Oh, dear friends — how I wish I could take you fully into this photographic moment with us. The sounds of ravens calling in the still branches overhead. The quiet calm without and within as this little farming family walked in the woods at the end of a retreat away.

We just arrived back today from our quick jaunt up to the forests of Breitenbush, where we communed with far-flung farmer friends and soaked up all the glory of what felt like very early spring weather. We head to the hot springs every winter for this gathering of farmers. It’s more of a retreat than a conference, with the farmers themselves organizing all the discussion and generally sharing with each other.

This year, the usual February snow was replaced by mild weather and bare ground, allowing us to explore the area in comfort (and soak in those hot springs again and again and again!). Although we’re not totally sure what to make of the mild weather this early in the winter, we were grateful for every part of this minor adventure/retreat/get away for our family. The setting was nourishing (so was being away from phones and computers for two full days!), and we loved being able to touch base with other farmers as we all start our new seasons on our farms.

This year, the conversations were as plentiful as ever, both in our gatherings official “sessions” and beyond. Here are a few interesting observations from our experience this year:

  • It was agreed by the more than a few farming families that farming with kids feels much harder than farming before kids. Yes, we agree! But, it was also agreed between all these tired and somewhat overwhelmed farming parents that our farms feel more alive and richer with kids running amok too.
  • Casey and I both found ourselves flummoxed in conversations about our farm when the other party asked how we do all of this stuff with so little labor (we only have one full time employee right now, and last year at our peak we had three folks on board). We honestly did not (and do not) know how to answer this question! It made us realize that so much of farming still feels mysterious to us — especially as we spend most of our time on our own farm and rarely have the opportunity to visit others. We don’t always know how to answer questions like this because we lack the context of what others are really doing. We grow stuff, but I think we do so in a lot of different ways!
  • This was our ninth time attending this particular gathering of farmers, and I personally felt like I had the least to contribute in conversations than ever before. As the years go by, I find myself with more questions than answers about how all of this works (even on our own farm). I suppose this is the natural humbling process of real experience. But it was still lovely to be in close proximity and to share in others’ experiences as well — to touch base with other folks who are also so deeply committed to this miraculous/mysterious work.
  • Lots of folks were really excited to hear about our new storefront and how we’re using if for the CSA. This was one area of sharing that filled both Casey and me with pure enthusiasm. It was fun to already be this far into our season (a month into the CSA season) and have so many positive experiences already!
  • The kids had a blast. Since we attend this event every February, it has been fun to “mark” their growth by how they grow into their interactions with the place and people. This year they loved going in the hot springs more than ever before, and frequently ran off after meals with their friends while Casey and I were still eating. These are happy milestones for us farmer/parents!

Whew, I’m sure in a few days I’ll have so many more reflections, but we’re so freshly back from the event and ready to unpack and tuck in for a good night’s sleep before jumping back into the fray tomorrow with the CSA pick-up! I’ll close this brief newsletter with two other fun photos from the week (at the farm):

I swear I take this same photo every year. I can never get over the excitement of those first spring green starts in the greenhouse flats! These are salad turnips -- to be transplanted not too long from now for early spring CSA shares!

I swear I take this same photo every year. I can never get over the excitement of those first spring green starts in the greenhouse flats! These are salad turnips — to be transplanted not too long from now for early spring CSA shares!

This last week's weather has reminded me more of spring than winter: wind, thunderstorms, and even some glorious rainbows! I was happy to catch this double rainbow with the camera!

This last week’s weather has reminded me more of spring than winter: wind, thunderstorms, and even some glorious rainbows! I was happy to catch this double rainbow with the camera!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Two exciting developments on the “extras” front — many more eggs this week! Woo hoo! Thanks to mild weather! And, Casey is finishing up two new fermented foods for you to try. The first is garlic! Yep, just garlic. A condiment, to be sure. He’s still working on it, so hopefully it will turn out (he’s going to put it through the food mill tomorrow, so we have not seen the final product yet). But if you’re interested in trying it, bring a small jar to pick-up. We’ll have very small jars available as well. The other new item is kohlrabi “sauerkraut” — just kohlrabi, fermented. We’re excited to try this (and excited because we’ve had a few people who weren’t interested in the garlic element of the kimchi).

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas!

  • Field greens — Another great mix of hardy winter greens that would be suitable for a finely chopped dressed salad or for cooking with!
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Parsley
  • Kohlrabi
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Apples

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for fermented items and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “sauerkraut” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Just kohlrabi! But fermented!
  • Garlic paste? — Check out details tomorrow!
  • #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6
  • Eggs — $6 dozen
  • Ground beef — 1 lb packages; $7 ea.
  • Pork, roasts & chops — Prices vary ~ We are almost out of pork (for now)!
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Seed time

Seeds! Our collection is growing ... we are still waiting for orders from many companies!

Seeds! Our collection is growing … we are still waiting for orders from many companies! The Butternut squash seeds in the bag at the top of the photo have been saved here in our very own kitchen from the best of last year’s squashes! We love saving seed!

Monday this week marked a very important moment in the season: the sowing of the first flats in the greenhouse!

First, Casey reassembled our heated tables in the hot house. We had dissembled them last fall with the idea of upgrading but found that simply tinkering and putting everything back together fresh and clean was more than adequate to keep the same set-up going! I love it when time and attention is sufficient to save the farm money.

For the first time ever, we’ve chosen to buy a pre-made soil mix. Up until this year, we’ve always favored mixing our own, partly because that’s how we learned to do it back at the farm we trained on. I think we also thought it would save us money and give us more control. But over the years, we’ve had inconsistent results with our germination, and it’s a lot of work to mix so much heavy stuff each time we go to sow!

So, this year Casey carefully opened the bag of beautiful soil mix and attentively watered it with warm water and then enjoyed a day of sowing seeds in the greenhouse while listening to chamber choir music. These early days of the farming season can be some of the most relaxing and exciting. The season is still all glorious potential — the freshly arrived seed packets are full and organized (and clean!), and we can do these simple tasks while whatever weather passes over the farm outside. Seeing those first emerging seed leaves is so exciting too — the season begins with those very tiny little green things in our hot house, and grows and grows and grows! Seeds! They are so amazing!

I’m sure you’re wondering what Casey decided to sow first! These earliest sowings represent both some of our earliest crops (things we want to get in the ground quickly, like salad turnips and lettuces) and some of our longer term crops (like leeks!). Other items included fava beans, chard, celery root, mustards, kale, collards, summer squash and one flat of tomato seeds (we’re aiming to have some very early squash and tomatoes this year!).

This weekend we also scheduled our meat bird chick orders. We’ve decided to keep this part of our operation relatively small this year, because our experience with poultry is that it’s very energy intensive (both in terms of handling and feed). But, um, these chickens we raise are the most amazing meat, so we’ll have three batches of 100 birds each. We’re taking orders for meat chickens now! Since there will be so few available, we recommend placing an order soon to reserve your birds. You can find more info about the chickens here and place an order here.

Finally, in other winter-y routine news, early next week our farm family is heading to the mountains for our annual farmer retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs. This will be our ninth time attending — truly a tradition for us! We are so looking forward to catching up with all far-flung farmer friends and getting even further inspired for the coming season! I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about that event in next week’s newsletter (CSA operations will go on as normal! I will be out of email contact for three days, but there will be plenty of folks here on the farm holding down the fort and keeping things thriving).

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Did you know that I very carefully edit our list of veggies and other items each week? I try to keep it up-to-date with current info and provide a few extra cooking suggestions each time. So I encourage you to skim these lower sections each week, even if on a surface level it looks very similar to the week before!!!!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas! Imagine that some of these winter vegetables are starting to become more familiar to you! We encourage you to keep trying new things!

  • Field greens — Another great mix of hardy winter greens that would be suitable for a finely chopped dressed salad or for cooking with!
  • Celery leaf
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kohlrabi
  • Winter squash
  • Parsnips — Parsnips have become so familiar to Casey and me over the years that sometime I forget how maligned this vegetable is in the wider culture! So maligned that I actually wrote a bit of a “love letter” to parsnips when I was in graduate school (it was an essay called “How To Love A Parsnip,” and I offered five ways). The parsnip has the distinction of being quite a unique vegetable. While it is in the same family as carrots (umbels), it is not terribly closely related and it has no other kindred spirits. The parsnip stands alone! Other interesting things about the parsnip from a botanical standpoint — it has incredibly unique looking seeds. They resemble little flat disks that are surprisingly large and maddeningly hard to germinate (we’ve figured out the tricks finally, but it’s not a simple feat!). Also, the parsnip plant itself contains a chemical called furanocoumarin, which can cause “phytophotodermatitis” — a fancy name for blisters on the skin! Casey and I learned this the hard way back when we were first farming. The weekend, after a good weeding session in the parsnips on a hot summer day, we found ourselves with painful blisters all over our hands! The chemical in the foliage essentially makes affected skin super sensitive to the sun, so the blisters require exposure to sun — we had the perfect storm! Anyhow, now we know to wear long sleeves and gloves when working in the parsnips in the summer. But you, dear eaters, will not be weeding parsnips this week. You will simply be eating them. And, here are some tips. First of all, parsnips are sweet. Apparently this is news to some folks, so I’m telling you that now. They are very sweet. Hands down, our favorite way to eat parsnips is to roast them (yes, we roast a lot of our veggies!). I peel them first and then chop into bite-sized pieces and roast with liberal amounts of butter. I stir them a few times to make sure the butter evenly coats the parsnips and to keep them from getting too dark and crispy on one side. These are a kid favorite. I’m sure there are other good ways to eat them to, but honestly we are so pleased with this simple preparation that we don’t experiment too much anymore! But they are nice in soups too!
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Apples

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for kimchi and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “kimchi” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Casey was pondering making a different kind of fermented food for this week, but everyone was still raving about this particular recipe, so kohlrabi kimchi gets at least one more week! We may just need to procure another crock so that we can expand our options (Casey is really hankering to try making fermented beets!).
  • #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6
  • Eggs — $6 dozen ~ Volume is up again this week! Hoorah for lengthening days!
  • Ground beef — 1 lb packages; $7 ea.
  • Pork, roasts & chops — Prices vary ~ Check with Katie at pick-up to see what we have in the freezer and the prices! We only had one small hog slaughtered last week, and the pork was popular, so don’t dilly dally in trying it out! We’ll get more slaughtered soon too!
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
  • Beef organs — $6/lb for beef liver and heart
  • Lamb organs — $8/lb ~ These were popular last week! We may have a few kidneys left, but I’m pretty sure all the packages of liver and heart were sold (I will check though).
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

The winter sun

Little tiny lettuces growing in one of our high tunnels!

Little tiny lettuces growing in one of our high tunnels!

Slowly, very slowly it seems, our days are getting longer. Early next week, we mark “Imbolc” (otherwise known as Groundhog Day), the halfway mark on the march to spring. Oh, welcome day!

I am sure I not at all alone in craving quite a bit more of those rare sunny days and the warmth and growth that come with it. Last Saturday, the fog temporarily lifted from the valley floor, offering us a treat of a day. Our family hiked to the river, where it was warm enough for the kiddos to end up swimming in the water itself (I waded briefly in bare feet and was fairly amazed at their ability to turn frigid water into fun!).

But since then, the fog and cloud cover have returned, so that even with lengthening days it feels dark during most of the daylight hours. We have three high tunnels planted now, and we check on those little itty bitty plants regularly to weed and tend to them. They sit there, growing enough to stay alive, but certainly not bouncing with the thriving earth energy they will have in just a few weeks or months!

A funny planning quirk this time of year is that successions seeds sown in winter and early spring (in the greenhouse or fields) will lose their distance as harvests arrive. We could sow kale today and a month from now and end up picking them at the same time, because that later planting of kale will grow so much faster thanks to the power of sun’s return.

Nonetheless, the winter sun is here. Here in those rare fog-lifting days (or for those of you lucky to live at 700 ft or at the beach, I hear!). But also here in so many miracles around us — in the storage crops we are pulling out of our coolers (sugar = sun’s stored energy!). With every bite of beet or carrot you eat, last summer’s sun enters your body and warms you (literally warms you, through the power of digestion!).

And, here in our little farm house, we get to visit the sun of year’s past every day as we build fires to heat our home. I admit that there have definitely been days when I have wished for another source of heat, but for the most part, I love the winter ritual of building and tending a fire. On a dreary winter day, watching the flames dance in our woodstove inspires me.

For someone who was born and raised in the Pacific Northwet, I sometimes think I’m ill-fitted for our winters with how much I long for the sun! But, as always, these real things in our immediate environment help. And, this is the dregs of the winter — the coziness has worn off (especially for the kids, who are beyond ready for days outside again), and we are eager to see green’s return everywhere. And, while we wait, we order seeds, build fires, plant hazelnut trees, and eat some really good sun-food.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent two newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas!

  • Field greens — Is this a braising mix? Is it a salad mix? You decide! Casey harvested the best of the winter greens growing in the field — kale, chicories, chard, Asian greens, etc. This time of year, the “cooking” greens are sweet and tender enough to be eaten raw … but of course they’re delicious cooked too. If you decide to the salad route (which is probably what we’ll do with our batch), I recommend washing again and then chopping very fine into strips (“chiffonade,” if you will) and then tossing with your salad dressing of choice. For winter salads like this, you will likely enjoy more salad dressing than you might on a spring lettuce salad — the leaves are thicker and can stand up to it. Or chop it all up and saute with butter and garlic and eat with eggs for breakfast. Yum yum either way.
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leaf celery — We will have it this week! Last week’s final moments of harvest were interrupted by our cows, who decided to wander away from their enclosure! Jasper and Casey spent those final bits of time getting them back in.
  • Parsley — Wondering what to do with parsley? Here’s the cool thing about parsley in winter … it’s green. Like, really really really bright green. At this time of year, our other cooking greens are still all growing very slowly (they will come!), and yet here is this delightfully green, vibrant leafy thing that thrives in the winter! We most often use our winter parsley for making parsley “pesto” — combine parsley with garlic and walnuts and olive oil in a food processor (adjust the ratios to your flavor preference). Delicious! We put a bowl of parsley pesto on the table and let each eater decide how they want to use it. It makes a delicious garnish on most anything.
  • Kohlrabi
  • Sunchokes — AKA “Jerusalem Artichokes.” They are more often known by this second name, although we can’t figure out why, since these tubers are neither from Jerusalem or related to artichokes! (And oddly they look a lot like ginger — although they share nothing except appearance.) Nonetheless, they are delicious! The texture is crisp and the flavor sweet and light — very reminiscent of Jicama (no relation). Sunchokes are absolutely delicious when roasted. The hardest part is cleaning them up, because those little nooks and crannies can store some dirt. I prefer to chop them with a paring knife in a way that exposes all those little edges, making the final cleaning easier. I do NOT try to peel them, because WOAH that would be hard. I do use my paring knife to trim off any bits that look less appetizing. To roast, I’d put bite size pieces in a pan with butter or oil olive and roast at 375-425°, stirring occasionally, until starting to caramelize at the edges. Add salt, and enjoy the simplicity of this preparation!!!! I must add, however, that some of us unlucky folks experience gas when consuming cooked sunchokes (especially in large quantities). Unfortunately, Casey and I are in that camp, so while we enjoy roasted sunchokes when paired with other veggies (make a big roasted root veggie medley!), we often prefer to eat our sunchokes raw. We don’t get the painful gas that way. They’re delicious chopped fine and added to a cole slaw type salad. In fact, this week, you could make an amazing salad with the kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, and sunchokes! Sometimes we like to turn a cold salad like this into a meal all its own, and we do so by adding more filling ingredients like tuna or cooked chicken (a great portable lunch).
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets — Beets seem to be one of those polarizing vegetables. To some of us (our family included), a perfectly cooked beet embodies all that is sweet and satisfying. Others taste … dirt? I guess? Since I’m not in that camp, I’m not sure what doesn’t “work” for other folks, but I will offer up this: even I (a devoted beet lover) do NOT enjoy under-cooked beets. To me, an under-cooked beet definitely tastes too earthy for my preferences. And, I’ve also learned over time that beets generally require more cooking than other root veggies (I think they are denser). So when I cook them, I often allow quite a lot more time than I do for something like potatoes or carrots. I love mixing up root vegetables and making what we once dubbed “root parade” (because I lined up all the ingredients in a row before chopping) — basically a roasted vegetable medley. When I include beets, I make sure to chop them smaller than the rest so that they will cook all the way through in the same time frame. When roasting beets alone, I often do it at a slightly lower temperature (375°) so that they cook all the way through before they start to crisp on the edges. A well cooked beet is like candy. To me!
  • Potatoes
  • Apples — This week, we have more Goldrush apples, as well as the classic Newton Pippin. This is an older type of apple, especially well suited to cooking or making cider (complex flavors!).
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for kimchi and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “kimchi” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Still popular! We have another fresh batch available for this week. We’ve been loving this winter treat.
  • #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6 ~ Want extra apples for making sauce or cooking? We’ve got #2 apples available for half price — these are apples that just aren’t perfect enough for us to offer them for fresh eating. They have minor blemishes or imperfect skin.
  • Eggs — $6 dozen ~ Volume is up again this week!
  • Ground beef — 1 lb packages; $7 ea.
  • Pork, roasts & chops — Prices vary ~ We took our first hog to be slaughtered at a USDA facility this week! Check in at pick-up to find out what we’ve got in the freezer! We grow a very unique type of hog: American Guinea Hog, a heritage breed. They offer darker, more flavorful pork meat than most of what you will have experienced. They are also smaller in size and great foragers, making them well suited to a farm like ours and meaning that their fat is loaded with healthy Omega-3s.
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
  • Beef organs — $6/lb for beef liver and heart
  • Lamb organs — $8/lb ~ These were popular last week! We may have a few kidneys left, but I’m pretty sure all the packages of liver and heart were sold (I will check though).
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

We’re off and running!

Two day old lambs and a ewe enjoy a misty and chilly morning on the farm.

Two day old lambs and a ewe enjoy a misty and chilly morning on the farm.

As you know, last week was our first CSA pick-up of the year — and our very first CSA pick-up at our new storefront! We were excited before the day began, feeling super optimistic about our new space and routines for 2015. But, still, our expectations were blown out of the water by the enthusiasm of everyone who walked in the door during those five hours. People ooh’d and ah’d over the tidy packages of lamb and beef in our freezer (and bought lots of both); eggs sold out within the first hour; kimchi flew out out the door (we sold out, but thankfully everyone who wanted some got some!); and beautiful CSA vegetables were packed into baskets with joy. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.

It felt like the perfect start to our tenth season — a harbinger of good things to come. We honestly can’t believe we get to have another party like that this week. And the week after that. And so on, for another 44 weeks this year.

Here on the farm, good work has been happening too. We are almost totally done with our annual seed order (need to finalize our green onion and flower choices); we’ve been pruning our orchards and raspberries; and I finished up our 2014 employee tax paperwork this weekend. Up next on our lists: more pruning; the start of seed sowing in the hot house; and our organic certification paperwork. All of it feels so seasonal, even if this winter has proved to be relatively mild so far (our PGE bill tells us the average temperature so far has been tracking 5° warmer than last year).

At this time of year, I have to avoid constantly looking for signs of spring, because of course winter has several more weeks to go and these early signs are subtle and ongoing. I could bore you by pointing them out every week in the newsletter, but here on the farm they are very exciting. This week, as we were walking back to our house, Rusty ran ahead of me and then stopped and ran back at a full sprint, yelling: “Mama! Guess what I saw? … The daffodils are coming up!” Sure, enough, he had spotted the very first tips of the daffodils that grow under our pear tree. Having our son so excited about this world he inhabits plus those little glimpses of the season to come (spring! joy!) filled my heart so much.

Plus, the first of this year’s lambs were born yesterday (hence the cute photo above). And today the sun shone and warmed everything! Life! Growth! It happens! There is great and necessary rest to be gained from winter’s rhythms, but oh these signs of spring are too wonderful.

It’s official — this season is marching forward, and we are so glad to have you with us on this next season of local eating! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Welcome to members who are joining us this week for the first time! We’re so glad to have you! I recommend at least skimming last week’s newsletter as well, since it contained lots of useful orienting information. You can find it here.

~ ~ ~

Have you made your first payment yet? In case you haven’t yet, here’s another friendly reminder to deliver to us your first CSA payment of the year (either full value or 1/5). If you haven’t mailed your check yet, please bring it with you to pick-up tomorrow!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, I’m going to try to focus my attention on a few vegetables each week. If you ever have any questions about what to do with something, you can also ask us at pick-up! All three of us are extremely enthusiastic about cooking and are happy to answer your questions and provide ideas!

  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts — We have been eating a lot of Brussels sprouts lately. They are one of our family’s favorite winter staples. They do require a little bit of extra work on the cutting board, but I’ve gotten this process down to be fairly quick and simple. I use a paring knife (one of my favorite kitchen tools!) to trim off the butt and then slice each sprout in half. At that point, any yellowed outer leaves are extremely easy to just slip off, almost as quickly as you can move the cut sprouts aside. I have a habit of putting my halved Brussels sprouts in water at this point, to remove any soil or buggies — but this year’s sprouts have been so clean that this step is really unnecessary. Once I have a big pile of halved sprouts, I have a choice. Do I want to cook them as halves? This is very delicious — we love roasting halved Brussels sprouts for breakfast (yes, for breakfast!). If you put an even layer in a sheet pan (without overlap), they roast up quite quickly and have a crispy outside. Pan frying halves works well too, although it takes a bit longer and can be helped by a little broth in the pan (cover for a period too to help them sprouts cook through before they start to brown). However, if I’m feeling rich with time, I might cut my sprouts further. Sometimes I even chop them up into fine confetti, which — believe it or not — makes a great salad base. Toss with dressing and top with savory and sweet toppings like cranberries, goat cheese and walnuts. Delicious! Or, I’ll take that chopped Brussels sprouts and saute it up like kale. One of our favorite things is to cook chopped cabbage and Brussels sprouts together. Add chopped carrots too, and you end up with a beautiful mult0colored vegetable base for a stew or as a side-dish on its own. Need I say that such dishes usually involve lots of butter at our house? It’s true.
  • Leaf celery — This variety of celery is grown for its leaf. Why, you ask? Certainly not for making “ants-on-a-log,” which requires stalks. Instead, this is grown for that unique, profoundly awesome celery flavor. Flavor doesn’t even seem to adequately describe what celery brings to a dish. In my experience, celery transforms dishes (especially soups) into something entirely different. When we make stocks and broths, we add some of this leaf celery, and the resulting broth is intensely satisfying. Use it to make a soup that will knock people’s socks off. You can also chop the leaf celery and add it to stuffings or any other number of warming winter dishes.
  • Kohlrabi
  • Winter squash
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Apples — This week’s apples are some of our absolute favorite: GOLDRUSH is the variety name. Why do we love them? Let us count the ways: 1. The trees are hardy and disease resistant (great for the organic grower!). 2. The fruit store well all winter long in our cooler. 3. They are delicious! I shared some of these with friends earlier today, and while the children were chomping them up with non-verbal displays of enthusiasm, the parents were all remarking on how unexpectedly wonderful the apples were. They had the idea that a yellow apple would be mushy or flavorless — perhaps this idea comes from the experience of eating Yellow Transparents or other very early yellow apples. Goldrush are nothing like that all — instead they offer a very dense, crisp texture and an incredibly complex flavor with full ranges of sweet and tart. They’re great for fresh eating yet hold up well (flavor and texture-wise) for cooking. Seriously, a wonderful all-around apple. We have extras of these for sale as well.
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for kimchi and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already! Also, this week I am going to try to better track individual sales for our records (since it’d be nice to know how much money we are making from, say, lamb versus walnuts) — doing so may add a few extra seconds to each purchase as I do some computer input stuff. Thanks in advance for being patient as I figure it out! Here’s what we’ve got this week for you:

This weekend's special kid activities included making corn pancakes with Papa — our favorite use for our farm made corn flour!

This weekend’s special kid activities included making corn pancakes with Papa — our favorite use for our farm made corn flour!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Kohlrabi “kimchi” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ We sold out of our kimchi last week!!!! Hoorah! We were so excited to witness true KIMCHI ENTHUSIASM at work. We’ve got a new batch ready to go. Same recipe!
  • Eggs — $6 dozen ~ We also sold out of eggs very quickly last week. No surprise there since our supply is still coming out of winter mode. The good news is that we have more eggs this week than last week, and that trend should continue!
  • Ground beef — 1 lb packages; $7 ea. ~ These packages of ground beef were also very popular! We still have plenty in the freezer!
  • Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
  • Beef organs — I forgot to mention this last week — we have organs for sale as well! Beef liver and heart are $6/lb and beef tongue is $8/lb.
  • Lamb organs — Lamb organs are $8/lb. The fine butchers we worked with packed a lamb liver with a lamb heart in tidy little packages. These would make a perfect first introduction to organ meats for the uninitiated. Lamb organs are quite mild in flavor and yet still pack huge nutrition. I saw once a nutritional comparison of various vitamins and minerals in liver versus broccoli — liver was off the charts on everything. We have heard time and time again from folks who claim to have experienced significant boosts in energy and general vibrancy after consuming liver. Not sure how to prepare them? Slice your lamb liver (or heart) thin and pan fry with plenty of butter and some garlic.
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

2015 begins!

We are all ready to welcome you to our storefront CSA pick-up tomorrow!

We are all ready to welcome you to our new CSA pick-up tomorrow!

Hi! Are you totally new to our CSA? Let me introduce to the weekly CSA newsletter. It’s an important part of what we offer you as your farmers — it connects you to the work we do out here and helps guide you into a fabulous CSA experience. Each week the newsletter goes like this:

  1. Fun essay related to current happenings on the farm (with photos)
  2. Any important news or reminders (upcoming payments due or farm events)
  3. Sometimes a recipe or two
  4. The list of available vegetables and extra goodies for the week — this is where you’ll find a lot of useful information about the most basic cooking preparations for vegetables and other food products. If you’re new to seasonal eating, at least read this portion of the newsletter each week!

And, now onto our first newsletter of 2015! …

Here we go again: tomorrow is our first CSA pick up of the season! Since we operate a 45 week CSA, our first day comes quite early. As we are now entering our tenth season, I can’t help but reflect on that very first year (2006) and how at this point in January we were only just beginning to realize that we’d have a season at all. We were finishing up graduate school programs in Bellingham, Washington and didn’t anticipate how quickly our farm dreams would come to fruition. But a series of very happy events led us to McMinnville to farm that very year (in fact, we moved to McMinnville before I had even defended my thesis!).

This year feels very different indeed. We’re here. We’ve been here for years now. We’ve got fields full of winter vegetables; coolers full of storage roots and apples; a freezer full of butchered meat; and a long list of new and returning CSA members excited to enjoy the year with us. And, yet, this is a beginning too. Way back in that first year, we couldn’t possibly imagine what it would feel like to sustain this farm season after season, through nature’s vagaries, through the results of our mistakes; through the evolution of our community. Certainly, we experienced a continual level of exhaustion in those start up years that we only rarely experience these days (thank goodness!), but the work continues. I have great respect for any long-term small business owner these days, because the sustaining part requires every bit as much of intention as the starting. We are also more grateful than ever for the customers who have supported our farm up until now and who continue to do so (because, heck, I’m sure that long-term CSA membership requires intention too!).

2015 feels like a significant new chapter in our farm’s story as we continue to grow and fine tune our CSA. We’ve spent most of this last week setting up our new storefront pick-up, and it is looking awesome. We’ve dreamed of hosting our CSA in a downtown storefront for years, but it was hard to imagine how to make it a reality — rent is expensive and we didn’t want to create a “hole” downtown on the days we didn’t use it. We were so excited to build a relationship with the folks at Yamhill Valley Dry Goods to rent the back portion of their space (which was not being used at the time)! HUGE thank you to Sylla McClellan (owner of YVDG) for believing in us and trusting us to share the space! A lot of other folks helped turn that little space into a cozy CSA pick-up: my dad Steve Bledsoe built the crates that will hold our veggies (on a tight deadline, no less!); Mitch Horning made the gorgeous wood sign above our awning; Nathan Garrettson built the wood benches that we will have inside and out; and Copy Cabana printed our beautiful door sign. We live in an awesome community where dreams can come true. We can’t wait to host you all there tomorrow afternoon. CSA pick-up is 2-7 pm (every Thursday)!

As you arrive, please check in with one of us (there will be three of us working most of the time), and we will orient you to the new set-up. Old timers will recognize the foundation of the pick-up — our signature long table of CSA veggies. Hopefully you will have brought a bag or basket to fill, but we’ll have extra bags available too, just in case.

But we will also have extra items at pick-up for purchase. In addition to listing each week’s veggies at the end of the newsletter, I’ll also list those extra goodies. They will be things like eggs, meats, fermented veggies, flours, nuts, and extra fruit & veggies (items we know people might eat a lot of, like apples and potatoes) — you can see this week’s list below. If you would like to buy flours or kimchi, we recommend bringing your own jars (the kimchi prices are based on pint or half pint jars — so clean canning jars are perfect!). We’ll have some jars for purchase for the kimchi if you need them (the flours can also go into plastic bags too!).

We can accept cash or personal checks for the extra items. If you’d prefer to avoid the hassle of bringing cash or checks each week, you can write us a larger check to put money on an account, which we’ll keep track of at pick-up. We’re super excited about these “extras” — these are items that we began producing a few years back and are only now offering to all our customers (and actually, even if you’re not a current CSA member, you’re welcome to stop by and purchase some of these good things too!).

I’m going to spend some extra time describing this week’s vegetables and “extra goodies,” so I’ll end this welcome newsletter with a little checklist for you to use to prepare for you first pick-up of the year:

Your CSA pick-up checklist

  • Know the time? (Thursdays, 2 – 7 pm)
  • Know the place? (Storefront on 2nd Street parking lot, between Davis and Evans — backside of Yamhill Valley Dry Goods)
  • Posted yourself a reminder somewhere (calendar, cell phone alarm, etc.)?
  • Packed bags or baskets for your CSA vegetables?
  • Packed extra containers for flours or kimchi? Egg cartons for eggs?
  • Packed cash or checkbook for buying extra goodies?

We can’t wait to see you all tomorrow! We’ll be present to answer questions you have during the process. So, WELCOME! We are so glad you have joined us for another fabulous year of eating! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Have you made your first payment yet? Here’s a friendly reminder to deliver to us your first CSA payment of the year (either full value or 1/5). You can bring a check with you to pick-up tomorrow if you haven’t already sent it in the mail! Thank you!!! These first payments help us do important things like order our seeds!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Since we have so many new members coming tomorrow, I just want to write a novel about each of these vegetables so that you can quickly learn to love them all. However, my time and your time is limited, and so I will hit some highlights and keep visiting different veggies each week this winter (and keep working on that cookbook!).

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi — Ah, kohlrabi … the vegetable people love to hate. Or so it seems. And, I’ll admit. Sometimes kohlrabi can be rough to enjoy. But honestly, it’s an awesome vegetable. Really, truly, we want you to love it too. Which is part of why we prepared a kohrabi kimchi for this week. Here are a few tips for enjoying it at home. First of all, if you have any kohlrabi reluctance, I recommend NOT cooking it. It is a hard vegetable to prepare well, in my opinion. However, it is delightful eaten raw and has a light crispness that is wholly welcome in the midst of winter. First you’ll have to peel it, which is about half the battle with these big winter kohlrabis. I use a large chef knife to cut off chunks, which I then peel using a paring knife. I hold the kohlrabi cut side down on the cutting board (so it’s very stable) and peel down the sides. One thing to keep in mind is that the root end of the kohlrabi is where it is more likely to develop a fibrous texture. If you’re sensitive to that, favor the top portion of the kohlrabi and feed the bottom portion to the chickens. Once peeled, I like to chop the kohlrabi up very fine and use it as the base for a cole slaw type salad. I call these “chopped salads” and will include other finely chopped veggies too: carrots and cabbage are great, as well as apples. I usually make the dressing myself by using my hand blender to quickly emulsify olive oil and apple cider vinegar together (with a bit of salt and pepper). I like to make a big batch of salad like this so we can eat it at several meals without having to cook again (in fact, I like preparing large batches of food as a general rule!). But sliced kohlrabi also just makes a really great dipping vegetable. Hummus + kohlrabi = yum.
  • Winter squash mix — We’ve got a few different winter squashes available this week. We can talk you through the differences at pick-up if you’re interested. This is the tail end of winter squash season, so enjoy these while they last!
  • Beets
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots — We will have carrots available as part of your share, but we’ll also bring extras for purchase too if you want more ($2.50 lb).
  • Potatoes — We will have potatoes available as part of your share, but we’ll also bring extras for purchase too if you want more ($2.50 lb).
  • Garlic
  • Apples — We will have apples available as part of your share, but we’ll also bring extras for purchase too if you want more ($3 lb). We also have #2 apples (bruised or whatnot) available if you want to buy them for making sauce ($1.50 lb).

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb We grind these flours fresh each week from grains we grow here on our farm. Consequently they are very fresh and offer a vitality to food that we’ve rarely encountered elsewhere. We recommend only purchasing enough to use for one or two weeks. Store in an open container so that the moisture in the fresh flours doesn’t build up and cause premature spoilage. You can also store them in the fridge. You can use both the corn and oat flour in place of all-purpose flour in “quick bread” type recipes: muffins, pancakes, cookies, cakes, etc. Depending on the recipe, you may need to tinker to get the results you like, but we’ve had very good success with both flours in our house. Corn pancakes are a special breakfast treat for our kids. You can read more about the flours (and see a corn pancake recipe) here.
  • Oat flour — $5 lb See notes above about corn flour!
  • Walnuts — $5 lb These walnuts are sold in the shell. They make the best snack. The coolest part of our walnuts is that you can crack them open with just your fingers. Ask us to show you how! Read more about our walnuts here.
  • Kohlrabi “kimchi” — $5 pint; $3 half pint For us, fermented vegetables are such a staple food in the winter. We crave them less in the summer (probably because we’re eating other good things and enjoying lots of sunshine), but in the winter sauerkraut and its relatives are present on our table regularly (Dottie especially loves all these fermented foods and eats them straight out of the jar). Casey made this batch of kohlrabi “kimchi” to offer you delicious winter storage foods in a new presentation. I put “kimchi” in quotes, because this is just a simple made up recipe (and it doesn’t have any hot peppers any it): it’s kohlrabi, carrots, garlic, and salt. The kohlrabi is truly transformed in this preparation. It has the wonderful squeak of a fermented veggie and the savory-ness of the garlic flavor. Wonderful as a garnish on just about anything. We often will just put a jar of this stuff out on the table and let everyone decide for themselves how they want to eat it (again, Dottie eats it by the handful).
  • Eggs — $6 dozen. Eggs will be offered bulk, so please bring a carton (bring extras to share if you have them!)! Did you know that eggs are a seasonal farm product? This last fall, our hens slowed down laying as the sunlight dimmed, and eventually they stopped laying at all. We had several weeks where even us farmers were forgoing eggs at breakfast (which is when we discovered the joy of winter squash for breakfast!). Egg production is very slowly going back up, but we are nowhere near full production yet for our 275 hens. So we will be bringing the eggs that we have, and we know that we will run out before everyone has had some. We are very sorry about this! But before too long, we will have more! Read more about our eggs and egg production here.
  • Ground beef — 1 lb packages; $7 ea. We are so excited to offer you ground beef! We find ground beef to be such a flexible part of our family’s diet. The kids love hamburgers, and we love browned ground beef as the meat in our vegetable stews! We taste tested this ground beef tonight at dinner (Casey just picked up all our meat from the butcher today!), and it was fabulous. Read more about our beef here.
  • Lamb roasts — We’ll have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). If you’re like I was many years ago, the idea of cooking different cuts of meat like lamb may feel very daunting! I know that there was a time in my life when cooking meat meant sausages. Period! Since then, I’ve learned a lot, and thankfully I’ve learned how incredibly easy it can be to prepare amazing meat. Casey and I have learned that, essentially, all meat is either intended for quick cooking over high heat (like steaks on a grill) or long, slow cooking over low high (like a roast in a low-temp oven). With a little experience, quick cooking is quite easy, but slow cooking is almost fool-proof. Our household’s favorite way to cook roasts in our slow cooker (i.e. “crock pot”). We’ll choose a nice roast and put it in the slow cooker dry with just some salt for seasoning. Turn it on low and let it go for several hours. For a large cut we’ll let it run all day (put it in at breakfast to eat at dinner). For a smaller cut, a few hours will suffice. The meat will self-baste in its juices, and you’ll have the most incredibly tender, juicy, savory meat to eat however you please. We often pick the meat off the bones and add it to vegetable stews; or we’ll just eat it with a salad and another vegetable side dish. Also, I need to note: if you think you don’t like lamb, you need to try this meat! We grow “hair” sheep breeds of sheep, the meat from which has an entirely different flavor and texture from standard wool breeds. Read more about our lamb here.
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This is happening!

We are SO excited about Thursday! Lots of last minute CSA sign-ups are popping up in our email, and today Casey hung up this beautiful sign made by Mitch Horning:

It's so pretty that I can't stop looking at it!

It’s so pretty that I can’t stop looking at it!

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Happy 2015!

Casey works up one of our older high tunnel greenhouses to begin the planting process.

Casey works up one of our older high tunnel greenhouses to begin the planting process.

First of all: Our CSA begins this Thursday! And, YES, we still have room for new and returning members to join! You can find information about our CSA here and sign-up now here. Or, if that doesn’t work for you, just email me with any questions you have or to sign up that way: farm (at) oakhillroganics (dot) com. I know there are many folks out there who want to sign up but haven’t gotten around to it yet — now it the time! Now on to the news …

I apologize for this much belated New Year’s post. I had full intentions to write a New Year’s update soon after the actual event, but WOW have we been busy! We enjoyed a luxuriously wonderful series of days off for the holidays, which were filled with so much family, presents, delicious food and rest. And, then, we were off running!

Preparing for this year’s CSA (which begins on Thursday!) brings extra work because our farm is in the mist of a big transition. Rather than offering two separate CSA programs anymore (our veggie-only CSA and our “Full Diet” option), we are combining the two into one offering. The foundation of this CSA remains the same: members choose their weekly share size, which determines how many vegetables items they pick up each they week (chosen by the members from that week’s harvest — a highly customizable CSA that we are returning to because of customer demand!). Pick-up will occur at our new snazzy downtown McMinnville storefront. We have been busy prepping this space to host our members, slowly transforming it into a little funky farmstand.

The kids have been "helping" us transform our storefront into an awesome CSA pick-up / farmstand space.

We’ve been transforming our new storefront into an awesome CSA pick-up / farmstand space.

At pick-up, members will have the opportunity to purchase other items as well — farm meats, eggs, flours, fermented vegetables, extra fruit, and nuts (all grown/produced by us here on our farm!). Initially when we were planning for 2015, we were thinking we would just sell our meat animals as halves and wholes, but we heard from a lot of folks that they don’t have freezer space to store meat like that, so we’ve found some really awesome USDA-inspected processors to work with (allowing us to sell meat retail by the cut) and will have both options available this year — meat at pick-up and whole and half animals.

At this week’s first pick-up, we will have:

  • Seasonal vegetables of course! A wide range of good stuff here!
  • Apples
  • Ground beef in 1 lb packages
  • Lamb roasts
  • Corn flour
  • Oat flour
  • Walnuts
  • Kohlrabi and carrot “kimchi”

For items like flour and kimchi, we encourage members to bring their own containers for purchasing those items and bringing them home. We will also have glass mason jars available for purchase on site.

We are so excited to have once again one CSA to put all of our farm’s energy into. The last few years have been such a big transition for our farm as we expanded our acreage and offerings. Now that we’re several years into balancing vegetables with animal production on 100 acres, we feel a great renewed interest and energy for the joy of vegetable growing (which is of course where we began!). Casey and I have been doing “crop planning” the last few days — choosing our seeds and making our long order list for the season. Even though much is familiar in the process (we have many favorite tried and true varieties we grow), each year brings new adventures as seed companies offer new things for us to try out. This year we are aiming to buy only organically produced seeds (so far so good on our list) as part of our goal to get certified organic again this year (after taking a few years off from the process). It’s not absolutely necessary to only grow organic seeds for that process (a farm just has to demonstrate that they have tried to buy as much organic seed as possible for their specific purposes). But we appreciate that organic seed producers are striving to meet the needs of commercial market growers, and we’d like to support them as much as possible. That commitment will have us trying some new varieties this year, as many of our standards have yet to become available as organically grown. A new adventure!

We’re also excited to start 2015 with a third high tunnel greenhouse on the farm (see photo above!). We’ve had two around for many years and have so appreciated their amazing productivity — especially in that challenging period when spring-planted crops are not yet ready to pick but over-wintered crops are done. As a year-round CSA, having more greenhouse space will help us get through those early months with plenty of high quality, abundant vegetables! Casey has already worked up all three greenhouses and transplanted lots of sweet onions and cooking greens into two of them. We plan to sow salad makings in the third greenhouse as soon as we get our seed orders completed! Who loves salads? Oh, we do! Salad greens are an area we’d like to pay more attention to again in 2015. Because, really, salads. are. awesome.

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Rusty carefully copies variety names from a catalog onto his own crop planning list.

As we start our tenth season (oh my!), we’re learning ever new lessons about what it means to live here, farm this land, and operate a small business. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the early years of this farm and on how different they were then than now. Most of our challenges were related to infrastructure development and getting established. Casey and I were able to throw ourselves into every day with all of our energy and work as many hours as we wanted. The strengths and the challenges of our farm have evolved, of course. Now we have two amazing, wonderful kids in tow for everything we do. I have chosen to mostly be a stay-at-home mom with them, so I am not trying to pull them around in the field for daily farm work. But they are present for much of the business work — the brainstorming conversations that happen over breakfast and the preparing of the storefront in town. I can tell you what — things don’t happen quite as quickly as they once did! But, we make progress nonetheless, and I cherish the thought that our kids get to be so intimately involved with the source of our family’s livelihood. I am sure that at the ages of 2 and 5, these lessons are absorbed on an unconscious level, but it won’t be long before Rusty can contribute to many parts of the farm in a significant way. As Casey and I have been making our seed lists for the farm, Rusty has pored over the catalogs as well and has been making his own list for his garden this year. These kids amaze us.

And, winter is just as much of a time for play on the farm as summer. We had a minor high water event here around Christmas — nothing terribly dramatic in the end, although the initial forecasts were for big water and had us scrambling to get everything prepared. But then the predictions toned down, and we just saw our “normal” high water that comes every winter to fill the lowest ground. We know how to prepare for this water and expect it year. And, now with kids so very wonderfully living here on the farm too, high water events take on a whole new meaning. The children have inspired us to play with the river when it visits us, bringing unexpected joys into our winter farm days. On that note, I will close with some photos from that recent fun:

When the river came up and the sun came out, the kids played along (and in) the edge of the waters.

When the river came up and the sun came out, the kids played along (and in) the edge of the waters.

At the crest of the high water, we were cut off from our cooking green plantings by water. Solution? Borrow a canoe and take a wetter route than normal to go pick some collards!

At the crest of the high water, we were cut off from our cooking green plantings by water. Solution? Borrow a canoe and take a wetter route than normal to go pick some collards! Canoeing down the middle of our fields provided the ultimate in new perspective. Also: SO FUN.

A cold spell froze the flood waters several inches thick and then the water receded before a thaw arrived, leaving sheets of ice all over our fields. The children were mesmerized by the sensory experience of walking and crunching on ice.

A cold spell froze the flood waters several inches thick and then the water receded before a thaw arrived, leaving sheets of ice all over our fields. The children were mesmerized by the sensory experience of walking and crunching on ice.

We look forward to seeing many of you this Thursday! I will write a newsletter this Wednesday with more logistical reminders for the first time in the new space and routine!

In the meantime, may you be finding joy too in this gray days! Think of delicious vibrant vegetables headed your ways soon!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Posted in News & Updates, Photos | 1 Comment

Winter update + Holiday Harvest!

Greenhouse building time!

Greenhouse building time!

Hello friends! We are writing to you from the midst of the darkest days here on the farm. Although I must admit, the recent days on the farm have been lovely for mid-December — mild weather and a bit of sun. We still look forward to the Winter Solstice, however. The slow return of the light brings the end of our winter rest and the energy we need to get the next season going (we’ll start sowing seeds in January!).

In the meantime, we’re keeping plenty busy on these short days. In addition to our continued harvests for restaurants and the Full Diet CSA, Casey has been working on a new high tunnel greenhouse for growing crops in the field in these colder seasons (such as this one). In our many years of winter harvest, we’ve learned that winter is defined by its variability. One year may be mild, leaving all our greens alive in the fields; the next might be frigid and cold. It happens! So, adding another high tunnel to our set of winter growing tools seems like a wise investment of our time and money so that we can be more sure of good tasty eating (especially those beloved greens like kale!).

I have been busy preparing all the behind the scenes stuff for 2015 — processing CSA sign ups (have you signed up yet? You can do it RIGHT NOW here on our website!), making budgets, etc etc etc. October through February are my fullest months of paperwork, which works out perfectly with the rest of the farm work load!

We are also of course fully in the midst of birthday and Christmas celebrations for our family (Rusty turned five last week!). The days are chock full of wonderful things like bowling, choir concerts, parties with extended family, tree decorating, and lots of delicious holiday foods.

And, to help you eat exceedingly well this holiday season, it’s time for our second Holiday Harvest for this winter! The harvest day will be this Friday, December 19. The list of available items is below. All are welcome to place an order. Here’s how it will work: You make a list of what you what and send it to us by Thursday evening (for your convenience, you can use the form at the bottom of this post, but you can also email it). Then on Friday, we’ll gather all your items and bring them to our new storefront in downtown Mac — the backside of Yamhill Valley Dry Goods (416 NE 3rd St — but we are accessible from the parking lot on 2nd St). Come by between 2 and 4 pm to pick up your veggies!!! Here is the list:

  • Seasonal salad mix — A mix of hardy salad greens with a beautiful range of colors and textures. Order by the lb. ~ $7/lb
  • Brussels sprouts — Order by the lb. ~ $3.50/lb
  • Kohlrabi — These are large! Order by the each. ~ $1/lb
  • Collard greens — Order by the bunch ~ $3/bunch
  • Carrots — Order by the lb. ~ $2.50/lb
  • Beets — Order by the lb. ~ $1.50/lb
  • Parsnips — Order by the lb. ~ $2/lb
  • Yukon Gold potatoes — Order by the lb. ~ $2.25/lb
  • Leeks — Order by the lb. ~ $4/lb
  • Garlic — Order by the head ~ $6/lb
  • Apples — Order by the each. Please choose Honeycrisp (great for fresh eating) or Newton Pippin (great for cooking. ~ $3/lb
  • Corn flour ~ $5/lb
  • Oat flour ~ $5/lb
  • Walnuts — In the shell ~ $5/lb

Here is the form for sending us your list! Please get it to us by Thursday evening. Let us know if you have any other questions. Thank you!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (required)

Your Holiday Harvest order

Questions or other comments?

Your farmers, Casey & Katie Kulla

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