Welcome!

14Welcome 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 farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! We sell primarily through our unique 45-week long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which offers customizable share sizes and contents. 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 news on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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The summer that hasn’t (yet)

I'm sure I take a photo of Casey's hands + some vegetables at least once per year. I just love the image of the fresh food and the hard-workin' hand. So I'll keep taking them!

I’m sure I take a photo of Casey’s hands + some vegetables at least once per year. I just love the image of the fresh food and the hard-workin’ hand. So I’ll keep taking them!

I don’t particularly want to jinx the weather by commenting on it too explicitly, but at the same time, a year like this just cannot go without notice. The kids and I have been recording the high and low temperature on our porch every evening, and for most of July it’s looked something like this:

High: 75°
Low: 58°

Folks, this is NOT what I have come to expect of July in the Willamette Valley. Or, of June … or even May!

The last ten years that we’ve lived here have consistently felt like scorching hot summers. To Casey and me, who are both Pacific Northwest natives, but of the milder variety — the Puget Sound and Oregon Coast-raised type of “we-actually-kind-of-really-love-not-hot-summer” of NWers.

Or, we’re realizing that now. The last ten years I think I’ve tried to love the heat. And, I can truly appreciate some wonderful things about those experiences. A good, dry heat can be so satisfying, especially when paired with a large body of water (the river for us). But a heavy-feeling, hot, dusty, muggy, overcast heat (as we often have mid-summer) can feel oppressive and makes any outdoor activity (besides swimming) feel daunting.

We’ll have those days again. Perhaps even this summer yet. But so far it’s been much more like the summers Casey and I both grew up with, when days are long and mild and could be filled with so many pleasurable outdoor activities (without sweating buckets in the process).

We’ll enjoy it while it lasts anyway, because it makes our hard physical work much more pleasant, I’ll tell you what. Hand weeding is an entirely different activity when the temperature peaks at 75° rather than 95°.

Another "fruit-in-hand" photo ... of the first apples of the year! Hoorah!

Another “fruit-in-hand” photo … of the first apples of the year! Hoorah!

Interestingly, our perennial crops are all still feeling early, in spite of the mildness of the weather. We’ve talked with other growers about this phenomenon (mostly grape growers), and we all suppose it’s because the season turned warm(ish) and mild so early. Very true. I honestly can’t even remember the last time we built a fire in our woodstove (our only source of heat). I wish I had recorded the last fire just to be able to remember that early date, but I’m sure that at the time I had no idea it would be the last! Was it in February? March? Many months ago, anyway, and it’s hard to really even imagine needing a fire ever again, although of course we will. We will, indeed, just as we will find ourselves under a hot sunny sun again before too long.

But each season brings its challenges and its pleasures. For us, this weather has been one of this year’s unexpected pleasures indeed! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Important dates coming up:

  • Thursday, July 21 (tomorrow!): second-to-last CSA payment due. I’ve sent out email CSA statements with your total due. Please email me or ask me at pick-up if you have any questions about your account balance.
  • Friday, August 26 ~ Ratatouille Rendezvous!: Our next on-farm event! Come for a farm tour and dinner! We’ll make a big batch of ratatouille (summer stew) to share. You bring a side dish, salad or dessert. We’ll dine under the late summer sky and then enjoy an evening singing by the fire. More details to come, but please note that this is a change in the date. We adjusted it to better accommodate some other scheduling things that came up for us as a family.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Rusty picked himself a juicy ripe Shiro plum at the end of the afternoon.

    Rusty picked himself a juicy ripe Shiro plum at the end of the afternoon.

    Plums — Yellow Shiro plums. So sweet and soft — watch out for juice dripping down your chin.

  • Chehalis apples — The first of this year’s apples! Chehalis are always our earliest apple here. They are great for eating just plain out of hand.
  • Figs — These are like candy. We have limited quantities this time, but this is the first year we’ve had any significant crop at all since planting these trees in early 2009! The first few years, they kept freezing to the ground and then had to regrow. Finally in recent years they have become woody and tall like trees, and we look forward to even bigger harvests in future years. Fresh figs are quite the treat.
  • Green beans — Are they fresh? Oh yes! And if you’re not sure, try sticking them to your shirt. A chef showed us that trick once upon a time, and now we always joke in the fields by picking one and sticking it to our shirt (it will cling on its own if fresh). Make a bean salad, or roast, or sauté! Yum!!!!
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers & green peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli OR Cabbage
  • Zucchini — Both the dark green and light green types
  • New potatoes
  • Green & sweet onions
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Goat — Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
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Summer adventures

The farm in summer!

The farm in summer!

I’m sitting down to write this week’s newsletter much later than has been my habit recently. This has just been such a beautifully full summer day that I only now have the time. But I can’t hardly regret the late hour or my heavy eyelids, because everything about today just sang of summer and its glory — kayaking on the river with friends (for the kids and me), harvesting (Casey), weeding (all of us), and dinner with more friends outside as the sky turned from blue to pinkish orange. These long days can be so very full and rich. Between the sun’s return (which kissed me a little too pink probably on that river) and the happiness of friendly gatherings, the day feels like it ends with a glowing halo. Ah, summer.

The theme of this week has been play. And weeding. And then play. And then more weeding. Remember when I was talking two weeks ago about farm aesthetics, and how ours is a bit scruffy? Well, it was feeling too scruffy, and so we’ve been continuing to liberate our plantings from those weeds. It’s satisfying work, albeit pretty physically exhausting. While others in the region may have felt sad about the incredibly unseasonably cool and drizzly weather the last week, we’ve been rejoicing in it. Hard work is much easier when the temperature is in the 60s with a light drizzle than in our normal July weather of 90+°!

Sometimes pictures are necessary for illustration. Here’s a post-weeding photo of our peppers, eggplant and tomatoes:

The mounded green in the middle are the WEEDS that we pulled. It was a DEEP mound.

The mounded greens between the beds (which have groundcloth on them) are the WEEDS that we pulled.

But, like I said, we mixed it up with adventures too. Casey took the kids on a bike ride to our favorite hike and then a walk in the woods:

Walk in the woods on a cool July morning!

Walk in the woods on a cool July morning!

And then more weeding happened.

Sadly, another part of our farm got more cleaned up than we would have preferred this last week as well. The county roads maintenance came on the island to do the regular flail mowing of road edges. We were gone from the farm this time, and they drove that mower well past the normal depth of mow zone and deep into the willow hedge I posted photos of a few weeks ago. The mower had used the flail mower up in the air to cut branches and trees. When I went out for my morning run, I found myself speechless at the sight of entire trees chewed down to stumps by the mower:

This is one of the less dramatic sections of our hedge. In some places, the trees are completely gone.

This is one of the less dramatic sections of our hedge. In some places, the trees are completely gone.

As we were eating breakfast, we heard the mower return, going at our hedge even more. I rode my bike out to ask him to please be done. The hedge had been mowed enough. He looked surprised at being confronted at 7:30 am in the morning by a freshly showered woman wearing a skirt and riding an old Schwinn bicycle, and he assented and stopped. So the hedge is left to recover, as it will.

Now every morning as I run, I look at the new version of our hedge. I have to say that the morning I saw the hedge was right in the midst of a very hard news period. You know what I’m talking about. The Very Hard Confusing Things that were happening in other parts of the country are now linked in my mind to this mowed down hedge, and I am reminded every morning of those events.

Willows, however, are very resilient trees. The bushiness that was apparently growing too close to the road for the county crew’s standards will in fact return, thanks to the willow tree’s ability to regrow when cut down. They will actually just get bushier in future years (assuming they are not out-competed by blackberries first, which is our biggest concern right now). This is called “coppicing” in horticultural terms. We look forward to their return, and feel inspired to actually plant more willows on the inside edge of our current hedge. After seeing our hedge cut back so much, we realized that we just need a bigger hedge. So, this winter, we will take cuttings from our existing willows and plant another line or two inside.

Already in summer we are making plans for the winter! That’s how the seasons turn! But, for now, we just put those little items on our calendar so that we can remember later. Because honestly summer is just too juicy of a season to allow us too much time to think hard about coming seasons. Now is all consuming with its weeding and its river trips and bike rides and friends. Sometimes in the midst of tragedy in the news, it is hard to know how to best live. I don’t know the answer to that Big Question, though I ponder it regularly. But I do feel like being present for the adventures of this season is one answer. Not the whole answer, by any means. But it is a way for us to embrace what we have now. To savor the gifts we have before us this time of year, knowing how very fleeting they are.

May you too savor summer’s adventures! And enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Payment reminder! I emailed CSA statements last week to everyone who has a balance due still. Your email should tell you what is due. Please mail or hand deliver check or cash to us by next week (July 21). Let me know if you have any questions about your balance or anything else regarding payments.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Shiro & Methley plums — Two kinds of plums are available this week! Shiro, which are yellow, and Methley, which are red/purple. We have plenty for you to take home some of each. Both will have juicy sweetness running down your chin.
  • Tomatoes
  • Cut lettuce mix
  • Cucumbers/broccoli/peppers — This batch of stuff is still limited!
  • Kale
  • Zucchini & “cousa” squash — I’ve been putting “zucchini and summer squash” on this list for a few weeks, because I tend to think of our light green oblong squash as a “summer squash” rather than a zucchini. But to be more accurate, it is a “cousa” style squash (whereas many people associate “summer squash” with the light yellow crookneck style). Whatever it is, we love it!
  • New potatoes
  • Sweet onions
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Goat — Goat grind is $10/lb. Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

With the kids

The family that HOES together GROWS together!

The family that HOES together GROWS together!

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend while our kids splashed in the river together. We talked about how important it is for children to do actual real work, always stretching themselves in their abilities, so that as they grow into adults they will feel capable as they approach so very many new necessary tasks in their daily lives.

Later, after lunch, we got to put these idea into practice. Casey and I had some weeding to do. The first priority was what we call “guerilla” weeding (alternately known as “liberating the plants”) — it’s yucky work that happens at least once a year when farm tasks necessarily distract us from weeding when the time is best (which is when all the weeds are very small). We can do it, but it’s hard and daunting and requires us to “gird up our loins,” as it were, before we approach it.

So, today we set out to “liberate” our sweet potato plants from over-zealous summer weeds, and then I was immediately needed up at the house. The kids had gone up there to retrieve their big straw hats, and in the midst of getting her things together, Dottie dropped her current favorite toy through the slats in the deck. Her current favorite toy is a teeny tiny plastic pig — smaller than an adult fingernail and light pink — and now it is somewhere amidst the gravel under our porch. Much comfort was needed when we realized that pushing a stick under the porch would not uncover the teeny tiny pink pig.

As I held my very distraught and crying little girl, I thought about those weeds that very much needed me to help pull them out and how many I wasn’t pulling in those moments. Parenting and living any other kind of life is always a balancing act. But my arms were needed around that girl just then, and so the weeds waited.

Thankfully, big brother Rusty came to the rescue, encouraging Dottie to come on out and build fairy houses with him. Instead, they ended up playing in the muddy dirt around an irrigation pipe, and the next time I saw Dottie, she held her browns hands up into the air and yelled, “Look at how muddy I am!” Hoorah for mud.

The littlest one decided she was done.

The littlest one decided she was done.

Our next task was a more satisfying one — cross-hoeing a recently planted patch of brassicas (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens). Cross-hoeing like this feels amazingly good — it feels like we’re scratching the Earth’s back. And, with this task being easier to see and understand, the kids wanted to pitch right in. Casey gave each a hoe (see photo above!) and they joined us for as long as they were still having fun. For Dottie, that lasted about twenty feet into the first row. Rusty finished almost an entire row before moving on to procuring the afternoon snack: yellow plums from my parents’ tree, which they snacked on in their mobile play house while Casey and I finished up another seven rows.

As the kids grow older, I value these types of afternoons more than ever, as I can begin to see the cumulative affect they have on our children. They are still so very young, and of course they do not step up to tasks the way we can. Nor would we expect them to. But I appreciate how their proximity to our work and their ability to chip in in proportion to their size and ability allows them to slowly grow into the concept of real work alongside the other many things they are learning every day. We are already amazed at how many tasks they do know how to do on the farm already.

Enjoying plums on their little porch!

Enjoying plums on their little porch!

Whether they become farmers themselves someday is entirely up to them. But the farm can teach them lessons that apply elsewhere too — how to follow a task to its completion point, how to work with other people, how to see when work is needed to be done, and how to enjoy tasks (most notably by doing them together!). They also see us balance our work with play, and I see those mornings we spend at the river to be just as integral to it all as the afternoons hoeing together. They are both part of our life, and I feel grateful that the children get to be part of both.

Casey and I grow through it all too. What better lesson in patience for me than to hold that girl through her tears and know that the weeds had waited how many weeks; they could certainly wait another fifteen minutes. When we look at life as a journey, and the daily tasks as the end in themselves (rather than a means to an end), it all feels so magical and wonderful. I’ve observed a lot of kids in community getting close to adulthood lately (we have been here ten years now after all! That’s plenty of time for kids to grow!), and WOW does it really truly go fast! So, yes, I will hold you little girl. And I will laugh when you lie in the path, and I will be so happy to see you and your brother eat plums until the juice runs down your chin!

May you enjoy all the gifts of summer work and play. And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Methley plums — These are the plums from the hornet nest tree(s)! It took a few tries, but Casey did manage to safely remove the hornets’ nest (and discourage them from continuing to come back). And so today he finally got to pick these plums, which are now very ripe and juicy and delicious! The juice will run down your chin.
  • Cherries — This week’s cherries are Sweethearts rather than Lamberts. Also delicious!
  • Tomatoes — We were so excited to be eating tomatoes on the Fourth of July this year. In our minds, that is an exceptional feat of farming. A delicious one too!
  • Broccoli/cucumbers/green peppers/basil — We only have a few of each of these items, so they’ll be in a box together and folks can choose ONE. More of each will come in future weeks!
  • Cut lettuce mix
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Chard
  • Zucchini & summer squash
  • New potatoes — A rainbow selection this week! Red skin and white flesh; purple skin and white flesh; and purple skin with purple flesh!
  • Sweet onions — Big, beautiful sweet onions with fresh greens on.
  • Garlic

~ ~ ~

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen — We are especially short on eggs this week because we had an accident involving some broken eggs (sad face!). Sorry!
  • Goat — Goat roasts and grind are $10/lb. Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb

 

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Farming aesthetics

Two different farms, across a road. Read more below.

Two different farms, divided by a road. Our farm is on the left, protected from the road by a deep and tall willow/blackberry hedge that we planted seven years ago.  No value judgments here — just illustrating what I write about below with a picture.

Farming is not just plain farming. It’s not as though every farmer wakes up each morning and walks out to do his or her job with the same view of how to do his or her work — or even with the same notion of what his or her work is.

Often when we talk with other farmers in our area, we realize just how deeply we approach farming with different paradigms. Our most basic assumptions start in divergent places, and we hold dear sometimes opposing values — all of which affect every major or minute decision we make … everything from what to grow, how to market, what to spray (or not), and so much more.

Our readers know this. Clearly you have done enough research about where your food comes from to understand that it is not all grown in the same way, and you have chosen to eat food grown in the way that we choose here on our farm. You value things like diverse plantings, perennial hedgerows, no spraying (not even organic-approved sprays), healthy working conditions, non-GMO seed sources, etc etc etc. All the things that are built in to the handy-dandy “organic” label (which is really quite complicated but still is a useful “shorthand” for a particular set of values about food and the environment).

One thing we have observed in our ten years farming is that our values at times bump up against other farmer’s values. Particularly in the area of how those values translate into aesthetics. What we have observed is that many larger scale farmers highly value an aesthetic of “cleanliness.” They often prefer fields free of weeds and borders that are mowed or sprayed.

This preference is not just a matter of organic vs. conventional methods, but seems to be linked to the total acres in cultivation. When a farmer is managing many larger fields, they tend to want them as tidy as possible. Certainly, there are clear arguments that can be made in favor of this aesthetic — fewer weeds means fewer plants competing for nutrients, water, sunlight, and space. Which likely translates to better yields. And of course, fewer weeds this year means fewer weed seeds that go into the weed “bank” for future years! Yes, there are many reasons to weed. True enough. That’s why it’s a Thing That Farmers Must Do.

But, I almost wonder if on that larger scale, the farmer’s brain also needs that “cleaner” aesthetic in order to “hold on” to the bigger picture of farming many large scale fields in many places. Perhaps it’s just too hard to understand the state of the crops if there are scraggly hedgerows or weeds in some of the fields.

We planted willow in our hedge, but other plants have taken root there as well, such as this stand of St. John's Wort.

We planted willow in our hedge, but other plants have taken root there as well, such as this stand of St. John’s Wort.

I have to admit that whether we value it or not, a “clean” aesthetic has rarely been achieved here on our farm. Many times visitors have commented (with some surprise) on the weeds in our fields. They often ask us to explain it — at times almost seeking the secret behind the weeds as though there is some mystical secret plan at work. As though we have achieved some kind of Zen master one-ness with the weeds or something, so that we have transcended the need to weed on our farm.

Far from it! We do weed, and often when people point out weeds they are looking at an older planting that is scheduled for upcoming tilling in. Because of our year-round methods, our farm is almost always in a constant state of tillage, planting, harvesting, and tilling again. Something is always going in and coming out, and certainly we give much less attention to weeding plantings that are about to be (or have just been) harvested. So, there’s always a little mess here or there.

But, we also do have different values that inspire how we prioritize our work. Perhaps to another farmer, those slightly messier older plantings would be an eyesore — something to address immediately! Again, if there is an aesthetic value of tidiness driving decisions, then yes. But always being 100% tidy on a farm is not always consistent with other possible values, such as: efficiency, profitability, farmer enjoyment, or overall vitality of a landscape.

I would say that those four values for sure trump tidiness on our farmscape. The last point is especially important to us. I have written so many times here before about our deep love for the wild. We have a deep and abiding love for the energy that is incarnated in living things, and especially in the plants we grow and the plants and animals that grow around the plants we grow. We see that the vitality on our farm, and the vitality in our food, grows as we let the edges grow and stay verdant.

Blooming phacelia in rows with our vegetables — one of our favorite flowers to plant just for the purpose of attracting beneficial insects into our fields.

Blooming phacelia in rows with our vegetables — one of our favorite flowers to plant just for the purpose of attracting beneficial insects into our fields.

From an agronomic standpoint, we also see that those “messier” areas (be they old plantings or intentionally planted perennial hedgerows) as providing necessary habitat for predatory and beneficial insects. To us, this point cannot be emphasized enough. Plants do not grow in a vacuum. They grow in soil that is hopefully alive and teeming with bacteria, fungi, and insects. They grow in air that is hopefully buzzing with insects that will provide pollination or predate on those insects that like to predate on our vegetables. When we let our edges get wild — even better, when we foster diversity and vitality through hedgerows and inter-plantings of flowers — we see our vegetables thriving, with fewer signs of insect and disease pressure. We have seen this again and again.  When we fail to meet our own goals of diversity, crops suffer. It’s sort of magical and humbling and awesome all at the same time. It also allows us to grow crops and feed our community without any sprays.

Honestly, if we hadn’t been doing this work for ten years now, I’d really doubt a lot of our methods. They just don’t seem to “make sense” in conventional ways. Messier fields mean vibrant crops? Also, this year’s weird equation of having no employees and finding the work easier is surprising too. The farm has new lessons for us all the time. But, we know that much of the secret is in our scale. Being small as we are, everything we do is ultimately very human-scaled. Not just human-scaled, but family-scaled. We can watch our crops carefully and understand when and where we need to weed or mow for good productivity, but no more. All we need to are meet the needs of our community each week. We harvest, and we say: yes, this is enough. And we move into next week. That is a powerful perspective to have, and it certainly allows us plenty of wiggle room. We are never asking our land to produce As Much As It Possibly Can. We only need Enough for Us This Week.

So, visitors will probably continue to remark on our weedier spots. And neighboring farmers will probably continue to be annoyed by the “weeds” in our hedgerows. (Both types of incident happened in recent weeks.) And, I will continue to shrug in response, seeing the “mess” through the eyes, but also seeing the miracle through my own eyes. I really truly do not always understand how it works, but as each year passes, I trust more and more to the power of the land and its deeper wells of power. I trust that sometimes our vision is not the only or best one and that much can be gained by letting that wild-ness soften the edges of everything out here.

I also feel that these choices affect the food we grow. I have heard from countless CSA members over the years how their bodies feel differently when they eat our vegetables. I concur. That vitality — it’s in them too. We live on the edge out here, embracing the forces that shape us. We feel so honored to harness that power and offer it to you in vegetable form each week. May you feel deeply nourished by the food you eat from this place.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. The recent visitors who asked about the weeds were a very passionate mother-daughter team who were touring farms all over the west coast and championing food justice all the way. The daughter, Mackenzie, has kept a blog about their travels (loaded with great photos), which you can check out here : Down to Urth. I imagine that as she catches up our farm will be on there too, but given that intensity of their tour, she’s probably still processing and catching up! What an adventure!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries — More yummy cherries! I can’t believe that we’re almost done with harvesting our Lamberts and it isn’t even July yet! We have another variety of cherries that we’ll start harvesting next week, along with the first of the plums (as soon as we can figure out how to remove that hornet nest safely … they keep coming back!)
  • Salad mix
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Zucchini & summer squash
  • New potatoes — A mix this week of red, purple, and purple with white interiors. All smooth fleshed new potatoes!
  • Torpedo onions — Aren’t these onions just so amazing? I try to start each meal with a little onion (and/or garlic) sautéing in butter, and Rusty has begun saying the very same thing I always asked my mom when she was cooking dinner: “What smells so good?” It was always just onions/garlic in butter. But, yes my boy, that is a divine smell, and I am so glad you are appreciating it.
  • Garlic — Certainly a little chopped garlic in butter is a great way to start a meal, but we’ve also been delighting in whole cloves roasted on a pan of mixed vegetables. Zucchini and garlic makes a great combination. Be sure to chop the zucchini small enough that they’ll cook through before the garlic starts to burn. High heat helps for these two items too.

~ ~ ~

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: It’s here! Our new batch of meat! I want to point out that you’ll see some price increases here. As we work through the last of our animals (and have begun buying a bit of meat ourselves), we’ve been realizing just how very valuable this meat is. We realized that we need to at least charge what we would pay for equivalent quality retail meats elsewhere — otherwise, we might as well just put all these final animals in our freezer! But we’d rather share them with our community. So, they’re here, for all of us to share. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Goat — It’s here! The new batch of meat! If you’ve never tried goat meat, now is the time. Goat roasts and grind are $10/lb. Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef — We have cuts! Roasts are $10/lb, and various steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — made from a whole animal (the beef cuts we have to sell were made out of a separate portion of beef). $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Through Casey’s eyes

I love this photo that Casey took of the southern entrance to our field from the road. To the right of our trusty field gator is our now six year-old willow hedge. It has certainly thrived and provides a useful buffer between our fields and the farm to the south.

I love this photo that Casey took of the southern entrance to our field from the road. To the right of our trusty field gator is our now six year-old willow hedge. It has certainly thrived and provides a useful buffer between our fields and the farm to the south.

You may have noticed that I (Katie) do most of the documenting of our farm. I suppose it’s in large part because Casey’s doing most of the rest of the work. But it’s also because these are my strengths and loves — I do actually even have degrees in writing AND photography! Not that I think overly highly of my skills in those areas now, but they’re both things I continue enjoy doing, capturing these weekly images and stories from the farm.

But today Casey took the camera with him as he went out to harvest, and I thought I’d share this week the things that he found worth of capturing. I’ll do my best to provide relevant captions of my own.

Look at how big our apples are getting already! (This is thanks to our diligent thinning but also just the passage of time and some lovely summer-y weather.) Our earliest apples -- the Chehalis -- look like they're just a few weeks out from being ready. Hard to believe but true. Also, check out that farmer hand!

Look at how big our apples are getting already! (This is thanks to our diligent thinning but also just the passage of time and some lovely summer-y weather.) Our earliest apples — the Chehalis — look like they’re just a few weeks out from being ready. Hard to believe but true. Also, check out that farmer hand!

Some of our apple trees are so loaded with fruit that we are planning to prop the branches this summer (because we fear they may break under the load of their fruit otherwise). In other exciting orchard news, some hornets have build a big round paper nest in one of our Methley trees -- the ones that will ripen first (and soon!). Hornets are aggressive against people who come too near to their nests. We've had other nests on the farm before, but never in places where we got in each other's way. But we need to pick those plums! Casey's already been stung twice just for being in the area, so he's been trying to figure out how to remove the nest safely. He knocked part of it down with a 30' long irrigation pipe yesterday, but it didn't fully remove it. More careful work to come on this matter so that we can pick plums for you soon!

Some of our apple trees are so loaded with fruit that we are planning to prop the branches this summer (because we fear they may break under the load of their fruit otherwise). In other exciting orchard news, some hornets have build a big round paper nest in one of our Methley trees — the ones that will ripen first (and soon!). Hornets are aggressive against people who come too near to their nests. We’ve had other nests on the farm before, but never in places where we got in each other’s way. But we need to pick those plums! Casey’s already been stung twice just for being in the area, so he’s been trying to figure out how to remove the nest safely. He knocked part of it down with a 40′ long irrigation pipe yesterday, but it didn’t fully remove it. More careful work to come on this matter so that we can pick plums for you soon!

Casey harvested the first of the garlic today! In our ongoing "dribs and drabs" model of getting farmwork done without extra help, he decided to just harvest twice as much as we need for this week's share -- half will go to the CSA and half will be hung to cure for use later. He'll keep doing that until most of the garlic is out!

Casey harvested the first of the garlic today! In our ongoing “dribs and drabs” model of getting farmwork done without extra help, he decided to just harvest twice as much as we need for this week’s share — half will go to the CSA and half will be hung to cure for use later. He’ll keep doing that until most of the garlic is out!

Close up shot of garlic and the farmer's hand again!

Close up shot of garlic and the farmer’s hand again!

At breakfast this morning, Casey was extolling the virtues of our current tillage system (as well as pondering new improvements for future seasons). This tool, our chisel plow, has been especially helpful this year. It has only a few strong tines, which get dropped very deep into the ground to run straight through. They break up any hard "pan" deep below the surface without turning the surface. The result is a lighter soil that still has plenty of healthy soil life.

At breakfast this morning, Casey was extolling the virtues of our current tillage system (as well as pondering new improvements for future seasons). This tool, our chisel plow, has been especially helpful this year. It has only a few strong tines, which get dropped very deep into the ground to run straight through. They break up any hard “pan” deep below the surface without turning the surface. The result is a lighter soil that still has plenty of healthy soil life.

After the chisel plow comes the power harrow, which has lots and lots of vertical tines that spin around in the soil (again without turning it over). This is the final tillage that Casey uses on a bed before planting it. And of course, there's our good old tractor. Just the right size for us. (Not too big; not too small.)

After the chisel plow comes the power harrow, which has lots and lots of vertical tines that spin around in the soil (again without turning it over). This is the final tillage that Casey uses on a bed before planting it. And of course, there’s our good old tractor. Just the right size for us. (Not too big; not too small.)

So, there you go — a little tour of parts of the farm that caught Casey’s eye today.

Daily life out here continues in its normal summer pattern — lots of harvest, planting, and weeding.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • New potatoes — These are the first of this year’s potatoes! And, they’re purple!!!! You’ll find that new potatoes have a different flavor and texture than ones that have been stored. I personally enjoy both types of potatoes, but I do find it exciting to be enjoying the new textures and flavors (and colors) of this season!
  • Head lettuce OR broccoli
  • Chard
  • Zucchini & green summer squash
  • Torpedo onions
  • Garlic — Pictured above! This is a soft-necked variety of garlic, great for all your typical garlic uses.

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Ham — No nitrates-added artisan-made ham from the last of our hogs! $12/lb
  • Ground pork — $8/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
  • Coming soon ~ Beef and goat!
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

The gloom of June

Obviously taken on a NOT "gloomy" June day -- Rusty picking and eating the low hanging fruit from our cherry trees.

Obviously taken on a NOT “gloomy” June day — Rusty picking and eating the low hanging fruit from our cherry trees.

Last week, after we came out of a brief but intense first heat wave, I heard many people marveling in astonishment at the arrival of rain! In June!?

Oh, let me tell you. It certainly does rain in the Pacific Northwest in June. It can be hard to remember this fact after two prior years of very early summers (following on the heels of warm and dry springs), but June is a time of unpredictability. In fact, I’d say that is the one thing you can predict about June — that’s you just can’t predict it at all! If I were to plan an outdoor wedding, I wouldn’t plan it in June. Odds are equal that it may be 100° out or that it may be raining.

Old timers know not to expect reliably dry weather in these parts until after the Fourth of July. Historically, even the Fourth itself was not a predictable day! I remember many a wet celebration from my youth (including a very rainy week spent at horse camp in early July back when I was ten or so).

There are even two words to describe the spells of wet, cool weather that may arrive in June: “June gloom” and “June-uary.”

I don’t think that the last week could fall into that latter category. While we have seen more overcast skies, a handful of downpours, and mild temperatures, it certainly still feels like we’re moving toward summer out there. Not like in earlier seasons we remember when it seemed that all growth in the fields paused in June, leaving us farmers completely freaked out as we prepared for the earliest summer CSA harvests. No, that is not at all the case this time around — things are growing and growing, just as we’d hope for June.

Just for fun last week, Casey decided to mark the growth of leaves on one zucchini plant over several days. He drew a spot in the dirt where the first leaves touched on one day and watched in amazement as they grew past that and were replaced by new leaves in just two days!

And, early this morning Casey put poles out for our pole beans. By breakfast, ten plants had already started wrapping their tendrils around the poles to climb, and I’m sure by now the majority have followed suit.

Yes, plants sure can grow this time of year. Gloomy skies or not.

Next Monday is the summer solstice! Already! It’s also a Full Moon, which I’m sure brings all sorts of auspicious energy to the day as we hit that day length peak of the year. I have to admit that the summer solstice brings me joy, but I find I cannot as fully enter into the marking and celebration as I can at the other side of the year. When the winter solstice arrives, I am so ready to turn that corner, and the darkness brings so much time and space for pondering it all. In summer, it’s more like a hit-and-run celebration — “Oh, gee, it’s the solstice! How wonderful!” and then we keep on running by, so occupied by the energy that this season brings with it and all the activities of work and play that fill every single long day. Whew! I feel like a buzzing bee, all humming along, dancing from flower to flower while the sun shines! It’s all loveliness and joy, but I know that come fall, I will be ready for a rest.

In the meantime, June’s gloom brings a little glimmer of rest into the early summer days. When those downpours roll across the valley, I can feel myself relax a little deeper, happy with the knowledge that our irrigation efforts are being aided by nature herself and that for the moment we can pause inside and make some lists and look out the windows. Perhaps those downpours are the equivalent of candlelight in the winter — a little balancing taste of the other side of the year’s wheel.

And, of course, the food is just coming in. Good old Jasper (our long-time employee of yore) visited the farm for dinner on Monday, and he commented on how many fun early crops he’s seen on our CSA lists this year. Yes, indeed! No doubt that we’re eating summer foods, and with great gusto.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Head lettuce
  • Fava beans
  • Beet greens — These are a fun spring treat. We don’t usually grow beets just for the greens, but we do find that it’s useful (and delicious!) to “thin” our beet plantings at the same stage that their greens are super tender and flavorful. You can eat these fresh as a salad or lightly cook them as you would chard (but they will cook faster).
  • Kale — It’s back! Thank you for your patience as we transitioned between the greenhouse spring kale and the field summer kale. We are so happy to see this favorite green back in the line up (and on our plates!).
  • Chard
  • “Storage” squash
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini & summer squash — We have another color and shape now in the zucchini category. Welcome to “Magda,” our all-time favorite summer squash/zucchini. This light green squash is rounder than typical zucchini. You can use it in all the same ways, but for some reason we love it extra lots. We roasted some at lunch. Delicious!
  • Torpedo onions

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Ham — No nitrates-added artisan-made ham from the last of our hogs! $12/lb
  • Ground pork — $8/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
  • Coming soon ~ Beef and goat!
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Apple thinning

My hands again this week ... this time reaching for another little apple to tug down.

My hands again this week … this time reaching for another little apple to tug down.

I’ve mentioned in several newsletters now that we’ve been slowly working on “thinning” apples in our two orchards. The process took us several weeks to complete, but we did finish this weekend (at the beginning of a very hot Sunday!).

When we thin apples, we are simultaneously provided a very intimate tour of every apple tree in our orchards (all 130 of them), as we circle it slowly, looking for every spur on the tree and making sure that only one apple remains there (by delicately removing the others). We purposefully prune our trees to be human height so that we can do this work by standing on the ground, and it’s beautifully calm work to do with one’s spouse. Conversation can flow easily as we each circle a tree, meditatively looking into the branches and physically touching the tree as we go.

Even in this early spring season, we can already see such huge differences between different apple varieties. The Goldrush trees were all heavy bearers, setting thousands of apples on each tree, requiring much more attention from us than some other types (some of which only need a cursory look around to make sure no spur was over-loaded). On some trees, the cull applets popped off easily, as though they were just waiting for our fingers to signal that it was time to drop and leave room for just one. On other trees, we had to carefully twist off apples that had already grown to be golf ball-sized.

Thinning apples is one of those seasonal activities that naturally brings to mind so many prior experiences. We of course recalled our previous seasons of thinning — and mostly found ourselves remarking again and again on how much fruit we have this year compared to earlier years! We planted the orchards in 2009 and 2010, so they really are just now in full maturity and we are seeing the balance of what they are likely to produce in most years.

But we also naturally recalled the experience of planting each orchard — how the first orchard went in the winter before I got pregnant with Rusty, and the second one went in when Rusty was a little tiny baby on my chest.

And, even farther back, we recalled learning to thin fruit on a hot May day in Chelan in 2004. It was our first week of ever gardening (really!), and yet we had these ideas that farming was our calling. So we spent a week staying on an organic homestead and helping with the spring work. In that particular climate, stone fruit grow exceedingly well, and so we helped thin a peach tree, doing the same basic task of removing all but one fruit in each location so that they could grow as big as possible (and to eliminate some pest and disease pressure from over-crowding too). That peach tree was much larger than our apple trees, and so it was also our first experience of standing on an orchard ladder (which have only three legs rather than four and are actually amazingly stable). I remember how sore my neck became from looking up all day as I reached for baby peach after baby peach, littering the ground below my ladder.

And, as today, we talked and talked with Jeff, our host and mentor. We still recall stories he told us that week about his land and the work and so many experiences he and his wife had had over their decades of living on their homestead. How much we learned in that one week!

The children helped us some with our thinning this year, although mostly they played nearby and collected caches of fallen apples. I do imagine that in future years they will join us for longer and longer as they grow into the beauty of gentle work. Not this year, but someday.

The fruit are already growing so big because of our work (and irrigation and heat and time). Now when I look out our living room window, I can see red orbs growing on the trees closest to our house. The earliest apples are really only weeks away from being ready. Already! It is hard to believe but true.

The summer solstice is still a few weeks away, but we are very much in the thick of the growing season. As you will see in this week’s share, which features treats that astound us by their presence in early June. Tomatoes! And more!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

How we eat fava beans: As I was preparing fava beans for lunch yesterday, I thought, “I need to share this with the CSA!” Because fava beans can be overwhelming sometimes. At this stage of growth, they are really best when shucked and then peeled free of the white outer skin that grows around each bright green bean. But who was time to sit with a bowl and shuck and peel a bag full of fava beans?

Ok, maybe we all have that time if we prioritize it, because really doesn’t sitting on the porch shucking beans sound somewhat romantic? It does to me, but the reality is that I don’t think about doing that early enough before a meal to make it happen in that slow paced romantic way.

Instead, here’s how our fava beans get eaten. A few at a time. Casey and I both have gotten into the habit of adding just a handful of shucked and peeled fava beans into our cooked greens (or other dishes) at each meal. It ends up being quite easy when we don’t overwhelm ourselves with a whole bag of beans at a time. If I throw the beans into my pan at the same time as the garlic or onions, then the beans are cooked through by the time my greens are done. And I’m consistently amazed at how much just a handful of beans adds to the color and flavor of the meal I serve as a result. It’s a reminder to us that it’s June, a special time on the farm featuring special foods!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes — The first! As such, each share will just receive a small portion, but OH there are so many more to come. These have been delicious (because of course we had to taste the VERY first ourselves).
  • Radishes
  • Fava beans
  • Bok choy
  • Head lettuce
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • Storage squash
  • Torpedo onions — These special Italian onions are sweet enough to eat raw (chopped on a salad or sliced onto a sandwich) but also have fabulous flavor when cooked. They are a summer favorite of ours.

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Ham — No nitrates-added artisan-made ham from the last of our hogs! $12/lb
  • Pork chops — $12/lb
  • Ground pork — $8/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Down to the river to play

I found a swallowtail butterfly on our hike this Monday. I thought it was injured, but after me holding it for a few minutes, it flew away into the trees.

I found a swallowtail butterfly on our hike this Monday. I thought it was injured, but after me holding it for a few minutes, it flew away into the trees.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that “river season” has begun around these parts. Yes, it has. We’ve been down to visit it twice in the last three days, and I see more visits in our future.

Warm weather brings these visits on. As well as a draw to the dense trees and wilder parts of the island.

In previous years, I would have also listed a need to find a bit of respite, but this feels less true this spring than in past years. Life on the farm itself has changed a lot in recent months. I can’t say that we really feel the same intensity of being on the farm as in former years (when we were juggling more balls and managing more people and acres), but it’s certainly true that in spring, our ‘to do’ lists do seem endless at times. But we work on them one item at a time, thinning more apple trees here, weeding more summer plantings there, and things happen.

A big egg! (And half an egg shell too.)

A big egg! (And half an egg shell too.)

But it is still lovely to run away to our favorite river for fun. This weekend an old friend and her son came to the farm for a holiday weekend visit, and we hiked through the woods to our favorite Willamette River play area — a several acre expanse of river rock, filled with pools of water and alongside a side channel of the Willamette itself. Our friends found a fist-sized agate, and we all marveled at the size of an abandoned egg we found resting on a log (don’t really understand how it got there without being broken). It was much larger than any goose or duck egg I’ve seen, so we assume it was from a very large wild bird such as the local ospreys or turkey vultures or hawks. (Also, if you ever find an abandoned egg and are curious about what might inside, think carefully before you crack open what will likely be a very rotten egg. Just sayin’.)

On Sunday, we went to our friends Rich and Val of Mossback Farm annual farm party. They were some of the first folks we met when we moved to Yamhill County ten years ago, and their party is a ‘must attend’ for our family. It’s fabulous seeing their place once a year and see all the changes that can take place in that time. Over the years, we’ve watched fencing go up, trees planted, trees grown (and grow!), and more.

Perhaps my one and only (minor and temporary) regret of our life with small children is how our life has contracted in many ways. Before having kids, we attended the farmers market in McMinnville and were always meeting new farmers and going to visit each other’s farms (often traveling fairly far afield in the Willamette Valley to connect with farmers). But in the last six years, we’ve pulled back from so much of that kind of activity to keep our focus here at home, where the kids have been growing and where we have still been very busy with our own farm. It has felt like the right energy for our little children, but I do miss the creative energy that came from meeting new people and seeing how other people are approaching their farm enterprises. I’m sure we’ll do more of that kind of outreach and education and socializing again as the kids get older, but in the meantime I’m certainly grateful for a few long-term farm friendships that get us a small taste of that experience during this season of our life.

And, our place here is, well, lovely. When the children are so satisfied by the vastness of Grand Island and Yamhill County, why would we really want to wander too far away for now? I am always amazed at how every hike to the river — on the same familiar trail — brings us fresh new adventures each time. We see new plants blooming that we hadn’t noticed in prior seasons; we hold butterflies in our hands; we pick up fallen feathers and eggs; we harvest nettles; we taste the first of the salmon berries. Always something wonderful, if albeit set in a familiar setting, so close to home. Perhaps many of the best things are like this — those minute details that can also be seen in the context of familiarity. That’s why we keep walking to the river, in every season.

The farm is similar, of course. Field walks at this time of year reveal June’s incredibly rapid growth. Cherries are in already! We are in the thick of it all now!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Cherries! — Everyone in the valley is marveling at the earliness of this year’s cherry harvest! Our neighbor started “shaking” his trees last week. He said he’s never seen a May start to the harvest in his 20 years of managing that orchard. These cherries are from one tree in our orchard that is always the earliest. We call it a “Rainier,” because of its similar coloring (yellow with a pink blush), but it’s likely to be a different kind of older cherry since the orchard is 70 or so years old. Either way, they’re a very good early cherry — not quite as sweet as what is to come, but so satisfying as the first of the year!
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Beets — Beets with greens! Please consider both parts food. The beets are great roasted or steamed. We love to steam them and then eat them with plain yogurt. It sounds sort of funny, but it’s simply divine. The greens can be cooked as you would prepare chard (they are actually the same species!).
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Fava beans
  • Chard
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • “Storage” squash
  • Garlic scapes

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Ham & bacon — No nitrates-added artisan-made ham and bacon from the last of our hogs! $12/lb
  • Pork chops — $12/lb
  • Ground pork — $8/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Animals on the farm, revisited

The sheep gathered along the fence this afternoon, the munch on the pea plants we tossed over the top.

The sheep gathered along the fence this afternoon, to munch on the pea plants we tossed over the top.

Today Casey I picked the last of the peas in one of our greenhouses. The two rows of plants had long ago outgrown our last trellis line (which was at the top of the posts) and was falling over in the paths. We carefully lifted up each section to pick the remaining good peas and noted that the plants were starting to dry down and yellow, and most of the peas were at the very ends of the plants. Sure signs that the plants were ready to stop putting on fresh new green peas and would start “maturing” the peas they’d already set — given that we’re growing these particular plants for fresh eating, edible-pod snap peas, that meant that their time with us is done. Unless we wanted to grow seed, we wouldn’t be excited about the next stage.

So, after picking, we began pulling down the trellis lines and hauling the still green plants out to the sheep and goats, which are pasturing nearby. They happily ran to our piles of pea plants to munch on the nutritious plant matter left there. We are always so happy when we see parts of the plant that we can’t “use” as human food be so heartily enjoyed by farm animals in this way. There’s a profound sense in that moment  of the farm being a complete system, with fertility cycling in and out of the ground (up through the plant and back down through the manure — with a lot of sun ray goodness in between).

We will miss this experience next year.

Because, also today, I realized that we have a plan for every single animal left on the farm. The last of the hogs left a few weeks ago (more bacon and ham coming to the storefront soon!); two beef animals and three goats leave in early June; one more beef animal and our sheep will leave in late summer; our flock of laying hens will leave in November. Most of these animals are leaving our farm via the butcher, to be turned into nutritious food for our customers. But two of the oldest ewes will be returning to their earlier home on my parents’ home, to live out a happy, spoiled retirement in the cherry orchard.

For the first time in four years, there are only full grown animals on our farm and no baby animals who will grow up and stick around until future years. There are no chicks, no piglets, no lambs, no kids, no calves, no turkey poults.

We’ve been vague until now about what exactly we are doing with animals on our farm. We knew last year that we wanted to scale way back and slow way down with what we are doing, which is why we intentionally stopped breeding any animals toward the end of last season. But I don’t think we knew until perhaps even today that we were truly done with animals on this farm.

I should always add the important (and very true!) caveat: for now. We are done with animals on this farm, for now.

For Casey and me, coming to this decision took time. There are so many wonderful benefits to having a mixed animal and crop farm. We have relished many parts of this experience. We have especially loved providing a reliable source of grass-raised meat for our customers and our own family.

But this will be our fifth season having animals on our farm, and at this point we feel like our farm needs a break. The tricky thing about raising animals (especially when breeding them as well) is that there are no built-in breaks. There are seasons to the work, but there are always animals to care for in every season. And, they need tending every day. In this way, raising animals is a profoundly different experience than growing crops.

We knew all the challenges of raising animals before we jumped into it — that’s why we waited six years to give it a try! In those early years, people often asked us why we were raising vegetables and not animals, and I’d joke: “Lettuce doesn’t run away!” It was a glib response that was also true.

I don’t feel like I can say that any part of the animal raising experience really surprised us, except that I don’t think we were quite prepared for the weight and the gravity of the work. When dealing with other sentient, living beings, farming takes on a different level of seriousness. Working with them is also inherently a higher risk activity as well — well designed handling systems can help here, but ultimately they only buffer the farmers from the risk rather than eliminating it. Turnips don’t kick farmers in the head; cows can and do and have. Meanwhile, the inevitable losses from our mistakes or natural happenings weigh heavy on our hearts. There’s an emotional and physical toll we have never experienced while growing fruits and vegetables.

And, I have to admit, the double whammy of raising animals and raising children is a profoundly exhausting emotional set of endeavors!

There are other practical considerations too — profitability, butchering logistics, feed sourcing, etc etc etc. Rather than going into too much detail, I will just summarize by saying that good farm-produced meat and eggs and milk really does need to be at least as expensive as it is, and probably should cost even a bit more!

So, again, we feel ourselves cutting some of those metaphorical psychic “strings” I spoke about in an earlier newsletter this year. Or, at least, preparing to cut them at the end of this year. Although at this point, each set of animals that we load to leave the farm represents a cut string I suppose. We see them off with gratitude in our heart for what they have contributed to this place and to our bodies and to our customers.

It’s funny to be writing so many newsletters this spring along this theme of scaling back. It’s a fun topic for us right now and one that we see playing out in other people’s lives now too — in fact, I am leading a panel discussion on the topic of “scaling back” at a farm conference this fall! Yet, each time I sit down to write a newsletter like this, I do marvel at how there can still be more things that we are cutting back on. I suppose that just goes to show how very much we have been doing out here in recent years, with 100 acres in our management and every kind of crop and animal in rotation on that land and many more hands helping with all of it! And, when I look at what we are doing each day, what we are harvest, what we are growing — it is still so rich and diverse. And becoming so much more fun every day for us as we bring it back to a family scale.

A CSA member pointed out to me this last week another really positive point. Each time we cut back on something, such as producing animal products, we open up a niche for another farm. Amen amen amen. I love thinking about this, and knowing without a doubt that other farms are also growing and changing and adding enterprises and experimenting, and that there will be another farm (or several) out there who step up next year to grow healthy animal products for us all. I am already grateful to them.

And, one last word about animals products as a whole, and specifically meat. As an adult, I have never eaten meat casually. In fact, for the first six years of Casey and my married life, we didn’t buy meat for ourselves to eat, because, well, it’s an emotionally and spiritually heavy thing. At the time, we didn’t really know yet about farm-raised meats, and we certainly didn’t want to participate in the factory farm machine. We began buying meat again when we moved to Oregon and met animal producers and visited their farms. The question of “to eat” or “not to eat” with meat is so big, and I can’t really begin to tease out all the ethical, health, ecological, and spiritual questions about it in one newsletter. I think that in general, the decision is more complicated than most vocal parties allow, and there is no easy answer. Our being humans in the world who eat food has an impact, and it’s truly hard to get out of that!

But I want to say that after living in intimacy with domesticated animals for the past five seasons, our respect for life and the gift of life and the gift of nourishing food has grown deeper and deeper. The significance of it all is something we can never ignore or forget — the gifts are so a part of our every cell (literally) that we live with all these animals in us. As much as I, personally, feel that healthy animal products are an important part of my diet, I also feel the weight of that choice too. There is a huge responsibility to live a life that is worthy of what we take in each day.

So, to that end, I want to close with one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems. Long ago, when we lived at Holden Village, this was printed on the laminated “grace” cards that were on all the dining room tables for use before meals. But it’s actually intended to be a prayer for after eating (as the title indicates), and it’s one that I try to reflect on as regularly as I can after my own meals:

Prayer after eating ~ Wendell Berry

I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables! (And whatever other nourishing foods you might eat too!)

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meat — what’s coming up:

Just so there is no confusion, we will still have meat on the pick-up through the end of this season! (As well as filling a few individual orders.) There should be a plentiful supply of meat in the freezer at all times. If you’d like a head’s up of what to expect, here’s a rough outline of what we’ll have and when:

  • Now — ground pork and chops
  • Soon — bacon and ham
  • Late June — ground beef, goat (ground and cuts)
  • Early fall — ground beef, beef cuts, lamb (ground and cuts)
  • November — stewing hens (these will be available for purchase at the final CSA pick-up as well as the two Holiday Harvests at Thanksgiving and Christmas)

If there’s anything you’d like to reserve in advance, please let us know so we can try to insure you get what you want!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries
  • Radishes — The first of the radishes from the field! Radishes are typically the first of the first field-grown crops each spring, and they always seem like an important milestone in the year. They also happen to be delicious. We ate some with lunch. I sliced them a little thick and we used them to scoop up bites of chicken salad (like a cracker). What a spring treat!
  • Sugar snap peas — It’s highly likely that these will be the last of the spring snap peas! It’s been a beautiful abundant few weeks of peas! Enjoy the last of it! (And more good things are coming up soon.)
  • Fava beans — The fava beans are now developed enough that they are great for shelling and cooking as just the inner bean! Some people like to go the extra extra mile and also peel off the white skin on each bean. This is optional — traditionalists swear that it makes for the best flavor (and color), but it’s extra work that you shouldn’t let get in the way of enjoying your fava beans. Once you have your shucked beans, what to do with them? We like to boil them for a few minutes so that they are almost all the way cooked (it really doesn’t take long) and then finish them in a pan with butter and green garlic. They’re great tossed with pasta (that’s very traditional) or mixed into cooked greens or just served on their own with salt.
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage — We have both “regular” cabbage and also “Napa” cabbage (which is actually more closely related to turnips and mustards — great for stir fries and Asian flavored ginger cole slaw).
  • Chard
  • Winter squash
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic scapes
  • Green garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Pork chops — $12/lb
  • Ground pork — $8/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
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Putting in the summer garden

Eggplants growing in the field, just a few days after planting.

Eggplants growing in the field, just a few days after planting.

Unlike most garden hobbyists, we are planting something out here in almost every season. We have to keep planting in order to supply our CSA with fresh produce almost year-round! However, there is still that week or two in the late spring when we feel like we “put in the garden” in the more traditional sense.

This last week was the peak of that summer planting action. On Friday alone, Casey and I sowed and transplanted half an acre of summer season crops: sweet corn, winter squash, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and so much more. On Monday, we put in another 14 rows of potatoes with help from some CSA members. These are all crops that grow and mature during the main growing season of summer. Many, like the winter squash and potatoes, will get stored for use all winter — but they still grow during the summer.

Yes, the focus of May is definitely on ground prep and planting. We see it all around us in neighboring fields, as people put in their corn and kale and green beans and more. Brown fields are showing tidy lines of green as the newly sown seeds emerge.

May is also a funny time of year — the rate of plant growth is speeding up, but we’re still used to the earlier weeks of spring when growth was almost painfully slow. Now we look at a new kale planting and wonder how long we’ll be able to pick it for the CSA — the answer is that it will likely be sooner than we expect, because we’re still somewhat “calibrated” for the slower part of spring. This is the time of year when CSA farmers across the country start feeling the nervous jitters in their stomachs because it just doesn’t seem possible that all those little lettuce and kale plants will be producing in time for those early June shares.

Of course, we’ll already well into our CSA season, but the transition from our over-wintered/storage/greenhouse crops to field-grown spring/summer crops still inspires some of those same May tummy jitters. Even in our 13th year of farming, spring is still a surprise in this way — how May arrives and suddenly leaves arrive in profusion and plant growth takes off. The rapid growth will continue for the next few months as we watch our own lines of green grow and grow.

So far, only a few of last week’s direct-seeded crops have emerged. The calendula was up first — such a vigorous flower. We sow calendula and phacelia flowers inter-mixed with our vegetable crops in order to provide food and habitat for important beneficial insects that prey on other insect pests. We have seen a huge difference from their presence in our fields (most especially when we sow them in with our Brussels sprouts plantings, which are prone to being over-run by aphids). But we also enjoy their beauty. Calendula blossoms are a cheerful orange smile, and phacelia unfolds its long periwinkle spiral blossoms over a long period of time (pollinators of all kinds love phacelia blossoms). Both will end up in our house in bouquets once they are blooming!

This afternoon, after the CSA harvest was in for the day, Casey and I began one of our favorite annual tasks — thinning the apples in our orchards. As the trees have matured, this task has become bigger and bigger! But it’s delightful work to stand in our now very leafy and verdant orchard and carefully pick off all but one apple on each spur (the little woody bit of branch that produces apples each year). Doing this helps ease the disease pressure on the fruit and allows each individual apple to grow bigger. We’ll be working on this task off and on for many days. Thankfully, as I said, it’s very pleasant work and something to look forward to. It’s also satisfying to look at a tree that is loaded with thinned fruit and imagine the bins and bins of apples that we’ll pick from each tree. Yum!
We’re always looking ahead around here. The work of the farm is such an endless cycle — we find ourselves enjoying the harvest from one season while we plan ahead for harvests two seasons later (whether that be in the form of planting or thinning fruit). The cycle of seasons propels us forward. Here we g(r)o(w)!Enjoy this week’s vegetables!Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla~ ~ ~Meet this week’s vegetables:StrawberriesSugar snap peasFava beansCauliflowerFennel bulbsChardZucchiniWinter squashPotatoesGreen garlicGarlic scapes

    — These are the fun “twirly” bits of green that grow out of the top of some garlic varieties in the spring. They are tender and delicious. You can chop them up (all the way to the little bit at the top) and add them to sautéed foods or to salad dressing … or just roast them and eat them!

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Fresh pork — We just picked up a new batch of fresh pork cuts from the butcher this week! This is our last pork for the foreseeable future. We have available: pork chops ($12/lb) and various bits for roasting: shoulder roasts, shanks, etc. ($8/lb). We also have organs and bones available ($4/lb). (Yummy bacon and ham coming soon!)
  • Bratwurst! — Artisan-made without any added nitrates or sugars. $12/package (one lb packages). Only a few packages left!
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